Indieterria meets Kristin Hersh

Dear Readers,

It`s a strange feeling to be writing a blog about Throwing Muses` front woman on a night when VMAs are on. It almost feels like the 90s. Back in the day MTV was a rock channel and Throwing Muses were in heavy rotation, leading guitar revolution across charts and Z Rock network. Times may have changed but many things stayed the same. Kristin Hersh is still touring, recording exciting albums (last years`s “Possible Dust Clouds” is nothing short of a masterpiece) and still being independent. Perhaps even more now than when she was on 4AD.

Being life long fans of Kristin`s music, we have been thrilled to speak to her about her new record, extensive tour of UK and creative process behind her songs.  Lets leave the Moon Men to some emo kids and mumble rappers. There is so much life outside the Top 40.

Ladies and Gentlemen – the one and only Kristin Hersh!

 

Kristin Hersh and her band members on stage

Hello Kristin! In March this year you have played an extensive UK tour with over 30 gigs across the county. How was it? We hope you received a warm welcome!

Kristin Hersh: Best tour of my life in every way. Not making this up. Van life plus my favourite musicians in the world and musically literate crowds. Rob from 50 Foot Wave and Fred from Throwing Muses made this power trio a super group, of sorts.

The first time they called us that, we laughed, and then immediately adopted the term ‘cause it made us feel like super heroes!

You have released nine studio albums with Throwing Muses, the latest in 2013.  “Purgatory/Paradise” came out in an unique form: 32 tracks accompanied by a book full of lyrics, images and additional material. The scale of the release prompted fears among fans that it would be the last album for the band. Do you think there is still some music left in The Muses or are you definitively putting the project to rest?

Kristin Hersh:  (laughs) Throwing Muses is in the studio right now. If Muses songs show up, so do we.

Lady with a guitar – Kerstin Hersh has always been a role model on indie circuit

Besides music you are also a published author. You have written and illustrated children book “Toby Snax” and penned two memoirs (“Rat Girl” and “Don’t Suck Don’t Die”). Was writing a natural step forward from making music and crafting songs?

Kristin Hersh:  I love prose. After a lifetime of speaking music—a language not everyone is fluent in—I get to communicate clearly. Though my writing style verges on prose – poetry, so I guess the communicative effect is watery. It`s more like music than conversation.

In an interview with Guitar World you once said “We’re morally bound to not participate in the traditional recording industry because we disagree with it.” And yet, your newest studio album “Possible Dust Clouds” was released on a label, the old fashioned way. What convinced you to sign  to Fire Records?

Kristin Hersh: The old fashioned way is corporate and anti-music. I traded Warner Brothers my first solo album in exchange for my band’s freedom. The new paradigm—like Fire Records—is staffed by people who’ve been too moved by real songs to play the insult-to-music-and-women fashion game that took over the recording industry.

For the purpose of this interview we really tried to find one review of “Possible Dust Clouds” that was not positive and we failed! Pitchfork called it a “glorious return” while Guardian described you both as “uncompromising” and a “true innovator”.  Every online review is full five stars. Do you regard this record as the best of your career, cause your fans and music journalists seems to agree on that.

Kristin Hersh: I probably think every record I make is the best of my career! But I’m also baffled by songs. They tell me what to do and I have to listen, so production technique is necessarily reinvented in every session. Until I hear back from smart journalists, I really don’t know what I’ve done.

Kristin Hersh – the legend herself

It took about five years to record “Possible Dust Clouds” and unlike your previous album you did not play all the instruments. This album welcomes many guests and even uses field recordings. How do you remember working on this particular record?

Kristin Hersh: I wanted a chaotic sound, one that mimicked the feel of live shows. Live recordings are usually just recordings that suck, so you have to parse the elements of a show: group high and loud noise plus movement, in order to bring that about. I invited a few friends whose playing is very muscular so that I could warp timing and tuning in the high and low overdubs around our performances. Weak playing would sound ineffective with this treatment but here it sounds noisy and fluid.

The album has been promoted by several singles, including LAX and now Breathe In. It is one of our favourite tracks on the album. We would love to learn more about this song.

Kristin Hersh:  “Soloing throughout” is a term we use to make fun of guitar players who won’t shut up, but that’s exactly what I did I in this song. Played my leads with a screwdriver and I don’t shut up until the song ends. My son Wyatt played drums and my fiancé, Fred Abong, is on bass. It’s a little trio of a family, really. So there’s a sweetness in all that noise.

If you are not touring solo or with Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, you are working with 50FOOTWAVE. Can you tell us something about this project as British audience may not be familiar with it.

