Tunes Tuesday Talks To ther - Transcript
Maud Mostly: Hello and welcome to The Other Teams Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series that discusses music and matters with queer artists you love. I'm your host Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and joining me this week is Philadelphia-based band ther. Thank you so much for being here with me today. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Heather: Yeah. Hi, my name is Heather. I use they/them or she/her. I do all of the writing and arranging and production for the band.
M: Awesome, well, I'm so happy to have you here and I'm really excited to connect because on February 18th, you released your debut album, trembling. And trembling reckons with the feelings of watching a world in crisis, the specific systemic issues to the accompanying sense of helplessness. As this album was produced during an ongoing pandemic, how did reckoning through the music help you sit with and move through the difficult times?
H: I guess it did provide an outlet for a lot of rage and sadness and frustration that I guess otherwise, I couldn't really have any outlet because it was... Most of the recording happened in the early stages of the pandemic pre-vaccine, where we didn't have a lot of information and we were just staying inside mostly all the time, and so I guess we didn't really have a lot of outlets for much at all. So I didn't have this for that reason, and it was also something to occupy my time, which I also needed!
M: And do you feel like since its release, it's provided a sense of connection with community and others?
H: I like to think so. I mean, it's hard to know what other...Can't read people's minds, but the people that I have talked to about it extensively about more of who wanted to talk to me about it rather, seem to get it, and I think... I feel... It's like when making an album, I feel like I usually get really lost in the sauce and I forget what I was trying to say in the first place, whether it's recording my own music, we're working with somebody else, of losing the original thread of what it's about happens a lot, but I was kind of surprised we're talking back with people kind of realizing like, ‘Oh yeah, I totally did that on purpose back in May of 2020, and I completely forgot about it,’ and it’s just funny like working on it for so long and so many things about the record to becoming invisible that because a bunch of people are listening to it for the first or second or third, everything is very visible and new and fresh, so it's been nice to see and hear that talk back and kinda getting that feedback and seeing all of these seeds that I planted a long time ago and stuff like I neglected are kinda bearing fruit now. It's a nice feeling.
M: Yeah, definitely, that's really lovely. And I feel like I've been hearing you talk on social media in reference to the album, it's kind of taken off ahead of a lot of your other releases, and do you feel like it's that connection to these themes of crisis that we've all kind of collectively been going through and watching in our own ways, that's maybe like luring people into this particular album?
H: I feel like, yeah, I also feel like my music making process used to be pretty selfish and self-oriented and self-centered and about processing things that are happening to me, and just like the product just happens to be songs, but a lot of stuff in the past has been very specific to me and really just me, but I think that with this album, I think I really thought not just about the themes of the song right? 'Cause some of the songs really old, some of the songs are like seven years old, but in the process of producing it and recording it, I thought a lot about what am I trying to communicate and how do I make it as obvious as I possibly can? And that was kind of a new approach that I took. And I do feel like that directly paid off, y’know? Being focused on thinking about more in the very beginning, just the part writing and early demoing stages of how is this going to be perceived and how does that align with my intentions? And so I think that with that, and especially with like... I feel like a larger group of people have become radicalized against capitalism and the police state in the last two years, that I feel like a lot of things that I have been writing about that have felt a little more niche and used to be really alienating topics are now not as alienating, which is great news.
That's great, I love that. And so I feel like a lot of political change has shifted that I think has aligned with a perspective I've been writing from for a while, and so I feel like a lot of that... A lot of things like stick and read a little more clearly than they used to.
M: Yeah, definitely, and that's a really powerful shift, and I feel like it takes us into the fact that since the release of trembling, you have already announced that your sophomore album is in progress, talking about this big shift in your music and then already moving forward with kind of what's next, what led you or pushed you to already dive into LP2 and kind of keep moving forward with that?
H: Well, well, I think it's... My full-time job is I run a recording studio, a recording and mastering studio in Philly, and so a lot of my energy and time, and specifically musical energy gets dominated by a lot of client work, and so in the past, it's been really, really hard for me to set aside time for my own work, and it always has been 'cause it's always emotionally difficult to focus on your thing, but also because it doesn't make me any money, it actually costs me money as far as labor hours go, y’know? If I'm working for two weeks on my album every day, that's half a months pay that I'm just giving up, so it's been hard to find those times, but I think that with trembling happening and then... Well, actually the other thing is before I even started recording trembling, I had three albums written already just because I've been so bad at setting aside time to work on my own stuff, but there's been this buildup of material. And so when I was working on trembling, it was like, cool, this is the first one, I have two more to go that are written already, so it was kind of always the plan, but then it just kind of happened that at around the time trembling came, two months before trembling came out, we had already started recording LP2 because that was the time that we found to do stuff. And now my work schedule has left me able to be more flexible with my time in a way that I couldn't be before, and especially with the new record it’s totally different, it's like acoustic guitar and much smaller arrangements and way less percussion and all that stuff, and because it's not in the middle of pre-vaccine covid I can work with my bandmates, and that has been really exciting to be like, ‘Oh, I can bring in my bandmates who I love and trust so much to work with my stuff and elevate it,’ and so that's made me really excited, and I think all of these things really culminated into feeling this itch to get started on the next record as soon as I possibly could, and that just happened to be around the time the first one dropped.
