Interview: Peggy Sue
Your record is brilliant. Can you tell us about all the places you recorded it?
KATY: Most of it was recorded in Brooklyn in New York last spring in two places called DUMBO and Greenpoint. In DUMBO we were in this beautiful studio which overlooked the east river and the whole Manhatten skyline and there was a brilliant market down the road on Sundays which we snuck off too. Greenpoint is the place they use in television series and films when they want it to look like New York suburbs in the past.
ROSA: In Greenpoint there was a bar on the corner where you’d get a pizza free every time you bought a drink, which is pretty much how we survived in New York. That and four garlic knots for a dollar; Oh and also you could get ramen noodles and a coffee for two dollars in DUMBO. DUMBO”s one of those made up real estate names to try to make an area hip – It’s a particularly good one though. We’ve got a song named after it now, and we came close to calling our album ‘I left my heart down under Manhatten bridge overpass’.
KATY: When we got back from America we did some mixing and a bit more recording at Brighton Electric in Brighton which felt like coming home and we would walk there and back from my old house by the sea. Lastly we did one track in a church crypt in Crouch End in London where apparently there is a bakery that sells the best sausage rolls in London.
ROSA: in Brighton we stole our meals from the supermarket, In London I stole my meals off my parents. I’m all about the food today. Actually John Askew flew over to do some mixing and overdubs in Brighton which was bizarre because we’d only ever met him in New York and having him sit in this studio in Brighton were we’d recorded E.P’s was a bit of a juxtaposition. Doing more recording here allowed us to do newer songs we’d written in New York and get our friends to play on the record as apposed to session musicians so it felt more organic.
OLLY: All the places had effects on the album, it’s interresting how differrent rooms can change a sound especcially on something like the drums. For example the studio in DUMBO was such a large room so the drum sound is very open. The studio in Greenpoint was much smaller so the sound is smaller. But this adds a certain style to the tracks and I was very happy with the differrence in the sounds on the recordings. What’s interresting is the way in which the producers worked with their surroundings and therefore the work sounds cohesive.
What is your favourite track from the record and why?
KATY: Mine is ‘The Shape We Made’ because it says exactly what I want it to say and it has Olly playing banjo on it which is his stringed instrument recording debut.
ROSA: Mine changes around quite a lot, which I think is probably a good thing. I used to feel pressure about releasing a single because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and there’s the pressure of having that one song and trying to make it perfect. It’s kind of swewed because my favourite things are usually the imperfections. Anyway the album I love as a whole because it’s a body of work and I can allow myself to see positives in all the songs as well as things that we can do differently on the next album. The songs separately have meanings but together create something different and an overall felling that I love. Possibly the song with the most personal meaning to me at the moment is ‘The Remainder’.
OLLY: My favourite track is ‘Yo Mamma’. It was the first track that we recorded when we arrived in New York so it will always have a special place in my heart. But like Rosa I am happy with the result as a whole and enjoy listening to the album in its entirety. I can remember each track and how it was recorded which adds another dimension to my enjoyment.
[Photo of Olly at the Old Queen's Head album playback]
I really love that you made an album of new songs, instead of just choosing already recorded songs from EPs and calling it a ‘new album’. Was this intentional and why?
KATY: Completely intentional. We all love albums and have always admired those albums that seem to create a whole world separate from anything else the musician has done or will do. I love that experience of listening to an album for the first few times and getting to know it and you can’t have that experience if you already know some of the songs. Plus there are two songwriters in the band and although we still play and love some of those songs we had so much new material that we wanted to put out.
ROSA: We believe quite strongly in releasing our music as soon as we’ve written it whilste the meanings still current. We wanted the album to be like a time capsul. Over the year we continued to write newer songs and were switching them in for older ones right up until the deadline. Whenever we’ve released anything it’s always been the songs we’re most excited about at that point. It wouldn’t suit us to re-release songs, not because we don’t still love them but because there are other things that are more pressing. Song writing can be quite a cathartic process. When you’ve managed to put the way you feel into lyrics and music and played it, there’s always something else to say. Having the songs all come from a set period of time insured that there was a theme or similarity running through them, as Katy said we wanted the album to be cohesive and separate from anything else we have made so far.
Are you enjoying playing the songs live?
KATY: We worked them all for the playthrough and I’m so glad we did but at the same time some of them are just not going to work in a live set – especially because we are often supporting people so the sets are quite short. Others of the songs are first and foremost live songs – like Watchman and February Snow – and I think its good to have a balance between the ones that really come into their own live and the ones that are best playing quietly in your headphones.
