They’re hard to describe, but maybe the best part about TalkFine is how incredibly unique their electro-pop blend of sound is. With dashes of humor and cues from a variety of genres including soul and R&B, TalkFine considers themselves a pop duo, and there is no better blanket term for their fun, sweet, and ferociously catchy brand of tunes.
With two EPs, a few YouTube videos of the boys covering artists like the Bee Gees and Rihanna, and several shows around the city, Clark Baxtresser and Pierce Siebers, Ann Arbor, Michigan natives, current roommates, childhood friends, and masterminds behind this unsigned act, are keeping themselves continuously busy with their band and a variety of special projects.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Baxtresser, the taller half, on the goings-on of his group as they prepare for two shows this month at Arlene’s Grocery. After two fantastic tours with fellow University of Michigan graduates and theatre troupe Team StarKid as the music director, Baxtresser has been working with Siebers on integrating TalkFine full-force into the New York music scene.
AUDIOFEMME: So what was the evolution of TalkFine?
CLARK BAXTRESSER: I started writing music with Pierce in high school, and we mostly would write funny songs. But we’d also perform or just play cover songs. A lot of them were Broadway ballads or classical arias. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Laughs]
AF: Is that your next album?
CB: Probably! [Laughs] So we established a musical partnership early on. We’ve known each other forever. So, I guess the partnership was there for a long time. The name TalkFine and the band idea, the idea that we would sort of be a unit, didn’t totally come about until middle of college. We spent our summer together after our sophomore years, and that’s when we thought of the name. We wrote this huge chunk of music, and that was, in terms of our work together, a huge turning point.
AF: Did you both go to college together?
CB: He actually went to Vanderbilt in Tennessee. He was a composition major.
AF: I get a very electro-pop, R&B vibe, especially from the songs on the new album. What would you say are your biggest artistic influences?
CB: We have a lot. The new album that we just released has a number of influences that are kind of soul, R&B…sort of like a throwback aesthetic. But we are huge fans of Rufus Wainwright. His great songwriting and love of melody, I think, is something that speaks to us because we both have very voice-centered backgrounds. Pierce was in the boy choir growing up, and I experienced a lot of that as well. So we love melody, and we love singing so that’s a big one. We also love Radiohead [laughs] it’s hard to call these influences but it’s things we love, so I’m sure it works somehow.
AF: In terms of songwriting, does it get done together or separately?
CB: We usually do almost everything together. Sometimes one of us will have a certain kind of idea and bring it to the other one and then we’ll work from there. But sometimes it really just takes one idea for us to build a whole song out of it, and when that happens it feels like, from that first idea, everything is built together — song construction, lyrics, production. It definitely feels like a true partnership in how we operate.
AF: Does the duo have any plans to tour in the future?
CB: We’d love to. Right now, we’re still getting our feet wet in the New York music scene. I know we’d love to in areas where we have friends – Chicago, LA. I’m sure if the opportunity arose we would love to set up shows there, but right now we’re just focusing on New York.
AF: When listening to the songs, there’s a fantastic sense of humor that comes across really well. So in regards to subject matter and thematic elements, what inspires you guys?
CB: It helps to have something to write for. We actually wrote a good number of songs for the latest StarKid show, A Very Potter Senior Year, and we’re working on the soundtrack for that right now. That was really an interesting experience for us because we were writing for such specific characters and scenes and feelings. We really worked well with those constraints. In terms of the songs on Lesser Known Hits, our most recent EP, we were writing a lot of those songs for our main producer [Jack Stratton]. So we were working with him very closely and a lot of the songs we were writing, we were anticipating sending to him. Some of the aesthetic and sense of humor is really attached to him and to what we thought he might find funny and want to work on. I think recently, we’ve been working with things we felt had some sort of destination. We were writing them for some sort of specific project.
AF: For A Very Potter Senior Year songs, is there more of a TalkFine influence or did you both work to stay true to what the Potter musicals had sounded like before? How did that work?
CB: We definitely were trying to keep it within the realm of StarKid musicals for sure. So we weren’t trying to make it any sort of TalkFine song. I’m sure certain parts are influenced. Our aesthetic can’t be completely removed. I think our hope is that we’ll just fit right in with the rest of the StarKid catalog, and that fans will embrace the songs.
AF: Having those two separate entities, did you and Pierce have to re-learn how to write together, or was it very natural for the two of you since you’ve been working together so long?
CB: We enjoy writing in different characters and different aesthetics. That’s part of why it’s sometimes difficult to kind of grasp our music because it’s just kind of fun to write in a completely different style sometimes.
AF: On YouTube, you’ve posted some really great covers. I love the Cranberries one you two had performed. Do you have a plan to continue with that?**
CB: Yeah, yeah definitely. We like doing covers. I’m not sure what the next will be yet, but I’m sure there will be another one somewhat soon. We’d also like to continue making original videos — music videos and other types of performance videos. We’re in the process of working out logistics for an upcoming music video shoot. We like making videos and having a visual component to what we do.
**Since our interview, TalkFine has released a wonderful cover of Wham!’s holiday classic “Last Christmas.”
AF: Finally, what’s upcoming for TalkFine?
CB: Possible music video and EP of our friend [Ahren Rehmel]‘s poetry. We’re working on the soundtrack for A Very Potter Senior Year. We’re still writing new music for TalkFine but we’re having to decide how that will be released and when it will be. Definitely sometime in the future we’ll release a new collection. Other than that, we’re just trying to focus on performing.
Check Clark and Pierce live this month at Arlene’s Grocery at 9pm on both 12/10 and 12/17. The duo will also be the special musical guest at “The Joe Moses Showses” at the The Player’s Theater 12/15 & 12/16.
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