Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Interview with Meg Duffy of Hand Habits

poster by Caroline Corrigan 

Wit and sensitivity converge here to make a largely individual record. Meg Duffy's solo debut, with the help of a few friends, is both vulnerable and strong.

When I first met Meg a few years ago, she was playing bass with Kevin Morby. She is currently touring her record, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) on Woodsist in Europe and will be shredding guitar on the road and on Morby's upcoming release, City Music on Dead Oceans.

The interview reveals a bit of the process that went into Wildly Idle and where in the world they are today. Look for our album about National Parks and carpentry soon.

How did you meet Kevin?
I was playing in a band called Better Pills in Albany, NY, and we got asked to open for him. At the show, and we've both talked about this night a handful of times, I felt like I needed to introduce myself. I told him that if he ever needed another guitar player for a tour I wasn't tied to anything and would love to play with him. That was in the summer, and in the fall I was playing with him and planning my move to Los Angeles. 

This is your debut full-length, how long have you been cultivating these songs?
Most of them were written during the making of the record itself, with the exception of "Demand It" which is an older song that I re-recorded for the record. Since I was simultaneously on the road with Kev while recording, the whole thing took about a year to finish. Including mixing. 

Care to elaborate on the themes/title of the record? 
Hm..well the title of the record was floating around my brain for a few months before I even dove into a recording routine. It initially started from the word "Idlewyld" which is a place in California that I've never been. I had been under the impression that it was being sung in one of Jessica Pratt's songs, and when I asked her/expressed my love for that word - that stuck out to me, she was like 'uh I don't sing that, it's "why do I".' You know how you hear your own words in songs? Isn't there like a book of assumed lyrics to popular songs out there? 
Anyway, the word Idlewyld seemed fitting to how I was feeling (and typically oscillate around) at the time of making those songs. Really writing or even playing music, as you know, can be such a physically stationary/idle interaction but emotionally a wild experience. Not to mention the travel, always sitting in these speeding vehicles and planes for hours on end while your mind ping pings all over the place. 
And the parenthetical, (one of my favorite places to exist), comes from this sense of unknown I constantly am faced with and welcome. Moving to LA was the biggest move I've ever done, leaving behind a lot that was familiar and comfortable to me. There are voids all over the place and it can be such a lottery to walk into them. And it truly feels humbling, when the fear is taking over. On the other hand, when the awe sets in and you feel that you're in the right place at the right time. I'm often overcome with bouts of gratitude, thanks to the void. 

How did you get hooked up with Woodsist?
I think Keven Lareau or John Andrews sent Jeremy (who runs the label) a demo that really initiated this new batch of songs. Jeremy wrote to me and asked if I wanted to do a full length, and he mentioned liking said demo (which was "All The While" and ended up on the record as is) and also liked some older stuff I had online. 

Who helped with the record, what did they do? 
I did most of it myself, but Keven Lareau and I recorded two songs together ("All the While" and "In Between") in Upstate NY while house sitting. He played drums on both and bass on "All The While," Jeff Bailey plays bass and Andrew Weaver acoustic on "In Between" which we all did live in that house. Sheridan Riley, who is one of my favorite drummers, played some drums and noises on "The Book on How To Change," and the instrumental/poem "scenes" are collaborations with 3 of my poet friends Lucy Blagg, Kayla Ephros, and Catherine Pond superimposed over excerpts from a 45 minute long jam Avi Zahner and I did at my house in L.A. My friend Mallory who plays music as Remambran sings on "Sun Beholds Me."

I borrowed most of the gear besides my guitar and pedals and interface, somehow I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by such giving creatures. The record was mixed and mastered by Ged Gengras and Robbie Simon did the all of the lovely artwork (except the photos on the insert, I took those) and lay outs.

Are you enjoying touring the record, who is in your touring party?
Yes! Very much so. It's incredible to write these songs that feel so personal and interior and then have strangers tell you about their own personal experiences to/with them. I've had three different lineups so far. Being constantly on the go has made it tricky to nail down a full time band. Currently, I'm on the road with Erin Heestermans, previous I was playing with Derek Baron on drums and Matt Bachman on bass, and before that Keven Lareau on bass and John Andrews on drums. I'm still looking forward to playing with you one day!!

What is your dream job outside of playing music? Mine, for example, would be park ranger.
Definitely some sort of builder; carpenter or wood worker. I also really would love to be a mechanic. 

Listening to anything new these days? 
Lomelda, who I had the pleasure of playing with in March after the hell of SXSW, Francis Bebey, Midori Takada, Kacey Johansing, M. Geddes Gengras, Yowler. 

Clogs, moccasins, or flip flops?
Aye, none! But for the sake of the question, moccasins.