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Friday 5: Katie Davis

Friday 5: Katie Davis

Originally posted May 18, 2012

Katie Davis is an amazing singer­-songwriter from Seattle who I’ve been a fan of since the early days of Rubyfruit Radio. Her songs are a mix of melancholy and emotion (in a good way!). Add her brilliant voice and you’ve got something truly special.

Recently, Katie started creating greeting cards as a way to finance her music. They’ve gotten rave reviews and are selling like crazy. Go to ilikeyouandnaps.com and check out them out. Zooey Deschanel loves them, shouldn’t you? Also, check out her website where you can download one of her EPs for free.

What was the first concert you ever attended?

I think the first show I went to was Sweetwater at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. I was maybe a freshman in high school. The theater had seats, and my ticket had my seat number on it, so even though there were empty seats up front, I stayed in my seat in the back because I thought I would get in trouble if I moved up.

If you could form a band with 3 other people in it, who would those 3 people be?

Okay, the choices are overwhelming me, so I’m forming a random band:
Mick Jagger, Carrie Brownstein, my sister

THIS BAND IS AWESOME. Also, in this imaginary band, I would like to suddenly know how to play drums.

You have an Etsy shop and your “I Like You and Naps” cards have become quite popular and have been blogged about in countless places. You’ve expanded the selection quite a bit recently. Do you plan on continuing making cards and coming up with new ones? What’s the inspiration behind them?

“I like you and naps” was a simple expression of how much I like naps.
I put up a handful of cards on Etsy, and suddenly I had so many sales I broke my printer and had to shut down my shop for a few days. It turns out naps are very popular.

All my cards are simple expressions of my self or inspired by my friends. “I do not like jobs.” “Love is weird.” “You drink too much.” I just wanted to make something I liked. It makes me happy that other people like them too.

I will definitely continue to make cards! The money I make selling cards helps me to support my music.

Sad songs seem to be your signature. Why sad songs?

I love sad songs. They are my favorite.
I like sad songs that say something beautiful or honest. I like sad songs with hope.

How do you approach your songwriting and where does your inspiration come from?

I think maybe writing songs about things is how I let them go. I write without really thinking about it. I’m not sitting down with a guitar like, “I will write a song about this thing.” I’m just playing and something comes up. I feel like I’m trying to remember the words. I’m always trying to say it more simply, more honestly.

A few months ago, I woke up singing a song from my dream. I rolled over in bed and sang the chorus right into my phone.

Songwriting comes and goes for me. One season, I write a bunch of songs. The next season, nothing comes. When it comes, I get caught up in it. I will play a new song over and over all night.

Buy Katie’s Music from Amazon

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Friday 5: Sam Shaber of The Happy Problem

Friday 5: Sam Shaber of The Happy Problem

Originally posted May 11, 2012

When I first about The Happy Problem, I noticed that Sam Shaber was the lead vocalist. Sam Shaber? In an indie punk band? Yes, that Sam Shaber, the same Sam Shaber who spent several years on the folk circuit where it was just her and her guitar. I took one listen to her new project, The Happy Problem and was hooked. It’s a departure from her singer-songwriter days, but it’s still amazing!

What was the first concert you every went to?
Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” Tour at Radio City Music Hall, 11th row. After the Beastie Boys opened for her, they came and sat right next to us! I was traumatized and fascinated – life has never been the same since.

Who are your musical influences?
My influences run the gamut from Nirvana to Duran Duran to No Doubt to
Nine Inch Nails to Green Day to the White Stripes and beyond. But while those are the bands I most learn from musically, when the moment comes to start working on a song, the inspiration can come from anywhere. This week I’m working on something kickstarted by the 3D documentary PINA about the avant garde choreographer. There’s one scene with dancers making the most out of an on-stage, man-made lake, accompanied by this joyful, funky rap music about getting stoned, and all of a sudden I was sitting in my seat with an idea!

You were a solo folk singer and have now transitioned into a much heavier sound. What was behind the change?
I just got really bored with myself. I wanted to make a bigger sound, a bigger impact, and share the making and performing of music with a full,cooperative rock band. I’ve never been a Dylan or Baez person, so I was always on my own wavelength a bit with the folk stuff. It’s a wonderful community of artists, venues and audiences, but I was ready for something totally different. Besides, I’d never be Simon LeBon at that rate, eh? :-)

What is your songwriting process like now as the Happy Problem compared to your songs from your solo career?
Songs are usually started by me – either just a riff, a full section, or almost the whole thing – and then I bring them to the band and we play with it, flesh it all out, turn it up and finish it. I spend a lot of time at the studio alone making weird noise before I bring something for people to hear. Tony Cortes and I then add drums to the mix and see what happens after that. I hate writing without drums – a song completely changes once you put that in the mix.

With my solo stuff, I was the lone writer and the whole song had to be playable alone on an acoustic guitar. Some artists find that “pure” and “freeing,” but I felt very limited. I get stretched as an artist by thinking about the song as a whole collage of sound, adding all the other parts and heads in. I guess if you’ve always worn a costume, it’s refreshing to strip it down, and likewise, I was always stripped down, so now it’s refreshing to dress it up!

Do you think you’re ever go back to your folk roots?
I actually feel like my roots are in the music I’m playing now, as though I’ve only just found myself after all this time. So I think I’ll keep moving further in this direction as I explore rock, pop, punk and indie more. I never really had roots in folk music – I was always listening to Prince and Green Day while other people were talking about Mary Chapin Carpenter or Johnny Cash. So this feels more natural to me and I’m inspired now in a way I don’t think I was before. But I’m also terrible at looking at the past – I never like what I did before! So who knows? I can say that I love just writing a really good song, so that’s what I hope will never change, regardless of the label or coating that gets put on it!

