September '67 is a female duo from Virginia. Shannon and Kristin play sweet, enchanting pop music and appear onstage only with electric guitar and drums - which is kind of unusual. Plus they created the phrase "We need more Bossa Nova in our lives" which I borrowed from them to use in the Smoke City interview. So, how did it all happen?
SHANNON: I was playing folk music. It sort of became my scene - and I hated it. It's so purist in terms of fascist. Everyone was the same and everyone had those rules. Kristin was singing with me sometimes. We found that quite boring and got together, basically to learn how to play pop-music. Kristin started to learn how to play drums and I started to play electric guitar. Two months later we started recording the record. We didn't have a label then, we were working on a job. So it took about a year to make. The record is basically us learning how to play together. We had a good time. Though it's not very cool to be optimistic, we made a choice that was part of the design. I think I like to be more positive - or hopeful is a more interesting word - about it. I like a lot of songwriters who are more honest like older ones like Joni Mitchell, or Randy Newman, The Beach Boys. It's just more real than either the super-angry or super-ironic pop music that is popular now.
Indeed: "Lucky Shoe", the aforementioned record has a certain gentleness and playfulness about it which is very appealing.
S: "Lucky Shoe" is just kind of hopefulness, feeling grateful, too - which is also uncool, I'm afraid.
KRISTIN: My background growing up was like in my house there was a lot of Jazz going on, a lot of pop-music, too. I listened to the Jackson Five, Billy Idol and all the pup stuff. But the basic underline was that my dad was a Jazz-buf. My mom was very much into...
S.: BARBRA Streisand - she was like my mom.
K.: ...Anne Murray and Barry Manilow. So it was a very different kind of music.
The record was produced by David Lowery (Cracker). How did this happen?
S.: Well, he lives near us. Did you hear the Sparklehorse-record? He did that. We sort of made our way to David through admiring Sparklehorse. I met David at a show. We became friends and David started working on the record after we'd already begun. It's a new studio and they do a lot of indie-things. It's a great environment. It's like all '75 state of the art equipment. They say they bought a desk where Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" was recorded on.
David Lowery also works with FSK from Germany. The studio - "Sound of Music" - is named after one of their records. Then there's Ben Folds mentioned in the Liner Notes.
S.: He gave us a lot of help. He was actually going to produce. When he came into the studio to help us produce, it didn't work out. Not just because of musical ideas and stuff, but because he had such a strong idea of how we were supposed to sound and we didn't want to go in that direction. We like his stuff, though.
K.: He learned us to play the Wurlitzer piano which you can hear on the record.
But back to S'67: Despite all those boring influences, their music sounds pretty o.k. and comparatively ingenius. (I didn't put it exactly that way, of course) How come?
S.: Well we want to do our thing. Which is probably take a folk song and make it sound differently, make it sound like something else. Kristin has a lot of ideas and she really changes the format of the song into being something else. We're trying to be a band, even though we are two of us. We are trying to be four boys. We try to sustain this certain kind of fearlessness instead of being limited. I think of limitations of a strength maybe. Something good. You are always learning, always are a beginner.
What input did the producer(s) have?
K.: I think it was a lot but it was more subtle. They didn't tell us what to do. But they were really encouraging in trying different things, instruments which were into the studio and stuff. It was really weird: We were growing into what we are and they were watching it, too.
S.: They created an environment where we weren't embarrassed - which is really important because that's a problem a lot of times with boys. For instance with Ben (Folds). He had such a strong idea of what he wants and also with me - he had an idea of how we should be. That was good and it was exciting for me to have advice from him but sometimes his idea was lerger than mine and I got swallowed into his vision...whereas David and John just created this environment where we could feel save. It was very liberating for us. And also there was a lot of confidence because we realized that we could do things on our own.
What's the reason for starting playing music together?
K.: The reason for me was that I was doing something else that I wasn't enjoying - singing in a band. That didn't seem to have any sort of center or heart. When Shannon asked me to sing with her I definitely found that there was some sort of foundation or substance. It meant a lot more for me. And that was the reason why I started to play drums - this meaningful environment.
How do they write songs?
S.: Well, I make up the songs on an acoustic nylon guitar. Then I take them to practise and then we immediately play them on electric guitar and drums. We just kind of start playing it, spontaneously. Neither of us can articulate anything verbally because we don't know. We taught the instruments to ourselves. It's important to keep your mind out of the process as much as you can, because it's already there if you have a song. Because there's s story or something.
What about the name of the band?
S.: It's more of the same thing about being hopeful and maybe a little bit sad. I mean September is a little bit of both. And then '67 - it's like the end of the summer of love. It 's like the end of innocence in America, where things started to go to shit - with all those riots and Vietnam and stuff, things started to fall apart. I guess September is evocative and I love them.
K.: We both like melancholy.
And "Lucky Shoe"?
S.: It's a song about relationship. I don't know - maybe it says "Give me back my lucky shoe". It's like some emblem of innocence. A lucky shoe is a horseshoe which you hang over the door.
There are some songs which come with names. Is this coincidentally or are there real person behind them?
S.: Sometimes you like sound of a word. The sound of certain names have melodies. Most of the names are real people. All of the songs are about real people. But sometimes you change the names so they don't get mad at you. "What's Wrong With Alice" is about a boy but I changed it into "Alice" so he wouldn't be able to find himself in a song because he would have been to impressed with himself. "Hazel Motes" is a character in a book by Flannery O'Connor who is a Southern writer. And there's also actual a movie directed by John Huston. It's called "Wiseblood" - which is also the name of the book. And Hazel Motes is sort of this twisted Southern guy. Did you see "Slingblade"? He's kind of like this guy from "Slingblade". This idiot savant. It is sort of like a moral play. Southern fiction sort of has like morality and strange tales. They are about strange people doing strange things in isolation.
What about "Slingblade"? Did you like it?
S.: I liked it. It's hard to be from the South and every movie having those bad stereotypes like with "Deliverance" or something. And "Forrest Gump". It's sad that all those heroes in American movies have to be stupid or have to be disabled - "Rain Main". The only way to be morally perfect is to be lobotomized or to have something the matter with you.
What a perfect final word!
Interview: -Ullrich Maurer-
Fotos: -Ullrich Maurer-
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