FLAB MAG: A Q&A with Marriages’ Dave Clifford & Emma Ruth Rundle
FLABmag: Obviously asking how you met and/or decided to collaborate together is not a feasible line of questioning (since we already know the answer), but I’d like to know: Why “Marriages” and why now?
D: Why not? We’d wanted to bring vocals in to Red Sparowes in a subtle way for a long time, but it just never seemed to work the way it should. I think this has been a way of keeping productive while being able to explore ideas and sounds that wouldn’t seem appropriate in Red Sparowes. Marriages originally began as a collaboration between Emma and Greg and then eventually they asked me to join in.
ERR: Marriages, why? Because we like you.
FLABmag: I know you guys were in the studio last summer working on a new Red Sparowes album, what became of that work? Was Marriages born out of those sessions?
D: Red Sparowes had been working on songs for a new album on and off for a while, but everyone’s schedules were really out of whack and it had been making it difficult to make a lot of progress. We have a good chunk of stuff written already, but decided to take a little break while everyone had a lot of personal life things to tend to — school, running businesses, weddings, etc. We plan to reconvene after taking a breather and see what more we can come up with at that time. Marriages is a way to explore other ideas as a separate entity.
ERR: Marriages was not born from any Red Sparowes ideas at all but from the working relationships Greg, Dave and I already had and a desire to explore ideas that might have been disruptive to the aesthetic of Red Sparowes.
FLABmag: Clearly people are going to make comparisons to Red Sparowes, and with good reason, a similar musical aesthetic is apparent and expected, except Kitsune feels less “atmospheric” in the way that RS often was (the many allusions to film scores come to mind), but what, aside from the addition of lyrics, is different about this project?
D: I think it’s quite different, really. Obviously, vocals are a distinct difference. But, musically there’s more space and rhythmically it’s more driving in ways that differ from Red Sparowes. It’s also more experimental and in some ways, darker. I think an ongoing goal is to avoid defining our sound as one thing or another and just go with whatever feels right at the time.
ERR: Kitsune may feel less atmospheric because there are only three people making sounds at once vs. five. Kitsune is our first attempt and therefor ventures into different realms. In other words; we, as Marriages, are exploring what we are whereas Red Sparowes had a long established position in the world of “Post-Rock.”
FLABmag: You’re working with Toshi Kasai again, what, if anything, did you want to come out of your collaboration with him? Was there a specific objective in the recording of this album?
D: Toshi is an exceptional engineer and really easy to work with. He’s very easygoing and patient, which helps as well. I love his drum sounds too. He has a great knack for capturing a band exactly as they sound and giving it a full, loud sound. Our objective was to do it as quickly as possible, and we knew Toshi would be able to get the whole thing recorded and mixed quickie and efficiently.
ERR: We love Toshi, plain and simple. He knows what he is doing and we are all comfortable working with him and spending time in his magnificent presence. The overall objective was to capture the music as it had been written as how it is performed.
FLABmag: I have to say, and this is a compliment because I personally love Pink Floyd, with or without Roger Waters, but so much of the album reminds me of “Delicate Sound of Thunder.” I doubt that was intentional, but “Pelt” really reminded me of “Learning to Fly.” I realize that this is probably not a compliment to you. No one seems to want to be aligned with or be compared to poor David Gilmour (He tried so hard). Anyway, has there been a musical parting of the ways with the other band members from Red Sparowes as there was with Gilmour, Waters, Mason et al?
D: Hmmm, I haven’t heard those latter Pink Floyd albums in many years, so I’m not too sure I can comment on that. Whatever it reminds people of, I just hope that it’s something that they enjoy. We haven’t parted ways with Andy or Cliff. Though I suppose that the Marriages album probably wouldn’t sound anything like it does if they were involved.
ERR: I wouldn’t say that there has been a parting of ways as much as there is just a new different band here. I love both Cliff and Andy as musicians and as people.
FLABmag: Emma you completed an album with The Nocturnes last summer titled “Aokigahara” (one of my favorite albums of the last ten years – seriously, LOVE IT) named after Japan’s “suicide forest.” I read that it is considered one of the scariest places on earth, by the way, but the manner in which you interpreted that space was much more nuanced and culturally sophisticated. So what is your interpretation, within the context of this project and the accompanying artwork that you created in collaboration with Greg (Burns), of the Kitsune which is prevalent in Japanese folklore.