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Friday 5: Sagit Shir of Hank and Cupcakes

Friday 5: Sagit Shir of Hank and Cupcakes

This was originally posted May 4, 2012

I first heard Hank and Cupcakes 2 years ago while looking for some cover songs for a show. I stumbled upon their version of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” and I was mesmerized. I still think it’s one of the most brilliant covers I’ve ever heard. To me what sets Hank and Cupcakes apart is their live show. H&C features Sagit aka Cupcakes on drums and vocals with her husband Ariel (aka Hank) playing bass and looping everything else. What you get is two people creating an enormous sound. Words fail me on how fantastic their live shows are (check out a video below).

Their new album “Naked” will be dropping in June and I can’t wait. The new songs I have heard have all had a fantastic energy to them and in a word are amazing. Be sure to check out the new album and do not miss them when they go on tour.

I had the chance to ask Sagit Shir aka Cupcakes, a few questions.

Where did the name Hank and Cupcakes come from?

The name H&C is a consequence of the fact that we are both big Charles Bukowski fans. If you’ve read a Bukowski book, you know who Hank is. Cupcakes is actually one of Bukowski’s real life lovers. The idea for the name came up while we were watching a documentary about him called ‘Born Into This’ which we highly recommended

How do you approach your songwriting and where does your inspiration come from?

Songwriting for me is a daily routine, something that needs a lot of discipline and consistency. I try to start every morning with song writing – While my mind is still relatively uncluttered- The best songs come to me when I’m not being judgmental at the moment of writing and I just let the ideas flow out without putting any pressure on myself to deliver. When I manage to be in that open place, inspiration can come from absolutely anything.

You are a classically trained pianist. What prompted you to pick up the drumsticks?

My mother used to play rhythm games with me when I was very young so I might have had an early taste! But I truly fell in love with drums at a beach in Tel Aviv which I discovered when I was 18. It was a kind of hippie beach and every Friday they would have a huge african drums jam, playing into the sunset. I stumbled upon one of these jams and was immediately hooked. I came back to the beach every night that summer and learned to play with people who were always hanging out there jamming.

Recently in the comments for Liquid Mercury on YouTube, there were a bunch of people on there saying that you were copying Lady Gaga. How do you deal with critiques and criticism like that?

Truthfully, it makes us smile and even a little happy because it means that our music is expanding and reaching new people beyond our circle of fans and that is always a good thing. We encouraged our fans to respond to the comments but it was all in good humor. We’re very confident in our music and don’t feel threatened by this kind of criticism. On the contrary, if ‘Liquid Mercury’ reminds people of Madonna or Lady Gaga we take it as a compliment.

What can we look forward to in 2012 from H&C?

We’re hustling & bustling at the moment getting our new album -’Naked’ – ready for print and will be releasing it in June followed by a U.S and later European tour. We’re already hard at work on our next music video for the song ‘See Through’ and have started writing new material for our next album!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhuFenpV2Dg

 

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Friday 5: Bess Rogers

Friday 5: Bess Rogers

Originally posted April 27, 2012

Bess Rogers is an in demand multi-instrumentalist who can be found playing with artists such as Jenny Owen Youngs and Ingrid Michaelson, but if you have not heard her music, you are missing out. I’ve been a fan of hers since randomly seeing her play at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City several years ago and I was blown away by her performance. Don’t miss her live if you get the chance.

Bess will be opening for Ingrid Michaelson at Terminal 5 in NYC on May 17th and will be at Hotel Cafe in LA in June. She will also have a video coming out soon for her song “Math and Science”. For more info and tourdates, visit www.bessrogers.com.

What’s the first song you remember hearing?

I don’t think my memory is good enough to answer that question! But if I could take a guess, I’d say it was In My Life by the Beatles. My mom used to sing that song to be as a lullaby and I always loved it. It’s remained one of my favorite songs and now I cover it on the ukulele.

You have played with a lot of great musicians but if you could form a band with any 3 musicians (living or dead), who would they be?

Oh man. I think that a band consisting of Robyn, Kate Bush and Weezer (Blue album or Pinkerton era) would produce some crazy awesome, super weird but insanely catchy music. Or on the other hand, they might all hate each other and make something horrible. But I think it would be worth a shot!

Where do you draw your inspiration from when you write songs?

Everything! There are so many things to be inspired by in this world. Sometimes it’s love, sometimes anger, sometimes evolution, the universe, quantum physics, mortality, The Real Housewives of Orange County, the list goes on and on. We all see the world in our own unique way, and I think the job of a songwriter is to express their individual perspective on life in a way that, hopefully, touches other people’s lives. That’s my goal, at least.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened on stage?

I’ve definitely forgotten how to play songs, broken strings and had to make small talk with the crowd for 20 minutes, been caught in uncontrollable fits of laughter… But none of that was really that embarrassing. I just always laugh at myself and then that way the audience is laughing with me instead of at me!

You’ve said in the past that you’re fortunate that you figured out early in life what you wanted to do. If you weren’t a musician, what would do?

My dream job, if it wasn’t music, would be to write for a comedy show. Maybe SNL or 30 Rock… something like that. I can’t imagine anything more fun that sitting around a table with a bunch of hilarious people and writing jokes. I’m sure it’s hard work too, but in my dream job fantasy it’s all fun.

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