Pema – Alex Cohen

by Alex Teitz
            Last year Austin based Alex Napping released their sophomore album on Father/Daughter Records, Mise En Place. Led by Alex Cohen, this 4 piece caught our attention in a live show.
            Now Alex Cohen is back with a different project, Pema. Pema shocked us with the first single “Depend” and the video for it:

Pema will be releasing Bad Habits on May 18 on Topshelf Records. Bad Habits is an intensely personal and introspective album. Cohen is a charismatic and emotive songwriter who takes control with Bad Habits. For info visit
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Bad Habits?
AC: This was the first album that I produced entirely on my own and wrote & recorded 95% of it alone in my bedroom in Brooklyn. Working through self-doubt and creative walls without the feedback and reassurance of collaborators was an extremely challenging, but ultimately rewarding process!
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Pema vs Alex Napping. What are your musical goals with project? Why could they not be done under Alex Napping?
AC: Pema is my chance to experiment with production and songwriting entirely on my own clock and according to my own vision. It’s a chance to explore musical ideas that aren’t beholden to the normal constraints or benefits of collaboration.
FEMMUSIC:  You worked with Topshelf Records for Bad Habits. Why did you choose them to work with? What did they bring to the project?
AC: They are good people who are excited about the music! What else could I ask for?
FEMMUSIC: This album is introspective. What was the catalyst for this album?
AC: I wanted the challenge of producing an entire record by myself and I wanted the content of the record to somehow parallel that journey. The desire to produce and write something, particularly without the help of men, came at the same time that I was breaking down and restructuring my identity and experiences as a woman. So I sought, through writing these songs, to explore that and did so through the lens of perceived character flaws and the standards to which we hold women to be good, and feminine, and chill and the list goes on and on…. So just as making an album on my own opened up the door to creating my own rules on the musical side of things, the thematic content is my attempt to reclaim the right to make my own rules for what I do and don’t like about myself without the influences of others.
FEMMUSIC:  Can you describe your songwriting technique? Was it different for this album?
AC: I don’t necessarily have a singular songwriting technique despite carving out time into my routine for writing. Sometimes it starts with messing around on guitar or piano, sometimes it starts from a voice memo of a melody idea I had while walking around, sometimes I program some drums and bass and go from there. I would say that holds true for this album.
pema bad habit
FEMMUSIC:  What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
AC: I feel like I’ll have a few years where a single song will really rip me apart and then I move on from it because it doesn’t hold the weight that it did when I was at the point in my life going through whatever I was going through. Like, I’d say 5-6 years ago that song was “It’s Okay” by Land of Talk because I was recently out of college, trying to figure out who I wanted to be as an adult, and starting my own band for the first time and it was the kind of music that I think I wanted to make (especially with the first Alex Napping record)
For the last couple of years, it has been “Need Myself” by Empress Of. Her music is so empowering to me. She is such an amazing producer and songwriter and has made me believe that I can be both self-sufficient and successful in both making music and life in general if that’s what I put my mind to.
FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
AC: Definitely. Being talked down to by a promoter or soundguy is the most obvious example. There are scarier instances in which I get followed to the car while carrying gear by strangers asking if I need “a man’s help.” I could write about this for pages, though, so I’ll stop there.
FEMMUSIC:  Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
AC: Empress Of, Caroline Polachek, Bjork, Grimes, Lorde, Solange… all would be absolutely amazing haha. These are the people that have inspired me the most as I’ve searched for and settled into my identity as a musician.
FEMMUSIC:  What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
AC: I wish it were more set up for longterm sustainability. I don’t want to be a flash in the pan artist, and I’m trying to create a sustainable career as an artist and producer, both in my skillset and work habits.
April 29th, 2018