Zoe Allaire Reynolds' confidence is growing nearly as fast as the Philly band's lineup
After establishing Kississippi as a solo outlet nearly four years ago, Zoe Allaire Reynolds decided to invite a guitarist to join her onstage, giving up playing the instrument herself to focus solely on singing. She regretted the decision almost immediately.
“I took away some of the fun of it by making myself just do vocals,” said Reynolds, who will be joined by her bandmates in concert at Spacebar on Wednesday, March 7 (the group, which typically plays as a five-piece, will perform as a quartet here). “I really felt like I wasn't doing as much as I wanted to be doing. Also, just singing made it harder for people to believe I was actually the songwriter. People were like, ‘Oh, you don't play an instrument? So who writes the songs?' I was like, ‘Meeeee!'”
In addition to helping Reynolds reclaim full ownership of the music, the decision to resume playing guitar also helped the self-professed fidgeter keep her hands occupied while onstage. (Having nothing to do with her hands during a late-February phone interview, Reynolds copped to fussing with a roommate's spaghetti squash throughout the conversation.)
Reynolds initially chose to give up guitar duties because she lacked confidence in her abilities, and the evolution of Kississippi from a solo project to a duo and then a five-piece mirrors the steady growth in the musician's faith in her own skillset.
“When I did the demo EP, I Can Feel You in My Hair Still [in 2014], I just laid some stuff down and was like, ‘OK, I guess that sounds all right,' but I never felt super great about it,” said Reynolds, 22, who grew up in Oreland, Pennsylvania, and started playing bass guitar at age 10. “Then with the EP [We Have No Future, We're All Doomed, from 2016], I still was not putting my foot forward as much as I wanted to there, either. Every time I finished something, I realized it wasn't what I wanted it to be, because I wasn't confident enough to do it.”
So going into sessions for Kississippi's forthcoming full-length debut, Sunset Blush, which Reynolds said the band hopes to self-release in April after a deal with SideOneDummy Records hit a snag, the musician opted to take her time, gradually amassing material with producer Kyle Pulley over a period of months, recording at home studios in and around Philadelphia, as well as at the Headroom, which Pulley co-owns.
Reynolds' growing confidence reveals itself in everything from her guitar playing to her songwriting, which now favors direct language in lieu of the more ornate wording she applied early on.
“The first songs I did, I was trying to use fancy words to cover up my feelings because I was self-conscious about people knowing about me,” said Reynolds. “With the LP I was like, ‘OK, I've got too many feelings and I'm just going to let them all out.'”
This approach crystalizes on lead single “Cut Yr Teeth,” a defiantly buoyant guitar-pop gem undercut by the singer's battered words.
“The person you made yourself out to be,” Reynolds sings amid scrappy sunbursts of guitar, “would feel sorry for what you have done to me.”
“The song's kind of about … getting out of an abusive relationship,” Reynolds said. “A lot of this record revolves around that part of my life. Hearing that so many people related to [the song] was heartbreaking, but it was also like, ‘OK, well, at least we've got each other's backs.'”