An Interview with She Sir
Hello all in She Sir! Can you each introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us what
you all do in the band?
Hi. I’m Russell. I play guitar and write most of the songs. Other band members include M. Grusha (bass and guitar), Jeremy Cantrell (lead guitar), and David Nathan (drumset).
I know that you’ve talked about the formation of She Sir in other places but can you talk a bit about the history of the band between Who Can’t Say Yes and present day? Why such a huge gap between the EP and Go Guitars ?
We tend to release something new every few years, which is about right for us. Of course, most musicians today don’t make a living from their writing…so why rush it? I’ve read interviews with musicians who say they feel obligated to release new music every year or as often as possible, fearing their audience will forget about them. While that may be true, we’re not trying to make a career or cast some massive net to round up a horde of fans. We’re happy reaching a small number of appreciative listeners. Music is a religion: meant to be absorbed, studied, felt, admired.
Soon after the release of Who Can’t Say Yes , the lineup of musicians we’d recorded with dissolved, but we never stopped playing and writing new music. We worked to incorporate new musical influences into our sound: Beach Boys, ESG, El Perro Del Mar, Dion, Prince. We spent time to find the right musicians, playing with many other drummers, other bassists and guitarists, but none stuck. 2010’s Yens EP was largely recorded without a solid band lineup. By the time it was released however, we had found our permanent bandmates with guitarist Jeremy Cantrell and drummer David Nathan.
Emboldened by a solid band lineup and a regular rehearsal schedule, we went to work recording the Go Guitars album. Even after writing the songs and recording them, finding the right record label — and setting a release date within their busy schedule — can take an incredible amount of time and effort. Go Guitars was completed in June of 2013, but it took another eight months for those elements to fall into place and release the album.
Rival Island is such a beautiful record. It appears 11 years after the release of Who Can’t Say Yes. Can you talk a bit about how you see your progression as a band from Who Can’t Say Yes to Go Guitars to Rival Island ?
Songcrafting is always a slow, agonizing process. It’s a sort of cycle: inhaling (absorbing) and exhaling (producing). In between is a special kind of synthesis informed by life’s experiences and failures. No one has something important to say all the time; better to pause, listen, and compose statements.
Each She Sir release explores unique musical territory yet they all walk tightropes of ambiguity, eschewing conventional tonal bases and subverting listener expectation. Above all, with each release, I feel the music becomes more distilled, more confident, more She Sir. Who Can’t Say Yes feels exploratory with its wide purview. It’s clearly influenced by other bands, but definitely has its own identity. Most of those songs were recorded without ever playing them in front of a live audience so we weren’t thinking about whether people would actually like or listen to them. I think we were just trying to make guitars that sounded like Psychocandy .
The albums sound more like complete statements to me. As where Go Guitars is a bright major-key pop record, Rival Island aims for minor keys, demonstrating a greater depth, revealing itself a bit more upon repeated listens. Where Go Guitars projects naivete and youth, Rival Island is a reflection of its opposite — lessons of aging — thematically alluding to mirrors and duality.
I guess the themes of these records just follow along with us on our path as humans. That’s probably just a pattern that naturally emerges for any artist with a catalog spanning 15+ years!
Can you talk a bit about the band’s song writing process? Specifically, for Rival Island, how did you go about constructing the songs themselves?
I’ll usually come up with a strong bit — a melody, a phrase, a feel — and meet up with Jeremy (lead guitar) and bang it out until it works. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But some lucky times, we hit upon a spark. Then we take it to Grusha and David (bass and drums) to work out the structure. At that point, it’s a democracy so there may be a certain part in a new song that I love , but if nobody else likes it, it gets cut.
There is a gorgeous ease and sensuality to Rival Island. What inspired this sort of lounge/breezy feel on this album?
I listen to a lot of muzak: elevator music. It has a purity of intent, placing the focus on interesting musical arrangement rather than some lyric narrative. If the album is loungy/breezy, it is because of that. But I don’t ever want the music to come across as cold or too calculated or impersonal so I try to be engaging with my vocal performances…especially because our lyrics are unusually opaque. I’ve always been attracted to dreampop and shoegaze because of its inherent sensuality. To me, the genre has always been about the introspective, the personal and ineffable.
I am always taken in by your choices of guitar tones on your albums, but Rival Island is just hypnotic to me. Can you talk a bit about constructing your choice of guitar tones and what attracts you to sounds and textures in shaping your guitar sounds?
We really don’t spend that much time sculpting guitar sounds. I think the sound has more to do with our style of writing/playing than the pedals we use. As opposed to most dreampop bands, who may use pedals to create dense textures, the She Sir guitar sound is accomplished by the notes we play: full-sounding chord textures and dissonant alternate guitar tunings. Pretty much everything we do has that bright guitar timbre with fuzzy edges: reverb, chorus, a little delay, maybe a touch of overdrive. Life has fuzzy edges, you know?
I like to ask bands about a few specific songs on their most current release. Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of both “DBS” and “Corporealoro”?
So “DBS” is the only song on Rival Island that was written entirely on bass guitar. It was bass and vocals, then Jeremy added his ascending guitar bit, then Grusha — who normally plays bass — came in and recorded that soaring, noisy guitar which runs throughout. He’s a much better guitar player and bass player than I am. That song came together really quickly and was one of the first written for this album.
“Corporealoro” was the last song written for this release. I’d wanted a song which was sort of at odds with itself: light and dancey yet collapsing under its own weight: upbeat, but meditative. Man we got into a fight over whether to include that opening Phil Collins-esque electronic beat…
What are your favorite tracks to play live and why?
So many… “Dark Glass Tomb” because live we play it so noisy and garagey… “Corporealoro” because of the fun rhythm and guitar interplay… “Condensedindents” because it’s just so effortless… “Quinine Courts” because we do a great stripped down version with cool guitar harmonics… “Noon Inspirits” because we have fun with that one and I get to do a guitar solo.
For the gearheads that read our site, what sort of gear do you use in the studio and when you play live? Any special equipment you find to be your go to piece?
Strymon Blue Sky (used for both chorus and reverb), OCD overdrive. We use a few different delay pedals sparingly. That’s about it!
So what’s next for She Sir?
We are writing more songs. Maybe release an EP in the next year or so.
Order a copy of Rival Island at Shelflife Records.
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