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Catching Up With: Taylor Janzen

Photo Courtesy of NBD PR

Photo Courtesy of NBD PR

Right before her debut EP dropped last August, we got to know Taylor Janzen, an indie-folk singer songwriter from Winnipeg. This year, Janzen made her SXSW festival debut, she has another EP on the way, and she’s been booked for major festivals like Shaky Knees and Winnipeg Folk Festival.

While in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Janzen to discuss working with a new producer, her fateful meeting of Dennis Quaid, The Bachelor and more! Check out what’s been new with Taylor Janzen below.

We last chatted back in August, right before your first EP came out. During that interview, we talked about your love of Dennis Quaid, and at the time, you hadn’t met him. Since then, you were actually able to meet him! Can you talk about that experience and how that happened?

He was in Winnipeg, and I live there. Someone I know works at a golf course and he was at that golf course, and she told me. So I went there and I met him, and he was super nice! I didn’t embarrass myself too much, but it was the most magical moment of my life!

Did you get to tell him about your song called “Dennis Quaid”?

I did, but I had to specify it’s not about him, because it’s more of a sad song…So if he thinks that it’s about him, he’s gonna be like “why do you hate me?”

Yeah, but sounds like it was a great experience and a nice moment to check off your bucket list.

It was a great experience! Definitely a bucket list moment for me. He’s super nice. He was teaching me how to selfie basically. He’s like “the sun’s over here!”

Very cool. Last time we spoke, your EP Interpersonal also hadn’t come out, and you’ve since put out another single, called “New Mercies.” What else is on the horizon for new material?

We have a new EP coming out later this year. The first song is scheduled to come out March 29th, so it’s going to be nice and soon. I’m really excited about it because it’s full band and kind of a step up from the last one. My goal in creating music is to always make music that every project is more evolved than the last one, and this is definitely more evolved than the last EP.

Yeah you mentioned how the last EP was recorded with one of your friends. Did you work with the same producer this time?

No, I went to Omaha and I recorded with Mike Mogis, and that was such a cool experience. Just to not only be in a new environment, but to work with someone who I admire so much. That was super cool.

Yeah, he’s produced some Phoebe Bridgers material right?

Yeah, and Ruston Kelly. Super good!

Nice, anything else about the new material that you’re excited about?

I think just having the resources to do what I want creatively. Put some noises in there that I want. Make it sound the way that I really want it to. That was a really cool experience. I think also lyrically it’s a bit more— it’s a bit more in depth. Which I didn’t think we could get more in depth, but here we are!

More personal than Interpersonal. Then this is your first South By right?

Yeah, it’s my first time in Austin! It’s my first SXSW. It’s so nice! I got in yesterday, very early flight. I feel all rested now and ready, but it’s so beautiful. At home I’m still wearing a parka, so it’s crazy to me that I can walk outside without wearing a jacket.

Have you had a chance to catch any shows yet?

I haven’t been able to yet. Last night I was like I’m going to bed ASAP. It’s been really nice though, I have my band out with me. It’s my first time traveling for music with a band. It’s nice to not be by myself all grumpy at the gate. Now I have people to be grumpy with.

Oh cool, so your shows here will have a full band then. Will you be playing songs from the new EP?

For sure! We’re going to play some new songs. We’re reworking some old ones, so that’s what I love about playing with a band. You can take the songs that originally were just played solo, and I can add stuff to them.

Very cool. Is there anyone that you’re hoping to catch the rest of your time here?

I heard that Pedro the Lion was gonna be here. I have never been able to see them but I want to so bad. I also want to check out some of the Manitoba music acts. There’s a few artists from Manitoba also coming here. I want to check some of them out. Even though I could probably just go home and see them, it’s cool to see them in a different city.

Anything else on your Austin list to do while you’re here? Tacos? BBQ?

Yeah I had some BBQ. That was delightful, and I’m probably gonna do that like eight more times while I’m here.

Then as far as the rest of the year, you’re also booked for Shaky Knees festival and a few others. Will those be full band shows as well?

Yeah, I’m gonna do a full band show for Shaky Knees. I’m so excited for Shaky Knees. The line up is incredible! I also am playing Winnipeg Folk Fest in the summer, which has been a goal of mine since I started playing music. I’m so stoked to be on that line up as well. So it’s gonna be a fun summer.

Anything else you’re looking forward to this year? Any tours?

We haven’t booked a tour yet. I’m excited to also be able to see so many other acts at these festivals because living in Winnipeg, we don’t get all those bands all the time. So it’s nice to be able to travel and go to cities where there’s always a band playing.

So last question, I saw you tweeted about The Bachelor—

Oh my god! Let’s talk about this!

Well, I haven’t gotten to watch the final episode yet.

