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Interview: Peggy Sue

Interview: Peggy Sue

[Photo: www.flickr.com/jonathanhyde]

Here is when I interviewed Peggy Sue ages ago for (and originally posted on) The Line of Best Fit.

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.

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Interview: Wye Oak

Interview: Wye Oak

Jenn, of the wonderful duo Wye Oak, answered some questions below. They are brilliant and I really recommend checking out their last EP and albums- Wye Oak. Their fuzzy, dark, folk noise will win you over! Check it out.

Can you make two sentences that rhyme to describe your band?

It’s awfully hard, with music, to define

without also having to consider achieving rhyme.

That’s a cop out; but the truth is

my attempts were all like half-assed seuss-es.

Hope this isn’t the first question;

what a ridiculous first impression.

Stopping now, so as to prevent

any additional embarrassment.

[ed: BEST ANSWER EVER.]

“My Neighbor/My Creator” is the best thing I’ve heard in ages. Are you happy with how it turned out?

Yes, we were very pleased with how it came together. Typically, the more relaxed, loose setting of an EP is a good opportunity to experiment, learn, and stretch…it was a lot of fun for us. Also, it was the first time we had worked with others in the studio, namely our co-producers and engineers Chris and Mickey Freeland, and we were happy to have the chance to learn from the experience before attempting another full-length. (Soon!)

How did that remix of ‘That I Do’ come about?

Mickey Free is a great friend, has been familiar with our music from the very beginning, and was a valuable contributor to the recording and mixing of the EP. We’re big fans of his music as well, so it was exciting for us to see where he might take one of our songs. Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

What have you been listening to lately?

Some wonderful Baltimore bands have releases in the works. Lower Dens is the new project of Jana Hunter, who has done several solo albums on the Gnomonsong label. Their new album, “Twin Hand Movement,” is pretty unbelievable, and we’ve both been listening to that tons. We’ve also been loving “In Evening Air” by Future Islands, another great Baltimore band.

What’s something you’re excited about?

Excited about this years Baltimore Ravens (American) football team. We Baltimoreans take a lot of pride in our home team, and it’s looking to be a great season for us.

I feel sad that I missed your UK appearances last year. Do you enjoy touring?

Yeah, those UK shows last year were a blast. We played the End of the Road Festival out west of London, and also got to play at Scala in London. We’re really hoping to get back over to EU/UK before long. I’m kind of sad it’s taken us so long to make it happen, but I guess there are a lot of logistics to sort out. We’re very much looking forward to making it back as soon as possible!

What’s your favourite place to play?

I have always loved the Black Cat in Washington, DC. They’re very kind to us there. As for overseas, we played at Botanique Rotunda in Brussels on our last trip, and that was a pretty magical place.

Do you work day jobs back home?

Yes. Jenn works at an American Southwestern restaurant with delicious food which converts itself into a great music venue on most nights. Andy does freelance work on various television and commercial shoots around town.

What’s next from Wye Oak?

We’ll be recording a new full-length in the next couple of months, then doing a little bit of touring around the States. Hopefully we’ll be back over to the UK in early 2011.

Wye Oak are brilliant. Have a listen to them over here and keep your ears out for their next album.

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Interview: WOOM

Interview: WOOM

WOOM is a little treasure made up of Sara Magenheimer and Eben Portnoy. I got to see them play recently; they had a brilliant energy to their live show and I’d really recommend catching them when they’re back here. Their record is called ‘Muu’s Way’ and is out very soon. Check them out! Hear their songs! Sara and Eben are off traversing Europe but still found time to kindly answer some questions…

Hello. Your London show with Xiu Xiu was brilliant. Did you have a nice time on tour?

Sara: Yes, we’ve had an amazing tour and we’re still on it! Yesterday we played on a raft in the river in Leiria, Portugal.

I like writing things in shouty caps, and thus I like your band name. Why are you called WOOM?

Sara: Symmetry, birth, roundness, sharpness, and the sound.

Eben: We like how the sound can be warm and enveloping and also fast and explosive.

How did the two of you meet?

Eben: Through a series of accidents.

Do you have day jobs?

Sara: Yes, when not on tour. We have to be creative about how we live in order to have time to do our creative work.  We’re also both visual artists as well, which is not incredibly lucrative.

How would you describe your album to someone who hasn’t heard it?

Eben: Your summer jam!

I really loved the album. Are you enjoying playing the songs live and do you have a favourite song to play?

Sara: Thanks! Yes, it’s fun to play live, especially when people dance and respond. There’s nothing better. For us playing out is really about connecting with the audience and making a new experience together every night, so it works best when people are open to being a part of the music.  When that happens it’s transcendent, and we’ve been lucky to get some amazing audiences on this tour.  Muu’s Way was partly inspired by other artists who’s performance work is directly engaging- Judith Malina and The Living Theater, Jerome Rothenberg, Lygia Clark, and Brigitte Fontaine.

Eben: “Backwards Beach” is really fun to play live, and we usually open our set with it. Lately we’ve been playing a cover of Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train”, which has been fun to experiment with while on the road.

What have you been listening to lately?

Eben: All the bands we’ve been playing with on tour! Xiu Xiu were amazing to hear live, and we also met many great bands like I Camillas, Father Murphy, Comaneci, and Bob Corn.

Do you ever do any covers?

Eben: Sometimes, yes! The Elizabeth Cotton song, and once in a while one by Arthur Russell.

What is your opinion on the Kate Bush song ‘Wuthering Heights’?

