NAVEL GRAZR’s new EP “Elegies” vibrates with maximum impact tension-and-release

Words by Jason Lee. Cover photo by Rita Iovine.

READER’S NOTE #1: If you prefer interviews with Dool Brooklyn Musicians complete with song-by-song breakdowns of thier latest recorded works to think-piecey preambles well we can’t say we really blame you if you skip ahead to the interview/liner notes below past the last jump tho’ we may secretly shed a tear inside

READERS NOTE #2: The repeated references to the Great But Not Really That Great Eastern Seaboard Earthquake of 2024 earthquake below as if it just happened today are because I wrote this piece a week ago on 4/5 thinking Navel Grazr’s album came out on that day for whatever random reason so maybe project yourself back to last Friday as you read this…


OPENING QUOTE #1: Design polyphony is a process of listening-to and creating-with. In music, polyphony signifies many voices sounding simultaneously in a composition. However, voices may not always harmonize–countermelodies, dissonances, and tensions arise to make a richer musical journey. I design in polyphony, prioritizing relationship-building and amplifying narratives that are often silenced by dominant systems. — Anjali Nair

OPENING QUOTE #2: Just as different vehicles offer different journeys through space–varying in speed, wobbliness, meandering, scenery–different types of music offer different journeys through, and experiences of, time. Some music follows a linear journey: it progresses from one event to another with a clear sense of direction. Conversely, some music suggests a nonlinear journey: it departs from natural flow through means that challenge standard progression and directionality.Gilad Cohen

In keeping with the quotes above we think it’s safe to say navel grazr’s new EP Elegies is all about exploring polyphony and at times even non-linearality in journeying between diverse landscapes (musical, geographic, mental, geographic) versus settling for a state of complacent stasis and enforced “harmony” as audible from the EP’s opening moments as “Heads Will Roll” fades in on a cluster of airy ambient tones which is pretty much stasis in audio form except within seconds this state of suspended animation is disrupted by a chorus of overdubbed voices and then by more synth tones and then by more overdubbed vocals thus disrupting the implied sense of calm something like the rumblings of shifting tectonic plates and HOLY SH*T DID YOU FEEL THE EARTHQUAKE THIS MORNING CUZ WE SURE DID…

…with the overall texture growing denser and richer with each added layer plus more dissonant too as if you’re hearing one single primordial musical tone broken down into its constituent overtones much like one hears on a South Asian tampura plus what sounds like ungrounded electrical wires buzzing in the background as if the song is flying through a dark turbulent storm cloud “like a blanket of smoke” with flickering shafts of light penetrating the darkness which is the image we get from the shimmering cluster of tones in the song’s intro thus creating a tangible sense of moving thru time and space but in a non-linear, unpredictable kind of way kinda like the movement felt during AN ACTUAL FREAKIN’ EARTHQUAKE IN NEW YORK CITY…

…but then the storm cloud breaks as quickly as it formed all within the span of about 30 seconds which is about how long the NYC earthquake lasted (natch) transitioning into the song proper which isn’t to imply that “Heads Will Roll” doesn’t retain a certain push-and-pull tension ever after its mystical drone-based opening though in more of a linear fashion moving fluidly between dark dream-pop verses and dramatic soaring choruses that may make you wanna strip down to your underthings and twirl elegantly in place clutching a rose between your teeth or is that just us (?!?)…

…not to mention the brief major-key foray in the bridge section that appears around the two-minute mark like a sudden burst of Vitamin D-enriched sunlight which just goes to show how music often serves as a kind of audible barometer of existing psychological and sociocultural tensions while acting as a healing remedy to one and the same tensions at the same time which is basically what the discipline of soundscape ecology is all about as outlined by navel grazr themselves (like we could come up with such advanced theories?!) and did iconic bands like Led Zeppelin ever share their thoughts on soundscape ecology (we think not!) cuz when it comes to the natural world LZ were more likely to share an intimate encounter with a mudshark with their audience members than a scientific lecture or maybe a severe cases of pigeon herpes thanks to Jimmy Page and his strange Satanic rituals

