WLUW X Cold Beaches: How to Release an Album During the Pandemic

By: Allison Lapinski

Cold Beaches is a Chicago, by way of Richmond, band led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sophia Nadia. You may have seen the band perform live at house shows, the Empty Bottle, or any other given venue across the city. The bedroom indie rock band has an array of inspirations in their wheelhouse; from pop to synth to guitar solos that shine through at live shows.

If you’re a long-time listener, you might have noted the blossoming evolution of Cold Beaches, from Sophia’s first projects and EPs to the work leading to the forthcoming album Drifter, dropping on 7/31. And as a Chicago transplant, Sophia has entered the music and outreach communities with welcome arms. Cold Beaches has played FemiFest, a Planned Parenthood Benefit with Emily Blue, and a recent livestream with Underground Apex. The first single from the new album will be available to stream on 6/17. 

WLUW caught up with Sophia this week to talk more about the upcoming album release, her experience during the pandemic, and much more:

WLUW: How have you been doing since the quarantine?

Sophia: Things have been going well. I think now that the adaptation has been facilitated a lot more, things are rolling again. I’m very impressed to see how the music industry and the music scene has so creatively adapted. So things are going pretty good now. It was definitely tough at first too. I know it sounds egocentric to be bummed out about all the tours canceled. We’re doing our part and things are doing a lot better. Excited about the future regardless.

WLUW: That’s good to hear. From a bird’s eye view, it looks like a lot of Chicago artists are coming together, which is really nice to see as well.

Sophia: Yeah, 100%. It’s been really cool. I’m not from Chicago originally, but what drew me to the city was how tightly knit the community was and how much they love to come together and help each other out. So I think it’s been, it’s been really nice and it has been a really great tool to have to stay positive.

WLUW: What about creative wise? Are you quarantined alone right now or are you with roommates or what’s the sitch?

Sophia: I’m with my roommate and I have a neighbor upstairs. It’s funny because I’m actually locked out of my house right now. I was outside talking to an internet technician and my neighbor left and locked the door behind them. So I’m just on the porch smoking a cigarette and just chilling.

WLUW: Have you been getting outside at all?

Sophia: Yes. I’ve been trying to skateboard in ways that I can. I am a little nervous about going to skate parks in the city because every time I drive past I see people there. I feel like with the skate culture, they don’t seem to be that affected by it, which makes me a little nervous to personally go out there. So you know, I’m finding ways to stay active. I really do love to walk. So I try to go in the mornings before I start writing the new record.


WLUW: So you’re just in the process of writing the new record?

Sophia: Yes I am. I actually finished recording Drifter this past September. The release date just kept getting postponed from other circumstances that I couldn’t control. And then it was postponed one more time from the pandemic, which led it to be July 31st but I’m pretty antsy to write new music and get that out there. But it’s exciting.

WLUW: For sure, and it will be interesting to see if the quarantine affects anyone, writing-wise, but I don’t know. Some people prefer solitude and some people don’t. 

Sophia: I mean, honestly, I wrote my first album through locking myself in my apartment. I was living in a one-bedroom loft in my first apartment in Richmond, Virginia, and that’s how I wrote the first Cold Beaches album. And one of my friends actually thought I went missing because I lived alone and I was 17 living in a new city. And so she was like, ‘did something happen to you?’ She came to my house all worried because I was just locked in this windowless, loft apartment, chainsmoking and making music. I wasn’t really talking to anybody at all. And I didn’t really have the resources to go to a recording studio and have nice sounding things with live musicians. It was all just through tracking on top of each other, on Ableton Live with my laptop. So it’s really interesting to see how the writing process for Cold Beaches has develop into such a big orchestral composition.

WLUW: Trying to maintain your DIY roots, how has that been with this new album, was it quite easy for you?

Sophia: I’ve been saying recently how much I missed playing house shows because I feel like lately it’s just all been about the money and like, ‘Oh, what’s going to make more money on this tour,’ and when we get show offers it’s always been about that. So I’ve been having to do less about that. And more about just the community. Because that is really what drew me to music in the first place, was my first house show. And I think that the new album definitely doesn’t sound like a lo-fi album except for like one track which I snuck in here. It’s probably one of my favorite songs on the album and it’s just, we put it through a tape vendor. It’s just me and an acoustic guitar. And I think I’m actually starting to go back to those roots and writing a lot more the way I did before. I kind of got carried away and I was just so excited to work with all these new resources that I didn’t have that I kind of forgot how I used to write before. So I’m trying to go back to that and explore that a little more, you know.

WLUW: How about this new single coming out? You’ve got June 17th “Problems and Heartache (I Got Them).” When did you write this and how did you choose it to be your first single for the album?

