Æ: Aglet Eaters

Interactions In Installments: Her Vanished Grace Part 1

Posted in Discover by R on January 31, 2012

It wasn’t too long ago that fellow gazers Amber and Danny of When The Sun Hits posted their nice, long, and insanely comprehensive interview with the very chilled Her Vanished Grace. V. Good interview, it tells you all you need to know about the band. but it also puts me in a bit of a pickle. What have I left to ask them about now? You don’t want to read answers to questions you already have the answers to and HVG certainly wouldn’t want to answer questions they just answered. I’d get those annoying ‘dreg’ responses you get from a band that’s given too many interviews and answered the same questions all too often. I admire stand up comics for their ability to tell the same joke a dozen or more times without ever losing the novelty or amazement of telling it the first time. It’s very considerate towards a new audience. But I am sensitive to the fact that shoegaze bands are not always stand-up comics. I’m also keenly aware that it’s a total waste of space to repeat whatever has already been established (except when writing a 40,000 word thesis when you reiterate till kingdom, or preferably word limit, come). So, I thought I’d turn this into an opportunity to have, like, a conversation. You can learn so much about someone with just a bit of a chat. I sent an email off to HVG HQ proposing my proposal and got a response back from the dynamic Charles Nieland in no time. What followed was a most enjoyable email exchange that is likely to continue well beyond this three-part interview. I hope you enjoy the read and gain a little bit more insight into the secret life of Her Vanished Grace.

Here’s the last line of the first email kicking things off:

If you’re up for it, Nance and Charles, let’s have a drink and a chat. What can I get you? Tea and ginger snaps? Coffee and biscotti? Wine and cheese?

We both love Earl Grey and Nancy happens to love a good Ginger Snap! She’s sleeping though. She a gardener/ curator at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and gets up at 5 AM EST. I’m a producer /engineer and I work 3 or 4 days a week from 6 PM til 4 AM, usually getting home in time to get her up and see her off. Tonight’s my last night of a break from my music production job (which I spent working on new HVG). How are you? Are you in India or did you go back to Australia? How was being with your family?

Excellent, I have some tea right here and I’ll save some up for Nance when she’s up and back from work. Ginger snaps are my favourite cookie so I’m glad someone else likes them as well. I am back in Melbourne after a lovely visit home (it’s the perfect weather for tea there, actually) wrapping up this thesis of mine on online music journalism. I have high hopes for it. Though, It’s the reason I’m slack on the actual online music journalism. When it’s done I hope to be a lot more vigilant, and so new HVG will get more special treatment than you’ve received so far.

So let me see if I understand – you get to work on HVG stuff while at work as a music producer? What a great job… how did you land it?

I also have to ask – who am I speaking to at any given time on twitter? ONE of you has adopted ZOMG as daily lingo, but I don’t know which one. (zomg)

Z.O.M.G. that was me! I got it simultaneously from you and Anna Bouchard!

I’m the main purveyor of HVG in the cyber world. Nance has occasionally looked over my shoulder at Twitter and sometimes shares garden photos with her work friends on our Facebook profile but leaves the online Her Vanished Grace ambassadorship to me.

I am part of a production team called Super Buddha (http://www.superbuddhamusic.com/) with Barb Morrison. I also serve as the engineer. Our best known client is Debbie Harry. We produced her 2007 album Necessary Evil and 3 songs that we wrote with her appeared on Blondie‘s 2011 album The Panic of Girls. But we produce and write with of artists of all kinds. Some of it is a labor of love and some of it is a job. But it’s always intense and a challenge and I’ve done more music in the past 8 years than I ever thought I could wrap my brain around.

Her Vanished Grace is completely separate, although when Super Buddha is on break I get to use the studio that we rent for HVG’s music. So it’s usually for a few weeks in August and then around this time of year. We’re not finished with a few of the new songs so we’ll be back on some Saturdays to record vocals when we’re ready with our lyrics. I’m poring over drum tracks, guitar overdubs and bass parts that we recorded over the past two weeks. My eyes are tired. I did upload some clips to our YouTube channel, if you saw them, of each of us recording our instruments.

So no I don’t get to work on HVG while I’m doing Super Buddha. I really enjoy the time I get to work with my lovely band mates and especially with Nancy. It’s such a pleasure…

It’s nice to have that cleared up i.e. who is behind HVG, because that’s not you on the Twitter avi, but it’s not Nance doing the tweeting, so you can imagine how I might get confused. I am very impressed by your unity, the two of you. I think your online identities show the trust between you, and – I don’t know – but I don’t imagine your personalities are very dissimilar… I might be wrong, but you’ll tell me if I am.

