Following our recent interview with punk legends DFL (Dead Fucking Last), conducted by Josh Goldman of Rad Girlfriend Records, Raging Nathans, and Dopamines, as well as our double interview with folk punks DAYS N DAZE & singer-songwriter Andrew Paley, we’re back with a new instalment of our artist-to-artist interview series with a great double interview between Libby of the BRIDGE CITY SINNERS and Celina of THE BLOODSTRINGS. Both ladies sat down to discuss a variety of cool subjects, including punk rock, touring, being a woman in the industry, and a lot lot more.
From the misty, pine-covered hills of the Pacific Northwest hail the Bridge City Sinners, who span the continuum from prohibition era jazz to Appalachian death folk. This traditional string band line up bends the meaning of the word genre, playing festivals from Punk Rock Bowling, to Muddy Roots, to Oregon’s Bluegrass String Summit. They started their journey by busking on sidewalks across the country and now this supergroup of musicians find themselves on the national tour circuit. The Sinners still hold true to the DIY mentality of putting albums out on a self made record label, Flail Records. With talented musicianship and a punk as f***! live show, this is one band you don’t want to miss. “Pick Your Poison” and “Rock Bottom” are the band’s first singles off the new record “Unholy Hymns”, coming up on August 20th on Flail Records / SBÄM Records.
Dark Folk? Pre wartime era Jazz? Murderfolk? Folk Punk? Blackgrass? Nailing down the genre of the Bridge City Sinners has always been difficult, but the title of their upcoming album sums it up in two words: “Unholy Hymns”. With a lineup of banjo, fiddle, upright bass, banjolele, and guitar, they take acoustic music in a new, and much darker direction. The album has been divided up into two distinctly different sounding halves.
The first half of Unholy Hymns, “Book l”, relies heavily on their normal dark yet playful, folk and jazz roots, and at the same time expands upon their discography with complex subject matter including addiction and mental health issues.
The second half of the album, “Book ll”, leans much deeper into the darkness. An epic of terror and woe, this short concept album within an album is full of orchestral arrangements and evil screams of despair.
While the albums “Coal-black Heart” (Undead Artist Records) and “Born Sick” (Wolverine Records) were still rather dark, lighter tones emerge on “A Part”. The themes give way to fictional stories and become more personal. Tik Tik is about depression, Gaslight about toxic relationships. Both songs lean heavily on pop-punk, while the song Hookline on the B-side draws on alternative rock, ska and metal. “German Angst” is about the inhumane treatment of refugees and the division of the country out of fear of political change and the agitation of right-wing populist parties. “In the world around psychobilly, punkabilly, rock n roll, there is little political and bands often have to take a special position, because politics and social criticism are little in the lyrics of these bands,” says the band.
An interview with Libby of the Bridge City Sinners (Bridge City Sinners), conducted by Celina of The Bloodstrings.
Celina: Hey Libby, nice to e-meet you! So I am obviously excited to meet in real life and on the road asap!
HELLO HELLO CELINA!! It’s my pleasure, I can’t wait to make it overseas.
Who had the idea of founding Bridge City Sinners?
Long story short it was the website “Craigslist”. If people are not familiar with the site, it is a type of online marketplace where you can sell your used goods. It also has a community forum, where you can connect on center topics like “pets, WEIRD STUFF, and music for example”. That is where I found an ad posted by some hoodlums looking for other people to play with. The rest is history.
In your videos I see you play the banjolele. Any specific reason for your choice of instruments? What other instruments do you play?
I started out playing acoustic guitar and then I got really into folk music and decided I would try the banjo… honestly not a great finger picker over here so I moved from that onto the ukulele which I enjoyed playing and felt the most comfortable with. Unfortunately the ukulele is not always an instrument that is taken seriously, built like a toy and not nearly loud enough to play with a full acoustic band. So I looked for an alternative and found the Banjolele, much more resonation and so much more sass. So far my favorite instrument Is my Ortega Guitars Banjolele, in black of course.
