There is a quote by author Anais Nin that says: And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. For singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paige Campbell of Brooklyn-based post-riot grrrl quartet How Tragic, that fateful time of transformation struck in 2016. Previously, she had been a bedroom musician playing guitar along to Dag Nasty, Distillers, and Misfits records, but shackling shyness and negative voices in her head held her back from sharing her music. Yet pain and a desire to connect spurred her on. Today, she emerges with her band How Tragic and a visceral and vulnerable debut 4-song EP, Past Lives.
“I always felt this pull to be onstage. It’s never been an adulation thing; I don’t need superstar attention. I just felt there were things working through me that I needed to share, but I had to fight through a lot of insecurity and fear to open up,” Paige shares.
The name How Tragic is friskily dualistic. “I operate from this melodramatic sensibility, so the name can be interpreted as eye-rolling emotional, like ‘how f@$#-in’ tragic,’ or it can be like ‘these feelings are really painful and hard for me.’ I’m on the fence about the true meaning of the name,” Paige says with a good-natured laugh.
How Tragic songs are tight and tuneful, and teem with cathartic hooks, buzz saw guitars, pummeling drums, and rubbery basslines. As a vocalist, Paige is emotionally dynamic; her range encompasses chilling-but-sensual phrasing, raspy and impassioned singing, gruff punk rock shouting, and powerhouse belting. Her lyrics are couched in personal revelation and empowerment. She writes poetically and playfully, baring her heart with clever turns of phrases, kitschy horror-punk imagery, and brazen sensitivity. How Tragic tunes would fit comfortably on a Spotify playlist alongside artists such as L7, Lunachicks, Hole, The Distillers, The Gits, The Misfits, and The Descendents.
Past Lives is aptly-titled because it contains the first four songs Paige ever wrote—tunes beamed from previous realms. The EP bursts forth with opener, “Deathwish,” a vengeful done-wrong-anthem with a soaring chorus and sweetly viscous B movie thriller imagery, including lyrics such as: Most gorgeous thing I ever sawed/The best love stories have scars and flaws.The EP’s next song,” Spare Me,” is a scathing observational piece about construction workers sexually harassing female passerby. Key lyrics include: Disgusting comments that /your warped mind thinks are compliments/You smooch at me with those lips that you kiss your mother/How’d you like that for your sister or your daughter. The song builds from snarling riot-grrl punk rock to a rousing sing-along chorus that you would want to shout back at these knuckleheads.
Other tracks include “Let Me Down” and “Done.” “You Let Me Down” opens with Paige’s steady-as-it-goes chunky rhythm guitar and lyrics that set up the song’s theme of being mired in a post-breakup cat and mouse game. Throughout this urgently hooky tune, Paige manages to be emotionally raw but never the victim, calling out the offending party from a place of empowerment not self-pity. The EP concludes with the song “Done,” a bracing dose of grungy punk rock that recalls post-Damaged Black Flag. Here, Paige’s singing is explosive; she effortlessly shifts between serial-killer detached vocals and hoarse punk-matinee chanting.
Paige co-produced the Past LivesEP alongside producer, engineer, and mixer Matt Chiaravalle (Courtney Love, Debbie Harry, Warren Zevon) at Flux Studios and Mercy Sound Studios. It was mastered by Grammy-nominated mastering engineer Joe Lambert. Up next, Paige will be releasing videos and singles, and playing shows and writing music with a newly-formed quartet of musicians that are now How Tragic.