Interview with Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro

Julia Shapiro. Image courtesy of Hardly Art.

I reached out to Julia Shapiro, indie rock singer and songwriter, as she prepares for Chastity Belt’s American Tour for their self titled album released in September. Shapiro is most known for her solo album she recently released as well as her lead vocals and guitar for all-girl garage bands Chastity Belt, Childbirth, and Who is She?

After Chastity Belt cancelled their tour last April due to “health concerns,” Shapiro ventured into introspective songwriting and mixing that resulted in her first solo album titled Perfect Version that captures Shapiro’s discontent with personal imaging and searching for self growth through musings of change and stagnation simultaneously. She then continued working with Chastity Belt and the band later released their self titled album on September 20. Capturing similar sentiments and instrumentals as Shapiro’s Perfect Version, Chastity Belt wanders through foggy terrain of a mental landscape of dissatisfaction while combating it with surreal optimism. I asked Julia some questions about her experiences with creating Perfect Version mostly alone and being back with Chastity Belt after a much needed break.

What have you been up to since the release of Chastity Belt’s album and getting ready for the anticipated U.S. tour in February?

We tour quite a bit over the fall. In October we did a European tour and then in November we played the East Coast. We’re also working on writing some new stuff.

How are you feeling about touring with Chastity Belt again?

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with touring. It can be really fun, but also super exhausting. It’s all about getting the right balance. I’m excited about this upcoming tour because we’re taking our Australian buddies Loose Tooth with us. It’s also our last tour for a while, so that makes it feel a bit more manageable.

What are the things you do to stay centered when you’re struggling on tour or dealing with the frustrations of the recording industry?

Take a walk, call a friend, try to remember to take some alone time. It can be hard to find the time to take care of yourself on tour.

Did your solo album and emotions you unpacked in Perfect Version influence Chastity Belt’s self titled album?

All the lyrics are coming from me, so yeah I suppose so. Some of my solo songs probably could’ve been Chastity Belt songs if the timing had been different — there’s not a huge distinction between my songwriting process when I do solo stuff and when I do stuff with my band, except I was maybe a little bit looser with the way I wrote lyrics for my solo album. It was a little bit more stream of conscious.

How does mixing and composing music alone compare to the process with Chastity Belt?

It’s a lot quicker cause there’s only one person to consult. It’s also hard cause you sort of have to trust yourself more, since you’re the only one making decisions. It’s harder for me to get as excited about songs when I’m by myself — it helps to have my bandmates around to encourage me.

How did you all start Chastity Belt and overcome gender barriers in garage rock? Any advice for college students (specifically, girls) trying to start a band?

Trust yourself, and don’t just blindly follow others advice, especially men who are out of touch haha. Check in with yourself and your bandmates every once in a while to make sure what you’re doing feels good, and ask yourself why you’re doing it.

Do you think Chastity Belt has evolved since you all started making music in college?

Oh definitely. We started out just joking around, we never thought the band would become this serious. We’ve learned a lot along the way. There’s no way to really learn how to make music other than just doing it and learning from your mistakes.

What kinds of music inspired the conception of Chastity Belt? What are you listening to right now? 

Growing up I was really into Elliott Smith, and I still think he was an amazing songwriter. I also listened to Fiona Apple and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in high school. Recently I’ve been really into the new DIIV record. Those guitars sound so good.

Chastity Belt is touring the United States starting early February and will be performing in Denver at the Bluebird Theater on February 23.

How Sound Makes Music

Over this past block, I made an episode of a podcast. It’s not completely about music, but it’s on how sound makes meaning, so I figured I would post it on here. In it, I interview two really wonderful members of the CC community, Jake Sabetta and Jane Hilberry (and if you’re on this website, you will likely at least know of Jake).

Hope you enjoy!



With Notes of Change

             Interview of TouchIt’s Lead Singer Jack Douglas by Eliza Mott

photo credit Emilia Whitmer

Could you start by introducing yourself?

Hello my name is Jack Douglas, I’m a senior and I like Rock’n’Roll.


Where are you from?

I was born in Denver and grew up in Atlanta Georgia


So can you tell me a little bit about your band? How you guys came together?

So I think we started like most (CC) bands start, it’s kind of like the primordial soup of sophomore jamming in Mathias and you kind of figure out who is someone who is actually going to be someone you want to keep playing music with. So we kind of slowly just started jamming with each other and that worked out to be a core group or me and Oliver, Kyle, Ken and then we originally sought out Adam Ting because we wanted a sax player because if you’re in a CC band and you don’t have a sax player, it’s just not as special.



Well when we were starting out, almost every band had a sax player.


What does that add?

Sex appeal – sax appeal


So are you all seniors?

Yeah we are all seniors. So that was fun, last Battle of the Bands. Or not the last Battle of the Bands since we were put in the second round, could’ve been the last.  I think that sort of gave us either a feeling of I don’t really care about this. But it also gave us a feeling of we should probably do this right.


Those are two very different attitudes so what is the general attitude you are following?

Well my personal attitude was that I really wanted to put on a really good show and I think at first there was a feeling of, we don’t really need to do this and then I was like, “Yeah let’s do this that would be fun. So we practiced a lot (after we) figured out a set and ran it a couple of times before we actually played it.


Are you any of you guys music majors?

Oliver and I are music minors. Besides that we have a film studies major. Kyle, Oliver, and Adam are all O.B.E. majors biology majors and I’m environmental policy.


