|Caithlin de Marrais – Red Coats (2011)|
Caithlin de Marrais – Red Coats
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Album release: November 8th, 2011
Record Label: End Up Records / Polyvinyl Records // Contrarede (Japan)
Former lead singer of Rainer Maria, Caithlin de Marrais’ tapped the Poison Tree‘s Steve Salett and Josh Kaufman for co-production of her new project Red Coats. On her solo debut, Caithlin distinguishing characteristic isn’t that she was the frontwoman for emo vets Rainer Maria, but that she was the bassist. These are slight, spacious tracks, and the chattering drum loops and weightless strings could just wander away without the muted low-end muscle, like electrons lacking a nucleus. This isn’t the most effective way to write songs, but sounds that’d be crushed in a busier mix — a crawl of brittle guitar on “Birds,” a shivering synth on “City Girl,” de Marrais’ shyly pretty voice — are given a chance to gleam, as they cluster shyly around her more forceful, composed bass lines.
01. Lovers Light [03:58]
02. Birds [03:01]
03. Rose Wallpapers [02:36]
04. Belong [02:49]
05. Hot Day [03:28]
06. Diamond Heart [03:42]
07. Fizzy Wawa [01:30]
08. City Girl [02:52]
09. Sorry [03:03]
10. Red Coats [03:31]
Advance praise for Red Coats:
“Ms. De Marrais, the former lead singer of the breezy indie-rockers Rainer Maria, offers sparse, elegiac pop in solo repose.” — The New York Times
“Caithlin De Marrais, formerly of Rainer Maria, celebrates the release of her latest solo album, “Red Coats,” a beguiling collection of fuzzy-hearted songs good for any time of the night, and anything that may need to be done then, from comforting a baby to making one.” — The New Yorker
“The former Rainer Maria frontwoman has a new solo album coming next month, Red Coats, and it reduces her old band’s emo-rock blare to a quieter roar, surrounding De Marrais’ uncommonly expressive singing with tense little clicks and buzzes, slyly destabilizing where Rainer Maria once aimed to knock off socks.” — The Village Voice
“Effortlessly stylish indie crooner” — Time Out NY
By Bryan Bruchman // Caithlin De Marrais @ Sound Fix
Former member of Rainer Maria's first solo performance (with some help, obviously!)
February 28, 2008. Brooklyn, NY
Singer-songwriter Caithlin De Marrais finds harmony in Brooklyn duplex
By CHRISTOPHER KOMPANEK
It might surprise you that the former frontwoman of indie band Rainer Maria is an avid gardener.
“I grow. That’s my favorite thing about this space,” says Caithlin De Marrais of the front porch of her Boerum Hill rental. “I do it seasonally. The mums I planted now for fall. In the summer, I had petunias.”
Housed in what used to be a furniture building -- “this is where the trucks used to back in,” De Marrais, 38, says of the porch -- the 1,500-square-foot, ground-floor duplex retains much of its industrial charm, with a wall of exposed brick and a woodburning fireplace in the living room.
The singer, who’s now gone solo since the band broke up in 2006, and her photographer husband of eight years, Spencer Heyfron, found the space on Wyckoff Street four years ago after an exhausting day of apartment hunting.
They had been living in Cobble Hill and needed more space.
“We had looked at about five places, and then we went to get dinner [at a neighborhood Thai restaurant on Court Street owned by a friend]. And our friend’s like, ‘You guys look bushed,’” recalls De Marrais. “He told us, ‘I’m moving out of my apartment; you should go check it out. Here’s the keys. Go check it out now.’”
They did, and it was love at first sight. “We were walking around like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ This place is amazing, and we would dance around this place the first few years we lived here.”
One of De Marrais’ favorite places to be is on the building’s fully decked common roof that sports a great Manhattan skyline view. “If we’re going to eat outside, this is where we go.”
Inside, the loft-like apartment features an open living/dining room, a galley kitchen, an office, a small library and three bathrooms. Long-planked hardwood floors run throughout the space, and ceilings soar to almost 12 feet. The one drawback? There’s only one bedroom -- and it’s occupied by the couple’s 2 1/2-year-old son, Oscar.
“This was our bedroom, but we’ve given it to Oscar. He has a special setup,” De Marrais notes of the neat arrangements of toys in the spacious room. She and Heyfron now sleep in an area separated from the back of the cavernous rectangular living room with a large bookshelf. It’s just one of many configurations that the apartment has undergone.
