On the cover of her second album, LA indie polymath Sasami Ashworth—aka SASAMI—appears in the form of the Nure-onna, a mythical half-woman/half-serpent creature from Japanese folklore. It’s more than just a badass image: On Squeeze, SASAMI re-emerges utterly transformed and all-powerful. With the untamed opener, “Skin a Rat,” she unleashes a torrent of moshable nu-metal that obliterates any trace of the dream-pop artisan heard on her 2019 self-titled debut. “I feel a little bit like a sci-fi or fantasy novelist this time,” SASAMI tells Apple Music. “And in a lot of ways, this album is my first book, whereas my last album was more like my diary entries being leaked.” But the skull-crushing heaviness of “Skin a Rat” is just the first steep drop on a thrill ride that sends you careening through aesthetic shifts—a volatile mood-ring reflection of her existence as a queer woman of color and a working musician entering her thirties. “The songs are much less about explicit experiences and much more about feelings,” she says. “Narratively, this album is inspired by movies like Parasite, where there’s a lot of different genres—one second it’s a dark comedy, one second it’s a thriller, the next second it’s romantic, and then it’s a horror. It keeps you on your toes, and I wanted to make an album that has that same dynamic range.” Here, SASAMI guides us through Squeeze, one scene at a time. “Skin a Rat” “Making art during the pandemic, you’re not having experiences—you’re just drawing from memories of experiences. And so, knowing that I wanted to make these angsty, aggressive tracks, it’s natural that I went back to middle school and high school, when you’re at your most angsty and emotional and rageful. And so, nu-metal creates an emotional portal to that time for me. This song is basically about systemic oppression and reclaiming some of this violent discourse that’s usually aimed towards femmes and using sonic elements that are usually used by cis men. I also wanted to be very clear about who the album was for: Patti Harrison and Laetitia Tamko from Vagabon are screaming the lyrics with me, and I really wanted it to be an anthem for my community.” “The Greatest” “‘The Greatest’ was really influenced by power ballads—like Bonnie Tyler and Heart and Aerosmith. I wanted to touch on a lot of different types of emotions and sounds on the album, and I wanted to stretch out as far as I could in each direction. So, the syrupy schmaltziness of power ballads was really inspiring for this one. But because there’s this mission statement of anti-toxic positivity on the album, I wanted this to be kind of an un-love ballad. You can’t take dirty laundry and put it directly into the dryer without first putting it into the washing machine—you can’t skip straight to healing and brightness and happiness without processing the dark shit that’s going on. A lot of power ballads are about the absence of love, but this song is basically my grungy power ballad about how the absence of love can sometimes be a bigger force than love itself.” “Say It” “This song and a couple of other ones are basically about the pain of someone not communicating with you. I feel like it’s a very in-my-early-thirties sentiment—it’s basically saying, ‘I don’t even need you to apologize or tell me what I want to hear; I just want to communicate. Just tell me how you’re actually feeling and release the toxicity of not being honest with people.’ It’s kind of a communication jam.” “Call Me Home” “This song is about synthesizing that feeling of nothing being wrong, but you still blow everything up just to feel something, and how numbness and a lack of feeling emotion can be just as heavy and dark as feeling something outright. This song is an ode to the wanderer—it’s an ode to someone who has restless legs and needs to be on the move and needs to be feeling things in extremes.” “Need It to Work” “This is another song about a lack of communication and a lack of connection and how that can kind of fester, and how we can obsess over not getting that attention or getting that reciprocation of feelings. Making yourself vulnerable to someone and then not having that be returned can make you feel fucking crazy. I’m a Cancer, so when people don’t respond to my texts, I completely freak out.” “Tried to Understand” “I really wanted to make a heavy album, but at the same time, songs are kind of like children: No matter how much you want them to be something, you just have to support them and let them be whatever they want to be. I’ve made so many different versions of ‘Tried to Understand,’ and, at the end of the day, she just wanted to be like a folk-pop song. ‘Tried to Understand’ is kind of like turning the lights on for a second before something dark happens again.” “Make It Right” “I wanted to put together something that was snappy and punk but also had this kind of pop sensibility. This song bridges the gap between the lightness of ‘Tried to Understand’ and ‘Sorry Entertainer,’ so it kind of feeds both beasts in that way.” “Sorry Entertainer” "Honestly, if you listen to the [Daniel Johnston] original, my version doesn’t deviate too much from that guitar part. I just heard the original and I immediately heard the metal version in my head. It’s like I read the screenplay of the scene and imagined the big-budget action movie of it. Of course, I couldn’t get explicit permission from Daniel Johnston, so I hope he’s not rolling in his grave over this one. I liked having this kind of pathetic-loner vibe with this really aggressive sound. I think that’s a feeling a lot of musicians are familiar with: ‘I have all this power in my instrument, but I also still kind of feel like a loser.’” “Squeeze” (feat. No Home) “I was a fan of No Home’s first record, F*****g Hell. When I heard it, I was like, ‘She is completely pushing the bounds of genre. She has total pop chops, but is also down to make the weirdest, freakiest aggressive music too.’ And so, I felt like she was a kindred spirit. When I make music, I usually create all the menus and touch every piece of food before it goes out in the restaurant, whereas with this one I wanted to kind of let go and see what happens when I bring someone in to collaborate in a deeper way. She wrote all the verses and, as a black femme in the UK, she has a different experience and perspective. I really connect to a lot of metal and heavy rock songs where the imagery and the lyrics are really violent, but oftentimes they’re objectifying women. So, I wanted to reclaim some of that language and create something on my terms, but with the aggression and rawness of the lyricism that we bring.” “Feminine Water Turmoil”/“Not a Love Song” “I feel like the first three-quarters of the record kind of deals with these concepts of human nature—like systemic oppression and unrequited love and desperation and rage and anger. And I wanted to end the album by floating into a more existential place. I feel like an instrumental track [‘Feminine Water Turmoil’] can help us to detach from the human language and these human ideas. And then ‘Not a Love Song’ is really a lot more about humans’ relationship with nature and questioning why we always center ourselves in everything, and maybe posing the idea to the listener that we could be in more humility and harmony with nature. I just wanted to end the movie with a more philosophical ending, as opposed to hitting a raw nerve. The song is like aftercare—it’s a respectful way to end an arduous, whiplashing album. I wanted to end it in a way that someone might actually want to listen to it again.”

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