TRACK PREMIERE: Anna Morsett of The Still Tide Walks the “High Wire”

Photo By Anthony Isaac

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Photo By Anthony Isaac
Photo By Anthony Isaac

The Still Tide currently reside in Denver, Colorado where they craft the kind of lovely, expansive music one expects from a town surrounded by mountains. Anna Morsett picked up the guitar at an early age; her lyrics capture the melancholy of long nights alone. We talked about her writing process and whether a change of location alters a band’s sound. Listen to The Still Tide’s new single “High Wire” below!

AudioFemme: You grew up in Olympia, Washington. What’s it like growing up in the northwest? My mind sort of melds scenes from Twilight in with a Kurt Cobain documentary.

Anna Morsett: Haha, EXACTLY. My childhood and teen years are pretty much a mash-up of the two. It was great; I feel spoiled to have grown up in such an amazing place really. I miss it all the time. Being near the water was such a gift! It was amazing to grow up in such a liberal and accepting place too. I think that instilled something important in me at such a young age. And there was so much music and art everywhere; it was always so celebrated. I think seeing that and having access to it changed my life direction.

AF: You said in an interview with that you got interested in music during middle school. Who were your first musical influences?

AM: Yes! My older sister would hand me over all the things she was listening to then, during my middle school years, which were a lot of Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. That was definitely a start. And then of course that was when Third Eye Blind’s self titled record came out and I listened to that relentlessly. I’d started playing guitar then too and really wanted to rock out like those bands. I remember spending hours online trying to learn little riffs and licks.

AF: When did you first start writing music?

AM: About then, probably when I was in seventh or eighth grade? Not of course anything exciting but realizing I could do that or wanted to was important. I think I buried a lot of middle-school feeling/realizations in private half-written songs.

AF: Have you revisited any of those middle-school lyrics for inspiration?

AM: Ha! I haven’t but I should, shouldn’t I?! I did have a collection of old tapes for a long time of those first songs…oh man. I should’ve kept them.

AF: AudioFemme, inspiring artists to search through old diaries since 2017.

AM: Haha! I really am gonna go back and find some of that . . . the last time I went through my boxes of ol’ middle school gems I found a to-do list that said something like “1. quit golf 2. practice guitar 3. take up karate”

AF: You met bandmate and guitarist Jacob Miller in New York. Why did you decide to move to the city?

AM: I decided to move to NYC to live out my dreams as an ex-golfer/guitarist/karate-master. Obviously. I decided to move there because I wanted to get involved in music, more so than I was at the time. I was living in Portland and doing open mics and stuff like that but I think I wanted a place to reinvent myself, figure myself out more and just have an adventure. I just leapt without much of a plan other than that, and moved into a crawl space – my room was four feet tall and only had three walls – in a loft building of artists Bushwick. Which was really one of the best decisions I made! It was hilarious, but such an adventure and I met so many great people.

AF: New York has such a specific energy to it. Did the city greatly influence The Still Tide’s initial sound?

AM: The city was definitely an influence! The energy alone I miss sometimes. Everyone I was around in those early days was on a mission! Always working for or towards something, struggling to get by in the name of the art, music, performance, whatever they were doing. Just running wild with experimenting in whatever arena they were in. So inspiring. And being in that community of Bushwick DIY spaces and bands changed how I thought music was possible.

As far as sound goes, it changed a lot over time. The first EP we put out is much more rock-heavy than what came later. I think that had more to do with what we were into at the time, who was in the band and the bands we were playing with and around. That, and probably just trying to be heard over the loud bars we were playing then.

AF: How has the band’s sound shifted since you and Jacob moved to Denver?

AM: We started writing songs, initially at least, that were a little more quiet and delicate. The crowds we had here were really attentive and curious about us and because we didn’t have to try to shout across the room to get people’s attention like we often did in Brooklyn, we worked harder on lyrics and on how our guitars were working together. It was really refreshing and breathed new and different life into the project. Songs that I’d been working on that hadn’t quite fit the rock thing we were doing previously finally had a landing space. Having time and space – and local support here – to explore that side of ourselves ultimately helped shape us into the project we are now.

Eventually we became more rocky again (which is more represented on this latest EP) but I think having gone through that quieter, more vulnerable performance and writing space was a really important phase to go through. I think it changed how Jake and I wrote together and how we approach new songs.

AF: How does the writing process normally work? Do you start with lyrics and go from there?