Kristin Hersh: 50FOOTWAVE is my noise rock trio out of LA. We’re run as a cooperative, with everyone donating their time, from engineers and musicians to videographers, to allow us to give music away.

You have always been very open about your struggles with mental health. And music industry is having this big conversation right now about supporting artists. Looking at things from perspective of somebody who spent four decades in the industry – do you see any changes? And if so are they positive or negative?

Kristin Hersh: I haven’t been all that open, really, since I have no mental health issues. I was misdiagnosed schizophrenic and bipolar and only recently cured of PTSD and concurrent dissociation, which isn’t technically a mental illness. I answer questions when I’m asked, but I shy away from linking any illness to art.

And I think supporting the arts is a very individual decision since they’re all industries now and subject to marketing techniques like bandwagon appeal, etc. I’d love to see people playing their own music, for example. That’s a way to support the arts.

Last (infamous) question – if you were able to change music industry to your liking what would you do? What would change and what would remain?

Kristin Hersh:  I would take fashion, money and fame out of the equation. That would leave us with actual musicians. I’m not sure that there are any musicians or songwriters in the recording industry. Rock stars and people who want to be them should never have happened. Music? Will always happen.

You can follow Kristin Hersh on socials:

https://www.kristinhersh.com/
https://www.facebook.com/strangeangels/
https://twitter.com/kristinhersh
https://www.instagram.com/kristinhersh/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTdtvPp4IiPDDZqX-4No5Uw
https://soundcloud.com/kristinhersh-official
https://open.spotify.com/artist/6ZWUhhSv3IahZyW5keNSxK?si=gDMk7mBZToGJ41ZLz6hJ_A

 

Throwing Muses:

http://throwingmuses.com/
https://www.facebook.com/throwingmusesofficial/
https://twitter.com/throwingmuses
https://www.instagram.com/throwingmusesofficial
https://soundcloud.com/throwingmuses
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5xU5wRTlZHVRoo2OxPvqA4?si=b-eosmzZQzeFzG2hwzYaag

 

50FOOTWAVE:

https://www.facebook.com/50footwave/
https://twitter.com/50footwave
https://open.spotify.com/artist/1ruRQnflSHJVLqvqRe5MRB

Big thank you goes to Kristin Hersh for speaking to us and to Shauna McLarnon of Shameless Promotion PR for making arrangements.

M/R

Indieterria meets Sybling

Hello!  

It is a music journalist’s privilege to speak to some of the most talented people in the world. Some of the artists might be living just two doors down from you, or in the same town, but some of them might be located at the other side of the pond. Not so long ago, we had an undeniable pleasure to discover an American duo named Sybling. Two New York based sisters, stole our hearts withing minutes with their breathtakingly vocals, harmonies and eerie sounds that would make David Lynch look twice over his shoulder on his way home on a dark winter’s night. The duo are represented by the wonderful folks at Marauder Group and we  wrote to them asking if we could speak to both ladies. Much to our delight, the label and the band said yes (thank you)! We discussed their upbringing in a musical family, writing their debut EP and their eclectic musical taste ranging from Nick Drake to the British indie rock sensation, Radiohead.

Band picture by Manny Inoa

Sybling:
Alice Makwaia (vocals, multi-instruments)
Mariana Quinn-Makwaia (vocals, multi-instruments)

Not always we have a pleasure to speak to an emerging artists from the other side of the pond. Please introduce yourselves to the readers of Indieterria.

Sybling: Hello there! We are sisters, Alice Makwaia and Mariana Quinn-Makwaia of the duo Sybling.

You grew up in New York, in a musical family with musician and composer father and mother who is an actress and an acting coach. Did your parents have any influence on you to become an artist yourselves? Have they encouraged you to chose this path, or maybe they were against it knowing how hard it is in this business?

Sybling: Both of our parents are artists. As you already mentioned, our father is a musician and our mother is an actress. We grew up, the four of us, near the poverty line, in a one bedroom apartment. It was totally great (and we mean that in earnest). Our parents weren’t unhappy with the struggling artist lifestyle. They saw no problem in going into the arts. Our parents only encouraged us to do what spoke to us. And, from a young age, music did just so.

Before the creation of Sybling, both of you had an impressive musical resumes: Alice wrote musical scores for theatre and film (“The Snow Queen” by Downtown Art and “Forest Bathing” by Yaara Sumeruk) and Mariana found success as part of R’n’B outfit Smoke & Sugar. What convinced you to form a band together? Have you worked with each other before?

Sybling art by Catya Bastien

Sybling: (laughing) Making the band was an easy decision. We grew up singing together and harmonizing. In many ways, we knew each other musically better than anyone else in the world!

