LEFT OF THE DIAL Regardless of San Franciscans' often myopic focus on the tech-employed recent college grads who can afford the million-dollar condos on the market in the Mission, a much larger percentage of 20-somethings in this country will relate to the housing situation that shaped Maryam Qudus (aka Doe Eye)'s first full-length LP: The dreaded move back in with your parents in the 'burbs.
"There were so many transitions going on while I was writing this record, that was the mode I was in," says Qudus, 23, the Union City-born-and-raised daughter of Afghani immigrants. It's the week before her first headlining show at Great American Music Hall [Thu/29], and she and her band are winding their way through the Midwest on a brief national jaunt; she's calling from Oklahoma City. "I'd moved to Boston [to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music], then moved back to San Francisco less than a year later to pursue music here. And when I decided I wanted to make a record, the way to do that financially was to move back home."
If it felt like a stumble, that's likely only in contrast to what had been up until that point a charmed music business debut: Doe Eye made an impressive entrance in 2011, when her four-song demo — in particular the ballad "I Hate You," which highlighted her incredibly rich voice — earned the attention of DJs at Live 105 the week she released it. It also caught the ear of the godfather of young Bay Area singer-songwriters, John Vanderslice, who produced her second official EP, 2012's Hotel Fire, on which the young singer got support from the Magik*Magik Orchestra.
Still, when it came time to focus on her first full-length record, living at her parents' house, Qudus found herself in a weirdly liminal state. "Going back to the bedroom you had in high school is a very weird thing," she says with a laugh. "It feels like you're backtracking in some ways, but in other ways, it made me appreciate how supportive and awesome my parents are...which I definitely wasn't thinking in high school."
The result of her pseudo-adolescent regression is T E L E V I S I O N, featuring a more complex, full-bodied sound than her previous records have displayed, with Qudus's raw, honest words and guitar-driven indie-rock sensibility seemingly filtered through layers of electronica, some New Wave and R&B moments; an industrial-lite kind of mood sets the base for her unmistakably strong (and getting stronger) vocals. If these songs feel distant, mediated at points, there's a reason: The record takes its name from the activity the songwriter realized helped her unwind and turn her brain off after a day of sequestering herself inside her childhood home to write.
"I was dealing with various personal issues, and I would spend hours in my bedroom writing, and after a while when it became too much, I started turning on the TV to get away from it all," says Qudus. "And I got into that pattern, which [I'd never done] before, and I started thinking about how people across America do this every day: Go to work all day at their job, come home and go 'OK, I'm gonna watch Mad Men, or Conan, and try to forget everything that just happened.'"