Formerly Velveteen, Connecticut's chamber sisters Anna and Catherine Wolk bring their modern-classical styles together as Verdigrls. Following up their “What Did I Do? (demo)“, winter bells ring out in melancholic notes for the premiere of Verdigrls' “Jason”. The sisters' love for strings wrap around the jingling keys like toboggans sledding down lonely, snow lathered hills. Having taken an early interest in violins and cellos, the Wolk sisters sing long lost memories of youthful games with a reminiscent song composed like the picture in a locket of a forgotten friend or playground suitor who never was.
“Jason” is harmonized with a beauty and solemnity that observes lives drifting apart with a tender care of the sacred and sentimental. The track evokes the American gothic of the Northeast met with the deciduous forests of the Northwest like the folded page corners ripped out from a secret journal. Here the past and present collide in nostalgic passages where yearbook rogues galleries are observed like personal history museums. The cabin essence of strings and sleigh bell-synth ambience moves in ways like the rising ghost vapor of red bricked chimney smoke stacks. Adding a touch of winter to your summer solstice, Anna and Catherine carve new initials over the old remnants of childhood pacts displayed in aged sycamore trees. The meeting of memory in the modern paradigm takes the listener down winding roads and through small towns to the gentle mood of what could be the theme music to an alternative-indie-soap opera yet to be made.
We caught up with Anna and Catherine to discuss their mixing of classical and modern elements, the elusive character of “Jason” and trading Velvet for Verdi.
What shifts brought you both from Velveteens to Verdigrls?
Anna: When we were Velveteens, it was a three piece band, us two and our friend on the drums. But after consideration we decided to bring our music back to where it started, just the two of us, writing songs in Anna's dorm room. Verdigrls, as opposed to Velveteens, keeps to what we know best and a pure melding of our interests into one unique project.
Where do you both find the meeting of classical training with the electronic and modern pop approaches to songcraft?
A: Catherine is obsessed crime shows. In high school, which was only a few years ago, she watched a special on Phil Spector and discovered the wall of sound. She wanted to bring the wall of sound to our bedroom recordings. We draw inspiration from 60s pop formats but modernize them through electronic beats and synthesized sounds. Our classical training has given us a unique perspective to sound and electro pop music today, trying to blend both synthesized and acoustic sounds, especially strings has become a unique process we're still trying to get a handle on. We rely heavliy on melodies that move a song, and using the lyrics to enhance the sound.
What brought you both to be so studied in stringed classical instruments?
A: I've been studying the vioiln since I was three years old. Sitting in my playhouse one evening, I saw this woman on TV in a beautiful beaded evening dress. It was kind of superficial I guess, but I wanted nothing more than to be up there. As I progressed I developed my ear and was able to play any song someone wanted to hear. While studying privately was rewarding, I wanted to create my own music. When my sister became proficient at the cello we decided to start small by playing covers at talent shows, and colaborating with friends at school. But only when we got to college where I studied music, did we find our individial musical voices and gained the tools and knowledge to put them together. Music became out outlet for me. I could bring my violin to a music room and just play and play till I had nothing left to give. And when I write a song with my sister, and when I play on stage, I am still doing that.
Catherine: I decided to play the cello when I was seven years old. I was taking classical guitar lessons, but it hurt my fingers so I quit. I used that opportunity to choose an instrument I could play in an orchestra with. When I was looking at the string instruments I spotted the massive cello and knew in that instant that I wanted to play it so I could be “different”. I never thought it would take me anywhere. At that time I thought I was going to be a doctor-comedian. Though that didn't pan out the cello stuck. It's like a useful third arm now.
What stories, and background can you tell us about the character of “Jason” and the musical atmospherics spun around this character? Is he like an invention of your own Emily Brontë / Wuthering Heights-Heathcliff romantic hero?
C: When I wrote Jason I felt alone. I had just lost some friends so to comfort myself I decided to seclude myself and write a song. (A perfect solution for being alone. No?) At this superficial age I'm at (I just turned 21) friends come and go easily because we're constantly changing trying to become the person we want to be, so I started to reflect on the friends I had been so close to and had known so much about, but are strangers now. One was named Jason, a friend in second grade. In third grade we weren't friends anymore and we went all the way to high school together, but he was a stranger by then. I knew all of these minute details of his life, which sounds creepy but it isn't, I just have a very good memory. But I have no idea where he is now. I started singing some verses and put his name into the chorus and it flowed. I decided to use this name as a character, a culmination of all of my old friends that I don't know anymore. Jason as a character is an old friends I've lost touch with. I'm nostalgic about the time we spent, being young and having fun together, telling each other secrets, the secrets of theirs I still hold, but that's a time we can't go back to. I'm older now and so is 'he'. But when I was writing it he became an imaginary friend of sorts.
Connecticut is on the map right now with all kinds of DIY movements going on, what can you both tell us being behind the frontlines of the current CT-indie-pop climate?
C: Honestly, we're not too involved with the music scene in CT. Because when we played in another band most shows were in NYC and NJ we aren't familiar with it. We also live in a very rural and isolated area when we're not at school so it's hard to stay up to date with what's happening. We only know of a few CT bands that are doing awesome, but I haven't heard any bands that are making music like us. Mostly the bands in the DIY scene are run by men and mostly rock, or pop-rock, so I guess we're one of the first of our kind in CT. Honestly I don't think they know what to do with us. But hopefully the idea of indie pop, especially female driven projects, will become more prevalent. We like to think that the interent is the community we are a part of. It's cool to listen to other projects of artists like us and to become connected to them. What these artists are doing is amazing. Living in the middle of nowhere, the Interent became our biggest outlet and support system.
Listen to more from Verdigrls on the sisters' Bandcamp.