Anthems Of The Void: The WL Interview

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Purveyors of: Interstellar avant-garde rock

File next to: Broadcast, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jefferson Airplane, Cocteau Twins (their dark stuff)

Playing: Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival Night 2, Sunday August 18 @ Stackt. Get tickets here!

Spacey vocal soundscapes collide with swells of distorted electric guitar and the unique sound of the one-of-a-kind instrument, the “Pencilina,” in this exciting new cross-border musical project, currently touring across Eastern Canada. Wavelength’s Libydo got a chance to connect with Toronto-based singer/vocalist Caylie Staples and New York based multi-instrumentalist Bradford Reed to discuss the collaboration which became Anthems Of The Void.

How did Anthems of the Void form?

Bradford: A few years ago, Caylie was at an improv gig I was playing at the Sunview Luncheonette, which is an oddball, very compact and totally cool music and art venue in a condemned diner in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. 

Caylie: I had arrived in New York just six days before to study with vocalist Shelley Hirsch, who was also performing that night. Bradford ended up having to set up right beside me in the packed space, so I was basically hovering over the Pencilina for the performance. As he was playing, I began improvising over it in my mind and I knew instantly that we would be a good musical combination. 

Bradford: She messaged me a couple days later and asked if I’d like to improvise with her. What followed has been one of the best musical collaborations I’ve ever had. I feel like Caylie is my musical counterpart from the astral plane. After recording several improv sessions as a duo, in which I used my modular synth hooked up to the Pencilina, we did a few more sessions with my long-time collaborator and pal, cellist Jane Scarpantoni (Lou Reed, Nirvana, Lounge Lizards, Ben Folds 5, Patti Smith etc.) and another with Rae Howell (Sunrae), an Australian composer who is a fantastic improvising piano and vibraphone player.  We ended up with hours of good recordings, which we painstakingly shaped into an album over the next year. We decided we needed to play some of the material live and to try and get a Banff Centre residency where we could focus on putting together a set, which we knew would be a lot of work. They accepted us and we talked a lot on the phone about how we would approach performing. 

A couple months before we were supposed to go to Banff I saw Godspeed, who are one of my favorite live bands, play in Prospect Park and was blown away by them (almost in tears). I was also struck by their huge guitar sounds and amazing energy, which made me think Geoff Gersh (Blue Man Group, Pastor of Muppets, Reel Orchestrette, Black Lodge, Ambient Fields)  should join us. He’s another long-time collaborator and friend, who is a big Godspeed fan, one of my favorite guitarists, and someone who I’m very used to playing with. Caylie had seen Geoff play in his instrumental metal duo Wood and Oil. We both knew he’d bring what we were trying to do to the next level and joined our residency for our final performance.  It worked out very well and he’s integrated his musicality and sound into AOTV.

Has being from different cities posed any advantages or challenges?

Bradford: It’s made us work very efficiently when we’re together and to listen closely to what we create. It’s also possible that if we lived in the same city we’d generate too much material or we’d go into some weird state like the people who watch recordings of their dreams in Wim Wender’s Until The End of the World. It’s not one of his best films. Luckily Geoff and I have been able to work on some of the music together so we can rehearse more effectively with Caylie. 

Caylie: Because of the distance we do intense, immersive bursts of work together on it for a number of days or weeks at a time. In a way, that creates a more intense focus. It also has meant that we work in a growing variety of locations, which I think benefits the energy of the project. 

Bradford has a self-invented instrument, the Pencilina. Caylie, how has this instrument affected your own unique approach to music?

Caylie: There is something familiar feeling to me about singing with the Pencilina. Which is funny because there’s basically only one in the world! Bradford has a couple he invented. After playing together for a while, Bradford and I were talking about some of the harmonic parameters of the Pencilina, and I laughed because it mirrors the same harmonic and melodic tendencies that I have always had. They’re embedded within its design, so there is a natural resonance for me with this instrument somehow. It’s also got such a great range of sounds and timbres, it’s really fun to respond to and evocative of imagery when I’m improvising lyrics along with it. It has a lot of moving parts and sliding into notes and bending around pitches so I get to really hold my own as a singer and make choices in that pitch universe, which I also find fun. It can be so beautiful and dig in and rock. It has a broad expressive palette which really helps us all in expressing this world of Anthems of the Void. 

What else influences you creatively besides music?

Bradford: Nature and wilderness explorations, film (especially ‘70s), photography, and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya.

Caylie: I’m very influenced by landscape and terrain, whether it be physical or more of an emotional or mental or spiritual landscape. I tend to be most influenced by direct experiences in the world and the feeling of being in a place. I’m also very inspired by memory and the way it can create chains of meaning, or how our minds can so quickly move back and forward through time and call up images or memories. 

Cultureaddicts.com has listed AOTV as one of the top five acts to see during the Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival. What should the audience expect to see/hear from your performance?

Caylie: Three genuine people creating an immersive world of sound and lyrical imagery. Interstellar avant-garde rock. 

Bradford: I think expectations are generally problematic, but if they must have them hopefully a beautifully unusual and rocking set with many moments unique to that performance. It’ll also be the last show of our tour and hopefully our best set ever.

Anthems of the Void – Tour Dates:

Aug 7th, Hamilton @ Artword Artbar 15 Colbourne
Aug 8th, Guelph, Copper Wires #1 @ The eBar
Aug 11th, Peterborough with Douleur Fantôme and Olias
Aug 15th, Ottawa @ House of Targ
Aug 16th, Montreal @ Brasserie Beaubien
Aug 18th, Toronto, Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival @ Stackt Market

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