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Talk Normal

Talk Normal

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Friday 11th November, 2011 12:34PM

Brooklyn duo Talk Normal signed to Rare Book Room Records and released their first album, Sugarland, in 2009. They're about to open for Wire in the UK so we caught up with the band to find out what they've been up to since they released their album and what we can expect from them going forward.

How did you guys form?

We've been friends, almost sisters, for the past 12 years. Andrya's played in various bands, one of which was called Antonius Block (think Nico crooning over deconstructed guitars and simple big beats). Antonius began looking for a bassist or another guitar player, and Sarah expressed interest. She joined the band, and learned the songs quickly. That band dissolved about six months later due to health issues, but from that, Sarah and I realized we were on the same page. There was a simplicity that came from Antonius Block; it was repetitive and minimal, and we wanted to continue to further these ideas.

How did your sound develop to what it is now?

We started off minimal and still pretty much remain in this aesthetic. After all, there are only two of us. Why work against the forces? Sounds are always being explored as well as new arrangement and orchestration ideas. Vocals are being more exposed these days and are crafted with great thought and intention, not that our instrument parts aren't carefully conceived. The process of writing is yet to be set in stone. Sometimes one of us will kick off an idea for a song and bring in the other. Sometimes we write and arrange together or sold separate. The creation protocol remains free and seems to be moving towards a more natural flow, although still undefinable.

Tell me about your debut album Sugarland.

Sugarland was the product of about two years of collaboration. Writing 'process' varied from song to song as we found our footing – always a work in progress. It was recorded and mixed with Nicolas Verhnes @ a studio in Brooklyn called Rare Book Room.

You’ve been described as ‘no wave’ among other things. How would you describe your sound. Are there any eras or bands you’re particularly influenced by?

Can't say a specific era has ever spoken to me, us. We consider ourselves to take bits and pieces from many artists/bands, usually extraordinary loners with great intention. We love dirty blues artists like Geeshie Wiley from the 1930s – this stuff is raw and possesses a sincerity that is almost vulgar. We like early 20th century piano man Henry Cowell who prepared his piano to suit the needs of his wild and sophisticated imagination. Think deep thunder with sugary melodies on top. This is a deep influence on our sound. We love the minimalism of avant composers of the mid and later 20th century like Moondog, Laurie Anderson, Terry Riley etc. Post punk – I love it's artsy take on a the watered down defiance of 'punk rock' i.e Public Image Limited, Alternative TV etc. And current hip hop, Top 40 and pop R&B anything – shit, Kanye West's production and arrangement ideas are brilliant. I study all aspects of his music.

Re: “No Wave.” We get this a lot. I think I summed it up well in a previous interview. Hope you don't mind the cut and paste! “I did listen to those [No Wave] bands years ago and I was influenced more or less by DNA, although not so much by other no-wave bands. It was a big movement that I certainly respect, but it encompassed a lot; it was a movement in film and art, too. I think we’re labeled no-wave mainly because of the discordant guitars, and if you want to get specific, what people call our “primitive” drums. What makes them primitive? The fact that I don’t use cymbals? I don’t know. I understand the no-wave thing, but I think we have a lot more structure and melody going on, plus intricacies in arrangements. We’re minimal and simple and raw, and those were aspects of the no-wave movement. But if it’s just about making crappy things into something beautiful, we can relate to that too, if you want to draw parallels. But you can draw parallels to lots of things. I’m not going to fight to prove it—people are just going to have to listen to us.”

What kind of response are you trying to evoke from an audience with the Talk Normal sound?

Understandably we're intense and most often edgy. Definitely not easy listening but we do have effective pop sensibilities rife with melodies that will haunt your brain. We see ourselves as simultaneously poking our listeners and then giving them a big hug. Sincere and playful. Amidst the haze, joy usually triumphs. And rhythm - we will make you dance.

You guys are a two-piece. Tell me about the limitations or positive qualities of there only being two members of the band?

Less is easier but yes, sometimes challenging. Challenging most often when I/we compare ourselves to the sound and presence and orchestral ideas other bands get to explore and employ in their songs. Admittedly, this makes me envious and the compare and contrast game is a nasty past time. BUT it has made us master editors - we constantly have to boil songs down into their most crucial kernels in addition to what we can both gracefully pull off in the live context. Perhaps this makes our approach to song writing and performance more unorthodox, producing a sound more unique and separate from others... not that other bands aren't “unique” cause everyone has their own specific limitations they have to stare down and make their own. In the case of Talk Normal, I have come to look forward to this challenge of making less options work more efficiently.

What bands have you been listening to or been inspired by lately?

PC Worship, Guardian Alien, Sic Alps, Future Islands, EMA, Nicki Minaj, Kurt Vile, Lower Dens, US Girls, Matthew Dear, Kanye West, Danielle Dax, Share Van Etten, Clara Ward.

Tell me what’s on the cards for Talk Normal going forward.

Mid-November we head to the UK to support Wire for 3 weeks, after that we'll play some Europe dates and return home. Right now (fall 2011) we're mixing our next album. Should be released early 2012.

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