Static People, five song EP, April 2010
The Late Projectionist, single, January 2011
Moonage Daydream(Bowie), single, February 2011
Hi guys, how are you?
Hey, that’s chica to you, man.
Actually, I’m an honorary guy so no offense taken.
I have a sailor’s mouth, which I’ll try to keep under control during this interview.
Would you mind introducing us to your band members?
Sure thing, we have Pascal Faivre on guitar, Jim Valavanis on Bass and Ken Shelf on drums. Two of the original members, Daedalus Howell and Mundo Murguia, have very recently moved on but we got to record seven songs and shoot a video together. We really enjoyed playing with them and developing the project together. I’m the singer, or shrieker, or purr kitten, whichever I’m feeling possessed by at the moment.
How long has the current band line up been together?
We started this project right around Halloween 2008 with two six packs of beer and a general annoyance at how boring and quiet our town was. Once we realized it sounded good, we nixed the beer during rehearsal and started getting serious. The new configuration has only been since March of this year so it’s fairly new.
How did you meet each other?
Funny that, we actually lived three blocks apart in the same neighborhood. I call it the cool part of Sonoma because there’s weirdos and artists hidden in the general population as well as a thriving Latino community. We’re in the northern California wine country about an hour from San Francisco. As you know, weirdos tend to find each other, it’s how we survive amongst the general population. Our drummer is an old friend who lives in San Francisco and we finally got around to playing music together. It’s been really fun so far.
How did you come up with the band name?
Ach, we argued about that for a long time and sent many texts back and forth. We settled on two names we liked which were both taken. Everyone liked Static People because of the obvious shock of rock reference, and once we had our logo with four little electrified hair people, we were set. I actually found an experimental jazz project in Italy also called Static People, so if they come after us, we’ll have to become Static People USA or something, heaven forbid! We’ll try not to be static with our music though. If it starts getting boring heads are gonna roll!
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Hmm, always my least favorite question because I dunno, really. I’d say we’re definitely products of the post first-waves of punk and hardcore, meaning 1980 onwards. But we’re also the melodic types. My favorite vocalists include Nina Simone, Diamanda Galas, H.R., Billie Holiday, Liz Fraser, Bowie, Siouxsie Sioux and Nina Hagen.
What music did you listen to while growing up?
Lots of jazz in our house. I’d say my mom is an orthodox member of the church of John Coltrane. Also plenty of funk and soul as my bro and sis are 10 years older, so I’d watch them bring home the newest Ohio Players or Isley Brothers records and dance in front of the mirror. Lots of dub and reggae as spliffs were sparked on Saturdays along with African music like Fela and Hugh Masekela. I always wondered in amazement at how long Fela’s songs were. I’d be coloring on the floor and realize, “Man, that’s still the same song 20 minutes later!” My brother was the one who came home with the Devo and Blondie records one day and that kind of sent me on a different course when I was 10. Soon after that I locked myself in the bathroom and took his electric razor to my head, much to my mom’s chagrin. I started listening to a lot of punk and new wave, hardcore and industrial, electronic and what we’d call “Batcave” in Seattle. Some of your readers will know about the origins of the Batcave. I’m also a complete Hip Hop head, starting with Sugar Hill Gang and through to the 90’s giants like Gangstarr, A Tribe called Quest, Wu Tang, and so many more. I am always down with some dope ass beats.
Which artist or track inspired you to want to make music yourself?
That’s a hard one, I’d say “Monitor” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, the whole “Juju” album really, the album “Garlands” by Cocteau Twins and “Spleen and Ideal” by Dead Can Dance. Those ladies kick ass--my dream was just to stand on stage and wail like that. Oh, and hopefully have it sound good as well.
When was the ‘I want to do that!’ moment?
I’d say at about eight years old. I was sent away to some sleepaway summer camp for a month and was completely traumatized. The pool was cold as shit and I had no friends. I had a terrible rash and got attacked by wasps. But there was a talent show and by some wild hair I signed up. I sang some hippie campfire song, and just squeezed my eyes shut in fear. But once I forgot about the audience I guess I really belted it out.