Me neither, but I know what happens.

Same! I looked at spoilers, but what are all your Bachelor opinions? What do you think about Cassie?

Ok! The minute that Cassie stepped out of that limo, I was like she is delightful. I’m so glad that she’s the winner. Also--the fence jump. The fence jump! It’s actually my first season watching The Bachelor. I’ve never seen anything Bachelor Nation until this year, when my friends roped me into a weekly Bachelor night.

I know, it’s so dangerous!

It’s lovely though! It is my favorite night of the week. I’ve seen The Bachelor Canada before, but I’d never seen The Bachelor, and I love it. I am never going back. I’m a full fan.

Did you see who the new Bachelorette is going to be?


Were you rooting for Hannah B. or Caelynn?

I loved Caelynn. But I think that Hannah B. will be the nice, dramatic Bachelorette that we’re all looking for. I’m glad that it’s Hannah B. and not Hannah G. I have lots of opinions about The Bachelor…

Any other hot takes or strong opinions you want to share?

Hmm. Kirpa was so annoying!

How did you feel about Colton’s hair [on the Women Tell All]?

Oh yeah and Colton’s hair is interesting. He did look nice and put together for the Women Tell All. I also love Demi. She was the most entertaining. The thing with Demi is I didn’t want her to win, but I wanted her to stick around for as long as possible and she left us too soon.

Agreed! Any other guilty pleasure shows or favorite TV shows at the moment?

That’s the main one. I’m trying to stop living under a rock and finally watch Game of Thrones. It took me a while to get there. I started out and I was like this is not for’s so boring. And you have to pay attention to the dialogue, which is not my strong suit. I like to do like crosswords while I watch TV, but I’m actually super into it now.

Taylor Janzen’s latest single “Shouting Matches” is out now! Listen to it below.

Catching Up With: White Mystery

If you're at all familiar with the Chicago music scene, you've undoubtedly seen White Mystery out and about over the years. The sibling duo of Alex and Francis White still manage to pack a serious punch with all of their live performances, despite only being a two-piece band. In addition to developing a full live show between the two of them, Alex and Francis have remained completely hands on with all aspects of the band, from management to booking tours to sending press releases...they do it all. In between all of that hustle, the pair still find time to put out an album every year on April 20th. Their latest, Fuck Your Mouth Shut, marks their eighth studio album, and their ninth is on the way in 2018. In the midst of working on new music, playing shows, and gearing up for tour, the duo developed their own TV show called (you guessed it)... White Mystery TV! The show has featured artists from all corners of the local Chicago scene and just wrapped its first season (but more on that later). Before White Mystery start their tour along the east coast and midwest this Friday, we chatted with Miss Alex White after their set at The Slippery Slope Anniversary party last weekend. Here are six things you need to know to get caught up with White Mystery!

Photo Credit:  Diane Alexander White

Photo Credit: Diane Alexander White

Their Influences Provided "Permission By Example" 

While strolling down memory lane trying to pinpoint what first inspired her to pick up an instrument, Alex White describes two distinct childhood memories. "When I was pretty young, my mom would take me to the dollar store, called Amazing Savings. And they had discount tape cassettes of oldies music. Like all the great one hit wonders from the 60's, and I really really loved those songs," Alex recalls. She continues describing her journey to rock 'n'roll, saying, "As far as the moment that inspired me to start playing rock 'n' roll….And I’ve said this a couple times too because it was just that distinct of a moment that I remember... I was in fourth grade, and my parents were repurchasing their old record collections on CDs 'cause CDs were like a new invention, you know? I heard The Who for the first time, and the album was Who’s Next by The Who. It’s the classic song “Baba O'Riley,” which is like [singing] 'Teenage Wasteland...' And that song just really connected with me. Where I was like I need to play guitar, this is so cool!"

The inspiration continued through Alex's teen years, where she found influence in other bands. "If you flash forward a little bit...Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. I heard Sonic Youth and I was like I can do this! This is so great, this is so powerful. It’s a female singer, she’s playing guitar, it’s experimental...I really believe in permission by example. You see something and you’re like oh yeah, I could do that! Maybe better, or differently. And Sonic Youth really did that for me when I was about 14 or 15," Alex says. She also reveals that some of her artistic and musical talent stems from somewhere down her family tree. "My mom played piano as a very young person, but her job is being a photographer. My grandfather, who passed away when I was like 5, really young, he played mandolin. So he never showed me how to play, and I don’t even have memories of him playing...But, I’m convinced that I’m genetically predisposed to having really fast fingers and that kind of thing. So while I didn’t know him very well and he never taught me, I feel that the heritage lended to it," she says. 

