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Thursday, June 12, 2014

These Go to 11: interviewing Arts & Leisure

New chapter on our interview series, this time with the irresistible singer and guitarist Gerri White of my beloved Arts & Leisure (and a terrific tune with our man Jeremy Jensen of The Very Most on EardrumsPop majestic 'Between Two Waves' compilation). Can't properly articulate with words how nice and enjoyable has been reading & collecting her enthusiastic & honestly open answers, so please, read it carefully. She's a wonder. These Go to 11!

Gerri White, Arts & Leisure
Ms. White, ready for a pop ride
The lovely band Baby Grand formed in Sacramento in 1999 and during more than a decade they offered us 2 EPs and 2 wonderful albums, including their unmissable latest release 'Arts & Leisure', that came out in 2012. But right after the group split, three of its former members, Cory Vick, Gerri White, Tim White joined forces with Becky Cale and, borrowing its name from the aforementioned LP, in July 2013 they released 'Choose Your Adventure'. Released on our dear label Test Pattern Records, it quickly became one of our favourite past year albums. Indiepop meeting power pop, sugar and electricity heavenly combined on killer melodies, intertwined vocal harmonies, a retro vibe and an undeniable, moody beat. Summoning the spirits of legends like Talulah Gosh, Arts & Leisure make pop joyful, something that we would die for seeing live (Gerri told me they're considering coming to Spain, I'm making it public so they now have to be true to their promise). Here we go!
Beauty is always on the inside

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
The first  album I bought (with my allowance) was The Go-Go's 'Beauty and the Beat'. I was obsessed with the song 'Vacation'. I was first able to record the song off of the radio using the tried and true 1980's method of phoning in multiple requests to my local DJ, and making sure I had a fresh blank tape cued up and ready to go, but this small triumph did little to quench the flames of fandom that were burning ever brighter until I HAD. TO. HAVE. THE. RECORD. 

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
First concert was John Denver, the smiley folk songwriter with shaggy hair and spectacles who sang with the Muppets. My dad was a big fan, and he took the whole family - I must have 11? My second concert was ALSO John Denver. By then, I was a sullen 15 year old punk and deeply resentful at having to attend a folk concert with my parents. I wore a dog collar and a home made Exploited t-shirt in protest. Third concert (that I attended of my own free will at 16) was Siouxsie and the Banshees! Me and my fashion sense finally fit right in. OK, last concert I saw (last month, I think) was JD McPherson at Palms in Nevada City. So good!

Hall & Oates: hair duo 
3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
I think Hall & Oates ('Rock 'N Soul, Part I') and Ace of Base fit squarely in this category. Like deep fried Twinkies at a state fair, they are of the moment and undeniably delicious! A bolt of happiness that defies analysis.

4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
I'm not a music collector, so the most precious music-related items would be my guitars. I still have my first guitar, purchased on layaway for $500 when I was 19; an Olympic white '65 Fender Mustang with original case and catalog. It was absolutely pristine. A few weeks after I paid it off and picked it up, my friend's bass slid off the couch where he had propped it during practice, and his tuning key  knocked a good chunk out of my Mustang's flawless vanilla ice-cream body. I remember playing it cool, and telling him not to worry about it, but I was really trying hard not to cry.

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
'Joe Pernice' of the Pernice Brothers has the most...just out of left field lyrics. They're surprising, evocative, sometimes crude, but I always feel like I've become a secondary character in a flash fiction piece, which I love. I tend to be drawn to lyrics that tell a story. It also helps that Joe has the voice of a dirty angel.

Mr. Misery, Elliot Smith
6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
This probably sounds weird, but I tend to not like to meet musicians. Mostly because if they're disappointing, or act like a jerk, I can't stand their music anymore. I just can't separate the artist from the music. I can do it with authors, for some reason, just no musicians. If I had to choose, I'd say Elliot Smith. He seemed so mysterious and sad; I would have liked to buy him an ice cream cone.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
I always loved the artwork for Belle Sebastian records; the movie still quality of their photos, the pastel color overlays. Also, because you could listen to the songs and just kind of squint at the cover and imagine whose story you were listening to.

8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both)
Books, books always! I love movies too, but they don't quite inhabit the same place in my psyche. You can be your own director, casting manager and location scout with books. One of my absolute favorite tales; Shirley Jackson's 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle'. Jackson is a master of finding menace in the mundane, of summoning horror in broad daylight. They never made a movie of 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' but they did make the 1963 film, 'The Haunting', based on her novel, 'The Haunting of Hill House'. A classic, eerie chiller.

9. Release (of yours) you are most proud of
Baby Grand's 'Everything You Say' from our first record, 'Coming True'. In 2004, I found out I had a rare tumor in my neck. It was benign, but it was in a tricky place and one of the risks of the surgery was that I might lose my voice permanently or have to go through vocal reconstruction. The doctors said I would just have to wait and see if my voice came back after the procedure. 'Everything You Say' was the first song I wrote while recovering at home. I remember demo-ing it; working to squeak out the vocals and not think too hard about what I would do if that squeak was all I would ever be capable of. I just thought, well, I can still write songs and not give up. It's not the end of everything. So that song is sort of special to me. It has a hopefulness and fragility to it.
Keeping the light with Arts & Leisure

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
Ha, ha. I don't really know what indie means to me. Baby Grand was always described as indie-pop but I've always felt that any band I was in (as a songwriter) was just left of whatever genre it posed as. I don't think my songwriting is indie or not is what it is. And it's all over the map. It doesn't know from indie. As the indie label applies to other bands, it usually means that I will find something to like - but what that element will be is always a surprise.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Oof. Hopefully working less; writing more fiction and songs. Keeping to the light.

Zillion thanks Gerri & Arts & Leisure!

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