The musical musings of Sticklips have been likened to “a bunny with cyborg implants.” The cute, herbivorous piece of the equation is 23-year-old singer/ songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist Johanna Warren, whose haunting voice, exquisite lyrics and adept finger picking are adorned with unexpected touches of electric guitars, synthesizers, and electronic noise by a shifting arrangement of talented musicians with eclectic influences.
With mysterious soundscapes and tasteful hints of psychedelia, Sticklips excels at creating an atmosphere that is at once spine-chilling and uncannily pretty, an intoxicating combination that draws the listener in, entranced.
Sticklips' 2009 debut, "It is Like a Horse. It is Not Like Two Foxes" was recorded over the course of a year, mostly in a bedroom in New Jersey. They are currently recording a second full-length album, set for release in Summer 2012.
PRAISE FOR STICKLIPS' "IT IS LIKE A HORSE. IT IS NOT LIKE TWO FOXES" (2009):
"Among the very best things I heard in 2009."- Rick Moody (author of Garden State and The Ice Storm).
Full review at http://therumpus.net/2010/01/swinging-modern-sounds-xx-one-recent-example-of-talent/
"A breath of fresh air... [Sticklips'] music, which defies modern categorization, is a blend of organic acoustic sounds and free-wheeling electronics that somehow come together in something that can only be called a dynamic equilibrium." - Akie Bermiss, The Busy Signal
"With sounds of fingers sliding up and down acoustic guitars, crystalline vocals and blatantly strange electronic interjections, Sticklips’ tunes leave listeners curious as hell." -Lauren Piper, The Deli Magazine.
"There is some instrumental talent here that should be noted by serious music fans." -Indie Update
Johanna Warren - acoustic guitar and vocals
Jonathan Nocera - electric guitar and electronics
Jim Bertini - drums
Chris St. Hilliare - bass
"It Is Like A Horse. It Is Not Like Two Foxes." LP, 2009
"Where Were" and "Lullaby." Digital singles, 2012.
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As happens like clockwork once each week, Sunday evening falls directly upon our heads along with th...As happens like clockwork once each week, Sunday evening falls directly upon our heads along with the sobering realization of another cubicle-dwelling handful of days existing in the not-so-distant future. In an attempt to fight off thoughts of our circle-o-impending doom, we've taken the time to sort though our email inbox once again and have some beautifully haunting/enchanting female vocals to share as a result. Although our subject line serves as an initial introduction, please have a listen to the following track before we continue any further.
Sticklips is primarily the music project of vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Johanna Warren who currently resides in the college town of Annandale-On-Hudson, New York. It was at Bard College where Johanna met guitarist/experimental noise collaborator Jonathan Nocera and together these two musicians have come up with an impressive compilation of songs that will soon serve as a debut release. The upcoming album is set to be titled It is Like a Horse/It is Not Like Two Foxes and we have another gem that will eventually belong to this dreamy little offering. Shall we?
If you've avoided any instinct to dine-n-dash and have made it this far, there is almost certainly a new soft spot in the ear for Sticklips. Johanna's vocal strength could affectionately be likened to a number of our favourite classic artists, yet we find ourselves at a loss for for any direct comparisons... this is a very good thing. More information and music can be found upon visiting the Sticklips MySpace page and there is also a Sticklips blog where vegan recipes (we might actually like to try) as well as some additional insight is readily available. The next live performance will take place next Saturday, April 4, at local venue/converted automotive garage known to Bard College students and locals as SMOG.
Finally, a track we consider to be the "showstopper" simply for the fact that it ramps up into something of a slow-burning version of any given song we can remember from long-lost lovelies The Primitives. Enjoy the following seven minutes and be sure to look for updates here at MML once the debut release is out of the gate.
