From Memory

Contact Jessica Linker, Yuri Kwon about Clothing

Clothing — the duo of Aakaash Israni (Dawn of Midi) and Ben Sterling (Cookies, Mobius Band) — announce their debut album, From Memory, out July 26th, and release the lead single “Still Point (feat. L’Rain)” with an accompanying video. Featuring contributions from Amber Coffman, Elliot Skinner, Anna Wise, and L’Rain, From Memory uses the duo’s disparate musical histories to forge a new rhythmic reality.


Clothing is the result of the long-gestating friendship and musical collaboration between Israni and Sterling, who met over a decade ago on the stoop of a Crown Heights house party and became close friends. Sterling is a born and bred New Yorker who came of age marinating in pop music, while Israni is an Indian-born, SoCal surfer who studied classical composition in France and free improvisation at CalArts. These different backgrounds and interests created a productive and surprising friction: when the two began sharing musical ideas, it turned out Israni didn’t know what a chorus was in popular music. “I had never even considered how a pop song was constructed,” says Israni. Sterling had much to learn from Israni, too—especially about the intricate Ghanaian music that inspired Dawn of Midi’s Dysnomia and that soon came to underpin the unexpected rhythms of From Memory.


Today’s new single, the rippling “Still Point (feat. L’Rain),” follows previously released numbers, the lush and angular “Kingdom feat. Amber Coffman” and “Modern Interiors,” which features Anna Wise’s dynamic vocals gliding over Clothing’s sharp, restless, electronic production, creating a complex and confounding yet pop-adjacent sound. As Sterling explains, “‘Still Point’ is a song about love and devotion, and the fear of losing those things. It is a banal, cruel fact that love is so self-evidently what life is about, yet it opens us up to visitations from the worst horrors imaginable. There are so many ways to lose something irreplaceable: breakup, serious illness, plane crash…Any time I’m reminded of this, I fill with terror: ‘It’s a long way down to the bottom now.’”


Sterling elaborates on the literal aspects of the lyric, “I go to the mountains every summer, and that acute sensation of being high up in the air and far away from everything and everyone feels similarly tenuous. You are so exposed. I was in a bad thunderstorm a few years ago that killed someone a few miles away. He was just standing under the wrong tree that day. It’s impossible to reconcile with these possibilities! The line ‘don’t be afraid in the clouds’ is a pep talk I have to give myself sometimes.”


The song’s chorus went through a few iterations and they ended up with two totally different arrangements. “Taja chose this song right away and brought so much pathos to her performance. Her wordless chorus at the end is sublime.”


On working with Israni and Sterling for From Memory, L’Rain adds: “Sometimes singing can feel overwhelming or scary, but not this time: it felt really liberating to record this music and to have Ben and Aakaash trust me to put a little bit of myself into it. I’m so grateful!”


Clothing create a particularly distinctive form of a pop music, both surprising and distantly familiar, with lyrics capturing our bizarre modernity and zeroing in on the small victories and surreal indignities of a tech-obsessed era that diminishes humanity. Greed, longing, war and transcendence swell up and disappear, and unnamed gods appear with trickster-like intentions. An undercurrent of humor permeates the acid observations.


Creating From Memory stretched out over 10 years, through the birth of children, cross country moves, and the painstaking search for the aforementioned vocal collaborators. “We learned that it’s incredibly hard to imagine a voice singing a song that it hasn’t sung yet,” says Sterling. It was like casting a dream. And though the process stretched over years, it’s hard to argue with the results from Coffman’s powerful delivery, L’Rain’s hypnotic timbre, Wise’s earthy expressivity and Skinner’s elastic tenor.