Q&A with Vienna, December 2006

Chat and sip. Beret optional.

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Postby rtu » Thu Dec 14, 2006 7:08 am

hi vienna, i hope you really enjoy home before you start traveling again. i can't wait to see the upcoming philadelphia show. i loved the last show at world cafe live. it was my first and as much as i love listening to your albums and the concert recordings, there's nothing like hearing you live.

so here are three questions:

1. since you've mentioned food...what is your favorite cuisine?
2. i'm assuming you've had the philly cheesesteak (and if you haven't then i should take you while you're here), where and how do you prefer it?
3. other than song requests, how do you decide what songs to play at the concerts?

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Postby Luminosity » Thu Dec 14, 2006 7:41 am

Vienna wrote:
Sudoku Vol. 3, presented by Will Shortz. Okay, not exactly nonfiction, but I'm newly hooked on this stuff, and it makes great travel material. A couple of drunk guys in the subway in Berlin, making no headway with hitting on me in German, started calling me "Frau Sudoku."

Hey, sudoku is everywhere, it seems (I just recently learned that it's pronounced SOO-doh-ku rather than soo-DOH-koo)! I get them from the free daily newspapers and do them on the bus to and from school ... sometimes during class too. Although ultimately I prefer the crossword.

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:27 am

Kay wrote:If you had the chance to pick anyone's brain (let's say for 10 questions), who would it be?

Also, if you could cover a hip-hop song, which one would you choose?

I've had a musician-crush on Radiohead for years. No interest in distracting them from their undoubtedly lovely wives; I just wish I could sit down and talk to them, any one of them, about music and how they work on it together. Wouldn't mind having ten questions with Senator John McCain either.

As for hiphop, I need to write a song where I can break into "Golddigger" halfway through.

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Re: Thanks again Vienna!

Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:36 am

sod2002 wrote:you seem to be doing a lot of NY shows now (very thankfully)...how do you like playing in NY and do you have a favorite spot to perform?

The_Man_In_Blue agrees with me on this one: New York can be frustrating, because many clubs have 4-5 bands in a single night, so you only get about an hour with your audience before the whole place moves on, and there isn't really time to chat with people afterwards. It's also a high-pressure place, since it's an industry town and chances are you're trying to impress someone influential.

That said, Union Hall in Brooklyn (where we met!) is a nice laid-back venue with a cozy vibe. I do love The Living Room too, despite the 5-acts-a-night thing, because the caliber is so high and I'm bound to hear some great music if I just stick around after we're done.

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:38 am

cmooreNC wrote:My question is about the show in Philadelphia on January 21st for the DVD recording. Since my wife and I have decided to make the trip up, we were wondering who all you're expecting to have with you for the performance? Or if you would rather not say because you want to keep it as a surprise... :D

It's half wanting to keep it a surprise, half being disorganized and not having everyone 100% confirmed yet. :) But the strings ladies will be there, for sure.

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:42 am

Laura wrote:other than the scrapbook section of this website, do you document your experiences for your own satisfaction, like in a physical scrapbook or journal? I'm a scrapbooking fanatic, and I've always dreamed of getting the chance to travel Europe and return with a book bursting at the seams with little pieces of my journeys.

Aaaahh, I wish I did. I always forget my camera, and I'm not very diligent about writing at the end of the day—the more eventful and memorable, the less likely I'm awake enough to commit it to paper. I do keep random scraps that remind me of journeys, though: boarding passes and museum tickets and such.

Oh, and I *did* get a hat in L.A. because yours looked so cool. :)

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:04 am

spyfferoni wrote:You have been traveling quite a bit. Is there anywhere that you have fallen in love with and would possibly consider living besides San Francisco?

What is the funniest/strangest interpretation of you have heard of one of your songs?

I want to move to New York. Logistically it might be tricky, as I have some strong personal reasons to stay in San Francisco. But NYC is an incredible place to be a musician—so much cross-pollination between different worlds, so many talented people challenging one another to go farther. Also, there exist such things as artist lofts with a rehearsal studio in the basement.

Funniest/strangest interpretation? There's a thread about misinterpreted lyrics here on the forum, and I got a good laugh out of those. ("Over coffee, baby..." "Cows up on the hills...")

My favorite might still be Eric Miller's, when we first started recording together: apparently he thought the chorus of "The Tower" went: "I need a mountaineer/or else a love with intuition..." Rightfully, he thought my lyric-writing could use a little work.

By the way, thanks for the email about Mormons and their sense of humor. :)
Last edited by Vienna on Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby ben » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:14 am

Hello Vienna, Dreaming Through The Noise haven't been released here in the Philippines... any idea?
Always look on the bright side of life.

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:18 am

darthscsi wrote:What happens to the songs we never hear? Or perhaps, how many songs or partial songs do you go through to get each song we ever hear about?

Oh, and any chance of producing a small album of the home studio recordings of the passed over songs we have heard at concerts?

I've got dozens of partial songs, which I've either given up on because I could tell they were no good, or just haven't figured out yet. I record the scraps, sometimes in the hope that they'll be good for spare parts, though it's rare that I use something I've discarded earlier.

