Wednesday December 04, 2013

theatre music


elizabethbruce1 typeQ

You may remember Elizabeth Bruce as the diminutive singer with the distinctive voice who performed at Dyke March this past August.  A songwriter whose lyrics straddle the serious and the absurd, she sat down to chat with typeQ contributor Allison Armstrong about her second album, The Silent I Know, which launches on Friday Nov. 1.

[photo credit Diane Bruce]


Allison Armstrong: Your first album, As We Sadden Each Other To Sleep, was inspired by dreams and nightmares.  What about The Silent I Know?  What did you draw on for inspiration?  Are there common themes between the two?

Elizabeth Bruce: The Silent I Know is a concept album with 21 songs, each based on one of the Major Arcana from the Tarot deck. I never did write a song for the Fool. It's a wonderful card, but my excuse is that it is often numbered 0 in the deck, and there is no song zero.  That being said, the cards were just a starting point. These songs, and those on my first album, are really just songs about life.

ALA: You don’t shy away from strong emotions in your pieces.  I’m thinking of “Bitches vs Scum” and “Lion Tamer”.  Tell me about them?

EB: I think all artists rely on strong emotions for inspiration. I actually consider "Bitches vs. Scum" to be one of my most light-hearted, silly songs. It's mean spirited, but also cute. I can't take it too seriously. "Lion Tamer," on the other hand, was hard to write. It's about coming to terms with crap that happened in childhood and learning to move on.

ALA: Do personal experiences inform or inspire your songs?  As a queer woman with two kids at home, can you talk about “Our Spawn” and “We Will Never Be Erased”?

EB: Of course I draw on personal experiences for inspiration, but I'm also reluctant to say my songs are autobiographical.  Sometimes the songs are about me, or people I know, or pastiches of people I know, or just imaginary characters. I do think motherhood has had a big influence on this album, though. I conceived of this album before my first child was conceived, and the main recording was done while my second child was in utero.

I sometimes jokingly refer to my kids as my "spawn," but the song "Our Spawn" has nothing to do with them. The narrator of that song is not me; it's some power-tripping man who doesn't think about the consequences of his actions. This song was based on the card "The Emperor," and I've always had a hard time reconciling with authority – especially male authority figures. 

"We'll Never Be Erased" is a much cheerier song, so cheery (or Sunny, in fact), that I seldom feel like playing it. I played it at the Dyke March because it's the closest thing I have to a Pride anthem. It's about taking a risk to show your true colours and being rewarded for it. It's also an affirmation that weirdoes like me will never disappear.

elizabethbruce2 typeQ
photo credit: Darren Holmes

ALA: You recorded much of The Silent I Know while you were pregnant.  Can you talk about that?

EB: All the voice and piano tracks were recorded over two nights – live from the floor as they say. I wanted to do it this way because I was in a rush to get it done before the fetus got all up in my lung space. Later, after my daughter was born, we recorded a bunch of other instruments and backup vocals. So it's kind of an interesting mix of live album and studio creation.

ALA: The Silent I Know is a purely digital album.  What made you decide to go that route?

EB: The Silent I Know is mainly a digital album for practical reasons.  At 90 minutes run time, it won't fit on one CD. The cost of producing a double CD was prohibitive, but I did want a physical product to sell, so the liner notes contain pretty photos, all they lyrics, and a download code.  I can burn hard copies of the double CD on request, for an extra five dollars.

ALA: Your new album launches on November 1.  Where will the party be, and what can we expect?

EB: The album launch is happening at Avant-Garde Bar at 8 p.m.  I'll be playing some of the songs from the album and there will also be a set by Kyla Tilley.  She's a Montreal based singer-songwriter who, like me, is classically trained and likes weird time signatures – she sometimes plays in a metal band!  I am also trying to convince my friend to do Tarot readings in the back of the bar because she's really good at it and I think it would be fun/thematically appropriate.

ALA: Tarot readings, live music, and Soviet Kitsch.  Who could ask for more?  Thanks so much for sitting down to chat with me, and I’ll see you on the first.

The Silent I Know album launch
Avant-Garde Bar (135½ Besserer St at Waller)
November 1st, 8pm
No cover


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