M: Yeah, that's really exciting. Can you share anything else about maybe the themes or styles that you're hoping to bring up through LP2?
H: Yeah, I think the LP2 is a little more insular. It's a lot of songs that I wrote when I was in the process of... Basically, I kind of suffered a lot of interpersonal losses and had a manic breakdown around the same time, like a few years ago, and it took a long time to put in the work to rectify stuff and put my life back together, and I think I wrote a lot of... And I don't think, it's not about that, but I wrote a lot of those songs during that time when I was struggling with very specific things. I was reconsidering what it meant to like to be friends with someone and what it means to be attached. And a lot of things, like there's a lot more interpersonal, very individual level stuff, it's not as sweeping or grandiose, I don't think... And it's mostly acoustic instruments, it's much folkier. I feel like for people who know the split that I did with Saturn, it's more like that kind of palette than trembling, so that's been really exciting to dig into and also kind of nerve-racking to dig into the sophomore album, kind of feeling like I need to beat the first one while also doing something completely different, which is kind of liberating and also scary, but...Yeah, that's all I can really say about that. There’s still a lot more work to do. It's still being shaped and I still don't totally know what it is yet.
M: Yeah, thank you for sharing what you could. And regardless, it sounds like there is definitely a lot to look forward to, and I feel like that's always such a difficult balance for artists, always feeling like you have to live up to certain expectations of music you previously released while also still creating what you want to create and moving forward in a direction that you want to move forward in. And I know you briefly just mentioned it, but I really wanted to talk about this aspect of your work as well, because alongside the band's music, as you mentioned, you also work as an audio engineer in your studio, So Big Auditory. So how does working with other artists inspire and influence you?
H: Oh, it's like nothing but inspiration and influence. There is so much to be gained just from being able to have my fingers like deep inside so many different peoples music and just understanding, getting such a close look and starting to understand after poking around inside and seeing how it works, developing so much more insight about what makes the music tick and what makes it good, and where the backbone is and what people are trying to say with their music and how they're going about that, it's like... I guess when I'm not very self-centeredly, trying to just make sure I'm doing a good job and that I'm earning my wages. I feel like when I'm not doing that in my better moments, I'm more focused on the music and what makes it work, and I feel like it's gotten me exposed to so many different processes and sounds and ideas and approaches that I never would have done by myself, ever... And I don't think I'm stealing anything from the artists that I work with, but it definitely broadens my horizons and kind of grows the realm of possibilities, and that is always really exciting and has made it harder to fall into habits, at least when it comes to putting a record. I feel like I still have my habit to a fault, I still have habits when it comes to sitting down at a guitar and writing a song, I have a thing that I do, but when it comes to putting a song together in the studio, I feel like I've just been pulled in so many different directions by so many different artists that there is no default way to do it, it's just you can do whatever you want, and I feel very liberated by having all of these past experiences that pull me away from doing what feels comfortable, and I feel like that's a huge benefit.
M: Yeah, that is all really cool. I love just how much you're able to learn and kind of expand your music and what you can use and you're styling through that, do you also feel like it's helped you kind of build community with other musicians and navigate that kind of world as well?
H: Definitely, I feel like it's been... I had a brief stint of booking shows in Philly, and at the same time, I had just started the studio, and I feel like the two really went hand-in-hand, and through those two happening at the same time, I just met a lot of people really, really fast, who I wouldn't have met otherwise. And I feel like just this kind of cooperative quality of instead of trying to think about it as like, I've got a snag this client for this gig or whatever, it's been more about like, I would love to work on that person's music one day, so I would love to get to know this person and develop a relationship with them and hope to be brought on some time, and it doesn't always work, like I get passed over for other engineers all the time, but I think it definitely like through working with people really closely, that strengthens relationships and through wanting to be available to other people, I think it really forces me to...And also make money, if I'm being honest, I think it encourages me and incentivizes me to constantly try and push the limits of my community, I think like, ‘Oh, that's a person who I kind of know, but I could be friendlier too and maybe I should talk to them more,’ or ‘this person hit me up about something a while ago and I forgot to message them back, maybe I should follow up with them in person.’ Things like that, that I think has all in their own small way led to a larger community for me than I ever thought I would have. And that's really cool.
M: I love that so much, and I just love the overall concept and practice of forming those deeper bonds with the people that we work with and the people that we want to work with, and I feel like that's so particularly important in any kind of arts practice, because it really lets us embrace each other's ideas more and get into that creative process more, so that's so exciting to hear. And I encourage you, if you would like to learn more about So Big Auditory, I linked it down below as well as all of the music that we have been talking about as well as social media, so you can follow up on news about LP2. Thank you so much for joining me this week on Tunes Tuesday. It was such a pleasure to talk to you and ther will be playing us out.
H: Thanks for having me.
*a mouse by ther begins playing*