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New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
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Justin from Fishboy pointed me towards Pezzettino’s cute pop music. It’s strangely non-traditional and familiar at the same time. And though this photo and song don’t showcase it, she spends a lot of songs with an accordion — it’s like someone gave the Arcade Fire’s Regine her own solo project when she was a young girl, but minus the shouting.

MP3: Pezzettino – Sweet Descent
Pezzettino sounds like she’d be a great opener for lots of my favorite classically-minded performers. There’s a lot of Regina Spektor in her voice at times, there’s little melodic flourishes that occasionally remind me of Andrew Bird and her use of the piano reminds me of a few of Final Fantasy’s songs on He Poos Clouds. - You Ain't No Picasso

Self-promotion can be a pain in the ass: the constant hustling, the endless touring, and—oh God—the blogging, the vlogging, and the publicity stunts. Nobody knows the pains of promotion more than Pezzettino, a.k.a. former Milwaukeean/current Brooklynite Margaret Stutt. Ever since garnering attention last summer for offering personally dedicated YouTube songs in exchange for car-repair cash, Pezzettino has since been a tireless force of homegrown hype. Lub Dub, the accordion-wielding ingénue’s second proper album, finds the gimmicks and stunts left mostly behind in favor of a slick, cohesive, and funk-flavored sound. Though Stutt hasn’t completely abandoned her hi-tech busker theatrics—Lub Dub’s vinyl pressing was funded entirely by online donations—it’s refreshing to finally hear a Pezzettino album that succeeds or fails based on its musical merits alone.

Happily, Lub Dub succeeds, largely due to producer-collaborator Brandon Birchbauer, a.k.a. LMNtlyst. Proving a perfect foil to Stutt’s previously stripped-down, bare-bones arrangements, Birchbauer injects the album with glitchy beats, R&B-flavored swagger, and moody, low-key soundscapes. The opener, “Replay,” is instantly charming, brimming over with “shoo-wop, shoo-wop” backing vocals and tinkling glockenspiels (not to mention a cribbed guitar lick from Santo & Johnny’s iconic “Sleep Walk”). Mid-album standout “Where’d Ya Go?” features Pezzettino’s clipped, Regina Spektor-esque vocals at the service of an undeniably winning chorus, while “Cold Hard Chick” contains an accordionized snippet of the intro music to Pac-Man. Indeed, unpacking Stutt’s quirky references and Birchbauer’s producer Easter eggs is a chore in itself— albeit a rewarding one.

Only occasionally do the pair’s efforts at smoothing Pezzettino’s rough edges go too far. Though it features some lovely vocal and piano work from Stutt, “For You And Your Headaches” could pass for any of the cloying, anonymous indie-rock ballads that score the last few minutes of prime-time TV dramas. “I Did Not Use Those Words Yesterday” suffers from the same problem, but still serves nicely as an intimate, hushed album closer, punctuated throughout its five-minute runtime by long stretches of near-silence. Make no mistake, though: Lub Dub is a polished, lovingly produced, and largely successful effort. Thankfully, this time around, there are no gimmicks attached. - AV Club

After recording three albums in southeastern Wisconsin, Pezzettino (aka Margaret Stutt) picked up and left the slow-paced and comfortable setting of the Midwest to chase inspiration in the ever kinetic Manhattan. In this interview she opens up about the cathartic nature of creating music, how she took painful situations and forged her music from snippets of experiences, turning them into songs that felt good. Pezzettino also speaks about her recording process and her evolution as a musician, moving from recording on a USB microphone at home to collaborating with hip hop producer LMNtlyst.

From Brooklyn she followed the actions of Gov. Walker back in Wisconsin and created a homemade video of her song “Cold” in support of the protesters and “Princess Palace” (a stop-motion short film consisting of 70s Playboys, 50s National Geographics, and contemporary news clippings) with JCPoppe, Pezzettino, Allen Cote, and Benjamin Schaefer. While physically she’s left Milwaukee, her heart is still there and she returns regularly to play gigs and find the space to continue her prolific pace of work.

Jacob Singer: Can you introduce yourself, tell me about your beginning as a musician and songwriter, as well as the beginning of Pezzettino?

