Jun 11, 2021
By Charles Steinberg
It’s a playlist takeover this week and I couldn’t be more excited to cede the floor to creative/productive dynamo, Elia Einhorn. Elia is a Pitchfork Radio and Sonos Radio presenter and the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir / Fashion Brigade frontman, not to mention a host of one of the very best arts & culture podcasts out there –Talkhouse. He has just launched the very noteworthy zine Sober 21. Finding that talking about sobriety in the music industry is taboo, he set out to make a guide that shows the world and musicians struggling with addiction that it’s more common than you think. Sober 21 features a compilation of interviews, essays, and as-told-to’s from twenty-one sober musical artists, and this week’s playlist features these artists. Here’s Elia!
I’m a musician, DJ, music radio/podcast / TV broadcaster, and curated and edited Sober 21. When Under The Radar asked me to do a Sober 21 playlist takeover, I thought it’d be dope to share one track from each of the zine’s contributors, a group of musicians who were chosen in part to represent a multitude of genres. So while there’s a lot of stylistic disparity, the connecting throughline here is that each of these tracks- whether world-conquering hit or, um, under the radar indie gem- is a fuckin’ BANGER! And my note accompanying each song touches on what topic(s) the artist’s Sober 21 entry takes in. Check it out!
Dehd – Loner
Dehd’s Emily Kempf and I met through a sober artists’ community; neither of us had any idea that the other worked in music. Turns out that sober folks are everywhere in the music industry! Emily shares in the zine about how she got clean before she ever even dreamed of a career in music, and how her sobriety enabled her to have success beyond her dreams. This jangly, yelped single was one of my fave tracks of last year.
The Pogues – I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day
This is a most unsettling song, and I love it for that. It’s also the only Pogues track I know of where bassist Cait O’Riordan takes lead vocal duties. I knew I wanted Cait to share her experience on being a now-sober musician from a band known to be one of the most debaucherous of all time, ‘cause if a fucking POGUE can now turn down a drink, ANYONE can!
Painted Zeros – Too Drunk
You can hear in this track by Katie Lau- AKA Painted Zeros- that she wrote it at a point in her alcoholism where she knew it was a very serious problem but didn’t know how to stop. Making that feeling a massive chorus? Chef’s kiss. Now sober for a handful of years, when she’s not on the road performing, Katie’s an insanely in-demand soundperson for touring bands and Brooklyn venues, and writes about a sober life spent around alcohol in Sober 21.
Run-DMC – It’s Like That
An innovator of both hip hop and rap/rock, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels shares in the zine that he’s proudly modeling how a sober artist can proudly share their recovery. I’ve been receiving tear-inducing emails from Sober 21 readers about how his difficult journey deeply resonates with them. They know it’s like that, and that’s the way it is!
Maluca – NYC baby
I met Natalie Ann Yepez- AKA Maluca through the LCD Soundsystem squad. After big success as part of the Mad Decent fam, she wrote her Sober 21 piece about staying clean even when your career doesn’t go exactly the way you’d like it to. A bit after she sent me the piece, I saw a video of her slaying onstage at Madison Square Garden with her collaborator Robyn.
Daft Punk featuring Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky
Nile Rodgers told me he’s making more hits now than he ever has, so for this playlist I had to add this world-conquering banger that the man worked on stone-cold motherfucking sober! What a hero.
Cardini, David Shaw and the Beat – In The Ballroom
Jennifer Cardini’s one of the best DJs I’ve ever seen spin. For Sober 21, she made a list of things she does to stay sober during a (non-pandemic) life spent on the road.
LCD Soundsystem – Us V Them, London Session
I met LCD Soundsystem’s sick a-f bassist Tyler Pope when the band was headlining Coachella, and I was hosting a Pitchfork Radio pool party at a boutique hotel nearby. Tyler came through to spin a set, and though we had a fancy open bar, he passed on a drink. As we got to talking, we soon realized we were both in recovery (again, we’re everywhere!!), and a deep bond was immediately forged. Tyler wrote his piece for the zine about overcoming stage fright as a recovering addict. Check his incredible playing on this version of “Us V Them”.
Joy Division – Disorder
Like Cait with The Pogues, Peter Hook is associated with the deepest debauchery, in his case as a part-owner and regular at Manchester’s acid house mecca The Hacienda. In Sober 21, Hooky shares hilariously about going to rehab, and drops tips on avoiding relapse triggers.
Moby – Porcelain
In our convo in the zine, Moby recounts being a massive star hitting bottom in a very public manner. Thankfully the superstar DJ got clean and shares how he interacted with the music press as a newly sober artist.
Prince Rama – So Destroyed
I met Prince Rama’s Nimai Larson at a beach in Brooklyn. She was laid out on the sand with some mutual Brooklyn-sober-community friends (sober people even have beach parties!) and we got to talking music, as music nerds will. As great a band as Prince Rama were, Nimai writes about how she realized that while living the rock star life may be many peoples’ dream, it isn’t her dream, and that part of bringing about what she really wanted in life meant leaving her work in music behind.
John Grant – Love Is Magic
John Grant is a musician of the breed I reverently call ‘brilliant weirdos’. Thankfully, his Sober 21 essay is all about getting sober and staying weird!
Interpol – Everything Is Wrong- Live At Electric Lady
Interpol’s Brad Truax recounts being fresh out of rehab for a near-fatal heroin addiction and on the road as Animal Collective’s tour manager, learning in real-time how to navigate his new reality.
Hole – Miss World
Patti Schemel powerfully writes about hitting bottom, getting kicked out of Hole, and the journey of recovery that led back to working with Courtney Love.
Patti Smith – Land / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer(de)
Patti Smith Group’s drummer Jay Dee Daugherty has been a sober mentor to me for close to a decade. He drops a lot of knowledge in his Sober 21 interview, including his experience sharing with his band that he’d gotten sober, as well as how to take things as they come in life. Listen to his multifaceted drum parts on this seminal Horses track- it’s a goddamn masterclass!
Television – Venus
I had to keep it at CBGB for another track, one of Television’s crowning triumphs. Guitarist Richard Lloyd shares that he went from spending entire sets zonked out to ripping solos he never could have before getting clean. Fall into the arms of Venus de Milo with a song that’s been on and off stuck in my head for yeeeaaaars!
Chastity Belt – Different Now
Chastity Belt bassist Annie Truscott- who’s also half of Routine, alongside her life partner Jay Som- needed to see sobriety modeled by a fellow rocker before she could make the change herself. She writes about how meeting Lillie West of Lala Lala changed her life for the better.
Carissa’s Weird – You Should Be Hated Here
Jenn Champion’s ‘Soda water with a lime – but will you put it in a rocks glass’ essay in Sober 21 brilliantly breaks down how to avoid the dreaded “oh you’re not drinking?” convo. This is essential reading for those who got sober during the pandemic and are blinking in the light of the new world.
Idgy Dean – Lung
“Talk talk talk your demons out” she sings here, and damn if her piece in the zine doesn’t do the same thing. Idgy shares her journey to the bottom and back- including how she celebrated her newfound sobriety with the support of a massive, screaming crowd. Love it!
Beastie Boys – Three MC’s And One DJ
Mix Master Mike is one of the greatest turntablists of all time. He shares about finding a power greater than himself and how the support of his wife helped give him the strength to leave his years of drug abuse in the past. This track and this whole playlist go out to “all the party people who are happy and free”!