Valentine’s Day With The Damsels In Distress

The Damsels in Distress were asked to record at the KUAR studio for a music performance and interview for KUAR Arts & Letters Valentine’s Day show. You can read about what it was like recording on the KUAR Recording Studio post. This a special episode “Valentine’s Day With The Damsels in Distress” aired on KUAR with KUAR Arts and Letters.

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Here is a transcription of the radio show.

J. BRADLEY MINNICK = JB
LAUREN =L
MICAH = M

JB: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day on Arts and Letters, we are talking with Lauren and Micah Sukany of the Damsels in Distress. Their music is fun, post-modern, and quirky-cool.

Song – “We’re Gettin Married”

JB: Artists, song writers, children’s story writers, puppeteers, and performers husband and wife team The Damsels in Distress, Lauren and Micah Sukany – Welcome!

L: Thank you!

M: Thanks! Hi.

JB: So many of your songs deal with the not unsubstantial dilemma of marriage, getting married – as in “We’re Gettin’ Married” from The Family Album, “I Do” from This is Art, and “Mr. and Mrs.” from Spinning Plates – could you talk about the interstices of making art and music as husband and wife.

L: It’s like nothing else. I think I hear other people talk about their marriages and they – there is this sense of kind of having time away from maybe their significant other. But as a married couple working together on our own creative ideas, we’re compelled to come together at the end of the day to work on one of our one hundred projects that we have in mind. So, I think as, you know, being married and being band mates and that’s really how we fell in love, that’s how we experienced our entire courtship.

JB: What was your courtship like?

M: Our courtship was the band. That’s pretty much what we did. That was great because a lot of first fights are about inconsequential matters, and so were ours, but they felt much more important because they were creative inconsequential matters.

Song – “(Our) Songs”

M: So, we learned how to argue pretty effectively right off the bat.

L: Right, and like when couples boss each other around like, “Go get me this or that” it would be band mate stuff, so.

M: So, when we would play a show, like in Little Rock, and we needed to get back to Springfield and pack up like at one in the morning, we knew what the other person was like after a really long day – exhausted and cranky.

L: Early on.

M: Early on.

L: Yeah.

M: So, we knew what we were getting into when we married.

Song – “(Our) Songs”

JB: You write your song, “We’re Gettin’ Married” – “a February morning. It’s going to be cold for sure. But we don’t mind about the climb. Cause we’re going to get married.” What’s the climb been like?

L: The climb has been…

M: Good.

L: Ya, it’s – I just think there’s something about getting married at 24 that as you mature through your 20s and you’re going through other things you know, while you’re going through the marriage – I think that is what is most difficult. Just self development and learning responsibility and not say, “Oh, I’m going to blame the other person” because I have to be responsible now. But just learning how to be a responsible person, learning how to deal with problems.

Song – “I Do”

L: You know I think that is the general climb in that sense.

JB: You talked with me Lauren about how so few songs are written about married people.

L: Ya, well it just seems like a lot of love songs are about the longing or the pining or the forbidden love. Um, but there aren’t a lot of just these nice delicate songs of love – about lovers and marriage and um the intimacy of marriage.

JB: You write you’re “just out of step living in small town Arkansas” How does one live a fine line between routine and spontaneity?

L: I think you have to pay attention to your soul. And for us – being creative and living this very normal day to day, paying bills kind of life – I think as an artist and musician it gets really difficult sometimes.

M: She’s spontaneity. I’m trying to be in step. Her problem would be “how do you practice when you’re not writing? How do you practice when you’re not performing?” Mine is “how do I interrupt my rigorous practice schedule to write something or to do like a performance?” So, we compliment each other well in that respect.

JB: On your blog you write about a lot of processes, what are some of the processes.

M: Well, the key to the processes is really how the band started. In which I gave Lauren this demo tape of all these songs that I had written just to see what she thought of them. And then she played that tape while a tape player was playing and she sang over it.

Song – “Mr. and Mrs.”

M: That’s pretty much how it’s worked for most songs since. Is that I’ll be playing something and then she’ll complete it in the sense of that’s the melody that goes to that part or that’s the accompaniment that makes that line interesting. So much of what we do is responding to kind of like love letters. Each recording is like a little parcel of magic that we get to open at any moment. So, I can open up a little parcel when Lauren’s not home and listen to what she’s created and then add my part to it and leave it as a present for her to find.

Song – “We’re Gettin Married”

JB: Thank you to Lauren and Micah Sukany of The Damsels in Distress. You can follow their unique and imaginative website Paper Opera, which highlights their music, art, stories, and their artistic dog, Ein. Thanks to Chris Hickey for producing the program for Arts and Letters. I’m J. Bradley Minnick. Happy Valentines Day.

You can listen to this Valentine’s Day with the Damsels in Distress episode at ualrpublicradio.org/post/valentines-day-damsels-distress.

We also recorded “I Don;t Drive” at KUAR.

Song – “I Don’t Drive”

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KUAR Listening Party: Civil Rights Brothers

M and I recorded for the KUAR Arts and Letters – “Civil Rights Brothers.” The show “Civil Rights Brothers” is based on Allan Ward’s book Civil Rights Brothers, The Journey of Albert Porter and Allan Ward which accounts his life as a civil rights activist. Both Porter and Ward organized demonstrations, meetings and literacy training in Jackson, Tennessee and continued to help the community in Little Rock, working with foster children, the homeless, and volunteering for public schools.