So, personally for you, what is the connection between Environmental science and music?

Well I mean you can write protest songs about climate change and polar bears. I don’t know I mean you can find connection between anything.


Well of course, but how do you explain it?

I don’t know if you can cultivate a sense of personal interest into music, I think for any cause there have definitely always been musicians behind it. You can talk about Bob Dylan and Civil Rights and Neil and the environment so like there is definitely a connection. But you have to make that connection yourself it’s not like inherent.


And for you do you draw a lot of inspiration from those artists and musicians?

Well Bob Dylan, Neil Young yeah. I mean come on, somewhere on a desert highway. Both pretty iffy singers but they both write pretty beautiful music


So do you think you, as a musician focus and are more drawn to the lyrics or the melody and music of a song?

You know I was having this conversation with Oliver the other day, cause I think it depends on the instrument you play. I think for him rhythm drives a song and for me I’m more of a mix because I do play guitar, harmonica, and I also sing and write lyrics.

I think lyrics are important and  I think a singer’s voice can often make or break a song for me. I’ve never liked Blink 182 because I feel like they sound like they are whining the entire time. That definitely is a big part for me but I think melody can often be more important than the lyrics.

You have people whose lyrics are incredible, like Bob Dylan and that’s why they are such incredible artist. I feel like the music for Bob was a platform for what he was trying to say versus the other way around.


When did you get involved in music?

I started playing guitar when I was in sixth grade, so like ten years ago, when I was 12 or 11, I don’t quite remember.


Of the songs you have written is there a song that is particularly important to you at this point in your life?

I think probably the best song I’ve written for Touch-It, me and Ken collaborated on this but I did the lyrics for the majority of the song. We played at Battle of the Bands called Lake House. It’s sort of politically driven in a way.


Can you explain a little bit about what it is about?

It’s called Lake House because the chorus goes something like, a     shower can’t wash your soul/it takes something deeper I know/ the old men talk they can’t wait/because dirty money put them in the house by the lake. I wrote it in the summer after my sophomore year and there was just a lot of stuff going on. There was bombings in Israel, bombings in Palestine, there was the Ferguson shootings and Robin Williams died.

I just felt very alienated from the people that were representing me all over this country in all forms of government. So the verses are all about those events like the last verse is about how a whole bunch of people got shot, or a whole bunch of black men got shot at Ferguson or in New York but Robin Williams got all the press. It’s a sort of a looking out of your window on political injustice or tragedy in the world.

So I guess a lake house, I see as a luxury and as something that shows how, these guys, don’t want to relate to you because if they can just go hide in their vacation homes they don’t have to think about these things.


How do you see music being a part of your life after college?

Well there’s a band I played  a lot with in high school and they are still playing together which is cool. Go them. They are down in Athens, Georgia. There was a while there where I thought about, not joining their band or anything, but going down and making music with them down on the periphery and just doing day jobs. Then I kinda decided I didn’t want to move back to Georgia  so I put the nix on that (plan).

I definitely want to keep playing music. It will probably end up being more of a hobby, I’ll do open mics and stuff like that. Maybe if I find some people I like playing with or have a longer term connection with I’ll start another band but then again as a senior, the next couple years I’ll probably be moving around a fair bit, so I don’t really know.


As a senior, what advice would you give to underclassmen artists/bands?

Sure, so if you’re practicing in Mathias be as respectful as f***k to Lisa because she is the bomb but that being said Mathias bass kind of sucks so if you can find another space on campus I would recommend that.

If you don’t like the music that is being played on campus, make your own band. In general, it’s just about reaching out to people there are so many people trying to get into the scene. It’s about finding people you like playing music with and putting work into it. It’s not easy.

I tell a lot of people this has kind of been my main extracurricular throughout college and obviously it’s not a sanctioned one by the school or anything but it’s definitely something I put a lot of work into.


What has been one of the greatest or most important things you have taken away from being a musician at CC and during your time playing with TouchIt?

Certain bands have a magical skill regardless of what music they are playing to make people mosh. Mac Demarco is one of these musicians, it doesn’t make sense, when I saw him live, he was like, “This is a tender number I wrote this for my lover but keep moshing anyways.”

I don’t know something happens, I think it starts out because of a certain precedent, like your friends get really excited and they start moshing at every show.

I know no other band on campus that has people mosh as much as we do. We do sometimes play punk and hardcore music but I don’t think our sound is cataclysmically different than that of other people at school in terms of like hardness and for some reason people just love moshing to it.

I think we have at least three concussions we are partially responsible for. I’ve been knocked over several times by my own mosh. I don’t know music is fun. Play music if you have a chance.



Q&A with a bae: Alex Luciano of Diet Cig

Over the past few weeks, my roommate and I have actually greeted each other in the mornings—not with “good morning,” but with the phrase “fucking slow dance” and a dramatic eye roll.

The ritual is not in reaction to telepathic nightmares, but a lyric from Diet Cig’s 2015 single “Dinner Date” which has over 85,000 plays on Spotify. We too spend the rest of our days playing Diet Cig’s seven songs on Spotify, wondering when there will be more. Or even if it’s even possible to write truer lyrics than “If I told you I loved you I don’t know who/it would scare away faster.”

