Once described as “if The Tragically Hip and Tegan and Sara had a really sad baby,” Payphones’ alt-folk tunes showcase intricate three and four-part vocal harmonies, rich acoustic accompaniment, and earnest, vulnerable lyrics about queerness, isolation, disability, and personal growth. Aside from popular folk, indie, and alt-rock projects, clear influences from choral, musical theater, jazz, and pop-punk music can be heard in their music. The eclectic life experiences of four multidisciplinary artists reverberate through their tunes.
Payphones features Naomi Jichita (they/them) on lead vocals and guitar, Robyn Slack (he/him) on guitar and backup vocals, Laena Anderson (they/them) on piano and backup vocals, and Aaron Addorisio (he/him) on percussion, and yet more backup vocals.
Payphones’ upcoming debut Studio EP, Rioting Heart, evokes moments of overwhelming, life altering emotional upheaval. Written over the last 10 years by frontperson Naomi, during experiences of disabling health events, familial rejection, poverty, and abuse, and more. The lyrics ruminate on losses… of love, of another, of one’s health, and of a sense of self – who you were before everything happened and what would be left without it. Their narrative songwriting explores the siren song of suffering…the morbid comfort in the resignation to chronic, banal pain. As the track list progresses the journey comes into focus: from resignation, to self-awareness, to determination for a better life, to hope and, loving connection.
Frontperson Naomi explores universal feelings through the specificity of their lived experience, to connect and bond with the listener. The EP is crafter with their fellow queer, non binary, AFAB, and/or disabled communities in mind. These songs were once relics of pain and isolation. Now, they are given new life as pieces of art, forged in mutually supportive and artistically fulfilling collaboration.
Payphones played their first shows mere months before the world shut down in March of 2020. For two years, they refined and performed their music for an audience of one: a very good dog named Ruby. They attempted to overcome the isolation and financial barriers by applying for any opportunities they came across. Subsequently, Payphones was awarded a Major Projects Grant from the Edmonton Arts Council, and front-person Naomi was selected for the TD Music Artist in Residence at MacEwan University Program, where they were able to create under industry mentorship. And yet, at the time of writing, they still haven’t played a show since March 2020.
For a group that conceives such mournful music, this band has a playful, silly energy, and have a lot of fun together. Naomi likes to mention that often, during band practice, they are laughing so hard that they cannot physically stand up.
(They love their bandmates very much, and want you to know that.)
Photo by Katie Cutting, Lazy Kitten Productions