Reviews : Nine Lucid Dreams
Two Loons For Tea, "Nice Lucid Dreams"
WMVY Album of the Week
"With most bands these days, it seems to be what’s outside that counts. What makes the imaginative duo of Sarah Scott and Jonathan Kochmer - known as Two Loons for Tea - stand out from the crowd starts inside. Literally in the case of Sarah. She’s got an extra rib – 13 of them on one side rather than the conventional dozen. Maybe there’s a connection between that and the hauntingly beautiful voice, hypnotic melodies and colorfully offbeat lyrics she brings to the music of Two Loons for Tea. Jonathan mirrors his partner’s asymmetry with his visionary musical constructions..."
After a self-imposed three year hiatus (due to Jonathan Kochmer almost cutting off a finger), Seattle’s Two Loons for Tea return with it’s third album, Nine Lucid Dreams. Featuring Sarah Scott’s gorgeous jazz-worthy vocals and Kochmer’s inventive song structures, the duo enlist heavy hitters like Matt Chamberlain, percussionist Mike Dillon, bassist Brad Houser, string master Eyvind Kang and others to flesh out its Zero 7 inspired landscapes. In lesser hands these 12 sexy tracks with their grab bag of styles ranging from pop to jazz to trip-hop, Dixie, folk, rock and even the heavily processed, Latin-laced rumba of “Consuela” could come off as scattered, but with Kochmer and Scott leading the Loons, we get a fully realized album for sultry sunsets or sophisticated after-dark engagements.
Seattle has been synonymous with alternative rock since the late '80s and early '90s; it was Seattle and nearby areas in Washington State that gave us Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Tad, the Melvins, Green River, Alice in Chains, Hole, Mudhoney, the Foo Fighters, Screaming Trees, and Mother Love Bone, among many others. But being Seattle-based and being part of alternative rock doesn't necessarily mean being a part of grunge; Two Loons for Tea have been part of the Seattle scene since the '90s, and their adult alternative pop/rock is far from grunge. Instead, this duo has much more in common with the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack, Portishead, and early Lush than it does with Pearl Jam or the Foo Fighters; instead of getting inspiration from metal, hard rock, or hardcore, Two Loons for Tea have been incorporating elements of jazz, cabaret, ambient electronica, soul and world music. That approach worked well for lead singer Sarah Scott and guitarist/keyboardist/background singer Jonathan Kochmer (the Seattle residents who comprise Two Loons for Tea) in the early to mid-2000s, and it continues to work well for them on 2007's Nine Lucid Dreams. As usual, Scott and Kochmer are joined by a long list of guest musicians; no less than 14 different players join them on this 47-minute CD, although not simultaneously. The personnel on Nine Lucid Dreams varies from track to track, but regardless of who is or isn't joining them on a particular song, there is never any doubt that Scott and Kochmer are the ones in command -- and Scott's lead vocals are very much the focal point on appealing, dusky items such as "Eyebrows Are Nature's Makeup," "Monkey," "Toxic Shellfish in the Sun," and the Latin-tinged "Consuela." Creatively, Two Loons for Tea don't lose anything at all on Nine Lucid Dreams.
'Seattle's Two Loons For Tea are like some mad Nashville duo lost on planet chill, or perhaps they're Victorian dancehall entertainers forecasting a successful Vaudeville career for their as yet unborn but talented children. Two Loons Jonathan Kochmer and Sarah Scott are very much the local boho couple warping jazz standards for downtown hipsters but their reach is decidedly global. Scott sings with a sassy impertinence that recalls dark heroines from Dinah Washington and Rickie Lee Jones to Beth Gibbons, while Kochmer's stylized arrangements recall Zero 7, Air and a touch of Massive Attack. It's vibrant cocktail electronica for the 7pm set, feelgood music for the modern urban sophisticate.
Two Loons For Tea's Nine Lucid Dreams extends the spell cast on Looking For Landmarks and their eponymous debut, the songs coasting in and out of acoustic trip hop dreamstates with all the surety of a Seattle rainstorm. Recorded in part at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios, Nine Lucid Dreams tugs at country heartstrings yet with a bluesy electronic edge borne of Pro Tools efficiency and dance floor DJ demographics.
