AJ: We’re a female led group with a three piece band sound that attempts to sound as big and structured as possible but falling short by being too rough around the edges. Cara, our vocalist, is a great lyricist and sings her vowels like a singer with great diction, isn’t suppose to and on top of that she has a 40s tone. So in my head she’s both Fiona Apple and Bjork singing cabaret songs. So take that and put it in front of a 90s punk band that just learned about music theory.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
AJ: Most of our lyrics are pretty emotionally driven unless they’re about aliens. I studied composition and music theory with some of the most phenomenal and genuine musicians I’ve ever met so I take their lessons to heart when I write the music for A Case for Brooklyn; I try to apply clever tricks (i.e., chord changes, rhythmic structures) but nothing that would take away from the human aspect of the lyrics. Also, the music has to be fun. A friend told me after a show once that she’s still trying to figure out a way to dance to our songs. She meant no offense, but we immediately started working on new tunes that would not pose that problem.
CH.89: What made you all want to start a band & how did the name A Case For Brooklyn come about?
AJ: Cara and I have been writing music together for nearly a decade. So the idea of starting a band was inevitable. We didn’t get a around to it until a couple years ago when we moved to Austin. We had dozens of songs but when we brought in Robert on drums and Chocolate/Cactus on bass they really helped sculpt our sound into half a dozen of songs we were proud of and that’s how we wrote our first EP. Sadly, Cara and I made the decision to come back to New York and Robert and Cactus stayed behind. There’s no great story behind the name. The phrase ‘a case for Brooklyn’ came out when we were weighing the pros and cons for leaving Austin. If I had to get sentimental about it, I think the name sort of represents the reasons we make to change things in our lives. Cara and I have always been about applying change to figure out life. It’s like the refresh button. Refresh Button is not a good name for a band though. Maybe it is… I don’t know.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
AJ: So now that we’ve moved back we sort of had to start from scratch. We have two new gentlemen joining our efforts and they’re honestly great people and great musicians. Shahar is taking over bass and Rodney is on drums. The songwriting process that seems to have worked in the past and what seems to be working now is that Cara and I record a song just on acoustic guitar and voice and send it to the whole band. Those recordings are the drafts and when we all meet we rip apart and build up the drafts to complete the songs. Though, Cara and I take most of the writing duties, it’s working out the music with the whole band that makes up ‘our sound.’ Just the other day Cara and I brought in a tune that I was ready to throw out, but as we were playing it there was an apparent direction to the piece that I would have never thought of going and now I’m convinced it’s one of our strongest songs. We have a lot of new tunes that can definitely become our second EP. So we could be churning something out by this summer.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
AJ: Genuine and fun. When I see a band or an orchestra, I want the music to feel genuine and not phony. Phony music to me is the equivalent of asking someone ‘what do you think about blah blah blah?’ and their answer being along the lines of ‘oh, I don’t really have opinions. Ever.’ We just want our music to feel honest and like I’ve said before, fun. In the music composition world there’s a lot of composers that want their audience to learn to appreciate their music. Music can be boring. Our music is probably boring. But that’s why we keep working at it!
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
AJ: Well, we all have full time jobs doing something completely unrelated to our art. It’s a dream to ever get a great income from your art. And I try not get wrapped up in the ‘artists have to be paid’ rally; when I get in that headspace of how to make money with my art I lose sight of what I’m creating. So the lifestyle is pretty mundane. Everything costs so much, so as long as we can squeeze in two band rehearsals a week, we’re happy. As long as we’re regularly gigging, we’re happy. As long as when we’re playing the crowd is happy, we’re extremely happy.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
AJ: Both avenues have worked for us. All my composition training has more or less taught me to plan everything out. I’m a bit obsessive compulsive, in general, so when I’m writing music it’s no different. Cara, on the other hand, has a great intuition about anything. She’s more impulsive and would rather create out of improvising music. Her lyrics always come out of a place of inspiration. So a successful artistic task usually comes about from a perfect marriage of our differences.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
AJ: For me, I think the major lesson I’ve learned, thus far, is that 25% or less of the work you do as an artist is the art. It’s no different in other vocations like the culinary arts. Just being a great cook doesn’t make you a great chef. My mom is a great cook, but she’d have to do a lot more if she ever wanted to open a restaurant. So the leg work to get your art heard or seen or consumed is the majority of your job as an artist. We can write the greatest songs ever, but they’re shit without someone spending hours contacting venues, putting up a website, attacking social media, etc. And all of that effort is put into setting up the ideal situation for your art to be heard, seen, and consumed by the people you’re creating it for.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
AJ: I think worrying about sounding or coming off as unique can only lead to being phony. Personal style and taste is of great importance because you should be able to define and stand by your art. But I think fixating on what aspects make your style specifically yours would only diminish the inspiration to create, and furtermore, limit any chances of exploration. The most important, to me, is balance. Because on the other end of being too closed minded is being so opened minded that you don’t really have opinions anymore. Everything works! So it’s about balancing integrity and innovation that is of the highest of importance.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
