Growing up in the millennium can be downright grueling. Synth-pop duo Posh Hammer bring to light the ravages of young adulthood with their forthcoming new EP, Dancing In Place, which stages a story about two love-torn celebrities who must navigate the demands of social media and keep their romance from falling apart. Hot off the heels of winning the Van Gogh Award at the 2018 Amsterdam Film Festival for the visual component of the EP, and snagging a selection slot at the 2018 Richmond International Film Festival, the sibling duo of Tasnim (vocals) and Navied (production) are armed with a necessary and wholly inventive piece.
The EP’s opening track “An Introduction” is a smooth, vocally-distorted beginning to a tale of tremendous mayhem, setting the stylistic tone of the project. “After We Dance,” the set’s glittering dance groove, injects the story with a bit of relief. It’s a fevered club-floor rave to remind the listener it’s not all completely hopeless in today’s digital space. “To Kill Time” anchors the record and drives the story forward, as the narrator wrestles with social media’s deceiving, clawing nature. “We wanted this song and video to feel like waiting around and watching someone else on Instagram,” says Navied.
Visually speaking, Navied and Tasnim draw upon their adoration with an Italian director named Michelangelo Antonioni, whose early 1960s trilogy (L’Avventura, La Notte and L’Eclisse) observed how the social scene was undergoing great changes of its own. “Antonioni directed films about isolation and alienation,” explains Navied, “and we wanted to take these themes and bring them into 2018.” Strewn across playful uses of lighting and spatial relationships, the videos utilize pop trends to frame a fresh perspective. “We wanted to take elements of what is happening in current music videos and subvert them.” explains Navied, who sat in the director’s chair for the very first time. “Slowly, many of the more typical music video qualities disappear. They’re replaced with these long, near-static shots that are inspired by Antonioni. Our goal was for these shots to make the viewer feel as disconnected as the characters do.”
Admittedly, the pair connect to the themes of alienation and isolation on a deeply personal level. Navied, 20, and Tasnim, 19, know nothing but the internet, and while they benefit greatly from having always had a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, it’s a double-edged sword. “We’ve felt the pressure of social media, the ways it changes how you view the world and how you live your life.” says Navied. “There’s always talk about how social media isn’t healthy, and it gives you an inauthentic portrait of people’s lives. We’re always just seeing the best. As normal people, we have the option of disconnecting from social media, but there are a lot of people whose whole career and lives rely on social media. They don’t have the option of ever really disconnecting. So, they have to deal with what’s going on.”
Growing up in Asheville, NC, Tasnim and Navied were exposed to David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Bryan Ferry, pop titans who instilled them with the basics of how pop music works. “Bowie taught us it was OK to be different,” Tasnim says. “Not listening to the music other kids were listening to was kind of weird but it was good for us.” Their father, an Iranian immigrant, came to the United States with absolutely nothing and built an entire life for himself. That courage had an understandably monumental impact on them both. They’re first generation Americans and in 2018, they are being tested in ways many can not even fathom. “It was hard sometimes growing up with a name like Tasnim,” laments Tasnim. But she brushes it off, choosing to celebrate her uniqueness with aplomb. “But we were never the ones who wanted to try to fit in.”
The band found a natural and accepting fan base with the LGBTQ community. The bulk of Posh Hammer’s live shows in recent past have been at gay pride festivals around the country, with a number of their performances following drag shows. “We love being able to celebrate diversity. One of the best things about playing pride festivals is that people are so welcoming to everyone around them, no matter what race, gender, ethnicity you are. Also, following a drag show is no joke. It’s made us better live performers to be able to follow such a dynamic act,” adds Tasnim.
Dancing in Place demonstrates admirable commitment to self-sufficiency. Navied and Tasnim wrote, recorded and produced the entire five-track project themselves. In their early teens, both started playing guitar and piano, and that skillset serves them well here. “As soon as we picked up instruments, it was just normal for us to play together,” says Tasnim, noting the plethora of Beatles classics they used to cover. “Eventually, that lead us to start writing our own stuff,” notes Navied.
That’s where the new EP comes in, an extension of the darkest shadows of existence then reflected in the glistening mirror of popular culture. “It Once Was Summer” stings the skin, and Tasnim’s voice cuts like a knife into starbursts of synths and drums. It’s as commercial as it is truly emotional. Posh Hammer possess a preternatural disposition for upending pop music, and Dancing In Place serves as their first rallying cry of many to come.
AFTER WE DANCE