STiCKLiPS: it is like a horse. it is not like two foxes
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Not so long ago, getting a new album was a heavy – as well as in-store – experience. Even if you kn...Not so long ago, getting a new album was a heavy – as well as in-store – experience. Even if you knew the band and you’d heard a single or two, you never really knew how the album would sound. The journey of listening — the experience — was the great musical adventure. The first time through the album — there was nothing like it. Of course we’ve come along way since then. These days the industry stays away from experimentation and innovation. The A&Rs aren’t down in East Village dives looking for the next big musical adventure, the talent scouts aren’t at the Apollo on Amateur Night, and you won’t be discovered singing for change in a subway. Now it’s all as scripted as pro-wrestling (sorry if you didn’t know), most artists give you everything up front. The singles all come out weeks before the record, and the records are just a collection of singles, really. There’s no suspense. You know you’ll like the song or dislike it depending on who it is. And you know you’re going like this video or that video, depending on who it is. No surprises, everything in its proper place. That’s just how we do it these days.
And so the latest record from the burgeoning Proliferate:Music label is a breath of fresh air. It’s sound is way, way, way off the beaten path and you’re unlikely to find anything to compare it to without tripping over a mouth full of stacked genres. The record: It Is Like A Horse. It Is Not Like Two Foxes.
And the band, in case you’re wondering, is called StiCKLips.
Putting the CD in, I really had no idea what this record was going to sound like. The only real description I could find online was something about a bunny with cyborg implants. Intriguing.
I should warn you, it’s probably not uncommon to experience an extreme sense of disorientation when listening to this record. Expect a dozen sounds to hit you at once, all of them seemingly slightly out of phase with one another. The disorientation fades — not quickly, mind you — but it does does so definitively. What, for example, does that strange title mean?! It could translate to some sort of allegorical explanation that no matter how bizarre or random the music may sound to you, it IS itself. It IS sui generis, and not to be confused or lightly written off as something other than itself.
And if one really listens, there is an over-arching musicality to every second of the record. It certainly doesn’t seem to have the conventional themes that we’ve come to expect from an “album”: songs all about the same thing, a concise narrative, a common lyrical construction to the song, or even just the same instruments playing on each track — ok, so there is NONE of that. And given that the feel of It Is Like A Horse is not something we’re instantly able to discern, it may be easy to explain away that initial disorientation with excuse that the music is just random. That perhaps STiCKLiPS just assembled a few noises, words, and microphones in a room one dark evening, smashed them together, and made a record.
I suppose if it were impossible to think such a thing, this would be a much less interesting record. And, I assure you, its quite interesting.
The music driving It Is Like A Horse is primarily the offering of songwriter and vocalist Johanna Warren and guitarist/producer Jonathan Nocera. The music, which defies modern categorization, is a blend of organic acoustic sounds and free-wheeling electronics that somehow come together in something that can only be called a dynamic equilibrium. The band also includes Jim Bertini on drums and Chris St. Hilliare on bass (you’ll have to listen closely, in some instances, to know who’s doing what … and where it’s being done). Warren’s light vocal attack and clear enunciation harken back to the heyday of 70s folk music. She’s not quite the uber-pronouncer that is Joni Mitchell, but there are shadings, hints, textures (stains, even) that summon up memories of Joan Baez, Laura Nyro, and (my personal favorite of that era’s lady singers/songwriters) Carole King. At the same time, Warren has mixed in the laconic attack that so many modern singers have adopted. Save for a few fairly intense moments, she avoids the overt emotion that the aforementioned folkier singers favored. There is a dissociative air to all the delivery. One that, while restricting the direct emotional palette Warren could tap into, gives way to greater emotional resonance. We observe the conspicuous absence of emotion where there SHOULD be some and know, therefore, that some great depth has been insinuated. I could certainly hear the same lyrics being sung by a circa 1995 Alanis Morissette (apologies to the artist if that offends) with screaming impunity, with the finger of blame leveled squarely at “someone” and the vocals leaping from calm to frenetic and back again like a wounded Shakespearean hero on the verge of death (exuent, stage left). Instead, it remains pretty much even-keeled and somewhat disconnected from its own irony. Warren maintains an impressive low-burning intensity that Alanis never really managed to sustain for more than 16 bars or so.