It's Scott's unique vocals that provide the emotional sustenance; she's a star in the making, her wailing, bad-girl-longing-for-love allure captivating from start to finish. Tremulous and knee tingling, Scott is equal parts organic earth child, teasing sex kitten and crooning soul sistah. You can practically see her change from sleepy chanteuse to all powerful soothsayer in "Sunset Room," the song bubbling with jazzy Rhodes piano, bustling brushed drums and atmospheric electronic blurps and bleeps. Scott's lyrics are equally enchanting, framing "Sunset Room" as a "portal to another world, where we have no need for clothes or shoes...and I will show you what I'm made of." And..."dreaming on clouds of saffron and silk, bathed in golden light we defy gravity completely." Is this is one of the best descriptions ever of the LSD experience or has Scott mastered the elusive ESO (Extended Sexual Orgasm) technique practiced by Tantric masters from Sting to Johnny the Wadd? Either way, she transports us to another world, for sure.
"Monkey" is less dream-sexual, more Saturday night chill fantastic. Like a flowing trip hop version of Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do," Monkey kicks a mean blues beat with halo electronic effects, while Scott demands that you "Put your hands on the monkey." Rickie Lee Jones got nothing on this!
Kochmer's jam bag of composer treats gets it due on the below the border surge of "Consuela." Swaying like a bent outtake from Los Lobos, "Consuela" is all whispered spoken word vocals, chattering bongos, glowing vibraphones and spooky rumba beat. Like a scene from Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, "Consuela" remains a mystery long after the song has finished, "hummingbirds melt in the dark" little more than a mental tease as you pass through its Mexican shanty town in song, parched, paranoid, and sleepless.
(Yahoo! Music Blogs : Better Living Through MP3s)
"Sarah Scott has one of the purest voices in pop music... [Nine Lucid Dreams] features her dreamy vocals over Portishead influenced trip-hop and spacey, ambient pop... strings, keys, drums and horns... create a
luscious background for Scott's sensuous purring".
(Seattle Sound, Bumbershoot 2007 issue)
"The album is unusual and catchy... Nine Lucid Dreams will certainly have many fans" (Celebrity Cafe)
"Unless you’re a meteorologist or a storm-chaser, when you start talking about atmosphere, you’re usually not referring to the literal air we breathe. It’s more likely that you’re referring to the vibe of your workplace, how a painting establishes the ambiance in your living room, or the general mood of you and your friends as you’re hanging out together one afternoon. Atmosphere is more about how you’re feeling inside or how you’re digesting and interacting with the world. And few mediums of expression are as effective at creating atmosphere as that of music, whether it’s music to start a revolution by or music by which to make babies - the tunes that stream through our ears go a long way towards establishing the soundtrack for our lives.
And with their most recent release, Nine Lucid Dreams, the dreamy duo Two Loons for Tea have crafted an album destined to fill every canal in your ears and every room in your residen with their lush beauty. Seattle denizens Sarah Scott and Jonathan Kochmer travel to great lengths as they explore the far reaches of the band’s sonic palette, all while centering their explorations on solid ambient pop sensibilities.
Recorded primarily at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studios, Sarah and Jonathan were able to blissfully and artfully merge the temperament of their laid-back Northwest home with the aura of the rolling, wide-open spaces that define the Texas Hill Country. From the opening strains of “Sunset Room” until the last notes of “Stand On Your Head” waft into the distance, the listener becomes spell-bound as intricate folk-guitar work, brushed drums, keyboard fills, wandering (yet measured) bass lines, and
Sarah’s voice work their aural magic. The record’s standout section is the triumvirate of “Strongest Man in the World,” “Marietta,” and “Eyebrows are Nature’s Makeup,” where powerful storytelling aligns itself, every ebb to every flow, with excellent musicianship.
