Multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and songwriter Cariahbel Azemar draws strongly on childhood and memories in their project Meet The Bug — from the whimsical cover art illustrations on their Bandcamp page to the wistful melodies in their songwriting. There’s an acute sense of playfulness present in this project, just don’t misread any of it as overly simple, or entirely silly. Listen closely and you’ll find nuanced depth to the art they make: the unexpected grind of gritty electronic beats offsetting a warm keyboard melody, lyrics that delve deeply into sometimes difficult topics like past trauma and claiming your space in an often cold world.
Azemar was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, raised in suburban Georgia, and schooled at Bard College in upstate New York; they settled into Philadelphia and its music scene in their early 20s. Their turbulent journey and past trauma fuels some of their songwriting, which they shared recently in WXPN Studios for The Key Studio Sessions — the opening “Cold In The Summer” is one example — while other moments highlight everyday emotional experiences, like stumbling awkwardly through love and heartache (“4th of July”).
An unreleased song debuted in this Studio Session, and from it, it seems Meet the Bug’s newer material is turning more outer-directed, attempting to make sense of injustices in society and even offer some solutions. The powerful “Propaganda” is, as Azemar put it, “less about trans rights and more about cis wrongs,” and takes on uncompassionate parents as much as organizations that wield their confusion and fear into oppression: “you want to keep your children safe, I want to keep your children safe too / from the bullies in their head and in their bedroom.” The set-closing “Nothing Permament” from Meet The Bug’s first EP embraces a Zen-like anti-materialistic mindset while also being strongly anti-capitalist: “join a union, go on strike” Azemar urges while introducing the song. “Whatever your boss is paying you, it isn’t enough.”
Watch Meet The Bug’s Key Studio Session in full below; Azemar plans to take the project on a fall tour, and you can follow their Instagram at @meetthebug, or keep tabs on their website for more about shows, new releases, and other adventures.