Words by Tommy Johnson
There are a few boxes that are needing to be broken down within Shab Ferdowsi’s bedroom. Having moved in with one of her bandmates, Ferdowsi mentioned that the move had been a long time coming. The new arrangements will give more space to have the freedom to be creative. Take for example her latest venture titled Lingua Fresca, a pop-up that offers sourdough pizzas with the best and local ingredients.
With everything that she has her hands in, Ferdowsi’s most prominent project is her band, Blushh. With a couple of EPs released, the band unleashed their full-length album R.I.P. Apathy in the latter parts of April. Containing fuzzed-out guitar riffs and punk-pop choruses that are utterly earworm worthy, Ferdowsi taps into her embedded experiences within the Los-Angeles DIY community she spent so much time in for years. A warm welcome of the Pacific Northwest music rush that took over the 90s is ingrained within the singles such as “All My Friends,” “July,” and “Melting.”
Off Shelf: I can’t imagine what you were going through at the start of the pandemic. The band releases the debut album, and then everything gets shut down. How are you and the group doing?
Shab Ferdowsi: Yeah. I mean frankly, I don’t really care what people say. I’ve accepted it just from my entity because they likely won’t be back until like next year. So now that I’ve accepted it, I feel a lot better about it. But it is weird to have put out a debut album and not have been able to go tour. We were going to go to South by Southwest and Treefort and be touring up until the album release. You have to roll with the punches. I’m glad that we released it when we did.
OS: Have you been writing a lot since everything has started?
SF: Yeah, I’ve been writing. Right before lockdown, I got an interface for my laptop so that I could start demoing myself, and that’s been cool. Up to this moment, I would record voice memos and then take it to the band in whatever form it was at any given time. We would either finish the song, or the band would write their parts. It also partially because I didn’t have a vision for where I wanted the song to go. Demoing on my own time now has helped me get a better vision for what I want to song to be by the end of it.
OS: What made you decide that you wanted to pursue music?
SF: I honestly think it was just seeing a friend. I showed some songs to friends, and they said we are going to play in your band and work on recording your music. It was good because they told me it’s going to happen. I decided, well, I guess that’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to record with a band. That’s really how it happened; everything went put pretty fast. That was in 2016.
Honestly, with writing and performing, it was very intimidating. I wasn’t having a lot of fun. I didn’t love recording. I don’t really know why I kept doing it, but I’m glad I did because really, everything for me changed when we went on tour for the first time in 2018. When I came back from that tour, that’s when I decided this is something I’ve never felt before, and this is what I’m going to pursue.
OS: What was it about that tour that had you change your attitude?
SF: We were playing random shows in LA…sometimes it was fun and sometimes in front of a lot of people. When we went on tour, we played a lot of people and were connecting with so many people. I was seeing it as it happened right in front of my face. That is what I realized the power that playing live music can have with people.
OS: I’m a little shocked that you didn’t catch that bug earlier. Especially when you mentioned that you were setting up shows, photographing shows, etc.
SF: Yeah, I guess it wasn’t translating, me being on stage and performing live somehow. I had so much stage fright and I mean, that was a big part of it. I think it was once I started to become comfortable on stage; honestly, that’s when things began to change. I just realized what I needed to change my mindset, what I want from it, and what it could give me.
OS: I think that your background in being a show booker sounds interesting. Let’s dive into that for a second. What led you into taking on doing such?
SF: I’ve thought about this a lot… I think it all started when I was in college. I had just started doing photography and I started shooting students on campus, actors, musicians, and I decided it would be really cool to start a blog. I could get musicians, share their music, and write about it.
For the next year and a half or two after I graduated, I would go out to shows and started shooting videos and live sessions. Once I graduated from college, I felt that I should continue doing this blog; I saw it as developing a brand. I was living at home and I asked my parents if we could throw a show in our living room. They said no, but they said that we could throw shows in our backyard. I kept doing that for about a year until I decided that I would help bands more legitimately. That’s when I started booking shows with venues and doing the promoting thing. I moved on to dabble in booking a couple of West Coast tours for a couple of months. I bought a bubble maker so I could make buttons…
OS: You were as DIY as anyone that I have ever met.
SF: Yeah, I’ve done so many things. I wanted to become like a one-stop-shop for the DIY scene in LA. It was so much fun. I wasn’t making much money, but I had so much fun with it.
OS: How long did you guys take the record?
SF: It, we took two weeks. My friend who recorded my first two, whose name is Johnny. He had just moved into a studio, so we recorded it in a studio around LA.
OS: How was the process for you, recording the full album?
SF: I decided that in the writing process, I was going to bring in my bandmates. Instead of writing the song myself and like just doing my classic brisk course, verse-chorus, bridge chorus not with interesting transitions, or super basic transitions. I wanted something more interesting and collaborative too. I spent two and a half months with my bandmates to help me flush out parts and be more thoughtful, intentional with the songs. We got in the studio and we’re pretty much good to go.
OS: Listening to R.I.P. Apathy, I catch a lot of angst within the lyrics. Would you agree with that assessment?
SF: Oh yeah. Most of the songs I wrote during a four-month period where I was living at my parents’ house for all of 2018. It was a very tough time, and I’m sure many of the feelings in the album were years in the making, but I also was like a very like shaky place. I also realized it’s just kinda more fun to write about angst.
OS: What was the vision behind naming the album?
SF: It took a while, but I always had an idea that I came up with kind of the same ethos to it. I wanted to convey how caring about yourself, caring about things is important. I wanted to go against the whole concept of not caring is cool. At the end of the day, many of the songs are about like letting go of anguish and letting go of what’s going on in your head. There were a lot of texts that happened. Eventually, we ended up at R.I.P. Apathy. It says everything I wanted to say.
OS: Where are we with new music being written?
SF: I’ve been writing a lot. I have, I don’t know, probably I’ve been working on like ten plus songs in the past four-plus months. I’m excited about having the time to be able to keep working on that.
OS: Have you found these uncertain times in some way being influence when it comes to your writing?
SF: I’ve started to notice this specifically, like in this time, I feel like I’m having a lot of fun right now being more imaginative in my lyric writing. I’m having a lot of fun taking concepts. Maybe they aren’t real feelings, but like a feather of a feeling and turning it into this like glue. I don’t know, like a lighthearted witty hang of a fun pop song instead of having to sit in angst.
OS: Do you found yourself feeling the passion for music within doing photography?
SF: It’s a different thing. Before I would perform on tour, I had time on tours as a photographer. And the thing about that is that you’re documenting other people. You’re capturing moments that it brings, it’s starting to bring even more satisfaction, as a creative fulfillment, especially when I have my camera in my hand, honestly, five times a day. And I’m able to like tell a story in a way that I wasn’t able to before. However, it’s not at all cathartic in the way the music is. It’s the same visceral feeling you get from being in a room with like five hundred people who are moshing to your music, you know?