I ended and 300 people screamed and gave me a standing ovation. I got bitten by the bug that night and it’s haunted me ever since. It’s like a monkey on my back.
What was the last music you put on your ipod or mp3 player?
Computer World by Kraftwerk, Everything by Tones on Tail, and The Very Best of The Meters.
What have you been up to recently?
Recording a few new tracks, one of which is a cover of Moonage Daydream by David Bowie. First heard the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars record when I was 13 and it basically altered my life. So it was great fun to do a cranked up version of that song, which is not usually covered by female singers. I took a Bowie worship picture in hot pants and big hair with all my records spread around me. It was a blast! We’re going back into the studio in August to record three more songs. We shot our first video in April and we’re shooting a second one in September, so I’m psyched to get those out to our fans, especially those in Europe and Asia who haven’t seen us live yet.
Photography by Cathy Stancil
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
More songs, videos and lots of fan goodies. If people sign up on our mailing list on the official site (www.staticpeople.com) we send out free downloads and stuff. We like to support our fans because we really appreciate their support and can’t do this without them. I love to send out stickers and weird geeky packages so if you’re nerdy and into snail mail still, email us and we’ll hook you up.
What is your current equipment?
Lungs and attitude, mostly. I use a bit of effects but not much. Don’t like asking for reverb at gigs because sound guys think girls want to sound like they’re in a cathedral or something. I said a BIT of reverb, not the Chinese karaoke setting! Pascal plays a Jackson and a Gibson SG. He’s slowly collecting pedals like a plague, and is generally wanting more and more guitars, of course. Jim plays a Headway headless bass and a G & L. Ken has a 1971 vintage Ludwig Blue Oyster Pearl kit with Zildjian cymbals. He’s been playing with this same set since 1989 and has a customized smash cymbal. It’s a stack of all the broken cymbals he’s played during that time pressed together in one beautiful, crunchy love bomb.
Do you have a favourite piece of musical kit that you couldn’t live without?
I bet Pascal wouldn’t step onstage without his Red Witch fuzz pedal, and he’s been very obsessed lately with the Line 6 pedal he just got. He can record and play with himself live. It’s a guitar player’s wet dream! I need my stomping boots and I’m good to go.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
A better PA for our rehearsal space, amazing vocal mics, rehearsal monitors and I’d love to have a projector. I wanna show weird films during our songs.
More pedals and effects are always fun, but it’s the raw sound that really matters.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
The guys tend to venture into other guitars and pedals that are on site, but Pascal has tended to fall back on that Jackson because it sounds so bright and crisp. I get an amazing mic to sing into which I love, it makes it sound like I’m sitting on your shoulder whispering in your ear. For the EP we recorded at Decibelle Studios in San Francisco. This used to be the legendary 24-track analog studio Mobius, which recorded Dead Kennedys, The Residents and may others. They have a great collection of instruments on site so we knocked ourselves out using vintage keyboards and modulators, old amps. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Our producer, Jason Carmer, has really been developing his own studio so that’s where we’re going next month. He’s got amazing gear.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
Live sound is often challenging because there’s not much time to do proper sound checks unless you’re U2. Ideally we need a dedicated sound person who can travel with us and assist in making sure our live sound is where it needs to be every time. There’s also the constant struggle between what you’re hearing onstage and what’s going out to the audience. In general we’re pretty loud and when we play live I really have to belt it to run with the pack, or the guys will bowl me over. Recordings are fun because I can use more of the softer and gooey aspects of my voice and they’ll still be heard.
All in all I think live and recorded sound is very different and the goal is to achieve that harmony between the two, so your fans don’t come away thinking, “Well, those guys SUCK live.”
