“Maker’s Old Fashioned please. And two Manhattans!”
I’ve always been about Whiskey Wednesdays. I have to, especially working at this company. Surprisingly enough, however, Whiskey Wednesdays seem to carry as many different personalities and tonight it was all about class. With tonight’s episode taking place at The Richardson, a classy cocktail bar and restaurant on the north borders of Williamsburg, it was all class with one of my favorite local rock duos (sometimes a trio) XNY.
I had first seen the band a few summers back, but recently exploded back into my musical world with an abundance of untamed rock energy at a show in the Bowery earlier this winter. It was at that show where I was reminded of how exciting of a band they were, tearing through songs off their 2013 album Orange and new material as well. A few post-set drinks and a couple emails later and Pam, Jacob, and I found ourselves drinking nice cocktails at one of North Brooklyn’s finer cocktail spots talking about the band’s original formation, what’s in a whiskey smash, and new material on the horizon.
P&W: The first time I saw you guys you were a duo! I believe that was.. let’s say July or August of 2013
Pam: Aw, I miss Spike Hill
P&W: Do you remember that gig?
Pam: Yes I do!
Jacob: Audiofemme right?
Pam: Oh yeah, I think that was an Audiofemme show
P&W: It wasn’t a big difference, but what made you go from two members to three?
Pam: We kind of pick and choose at this point when we want to use a bass player
P&W: So it’s not all the time?
Pam: It’s not. We do a lot of smaller shows with just us two. The bass just adds something that allows us to express ourselves a little more freely. It gives us that bed of sound. When we first started, we’d exaggerate everything because we’d just need to fill the room and the space so we’d really exaggerate the sound and energy and dynamics, which is great! A lot of that we still do, but bass adds that nice bed of sound to have in the background where you don’t have to give SOO much dramatic influence to a song. You can just let it be and let it live.
P&W: Well, it also opens you up as a guitar player to not have to worry about hitting the root note that a bass player would normally take care of.
Pam: Yeah. And we went such a long time focusing on keeping everything contained in this box almost. Our goal is to still make this really big sound between just two people, but it’s a bit more flexible this way. You can do a lot of things with two people, but it’s great just having another person there to add to that energy as well.
Jacob: It’s nice because the both of us don’t have to rely on the other person to fill that space. If one of us wants to improvise it’s much nicer to sit back and have that luxury. When I’m done and then Pam wants to go, I don’t have to worry about fills and stuff like that.
Pam: And it actually sounds like the record now (laughs)
P&W: There is something to be said though about those two-person bands that really just fucking brings the noise. You see bands like The White Stripes, Deap Vally, and Royal Blood doing it really well, and I think you guys also fit in and do that really well also. Was that the goal though when you first started?
Pam: We met as neighbors, as wanted to start a band, originally with a five-piece band. We lived next door to each other and we’d go home after practice to talk about how things are going and reflect on rehearsals and I’d be like “I can’t hear ANYTHING that I’m singing or that I’m playing.” So weirdly the next week Jacob and I show up for practice but no one else did. They were studying, or doing blah blah whatever that they couldn’t make it, so we just played and I remember everything about that moment where it all just clicked. So we realized we didn’t need to rely on anyone except ourselves to make good music… Right?
Jacob: Fuck yeah I agree! I was there!
Pam: So with that it was a big decision to have a bass player, but it’s someone who knows us and has worked with us before on the first album so he knows how to step up or be subtle if need be.
P&W: I remember doing an album review on Orange like two years ago.
Pam: Thank you! I love you!
P&W: When you hear those two-person bands you hear a lot of heavier tones from the guitarist to make up for that lack of musical depth, but you don’t really do that. Some of your stuff is just your acoustic guitar with some fuzz. Was that the same kind of sound you always had, even when you were a five-piece? Were your songs and songwriting the same?
Pam: The way the band was then was just a normal way a band would play. What’s so cool about playing with Jacob is that I would play, and he’d come in and just add so much body. Like I’m the skeleton and he’d be the skin, and blood, and bring it to life! You can only do so much as one person. It really is Jacob that makes the band’s sound.