“We are always changing things around,” she says of the flexible layout. The basement level houses a shared workspace and a smaller alcove area that was once a small guest room but is now being used as a library.
Even the work area changes depending on who’s working there. “When I was demo-ing, I was the one down here. I had my piano and desk set up in here. I had my ideas up here,” De Marrais says of the blackboard that covers the back wall of the office. “Now it’s taken over by his work,” she adds, referring to Heyfron, who shoots for New York Magazine’s Look Book, among many other outlets.
De Marrais’ keyboard, on which she writes most of her songs, sits in the corner of the basement office, while her big Rainer Maria bass amp is stowed away in the laundry room.
But that’s not to say that De Marrais has stopped making music. She completed her second solo album, “Red Coats,” which will be released by End Up Records on Tuesday. At just 30 minutes long, the record is a short work but not slight in any way. Most tracks meld lush strings with catchy pop hooks that bring to mind the best of Rainer Maria.
“It sounds like it came from a modern city, but one where nature has covertly found its way into every crack in the sidewalk,” De Marrais says about the album.
As a new mom, De Marrais has to grab time for music-making whenever she can find it. She wrote and pre-recorded “Red Coats” after Oscar was born, during the times when he was asleep. As for practicing, “My bass is upstairs now, so when I want to rehearse ... I can just pick it up and play with a little amp.” Her next show is at Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn on Dec. 2.
ROCK ON: De Marrais shares the duplex's basement office with her photographer husband.
The rest of her days are taken up with domestic duties: “Cooking’s what takes up most of my time. I’m lucky I can do that, but I wish I were a better cook.” The galley kitchen is the smallest room in the house and can only handle one cook at a time. “We cook entirely differently,” De Marrais says of the couple’s kitchen habits. “I clean up as I go, and he’s like the Tasmanian devil.”
They’ve begun a vegan diet recently after seeing the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”
“It’s insane because we were consummate meat eaters only a few weeks ago,” De Marrais says, though she was vegetarian in college and feels she “cooks vegetarian and vegan way better, actually.”
While De Marrais and her family are enjoying indie domestic bliss in Brooklyn, like most New York renters with kids, she envisions buying a place outside the city when they’re ready to make that leap to homeownership.
“We imagine opening our door and letting him run,” De Marrais says of her son’s future. “We’d always like to have a place here, but how do you do that? That’s the dream.”
CAITHLIN DE MARRAIS’ FAVORITE THINGS
* Wrought-iron gate at the building’s entrance
* Look Book photography prints by Jake Chessum
* The flower garden on the front porch
* The building’s roof deck
* The fireplace
Caithlin De Marrais’ gorgeous, engrossing second album, Red Coats, appears November 8th on End Up Records, distributed by Polyvinyl Records.
Many know Caithlin De Marrais as the front woman and bassist for the critically acclaimed indie rock band Rainer Maria. Named after the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, they formed in 1995 in Madison, WI and later relocated to Brooklyn. The first song Caithlin ever wrote as a solo artist, “Terrified,” was recorded by Rainer Maria and became an NPR “Song of the Day.”
Now Caithlin has entered a new phase of fervent creativity. For her new album Red Coats Caithlin spent more than a year recording a full album of demos in her basement, then returned to the studio with the support of her fans via Kickstarter.com. The Poison Tree’s Steve Salett and Rocketship Park frontman Josh Kaufman produced the album at Saltlands studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
Analog fuzz-scapes carry the listener over playfully idiosyncratic drum loops. The softly sung vocals that beckon you into the record turn later into the primal belts Caithlin was known for in Rainer Maria. Using the sonic map Caithlin had sketched out with the demos, they immediately navigated towards an intimate, unembellished vocal treatment.
“We realized right away that we needed to record Caithlin’s vocal just right, and then make sure the rest of the instruments stayed out of her way,” Steve says. “In most of the songs, Caithlin is singing to herself or to only one other person. There are intense joyous parts but some real intensity there. She’s saying goodbye to a previous life. It’s clearly a life in transition.”
The songs on Red Coats were conceived during the wee hours of the night—the only time Caithlin had to herself—and then reared on the insomniac energy of motherhood.
