It wasn’t that long ago that Kelsey Byrne quit her job as a waitress to pursue a self-funded career in music. Making the jump to pursue your passion is scary, but to do it without a label and come out with over 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify is incredible.
Byrne’s latest project with her alt-pop project VÉRITÉ is Bunker Studio Sessions, Brooklyn, NY, a new live EP in collaboration with Little Kruta — a New York based all female chamber orchestra. The project was inspired by Byrne’s performance earlier this year at National Sawdust for The Hum Series, a concert series focused on celebrating female and non binary musicians.
“The reaction to the performance and working with such talented, badass women made this EP inevitable. It’s nice to make something beautiful and have it exist in the world. I’m excited to end a chapter with this set of music,” VÉRITÉ said in a press release for the record.
Featuring five orchestral arrangements of songs from VÉRITÉ’s 2017 debut album, Somewhere In Between, the EP gives new life to songs that listeners thought had a clear definition.
The instrumental arrangements draw a different focus to Kelsey’s vocals, displaying a vulnerability that is not always present in the studio recorded tracks on Somewhere In Between. Though the production on the original versions of the songs are pretty minimalist to begin with, the new arrangements have less reliance on studio intervention to tell the story behind the song. The Bunker Studio Sessions exemplify how narratives can change in different contexts.
“Phase Me Out” is an invigorating introduction to this atmospheric body of work. The reworking of the lead single from VÉRITÉ’s debut album becomes an airy hymn, you can actually hear Byrne’s insecurities rise to the surface. The simplified accompaniment gives Byrne more room to experiment with her vocals. Letting her natural soprano hover above the chamber orchestra, VÉRITÉ’s voice is on display and is solely supported by the other women in the room behind their instruments.
The atmospheric quality of the reimagined tracks create an ethereal new experience for listeners of VÉRITÉ’s music. As the emphasis on Byrne’s lyrics change, the weight of the song shifts as well, creating a more emotional listening experience. The studio recording of “Need Nothing” sounds more defiant, an almost apathetic rejection of any need for human contact. The Bunker Studio Session track reveals more insecurity behind the decision.
“Nothing” takes on a more playful tone in it’s new arrangement. Introduced by the singular plucking of strings, VÉRITÉ’s verbose lyrics of the verses bleed into a sing-songy chorus. The lack of overproduction from the studio gives more room for VÉRITÉ to expose her real skills as a vocalist. With simple lyrics that are no longer hidden behind a produced beat, “Nothing” becomes a haunting invitation to hum along.
In “When You’re Gone,” VÉRITÉ takes the fewest liberties and does little to expand the track beyond what the original provides. Though it is the weakest track on the EP, it doesn’t stand out as a loss. The reinterpretations of songs on Somewhere In Between open the tracks up beyond a writer describing their experiences. The dialogue between the artist and the subject matter is more defined as it actually sounds like she’s having a conversation with the person the song is about. “Better,” originally sounds like a song about the resolution of being better off giving up on a relationship. However, VÉRITÉ’s vocals in the session arrangement holds a deeper regret of not being able to make it work.
The new release is stunning and provides an interesting new listening experience for long time listeners of VÉRITÉ’s music. Fans will find reinterpretations of some of their favorite tracks in Byrne’s vocals, which deliver a new narrative to songs that seemed previously defined. New listeners will find an introduction to the versatility of VÉRITÉ’s striking vocals that sound well at home either behind the production lab of a studio or surrounded by a live orchestra. The orchestra adds a delicate new layer of emotion behind Byrne’s typically wordy examinations of interpersonal relationships.
The Bunker Studio Sessions EP is a beautiful conclusion to this era of VÉRITÉ’s career. Hopefully these experiments into the classical genre influence her work in future endeavors as she is currently in the studio preparing new music for her next album— set to be released in 2019.