The pop punk duo consists of New Paltz New York’s own Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman, whose power chord ballads strike a balance between fun-loving and fuck you, and cut as deep as your memories of shitty hometowns and suburban-school expectations. They’ve been declared “A Band to Watch” by nearly every online music news monopoly, and simultaneously propose to destroy the monopoly label “bedroom songs.” Onstage Luciano jumps off drum sets, occasionally into the crowd, and generally requires that everyone quit shuffling their feet and fucking dance.

I stumbled upon the band in March at SXSW: first at Sidewinder, then the next day at the Stereogum showcase where a friend of mine may have had too much free Sapporo beer—he asked Luciano to marry him, and then chucked an inflatable deer at her head (on accident, of course). She didn’t miss a beat.

When I asked Luciano if I could call her for an interview, I reminded her of the deer incident and she seemed receptive. Bowman couldn’t make it. I sat in my bed in Colorado Springs, and she in hers in Brooklyn. We discussed Frankie Cosmos’ simplicity and Diarrhea Planet’s masterful mayhem, and of course, the reason why being a female shredder is essentially cooler than, well, anything.

Catch Dieg Cig with Sorrel and Brick + Mortar opening for the Front Bottoms at Black Sheep next Tuesday, April 12th


Hannah: Have you ever had things thrown at you before?


Alex: No, nothing’s ever really been thrown at me before the deer. I’ve had boys hand me love notes after a set onstage but that’s the extent of people giving me stuff.


Hannah: That sounds worse than the deer. How’d you like SXSW besides that? Was it your first one?


Alex: Yeah it was our first South by, it was super crazy. We played thirteen sets. It was supposed to be eleven but then we played two extra sets called Sessions. I thought we were gonna play two songs and they would record them and then they were like “Oh play a whole set in front of this audience and we’ll record two songs out of the set.”


It’s kind of a blur now looking back at it, but we had a lot of fun and we got to see all the bands. It was really fun running in the streets, running into your homies and being like “see you at the show later!” There was some crazy shit…I stole a gnome and then gave it back but that was before I like air guitar shredded it. Wacky.


Hannah: Dinner Date was actually the first song I heard by you guys and has since been my favorite—probably because of the opening lines. Is it based off daddy issues/a true story?


Alex: It’s a lot of Daddy issue-type feelings. That song starts out with my dad but also touches on a lot of relationships I’ve had with other people, and is me trying to convince myself that even though there are shitty people in my life that have just disappointed me or not treated me well that I’m better than these experiences. I’m taking power back from the people that have done me wrong.


Hannah: Do you feel like you’re running out of shitty situations to write about? You know, like shitty hometowns or shitty boyfriends?


Alex: I think that life is full of shitty situations, even when you grow up and start doing what you want to. You can take the smallest ones and write a dumb punk song about them, so I’m definitely not worried about not having enough shitty situations to write about.


Hannah: If you could describe your music now in one word what would you pick?


Alex: There’s a lot of words combined that I think would describe it. Our music is fun and also really cathartic. It’s really honest—I’d say it’s very honest—it’s like taking songs that like could be sad songs and making them fun. What I’m writing about is shitty stuff, most of the stuff that I write about are like bad situations that have happened to me. But it’s me turning things into a positive, fun situation.


Hannah: What’s your biggest musical influence?


Alex: I really don’t feel like one artist or any thing specifically influences me. I feel like I’m making simple live music that I like. But I’ve been influenced by the attitudes of a lot of musicians. I’m really influenced by Frankie Cosmos in the way that she just writes and writes and writes so many amazing songs and only recently has held off on releasing them because she’s been writing and releasing official records and stuff—but I’m really inspired by the way she released her early songs She would just release them on bandcamp and not worry about who would listen to it. It was just pure, real, honest music that she wrote.


I’m really inspired by a lot of other like strong female musicians. l like Hop Along. I think my music sounds very different than theirs, but at the same time I’m really inspired by what they’re doing and they’re songwriting and the fact that they’re out there and doing it.


Hannah: I really love how short Frankie Cosmo’s songs are—it’s the wave of the future you know? Everything’s getting shorter.


Alex: It’s true and it’s no frills, there’s no jam out guitar parts that last for like four minutes or anything. It’s just like honest lyrics and music that complements it.


Hannah: The biggest thing for me watching female musicians perform in bands is that it’s a breakdown of the male tendency to show off with all these crazy guitar solos.


Alex: It is such a masculine stereotype to do guitar solos and rip out and shred out. But I really don’t like the idea that that’s a male thing because I know so many female fucking shredders. Alicia from Bully fucking shreds—she’s amazing. I think there’s definitely a place for that though. I love Diarrhea Planet and they’re like the ultimate dude-shredder band. It’s all four guitars and guys guitar soloing, which is awesome, but I think that it’s equally as important for artists who aren’t technically proficient guitar players to be represented.


She Shreds the magazine has this really awesome philosophy that shredding isn’t your technical ability on an instrument, it’s the amount of emotion you can evoke through your instrument. I really respect women, or any musician, that can evoke a lot of emotion through their music without having to completely guitar-solo shred. I also have so much love and respect for everyone who’s just like slammin’ out guitar solos because it’s just the coolest thing ever.


H: Diarrhea planet: rock n’ roll done right.


A: Seeing them live is a joyous experience and they represent the kind of guitar-shredding that should be the ultimate. A lot of “serious” musicians take themselves too seriously. They’re serious musicians—but they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is why I think people like them.