They're Always Up for the DIY Hustle

In addition to rocking the stage all by themselves, Alex and Francis White know how to work the DIY system as a band...and man do they work hard! Talking about the benefits and challenges that they face being an independent band, taking on multiple roles, Alex says, "Well like anything there’s pros and cons to being DIY. The biggest pro is that when you take on multiple roles, like when you become the management, the licensing agent, the booking agent, and the art director... and the the creative force, you can make a career out of it." She continues to give major props to her brother Francis, saying it's very much a partnership. For any struggling musicians or music industry professionals, just remember Alex's "permission by example" principle and look at how she has earned a living with White Mystery. 

"This has been my job full time for 7 years. It’s a very bohemian lifestyle. I work really fucking hard and all day long, but in the comfort of my own home or on tour with a laptop," Alex continues, vouching for the DIY lifestyle.  However, she does also recognize the potential downfalls. "The disadvantage is that it can be very challenging to penetrate these very established systems. Something like Lollpalooza...While we play big ass shows in Chicago, we played in Japan, we’ve been in Sundance Film Festival movies. We’ve played with Patti Smith and The Stooges many times. We played Riot Fest...for some reason it’s been damn near impossible to get into Lolla, while we’ve put 8 albums out," Alex continues. She still manages to see the positive side of the situation and brace herself for the challenges, adding, "So there’s certain things, but I try to convince myself that everything happens for a reason, and I just kind of stick to my vision, and good things always happen when you do that. You’re gonna have challenges. Be prepared for the challenges."

Video Games Inspired White Mystery TV

Well kind of...For the past month, White Mystery have invited different artists and musicians around Chicago over to talk, play music, and play video games. All while broadcasting live; hence the name White Mystery TV. Talking about the origin of this clever concept, Alex says, " I have to give my brother Francis credit for it. He plays a lot of video games, and there’s this network called Twitch. It seems like a lot of people in the rock scene aren’t very familiar with it...It’s the second largest streaming service on planet earth. World wide." Alex continues on to say that there's been times on tour where she and Francis wished they could share their view with friends and family back home. "Before Facebook Live and Instagram was more like us driving through the Swiss Alps thinking this is so crazy and so beautiful, I wish we could show people back home what this looks like," she says.

The inspiration to launch WTV also stemmed from their past work on a White Mystery film, called "That Was Awesome." Alex says their past work on that film coupled with their desire to share their experiences beyond their live concerts helped push the project forward. "We’re realizing wow, our worldwide audience is able to watch us. So while there might be 100 people at the show, there might be 1000 people watching," she continued. Talking more about the show itself, Alex says, "It took a long time to develop it because of the technology required to make the infrastructure. It’s not like 'Hey I have an iPhone..” let me hold it up to something. It’s a little more sophisticated. So when people are watching they’re getting a little more of the Wayne’s World basement thing, but what we’ve done is bring all of our favorite musicians on. So people are like wow, that’s so great you have so many cool local musicians. Like The Orwells...Mario [Cuomo] was one episode one. Twin Peaks are freakin’ huge!" The show has also had rappers like ShowYouSuck, Joseph Chilliams, Mykele Deville, as well as newer buzzy bands like Bunny and Post Animal. "We’ve been trying to represent the city of Chicago so that we can share what’s going on here with our audience in like Germany and Japan. It’s been a really cool thing and they’re all archived on YouTube so you can watch them again. They’re like each 3 hours long," Alex concluded. Make sure you tune into Season 2 when it starts!

They've Witnessed the Peaks and Valleys of the Chicago Scene

Speaking of representing the local Chicago scene on White Mystery TV, Alex and I also discussed some of her favorite parts of the scene at the moment, and how it has gone through cycles. "Chicago is a very special place. I’m born and raised here in the city. Having gone to New York and LA and San Francisco...Chicago is a very supportive, cooperative scene. There’s a lot of idea exchange and support," Alex says. 

"I guess what I love most is the mutual support people give each other, and that goes across the arts. That goes to comedians. DJs. Actors and Actresses. Everybody is like 'I’d love to help you with that.' It’s not this cut throat thing. There’s friendly competition where we push each other higher. But the community is full of support," she continued. 

This principle of helping each other out and lifting each other up can be seen just on White Mystery TV alone, when genres are mixed and collaborations extend to poets and performing artists, not just musicians. It's also demonstrated in Lollapalooza performances here, like when Joey Purp showed up for a song with Whitney. "It’s genre bending," Alex says before shouting out her favorite venues in the city. "I love the Empty Bottle. The DIY scene is very, very strong. There’s a new one every time. I’m kind of older than a lot of people in the scene. So how you were saying 'Wow, Chicago’s really popping right now…” I’ve seen several cycles take place. There was a point when I was younger when a place like The Empty Bottle would not book rock shows. They would only book very kind of indie stuff. I’ve seen it with highs and lows. And it’s always good, and there’s always stuff happening, but there’s definitely times where it’s thriving and that’s cool to watch," she says.

