Photo by Kathryna Hancock
When you listen to Brooklyn based duo She Keeps Bees, it’s obvious that they deliver so much more than the average rock ‘n’ roll duo. Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant have spent the past eight years honing their skills as two of the most dynamic purveyors of dirty, gritty, soulful rock with a depth of emotion it’s hard to find these days.
In their fourth album, Eight Houses, She Keeps Bees have taken somewhat of a departure from their usual wall-to-wall gnarly guitars and pounding drums and have taken their music in a softer, more considered direction. There’s still plenty of muscle in the music, but this time it’s got a softer touch.
We caught up with Jessica Larrabee to find out about their new album, what inspired their change in direction and where the band are going from here.
Where are you and what were you doing just before answering these questions?
We were eating at In and Out Burger in San Diego on our way to Phoenix Arizona.
Tell us about the new album, how did it all come together and what was the recording process like?
We used a studio and a producer which allowed us to focus on the performance and mood instead of Andy engineering – running back and forth from the computer to the drums. Working with Nicolas Vernhes was transformational. He stretched and pruned us. Made us get uncomfortable and real and break certain songs apart. He could pull sounds and create atmosphere that comes with years of honing craft. We were honored to share that experience with him and his assistant Gabe Wax.
Eight Houses has a more mellow aesthetic compared with your previous albums and there’s almost a gospel feel to some of the tracks. Why did you choose to take your music in this direction?
We definitely took our time and sculpted this album. I think it’s natural to ebb and flow from aggressive to receptive qualities. We set out to make a different record but as we cut songs from the album it definitely turned into a slow-burn. Though Raven is probably the loudest hardest song we’ve ever recorded.
There’s a real visceral quality to the lyrics on this album, tracks like Burning Bowl and Wasichu particularly. What did you draw upon when writing the lyrics for Eight Houses?
Burning Bowl – is a clearing ritual that anyone can do. Write down elements of your life that you want written out of your life. Burn it safely – take the ashes to a living water source for that energy to be recycled by the universe.
Wasichu – The more I read of early american history the more I realized this was a universal story of “progress.” The western world enclosing on indigenous people of the world – taking their natural resources, destroying their sense of self through assimilation, be concurred or die. Punishment for speaking your language, cut your hair, believe in our God, stay put, be quiet.
There was a beautiful comment I heard in my research which the reason he didn’t harbor hate in his heart was from learning his family’s language – healing found in the heart’s memory of these words.
What inspired you (musically or otherwise) during the song writing process as a whole for the new album?
Our love for the East Village Radio show called Chances With Wolves – that has pulled us through some low moments. The documentary ‘We Shall Remain’ about the history of First Nations People in America. Driving through the States on our tour in 2012/13 – really being able to see America and it’s small towns disintegrating – it’s sadness and stories. It was really eye-opening and affected a lot of the songs on the new album.
You’ve collaborated with Sharon Van Etten on this album. How did her involvement come about?
We’ve been friends for years. She is a truly giving and supportive friend. I am always strengthen by her loving energy. She happen to be in town while we were recording. We love the way our voices sound together.
What’s the story behind the album title and the cover?
We came across an incredible family photo album in a thrift store in Wisconsin. We love the old and forgotten and giving it a new life.
Eight Houses comes from astrology – the eighth house. This also our eighth release and we’ve been a band for eight years.
You’re about to embark on a pretty big tour. How does it feel to be taking the new songs on the road?
Good! We’re happy to start sharing the new album.
How do you feel about going on the road and touring?
We love it. Though it’s hard – we are honored to get to do what we do.
Have you got any strange and/or funny tour stories?
In Oslo Norway we were sound checking before the show and noticed a couple was on a date watching us. We finished and I was chatting to the sound guy when this woman (very beautiful) walked over and kissed me on the lips and walked out of the venue. Andy quipped “I’m in the band too!” She never came back.
What’s next for She Keeps Bees over the next year?
Touring as much as we can.