SARAH WALK x PILLOW QUEENS – das besondere Interview

Mit dem zweiten Album Another Me von Sarah Walk, sowie dem nächste Woche erscheinenden Debütalbum In Waiting der Pillow Queens veröffentlichen zwei queere Acts tolle Alben, die sich mit dem Leben als queerer Musiker beschäftigen. So ist handelt das Zweitwerk der US-Amerikanerin Walk von den Herausforderungen mit denen queere Frauen im Alltag einer institutionalisierten Männerdomäne oft konfrontiert werden. Während die irischen Newcomer in ihrem Debüt die Liebe, in Form von Selbstliebe, queere Liebe, die angstauslösenden Fehlerlinien der romantischen Liebe und die Liebe zu einer Stadt und einem Land, die einem gleichzeitig den Rücken frei halten und auf ihm lasten, in den Mittelpunkt ihres Schaffen stellen. Also zwei tolle Alben über ähnliche Thematik, von Musikern mit komplett unterschiedlichem Background – für uns Anstoß, dass sich die beiden Seiten virtuell via WhatsApp-Chat zum Interview getroffen haben und über ihre Musik und Erfahrungen austauschen. Das Ergebnis ist dieses Interview von Sarah Walk und Sarah Corcoran von den Pillow Queens!

Sarah C: Can I kick off? I’ve got a few questions I’m excited to ask! Sarah, I loved the album.

Sarah W: Likewise! I really am glad that this interview has happened so I could get introduced to your music.

Sarah C: Sarah, how do you feel about talking about influences and how do you feel about comparisons in reviews, features etc.? What’s the strangest comparison you’ve gotten?

Sarah W: Great question! I always find it tough to answer what my influences are. I try to actually rephrase it to being my inspirations instead of influences, because quite honestly I don’t really ever consciously try to sound or replicate another band or artist. But I definitely get inspired by certain sounds and lyrics, like I’ll hear a lyric and think it was going to say something else, and then that sparks an idea for me, etc. I always feel slightly strange being compared to other artists but I also know that it helps for people to get a sense of where to place new artists. But I’m also the kind of person that reads far too much into everything, so even if the comparison I get is incredibly flattering, I find a way to dissect it into something that makes me question everything. haha.

Sarah C: I relate to that! Especially the part about finding inspiration in weird and wonderful places. I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in pop music I wouldn’t have ever given much attention to before, but it’s all about where you’re at in life and what you’re able to take from certain experiences!

Sarah W: Yeah totally! I think for a long time I had this snobby attitude like “I’m better than pop music” but then I realized that there are elements that are woven into all different kinds of music, and actually, a great pop song is a really tough thing to make.

Sarah C: 100% – song writing is obviously a really personal thing and can be quite cathartic but there’s also a formula to a great song that transcends genre.

Sarah W: I grew up listening to such a wide range of music that I think different elements get incorporated into my sound without my knowing it. Like I love pop melodies, but I also really like the lyrical sensibility of folk writing and the raw honesty it has…And I also play the drums so it has to have a good feel rhythmically too. How do you feel about getting comparisons to other artists?

Sarah C: I’m similar to you in so far as I can see the good and the bad sides of it. Especially as a woman, it can feel as though you’re being pitted against other non-male artists because there’s only one piece of the pie for us all to share. But that’s not true, there’s loads of pie for everyone! The reason I asked the original question is because I got Lana Del Rey vibes from the opening track on your album. Maybe it was the “Why is it my job to fix this mess?” lyric but I loved it anyway. So I mean it as a compliment!

Sarah W: Ah amazing! I definitely take no issue to that, and you know what – I totally see that! I think I actually felt that too when I first wrote it. Yeah, it’s definitely tough as a woman in this industry. I’ve said it before, but one thing that I constantly got asked after my first album came out (which was basically a heartbreak album) was “What are you going to possibly write your second album about now that you’re in a healthy relationship? (I’m engaged btw) and so that’s partly why I wanted to open this new record with the lyric “nothings hurt me more than men” because I wanted to make a point straight away that there is a lot women feel outside of just their romantic relationships. I think if I was a guy that wouldn’t have been a common question. It would have been “Wow, what an emotional record, can’t wait to see what’s next!”

