Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle and Broken Social Scene sits down at a computer to have a digital conversation with Maria Albani about her Organos project and the new Limbs EP.
Andrew: Percussion looms large on your EP. Poundy and goooddd…. Name your top 6 records that go THUMP in da Night. The first place I heard amazing hand / anything percussive was during my “Wild Honey/Smiley Smile” Beach Boys phase…. When did you know you were gonna make beats? When did you first first love rhythm?
Maria: I always knew I’d be “makin’ beats” since I was a tiny. I loved music and was always singing and trying to play things that weren’t instruments. My mom told me that I use to sit on the console of my grandfather’s Caddy and belt “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka. Hmmm. Top 6 records that go thump for me would be…
1. Animal Collective: Feels
2. Welcome: Sirs
3. Boss Hog: Boss Hog
4. Talk Talk: The Colour of Spring
5. Juana Molina: Tres Cosas
6. 3Ds: Hellzapoppin’
Andrew: How deep into the drums do you like going? Er, Clipse & derty souf, anyone? Is there a difference between the drums you like on your own music and what you like at other times? I guess I’m askin’ how many times per week do you all Hit da Club? Do all southern peeps like ‘da club’?
Maria: The derty souf is in my soul, and I like to keep it there. I ain’t trying to be Trina. There aren’t full drums in many of my songs. I like a very tribal, yet elementary, aspect to drums. For me, it’s about finding the rhythm that immediately comes to mind, and making it work with whatever else has already been laid down. Drums are usually last when I record, so it’s really about what kind of room is left for them. Unless I’ve come up with other percussive rhythms using bottles or spoons early on in the recording process. I don’t think any of us go to the club. Carrboro, very sadly, lacks in Da Club department. Although the last time I hit a club in Chapel Hill, I got lifted off the ground by my crotch from an anonymous hand, so…no. I don’t believe ALL southern peeps like “da club.”
Andrew: What’s yer DJ name if you’ve got one? If not, tell the folks what it would be and what your first 5 tunes would be and where we could go check the vibes…
Maria: My DJ name is 9LIVEZ. My 1st 5 tunes would be remix jams of songs about/that mention cats.
- “What’s New Pussycat” by Tom Jones
- “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson
- “Stray Cat Strut” by Stray Cats
- “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
- “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart.
And you could catch me throwing vibes in alleys with the strays, or inside of a Pet Smart near you.
Andrew: Onto the strings…all kinds of great riffage on the record. Very melodic, very pointed, and angular. I find that lotsa people these days are definitely not into the strum-thing. Why is everyone so down on strumming…. What? You dont like Velvet Lou?
Maria: I don’t know chords, notes, or how to properly play guitar. I think a lot of the angles come out of a lack of knowledge on the instrument. Perhaps I would strum more if I knew more, but probably not. It’s a style thing I think. Plus I write my songs on bass 1st. 90% of the time, when I have a song in my head, I will go to the bass to hash it out, not the guitar.
Andrew: I read a long time ago a blog that you wrote called “O Florida.” Your description of the place was like watching the summer heat wave up from the pavement and getting tar in yr toes when you’re young. Tell us about how Florida might be speaking thru you on this record.
Maria: I don’t think that Florida speaks through me on the record. Maybe it does, and I don’t know it yet. I think if anything, the heat and solitude of being a kid there helped gear me towards this music that comes out of me. Growing up as an only child with 1 parent, I entertained myself a lot. That often meant drawing and singing and then sharing it with whoever was around! Including the pets.
Andrew: I watched a recent performance of Organos on the YouTube: masks! Can you weigh in on the whole performance issue? Is it cooler to just come on stage and play the music and try to get out of its way (Wilco, Dirty P’s ) OR make it a thot-out entertainment for people — music is the focus, but there should be much more going on (Beck, Gogol Bordello, Gonzales). Again, do your opinions differ when it’s your own thing or when you’re going to check something new out?
