The Interview, Part 1
I spent most of NMF6 running from venue to venue photographing bands, but managed to squeeze in some time with the Chloës at their RV on Saturday afternoon. Present were keyboardist Lysandra Chapman, bassist Brandie Dawson, lead guitarist Tiffany Byrd, and drummer Leila Wright. Singer & writer April Wenzel was off recharging her psychic batteries [Sidenote: She was sleeping off a hangover in the RV.] following her scorching performance at Bill and Dee’s Tavern the previous evening — a performance that ended with most of the audience — men and women alike — pogoing while chanting the refrain from Put that Dick Away — more on that in part 3 of this interview.
After setting up my equipment and mixing up some tasty martinis for the band, I settled into a camp chair and conducted 1 of the easiest interviews ever — the ladies needed no prompting, and I asked very few “canned” questions. Unfortunately, I also forgot to press the “record” button. The Chloës very graciously let me interview them a second time — all in all, I spent almost 4 hours hanging out, mostly just listening while I sipped beer and enjoyed the afternoon.
Mercury Photo BureauHow did the band start?
Brandie DawsonApril and I […] had some mutual friends and we met at a Hallowe’en party, and [we] started talking about bands. And I had played bass in a couple of bands before […]. I had not played for a while, and I was fine with that. Somehow, my boyfriend ratted me out, that I played bass, to April, ’cause she wanted to start a band. And we exchanged numbers and eventually, we got in touch with each other and just started […] playing, like, Foo Fighters — we didn’t know, like,
What do we do? I don’t know; we don’t have any songs, and then we thought,
Well, we’ll find a drummer. So we [posted an ad on] Craigslist, found a drummer — Brittany, who’s — we have a new drummer, of course: Leila, now — we had another keyboardist, Roxanna. Both of [them], the drummer and the keyboardist, had — life [got] in the way, and […] they had to drop out. And […] we found Lysandra; April and Lysandra are really good friends —
Lysandra ChapmanYeah, April and I were friends. I think I said before that April was taking [guitar] lessons, and I had known her for years and years and years, and — this is actually a funny story that I won’t mention —
MPBOh, please do.
LysandraWe may, or may not, have dated the same person, as my husband says. [laughter] No, we dated the same guy. She dated him very briefly, and I — back 15 years ago — So we’d known each other for a long time. She was an army brat and had just finished college at Tulane and [had] come up to Oklahoma City […].
So I re-met her, and got to be friends with her again, 10 years later, maybe 12 years later. She was kind of at a point in her [marriage] that,
We’re settled in, and I’m gonna start […] taking lessons, and I want to do this band thing; I’m gonna do it. And I really admired that, ’cause I knew that she was a good guitarist, but she was taking guitar lessons! And I had grown up in band, and I was, like,
Wow! Someone actually […] takes lessons when they’re an adult‽ What is that? […] I didn’t get that. But she did, and when she was in piano lessons, she met Roxanne, and Roxanne wrote some great stuff, and, yeah, life got in the way, and she couldn’t do it; she couldn’t be there, and so [April] asked me to be in the band, and I said —
MPBYou said [earlier] that you still use some of Roxanne’s riffs.
LysandraOh yeah absolutely. Go Out with Me; there’s a couple songs that are older songs —
BrandieYeah, the older songs. And some of them, we don’t really play any more.
LysandraYeah, but still, if I play them, [the riffs] are definitely Roxanne’s. And she’s come out to a couple of gigs. And, like I said before, I didn’t want to stay in the band; I thought that I would just be very “interim,” […] ’cause I’ve never really played piano; I’d taken brief lessons, but I played flute growing up, and I played trumpet; some weird […] instruments that were not gonna be in this band —
BrandieWe’ve brought in the flute before.
MPBThat’s in the song Put That Flute Away? [laughter]
BrandiePut That Flute Away. Right. Which did not have as much influence on our audience as Put That Dick Away, so we scrapped it.
