atj interview :: the lisps

ATJ presents the LISPS, Wed, Oct. 22, 2008, for After the Jump’s CMJ Showcase at the Knitting Factory NYC, performing at 8:45PM inside the Old Office (Best of NYC), along with the Beets, Inlets, Motel Motel, Alina Simone and the Muggabears.

Listen :: Brackish Water

MIA: Musically, how did the band form, what past experiences do you carry with you?

Cesar and I (Sammy) started dating, and a few months later I was in Europe performing a play. He came out and we traveled around together for a few weeks and just started singing a lot together, sortof unexpectedly. When we got back to new york, we recorded a few songs Cesar had written, with our friend Kyle, our upstairs neighbor Luke and our friend Nick on drums. Later, we had a different drummer, an old friend of mine, Mikey, and a new bass player, who Cesar met in grad school, Jeremy. And THEN, Kyle’s old friend Eric joined as our drummer. Cesar is also a composer, and professor of music, Jeremy is also a writer and independent publisher, I’m also an actress, and Eric is an amazing chef, and a student. This is the first band I’ve been in, but Cesar was a solo musician for a while and is a conservatory trained saxophonist and electronic musician, Jeremy was in a bunch of bands before, and Eric plays drums for The Ladybug Transistor among others, and does a lot drumming for burlesque performers.

MIA: Describe the feeling of living and making music in your city, feel free to share a memory or a certain place that makes you feel like home.

Well, we wrote the majority of our songs in Cesar and my loft in the South Bronx, where we also had a little studio set up. We started out playing at our apartment for friends, during birthday parties, so that apartment has a lot of meaning for us, I think. We don’t live there any more, but I’m still convinced it is the nicest apartment I will have ever lived in. We also started organizing shows at the Bruckner Bar, which was the bar down the street with a beautiful stage, lone spotlight, vintage booths etc. We played some terrible, terrible shows there with some really really great other bands, but it ultimately it is where we honed our craft, experimented, screwed up a lot and figured out who we were as a band and what we wanted to look and sound like.

MIA: Do you enjoy to perform live? How does the band like to get ready and is there a favorite song that you like to play for your audience?

I can’t speak for the boys, but I put on a lot of red lipstick, short, and/or tight clothes and listen to some jay-z. One of my favorite pre-show things is just riding to the venue with everyone. It makes me feel like we’re on tour, but then we get to leave each other afterward! I think we play well together when we eat together before hand. We actually disagree a little about what we like to play live. There are some songs I hate singing live because I’m just so bored of them, but those same songs Jeremy or Cesar like to play. I also love to play covers and Cesar hates it. It’s always fun to play new songs live for the first time.

MIA: What has been the most impacting compliment, or criticism, your band has ever received?

A guy in a band that we played with in North Carolina, a band called Sweater Weather, I’ll never forget, after our show said, “Your songs make me love myself.” I think that pretty much sums up our music. Someone also once told me that my voice sounded like a mother singing to her baby, which I think is very sweet and is pretty accurate. Anytime someone tells me they like my voice, it means a lot to me, because I hate my voice. We’re very critical of each other I think, hopefully in a constructive way, but I think we really do challenge each other a lot and it just makes us better.

MIA: Within your songwriting, is there some type of element that has brought about a certain mood in yr writing, making you feel more/less different than when you started? How long has the recording process taken to complete your album and to finally believe that it’s ready?

Well, the most obvious is that Cesar and I were a couple for a long time, and wrote a lot of songs about our relationship and love and domesticity and all that, and then broke up, so the “element” of breaking up brought about a certain MOOD if you will for a little while there. I think our dynamic has changed a little, touring is different, and our songs are maybe a little less personal. As for recording, we had a very distinct idea of what we wanted our album to sound like, so for the most part it was a pretty quick and somewhat painless process. It helped that we recorded it in upstate NY so we were surrounded by nature and were a little more relaxed. We recorded it in July and August of 2007 and we pretty much had the album sealed and in our hands in December I think.

MIA: What qualities do you hope listeners may take from listening to your music?

We hope that people love each other and themselves more after hearing our music.

MIA: Any recommended records so far of ‘08?

Oh, god. I listen to mostly old music, but let’s see. People we’ve toured with or our friends who we love and whose music we love are: These United States, Creaky Boards, Vermillion Lies, Rafter Roberts, Oliver Future,  Bell, Chris Garneau, and Drink up Buttercup. Honestly, we all listen to wildly different music.

MIA: Name a visual artist or piece of work that inspires you.

I was heavily influenced by the early drawings and watercolors of Joseph Beuys when I was doing the art for Country Doctor Museum. I think a lot of his drawings and watercolors aim to make people aware of relationships in a really condensed, highly abbreviated way. The drawings are all at once primitive, chemical, medical, and anatomical. The drawing on the cover of our album is actually a Joseph Beuys reference to his “white crosses on red.” A lot of his early water colors have a lot of medical references, anatomy, sometimes include blood, etc so that had a big influence on our album art and I also think the discussions we had about the album art really made us articulate to each other what this album was about, and why we titled it what we did,

MIA: Please share a mixtape with a theme of your choice.

There is a theme, but it’s private…

Side A
Bigger Than Hip HopDead Prez
Hey BoyThe Blow
EvergreenThe Fiery Furnaces
Bring it on HomeSam Cooke
Jam RockDamian Marley
YeaYeahMatt and Kim
By Your SideCocoRosie

Side B
Holland, 1945Neutral Milk Hotel
While My Guitar Gently WeepsThe Beatles
Work ItMissy Elliott
I Was Made to Love HerStevie Wonder
I Want Your SexGeorge Michael
Leave the CityMagnolia Electric Co.
Absolutely CuckooMagnetic Fields
Man in the MirrorMichael Jackson

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