Interview: La Sera

La Sera is the project of Katy Goodman bassist for the Vivian Girls, her new album, which shows more of her melodic side came out 14th February. We met up with her on the final date of her European Tour in London.

First thing I wanted to ask is that I always see you referred to as ‘Kickball’ Katy Goodman just wondered where that came from?

My nickname has been ‘Kickball Katy’ for the last ten years because when I was seventeen I was a member of a super secret Kickball society, in Rochester New York but I’m not allowed to talk about it

Was music something you always wanted to do?

I never thought I could do music; it was never even a possibility in my mind. I went to for college physics, finished then college for teaching, I was going to be a physics teacher, then the month I was looking for jobs was the month the Vivian Girls took off and started doing stuff. My music career happened by accident, a happy accident.

This album is quite a different sound to the Vivian Girls, what were the influences for it?

There were no direct influences, I wasn’t aiming for it to sound like anything. Actually the first song on the album, ‘Beating Heart’, I wrote after hearing Fever Ray, so I was like I wanna make my own creepy sounding songs. That was the only one where I was aiming for a particular sound.

One thing for me was the record seemed quite nostalgic, some similarities to Real Estate and that scene.

Real Estate? I went to high school with them. I dunno I think making music like this is all I’ve ever known, people always say to me very nostalgic, old timey sounding. I’m like “what’s new timey sounding?” When people say it’s very modern or new, I don’t know, to me ‘modern sounding’ means techno. I don’t know how to make music that’s ‘today’; I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure I want to know.

You seem to play London a lot; what’s your impression of London?

My impression of London is completely formed by my relationship with Male Bonding. If it weren’t for them I don’t know how I would feel about London because I don’t know many other people but from the day the Vivian Girls first stepped foot in England, through friends, like through a friend of a friend, we got in touch with John from Male Bonding, he let us stay in his house. From that day on we’re best friends forever. Whenever we’re in town we stay with them, they make us feel like we’re at home its very nice and so I’d say that’s my main impression of London, is how wonderful the boys in Male Bonding are.

I saw you tweeted that you didn’t like the fact that you were compared to other Girl bands, which I think was to do with the Coke Machine Glow review. But more generally I was wondering about your feelings of being labeled a girl group?

It seems completely unfair because, there are so many bands in this world that are all male, they don’t get compared to each other just because they’re all male, that’s not something that happens, it just doesn’t happen. Just because a band is all girls, La Sera is not all-girl but it’s female led, I don’t think it warrants comparisons to other bands just because of that. I think it’s unfair, especially because that article was very harsh to Best Coast who I’m friends with, really good friends with them, so its hard to have people write articles about your friends and say, “your friends suck”. I don’t want to read that. Who wants to read that?

Lots of Girl Bands get asked “are you a feminist?” Does matter much to you, or the idea that you somehow represent or encourage other girls to get involved in music?

I don’t think that being involved in music and in a band is necessarily feminist; I would definitely say I am a feminist, however. I think its still crazy to be a girl in a band is a political statement. It should just be normal, it shouldn’t be seen as being any different than if it a male band. It’s true that being girl in a band it is its own statement, it’s a thing. I do want to encourage other girls to play in bands till we’re at the point where it’s not a weird thing to be a girl in a band.

Were there any particular females figures in music that made you think music was more open to you?

One of the main reasons I started playing, when I was twenty I was listening to Julie Ruin, which is Kathleen Hanna’s from Bikini Kill’s side project. She had this song called the ‘Punk Singer’, it was my favourite song the whole year, my number one favourite song. I realised that song was only four chords, repeating the entire song, the song does not change at all, it’s the easiest song ever made chord-wise. That’s when I realised you can do a lot with just four chords and melody and so that was my main inspiration to play music at all. I don’t need to be a virtuoso on guitar in order to make music that I like, definitely Kathleen Hanna.

One final question, do you have any plans for more making albums under the La Sera name?

Yes definitely. The second album is half written. Right now I am thinking how I want it to sound, I’ve kind of envisioned the record as a record, that’s where I’m at.