How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
It’s a group effort. Our producer Jason Carmer has a great knowledge of production techniques and knows exactly what kinds of equipment and effects will produce the kind of sound you’re looking for. He’s worked with an impressive list of players so he’s usually always right(fucker). If he tells us something’s too slow or it goes on too long, we’ll listen to him and we always come out with something better than we started with. Lately he’s hardly been changing our arrangements so I guess that means we’re getting better. Or he’s stopped caring—just kidding.
Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
Yikes—I’m really interested by it but I am very overwhelmed by all the virtual knobs and such. It’s like the supermarket. There’s too many choices. How many different kinds of toothpaste do you need? Or different kinds of reverb? My brain just checks out on this end of things but I really respect people who can master these amazing skills.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
I love it. I always want to go into the studio. There’s such a buildup when you’re recording, and then all of a sudden your done and your brain goes, “What’s next?”
There’s a moment when I’m really pushing my vocal performance and Jason says, “Ok, that sounds great. You know how you were really crazed at the end? Do that the whole time.” Then I’m like, fuck yeah! And I just bust out until he says it’s good enough. I don’t mess around with Autotune or any of that crap. I was trained classically and you have to be able to know if you’re in tune or not. if you’re not, you gotta do it again.
Do you have any new recordings planned?
Always—we are working on three new songs right now and we’ll definitely head over to Stupidio(Jason’s studio) in August. We are steadily working our way up to a full length album. I’m also really into remixes, I’d love for some crazy cute DJ to do a strange and beautiful remix of one of our songs. I wanna sound like an android.
Which are your favourite original tracks?
I like Just Sink Down and The Late Projectionist, our new one.
I also like Carrier, which is a slower song, but I love the dirgy sound. I’m an old Bauhaus fan, so I love a bit of good tension.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
Thom Yorke, Bowie, Black Francis, PJ Harvey, Hendrix, Cobain, and Explosions in the Sky are just a few of my faves.
Who are the main songwriters for the band?
Pascal usually comes up with the main body of the song, I write the lyrics and melody, and Ken and Jim fill in. I consider it an equal sum of its parts, as we’d never have a finished song without everyone’s efforts. I’m writing a new song on my own though and we’ll see if Pascal will play the bonehead chords I’m coming up with. Punk rock!
Do you have a method for writing songs?
There’s usually a riff and we build from there. It could be just a few chords, or a small bit. Sometimes we’ll have a bit lingering around for a long time and then another bit will appear that links to the first one and becomes a song. For my part, I usually feel one note in my body that wants to come out when I’m listening to rehearsal tapes and I build up from there. I spend a lot of time driving around in my car shrieking and testing out melodies over and over with the CD on repeat. Judging from the disturbed expressions of the people driving next to me, I apparently look like I have Tourette’s.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
It’s not easy, it never is. I have some rules—I almost never use the word “I”. It annoys me. I also like to talk about things with metaphors and secret hints. So much of my songwriting is political and I hope meaningful. It just takes some active listening to get it. Jason has helped me understand that it’s okay to repeat the same phrase in a chorus—I have such a block against any musical direction that feels like an attempt to make a “hit” or become “accessible.” I feel like I need it to be hard, that if it’s easy there might be something shallow about it. But I definitely appreciate a good hook. That’s why I love The Pixies so much. I think Joey Santiago had the most awesome guitar style.
His lines are the defining melodies for so many of their best tunes. I think many raw ideas need to be distilled down to a simple yet concentrated melody. The goal is to not have any one note be a filler, or be out of place.
Photography by Cathy Stancil
Would you sign with a major record company?
Hmmmm. let me think for a second. No. They would tell me to wear some freakin’ red bow on my ass, and I would have to smash their faces in. Seriously though, if they were actually able to demonstrate that they put the importance of artistic expression above making money I would consider it. I still think that the best music comes out of independent labels though. You only have to refer to labels like Sub Pop, 4AD, Alternative Tentacles, SST, etc who set the standard for this type of vehicle for artists to say what they want to say without having to worry about whether they can be branded as some kind of product. Everyone has a label now these days and that makes it hard to tell what that means anymore. But I'll still take artistic freedom over money any fucking day.