And if we’re going to talk about this record, we’d better discuss spoonerisms. Several, if not the majority, of the songs on this record appear to have been named by taking familiar phrases and switching around the initial vowels, thereby making them strange and interesting. The record starts with the hauntingly sweet Bedding Wells (as song which comes off as an opening of portals on the vivid surrealism of memories of water). Other obvious ones are the lovely titles Cattleships And Bruisers, Know Your Blows, and Shake a Tower. Of course this goes along with the whole vibe of the record — more disorientation. Not enough to make you sick, just enough to make you wonder if its just you. We’ll Have The Hags Flung Out? Our Shoving Leapord? I Must Mend The Sail? Intellectually it’s hard not to conceive of these as a further exercise in deliberate obfuscation (when you’re still asking what the heck are these songs about). But, it may be easier, rather, to simply take the leap of faith and assume that understanding will come sometime thereafter. I’m still wondering about I Must Mend The Sail — that’d be a good one. And its one of my favorite tracks on the album as well.
But I’m probably committing the same crimes as an evasive artist here: getting all caught up in the possibilities of the project and skirting around the nuts and bolts. A fine preoccupation for the artists, but a glaring fault in a (would-be) competent reviewer.
Well, in the pursuit of answers from the album, the only clues I had to go on was the adamant expression from Mr. Nocera (who is also the creator and owner of the Proliferate:Music label) that while this music may not yet have a true genre to call home, it is most definitely not Anti-folk. In fact, the closest I’ve come to striking distance was something called Space Folk, which appeals to me, for all sorts of reasons, but also goes a LOOONG way to helping put the music in perspective. I’ve thought about it: Folk, for all its diversity (and non-diversity — let’s be honest, shall we?), is one of the most confined musical artforms. While it easily allows for a bunch of the less mainstream instruments to get some burn (penny whistles, accordions, mandolins, and fiddles) its doesn’t really allow for much experimentation with electronics, sampling, distortion, or dissonance (which is not to say it hasn’t been done!). Of course, these are all things that have come to be a part of our everyday lives. They are the realities of US folk. And so, in a perfect world, we might just be able to call STiCKLiPs folk music — but its also nice to think that if STiCKLiPS is Space-Folk music, that is probably because we’ve all become space folk.
Why not take it one step further though and say that for all the horses and goats running through our heads, this record is about water? Water and memories. From the first track, which talks of being led to sit down by a river, of smearing colors, and of waiting, to the final track (which can only be described as a song about failed hibernation and longing) — there is a naturalistic theme interacting with a heavy internal psychological theme. The moon, the sun, silent waters, and colors are juxtaposed with love, betrayal, loss, promises, and expectation.
And if, indeed, one experiences disorientation, it’s not an uncommon feeling to have in the water — or out in space. Or in memories.
It Is Like A Horse is definitely an album that should be listened to all the way through. Just sit down and listen to it like you watch a movie. It’s like one long breath — in and out. I like to think of the record as a journey that follows a river from its frozen mountain source down to its sultry, damp and dark delta. Still there are some specifics points along the way that really gave me some pleasure. As an opener Bedding Wells can’t be beat. It’s like the beginning of some arcane ritual. There’s water, hand-washing, and mothers and everything. Absolutely transfixing. The electronics surround the acoustic guitar and vocals like a dazzling halo of light and concussions. We’ll Have The Hags Flung Out is the next big shock. It’s the first time we hear something like a drum-beat. The result is funky as all get out. Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes this track with its crushed-up vocal sounds, and a sparse musical unpinning that is practically just bass and drums. Space-folk funk at its finest. And the curious harmonic poly-rythms are at once ear-bendingly strange and singably familiar. At Least sounds like a pop song you might hear if you were flying your spaceship out in a desolate part of space, and you could only find one channel on the radio … and the reception was kind of dodgy.
There are some surprising outros on the record as well. You’ll be listening to a perfectly curious song and suddenly you’re in some completely different musical place. Cattleships and Bruisers has a brilliant outro that mashes up a pentatonic melody with electric noise in a way that artists seem a bit scared to do on a mainstream album these days. But my favorite has got to be the sudden, rocking, John-Hughes-movie-like outro of I Must Mend The Sail. The song itself snakes along in a wonderfully eerie way to about the 3 minute mark before it inexplicably takes off. If you listen in your car, you’ll keep expecting your tires to leave the road as you drive off into the sky.
