"Really good, really unexpected, and really different" is how The Village Voice describes Girlyman's lyric-driven folk-pop music. But that can also describe the year that inspired their fifth studio album Supernova.
"A supernova is a dying star," explains Girlyman member Doris Muramatsu, who was diagnosed with leukemia in late 2010. The three founding members of Girlyman (Muramatsu, Nate Borofsky, and Tylan Greenstein) had spent ten years playing and singing harmony together, from early days in tiny coffeehouses, through long opening runs with the Indigo Girls and Dar Williams, all the way to festival main stages and the country's premier acoustic venues. The band, now a quartet with the addition of former Po' Girl drummer JJ Jones in 2009, suddenly feared for its future.
"I was in the hospital getting blood transfusions and chemotherapy," Doris continues. "We cancelled a month of tours and thought that was it."
An autobiography of this unique time for the band, Supernova resonates with themes of uncertainty and transformation. But the album is not a dirge; instead, the band reaches, as always, for hope. As Slate Magazine wrote, "Girlyman doesn't wallow in such emotions; the band approaches them frankly, capturing, in a story or a surprising metaphor, a feeling you've had but never heard so well-expressed."
"Nate had written a song called 'Supernova' that kept going through my head all throughout my stay in the hospital," says Doris. "It wasn't written about me, but it helped me get through that time. Later I looked up the definition of 'supernova.' It turns out that while it is a dying star, it also gives birth to new stars." Indeed, nine months after her diagnosis, Muramatsu's cancer went into remission and the band was reborn.
Mixed by Grammy Award winner Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn), and featuring guest appearances by the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers and others, Supernova is the first Girlyman album to include the kinetic drumming of newest member JJ Jones.