So, if you’re on the lookout for an album that was created in two of the more stunning atmospheres on this continent and that is able to create an equally awe-inspiring atmosphere in your neck of the woods, then you’d be well served to obtain yourself a copy of Nine Lucid Dreams from Two Loons for Tea." (Amplifier : -- Adam P. Newton)
"I think this album has the perfect title - 'Nine Lucid Dreams', because throughout listening, you almost feel as if your in a dreamlike state. It creates all these visions throughout your mind that sweep and soar around your thoughts. You can picture everything word being sung, it verges on strange, but the kind of strange that you find yourself fascinated by and must get closer to if given the chance to have a more in depth look at it. Though it may not be for everyone, as some just might not get it, I have no doubts it will be loved and cherished by many!
Album opener Sunset Room is a sleek, sultry and melodic little number. Bellowing in like wind through a window, the tempo enchants and teases slowing building. They do quite well to give listeners something they've never heard before and it's quite evident that vigorous amounts of body and soul went into putting this together. I like the light and airiness of this; you could easily sit back and listen to this over and over. It does well to set the mood and tone for the rest of the album; this is definitely one of my favourites already, with its sensuous expansions, just simply gorgeous!
Monkey bounces in next, it instantly creates a sunny rumba like atmosphere, its perfect listening for the summer season. At times the tempo and vocals remind me a bit of Sheryl Crow's 'All I Wanna Do', just because they both attain that infectious beat that you can't help but dance alongside to. The background itself is one not to be ignored, presenting itself in a very poppy and ambient way that easily sweeps you up, drowning your senses in the track.
Following on is Waiting which is simply stunning, the deep rich tones of the vocals melt like chocolate and you can't help but fall for them endlessly. For a song like this, you really need vocals that can bring the emotion of the song alive and this is exactly what they do here. As the song plays on it seems to unfold and expand in all these different and most colourful ways, showing great depth.
Strongest Man in the world is one that starts off slow, but builds to this brilliant rhythm that I quite like. It catches you off guard and keeps you wondering what will pop up next. The pitter patter of the drums in the background, give this marching like quality to the song during the beginning then just seem to explode as the chorus comes in. This is one that might at first seem too slow for some, but is definitely worth hanging on till the chorus comes in, as that's where the true beauty of the song comes alive.
Next in is Marietta, a little darker sounding at first compared to the others. This doesn't have the typical over-used tempo that many songs tend to have; this is choppier which I find more interesting. Somewhat of a story line appears here as well, which creates great cinematics in the mind whilst listening. Good stuff!
Dixie it up takes you on a journey back in time and this suits Sarah's vocal tones to a tee. They dance alongside the backdrop which is charming all on its own. This is a really lovely treat to find on this album and its one you'll find yourself playing more than once as good things come to an end far too quickly!
Lastly here is Stand on your head and I absolutely love the backdrop to this one, for me it stands out more than anything. There's a purity that seeps in Sarah's vocals, but at the same time, you could quite believe that she could sing anything she set her heart on no matter what it was. The haunting enchantment of this seems to softly sing me to sleep, gently bellowing out to a close; really lovely and worth many listens.
There are some songs on this album that have a more filler like quality to them, but are worth a listen despite this. Two Loons for Tea seems to shine brighter when the songs have a bouncier tempo to them. Sarah's voice flies high to soar above the clouds and you really get more of a feel for what you're listening to. This album takes you on a journey of lush soundscapes and heartfelt moments. If you're like me, you can appreciate the differences and non-conventional direction this album takes on, it's completely unexpected, but warmly welcomed. It would be interesting now, to go and listen to previous works to get a feel for how they've changed or evolved! I think this is a charming yet peculiar album, that will reach out in some way to those who have a listen!"
Reviews : Looking For Landmarks
"Two Loons for Tea could open for Tricky or Willie Nelson and chances are they'd win over either audience."
- Lollipop Magazine
"No other group is doing what Two Loons is doing... exemplifies the way modern music ought to be played."
- Yale Daily News
"All that can be sensual, mysterious, and sexy about pop music is found in this album... expertly executed... flawless, organic production. And despite the album's smarts and complexity it's as accessible as anything on the radio today... Pop hasn't seen anything this sophisticated since The Police's 'Synchronicity'".
