Wild Flag's Mary Timony, on Cleopatra, Feminism and Guitar Lessons 

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I also wanted to ask about the group dynamic. You have four talented women working together who have been at this for a while. Do you find yourself taking on a particular role? Does everyone kind of have a role in facilitating the creative process? Is one person, I don't know, the arbiter? 
Janet is not only an incredible drummer, she's also a really creative and really talented arranger. She's really good at knowing how to arrange parts of songs and makes them work, so that the song really develops. That's sort of her role. And when we're fumbling, she really arranges everything. People will bring in parts, and we all talk about what's working, what's not working. And Carrie is just so talented. She's just got this raw energy, and all of the songs she writes have it. And all of the songs she brings in that we're working on are super catchy, and that's great. Rebecca's, technically, the best keyboard player I've ever seen. Like, she can just do anything on the keyboard. And another thing that's amazing about her is that she doesn't have a problem just doing something really really simple, but she can pretty much play anything on that organ. It's pretty inspiring. 
In terms of writing the songs, we've done it in a bunch of different ways. One person will bring in chord progressions and lyrics and a melody, and we've also written songs when we're all together in a room. Someone will be like, "Hey! What about these two notes?"and then we'll jam on that and take it from there, just completely collaboratively. It works both ways. 

How do you keep each other sane? What is it about that group dynamic that makes it work in just kind of a... mental health way?
I think what makes it work is that we just love doing it so much. It's really so much fun. We love playing shows and, you know, tour's pretty fun. Parts of it are really hard, like driving eight hours a day and, I mean, this bitch of a motel we're staying at right now. I'm actually sitting on a highway, on the grass right now, staring at a—what is that across the street—it's like a strip mall I guess, a Sears. So, that's not so fun. But it is totally, totally more than worth it, because we just love playing together. 

What's the secret to a really satisfying guitar solo or riff? Like, the noodling on "Short Version"gives me shivers in a good way every time I listen to it. You're tapping in that one.
Oh, thanks. Yeah, I love tapping. That's another thing. I just feel like new techniques make you think of new ideas. It's been really interesting coming to play with this band because I've gone back to standard tuning, which I haven't done for a long time in my own music at all. At all, at all. I don't even know the last song I wrote on my own in standard tuning. But everyone has such great ideas in this band that, I don't know, I don't really feel that challenge with it. Because I don't think so much around a fretboard as I do in my head a little bit more thinking about the melodies and then finding them on a guitar.

Do you feel you have to be in a certain emotional state to write a good song? And if so, what's that like?
I don't know. It's so tricky. Yeah, it's kind of like this mystery to me, where good ideas come from. I wish I could control it. The last year or so, I feel like I've been in this terrible creative block.

Really?
Yeah, I always feel that way. It's so rare for me, personally, to not feel like I have a creative block. I'm always worried about it. And I'm always trying to come up with ideas and hating all of them. Sometimes I do get into a mode where I'm like, "Oh, that one's going to be okay, and that one's going to be okay,"but that's rare for me. 
How do you get out of that block? Can you?
For me it helps to read a lot, actually. That's the one thing I've noticed really helps me get over it, so I try to do that.

What are you reading these days?
Lately I've been reading about Cleopatra. I pretty much can read almost anything. It just allows me the time to not be doing stuff that blocks me, like paying my bills and wondering how I'm going to make money. All those sort of day to day things put my brain in a different place. I guess just having downtime really helps. Time to daydream and feed the part of my brain that is creative.

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