Sophia: I was writing about handling grief and my ways of coping with grief and loss and also just relationships in general. And it kind of started as a joke at first when I was like writing the verses and then I started just being like, ‘do you want me to run away from my problems? Cause I got them’ and then I was like, actually that’s pretty cool. And I just kinda kept it. But yeah, I mean it just, it really does come from the most honest place in my heart of how I felt at the time and how I do all these things kind of to escape. The big thing that drew me to skateboarding was that you can’t really think about anything else while being on a skateboard or else you’re going to fall. It gives me a way to kind of draw myself out of my thoughts when you get into very scary thought loops about how much you miss somebody who’s passed away or how you could have acted differently in the past relationship. I just think it’s the most honest song I’ve written in a really long time. The song itself is very pop, which I haven’t been really writing as much, and I wanted to explore that a lot. So I thought it would be cool to show people as an introduction to the new album campaign. To gesture, ‘Hey, check out this new sound that I got on the album’. It’s very pop, dreamy, synthy. We have some omnichord in there, which is very fun. Even though the lyrics are sad.

WLUW: Those are sometimes the best songs though. You don’t realize until you’re like singing along and say to yourself ‘Oh, I’m just going to have to have an existential crisis for a minute.’ 

Sophia: Do you remember that song by Alicia Keys, “Keep Bleeding”? I had no idea that was about self-harm. Pretty harsh to think about, you know.

WLUW: Well it sounds like with the new single, a lot of people will be able to relate to it. Especially now, like talk about loss and heartache. Everyone’s kind of banding together. Or that’s just the way people are going to interpret it. 

Sophia: I think that a lot of people are very scared right now. I really hope that people know, when they listen to my album that, I’m always here. I will do whatever I can in the community to have this mutual aid with one other. I think just staying inside and doing that civic duty is a great example of how there is so much humanity in our community right now. And I think that’s great that people are willing to sacrifice kind of selfish things like playing shows and going on tour and stuff, you know, to make sure everyone’s safe and okay. 

WLUW: On that note, have you done any live streams yet, or have you encountered any live streams yet? 

Sophia: I think the first one I saw was Meg Memes Fest. Honestly, I think that is what started all the live streams. So big credit to her for putting that together. I just did one with Underground Apex the other day, that was super fun. I have one coming up soon with Bottlenose which is an artist promotion group here in Chicago. So that is going to be fun too. 

WLUW: Have you just been doing it solo or with a backing band at all?

Sophia: Oh, I wish. All my bandmates are out of town. It’s been really weird cause I don’t remember the last time I did a solo performance, but I think that is the best. It’s almost a test for your showmanship, to be naked and exposed and just yourself. You can’t really hide behind the drums and the bass, you know, so I really like the challenge of that and the intimacy of it, which is cool that I get to talk to people and interact with fans like in a very close, intimate way. Song requests and stuff and answering questions. I’ve never been asked before and seeing how everyone’s doing during the apocalypse. 

WLUW: What part of performing do you enjoy or miss the most? 

Sophia: Oh my gosh, what don’t I miss? I It’s really cool and wholesome when you see this interaction between yourself and the crowd. Like when you start singing a song and you see their eyes light up and they start screaming the lyrics with you. That is just such a beautiful feeling because you wrote that song maybe in your underwear in your bedroom, at three in the morning and here you are now, just sharing this beautiful moment with these adorable, sweet, wholesome people. And I truly think that my fans are the most wholesome, sweet, adorable people ever. They’re just dancing and I kind of feed off of that energy. But in the livestream, you can’t really see that, it’s a little harder to keep up the energy and it’s just such a cathartic thing to jump around. It doesn’t matter if you look like an idiot. You’re just enjoying the moment and just being really present. And I don’t know, just expressing myself in the rawest way that I possibly can. Just to do live streams and know that everyone’s safe is a lot better than to be that band that’s going to be like, “Hey, come to the show and put your life in danger.”

WLUW: I wanted to know if you had any songs in particular that you would like me to feature on the show or, I know that the single’s not out yet, but I can play any music that you’ve been digging recently or any of your older songs as well. 

Sophia: Well if you’re going to play Cold Beaches, I recommend personally from my discography the EP “Stay Here” because I think that was the breakthrough point for my band since I had the resources to create these huge productions with these huge arrangements that I’ve never done before. So that’s kind of the perfect transition record from, my last album, Rooftop Honey to Drifter. It’s kind of cool when I was listening back recently, you can see the progression. And I’ve been working with really talented musicians here in Chicago and you can really see that. So I highly recommend anything from “Stay Here.” If you want something to dance to, “Moldy Peach Sore Bruiser” or ‘Dime A Dozen.” If you want to cry—“Married.” 

WLUW: I was really digging Swedish pop at the beginning of this week. But now I’m getting all grunge, so I don’t know how to do both at the same time, but I think that’ll be a good bridge. 

Sophia: I mean, if you want something kind of in between. I’ve been listening to a lot of Aretha Franklin. The queen of Soul. 

— 

WLUW predicts that “Drifter” will be the soundtrack to our end of summer playlists… listen to the full interview with Sophia on the Lakeshore Lady: Relocated, airing on 5/29 at 11am CT!

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