Finally, the record closes with beautiful Longyearbyen. Which, while I was confused the first time through by the hibernational lyrics, I absolutely loved. It is such a gorgeous companion/counter-point to Bedding Wells. It makes you wish there was a whole different record coming after it. It is possible that if Longyearbyen is the end of this space-folk river record, that then, as a delta, its really just the mouth of the ocean.
STiCKLiPs is not for the faint of heart. It takes a bit of courage to plunge into the soundscapes they put forward. Listening once, twice, or even three times may not be enough to get you to the heart of the record. It is unlike most of the records you’re likely to hear this year. It is unexpected. A surprise even to familiar ears. It is that great musical adventure.
It is like a horse. It is NOT like two foxes.
Akie Bermiss is a pianist, composer, and singer living and working in New York City. He has been a Man of Letters since he was still in his small-clothes but began writing music criticism in his college years. He is a graduate of Bard College with degree in music composition. While there he also studied American Music (read: tin pan alley, broadway musicals, and jazz) and writing (read: wrote some bad poetry and called it good). To his friends, he is considered a musical snob of the highest order; to his enemies — a musical charlatan of the basest variety. Among other things he is also the author of a children’s book (“I Hate to Be Sick” — out on Scholastic), a lover of science fiction, a huge fan of cigars, and he takes his bourbon: neat.
SWINGING MODERN SOUNDS #19: One Recent Example of Talent
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Here’s one example I encountered recently: at Christmastime, my nephew, finding himself in the peren...Here’s one example I encountered recently: at Christmastime, my nephew, finding himself in the perennial underfunded condition of most college students, decided to rip me copies of a couple bands playing around Bard College, where he’s a senior. One of these CDs, by a sort of evolved prog/noise/folk band called sTickLips, really struck me hard—in that way that I associate with discovering something. It’s so rare that one has this experience of hearing something that really sounds new. So new that no one else knows about it yet! I love the feeling. Nothing is better! Talent is enthusiastic. Inexplicable and so singular. Talent makes you feel like there’s a hope left in the world.
Rick Moody: Grew up where? Started playing when? Family musical? What kinds of musical influences were around when you first started playing? And what are you studying at Bard?
Johanna Warren: I grew up in a few places… chronologically: St. Petersburg, Florida; Belmont, Massachusetts; Decatur, Georgia; and Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
I used to play classical flute very seriously, starting in fifth grade. Much to my parents’ and teachers’ dismay, I had no interest in being a classical musician, so I ditched the flute in favor of a guitar. But I still do a lot of my composing on the flute because it feels so natural to me, and it does make a few appearances on the album.
I picked up guitar when I was fourteen, and started writing very short, silly songs in junior year of high school (although technically the first song I ever wrote was a tender love ballad, played with two fingers on a toy piano, for the hottest guy in my kindergarten class). Actually, a few of the songs on the album (“To Shake a Tower,” “At Least,” “Know Your Blows”) were written when I was in high school.
My dad is very musical—he plays piano and sings, and has an amazing ear. He was adamant that as children my two brothers and I make music in one way or another.
Early influences…both my parents are huge Beatles freaks, and I myself harbored an unhealthy obsession with them for most of my young life. They were definitely the reason I bought a guitar. Until I was thirteen I refused to listen to anything that wasn’t the Beatles. In high school I got into the Pixies, Beck, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Waits.
As far as current influences, for brevity’s sake, I’ll keep it to the top five: Radiohead. Joanna Newsom. Os Mutantes. Stereolab. Sonic Youth.
At Bard, I was on track to be a painting major, but just switched to Spanish literary translation.
Moody: It’s funny how influence can always seem so explicable, so practical, and still not tell you that much. Of those you listed, only Os Mutantes strikes me as a band that I would associate with what you do, although I suppose I understand Joni Mitchell, more for lyrical empowerment than anything else.
