Tea

The Damsels in Distress spent time with our friend and drummer Chris Hickey to write, perform, and record the instrumental album Tea.

We first put together Tea as a set for performance during the opening for L.K.’s Wildwood Art Exhibit. Previously Chris had told us that classic story about an acolyte, a tea cup, and a zen master. Well, that got us all started. Percolating on a few phrases, we eventually found fuller tunes during several rehearsals in July. We ran through the set in August and thought we were finished.

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However, thinking back we all wished we had recorded that night. We later decided it would be best to record the set as a themed album– just for the record. We set the evenings of a September weekend aside, played through the tunes, and here we are.

This album was recorded differently for us. We used multiple microphones on the amps and drums and tracked everything simultaneously. Once we had the multiple takes recorded, we transferred our favorites -mistakes and all- to a laptop. In late December, we mixed the raw recordings in Garageband and here we really are.

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Tea. It’s had time to steep. It’s a strong brew. We like it and hope you do too. You can listen to the album on The Damsels in Distress band camp page.

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KUAR Listening Party: Daniel Black, Arkansas Author

M and I recorded for the KUAR Arts and Letters – Arkansas Authors featuring Daniel Black show called “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author.” We worked on instrumental versions of The Boy with the Broom and Campfire Song.

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Once everything was sent and mixed, we went to a small listening party with some of the people that worked on the show. M and I brought homemade caramel corn and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It was so much fun!

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You can listen to “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author” on KUAR Arts and Letters. The songs are on The Damsels in DistressSongs for KUAR Arts and Letters (2014)” album.

Artist Interview: Micah

Micah Sukany is one of the creators at Paper Opera. He mostly works on the music side of things, though he does write as well.

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Micah Sukany. I am one-half of The Damsels in Distress. I also write and record music that doesn’t make it as Damsels pieces. I didn’t self-identify as a musician until late last year. When the Damsels started getting money for pieces we recorded for a radio show, I thought, “Okay, I should probably take this seriously.”

What is your music process?
I work best and most often by recording. When recording,  I have a musical idea and quickly document that. I generally work from those early, recorded fragments. I think the best things I’ve come up with is when I heard the part before I ever played the part. For “Father Priam” I heard that in my head in its entirety and I had to learn to play it – that’s the first time that’s ever happened.

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Recording vs. performing?
Recording is exciting because I work to build upon layers, and I can hear everything. When performing I have to concentrate and be mindful of what I’m doing, so I don’t have time to enjoy or even listen. I’m just focused on keeping the tempo and playing the songs.

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What is the biggest challenge of creating music and how do you deal with them?
The biggest challenge of creating music is finishing when I lose interest. I haven’t really figured out how to deal with this, so I have a lot of unfinished work. It’s hard to keep going, practicing, working, and reshaping something to be perfect when I lose interest part of the way through. That is a big struggle.

What do you like about your work?
I like that my work is mine. I write it to please myself. I have always written music for myself. I have always been my primary audience. If I don’t like what it sounds like, then it’s probably not that great. I like to make it. I like that I’ve made it. And sometimes, when it’s a song from a dream, I like to listen to something that came from a dream.

I like that me and L.K. make it together, that it is our music. I like it when people say, “that’s nice,” or “I liked that.” Also, when I hear our music in a recording or video, I think it sounds magical, and I like that we’ve created something mysterious.
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What inspires your work?
I got tickets to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Mahlers 5th. After that I was pretty fired up to do something better or different. It’s in the music we wrote for KUAR Arts and Letters Father’s Day show. Also, I wrote all of the instrumental recording for “Grown Ups” on the album “Spinning Plates” immediately after watching the Herzog film “Stroszek.”

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What are your favorite inspirational places in Arkansas?
I like both the Big Dam bridge and the Two Rivers bridge. I also like driving quite a bit – the drive from Greenbrier to Harrison on 65, Little Rock to Stuttgart on 165, and I40 to Memphis are all great drives.

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Who are your musical inspirations?
I really like John Lurie, the Lounge Lizards, and Fela Kuti, Africa 70, The Lovers (they are genuine and earnest both qualities I enjoy), Tasseomancy has a great aesthetic for me, and I’m always going to like folk music and European folk music.