Leila WrightI wanted to say how, [under April’s leadership], the focus has been very supportive of having room to grow —
BrandieYou don’t have to be an expert musician; I mean, we were not —
Leila— and she sees the potential —
LysandraOh, absolutely; she said to me, she said,
Oh, Girl! — ’cause I can almost [imitate] April perfectly —
Now, Girl! Dude! Just come and do it! And I said,
Okay; but I’ll just come and do it temporarily, and that was 3 years ago. And, so, I guess I’m in — and actually, […] we talk a lot about the band and it’s become a big focus of my life. And I love it! I lover her — I’m not only glad that the band’s gone where it’s gone, but I’m glad that my friendship with her has taken on a new level, and I’m really freakin’ happy that I have friends in this band […]. These are my best friends.
We really don’t fight; I mean, we fight, but it’s kinda ridic- — I mean, we fought last week — [unknown person imitates cat screech — possibly Lysandra’s husband, Kevin?] — to be perfectly honest; and then, immediately —
Kevin WrightYour cat fights are ridiculously minor. We’ve been in bands together [indicates himself and Lysandra], and our fights were astronomical.
LysandraExactly. We were in a band together, and we had to quit the band, because we almost got a divorce! ’cause I would say,
Well, you’re rehearsing on the side; well what is going on? It was horrible!
KevinWell, because I kept saying
darker, what does that mean? And it’s not that I was opposed to that; it’s that there’s something about bands like, I don’t know how bands like, well, Sonic Youth is not a great example any more, because they’re divorced, but you know, how [do] some bands do it?
KevinYo La Tengo!
LysandraBrandie and I got in a fight last week, and within 10 minutes I wrote her and I said,
I’m not mad at you and I’m sorry I was a jerk. And she wrote back [and said],
It’s all good and I love you.
MPBYou told me earlier that everybody in the band has a rôle; let’s go ’round the circle and talk about that.
BrandieI’m responsible. I’m the 1 who says,
No! We should not do this!
MPBYou handle a lot of the business end of the band.
BrandieYeah, I keep track of the merch money and paying the room rent for our rehearsal space.
MPBBeyond that, you’re also the nurturer?
Lysandra[…] She’s very nurturing; she’s very solid; she’s very dependable. If I got too drunk to drive the RV — No. 1 person, right here, even ’though she’s not listed [on the insurance policy]. She’s going to be the solid person, no matter what […], and you’ve got to have that in a band. I think a lot of bands fail because they don’t have that.
MPBSo it came up earlier, Lysandra, that you are also the “mother” in the group, but in a different way from Brandie; you’re the disciplinarian?
LysandraI am disiplinary. I come from a different perspective, and, actually, April and I bonded over the [facts of] when we went to college, and what music influenced us, and because we talk on the phone every day for like, 2 hours about the band: where we want the band to go, what we’re thinking. We come from […] a different place, musically, so I try to keep us within the confines of that identified track [that] we want to be on.
The funny thing is, April knows that track. April knows where she wants us to go, and I’m the enforcer. She is the more bendable,
Oh, yeah; we’ll try that, but [then] she’ll say [to me],
Here’s what we need to do; we need to get back over here. […] The great thing is, nobody really resists everybody’s influence; we all kinda take it as an attribute [of] the band. Like, Leila being the — I mean, she really is the hippie-peace-and-love and relax, and let’s-enjoy-the-time —
LeilaI love all this crazy sh*t; I love foam swords and piñata heads and I love the toys and the flash and making a joyful experience —
Lysandra[speaking to Leila] — you love current things; and you’re really into current stuff and what people love [now]; there is a […] generation gap.
MPBLeila and Tiffany, you’re both a bit younger than the other band members, right? 5 or 10 years, something like that?
LysandraYeah, something like that. [laughter] But they are, and that’s a different generation. She […] — with her generational knowledge, [Leila] keeps us young.
So there is some resistance, because we know where we want to go, we know the sound we want to have, so we’re sometimes like,
Are we gonna do this? Are we gonna go this youthful-inspiration [direction]? But, thank God we have that, because sometimes she’s so freakin’ right on.
