an interview with scrawl!


it is an honor and a privilege to present a long-overdue interview with scrawl. gilmore tamny (the yips, wiglet fame) chatted with sue harshe in november and got the scoop on the trio’s recent reunion and other stuff.

chickfactor: how was ATP? highlights? lowlights?

sue: ATP NYC was a lot of fun. we played very well, we had a nice place to stay, we saw a lot of long-time dear friends. I can’t ask for much more than that. for me, there were two highlights: watching these two young men sing every single word of every single song we were playing. I sought them out after the show because I was so shocked and touched. the other highlight was watching marcy sing “my curse” with the afghan whigs. she looked so beautiful and tiny up there and when she began singing, the whole place erupted. I was bawling like a baby. I can’t really think of any low points. I wished there had been more people there but more for the bands who had to play on the indoor stage during the day. it was a little cavernous. ¶ I’m glad I got to see afterhours, an italian metal band with violin. truly amazing. and I was able to see about half of dirty three’s set, which I liked very much.

cf: I see you played with cobra verde at ace of cups—very exciting! you have more shows coming up? how are you pacing it?

sue: we just played with cobra verde and tim lee 3. we (I don’t think) had ever played with cv before, which is odd, considering they live in cleveland. tim lee 3 is from knoxville and we’ve known tim & his wife susan (who plays kick-ass bass in tim lee 3) for years and years. it is always so much fun to play in columbus and to play at marcy’s bar. the sound is always good, the vibe is great, and most bands (unless they’re prima donnas) leave there pretty happy. ¶ this has been an unusually active year for scrawl. we usually play once every couple of years. this year, we’ll have played 8 shows in 6 months. that’s a veritable world tour for us! being asked to play ATP NYC and also being asked to play ATP UK has been a dream, something we feel proud of because you can’t submit to play; you have to be invited. and the two bands who knew us best (afghan whigs and shellac) did the asking. that makes me happy. so, we leave for england after thanksgiving for a week and then play a new year’s eve show in cincinnati with the afghan whigs, and then it’s goodbye 2012.

cf: columbus has really changed in the last 20 years, including the music scene. could you talk about that at all? interesting happenings? things that are irritating? etc. I think too of ace of cups (which I’ve been enjoying seeing video of shows shirley posts from time to time) and how that’s opened, etc.

sue: marcy is better positioned to talk about the columbus music scene because she sees more of it, owning the bar. I think in some respects the last few years have been very healthy and robust (times new viking did well), but I’m just old enough now that I could slip into that very annoying back-in-the-day sentimentality, so I best keep my mouth shut. same with your question “most irritating” (faux folk revival). oops.

cf: I’ve been prowling around the internet—forgive me if I’ve missed an article etc.—but I’ve (long) wondered what has been your songwriting process with scrawl?  how has it changed?

sue: we don’t write much these days, though we have about three or four newer songs, but the process is very much the same: play a riff one thousand times in practice, add and take away, rewrite and rewrite, and then the lyrics are usually added as the last sprinkle on top. we’ve always put a lot of work into songwriting and so, for us, there’s no getting around the sometimes arduous process.

cf: how has playing live changed (presuming it has)?

sue: playing live feels very different for me now. I think it’s just a mindset, but it feels liberating in a completely different way, now that I’m pushing 50. a little more zen, a little less stroppy. regardless of why/what/how, it’s a total blast for me right now.

cf: any chance of a new scrawl record?

sue: we will never say never. I could play music with marcy until I’m 95 and be perfectly happy.

cf: who has been (some of) the most unlikely or unexpected scrawl fan(s)?

sue: hmm. for a while, we attracted very young men to our shows, who would come up to us afterward with tears streaming down their faces. that was always a little disconcerting.

cf: when / why / where you wrote your first song and what was it about?

sue: I can’t even remember. I think it was a hardcore song.

cf: do you come from musical families / upbringing?

sue: my family wanted to be musical but really wasn’t. the best thing my mom did musically was force me to keep taking piano lessons. she said that I would thank her one day. she was absolutely right. she also tap danced and played ukulele as a teenager. I think that’s pretty great.

cf: what are you reading these days?

sue: my husband found half-dozen old classics in the hallway of his office, waiting to be thrown out, so I vowed to read them all this winter. the first one I read was of human bondage by somerset maugham. fantastic! it is so over-the-top. next is tristam shandy by laurence sterne. after that it will be tom jones by henry fielding, and then david copperfield by dickens. If I’m not reading books rescued from the trash, I’ll read the scandinavian crime writers (mankell, larsson, nesbo, alvtegen).

cf: who do you have a crush on and you are welcome to take that in traditional sense or artistic sense or metaphysical sense etc. etc. etc.!

sue: my perennial 25-year crush is on the actor gary oldman. and, after seeing leonard cohen perform a year or so ago, I’ll include him too.

cf: any artists—bands, visual artists, writers, poets, dancers etc—you’re nuts for/intrigued by right now? pourquoi?

sue: there’s a woman from dresden germany called anna matur, who is very intriguing. she’s part performance artist and all musician. I very much like wussy’s record buckeye as well. It’s damn near perfect.

cf: sue, you have a new (fort shame) record coming out? how is that going? are you still scoring films as well?

sue: I haven’t scored any film music lately, but I was invited (along with 11 other composers) to write music for “finding time: columbus public art 2012,” in conjunction with columbus’ bicentennial celebrations this year. that was pretty exciting. and fort shame just released its first CD. it took forever to make but I’m very proud of it.

hear more from scrawl here. photo courtesy of scrawl.