Take Aim: Amy Sciarretto vs. Laura From the Mynabirds
Fri, 01 Jun 2012 15:15:39
Laura from The Mynabirds put up her dukes for a Take Aim with Amy Sciarretto. It was a good time, not a bloody time. She spoke candidly -which we love, so we doubly love her- about Generals, working with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and about the lyrics which were inspired by the events of 9/11.
Generals is out June 5.
If you were not doing music, you would be:
Starting a non-profit after-school arts program for disadvantaged kids. When I lived in DC, I was lucky enough to work with the Sitar Center there, which is an amazing organization in the Adams Morgan neighborhood that provides great arts programs to kids, from music to art to theater to dance to fashion design. Since moving to Omaha, I helped get Omaha Girls Rock (a week-long summer camp) off the ground with my dear friends Stefanie Drootin (The Good Life, Big Harp) and Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, Harouki Zombi). I would eventually love to start something for the community that's more permanent, an arts center that gives kids -- especially at-risk kids and the ones who feel like they don't quite fit in at home or school -- a place to find their voice. Another friend of mine, Brigitte McQueen, has just started a non-profit here in Omaha called the Union for Contemporary Arts, which focuses on visual arts. I'd love to build something around music. Who knows where I'd be if I didn't have some amazing teachers encouraging me along the way. Raising the next generation up right is some of the most important work we can do.
Any non-musical skills or hobbies?
I like to be as involved my community as I can when I'm not focusing on the Mynabirds. I might not call these things "hobbies" as they're not things I do just when it's convenient; I try to stay connected and involved even when I'm on tour. I'm part of Omaha Girls Rock, VOICE (a progressive grassroots organization, aiming to get people informed and actively involved in local issues and politics to better our community), Omahype (a curated online arts events calendar that I started up with some friends in town), Opera Omaha, and I try to lend a hand to other amazing orgs around town, like Hear Nebraska for one, when I can. I also started The New Revolutionists portrait project in conjunction with the release of Generals, which has a wider, national focus on the web of amazing women doing great things in their own communities. Besides that, I love to write -- I've been writing a lot of poetry on this old typewriter I have, read (physical books -- I'm in a book club!), garden, and collage postcards for friends to send via snail mail. In this digital age, I think it's important to maintain some serious analog interactions.
Pick one song from Generals and put us in the moment with you, be it a recording or a writing story. Essentially something we couldn't tell simply from hearing it.
"Disaster" is a song I'd been working on since even before Georgie James. I used to perform it solo years ago; John Davis said it was the song that made him want to write music with me. Georgie James tried to record it for our debut, but it just wasn't working. I abandoned it for a few years and decided to rearrange it and come back to it. Thematically, Generals seemed like the perfect album for it. I mean, here we are, all together, the whole world seeming to come apart at the seams. The important thing, to me, is to remember the person-to-person connections, to hold onto one another, to keep each other from metaphorically -- or even literally if we're talking about global warming and the oceans rising up against us -- from going under. Anyway, in the studio with [producer] Richard Swift, we decided to approach it like a hip-hop song. I recorded the piano parts to a click track and then we chopped them up and arranged them like samples from an existing soul record. Then Richard laid down some killer drums (I just love his playing on that song), and I put down the main vocals. We weren't really sure what to do with the chorus. It was getting late. I started drinking whiskey and getting frustrated. I wasn't sure about the direction we were taking the song. I drank more and eventually had to lay down because the room was spinning. I was pretty sure we were going to have to throw away everything we did and start from scratch. But the next morning, it clicked. We listened to it with fresh ears. I said, "Do you have a 5 gallon bucket?" I could hear this part in the chorus where I wanted to work in some street-style DC Go-go rhythms. We found one at the local hardware store and I played the part. Then we laid down those very Bowie-style background vocals. Richard and I were singing live in the room together, me on the oscillating high notes about eight feet from the mic, him doing the descending vocals, moving closer to the mic as the notes got lower. We worked on the guitar riffs and bell melodies together. That final bell at the end of that song still makes my ears physically twitch every time I hear it. I think we finally got it right.
Do you still collaborate/tour with Bright Eyes?
Conor's always got a rotating cast of musicians around him. We haven't done anything musically since the last tour ended at the end of 2011. But I've seen him, Mike and Nate pretty often since then. They're all onto new musical projects at this point. I wouldn't say we are or aren't collaborating. We're just all focusing on different things. Can you elaborate a little further about the lyrics that stem back to the period of 9/11? Life has changed soo much...
On September 11, I was living in DC and my boyfriend at the time was living in the East Village. He stood on the roof of his apartment building and watched (and photographed) the Towers falling. The days after were, of course, dreadful. We would talk when the lines weren't busy. He had decided he wanted to get out of New York for awhile, but with everything below 14th Street off-limits to non-residents (and guarded by tanks and soldiers in full body armor and gas masks), I couldn't come and pick him up. When I finally got there, seeing the pillars of smoke rising from south Manhattan, helicopters still circling, it was so still. And the weather, as everyone remembers, was glorious. It was such a contrast. Everything stood in limbo. So I wrote the first line of "Greatest Revenge" then. It's painting the surreality of lovers in the New York City streets in a post-9/11 world: "All along the avenues, the soldiers make their way, while lovers reap the revenue of a cold September day. So kiss me, darling, kiss me, like we'll never kiss again. And love me, won't you love me like it's our greatest revenge." Ten years later, it still resonates as the answer to the question of our ever-warring world: Love.
Do you dig Mynarbirds?