AM: Most of the time the music comes first. Usually I’ll play for hours and hours until I stumble into something I think is exciting or inspiring and then try to build it into an actual song. I have many journals that I’ve kept over the last several years with little pieces of lyrics and ideas and often I’ll just start raking through them to see if anything calls out or sticks with what I’m working on and use that as a starting point for lyrical direction. Often too, something will just spill out in that initial writing moment and I’ll just try to keep unpacking it until a song is revealed. Like finding treasure in a sandbox. Once the song is in presentable shape (roughly) I’ll bring it to Jake and our now drummer/producer pal and wonderkid Joe Richmond, and we’ll work through it together.

AF: The band has gone through a few different iterations, with you and Jacob remaining the backbone of the project. Does the process change when you add members or do they act more as support for the live shows?

AM: It does change a little, I guess. After years of playing together, Jake and I are great at working through ideas in their roughest, most unformed shapes but the songs do need to be a little bit more fully formed by the time we bring them to the rest of the band. I love how much ideas can change when we work through them as a group; everyone always brings their own flavor. That kind of collaboration keeps me inspired and excited.

AF: What’s a challenge you’ve faced as an artist that really blew you away? That you weren’t expecting at the start?

AM: So many little challenges along the way! Trying to balance time, energy and finances are all pretty tricky and generally a constant. But I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve faced was often just myself. It took a long time to learn how to get out of my own way and be braver about getting my own work out into the world.

AF: Tell us about your new single “High Wire” – I love that opening trill at the beginning.

AM: Me too! One of my favorite parts of our shows lately is launching into that song. “High Wire” is about a relationship falling apart and the energy each person in the relationship spends trying to save it when maybe it’s best to just let it go. And about how difficult it can be to make that call, especially when you’re still in love with each other but so aware of how things aren’t working. The chorus “Where do you run to / whether you want to / whether you don’t” speaks to that and the inevitable distance that creeps into a relationship while it’s unwinding.

AF: You’re currently touring through August. Will you be adding additional dates?

AM: There will be a few local shows in Denver over the fall but we’ll focus on touring again more in Spring. We’re also part of another band called Brent Cowles and will be touring with him in September and November. Wish there were more time for us to get out then too! Just so much cool stuff going on…

AF: Anything else on the horizon we should look out for?

AM: We’ve got some music videos in the works! We’ll be releasing those over the next few months. We’re also working on some demos for the next record already, so fingers crossed that we can move on that this winter.

AF: What advice would you give a middle schooler currently jotting down ninja lyrics in her diary?

AM: I would tell her to just keep going – keep working those ninja lyrics, someday they may change her whole world. Oh and then I’d ask her to send me some so I could get back to my roots. Maybe she and I could collaborate.

The Still Tide’s new EP Run Out is out this Friday.

Want to see The Still Tide LIVE? Check out their website for upcoming tour dates. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Cool Company “Slice of Paradise”

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Cool Company is bringing us a bit of smooth jazzy hip-hop in their new single “Slice of Paradise.”

This Bushwick-based duo is full of genre-mashing hits that make you want to move around a dance floor. Their new track holds elements of sexy, passion-packed soul music with raw hip-hop breakdowns, a juxtaposition that’s both unique and completely entrancing. If you’re looking for a song to chill out to after a long week, this should be your go-to—it’ll get you humming and relaxed in no time. They’re planning to release a full-length in September, so keep a tab on these cool fellas.

INTERVIEW: Meet the Founders of The Gateway

Just a few years ago, if you talked about the Brooklyn DIY scene, you’d likely focus on a stretch of Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. There was the tiny but true-to-its name Death By Audio, the more spacious and artsy Glasslands, and of course, 285 Kent. But now that the waterfront street has succumbed to Vice offices, condos and rising rents, musicians, along with their venues and fans have moved East. More specifically, to Broadway in Bushwick. There’s Palisades and Silent Barn near the Myrtle/Broadway stop, and a few stations away on the J train, a brand new venue: The Gateway. 

