Interview: Caroline Rose
Edwin Arnaudin: I was at your Mothlight show in March, which was pure joy, so I’m excited to have you back in Asheville so soon and to see what you do with a bigger stage.
Caroline Rose: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. We’re looking forward to it a lot.
EA: So, at that show, I was there with my friend Micah, and when you and the band walked out with the red tracksuits, he turned to me and said, “How many times do you think she’s seen The Royal Tenenbaums?” So, I figured that’d be a good question for you to start things off.
CR: [Laughs] It actually has nothing to do with The Royal Tenenbaums. [Laughs] I hate to disappoint. But I have seen the movie and do love Wes Anderson. He’s great. But, yeah, it’s not really a reference to The Royal Tenenbaums, but I do see how he has made the red tracksuit pretty iconic. Yeah — which is kind of another reason why I don’t really wear it anymore. [Laughs] I’m like, “OK, yeah. Everyone just thinks I’m like a Wes Anderson fanatic or something.”
EA: [Laughs] Well, thanks for humoring me.
CR: [Laughs] You’re welcome.
EA: So, I’m constantly impressed with all the tour dates you’ve played this year. You’ve obviously played the songs from Loner a lot, so from a performance standpoint, how do you feel they’ve evolved over that span?
CR: I think it naturally has built in the way that I wanted it to go. The smaller clubs that we started playing at the beginning of the tour and having only so many resources and band members to play other parts, it naturally felt a bit more thrashy when we started. And the clubs that we were playing were more like kind of divey rock clubs.
Sorry — I’m actually looking at a David Byrne poster right now and thinking about a book that David Byrne wrote about how architecture and music are really symbiotic, and inevitably when you’re in those smaller clubs, the music’s going to sound thrashier. As you grow into bigger rooms and the audience grows, you can start adding more detail because the sound systems get better and the shape of the rooms get better and the acoustic treatment gets better. You can start hearing things that you normally wouldn’t hear in a tiny rock club.
So, that’s kind of the way that things are evolving now. In fact, what we’re rehearsing now is to start playing with the bigger rooms, and the way I wanted it to go and the way it seems to be building is adding more and more nuance and things that we weren’t necessary able to play before. I want to continue doing that as we grow as a band and as the music continues to have a broader audience. I’m hoping to make it a bit more artistic as we grow.
EA: Do you feel like your relationships to any particular songs are markedly different than from when you first wrote and recorded them?
CR: Oh yeah. I mean, when I first wrote and recorded this — I think the songs on Loner, probably 75% of it has gone through so many changes. Because a lot of the songs I’d written years ago. I’d written them, like, three years ago. So, I would just go through — I just change as a person would change. I’d play a song and be like, “Oh, I kind of want to change this or change that.” So it just kind of rotates through these different lives they take on. And maybe one day I’ll release something where you can hear all the different versions of each song. Yeah. [Laughs] I was just talking about that, actually. I wrote a lot of the songs on Ableton and recorded them in Ableton. There used to be very grandiose string arrangements on a bunch of songs that are pared down now a lot more.
EA: And then along with having a different wardrobe, how has your overall show changed since you were here in March?
CR: Well, it’s mostly things that people probably don’t see, like being able to hear ourselves better. It makes us perform better, so we’ve got in-ear monitors now and we’re rehearsing with them. We all perform, I’d say like 30% better just because we can hear everything. I think that’s a difference between when you start out playing really loud, loud, loud smaller rooms. Inevitably, that adds to what makes it feel so punky and thrashy — when you’re a rock band, at least. Because it’s so loud and you can’t really hear anything, you’re going to have a vocal slip here and there, and you might have had one too many drinks and it’s just a little sloppy — which I like. I really like that, but I think it doesn’t work as well when you start moving in to bigger rooms. It’s a lot more noticeable [laughs] when you’re sloppy in better sounding rooms, so I’m cognizant of that and try to follow suit, accordingly.
EA: And with all your touring this year, roughly how many weeks have you been at home?
CR: I don’t actually know. It has definitely been a lot [of time on the road]. In fact, we just had our first break this past month and it was very, very needed, I think for everyone — especially me. It was really necessary because now I feel rejuvenated and we’re going to be out the whole rest of the year. But as far as how many weeks? I’m not really sure. I can tell you that we started in February and really haven’t stopped since then up until August. The second half of August was our first break.
EA: Yeah, because I guess you started with the lead-up into South By [Southwest] and then pretty much kept going.
CR: Yeah, we had a little mini break in may, but other than that it’s just been like you’ll have one day off, and then fly to Europe, and then when you get home from Europe you have one day off, and then you do it again. It really is the best, so long as everybody can maintain their health. We all have our little routines that we go through to make sure we all stay healthy. Sometimes it’s inevitable, getting sick, but I pop my [vitamins] and I try and get enough sleep and stuff and it works out.
