Mon, 28 Apr 2008 08:20:01
Driving along a New York freeway, I-Nine's Carmen Keigans exclaims, "It hasn't been snowing here, thank God! But I am in a jacket with my scarf. It's kind of windy. I'm from the South, when I left home, I was in a t-shirt and shorts [laughs]." New York isn't really conducive to said attire, but that's ok. I-Nine still manage to entrance their NYC audience with a combination of soaring vocal melodies and catchy instrumentation. The warm confines of Columbia, South Carolina are I-Nine's collective home, and it served as an integral element to the band's debut Heavy Weighs the King (RCA). On the album, Carmen and Co. craft eclectic, alternative rock with huge pop hooks and transcendent keyboard melodies. It's a sound that's often whimsical and ethereal. More importantly, under the warmth of their melodies, Carmen explores heartache and pain in a poignant fashion. She's one of those rare, young songwriters that can be emotional without being "emo." Also, her fantastic literary sensibility doesn't hurt either. I-Nine even derived their name from a Kurt Vonnegut line in Cat's Cradle.
While traversing the chilly roadways of the Big Apple, Carmen talked to ARTISTdirect about her band's debut, writing songs, literature and who lives up to the term "Canadian Redneck." Suffice to say, she enlightened us about a lot.
Heavy Weighs the King feels very inspired. Where are you coming from as a songwriter?
These songs have all come from a really personal place for me. That's not to say that I always write from that space. Sometimes my friends have experiences that I can reflect on and write about. With this album, songs like "Seven Days of Lonely" are especially personal. You've heard "Solar" and "If This Room Could Move." Both of those songs were with me when I was trying to get out of a relationship that I was in. It's always a little dramatic with me. I'm not "emo," but sometimes I feel like it [laughs].
It seems like you convey emotion a little more naturally than that.
I do. I think if you were to hang out with me for a couple days, you'd see I exude it. Whenever I'm in a bad mood, it's pretty obvious. You can tell. I'm not going to say that death and pain follow me around, but I definitely wear them heavier than some people.
So is that where the name "Heavy Weighs the King" comes in?
A little bit, yeah. With the title of the record, I was thinking of Michelangelo's Pieta statue. I saw that statue, and I thought, "This seems really heavy." Looking at art like that can build emotion from the sheer experience of being there and looking at it. I'm with boys all the time. I was looking back at pictures from our tours, and I'm always the only girl. So it seems appropriate that it would be "Heavy Weighs the King." It's one of those things that I thought would look cool on a t-shirt.
"The King" could even be emotion weighing on you.
It's totally psychological. You can hear that on all of those songs. Definitely, you're right on point with that. One of my favorite movies is Fight Club. I love the dialogue and the imaginative scenes and the whole idea behind it. It's pretty whacky!
There's a literary sensibility to your music as well. Are you a big reader?
I do like to read, yes. Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five were books that I had on hand while working on the record. I also really like Leo Tolstoy's imagery in Anna Karenina. It's not necessarily one of those imaginative, out-there novels, but I don't only read the fictional stuff. With Vonnegut, it's all about imagination. There are things in there that you don't necessarily see when you're reading, but he builds that for you. I think songs can do that too. They put you in a place. Whether or not you've been there before, you can usually associate them with something or some feeling that you've had before in the past.
“It's always a little dramatic with me. I'm not 'emo,' but sometimes I feel like it”
Music and literature are connected, because both evoke images that aren't necessarily there.
Right, exactly. Sometimes it's in the vocal takes too. If you take "Change Nothing," that was done in one take. The reason it took that one take was because when I sang it, I never felt I was hitting that same pain in my voice that I could hear in the bridge of the song initially. I never felt we could re-capture that, so we went with that first take. Just the sound can evoke that.
It's a very spacey sound. It's even whimsical, musically.
That's a good assessment of some of the songs, especially "If This Room Could Move." We have a cello, and we play that it up too. It's really beautiful in and of itself. Let me tell you how I listen to orchestrated music. I rarely know what the artist's intent was with a piece, but in my brain, I build a story. Sometimes it can happen with our music. I'll hear something. Almost instantly, I'll have an idea, and I'll see a picture in my brain. Then I'll build around this image that I get from someone playing in the band. Orchestra music is very much like that. During "If This Room Could Move," I actually imagine a room coming off a house with the ceiling fan actually propelling the room like an E.T. kind of thing [laughs].
The record can take you away.
With this record being our first, we really made an effort to write something that could be played on radio. We wanted our music to have a mass appeal. That was something we've never done before. It was really fun to have this opportunity. I'm going to ride this rollercoaster until I get kicked off, and hopefully, this will be our foot in the door [laughs]. It's such a strange industry right now.
What's Columbia like?
It's a college town. We're from Orangeberg County, which is between Columbia and Charleston. There's not a whole lot going on there. I've known these guys since I was six or seven-years-old.
What was it like working with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback?
I was nervous to go work with him, because in all of his pictures, he looked like a badass [laughs]. I didn't know what to expect. As soon as we walked into the studio though, he was so cool. He was so "Southern" [laughs]. I call him the "Canadian Redneck," because of how he acts. He'll take some beer or wine, just talk and jam out. He's totally laidback and really creative. He heard "If This Room Could Move," and he thought it would be a great song to work on. I think the song sounded great after working with him. His engineer is just as genius as he is. I can only hope we get to work with him again.