And I’m even more admiring of “At Least,” now that I know it’s from when you were younger. I was associating it, interpretively, with Bard, since it has that eating disorder component, but it could be high school, too, of course.
How did you start playing with these two other guys in sTickLips? And why this particular arrangement of talents (no regular rhythm section, for example)? It’s not a routine lineup at all. Did you always want to combine the folkier influences with the more arty ideas for arrangement? Was it an organic idea to incorporate “noise,” for lack of a better word? Or was it just that you met the right collaborators? How long have you been playing together now?
Warren: I met Jonathan and Jim when I was a freshman at Bard. Jonathan was a senior; Jim had just graduated. They were both starting to get in to music production, but neither of them wrote songs, so they were basically looking for someone to produce. When Jonathan approached me about it, I had a stockpile of crappy Garageband recordings. I didn’t think much of them, and I never would have considered myself a “musician,” so while I was excited and flattered by his proposition, I was skeptical that anything could ever really come from it—I figured he would be disappointed.
“At Least” was the first song we recorded. I went to Jonathan’s dorm room and played it for him, and he immediately started making crazy outer space noises on his ring modulator. He later told me that he was thinking, “I am going to fuck up Jo’s beautiful song as much as possible . . . and if she likes it, this is going to work out just fine!” Well, I loved it. I had always known that my favorite music was much “weirder” than what I was able to do with an acoustic guitar, so I was very grateful to find a collaborator so well-versed in weirdness.
So, we laid down the basic tracks in the Bard studio; then, one by one we added increasingly weird parts until what had been a bare-bones acoustic song was suddenly this richly layered, bizarre composition. All of the aforementioned high school songs underwent similar transformations, but I also started writing new songs (e.g. “Cattleships & Bruisers,” “We’ll Have the Hags Flung Out”) with the new possibilities offered by a band in mind.
We definitely didn’t have any kind of “vision” when we first started– from day one until the very end, we never stopped experimenting, messing around, following our instincts, and trying things we never thought would work. This album was a collaboration in the truest sense of the word, because we all come from very different musical backgrounds—so between the three of us, at any given moment in the studio we might be talking about reggae, techno, Tropicalia, free jazz, Motown, Pink Floyd, some Japanese noise band, Black Sabbath, Nigerian High Life, Appalachian folk music, Frank Zappa, or any combination of these things. So we constantly had all these insane influences rubbing up against each other, hooking up and giving birth to some very interesting babies.
The great thing about making this album—which took about a year and a half total—was how much everyone grew, both individually and together as a unified creative mind. None of us had ever done anything like this, we were all very inexperienced, but over that year and a half we all really blossomed in our respective fields; and at the same time, this musical organism called sTickLips was born.
About the unusual line-up and arrangements, it’s pretty simple: some songs naturally call for drums, some don’t. Because we didn’t start out as a “band,” the emphasis was always on the studio production rather than who-is-going-to-do-what-on-stage. But incidentally, now that the album is done, we have worked out a pretty cool live situation.
Moody: I guess I hear some of the proggy and African stuff in “Hags,” etc., and I
was wondering about that. That was a big influence on me, because I am old enough to have listened to a lot of rock and roll before punk happened along. And Zappa/Crimson/Genesis, etc., that was some of what my older sister (and my mother) loved and that I heard before I heard Velvet Underground/Iggy Pop/Sex Pistols, which changed everything for me, for a while anyhow. Now I love all the extremes. But it’s always interesting to me when someone younger understands or is interested in complicated time signature changes, as you guys assuredly are, because it reminds me of an era when that was what “art rock” was about. The kids don’t listen to much of this sort of thing anymore. Common time rules.
What’s interesting to me in what you wrote last night is that “Cattleships” and “Hags” are my favorite songs on the record right now (although I have a soft spot for “At Least”). Which means that the newer stuf is the best stuff, and obviously that’s the best situation to be in.
