A couple years ago I was introduced to an artist by the name of Autumn Sky from Sacramento, California. I was very much impressed by her solo work and looked forward to what she would be doing in the future. Little did I know, Autumn would shake things up and start a brand new project with a new sound as well.
The one thing that did not change was the quality of the product. Joined now by Chris Karriker, the duo goes by the moniker Write or Die. I got a chance to speak with Autumn a couple weeks ago and am pleased to introduce our readers to this one of a kind project. With that said, I bring you….Write or Die.
Brandon: Tell us a little bit about the transition from your solo work to Write or Die.
Autumn Sky: This began as a side project I’d wanted to do for a long time. As a bandleader and as a friend to the guys in my old band, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be doing side projects when we were already fully committed to.
So when it eventually dissipated through natural causes, people getting married, people getting cool jobs or moving away, it seemed like the perfect time for me to reinvent what the rest of my future was going to look like. For me, I had been through so many years in the music industry already. Working as a full-time musician definitely showed me what I wanted out of it and, also, what I did not want out of it.
It pretty much came down to me only being able to be in a project that I personally believed in. I couldn’t see myself going forward and diving into a project that I wasn’t behind for good reasons anymore. It’s not like I didn’t like the music that we played before, it just wasn’t going to change the world, you know?
It wasn’t political and it didn’t speak a lot of truth. It was just whatever we wanted to play, which is okay for awhile. But if you want keep playing music until you’re forty or fifty years old, you really have to have something special that you can stand behind. Otherwise, you’re going to be a windup monkey. Nobody wants to be a windup monkey when they grow up.
B: I remember listening to your first album and thinking, “How hasn’t she been discovered?” Now I listen to this new sound and once again am left wondering the same thing. I know artists try to remain humble, but do you ever listen to some of the music that makes it big and wonder why artists like yourself have to work that much harder?
A: I have a lot of friends in music and I don’t think any of them are bad. A lot of the time it just comes down to timing, where you play, where you’re at geographically, that matters a lot. I am just happy I have been able to create something that people like and something that I believe in. I am really deeply appreciative of the quality we were able to achieve for this EP. We have spent nearly six months on this guy, we didn’t want to philander around with it.
As for working harder, the world is full of scales tipped in weird ways that they probably shouldn’t be and it can hurt people’s feelings. Music is emotional and it is written by artists who are typically sensitive. Many artists get their feelings hurt and that’s okay. It’s good to be passionate about something. It’s definitely interesting to listen to Top 40 right now. On one hand about 50% of it, I am really excited about it, because it seems like some of the stuff people are gravitating toward is something that I like and it’s self-respecting. But there is still that 50% where you’re like, “Was there anyone in that room with that person when they recorded this?”
B: When you see 30 writers on a song that has five words…that’s usually a problem.
A: Yeah! (laughs) I love those guys, what are they? It’s like songwriting camps. It’s like every major pop star has a songwriting camp now. I hope they at least have brownies and campfire songs otherwise it’s not worth it.
B: How did you and Chris Karriker meet?
A: Chris is a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other for a long time. He used to be in a band called Saint Solitaire and they were doing something kind of in the same ballpark. That band dissipated a couple years ago and as I was doing the pre-writing for this stuff, I was trying to plan way in advance. So I was trying out musicians and having one-on-one conversations with people to feel them out and find out whether they’d be a good fit.
I had to get along with someone personally, but we also had to have the same work ethic. There are so many people out there who love music as much or more than I do and there are so many talented people out there. But at the end of the day there are two types of people. People who want to play tomorrow at whatever venue will book them because they love playing live and that is a career and that is a choice you can make, or you have the people who are more about putting out records. For me a record has to be so good that I would sign my own name on it. Chris and I are just in the same camp where we both want to be playing music at 60. He is the most important part of this project for sure. More important than me.
B: Well I am sure that is you just being humble since your voice is very important to the project. That leads me into one of my favorite songs off of the EP, “Virginity.”
A: I am glad that you like that one! (laughs)
B: It’s a great song and you bring a lot to it vocally. Obviously there is a lot lyrically going into that song as well. I am not sure what the distribution of writing is between the two of you, but tell me a little more about it.
A: I am glad that you said that one, because we have so many friends who will say, “I like this one for this reason” or “I like this one for that reason”, but “Virginity” is my favorite. There are very few people who will say “Virginity” is my favorite, I don’t know, I think it’s because of the name. (laughs)
A: I think they don’t want to bring it up. They’re like, “ummm I like ‘Baby Girl’ and…that other one.” (laughs again) For me it was a very personal song. I like the artist approach where you try to soak up everything like a sponge and for a long time I was so captivated by the historical accounts of virginity in society and how that relays to today. It made me very angry and you see where some things these days still come from, especially ownership. I mean women who weren’t virgins were killed! It just became something that I grew very angry about and I woke up one morning and had the melody in my head. I had been trying to write lyrics for it for a while and it just sort of hit all at once. I love when songs happen that way, because it feels like it was meant to be.
B: Much of the work you guys have done is based on social issues with an emphasis on feminism. What makes this so important now more than ever?
A: At the beginning of last year I had, what was my life, just completely dissipate. The people who ended up being there for me were women who I had known for a long time and loved, but never had really gotten to know. There is something about a mini-life tragedy or a shakeup in how you do things that really bonds people. I’ve been inspired by so many women around me. I also felt it was time to focus on something that wasn’t just about me. It felt only right that the people in my life would become the subject matter and it became this crusade in my life.
I went back on my history and started thinking about girls I treated like poop, because I was intimidated by them. I actually emailed them and would be like, “Hey, I totally missed out on our friendship because you were pretty and it scared me when I was a teenager and I want to apologize.” It was great! It was like being reborn a little bit as a less shitty person and as a more socially conscious person.
