Corita Rocks the Office

Guitar + Work = Rock

I was so thrilled when Jason, the filmmaker behind the webseries “All New York’s a Venue” approached Corita about featuring us in his project. His videos feature indie bands playing songs in atypical locations, often quite unfit for a musical performance. The best part about the videos, I think, is that they are not music videos per se. They are not overly staged. They are just a live performance in an unconventional location.

My band Corita posed a challenge, however. We can’t play acoustic. I don’t want to sound snobby, but our songs rely on reverb, delay and a little bit of distortion (see, we’re a bit shoegaze). This does not work on an acoustic guitar, so playing on the subway or down by the Gowanus canal (our favorite NYC polluted waterway) was not an option. We needed somewhere to plug in.

Then I came up with an idea. My workplace is incredibly supportive of artists. That’s our business. We also have an airy, light-filled loft in DUMBO. Considering we had a feminist tea party come and set up shop in the office for a week I thought, well, why not a band? The organization was only too happy to agree, as long as we did it on a Saturday when the office was empty and kept the noise to a minimum.

It was really funny, and strange, to load all our gear into my office and play our songs about disenchantment, growing older, and looking at the sky in the middle of the file boxes and computers I see everyday. But that is part of the fun of the project. The incongruous nature of the music and the location. I hope you enjoy watching the results!

All New York’s a Venue #6: Corita – “Act So Fake” from Jason Hood on Vimeo.

All New York’s a Venue #6: Corita – “Clouds” from Jason Hood on Vimeo.

Corita in the Studio: An Album by Dominick Mastrangelo

Recording hand claps with Corita by Dominick Mastrangelo

I met Dominick Mastrangelo by not-so-random chance. When I first started review shows for Venus Zine (RIP) he was the photographer assigned to my second-ever review- the Carrots at Cake Shop. When I saw a nice guy with a “real”camera shooting them I asked, “Are you Dominick?” and mentioned I would soon be traveling to Glasgow to see (and review) My Blood Valentine. He mentioned he’d been there and emailed me some travel tips. A friendship was born (I’ll leave out the part where 3 months later I temporarily forgot his name while waiting in line to see Ted Leo for free at Castle Clinton). For over a year we became a writer and photographer team, covering indie rock luminaries such as Bon Iver at Town Hall, the mud bath that was (the last) All Points West in 2009, and small, more humble affairs at the likes of Cake Shop.

Reviewing recording notes by Dominick Mastrangelo

Dominick has also been the documentarian of Corita since the beginning. It’s been wonderful to see him grow as a photographer over the past few years and hopefully he’s also seen us grow as a band. In February, when we were recording with Joel Hamburger at GodelString studios he nicely came and made pictures of us in the midst of a very busy day of shooting! I already shared some of those photos with you, but here are some more, not just of me, but of the band. What he does so well as a photographer is capture the feeling of the moment. In these pictures you can see exactly what I love about Corita, even though we’re not even playing our instruments. These three people who push me to create and perform the best I can, who let me laugh, and, most importantly, give me the space to be exactly who I am.

Corita listening closely by Dominick Mastrangelo

Aileen and Nick by Dominick Mastrangelo. I love Aileen's smile.

Nick making drummer like motions by Dominick Mastrangelo

Marisha by Dominick Mastrangelo

Aileen with Joel Hamburger in the background by Dominick Mastrangelo

Marisha by Dominick Mastrangelo

Nick by Dominick Mastrangelo

Me and Nick by Dominick Mastrangelo

Taking a rest on the recording notes by Dominick Mastrangelo

Corita Recording Notes

Recording at Godelstring Studio. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

After two and a half years of being a band Corita finally took the time to go into a proper studio and commit our songs to tape (or digital files, in this case). We were in luck to work with Joel Hamburger at Godelstring studios in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Concentrating on overdubbing my new part. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

It’s a beautiful, well kept studio that Joel build up himself over 7 years. An incredible engineer (and Physics student) who also plays a producer’s role he knew what we wanted to achieve and made our songs sound like they always have sounded like in our heads. He was relaxed, confident and reassuring, setting up the environment to be as natural as possible so we could relax and concentrate on playing our songs. He also knew the flow of the recording day so well he knew exactly when to suggest we take breaks, get food, and even (towards the end of the first day) have a beer.

First engineer Joel with second engineer Delilah.

I learned a lot being in the studio. I always dreaded recording, thinking about it as a tedious process that was mired in frustration and unhappiness. In Joel’s capable hands it was long, for sure, but immensely satisfying and even fun!I also learned a lot about being a musician. I realized that the more I relaxed the better my playing and singing became. This is not surprising, but important to recognize.

My Guitar at Godelstring.

Recording vocals is always very revealing and at certain moments I began to over think my singing and got progressively depressed about it. That was when it was time for a break. What I realized when we listened to the tracks back was that I was over singing before. In the studio there’s no reason to push your voice over a roaring sound system because you can hear everything.

Aileen's bass chills with the organs.

