Label: Hardly Art
The closer you are to someone, the crueler you can treat them, but if they love you, they’re inclined to forgive you. Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos forgive each other now, but they were in a bad way when they recorded Cry Mfer — which is not to say their debut album is some kind of sonic bum out. Cry Mfer proves you can still make pop music while spiraling, as evidenced by the existence of “Breathe You,” a bop all about fucking Nate constructed while “high as shit in my room making fun of Justin Bieber,” the vocals of which Lily tracked while “blindly sad” and “genuinely devastated.”
They’re best friends now, and they were best friends when they recorded Cry Mfer last year, but they didn’t know that yet. (“We definitely were like, oh, maybe we're in love?” Lily recalls; it was a confusing time.) Cry Mfer is the sound of two people figuring out what they mean to one another “in the midst of,” quoth Nate, “a bunch of other chaos,” up to and including being drunk as skunks; when listening to the album, Nate can “smell” the aforementioned chaos. “Thank God we're not those people [anymore],” Lily, with the clarity of newfound sobriety, marvels.
When not using the other party as an emotional punching bag, Nate and Lily used one another as a creative filter and sounding board — pushing, prodding and challenging themselves to “mess with different sounds,” harkening to, Nate says, “songwriting duos who seem to have their own language that other people don't quite understand.” In life, as in art, they share a language, a hive mind, finishing each other’s sentences while lounging on Lily’s parents’ couch in the Hudson Valley. (Lily recently moved back to her hometown of Hudson in order to “get her life together;” it’s “definitely working,” she says.)
The duo joined forces in the Fall of 2020, when Lily, after a few years gobbing away in the punk trio Palberta, solicited Nate (who, at the time, was popping away as half of dance duo Water From Your Eyes) as a potential producer for her solo record; the subsequent songwriting competition that followed resulted in dozens of tracks and one EP, That’s My Idea. No strangers to productivity, Nate’s Water From Your Eyes recently released their fifth album, and Lily recently released her solo LP, both to high marks.
Cry Mfer is, true to the band’s vision, a beautiful mess of different sounds, completely and effortlessly genreless (though if pressed to label it, the band settles on “Truth or Dare Pop”). While a milieu of myriad styles, from folk to dance, the album’s main through line is truth, regardless of how much the expression thereof may hurt (after all, as Lily sings in the title track, “truth and life go hand in hand”). Its lyrics aren’t “particularly diary-ish,” Nate says, they’re “a little more…” “Diarrhea-ish,” Lily jokes.
The album, while permeated with lyrics about lying and crying and, well, hurting the one you love, has a palpable sense of humor and self-awareness, a testament to “rolling your eyes at something while acknowledging that it's also still kicking your ass,” says Nate.
It’s a reaction against the self-seriousness that runs rampant throughout indie music, which comes as no surprise when you learn the duo originally wanted to call themselves The Grammys (Why? Because when the two of them started working together, “we were like, we're gonna get a Grammy,” Lily says). They aren’t ashamed to admit they listen to Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, in much the same way they aren’t ashamed to use a vocoder or lyrically play the heel.
A perfect example is the song “Crutch,” an anthem to codependency from a self-described authority on the subject (“I’m sorry about this stuff, but it doesn’t really matter that much,” Lily breathily sings over bright guitars. “Truth is that I really miss your touch, and I’m hanging on you ‘cause you’re my crutch”).
Suffering is mitigated a little bit when you turn it into, ahem, art — pain is temporary, but music is forever (or, at least, until the grid goes down). You’ll be pleased to know the “something” Lily was needing in the chorus to “Cry Mfer” she now has — “In the moment I thought I was needing a big life change and shift, like I had been stuck in something, and I was right, I just went about it in a very wrong way,” she says. “And now the thing that I'm needing, I'm getting, actually, which is through being sober and getting my life together.”
“I was telling myself a lot of stuff through those lyrics that was subconscious,” she continues. “I thought I was talking to other people, but I was talking to myself.”
My Idea has only just begun, but already misery is in the rearview. Cry Mfer is a punisher, to be sure, but it’s also a banger; reflecting on the time period during which it was recorded, Nate breathes a sigh of relief: “Oof. Well, we made it, and we got something out of it, too.” And so, dear listener, have you.