Wednesday, April 18, 2012

School of Seven Bells New Record, new live format, new sound!

On April 7th, 2012, I got the opportunity to go backstage at The Earl and chat with Benjamin Curtis, lead guitarist of indie rock group School of Seven Bells. The band has been through some major changes over the past year, as Ben reflected in his answers.

In late 2010, School of Seven Bells went from a three piece to just two members. How did you guys react and deal with that transition? Is it something that most bands end up dealing with?

Ben Curtis: Life is change, that's for sure. Just because your environment changes doesn't really change what you're passionate about. And truth be told, its been that way from the beginning with Ally and I. Gone through so many different ways of trying to manifest this sound that we come up with between the two of us. I don't wanna say its in my head or in her head, cause its really the sound that happens when we write music together. We started out with this vague idea of what it is, and we've had better luck sometimes bringing it to life than others. When we started, it was us and this guy James Elliot, and this drummer. Then the drummer left, and Ally's twin sister Claudia came. James left, and then it was just me, Ally, and Claudia. We've been through a lot of transformations over the years, but Claudia was a really high profile one. I just think the notion of twins is really powerful to people. There's something romantic about family making music together. And that's cool, and we realized there's that perception. So I think the biggest change for us was really knowing that whatever we did from that point on would be perceived as this sort of surreal change and inner sound, which we were actually really excited about. We can make whatever kind of music we want!

Tell me about the themes and overall mood that went into making the new record Ghostory. A lot of the lyrical content seems to be about trust and betrayal of trust.
That's a great observation! You're the first that's really seen that. It's definitely a thread there. We just really wanted to get deep into it. Ally and I were both going through kind of transformative periods in our lives. For more reasons than just the way the band was changing. Personally, we were going through all these different things. Ally started coming up with this lyrical motif. We were writing music, and we just knew how we wanted everything to sound. We didn't have to talk about it, it almost felt like the music was written, and we just wanted to get it recorded! So she started singing these words, this whole lyrical motif. And at a certain point, maybe a third of the way through, we realized that this is really heavy. And I asked her "Are you sure you wanna sing this to people?" Cause this is real shit were talking about! Its kind of brave, and I think what we realized is the more raw we got, the better the music sounded. Were just trying to uncover it all, as much as possible. Make it as open and bleeding, sore, uncomfortable as possible!

When it comes to the live setup, I think this is the most people you've had on stage. Do you feel like having more musicians on stage with you give off more energy, like a collective energy to feed off of?

I love playing music with people so much. It really does, and its not just anyone. Its really hard to find musicians that are really into it. We have a couple of people with us now that love the music just as much as we do. But its from a different perspective. Were sort of stressing out about "x" and "y", and there looking at "x" and "y" and just trying to bring it to life from a more objective standpoint. And they do it with love, and its really cool! Its actually really great in a way, to have someone who can listen to the song and they're saying "Oh you know what, I really like this about the song," and its valuable feedback. If you have that trust, its great. Its funny, in a lot of ways, were actually able to play a lot of the songs from the first record live. Because we've always made records and then all of a sudden realized "Oh shit, we have to play this live! How the hell are we gonna do that?" And now its not even a problem.

I read on the Facebook page recently that you have been working on a new light show for this tour. How did that process go about, and how does it compare to past light shows?
Well in the past, what we did was a collaboration with this artist Tim Sisenty, who did these video pieces for each song that were really beautiful, chaotic, and immersive sort of experience. I think what happened this time around was that these songs were so personal, that we really wanted to make it about A: Ally singing them onstage. She is singing these words to you, and these are coming from her, we didn't want a big movie playing behind to distract and make it secondary. So we just wanted something to redefine the space were in, and so the way it came about, some of the art that Brian Collins made. And Brian Collins has done the artwork for all of our records. And this idea of these concentric circles, lunar orbits that are floating around the face on the cover of the record. We wanted to bring those to life, and luckily we had friends able to do it. This guy, Steven Crizay helped us with the design. I think its so important, especially here in Atlanta, people come to The Earl every night. What can you do to make it feel like you're in a different space? Cause the music is different, the overall vibe is different. That's always been my favorite thing about going to shows, when I forget what room I'm in. It almost redefines it, its great.

