SLUG Picnic: Peachy Fingernail
As the Utah summer arcs back around, SLUG is delighted to bring back our outdoor concert series, SLUG Picnic. The first 2021 showcase features Peachy Fingernail, PK Opal and The Mercy Seat, each using their unique sonics as as springboard for a host of feelings at once weird, wonderful and cathartic. SLUG Picnic takes place on Saturday, June 26 in front of SLUG’s offices (230 S. 500 W. Ste. 125 in Salt Lake City); gates open at 5:30 p.m. and music is from 6–9 p.m. Tickets for SLUG Picnic (sponsored by Churn Baby, Dented Brick Distillery, Gem City Fine Foods and Pulp Lifestyle Kitchen) are available at SLUGMag.com. Make sure to bring your own picnic blankets and chairs!
Polly Llewellyn’s music under the name Peachy Fingernail comes from the guttural realm of impulse and the subconscious. “I feel really manic on albums—I change a lot,” she says. “I make songs by just hitting record before I know what I’m gonna do … I just like to make pretty things!” In the final product, this sense of mania and a lack of premeditation provide fertile ground for songs that ebb and flow with an organic sense of naturalism. The most recent Peachy Fingernail release, i’m nothing if not a silly girl, showcases the affective result of such a musical outlook, where an embrace of beauty gives way to the gritty realness at the heart of a human.
This submission to in-the-moment urges and an artistic playfulness guides Llewellyn’s music-making. Particularly, she finds that her unbounded approach allows for an expansive palette of sonic textures. “I get very expressive when I’m recording music,” she says. “I just like to be expressive and feel an impulse to do something, I’ll just do it and record it. I like textured stuff, and I trust the impulse that makes me do something like that.” The outputs range from the plastic clacking that guides “3/4 wash cycle” (sourced from a desk trinket) to the sound of ripping paper used during the sessions for Llewellyn’s Peachy Fingernail debut, Radishes; from the lo-fi alt-rock of “i’m ocean foam, let me die” to the mocking squawk that opens “quilt pearls of cum.”
“I make songs by just hitting record before I know what I’m gonna do … I just like to make pretty things!”
Especially on i’m nothing if not a silly girl, the lyrical focus turns toward a similar sense of innateness—what we see, hear and know without thinking. “In every person’s life, the things that define them feel like self-mythologies,” Llewellyn says. “I wanted to do that on one hand and also try really hard to speak more plainly in places. I wanted to have both as contrasts to each other—a combination of [the] every day and your late-night, 4 a.m., ‘omg what is my life’ kind of feelings.” Though her vocals often fight for air under layers of washed-out instrumental collages, this mixture of the real and surreal rings true: “My voice is like a wax car / It melts as it drives along / Bounced between Angles and throat / It dies out and cools on a silver plate,” runs the closing verse on “Don’t Inhale the Barnyard” under paper-thin guitar passages.
No matter what, though, Llewellyn’s music works to escape easy definitions and identifications. Specifically, she cites her previous efforts at poetry as the genesis for her love of obscuring effects and processes: “I could never write directly about the things that I wanted to talk about or else it felt wrong to me in some indefinable way,” she says. “I would start writing around it. I would make really long poems that were all writing around something.” The same process now informs her songwriting, where the blurred musical effects compound the multifaceted, textual evasiveness at the core of these songs.
“I wanted to have both as contrasts to each other—a combination of [the] every day and your late-night, 4 a.m., ‘omg what is my life’ kind of feelings.”
The benefit of this artistic shroud lies in allowing Llewellyn vulnerability without sacrificing comfort or privacy. “I get to pour … my direct and honest feelings into the song, but then when producing it I can encode it into the music itself,” she says. “And I like that. It helps me feel like there’s distance between the things I’m thinking about and the person hearing it. Maybe it gives the person hearing it some leeway to interpret it in a way they like for themselves.” On “‘praise song’ clothe me in images, daddy, keep me here forever.,” Llewellyn hints at romantic loss while only allowing listeners a fragment of an in media res vantage point: “I don’t know what I want to say / The ground has now all burned away / She never loved me anyway / A dying star collapsed in her shape.”
This idea of creating a self-driven story that evades distinct representation finds an analog in i’m nothing if not a silly girl’s stirring cover. Using a double exposure effect to combine two, grayscale nude photographs, the image reflects Llewellyn’s desired balance between radical openness and misdirection. “I really liked that as the kind of expression of the album—seeming to be vulnerable in a lot of ways … but you’re not sure what it is exactly what you’re looking at.” Llewellyn’s body, folding over itself and protruding across the frame in contortionist poses, acts as a metaphor for our own mythologies: “[It’s] something no one else will ever understand the full meaning of, except for ourselves. So we’re kind of artifacts for ourselves,” Llewellyn says. Find more of Peachy Fingernail’s music on Bandcamp at peachyfingernail.bandcamp.com.