Get to Know: Poema
The story of a band parting ways with their record label and finding their creative fire is an often-referenced music industry trope, but in the case of Nashville-based pop duo Poema, it’s undeniably true.
Sisters Elle and Shealeen Puckett have been playing music together since they were kids, and inked a record deal with Seattle-based Tooth & Nail Records when they were just 17 and 19 years old, respectively. They released three projects from 2010 through 2012, and developed a pretty avid following along the way, but over time started yearning to go in a different musical direction.
“We appreciate Tooth & Nail, they’ve been great for us and with us, and gave us a lot of great opportunities,” Shealeen said. “But at the end of the day we’re still these weird little artists and that’s what we’re interested in being.”
On Pretty Speeches, their debut EP that came out last month, Poema embraces their independence, and the record’s sound reflects that. Over the course of five tracks, you can hear the sisters spreading their wings and tackling an impressive array of sounds from acoustic pop to edgier indie rock to country.
Not only does the project highlight their impressive musicianship, but also their chemistry, which helps make Pretty Speeches such an engaging listen. Both sisters sing, but they don’t overlap on instruments, where Shealeen holds down keys and Elle plays guitar.
“Our personalities are honestly super different, but for some reason when it comes to music I feel like we have a lot of synergy,” says Shealeen.
“We just go way back, we have so much backstory,” adds Elle, who has played with a few bands besides Poema. “It can get emotional really quickly, but at the same time we know how to work each other and bring out the best in each other.”
That support has been essential during turbulent times, which the group has certainly faced their share of since bursting onto the scene as teenagers.
“Over the last seven years there’ve been a lot of moments where one of us is like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this,’ and the other one’s like, ‘Well, we’re not going to quit so suck it up,’” Shealeen explains.
Two of those seven years were spent crafting Pretty Speeches with producer Nolan Rossi in Nashville, and the lengthy recording process certainly paid dividends. None of the EP’s songs feel overcooked, or like they’ve been tinkered with and fine-tuned ad nauseam. There’s an organic, effortless quality that is rare for a record so long in gestation.
Each track completely exists in its own sphere, and yet they manage to flow perfectly into one another. “Get to Me,” in particular, stands out for its mellow, jazzy sound and bossa nova-esque drums.
“We finished the record and came out with ‘Get to Me’ sounding so much different than the rest of the record,” Elle says. “But it kind of made it a little more special to me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a very eclectic-sounding collection of songs, I actually really like it when bands do that.”
To showcase their new sound (or sounds) to the world, the band chose “Forget You in L.A.” as Pretty Speeches’ lead single. With a punchy bass line, sharp lyrics and a slight indie rock sensibility it certainly has crossover potential, and the sisters teamed with director Chad Barela on a sunshine-soaked and wryly funny music video for the single that doubles as an elaborate dream sequence.
“Time doesn’t really exist in this dream sequence, because like we say on the bridge ‘I’m dreaming of leaving’ and going as far east or as far west as possible, but you’re kind of stuck in middle America in this little town,” Elle explains of the video. “We’re sitting in a car that’s not moving, Shealeen’s riding around in circles on a bicycle…”
The EP has garnered positive reviews from a number of music websites, and while they’d love to get out on the road, the sisters are also itching to get back into the studio and build on the momentum of a project so long in the making.
“We’ve got all this pent-up aggression,” Shealeen jokes.
It wasn’t the overnight success story most artists who sign deals as teenagers probably envision, but after years of hard work Elle and Shealeen are finally right where they want to be.