Standout Track: No. 4, “Pink Guilt,” a textured mix of throbbing synths and spiky guitar riffs from U Street/Petworth-based electronic duo Me and Karen’s debut EP by the same name. The pair—Michael Bartlett and Karen Foote—began collaborating a decade ago while attending the University of Mary Washington, but they didn’t broadcast their layered electro-pop until they performed together for the first time at Rock and Roll Hotel last November.
Musical Motivation: The duo wanted to craft a track that “makes you move as much as it makes your head bang,” Foote says. The result? A dynamic arrangement loaded with layers of dance-inducing electronics and some seriously infectious guitar riffs. “For both of us, guitar was the first instrument that we learned and prefer today,” Foote says. “So it’s very important that our songs are, at their cores, guitar-driven.” Foote’s honeyed vocals help maintain a streamlined sound. “We both felt adding little vocal lines to each song serves as an anchor,” Bartlett says. “They let us explore guitar and synth textures as much as we want, but then Karen’s voice brings us back.”
Love, Loss, and Aliens: Both Foote and Bartlett say their ultimate focus on “Pink Guilt” was its textured arrangement. “I love it when instruments talk to each other,” Foote says. Bartlett’s recording expertise—he was a music major in college and currently works the sound booth at the Black Cat—helped the pair find a balance of chattering synths, but he says the lyrics were far less calculated: “There isn’t a theme per se, but your typical stuff is in there: love, loss, aliens.” And while the pair each boast their own niche, it’s their creative chemistry that gels the final product. “If Karen wasn’t in the band, no songs would ever see the light of day,” Bartlett says.
Me and Karen play their EP release party tomorrow, August 8, at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Stream “Pink Guilt” after the jump.