I think I've completed maybe two or three songs since 2004 that never got played for anyone; further back there's a lot more, maybe 5-7 a year. Everything written is on the way to something else, of course, no matter how embarrassing.

We might record the "rarities" at some point and give them out to street-team folks, as thanks for putting up posters and so on.

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Postby Jade » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:52 am

Hi Vienna!

Do you ever get tired of playing some of your songs night after night, and if so, do you do anything to try to make them interesting again?

Thanks for taking time out to answer our questions!

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Thanks Vienna!

Postby sod2002 » Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:10 pm

Hi again Vienna!

No response needed to this....do not want to add any more volume to an already heavy flow of traffic for you here.

Just a few quick ones from me:

1. Thanks for the response and I hear you on the pros and cons of NYC from artists standpoint...I do believe the scale tips heavily on the pro side!

2. Re: venues...maybe consider Mercury Lounge (if they will agree to limit # of performers)...it is a nice small place...bar up front and separate (behind glass doors) sound / performance room in back. AWESOME sound system! Lower east side / Houston St.

3. Appears you are playing Joe's Pub in April. It too is a great small venue...I have seen Over the Rhine and Rosanne Cash there. Really enjoyed sound and intimacy of the place...even good sight lines from the bar area BUT ..they serve food during performance and I have never been much of a fan of that...I think it detracts from what the performer is doing onstage (or is at least a little distracting)...so just a little forewarning on the food thing.

I am trying to be good here as promised , so no more questions (nor response required). In that spirit...Have great holidays ahead, have fun at home , and a very happy new year to you ...looking forward to January performances in NYC . and / or Philly for DVD !!!!!

best wishes....Steve O

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Postby Laura » Thu Dec 14, 2006 6:12 pm

Oh, and I *did* get a hat in L.A. because yours looked so cool.

I am flattered! :) I don't think I've ever been a trendsetter before...

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:13 pm

Luminosity wrote:when you record a song in the studio, are the singing and keyboard parts recorded separately? Or does that depend?

Waking Hour has a lot of live takes, vocals and piano simultaneously; Warm Strangers had mostly separate takes, though a few like Feather Moon and Atheist Christmas Carol were live. All the songs on Dreaming had separate vocal takes: piano, bass and drums live, then vocals a few weeks later.

For future recordings, I've always thought it'd be fun to use the live approach, and get all the musicians involved...a few rehearsals to get our bearings, then everyone playing the song at once. It's way more expensive to make a studio album that way, though. In the meantime, that's why we're taping a show for DVD.

While we're on this subject, I want to say a brief thanks—to the brave folks who've posted here and said they don't like the album. I really appreciate that you listened to it carefully first, gave it the benefit of the doubt. It's the best thing an artist can hope for: a supportive but discerning audience. In a way, it's a reminder to trust my own instincts; I can't promise my explorations will always appeal to everybody, and it's a little dangerous to think that's even possible. The important thing is to create what feels right to me, at any given point in time...then whatever you hear will at least be truthful.

(Thanks to the people who *do* like the album too, of course! Especially those who got there with repeated listenings. Grateful for your patience.)
Last edited by Vienna on Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:30 pm

Luminosity wrote:Any advice on improving piano technique? My sight-reading is atrocious, but I've played-by-ear since my early teens and it's all come a fair way since then. Actually, I've found that transcribing (is that the right word?) your songs is helping me avoid that rut of always regressing to the same chord progressions.

Oh, I'm completely the wrong person to ask...I'm a much lazier piano player than I should be. The only thing I can suggest is to throw yourself into situations where you have to learn quickly. I learned a lot from playing keyboards in other bands, picking up songs that weren't my own. If I were serious about developing as a pianist right now, I'd be joining chamber music ensembles and forcing myself to sight-read (however painful the resulting noise), and hooking up with a jazz combo so I'd be scrambling to read charts and find good voicings.

Transcribing other people's songs is great for new ideas, definitely. For a while I kept a stack of index cards with musical ideas written on them, mostly lifted from other people's songs that I'd analyzed. Sort of like a very technical, concrete version of the Oblique Strategies cards.

Any chance of you coming back across the border sometime? (Maybe headlining at the University of British Columbia, or is that being too hopeful?)

Hope so! We're due for a return to Vancouver and Toronto. If UBC will have me and someone's up for organizing it, I'll be there. :)

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Postby Vienna » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:45 pm

Clarinet wrote:What helps you remember your fan's name and face when you meet so many of them in your travels in so many different concerts?

Um...I don't, actually. Not always anyway. People often need to remind me where we met before and what kind of conversation we had. I feel terrible every time, but everyone has been quite forgiving. In particular, I forget names constantly, so people often become "that girl with the cool shirt in Austin" or "the couple in Louisville who said that thing about Momentum" and so on.

Do say hi at the next show, though! If you say "Hey, I'm 'Clarinet' on the forum, and I asked you that question about remembering faces..." I'll probably light up and give you a hug. :)

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