I realized I was pushing my voice to be too theatrical and it was creating music that I didn’t want to listen to, which is a real problem because I feel like I should always write the music I want to hear in my own band. It was real revelation to realize that in the studio I could relax and let my voice be its own, limited self, and that the songs sounded better that way. That’s a lesson I’ll carry out of the studio and on to  the stage.

Aileen and Marisha enjoy their time in the studio.

It was also a very validating experience to spend two full days concentrating on something I create. After six years of working full-time in “the arts” I’ve started to think of myself less of a creative person and more as someone who supports other creative people. Lately I have been telling the artists I work with that I am a writer and musician just to make myself sound more “for real” to them.

Nick tests out the drums in the studio.

Two full days in the studio felt like my very own weekend artists residency and I realized that I have to take this kind of time to take my own work seriously. What I love about my band is that it gives me a focus and there are three other people to push the project along. But after seeing what a weekend can achieve I feel energized and more able to value my own creativity and projects. And that makes me more valuable to the artists I work with as well.

Recording notes. And an egg shaker we didn't end up using.

Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club on Venus Zine!

I was really excited to get to speak with Tina Weymouth, the bass player of the Talking Heads and a multi-instrumentalist and singer in the group Tom Tom Club. Tom Tom Club’s song “Word Rappinghood” is one of my all time favorites (yes, I liked that song before Chicks on Speed covered it) and I have loved them since I was lucky enough to score their records in used bins. Lucky for us all they are reissuing a live record they made several years ago that only had a very limited availability. I got to speak with Tina Weymouth about Tom Tom Club’s 30 years and what has changed and what has stayed the same. Check out the full story on Venus Zine here.

Venus Zine Winter 2010-11 Issue!

I’m really pleased to have two pieces in the Winter 2010-11 issue of Venus Zine (which features Janelle Monae on the cover)! A few months ago I got to meet up with Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice to talk about their new project Jenny and Johnny. There’s a shorter version in Venus’ new “Heart to Heart” section in the magazine and an alternate version online, which you can read here. I also reviewed the new Clinic album, which is unremarkable. I’ll have the PDFs up soon!

Corita Style!

I love my band Corita. We have been a band for over two years now and been playing shows out for over a year. I was recently asked about how I mitigated the stress that comes with New York living and I brought up Corita as an example. There are few things better than having a time every week to get together with 3 of your closest friends and work on a collective, creative project. Since we all have our own careers there’s no pressure on the band to “make it,” in the traditional sense of getting signed, man. For us “making it” as a band means writing good songs, challenging ourselves as musicians, and making sure that when we play out, we play well and look good. To that end, we always coordinate our outfits.

Half the Band in a Super Punk Glam Portrait

You can see another photo like this here with our good friend Phil Pierce from the band Crawl Babies (who are one of our favorite bands to play with).

Black dreses, colored tights, black shoes

Sometimes we get even more girly with our get up.

Summery Pastels (in low light)

Professional, yet punk

And sometimes just punk! (thanks to wunderfemme)

Dots, stripes, and old glory

I want to apologize to Nick, our drummer, who is also very stylish, but stuck behind the drums, and so not often photographed. You might say that I’m being a superficial feminist rocker by talking about fashion, but listen, rock and fashion have always been closely related and dressing up for a performance is part of our way of saying “thanks for listening, we care that you are here.”

Corin Tucker Band @ the Bowery Ballroom

I went to see Corin Tucker’s band at the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. I really had to prod myself to go there after Economics class, but like most things you make yourself do, I was glad I went. The atmosphere was surprisingly mellow- nothing like the super charged feeling of a Sleater-Kinney show. Aussie singer-song writer Darren Hanlon was a great opener and told stories of traveling through middle America and begin offered “vegetarian” scrambled eggs with only a “little bit of bacon” in them. While the opening bands were cool, everyone was clearly waiting for Corin. She arrived on stage looking ravishing in a shimmering silver vintage dress and, of course, cheers broke out.

Corin Tucker

Corin in her beautiful dress

The set itself featured songs from her new record “1,000 years,” which I wrote about for Venuszine. Her opener, “Thrift Store Coats,” a rumination on the recession, felt especially chilling live, and the air felt charged, expectant and unexpectedly low-key. The band slowly picked up the tempo and and delivered pure rock perfection. However, the band and the audience both seem wiser from age. A common commentary I heard (and felt) was “I am going to be late for work tomorrow,” accompanied by a yawn. This is not to say the show was not perfectly engaging. It was simply more intimate, mature, and understanding of life’s limitations and triumphs, both large and small.

Corin Tucker

It was a real treat to hear Corin's distinctive voice again

A nice surprise was the band’s cover of the Au Pair’s “It’s Obvious,” with the hard hitting chorus, “You’re equal, but different!” taking on new significance with the greater wisdom that (just a little bit of) age brings. Another treat of the set was drummer Sara Lund’s (of Unwound fame) work. She did double duty, playing with openers Hungry Ghost, and then changing into a cocktail dress for her appearance with Corin’s band. As anyone who listens to Unwound knows, she is the kind of precise, melodic, but absolutely rhythmic drummer that is very rare in rock music.

Sara Lund

Sara Lund, a little buried behind the drums and other percussion

Want more photos? Check out my flickr stream.