It’s been over nine years since Attia Taylor has released music under her own name, but she’s remained plenty busy in the interim. Since that time, the Brooklyn-based, Philly-raised songwriter not only released music with her band Strange Parts, but started her own magazine, Womanly, which focuses on the intersection of art and women’s health. Now, she is set to release Space Ghost on Philly’s Lame-O Records, a collection of career-defining songs which span nearly her entire creative life, capturing an artist with intention and a knack for exploration.

If the name Space Ghost sounds familiar, you may have seen the late-night Adult Swim show of the same name, a kind of faux-talk show hosted by a superhero by the name of Space Ghost. It might seem like a strange choice for an album that explores, among other things, trauma, growth, and adolescent struggle. But for Taylor these kinds of cartoons were an essential balm during times when the world seemed hectic and uncertain.

“For me, I just got wrapped up into the story and the art and just the quirkiness of it all,” Taylor tells me during our recent phone conversation. “It was definitely escapism for me because I was living in a world that was at times very scary, or violent, or lonely.”

It’s a wonderful example of how art of any kind can serve to heal, distract, or inspire and, in turn, help create something as enjoyable as Taylor’s new record. You can read the entirety of our conversation below and hear Taylor play songs from the record at her album release show this Thursday July 7 at Johnny Brenda’s.

Attia Taylor - Broad and Cherry

Sean Fennell: It’s been such a long time since you’ve released music under your own name. Was there a time when you thought it might not do this again?

Attia Taylor: No. I was working on the album for a long time. I was still playing shows with a ton of the songs that are on the album so it was just a matter of getting it recorded and finding the right label to put it out, but there was no doubt that I would be putting out more solo stuff. I started a magazine, Womanly, in the middle of all of this. It’s been about five years and that took a ton of my time and energy, so that was where I was putting my brain power then. And then I was also working on music for Strange Parts, my other band with Corey Duncan.

So between those two things, I was a bit preoccupied. Once I decided I could do this full-length album, it took me about three years and then the pandemic hit, so that added some time onto the production and finding a label and all of those things. It was a journey. There are newer songs, then there are songs I’ve written in the last five years, then there are songs I wrote back in college in my early twenties. It is pretty much over the last 10 years, a culmination. I took some songs and redid them. I took some songs and didn’t do anything at all. Then I also made completely new songs.

SF: That being said, how did you go about creating a cohesive sound for songs that span such a wide period of time?

AT: Most of my music has always been kind of similar. I think my ideas are all in the same vein, as far as the instruments I choose. I am not classically trained on piano or guitar or anything. I have kind of stuck to what I know over the years, so I think that has made it easier for stuff to continue to work together. I do think that it was a  long time coming and these songs are part of a ten-year journey towards now that has created a story in my life thus far. And also the influences I have had as a musician have remained consistent through the years. I have always loved Broadcast and St. Vincent, Imogen Heap, Billie Holiday. So I’ve also been pulling from them for as long as I can remember.

SF: I read that these songs serve as kind of signposts chronicling different parts of your childhood. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

AT: So a lot of the songs I had written the concepts for and not finalized the lyrics. So when I started writing the lyrics for these songs, I was writing a lot about my experience of my childhood or in a boarding school. I had a lot of issues with abandonment and feelings of loneliness as a child growing up. The name Space Ghost comes from when I would be up watching TV for hours into the night and then Adult Swim would come on and I would be watching Space Ghost Coast to Coast. That shaped a lot about who I am. That person who was very curious and who was very musical and wanted to explore different things and liked the weirdness of the world. So I wrote about those things and also about the trauma and things that have shaped me. A lot about my relationships with my parents and relationships with people, romantically or just friendships in general. I’ve been able to craft a lot of those experiences into this album. But also throughout the EPs I put out as well, so it is sprinkled throughout.

Attia Taylor - Flash Photography Class

SF: Has music always served as a way for you to kind of work through things in that way?

AT: I would say yes and no. When I was young, yes. I didn’t sit down and say “I am really stressed, so I am going to write a song.” I just wrote songs and worked on music because it was fun and it was a way for me to escape whatever I was dealing with. Now it is hard to sit down and write songs because I have so much other work. I am working at Planned Parenthood and I own and run a magazine and I have an adult life and I am a whole human. So I have to really make time for it, and make it a choice to sit down and work on a new song or new album. I will say that when I do it, sitting down and writing and expressing myself, it is definitely a way for me to feel more free or more whole and more able to be who I am and express who I am. So overall, yes, but it is a little more complicated as an adult.

