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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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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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!