Pezzettino: It all began when I first shit my pants. And they called it music. That was in 2008. I mean, I had small little shits earlier in life, but 2008 was, you know, the bomb.

JS: That’s all you’re going to give me? When did you find the accordion? When did you start performing and recording?

P: I had joined a Craigslist band in a moment of quarter life crisis, and they asked if I could try playing this accordion they had picked up for $50. I had a crush on the cute, jackass mandolin player, so I thought, “Sure I’ll play the fucking accordion.” Besides, at the time I was locked up, living my parents’ idea of my life, you know, grad school, khaki pants, engaged to a businessman, gigantore diamond, the whole nine yards. Turns out the accordion drone, resting on your chest, is extremely cathartic, and I started writing songs. Ditched the attic band, mama’s dream, recorded those first songs on a shitty USB mic and started performing as “Pezzettino.” It was freeing, shedding other people’s expectations, and since then nothing has been as much of a struggle as me trying to be something I wasn’t.

JS: You’ve written and recorded three albums, each seems to be a progression of song writing and recording. Can you tell me a little bit about each album?

P: The first, Because I Have No Control… is, like I said, me shitting my pants. It all came out at once. And I know that’s vulgar, but it makes me laugh at how synchronized the comparison is. It all came out so quickly, without a sense of control– everything I had been holding back– was suddenly out there for the world to see, and it was embarrassing to admit that I harbored some nasty stuff. HAH! When we are born it is nasty, slimy, bloody, and people are screaming their heads off.

But on a more serious note, I had no idea that it would be the first album of many, I never would have guessed that someone would be asking me about it three years later. I thought nobody was listening, which enabled me to just go for it, make some sounds, be very honest and experimental. Zero risk. My parents were already telling me that I had made the worst mistake of my life for not marrying the businessman, I lost any friends I had in the breakup, was totally broke, and felt that there really there wasn’t much else to lose… I had a lot of time to myself, a myriad of conflicting emotions, and the only thing that I enjoyed was writing. So I recorded songs by pressing the red button on freeware software.

Lion released 6 months later, after I had received some encouragement from the regional music scene, and gathered strength to really throw a punch. This is about the time I made the commitment to music/art as a career. I realized that I am my best self by aligning actions with honest self-expression, passion, fearlessness, and going along for the ride. Lion was a more concentrated purge of venom and then resolution. At that time I also had a batch of love songs that will still be released in the future, show favorites, but they didn’t match the spirit of this album and I still felt the need to put a big, “FUCK ALL Y’ALL” out there. Nez, who had started playing drums with me, recorded and engineered the entire thing, and during that process I began learning about and appreciating production, album making in general, as a distinctly separate art form than live performance.

I hopped in a car and hit the road, began heavily touring Midwest and East Coast. One song in particular, “You Never Know,” was a crowd pleaser, and I wanted to buy time to work on the next album, and this super happy pop song was the antithesis to everything I had already released. It was like a teaser for what was to come, to let people know that it’s not all anger and sadness, “Don’t corner me just yet.” “You Never Know” was released as a 7? single in late 2009, and was the first song of mine that received regular radio rotation. I was touring a lot and began working with videographer, Darren Cole. He and I had a day off in NYC and we decided that morning to make a music video for the song. We just ran around like idiots, edited it up, and the video later proved to be a hook for newbies. I don’t know what to do about that really, the song grabs people, but it really doesn’t fit on any of the albums… who knows…

Hip hop producer, LMNtlyst, heard “You Never Know” on the radio and contacted me, saying that he liked the hip hop/ funk beat, use of the accordion, especially considering he had been working with some melodica in his hip hop production. He suggested we jam next time I found myself in Milwaukee. I didn’t think much of it, thought, “Ok, I’ll go jam with the guy, whatever that means. With a classical piano background, words like “jam” are especially frightening and foreign. The very worst that could happen is that I meet a new person. I had been writing a lot of songs on the road that didn’t fit alt-rock/folk vibe. They were like alien babies that had purpose and value but I didn’t really know how to help them develop. I performed these new songs by instructing the audience to stomp/clap the beat and I sang over it, and for a moment I thought I would release these songs a cappella. I had been listening to a lot of synth-heavy YYY’s (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) It’s Blitz!, YACHT, Bjork, and Santigold, and I really craved that smooth richness and drive for the new material. LMNtlyst’s arrival into my world was serendipitous. Since I don’t know how to jam, I brought him a couple of those song outlines, and it just fell together. We realized pretty quickly that we had an album on our hands. It was fun and extremely challenging for both of us. We spent a lot of time going back and forth, and the result is a true collaborative sound, to the album’s benefit. I would say that LubDub is identifiably both our sounds, but distinctly belonging to neither of us. We released LubDub as a clear yellow 12? and digital download on Bandcamp with the help of funding from fans using Kickstarter.

