Onetime solo act Susie Derkins returns as a full band with their new single "Gutless" - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Susie Derkins’ last release it’s all downhill from here kidis a collection of home-recorded demos, released by what was then the solo act of singer-songwriter Samantha Stoakes.

Since the 2017 project, Susie Derkins has developed into a full band with lead guitarist Heeyoon Won — who also performs under the name Boosegumps — bassist James Walsh, and drummer Allegra Eidinger (of AllegrA) added to the mix. Stoakes has solidified her home base in Philly after a move from Boston, and with her bandmates assembles, has put together its forthcoming EP how to talk. “Gutless” previously appeared on it’s all downhill from here kid, and now is a single off of the EP, newly transformed by Susie Derkins the band.

In its how to talk form, “Gutless” boasts new energy, upbeat with more pointed guitar, an accentuating bassline, and drums with a feel-good kick. Stoakes’ vocals, although clearer, maintain an aesthetic distance, echoing the song’s lyrical outlook.

Stoakes told The Key about the track’s evolution:

“When I first wrote and recorded the song in 2017, it was just me and my guitar recording on my laptop – very stripped down, contemplative, and early Waxahatchee-inspired. The song morphed a lot once I started playing live shows with Allegra and Heeyoon. Allegra’s drumming brought up the tempo and the energy, and we added new little bits like the ‘1-2-3-4!’ you hear in the beginning. When James joined, they added in a really fun and punchy bass line (and towards the bridge they actually have a bass run they’re really proud of! shout out to James’ bass run!!). Suddenly, my little basement song became the song everybody at shows loved to dance to!”

“Gutless” narrates an internal struggle of speaking up, “is it self preservation or self-destruction that keeps me quiet?” Choosing to be vocal or remaining silent is the initial battle, but the conflict turns inward as questions come about. Is silence beneficial? Because the results of what wants to be said may not be worth speaking at all, or the lack of speaking may only push further into silence and away from ever finding a voice. 

The song’s conclusion is reassuring: “is it unrealistic or unproductive to wish that I could tell you that I’m learning what I deserve when I learn how to talk.” There is a slight irony in discovering one’s voice here, as it still remains uncommunicated to the person that instilled the uncertainty in the first place. Still, there is so much introspective quality packed into the song, a full story of hesitance and insecurity finding a way out.  

The evolution of “Gutless” is a promising and exciting display of Susie Derkins’ growth over the past three years. Stoakes also added that her bandmates have enhanced the creativity that goes into the project:

“One thing I really can’t credit my bandmates for enough was their ability to take my ideas and apply them to the songs. For example, Heeyoon knew that I wanted the songs to feel like 90s pop bands like Tiger Trap and Blake Babies, so the guitar line in Gutless is very influenced by that. On the recording, Allegra also added the guitar solo in the bridge, which I had in my head and tried to communicate by singing it out loud to them. Trying to sing a guitar solo can be really hard, but they figured it out pretty fast! It’s truly special to work on a song with people who really believe in the music and are willing to try new things or figure stuff out, no matter how silly or vague an idea might be. I love that we have the demo and the EP recording to show how three years of collaboration can transform a song.”

How to talk is out in full on November 13 and available for preorder now. Listen to “Gutless” below.

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