…thus striking a precarious balance between tension and release or “restlessness and vibeyness” if you prefer that’s wholly fitting to “Heads Will Roll”’s narrative of “losing our heads [in] the late days of the Earth as we know it” alongside more general thematic throughlines of “distance, memory, belonging, and loss” recurring across Elegies‘ running time to quote the EP’s creators namely Anjali Nair (vocals, guitars, lyrics, primary songwriter) and Dominic Dellaquila (synths, guitars, drums, production and mixing) not to mention how these themes are intertwined with the former’s “experiences navigating her identity as an Indian-American who moved to the States in childhood” speaking of movement both linear and non-linear…

Editing & Animation Design by Matt Sklar

…which may sound pretty serious and all (and it is!) but there’s a lightness of touch to these four tunes too to be fair what with their lush aural landscapes and locked-in grooves and if you doubt it just take a listen to the EP’s next track “Sun Doesn’t Rise” which despite it’s title shifts gears decisively from the goth-inclined dream-pop of “Heads Will Roll” to a bright, clean indie-pop sheen that comes off wistfully carefree at least sonically and here it’s worth looking back at Anjali’s statement above regarding polyphony wherein one attempts to thread the needle between creating a sense of pleasing harmony amongst musical elements whilst still retaining some degree of independence/dissonance between the lines at the same time like say between the cinematic sweet of “Two Funerals” versus the tight-focus intimacy of “I Know I’ll End Up Like You”...

Music video directed by Jen Meller

…with the trick being to find that magical sweet spot between conformity and flexibility, unity and individuality, which is a balance many of us struggle to find just walking down the street on an average day but which no doubt resonates all the more strongly for anyone rockin’ a so-called hyphenate identity (e.g Indian-American) with music itself serving as the perfect metaphor and vehicle for striking an elegant balance between fulfilling expectations and unrestrained self-expression…

…or so we’d like to think like just take Hindustani and/or Karnatic classical music from South Asia for instance and how these traditions are often all about threading the needle between the universality of the drone and the high level of individual creativity required of soloists who improvise their entire performances (in stark contrast to Western art music traditions) against the background of the drone and within the descriptive-but-not-prescriptive precepts of the raga system

…just as navel grazr (and most other bands, natch) seek to create distinctive stand-alone songs each with their own sonic thumbprint…or is that “navel-print” (?!?) but while retaining that certain ineffable navel grazr-ness (or whomever-ness!) that gives them a distinct identity and from where we sit Anjali and Dominic nail it on Elegies having spent nearly two years meticulously assembling and arranging every musical element into its right place like shifting tectonic plates in order to assure their maximum musical impact much like A FREAKIN’ 4.8 ON THE RICHTER SCALE MUTHAF*CKING EARTHQUAKE but why take our word for it when Anjali was kind enough to share some insightful details re: the Elegies EP and other relevant matters so with no further ado…

Elegies –
Songs, vocals, and guitar by Anjali Nair
Synths, guitars, and drums by Dominic Dellaquila

Produced & mixed by Dominic Dellaquila
Mastered by Brian DiMeglio
Bass on “Heads Will Roll” and “I Know…” by Aaron Sankin
Bass on “Sun Doesn’t Rise” and “Two Funerals” by Billie Seeland



Anjali Nair: [navel grazr] is totally a play on ‘navel gazer’ and a nod to its origins as a solo bedroom project. ‘navel grazr’ is definitely meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at my own tendency to be really melodramatic when I’m writing songs. I also just love band names that are sort of puns or have some sort of embedded wordplay – I used to be in a band called “The Womb Bats” in college, which was one of my favorites name-wise, and even Dog In A Man Suit has some verbal expectation-reversal going on. Also love band names like “Elvis Depressedly” and “Ringo Deathstarr” – I just think they’re fun and the names aren’t too self-serious (even when the music might seem that way.)


I was born in Kerala, which is the southernmost state in India and my parents & I moved to the US in 2003 when I was 8. So I do have a lot of memories from being a kid in India, they are just a bit patchy. I was really close with my grandparents when I was young, especially on my mom’s side, so it felt like a big shift to move so far away from them. I’m an only child, but spent those first few years in India with most of my cousins living within 15 minutes from me, so it never really felt like I was until I moved to the US.