Your brother Brandon worked on producing Ghostory with you. Is there any chance that you would sign him on as a full time producer, or was that kind of a spur of the moment good timing situation?
It wasn't spur of the moment. He's just been doing great work, a lot of studio work. He mixed and produced the instrumental band Russian Circles last couple records. Blackjacks' record, which turned out great. All of a sudden it just hit me that "Wow, he's got great ears!" I don't know why I'd never really paid attention to that before, I've always thought of myself as the studio head. But he's got such a cool way of working. What had happened was, we were on tour with him all year. We were writing these songs, and he was watching us play every night. I hadn't spent that much time with him in years. He's been playing with Interpol, who we were touring with. And then it hit us, I mean, who else would we want there? A: Its a musician I'm a huge fan of, B: Its someone I really miss working with, and C: Someone whose just seen us so many times that has that respect for our music, and the ability to translate it from an objective standpoint. Definitely would like to work with him again. We didn't have any major sibling squabbles this time around, it was actually pretty smooth sailing! With our band Secret Machines, we had a few knock down, drag out moments.

Do you and Alejandra ever trade positions in the song writing process? For instance, do you ever suggest lyrical ideas. And vice versa, does she ever suggest certain sounds or melodies to flesh out?
The line definitely gets blurred there in the middle. I wouldn't say that in music we've released that a completed lyrical concept has come from me, and that any completed musical concept has come from her. Its like I'm from point A, shes from point C, and as we get about halfway to point B, it becomes really collaborative in a beautiful way. That's what's so cool about our collaborations, cause we really love that feeling of when you don't recognize what you've made anymore. It really becomes something else. I think we each write, when were writing for School of Seven Bells, in a way that were ready to react to the other person, which I think is the coolest part about collaboration. Otherwise you're just making a record, and you're not making part of it. Its great when you're willing to dismantle everything you've done, and reassemble it, in reaction to what the other person has done. That's the reason our music sounds the way it does. If I sat in a room, I wouldn't make music that sounds like School of Seven Bells. Its definitely the two of our energies.

Will School of Seven Bells ever see Claudia return in any form?
She's kind of stopped making music. She's got a lot of other responsibilities. She's got a boy that's in school. I wouldn't say no, I wouldn't say yes either. I think at this point in my life that I can't discount the possibility. But its not like were operating right now of this feeling that were at a loss. I'd have to say it would take a crazy fucking turn of events for that to happen. It would be massive, revolutionary! So the odds are slim, but I mean I'd never count anything out.

Are there any other big plans for 2012, or do you guys plan on primarily focusing on touring this year?
We've got this single coming out at the end of this month. Its another song that didn't make it on Ghostory called "When She Was Me", a cover of "Kiss Them For Me"by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Coming out as a Record Store Day single. Seven inch, its beautiful. Its really cool, I'm excited for it! I think there's a few more songs that haven't really seen the light of day yet, I think as we stopped making the record, we've got it mastered. We just kept writing, we were on this roll. So we just kept finishing up songs here and there, without any plans of where they were gonna go. So those could always come up at some point! Were also going to a lot of places we've never been to before. Russia, China, its gonna be really interesting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Andrew W.K Interview: I Get Wet Tour, Gundams, Burritoes, and more!

Andrew W.K. played a show at The Masquerade on April 5th. I was able to have a chat with Andrew a few hours before the gig. We discussed everything from the latest tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of his debut album I Get Wet, Gundams, what he looks for when producing, and talk of a new record in the making.

You first released the album
I Get Wet about over ten years ago. When it comes to Andrew W.K. on a personal level, do you consider that release as your definitive piece of work, or do you feel like there is a lot more to Andrew W.K. than just those group of songs?

Andrew: That's a great question! I would say yes and no to both. Any piece of work that I put out, I hope is definitive to someone. As much as no one can really be summed up in any one way, I can't be summed up by that or anything else I've done, I hope I can't be summed up. And that you can't be summed up, and that any of the readers can't be summed up, everyone is infinite in their depth and complexity. But if I had to be defined, I'd love to be known as the bloody nose, party guy! That's a privilege. I'd like to offer something of value to someone out there in this world, and if they can find some value in any of the work, that's a blessing, hopefully for us both!

So you do kind of see yourself as the party guy?

Oh absolutely!

Over the years, you've explored many different realms of the entertainment industry. Everything from producing, television, owning a venue in NYC, motivational speaking. Is there any aspect of the entertainment industry that you would like to get into? Or would you rather concentrate on the areas you've already stepped in?

There are a few more realms to explore. I think you'll see it as I do it. I think we had a great bunch of fun so far, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.