I tragically realized that my main source of inspiration for songs is being on the road. So during Covid I barely wrote songs unlike my husband, who wrote plenty during lock-down. Makes me kind of jealous. How did you experience it? Did you write more or less?
WOW really relating to you at this moment. I lost ALL motivation for playing music by myself. I was honestly soooo heartbroken over the loss over what 2020 was supposed to be for the Sinners. Our first european tour, so many festivals, and just the overall halt of what life as we knew it was. I was devastated, and while I don’t find my main source of muse from being on the road, I do find it from being with my bandmates. The pandemic separated us for a long time (as we live in different states now). We were able to get together mid-pandemic , locking ourselves in Scott’s (bass player) house together for three weeks, and we wrote a new album ‘Unholy Hymns’ (COMING OUT IN AUGUST). I have faith we will pick up right where we left off.
So as a band that has never crossed the big water… how is it like to grow up in Oregon? What’s the music scene like?
Correct! we have not! And for me personally it will be my first time! Not only is it a band bucket list item, but it is a personal one as well. Awe Oregon, it has a very special place in my heart. It’s breezy and very green, lots of plant life and beautiful bits of nature spread across the whole thing. As far as music Portland gets all the good bands coming through and the local music scene is wholesome and fun loving, there is a pretty cute little group of punks/odd balls in Portland and they are the ones that make it home for me.
I imagine having an acoustic set-up is pretty handy for touring at times, but there are a lot of people in the band and you have a double bass which I know for a fact can be exhausting to carry around. What’s your experience in loading/unloading for a tour?
THIS is another reason I am thankful for Banjolele. So compact; so lightweight. I personally don’t struggle much. Being the lead singer and who I am, there are a lot of other tasks I have to prepare for that the band does not when load in is happening. Before the show I find myselfI doing my makeup/pep, interacting with A LOT of people from the venue / fans, and doing vocal warm ups. This is where I want to say that I am super duper thankful for our tour Daddy (aka tour manager) Jay, whoever is on tour selling merch on that tour, and all the boys for working so hard. Appreciate y’all so much.
What is your personal concept to keep being sane during tour?
My tips and tricks:
- TAKE TIME TO YOURSELF. A bubble bath at the hotel, take yourself to breakfast… whatever it is. Take the time you need for you.
- Have someone to vent to about your stupid lovable bandmates
- Find your space in the van, claim it, this is now your home.
- Last but not least, Headphones.
So, I just have to ask… Where does your accent come from? We couldn’t help but notice you pronounce certain words very differently than we are used to. What sort of accent or dialect is it?
Haaaaaa mine?! Even my talking voice can be a little more tangy or lean in an odd direction. I have had other Oregon locals ask me where I am from….so you aren’t the only one, but it just happens to come out that way.
Do you have bad memories about your music career – especially being a woman in the industry? What would you tell young female musicians that probably struggle with men on and off stages?
I kind of give of a certain vibe on stage that lets men (and women) know that like a praying mantis I will bite your fucking head off…so I don’t often deal with much disrespect of this nature at shows. If anything I find myself not being taken seriously by male musicians until I have “proven” myself after my performance. While a man’s ability to play/perform is rarely questioned. I am so over the “cool band tee, name three songs by that band” attitude. My message to other female musicians is something I have said before and I will say it many more times in my life; “we can do anything you can you bleeding”.
I sense that you might be a generally creative person – what are your other professions or hobbies besides making music?
I’m a nail tech!!! I am totally in love with hand painted nail art. A portrait of your dog on your nail? I got you! A Carebear with a ball gag in its mouth on your middle finger? I GOT YOU!!! Painting teeny tiny masterpieces is one of my favorite hobbies.
Towards the end of the new album you make some changes in style with your band. We in Bloodstrings always have the urge to redefine our musical style. How important is that to you? And do those things come naturally or do you decide which way to go?
