One of the most famous people of the 20th century, the private life of avant-garde visual artist Andy Warhol was by contrast shrouded in mystery. Growing up as a homosexual while it was still illegal in the United States, Warhol always deflected questions about his love life when projecting his carefully honed public persona. Known to only his closest friends, Warhol in fact had a number of serious relationships in his life, the most famous of which was his 12-year long relationship with famous interior designer/film director Jed Johnson.
Jed Johnson, Andy Warhol and their complicated love story are the inspiration four decades later for Manchester-based DIY/bedroom shoegazer Tasmin Stephens AKA TTSSFU. Driven by a teenage-born love for the music of Slowdive, Cigarettes after Sex, Soko and Gregg Araki Film Soundtracks, Stephens had reached a creative dead-end of sorts. “Drained” by an (now-abandoned) album project that was dragging on and losing its relevance, Andy Warhol presented a creative revelation.
“I related to Warhol in a few different ways and felt really inspired to write about him and start afresh.” Stephens explains. “It was a clever way for me to selfishly put myself, experience and my own feelings into the shape of him and that world. It was easy and less draining, but through this inspiration I ended up writing some of the most personal songs I have ever written.”
Tracks like the waltzing ‘Jed’ and ‘Studio 54’ are explicitly biographical - regarding Warhol’s speed-fueled debaucheries at the famous nightclub - and the deliciously moody Cocteau Twins-esque ‘Asexual’ - inspired by Warhol self-professed mechanical emotions.
But as much as a concept EP about the notorious celebrity romance, these songs are also about Stephens contextualising the anger, failure and disappointment of their own relationships. Songs such as ‘Baggage’ and ‘I Hope You Die’ aren’t even about the couple at all - but about Stephens bluntly venting her own “personal anger”, hence the EP’s title “Me, Jed and Andy”.
For an EP that’s so distinctly private, it’s not surprising that the recording process was completely solo, at home on Stephens’ beloved Garageband software. In fact, their earliest recordings were so private that evena their housemates didn’t know:
“the first stuff I put out you can hardly hear me because I was extremely shy about singing.” they explain, “It was like a big secret. So when I would record these songs I'd make sure everyone left the house before I dared to sing and if anyone came home or heard me I'd be super embarrassed”.
While growing in confidence with home-recording following years of trial and error (it’s impressive to learn that the disarming polish of ‘Me, Jed and Andy’ was produced, mixed and mastered, entirely by Stephens), that shy elusiveness, those dreamy, whirling soundscapes and understated lyrics still remain central to TTSSFU’s alluring mystique - a voice as passionate and noble as that of any high-flying New York socialite.