What inspired you to record the Gundam Rock? It was only released in Japan. Has Mobile Suit Gundam always been an interest of yours?

Actually no, I had been familiar with it for many years as the sort of original robot superhero animated series. I mean it has quite a proud and influential legacy. But I only found out more about it after having gone to Japan to play concerts and do my works there. One of the main folks, a man named Kimi Kato, who is a higher up gentlemen at Universal. He is a huge Gundam fan, and just traveling around the city, we would pass a store or a vending machine, or some display that had some new Gundam that he had not seen or purchased yet. Or sometimes even though he already had them, he would purchase extras. He was the first real passionate collector of Gundams that I had really gotten to meet and talk with. So he taught me about Gundams, educated me about Gundams, and then almost like divine twist of the tale, the Sunrise Corporation that owns the Gundam franchise, approached Universal and me about doing this rock tribute album. With special new versions of these classic, wonderful Gundam songs. I had already been familiar with a couple of the Gundam songs, having recorded for example Ai Senshi on my other special Japanese covers album. So it was a very natural progression to hunker down into the Gundam material. I gotta say, it was one of the most challenging, but also most rewarding recording experiences I've ever had, just because the songs were very complex arrangements, and I tried my absolute best to be true as I possible could to the original arrangements. In terms of the horns, strings, percussion, backup vocals, really fantastic music. What I mostly did was translate the words in English, add some extra guitar, few different twists and turns here. But the songs are so good that at points its not so much about changing them, its just about reveling in their beauty.

Have you ever given much thought to playing those songs from Gundam Rock in a live format? Maybe take them to anime or comic conventions around North America or Japan?

Sure, if there's an invitation, I'd gladly do it. I did play some of those songs in Japan as we were releasing and celebrating the album. That was very fun, again challenging, but also rewarding. There songs for me when they first hit you, it was almost like a new color or a new flavor of ice cream that you'd never tasted or imagined before. But then once you get that taste, it stays with you forever. And those songs have become some of my favorite songs, so I'd love to play them even more, live or elsewhere.

In terms of producing, you've been through a wide variety of different genres and collaborations. Ad jingles, Japanese ringtones, noise and art groups, Reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry. As a producer, are there any genres or sounds that you would like to help capture in the future?

To me its all spirited, intense music. Spirited people with spirited visions, intense ideas. That's what I wanna be around. Fortunately you find that in all different ways. Different modes, different styles, different instruments, different deliveries. As long as its intense and stimulating, then I'm most likely gonna be drawn to it. I don't really look for a soothing, relaxing experience from culture, music, art, etc. I have to be blown away. I wanna be shredded, I want my mind shocked, freaked out, inspired! To me that's very uplifting. It makes me feel like there's possibilities out there beyond my understanding. Things that I still don't know about. That keeps me in a state of awe, wonder, and joy. So as long as it hits those marks, you will find me there.

Is putting on the live show the thing that drives you the most to be a musician?

No, although that feeling certainly encapsulates all that we've been talking about in terms of intensity, uplifting, and inspiring sort of power. But you can get those same feelings either imaging a live performance, or just listening to a recording. As long as it takes you to a place of extreme joy or pleasure, it counts! Fortunately there's all these different ways to get there. It's true that a live concert experience, where there's a person there to deliver something, an audience to receive it, and then bounce it back...that's a magical space that nothing else can really touch. I like the fact that a recording is different from that, as much as I like the fact that a performance is much different from recording an album.

What type of memories come to mind when you think of Atlanta, Georgia?

Oh geez, I mean we've played here quite a bit! Between Ozzfest, two different Warped tours, at least four of our own tours. Halloween party, last year I guess, and here we on again! Not to mention coming here for my work with Turner television, Destroy Build Destroy. It's one of the great cities of the U.S. And its only seemed to of been booming bigger and bigger! So it's always a joy. I remember the last time we were here at The Masquerade, there wasn't all these beautiful new apartments and houses, so that was really impressive. We came here another time, we went to Little Five Points, because we had a flight that got canceled and we had a night here. So we came into downtown area, went over to Five Points, ate a great meal, and had a great time! Its always been a delightful, special place.

Five Points has really good restaurants for sure!

Yes there is some awesome food. Tasty subs, salads. Very good burritos!

In the next ten or so years, where do you see yourself as a performer?

