People Eating People is the solo piano pop project of Seattle artist Nouela Johnston, and it is absolutely astounding. Johnston has gone through much turbulence to arrive at her current position. In 2007, Johnston was locked into a contract with Mon Frere, the band who won the SoundOff! Battle of the Bands in 2007, which she immediately regretted. Johnston dropped from the band which caused her “[…] a shit-ton of legal messes,” as she explained to The Stranger earlier this week. Unable to release her own music until, among other things, the sum of $5,000 be paid to Cake Records, and she played and toured for-hire with three other bands: Say Hi, Fall of Troy, and Creature Feature. All the while, Johnston was recording a demo which eventually reached the hands of Nabil Ayers, current label manager for 4AD, who offered to release her full-length album.
Her self-titled album, People Eating People, released in November 2009, is an emotional outpouring of jazzy vocals and piano. Johnston is classically trained in jazz piano — she began performing recitals by the age of 4. Being that she is classically trained, her music is technically masterful and complex — her vocals are to match. Her lyrics are personal and emotionally driven; we can see such in “I Hate All My Friends.” Pounding and fast jazz keys supplement her apparent anger as she sings a tale of lies and deceit. With “All The Hospitals,” Johnston shows her flexibility as a jazz pianist. Fluctuating, complex rhythms, all the while delivering the similarly fluctuating jazz-style vocals. A highly emotional tale of depression, making references to suicide amongst other things; “don’t cut too deep, take all those pills…don’t swallow… everyone you love is on your side.”
People Eating People — “All the Hospitals,” from People Eating People (2009) | download
See below for upcoming shows, live videos, and a video interview.