H: So what’s a show that you’ve seen—besides Diarrhea planet, of course—that’s really inspired you to write or play music? A show that made you say “I gotta go home and practice the guitar right now.”


A: There’s been a couple that really stick out. When I was a freshman in college at New Paltz I was just getting introduced to the idea of DIY shows and artists producing their own music and I saw Frankie Cosmos’ show. It was actually hosted at my friend Chris Daley’s house (he recorded our music, our EP and our 7 inch) and I saw Frankie Cosmos perform at his studio. It was a really intimate performance and I didn’t really know who she was. I was just so floored by the simplicity of her songs and how beautiful they were, but also how accessible they were, and I was like “hey, I could write songs that are simple and honest like that, I have a lot to say too.” That was definitely one of the first moments that I was like “I can write songs that people will relate to and like.”


Then we did that tour with Bully this year, and Alicia really inspired me to start learning more on guitar, and to want to be more rock n’ roll as opposed to tweeny pop/rock or whatever people like to call us. I’m trying to find that balance all the time.


H: According to Pitchfork, you just need to “mature.”


A: (laughs) Yeah they were like “Well we can’t wait for them to mature.” And I was like okay no one asked you to write about my record. That’s the one thing about Pitchfork, it’s a love/hate thing because most blogs will write about the stuff that they like but Pitchfork will write about stuff that they like and they don’t like. And at first when we had that new record I was like in the back of my head like “Oh my god we have to write a record that is similar to the old stuff, but mature because we gotta get Pitchfork to like it!”


I’ve realized that after touring and playing those songs over and over again that we have to write songs that we like to play. You never know what people are going to like. So the only thing that we can do is write music that we like to play and that we’re proud of. This next record is going to be really awesome and I’m not sure if Pitchfork will like it—but I know we’re gonna LOVE it.


H: This is hard to ask without Noah here to speak for himself—but do you feel like you would have gone in a similar direction without each other? Would you be playing music with other people today if you guys hadn’t met in the first place?


A: I don’t know. I know he would be playing music with other people because Noah’s always been a musician and that’s always been his path. But I had some songs that I wanted to like perform and work on. It could have gone in a very acoustic low-fi bedroom pop kind of direction or it could have been “the band sound” with drums, a little more rockin’ direction—Noah was a really big influence in the music going in the direction that it did. It’s just as much Noah’s artistic vision as it is my own. Maybe I would have done something with music but I it wouldn’t have taken off and been what it is now if we didn’t meet.


H: Do you have any words of advice for people with “bedroom songs”? I feel like that’s a trope when people write about music like “Oh yeah they wrote all these songs in their bedroom.” But you guys got the songs out there, and there are a lot of talented people who haven’t.


A: Like you said “bedroom songs” is such a stupid trope and I feel like a lot of music writers or critics attach that label to women’s music. It’s so funny because Steph Knipe who’s in Adult Mom wrote online that “The difference between bedroom music and dorm music: one of them you’re paying 20,000 dollars a year to write your music” and it’s pretty funny because like what even IS bedroom music, does it mean you wrote it in your bedroom, does it mean that it’s soft and you’d wanna listen to it in your bedroom? I definitely can’t fit a drum set in my bedroom so I don’t know why people are calling my music bedroom pop.


I think some advice for people who are starting off writing songs in their bedrooms is to not feel hindered by the fact that you wrote it there—that shouldn’t define your music. You can write music in your bedroom and you can literally be any genre that you want. You can be anything you want.


H: If you could write a song for any one person who would it be?


A: I’d write one for my sister. She’s 12 and she’s in middle school and middle school is tough. I’m actually kind of in the process for writing this one song for my sister that will probably be on this record but it’s also tough because there’s so much I want to say to her. I want to tell her to be herself but in a way that’s not cheesy like “YOU CAN DO IT” because she is such a special person. She rocks.

SOCC Live: Jack Lite

“I worked at a pizza joint, a hotel, sold beach chairs for a while, landscaped, worked at a couple restaurants, a Denny’s. There is always downtime, and I recorded some melodies I liked on a pocket recorder while washing dishes. With the money from the jobs I craigslisted a guitar, drums, bass, and a synth. COLD CUTS was born straight out of my experiences with life, friends, women, and selling beach chairs.”



I sat down with Jake Sabetta, Andy Post, and Evan Levy, three members of a new CC student band, to talk about new music, influences, and Tarantino movies. The three of them are super excited to play their own kind of live music again after the disbanding of Funkdozer.

Their as-yet-untitled band plays Saturday, September 12, at the Eggplant House at 10:30pm.

TB: So, can you guys introduce yourselves?

Jake Sabetta: I’m Jake Sabetta, I play guitar, that is my primary instrument, and I’ve played with these guys, Andy Post and Evan Levy for two years now, in pretty much every band that I’ve played in at CC. So it’s a good connection that we’ve got, and I’m happy to be joining these two again.

 Evan Levy: I’m Evan, and I’m gonna be playing saxophone. I’m used to playing with other horn players, as of now I’m alone, so I’ll probably be playing a lot of things along with Jake, I think. I just got a little ceramic flute that I’m excited to try out… It might not work at all, but- (JS: What’s it called?)- an ocarina. Yeah. Perhaps gonna try to get some pedal action going on the saxophone- guitar pedals- for loops or delays so they can sound a little cooler.

