hemlocke springs @ The Drake Hotel, 10/5

Photos by Insung Youn
Photos by Insung Youn
Listen to hemlocke springs: spotify // apple music // youtube

A little over a year after American singer/songwriter/producer Isimeme Naomi Udu (known professionally as hemlocke springs) released her debut single, “gimme all ur love,” she’s already headlining her first North American & EU tour, playing for festivals (All Things Go in Washington, D.C.) and supporting acts like MUNA — impressive achievements in the music industry for someone who graduated from university only two years ago with a biology degree. She recently obtained a master’s degree in medical informatics from Dartmouth University—, another impressive endeavor. Now, of course, her academic pursuits have been put on hold while she works on building her music career.

In this way, hemlocke springs is an excellent representative of our generation, a wonderful role model for young, striving creatives unfettered by personal or professional labels and limits. Her big break came when her second single, “girlfriend,” went viral on TikTok, and her effusive, witty demeanor has charmed fans and critics alike. In fact, the overwhelming consensus from the various people I talked to at the show , when I asked what drew them to her as an artist , was how refreshing it was to watch a young, talented musician come up in the indie pop scene who wasn’t just another straight white guy.

poolblood // Photos by Insung Youn

And thank god for that, because she was truly a breath of fresh air—bright and glittering under the spotlights at The Drake Underground. I’ve seen the place more packed, sure, but I definitely have not seen it filled with such a genuine, lovely crowd. They gifted springs with crystals and jewelry, gleefully bantered with the opener (poolblood, check them out!), and made the entire night feel joyous and free. In the short span of a year, hemlocke springs has already built a loyal and dedicated fanbase, which is no small feat. Her setlist was short and sweet, but most of the crowd knew every word, even to the new songs from her EP that came out just last week (September 29th, to be exact).

Of course, it’s fairly obvious that she’s still quite new to touring and performing, but what she lacks in experience and resources she more than makes up for in energy and production. The whole time I was watching her sing and dance her heart out, I just kept thinking:

Wow, she looks so happy and expressive and free up there.

At an intimate venue like The Drake, your focus is drawn directly towards the performer—it’s easy to spot their quirks and tells, their palpable nerves and excitement. It’s easy to see how real, how alive they are, to feel the thrum of music in your pulse. There were some moments where I could tell she was holding herself back a bit, maybe a little nervous to go all out and let loose, preoccupied with hitting the right notes at the right time—but it’s clear that this is what she’s meant to be doing. At one point, she pulled a rockstar move, falling to the stage and throwing up her arms, kicking her legs to the beat and belting the final notes of a song. She has that spark, that ability to hype up a crowd, and I could easily picture her performing in arenas and stadiums one day. With her infectious smile and uninhibited laughter, she would light up any stage.

After this stop in Toronto, hemlocke springs is heading to Chicago and then LA to open for MUNA at The Greek Theatre. Then, she’s flying off to perform at festivals in Berlin, London, and Paris. It’s always difficult to predict the trajectory of a budding young artist, especially in the tumultuous music industry landscape, with all the added pressures of having a public platform. But from what I’ve seen, hemlocke springs is unapologetically herself, unafraid to be expressive and experimental with her sound, and a joy to be around—and these traits will take her very far.

I also hesitate to reduce her musical style to “indie pop,” because that simply does not do her sound justice. hemlocks springs’ style would be better described as dreamy, cinematic, electronic synthpop, drum heavy and reminiscent of Grimes (who actually endorsed her first single via TikTok comment), with great use of non-instrumental sound. My favorite moment in her EP, going…going…GONE! (hopefully into the pop stratosphere!), is the use of a bubble popping noise in the background of her song “the train to nowhere.” I love how she’s not afraid to play with noise/sound, and the punchy, funky result of that musical fearlessness. There’s a wonderful confidence and surety in how quickly she’s found her voice and established her musical style. While she has cited Avicii, Lorde, and Calvin Harris as musical influences, I got a further glimpse into her inspirations thanks to her pre-show playlist, featuring Mitski, The Cure, Tyler The Creator, and The Japanese House, just to name a few.

There’s something really special about an artist like springs, who is authentic and real in a way that makes her shine. She’s the kind of voice that the future of music needs, because ultimately, music is about joy and true connection. It’s about building the kind of space she’s already succeeded in creating at her shows, where people are uninhibited and liberated, jubilant and carefree. For hemlocke springs, this is only the beginning of what will surely be a long and illustrious career, wherever her path takes her—and I can’t wait to see what she does next.