SF: You mentioned the influence of cartoons and Adult Swim on the album. I was curious how much those cartoons served as jumping off point for you as an artist and helped shape the creative person you are today?

AT: Well, I knew I had this feeling of wanting to play music very early on. When I wasn’t watching cartoons, I was listening to music constantly. We didn’t have a lot of money, but when we could, we really begged my grandmother, who was raising us at the time, to buy us CDs. I was also always making up dances with my sister, making instruments out of paper cups, and definitely singing. I was singing a lot and definitely wanted people to think I sounded good but I wasn’t very confident in my vocal abilities. At the time, I didn’t know that you didn’t have to sound like the people on the radio. When I was a kid I loved Lauryn Hill so much, and since I knew I couldn’t sing like Lauryn Hill, I thought I clearly wasn’t good at singing. But as I got older I stopped caring because I loved music so much, so I just sang. I think I’ve just made it my own thing to sound like me. But yeah, I’ve always wanted it.

SF: When you talk about sounding like yourself, was that something you’ve had to consistently work toward?

AT: I haven’t necessarily tried to sound like myself or anything, it’s just been doing what I can do as a singer. I try to challenge myself to sing in new ways or make my voice sound different or quirky, whatever I could. Early on in high school I got to listen to artists like The Smiths or Belle and Sebastian and I didn’t know you could do stuff like that. You could do whatever you wanted. You didn’t have to sound like anybody on the radio. I used to be jealous, because there were girls in school who would have these really angelic voices and I knew I didn’t sound like that, so I questioned whether it was possible for me to do anything. I also remember Santigold and thinking she was so cool and doing her thing and the fact that she is Black, I was really inspired by that. That really led to moments where it was like, fuck it, I can do it and maybe somebody will appreciate that and luckily, people did.

Strange Parts - Weathersby

SF: You live in Brooklyn now but came back to Philly to record with Jeff Zeigler. What led to that decision?

AT: Corey, my Strange Parts bandmate, introduced me to Jeff years ago when we worked on Oh God, What A Beautiful Time I’ve Spent In The Wild. I love working with Jeff. I love his music and I’ve always loved the work he has produced. I didn’t really know many producers, if any, and to meet Jeff and hear the work he did on the Strange Parts album was really exciting. It was just perfect for Jeff to work on this whole album because he understood the sonic elements and quirkiness I was looking for. I didn’t want it to be some highly produced pop album. I wanted it to be quirky, different, and spacey. So working with Jeff was based on who I knew and how much I respect Jeff and his work and his ability to make Space Ghost an album that resonated with me and the demos that I shared with him.

SF: How do you think working on Womanly Magazine and building that from the ground up has informed this record and vice versa?

AT: It has informed my music career from a business perspective, just because Womanly has been such a portal to meeting new people and promoting a bunch of different artists and getting to talk to labels and to experience new opportunities. So as a musician I was just able to talk a different talk from that perspective. When you are a musician, you want to be featured in a magazine, but when you have a magazine you really learn what they want. So I got to create more of a business platform for my music career and help understand what it means to be a solo artist once again.

SF: I’ve seen you talk about how you view your duty to uncensor and disrupt. I believe this was in reference more to your work with Womanly, but do you think that holds true for your music as well? How so?

AT: I do. If you listen to some of my early EPs, they were very raw, and me just figuring out everything in the world while I was mad and just trying to get it all out there. That has been toned down a little bit as I’ve been writing more about my own inner struggles, but I think as I continue to work on new music, which I intend to do, I will be speaking to a broader experience of the world and the things I have learned over the years. The work and the education I have gotten through just living and working in the space of women’s health, gender equality, and justice for Black lives. All of those things have shaped me and I know for a fact that have really informed my new music. On this album, it is a lot more subtle and I speak to my own personal issues with a lot of these things.

Attia Taylor plays Johnny Brenda’s on Thursday, July 7th with Corey Carris Duncan; tickets and more information on the concert can be found at the WXPN Concerts and Events page. Space Ghost is out this Friday on Lame-O Records, and can be ordered here.