Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Sing What Scares You: An Interview With Trophy Wife

Written by Matt Dineen
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It’s always exciting when one of your favorite bands puts out a new record. The anticipation begins when you find out they are in the process of recording, and builds as you hear some of the new material live. And then there is that moment when it is released and you eagerly go home to listen to it and hear this whole new layer of a sound that means so much to you. I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of my favorite bands, the Philadelphia-based duo Trophy Wife, about their brand new record.
It’s always exciting when one of your favorite bands puts out a new record. The anticipation begins when you find out they are in the process of recording, and builds as you hear some of the new material live. And then there is that moment when it is released and you eagerly go home to listen to it and hear this whole new layer of a sound that means so much to you. I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of my favorite bands, the Philadelphia-based duo Trophy Wife, about their brand new record. Sing What Scares You is the band’s beautifully fierce sophomore album and is out now on 307 Knox Records, and the band’s new imprint, Meet Your Adversary Records. I spoke with guitarist Diane Foglizzo and drummer Katy Otto (disclaimer: Otto does some writing for Sadie) at the end of June as they were preparing for a mini record-release tour around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that starts today. It went like this.


 
Matt: Let’s start with this new record, Sing What Scares You. Can you talk about how it all came together and what that process was like for you both?
 
Diane: We wrote the first song on this new record while we were living apart—I was in North Carolina and Katy was here in Philadelphia—over two years ago. A lot has happened since then for us both as people and as a band: I left North Carolina and moved to Philly into Katy’s apartment; we went on tour in Europe for five weeks, took and left various jobs; I’ve gone back to school; we’ve mourned and grieved friends, loved ones, and people we never met; both fell in and out of love; read lots of books; and, of course, have consistently navigated the complexities of our relationship. These experiences of fear, bravery, and failure emerge in Sing What Scares You. The title comes from our song “Dead Composers Dance Alone.” We felt it appropriately captured the vibe of this record.
 


Katy: The songs on this are a departure in some ways from our first record. There is a different energy—we wanted to tell stories and use imagery more. Our first record, Patience Fury, was direct in its language and somewhat didactic. I think we wanted to push ourselves as songwriters and lyricists to show rather than tell. For me, singing more and using melody and harmony was a big challenge on this record. Playing drums comes very naturally to me, but singing requires more thought and conscious effort. We recorded near our home in Philadelphia with Steve Roche. The record came together over the course of several months. We actually had a song we ended up not using, which was a new experience for me (it will rear its head later on). Figuring out how to sequence this record was important because there are songs that are fairly different and we wanted to communicate cohesively. 


 
Matt: In what ways do the underlying themes of the record, including showing more than telling, translate into the live performance of these songs? How does your relationship, as friends and collaborators, manifest itself in the live show?


 
Katy: We are two intense people. I think anyone watching us play music realizes this. We are also not necessarily “performers.” We make music to survive. I am not exaggerating. I was at a talk recently given by Ed Bullins, a famous African-American playwright and former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party. I was riveted by this man, who described himself as an “art soldier.” Of course I thought of Diane and this creative partnership I have with her. We don’t want to be bullshit. We also need to try things in public and have some permission to fail greatly now and then—when you are trying to communicate feelings and ideas that are core to you, this is inevitable. That is why the idea of our band “taking off” is foreign to us. We make it first for ourselves and each other and then for the outside world. At times, we have been overcome and have expressed intense emotion on stage. I have cried and been joyful and devastated and angry. For a few moments, we are on display with these very tender and also very resilient parts of ourselves. It’s best to reconnect with one another after playing before talking to the folks who have seen it. It can be very strange to socialize with people after you have played music in front of them—particularly the kind we do.


 
Diane: Katy and I need to be in a certain mutual headspace before we play or else it just kind of feels awkward. Well, actually it can get awkward other times too. Like when we played recently in DC—while I felt extremely connected to Katy, perhaps it was at the expense of connecting with the audience or something, because I felt like an alien on stage and had this slight nervous breakdown where I played almost a whole song kneeling and hiding behind Katy’s drums. That was weird. But Katy and I are not always in the same zone, and so at times there is performance. But, I mean, it is all a performance. I think I might disagree with Katy slightly about being performers. I think, personally, that we are, or at least speaking for myself, I am. I’ve been seeing the performance of our songs as a separate experience, and mental and emotional process, from the writing and playing in our practice space. The longer I’ve been playing shows, still not very long—just three or four years—the more I’ve thought about this and felt it. 


 
Matt: Speaking of playing shows, can you tell us about your upcoming tour with Lozen and how you’re feeling about bringing this record out into the world, on the road?


 
Diane: I feel nervous about releasing this record but am also proud of what we put together—visually, lyrically, and musically. As for the upcoming shows, well, I feel slightly both excited and nervous. We haven’t played in a while so I want to really put on some good shows, but that self-inflicted stress gets to me. I couldn’t be more thrilled about all the different bands we get to play with on this mini-tour, particularly Lozen.
 


Katy: It feels strange to have a record of songs that are so familiar to us but not to an audience yet. It can be hard on musicians, I think, when a record takes a little while. Partly because you exorcise the experience and then are a little bit ready to move on, but your body of work can’t always catch up to your headspace/emotions. I get anxious recording. It seems like such a commitment—the idea that there is ever ONE final version of a song. I think of songs as living, breathing vehicles for delivery, so pinning them down can almost feel like a violent act, in a way. 

I am really looking forward to these shows with Lozen. Hozoji, who plays guitar in Lozen, is also the drummer in Helms Alee from Seattle, and is one of my favorite currently active musicians. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for Tom Tom magazine a while back. When Diane and I found out that she also had a duo of two women playing heavy music—well, SWOON. We were so excited. We have been looking forward to both sharing space musically with them and getting to know them as people for a while. I think, if I am correct, Hozoji is also a deep-sea diver for Geoducks, which is AMAZING to me. I am excited, too, about the cities we will be visiting on this trip—DC, Philly, New York, Providence, and Baltimore.


 
Matt: I want to thank you both for taking the time to have this conversation and for doing all that you do. Is there anything else you’d like to add about your music, your lives, or the new imprint/label that you started with this record?


 
Katy: Thank you for doing it! I think that our band is a manifestation of a very deep bond, friendship, and kinship, and it continues to enrich my life in a host of ways and challenge me in others. We started the imprint because it makes sense for us to have a very agile, self-contained way to transmit and share ideas. The name of the imprint was derived from a quote used to describe us in a Tom Tom magazine review that we both really liked. Our lives? We are learning resilience, agility, self-critique, and self-care. We have a farm share together and that is pretty great—getting produce and making food straight from Greensgrow, the urban farm in our Fishtown neighborhood. Diane offers me one of the greatest gifts a true friend can—intellectual and political challenge coupled with palpable, real support and love. We have a line in a song: “I grow when you grow/I thrive when you thrive,” and part of why we write stuff like this is to remind ourselves to live it—and I think we do our best.
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For more info. about Trophy Wife and their new record Sing What Scares You, visit their blog and their Bandcamp
 
To catch them live, check out their upcoming tour dates below: 
july 4-potluck w/ southern problems, lozen, and hugh mcelroy • Rocketship • 1223 decatur street NW • dc • 2pm

july 5-hometown record release w/ lozen, erode and disappear, and xanax • PhilaMoCA • 12th and Spring Garden • philly • 8pm

july 6-w/ bells, lozen and cycles • cake shop • nyc

july 7-w/ whore paint, lozen, cave of colors • Building 16 • providence • 9pm

july 8-Charm City Art Space 10 year anniversary • w/ lozen and more • baltimore

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