I try to convince myself that everything happens for a reason, and I just kind of stick to my vision, and good things always happen when you do that. You’re gonna have challenges. Be prepared for the challenges.
— Alex White on Being a DIY Musician

They Stay Entertained on the Road By Reading Wikipedia Pages

Since they're gearing up for tour (starting tonight), Alex and Francis discussed how they stay entertained on the road and what they're looking forward to on this particular run. Although Francis had been loading out for most of the interview with Alex, he jumped in for this question. 

"Reading Wikipedias is a very interesting way to observe a story of a person or place or event," Francis chimed in about their road trip habits. Off the back of that, Alex says, "I read books to him for hours at a time. I recently read the entire Mount Everest Into Thin Air book to him. I read the whole thing. We read Wikipedias...He drives, and I’ll read. Hours will go by. We’ll be like oh my gosh, you know that was 3 hours. Sometimes you read these biographies of like James Brown and you’re like crying at the end. You’ve started with the moment they were born and gone through their whole life, to the moment they died. It’s very emotional to go on that trek."

Although they educate themselves on the road by reading, the biggest lesson from touring and playing music is unrelated to Wikipedia and books. "I never really had to learn this lesson, it was just something we knew, but don’t leave your guitar or money in the car. Don’t leave your passports. Or the stuff you need. Ever," Francis says. Alex and Francis both emphasized the importance of knowing when to stick together and not splitting up while on the road. 

As far as where they're most excited to play on this run? "Meltasia," both of them said in unison when I asked. "I’m looking forward to Meltasia, but I’m mostly looking forward to the drive into Meltasia cause for my sister and I, it’s always a really special drive where we blast Led Zeppelin...we’re going deep into the woods, further and further and further away. Usually all we have is a case of beer and that’s it. No tents, no water, and we just know we’re gonna hang as long as we can, and shotgun as many beers as we can. The build up to it is one of my favorite feelings throughout the whole year," Francis elaborated. "It’s the anticipation of getting there. It’s the journey. A lot of people have told that to me in my life, and now I really, really believe that," Alex chimed in. 

Despite Her Vintage Style, Alex Admits She's Bad at Thrifting

Again, if you've seen White Mystery around, chances are you've noticed Miss Alex White's incredible retro inspired style, and no one pulls it off as well as she does! Fortunately for Alex, she's able to acquire most of her clothes, she says, admitting that she's not actually that great at thrifting. "A lot of my stuff just comes from my friends. I get a lot of custom made clothing now. When I went to The Grammys I had this amazing custom made jumpsuit. I was the Vice President of the Recording Academy for the Midwest. So I’d go to the Grammys and get to walk the red carpet with all these cool clothes," Alex reveals.

Alex also gave her mom props for being a great thrifter, even though that didn't pass down to Alex.  "What I love shopping for is shoes. These shoes, they’re just really practical and comfy, just wood platforms...I’ve had so many versions of this kind of shoe. We were in Beverly Hills and we played on late night television, The Carson Daly Show. After we were walking around Beverly Hills. I was like oh, a shoe store, cool! I go in there and find these, they’re made in Portugal, I was like oh, I like ‘em...once in awhile treat yourself. So I bought these shoes, I left the store, and I look at the storefront and see this is like an old lady shoe store. I just bought shoes from like an orthopedic shoe store," she recalled. 

Alex's once last piece of style advice? "I don’t buy vintage shoes...vintage clothes, but never vintage shoes. I was crossing the street once in a vintage pair of shoes, and my heel broke, and I wiped out on the street. I was like never again!"

Check out all of White Mystery's tour dates below and keep up with them on social media.

White Mystery: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram

09/01/17   Experimental Procedures Chelsea, MI Details
09/02/17   Happy Dog Euclid Tavern Cleveland, OH Details
09/03/17   Arsenal Lanes Pittsburgh, PA Details
09/04/17   The Pharmacy Philadelphia, PA Details
09/07/17   St. Vitus Brooklyn, NY Details
09/10/17   Meltasia Fest East Durham, NY Details
09/11/17   Bug Jar Rochester, NY Details
09/13/17   State Street Pub Indianapolis, IN Details
09/15/17   Trumpet Blossom Iowa City, IA Details 
09/16/17   Farnam Fest Omaha, NE Details
09/22/17   Ingenuity Fest Cleveland, OH Details

Also- Listen to White Mystery's 8th album Fuck Your Mouth Shut below!