"This is a top-quality band... I don't know why Two Loons shouldn't be huge... Each song is a carefully constructed landscape of ethereal, slightly jazzy music and chanteuse vocals. With lesser bands this can lead to a contrived atmosphere, but it works to a 'tea' here. There's no real point in talking about individual tracks; the album works best as a whole, as the group leads you from place to place. 'Looking for Landmarks' is like a journey to outer space, and it's easy to lose yourself in their unique world."
- Shotgun Reviews
"The best way to describe the Seattle duo, Two Loons for Tea, is hypnotic. Their uniquely smooth and meaningful sound is truly a fresh breath of air. They have the edgy sound of rock band but still hold on to its "chill" factor, that puts it into the same category of bands like Radiohead and Blur. This band takes a leap of faith, hoping that their audience is ready to drop the current empty pop sound for a return to a more robust musical style with layers of sound and introspective lyrics. Each song has tastes of jazz, rock and pure poetry that all mixes to create a strangely great new sound. "Looking for Landmarks," their current album, demands to be listened to with songs such as "Blue Suit" and their title track "Landmarks." Each song, with distinct lyrical value, creates a "chill" sound. The listener is drawn deeper and deeper into the album as it progresses, seemingly because of both the musical depth and the ability of the lyrics to fit each and every person... Two Loons for Tea have undeniable poetic value and musical talent. Do yourself a favor and take a listen to this powerful band..."
- Ventura College Press, Ventura, CA
"...a cinematic, ethereal and sensual musical journey."
- Music Connection, Los Angeles
"...beautifully crafted, one of the most ambitious productions I've heard in awhile, and the finest things here are beguilingly dreamy, cooly seductive and undeniably lovely."
- Dream Magazine
"...Two Loons For Tea music takes on a magic trip hop, electronica, alternative pop, quality that is not easy to describe. Their seducing hypnotic blend of melodic lyrics and sounds embraces the listener's soul and holds on tight. Sarah Scott's haunting vocals and Jonathan Kochmer's weaving guitar & effects take you on a unique mystical adventure... The Title cut of the new CD "Looking For Landmarks" is a delightful song which certainly merits tons of radio play."
- (submitted by visitor fromMusic4Site)
"...a paragon of maturity in a world of live-for-the-moment pop songsters... Rock takes a chill pill & puts on its thinking cap."
"The Seattle duo of guitarist Jonathan Kochmer and vocalist Sarah Scott otherwise known as Two Loons for Tea gathered another stellar group of musicians for thier sophomore release. Once again working with musicans whose credits include King Crimson, Brian Eno, Elton John and Galactic, Two Loons' 'Looking for Landmarks' is another pristine and intricate collection of soulful alternative rock. The songwriting, while melodic and memorable, also addresses a wide array of musical styles from ambient to funk. Scott's clear voice often sounds something like The Sundays' Harriet Wheeler on a serious Marvin Gaye jag. Complimenting this is Kochmer's guitar and keyboards which have as much in common with Sam Prekop as The Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. All in all, Landmarks pushes the boundaries of adult-alternative pop." - All Music Guide
"The title track 'Looking for Landmarks' is soothing and makes me want to close my eyes and slow dance while holding a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other... 'Blue Suit' stands out not only because it's a little different from others on the disc but it's also a very catchy 'radio friendly' song...This is great mood music, if the mood you're trying to set is swoonful and sexy..."
- Collected Sounds
"...as moody as it is sweet and as sexy as it is delicate... If you've been looking for something that will put some magic in the room (and in your heart) we recommend you drink this special blend of Tea."
"The second album from Seattle duo Jonathan Kochmer (guitar) and Sarah Scott (vocals) is a subtle delight, with 11 tracks of the delicately textured, atmospheric pop for which Two Loons for Tea has become known. Why they aren't more known is a mystery; with well-crafted, professionally performed songs and a host of guest musicians (including Brad Houser, Matt Chamberlain, Skerik, and Eyvind Kang), Two Loons for Tea have created a quietly stunning CD. The first track, "Blue Suit," is somewhat more energetic than their first self-titled CD might lead one to expect, and it sets the tone for the remainder of the album. While "Dying for Love" has a singer-songwriter sort of feel (you know what I mean), it's also got a highly danceable beat. "She's Not Worth the Worry" is a fairly typical example of what this duo does best: beginning with percussion, it adds layers of instrumentation as the song continues. "Shape of Strange" begins similarly, but goes on to establish a jazzier presence. That's the other thing about Two Loons for Tea; as soon as you think you've got a handle on them, they do something to surprise you."