Let’s talk about lyric writing some: How do you find material to write about? And who is the slippery sTickLips narrator? I got into a dispute with a friend about “At Least,” because I was saying that it was an unreliable Randy Newman-first-person, whereas this friend was saying that it was straighforward confessional number. What’s your position here? And with the long poem in the middle of “Cattleships and Bruisers,” was that written freestanding and the music set to the words, or did the poetry evolve to fit a hitherto existing musical framework? Do you see the album as having a unified lyrical vision? If yes, what’s it about?
Warren: I honestly can’t think of a single instance in which I have sat down to write a song with a subject in mind. I am a firm believer that my subconscious is smarter than I am, so I tend to let it do the thinking. “Cattleships & Bruisers” is the most blatant example of this, because it was in fact a deliberate experiment in stream of consciousness: I typed the words on my computer without thinking, stopping, or deleting; then I recorded myself singing these words over one unchanging chord, with no premeditated melody in mind. That recording is almost identical to what ended up on the album.
That might seem like a cop-out of an answer, so I will try to elaborate a bit. I envision my brain as a sponge: anything I read (literature, newspaper stories, philosophy), anything I experience (movies, dreams, conversation fragments, the natural world) is all absorbed, where it sits, wet and heavy in my skull, until I give it a squeeze. The unpredictable liquid that leaks out, then, is a song! It is exceedingly rare that a song makes sense to me when I first write it. Sometimes it remains a mystery forever, but what happens with startling frequency is that a week or month or year later, I reflect on a song that seemed like utter nonsense when I wrote it, and
suddenly its meaning is quite obvious to me.
Moody: So: a unified lyrical vision? If yes, consisting of what?
Warren: No— these songs were written scattered over a considerable period of time, and I never even thought to try to make any song compliment any other. Incidentally, the same can be said of the recording process: because I’m in school and the boys live in the city, we had to get in a few hours here, a day there, basically whenever we happened to be in the same place. The fact that there is any feeling of cohesiveness on this album is a miracle.
Moody: What exactly is of interest to you in a–for lack of a better word–surrealist approach to lyric writing? Why do it this way? Why no conventional verse/verse/chorus/verse/chorus issue-oriented lyrics?
Warren: I don’t understand why there has to be this expectation for songs to exist inside such stifling parameters. I hate being able to predict the next chord change or lyric. My favorite music is that which surprises. Song writing has such vast possibilities as an art form, but our brains are so bombarded with the normative verse/chorus/bridge form that it becomes difficult to think outside of those limitations. I think I like the “surrealist” approach because it presents an easily accessible escape route from these conventions—if my conscious mind has been infected with the mainstream pop song format, my subconscious seems to have escaped relatively unharmed. So, songs that come from that deeper place are endlessly more interesting to me.
Moody: Well, that’s an interesting reply, and it’s heading in the right direction. But my interpretation would go like this: I think the album as a whole is sort of set up by “Bedding Wells,” which has a fairy tale like aspect to it, or an old-folk-song like aspect to it, but one that is informed by a very explicit evocation of childhood sexuality that kind of has, as I hear it, an almost incestuous intensity to it. Of course the fantasy of brother/sister incest is as old as the hills in folkloric tradition, and is not terribly poisonous in that well of subconscious imagery, it’s almost quaint. But to me the fact of this theme points out how pure, and unedited, your instincts are. The rest of the album, though it doesn’t really take up these themes, uses this approach as a template, it seems to me, moving in an out of “realism” and in and out of a lyrical approach that has a much more “folkloric” quality to it. Which is one reason that the album, despite its very modern surface reminds me (of all things) of a pair of albums that almost no one listens to anymore (and even fewer people like), viz., Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, by Genesis. The “Supper’s Ready” modality of Peter Gabriel’s lyric writing is not at all unlike what you are doing,where in the surrealism and the childhood sexuality are strongly yoked together. Joanna Newsom is a recent example of a similar approach.
Another way at getting at the issue (the issue of “What exactly does Johanna mean?”) is to ask: Why all the spoonerisms? I find the tendency curious. Initially, one wants to read “Bedding Wells” as meaning exactly what it says (it’s about bedding well, not about wedding bells), but maybe you want more than that. Is it just play? Or is there more to it for you?
Warren: Wow. I definitely never expected to be compared to Genesis in this lifetime.
