Interview – Telepathe
– by Shawn Conner
Four days after reading Bat for Lashes‘ Natasha Khan’s blurb likening Telepathe to Bananarama in the New York Times, I was on the phone with Melissa Livaudais, one half of the duo (along with yoga instructor/modern dancer Busy Gangnes) as she walked around Brooklyn. Later this month (April 2009), Iamsound Records will release Dance Mother, Telepathe’s debut full-length (following two EPs), before the band embarks on an extensive tour of Europe and North America. (And no, I’m not sure I hear Bananarama in the group’s layered, atmospheric keyboard rock, but I do catch nods to the Cocteau Twins and Electrelane.)
Shawn Conner: I was intimidated by your outgoing message: “Don’t leave a message, I never listen to my messages. Text me.”
Melissa Livaudais: Oh no, don’t be intimidated.
SC: Did you have any idea about the New York Times plug before it happened?
ML: No, we had no idea, it was crazy. I’m psyched about it. I couldn’t believe it.
SC: Now, I’m having a hard time figuring out where you’re at in terms of releasing your debut…
ML: The date is like… I think it’s actually April 12, 13. I’m embarrassed I don’t know the exact date!
SC: One of the tracks I wanted to ask about is [the six-minute-plus space-rock travelogu] “Trilogy: Breath of Life, Crimes and Killings, Threads and Knives”. That one’s really out there, to put it mildly. Did you get into a weird headspace when recording it?
ML: Kind of. What happened was, Busy and I built a home studio in this room in our loft, and we got this program called LogicPro, and just started recording in our bedroom. That was one of the first songs we did. We put a lot of work into it. It was kind of claustrophobic, and there was no heat in our loft.
SC: Is it hard to bit of a struggle for bands, even living in Brooklyn? Is it pretty expensive?
ML: Yeah, but we found a way to make it work. It wasn’t ideal but we definitely consolidated everything in our lives to be able to play and write and rehearse. I think it’s a lot easier to get to the point of being able to do it that way – it’s like hustling, it’s part of survival. Either you can figure out a way to do it, or not. Or you can be really rich and your parents pay for everything.
SC: You guys aren’t trust fund kids?
ML: No, no trust-fund kids.
SC: So it’s just you and Busy in the band now, right? Have you found a way to capture all the sounds you want onstage?
ML: Yeah, actually. For the first time ever. We just had about two solid months off after touring, and then we were like, “All right, we have we to make this work.” We sequenced our entire live set. We played some things and sampled them, and we separated all the tracks. There’s a lot of flexibility with dropping things in and out. It was really laborious – I would say sequencing the record and making it live the way we wanted an audience to hear it, it took really long days for two months.
SC: But not as laborious as trying to get along with, or teach, new band members.
ML: Yeah. Now it’s so much fun. It is really kind of weird. It makes sense to us because we played and wrote it. It’s kind of stressful saying, “I know this doesn’t make sense, but the guitar part doesn’t come in on the one-beat.”
SC: I imagine when you guys play live you work up a pretty good dance groove.
ML: Yeah, definitely. When we first started doing it, people were like, “What the fuck?” And then once our stuff went to blogs and got on the Internet, all of a sudden people were singing and dancing to our songs in the front row and we were like, “Whoah, oh my God, it’s working.”
And so for our record release party, because Busy is also a choreographer, and she’s been working with this friend of ours Megan Byrne, who’s done stuff with David Byrne, we’re going to have three dancers onstage with us. Because Busy and I, we have a lot of stuff to do. Unfortunately, it’s all behind a table of electronics, so it’s not that entertaining. But we have some projections together and some really amazing , hot choreographed dancers onstage. From there, we’re gonna make YouTube videos of the dancers. Each song will have five movements to learn, and then we’re going to try to organize dancers to perform with us in each city we play.
SC: How did you meet Busy? At one of her yoga classes?
ML: No, we had a mutual friend, Emily. When I was in this band Wikkid, there were three electric guitarists and we were like all we need is a drummer. Then Emily said, “My friend Busy really wants to play drums.” I was living in this huge monster loft where we practiced in my bedroom, and I actually had this spare drumkit I’d put together from random drum parts left in the loft by random people living there. And then Busy showed up and played, and that was the first time we met.
SC:Was this shortly after you moved to New York from New Orleans?
ML: Yeah. Which was really lucky in my opinion. I know that a lot of people, when they first move to New York, and they don’t have the kind of experience, they can get really depressed. But I moved here and I felt liberated. I didn’t have money, I’d just dropped out of school, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. And then things just kind of worked out.