The sign of a true artist is someone that uses their art to hold up a mirror to the world around them. Maybe it’s a literal representation of what we are all a part of or maybe it’s something more personal. If done right and honestly, this art strikes a universal chord. When the pandemic hit, it left a lot of artists struggling to find their own voice to make sense of this. In the case of Bria Salmena, she used her voice to interpret the words of artists that have come before but also made them uniquely her own. On her debut EP, Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 out now on Sub Pop Records, Bria and longtime friend and Frigs bandmate Duncan Hay Jennings, found the solace and space they needed during this time by recreating six songs that had struck a chord with them.
In an attempt to keep busy and find some peace, the duo has crafted a unique and uniquely loving tribute to the artists that have inspired them. From Karen Dalton’s “Green Rocky Road” to Waylon Jenning’s “Dreaming My Dreams With You”, to Mistress Mary’s “I Don’t Wanna Love Ya Now”, Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 is a wonderful collection of songs that pays homage to the originals while subverting them just enough to feel wholly new.
“It all happened a little bit accidentally,” Salmana explains about how the record came together. “When the pandemic started we had just finished writing a bunch of Frigs stuff and finished a tour and I was feeling a little burnt out on writing and as people were doing at the start of the pandemic, I was just listening to a ton of music and found the Mistress Mary track and just thought it would be a fun thing to cover. I sent the song to Duncan and he thought it was cool and he sent me an instrumental track and we thought it would just be something fun to do to send these things to each other.” This remote way of recording changed into some actual sessions when Salmana went up to the farm that Jennings had dispatched to at the onset of the pandemic. “We thought we were going to be doing this as a way of correspondence for a long time,”she says, “but as we came into the summer, I started going up to the farm where Duncan was staying and we decided to keep recording these covers for no other reason than to have a fun time together.” While six songs are featured on the EP, there were more that the duo tried to lay down. “The ones that made it onto the EP were the ones that we had the strongest connection to”, Salmon says as Jennings adds,”The identity of these songs came together the quickest and most naturally. There was definitely a prior connection that we had with the songs that made the record.”
The environment in which these songs were recorded definitely had a huge hand in the way that everything came together. “My aunt lives out there,” Jennings explains about the space where the album came together. “Our tour was cancelled and needed a place to, sort of, quarantine I guess, I was trying to be responsible. So my girlfriend and I went out there. We thought it would be a couple weeks but it turned into almost nine months. It’s a really special place and a great place to make music and record.” The sound of the farm has absolutely seeped into every single one of the tracks on the record. They all have such an intense, lived in feel to them. “We’ve talked about this a lot,” Jennings says, “I think the wonderful thing about this EP to us is that it really is just a product of that time and that environment. Take a song like “Green Rocky Road”. There’s a lot of ambient sound in there. That’s like my girlfriend cooking a meal as we recorded that, to us it really feels like a timestamp.”
The fact that all the songs featured on the record are all, genre wise, country songs is also no fluke. As Jennings explains, “Country music and its rich history has deeply informed both Bria and I’s separate and shared musical identities.” Salmena had a certain idea in mind when it came time to put their stamp on these songs. “I wanted to do a bit of honouring and a bit of subverting with these. We both really enjoy country music but by no means am I a country musician.” “These songs wouldn’t be defined as country songs at their core,” Jennings says. “However both Bria and I felt that regardless of that, the sentiment, to us, felt like they were country songs though the storytelling and heartache that exists in these songs.” While all this talk of country music as a genre has taken over the majority of the conversation about the record, Bria explains, “Part of the reason why we called it Cuntry Covers was to partially take the piss and the other reason was that we actually recorded these songs on a farm in the middle of the country. If we hadn’t for called the record Cuntry Covers, I don’t think there would this much talk about the genre of the songs but I do think there is something to be said about the lineage of harder music to country and that this type of vulnerably is something that appeals to people, especially as they get a little older.” Regardless of age or geography, the collection of songs that Salmena and Jennings have created here do transcend genre and cast the spotlight on the very real, very human emotions that any great artist hopes to capture with their art. Country or otherwise, with the talent that these two possess, it’s going to be great to hear what they come up with next.
Order Cuntry Covers Vol. by Bria HERE