BY TOM BECK Abi Reimold doesn’t need your help. She doesn’t need your studio, she doesn’t need your guitar lessons, and she sure doesn’t need your damn money. Okay, maybe she could use your money. Unlike many DIY artists in the anybody-can-be-a-musician city of Philadelphia, she doesn’t have a day job. Instead, she opts to make all her income by means of her artistic endeavors, namely her music and photography business. Emphasis on the business. “I kind of sold out with photography,” she admits. “I don’t mind doing weddings and stuff like that. I’ll shoot anything for anyone if they want to pay me money.” But with music it’s different. Rather than slave herself away by shooting pictures of newlyweds who’ll pay her large sums of money, music is Reimold’s chance to pursue her real favorite hobby. And any money she makes from it is a bonus. “I don’t want to sell out and start writing songs because I have to,” she says in a Robert Plant-like “I’m not part of a jukebox” kind of way. “I want to make sure my songwriting is coming from me, and that I’m doing it for myself,” she says. “I don’t want to be capitalizing on my sadness or something like that. That’s just really bizarre.”
If you had never met Abi Reimold and had only listened to her debut album, Wriggling, you might expect her to be something of a nihilistic recluse. The album is a deep and emotional search for answers written in the midst of what she calls an “existential crisis.” Furthermore, she dresses like Kurt Cobain; she sports a Slowdive t-shirt covered by an unbuttoned green flannel shirt. But she’s not. She’s actually quite bubbly, and eager to make conversation. Her “favorite thing ever” is Taylor Swift. Recently, she released the music video for “probably” her favorite song off of Wriggling called “Mask,” in which she dances maniacally in a chicken costume inside of an empty Darrenkamp’s Supermarket. She says if she were an animal, she’d be a seagull. “If I get hungry I can eat someone’s trash.”
During the course of writing Wriggling, she took a break from her typical diet of pop music (her three favorite albums of last year were Swift’s 1989, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell) and branched out to darker bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, influencing the grunge redux sound of the album, as evidenced on songs like “Bad Seed” and “Mask.” However, on songs like “Vessel,” Reimold shows that she can do softer stuff as well singing lyrics like “Could I find beauty in a vessel broken/learn to swim inside your ocean,” “perhaps the bolts themselves will tighten/sit on my ass waiting for you to ripen” and “can’t build a bridge between real and ideal/can’t browse the lilies against my will.” Not to mention, the opening acoustic guitar riff is sly as fuck, especially for a self-taught guitar player who’s never had a lesson.
But if there’s anything Reimold prides herself on, it’s the experience of living as a DIY artist. Because she’s close friends with fellow Philly DIY-ers Mumblr, Reimold researched music journalists who had written about Mumblr and reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in writing about her as well, serving as her own publicist as well. She taught herself how to play guitar, and recorded Wriggling partially at The Loom in Port Richmond and part in Mumblr drummer Scott Stitzer’s bedroom studio. She got her start playing basement shows in the Temple and Drexel University areas of Philly, and even though she moved on to playing slightly more legit venues like Johnny Brenda’s, she still plays the drums at house shows with her side project Fake Boyfriend. “We’re all just DIY people,” she says. “We don’t have any money or resources.” But she has talent, which — along with a little hard work — is all it takes to get noticed in this city.