I don’t like being boxed in by expectations and genres. I enjoy taking big risks and kicking my own ass with each release. And also, letting the songs be what they are meant to be, not forcing them into any preconceived idea of what type of musician I am. Push. Experiment. Left turns, but consistently driving the same wheels. Follow the lead of the material, which has its own momentum and consciousness.

The next release sonically addresses the stifling fear and appreciation for my early instruction in classical piano. The title is Pedestrian Drama and will be released and performed with video. It is a 30 minute single piece with 5 movements and is currently in mixing stage. It has lyrics, but is not lyrically structured the way a pop song is, and has classical, folk, and jazz elements without really belonging in those categories. The instrumentation is piano, prepared piano (re: John Cage), a lot of synthesizer, intimate, close vocals and drums. It is a conceptual response to Janet Zweig’s public art installation of the same title. Quite frankly, I’m emptying my pockets and working at a coffee shop by day to have it done the right way, and I know that it has no mainstream commercial potential. This one is just for me, just for creation and art’s sake. Or maybe it will make it big, I’ll buy a yacht, and tip strippers with hundos.

JS: We’re both from the Milwaukee area, a city that I love and assume that you do as well, and we have both picked up and left it for bigger cities, for other opportunities, for new challenges. Tell me a bit about both places and how they fuel you creatively. What pulled you to Brooklyn and how is it different/the same as people imagine? How has moving to New York City changed your view of Milwaukee?

P: New York’s beautiful chaos and its melting pot populace satisfies a craving for learning and adventure. It’s incredibly easy to expose oneself to cutting edge work. I feel myself maturing as an artist and consider living here as an educational investment, feeding off galleries, readings, concerts, architecture, street art, people watching, ideas in the air. In terms of creative production, Milwaukee has turned into an idyllic getaway, where I can go to work on projects that have been sitting on the back burner for too long. The advantage of Milwaukee is having room to spread out and work at a slower pace, to breathe a little, and get an awesome cuppa coffee at Alterra while you’re there. Lake Michigan is my anchor. Brooklyn has its downsides, of course, before moving here I heard about the rich kids and pretension, and there’s more of EVERYTHING– more genius, but also more shit. It’s easy enough to get around that, and part of the fun is to stumble upon the good stuff. In my experience, Brooklyn is a fertile meeting ground for the country’s young artists, and being around this class pushes me to work harder, to develop a vision for my future other than the version I was spoon fed as a child.

JS: What inspired or caught your attention to do the Pedestrian Drama?

P: The installation will be a series of kiosks along the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue that when triggered, display a flip book style animation of gray-scale characters interacting in everyday, “pedestrian,” scenarios that could very feasibly happen on the streets of Milwaukee. She touches on the universal experience. My piece responds to the universal “pedestrian dramas” that we all experience in our emotional lives by exposing the storm cloud world that exists over one character’s head without being physically visible to passersby. By recognizing that my dilemmas are “pedestrian” on the grand scale, that other people experience similar emotions, it makes me feel less isolated in this world and I hope that it may serve that purpose for my audience as well.

I’d like to add something for the last question—a transition, my real answer for that question.

