Thursday, April 8, 2010

Baker's Dozen: Interview with herMajesty

Named for a Freudian quote, working with a producer/wannabe shrink, and writing songs that explore the true nature of people, herMajesty invokes the dreamy state that could provide psychoanalysts with never-ending work. Think imagery like nutmeg in your hair, sawdust in your eyes and a dark canal at night interspersed in music that evokes the flights a pigeon might make over a fluorescent city bustling with those who brave the dark. I stumbled across the song "World Smiles" last month. It enamored me enough to include on our April Egg on yo' face mix. Recently I had the chance to interview, via email, JP, lyricist and lead vocalist for herMajesty. This is the eleventh installment of our Baker's Dozen Interview Series.

TB: Let's start with an introduction. Who is herMajesty and how did you begin making music together?
hM: JP: vox, guitars, loops. Jerome: lead guitars, loops. Vanessa: keys, backups.
David: bass, backups. Chip: drums

I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I, oh no that's not quite how we met. Well, I was a bartender at a foodie restaurant and Vanessa was the coat check girl. I met Jerome through a Craig's List ad and David through Patti Rothberg, a wonderful singer that you may have heard of. Chip, he appeared one day at our door step, a lost boy. We took him in, fed him, you know nurtured his talent...
TB: The band name, did it come from the Beatles song, the movie, or somewhere else?
hM: Somewhere else. It is a spin off from Freud's "His Majesty, the Baby" quote referring to how a little helpless being can command so much attention and control, albeit unknowingly, over grownups' lives. Jerome wanted to name the band Queen, but that may have been a legal nightmare.
TB: March found the release of an EP, Images from the Vanishing Night. Tell us about the EP?
hM: It's a collection of five songs inspired by NYC. It's a clubby, layered, wise rock-n-roll affair with allusions to dangerous memories.
TB: So the EP is organized around the New York City club scene. How did you come to the realization that what you were seeing in the clubs would make for a great album concept?
hM: I love observing people and how they interact at night time. Under the right conditions, inhibitions fall by the wayside and people's true nature appears. That's particularly appealing to me-there's so much promise there. A beautiful thing, realized, if only for a few hours.
TB: How does Images from the Vanishing Night differ from your previous release (2007's And now this...)?
hM: We spent a lot of time constructing the sound, the vibe of this record. We wanted it to feel like the city feels at 4, 5 in the morning, the time when people spill out unto the street. There's a dizzying quality to that experience and it's not just the substances that contribute to it. It's a heady brew of street lights, sounds, the change in hue of the sky, the water surrounding the island, my friend's scent.
Images was produced by Nic Hard who has worked with The Church, Aberdeen City and the Bravery. Is this the first time you worked with him? What does he bring to the recording process?
hM: No, we worked with Nic on And now this...Nic knows how to get the best performance out of everyone. He is meticulous about creating the right vibe so as to get the best out of each one of us. He is particularly good at expressing dissatisfaction without destroying the creative flow. He is a wannabe shrink you know, he got to know us, made us feel part of his family and then...Mr. Hard is also unbelievably good at getting the right sounds and melding them together into a satisfying whole.
TB: What are the benefits of a band like herMajesty growing up in the New York City scene? Are there any disadvantages?
hM: We are exposed to so many musical influences in the city: from skronk rock, no wave, Britpop, dancehall, high energy. So much to take in here, although with the internet now, there seems to be less, and I say this with some hesitation, musical isolation than before.

Disadvantages? The scene can be a bit provincial: indie kids here, glam rockers there, hip get the idea. We don't quite fit into rigid definitions of any particular musical scene in the city.
TB: Plug in Music, while discussing you, says that pop music is a "combination of pure emotion, timeless storytelling and songcraft." How do you incorporate these elements into your songwriting? Are any of these elements more important than the others?
hM: All three facets are equally important in our songwriting. Any single aspect may take precedence at a particular point in time in the creative process. The inspiration comes from many things, most times, outside active consciousness, but the impetus is always driven by emotion. Story telling: love it, have to see, smell, feel the lyric before I write it. I am getting hungry you know!
TB: What is the story with Bittersweet Records?
hM: It is our label: hopefully we can get Bittersweet to a point where it is sustainable as an indie label putting out music by artists that we love.
TB: You've got a show/celebration coming up in May (on the 15th, 8:45 at Arlene's Grocery). What are your live shows like and are there any surprises in store for this particular show?
hM: They are fabulous affairs-glamorous affairs, Lady Gaga may be there. If not, perhaps Grace Jones will drop in. I am toying with the idea of wrestling with a bear during "My Dear Friend." I am not sure how well this will sit with everyone else though. All kidding aside, sometimes we incorporate live projections as backdrops to the performance. We may very well do that for this show.
TB: Other than the show, what else does herMajesty have in store for the next few months?
hM: We are working with the marvelous folks at The Planetary Group to get the EP out to national college radio. The campaign starts April 12th-CMJ look out! We plan on doing a tour, releasing some more wonderful music and making sure FIFA chooses "World Smiles" as the theme song for the World Cup! Let's do it, what do you say?
TB: I say great idea! Anyone have connections at FIFA? Does herMajesty get a chance to do much cooking?
hM: Food is a not so secret passion of mine. Vanessa, Jerome and David think of themselves as foodies as well. Lately I've been cooking a lot of fish. A recent fave is halibut. (For the herMajesty halibut with pesto and sauteed spinach recipe click here). Pair this with a nice crisp white wine from Long Island, NY (Love the whites from Jamesport winery). Listen to herMajesty.
TB: Anything else you'd like to say?
hM: Tender, thanks so much for inviting me to do this. It was a blast.
Here are two other tracks from herMajesty's latest EP, Images from the Vanishing Night:

herMajesty-Operator (NYC)

herMajesty-Into the Light

To download additional tracks from herMajesty go here.