SCV Interview with Lisa Papineau

Photo by Reynaldo Rivera

Lisa Papineau is one of our favorite singers and musicians at Sound Colour Vibration and we are very excited to bring this interview to our site. She was born in New England and is a current resident of Paris, France. Lisa has released two full length solo records, two records with her project Big Sir that includes Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña, soundstrack scores and so much more. Now with a new Big Sir album completed and awaiting release along with a new project with RX Bandits guitarist and singer Matt Embree, she has created a legacy of music that is already showing its timeless nature. We contacted her to get some info on these various new projects and these are the results, enjoy! ~ Erik Otis //

You are releasing an EP this July through Sargent House with singer and guitarist of RX-Bandits, Matt Embree. What brought you guys together for a release and where was the EP recorded at?

We were asked to do a performance together for a mutual friend Sonny Kay’s art opening. When we got together to learn some of each other’s song for the show, we started improv-ing and rock-out-ing and it just felt and sounded really special to us, and so  decided to expand on some of the ideas in a recording. Different parts of the album were recorded all over the place, in little nooks and crannies that we’d find ourselves in, but the heart of the album was recorded at my friend Matthieu Lesenechal’s (he is a cornerstone member of my solo project and also plays on Big Sir) studio in a salad field about an hour South of Paris. When we were recording my last solo record there, we dubbed the studio Chez Raymond, in honor of Matthieu’s uncle who had lived there when it was first built. Significantly, he passed away while Matthew E. and I were there recording our album, and so we named it Chez Raymond in his honor.

What type of instrumentation do you guys contribute to the album?

Embree sang, played guitar, quatro, bass, piano, synths, rhodes, drums, percussion, I sang, played synths, flute, percussion and drums, and Matthieu Lesenechal played accordian and all sorts of keyboards. We all made a lot of random noise too that wouldn’t necessarily be qualified as one instrument or another, but these swaths and pockets of ambient noise are definitely an integral part of the sound. Lots and lots of room tone too!

Are there plans to tour together with a full band set up?

I think at this point in time we are talking about playing live with the two of us and one other drummer/ multi-instrumentalist.

When do you plan on releasing another solo album?

Depending on when the new Big Sir record comes out, some time next year, as it is almost finished. I was gearing up to release a solo EP this year, but then Juan and I hunkered down into the Big Sir, and with some time I realized that I want to open the EP back up and add some other songs.

For live performances, did you have a preference on the mics you use?

I prefer a Shure SM58 or Beta 58A, I’m pretty sibilant, and also sing very dynamically (soft to loud to soft quickly), and they can take anything dished up. Also being dropped a lot… kind o’ clumsy. I know intimately what the tones of my voice sound like through these mics, and with a good reference it makes it easier to pinpoint any frequency issues in live set up.

Have you ever been into experimenting with effects pedals and so forth to modify your vocal tones?

Yes, but until recently, I generally used vocal tracks run through pedals as “instrumental” track. There is a favorite such a one on the first song of Night Moves… I had a lot of people ask me, “What is that strange guitar or keyboard you used in that part?” and that was really fun.  Also, whenever I’d sing on Farflung or Anubian Lights tracks/shows, I always ran my vox through a couple of pedals that I could ride while singing, because it was a more organic vocal “soup” for the music. For Big Sir, “Lisa Papineau”, and Pet, I usually only liked to use an fx if it was REALLY obvious, because otherwise it felt like cheating? But that’s kind of dumb because in real life, one room to another is naturally “fx-ing” the way a voice reverberates in it, so the idea of using pedals isn’t really different than that, just pushing it to a certain extreme.

Do lyrics come first when you write a song, or music?

It is different for each song. Sometimes I have a lyric idea before the song exists, but the opposite is much more usual. For my own material, I generally write a stripped down instrumental structure on a keyboard or guitar, and build a melody arrangement around that, with very rough lyrics, and then refine them later. Then build instrumentation arrangements around that. With collaborative projects like Big Sir, it could start with a simple bass, key etc. riff  or something very arranged musically and I’ll build the song/melodic/lyrical (if there are lyrics) structure from there, and then we’ll bounce it back and forth with other instrumentation and structure parts and arrangements. With Me&LP we were lucky to be able to have a lot of the music build out of jamming for lack of a less silly word, and some of the root lyrics ideas pulled from this improvisation.

Big Sir is your project with Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete de la Peña. How is the latest record coming along that you guys are working on?

WE JUST TURNED IN THE MASTER TWO DAYS AGO…  It feels amazing… we are both bursting.

Can we expect any guest appearances on the new Big Sir?

It is always a joy to have our friends play with us. Cedric Bixler-Zavala is playing drums on three songs, and singing on another. Matt Embree sings on a song, and Heather Lockie from Listing Ship plays viola on this track as well.  Mark Ramos-Nishita, Jonathan Hischke and David Sims all contributed beautiful tracks on songs that, now that we’ve had to made the hard choices as to the album proper’s core sequence, are going to be special bonus tracks.

How do you and Juan Alderete de la Peña work together in the creation process of your music?

If we had our druthers, we would choose to spend more time in a room creating our songs together, but because of our schedules and commitments with our other musical projects, quite a lot was done bouncing ideas back and forth virtually. He’d throw down an idea, I’d cut it up and throw down something on top of that, he’d get it, cut it up more, take something out, throw something else on top. It’s not necessarily ideal, but this process at times gave the songs certain…. rough edges, that on one hand would drive us crazy and on the other hand we would sometimes love. But we certainly cannot deny that, hate them or love them, these rough edges are a part of the character of our music. And I don’t know if it would feel the same if we had the time and luxury to make things more smooth or slick. It is a running conversation.

You were also on one of the latest LP’s from Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. How much material did you guys record as I know you were only on 2 of the songs on the album?

These two songs.

Out of all of the places you have lived, what have been the most impactful on shaping how you approach your life and your music?

There is no question that every place, whether one is there for a year or a couple of hours, informs and impacts ones life, especially if one allows oneself to be… present… not tuned out in your own personal little grid. But I would say, for me personally, the three places that have most profoundly impacted me and the… cadence of my life and music, have been Vermont, Los Angeles, and the number of times I’ve driven alone across the US (being on such a long determined road is its own place.)

You have had the honor in making soundtrack music, what are some of your favorite experiences with that style of composition?

I truly enjoy improvising layers of vocals to visual cue… it can be daunting, but if you’re working with some one you really trust (Tyler, Bobby.. love you fools), it’s deeply moving and a lot of fun.

How much of your upbringing influenced the way you practice and compose?

My parent are both really hard workers who instilled me my sister and my brothers with the love of giving it your all, no matter how humble or grand the task before you. They always encouraged us to try and figure things out for ourselves. I know without them, I would not have the mental discipline nor the necessary fever to make music, a profession which requires an intense amount of self-motivation.

Thanks Lisa

Check out Lisa’s last full length that was released in May of last year

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