The Public Works Committee tried blocking completion of Janet Zweig’s piece, even though it had already received federal funding and had been in process for years. Enraged, the arts community crowded city hall to speak to the aldermen, headlines were popping up all over the place, and I finally started following articles to see what the fuss was about. I was angry that unprofessional and ignorant aldermen, reportedly sighing, giggling, insulting, and turning down a piece they didn’t understand, were in public office “representing the people.” It made Milwaukee and the Midwest look like a bunch of uncultured hooligans, rejecting a nationally acclaimed artist whose public art installation had already been funded, and I took that very personally. The piece quickly became a cause, “Save Milwaukee’s Janet Zweig Project!” and I was emotionally engaged to the extreme for multiple reasons.

I became a big fan of Zweig’s concept for the Milwaukee project, “Pedestrian Drama,” it really hit home. I remember reading “remarkably unremarkable pedestrian encounters” in her concept description, and dashing outside, taking a bike ride along Lake Michigan, thinking about my “remarkably unremarkable pedestrian” romantic, family, interpersonal, and professional troubles. I found that the more I dug into her piece, with its jolted flip book style animation, it clarified and developed these stormy piano musings I had been consoling myself with- Zweigs’ vocabulary was playful and lighthearted, and gave perspective for the shame and guilt I had, turned it into a joke I could appreciate. I had been indulging in darkness, spinning out on relationships, death, rejection, and feeling guilty about it, and the shame only made it worse. Zweig’s word play and visual concept really informed my piece, and kept bringing me back up for air until it saw me through to the resolution. It’s by far the longest piece I’ve ever written, at 30 minutes with 5 movements, but I finally came around.

- Convozine, The Heard Project

We should get this out of the way now, and in the interest of full disclosure, tell you that Pezzettino's Margaret Stutt is one of my favorite people in the music world - Tiffiny's, too. In addition to the interviews we've done with her in the past (Pezzettino was one of the first artists to be featured on this blog in our early days), she has also landed on our favorite tracks, albums, and gigs lists for 2010, and with good reason: she is immensely talented and endlessly entertaining, wearing her punk rock accordion player and classically trained pianist hats equally well. Tiffiny describes her performance as "heartwrenching, bouncing, electrifying," and it's true - there has never been a more apt description.

When her newest album, Lub Dub, arrived, I was going through some pretty intense personal reflection, and I found that it soundtracked my life perfectly for a few weeks. Now that I'm past my internal angst, I find that it soundtracks my life pretty perfectly in general - it's the kind of record that is really well suited for everything.

Which leads me to this: I wanted to talk to Margaret about her new album, her move to Brooklyn, and life in general, and since we're wrapping up the year around here, I thought that now would be a great time for that kind of reflection. Also, there's that whole 'favorite person in the music world' thing - she is always a fucking delight to speak with. So go forth, gentle reader, and immerse yourselves in resolutions, regrets, and sexually active nuns.

It's been a long time since we last spoke! Okay, I'm going to start this off the same way that I did the last time. Where are you right now?

I'm squatting on the floor in my bedroom, surrounded by dirty laundry piles. The only furniture I have is a mattress and record player (birthday present!). Also, my neighbor is having an enviable orgasm...

Summarize 2010 in ten words.

whirlwind/ progress/ bankruptcy/ uplifting/ inspiring/ freedom/ active/ adjustment/ alignment/ follow

What was the best thing that happened to you this year?

The best thing to happen this year is definitely getting out of my white coat professional graduate program and moving to New York for music. I feel like I own my life now, and am rapidly developing as an artist. Personal fulfillment has an amazing way of clearing interior window grime...

The strangest?

When the toilet overflowed and cascaded onto my bed and laptop. Eew! First apartment in Brooklyn: totally disgusting. Or when I thought I had a bot fly in my neck from the same apartment... have you seen bot fly videos?! I went to the free clinic, and the doctor thought I was insane. That apartment is what I imagine hazing to be like....

Any regrets?

I regret giggling when cute boy threw quarters into his hot coffee instead of tip jar today...

You recently moved to Brooklyn, right? How has that been? What neighborhood are you living in, and how does it differ from life in the Midwest?

I live in Bushwick. Compared to Milwaukee, it looks like a third world country. But you can get by without a car really easily here (bonus!) and it's boiling over with music and art-- pushes you to focus on your craft, to remember why you're struggling to live in all this filth. Also, most people don't have their own washing machine here, so it's affordable to drop your stink off at the laundromat and have someone else wash your clothes!! BINGO! I'm in.

