A dreamy and raw reckoning, Ok Cowgirl’s debut EP ‘Not My First Rodeo’ is as turbulent as it is stirring: A visceral coming-of-age record dwelling in a space of feverish emotion and dramatic sound.
for fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, Julien Baker
Stream: “Her Eyes” – Ok Cowgirl
If you listen to her words you’ll realize this is an album about growth and weathering; it’s a coming of age story. It documents the trials and tribulations that lead one to a statement like “not my first rodeo.”
The weight of reflection, connection, and self-discovery hangs heavy throughout Ok Cowgirl’s debut EP. A dreamy and raw reckoning, Not My First Rodeo is as turbulent as it is stirring: A visceral coming-of-age record dwelling in a space of feverish emotion and dramatic sound.
Am I just lonely
Am I just lonely all the time?
She is so pretty
She looks my lonely and my type
I’ve never had a type
Am I just tired?
Bored with the contents of my mind
No you’re just reckless
Put down your heart and close your eyes
Your eyes should see her eyes tonight
I see her in my dreams
You saw the way she looks at me
I’ve never felt so warm, so understood now
I don’t really understand how
Independently released December 8, 2021, Not My First Rodeo is a truly show-stopping 22-minute affair. Arriving a little more than a year after Ok Cowgirl’s debut single, the Brooklyn indie band’s debut EP comes in the form of an intimate and vulnerable rush; a cinematic, understated push-and-pull between tension and release, wrapped in a moody, dreamy rock veil.
“We’ve been at it as a live band for a couple years now, just really focused on getting out there and bringing music directly to the people,” says Ok Cowgirl’s frontwoman Leah Lavigne. “When the pandemic hit we realized we weren’t going to be able to do that and recording became more of a priority for us. There’s nothing we love more than live shows but putting the songs down for people to hear whenever they please is special and important in its own way.” A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who previously worked with the likes of Fair Visions and Ryan Egan, Lavigne brings her own artistic vision to life with the help of drummer Matt Birkenholz, bassist Jase Hottenroth on bass, and lead guitarist Jake Sabinsky.
Lavigne embraces center stage as bandleader – she shines in the spotlight – but she’s also quick to recognize Ok Cowgirl as a group effort. Not My First Rodeo finds the band at their best, playing together as one. “A lot of these songs have changed over the years, and we anticipate how we play them will continue to change,” she says. “When we first went into the studio we felt quite a bit of pressure to figure out and lay down this end all be all version of the songs. Once we started recording we realized we could spend forever exploring different ideas, and this “ultimate” version we were after was a mirage. Instead of obsessing over perfection we began to just tune into what felt good. The goal became to make the songs come alive, to figure out how to make a song we’ve played hundreds of times give us chills again, to capture where it’s at and where we’re at in this particular lucky moment.”
“We thought Not My First Rodeo would be a cheeky name for our debut EP. Yes, it’s our first release, but it is also the culmination of so many other things. The title is a nod to the long musical and personal journeys that have led all four of us to this point. The lyrics specifically reflect Leah’s personal journey. If you listen to her words you’ll realize this is an album about growth and weathering; it’s a coming of age story. It documents the trials and tribulations that lead one to a statement like ‘not my first rodeo.'”
Humanity (or “humanness”) is an important quality for Ok Cowgirl: The band strip down their souls in these five songs, and they hold that kind of authentic surrender – something akin, perhaps to the work of Phoebe Bridgers, Big Thief, or Julien Baker – in high regard. Not only does this help make their music accessible to a multitude of listeners from all different backgrounds, but it also humanizes the band.
“We hope Not My First Rodeo introduces us as real people,” they share. “Leah’s songwriting is honest and raw. She pulls at different strings that are tangled up in a ball of feelings; she does it in a way that holds space for how complex the emotional landscape can be. Our sound is built around this and is thus quite dynamic. We are a feelings-first band, and we’ll employ everything from heavy shoegaze guitars to gentle folk picking, bellowing whale-sounding slide guitar to screeching feedback in order to support the emotional arc of a song.”
We are a feelings-first band, and we’ll employ everything from heavy shoegaze guitars to gentle folk picking, bellowing whale-sounding slide guitar to screeching feedback in order to support the emotional arc of a song.
That barrage of emotions comes to us in waves throughout Not My First Rodeo: From the irresistible, intensely introspective opener “Unlost” and the dazzling love song “Her Eyes,” to the churning upheaval of “Across the Room” and the poignant confessions soaring sweetly through “Deer in the Headlights,” Ok Cowgirl charm us and disarm us. The band conclude their EP on the lo-fi reverie “Roadtrip (Till the End of Time),” a many-textured ballad tracing “the aftermath of your entire life exploding,” as Lavigne poetically explains. “It’s about how forever can feel so sure one day and gone the next.” Sounding a bit like Tennis’ Alaina Moore alongside Jake Sabinsky’s warm, cascading electric guitar riffs, Lavigne showcases her vocal range and depth in a song full of heart, soul, yearning, and fervor. It’s the perfect way to leave a budding audience satisfied, yet hungry for more.
For Ok Cowgirl, these songs capture life in motion and life on pause; this is by definition a debut, but the band is seasoned, and they’ve made sure we know it. “‘Unlost’ is really special to us,” the group says of a shared favorite. “It’s heavy, but also has this floaty quality. Leah brought it to us the first time we got together after lockdown and coming up with the arrangement together felt like putting on a well worn pair of boots.”
As for lyrics, Lavigne cites her own personal highlight. “A lot of times life can feel like a fast moving vehicle coming straight at you. In our experience, the trick to not getting plowed over is to keep moving. The second verse of ‘Deer in the Headlights’ ends with, “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not here. I don’t know who I am, but I’m no longer scared.” You don’t always have to know where you’re going, but if you can take one step at a time in a direction that feels right you will end up where you’re meant to be. These lyrics are a call to live more openly, to not be afraid to explore and find and share your honest self with the world, and to not settle.”
It’s a perfect encapsulation not only of this deeply moving song, but also of who the band Ok Cowgirl have shown themselves to be.
Not My First Rodeo will rock you, shock you, shake you to the core, and build you back up again.
Ok Cowgirl pack a wealth of lived experience, emotion, and passion into these five songs, resulting in a record that is as catchy as it is cathartic and as intimate as it is intense. Whether you’re in it for the rock riffs or the raw reckonings, this EP is sure to provide endless entertainment all winter long – and it’s certainly earned Ok Cowgirl a space as one of Atwood Magazine‘s 2022 artists to watch.
“We hope that people take away whatever they need,” the band share. “We hope that when people listen to Not My First Rodeo there’s at least one moment that engulfs them, that strikes a chord, that stays with them. And we hope they leave with a burning desire to come dance it out with us at a show sometime. Recording these songs and releasing them has given us permission to move on in a way and we’re excited for what’s to come. We’re working on lots of new material and already can’t wait to share it.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Ok Cowgirl’s Not My First Rodeo EP with Atwood Magazine as Leah Lavigne goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s debut extended player!
Stream: ‘Not My First Rodeo’ – Ok Cowgirl
:: Inside Not My First Rodeo ::
I wrote this song during lockdown. It was a period of intense self-reflection for me. I realized I had gotten so caught up doing what I thought I should be doing, trying to meet other people’s expectations and live right by their standards that I had lost myself in the process. I had stopped asking myself what mattered to me, and what felt good to me. I felt alienated from my life and a daunting helpless emptiness. Unlost is about trying to claw my way out of that.
Her Eyes is the first love song I ever wrote about a girl. When I wrote the first half of it I was actually in denial that it was a love song. Which seems so absurd now! But I was still in the closet, even to myself. I went back years later and wrote the ending once I had grown more comfortable in my skin. In a way this song maps my coming out journey: the mysterious feelings, the questioning, and finally the courage to not only recognize my attraction but act on it.
Across the Room
Across the Room started out as a little ditty I wrote when I was going through a breakup. I would play it on loop because it felt meditative to feel all these feelings and then feel them all over again. Something about this continuous motion kept me from sinking too deep into any one emotion. When I first brought it to the band I had plans to add on to the song, but we decided to honor its genesis and replicate this looping experience for the listener instead. So the song is actually the same thing twice separated by a musical interlude. When it came time to record it we had a fun time trying to make it dynamic and show how the same words can feel different depending on how they’re expressed.
Deer in the Headlights
I wrote this song a year or so out of undergrad. I was working this full time day job that wasn’t a good fit for me, but I couldn’t figure out a better option to pay my bills. I remember thinking “okay, so this is it; this is my life until I do something about it,” but feeling too paralyzed to do anything about it!
Roadtrip (Till the End of Time)
Roadtrip is about the aftermath of your entire life exploding. It’s about how forever can feel so sure one day and gone the next. And it’s about the extreme measures we will go through to try and get what we want back.
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📸 © Rita Iovine
:: Stream Ok Cowgirl ::