Effi Briest plays a free show tomorrow at the Bam Café Live with White Rabbits and Miss Fairchild as part of the Brooklyn Next series. At 8, BAMcafe Live, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-636-4139.
Now with only six!
photo: Brian Tamborello
Before they played shows, Brooklyn-based all-female collective Effi Briest spent the first half of their three years together practicing in a former bass player’s basement. The mystical post-punk sound born out of that diligence, however, was worth the wait. They’ve, unsurprisingly, made a name for ’round these parts (Everett True’s a fan) and, with their recent Mirror Rim/ The Newlywed’s Song 7″ released in the UK via Loog Records, they’re building a fan base across the pond. EB’s been hunkering down to finish up their debut full-length, but you can catch them this Saturday at Bam Café Live with White Rabbits and Miss Fairchild as part of the Brooklyn Next series.
Recently drummer Corinne Jones talked to the Voice about palindromes, the band’s comparisons to the Slits, and why they might not be doing any more press with NME.
VV: Back in your basement days you started with 12 people, how did that number get whittled down to seven?
CJ: I asked people that I liked if they wanted to be in a band with me, and twelve people said, ‘Yeah, we’ll try it.’ It was getting a lot of people together and making some noise, and then after a while it started to really take shape. Those of us who liked the direction it was going in stayed with it. It’s been years now.
VV: Your bassist, Elizabeth Hart, is also in Psychic Ills. Were you in smaller bands before you decided to do this larger project?
CJ: For most of us, it’s the first band we’ve been in. Sara Shaw, the lead guitarist, has been in a lot of bands. It was pretty amazing when she expressed interest in this because she brings all of that experience. She doesn’t mind playing with people at varying skill levels.
VV: So is there a “leader” in the group in that sense?
CJ: There’s isn’t one person that brings a song structure to the group and says, ‘Hey, play it like this.’ It evolves with everyone playing.
VV: Are there times when having a larger band doesn’t work?
CJ: We have some sufficient logistical problems–we can’t all fit in a car and stuff like that. But to be totally frank, we’re now a six piece as of a couple weeks ago. It’s a big commitment, and people come and go at different times. We’re sort of adjusting. We don’t have too many recordings, but we do have definitive versions of songs that we need to go back and readjust.
VV: What did that person [Nicky Mao] play?
CJ: Acoustic guitar and violin.
VV: Will you be replacing her?
CJ: Well, I think we’d be OK with six. That’s never been our way. We’ve never thought ‘oh, we need a violin player. Let’s get a violin player.’ We knew her and she came and played with us. So we’ll probably just get another instrument. In fact, we’ve been playing around with different keyboards. So our seventh member has morphed into a mini Moog for the time being.
VV: “Mirror Rim,” which you wrote, is written entirely in palindromes. I caught “race car” and “stac cats.” Do you have any favorite palindromes in the song?
CJ: It’s more about the way that Kelsey [Barrett] sings them, because she does it with such conviction more than the actual pailindrome or the lyric. But I love “deer breed.”
VV: The B-side to the 7″ is the “The Newlywed’s Song” by the late Native American jazz musican Jim Pepper [streaming below]. What made you decide to cover that song?
CJ: That was actually the first song that we started playing together. A friend of mine got it at a record fair and I had never heard of Jim Pepper before. It’s relatively obscure and you can only get it on vinyl. It’s just an amazing song. I feel like it allows us to all be on the same page–it’s relatively easy to play and has chanting, so that’s something that we can all do together.
VV: You guys get compared to the Slits and early Siouxsie and the Banshess. Were those bands that influenced you?
CJ: Well, none of those parallels there are intentional at all. We don’t mind them, we like those bands, but that certainly wasn’t the direction we were going for when were putting it all together. That was what was attached to it later, and we have to admit, ‘Oh yeah, I can hear where it sounds like the Slits or the Banshees.’ We have a pretty wide range of influences. We certainly listen to a lot of prog rock and jazz, like Don Cherry, And E.S.G. for just some good, kicking bass. Lilliput was one that definitely listened to in the beginning.
VV: You’ve gotten a lot of press in the UK. I read an NME feature that referred to the band as “bewitching Brooklyn bohos” and “New York’s Spookiest Band.” Do you think you play spooky music?
CJ: I think sometimes the music has an eerie quality–the accordion has a mysterious quality to it. But we don’t set out to make contrived, “spooky” music.
VV: That “witchy” tag is irksome to you?
CJ: Yeah, I think it’s pretty good old fashioned sexism. It’s just so silly.
VV: You’re quoted in the same article as saying Effi Briest “likes to explore the dark side.”
CJ: That was something that was misprinted in another magazine, and then they just ran with it. I really have to put the kibosh on that. I did tell an anecdotal story about going on picnics with my mother in cemeteries, but that’s just more of a weird Missisippi thing. I really shouldn’t have gotten anecdotal. Believe me, I’ve never in my life said, ‘We like to explore the dark side.’ It’s so corny.
VV: Loog Records is owned by James Oldham, who’s a former NME editor. Were you expecting coverage from them?
CJ: Well, they kind of sprung (that feature) on us. We didn’t really know that that’s what was ahead of us. When we got there we played a week; six shows every night in London, and then we went to Paris for a festival. And between playing every night they were like, “oh you have this photo shoot and an NME interview.” Which was a surprise, and we tried to roll with it, but it kind of packaged us in a way that we didn’t appreciate.
VV: How have your UK audiences been?
CJ: They were really responsive and we had an amazing time. I think we’ve been lucky in New York, too.
VV: And you’re working on a full-length album?
CJ: Yeah, with Matt Marinelli. He has a great studio in Queens. It was a ’30s dinner club and then in the ’70s it was a disco. Matt’s a friend and a really great engineer. We have another single that’s coming out in the middle of next month with him and he’s doing the full-length. We’ve got the lion share of it done, a few mores songs to record and a lot of mixing to do. We’re almost there.