-Cathy Dyer, The Tablet Magazine
Layered with sound, powerfully guitar-based, and bound together with Sarah Scott's yearning raspy-honey voice, this album is a wonder, a sophomore album that plays on all the strengths of their first album. The tunes and lyrics are catchy; the production is rich but never cluttered. An album to listen to obsessively.
These songs are beautiful, memorable, earthy, light and dark and all colours, and they'll take you places as you listen. These songs are edgy and familiar, carefully constructed and layered with sound and yet still fresh and alive with a sense that they haven't been worked to death and allow for serendipity and the delights of invention.
I was picking lavendar blossoms when I listened to this disc for the first time, which somehow seemed appropriate--something familiar and yet powerfully fresh and spicy. This is clearly the next step in their musical journey....I know that I'll be able to play this one as much and as obsessively as their first--if not more.
- The Ectophile's Guide to Good Music
Reviews : Two Loons For Tea
Two Loons for Tea's self-titled debut is an innovative and lively recording... at the center of the project are two gifted artists who have eloquently and articulately brought their musical ideas and cross-genre influences to the fore: Jonathan Kochmer and Sarah Scott. Kochmer and Scott's musical and artistic bond is quite apparent on this record, and the unity that you hear in their recordings lets you know that they've mastered the art of collaborative songwriting. Kochmer's introspective guitar playing is the nucleus of the songs that make up this recording, and Scott's vocals and lyrics compliment the guitar so well that it seems that these two individual timbral voices are one. The music on Two Loons for Tea moves between somber and lively; the emotional landscape in between is bridged by a variety of ethnic and orchestral instruments -- including vibes, viola, erhu, and tabla -- that seem to breathe new life into the compositions... providing a bit of an experimental and eclectic streak to most of the works that make up this recording. This is an interesting recording that's quite dark and elusive. This recording has a bit of a singer/songwriter feel, but it's more eclectic and more diverse than most of the recordings in that genre, thus making it hard to pin this down to a specific genre. Fans of good music that's both fresh and interesting will be pleased with t
his release. - Matt Borghi, All Music Guide
"An album of tremendous intelligence and range."
- CD Baby
I have been utterly obsessing over the eponymous debut album of a Seattle group, Two Loons for Tea. This is a wonderful combination of jazz, pop, trip hop, electronica, atmospheric guitar, and great raspy/rich vocals. I've been listening to their files at mp3.com for quite a while, but listening to the album as a whole has been a revelation. There's something about their sound that is just what I want to hear right now -- the mix of smoothness with liveliness and depths of the flowing sound. And of course the great guitar and vocals. Heavenly.
- The Ectophile's Guide to Good Music
"Big fish little pond? Why this band thinks it needs to be on garagband.com or the Internet at all is a complete mystery to me. I'm not saying 'go away you should not be here' -- I'm saying how did it happen that this perfectly produced pop gem wasn't snatched up the instant it left the studio and isn't on ultra heavy rotation already? What the HELL is going on here?"
"Dark and brooding work with exquisite vocals inspired by late nights spent with Jarmusch and Borges."
"I've been following Two Loons on mp3.com for awhile. It's nice to see a band from mp3 take off. The CD is exactly as the band said. Much warmer on disk. They have a very lush sound that is reminicent of bands from 4AD. Good use of textures and layered sounds make this a great cd to listen to on a breezy late night driving by a lake as the moon reflects off its surface. It's hard not to put tranquil pictures to their music. Best CD of its music type I've heard this year."
- peardly (Amazon.com customer)
"Nice trippy ambient vibe. I would buy this and I'd be willing to bet my friends would too."