I have always been a big fan of Subpop’s Mudhoney. Mudhoney has always been making the same kinds of music since their 20s, and they keep doing it because they like it, and I’ve always admired that they do what they like. I’ve always admired the people that played on Hearts of Space. I always thought Steven Reich was pretty smart. Like, one idea is interesting for the whole piece.

Beethoven is pretty important, especially for rock bands. Beethoven knew how to write parts.

When I think about what a good band should sound like, I think about Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Some times it’s just a single note played in a particular rhythm – just letting things be simple. Not an accompaniment pattern – just simple, like what needs to be there. It’s elegant. That’s what I think for musicians that are professionals.

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What is integral to the work of a musician?
I think the audience is the number one important thing. You can be your own audience. The idea of the rock star or professional musician has distorted what musicians are in a community because they become the sellers of commodities, opposed to storytellers or someone that creates a space in which something happens. If you look at a healthy music community, like bluegrass or classical, the musicians are just as much their teachers and their students. Their identity is connected through other musicians as something they have received and as something they are passing on. The rock star doesn’t give anything in that sense, they just make money.

Discipline and a steady, stable process. The music process involves a lot of listening, internalizing, and applying in new contexts.

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And he likes to read poetry!

What is your strongest poetry memory?
I went to a poetry reading at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield, Missouri. Up to that point, I mostly read poetry and didn’t realize that I was missing the sound or music of poetry as well as its drama. It didn’t hurt that the poetry was read by some award winning actors of the stage and screen.

Poetry has been definitive for me. I spent three or four years in undergraduate reading it almost exclusively.

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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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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!

Listening Party Experience

This is a “selfie” on one of the happiest days.

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I went to a fancy listening party downtown in the 300 Third Tower. The listening party was in the party room and the view of downtown Little Rock was really nice.

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The listening party was for the KUAR Arts & Letters, “Searching for Latini” episode. UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson came to the event and even gave a short speech of his support for this project.

So, what does any of this have to do with me, and why do I look so happy in the selfie?

In December last year, The Damsels in Distress were hired to create music for a new program on KUAR called Arts & Letters. We wrote the opening theme music – also used for the radio spots – based from “Corey’s Song.”

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The first show, “Ethics Bowl” aired in January. It was about what “ethics” are and played a sample Ethics Bowl.

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Credit ualr.edu

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Credit ualr.edu

On one hand, we wanted the music to emphasize the experience of a game show -poppy, fast, bright, upbeat, but also with an edge (for the feel of competitiveness). We also wanted to put a serious tone for the idea and debate of “ethics.”

Here’s how it works.

As composers, we get a phone call. In the call, there is a title and description of the coming show. The discussion extends to what sort of music that specific show needs in terms of how many songs, length of songs, the general “feel” or “mood” of the show. This call is followed up with an email of the script. We (The Damsels in Distress) each read through the script and then together, we brainstorm general ideas – kind of like story boarding, but with music.  We grab our instruments and go to separate rooms and write.


  

We come back together and do a rough recording of what we wrote. We write off of each others initial song, and create a “sketch” – which is a more detailed recording with many different parts we can mute/unmute. Once we get the detailed sketch we like, we record on our more professional gear.

 

This does not all happen in one day! This process takes weeks. Once we have recorded and are satisfied, we email the files. From here, we may need to rewrite or rerecord songs based on what the producer wants. The show airs, and we get a check in the mail.

So, back to the Listening Party.

At the Listening Party everyone that worked on the show ate delicious Thai food catered by Chang’s and listened to “Searching for Latini” live. It was super exciting – much like an actor’s cast party when the production is completed. It was also the first time a lot of us got to meet each other because so much of the show is done through phone conversation, email, and separate recording sessions.

“Searching for Latini”  is about Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante and the first translator of Aristotle and Cicero into a vernacular language. We wanted the music to sound Italian/Italian Renaissance for this show.

Listen to Searching for Latini here!

Credit Parlor Press

Credit Parlor Press

Listen to the songs we wrote for “Searching for Latini” here.

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