You are definitely on to something with the childhood sexuality analysis… I myself have often employed the word “incestuous” in reference to “Bedding Wells.” And there is certainly a recurrent romanticization of childhood throughout the album (most notably, I’d say, in “Birch Bark”). The innocence, imagination, and adventurousness of childhood is all very fertile ground for me.
The music box intro is important. As the first sound on the album, I wanted it to feel like you are opening an old dusty box full of secret letters and cherished trinkets, which the album will subsequently try to document. I never considered the connection between my band mates and my brothers… but I do certainly think of them as brothers, and Jonathan has often told me he considers me his little sister.
Another piece of evidence for your theory is the cover art, an antique photo of a young boy and a girl, possibly siblings, but it almost looks like they are posing for a wedding portrait. When I found that photograph I immediately thought it was a perfect illustration of “Bedding Wells.”
Moody: Why all the spoonerisms?
Warren: It is mostly playful, but I do love the alternate meanings that emerge. “Bedding Wells” is my favorite example, because as you pointed out, both meanings are extremely relevant to the song. This sort of goes back to my fondness for all things subconscious—I chose the spoonerisms I did for the surreal truth that emerges from them.
Moody: What’s with the rabbit ears you wear onstage in many of the live photos?
Warren: Long ago, Jonathan once referred to our recording process as “a bunny with cyborg implants”—i.e. the bare-bones acoustic/vocal framework is a sweet li’l bunny, into which we implant robot parts. But come to think of it, I started wearing the ears before I had a band, when I was just playing at open mics and what not. They were a good luck charm I guess. They make me less scared to play in front of people. Less naked.
Moody: Can I persuade you not to use the promo photo of you half in a garbage can—for feminist reasons?
Warren: I’ll think about it. While I admit I had not considered the feminist implications, I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily derogatory. I once read an essay claiming that Madonna’s music video, “Open Your Heart,” in which she is a stripper in a peep show, has this empowering feminist message because it emphasizes the “play” of gender roles. Hmmm…
Moody: What does the band name mean to you?
Warren: Well, I already know you’re not going to buy it when I say, “It doesn’t mean anything.” But… it doesn’t mean anything.
Moody: You’re right, I don’t buy it. Can you further describe your approach to playing live now?
Warren: It’s a four-piece band with Jim Bertini on drums, Jonathan Nocera on electric guitar, and Chris St. Hillaire on bass. For live shows we’ve added drums and bass to a few songs that don’t have them on the album. Then on songs without drums and bass, Chris and Jim take on a variety of odd jobs like glockenspiel, second guitar parts, bell-ringing, music boxes (we open “?“Bedding Wells” with a small army of music boxes). “Birch Bark” is the only one I do solo.
Moody: What’s next for the band?
Warren: After I graduate, I plan on making the band my number one priority… I’ve been doing this crazy juggling act of music and academia for two years, so I’m definitely looking forward to being able to devote my full attention to it. That said, we’ve been doing alright given our circumstances… so for now, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing. I’ve already got quite a bit of material for the next album, and we want to start playing live more now that we’re sounding tight as a band.
Moody: And why Spanish translation?
Warren: I was going to be a painting major, but I realized that painting and music are both things in which I am pretty self-motivated. I wanted to do something in college that I wouldn’t be doing on my own anyway. I started taking Spanish classes at Bard and really fell in love with the language and literature. I am completely obsessed with translation—it is an endlessly fascinating art form. I’ve translated a few of my songs into Spanish…. so I’m ready for international superstardom.
Rick Moody is the author of four novels, three collections of stories, and a memoir, THE BLACK VEIL. Moody's band, Wingdale Community Singers, just released their second album, SPIRIT DUPLICATOR, on Scarlet Shame Records. It's available on iTunes, Amazon.com, CDBaby, and OtherMusic.com.
Our sets change for every performance, but always feature the songs on our debut album. The sets typically last 1 hour. We occasionally do 1 - 2 covers, which range from My Bloody Valentine, to an unusually re-arranged version of a Motown classic.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.