Shadowy, piano-playing chanteuse Caitlin Pasko is Lacrymosa, a drifty-dreamy fog of theatrical belting, twisted art-folk croon, bold melodies, and spectral tenderness–a haunted house version of uneasy troubadours like Antony, Joanna Newsom, or Bat For Lashes. After spending 18 years living in the same house in Virginia Beach, she made the trip to New York to study recorded music at NYU; her debut album, Selah (our now via The Family Records) doubled as her senior project. The record is 11 breathless, fragile songs where her brassy, reverb-drenched howl crashes like waves against her fluttering, sorrowful piano keys. Single “Sylvia (If I Meant)” matches a jaunty melody and bursting string stabs with vocals that match childlike wonder with adult melancholy.
What is “Sylvia” about?
Sylvia is about youth, delusion and the earnest desperation we’re most capable of when we’re young. On a literal level, “Sylvia” is about a tragic Halloween experience shared with a boy-sized buttercup. In elementary school, we had to practice fire drills at least once a week. When we got outside, we’d all rub buttercups on our chins and then look around to see who had a yellow chin. If your chin was yellow, someone loved you! I took Sylvia, a character I use to represent my medium between my former self and who I am now, and placed her in the elementary school memory, and then a while later at the scene of the boy-sized buttercup incident.
What inspired it musically?
I can say that while I was recording this record I was almost exclusively listening to Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me, and I was trying to think of the piano as a harp.
What does the song “Build Me Up Buttercup” mean to you?
“Build Me Up Buttercup” is such a sneaky song! It has the saddest lyrics set to the happiest melodies. Whenever I hear it I picture an absolutely insane person singing it, writhing around in agony. Like, if I were a music supervisor, I would put this song over such a scene.
What did you study at NYU? Have you used your degree yet?
I went to NYU to study recorded music, but I learned so much more than recording techniques. I learned music theory, music history, music marketing, music journalism… the list goes on and on. I graduated in May, and I can say it has helped me get some pretty amazing internships, and hopefully soon it will help me get a job!
What is the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
I will never forget my Bowery Ballroom experience. It’s always been my favorite venue, and walking out on that stage was surreal, I opened for my labelmate Wakey!Wakey!, a band that’s flourished a lot in the last few years and who I was excited to be able to support. I also thought I had my first heckler! He turned out to be a very nice man who was just very drunk and more enthusiastic about my playing than he was about my talking.
What’s your favorite place to eat in NYC?
Quantum Leap! I used to live on First Avenue and I would eat there all the time. The entire menu is either vegan or vegetarian, and everything is organic. They have a great selection of beers, ice teas and vegan milkshakes, and their weekend brunches are incredible. So many flavors of pancakes to choose from! They also play great music and the staff is as friendly as can be.
Are you an emerging local band who has an upcoming 7″, MP3, or album? Are you not totally fucking terrible like 90% of the bands in this city? Then please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Links and YSIs only. No attachments please!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 9, 2010