- snookyvox (Racine, Wisconsin)
"[Two Loons for Tea is] one of those really good bands not many people have heard of yet. It is to be hoped that this recording, the result of 10 years of collaboration between primary members Jonathan Kochmer and Sarah Scott, will change that; this is really good stuff, although like a lot of really good stuff, it's very difficult to describe. Kochmer, the ensemble’s main instrumentalist and composer, draws on so many musical influences that in less capable hands the result would be a mish-mash, but instead what you get are tuneful, finely crafted soundscapes that might have started life as folk tunes or pop ditties before taking a sharp left turn into experimental territory. Then there's vocalist Scott, who avoids the usual female-vocalist pigeonholes by simply transcending all of them. She may sound like Marianne Faithfull on one song, or like Tori Amos on another, but such comparisons aren't really adequate. Overall, this is intelligent, mind-altering stuff, and it's even legal."
- The Tablet magazine
"I absolutely LOVE the 2nd track. Who is the sexy woman singer? It absolutely kills! It's very fresh. I like the dark lush exotica of the music. Definitely good "body play" music. The transition from 6 to 7 is sudden and very nice. I'm glad of funky happiness on 5. #8 has me writing to my friend in Italy about Nymphs. The 9th is film-noir beautiful and aching."
- Courage DeLeon (Seattle, Washington)
"You guys (gals) rock. The band is solid. The recording is excellent and vocals are awesome. I want to hear more."
- coryrauch (Holtsville, New York)
"Effortless. I get Shawn Colvin, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Sheryl Crow, in fact -- so much more. John Martyn?... Top stuff this. Top stuff."
- kingpinweb (Glasgow, UK)
"As a disabled pensioner, who cannot afford to purchase CDs in Australia, where they cost up to $30, I am very grateful that I can download your songs. Hope you have a successful and inspirational year. Peace and Love"
- Geoff King (Australia)
"Ear Candy... It's so refreshing to hear such well done, really original music, since what the mainstream (MTV and commercial radio) steadily feeds its listeners is such rehashed pap. Thank you!"
- Zen (New York City, New York)
"Dark soul music for a new generation great vocals -- and i love the drum 'n' bass beats... good hooks and a strong production. An original sound that contains familiar elements... I hear a Tricky and perhaps Portishead influence. this is the first worthy track I've heard all day... good work!"
- Poprobot (Seattle, Washington)
"Reminds me of Björk... I honestly can't say that about any body else than Björk herself. But still the vocals are still distinctive I think it's the nuances you've made with the background vocals that sound like Björk."
- Sunplow (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
"I love you little girl! Best thing I have heard today! I think I'm in love with you."
- sco44 (Muncie, Indiana)
"Moody. I like the eerie melody. Cool feel and groove."
- irecord (Madison, Wisconsin)
"Jungle with real instruments...The jungle-style beat really works great. Liked especially the female vocals, but the whole music works very well."
- Mikko (Helsinki, Punavuori, Finland)
"Great stuff. Very cool song... I loved the voice and the beat is great... Only the second '5' I've given out!"
- Fugazme (Quincy, Illinois)
"Purple, sweet, sexy. Very well done. Lilting melodies and beautiful vocals."
- Alienate (Brooklyn, New York)
Moodland. I like the ambient quality. The production is nice. Good clarity on the cymbals. Good percussion all around."
- luxuryman (Seattle, Washington)
"Good Song. I really like the feel of this song from the start. The percussion really adds depth."
- Confvsed (St. Peters, Missouri)
"Groovy, chilly, good stuff. Freakin' great, good job people"
- neilroy (Austin, Texas)
Reviews : Live Performances
Last night at the Triple Door Musiquarium, this group called Two Loons for Tea described paradise through each tune of their two luminous sets. I was literally taken away to the most beautiful place I've ever been. I was like a young man in love and there was no way out. At the start of the show, I was literally concerned that I would not be able relax enough to enjoy the music. By the second song, all that tension melted away like ice. Two Loons for Tea is the sound of an Australian sunset. The fact that Two Loons for Tea isn't yet a Grammy award winner is a straight up crime.
