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Towa Bird is Ready To Be Everyone’s New Guitar Hero

Towa Bird is the rock & roll firecracker we need right now. She’s the kind of upstart guitar shredder who comes along saying things like “I just want to be the lesbian Paul McCartney.” That takes attitude, kind of like calling your debut album American Hero. But Bird doesn’t lack for confidence. All though her rise to the top, she’s been a true believer—she really wants to be your new favorite queer Asian female glam-rock star.

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter was born in Hong Kong to Filipino and English parents, and spent most of her childhood between Thailand and London, obsessing over her dad’s classic-rock album collection, inspired by legends like the Kinks, Joan Jett, and Prince. She’s been playing guitar ever since she was 12, anywhere she could scrounge up a crowd, which has never been a problem for her.

Towa Bird made her name during the pandemic, doing viral guitar covers on TikTok, as she ripped her solos over her favorite pop and rock tunes, from Childish Gambino to Supertramp. She won many fans that way—including Olivia Rodrigo, who brought her on board for her 2021 doc Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film), where Bird plays guitar on “Brutal.” Since then it’s been one coup after another. She released her single “Wild Heart” last year, marveling at how a new love managed to tame her, with the hook, “I’m Indiana Jones, you’re my last crusade.” She dropped her Live at Terminal 5 EP with her rowdy version of Blur’s “Song 2.” She’s been touring with label mate Renée Rapp, earning kudos from Billie Eilish, and preparing her long-awaited debut album.

American Hero is a collection of 13 succinct pop-punk punches to the chin, in the high-energy mode of singles like “Wild Heart” and “Sorry Sorry.” “FML” sets the tone right from the start with three minutes of melodic guitar crunch, as she describes her ideal of romantic bliss: “Sit on the couch and watch Jennifer’s Body/Tell you she’s hot and then say that I’m sorry.”

Bird brings her own outspoken flash to everything on American Hero, from the break-up kiss-off “Deep Cut” to the sheer lust of “Drain Me!” She wilds out on her guitar, going for an Eighties rock sound somewhere on the Neal Schon/Elliot Easton cusp. It makes sense that “Brutal” is the song she played with O-Rod, since that’s the basic musical premise here, in songs exploring the dimensions of queerness, identity, and romance. “Sorry, Sorry” is Bird at her most vulnerable, a song about two friends hesitating at the brink of turning into lovers. She warns, “If we’re starting something / It’ll be the start of the end / Don’t want another lover if it means losing you as a friend.” 

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As you’d expect from song titles like “Drain Me!,” she’s got a Nineties rock jones, especially the sound of Britpop guitar bands like Elastica, Blur, and Supergrass, as well as MTV Buzz Bin bangers like Veruca Salt and The Breeders. You can also hear 2000s NYC rockers like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—like so many artists of her generation, Bird got her mind blown by discovering punk goddess Karen O, calling it “the first time I saw an Asian woman being so unabashedly herself.”

“This Isn’t Me” is the pick-to-click here. It says a lot about Bird that she’s so at home reveling in her world-class rock-star charisma, she’s already got a great tune about how tough it is to be a rock star—she’s bored by all the limos and jets and caviar, asking, “Is it too late to say I really hate this?” She tweaks all the classic-rock tropes on why it’s lonely at the top, with the chorus, “This isn’t me, I’m not here,” quoting Michael Stipe’s famous advice to Thom Yorke on how to handle the celebrity hustle. It takes verve to put a song like that on your debut. (It took Bob Seger six albums to get to “Turn The Page.”) But one of the best things about Towa Bird is that for her, verve is never in short supply.

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Rising star will release her debut album ‘American Hero’ on June 28 Towa Bird is gearing up to release her debut album American Hero...