Monday, November 26, 2012

Pheaturing Hannah & Maggie

Hello, boys and girls, welcome to another entry of the Phile on Cyber Monday! How are you? There's gonna be 25% off this entry, and I'll take it from the top. There's gonna be hardly a monologue. It's okay, because they are hardly funny anyway.  Like I said, it’s Cyber Monday, when everyone shops online. As soon as I woke up I pepper sprayed myself. Cyber Monday is like Black Friday, only less stampedes. There are some things that you can get on Black Friday that you can’t on Cyber Monday, like being pepper sprayed in the face. Cyber Monday is a day that every store online puts everything on sale. It's basically Black Friday for people too lazy to put on pants. I'm not sure how I feel about people buying gifts online. If you care about someone, go to Target at midnight and get them pepper spray.  A man was arrested on Black Friday at a Walmart in Palm Beach, Fla. carrying a gun, two knives, and a grenade. Residents of Palm Beach were stunned and said, “We have a Walmart here?”  So, tomorrow it's Identity Theft Tuesday. And thus begin the reports of cutthroat Cyber Monday shoppers trampling people with their message board comments.  You know, I'm more partial to the early days of Cyber Monday, when it just meant Free Porn. If you insist on doing Cyber Monday at the office make sure no one is watching and you have extra tissue and hand lotion. Hey can we think of a different name for Cyber Monday? Our children are gonna be all "what the fuck does that even MEAN?"  According to a study, there are three areas where humans now are getting dumber. High school kids. Retirees. And another group of dumb people? Four-star generals. This David Patraeus scandal is insane and has no signs of stopping. In a weird twist, a jogger recently found the driver's license of Patraeus's mistress, Paula Broadwell, in a park. He knew it was her driver's license because under sex it said, "Lots with David Patraeus".  Who watched the TV movie "Liz and Dick" last night, or was it "Dick and Liz"? It starred Lindsay Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor. Lindsay Lohan should ask Santa for her old face.  Lindsay Lohan is still playing both accents from The Parent Trap. I didn't see the film as the Giants game was on, but I heard Lohan definitely played the part of a drunk, high, trainwreck hot-mess really well.  So, who out there likes Jager? I never tried it myself, but I laughed when I saw Jager's new ad.

So, who remembers the Star Wars Holiday Special ? I'm hoping now Disney oens the rights to Star Wars they'll release it on Blu-ray. But that got me thinking, if I created the Star Wars Holiday Special it would be 30 minutes of this...

Alright, and now for another Foghat Twitter...

Well, Christmas is just about a month away, and here on the Phile I like to help you decide what gifts you should get fir your loved ones, and me. So, here's a new pheature called...

If you aren't up to hacking your own droid to bring your brews, you can always just buy a remote controlled cooler instead. Just fill with ice, batteries and beverages and you'll be the king of the New Year's party. You can buy it for me here:

Alright, it's time again for singer, surfer, patriot, renaissance man, and Peverett Phile phriend Laird Jim in a pheature we call...

Ugggggh... that time of year when all you hear on the radio is Christmas music. I'm sorry, if I gotta hear The Chipmunks and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" for the next 40 days... I'm taking hostages. I'm sorry... but I have to say this... I'm seeing and hearing alot of people complaining that their cable is out and their kids can't watch "Yo Gabba Gabba"... they're complaining that the Starbucks is closed and they can't get a 7 dollar double mocca cafe latte... really? There are people who lost everything, people who died, 90+ homes lost to a wildfire in Breezy Point, people lost pets, businesses, lost cars, boats and priceless motorcycles, Jones Beach and many other beaches are simply GONE. I'm sorry your kids are bored and you can't make coffee for yourself... but there are people with REAL FUCKING PROBLEMS HERE! Sorry... I needed to get that out of me, without flicking somebody in the beak.

The 27th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's art gallery is Matthew Daley, and this is one of his pieces of work...

Matthew will be a guest on the Phile this Sunday.

Today's pheatured guest are a singing duo from New York whose new great album "Muscle and Bone" is now on iTunes. They'll be next appearing at Caffe Vivaldi in New York on December 8th. Please welcome to the Phile... Hannah Hickok and Maggie Kraus.

Me: Hello, girls, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Hannah: We’re great! Very psyched to be included on the Peverett Phile blog!

Me: So, before we get started I have to ask you which one of you is Hannah and which one of you is Maggie?

Hannah: I'm is the brunette with glasses and Maggie is the blonde scruffy one.

Me: Hannah, how did you get to have your name first?

Hannah: Well, we gave that more thought than you might imagine.

Maggie: We chose to put Hannah’s name first because we thought if it was second our band name would sound a bit too much like Tegan and Sara, who we like well enough but have no interest in being confused with. Maggie & HannAH Tegan & SarA it’s just a little too similar.

Me: You girls have been described as a a few different acts. Simon and Garfunkel, Indigo Girls and Tegan and Sara. What do you think of these comparisons?