Their live performance works inconspicuously outside the realm of many musical genres, namely Jazz, Blues and Electronica. There was so much soul in the room, truly moving compositions that created a place for every instrument to shine. Singer Sarah Scott and guitarist Jonathan Kochmer make up Two Loons for Tea. They were accompanied by a bassist, a vibe player and drummer Jay Hoots (I was able to get his name). Sarah Scott's voice is sultry and beautiful and uniquely her own, but her presence reminded me of a young Lena Horne. The band moved from the past to the present with complete confidence. It was like listening to a blend of the Roots, Lionel Hampton and Goldfrapp all at once. One minute I was in Philly, then in Sydney and finally back in Seattle. Yes, it was paradise and so I ask again, was it good for you too?
Interview : Innocent Words Magazine
(1) How do you write songs?
Sarah: Well, there's no consistent formula. Sometimes it seems songs just decide they want to be in existence, and they just pop through. I really don't feel like I write songs, I feel like the songs write themselves.
Jonathan: Sarah's being way too mysterious about it! We've got a patent-pending song writing neural interface which I plug into my hippocampus and Sarah's amygdyla -- and for extra feeling, our endocrine systems! The data are fed into genetic algorithms written in our AI programming Loongol, and transcribed direct to iTunes!
Actually, for the last two albums, almost all of the songs were written spontaneously in the studio while tape was running, and then we'd build on the original ideas. Most of the finished songs still have most materials from the very first songwriting take, and a couple of tracks ("Eyebrows Are Nature's Makeup", "Dixie it Up!" from "Nine Lucid Dreams", and "Sad Diamonds" from "Looking for Landmarks") are entirely, or almost entirely, the first and only take of the song.
So there's always a bit of the original spark of discovery from when the song first popped into being in the recordings.
(2) There seem to be some loosely connected themes running through your albums--is there some kind of connection among all the songs?
Sarah: I'm not aware of too many themes, except that I always write one song about a prostitute for each album. I have no idea why that is.
Jonathan: Musically, there's definitely a continuity through our albums; a consistent almost hypnotic, yearning, or dream-like quality, even in the more upbeat songs like "Monkey". Lots of layering. Sensuality. We hear from a lot of people that it helps them be creative, or relaxed, or thoughtful. Although it's definitely "pop" music, it's got elements of trance, classical, jazz, and european traditional music. I guess we're pretty consistently chill-pop with excursions to many other genres.
(3) Where did the inspiration for some of your song lyrics come from? (E.g., such as "Dixie it Up" and "Eyebrows Are Nature's Makeup"?)
Sarah: Stream of consciousness... sometimes observing my friends... sometimes it's personal... sometimes I don't even know what it means... sometimes I like to leave it open to the interpreter... and sometimes, it's extremely profound! And sometimes I think to myself "did I REALLY write that?" And sometimes I think to myself, "did I really write THAT?!".
Jonathan: I only wrote lyrics on one song on this album, so that's all I can speak for. I wrote the lyrics for "Conseula" while wandering in the desert outside Palm Desert, CA in a near heat-stroke. The words to "Consuela" are the best lines from about 40 pages of scribbling I wrote over several hours in the 110 degree heat. Earlier
in the day, I was given an honorary MD by the Amercian
Medical Association for research I had done to help save my father from mesothelioma lung cancer. We had come up with a novel treatment method involving perfusing his pleural cavity with cis-platen and other anti-tumor agents. He had a plug drilled into his chest so we could flush the outside of his lung tissue with the toxic-cocktail, and the chemicals would attack the tumor, but not the rest of his body because the pleural membrane is impermeable to fluids. So, he ended up living 4 years after his diagnosis, instead of the 6 months he was given.
What does this have to do with the lyrics of "Consuela"? Nothing really! Except I was clearly in a very strange state of mind and wandering in the desert like a beetle with three legs, and I had come to the inevitable and obvious conclusion that the owl, the scorpion and the rusted Chevrolet, were each very special, in their own way.
(4) Jonathan: Have your academic pursuits influenced your musical life in any way?