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We worked on various versions of “Mr. and Mrs.” and “It Is Well.”

On “Mr. and Mrs.” we really focused on the lyrics –
“We’ll make the changes. We’ll say what needs to be said. And then we’ll do them in our hearts and our heads.”

Although the song was originally written about taking marriage vows, these lyrics applied to what the “Civil Rights Brothers” show was about. The idea that it can be difficult to stand up for what is right, but if you know it to be right, sometimes all it takes is the willingness to say what needs to be said – then your actions will follow your resolve. What was really great was that the song was played throughout one of the stories Ward tells of how they met with Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers who had resolved that he would die for this cause, but that the martyrdom was necessary to reinforce the necessity of the movement.

On “It Is Well” we really focused on how the song was executed –
We wanted something that would attack the resolve of what the song is about. We created the song based on an aggressive bass line. For the lyrics, Micah sang into a dying tape recorder and recorded the play back of the tape.

The hymn was written by Horatio Spafford in a response to his tragic life events (financial ruin and the deaths of all of his children). We didn’t produce the entire song, but did use the following lyrics:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Our version of the hymn was played during the show when Ward describes a very intense situation for Albert Porter during a selective buying march with students. It was an almost surreal moment when a man came out of the crowd with a pistol and violently threatened Porter’s life. Porter, who was so dedicated to the movement responded peacefully, “you must do what you think is best, and I will continue to do what I think is best.”

We attended the listening party at KUAR studios. We brought some white chocolate covered rice krispie treats dusted with coco powder and hot chocolate with marshmallows. Some of the other musicians that also worked on this show were there and we were given a private performance of “One Simple Prayer” written just for this show by Gil Franklin.

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We went to the studio and all listened to the show. We were able to talk about the show afterwards and it was a great discussion!

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Listen to KUAR Arts and Letters: Civil Rights Brothers.

The KUAR Arts and Letters Fundraiser Showcase

The Damsels in Distress were asked to open as a part of a showcase for the KUAR Arts and Letters Fundraiser at Dugan’s Pub in downtown Little Rock last Sunday.

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We played with bands Heather Smith, Odyssey, and The Cons of Formant.

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Heather Smith band

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The Cons of Formant

We wanted to especially thank the Cons of Formant because they brought their own PA, which they let everyone use, they helped us set up our gear, and ran the sound for us. They also used to be our neighbors. Seeing them again brought back the nostalgic “summer nights” memory of sitting on our back deck listening to them play music in their own backyard with their friends singing along.

There was a great turn out and everyone supported the fundraising part as well as the bands. We even had a special guest star appearance by writer Sam Brown, author of “The Last Baby Angel.” Below is a video of Sam Brown reading an excerpt of “The Last Baby Angel” while The Cons of Formant play accompanying music.

The Set List:
Underwater
Picnic
I Don’t Drive
Arkansas
Neutron Rising
French Song
Rare Red Rainbow
D & D
Gailey’s
Mr. and Mrs.
Namesake
Twinkle Twinkle Emo

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We often change instruments for each of our songs. Changing instruments can take a minute or two, which ends up being a long time when multiplied by 10 songs – especially in a 35 minute time slot. We ordered our set list so that one person was able to go directly into the next song while the other changed instruments. When we timed the set during practice, it was 34 minutes. At the beginning of the show, we were having some sound issues, so it was cut short, and “Mr. and Mrs.” ended up being our closing song.

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Writing, Recording, and Performance
In terms of writing, recording, and performing, the performance is the most difficult for us. Imagine being in front of a room full of people (and if the room is full of people then wow – that is good). They are all talking, eating, and drinking. Maybe only 10 of the people in the room are actually there to see you perform – these are your wonderful, supportive “fans.” As a performer, your goal is to entertain in a way that is non-threatening, confident, and creates a seamless transition from the crowd having a good time with their friends to having a great time listening to the band with their friends. The best possible scenario is that this would happen while making more “fans” with the actual music.

Honestly, the art of performance is a very big part of a band, and it is just not one of our strengths at this point. However, I do think we collected 3 or 4 new fans!

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Thank you everyone who came to the show and for your support for the KUAR Arts and Letters radio program. We also wanted to give a special thank you to Dr. J. Bradley Minnick and his wonderful wife Mary Ellen for including us in all of their “taking over the world through the arts” schemes!

Thank you John and Janet with JJ Paquette Photography for coming out and taking pictures of our band!

A Wedding Song

The Damsels in Distress were asked to play a song at the Lockehart wedding at Grace Church. M and I decided to play  “Mr. and Mrs.”, from album, “Spinning Plates.”

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“Mr. and Mrs.” was originally titled “Mr. and Mrs. Epperson.” We wrote the song in response to being asked to play a song at the Epperson wedding. We later shortened the title to “Mr. and Mrs.” so that it could be used in a more general sense for many wedding lovers.

“Mr. and Mrs.” is about the wedding and the marriage of two lovers.

Mr. and Mrs.
Your lovely heart’s bold
To love someone like me
Who sees this life in the only way to be free.
“I do” forever.

We’ll make the changes.
We’ll say what needs to be said.
And then we’ll do them in our hearts and our heads.

With this ring, I thee wed to be true love to be true.
With this ring, I thee wed to be true love to be true.
To be true.

So would you join me?
Soon our flesh will be one.
We’ll live together forever and forever.

“I do” forever.

 

Our friends Doug and Sue Mary from Family Life took this video and sent to us. Thanks Doug and Sue!