Interview: Sister Helen on Final Shows, and aspirations for 2017

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Concert Crap: You guys have such a unique sound! Did you draw inspiration from anyone else? And how would you describe your style?

Chris Krasnow: The way I always describe our sound to people who have never heard us is loud and sometimes fast rock music without the screaming (Definitely screaming happens, but this usually draws them away from thinking “metal” or something). We’d all probably name drop the same bands but I’ve drawn inspiration in writing Sister Helen songs from The Mars Volta, Mastodon, Battles, Kylesa, maybe some Dillinger Escape Plan, more recently Tame Impala. A lot people tell me after shows that we sound like The Fall of Troy, which is cool, except we definitely write a different style of music. Aesthetically though, I understand.

Eva Lawitts: Our friend Zack Sunderman recently wrote about us and said we combine “progressive rock complexity with punk rock rawness”, and I liked that. We definitely called ourselves “prog-punk” for years (lest we forget), though I’m not sure that fits for this album. Mastodon and The Mars Volta are bands that we certainly took a lot from.

CC: What are some of the best, and worst parts of being an up and coming band?

EL: Depends on how long you spend being an up and coming band, I guess. Being in a new band is always very exciting (me and Chris each join a new band every six months or so, heh) but Sister Helen, for instance, has been an “up and coming band” for about 10 years, and that definitely took its toll on us. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere even though by many marks you are wildly successful. For me, I just love playing music, and I always loved playing music with Sister Helen. I guess no matter what you do, if you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to fulfill some preconceived notion of success you find yourself suffering. But music is great and creating is great.

CK: The best would have to be the whole new song writing and performing process. I’ve done it a couple times with different groups and it’s always the most exciting, to see which direction a new group of people want to run in. That first show is always important because if there isn’t such a great response to this hard work you just completed, it doesn’t feel too good. Worst parts? Not many, except having to earn your place. Definitely have to put in some shows before other people and bands will even remember your name.

CC: For any aspiring artists, what advice do you have to give?

CK: Keep on trucking. In the littlest sense of starting to write a song, getting depressed and almost erasing the Pro Tools demo session completely, do not click delete! I’ve been there in so many instances and 9/10 times, actually pushing through and completing the idea, even if it’s incredibly painful along the way, turns it into one of my favorite songs. It’ll always stick with you and then you can remember the times when you thought it wouldn’t work, but it did. You can relate that to every aspect of a band too.

EL: Playing music is the reward for playing music. If you want to enjoy yourself, you have to abandon that idea that you’re gonna somehow be a rock star at the end of it. We played to some pretty huge rooms, and we went through periods where we made a lot of money, but all those big rooms with those big payouts, they all got pretty much the same performance that we would give to the room with only ten people in it, or only five people, or just the sound guy. Also, don’t be afraid to sing even if you suck at it. Doing something over and over again inevitably makes you better at that thing, and that too can be applied to pretty much every aspect of being in a band.

CC: Since we are in the start of a new year, what are some resolutions or goals you’d like to see happen for you as the band has come to an end?

CK: I want to see how all of our other bands grow with the added wiggle room and I’d love to have a place I can call my own recording studio, closer than a two-hour drive away from the city.

EL: Yes, we expended an almost unthinkable amount of effort touring and recording with Sister Helen, so now I suppose we have to move those efforts elsewhere. I’m hoping to put out some solo stuff for the first time ever. I’m hoping Chris puts out more solo stuff. Have you heard his album Wonderpark? It’s very good. I have a couple new bands in the works, and my two other mainstays, Fuck Squad and Caretaker (Chris plays drums in Caretaker), are both putting out new music in 2017. We’ll see what happens.

CC: What were some of the highlights of your career?

EL: The two years we spent on tour were like nothing else in my life, and I’m sure they will always be regarded fondly. There were some choice shows among them. Savannah, GA in January 2015, Chicago in Spring 2015, any time we played Johnson City, TN, any time we played in Atlanta. Our show at St. Vitus a few months ago, and our last show ever at Shea Stadium. That final show…to me, seeing all those people come out who had been coming to our shows since 2006 or earlier. It made me realize that while we never really blew up, there was a key group of people on whom we made a real impact. People had taken the week off of work and flown in to New York City from around the country just to see that show on a freezing cold Monday night. That to me made all this worth it.

CK: Well aside from our farewell party, obviously the greatest show of all time, I think the touring must’ve been my favorite period in the last couple of years. How many smiling faces we encountered and just the constant positive reception even if we were in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that’s just where our music hits home, an empty and desolate cornfield where there’s enough room for too many notes and fills.

CC: Anything else you’d like to say to fans or anyone reading this interview?

CK: Thanks and thank you. It’s been a crazy 10 years for me (even longer for these NERDS), but not once has it been too hard to keep it going. The fans have always looked forward to our next record, how far we could push it, or what we’d come up with next, and that’s made it that much easier for me to take chances and know no matter what is on our CD, there will be a group of people who listen to and love every second of it.

EL: Chris always calls me a nerd, but he’s the real nerd. Got’em. If you were a fan of Sister Helen, if you supported us in anyway…fuck, what can I say? I know it always sounds insincere when people say this, but I really mean it: you saved my life. You saved my life 100 times and I hope you never forget it. I hope when you hear this album, it makes you happy, at least as happy as you’ve made us these past 14 years. Like Chris said, we were only able to take chances, and to believe in ourselves enough to make something unique because you believed in us too. We love you.

All questions answered by Chris Krasnow and Eva Lawitts.

sisterhelen.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/Sister-Helen

 

Post and interview by Kayla Rojas

What are your thoughts on Sister Helen? Comment below.

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