 Andy Post: I’m Andy Post, I play keyboard. I’ve played in two bands with these guys. (JS: He composes a lot of good music. EL: Yeah he does.)


TB: Right on, cool. So as far as this project goes, what kind of style are y’all going for? I know all three of you were in Funkdozer, are you going for that funky style again, or something new?

EL: So, originally, we were really excited about neo-soul, that’s the genre that includes D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Roy Hargrove, or Questlove sort of stuff. It’s a real groovy sort of genre, I think we’re gonna lay off on the funk a little bit, get a little more tasteful, especially with Sophie on vocals, which is crucial, and James Dineen is gonna do some rapping, which is another component of this genre of music. We’ll also inevitably dabble in funk.

 JS: I think the biggest thing we learned in Funkdozer, as we were primarily a rock band for the first year, not playing any funk at all, we took this wild detour into funk, is funk is like the Dao, like anything in Zen, I think it’s always there, it’ll always be present in this band, but I think in a different fashion than it was in Funkdozer. It won’t be as loud, but definitely there.

 AP: “Jazz is the teacher, funk is the preacher…” There’s another part to that.

 JS: “One without the other, you’ve got nothing but the blues.”

 AP: Original compositions is a pretty big goal.


What are your personal influences as far as individual style goes? Musicians, bands, other artists…

JS: I think in the multiple bands we’ve played in, the three of us and some other people, like the bands themselves all shared influences, and Funkdozer I all of us were into Lettuce, Soulive, stuff like that, and I think people will find out the shared interests of this band as we grow, so far Roy Hargrove is a big one, Erykah Badu… We can do individually I guess, there’s a lot of influences…

 EL: Yeah, there’s a lot, I think it’s better to keep it to group-wide influences, more telling of it, we could all list dozens of influential artists, but it’s the ones that tie us together (laughter).


As far as starting this project, how does it feel to start a new project? What are you excited about? What are you concerned about?

EL: Well, none of us- we haven’t played together, with all seven of us yet, and we have a show tomorrow, so I’m really excited to hear what we sound like with all of us together.

 AP: We’ve had different combinations of six, different combinations of five, but… Yeah getting seven people together with crazy schedules is a concern, I guess the hope is that we can find- like, last year with Funkdozer I felt like we all found a common thread that we were psyched on playing, and had efficient practices and also with fun and competition. One of the things Evan said to me when we started this group is that there’s not like an alpha male, or like super stressed out person, which we’ve experienced in the past, so I’m hoping that there’s still some drive, but we can all be a relaxed group with a good ethic.

EL: I’m excited that this group isn’t afraid to play quietly, and my experience at CC is that student bands play loud all the time, and that’s their one little volume knob, but I think, you know, we’re all interested in creating space… as Miles Davis once said, “It’s not about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you don’t play.” So, I think I’m excited to work with that.

 JS: I think most bands, are trying to push it to 13, like Spinal Tap, and we’re trying to keep it around three.


What is the most rewarding moment of the career y’all have had so far?

AP: Last year, first round of Battle of the Bands, that felt there were a lot of people, and also a lot of people listening, including people on stage, I just felt like we had the audience’s ear more so than before, kinda listening more to the aesthetic of the music rather than dancing and shouting names.

 JS: Yeah, I mean Andy was playing really colorful ideas during his solos and I remember looking up during his solos and seeing kids dancing, but like, with their eyes wide open, looking at him in awe, his fingers, what he was playing- that was a cool moment.

 EL: Yeah, the moment it just kinda gets going during a gig and it doesn’t stop.


Last two questions- fun ones! Each of you, what is your favorite album of 2015 so far?

EL: Snarky Puppy’s new album Sylva is really cool. It’s a group that is the modern incarnation of the jazz band, they play some weird stuff, and this album is accompanied by an orchestra, so it’s really cool.

 AP: Their dynamics, especially with an orchestra, it’s like funk plus the adaptability of an orchestra, which is really cool. I’m getting into this album by Kamasi Washington, he’s one of the saxophone players on Kendrick Lamar’s new album.

 JS: D’Angelo’s album came out this year, right?

 EL: No, I thought it was October 2014. That would be a good choice though.

 JS: Ah well. There’s this guitarist called Plini, he just released an EP called… I think it’s called Things to Come? [Note: Google says the EP is called The End of Everything]. I think he’s making the most creative music I’ve ever heard, and his band is… so good.


Alright, last one- favorite Tarantino movie?

JS: Ah!

 AP: I’ve seen parts of… what is that one? Pulp Fiction. I’m not much of a movie guy.

 EL: Yeah, I’m not much of a movie guy either, I’ve seen Pulp Fiction and I’ve gotten through Reservoir Dogs.

 AP: Oh, I’ve also seen Django Unchained at the theater. I fell asleep.

 JS: Well, I know everyone would say Pulp Fiction, so I’m gonna go Jackie Brown, even though it isn’t as good as Pulp Fiction. Gotta be different.

TB: Thanks guys.

An Interview with Jack Douglas

Jack walked into the study room where I was waiting for him holding a chicken parmesan sandwich loaded with marinara sauce and sprinkled with cheese. He sat in the chair next to me, put his feet up on the table, and took a bite into his sandwich. At first he took the time to chew between his thoughts, but he seemed to forget about the sandwich as we kept talking, and by the end of our interview it was only half eaten. During our interview I noticed his voice sounded deeper than normal, and he took his time to think out each response, speaking slowly and thoughtfully.