Totally natural, we all come from and enjoy so many different backgrounds of music and that reflects in our originals and especially on this new album ‘Unholy Hymns’ ( COMMMMMING IN AUGUSTTTTT!!!) so whatever we are writing could change depending on that day’s muse. As a lot of emotion goes into it. On some days maybe we are depressed and lonesome, then, you end up with something like our new single ‘Rock Bottom’. On other days maybe we’re feeling adventurous, thus, you end up with a medieval war ballad. YOUR JUST GONNA HAVE TO WAIT TIL’ AUGUST AND SEE what happened this time. Ultimately, we just write what feels good and aren’t too worried about staying inside the box.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME WRITE OUT ALL THESE GREAT QUESTIONS!! SEE YOU SOON!!
An interview with by Celina of The Bloodstrings, conducted by Libby of the Bridge City Sinners
Celina!! It has been so great listening to your music and getting to know you through the internet!! Can’t wait to come your way! Let’s play some shows!!
YES! I also really enjoy your Music! I love the diversitiy in your songs! Can´t wait to see you live even better to play a show together!
I grew up in the Punk Rock scene…tell me about the first music scene you were a part of and/or the current scene you are a part of?
I kind of started off with classical Musik since my parents made me play the piano and classical guitar when I was a kid but when my cousin handed me a blink 182 CD I swapped my classic guitar with an electric guitar and got more curious in all kinds of punk rock bands and later all different kinds of Music. I liked experienting and trying out new things. Guess thats why Psychobilly bands like Horrorpops got my attention. My friend and now also husband Nick then really badly wanted to get a double bass so we started our Band playing a mix of Psychobilly, Horrorpunk and Punkrock. But after all my heart was always beating for punk rock and I think my Bandsmates kind of feel the same thats why our Songwriting and style naturally went back more and more to Punrock with maybe a little touch of billy and a little metal.
We are in the same boat; we are both female lead singers in a band with a bunch of dudes (my dudes are extra smelly). In general, what is your experience hanging with the boy crew all the time? Can you share an example or story?
Whats really nice about our constellation is that we are friends for a long, long time. I honestly dont always realize we are different sexes or anything. Except when we are on the road together and the others can take a piss in the middle of the night just in front of the van – that makes me jealous sometimes!
In your opinion, does German society, government, and culture support artists and musicians? In what ways dothey or do they not?
The Corona crisis clearly showed that German government actually doesnt care at all. Most artists and institutions werent getting any financial help, got treated like beggars or second class citizens. If artists got any money they immediately had to give it back. So nope, you would guess Germany is the country of thinkers and poets but its just an image.
Favorite snack on tour? I can only hope the gas stations your way have better choices than in the United States…
Im not really a snack person, but I never say no to a good veggie sandwich and I also like to enjoy a little beer on the road. If our gas stations serve better snacks I could only tell when we come visit you guys!
We are both on SBÄM Records! What is a band or album release from SBAM that has been calling your name lately? What music has helped you get through this year and a half of COVID times?
I loved the latest Chaser album, I like your new stuff a lot since I had a little sneak peak already. Heathcliff kind of stole my heart as well: I made their first music video of the record and loved how they write about mental health issues! Through the COVID times I actually listened to a lot of oldschool stuff from my youth – probably a coping mechanism as to remember better days?
On your new EP “A Part” you have a killer track called “German Angst”. Being a world away from Germany (both in terms of proximity and culture), it’d be interesting to hear what this song is about and what does “German Angst” mean to you? Help an American out.
Originally German Angst is a philosophical term with several meanings to describe the German folk. Usually it can be translated to german assertiveness but also with the literal term angst, fear, anxiety. It means the fear of the world which apparently used be a very german thing. We liked the term and used it to describe how right wing parties use the fear of the public as an tool to gain power. For example this German Angst causes xenophobia, the fear of losing your wealth in this priviliged society. Therefor racism is very close. The song German Angst critiszes this and is also self-reflective: check your privilige before literaly and figuritevly close the door for strangers.
If you could change anything about the music industry what would it be?
“Elbow mentality” – it would be realy cool if people in the actual industry would be nicer and more supportive to one another.
What would you say to a young person who loves to sing or play music and is thinking about getting into the music industry?
Just go for it no matter what people tell you. Just brace yourself, every day is hard work and you probably won’t end up very wealthy, haha.