Hopefully just better, you know? Just better in every way. That's all I could really be sure about. The rest will develop as it goes, I'll just do my best along the way. I'd like to continue to develop more skills, to be able to manifest this kind of feeling I'm going after. Definitely got better since I started, so I'd like to continue that. Maybe there's a point where you just don't get better, but I've got good role models, for example Lee "Scratch" Perry. I think he is a master creator, and has only increased and refined his powers over a fifty or sixty year career.

You've been a performer since a very young age. Would you ever want to try out other lifestyles, or do you see yourself as a lifetime entertainer?

Yes I have no other interests in doing anything else. Sometimes I felt weird about that, a lot of my friends have all sorts of different interests. I just don't have enough space in my brain, or my soul, or heart, just enough energy in my body to really care about anything else. Sometimes I feel weird about that because I have other friends and family members who sort of have their work, and then they go off and do other stuff. Like go fishing, hiking, research certain projects, build things, etc. I just have no interest in any of that. Every interest I've ever had is been able to be put to use in entertainment. So drawing, painting, sculpture, films, TV, radio, music, performing, writing. This includes everything I've ever cared about. It still is sort of like one thing, I guess like your saying entertainment, or performing. But for me its the whole world.

In the next couple of years, do you see yourself touring for I Get Wet primarily or are you guys gonna branch out from that?

This is a special tour that ends in June. And then in June I'll go back to NYC and resume recording the latest album. But this tour is special because it was this idea that snuck up on us that "Oh wow we have this ten year anniversary to celebrate!" Not just our album, but just sort of existing for ten years. Its been exciting to play the I Get Wet album, our debut first full length, from all the way through at these live shows, in order. And then we play songs from all the other albums as well.

You guys have never done all of I Get Wet before right?

Exactly! This is a totally new and very thrilling experience. The shows have been going fantastic and are very encouraging for the future. We've always played, for the most part, almost all the songs on I Get Wet for the show anyway, but just never in this order. So that's sort of the new twist on it. But those songs were the ignition that started this whole explosion. And out of respect for the power that they've given this adventure, we can never turn away from them. We'll always continue to play those songs, as well as all the other great songs we can squeeze into an evening's concert.

Can you give us any kind of time table on when your next album will be released?

As soon as its done, I don't wanna rush it. But I do wanna get it done as quickly as possible. There is a lot of hangups and delays for various reasons. There's an open area right now that should allow us to get it done sooner rather than later.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dinosaur Feathers uses Kickstarter and house parties to fund touring

Only a few nights before their show at East Atlanta venue 529, Greg Sullo of Dinosaur Feathers discussed the latest news surrounding the indie pop band, as well as some future release plans.

As announced recently on the band's blog page, you guys had your equipment stolen in January. Can you give us an update on the situation?

Greg Sullo: Unfortunately, we haven't been able to recover any of our gear. However, we have been using a lot of different fundraising outlets, which has been incredibly successful. We had a Kickstarter campaign, and ended up passing our goal. We've had a fundraiser concert which was basically a big house party! Played with our friends and ended up raising a bunch of money there. So between those two efforts, we've been able to collect enough money to at least get the gear so that we could hit the road again, keep this tour going. That whole process has been really great, especially to see that there are all sorts of people that support us. Everybody from family members to complete strangers have been donating to the cause. It turned out to be a very rewarding experience from what was a pretty crappy situation.

People have described Dinosaur Feathers as everything from Animal Collective to Beach Boys meets Vampire Weekend. What makes you guys different from those groups?

It's funny, I don't know if we necessarily think about that when were making the music. Anytime you have a band with a lot of harmonies, there's a chance to get a Beach Boys comparison. I can definitely understand the similarities, which is a good reference point, because a lot of people know those bands. For example, it's easier to say we sound like Animal Collective than it is to say we sound like The Ruby Suns. Especially with the first album.

Can you tell us how your sound has evolved since Fantasy Memorial?

It started off as sort of a solo bedroom project. But with the new album, we've been able to branch out from a more pop oriented sound to more rock and roll focused. It's also been a lot more democratic, the rest of the band giving a lot of input towards the creation of these songs.

In April, you will be releasing a new album entitled Whistle Tips. What should people expect from the new record?

I guess its been four years now. I'd been living in New York for a little while. I had a drum machine, and was experimenting around with songs in my bedroom. Then picked up some people, started playing shows, and things sorta took a life of its own.

Is there any current artists from the Brooklyn scene you guys follow regularly?

