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Processing New Motherhood, Suzanimal Sings From a Sea Creature’s Perspective

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Suzanne Galal leads the indie, funk and R&B outfit Suzanimal.  (Photo: Brittany Powers; illustration: Kelly Heigert)

Welcome to Pass the Aux, where KQED Arts & Culture brings you our favorite new tracks by Bay Area artists.

When Suzanne Galal first had her son, she found herself contemplating her next life phase as she walked along the murky waters of Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Her indie, funk and R&B outfit Suzanimal had just begun to get traction in the Bay Area’s live music scene. Now that she was a parent, would she have time to pursue her passion while holding down her career as a pharmacy professor at the University of the Pacific?

Doubts crept in as Galal pushed her son’s stroller around the edges of the lake. “I was in a time where there’s lots of hormones, and almost, like, grief and trying to find myself again,” says Galal.

As she walked, the melody of what would become the song “Eel” began to come to her. In the sweeping, cinematic track, Galal inhabits the persona of a sea creature at the bottom of the lake as she takes time to herself to sort out her emotions. Graham Patzner’s violin playing and Kelly McFarling’s choral backing vocals lend the track rich textures as Galal explores the bittersweetness of saying goodbye to one stage of life while welcoming another.

The idea for the chorus, in which she acceptingly repeats “I don’t mind,” came to her after a friend worked with a mental health awareness campaign of the same name. “And so it was like, ‘OK, it’s OK to be sad, but there’s people to reach out to. And it’s also equally empowering, being sad and gaining strength from that moment in my life,” Galal reflects.

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“Eel” is part of Galal’s September album Passing, which invites the listener to groove and dance, even as it takes stock of life’s difficulties during the pandemic. And on an optimistic note, Galal surprised herself with how creative and productive she’s been since the arrival of her son. “He’s really actually made things better, and I feel even more inspired and am coming up with new songs, and writing even faster, since he’s been around,” she says.

Galal says she’s already working on her next project, due in early 2023, and is performing some of her new, unreleased music at her next live show at Amado’s in San Francisco on Dec. 2.

Suzanimal performs with Joshua James Jackson and Fiero at Amado’s in San Francisco on Dec. 2. Details here.

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