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INTERVIEW: String Quartet ROSIN

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We are doing really well. It’s been a great year and the highlight for us has been seeing all the pieces of the album come together. We’ve worked with a fantastic group of folks from sound engineers and graphic artists to concert-promoters and photographers. The process has been very collaborative and it’s fun to see each of our partners add to the album in their own way.

How was the film experience?

The film experience was new to the majority of us but working with Andrew Mudge at Black Kettle Films made the process really enjoyable and low-stress. We invited Andrew into the studio one day to film single takes of us recording a handful of our tracks. The filming in the studio was pretty easy because we are much better at playing than talking and Andrew’s camera just felt like one more piece of equipment in the studio.  We filmed the B-roll and interviews on the same day we had our photo shoot at Annie’s house. Again, the entire team made it really enjoyable and we hung around drinking coffee, playing some tunes and talking about the group with the still and video cameras rolling.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Come Back”?

It’s an instrumental, but it doesn’t feel like one.  It’s lyrical without having lyrics.  Especially one part of the theme; it sounds like it’s singing the title.  That’s what’s so great about instrumental music:  the listener has perfect freedom to assign whatever meaning she likes to what she is hearing.  There’s enormous power in the lyrics of Leonard Cohen, for example, but there’s equal power in Mozart’s instrumental music.  When no interpretation is attached, the brain tends to assign one, and because it’s personal, it often ends up being more powerful than whatever the lyrics would have been.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Annie bought herself a mandola in 2015, and she let Jake mess around on it a bunch.  New music is often inspired by being a little bit — not too much — out of your depth, as when playing an instrument that’s slightly foreign to you.  That’s when you start making interesting mistakes, and you use those to create something new.

The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after the band?

Album titles are tough and so are band names — you’re trying to capture the essence of something in a catchy way, and it’s also one of those things that you can’t approach directly, you have to come at it sideways, out of the corner of your eye.  Then, when you’ve got it, you always know.  But it’s usually not a linear process, it often winds up being almost accidental.

In this case, we were overcomplicating things at first.  We started out with a lot of ideas like “Rosin This” and “Rosin That”, and finally Annie said, “What about just … ROSIN?”  And that was the “a-ha” moment; we realized we didn’t need to dress it up any more than that, it said it all and kept it simple at the same time.  We actually came up with the album name first and liked it so much that we decided to use it for the band name as well. We were thrilled to discover that a classcial quartet hadn’t already snagged the name.

How was the recording and writing process?

Pretty thrilling.  The writing process was substantially different from anything Jake had done before, so that felt almost exotic.  And then the recording process was exotic:  we were in these high-end studios, using insanely expensive gear, and we just had a ball the whole time.  At the same time, the material was fairly challenging, and we were learning how to be a band as we went along, so it took an enormous amount of energy from all of us to capture performances that were up to our standards.

How personal would you say this record is?

It was personal for Jake, because he’d never composed classical music before.  There’s some vulnerability there — you never like to fall flat on your face in front of everybody.  It was a definite “step off the cliff” in terms of the writing process.  But then you find out your chute works, so it ends up being the best ride you ever had.

Known for playing with different styles – does one genre tends to shine out the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?

The music is all instrumental, so there weren’t any lyrics to pull from, but the goal was to find a natural halfway point between bluegrass and classical styles over the course of the album.  Some songs wound up very classical, some very bluegrass, and then all of them were colored by other genres too.  We run a very inclusive ship over here.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs on this record?

The songs were sort of self-inspired; that is, the writing process itself was the real inspiration.  Jake claims he was way out of his depth on this project, but also didn’t feel intimidated — it’s kind of like, when you don’t know your own limitations, you’re able not to care what anyone thinks and just write whatever sounds good to you.  You have your own internal expectations for yourself, but no one else expects anything of you.  It’s tremendously fun.

Any plans to hit the road?

We took a road-trip in September to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana as one of five finalists in their 21CM Emerging Artist Competition and are looking forward to our NYC debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall this coming January. We’re exploring a short tour to the West Coast and hope that our spring shapes up with some more East Coast performances. Between family commitments, other tours and a final MM (Masters of Music) semester at NEC, our collective schedules are pretty busy but we are always looking for opportunities to play together and share our music.

What else is happening next in ROSIN’s world?

We don’t like to let the grass grow. We’re hatching up plans for collaborations with some of our favorite local artists and are already thinking about writing tracks for the next album. We’ve also thrown ourselves behind a few fundraising events for local charities that support women, minorities and social injustice. We are very excited that 100% of the ticket proceeds from our NYC show in January at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall benefit the New York Women’s Foundation.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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