We've got a lot of friends from Brooklyn whose music were really into. Our buddies Shark?, we often share our new recordings with each other, and that feels great. Life Size Maps, Radical Dads are some bands were really into. There's just so much going on in the city all the time, so many new bands always coming out. It's a great place to discover new music.

When Dinosaur Feathers play a show, what do you want the audience to take from it?

That's a good question! I think that feeling you get when you go to a concert, where you just kind of get caught up in the music. That connection you have. As an audience member, I appreciate when your just there and really getting into it, dancing or listening along. You feel that strong connection with the audience and the band.

You can check out Dinosaur Feathers along with openers Grandchildren at 529 on Sunday, March 4th.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Live Review: Polyphonic Spree 2/10/2012 at Center Stage

Wild, frantic, and unpredictable. Just a few words that you could use to describe the live experience of symphonic pop group The Polyphonic Spree. The Texas native band put on an outstanding two hour set last Friday night at the Center Stage music venue, pulling out almost all of their most beloved songs, as well as demonstrating some incredible stage theatrics.

The night was kicked off by opening act New Fumes, a solo psychedelic rock project created by Daniel Huffman. With nothing more than a MacBook, a guitar and some foot pedal effects, Huffman managed to lure the audience into a trance like state with his tunes. The main appeal to New Fumes was the corresponding visuals, as Huffman set up a projector that played some of the most unique and bizarre animation footage I've seen out of an artist since Tobacco. Huffman is a creative solo act that is definitely worth checking out.

Soon after, Polyphonic Spree would finally take the stage, Tim DeLaughter and company marching triumphantly through the crowd while the inspirational track "Gonna Fly Now" from the movie Rocky blasted in the background. Immediately, the twenty-one person collective was met with roaring applause from the crowd, as they begin to play their first show in Atlanta since 2008. Opening with big time tracks such as "Two Thousand Places" and "A Long Day Continues", Polyphonic Spree wasted no time in getting right into showing off their bombastic stage presence.

Highlighted by a six woman choir, trombonists, violinists, and just about any other musical instrument you can think of, The Polyphonic Spree brought forth one of the most enthusiastic live groups out there today. Throughout the show, DeLaughter would participate in such antics as spraying the crowd with confetti, wearing a hat he received from a member of the audience, and leading the rest of his band into several extended jam sessions.

As if this energy wasn't enough, Polyphonic Spree started playing unexpected covers of British sensation The Who, including epic renditions of "See Me Feel Me" and "Pinball Wizard". After an intense hour or so long set, DeLaughter jokingly noted that it was time for the band to take off, playfully setting up for more to come. But no one expected an hour long encore, and that's exactly what the Atlanta crowd got!

Polyphonic Spree banged out even more big numbers, such as the big hit "Light & Day", as well as latest single "What Would You Do?". As the show begin to close, DeLaughter would leave the stage and head into the crowd, approaching everyone on the Center Stage floor for a singalong session. The Polyphonic Spree's demeanor throughout the night was an ecstatic one, giving the crowd everything they paid for and more. Check out some highlights from the show in the clip below.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interview: Tim DeLaughter of Polyphonic Spree

Earlier this afternoon, I talked to Polyphonic Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter about a variety of topics, including their tour that is stopping by Atlanta at Center Stage tomorrow night.

Kevin: It's been four years since The Polyphonic Spree last toured North America. Heading into 2012, what are you most looking forward to during this stint of tour dates?

Tim: We are looking forward to a sold out show in Atlanta. We are counting on Gail Fountain, a super fan, to help us accomplish that.

Throughout your career, you have written music for television programs, movies, advertisements, and a variety of other mediums. Do you have any plans to make music across different media platforms in the future? Or are you more focused on developing Polyphonic Spree as a band?

At some point we will collaborate on another interactive app with Moonbot like we did with one of our recent singles "Bullseye" on Good Records Recordings. I will be working on The Polyphonic Spree, Preteen Zenith, and a long in the works solo album. The Polyphonic Spree will also be doing a Holiday album this year as well as a national tour of the 10th anniversary of our annual Holiday Extravaganza.

It has often been said that the live experience of Spree is one of the most surrealistic shows out there. Do you have any current day musicians that give a source of inspiration for the live performance of The Polyphonic Spree?

We inspire each other more than anything, really.

After this first batch of dates across the States, does the "You + Me" tour have any international shows in mind?

We plan to tour the UK at the end of August/September and do a New Year's Eve show in London.