Sara: I like it.  I’m no rabid Kate Bush fan, but I find her virtuosity really amazing.

Eben: I love the chorus melody. The song is really strange. All the instruments seem to be in the same range so it all meshes together into one plane like bird chatter.

Sara, if you could give Eben a super power, what would it be and why?

Sara: The power to speak any language!  It would make touring foreign countries so much nicer. (When on tour for this long all our longings get very practical.)

Eben, if you could give Sara a super power, what would it be and why?

Eben: The ability to burrow like a mole and super-human strength, so that she could pull us to all our destinations, beneath traffic jams and road blocks, and also so that we would have nice quiet, dark burrows to sleep in every night.

What are some of your plans for the rest of 2010?

Sara: Moving to LA, playing more music, recording, working on a textile project with Alula Editions, a few other secret projects…

Eben: I’m moving to Hollywood to be in the movies.

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Interviews

I just cleaned up the Interviews section of my blog. Everything is all neat and tidy. Looking through, there are some pretty cool interviews in there. Some of them are pretty funny to reflect on (for example, when I was talking to She Keeps Bees or The Antlers for the first time I really had no idea just how much I’d end up loving them).

There will be plenty more interviews in the future, too.

Here are some of my favourites, in chronological order:

Beatbeat Whisper // December 1st 2008: This is my first interview. I remember drafting out the questions in a Management lecture at university. I remember it so clearly. Seems like an age ago now.

Sharon Van Etten // December 23rd 2008: Sharon is wonderful. Here she recommended me She Keeps Bees, which has to be one of the best recommendations I’ve ever been given.

The Antlers // January 28th 2009: This was before ‘Hospice’ came out.

Scary Mansion // February 18th 2009: I loved Scary Mansion loads by that point, and I still do now. It’s funny; I never knew that I’d actually go to Paris to see them play and that a year later they’d play a gig I set up and we’d hang out and have such a wonderful time. Scary Mansion are one of the bands dearest to my heart.

She Keeps Bees // March 7th 2009: I got on to Sharon’s recommendation and listened to She Keeps Bees, and the swoon-a-thon begins. Again, little did I know that I’d end up seeing this band over a dozen times and get to know Jess and Andy, and that they’d play one of my gigs too. What a treat!

Wildbirds & Peacedrums // March 27th 2009: Wildbirds are one of my favourite live bands ever. A week or so after this interview I went down to Brighton to see them play. By myself. I met Mariam and said hi and it was really nice.

St. Vincent // April 24th 2009: I used to absolutely loathe speaking on the telephone. I did it to speak to Annie though, of course.

Whispertown 2000 // May 12th 2009: Whispertown have been one of my favourite bands for a long time. Such a joy to see them live finally and to quiz Morgan here.

The Antlers // September 2009 (here and here): After ‘Hospice’ came out. My love for them in full swing.

Holly Miranda // January 2010: A treat to sit down and talk with this talented lady.

Other favourites: A Weather // Alela Diane // Caitlin Rose // Chris Garneau // Cryptacize // Forest Fire // Glass Ghost // Half Handed Cloud // Lissie // Simone White // Scary Mansion (Brad) // Sky Larkin // Your Heart Breaks

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Interview: Dan Michaelson on film

Dan Michaelson

The Local are hosting a series of events at Islington’s Screen on the Green cinema. A lovely act will play some songs and then a movie will be screened. Saturday May 1st will play host to Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards, along with a screening of the brilliant No Country For Old Men. To celebrate, Dan answered some film-centric questions below.

For more info and tickets to the show head to The Local and listen to Dan on Myspace. Come to the show, it’ll be lovely!

Are you a big film fan?

I’m a big film fan but not in a particularly highbrow way, much to my own disappointment. I can happily watch almost anything and enjoy it on some level… be it as an aid to further procrastination and escapism or to be gripped by someone else’s reality for a couple of hours.

What do you like about the film ‘No Country For Old Men’?

I cant think of anything I didn’t like about it. Mindless violence, people lost in old age and life overtaking you without you really noticing, nothing I could relate to my own life…

Last film you saw in the cinema? How was it?

The last film I saw was Kick Ass. More violence and a film without an obvious moral message as such. I loved it… felt like I’d been slapped round the face when I left the cinema. I nearly went to see Greenberg (new film from The Squid and the Whale maker Noah Baumbach) but ended up deviating to Southbank for London Philharmonic instead… I’m certain I missed a great film.

What are your three favourite films?

Arthur is definately one… Dudley Moore: “I race cars, play tennis, and fondle women, but I have weekends off and I am my own boss”. Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion left me feeling odd for weeks and I loved that. I cant choose a third but it would most likely be something awful from the Romantic Comedy tradition.

Favourite actor/actress?

Dudley Moore, who knows why… years of therapy have unearthed no reason for this.

Either Diane Keaton in Annie Hall or Anne Bancroft in The Graduate… hard to pick.. the combination of these two leads probably forms my ideal woman.

What’s your favourite film trilogy?

I cant recall ever committing to a trilogy. I think I watched all of the Bourne films but they’ve just formed one big shoot out in my mind. Never had too much affection for films set in outer space such as Star Trek or Star Wars so they’re out, though I did love Moon with Sam Rockwell so I’m not against everything set outside our atmosphere.

What’s your snack of choice to accompany a film?

Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding please, probably without gravy for the sake of a clean trouser.

If you could get any actor to play you in a biopic about your life, who would you choose?

Of course, Mr.Dudley Moore… who else.

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