Hannah: We often say in performances that the comparison to the Indigo Girls/Tegan and Sara, while very flattering, is perhaps a little uncreative. People see two lesbians with acoustic guitars and their minds immediately go to those two bands. Of course we have no problem being lumped in with them, but we like to think that our sound is a bit different than theirs. We like to tell ourselves that our sound is a bit closer to Simon and Garfunkel, particularly because of our interest in harmony. But people can obviously decide for themselves who we sound most like.

Me: I would describe you as a hot looking Simon and Garfunkel. Why do you think you are compared to those acts? I mean, just because you are two girls playing guitar and singing, you shouldn't be compared to Indigo Girls.

Maggie: Ha! We’ll certainly take that description. In fact, we might steal it. As we mentioned, we’re often compared to other female (read: lesbian) duos with guitar. Sometimes we joke that Simon and Garfunkel were themselves a couple of lesbians with guitars. But anyway, we think (or certainly hope) that those comparisons come from a positive place. We have a lot of respect for duos that can take two voices and guitars and turn them into something greater than the sum of those parts. Ideally, that’s what we do with our own music and it’s certainly what The Indigo Girls/Simon and Garfunkel did.

Me: You have a song called "Sara", is that about anyone in particular? It can't be Sara as in Tegan and Sara, right?

Hannah: No, not a Tegan and Sara reference. And yes, it is about a particular person (though not named Sara. Definitely confusing).

Me: So, where are you two from?

Maggie: I grew up in Maplewood NJ, a suburb not far to the West of Manhattan.

Hannah: I grew up in Westchester, a suburb just North of Manhattan in Dobbs Ferry.

Me: Where did you two meet?

Maggie: We met at Smith College (which we both attended) in an a cappella group called The Smiffenpoofs.

Me: Were you both musicians when you met?

Maggie: It depends on what you mean by musicians. We both had a strong interest in singing and had invested ourselves in our a cappella group. Hannah was also in the chorus and chamber choir briefly. But, it would be safe to say that neither of us was strongly considering a career as a musician.

Me: Which one of you approached the other to be a duo first?

Hannah: Well, Maggie had entered an online competition to perform at the NYC stop of Lillith Fair when it was briefly revived (somewhat unsuccessfully) in the summer of 2010.

Maggie: Hannah was overcome with jealousy when she realized how cool the competition was and how exciting the prize was (performing at the festival). We had dinner together one night and Hannah approached me and said “Listen, I think we can help each other out with this if we do it together”. And so we opted to enter together as a duo and subsequently won the fan voting portion of the competition (though we were not chosen by the judges to perform at the festival).

Me: I downloaded both of your albums "Fine Being Here" and "Muscle & Bone" from iTunes and really enjoyed them both. "Muscle & Bone" is your latest, how would you compare both albums?

Maggie: “Fine Being Here” was our first real studio effort as a duo. We recorded it in a week and really had no idea what to expect going into the studio. The songs on that CD, for the most part, are ones that we’d written separately, prior to meeting one another, that we’d then re-worked with harmonies expanded for the sake of us as a duo. With “Muscle & Bone” we had a much better idea of how best to use the time in the studio. We mapped out each song on paper, thinking about what instruments we would need, how best to incorporate other musicians etc. We had two full weeks of studio time and hired a cellist, trumpet player, drum player (the first CD was all pre-recorded drum loops), percussionist, bass player, and even brought in Hannah’s mom to sing on the track "Ghost". It was much more layered, thought out, and (for the most part) the songs were all developed by the two of us rather than written entirely by one of us or the other.

Me: How did you choose the song "Muscle & Bone" as the album title? The song is not about what I think it's about, is it?

Hannah: That was a very long discussion that had no obvious answer. We threw around a lot of concepts for the title and ended up landing at “Muscle & Bone” both because it has a nice ring to it as a title and because that was one of the songs that we were very excited about. As for what you think it’s about, we have NO idea what you might be thinking.

Me: Um... a... never mind. You have a song called "Burlington, VT", but you are not from there. Did you spend time there?

Maggie: Last summer we embarked on a two week Northeast tour that took us to Burlington for a couple of days. Through a series of coincidental events, we ended up being holed up in a small, charming house for the duration of Hurricane Irene with another band called Kindlewood. They performed after us in Burlington the night before the hurricane blew in and were looking for a place to park their (leaking, old, barely-functional) tour RV. We loved their sound and ended up inviting them to park in the driveway of the aforementioned house. All of us spent the weekend together jamming, drinking, laughing, telling stories, and having an all-around lovely time as the storm raged outside. The song is our take on that weekend.

Me: I have to ask you about the album cover. I like the drawings of the houses, but it has nothing to do with muscles or bones. I know there's a reason there's blue houses on the cover.