Jack’s parents involved him with music when he was very young, signing him up for piano lessons when he was five years old. He went on to take lessons in guitar and violin, but chose to stick with guitar for the remainder of his time at home in Atlanta. He taught himself harmonica in college, and can also “fiddle around on the banjo”.

Jack writes his own songs, both for his band and for himself. He currently is in the band Touch It, which Jack describes as a “hard drunk party band.” He was in a band in high school, called Lotus Slide, where he also played guitar and wrote songs.

Jack describes the differences between writing songs for himself and writing for a band. He says that songs he writes for himself have less of an emphasis on completion, and there is an added level of complexity in order to fill up the sound yourself with a single instrument. Songs that are written for a band are bound to be altered and changed due to the influence of so many other musicians.

“It’s interesting that songs somehow come from nowhere and as you’re creating them you figure out what they’re going to be in grander terms. When I write for myself I sort of get a good feel, maybe write a verse or write a chorus, and then let that lead into whatever the song is going to be. When I write for Touch It, it’s the same, but I’ll let everyone else fill it out and see what else we need to put into it to make it a complete song. I don’t write all the songs for Touch It, that should be made clear.”

Jack says that he doesn’t fully understand his own creative process, but he believes that the songs performed by Touch It have a level of superiority to songs he writes by himself. He calls them “creative projects,” and says that as they work together on the song, it becomes an amalgam of six talented musicians individual sounds.

Jack holds a strong musical presence on campus as a member of Touch It, as most people know him as the singer of the band. However, he considers himself a musician outside of the band as well. He is a music minor and still takes lessons at school. He’s played in a number of events by himself, such as Open Mic night and Coburn Unplugged. Jack says that having two sources of musical expression has been good for him, as each allows him to focus on different aspects of his musicianship.

“There’s a lot of music inside my heart and it needs to come out. Sometimes it comes out for Touch It and sometimes it comes out for myself. Music is one of my favorite things to do, and when you have a lot of musical material that’s been written it’s going to come out in some way or another. It’s nice that I have two outlets for my musical expression.”

Jack says that everyone has an inherent drive to identify something as his creative outlet. Music, playing and writing, serve such a purpose for him. As long as it continues to bring him joy, it will remain such an outlet.

“I think my favorite part is being able to share something that I spend time on and value in my life with other people, in hopes that they will also enjoy and value that experience.”

Touch It will stay together until they graduate, according to Jack, and he will remain playing with them until that day. He doesn’t see himself stopping playing after college, and will continue to utilize it as an expressive tool.

When I asked Jack if there was anything else he wanted to add or wanted people to know, he told me this, and made me promise to include it in my piece: “Start your own band CC. If you don’t like what I have to say about music, or my music, or any of the music at CC, or you do like the music at CC but you’re not quite satisfied, start your own band and quit complaining.”




An Interview with James Farrell

I saw James walking to Worner through the windows on the first floor. He was coming to meet me for an interview I had asked him about a few days prior. He looked down when he walked with his hands in the pockets of his brightly colored shorts. He was wearing a faded red sweatshirt with a colorful hat that had a stitched weed leaf on it. He slid into the chair across from me at exactly 4:30, when we had agreed to meet. As I explained to him the purpose of my interview and my intentions with the article, he seemed a little uncertain. After we started speaking more openly, however, this vanished and he answered my questions honestly and enthusiastically.

James’s musicianship started in high school when he played bass in a band. He says this was fun for a while, but working with other people has never been one of his strong attributes, and he grew frustrated with the lack of originality they held. Around this time, he heard dubstep for the first time. He was in his friend’s basement, and the exposure to the music sparked an interest almost immediately.

“I had no idea what I was listening to, and I didn’t even like it at first, but I was so interested because I’d never heard anything that sounded like it before. It was dark, not like the candy house bullshit that we listen to clubbing, which I never really liked. It was different and dark, and I really liked that.”

He began working out little songs on Garage Band, but soon learned that you can’t really make good music on Garage Band, so he switched to a more official program that allowed him to create the music he wanted to. He taught himself how to create, watching videos and reading forums. He began with a focus on producing, learning new things constantly as he continued to experiment. James has a variety of ways that he goes about creating and producing his music. It can be linear and calculated, or emerge organically, but he made it clear that he never forces anything.

“Sometimes I’ll find vocal samples in someone else’s song that I can use, just like a snippet or something, and take it and slow it down or speed it up or make it go backwards, and then chop it up and make my own melody out of it, and then figure out a beat to go behind that. Sometimes I’ll just think about an idea for a feeling and take a whole bunch of sound bites that will lend themselves to that and throw them together and see where it goes. I find it’s easier to work, especially recently, where I don’t have an end goal in mind. I start with an idea and let myself take it wherever it goes. It ends up sounding more natural that way.”

If you want to see James DJ live, it’ll most likely be at a house party under the name “Sleepy James”. He says that this is where he primarily is able to showcase his abilities, however DJing at a house party has its benefits and drawbacks. As a DJ, James accepts a responsibility to ensure that guests have an enjoyable time. This comes at a cost to his creativity sometimes, for a medium must be achieved between what he really wants to play and what the guests want to hear.

“I can’t always play what I want to. I have to make the party happen and make sure people dance and have a good time. I can’t freak people out with the stuff that I only like. I’m trying to strike a balance between not being too weird so people can dance, but also play things that people haven’t heard before.”

