Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Boom Boom Boom let's go back to my Woom.
Following tours with Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu, this avant-garde duo continues to re-invent itself. Interview by Kenyon Hopkin

The curiously named Woom is experimental yet warm and melodic. Partly inspired by cutting edge artists such as Judith Malina, Jerome Rothenberg, Lygia Clark and Brigitte Fontaine, the duo of Sara Magenheimer and Eben Portnoy--both visual artists--originate from Philadelphia and Massachusetts, respectively. While with their previous outfit Fertile Crescent, Sara and Eben toured extensively with Deerhoof. The now West coast-based Woom is promoting Muu’s Way (Ba Da Bing records), which brought them to Europe for dates with indie art rock band Xiu Xiu (Kill Rock Stars records). The fact alone that Woom knows Evil Dead takes place in a cabin in the woods makes it worth talking to them.

Advance Copy: How did Woom develop, musically?
Sara: We started playing together six years or so ago and our style and interests have been evolving collaboratively since then.
Eben: It was a process of accrual, a ball rolling down a hill, picking up pieces, sticks, and pebbles, smashing into stuff.

AC: You worked on Muu's Way in the woods. Were you in a cabin and were you scared?
Sara: We were in the woods, yes, and it was the winter, so the ground was covered in ice. At night there were sounds that we couldn't identify, which was sometimes scary, but also exciting.
Eben: We were recording in a barn used to store a tractor, beekeeping equipment, and potatoes. It was a little bit scary, less like Evil Dead scary and more like The Shining scary.

AC: You had a couple big shows with Beirut in New York. How did that go?
Sara: They both went really well. The sound guys at the Music Hall of Williamsburg really worked with us to make sure the sound was totally what we wanted for the second night. It's rare to have sound people really invested in the opening band. Beirut's audience was really receptive, which was great and not totally expected since our music is pretty different.
Eben: We love Beirut's music so it was great to have the chance to play with them, and like Sara says, the audience was pumped.

AC: What was your experience like touring in Europe? Highlights? lowlights?
Sara: Touring Europe was incredible. I have family in Rome who I hadn't seen in nine years. Being able to attend my cousin's six year old's birthday party was pretty special. She made him a cake in the shape of a stegasaurus. The shows were all pretty amazing too. We did a week with Xiu Xiu that was totally inspiring and bar-raising. We toured Italy, Germany, Utrecht, London, France, and Portugal. Lowlights were mostly just ugly traveling issues. We were lucky that all the musical aspects went amazingly well.
Eben: Highlights were getting asked to play a second time at the Musica Nella Valle festival in northern Italy and playing with all the amazing bands there and opening for Xiu Xiu. Lowlights were typical tour stuff: stuck walking the streets of Bologna with all our stuff and no way to get to Frankfurt, lack of sleep, wine spilled on guitar pedals.

AC: What are some unusual instruments or effects equipment you have used?
Sara: I play a yoga ball inflation tube live.
Eben: The "drum" recorded on "Back In" was a huge plastic tub.

AC: Your song "the Hunt" sounds like it's about some guy killing animals. What's it about?
Sara: The lyrics of that song are sort of metaphorical stand-ins for other content, more emotional than literal.
Eben: The Owl and the Hunter are like these primal archetypes of two possible approaches to life in the world, and they both are moving in violence. One is integrated into "the cycle" and the other is coming from a distance, and the song is about this distance.

AC: How does being in a band with your partner work to an advantage or disadvantage?
Sara: We're partners. We're collaborators. We're in it together, creatively. That relationship is intense and has benefits and drawbacks. We just completed a two month tour so right now we're psyched that we can actually pull off our sonic ideas with just two people.
Eben: A lot of people seem to think we're married. After being in bands together for six years I guess we do start to look alike, always accidentally wearing the same colors on the same day and so forth. We have a healthy antagonism going that keeps things interesting, but we also have a real tangible joy in making music together.

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