Best of 2023: Palehound Was Late to the Game with Wednesday

El Kempner talks Rat Saw God.

I was a little late to the game with Wednesday considering I’d been hearing about them, but I think I was getting them confused with the band Thursday. I was like, Oh, that emo band everyone loves is putting out a new record and that’s exciting. So that’s what I thought was happening at first, because I could use to pay attention to the world around me a little better. [Laughs.]

But then my friend Sarah Beth, from Tomberlin, invited me to this pop-up shop-slash-daytime show Wednesday was doing at TV Eye in Ridgewood. I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great.” It was this event with a bunch of vendors outside — people selling clothes and stuff — and then they played this set inside. It was, like, 4 PM in the middle of the summer, so it was really light out and a beautiful day, but everyone went inside this dark club to watch them play. I had never actually heard them before, and it was my favorite show I saw this year. I was completely blown away and couldn’t believe it. 

I think the Rat Saw God had just come out — I started listening obsessively. That one song “Quarry” stood out to me so much live, when she [Karly Hartzman] breaks down in the middle and does the verse about people getting busted for hiding cocaine in the walls of their house. I just remember that moment of standing in the club, listening to the lyrics, and being like, Jesus Christ. This song is so fucking good. The lyrics are what I feel like I’m always looking for when I’m listening for lyrics. 

And MJ Lenderman is my new favorite guitar player. I started trying to learn all of his parts when the record came out, and I couldn’t figure them out, and then I realized it’s because a lot of the parts I was trying to learn were actually pedal steel. I saw them a second time when they were playing in Philly, and I was like, Wait a second, he’s not even playing his guitar right now… And then I just loved that band even more. So all year, that record has morphed into different things for me. First it was inspiring me lyrically, then with guitar, and then it was like, Oh, my god, now I need to learn how to play pedal steel. If someone reads this and wants to teach me, I’d take them up on that. 

It’s just an all-around inspiring record, and an inspiring band. I think everyone’s on that wavelength with them this year, so it doesn’t feel super unique to say. These are praises that are being sung left and right for them. But it really inspired me and made me want to start writing songs differently. 

As told to Annie Fell. 

Ellen Kempner is the vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for the Boston and New York-based indie rock trio Palehound. Their latest record, Eye on the Bat, is out now Polyvinyl.