At parties, James does all his mixing on the spot. He has routines that he knows well, such as what songs go well together or lead into each other, but his sets are not normally planned out or practiced. Other than his performance at Battle of the Bands, he tries to stay away from a laid out set, and finds that the longer sets where he can improvise lend themselves to more interesting and unique creations.

James says that creating music is both a routine and a distraction for him. When he starts making music he can get lost in it for hours and forget about anything else of importance. As he continues to talk about why he chooses to make music, I watch a wide grin spread its way across his face. Soon, I’m not asking any more questions, and he’s staring into space talking about the feeling he gets when he creates and DJs.

“It’s satisfying to create something from scratch and from the sounds I hear around me. There’s something in the artistic process that’s very satisfying. It’s cheesy to say I’m expressing myself, but I guess so. DJing is fun- I hope it makes the party better, and people have a great time and have something to dance to- I can make them move. I have control over the mood of the whole thing. I can get really really dark, and bring it to a place that’s happier. I can build up a drop and not drop it and everyone yells at me. It’s really fun to fuck with people like that. That sounds bad, but it’s actually really cool.”

James can fill up a house party easily. Not only is he talented in his creations and performances, but he exudes a passion that the audience can sense. I was surprised by his enthusiasm during our interview, but I realized after that I shouldn’t have been. Seeing him talk about his music openly and honestly made me understand how important it all is to him, and I hope to see him perform again before he graduates.

After graduating this spring, James plans to move back to Paris where he grew up. He’s going to continue to create music, and is hoping to find small venues in Paris to play at and showcase his work. He’s also finally going to make a soundcloud.

An Interview with Eliza Densmore

I walked to Eliza’s house in an aggressive down pour of soft snow. One of her roommates let me in, and as I adjusted to the warmth the smell of something delicious being cooked trickled into the room and soon engulfed the entire house. We sat down in her living room, me on a wooden table and her on an oversized beanbag chair in the center of room. I asked if she could play me some songs and she pulled out her guitar, placing it on her lap. She played three originals. She looked comfortable singing to me in her loose jeans and wool socks, like an impromptu solo performance for an audience of one was no big deal to her.

The first thing I noticed was that she moved her toes a lot when she sang. After the first song she said she preferred to stand and walked to the center of the room. She stood in front of me, silhouetted against the pastel light behind her.  When she sang her face was full of expression. Her eyebrows moved up and down with the music. Her eyes opened wide, closed suddenly, and opened again more slowly. She looked down, out and down again. During the last song there was a moment when her voice got loud. It was controlled and sudden, and it surprised me. She quickly diffused back into a softer tone effortlessly. It was beautiful, and I wanted to hear that power behind her voice again.

Eliza has been musical since a young age. She started taking piano lessons when she was six, learning by the Suzuki method, which focuses on the development of a musician’s ear rather than their ability to read sheet music. Her musical journey was largely independent. She listened to a wide variety of music growing up, building a repertoire of different styles and techniques. She taught herself guitar, and learned how to harmonize by singing along to songs she heard. Her only formal training was chorus.

“I didn’t really consider myself skilled at singing until late in high school. I was sort of a loner in high school and I would come home and be angsty and play the piano to myself. I would try and belt it all out. Eventually you learn how to work with what you have and adapt and find your own sound.”

Eliza first started writing songs on the piano, but switched to the guitar her junior year of high school. The piano was framed in her mind as a more classical instrument, and the guitar lent itself more useful for the singer-songwriter vibe she wanted. She wrote her first song when she was fifteen. She laughed when I asked her about it, and offered to play it for me. It’s called “Out of Here”. It’s angsty, and the lyrics are hilariously trivial, but behind is an impressive chord progression that Eliza says she still enjoys.

When Eliza came to CC she hesitantly entered the music scene. She started with nervous performances of covers at open mic and ended up in a few student bands her freshman year. It wasn’t really what she was looking for, but eventually she met the right people and found those that had interests more aligned with hers. She is currently in the band Randy and the Reptiles, and is a member of Room 46, an a cappella group on campus.

“I don’t know if I ever felt totally comfortable voicing what I wanted to do at the beginning. It was definitely hard. A lot of the guys wanted to play their electric guitars super loud and told me I could do the ‘belty singing’ part on the side, but I wanted to be more involved than that. I think Randy is really good about that.”

Eliza thinks that singing with other people is about community. Once she started collaborating more and forging new relationships, she grew more comfortable in her abilities. Her songwriting followed suit, and since her high school years she’s developed a more advanced approach to writing.

“Songwriting has gotten a lot less ‘me me me I I I’. It’s still a little that way- when you write a song I feel like that’s what’s relatable, but it’s more subtle now and I’m looking more at the details of things. I have a long way to go and grow as a songwriter and I think it progresses with each song. The way I would have written “Out of Here” is to just have written it and not gone back at all or reedited. Now it’s a lot more of piecing things together. I’ll write for five pages and take bits and put them together.”

Between her group musical commitments and her classwork, Eliza’s found that she hasn’t had as much time as she hoped for. She wants to focus more on her own work and get a better grasp on what exactly she wants to be doing. Her songwriting, while advancing, hasn’t been as much of a center point as she wants it to, and in the months to come she hopes to learn more about who she is as a musician.