“I had to demo the songs around (the baby’s) sleeping schedule, which created a lot of constraints. But I discovered I was able to be very focused and productive,” says Caithlin. “Because I had no freedom in one sense, I created a new freedom by teaching myself how to use recording gear I had never used before. On one hand I was living in the visceral world of being a new mother, and at the same time I was immersing myself in Garage Band, Logic and Reason.
“I was buoyed on the exhaustion and excitement of first time motherhood. It was surreal. Once or twice I even let chance decide the arrangement of the song. It was one of the most challenging and most creative experiences of my life.”
Caithlin wrote many of the songs for Red Coats on piano, but the listener will find all manner of electric and analog keyboards on the record. Steve and Josh were keen on mining the vast array of vintage and unusual instruments housed at Saltlands. Josh was seen more often that not darting through the live rooms with a new idea and a new instrument to play it on. He struck a little hammer dulcimer with a ballpoint pen on “Sorry.” On title track, a piano with an open lid became a makeshift harpsichord as Steve, Josh and Caithlin took turns at pressing keys and dampening strings. That song also features drummer Konrad Meissner playing on a drum kit made only out of empty drum cases. On “Birds” they ran handclaps through a Sears Silvertone amp, then a drum loop through a Hammond x66 organ. There’s even a funny story about that organ. Josh apparently bought it for $5 and a sandwich.
The team was up for anything that kept with spirit of the demos. A string trio track from the Poison Tree recording sessions nestled perfectly (albeit backwards) into “Birds.” “I remember Steve saying on one of the first days, ‘We want to record sounds that people will wonder how we got them,’” says Caithlin. “That’s exactly what I was experimenting with back in the basement.”
When it came time to mix Red Coats De Marrais sat in on most of the sessions, including the handful of songs they farmed out to the fresh and talented ears of Saltlands engineer Jim Smith and neighboring producer Devin Greenwood of Honey Jar studios (who also produced the recently released Denison Witmer/ Caithlin De Marrais/ Devin Greenwood cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “Abraham” for the benefit album, “Seven Swans Reimagined”).
Over the three years after Rainer Maria disbanded in 2007, Caithlin had a son, co-founded an artist-run record label, End Up Records, and released her first solo record, My Magic City. The Boston Globe called MMC, “her magic moment.” Pitchfork said her vocals were delivered, “like a soft slap to the face.”
MMC was recorded in free recording sessions that channeled Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, at a Brooklyn church, a cottage in upstate New York, and several Brooklyn apartments including Caithlin’s own. Her Rainer Maria bandmate Kyle Fischer engineered and produced the record on a portable recording rig.
After more than a decade of near constant touring with Rainer Maria, Caithlin kept MMC close to her heart, touring a mere 10 days to support it, which prompted one reviewer to call it, “The best record of the year that no one has heard of” (Heartache with Hard Work, “Best of 2008”). She was 8 months pregnant at the time.
“Hands down one of my favorite tours, although I did wonder at times what the perception was,” says Caithlin. Fans approached her after shows with comments ranging from, “That was kind of weird when you dedicated that song to your unborn baby,” to, “You are the most adorable pregnant lady I’ve ever seen.”
In 2009 Caithlin released a recording of one of those few concerts as a split live record, Seb & Cait Live at Joe’s, with fellow End Up Records label mate, Seb Leon. That night they made Joe’s Pub into a place “where everything sounds real and present and unaltered, and oh-so-true”(Ear to Ear Project). With Kaufman on guitar and Jason Lawrence on drums, Caithlin smolders her way through three songs from MMC including an aching, bare bones rendition of “Sparrow.” Seb and Caithlin arranged and recorded three additional songs for the record.
Caithlin is closing in on two decades of writing and recording music. Her music heroes growing up were Suzanne Vega, Kate Bush, Sinead O’Connor, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Yaz—most of them resilient musicians who have also navigated motherhood at some point in their long and illustrious careers. And what does Caithlin think of her present day lifestyle of file-sharing and Kickstarter campaigns compared to the Rainer Maria days? “It’s tough at times. But mostly I love it. There will always be kids looking to find new music that defines their adolescence. And I was lucky to be listening to some brilliant woman when I was at an impressionable age. I remember skating around the roller rink as an 8 year old to ‘Call Me’ by Blondie and feeling pretty fierce.” As for the future, “I always leave some things to chance. It’d be useless to think I can control anything.”
Taken from: http://endup.org/artists/caithlindemarrais/
Photo by Spencer Heyfron
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