ERR: Thank you so much for your complimentary attitude toward my efforts with The Nocturnes and “Aokigahara.” Kitsune are the fox spirits in Japanese folklore but the word is also used to indicate the possession by the fox spirit. I liked the idea of this as I feel that the album really is one long song. It starts of with “Ride in my Place” and the lyrics are very much about the mental unease one can experience / be taken over by and is personified by a black dog. The end of the album is a plea to end the dark moment within ones self and in-between the two songs are the others which explore the journey. It seemed to fit with the idea of a possession and exorcism. As you know, I love Japanese folklore and have a few Ono masks, one of which was the character Kitsune. This is who you see in the cover art and when looking at it you might find the woman becoming the fox and returning to woman again. Greg and I worked together on this idea and on the art itself.
FLABmag: Dave I recall you told me that you and Emma made the film that played behind Red Sparowes while out on tour in 2010. Do you often collaborate on art projects? Have all of you, at some point contributed visual artwork to the various bands you have been in? If so, was this born out of economic necessity, in terms of not having the cash to pay an artist to make work for your project, or are the visual arts also a part of your overall skill set?
D: The live projection visuals for Red Sparowes weren’t necessarily collaborative, we just opted for individual band members to take on specific songs of their choice. I’ve made films since I was in elementary school, going on to study film and broadcast journalism in college as well as working as a video editor for a few years. So, the RS visuals were definitely something that I was interested in pursuing. At the same time, there was an established aesthetic that we strove to maintain, which was built around historic footage and conceptual ideas that reached beyond things that could be easily conveyed in the traditional manner of a music video. Since it’s nearly impossible to match the quality of video sources from “found footage” and our own HD footage, compromises had to be made from one song to another on those terms but they all seemed to come together pretty well to fit the whole live set. Over the years, I’ve collaborated on album artwork for many bands I’ve been in and had a stake in the overall aesthetic of every band, because it’s equally as important and the band’s sound.
ERR: I would say that all 5 members of Red Sparowes contributed to the visuals that accompanied our last few tours and I know that all of us have some experience working on such projects outside of music. Greg, for example, is an amazing photographer and as I recently discovered, can draw really well! I spend a lot of my spare time of visual art in the form of drawing and painting but also with video work so for me to incorporate these things into any musical project is a joy.
FLABmag: Dave though you’ve been in a few bands in which you played guitar, and in fact it was your first instrument, but I know you primarily as a drummer. Why did you decide to step out from behind the kit on this project? Which songs do you play guitar on? Who takes over playing drums if you aren’t and how will that work out on tour?
D: I guess the impetus for me to play guitar was just to try to do different things. The song “Pelt” didn’t seem like it needed drums since there was already so much going on rhythmically. I suggested playing guitar on it and the other two liked that idea. I like switching instruments live because it helps me rethink ways of playing drums. I’ve also started playing a really short guitar part in the last song when we play live and switching instruments mid-song is really fun for me and I think it helps the dynamic of the song as well. I hope to do more guitar parts in our songs in the future.
FLABmag: Speaking of tours, are there plans for an extended run when the album comes out in May?
D: We’re working on plans to tour in support of Kitsune once it’s out. Nothing has been solidified just yet however.
ERR: My hope it to tour whenever possible!
FLABmag: And just for fun, because there has to be a few unrelated questions in all of my interviews – If you are, which I doubt any of you are, but one shouldn’t make assumptions, a Republican, or at least moderate, who would you vote for: Gingrich, Romney or Santorum?
D: I’m not a Republican. I couldn’t really say that I’m a Democrat either, though I voted for Obama and will vote for him again. I don’t like politics in music. Politics are temporary, music is eternal.
ERR: I am not a Republican but have listened to most of the debates and can’t say I would be able to vote for any of the above.
FLABmag: Have you ever Googled Santorum? If so, have you ever had the misfortune of experiencing it?
D: Yes. No.
ERR: I never have but did look over Greg’s shoulder when he was investigating and it is my belief that someone made that up especially for Mr. Santorum.
FLABmag: On a serious note: What do you make of all the birth control hoopla? It seems like such a non-issue, but there is a real potential for things to get out of hand, and next thing we all know women will be once again fighting for those options most of us born after 1970 take for granted. Thoughts?
D: Again, I try to avoid any political stance as a musician. Politics are temporary, music is eternal. However, speaking as an individual that issue (health care reform opposition, restrictions on birth control access, the repeated attempts to revoke a woman’s choice) and much of the 2012 conservative political tack is extremely frustratingly asinine. These are simply grandiose gestures, but ones that ought to be taken seriously. At times, I almost would like to split the US off into two countries: one where reason and science can make progressive steps forward and another where the religious zealots can fester in their fervor. Of course, I recognize that the two ultimately keep each other in a balance that is healthy, albeit extremely slow moving.
ERR: Honestly, I am ashamed that we are still talking about these issues. Religious institutions who do not wish to provide birth control as part of their health plans should not have to, as it directly opposes their beliefs. All secular entities who are required to, on the other hand, should provide it without question. Jesus.