But obviously, over time, all those connections and relationships change. I can’t say I have been able to maintain those ties all that well. It’s strange when the closeness you feel to a place and to people is more of a memory or vestige of the past. That’s something I was thinking about a lot when writing the songs on ‘Elegies.’ The record is about loss and guilt, literally – like in relation to some of my grandparents and other family who have passed away – but also loss of something more…ethereal?

[Subsequently] I grew up in Central NJ, in a classic / pretty boring suburban town called West Windsor, which is close to Princeton. By the time I was in high school, I really couldn’t wait to get out of there – not because there was anything wrong or because anything bad happened to me, but I just found it incredibly boring as a teenager. I moved to NYC right after graduating Tufts in 2017, and then I did a grad program at Parsons School of Design from 2019-2021 (I have a “pandemic mfa” lol) which is where I did the “Mating Call” piece you referenced! 

And I do go back and visit family in India – maybe every 2 years or so. I find that each time I do, I feel a lot of big feelings and come back with a new take on my relationship to the place and people.


Heads Will Roll – rhythmic slow burn with dramatic string motifs and seething lyrics about reclaiming one’s power

This song is written from the perspective of a fed-up narrator to a lover who doesn’t experience the same reality as her – it’s kind of asking for solidarity or a shift in their perspective, to understand where she is coming from. For that reason, the “you” and “us” in the song are ever-changing, sometimes opposed and sometimes unified. At the end of the song though, the lyric is “never you mind” – acknowledging that at the end of the day, there will always be a fundamental disconnect between the narrator and their lover that they’ll just have to live with and keep navigating. Dom’s percussion arrangement gives the song its intense, mysterious, and almost meditative vibe, along with some of my (distant) vocal influences from South Indian classical (Carnatic) music.

Sun Doesn’t Rise – nostalgic, dreamy indie rock with lush instrumentation, exploring themes of literal and emotional distance from family overseas

I think Mitch Mosk (Atwood Magazine) honestly wrote about this song way better than I ever could have when it was released! But I’ll try: ‘Sun Doesn’t Rise’ is as bright and sparkly as this EP gets – it leans into a dreamy, nostalgic sonic palette with Dom’s string arrangements really soaring. The instrumental outro is really gorgeous and makes you feel like you’re floating through space. But, I also love the lingering tension present in the song. There’s like an underlying bed of distortion that’s usually subtle, but at times cut through the atmosphere, kind of like a reminder of reality. 

Two Funerals – dark, hook-laden goth bop channeling the likes of The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen

I’ve started calling this one a “goth pop guilt trip.” This is the point in the EP where it becomes very clear that I grew up on My Chemical Romance. “I know I missed your funeral / I missed the last one too” could be a lesser lyric from ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,’ no? “Two Funerals” –  after the slow / dreamy, start to the EP – leans into catharsis and unabashed melodrama.  I really loved being able to throw in a big, fuzzy guitar solo in the bridge as well

  • I Know I’ll End Up Like You – moody three-part saga, with cinematic atmosphere and grandiose guitar leads, confronting paranoia, loss, and mortality

Believe it or not, this was the first song that Dom and I worked on together. And by that I mean, I sent him a very rough shell of the song with just guitar and vocals, and he came back with a goddamn masterpiece that made me want to work on a million more songs together (we compromised at 4 😛) “I Know” is by far the darkest song of the bunch and it relies a lot on hyperbole – evidently in the lyrics, but in the musical motifs too. It’s quite cinematic and larger than life, but it’s masking something deeper – like a core fear or trauma. The first part of the song recounts a very phone call I once had with my grandma when I was uh, very high (sorry mom), and kind of spinning out, while trying to hold onto the thread of the conversation. The main body of the song is supposed to capture a sense of paranoia – this nagging feeling chasing after you or a truth you can’t avoid. And that ‘truth’ is finally confronted in the third part of the song, of course. Not much more I want to say about that.

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