She Speaks in Tongues are a four piece rock band that makes highly referential, deeply conceptual music that frequently jumps between influences and genres on any given song. They’re nearing the release of their very first LP, gloria, GUITAR, and what follows is a warm conversation with vocalist/guitarist Kate McCandless and drummer Adrian Vigliano from their Logan Square home. We discussed the ideas and the process behind their new album, the importance of their live show, and the feminist themes within their music. Of course we also talked about the single they recorded for LoudLoopPress.com, “My John,” which as always, was recorded by LLP’s own Damian Wiseman, and is available for free download at the conclusion of this post and/or can be streamed in the Bandcamp sidebar to the right.
LLP: Your first album is coming out soon. Can you talk about that? What was it like to put together?
Adrian: The recording went really well, we did it mostly at Carter Co. in Pilsen. The mixing process is what really took a long time, we went to a few different mixing engineers, using one person for one song, one person for another song. Throughout all that we were trying to figure out how to finance the whole thing, and now it looks like Notes and Bolts is going to help us put out the vinyl.
Kate: It’s been an interesting process for me because I feel pretty brand new to the music scene and process. My background’s in theater so it’s been a really exciting adventure for me personally. This is a vision I’ve had for so many years so to finally put it on its feet as a performance and then to record it was always my dream. I found the process really interesting and fun and humbling at times because I didn’t always know what I was doing. I was grateful to have people around me that had been through the process before
LLP: Did the album meet your expectations?
Kate: I’m very pleased with it. I’m tickled pink. [laughs].
Adrian: I think it captures the way we sound live pretty well, which is what we wanted I think, as opposed to experimenting in the studio. I think it’s what we were aiming for.
LLP: What was the reasoning behind using so many mixers?
Adrian: Each song kind of represents a leap in time. There are a lot of aesthetic differences from song to song. Like, one song is trying to encompass a kind of doo-wop, girl group, Phil Spector sound. Then there’s a sixties, garage rock-y song and a more eighties pop style song. The challenge was to mix everything in such a way that felt like we were really getting those sounds. We went to a few different engineers that could do specific things.
Kate: Also a lot of what we do involves vocal loops, and recording that is more challenging then you might initially think.
LLP: The album seems to be very much guided by a concept, can you talk about that?
Kate: The album for me is a very microcosmic history lesson in rock and roll where women are these key figures, rather than marginal. The aim was to take you through this history lesson, that’s why there are these different genres and voices and artists that are referenced. I wanted to tell their stories.
LLP: Piggybacking off that, you’re clearly not shy about your influences. How do you incorporate them into your work? Is there a concern about sounding too much like someone else?
Kate: As it pertains to this project, no because the referencing is very intentional. In a way I’m channeling these artists, and their spirits and the essences. I’m playing with a lot of nostlagia, like, classic rock references. In a way it helps me to have a verb, something I’m channeling and accessing. That’s my theater training at work, that’s where my motivation comes from. I think it can make for a strong performance. And we’re all influenced, so to act like we’re not is silly.
LLP: A lot of bands test new material live before using it on an album. You guys seem to go the opposite way, you really emphasize the live performance and want it to be polished.
Kate: Again that’s my theater background at work. You hole up and you very intensely work on this thing and there’s a concept and there’s a reason why you’re doing everything and when you perform it it’s like “bang.”
LLP: Going off that, when I was reading up on you, I found an article on Huffington Post by a woman who was moved to tears by your live show. Can you talk about that?
Kate: I can’t do that without addressing the feminist intentions of the work. She’s not the only woman who’s cried at my shows. She’s not the only one that I’ve talked to after a performance with this…gleam in her eye, and this expression of hunger and longing that I know so well. With the more seasoned female musicians I connect with at shows, there’s this knowing smile like “ah, yes, thank you. My intention is to address the many injustices that women experience and have experienced, and to tell their stories. To get that kind of response it’s…I’m glad to make a connection. I really love connecting with anybody after a show, it’s one of my favorite parts of playing a show.
Adrian: And you’ve talked about the hunger you sense in yourself and other women you’ve talked to, to see yourself represented in rock and roll. And it seems like it’s improving really slowly. Actually Damien, when he recorded our single for you guys, talked about his time in New York and one of the things that struck him about moving to Chicago and being involved in the scene here is that it’s much more female centric. He said he’s seeing way more female musicians on stage here.
Kate: Female vocalists in particular I think he said.
Adrian: It’s interesting because in our experience, being rooted here in Chicago, there’s still the same struggles, like, how much of an imbalance are we still seeing?
LLP: On the subject of the single, can you talk about it? It’s a very interesting song.
Kate: That’s a song that’s almost a straight up cover, but very audaciously has this other title and some shifted lyrics here and there. It’s almost a straight up cover of a Beatles’ song, a very well known Beatles’ song. It initially came from thinking about Yoko Ono and exploring her. Not necessarily putting her on a pedestal but just kind of trying to access what she’s about and how she’s perceived by our culture. And one aspect is her relationship with John Lennon and how severely they were in love. I was just imagining what it must have been like to have your partner murdered, and how gut wrenching that was. That’s what motivated that version of that song. It’s about accessing a person that really loved another person.