“I was scared about post-grad in the fall but now it’s sort of fine. Working on music is something I’m thinking about, and I feel like at CC I’ve taken advantage of all the musical connections I’ve made with people, but haven’t focused on myself as much. But I don’t think that will hurt me at all. I do want to spend more time alone, reading and writing.”

I asked Eliza about her emotional connection to music, like what purpose it serves for her and why she engages with it. She thought about it for a moment and stumbled on her words as she tried to articulate her thoughts. She decided to tell me about the times she plays piano by herself in Shove, and the feeling it instills in her when the sound fills the room.

“Sound fills up a space with something. It’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s everything. I feel like I have to do it. It’s comfort, emotional stability, relationships with people. Everything. It’s discipline, it’s something you work at, it’s a craft. Especially with song writing, you can piece everything in there. It’s simply everything.”

Eliza’s commitment to her work shows clearly in her compositions. She does not rely on her natural talent to carry her forward, she works for it- meticulously and persistently. Her devotion reveals itself in her creations and performances, and in the coming months I look forward to seeing what she comes up with. If you haven’t seen Eliza perform, you should really try and catch her before she’s gone.




An Interview with Bo Malcolm

I interviewed Bo in his room. It was small, incredibly neat, with more books than decorations. He sat across from me at his desk chair while I sat on the bed. He asked me if he should play some of his songs and pulled his guitar out from under the bed.

“How can you interview me without knowing the music, right?”

I said of course, and he proceeded to play me two songs. When he plays he looks down, out into nothing, or at the window, but never at me. He has a look of deep concentration with hints of ease in it. Something is going on in his head, but I have no idea what it is. He smiles to himself occasionally as he’s playing, but I’m not sure if he notices he’s doing it. Most of the time his eyes are wide and open, concentrating, expressing.

Bo’s parents bought him a guitar when he was young, around eleven years old, and after taking classical lessons for a year he decided to drop it. He says he wasn’t passionate enough, for the mind of an eleven year old is busy in the imaginary world. Now playing guitar helps him rediscover that feeling, but back then he didn’t need it for that purpose. He didn’t pick the guitar back up again until the fall semester before he came to CC as a winter start. It was at this time he wrote his first song.

“It was kind of an exorcism. I felt really troubled I was a bit heart broken you could say, but there was more than that going on. I was very isolated. I’d been thinking for a while. I had an internship on a farm for a few months and that whole time I was thinking about music and really wanting to involve myself with music. I had remembered 3 or 4 chords so I just played those until lyrics occurred to me.”

He played that first song for me. It was melodically advanced, honest, and beautiful. When he finished playing I wished he’d play it again. Bo approaches his songwriting in an incredibly mature way. He seems to have a tight grasp on where he stands in his musical capabilities and knows what he wants to keep working on.

“I still work on annunciation. I think singing has been a visceral act, it’s very cathartic, but I also like to write lyrics and be very deliberate with what I sing. I’m trying to find a balance between losing myself and singing and conveying a message to an audience.”

I asked Bo about his influences. The first few that came to his head were Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, and Marvin Gaye. Talking about his influences brought up a concept that he referred to as the “anxiety of influence.” He talked about the pitfall of touching too much on your influences and never achieving a sense of individuality- something that happens when you’ve been too cultured into a movement of singer songwriter. It’s not definite, but rising above it requires practice, attentiveness, and time.

“I think it has to do with really… it has to do with practice, and close attention paid to your influences. It’s tricky in that way because many say that the beginning is imitation. All you can do is imitate the greats and maybe create something that touches on the excellent qualities that you admire so much, but at a certain point after you’ve read and read and are a more experienced player and writer, I feel that those artists are in dwelling, you know, you carry them with you and you’re unconsciously writing with certain turns and techniques that they used. But because you don’t realize it, it’s something unique and original. It’s applying a different aesthetic quality than your own to your perception of the world. It’s really living with those subjects.”

Bo says he is still working towards achieving an individual style. He doesn’t think he’s old enough or that he’s had enough experience. I understand what he’s saying, but I don’t think I’m a close enough listener to really notice this lack of uniqueness. I’m inclined to disagree with his assessment of himself. I haven’t heard another performer at CC that sounds like Bo, or even comes close to echoing his creative ability. His lyrics are honest and creative, and he delivers them in a way that is incredibly deliberate.

I’ve only seen Bo perform a few times outside of our interview, and every time he was alone. I asked him about it, and he told me he’s started to play with other people more recently. Bo isn’t musically educated, he plays by ear, and so in the past he hasn’t been confident in his abilities to play with other musicians. As he’s grown more experienced that’s changed, however, and he’s even given some thought to starting a band.

“I’ve thought about cover bands, that’s a really interesting idea to me. A band that would do all rockabilly music, like Buddy Holly, of Chuck Berry, those kinds of songs. It’s part of my music preference, and it’s also music people still dance to even though it’s 70 years old, which I think is fascinating.”

Bo says that music is about sharing each other’s creative work, and that sometimes the music scene here can be too exclusive.

“We need to engender creative conversations, and that starts with people wanting to share.”

Bo says he’s going to continue playing open mic at Sacred Grounds, and maybe even try to play at Coburn Unplugged. If you’ve never heard Bo play, you really should try and go see him. He has a sound that will make your heart hurt- not in a bad way, but in a way that’s incredibly vulnerable, even meaningful. Listening to Bo play alone in his room left me feeling inspired, and all I can say is that I am waiting to hear his voice again.