Interview: Shara Worden, part 3

Sorry, no #faibw post this week. Instead I have even more Shara Worden for you. (I wonder if you can guess what’s coming tomorrow.)

The Indie Handbook: When you conceive of an album, does it emerge as a sort of cohesive unit, or each song separately? What sort of emphasis do you put on song order?

Shara Worden: My criticism of A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is that it was very separate and because it was recorded over such a long period of time, there was kind of ideas behind it: I was really trying to work on strings and orchestration, that was really a priority, but the kinds of songs are really all over the place. So I did spend a lot of time thinking about the song order. And the songs that I sort of injected into the album were “Inside a Boy” “From the Top of the World” and “Ice and the Storm”. So those are all the more poppy, rocky ones and then I also really manipulated “Pluto’s Moon” from its original form. Originally, it had just been a string quartet then I made it into a guitar song. So I had to sort of reconcile myself to doing something over a long period of time and not really conceiving it as a unit. It was really more of a “here are these ideas that I am going to play around with and see what happens”. This is the fruit of many years of meanderings. The whole time, when you’re in the process of committing to an older idea, and presenting it in the present moment, you’re like, “should I really be doing this, or should I just move on?

TIH: You seem to use a lot of those sorts of unconventional rhythms and meters, a lot of 3+3+2 and those things. Do you find yourself drawn to those types of things? Clearly, you’ll get a lot more radio airplay with a straight 4/4 and three chords.

SW: Yes, I am going to live, apparently, in the experimental avant garde world.

TIH: That wouldn’t be so bad. As far as I’m concerned, you can go full-on microtonal, if you want.

SW: But then I’d go insane! That’s what’s so great about the Portishead record or M.I.A. With her singing and multi-layering, she’s kind of doing this microtonal, I don’t know if it’s on purpose, but the effect of it is really, really cool.

TIH: Well, the opening of “Freak Out” also has that sort of shimmery, gamelan quality.

SW: Hey, that one has repeated notes, too “I think we should jump on the piano”. Hey, you were right.

TIH: Yeah, and the sort of percussive singing style propels it forward.

SW: Well, that’s the sort of direction I am going. The thing I am interested in now is rhythm, and so I don’t know if there will be many strings appearing at all on the next record. I’ve been trying to define my harmonic language, so now I’m really excited about finding a rhythmical language.

TIH: These days, it seems like more and more artists are taking a sort of chamber music approach to song writing. Are you noticing similar trends?

SW: Yeah, definitely. It seems like something that has been culminating for a long time: Andrew Bird, Joanna Newsom, and obviously the Decemberists. I don’t know. It’s fascinating. There’s a certain resistance, maybe to the immediacy or the quickness with which we are consuming music and I wonder a little bit if it is a bit of a rebellious reaction to that three minute, you can download this and you’re gonna want to download five other records today and your gonna want to download five more records tomorrow. And eff that, you know. Who was the jazz guy that just released a 74 minute song so you would have to listen to the whole thing? So I think there’s some desire for a longer narrative. You know, Antony’s record, I feel like is sort of like, completely the opposite of what you might expect for right now, that need for distraction away from what is happening in our society and he just says “cool, let me break your heart even more”. Of course, who knows, really, why things are happening, but I think it’s a little bit punk. I think it’s a sort of bizarre expression of the punk spirit, like “Yes! I’m going to write a narrative based on fairy tales!” And I’m thinking Awesome! Can I play the bad lady?

I’ve got some bad news and some good news

Some sad news from Los Campesinos! It was announced today that Aleks will be leaving the band at the end of the summer. They will be releasing one last album with her as a member and playing several shows in the States before she returns to her studies full time. But, no worries, Los Campesinos! have every intention of carrying on as a band. And we wish them both all the best. You can read the band’s announcement here and Aleks’s own here.

Good news, now. As Kristin mentioned in her last post, I did indeed go to a show last night and I did arrive a couple of hours early so I could talk to someone for a bit before the show. (If you’ve been keeping up with us on Facebook, you already know what I am getting at.) That’s because the Decemberists were in Columbus last night. No, I did not spend the evening hanging out with Colin Meloy. Even better. I spent about an hour talking with Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Once I’ve had a chance to transcribe it, maybe I’ll let you read a bit.

On to the show. Blind Pilot is opening on this tour, and it pains me to say this because I like their music, but it was one of the more profoundly boring performances I have ever seen (this is includes a number of my own performances, which I would prefer to pretend never happened, thank you so much for bringing it up…). But let’s not dwell on the negative. The show that followed more than made up for a lackluster opening (as well as about half a dozen others).

I am now of the mind that the Decemberists may well be the most polished band I have ever seen. The first of their two sets was material from Hazards of Love, more specifically all of it. For their first hour on stage, the band played their new album in its entirety, complete with guest appearances (including Shara Worden). The staging was imposing, the transitions were seamless, and their performance engaging. But I was reminded of something last night, namely what an electrifying performer Shara Worden is. As part of an evening that featured one of the most impressive performances I have seen recently, the special guest blew the main attraction clean out of the water. It will be difficult waiting for my next opportunity to see My Brightest Diamond (still the best show I have ever, ever witnessed). It has been far too long.

Until then, here is a video of Shara in performance with the Decemberists. The sound quality is crap, I know, and it can be difficult to hear over all of those screaming indie kids, but you will have to make due. Watch some MBD videos to see Shara at her best.