Maria: The masks are worn by the musicians who help me when I play out live. My friend Theresa (who occasionally plays in Organos) came up with the idea for the very 1st Organos show. She created paper mache masks that resembled my face for the band to wear. It made perfect sense, because recording, I do everything myself, one instrument at a time. Obviously I can’t pull that off live, so the masks put my face on all of them who were playing my parts. We got a really positive response to them. I think that people like to be surprised once in a while. You go to see a show, and for the most part, you do just expect folks to walk out, pick up their instruments, and play the songs. There is definitely so much more beyond that that can be done, but I think it just depends on what people are shooting for.
Andrew: My favourite song is called “Wasted”…you fill the phrase up with intense reverberation of meaning by simply removing it from its usual party place, altho not entirely. How did this song come to be?
Maria: Honestly, I was battling some very heavy depression/anxiety stuff at the time of writing that song. I wasn’t meaning for it to come off like I was saying that I was “wasted on drugs.” I WAS wasted (felt spent) as in NO ENERGY, and feeling like I was so depressed that I was completely on something that was affecting my vision and my life. For the most part, I was just going through the motions of routine and whatnot, which is where the repetitive, drony bass line came from.
Andrew: Maria, you used to work at a pretty famous indie record shoppe…. Sometimes listening to new artists, the track can be great, but then when the vocals kick in, you get disappointed: the singer isn’t firing on your wavelength. How persistent are you with listening to new music? Do you give a thing 30 seconds and then into the trash — or maybe put away and come back? What makes you stay with a certain musician?
Maria: Working at the record store made it so easy to sample so many different types of music. I was surrounded by music and by people who loved music and/or played music. It was the best job I’ll ever have had. As far as giving things a chance, I usually do have about a 30 second bar. Sometimes I can tell sooner than 30 seconds whether or not I’m going to like something. I’m pretty impatient. The musicians I tend to stay with are those who I have a visceral reaction over their voice(s). Neko Case is a perfect example. She could sing Clay Aiken songs, and I would love it because it would be HER VOICE. And then there are those that I want to stay with because their sound intrigued me or changed my perception of the art of song-writing, but they haven’t done anything new with it! They are still doing the same shit they were doing in 2000. That is a very tricky thing for musicians; keeping their uniqueness while growing into new directions. You can’t do it too quickly, and you can’t do it too slowly! It’s all about timing!
Andrew: Tell us what kinda circus you’d curate given the financial freedom. Please include 3 bands/muses, 3 animal acts, 1 clown, one MC, and the location.
Maria: Good lord. Ummm. 3 bands would be Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, & Stevie Nicks. 3 animal acts: Keyboard Cat, Mr. Winkle, and Toonces the Driving Cat. 1 clown? I wouldn’t have a clown because I HATE HATE HATE clowns. I would MC my own circus. I will have this circus when I am in heaven.
Andrew: Who would be on your ultimate rock tour and play with Organos?
Maria: 3Ds, Polvo, and Swirlies. But I would probably have a heart attack and throw up everywhere.
Andrew: Well, I did get to hear some of these track in an earlier form, but i gotta say: your album still ExHalts the 4Track old styles so well! It’s like the White Stripes’ song where he sings about being “in yr little room, and workin’ on somethin good”…. Was the transition a) easy b) not easy) c) difficult d) damn near impossible) for you to make.
Maria: You were the first to hear many of these songs, and that was when I was fumbling with trying to figure out how to even record! I am soooo happy I was able to keep a lot of that feel when I went into Pox to record “for reals” with Nathan Oliver. That was something that both Nathan and I were very concerned about. We literally did everything pretty much the same when we got to recording together. Recording each instrument one at a time, with the parts pretty exact to how they were on the demos. We were careful not to embellish on anything just because we had the opportunity and easiness of being in a studio with many different instruments and effects. We went in with the same goals and clear communication about it, so in this instance, it was very easy.
Andrew: Finally — sorry, but gotta ask, being that I’m a Canuck— wow, but Obama isn’t turning out to be the leftie we’d hoped for up here. You?
Maria: I’d say no, but considering the political climate in the States, you can’t really expect much more from the man. He’s passed major legislation (health care, financial reform, stimulus) during a recession, and though the bills aren’t quite as progressive as I’d like them to be, at least he’s getting things done. One man can’t change the culture by himself.