Which countries have you gigged in?
All around the US and Western Canada. Europe, you're next. Especially France, where our guitarist Pascal is from.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
Definitely the UK, France, Australia, Germany, and Scandinavia. Also South America. I want to play the G Fest. I hate being cold though, so I'd need some big ass boots and shit.
Who would you like to tour with?
Another band that has a girl with boots in it. The music scene is so dominated by men(sorry guys). Naw, I can hang with guys, I always have since I was a young pipsqueak. I'd be into an international Afro Punk tour. That would be dope.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
DIY all the way. There's good vehicles for getting your music out there on the internet. It's still a ton of work though, I spend way too much time doing it on a daily basis, and there's so much information out there that unless you totally bombard people they forget about everything except what's in front of their face at the moment. I've tried, but I'm just not the daily blogger type. "Hey there, I popped a zit today. It fucking sucked." Sometimes I just don't want to add to the static(no pun intended) noise that's already clogging the atmosphere. I wrote a blog about Bowie recently after we released the single on Valentine’s Day. I enjoyed writing it, so I may start blabbing more often now.
Which music promotion websites do you use and do you have a favourite?
I like Jango.com, the station where your music gets played alongside other bands from a similar universe. We've picked up about 1500 fans from all over the world in a very short time. It's so cool to connect with people all over the world who like your music. It kind of puts a shine on to think, hey, someone in Singapore or Germany or Brazil digs our music. Plus they post cool comments and that really makes my day.
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
Definitely. You still need help though. We have a record label in LA starting to work with us on booking, so it’s great to have help. There's also the challenge of just getting people to get off their bums and come to a fucking gig. The whole internet thing is a catch 22, because although it makes so many things accessible, it has also made us extremely lazy(as if people needed to be more so). So instead of being so stoked to see that band that's coming through your town, people are thinking, yeah I'm kinda tired tonight, my kid was a brat/work sucked, etc. I can just download their song and watch the video. And since venues don't care about anything except ticket sales, this has made getting gigs that much harder.
What is your opinion on ‘battle of the bands’ competitions?
I'd rather have a root canal without anesthesia. It's lame for bands to work their asses off selling tickets, give a big wad of cash to the promoter, and for what? Zilch.
We did one last year and came very close to winning, but we were snowballed by the band right after us who brought 50 screaming Filipino girls to the Battle. That was my mistake, I need more screaming girls! A large woman grabbed me in a bear hug though, and screamed that I was the best thing since Pat Benatar. That's my new line now: "You know, I AM the best thing since Pat Benatar."
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
My worst experience was being dosed at a show at the Kennel Club in San Francisco, having to play drums like a madwoman anyway, and puking while tripping my ass off onstage. I kept playing though, dammit. The best show was playing for 45 minutes, getting $300 bucks, a gourmet dinner AND a bottle of really good wine. That will thrill any musician, and those that claim to disagree are lying through their teeth.
Do you get nervous before a gig? How do you calm down?
Every time I get ready to perform, even though I've been doing it since I was 8, this voice starts up in my head: "What the fuck are you doing here? Get the hell out before it's too late." Then I have to pee and I feel like I’ve just snorted a huge rail of speed(not that I would know what this actually feels like). I've learned to ignore this though, and usually after the first few notes I'm totally happy to be out there.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
We are slated to do the soundtrack for an upcoming film by Nick Frangione, an independent filmmaker from San Francisco, called “Rocketship Ice Cream". I can't say much about it now but it's going to be an incredible project. A story of desperation, victory, and of course, ice cream. All with a female heroine, my fave!
Is composing for film or tv something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Absolutely. As long as I'm not stuck singing cheesy pop songs. It would have to have a weird edge to it. I love the idea of being able to pull in all kinds of instrumentation that we don't normally use in our band. I'm really into industrial field recordings, like making instruments out of playground equipment, for example.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Keep supporting independent music and thanks for letting us spew our propaganda in your magazine. Muahahaha!! Kiss kiss, bang bang!