Catching Up With The Autumn Defense

It's rare that you'll find a festival that has the same artists perform multiple times in one weekend, while still providing completely unique and once in a lifetime performances. Enter Eaux Claires, Pat Sansone, and John Stirratt. Sansone and Stirratt performed twice on Friday as The Autumn Defense, before closing out Saturday with Wilco's headlining slot. In the early evening on Saturday before Wilco battled the oncoming storm for the final set of TROIX, the Chicago music veterans talked about their Eaux Claires experience, balancing multiple music projects, and working with other artists. Here are five things we learned while catching up with The Autumn Defense. 

Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense at Eaux Claires 2017

Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense at Eaux Claires 2017

They Were Shocked At Their Crowd Turnout

The Autumn Defense got cozy with the crowd in the woods twice during the festival's first day, playing The Oxbeaux Stage, which sits in the middle of the forest as a hidden gem. The pair discuss their favorite part of their two sets. "I enjoyed the fact that there were a lot more people there than I expected. I knew we were gonna be playing on a small stage in the woods. It was very much how I pictured it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people came and listened to us. It was a great crowd...a beautiful setting," Pat Sansone reflected. 

John Stirratt adds his praise of the festival in general and how great they've done on setting the scene, saying, "I think they’ve done a better job, much like a lot of the smaller European festivals that seem to be more of the trend now. What they do is they really focus on the spaces where people are and try to make some kind of gear or nighttime lighting in the woods. You see that at Green Man in England. I think just really concentrating on the spaces and how it looks in the daytime and the nighttime...There’s a magic quality to that, especially in the woods here." 

Sansone says he 100 percent agrees with Stiratt's observation, adding, "Yeah, curating such a good feeling, it takes care and it takes vision. The immediate feel of those things when you come here..." 

Their Collaboration Wish List is Endless

In addition to the magical and beautiful setting that the team behind Eaux Claires curates, there is a strong focus on collaboration and improvisation between bands on the line up. Wilco alone had multiple spin off groups at Eaux addition to Stirratt and Sansone performing as The Autumn Defense, there were also sets from Tweedy and cup, featuring Wilco members. Sansone and Stirratt discuss other possible collaborations between musicians on the lineup and themselves. 

"I’ve never played with Jenny Lewis. That would be fun to do something with her," Stirratt says, mentioning that they're friends so it's weird they have yet to collaborate.  "I just ran into Leslie Feist, and we worked with her on a Wilco song...she sings on Wilco song. It’d be great to do something with her again. So many great people. Justin [Vernon]," Sansone chimes in. Stirratt also suggests playing with Aaron Dessner before Sansone throws out the possibility of working with Chance. "I think Autumn Defense and Chance The Rapper could really find some common ground. I think we could kind of give him the bump that he needs to get out there, on a bigger platform," he joked. Funnily enough, after the interview, I stopped by the merch booth and noticed they had separated headliners Wilco and Chance The Rapper merch from the rest of the artists' and festival merchandise. Maybe that's a sign that something could work out between the Chicago musicians. After all, anything's possible at Eaux Claires. 

Speaking of epic collaborations, Sansone and Stirratt gave their suggestion of a cross between some of the other musicians on the 2017 line up. "It’d be cool to see Paul Simon and John Prine link up. That’d be pretty historic," Sansone says. 

They Rely On Muscle Memory For Their Different Projects

Working in multiple active projects has got to be tough to keep up with, but Stirratt says they've got the routines down. "It’s kind of, at least for me, it’s kind of like we’ve played with both entities for so long, there’s a lot of muscle memory there. We bring in the Autumn Defense guys, and really, we’ve played long enough with them, all it takes is one short jam and they’re right back. It’s really wonderful, and quite economical too. So you can do these things without really dedicated rehearsal days and rehearsal spaces. You can make it kind of informal. Wilco sort of does that as well. It’s definitely great to have that history with all those folks," he says. 

They're "Looking Towards Looking Towards" A New Album

It's been a minute since the 2014 of The Autumn Defense's fifth album, appropriately titled Fifth, but it might not be too long before a sixth LP is in the works.  Sansone talks more about the current status of new music from The Autumn Defense, saying, "We haven’t really started looking towards a new album yet. We’re looking towards looking towards a new album right now. It’s been a busy couple years since we put out our last one. With Wilco, and John and I have other projects that we’ve been consumed with. It’s definitely something that’s close to us, and we’re looking forward to when we can carve out that time." So while the process of the new album isn't really in motion yet, at least it's at the front of Sansone and Stirratt's minds. 

As far as their writing process when inspiration does hit, Stirratt says, "I tend to write really for Autumn Defense only. I used to contribute songs for Wilco over time and I realized it wasn’t the best use of my time. For a long time it’s been for The Autumn Defense. That’s the main writing outlet that I have. I personally can’t delineate where it goes." 

