How would you classify Madam West’s sound?
Joni Mitchell fronts Yo La Tengo after they’ve taken too much adderall. Indoor Music Festival Chic. Fake Book Realness.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
I genuinely want people to dance! But also, I want there to be a balance of voices—something perfectly in between a cohesive unit and a collection of distinct personalities. You get too cohesive, it’s not as tense and fun; if everyone just plays what they want, it just sounds like a circle jerk. A lot of the tension comes from the way we arrange a song to make room for a lot of different ideas—probably too many ideas. As you progress, you start forgetting who came up with what, you start changing your own compositional impulses to fit the ensemble you’re in. I like being a band that doesn’t just play music together, but also writes music together. I hope it sounds like that to the listener.
Who are your all-time or current top 5 musical influences?
Joni, Janis, John McLaughlin, Juana Molina and Jory (our bassist).
How’s the music scene in Brooklyn? Outside of Brooklyn/New York, do you have a favorite place to play?
It gives you a goddamn headache thinking about how wonderful and talented everyone is in this town. Even the shitty people have so much talent! Luckily I don’t know too many shitty people. There’s a good handful of musicians and bands I would risk life and limb to help out, because they have come through for me.
One place we love to play is called C’mon Everybody, in Bed Stuy. One of the hardest things to get venues to do is turn up the damn keyboards—we’re a keyboard-fronted band!—but they always do it there, without us even asking.
We are learning a lot about our neighboring cities lately—we had a lot of fun playing in Burlington, Albany and New Haven this month. I’d say we’ve been particularly drawn to Philly. This stand-up fella named Matty Klauser really has a great thing going there (Good How Are You/Blushed/Secret Nudist Friends).
What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing out?
Phat A$tronaut are our new band crush; we met them at a recent show in their hometown of New Haven, CT. We’re playing again with them on 4/20 at Our Wicked Lady—not to be missed. Meeting talented and committed groups like those guys and making new friends that love music as much as we do is the best thing about playing live.
Is there a song on Warm Bodies that stands out as your personal favorite?
“Erstwhile Manatee” has been really fun to play out lately. The groove just sinks in more deeply every time you play.
We’ve been told that both Todd Martino (keys) and Sophie Chernin (vocals) have (or have had) dogs named Elliott Smith. If you were all to get a new dog tomorrow, what would her or his name be?
You should see it when Little Elliott (a dachshund) meets Big Elliott (a terrier mutt). They just go around digging up everything they can.
I recently found out that, in an interview after his Oscars performance, Elliott Smith talked about how kind and generous Celine Dion was to him backstage—she gave him a big hug before he went on. So maybe we name her Celine.
Or if it’s another dachshund, something really long and obnoxious like PinkShinyUltraBlast.
What do you think is the best way to experience your sound? Headphones? Video? Live?
This EP is the longest we’ve ever worked on a piece of recorded music—it took 3/4ths of a year to get everything tracked, mixed and mastered. We worked with Oliver Ignatius at Holy Fang studios; he knows how to give a track a beautiful ‘60s/’70s warmth, but also does not hesitate to add a bunch of contemporary flourishes at the mixing desk. The point being that we should hope experiencing these songs as recordings is a top-notch, unbeatable, ecstatic, revelatory experience.
But yeah, we are a live band, which isn’t to brag, it’s just to say the majority of our efforts are spent getting something to sound really sharp in a room. So sharp it hurts!
What’s next for Madam West? Any touring plans?
An LP, hopefully. It’s getting harder to keep playing the same songs—we are writing more!
We’re making a video in the next couple of months. No clue what that’s gonna be like, but we’re working with our great friend Ian Wexler.
We have some big, beautiful vinyls of this EP on the way and I’m pretty damn stoked just to hold them in my hands. I might not even sell them, they will look so nice in a huge pile in my apartment.
The fall will likely have us out and about the East Coast more—Amherst, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland—I’m lookin’ atcha.
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