Single Reviews December 2010

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Round and Round’ [4AD,  2010]

The recent surge in interest in Ariel Pink’s work, and his subsequent album with Haunted Graffiti, Before Today, have seen the reclusive singer-songwriter and one time apprentice of Animal Collective redefine his musical palette; as is only to be expected. In this revaluation, his response to acclaim that has been slow to arrive (albums over the last ten years have documented closer to two decades of composition), he has retained the fundamental sound he’s been peddling all this time- nostalgic, dreamy pop music hearkening back to the 70s and 80s- whilst altering its delivery. This too is understandable: if AP’s current popularity is the result of his ambient/lo-fi earlier efforts making their influence heard in contemporary chillwave and fuzzed-up indie pop, then his riposte is to strip away that fuzz and haze to reveal the very real songwriting talents that have always supported the sonic ornamentation. It turns out that a cleaned-up Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti track wouldn’t sound out of place in the more stylish corners of the 80s: crisp disco rhythms, a tumbling ‘Billie Jean’-aping bassline, and a chorus of honeysweet harmonies. There is still a ramshackle charm in the deconstructed bridge with its strained refrain, and Ariel clearly enjoys the chorus a little too much, relying too much on it in the second half of the song. But then, that is just a sign of a musician confident in his own abilities, and it’s a confidence well earned.

Sam Goff

Eminem – ‘Echo’ (ft. Royce Da 5’9″ & Liz Rodriguez)

After collaborations on his latest album Recovery with more familiar hip hop artists, such as Lil Wayne and Rihanna, it was touch and go as to whether Eminem’s collaboration with former associate Royce da 5’9″ would work.  In fact the combination of both artists’ similar rap styles, deep, gritty and rhythmic, over a simple beat and gospel choir vocals, is strangely effective.

Sadly, whilst the verses from both Eminem and Royce are tight, and lyrically incredible, the chorus lets the track down. Vocals from Liz Rodriguez are not up to scratch, and are best described as “shouty” and even worse the transition from verse to chorus fails to flow as it should in a hip hop song. This is most noticeable in the intro of the track, where there is 52 seconds of vocals and gospel, before Royce da 5’9” starts to spit. The song would undoubtedly be better suited to a slightly more urban chorus, although the gospel backing throughout as an undertone is on point.

Eminem’s rap is certainly up to the high standards one is used to from his latest album. Typically, the content is explicit, but the words take a refreshing back seat from drugs, and focus more on music, than usual. However, the real star of the show surprisingly is Royce, for his verse, which he absolutely kills. This could be Royce’s chance to break into the popular charts; his rapping bears similarities to tracks from current hip hop superstars Tyga and J. Cole.

A massive track, with a not-so-great chorus, but definite room for more verses by a new fave of mine: Royce da 5’9”.

Libby McBride

Marnie Stern – ‘Risky Biz’ [Kill Rock Stars, 2010]

Marnie Stern’s new single has a childlike quality to it. She opens up singing line by line as if she’s forming the words as she goes along. With this slightly twee and juvenile approach more of Marnie’s own angst come out, as she sings “I’ve got something in my soul/Pushing me to hold onto the pain.” This is all quite a big change compared to her older songs. As you might have noticed, not until now is there a mention of her guitar noodling; the default opening line for any article about her. In fact it only acts as a backing to her voice and is so toned down that at first listen it’s barely noticeable. The new direction is interesting and probably necessary but still there is lingering feeling that you’d rather the excitement than the introspection.

Adam Saunders

Fujiya and Miyagi – ‘Yoyo’ [Full Time Hobby, 2011]

There is a disconnect in the bowels of this song from the gently hyped Brighton quartet; cringe worthy as it is to say this, the song has its ups and downs. The positives are in the economical instrumental base: softly distorted guitar and synth occasionally peeling away into squeaks and scrapes, a warm blanket of noise with a delicious element of unease. The negatives, unfortunately, are the rhythm and vocals that this blanket cannot hope to cover up: a single, looped jab of organ, thoughtlessly bobbing drums, and a vocal line defined by restraint, with maybe six notes and fewer lyrics. At first it seems strange to draw this line down the middle of the song: after all, minimalist repetition is the hallmark of the Krautrock/ambient music that clearly fuels Fujiya and Miyagi. After a few listens, though, the issue becomes clearer: the faint menace of the overlay is undermined by the politeness and soft delivery of the rest. Groups like Kraftwerk are exhilarating because their repetition is confrontational, daring you to dismiss the very minimal construction behind the music. F&M are comfortable with the sonic vocabulary; in fact, they’re probably too comfortable, and hence so is the listener.