What is your favorite restaurant in Brooklyn, and what do you typically order there?

Mmm... there's a tortilla factory in Bushwick that also has a taqueria up front-- I go several times a week for a Pollo Quesadilla, $3.25 (includes avocado!!!!). Tortilla Mexicana Los Hermanos, 271 Starr St.

Favorite place to go in the city, and why?

Right now my favorite place is the New York Public Library Performing Arts Research Center. My appetite for new music is out of control, and this place satiates my brain's teenage metabolism. Love it. Nom nom nom.

Let's talk about the new album, Lub Dub, which we really love over at Ruckus HQ. Can you tell us the story behind how the project got started and how it evolved? How did you hook up with LMNtlyst, for instance?

Thank you! LMNtlyst proposed that we "jam." At the time I was touring a lot and was overwhelmed with the amount of new material backing up. When we played together everything seemed to click- these songs that were collecting far too much dust were starting to see the light of day again- and with a treatment that finally seemed appropriate. It was like finding a store of 5-legged pants for all the alien babies I was harboring in my closet, and sending them to school for socialization. I was looking for a more assertive, forward sound for the next album and LMNtlyst's background in hip hop production, in addition to his mad crazy multi-instrumentalist skills and radically different influences, made him the perfect collaborator. In a blink we had an album on our hands.

It's pretty crazy now that I think about it- we spent very little time together in the same room, but had this continuous email conversation bouncing back and forth. It was like playing this game where I was trying to paint with someone else's skilled hand, who has a wide array of brushes and colors and is just trying to draw what you're describing, but at the same time, being true to his own style... It's like THE HAND in the Adams family.... no, no... What I'm trying to say is...

There was a lot of volleying. We vetoed each other a lot, and were also totally curious and impressed with each others contributions. Neither of us, it seems, are "into" gray zones. We either love it or hate it, and I think we're both used to being in charge. Frustrating and rewarding. Our strengths played together well, and I'm extremely pleased with the result. Also, it's the first time I starting using accordion with guitar pedals.

You did a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for the album, which is kind of a cool new thing that a lot of independent artists are doing - what made you decide to do that, and what was the experience like?

The experience was a bit like receiving an oxygen tank. The Pezz fans are out of this world, and funded the deposit for vinyl pressing of LubDub. It was like jumping into the air and receiving wings from a flock of mythical birds. It's like each person on Kickstarter contributed a feather of their own to craft Pezzettino wings, it's really incredible. I sold my car and all my belongings to move to New York and fund this album. To have the support of my audience... to have a crew that holds me up and is along for the ride of stylistic changes... and to work with LMNtlyst on this project... there's really nothing more I can ask for. I owe everything to these people. It's more than family.

What is your favorite song on the record, and what does it mean to you?

My favorite song is "For You and Your Headaches". It's one of the first songs I wrote in 2008, and has a vulnerability that I'm returning to after a lot of SASS.

What is 'I Did Not Use Those Words Yesterday' about?

It's about the regret of making a mess... about being too quick on the defense... it's about being presented with the potential for love and then botching it. Like being presented with antique crystal glasses on a platter-- then getting too excited, tripping, and breaking all the glass... that's the specific imagery for the song.

Which gig was your favorite this year?

Verge Festival, Milwaukee. I had just moved to Brooklyn a month prior and was wrestling with a lot of anxiety, expectations, exhilaration, self-doubt and frustration. I smashed an accordion to splinters at the end of the show while performing a new song "Freefall"... it was pouring rain...

What is your greatest expectation for 2011?

Recording my opus ("Pedestrian Drama").

We're going to have to find out more about that you make New Years' resolutions? Want to share any with us?

I'm really hard on myself. The resolutions/ decrees/ demands/ are constantly on deck.

Okay, time for some nonsense. If you had a superpower for one day, what would it be and how would you use it?

For ONE DAY ONLY!?! Unfair. I Quit (throwing my bed sheet cape to the floor).

Do you have a hidden guilty geeky pleasure? For instance, are you a huge Doctor Who fan? How do you feel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (very important questions around these parts)?