In the past, The Polyphonic Spree has been featured on major music festival DVDs, such as Coachella and SXSW. Will the "You + Me" tour be documented as well?

Our percussionist Patrick Cone on this run is a filmmaker and editor. He cut the trailer for this current phase of the "You+Me" tour. He is grabbing footage while we are out so you never know. We have been documenting The Polyphonic Spree since the beginning so at some point the full story will be told.

Over the years, there have been many different members of The Polyphonic Spree. One of the most successful alumni, Annie Clark, has gone onto accomplish great things in her own right with St. Vincent. Do you still keep in contact with Annie or any other past members of the band? Would you ever consider letting them play alongside The Polyphonic Spree again down the road?

We plan to have every member that has ever graced the stage with The Polyphonic Spree join us for our 15h anniversary on July 15, 2015. It will be a memorable evening to put it mildly.

In the age of social media, many musicians have figured out how to better interact with their fans. You guys are no strangers to this, offering an innovative idea in the form of letting your fans create a music video for the latest single "What Would You Do?". What do you think of some of the videos that people have submitted thus far? Are you pleased with the response so far?

We have loved the entries so far. We are really like Pepe and Peaches the Cat so far. It is cool to see how fan's interpret the music and lyrics.

On February 10th, The Polyphonic Spree's "You + Me" tour stops by Atlanta to play a show at Center Stage. Do you have any memories of Atlanta that you could share?

We did an instore/outstore at Criminal Records. It was definitely HOTLANTA that day. We played the parking lot. We had 2-3 people pass out. I would like to think it was the music but...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Night at The Earl with Twin Sister...

Taken from:

Written by: Kevin Crawford
Photography by: Nikki Hagemeyer

Twin Sister and opening touring band Ava Luna played a packed house at The Earl last Wednesday night. Judging by the crowd’s reception of both bands, it was another great night for the East Atlanta venue scene.

Ava Luna got things started, a large group of seven, combining everything from James Blake-esque vocals all the way to playful electronic noise. Relying heavily on synthesizers and a soulful three woman choir, Ava Luna captivated the attention of the audience with big R&B numbers such as “Clips” and “Past the Barbary”. The group seems to be not only a throwback to the old school crooners, but also invigorates a new unique sound in the electro genre as well. Ava Luna leaves the crowd begging for more.

At around the 11:05 P.M. mark, the members of Twin Sister finally rush the stage, and start things off with some of their big time hits, including notable single “Bad Street” off their debut LP In Heaven. The Atlanta crowd is mesmerized by the killer guitar work of Eric Cardona, pulling the crowd into a dream-like frenzy with songs such as “Lady Daydream” and “Daniel”.

What sets Twin Sister apart as a live act is their ability to constantly adapt, changing how each of their songs sounds, shedding new light on their catalog every time they perform. For instance, on the big dance number “All Around and Away We Go”, vocalist Estella and bass player Gabe play off one another’s talents in perfect unison, as keyboardist Dev Gupta and drummer Bryan Ujueta provide the incredible background melodies.

The atmospheric touches are the little things that Twin Sister utilizes all too well, making them one of the most distinct up and coming bands in the indie scene to date. One moment they are playing off the crowd’s energy and building up a jam session, then the next they are making ambient soundscapes putting everyone in a calm trance. After a stunning performance, they came back to the stage for one more track entitled “Milk & Honey”, leaving the members of the Atlanta audience with something to remember for a long time to come.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Interview with Andrea Estella of Twin Sister

Just a few days before their stop at The Earl in East Atlanta, I was able to get in touch for an interview over the phone with rising indie dream pop band Twin Sister's lead singer, Andrea Estella. She talked about everything from her family roots in Puerto Rico, to looking forward to checking out some whale sharks at the famous Atlanta Aquarium.

Kevin: 2011 was a big year for Twin Sister. New album In Heaven was released, tour dates all across North America and Europe. Do you have any personal memories or highlights of the year that stick out?

Andrea: I feel like I’ve had so many things happen that it’s difficult to pick out one moment. Someone actually asked me this last night. The day we were approached by Domino was definitely pretty memorable.

Kevin: Care to elaborate on how you guys and Domino got together exactly?

Andrea: I guess the best way to phrase it is…unusual? Haha. They ended up sending us a message over our MySpace page, which is pretty archaic by now. And then they started coming out to our shows, and we just really hit it off and they decided to sign us.