Sam Goff

Live Review: Supersonic Festival, 22nd-24th October 2010

This year was the 8th Supersonic Festival but still it remains unknown to many music fans. Supersonic is a festival for truly underground bands, mainly of the noisier variety. Its unlikely that you will recognize more than half the lineup and this year there were a number of rare special performances and bands who don’t tour the UK often. But that’s part of the fun of it; some of the more memorable acts were those that I had no expectations of.

Friday night was filled with a mix of acts fusing together dance music with heavy metal and noise; with acts such as Devilman, Drumcorps and Deadfader. Apart from the dance influenced music there was also Fukpig who a largely grindcore band (see: playing exceptionally quickly), strongly influenced by the headliners Napalm Death. There were some complaints that Napalm Death were too quiet but it was testament to their abilities that they still managed to have the crowd in the palm of their hand.

King Midas Sound

One of the surprise acts of the festival for me was Dosh, a one-man band using drums and a drum machine to create intricate rhythms and then laying lush melodies over the top. Also on Saturday were King Midas Sound, a collaboration between Roger Robinson a Trinidadian poet, Japanese singer Hitomi and Kevin Martin, more well known for his work as The Bug. They created a dark reggae dubstep-infused atmosphere. Though there was an added sense of menace as the electronic parts from Kevin Martin’s felt much more direct than on their record. Following that were Tweak Bird, a brothers combo with bluesy, sludgy riffs, which rather strangely gelled with their high-pitched vocals. The only slight disappointment was the thinning crowd as the end of their set clashed with headliners Godflesh.

This was the first of the two recently reformed bands headlining Supersonic and their sound embodied the harshness and bleakness of the surrounding industrial Birmingham. They were then followed by one of the highlights of the weekend the brilliant bordering on mental Melt Banana. Despite this they were still very tight with songs skipping all over the place nearly always at breakneck speed. The star though was Yasuko Onuki who, apart from her distinctive vocals, had so much charisma and with her every movement she seemed to embody each song.

Melt Banana

After recovering from Melt Banana it was refreshing to hear Peter Broderick early the next afternoon. Using a loop pedal and numerous instruments he created warm ambient folk songs and it was all done with intelligence; he even looped the crowd’s applause. Later he joined the audience to watch James Blackshaw. With only his 12-string guitar, he mesmerized the whole chapel as he played both the melody and rhythm on one guitar, creating a mellow trance. Then it was off to see Khyam Allami and Master Musicians of Bukkake collaborate, their orchestral sound seemed liked it wouldn’t have been amiss in Lawrence of Arabia. But the pacing was slow and standing in the warehouse like space, it didn’t seem the environment to properly appreciate the music.

Master Musicians of Bukkake

The much-hyped Factory Floor went some way to backing the acclaim. Their repetitive synth beats and drums meshed together into infectious twitchy rhythms and the newer member Nik Void added post-punk style monotone vocals and guitar noise (using a drum stick and violin bow!). Swans headlined living up to their live reputation as loud and abrasive. In fact their first song went on for nearly half an hour, starting off with electronic noises, then tubular bells and finally the whole band joining in. At the centre of this orchestra of noise was Michael Gira preaching but at the same time confessing about such matters as God, father figures and good and evil. By the end despite my ears ringing I left with very large smile on my face knowing that my ears would continue like this for week or so but I that I simply didn’t care. Supersonic seems to be getting bigger and better each year, attracting more and more people. Hopefully after yet another successful weekend, the word will be spread so that next year less people will be in the dark when you mention Supersonic Festival.

Adam Saunders