That's a great question, I've been wondering about this myself lately... I think the largest influences have been the work ethic associated with graduate research, and being enthusiastic about lavishing a tremendous attention on tiny details for hours, days or even weeks on end. That's definitely been a big influence in our audio production.
I think also that my fields of study have had an influence.
Much of my doctoral work had to do with how hybridization between closely related species could in fact create new species, and throughout all three Two Loons albums, we've freely hybridized many different genres of music to create something different that nonetheless always sounds like us. Have we created a new species in the Lair of the Loon? Perhaps!
I've taken great delight in putting hundreds of subtle almost subliminal sounds in our recordings. I think this comes from my delight in the complexity of the natural world. Even after years listening to "Looking for Landmarks", I still sometimes hear musical critters that surprise me!
I wish I could say that years of teaching and public speaking have made me a more confident performer, but they're totally different realms! I've had to learn to get over stage-fright independently.
(5) How did you decide to have so many guest musicians, and how do they help define your sound?
Sarah: It wasn't really a decision, it's just how it evolved. There were a lot of really good musicians around and available, and we wanted to experiment and work with them.
Jonathan: I'd agree. When a drummer like Matt Chamberlain walks up to you after a show, and says "you guys need a drummer, and I'd like to be that drummer" what do you say! You say "YES!" Matt brought a lot of our guests to us, also R. Chris Murphy, who was the initial
producer for our first record, introduced us to Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto. And Mell Dettmer, co-producer of all three albums has brought in some fab peeps too. After playing with people of this caliber, you get a bit spoiled.
World class musicians all.These players bring a tremendous amount to our music, absolutely. We are honored to work with them.
(6) Do you plan to tour in the near future? How do you perform songs without your guest musicians (or are most of them there)?
Sarah: Of course! We're working on it. Yeah we want to and we will. We're talking with our new manager, consulting with our new team, and coming up with the best way. We're always changing and evolving, and we never like to do it the same way twice, it's spontaneous. We don't try to reproduce the record, why should we do that? Live is live! Go home and listen to the record if you want the record.
Jonathan: For one tour, we actually had a backup band of seven or eight players from "Looking for Landmarks" sessions, thinking we needed to have a huge band to replicate the record. And then we did a tour with three players, and now we've gotten it down to just us and another player, Tom Armstrong, who plays drums, percussion and samplers, to augment Sarah's vocals and my guitars and loops.
And our ironic discovery: no matter how many players we have, we capture the essence of the recordings. And the fewer players we have, the more audiences are liking the live show.
The studio allows a musician to do things that are unimaginable in a live performance, and that's one reason we love being the studio. But the core feeling that Sarah and I put into our music is ALWAYS there, even if it's just her voice and me playing acoustic guitar.
(7) How does this album differ from your previous albums?
Sarah: It's more sophisticated, but less complicated. I think we knew ahead of time more what we wanted, we had a goal in mind this time. It was not meant to be as highly produced as "Looking for Landmarks".
Jonathan: Um, I think Sarah's right... I honestly don't know what else to say... it has a different title?
(8) While it sounds like you have many influences, can you name a few that come to mind?
Sarah: Everything is an influence! And sometimes it's hard to know.
Jonathan: I think my influences are actually from my emotional nature, and having grown up in a very rural and lovely part of the world. And being a voracious reader. And traveling. Experimental film. Visual arts.
Who I am as a person dictates what kind of music I like, and the music I make, more than the music I like influencing the music I make.
(9) How and when did you decide to start your own label, and what was the most difficult part?
Sarah: It was Jonathan's idea. It was his follow through, I'll let Jonathan answer. I thought he was crazy!
Jonathan: I clearly am crazy, but I'm hoping that I'm crazy like a fox! The traditional record label model is clearly outdated, so we're working on a bunch of new things that will work in this new world that combine my experience with the music industry with my backgrounds in statistics,
biology, and e-commerce.
(10) What are your plans for the future?
Jonathan & Sarah: Keep making more music, and get it to the people who want to hear it.
Jonathan: By whatever means necessary.