AJ: Balancing integrity and innovation – actually creating the art. Your art is only defined by others. I can waste typing fluid(?) on what I think our band sounds like, but it means nothing without someone else agreeing or disagreeing. So creating art is the hardest thing because you can’t possibly know if it’s going well until someone tells you. So you create it to be the best reflection of you and someone will tell you its boring. Then, you do something out of your realm and then someone tells you it’s too experimental. You could take those comments and leave them, but then no one cares what you’re doing. Art is meant to be shared and expressed. So not caring or at the very least not listening to how someone receives your art does not make you an artist. But being guided by negativity isn’t the way to go either. It’s the balance that matters.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
AJ: I love that I get to do it! It’s the greatest experience sharing what you’ve created with the world.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
AJ: I get inspired by a lot of composers. The task of writing music is so complicated. The first song I ever wrote used the first four chords I ever learned and it involved a cat and a dog; I thought writing music was so easy. It’s really not. So I look to composers like Arnold Schoenberg, John Luther Adams, Morton Feldman, Beethoven, and Bach to learn tricks and solve problems about music. Then I look to great songwriters: Bob Dylan, McCartney/Lennon, Annie Clark, Merrill Garbus, and Bjork to figure out how to compact symphonies into three minutes. Cara hears things differently, which is so perfect! We hardly like the same music, which means we’re listening to different things. She’s hearing word placement, tone, and can feel the overall result of a song. I miss those things all the time.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
AJ: Technology is fire! We have to use it. But we can’t be overly eager and careless about it either. So I described our sound being raw and honestly much of that is due to our lack of technological confidence. Cara and I always hear sounds that could be added with synth or doing something with a max patch, but we’re infants when it comes to using those things. So for us, it’ll be an education but we want anything that could inspire us and inspire the sound even if we don’t end up using it. I think the general feeling is that technology in music is a positive thing; however, music can be made using the taut string on a bow. Great music has been written without the technology we have today. So for artists today, we have to learn to use it because it’s a part of what defines our era. Now, using it without the right intention and education can definitely lead to absolute garbage. So once again, it’s all about balance!
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
AJ: I think artists are drawn to creation because of how they view the world not the other way around. I don’t think the view comes from choosing to create. I think others who don’t follow a creative path are inspired by other vistas as, if not more, spectacular than the view of an artist. Cara and I went to a college heavy on interdisciplinary and so we feel collaboration is the real winner. You have the full 360 degree view on everything!
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
AJ: If I could travel for the rest of my life, I would. That’s why having a band is my ideal career! Traveling never keeps you the same. I recently went to Costa Rica to visit a coffee farm and the experience honestly turned my perspective on coffee and consumption upside down. Cara and I did a month long cross country road trip a couple years ago and we saw so much of life and people. So many United Statesians are eager to leave this country, but I feel like you can’t unless you’ve seen the Badlands, or the Teton mountains, or Death Valley. With that said, New York City is my favorite city. As much as I love traveling, I also love having a place to call home. New York is my home. We left Austin not because of the people or the music, but because we just loved New York a little more. And this town can suck. I was 45 minutes late to work because of fucking train delays! But finding a nook (even if you have to change that nook once every year) nestled in the madness of this city is the greatest home.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
AJ: I used to not read then I discovered the majesty of non-fiction. For books on music, Alex Ross’s writings are superb. For anyone confused about what a composer is and if classical music still exists, I recommend Ross’s The Rest is Noise. I just finished his other book Listen to This, which is a great collection of his articles he’s done for the New Yorker where he does justice to Brahms and Radiohead and everything in between. For non-music books, I like Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos. In another life, I was a cosmonaut.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
AJ: As I mentioned before, we have a lot of new material. So the next big goal is the release of our second EP. More immediate goals involve gigging. So keep an eye out! We’ll be playing around town a lot and hopefully do an east coast tour in the near future.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
AJ: As I mentioned earlier, artists have a different view – not a better view on this world. But with an artist’s lens, others can see the problems, issues, and beauty within this world in a completely new light. Music is ubiquitous. It’s at the gym, the grocery store, and the Metropolitan Opera. It’s there because for no real reason music is essential to living. We all need it and have to have it. Being a part of creating music means everything to me.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
AJ: Nope! I think I’ve said enough. I just ask for others to hear for themselves.
CHECK OUT MORE ON: A CASE FOR BROOKLYN