EA: Now, those weeks where you were home last month, what things did you get to do that you’d especially been looking forward to?
CR: Honestly, mostly writing. I don’t have time to just sit and think very often, just because it is still pretty new and we’ve just been pushing it so hard. There’s a lot to do, so it’s been really nice to write for the next record and I’m really excited about the songs I’m working on, and production. I have all these ideas that have been floating around in my head for months and months and months and I finally had this chance to start tracking them and getting them down to listen back to. That’s been the best. It’s just awesome. And I think when things get really busy for creative people, it becomes almost a privilege to be able to just have time to be creative and do what it is that started this whole thing in the first place. Now I build it in. I have to tell everyone, “Don’t call me. No more shows. This is some solo time and it’s an emergency.” [Laughs] And that works.
EA: What are some standout things you’ve learned about yourself, your music and your band this year on the road?
CR: Well, we’ve learned a lot about each other. To me, it’s more important traveling with people that I really, really have to enjoy them. [Laughs] We have to enjoy each other because you’re just trapped in a van together for months on end with very little personal space. There’s just no room for anyone who isn’t completely self-aware and aware of other people’s surroundings. I think anyone who’s a seasoned touring musician, or just a touring artist in general, you learn that really quickly: What are people’s boundaries? And what do people not like? You kind of adjust to other people’s behavior and I think that’s really important because everyone’s got their needs and need their alone time occasionally. So, yeah, I think I’ve gotten to know my bandmates very well in that way, just like, “This person’s upset because of this.” I think it’s things like that. You get to know people really fast when you’re traveling with them. But for the most part, my bandmates are amazing and we were all friends before we joined a band together, so that makes it so much better. It’s really important to love each other.
EA: Also, I saw you posted about the “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” video on Instagram last week.
CR: Oh, yeah! Yeah. We just shot it.
EA: Can you reveal any details about it? I’m looking forward to it. That’s my favorite song on the album.
CR: Oh, yay! Well, I know it’s coming out this month. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I know it’s going to be soon. It was directed by this really, really talented director named Amanda Speva. She’s fantastic and I’ve been wanting to work with her for a while, so I’m glad it worked out. It was a huge crew. It was the biggest crew I’ve ever worked with and been around. It’s cool seeing how things are growing. It’s nice watching this thing kind of grow. I don’t know — it seems like my glasses are getting better now and I can see everything with clear vision and little details. It’s exciting to just watch and help cultivate something grow.
EA: And then lastly, it’s going to be a crazy music day for Asheville the Friday you’re here. The Pharcyde is playing a free show outside downtown. And then…
CR: Whoa. Pharcyde? Like, the rap group The Pharcyde?
CR: Oh my god! That’s amazing. They have my favorite music video of all time. The song “The Drop”? Have you seen that?
EA: I feel like I should have, but don’t think I actually have.
CR: Oh, you need to watch it. Spike Jonze directed it. It was, like, the golden age of music videos.
EA: Shoot! Well, I love his stuff so I’ll check it out for sure.
CR: Oh yeah. You’ve got to watch it. It’s great.
EA: So, yeah, they’re playing and then Jason Isbell and John Moreland are playing in this old stadium nearby and then there’s your show.
EA: I’m going to probably do some combination of those shows before heading to yours. But I was curious if there are memorable, wild, concentrated music events you’ve been part of, both as a musician and a fan?
CR: Oh man, yeah. Well, we try and do that every time we play a festival. We try and see as many people as we can. And oftentimes, the timing is really difficult to jump around from loading and sound check and playing the show. But, yeah. We played — oh man, there’s just so many. [Laughs] There’s so many times that’s happened. Like when we played at the Hangout Fest [in Gulf Shores, Alabama] we saw anderson.paak and Bleachers and St. Vincent. Oh man, who else did we see? It was a full day of music and I think we even stayed the next day after we performed. We try and do that if we can swing it, just to stay for the music. We played another amazing festival in Ohio. Nelsonvillefest? It’s like the most random name but it’s the most kickass festival ever. Twain played. Michael Nau — we have some buddies in that band. And Hayley Heynderickx played. The Decemberists, we have buddies in. Deer Tick, we have buddies in. It’s just nice seeing friends play and a bunch of bands we’ve never seen before. Yeah, I love seeing music.
EA: And then after us, you’re heading over by Nashville for [The Pilgrimage Festival].
CR: Oh, yeah! Yeah. In fact, I think we actually have the day off after that festival, too, and our friend Maggie Rogers is playing friend is playing. I’m sure we’ll see her set. I have a bunch of friends in Nashville, too. It’s always like a friend reunion, stuff like that.
IF YOU GO
Who: Caroline Rose with Little Bird
When: Friday, Sept. 21, 9 p.m.
Where: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave.