Plunge headfirst down a rabbit hole of digital grief with OK Cool and their visceral ‘fawn’ EP, an achingly vulnerable and unapologetic indie rock record that’s as feverish as it is raw.
for fans of Wednesday, Hovvdy, Sincere Engineer, Rat Tally, TOLEDO
Stream: “normal c” – OK Cool
The idea of a baby deer learning to walk felt pretty appropriate for the title of the EP – it parallels the vulnerability that comes with taking on new experiences.
Forgetting the fact that they’re the only band I know to use a clip from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (one of my favorite shows) in one of their songs, and OK Cool still live up their name in every way. The Chicago duo’s third EP is here and gone in under 20 minutes, and in that time they hold nothing back, creating a captivatingly cathartic experience for all who tune in to their musical reckoning. Achingly vulnerable and unapologetic indie rock comes to life on OK Cool’s fawn, a visceral record that’s as feverish as it is raw.
Join OK Cool as they plunge headfirst “down a rabbit hole of digital grief” and don’t look back.
i think i’ll stay at home today
my bed’s a rock
my muscles are drained
cause outside’s too much on my pressure plate
i just sit and think
feel awful again
feel awful again
i said, don’t you wait for me
if i want to be anonymity
if i have to feel like i can’t be seen
i don’t need to speculate the reasoning
all the time
– “normal c,” OK Cool
Released April 28, 2023 via Take a Hike Records, fawn is beautifully volatile and brutally honest: An eight track dive into the deep end of life. Its songs carry with them an intimate intensity that’s borne out as much in the lyrics, as it is in the music itself.
It’s also OK Cool’s most revealing record to date. Following 2020’s Anomia and 2021’s Surrealist EPs, fawn finds the Chicago duo of Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist getting real like never before, exploring “internal struggles with depression and external struggles with relationships” through songs they say were inspired by their own queer coming-of-age experiences.
“It feels sonically similar to our last EP, Surrealist, but I think that’s because we are closer to figuring our sound is,” Blomquist explains. “Each time we put out music, I feel like I have a better idea of what I can contribute to a song – when to hold back and when to pile on, so I think fawn is a further evolution of that.”
And what an evolution it is.
fawn is all the proof we ever need to know that a song doesn’t have to be four minutes long in order to leave a lasting impression.
“This record was written between 2020-2022,” Bridget Stiebris tells Atwood Magazine. “Although it has eight tracks, the runtime is only 17 minutes. We’re not exactly great at writing longer tunes, but I think it’s kind of fun to look at it like vignettes of sorts. It’s kind of our ‘ode to the demo’ in that we kept all song titles in lowercase exactly how they were on my computer. There’s also not much that generally changes about the songs from the first draft to the final master besides the production quality.”
“It’s a very vulnerable record, as per usual,” she adds. “I’ve become very attuned with the relational patterns I need to recognize and change. One such pattern is trying to make other people more comfortable in lieu of my own boundaries, in an effort to avoid conflict and establish some sense of safety. This kind of behavior is referred to as the ‘fawn’ response in psychology, as opposed to the more commonly known ‘fight or flight’ responses. It’s something that’s been on my mind the past couple years.”
“The title is also influenced by how much it did, and still mostly does, feel like we’re just finding our legs in all of this. I’ve never sung in a band before we started this project. We’ve never had the level of songwriting power that we do now – Haley and I have always been a rhythm section. The idea of a baby deer learning to walk felt pretty appropriate for the title of the EP–it parallels the vulnerability that comes with taking on new experiences.”
From the depression-fueled confessional “333” to the unfiltered, irresistible fever dream “soaked in,” fawn inspires us to confront our demons head on; to dwell in our dark spaces and embrace them as a part of our greater whole. Alternative to the core, their songs range in sound and style between lo-fi indie and garage rock, Midwest and fifth wave emo. Haley Blomquist calls it “shimmery bummer rock.”
“I think, for us, the album is more of a collection of the moments when the songs were written,” she adds. “We never sat down and said ‘we want it to have these themes‘ exactly.”
In other words, this is a record of life lived in the moment – a series of unpredictable, unregulated highs and lows.
Lead single “normal c” is an undeniable highlight on the EP; not only does it end with a clip from the classic It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 3 episode, “Sweet Dee’s Dating a *** Person,” but it’s also host to some of OK Cool’s most nuanced and uncompromising songwriting:
can i clean my head?
always a mess
i said a line i will regret
two days from now
i can’t know how it ends
i’ll just shower again
i’ll turn the tv off instead
feel awful again
i said, don’t you look at me
it’s hard to have agency
if i have to feel sorta bad everyday
i don’t need to act
or live in normalcy
all the time
“I wrote this song about the heaviness I sometimes feel about being out in public,” Stiebris explains, “and the eventual conclusion that sometimes I can just accept that feeling without digging into the underlying meaning, or feeling like it’s something that needs fixing.”
Blomquist lists “normal c” and the explosive eruption “mud” as her two favorites on the EP, while Stiebris cites the fuzz-filled, fervent “nissanweekends” and breathtaking closer “soaked in” as her personal picks.
