Music

How Brooklyn’s Thelma Makes Gigantic, Electric Songs Feel Intimate Like Folk

Thelma is the project of Natasha Jacobs, a Brooklyn guitarist and songwriter who released her debut album earlier this year via the Carolina label Tiny Engines. It may be the strongest debut of the year, and landed at #23 on our best albums of 2017 mid-year list. The self-titled seven-track project is full of forceful electronic melodies and sharp, twisting lyrics that don’t quite say what they mean, but maintain an inherent air of playfulness. Even when the songs get dark or heavy, there’s a sense of mischief in the songwriting on Thelma.

A native of upstate New York, Jacobs has always been interested in creating, but she was originally a visual artist, and even got a degree in that field, before a rather tragic accident caused her to pause and shift gears. Jacobs was sucked into the world of music after a terrible fall off a ladder in her Brooklyn loft. Two doctors told her she’d never walk again, but a third was able to give her the kind of miracle surgery that meant she can now walk, and even run, despite a shattered tibial plateau. Following that experience, Jacobs moved into the world of music, and more importantly, the world of Thelma, and never looked back.

She taught herself guitar in order to write her own songs, eventually joining with fellow Thelma bandmembers Daniel Siles, Maciej Lewandowski, and Juan Pablo Siles to recreate the solo songs she’d been playing alone as tracks that grow to be towering and enormous at times, but never lose their inner core of tiny intimacy. Today we’re premiering the video for one such song, “Peach,” a clip that was directed by Conner Schuurmans, and presents a story told from the perspective of Bob the Dog. Watch below, and read our interview with Jacobs about working with directors to achieve a surreal aesthetic, how the fall impacted her music, and what’s next for the project.

So the “Peach” video isn’t necessarily a happy one; it’s actually a little spooky, but I loved how surreal it is, and I also loved how surreal the earlier video for “White Couches” was as well. When you’re coming up with a video treatment, what is the philosophy behind that? Because these two videos feel like they’re of the same aesthetic.

I’m such a control freak with my music that my whole outlook with music videos is I really wanted to work with artists who I respect. That’s basically how we’ve done all of them — and there’s more coming out too — is finding an artist who I felt understood my aesthetic coming up with an idea and pitching it to me. If I approved the idea then I was very hands off, even if I wasn’t like totally 100% confident in it, just because I felt like for videos it should either be that I’m directing or co-directing the video, or I’m just trusting someone else. So I really wanted to help formulate the original idea with them, and then be hands off.

In fact, for the “Peach” video, I actually wasn’t even there for the shoot. We planned it out scene by scene together, and my friend Conner — who directed it — just told me his ideas. It was kind of wild, because they shot that video, and then poor Bob the dog passed away just a few days afterward. So this is the last documentation of the dog.

Poor Bob! At least we have this record of him. The videos both feel a little bit surreal and ominous. For someone who is coming to your music for the first time, and watching these two videos, what would you hope they come away with?

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