The Wingdale Community Singers Are Going to Hell

11/24/2009 4:00 AM |

Any aspirant dreaming of work in the State Department should be required to spend at least two years collaborating in a folk band. Want to learn diplomacy? You’d have a difficult time doing better. Even among the warmest of compatriots, the welding of disparate visions into a coherent whole can be a treacherous endeavor. Questions of vanity and compromise are inevitable. At a certain point, it is common for a creative disagreement to lead to a minor felony. It might come as something of a surprise, then, that the Wingdale Community Singers survived the perils and pitfalls of putting out a record in 2004 and have just release their second record, Spirit Duplicator. The album follows in the grand folk tradition, taking into consideration the great musical achievements that have preceded it, while attempting to build upon the tradition in unique and exciting ways.

The Wingdale Community Singers are nothing if not an accomplished amalgam of diverse talent. Singer/songwriter Hannah Marcus is a powerful vocalist and lyricist with an impressive catalog of solo recordings that feature collaborations with the likes of Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters, and Tim Mooney of American Music Club. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nina Katchadourian is perhaps best known for her work as a visual and conceptual artist, but also has released an album of her own, The Marfa Jingles, inspired by area businesses in small town Marfa, Texas. Avant virtuoso guitarist and songwriter David Grubbs was a founding member of Squirrel Bait, Bastro and Gastr del Sol, to say nothing of his prolific solo career and his various and sundry exploits as a cultural critic and college professor. Songwriter and vocalist Rick Moody, meanwhile, is also a celebrated author and one of the preeminent literary voices of his generation.

Perhaps such a diverse portfolio has allowed the Wingdales to undertake creative collaboration where ego is clearly not an issue. Spirit Duplicator features fifteen original songs (and one Carter Family cover), two of which are written by Katchadourian, three by Moody, four by Marcus, and five by Marcus and Moody. Each of the four Wingdales performs on every song on the record (with no shortage of guest artists adding to it as well) and every voice gets heard. The Wingdales sat down with The L Magazine after a rainy Saturday night practice to discuss the new record, old timey traditions, and how it’s possible to make Appalachian folk music in a Brooklyn walk-up.

The L: When you guys talk about feeling a sort of identification with old-timey music and the related feeling of community, what does that mean to you, in an aesthetic sense? I mean, the Carter Family, who you guys cover on the album and cite as an inspiration, what do you suppose they would make of the music you are making now?


David: It’s an interesting question but kind of an incomprehensible one. You know, I can’t imagine what the Carter family would make of…

Nina: Hopefully they’d sing along, which is sort of the point in a way. I feel like we come out of that tradition of kind of…

David: Parlor music…

Nina: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s Brooklyn and it’s not the front porch of a house in the mountains. And we’re not pretending that it is and not even wanting it to be. It’s sort of that mode but brought into an urban city life of people who are busy with lots of different things and do this together once in a while and really care about it.