What are the best and worst things about touring?
KATY: Traffic is pretty rubbish and sometimes you really need a day off but apart from that everything is great. Playing shows everynight, getting to visit different places, visiting friends you never get to see and making friends with new bands. I even quite love driving around in the van most of the time because we listen to so much music. Touring with friends is the best because it feels like your having an adventure.
OLLY: My favourite thing about tour is seeing places that I have never seen before and perhaps never have a chance if it wasn’t for the band. The negative side is that you dont always get enough time to explore a place because of the driving, soundchecks and actual gigs. The positive of this is you get to play a gig every night which is amazing.
I see you did a Daytrotter session. What was that like?
KATY: It was really great because it felt like a big deal to be invited there. We had a proper road trip to get there from Chicago – drove across Illinois to Rock Island, Iowa and saw the Mississippi River for the first time – really we’re just big tourists. The guys that run it are really cool and patient and they know what they’re doing and its really great that they get to run the site as a job. Afterwards we had pizza at Huckleberry’s, the place next door that they do gigs and it felt a bit like we had just had ‘The Daytrotter Experience’ – like the geeky musical version of those bunjeejumping presents that you get in a box.
Do you ever find it frustrating that you get compared to a seemingly obligatory list of female artists just because you’re a band fronted by girls? What’s the funniest thing you’ve read about your band?
KATY: It is frustrating especially because there obviously are women that we are inspired by and similar too but it just starts to mean nothing after a while. Its funny for us because we’ve been around for quite a while now and we basically just get compared to whoever is big at that moment – so at the beginning it was Lily Allen and then Adele and Kate Nash and then Florence and the Machine. Noone has compared us to Lady GaGa yet though.
ROSA: It’s just lazy journalism really, and by comparing all new female fronted bands to the most popular other female artist at the time you’re denying the history of amazing female musicians that have come before. There’s this obsession with the Woman in music at the moment which is incredibly positive for female artists but would perhaps be helped if it wasn’t so exclusively female. They shouldn’t be successful only in reference to one another but in terms of all music. We pride ourselves on taking inspiration from a multitude of different places. I like current artists but it would be pretty sad if that was were my musical heritage came from.
[Photo of Rosa at The Allotment supporting She Keeps Bees in January]
Olly, if you could give Katy a super power, what would it be?
OLLY: I thought of all kinds of superpowers but then decided if it was anything too great she would have to be off saving the world rather than playing in the band, which would be sad. So I decided to give Katy the power to change anything that was the colour blue into the colour mauve. It could be pretty amusing and a little in joke between us. Imagine the look on people’s faces if their new pair of jeans suddenly changed colour.
Katy, if you could give Rosa a super power, what would it be?
KATY: I’d make her be able to click her fingers and get somewhere so that she would never be late again and wouldn’t have to go on any aeroplanes.
Rosa, if you could give Olly a super power, what would it be?
ROSA: His drum playings already pretty superhuman. Maybe I’de make him quadrouple himself so we could have an army of drums or maybe I’d make him a drumstick ninja so he could throw sticks at people and pin them to walls if he ever got into a fight.
What are your favourite bands and records right now? What bands are you keen to see live?
KATY: I have been mostly listening to Vs. Children by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Beasts of Seasons by Laura Gibson and Saltwater by Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards. I really hope I get to see The National at some point over the summer they are at the top of my list and I want to see The Strange Boys again now that I know all the words.
ROSA: I love Joanna Newsom, and I’ve been trying to listen to the new album in it’s entirety to get my head round it. I painted my room the other day and listened to all three disks from start to finish but it’s strange because you can’t help drifting in and out from it. it’s a very different album listening experience to most, and in a way quite daunting, but pretty cool. I like Bird Brains, Tune Yards’ record a lot. In terms of live shows Mariner’s Children are amazing. I really want to watch Esben and the Witch again live, we played together ages ago but I haven’t seen them since. Also I’m looking forwards to Archie Bronson Outfit every night in Europe, and we’re going to see Mount Eerie on Katy’s Birthday. That’s been on the wishlist for years, me and Katy actually orchestrated playing a festival, and making sure we were on the same day because it was the only British show and it got cancelled as we waited in a room for it to begin.
OLLY: I really love the guys that are playing in Alela Diane’s band. Benjamin Oak Goodman is her drummer but writes some incredible songs on his own and the same goes for her bass player, Tom Bevitori. I love Mariner’s Children and they get better every time I see them. I saw the Low Anthem play recently and their live show was incredible.
Which of these is better: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park? WHY?
Jurassic Park because it has dinosaurs in it.