LeilaIt’s a balance. […] You take the new and the old and there’s an awesome middle ground: you go too new, and it’s like you’re a “flash in the pan”; you go too old, and then you’re irrelevant […].
Lysandra[…] And then Tiffany came in, and it was nice to have another young person in the band (even ’though she’s not that much younger, for the record). [laughter]
LeilaShe is the baby.
LysandraShe is the baby. And Leila really loves electronic music; she’s very much into fun and cool stuff going on in Dallas with Ishi and Zhora and stuff like that.
LeilaI’m obsessed with — I just love all that sh*t. If you want the list of cool Dallas things, I can send that to you!
MPBI’m just gonna interject and say that I’m [redacted] years old, and even Pavement qualifies as new for me. I own 2 or 3 Sonic Youth albums, but a Pavement song could come on the radio right now and I wouldn’t know who the heck it was. [img]
LysandraIf you had any idea — you just made me feel so youthful!
MPBTiffany, we know you’re the quiet 1 and the shy 1. Beside that, what’s your part in the band besides thrashin’ guitar player?
Tiffany Byrd[I’m] laid back; down for whatever, kind of like a child: I don’t have any responsibility — [laughter]
MPBYeah, you only have to get out there and am-a-a-a-aze the audience!
TiffanyI mean, I show up, and I can do stuff, and I’m pretty quiet until I get drunk, and then I’m the obnoxious 1, like,
Wake up, man! Let’s party!
LeilaShe’s not shy; she does observe a lot. But, get a couple of vodka cranberries in there …
LysandraI think that people should watch out, ’though, because I don’t think we’ve had nearly enough of Tiffany. I think, as Tiffany gets more comfortable with the band, I think that it’s going to …
TiffanyIt comes out a little more with each show. We played my 1st show after, like, a week of practice.
LysandraWe had a year; she had a week.
MPBThat’s right; you told me earlier about rehearsing for a year before your inaugural show, which goes back to what you told me about how April always wants to do things right.
LysandraYes, actually, we’re very much on the same line with that: the way we’ve handled our careers, the way she wants to — 1st of all, she always wants to be the best, so anybody [who] wants to argue with us about trying to become successful, it’s not so much that we’re — it’s not a phony desire; it is our nature. We will do this; we will get to this point, because we will always be searching for more, and we can’t stop it; it’s who we are.
MPBIt seems to me that the bands who become successful, but then lose that success, are bands that didn’t have that attitude. The only ones who seem to stick around are the ones who really, really want it.
LysandraRight; I think it’s a personality type; I mean, we’re just not complacent. We have a good audience; our craft is […] out there on vinyl; it will never be enough. Who converses 2 hours a day about [their] band?
MPBYou and April.
LysandraMe and April! Every day:
Hey, girl; what’s up? Because we want everybody to hear it; that’s it.
LeilaI think that, most powerfully, we believe in it; I believe in April so fully, and I love these women so much. I believe it is something that will make the world better — [laughter]
The Gallery: Kamp's Lounge
The Martini Recipe
Recipe: The Chloës Martini
A riff on the Hoffman House, a martini with orange bitters. The addition of absinthe adds a subtle bitterness as well as a touch of anise.
- 2 oz. (60 mL)
- Plymouth Gin
- ½ oz. (15 mL)
- Dolin dry vermouth
- 1 dash (½ mL)
- Regan’s No. 3 Orange Bitters
- 2 – 3 or 4 drops
- Kübler Absinthe Blanc
- long, thin lemon twist for garnish
- Combine first 3 ingredients in mixing glass with cracked ice.
- Stir for a minimum of 30 seconds, until quite cold.
- Strain into absinthe-rinsed chilled cocktail glass or coupé.
- Gently twist the lemon peel over the martini and drape it in the glass, put that flute away, and sip slowly enough to savor, but not so slowly that the drink loses its chill!
- Repeat as necessary.