They're Still In On The Chicago Scene

Although Sansone and Stirratt have been touring the world with Wilco, they still manage to keep up with some hometown musicians. While talking about some of their favorite newer or up and coming Chicago artists, Stirratt says, "Well Whitney is way beyond up and coming, but that record [Light Upon the Lake] was a big record for me last year."

Sansone shares his new local favorites, saying, "There’s a guy named, well the project is named Jagged Jaw, and it’s one guy. His name is Bobby Lord, and he had a record that came out last year. He does everything himself. Self released. It’s really great. I produced a record for his previous band which was called Future Monarchs, and he kind of went off in secret and made this record. I was just completely blown away. I hear he’s working on a new record. He’s keeping it very under the radar." 

Although Sansone and Stirratt have been making music professionally for years, they say that newer artists probably have a leg up on them despite all their experience. "It’s a whole new world. I kind of feel like a lot of these musicians and younger bands probably have stuff to teach me," Sansone admits. 

Stirratt agrees, saying, "I feel the same way! I feel like things were way easier. Getting a deal was easier back then. It was just--," he pauses before adding, "There’s people with all these different disciplines, you know. The ability to record and produce and arrange and do it all on a really high level."

Keep up with The Autumn Defense here, and listen to their last record Fifth below. 

Catching Up With This Is The Kit

It's about half past 5 during the first day of the third annual Eaux Claires, and as I head to the media tent, the sound of Tweedy's set drifts through the main grounds of the festival, still audible as I find the members of This Is The Kit staked out in a corner of the tent. Earlier in the afternoon, the England-born, Paris-based band consisting of Kate Stables, Rozi Plain, and Jamie Whitby-Coles had performed on The Flambeaux Stage, one of the two main stages. Known for having a shifting line up always fronted by Kate Stables, the band played some new tunes from the upcoming record Moonshine Freeze with the help of Eaux Claires curator Aaron Dessner. While I caught up with the trio in the media tent, we chatted more about their live show, their dream collaborations, and folk tales. Learn about all that and more before the release of Moonshine Freeze on July 7th in our chat with This Is The Kit.  

Kate Stables, Rozi Plain, and Jamie Whitby-Coles at Eaux Claires 2017

Kate Stables, Rozi Plain, and Jamie Whitby-Coles at Eaux Claires 2017

Frontwoman Kate Stables Isn't Big On Planning

Diving into the story behind the new album, Stables recalls the group's songwriting process as being more organized than their previous records, their latest being Bashed Out in 2015. "Well songwriting happened between the release of our last album in--" Stables pauses, questioning when the last record was released before confirming 2015 as its birth year. "So since the release of Bashed Out and now. It was nice, we went into the studio and all of the songs were written. Some of them even had the arrangements worked out. Which is sort of new for me, cause I’m unorganized and often running late," she continued. Stables also gave recognition to their producer, John Parish, calling his work brilliant. 

The band's live lineup especially is never set in stone, but the band don't seem bothered by that at all, and have managed to sound incredible live with a variety of different setups. "We can’t always do everything that happens on the record, because there’s only--well normally there’s four of us, but today there’s only three of us," Stables muses about the live arrangements of the new material. "I’m not very good at planning," she admitted. Rozi Plain interjects to say that they've managed to remain flexible, adding "Often things get worked out and changed while we’re on tour. Sometimes just trying things out as we’re playing them." One of the best facets of the gem that is Eaux Claires Fest is the improvisation that occurs each day, so This Is The Kit fit perfectly with that sentiment. 

Saxophones and Storytellers Have Shaped The New Record

Kate Stables has stated that Moonshine Freeze focuses on the concept that stories and truths sort of evolve over time, told differently as time moves on. She elaborates more on her inspiration behind the songs and her fascination with storytelling, saying, "I’ve been reading a lot of Ursula Le Guin and she talks a lot about stories changing over time. Also, I listen to a lot--and read to my daughter, a lot of folk tales. And there’s always different versions of those." She continues, "There’s a particular collection of African stories that Hugh Tracey collected, and there’s recordings of him reading them. There’s a story about a rabbit and tortoise where it sort of talks about truth and lying, and I’ve been thinking about that."

While Stables is able to pinpoint a few authors and storytellers as inspiring that notion behind Moonshine Freeze, she ponders for a while about other influences, saying, "I don’t know if they’re ever sort of conscious. You look back and you think, oh, look at that, that matches up with that." She pauses and asks Plain and Whitby-Coles for their input. Plain mentions that they draw inspiration from life experiences as well. 