I think I'm a geek that's not even extreme enough of a geek to be a Cool Geek. Do you know what I mean? Which makes me even geekier, but not in a hip way. Just "out of it." People tell me I live "under a rock." That's a good way to describe me: "out of it, under a rock" Like I gave someone my website the other day and they made fun of me for writing: "http://www." before the address. "Who does that? You're such a geek!" he said. But I don't think he meant it as a compliment, because he was being a pretentious New York jackass... That's the closest to geek pride I can take. It's not like I was a nerd in elementary school, and as a result, I'm cool now because it makes me the brilliant sexy literature guy. Although I was a total book worm in college... don't get me started on the illicit trade of antiquities... Other than that I have a guilty indulgence in 30Rock, but that's not really geeky...

Buffy: one of my high school crushes was obsessed with Buffy... so really, all I think about when it comes to Buffy are weird hallway kissing fantasies...

Who would play you in a movie musical about your life?

The chimney cleaner or something. The sexually active nun.

What was the last thing you ate?

Peanut M&M's, compliments of TDBank. It pays to deposit (and withdraw all available funds immediately - the LubDub 12" Yellow VINYL shipped a few days ago!).

Give us your favorite recipe, please.

Avocado, spoon, saltines, mouth, Go!

Any last words?

Well you know, "Keep your headphones on, kids. Turn it up, spread it like pink eye." But also, unrelated, I woke up one morning just as the SWAT Team cornered this car on the freeway in downtown Milwaukee. I won't spoil the news footage (google it! Fox6News), but remember the movie "Short Circuit"? Johnny Five!??! Robots save the day.

Thanks Margaret, we love you! - The Ruckus


Princess Palace
Digital Single

Radio Play: Replay, Cold Chick, For You and Your Headaches

Pieholden Suite
Digital Single
Wisco: A Tribute to Wilco's Summerteeth
Muzzle of Bees

You Never Know
Regular Radio Rotation

Radio Play: Parasite

Because I Have No Control
Radio Play: Sweet Descent, For What It's Worth



PEZZETTINO is Milwaukee raised and Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, Margaret Stutt. She got her start playing by ear and self-taught until she enlisted in formal training by a nun in a Wisconsin convent. Puberty struck, and she dodged the anvil of competitive classical piano by embracing the pure power of rock. After stuffing her nose, eyes, and ears with esotericism in Los Angeles, she woke up in a Cambodian landmine and decided she didn't die die die or get shot in the head FOR ART! after all (at least not yet). After a good slice of apple pie and other Midwestern sedatives, a gnarly, well-incubated musical monster ripped out from her chest, not unlike the diner alien in Space Balls. The alien said, "Take thee this accordion that once doth belongethed to your father. Free your chest, go go go," and the rest is history. Now Pezzettino (Margaret Stutt) lives in Brooklyn, makes songs and videos and stuff, and likes to hop around.

She plays accordion, so fuck off, it’s like nothing you’ve heard before. Her unique style innovates the stereotyped instrument to form modern, luscious textures similar to a synth or organ, the rhythm of an acoustic guitar and the intensity of an electric. Vibrant stage presence and live wire energy, Pezzettino’s eccentric and confident sound draws from a wide range of influences such as Afro-Haitian rhythms to American folk, hip hop, punk, house, rock, and classical. A risk taker, known for pushing the envelope.

PEZZETTINO is Racine, Wisconsin raised and Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, Margaret Stutt. She got her start playing by ear and self-taught until she enlisted in formal training by a nun in a Wisconsin convent. Puberty struck, and she dodged the anvil of competitive classical piano by embracing the pure power of rock. After stuffing her nose, eyes, and ears with esotericism in Los Angeles, she woke up in a Cambodian landmine and decided she didn’t die die die or get shot in the head FOR ART! after all (at least not yet). After a good slice of apple pie and other Midwestern sedatives, a gnarly, well-incubated musical monster ripped out from her chest, not unlike the diner alien in Space Balls. The alien said, “Take thee this accordion that once doth belongethed to your father. Free your chest, go go go,” and the rest is history. Now Pezzettino (Margaret Stutt) lives in Brooklyn, makes songs and videos and stuff, and likes to hop around.