Thursday, October 20, 2011

Talk Normal: Interview!

New York noise makers Talk Normal are returning to the UK in November for a slew of shows with Wire and Jad Fair now that they're close to completing a new, second album. I caught up with the Andrya and Sarah to find out about their recent work...

So you've been recording lately - what have you been working on?  Where were you recording?

Our next album! We're mixing now (as I type this, in mid-October). We recorded new material mostly in two places - at a studio in Brooklyn called Vacation Island, and in Hoboken NJ at Echo Canyon West. Nearly one full song and parts of a few others come from tracks created in our rehearsal space. Some editing took place @ Thump Audio and Christina Files' home studio. Mixing will be completed at The Farm. This album is covering a fair amount of NYC-area geography.

Do you ever have any preconceived goals or ideas when recording, or do you prefer to work in an improvised way?

Sarah:: Hardly anything is improvised, tho we are always glad for happy accidents, of which there are a few on this record. When we enter the studio, we have our songs @ a place where we've workshopped them and have been performing them for a while. Our “budget” or lack thereof doesn't allow for much improvisation in the studio (time-wise). But we are quite specific about our sounds, so for the most part these songs would be at this 'realized' stage regardless. Tho thankfully, there has been time for a few quick and fun sonic explorations.

Do you prefer playing shows or recording?

Sarah:: I find recording extremely fun. It's nerve-wracking in a way because you want it to be fully realized.... but in my own combination of haphazard and also extremely specific work habits, I can get a lot of joy out of the studio process. Which is just different from playing live shows – performing live can be so totally invigorating, but I know I am capable of reacting to the audience more than perhaps I'd like (positively or negatively). It's hard for me to tell in advance how a crowd will affect me. All that said... I love shows...

To my ears at least, your songs seem like each track is it's own tale, where do you draw themes from in your music?

Sarah:: Anywhere. Often there is one idea that sparks the beginning of the story, if it is a story. Or a phrase, or kind of sentiment. Some are from older experiences, written down or saved in the mind. Others are momentary inspirations, sometimes teased out further. i.e. Mosquito came entirely from a walk Sarah took on the way to practice. Hot Song was put into words by Andrya inspired by a profound cultural clash that reached all the way through young children near us. Admittedly there is some kind of story behind each one.

I've always wanted to know more about 'River's Edge', it's so frenzied - can you tell us a little about that song?

Sarah:: I had done a done a lot of private writing when I was younger, which I rarely shared with others. At some point I shared some of that with Andrya for creative use/inspiration, and some years later I started to have a kind of nervous writer's block about that kind of writing, maybe because the landscape for it's output had changed so much. Andrya encouraged me to throw together quick thoughts about that pressure/block, and keep focused on the underlying knowledge that it was surpassable even tho it seemed like a heavy black cloud. We took some of those short phrases and put them to song, to my own chagrin sort of in a way that almost says “doesn't take much... expresses a lot”. Definitely a “less is more” track lyrically. We molded it and some other artist references were thrown in by Andrya, and thus the lyrics were born. The music came out of an old jam that we sometimes played for warm up and focus. Exploration within the basic guitar structure, for me. And Andrya's desire to command a drumroll into a new orchestration it'd never seen before. The mechanics of her structured performance through the song take a tremendous amount of skill and commitment – a very visceral live experience.

New York is a hotbed for art of all kinds - where do you pull inspiration from where there's so much on your doorstep?

Sarah:: Same old same old – a moment, a feeling, an event, an experience, a newsflash, a striking visual, something you think you want to forget, a song...

On the same note, NY is packed with artists and bands - what do you think it takes to play and survive as a musician in such a creatively busy environment?

Sarah:: Something excitingly done or new or re-imagined or thrillingly replicated or all of the above. Commitment (both time and money are seriously abused in these endeavor). Luck?

I've read you guys are Laurie Anderson fans and that the band name is a reference to her. There was a retrospective recently of Anderson's stuff at the Barbican not too long ago.  A highlight was her pillow piece where the audience had to put their head on a pillow which rested on a plinth to hear music playing inside it, the audience's participation and experience gave the piece it's meaning.  With this in mind, your shows are really intense do you ever aspire to have a connection or affect your audience in this kind of way?

Sarah:: Connection yes. I've finally started looking people right in the eye, whether they like that or not I have no idea. But the show isn't defined by their experience...

Last time I saw you play it was in a basement on the Lower East side and distinctly remember the room being gripped by your performance, do you like playing smaller spaces?

Sarah:: We've had great 'bigger' shows too, but small ones can end up feeling... intense.

I'm super excited you're coming to London to play with Wire - are there any dates you're particularly looking forward to on your upcoming tour?

Sarah:: It's like the UK local tour! Very exciting to be seeing so many places in England, and looking forward to returning to Scotland. Later w/oWire, Paris should be lovely, opening for Jad Fair.

What shows have you played that have been highlights?

Sarah:: I had a really nice time recently when we played in San Francisco @ a place called Secret Alley. Wicked DIY venue.

Are there any other projects or goings on we should be looking out for from you ladies?

Sarah:: Right before we leave on tour I'm pleased to be taking part in the performance of a Ben Frost composition for 6 guitarists.

'I'm full of dust and guitars' - Syd Barrett, if you were cracked open what would be inside?

Sarah:: Blood and organs.

11/15 @ HMV Institute w/ Wire Birmingham, UK
11/16 @ Manchester 3 w/ Wire Manchester, UK
11/17 @ Liquid Room w/ Wire Edinburgh, UK
11/18 @ The Arches w/ Wire Glasgow, UK
11/19 @ Academy 2 w/ Wire Newcastle, UK
11/20 @ Brudenell Social Club w/ Wire Leeds, UK
11/22 @ Concorde 2 w/ Wire Brighton, UK
11/24 @ XOYO w/ Wire London, UK
11/25 @ Academy 2 w/ Wire Liverpool, UK
11/26 @ Whelans w/ Wire Dublin, IR
11/29 @ Thekla w/ Wire Bristol, UK
11/30 @ Phoenix w/ Wire Exeter, UK
12/01 @ The Globe w/ Wire Cardiff, UK
12/02 @ Academy 2 w/ Wire Oxford, UK
12/03 @ The Plug w/ Wire Sheffield, UK
12/05 @ Shacklewell Arms w/ Noveller + more London, UK
12/06 @ Magasin 4 Brussels, BEL
12/07 @ Petit Bain w/ Jad Fair Paris, FRA

Talk Normal website
Check out a live sessions on Free Music Archive
Talk Normal Facebook

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