Most of the songs on the album Life in Pink (self-released, 2017) are about a teenage relationship. The title track, for example, was inspired by the song "La Vie en Rose" from the 1954 film Sabrina, which 21-year-old Emilee Gomske, leader of local indie-rock group Teenage Candy, was introduced to by a former boyfriend.
"It's kind of stupid, you know?" she said. "It's kind of superficial, but I saw a post [on social media]. ... He'd never made any posts ever in his life. I don't know, it stuck out to me. So after our first week of dating, I wrote that song. And I wrote it in two seconds—it didn't take me long to write the chords or the lyrics at all."
The relationship didn't survive, but the song did. It makes a fitting title for the new album, whose tracks balance youthful yearning and candor with dry wit and a mature eye for detail. Combined with her sturdy tunes and mellow, assured vocals, Gomske's lyrics establish her as a promising young talent and make Life in Pink one of the standout local releases of the year.
Gomske wrote songs for Life in Pink over the course of four years. They reflect a wide range of influences, including Beach House, Best Coast and the John Lennon solo albums Plastic Ono Band (Apple, 1970) and Imagine (Apple, 1971). Indie-folk singer-songwriter Angel Olsen provided a big inspiration too.
"Actually, one of the songs from her album Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar Records, 2014) directly inspired 'Orbison' [from Life in Pink]," Gomske admitted. "If you listen to them side by side, you might be disappointed in me now. I tried to make it as different as I could, but something sparked inside me when I heard that stuff."
Growing up in Twin Falls, Gomske would perform occasionally with her older sisters.
"We did Andrew Sisters appearances," she remembered, chuckling. "We'd dress up like we were from the Civil War and sing 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.' People liked that, for some reason."
She started making her own music as she got older, playing at local bars and coffee shops. Eventually, her ambitions drove her from Twin Falls to Boise.
"They're actually having an up-and-coming music scene as well," Gomske observed. "It's just not as prominent because people don't really support it there. ... I finally hit that wall recently, which is why I'm here, but I keep thinking that maybe some people there won't hit their wall. And I don't think they do—I think they really want to try to change it and be like Boise."
An early recording of the Life in Pink song "I Am" helped Gomske connect with fellow Twin Falls transplant Nick Archibald.
"I did not know how to make a recording to save my life," she said. "But I did it, and then I sent it to Nick and told him I wanted to be in a band with him. And he was like, 'Yeah, whatever' because I was super young—I was 19 and he was 25 or 26 or something—and we were going to school together."
But the song impressed Archibald so much that he agreed to play drums for Teenage Candy. He also introduced Gomske to local musician Jeff Cochran (aka Jac Sound), who would produce Life in Pink at his home studio. Archibald mastered the album himself as well.
"He's very, very humble, so he's not going to say anything," Gomske said. "He really did put in the most hours on this project, and he really mastered this a lot. He put more hours on it than me."
Life in Pink has some rough edges, but they suit the raw, direct nature of the songs.
"It's not exactly how I pictured it would go," Gomske admitted, "but it still turned out so good in a totally unexpected way."
Gomske doesn't intend to rest on her laurels. She's planning a tour with local singer-songwriter Ana Lete for Spring 2018.
"We've picked out dates already to try and motivate ourselves to get shows," Gomske said. "We've mapped out a general idea of what we want. The only thing left is to get the gigs, and then we need to look into getting a large enough car or van."
Teenage Candy itself may not last for much longer: Gomske told Boise Weekly that she plans to retire the name. She'll work on other projects, though, including a jazz band. She's also thinking about moving to Portland or Seattle in order to advance her music career.
"Maybe I won't have instant success, but I definitely just want to get going," she said. "Because, you know, it's time. I'm 21, yada yada yada."