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Sarah C: Ok new question. On Another Me, the lyric “maybe I should fix myself” really stuck out to me and stayed with me. It’s very relatable. Where were you when you wrote that song? (emotionally speaking, though you can answer it geographically speaking if you don’t want to get too deep!)

Sarah W: I wrote Another Me here in LA one day, and I remember it was a really quick one for me to write – I usually feel like the better songs are quick ones. I was thinking about my childhood and feeling like I lost these qualities I used to have as a kid and wondering at what points in my life I lost them, like I moved when I was 8 years old and sometimes I wonder how that move changed the course of my life up until this point and if I could have been stronger…. I mean, I was at a really shitty place mentally when I wrote this so it was really self sabotaging. But I liked the idea of this other version of yourself being out there in the world, the version that you want to become, and not letting her die because you want to find her and the minute you stop believing in her she won’t exist any more.

Sarah C: Wow thanks for that insightful reply, I love the idea of keeping that person alive so you haven’t fully lost them.

Sarah W: Sarah, do you feel like your better songs come quickly or do you go back and edit and work hard for ideas that don’t come easily?

Sarah C: I only spoke about this recently for the first time, great question! I think there’s such a beauty to sitting down to write a song with an intention, and really directing that intention and coming out with a solid song as a result. It’s probably the most satisfying thing in the world. However, when I do that, I walk away from the experience and completely separate myself from the experience. On the other hand, if I sit on a song for a long time and let myself evolve as I’m writing it and come up with new perceptions of situations, the song becomes a part of my growth and that’s really powerful to me. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but writing songs over longer periods of time has been really…healing, I guess! Maybe that doesn’t answer your question though! Our most streamed song took 3 years to finalize and record, so maybe it is best to mull it over for a while!

Sarah W: Totally get what you mean! Sometimes I don’t know if I’m being lazy or patient with my writing, because I tend to give up on ideas that don’t come easily – Although I have had some that were absolute nightmares to finish but ended up being things I really loved. So who knows!

Sarah C: I’d love to know what was it like to collaborate with Leo Abrahams? I know he’s worked with some of the legends.

Foto-© Voe Ray
Foto-© Voe Ray

Sarah W: Working with Leo was really wonderful. I met him in a co write in London and my best friend out here in LA (who is a musician) happened to know him as well from a touring gig they were on together. So when I was thinking about producers for my album, my friend and I thought Leo would be a great fit and that the 3 of us could pretty much tackle it all ourselves because we all play varying instruments, and I liked that idea because it was so different than the recording process of my first album which was really just me and a band going in and playing our parts. This facilitated a much more experimental recording process which was totally new to me, and I wanted to push myself to do that. Also it saved money which is always a plus!! Leo was so immersed in the recording process, I’ve never seen anything like it. We’d be in the studio for 10 hours and then he’d go home and comp all of the takes the entire night. He really wanted to capture me as an artist, and he trusted me – which in turn made me trust him. It’s interesting too, because I was in a really tough spot mentally when recording this album, but Leo had so much faith in my writing and my musicianship. I don’t know how you’ve experienced this, but for me, I’ve had so many experiences where I’m working with other people (usually men) and they let me do my thing and have complete faith in me when it relates to singing or songwriting – but then when it comes to producing or anything outside of my wheelhouse they make me feel like I need to step aside and they’ll take care of it. And because I wasn’t in the best place when we did this album, I was super hesitant of my ability. But I wrote a few of these songs on the guitar and was expecting Leo to record them (because that’s his principal instrument) but he would turn to me and be like, “Sarah you’re playing it! You wrote it and you play the guitar…” which was super validating. Hearing that from someone you respect so much is really empowering, and also very rare!

Sarah C: So awesome. Sometimes that’s the kind of person you need to collaborate with on a record. Someone who’s going to motivate you and empower you. You’re there for a reason, you’ve got this amazing record under your belt and you want it to be as good as it possibly can be, but you also know it inside out so who better to take the reigns?! So great that you had that trust with Leo!

Dominik: Dream Wife did work on their last record with an all female team on production, mixing and Co. – is this something that you are liking / would also think about?

Sarah W: Yeah, I’d be interested in that, I’m also working on my own production skills these days because I don’t like relying on other people to envision my own ideas for me! But with that being said, collaborations can be incredibly rewarding and eye opening.

Sarah C: I think this is awesome. I think it’s massively important to address the gender imbalance in the industry. It’s arguably more important however, to address that the imbalance isn’t due to a lack of skilled women, it’s just that the same opportunities are not being afforded to women and non binary people because of an unconscious bias that exists in all of us! So yes, I’d 100% but up for this. Pillow Queens recently collaborated with 40 Irish musicians and artists on a charity single and it was huge. Nothing breeds creativity like diversity.

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Sarah W: That’s amazing. Sarah, what’s your experience been like working with all women in your band? And do you feel like that changes the way that venues or people in the industry treat you?

Sarah C: It’s funny, I barely think about it. I’m in a band with 3 other queer women and I’m a queer woman, but it never comes up, haha. I think we’re lucky that we operate in a very inclusive environment. We have a super team around us and we can pick our own interviews, and have a say in which bands we tour with. We can request gender neutral bathrooms at shows and no eyebrows are raised. It’s awesome.

Sarah W: Yeah, a lot of the times I hear people say how the industry’s acceptance is changing for women and non binary folks, and also queer folks – and I do think the outward acceptance might be larger but the issue remains inside the industry. There is such a dramatic imbalance between men and women on the charts, on Spotify playlists etc. And like you said Sarah, that isn’t because women aren’t in the industry. Do you guys tour internationally much? Do you feel like that changes depending on where you are?

Sarah C: We’ve done a couple of US dates and one European tour so most of our experiences have been withing the UK and Ireland. I don’t think we’d enjoy doing what we do if we weren’t able to be completely ourselves. If we had to do an uncomfortable interview or play a venue with a misogynist sound guy every night of the week, I don’t think we’d want to tour anymore. What are you experiences of that kind of thing like?

Foto-© Faolán Carey
Foto-© Faolán Carey

Sarah W: Yeah I hear you. I mean generally speaking they are good, but I think because I have typically toured with men I’m more aware of the differences because it’s really in my face all the time. Like it’s interesting that you feel super accepted and that you aren’t treated any differently, but maybe I am more aware of it because I am often the only women in the room and I can see exactly how I am treated compared to men. To be honest, I haven’t really had bad experiences touring or playing shows. And my label is so supportive and gave me complete creative control. I think the toughest area for me has been with sound engineers, who assume I don’t know anything about gear, or there have been times in sessions, where I come up with a part or something and then producers say “that’s great! I’ll record it now.” Which is why it was so important for me to have someone like Leo produce this album who was like, “No! You stay sitting there and record it!!”

Sarah C: We’ve played those kind of shows before, it’s definitely tough. Ok. Specific question time. Is that you beatboxing on Flowers Grow?

Sarah W: Wow so impressed with these Questions!!! Yes!

Sarah C: Hahaha amazing, I’m so impressed with the beatboxing! Teach me!

Sarah W: On the initial demo of that song, I was in London and didn’t have any music equipment so I beat boxed into Garageband to get the idea down. I was so embarrassed by it and told Leo it was just for the demo, but of course he was like, nope! We’re keeping that.

Sarah C: That’s so cool. There’s a real authenticity to it. I think that might be my favorite song on the record.

Sarah W: Ah really! Love that. Just kind of let that song be what it was. Wanted it to feel like a fleeting moment. I think Holy Show or Handsome Wife are my faves. Love the lyrics on Handsome wife. And Holy Show is such a strong opener! Such a vibe.

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Sarah C: Thank you! Holy Show is definitely my favorite one we’ve released so far. We got very into the order on the album over lockdown and we’re very happy with how the sequence of the record goes. I especially love the closing track Donaghmede. I’m excited to play it live. How much do you miss gigs?

Sarah W: Yeah absolutely, I hope I get to see your record live one day!! Tons, playing live is my favorite thing. It’s been tough coming out with an album without that element of connection. But hoping that things just get pushed and are able to pick up again in 2021.

Sarah C: Yeah I think people are engaging a lot with new music so in a way it’s a really exciting time to release an album. Though that being said, this is our debut so we’ve nothing to compare it to!

Dominik: Were the campaigns for your records somehow influenced through covid-19 besides that you are not allowed to tour/play shows?

Sarah W: Fortunately I already had the record done, and I think that’s been helpful because releasing things has kept me feeling connected during Covid. I think it would have been a lot harder if I had just finished touring an album, actually.

Sarah C: Yes! We found out about lockdown a week before we were meant to be flying out to SXSW in Austin to showcase for labels and publishers so we had to totally pivot our plans! We reached directly to our audience and held a listening party of the album over zoom and got them to pick their favorite 10 tracks which made the final record. We decided to set up our own record label so we wouldn’t have to delay the release. We then joined forces with Stargazer Records in Germany who gave us that last push we needed to build a strong album campaign, and we’ve been an unstoppable force ever since!

Sarah W: That’s so inspiring! I love that you didn’t wait around and made it happen yourselves. Also, the idea about your fans picking the songs is amazing. So smart!

Dominik: Did you write a lot of new songs during lockdown, as it seems that is what a lot of artists did during that time?

Sarah C: I found it really hard to be creative at the start of lockdown. I was working from home and I found it really hard to make my office, kitchen, bedroom into a creative space so I didn’t even try. I’ve been better the last few months though, I’m writing a lot of new songs now. terrible songs, but at least I’m being productive!

Sarah W: Totally! I think it took everyone time to adjust. It’s important to remember this is uncharted territory and we can’t expect to be as productive as we are under normal circumstances.

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Sarah C: I saw on Instagram you have a dog? Louie? Does he tour with you? 🙂 I adore dogs.

Sarah W: Yes, Louie is my dog! He was my girlfriends but then when we started dating he became my adopted son 🙂

Sarah C: Ok I have one last question! How is Another Me different to Little Black Book?

Sarah W: Well firstly I think the messages are very different – LBB was really about me navigating my heart break and those songs were kind of a means for me to survive the immediate… But Another Me is really self investigative and kind of about me surviving and thriving in the long term. A lot of it is about setting boundaries and learning how to take up space without apology. Also the other big difference I would say was in the recording process. LBB was very much a ‘band’ feel – I rehearsed the shit out of the songs with my band and then we went into the studio and tracked each part. But for this new album, the discovery process was actually during the studio time… I had demos of every song but they were pretty rough and a lot of arrangement and production ideas were up in the air. So I think it lent itself to being a more experimental album sonically, because we could try a million different sounds and parts and see what worked and what didn’t. I thought it was important to change up the process for the two albums because I think that really influences the sound of the album. I’m already brainstorming new ideas for the next one 🙂

Sarah C: I can feel that. It comes across in the new record that it was almost formed in the studio. Maybe that’s something to do with the confidence that you had in the studio environment for this recording process. I absolutely love the record, I’m so excited to physically get my hands on a copy!

Sarah W: Ah thanks so much Sarah, honestly means a lot! I feel the same about yours, I can’t believe it’s a debut album – I had no idea!

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