Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pale Spring's Emily Wenker Talks Pale Spring EP2, Aaliyah & Chelsea Wolfe's Influence, 3-D Printed "Proud of Your Poison" Action Figures & Classical Music Training (The Witzard Interview)

Baltimore-based singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and web/multi-media designer Emily Wenker has recently released her second, aptly-titled Pale Spring EP2. Wenker is a classically-trained pianist and has been tickling the ivory keys since she was five. She mostly played Beethoven and Chopin for the better part of her musical upbringing and took guitar lessons in high school, but always felt like she was "bad at it." It took several years, but Emily Wenker says she had to essentially un-learn everything she had amassed during her classical training in order to be able to make her own music. It wasn't until Wenker met frequent collaborator and fiance Drew Scott about two and a half years ago that she learned how to use ProTools and attained a new outlook on the world of music-making and production. Since first meeting Scott, Emily Wenker has recorded and released two now-removed Anna Notte albums (her rapping alter ego) and two EP's-worth of "genre-fluid" Synth-Pop-minded material as Pale Spring, as well as a scattered back catalog of material recorded with Baltimore's finest: Jumbled, Joy Postell, Hemlock Ernst AKA Future Islands frontman Sam Herring, JPEGMAFIA, Toyomansi, and made extensive contributions to Drew Scott's recent ILL VESSEL as both Anna Notte and Pale Spring. Wenker has now returned with her second—and might I add, rather progressive—Pale Spring effort, Pale Spring EP2 on which she handled guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drum programming, vocals, production work, composition, lyric-writing, and recording; while Drew Scott is credited with drum programming, co-production, mixing, and mastering throughout EP2 and was admittedly "just in the room sometimes." Pale Spring EP2 is now available to stream and download on both Bandcamp and Soundcloud with proceeds benefiting Baltimore Youth Arts.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Synth-Pop/Pop Art Enthusiast

I. What was your typical writing, recording, and production process like behind your Pale Spring EP2? Soundcloud credits you (Emily) as providing vocals, guitar, synthesizer, keyboards, drum programming, lyrics, composition, co-production, and recording; Drew Scott is additionally credited with mixing, "some drum programming," and co-production throughout.

To be honest, it varies from song to song. I feel like I have a really disorganized way of making music; the only constant in my song-writing process is that I'll usually write, like, five songs that I spend tons of time on, then trash them because I think they’re bad... for whatever reason. Then, I make one song that I like that will only take me two hours start to finish. Then, I do it over again. Like "Waiting Time," for example, I was just messing around and finished that in a day. "Suffer Soft" was the same [scenario]. I was proud of a drum pattern I did and then, just thought it would be cool to use my voice, as if it were a synth and then, just made the entire song around that. I also really like finding weird ambient sounds on The Internet to put under my beats, like storms, wind, people who think they’re hearing UFO's, but it's probably just the sound of tectonic plates moving, etc. When I’m stuck and don't know what to do for the drums, I just hand it over to Drew and I'm like, "here, I'm going for weird, minimal, sexy." And then, he does exactly what I was thinking. Then, in post-production we usually sit together and keep coming up with cool ideas for the songs for a while. The other constant is that I almost never have lyrics, before I write the music. That's usually the last part.

II. What would you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while recording Pale Spring EP2? It's credited on your Soundcloud as "Synth-Pop, Experimental, Electronic, Electronic Pop, Indie-Pop, and Indie."

I think I use those tags because I'm hoping that people who typically might like those genres could potentially vibe with my music. I don't like the idea of fitting into a genre. I hate answering the question, "what is your music like?" I dunno, I just call it Synth-Pop; I don't know if that's accurate or not. The musicians I look up to and respect most are Chelsea Wolfe, Patsy Cline, CocoRosie, Aaliyah, The Knife... all of those artists, in my opinion, defy/defied the bounds of their genres. Although, I'm usually most influenced by my own dreams or by books I've been reading... not so much music.

III. We previously spoke about Pale Spring EP2's "dream-like" lyrical content, which often references both Catholicism and religion. Would you care to further detail these underlying lyrical themes present throughout EP2?

I've had crazy, intense dreams, since I was a kid. I love waking up on Saturday mornings after a night of terrifying dreams and making music. I think that's when I write best... those times I was talking about, when I can make a song in two hours, are almost always under these circumstances. I reference Catholicism and religion a lot, but I was never Catholic or religious. I'm Italian, so my family definitely pretends to be Catholic, at least for funeral mass. One of my parents was an English teacher and was raised Catholic, though. I grew up in a very literature-based household. I think for this reason, I've always loved examining Biblical archetypes within texts. I think that these allusions, while perhaps, overdone within literature, are really strong and effective symbols for burden and self-sabotage. I've definitely carried that into my own writing. This album is not about faith, at all. It’s about how "blessings" can often be distractions and how the great burden of life is surely the personal battle between good and evil.

IV. How would you say your overall sound, style, approach, etc. has grown and progressed since Pale Spring EP2's 2016 predecessor, Pale Spring EP(1)?

I've definitely learned how to use the TC-Helicon to my advantage since the self-titled [EP]... I listen back to that album and I'm like, "wow, I could have toned it back a bit." I think I'm more confident about my singing, too. Maybe. I go back-and-forth on that one. My stuff is less guitar-driven on this EP. That isn't necessarily the direction I'm going in, though. I still don't want to fit into a genre. I still feel like I'm just messing around and figuring out what I'm doing. Overall, I can say that I definitely have a lot more fun with music than I used to. I used to make a song and like, sh*t on myself over it for hours. I don't do that anymore. I actually really like making music now. I think coming from a classical music background, kind of trained me to sh*t on myself. It took me almost a decade to get over that.

V. You mentioned you have a video for EP2 track "Proud of Your Poison" coming sometime in September. Now, would you mind going a bit into its overall concept and background?

I am very excited about the video. It's directed by Jeff Rettberg, who works on House of Cards; he was responsible for JPEGMAFIA’s videos "The Southern Strategy" and "I Might Vote 4 Donald Trump." I want it to be a bit of a surprise, but I can say that I gave Jeff complete artistic control to do whatever he wanted and it's going to be awesome. Jeff and Elena, who is his film partner and wife, worked with this amazing artist Jeffrey Gangwisch to make me into 3-D printed action figures, which are going to be filmed within a model of decimating landscapes... might just have to wait and see it. I know as little as you do, honestly haha.

VI. I remember a while back, @DrewciferScott mentioned something about collecting Pale Spring EP2 left-overs and re-using them as "samples" on his/your future releases; would you mind going into that potential concept a bit? Sounds like a pretty interesting and practical idea!

"Practical" is definitely the word. He has an arsenal of like, at least 20 songs that I made, while trying to finish this album, which I encourage him to just flip into a beat. I'll make a bunch of songs and be like, "I hate this. You can strip the synth pattern off, if you want." Two hours later, he's make a sick beat from it and I'm like... "sh*t!" He’s coming out with a Pop project eventually, too and has used some of the EP2 left-overs for that. Of course, he totally messes with them and makes them their own thing. Sometimes, you need a new set of eyes/ears on a song that just isn't working. He can literally make a beat from anything. Like, I took a joke video of him slapping a giant 40lb. block of cheese the other day... now, he's f**king using it as an Industrial sample. He doesn't even know how insanely creative he is.

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