I didn’t know about Super Buddha or your involvement with it… how did you come to work with Debbie Harry, or rather how did Debbie Harry hear of you?

I also think it’s very inspirational and encouraging to know you’ve done so much of what you love in such a short time. I turn 25 tomorrow and I already feel like there’s not enough time to do all that I want to do with myself, though I am doing all I can possibly fit into all the time I can find. Do you take breaks? I ask because I find they make me lose my momentum. At the same time, it’s probably good to stop and refuel from time-to-time, so I don’t know…

I saw a couple of the vids you speak of on youtube – they were shared all over the various gaze communities. I find them fascinating – it’s like science, yahknow? Putting together the organs that make up a song. A bit like playing god. I never had the courage to do it myself, I prefer to listen with my ‘untutored ear’ because it sounds feel different than to a trained one, as I found out when I first tried learning chords on a guitar. I have a quote that explains it… hang on, I’ll find it.

Here it is, I saved it up: http://mindthewires.tumblr.com/post/2195152786/the-untutored-man-is-able-without-an-effort 

I should probably change the Twitter photo. Anna B said the same thing to me as we started chatting. It’s too small to get a band photo in there and I just went with Nancy’s face. But I did start our Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote our band and I’ve always felt comfortable submerging my identity into our music I guess. At first Nancy wasn’t interested in Facebook at all, but then she discovered that all her garden friends had profiles so she started using it to talk to them. So we have this Facebook profile that we both use and it thinks our first name is Her. lol.

Anyway, but yeah we do trust each other and share email accounts, bank accounts, songwriting credits, etc. But I change the cat litter.

Debbie was a close friend of one of our artists Miss Guy (who just released an EP that we produced: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dumb-blonde-ep/id493589423). He brought her in to sing on one of his songs back in 2005 (that was a nerve wracking day). Then she came back the next spring asking us to redo some Blondie tunes in a modern way so she could do a club date. One of these turned up as the remix version of ‘In The Flesh’ on a Blondie Greatest Hits Collection called Sight and Sound (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blondie-Greatest-Hits-Sight-Sound/dp/B000BIOGV0) that went gold on the UK, so that was fun. She then started booking us just to write songs on and off until she built up a bunch of material. Then her management suddenly got interested. We finished it up and it became Necessary Evil. She’s a great person and fascinating to work with. It’s amaze to do music with someone so seasoned that they can write a lyric about what you were talking about at dinner.

Happy Birthday! well tomorrow. I know you read the WTSH interview so you know that Nance and I have been doing our music for 25 years. I’d been a musician for like 10 years before that. So I have been doing music for awhile but, yes, I’ve been actually working much more intensively on music since 2004, when Super Buddha started working out of a studio and this incarnation of HVG got started.

I know what you mean about momentum. We make an HVG album, we play shows and try to get it out there in the world, real and cyber. Then Nancy and I start feeling that we could do something a little better or different and boom we’re starting to work on a new thing. It’s voracious. It has an appetite and it wants to be fed. And it gets hungrier the more you feed it. I get exhausted and confused sometimes but something about our life together and our music always straightens me out and leads me back to this thing.

I will need to stop and refuel a little more at some point though.

It’s funny I don’t feel like the god in the songwriting situation. You’ve probably heard artists say this before, but it feels like they come through us. And the only way to honor the moment is to use my “untutored ear” or what’s left of it. Really the vast majority of what I do from writing, to playing to engineering and producing is self taught. Nance totally learned how to play guitar on my watch (she could always sing beautifully IMHO 🙂 ). I try to get into a place where I know what the chords are but I’ve completely forgotten what the chords are. lol. That’s when it’s good! The song tells me what it wants. It’s about standing still enough to hear it and stay out of it’s way.

Incoming: Her Vanished Grace

Posted in Discover, Meta by R on January 27, 2012


I had the good fortune to have a lovely long email conversation with Charlie of Her Vanished Grace this week. I am going to disguise it as an insightful interview. When I say ‘long’ I do mean LONG, so prepare your eyes for AE’s very first Interactions in Installments!!!

Yeah, I just made that up.

Stick around…


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