On January 12, The Cedar presents a one of a kind all-local bill featuring Stolyette and Har-di-Har, who will be joined by Under Violet, aerialist Lynn Sabin Lunny and Tekk Nikk. We had conversations with headliners Stolyette and Har-di-Har ahead of the show. You can read the full interviews below and buy tickets to the show here.
Local avant-pop group, Stolyette mixes dynamic soundscapes and expressive vocals to create a haunting, yet danceable live experience. Stolyette began as a project focussed on reworking Russian folk songs using only bass and vocals and have since grown to incorporate electro giga-delay pedals and a pitch shifter to fill out their sound by creating dense harmonies, melodies, and beats. Enhanced by the delivery of entrancing Russian vocals, the group allows the listener to interpret and reconstruct the meaning of each composition to reflect more personally the listener’s own experience and state.
We talked to Stolyette about the freedom of foreign language, expanding their minimalist sound, and the strength of the Twin Cities arts community. Read the full interview and watch their new music video for “Team” below.
A lot of what’s written about StoLyette mentions the vocal delivery on the songs–many of your lyrics are in Russian, playing with folk and traditional inspirations. Why do you think people resonate so strongly with the Russian language component of your sound?
I think a lot of it has to do more with hearing songs in a foreign language rather than Russian language in particular. Sometimes when people hear songs in foreign languages, the songs not only sound more exotic, but we can put a lot more individual and personal meaning into them. We can imagine that the songs are about whatever we want them to be about and this changes from person to person. Also, when I write lyrics that I imagine most people won’t understand, it’s somehow easier for me to be more personal and free creatively.
Over the last few years, how has your music evolved?
I think our sound has become a lot more full. We started out with a very minimal sound, which is still fun and something that we don’t want to abandon. Lately, however, our songs seem to be more layered and dancy.
What is your creation process as a band like?
We are in a bit of a transitional period now actually. Ben and I first started out writing songs as a duo, just sitting in the back room of our house and improvising. Over the years, as Mitch, and now Ryan, have become involved, we do a lot more songwriting remotely. For example, Ben will put down main themes with his bass, Mitch and Ryan will add drum parts that Ben reviews and edits into the song and then I go over with numerous vocal ideas that Ben, again, edits into the song. We’ll go back and forth like that a few times and the song evolves.
How do you think StoLyette fits into the Twin Cities music landscape? What do you wish we had more of locally?
There is a strong community of musicians who love to improvise in the Twin Cities. StoLyette makes and arranges songs, but no two performances will ever be the same, because songs are slowly built with loops in a live setting. There is always an element of chaos in our performances. We use instruments, so songs are performed live, but there is a strong electronic element with loops, pitch shifting pedals and drum pads. Finally, the mixture of Russian and English lyrics presented in a theatrical fashion is unusual. Overall, the Twin Cities arts community is phenomenal – the theaters, art museums, and musical venues are extremely varied, affordable and rich in opportunities. The Cedar is a perfect example of all of these qualities and we are so thankful to have the opportunity to perform there.
What’s inspiring you lately?
Irene: “Pandemic” board games and the Queen of England.
Ben: Brian Eno.
Ryan: Star Wars.
Mitch: “The companionship of my bandmates”.
Joining Stolyette on January 12 will be local art pop duo, Har-di-Har. Beginning in 2012, Har-di-Har rides the line of the avant-garde music and performative art genres. Their performance invites the audience in as a familial witness to the vivid, awkward and vulnerable life of their own intimate relationship through performance on stage. Their deeply personal debut full-length album, we will will you, was released on 9.29.17.
We spoke with Julie and Andrew Thoreen of Har-di-Har about collaborating on their new album, reinterpreting their music with a full band, and their unique brand of “attention-deficit pop.” Read the full interview and watch their Radio K session below.
You both are incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists, sometimes playing several instruments at one time in your live shows. What instruments do you lean towards when writing songs?
A: I like changing instruments every time I sit down to work on something! I like to try to keep improving the instruments I play by writing stuff that I can’t technically execute, so I have to practice it. So I tend to write on instruments that I’m not as proficient at as others. Though I tend to lean towards writing songs on the piano or guitar in order to sing melodies over harmonies, I love to start writing songs from the ground up with an instrumental foundation of either bass, trombone, guitar, or drum groove before anything else.
J: Whatever needs to happen for me to start writing with my voice, that’s what I prefer. My voice is my main instrument and primary vehicle for songwriting. I love her.
Over the last few years, how has your music evolved?
A+J: No matter how our music has changed over the years, Har-di-Har has always been about us collaborating as much as possible in the writing process. The music we write together evolves as we as collaborators evolve, and, since we’re married, also reflects where we are as individuals and partners in life. In the past, when we used to split a drum set between the two of us, we wrote everything live, needing to physically execute an idea before we decided to keep or lose it. This produced a certain sound, but was incredibly difficult and required a ton of rehearsal time, so we stopped doing it that way. Our latest release, “we will will you,” was the first time we wrote by tracking and demoing at the computer first before we even knew how to play it live. We started allowing ourselves to orchestrate more parts than we could play live as a duo. It also freed us up to write patches of free improvisation into our song structure.
The process for making this record also coincided with a challenging time in our relationship which we were feeling our way through. The result is a dense, shape-shifting, searching mini-opera. And our next record is bound to be something else entirely.
Har-di-Har has recently been performing live with a full band, not just as a duo. What made you choose to go the full band route for the first time? Have there been any surprising or unexpected outcomes that have arose from playing with more people?
A: When we started writing the record, we freed ourselves of the restraint of writing for a specific number of people. It just made sense to bring in some incredible musician friends to help us execute the record live: Patrick Marschke on drums, Jonathan Sunde on guitar, Eric Carranza on guitar and synth, and Nicky Steves and Jennie Lawless on background vocals. We were also thrilled for all the possibilities that having a band could open up to us. At first we asked everyone to just learn the specific parts from the recording and now that we’ve played three shows, everyone’s starting to bring their own interpretation and add things to certain sections of the songs. So the full band set has has developed elements that aren’t present on the record and is definitely chaining in a surprising way.
Your music has been described as “collage-oriented orchestral art pop,” and the cover of your new album is an incredible visual collage. Why is collage an important concept for Har-Di-Har?
J: We’ve always tended to write songs that have multiple sections and abrupt changes within them. We create like progressive attention-deficit pop music. Since we wrote “we will will you” at the computer, we had good old copy/paste at our side, which I probably have too much of a love for…but through demoing with ableton live, we found ourselves constantly editing, rearranging, and cutting/pasting sections of our songs together tediously to eventually land with a song and form that we both agreed worked. I think this record was particularly collage-y because we were using the writing process to work through some hard stuff we were going through. It was complex to navigate in the moment and that was reflected in all the different sections we needed to write, but then when we zoomed out, it made sense as a whole. Very collage.
A: Take from a bunch of things and then put them together to make a new thing! What a brilliant idea!? Density, juxtaposition, tension, resolution, and composition are all things in that we both admire in collage-art and try to find a way to bring to our music.
What’s inspiring you lately?
A: My nieces imaginations, the music on the game Two Dots, social scientists (the good ones), meditative game designers, Naruto, Osamu Tezuka, and Andrew Broder (what a guy).
J: I’m trying to cultivate a passion for wonder right now, so I’m feeling inspired by lots of mundane things. I’m feeling drawn particularly strongly to dancers, bright colors and patterns, Anna Meredith, and the show “Abstract Design.”