Stables bounces off of Plain's comment, saying, "Yeah, we’ve been playing a lot with a saxophone section over the past year or so, and so it was great to have them in the recording session. That’s really shaped the album." Speaking of saxophones, Eaux Claires' resident sax choir The Sad Saxes joined This Is The Kit for a lovely Saturday afternoon performance at The Oxbeaux Stage in the woods, which earned a standing ovation at the end. 

Aaron Dessner Acted As a Correspondent Collaborator On Moonshine Freeze

Not only did EXC curator Aaron Dessner join This Is The Kit for the aforementioned Oxbeaux Stage performance and their Friday afternoon performance at the festival, but he also contributed to the recordings on the new record. Stables has been working with Dessner for longer than that, though. Describing their working relationship, she says, "Well, it’s great, we made the last album with him 100%. This one, it was kind of like a correspondence, pen-pal recording project. We sent him some of the songs, and then he recorded some bits of it. Then we sort of sorted out which bits could stay. It happened long distance."

Speaking of arranging parts of the new tunes, Stables and Plain reflect on playing some of the new ones live for the first time at the fest.  "Since we recorded it, we haven’t played many [shows], so it’s just sort of fun to play the new ones," Plain says. Stables echoes that excitement, saying, "Yeah, because a lot of the arrangements weren’t finished, or just were started from scratch in the studio. So now that they’re sort of established, it’s nice to be able to play them when they’re finished."

They'd Like To Work With Tweedy, Francis, and Sam Amidon

Speaking of collaborations, the trio share which of the other acts on the lineup they'd love to collaborate with, since that is the name of the game at Eaux Claires. Pausing to contemplate the abundance of possibilities, Stables suggests they each pick an artist, since it's too difficult to land on only one unanimous decision. "I'm really liking Tweedy...I'm really enjoying this," Whitby-Coles decides, while Tweedy's set continues throughout the interview. Stables takes her pick next, saying, "I’d love to to one day do some singing and banjo playing with Sam Amidon 'cause I think he’s brilliant!" Plain remembers Francis's dance lessons on the Decorum Stage, saying, "There was someone teaching everyone some great dance moves--let’s do a collaboration with Francis!" 

While we didn't get to see Francis's dance moves combined with Stables' banjo playing this time around, there's always next year, and we did get to see Stables join Justin Vernon for a song during The John Prine tribute on Friday evening. 

They'll Be Back In America In October 

The band were recently announced as part of Pitchfork Music Festival's lineup in Paris, but that's not all they're looking forward to later in 2017. "We're coming back to America in October" Whitby-Coles excitedly shared. Stables says those dates are still to be confirmed, but once they have dates in place, they'll be even more excited for the return. Make sure you keep your eyes out for that tour announcement because if you think the recordings from This Is The Kit sound great, just wait til you catch a live performance. Plain and Stables voices blend so well together, and when playing with a sax section they're able to add even more dynamic to their layered and thoughtful songs. 

In addition to the tour, what else is the band setting out to do this year? "Changing the world," Plain enthusiastically suggests. In sync on and off the stage, Stable echoes Plain, saying she's planning on getting more involved in local politics this year. 

As our time together comes to end, This Is The Kit left us with their best festival advice: Buy a rubber walnut. Explaining Plain's advice about these walnut erasers, Stables says,"In the local shop [at the festival], they’ve got rubber walnuts and acorns. They look like real ones, but they’re actually meant for rubbing out your drawings." They also suggested drinking enough water and bringing a mac (British slang for a rain jacket)....which was definitely needed during the big storm on Saturday evening. 

Our advice to you? Pre-order Moonshine Freeze by This Is The Kit here, and keep up with all their news, including new tour announcements on their Facebook page. 

Can't get enough of This Is The Kit? Read our highlights of Eaux Claires, which feature the band on Day 1 and Day 2

Catching Up With She-Devils

Montreal duo Kyle Jukka and Audrey Ann Boucher have been making music together as She-Devils for more than four years since they met in a music rehearsal space. Since their fateful meeting, the pair released their debut self-titled album in May, which was influenced by a wide array of films, TV shows, and musicians. Leading up to and following the album release, She-Devils have been all over the place, touring internationally and taking on new projects like directing their own videos and designing their own merch. While they were in town last week to play Do Division Fest and perform at The Empty Bottle with up-and-coming Chicago band Deeper, Jukka and Boucher took some time to catch up with ANCHR. From tour stories to the new direction of their sound, here's what we learned during our chat with She-Devils. 

