Shamir, Sad13, The Dove & The Wolf, and Queen of Jeans Talk Philadelphia—and The Cranberries

The impromptu supergroup will have you wrapped around their fingers.

School gymnasiums are often plagued with memories of distress: the failed rope climb witnessed by a class of peers, or the dances where prepubescents lined the walls with hormones raging under tender flesh. In a gym on a Wednesday evening in South Philadelphia, the weight of summer still hanging in the September air, a different scene transpired—not one starring angst-ridden teenagers preparing for a dodgeball game, but where the music kids took center stage. The bleachers were empty and no crowds cheered as balls were thrown into basketball nets. Instead, guitars and amps slowly filled the space, transported from the reaches of West Philly and Kensington, where a group of acts that now call the city home took on the challenge of playing with people they’d never met before.

“I’ve done Rock Lottery… They would pair up a band and you would improvise a song,” says Sadie Dupuis, a.k.a. Sad13, of Speedy Ortiz. “You don’t have the language to communicate that you do with your normal bandmates. But if you’ve been playing music long enough you’re comfortable being thrown into things like that.”

A collective of Philly-based musicians, including Dupuis, Shamir, The Dove & the Wolf, and Queen of Jeans, convened in the gym of the former Bok Technical High School, which ceased educational activities in 2013 but has since transformed into a mixed-use facility that houses hair salons, artist spaces, and a rooftop bar, to record a cover of The Cranberries’ 1993 hit “Linger,” a testament to the group’s artistry and the community in the city where they live.

Dupuis, Shamir, and The Dove & the Wolf are all recent transplants to Philly—from Massachusetts, Las Vegas, and Paris, respectively—a city that’s long been lauded for its rich musical scene and its ability to lure out-of-towners to settle down. The draw lies in the lack of pretense, the low cost of living, and the abundance of opportunities to check out a DIY show with inclusive bills. This current project, organized by music filmmaker collective Out of Town Films, who shot and produced the clip, further epitomizes this ethos maintained by Philly’s artist scene.

“That does speak to the changing landscape in Philly,” Dupuis said. “Three out of four bands representing the Philly scene moved here only within the last couple of years. I think a lot of people move here because they are fans of bands here. There’s a camaraderie.”

“Four bands—including five front people—that’s a lot of people and a lot of egos to deal with,” Paloma Gil of The Dove & the Wolf says later. “And there was none of that. Our little community in Philly, it’s pretty cool.”

The group’s performance, featuring an overwhelming base of four guitars—played by Dupuis, Shamir, and Miriam Devora and Matheson Glass of Queen of Jeans—proved hardly an assault on the arrangement, but instead each musician carved out space for the others to fill in. Dupuis and Glass’s shoegazey solos were accented by Shamir’s distorted inflections and Devora’s rhythm. Vocally, the lush four-part harmonies feature Gil and Shamir on the alto and soprano ends, respectively, with the former’s The Dove & the Wolf bandmate Lou Hayat and Devora filling in the rich mezzo-soprano.

“I’m a fangirl first and an artist second.” — Shamir

On their own, each artist embodies a different verve. Shamir’s XL Recordings debut Ratchet is a euphoric pop display, while his upcoming formal follow-up, Revelations, which is out in November on Father/Daughter Records, promises a more intimate and raw sound. The Dove & the Wolf make warm, all-encompassing songs that sound more expansive than their two-woman team suggests, with unique vocal harmonies and diverging guitar lines. As a solo act, Dupuis experiments with synths, fuzzy guitars, and beats that inspire an alternative-pop dance party. With ’60s surf rock serenity, Queen of Jeans provide a gentle cooing romance with dreamy harmonies but also boppy garage rock sensibilities. All have lyrics that face head on the misgivings of love, society, and the tribulations of life as an outsider in today’s world—and how that can be empowering.

Which is why Devora and Glass thought it might be funny to turn those ideals on their heads and perform “La La” by Ashlee Simpson instead.  

“Having never met us, they probably thought these girls are insane,” Glass says. “I was only half joking when I suggested it.”

Instead, the group settled on The Cranberries and figured the song offered enough leeway for each of the eight musicians. In the gymnasium, feelings of nervousness and intimidation were replaced with the exchange of knowing glances as guitarists made their entrances and flourishes; harmonies were determined on the fly.

And although each act sits at various points on the career spectrum, the sense of community that living in Philadelphia affords allows for something that transcends industry or business—a genuine appreciation for craft and the work of peers.

“I’m a fangirl first and an artist second,” Shamir says, giving praise to the other artists involved in this project. “I am a fangirl who happened to have gotten lucky to also be a musician and to be recognized for my music. I geek out on artists all the time.” FL

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