Nedelle Torrisi

Published on January 8th, 2015

Nedelle Torrisi

Nedelle Torrisi

Nedelle Torrisi

You’re forgiven if you never discovered California’s Cryptacize during the duo’s brief existence circa 2007-2009. Its quirky mix of angular art rock and heavenly twee pop resulted in two singularly clever albums for Asthmatic Kitty but scant media attention compared to the acts it opened for, like Sufjan Stevens and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (I wouldn’t have heard Cryptacize, either, except I was lucky enough to catch its show-stopping half-hour set at the 2008 Athens Popfest). Its music echoed from canyons of obscurity. But, reflecting on the band today, singer-songwriter Nedelle Torrisi says she didn’t expect much more.

“I think everything I’ve ever made is for a very specific listener, and the average person isn’t this type of listener,” she says. “To enjoy Cryptacize you might also enjoy musical theater, earnestness, asymmetry, and have a sense of humor. There seems to be a lack of humor and light-heartedness in music today. That really annoys me. Music can be good and happy.”

Nonetheless, happiness began to elude Torrisi in her love life. When she split with her partner and bandmate Chris Cohen, Cryptacize went down with the ship. It didn’t take long for Torrisi to start working on new material as a solo artist, which quickly became more ethereal, electronic and radio-friendly than her previous projects.

“I wanted to make more pop-y music with bigger, catchier hooks and strings and such,” she says. “I’m not sure Chris was really into that. A solo person can have their way all the time. It’s a monarchy, not a democracy!”

Torrisi recorded a batch of songs in 2011 with producer Kenny Gilmore, which would become, two years later, her self-titled album, whose 12 rich, layered, plaintive confessionals have gradually accrued an audience despite an online-only release (the physical LP will finally be issued in March by the Ethereal Sequence label, which will be distributed by Drag City).

It’s no coincidence that Nedelle Torrisi is the first album released using her full name. It’s a complete and proper debut—a rebirth and a reinvention—with music that both reaches back and leans forward. The album, which she’ll perform Jan. 18 when she opens for Of Montreal at Grand Central, is a hard-to-classify mixture of the old and new—‘70s R&B and soul paired with ‘80s pop, ‘90s indie, and a sparkling electronic sheen that wouldn’t sound out of place on a top 40 hit today, all of it connected by her direct and relatable lyrics.

Nedelle Torrisi

Nedelle Torrisi

“I had been wanting to make something more shiny and new (to me, that is),” she says. “I never used many synthesizers in past records, and when Kenny and I decided to work together, I thought it was the perfect time to experiment, because he is a master of all things keyboard. That said, I do feel like all of my albums are very similar. I pretty much write the same song over and over. Lyrics are thematically similar, too. I don’t think it’s a departure like a jumbo jet crossing the Atlantic … more like a jump over a puddle. Excuse the poor metaphors.”

As the album has made its unusually lengthy march toward a commercial release, Torrisi has kept herself busy, thanks to tours with the reunited Rentals and her old friend Sufjan Stevens. Her most surprising venture, however, is her dating/relationships column, Advice from Paradise, which she launched on her website in 2013. She fields questions from readers in the vein of Dear Abby and Savage Love, and there’s nothing ironic about it. She genuinely helps readers on topics such as “The Friend Zone,” “Does He or She Like Me?” and “Casual Sex/Booty Calls/Hookups.”

“I love gabbing to my girlfriends about relationships, and talking to anyone about anything, for that matter,” she says. “I always wanted to have a love advice column, and thought, with the advent of Tumblr, nothing is in my way now! Let’s do this!

“I didn’t know [if I would be qualified to write it], and still don’t know,” she adds. “Even if I had a Ph.D. in psychology, I still wouldn’t know. I think you either have good instincts about these things, or you don’t. I thought a long time about being a social worker—this sort of work runs in my family—but decided I love being a poor musician too much to trade it in for being a poor social worker.”

Nedelle Torrisi performs with Of Montreal at 8pm Jan. 18 at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets run $12-$20. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com. Also, check out Nedelle at advicefromparadise.com.  Listen to more music by Nedelle on SoundCloud.

~John Thomason

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