Sybling is inspired by a wide and eclectic range of genres: from traditional folk, to soul, jazz, funk and alternative rock. We can hear Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Marianne Faithful and Elliott Smith. And Stevie Wonder! Who is your inspiration?

Sybling: We’re both very inspired by alternative and folk genres. Our top inspirations are Sufjan Stevens, Nick Drake, Feist and Radiohead. Funny fact: we actually wrote “The Grim” for Radiohead! We heard the song in Thom Yorke’s voice.

You have released your debut EP on February 22, 2019. It is promoted by a lead single “Grim” and a video in which a young man is haunted by nightmarish figures with white masks covering their faces. Can you tell us more about “Grim” and the concept behind the video?

Sybling: The concept of “The Grim” video came from a sketch we made some years back. It was about someone on the subway, seated next to a suited man in a deer mask. It came from a thought that the subway is the looniest place we know! People are simultaneously physically close but oblivious to each other. We actually wrote the song when we were in High School, and it deals with the loneliness, and darkness that followed us around a lot then.

We absolutely love the cover of your EP, and the artwork  that is displayed on your social media. Who is the author?

Sybling: The cover of our EP was made by a Texas-based artist Catya Bastian. And we made the cover of our single for “Under.”

EP cover by Catya Bastien

You once said that “If one quote were to sum up the entirety of Sybling, it would be Kurt Vonnegut’s: “He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral.” A lot of your lyrics seem to deal with themes of searching for lost things and the past. The whole EP has this aura of melancholy and some sort of sadness. Perhaps we are mistaken but we feel like this record could be considered as a concept album, rather than just a collection of songs to reflect to?

Sybling: We like thinking of our EP as a concept album! Originally, we didn’t know what songs we were going to release, so it’s a bit of a fluke that they contextually fit together so succinctly!

We want to ask you about our favourite song “She is Alive in the Past”. It has beautifully crafted voice harmonies with catchy, radio friendly guitar riffs and piano. What’s really surprising, it has no lyrics. Please tell us more about it. Is there any particular story behind it?

Sybling: “She is still alive in the past” was very much an experiment. We’d had the tune in our heads for years, no lyrics. Even the finished product is a bit of a dream without a clear story. We think of it as a funeral march. We weren’t planning on recording it. Then one day, with an extra hour at the end of a session, we recorded a draft. Simple, just sparse vocals, guitar, organ, a little piano. Mari had the great idea of adding percussion, giving it that lopsided beat—which immediately reminded us, quite morbidly, of the way a zombie would walk.

“Grim” single cover

Last question – If you were to score a Netflix drama of your choice. What would it be and what songs appear on the soundtrack?

Sybling: We think, we’d have to go with Netflix’s “Russian Doll” to write music for. It takes place in the neighborhood we grew up in. We could see “She is still alive in the past” in there.

You can follow Sybling on their social media:
https://www.syblingmusic.com/bio
https://syblingmusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/syblingmusic
https://www.facebook.com/pg/syblingmusic
http://sybling.maraudergroup.com/

Email: syblingmusic@gmail.com|

Alice Makwaia (as a solo artist):
https://alicemakwaia.bandcamp.com/releases

Smoke & Sugar (Mariana Quinn-Makwaia side project):
https://www.instagram.com/smokeandsugarmusic
https://www.facebook.com/smokeandsugar/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1KsvM0hfcgI1_7DNTW-ptw

Articles:
https://alonelyghostburning.co.uk/interviews/getting-to-know-sybling/
http://ventsmagazine.com/2019/02/21/premiere-sybling-streams-new-self-titled-ep/
https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwmusic/article/New-York-Folk-Duo-Sybling-Release-Their-Debut-EP-20190301
https://chicagonbeyond.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/mariana-quinn-makwaia-w-smoke-sugar/

Vanadian Avenue would like to say a few “thank you’s” to Sybling manager, Mr Phillipe Roberts and to the Managing Partner/Co-Founder of Marauder Group, Mr Rev Moose for making this interview possible. It was a real pleasure!

It is also worth mentioning that Marauder Group, is responsible for bringing the Independent Venue Week to America! This year, the US edition of IVW will take place on July 8-14, 2019 with more than 60 venues participating. You can find more about the  events here:
http://independentvenueweek.maraudergroup.com/
https://www.independentvenueweek.com/2019/04/independent-venue-week-announces-first-round-of-2019-us-shows-more-participating-venues/

We may try to speak to Marauder about IVW and the difference between the UK and USA versions. Keep your fingers crossed!

Please come back soon, we have a fantastic Mancunian band scheduled to speak to us next week!

Till then,
R+M