B: Well, kudos to you for being so honest. It sounds like it was very liberating. If you don’t mind switching gears a tiny bit here, I want to talk a little politics. We’ve known each other for a bit and have conversed over Facebook and are in the same circles – and I know that you as well as many women who I respect are gravitating toward Bernie Sanders rather than the only woman left in this race for the nomination. Could you give me your perspective on why this is?
A: Of course. In the beginning of this cycle, I didn’t know much about Bernie Sanders, my vote was already a Hillary vote, because she’s a Democrat and a woman and I was like “yes finally!” However, when it comes to what I believe is a life and death scenario for a lot of people – which is why politics are so important – people are exhausted working all the time! I think we’re tired of the fact that a Presidential election becomes a ratings thing when it decides the fate of so many families. For me, if Bernie was a woman? That would be so great (laughs), but it comes to the point where I look at these elected officials and I want someone who is going to represent my beliefs 100%. Not only do I believe Bernie Sanders is a great representative for women’s rights and a feminist on his own, but I also believe that the “Black Lives Matter” movement gets more help. That to me trumps my feminism card. Personally, I feel like racial profiling trumps me being paid equally.
B: I saw someone saying the other day that if you were a guy and supported Bernie, you were most likely sexist and it was actually a guy who said this. I thought that was irresponsible considering many Bernie supporters would just as likely vote for Elizabeth Warren if she was running for the reason that her politics are more similar to Bernie’s and she’s not in the pocket of big corporations.
A: Yeah, Bernie is inspiring. Just like people who like Donald Trump because he “says what he wants” and “doesn’t have a filter.” It’s kind of similar with Bernie, only he has a moral compass and is educated.
B: It’s kind of crazy when you hear Trump and his followers speak, right?
A: I was talking about it the other day with Chris and yeah, I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone. I feel like I woke up this morning and someone told me “Autumn, a peach, is running for President!” And I am like, “That’s bullshit! Peaches can’t run for President!” Then they’re like, “[Trump] is running for President and he has most of the GOP delegates.” (laughs) That’s my life right now.
B: Yeah, I mean, I was saying the other day that in a sick way, I am jealous of the GOP. They’ve finally sent a middle finger to the establishment. The only problem is that their middle finger is a complete nut job. (laughs)
A: Yeah! My theory is that he has a lot of support, because a good portion of his supporters are anarchists and want to see the world burn.
B: Yeah, I suppose that is very true. Well in the end…anyone, but Trump right?
A: Yes, but regardless I won’t be moving and I have a Danish citizenship to fall back on.
B: Same here. I could fall back on both Canadian and French, but I won’t be leaving the USA either.
A: I just hope everyone has a heart and soul and that gets reflected in the final tally.
B: Couldn’t agree more. So moving on from politics, you mentioned playing live a bit earlier, so now that the Scream of Consciousness EP is finished, will you be touring?
A: We’re actually going to be working on a full album and the live shows this year. As soon as those guys are both up to par, we will be going on tour. That’s our plan. I have spent a lot of time working in the Bay Area and working in the Sacramento City Limits as a musician that I am really anxious to get out of here. It’s been a while and it’s time. We want to go everywhere! We will definitely do a West Coast tour first just to get our feet into it. By next year though, we would like to be across the States.
B: Let’s hope that West Coast tour includes Seattle.
A: Oh yeah, definitely! Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to get to Washington. It’s probably one of my favorite scenes ever and I have never actually been there.
A: No! I mean I have driven through, I was on a train through there once, it was lovely when we stopped. We saw a baby moose.
B: Really?! I’ve lived here for nearly 29 years and I haven’t gotten the chance to see a baby moose.
A: You’ve never seen a baby moose!?
B: No, I haven’t. I have never seen a baby moose.
A: Wow, I feel really special now.
B: You should. I have seen orcas off the coast, you should look into that if you’re here.
A: Oh wow, yeah, orcas! I mean, baby moose really just look like miniature moose and their heads are way huge for their bodies.
B: Well, getting back on track, although I do love talking about animals…
A: Same, same!
B: Getting back to your voice. If anyone sees you in person, you are a sweet, little thing, but your voice – especially for Write or Die – is pretty big. Where does that come from!?
A: (laughs) It’s great actually, well, I mean it’s great, sort of. It’s a double-edged sword where people look at me and are like “This is going to be bullshit!” And then as soon as we’re done they’re like, “Holy shit! Where did that come from? That was pretty cool.” I would rather people be pleasantly surprised than getting what they expected though, especially if they expected that I would be shitty.
For this project though, I love it when singers sound like they’re going insane. I am a really big Death Grip fan and I am a really big fan of Björk and Sleigh Bells.
B: Love Sleigh Bells!
A: Oh dude…who doesn’t love them? They are just joyful. I wouldn’t even say they’re a guilty pleasure, they’re just pleasurable. But yeah, Death Grip I love because when you’re walking up to their set it feels like you’re about to be sacrificed by cannibals. It’s hypnotizing; it’s mesmerizing; it’s haunting. You leave and the show stays with you. I love that kind of stuff, because it’s just bat shit crazy.
I think it’s really fun to push yourself and with Write or Die, there are so many dynamics in the vocal melodies. We have portions where I get to scream in the background! That’s my favorite part! There is also a really big spooky, full voice that I kind of dive into a little it in “Virginity”. It makes you kind of sound like a terrifying ghost lady or something. Whatever I am channeling, it’s ghostly and crazy, so thank you for noticing that right now. At this point, it’s not me trying to be weird. I just am weird and I was always holding out for the day when the weird would go away, but apparently it’s here to stay.
Scream of Consciousness EP by Write or Die is available now on SoundCloud. Check out their Facebook page for updates!
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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