She-Devils backstage at The Empty Bottle

She-Devils backstage at The Empty Bottle

They Used To Live In The Rehearsal Space Where They Met

The rehearsal space in which Jukka and Boucher met also served as their residence during that time in their life. The band credit the creative living quarters with fueling their workflow back then. Talking more on the subject, Jukka says, "I think I learned a lot about my own practice at the time. It was just so easy to be devoted and there was no other responsibilities in life for me at that time. So I was just working on music." Boucher echoes the same sentiment about remaining devoted to her craft in the rehearsal space. "Having access to this room all the time, I was like 'Oh, I feel intense now... I’m gonna go see what’s on my sampler and hear myself sing.' Now that I’m living in an apartment, it’s different. I have to make songs on headphones and think maybe my neighbors are hearing me."

As far as their process for the first album, Jukka describes their writing process as being very minimal. "I guess it’s pretty simple. We just started with really simple basic loops. Audrey mostly makes the vocal parts and the lyrics in her own space. I hand over an assortment of ideas to start working on. The things that kind of click... we flush them out from there." 

Playing Moth Club Tops The List of Tour Highlights

In addition to the endless amount of live shows that She-Devils have played across North America, including a successful SXSW, the band recently traveled across the pond to play their first European tour. Jukka and Boucher both say they had a blast in every city, but some shows definitely stood out to them. "Probably playing The Moth Club in London," Jukka says, recalling his some of his favorite moments. "It was such a great venue, tons of people came out. It was a free show, so there was that incentive, but it was just cool that people were curious enough to come see us." 

Boucher, who had never set foot in Europe before this tour, remembers Brighton as a highlight. "We had a fun time in Brighton too, at The Great Escape. We went to this place called Sticky Mike’s. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of for going to a bar in England, and partying to all my favorite songs," she says. 

As far as any culture shocks of playing gigs in Europe, Jukka adds, "The whole thing is a culture shock, because on the surface it seems familiar, but it’s so much older and really dense." 

They're Tired Of Being Tagged To David Lynch

Boucher and Jukka credit many genres, both musical and film as inspiring their work. From Quentin Tarantino to Disney movies and Madonna to T. Rex, the influences of She-Devils are vast and diverse. Despite the wide range and presence of multiple influences, many people have continuously associated them to David Lynch, which the duo says is played out. Addressing the subject, Boucher says, "At this point it’s kind of hard to talk about David Lynch because of how it’s been so tagged on us. There are a lot of influences that went into the work that are more present than David Lynch and everyone kind of just went like 'Lynch!'"  In fact, the pair admit that they haven't even watched any of the Twin Peaks reboot. Jukka says he's reluctant, even though he's a fan of the original series. 

Honing in on some of their other references, Boucher reveals that "Make You Pay" was inspired by Quentin Tarantino and Lana Del Rey, adding that she wrote it during a time when she was listening to a lot of Lana. 

They're Involved In Every Aspect Of Their Art

Boucher and Jukka worked together to direct the music video for their single "The World Laughs," a project they both set out to do based on their heavy cinematic influences. Elaborating on the project, Boucher says, "That’s how we started. The first thing we released was like a cut video, that we’d done ourselves. We had zero budget...we probably put 50 bucks into it. It went super well and it was really fun to do. It was well received, so we were like, we want to keep doing that. We’re into arts and stuff, but I feel like at this point we’ve done it, and it’s so much work. It seems like because we’re doing so much else...making the music, touring... I do visual art, so I do the album artwork and the merch. I feel like with bigger projects it’s hard to have enough time to really realize the vision as much as you want to. I think that’s one occasion where it’s really good to collaborate." She continues on to say that they're both interested in coming up with the concepts, but in the future they'd prefer to work with someone to push it further.

Jukka weighs in, adding, "I think ultimately we wanted to do something that still felt really personal, instead of a pro director coming in that didn’t have anything to do with us." He agrees their goal is to keep that going, while also working with more and more people who know what they're doing. 

They're Amping Up Their Sound In The New Material 

Although the band just released their album, Boucher says they've already been playing a few unreleased tracks during their live shows. Circling back to the tracks on the debut album, Boucher says she still loves playing "Make You Pay" because "it’s very like theatrical and cathartic," while Jukka likes to perform "Hey Boy" because "the rhythm is kind of cartoon-y." For their favorite of the unreleased material, Boucher says, "We have a song that’s called 'Hot Rod.' It’s kind of about a fast car. It’s just more intense. Not aggressive, but more amped up. That’s the direction we’re going for--" Jukka interjects to say that their new direction includes songs that are "a little less jingly" and dangerous. "I’m stoked about getting back into recording more music. We don’t really write on the road, but we collect ideas and we're scheming," he adds. 

While talking about what else is in store for the band in the near future, Boucher says, "We’re going on this tour with Beach Fossils in July. They’re a really cool band and it’s on the west coast. So it’s going to be a really fun Summer adventure." 

Keep up with all of She-Devils upcoming shows, including their tour with Beach Fossils, here, and listen to their debut album below to get ready for the new tunes in the works.