Jacob: That was so nice (laughs). I was going to say that one thing that was cool for me was that you’ll see other two-piece bands with heavy tones, playing with Pam though is easy and I can just add that ‘pulse’ so to speak. We don’t need to fluff anything up it’s just a core element of a song where I just add rhythm.
Pam: I’ve only played with one other drummer and it was just standard drums, but Jacob kind of plays in a way of talking. Like he’ll playing with the syllables that I’m singing and making it a signature part of his rhythm.
P&W: Speaking of your style, it’s very raw and no need for flash. Pam since you write the songs, is there any specific style of someone you love that you try to be like or emulate?
Pam: It really goes in these huge waves. I’ll go with some songs based on the lyrics like a diary entry, and other times where I’m listening to a song that just popped onto my playlist that I’ll think, “I wanna write a song like that but better,” which I always try to do. I’ll hear a song and I’ll want to re-make it the way I’d want to hear it. Is that weird? Maybe I can’t make it better, but the challenge is exciting.
Jacob: I think what you’re saying is that you get excited about the music others write, but you want to collaborate via your own band.
P&W: How does the songwriting process go about between your two? It’s got to be simple with just the two of you right?
Jacob: It depends with every song. Sometimes Pam already knows the mood so I’ll just go through a mental and creative catalog to find what would fit her idea best and keep the mood that Pam had in mind come out. Every now and then we’ll have songs that could go in any direction whether it’s a more punk or dance-style beat. She’s pretty open though.
Pam: I like that I’ll bring a song idea in, play though it once, and Jacob will play literally whatever comes to his mind. It keeps things as organic as possible. I’d say 75% of the time that the first idea you come up with is what we end up using… should we get another drink?
P&W: Yeah what are we doing this round?
Jacob: Should I grab a menu? I think we’re sticking with our Manhattans.
P&W: I gotta switch it up, I’ll go with a whiskey smash this time
Pam: WooOOooOOo fancy. What’s in a whiskey smash?
P&W: I don’t fucking know
P&W: So the last album was in 2013, but when’s the new material coming out?
Jacob: Damn two years? That’s crazy
P&W: Well it’s not the 70s anymore where you’re expected to shit out an album every six months
Pam: I know, but we’ll have more out this summer! I’m going to be an EP so probably three to five songs.
P&W: How long have you been working on the EP? Well two years I guess..
Pam: The songs have been developing for a while. Most of the new ones were written, as we were finishing up on Orange. We’ve been doing everything ourselves with no label support us at the moment; we had two days to do everything with tracking. It was a fun and exciting challenge. I love how with us it’s always a fun challenge. We tracked everything live.
P&W: I love that! I love it when a band has the confidence and the ability to record songs live. There’s just something you can’t replace when it comes to a real band with real energy and capturing that live. Two thumbs the fuck up for you guys.
Pam: We feel the same way. It’s really hard just getting that urgency and energy re-created otherwise. Jacob and I are so tight where it just wouldn’t make sense for us not to.
P&W: Was tracking live planned?
Jacob: We had the songs we wanted to record, and we had two days to record a few songs though. So at the end of the day we still had a few more hours, so we record another song just for fun. When did that songs in two takes, and we listened back and it sounded so fucking killer that we couldn’t not use it.
P&W: So is it all ready to go?
P&W: So when’s the release date?
Pam: We actually haven’t set one yet. We’re keeping it a secret. It’s a very summer-themed album, with songs about drinking, and partying, and not giving a fuck about your job. Fuck jobs!
Jacob: Fuck jobs!
P&W: I dunno I like my job.. What about the release party?
Pam: There should be a secret listening party, probably on a rooftop party. You can come but you have to wear your hat!
P&W: What if I wore a hairpiece?
Jacob: I’m sure I could find you one
P&W: Like a George Washington styled hairpiece??
Pam: OOoo that’d be a good one.
P&W: At this point, has the band hit all the bases on what you’ve wanted it to be at this point creatively?
Pam: I think it has. Our goal is just staying true to our relationship and us as friends and artists. It’s not just a band; it’s certainly a friendship. We just get each other really well. Music bonds us, and just a confirmation of what we have as friends. I think that’s why the music speaks as it does. It’s extreme sometimes but that’s our relationship.
Jacob: Well said
Article by: Tommy Shackleford