Kevin: As I mentioned earlier, last fall, your debut full length album In Heaven was released. As a band, do you guys feel this record changed the musical direction, or did it expand on ideas from earlier releases?

Andrea: I think it expanded on ideas because we learned a whole lot about ourselves from making this first album. It didn’t really change the musical direction, but I guess we just tried to execute things a little better. On In Heaven we figured out how to handle things differently, make it sound the way we wanted. What we did with In Heaven is we kind of wrote the songs for the album, and now that were playing them live, we’ve changed how some of the songs sound. So now we’ve started pitching new songs on the road before we record them, let them develop better.

Kevin: How much influence does the record label Domino have over the creative process when recording your material?

Andrea: They don’t really mess with that. They just sort of let you do whatever you want. They give you their opinion when it’s all done. Whether they like a certain song, they think one song should be a single, stuff like that. But they pretty much let you do what you wanna do.

Kevin: Do you or other members ever find yourself getting sick of playing the same songs live, or does it all still feel very new and current?

Andrea: Right now for this tour, it really feels good to play these songs live. One time we were practicing just before we went out on stage, just kind of cramming a bunch of new songs in on the set, so it really felt fresh. And then we also played a few songs from In Heaven that we’ve never played before, and there’s an added experience, like turning drum machines into a live drumset.

Kevin: Recently, you guys made a music video for the track “Kimmi in a Rice Field”. Can you tell us what kind of image you and the rest of the members of Twin Sister were shooting for?

Andrea: Well originally the lyrics to that were meant to be a story. And then I turned the story into lyrics, shortened them a little bit, and had them fit for the song better. And then Bryan our drummer took that story and made a few changes to it himself. It transformed into a ghost world, and we made it into a short horror film. We were really pleased with how that turned out.

Kevin: Are there any specific cities or parts of the world Twin Sister would want to tour? Any that you have yet to see?

Andrea: I really love going to San Francisco, and we will be going there very soon. As far as places we haven’t seen yet, I really want to go to Japan. I wanna see any part of Japan. Parts of China would be nice. Iceland would be cool, Italy would be cool, Australia. We’ve seen a lot of the States, as well as Europe. I actually have family in Puerto Rico, and I wonder if we have any Puerto Rican listeners, cause you never hear about indie bands being like “Let’s go to Puerto Rico and play a couple gigs,” haha. It would be so cool! I noticed when I went there, I hadn’t been there in a long time, and there were a lot of shirtless skateboarders with a tan! But on a serious note, I do have a lot of family members that listen to us down there.

Kevin: Where did Twin Sister originally form?

Andrea: We were all from Long Island, we’ve known each other since high school. We formed when we were just teenagers. Played a couple shows back home, at sports bars in front of jockey guys that don’t really care about the band.

Kevin: Do you guys have a preference of what type of venue to play? Are you more of a small, intimate kind of band, or do you enjoy more big festival shows?

Andrea: I think we prefer the more intimate kind of places. I think I like a good green room too, with my own bathroom haha. The crowds are much more spirited and seem to care a lot more at those kind of venues than say the ones at festivals. At festivals, you can sort of look down and see the crowd doing other things like checking Twitter and stuff! I actually enjoy more cramped shows where it’s like a house party.

Kevin: Do you have any current day influences that give you a sense of inspiration?

Andrea: I really like Ariel Pink and the new band that he’s in now. Hercules & Love Affair I think is really cool. Bear in Heaven, I look up to them. And Lost Boy, I love Lost Boy!

Kevin: Would you ever consider doing any collaborations with any artists?

Andrea: I’d like to play with anybody really. I just did my first big collab, a track with Wild Nothing recently, should be coming out soon. I think in the future, I’m not sure yet, I feel like it would have to come to me.

Kevin: Are there any studio recordings from Twin Sister that we should be looking forward to?

Andrea: Actually after this tour, we are taking a break, and are going to work on a bunch of new songs. I think we are going to do shows here and there, which is also a good way to try out new songs. Like I said, we wanna try playing them before full blown recording. We also like to make demos, so I’m sure a lot of those will be made.

Kevin: Do you have any plans of things to do while you guys are in Atlanta?

Andrea: The highlight of my trip this tour for me is driving out super early and going to the Atlanta Aquarium. I am so excited to see whale sharks!

Check out Twin Sister’s music video for the song “Kimmi in a Rice Field” off their latest album In Heaven here: