The Wingdale Community Singers Are Going to Hell 

Page 2 of 4

David: It's one bedroom apartment music.

Nina: Right, right.

Rick: Dave remarked at one time that we're not purists, we're impurists. In a way that really describes the paradox of trying to make music that has an old-timey influence or reverence for music of the past with the acknowledgement that it can't really be done. That frankly, it can't be done anymore. That would seem to be the predicament that we're in and once you recognize that it can't be done anymore you're free—you're in a post-historical environment and you're free to do what you like. I think this record is a better example of feeling the liberty of wandering around in genres locked into this ahistorical obsession of trying to duplicate old time music, which is where I think the title comes from.

The L: It's interesting, because while you pay tribute to the extraordinary accomplishments and traditions of music like the Carter Family and the Louvin Brothers, the sociological and political sentiments you express would have been anathema in Bristol, Tennessee in 1945. I wonder a lot about the interesting and fundamental tension between this reverence for old timey music and the cultural gulf that exists between the original purveyors and the revivalists. I mean the Louvins might have loved your music, but felt absolutely certain that you were going to hell.


David: Yeah, I don't think the Carter Family would have been approving of the explicitly pro-choice line of the Wingdale Community Singers...

David: ...but I guess there are limits to our reverence.

Rick: Well, for sure. I mean, I think that is what's interesting. I mean, it'd be fun to sort of go back and try and duplicate these songs, but even in the folk revival—if you look at Holy Modal Rounders for example, those guys knew all that old music but even then it had a postmodern...

David: irreverent cast.

Rick: Yeah... a postmodern spin on it. So the idea that you could sort of duplicate music made in the Appalachians in New York City is faulty from the outset, and if it is faulty then why not take the song forms and the song structures and apply your own observations to it? The L: What distinctions come to mind when you think of the differences between folk and pop music?

David: Folk music is changing slowly over time...

Hannah: Folk music is changing slowly over time, right, and it's transmitted from person to person orally; and pop music changes fast and is transmitted through...

David: Mass media.

The L: Are you entirely comfortable, and I mean, I don't have an opinion on this, so this is a very objective question: but are you entirely comfortable with reproducing the idiom of the Louvin Brothers or the Carter Family?

David: We're incapable of reproducing...

Hannah: But the thing is, what I would actually think the Carter Family would say if they heard us is that we're not doing it very well; the truth is, we're doing it super sloppily. So that's probably what they would say. You know they sing every day, every morning together, every night, every... I think we've gotten damned good actually, but...

Rick: That's the other thing, see, I would make a distinction between what we are doing and the sort of indie rock model of doing this, and to me the indie rock model has run out of steam, you know, and by and large they aren't looking at this music... or I guess people in their twenties aren't looking at this music the way that you look at it, I guess, when you've been listening it to it longer or something. And I think you know while I would say you can't reproduce this form, at the same time one thing that we are trying to do or have tried to do is make the singing tight enough that it aspires to some of the cleanliness of some of that earlier music... you know, a sort of professionalism about the rendering, especially in the harmonies, and that's unusual. Not that many people are trying to do that now; I can't think of a band that's trying to do harmonies in exactly the same way.

Nina: Since I came into this a little more recently, it's never felt to me, ever, like anyone has sort of brought a song to the table, with the idea that there was so much concept around it really, like somehow the way we're talking about it makes it seem like there's this concept and now we're going to fit things into it. We never actually frankly discuss this, it happens in a very natural way... It's almost like once brought here, theses go through the Wingdales filter and the Wingdales filter is sort of all these things, but I don't think of this at all as a concept-driven project—at all.

Hannah: We sort of started out with a concept...

Rick: Especially now with this record...

Nina: That's what so interesting to hear you guys talk about, because I've never even—I mean having not been part of it then, it's so not part of my own experience of this but...

David: ...said the conceptual artist turned accordionist.

Nina: [laughs] I mean, I got plenty of concept in the rest of my life, I don't need any of it here.

Rick: Yeah, I mean, once the songs become the program, then you can't really be conceptual anymore because you have to serve the songs.

Nina: I think we've also gotten better at knowing kind of what it is that we do well together and there are songs that lend themselves very well now to a Wingdales treatment. The two songs I contributed to this record are really old songs. I wrote them 15 years ago, you know, and it was this kind of funny thing that they got unearthed and they had this kind of new life here that was very exciting.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Features

  • Christopher Owens Has Secrets

    • Sep 24, 2014
  • Nancy Whang’s Existential Disco Dilemma

    It seems unlikely that a punk transplant from Oregon should become a definitive singer for New York City dance music, but that’s the story of Nancy Whang.
    • Sep 10, 2014
  • Your 2014 Fall Album Preview

    The music industry’s annual spree of autumn releases to coincide with the back-to-school crowd needing to impress one another with their musical tastes is almost upon us.
    • Aug 27, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 The L Magazine
Website powered by Foundation