Hi! We’ve been well! Our toddler is finally sleeping better so we are closer to sane.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Where You Stood”?
For this call and response, Mia started first. She created the song, and Kevin responded with the painting.
Mia: what inspired this song was the theme of un-mourned loss and how one, myself included, can get stuck in loss – so it becomes this overgrown, thorny, but luxuriously comforting fantasy world.
Kevin: of the four paintings in the project, this one came most organically and fluidly for me. I really connected to Mia’s original demo and my instincts took over to reflect this fantasy world on canvas.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Mia: Actually, I was re-reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, The Secret Garden (which is about loss and rejuvenation), when California was going through the first round of awful fires. I remember driving past decimated landscapes and thinking, “how do people recover from this?” So the song came to me that way.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
Mia: We are actually in the process of filming now. Taylor Joshua Rankin is creating the video. We have worked with him on all of our other projects. He is a genius with all things art. So were happy we get to work with him again. A dancer, Coral Martin, is interpreting the song. She brings such grace and power in her interpretations, and is such a beautiful and complex dancer. So far, it has been a very fluid collaboration!
The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after the band?
Kevin: That was actually a little mix up. This is the first of our collaborations, so we don’t have a “band” name yet. Mia leads the music and I lead the visuals – so we’ve gone back and forth in how to name our collaboration. But we named the project Spar Suite because of the call and response aspect that is almost fighting, like boxers in a ring, but in a constructive way where nobody really gets hurt. Suite is another name for a collection of short songs, and Mia liked the play on words. But Spar Suite isn’t our band name –we don’t have one yet.
How was the recording and writing process?
Mia: Writing and recording the song was smooth. Aneesa Strings played bass on the recording and brought the whole piece to another level. If you haven’t heard of this artist, you really should check her out. She is phenomenal. Combining her with Somadhi Langford (AKA Stixx from the band Mino Yanci) and his incredible skill and versatility as a drummer made for a rhythm section we were really excited about. We wanted to add a few other pieces to the arrangement, so Barbara Higbie came in and added Rhodes, which gave it this sparkling distant feel. Then Aaron Kruziki came in and added a whole lot of texture and depth with synths. You should check out both Barbara Higbie and Aaron Kruziki if you haven’t heard of them either. They are also phenomenal. Jeff Kolhede was also helpful in letting us know that we were done adding instruments. He was the sound engineer and co-producer of the song. And Nahuel Bronzini is a master of mixing and he really took the song and brought out the definition in all the parts and how they work together.
Kevin: In terms of the painted response to the song, I oriented to the lyrics and the theme of loss, but more than anything I just wanted to capture the vibe of the music in a visual way. I was intentional about color palette and showing some restraint in not over-working the painting.
Would you call this a departure from your previous musical work?
Mia: I don’t think so. It may be a bit fuller in terms of instrumentation but most of my music is pretty depressing, but also upbeat and pop-ish.
What role does Oakland play in your music?
Kevin: The community of artists in Oakland is so rich. There is a lot of soul here, and I think that makes for inspiring art. I’m actually in the process of starting a company with Oakland-based artist, Astu, meant to serve other emerging artists. Hopefully I’ll have more fun updates on that front in the coming months.
How does your personal and love relationship influence your music?
Kevin: I think our personal and love relationship encourages us to keep making music and art. At first, our personal love relationship—well let’s be real, our infant son, was getting in the way of us making anything besides conflict. We would get mad at the other because we both felt starved for free time. This issue actually inspired the project. We were both feeling beyond frustrated and unsupported with the other. So we decided to use our shared relationship with art to re-learn how to support each other.
How has Andrew Bird and Bjork influenced your writing?
Mia: I appreciate how Andrew Bird incorporates classical music into his folk writing. I also appreciate his lyricism. Bjork’s ability to artfully emote inspires me. Plus, Kevin really really really loves Bjork. We have three framed images of her in our house. Just to give you a sense of how much he loves her.
What aspect of life did you get to explore on this record?
Kevin: Loss, partnership, and listening to ourselves, and one another.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Mia: On this project, nature and the wisdom of nature. But two of the four songs on the project do not have lyrics. They are my responses to Kevin’s paintings. Kevin reports to not be very lyric-driven. So since I was responding to his work, I decided to stick to what he most resonates with.
Kevin: she’s right. Vibe/feeling speaks to me more than lyrics; I’ve always been that way.
Any plans to hit the road?
We are thinking about how to take this project on the road and offer a more experiential based performance of it to people where others may be inspired to do a similar exercise with someone in their life.
What else is happening next in Spar Suite’s world?
We are planning a celebration of the project this May in San Francisco at Audium SF. Audium is one of a kind sound chamber type venue. Performances occur in total darkness, so that the audience can really focus on the acoustics of the space. We are working with them to arrange an intimate production of the project that uses the acoustic aspects of the space but also the kind of mystical feel of the place.