The trio behind the venue are Ned Shatzer, Nelson Espinal, and Robert Granata, who spent the month of September renovating and painting the space before its October 1st opening. A few weeks later, I got to take a look. Having heard and seen nothing about The Gateway, I showed up to the venue expecting to be led into some kind of dark basement, but that wasn’t the case. Before the three musicians transformed it, The Gateway was a fully-functioning nightclub called St Lucian Paradise. And while it does have a (huge) basement, it’s receiving some finishing touches, so the upstairs is the main attraction: dimly-lit, with most of the light coming from a beautiful stained glass panel above the bar (it and some leaf-like spirals are meant to be reminiscent of the Italian horror movie, Suspiria, according to Ned).  Above the register hangs a single red, high-heeled boot that they found inside of a podium downstairs, and a sword that Nelson’s brother donated. You can see why after playing there, Pepto, the vocalist/drummer of the local band Psychic Selves, described it as like a “Chinatown karaoke bar, but with a real welcoming vibe.”

On October 15th, the Philadelphia psych band Creepoid headlined at the venue, now filled with listeners and smoke from a fog machine. Even though the show took place during the CMJ festival, a time when music fans were scattered all over the city, there was a sizable audience. Even better, everyone was close to the stage, listening attentively. The shape and size of the room seems to naturally force focus on the stage – as Pepto says, “The second floor is tight enough for the audience to be engaged with the band.”

And since it’s run by musicians- Nelson plays in the local band Stuyedeyed, and Rob in The Makeout Club – the venue focuses on what matters to music lovers: not just looking good, but sounding good and giving all bands an opportunity. “He loves music and wants other bands to play and be given a chance to be heard,” Pepto said about Nelson, who currently books for the venue. “That’s what it’s all about.”

How did it all begin, exactly? Check out a Q&A with the trio below. 

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AudioFemme:How did you begin booking shows?

Ned: I said, “Nelson, I want you to book Thursdays.” And within like two hours he had all of October booked for Thursdays. So I said, fuck man, why don’t you just go ahead and get moving on this and anyone else can go through you. So, within 48 hours he had 17 shows booked.”

Nelson: I’m in a band, I’ve played a whole bunch of shows, and it’s just a community you become a part of. “Hey man, you wanna play a show? I’m booking at a venue now.”

Do you consider The Gateway a DIY venue?

Rob: We built all this, this was four guys. We did it all ourselves, it’s very much the definition of that. But we’re focusing on giving the illusion that it’s not DIY, that it’s bigger than life. Like, you can escape and get out of here. We put a lot of thought and time into it, so it has a cool feel. We put a lot of time into the sound, too, because we want the bands to sound good, and be happy with the sound. DIY spaces do that too, but we really focused on it hard here.

Nelson: All the bands I’m booking, we all come from playing house shows. A lot of the kids that play here, they’re like, “We just played a basement last week!” Well, we wanna bring you out of the basement and put you on a nice stage. We want to be that hand, that brings you into a bigger playing field.

Rob: I feel like this place has a little of what Glasslands had, where you can have smaller bands and also mid-level bands play. A lot of venues, it’s just mainly mid-level bands. We’ll try to get some bigger bands in here, too, and give an opportunity for local bands to open – that’s your goal as a band anyways, to open up for bigger bands.

Nelson: I think for us this place, is kind of the best things about all of the places we’ve played at. The things that we like, and the place that we’ve always wanted to play. My band played the opening night, and I walked off stage and was I like, this is what I’ve always wanted to do.

How did you find the space?

Ned: I was looking at this area for a long time actually, and I had a spot across the street that I was going to take. That fell through because they didn’t want to build another fire escape. The realtor that I was speaking to and I kept in contact – he’s from St. Lucia as well, like the owner of this building – as soon as it came up he called me first because he knew I was looking for a spot. And this just happened to be what we wanted, but a lot more stuff. But this place just happens to have the right zoning, all of the stuff you need to have a venue. We can be loud here. As soon as he told me about it I was like, we can’t not do this. I don’t know how we’re gonna do it, though… (laughs). And the first people I called up were these two guys.

What kind of changes are in The Gateway’s future?

Rob: We want to be able to do seven days a week. When we open the downstairs, you’ll be able to come in, have a beer, and hang out when there’s no shows. There’ll be something going on every night. We just want people to come and have fun too. Not feel like they’re at a club, or at a bar, or anything. Get lost and wander around. Up here will have a crazy French disco tech vibe, and downstairs will be totally different so you’re not stuck in one environment all night. We’re going to get a pool table too, probably. We’re kind of just building as we go… it’s kind of like a massive space.

Nelson: We’re all kind of crazy, so we have all these crazy ideas.

To stay updated with The Gateway’s eclectic events, including a Bernie Sanders benefit on December 10th, follow them here.

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Creepoid at The Gateway, 10/15/15
Creepoid at The Gateway, 10/15/15