San Jose musician Natasha Sandworms says the quarantine of 2020 was a time for her to get in touch with “the material world.”
“I used to be very affected by mystical and new age thinking,” she explains. “I believed that positive thoughts directed positive effects and negative thoughts directed negative effects. It ended up causing me a lot of anxiety because I would always wonder why bad things kept happening to me, internalizing that.”
Isolated from her previous routines during quarantine, she read up on the online skeptic community. She became an atheist. This turn away from mysticism—the inspiration for her new album No Magic—helped her confront the baggage she had been carrying.
“I had a real positive experience being alone for that long. There was a lot of work that needed to be done in here,” she says. “I came out of [quarantine] a lot more level-headed and clear-minded. No Magic was the project I was able to do because now my brain is letting me focus on a task.”
The band self-released No Magic earlier this summer via Bandcamp and streaming services. More than just an album title, the album explores Sandworms’ new-found realism, and how it has provided the clarity necessary to overcome past heartaches and find new confidence.
The artist known as Natasha Sandworms began turning heads in the San Jose scene in 2018, with the release of her self-recorded debut LP Single-Celled, a surfy pop album with heavy new wave and post-punk influences. Inspired by the DIY ethos of bedroom pop acts like Current Joys (and without any collaborators at her disposal), Sandworms was determined to release music by any means she could. Single-Celled was recorded entirely by herself on her phone, in either a motel room or her car. The album saw a cassette release from local label Yeah! Records. Soon, Sandworms began regularly performing live as a full band.
Despite its strength, Sandworms remains somewhat dissatisfied with her first outing.
“Because I was focused on getting something released as quickly as possible all on my own, I feel like I cut a lot of corners,” she says. “I don’t have a bass? Well, there’s no bass track. I don’t have drums? I’ll download this drum pack online, I’ll make it work…Even though I appreciate what I accomplished with the first album, I wanted it to be more than it was. It was a compromise.”
No Magic, the artist’s sophomore LP, is the culmination of ample creative and personal growth, an electrifying and soulful pop record coming this time from a much more confident artist. To get there, she had to learn how to take the bedroom approach a little slower. Sandworms started getting serious about recording another album when the COVID-19 pandemic began, this time determined to take no shortcuts.
“I wanted to just sit down for around a year and make this the right way,” she recalls.
Sandworms’ second LP was still recorded solo in do-it-yourself fashion, all on GarageBand. However, the album is aided both by her more patient outlook, as well as the strength of its full band.
“I had never really played live outside of high school talent shows before this project,” she says. “I had to get used to playing music as part of a band versus doing a project by yourself. It’s like a completely different thing.”
While playing material from the first album, the band began to experiment with taking things in a punk direction—faster, louder and with more aggression on the vocals. The result is an album that crackles with energy. Dueling guitar tracks joust over a rattling bassline. While the warmth of the first record is still palpable, there’s a new shoegaze feel, with crunchy guitar chords and washed-out vocal tracks. On “Smile and Wave Boys” (a particular standout track), the chorus briefly veers into noise-rock reminiscent of Illuminati Hotties, before returning to the tender grunge of the verse.
In the end, No Magic may still sound warm and fuzzy, but the element that really defines it is the one Sandworms found recently: clarity.
“Maybe on your end, you’re hearing more fuzz, but to me there’s a clarity that was missing before.”