Maggie: Well yes, there’s definitely a reason. The houses on the cover are all homes that we’ve lived in. On the upper left there’s Hannah’s childhood home. We also have both of the houses where we lived at Smith, my home, the house where we wrote the Burlington song, and other important homes that have meant a lot to us over the years. To us, the album title and art are more related than they might seem. The concept (in our minds at least) is that our homes and the people we share them with, even after we leave them and move on to other things, always remain a part of us, as crucial as the very things which make us up... "Muscle & Bone". A lot of the songs on the album are our attempts to make sense of the difficulties that come from leaving the place and people you love most.

Me: When I first saw it I thought of "Bear in the Big Blue House". Anyway, like I said, I like the art work, did any of you two do it?

Maggie: Actually Hannah drew all the homes on the cover (and all the drawings on the inside cover that you can see if you have the physical CD). A wonderful animator/graphic designer/all-around visual genius named Ned Wenlock ( took Hannah’s drawings and helped us put the design together in a professional looking way.

Me: Do you both take turns songwriting or does one of you write the music and the other the lyrics? 

Hannah: We tend to work separately on songs at first and then approach one another for help/ideas when we get stuck. Usually one of us will come up with a pretty solid idea for a verse or chorus, or a particularly exciting guitar part or lyrical concept then try to involve the other to flesh that idea out. That said, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how we do it. Some songs are entirely written by one of us and then just taught to the other.

Me: Maggie, you went off and traveled Ecuador. That's in South America, am I right? How did you pick there of all places?

Maggie: I certainly did! I had a seemingly endless number of options to choose from as I began to make plans for my semester abroad. I knew that I wanted to do something a little off the beaten path and get away from everything I was comfortable with. I heard about the Ecuador study abroad program through a friend who had found it to be a perfect match for her. I always admired her and her pursuit for the tiny beautiful things in the universe so I took her advice with almost no hesitation. Six months later I found myself landing in Quito (the capital city) at midnight with absolutely no idea of what I was getting myself into.

Me: What was that experience like?

Maggie: Each day was a totally different adventure in itself, whether it was getting lost on my bus ride home or taking a week-long trip through a cloud forest. It was good to get away from everything I was used to but I quickly found that keeping in touch with people back home was heartbreakingly difficult. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t making the most of my trip, but at the same time I often felt very content with locking myself in my room and writing music for nine hours straight (I think my host mother thought I was crazy). I actively sought to find a balance but ultimately realized that creating a life from scratch, knowing it will be over in a few months, was among the hardest tasks I’ve ever been given. One of the best things about my trip was how much time I had to write music... there are about 20 half-finished songs on my computer that document me fumbling around in a little room with a crappy guitar and the sounds of airplanes flying overhead (we lived by the airport). So if nothing else, some music came of it.

Me: Hannah, have you ever traveled anywhere exotic?

Hannah: Yeah, I come from a line of women who love to explore the world. One of my mom’s main beliefs in life is that there are few better ways to spend money than on experiences. So I’ve been very lucky to have her support traveling to places like New Zealand, Vietnam, and throughout Europe among other places.

Me: I have to ask you about the Smiffenpoofs... did I spell that right? That's a band you're both involved with you said, right?

Hannah: Not a band, but a collegiate a cappella group, which is a whole other beast entirely. If you’ve ever seen "The Office", the character Andy is always going on about Cornell and particularly his a cappella group there. We loved the Smiffenpoofs and it gave us an opportunity to develop our skills singing as part of a group, in harmony.

Me: What is a Smiffenpoof? It sounds like something outta Harry Potter.

Maggie: It does! We wish we could tell you it was some bizarre little creature that farts magic potions. But, in fact the name comes from the Yale singing group the Whiffenpoofs. As the story goes, long ago a Smith student heard them singing and got the idea to start a group of her own and so the Smiffenpoofs were born.

Me: You toured with Dar Williams, am I right? She's great. How was that experience? Was she cool? 

Hannah: We didn’t tour with her, but have met her on a couple of occasions and open for her at a relatively large show in Western Mass. The first time we met her actually we had the chance to sit down and have dinner with her and talk one-on-one quite a bit. She was incredibly kind, smart, and filled with useful tidbits of advice about the industry. We had thought she’d forgotten all about us after that evening, but ended up contacting us to open for her, which we were ecstatic about. That night was a blast and she was beyond cool.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile, girls, and I hope you come back when your next CD comes out. Go ahead and plug your website and I wish you lots and lots of continued success. Take care.

Maggie: Thank you! We feel honored to show up on your blog and really appreciate your support. Folks can find us online at or and we hope they will!

Hannah: Spend $10 on a Hannah & Maggie CD for a friend this holiday season and the shipping is on us & they get a holiday card!

Me: Cool. Thanks again, girls.

Well, that does it for this entry. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and of course Hannah & Maggie. The Phile will be back on Wednesday with singer songwriter Eric Erdman, so spread the word, not the turd. don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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