“I love Haley’s line, ‘went down a rabbit hole of digital grief,‘ Stiebris adds. “I also like my line, ‘I taste a season / a people pleaser.’ I love when I’m able to capture a bunch of feelings for myself in as few words as possible.”
went down a rabbit hole of digital grief
sidetrack, re-route, re-map and find something niche
watch LED screens till your eyes spiral in
and let the clock microdose the seconds
low server hum
have to pay off my Nissan
and schedule some time to see friends on the weekends
chain chomp myself into gear when i am free
cause if i lay down the earth will open up and leave me
short form attention pays attention to me
impermanent nature help make things feel sweet
tasked with the whole day of long listenings
makes the clock microdose the seconds
OK Cool have never sounded cooler, more confident, or more in control than they do on fawn.
Out of life’s chaos, darkness, and turbulence, Stiebris and Blomquist have created a thing of raw, unadulterated sonic and emotional beauty.
“I hope it connects with someone emotionally on some level,” Stiebris shares. “I know my lyrics can tend to be a little more vague and it’s not always obvious what a song is about, but I hope that can open things up for various interpretations, and in turn, various kinds of connections.”
“On the other hand, it still feels so raw and vulnerable to put those things out, even if nobody has a clue what something is about. It’s like putting your diary on blast. But it’s a thrilling feeling to create regardless, and to create something out of pain is the best coping mechanism I’ve found yet.”
i’ve got a feeling i’m waiting for something that’ll never come
desperate measures to self regulate emotions till i’m numb
you don’t have to know me well to know i’m not hanging around
and i’ve cut off an arm before
so how bad could it get right now?
how bad can it get right now?
i’ve got a feeling i’m waiting for something that’ll never come
the same good signals in my brain are the ones that you’re running from
and my whole system can’t go on
flowers hiding from the sun
i will hang my head up high and drag my body through the mud
i don’t wanna see ya, i don’t want me to
i don’t wanna tell ya, i don’t know the truth
i don’t want to leave ya, i don’t want me too
i don’t want my future, i don’t want it to
– “mud,” OK Cool
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside OK Cool’s fawn with Atwood Magazine as Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their third EP!
Stream: ‘fawn’ – OK Cool
:: Inside fawn ::
Bridget: This song is kind of an embracing of a super depressed feeling. I encouraged myself to sit in it and just say exactly what I was feeling rather than try to distract myself or turn away from the thought.
Haley: This is one of the earliest songs on fawn. We’ve been playing it live for a while and it’s been fun to fine tune it through shows.
Bridget: I wrote this song about the heaviness I sometimes feel about being out in public, and the eventual conclusion that sometimes I can just accept that feeling without trying to understand the deeper reasoning behind it, or fix the way I am. That first guitar line is short and sweet and is almost the exact same three notes for the whole song – I wanted it to mirror the feeling of monotony.
Bridget: This was super fun to write, particularly the dual guitar line that hits at 0:16. I had been listening to a lot of Spirit Of The Beehive at the time and had a goal to make something that was as fun to play as it was to listen to. I like how the structure of this one is just “part 1” and “part 2.” I’m always looking to break out of traditional structure choices and just keep things moving. Lyrically this one captures the thought of “I don’t know why I exist and I didn’t ask for it, but I’m here anyway so I should just try to have fun.”
Haley: This one is about the stress of juggling everything in your life and making sure you give enough time to all the things that are important to you. It’s easy to feel like if you relax and take time for yourself, that you “should” be productive. “If I lay down the earth will open up and leave me.”
Haley: Mud is one of my favorites on the record. I like how it builds and Bridget killed the solo.
Bridget: This one was influenced by Spirit Of The Beehive as well – they have lots of songs that hang on one really strong, driving drum beat. I wanted to see what I could make inside of something like that. This is one of the longer ones on the record – I had to really convince myself to hang on the bridge for longer than I would usually want to, because I want to get better at letting something groove for a minute rather than moving on quickly like I usually do. The guitar part I wrote in the bridge with the fingertapping is both immensely satisfying to play and also VERY hard for me to pull off perfectly.
Bridget: I got super into Alex G last year, and it made me want to include more acoustic guitar in our stuff. I like that there’s not a lot of words in this one. Sometimes I think simplicity is best. Lyrically this one is about the end of a relationship that I didn’t see coming. It was a super disorienting feeling.
treat me nice
Haley: I had to advocate for “treat me nice” because Bridget wasn’t sure she wanted it on fawn. It’s fun to have artificial drums and experiment with different elements in a song.
Bridget: “treat me nice” kind of goes hand in hand with the subject of the previous song “whiplash.” This was a demo that I held onto for a long time – wasn’t sure if it was worth including on the record but Haley really liked it and pushed us to include it. Similar to our song “Divers,” this song also features an extremely mediocre beat that I made in Logic that I swore I would go back to later and improve. Somehow, the dumb beats we start with always end up feeling pretty comfortable, and matches our very scrappy vibe anyways. DIY for better or for worse!
Bridget: This is one of my favorite OK Cool songs – I think it really just encapsulates the project as a whole. I like the idea of traveling between the catchiness of indie/emo stuff and the more involved and technical mathy influences. It’s cool to try and find a home for each of those in the same song.
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© Kennedy Cottrell
:: Stream OK Cool ::