It's that time, folks. T-0. Starting at 7:30 tonight, the huddled masses inside Shoestring Press will be treated to some of the most enthralling and inventive music, art, and culture that New York City has to offer. And in case you weren't already excited enough, we've got one more artist interview to get you warmed up before the show.
I'd like to introduce you to Austin Purnell and Allison Carney, better known as butterflyTree. The newest of our showcase artists, this smooth duo just released their first track last month, and they've got all kinds of fresh material for you tonight.
ThrdCoast: What are your respective musical backgrounds?
Alison Carney: I’m classically trained in piano. I rarely touch one in public, but to compose I sit at home and make a little magic. I never spent much time getting formal vocal training, except for about six months when I was having some difficulty after a tour. My voice was actually hurting, meaning I wasn't using it correctly, so I just wanted to re-train myself to make sure I wasn't damaging anything permanently. Otherwise, I've been involved with music my whole life.
Austin Purnell: I lazily played trumpet for ten years to take after my grandfathers, one of whom played second seat for Duke Ellington, but all my emotion went into the baby grand in my living room. In that regard, I taught myself everything else I know about music with their legends as guides. I also just finished an MFA at NYU Graduate Acting, which I have to thank for beating the stage fright out of me.
TC: How did you meet and what made you decide to start working together?
AC: I've known Austin for so many years. We grew up together. His older sister is my bestie. We never really hung out, but always had a connection. Right before the new year, I moved to New York and we were at their house jamming. Aus would play something, and within seconds lyrics would come to my head. Good ones! I looked at him, he looked at me, and we were like, “so… why don't we just do this?!” It's like that every single time we get together. Magic happens. The insanely good kind.
AP: True. Until that night I was terrified of playing with Alison, who I'd seen kill it so many times back home. There was a night about ten years ago she asked me to produce a couple backing tracks for her songs. At the time I couldn't make out the chord changes. Feeling embarrassed, I declined. Quietly over the next decade I experimented with that set of songs that I named “Alison,” slowly making them my own. She doesn't know this, but what I played for her back in December was all of the tracks from that set, finally perfected to my own tastes. You'll hear one of them at our show, “Beautiful Phenomenon.”
TC: For the uninitiated, how would you describe your music?
AC: I wouldn't. If someone said, “can you describe your music to me?” My exact response would be “no.” Granted, I know that answer doesn't suffice, it's just that when you describe your music, I believe you take away part of its life. If music were meant to be described in words, it would be called, I don't know, a book. Music is what happens when something exists that's greater than words. Yes, we "fit" into electro. Yes, you can fit us in "future soul," but doesn't that take you to a specific place? I'm not into specifics. I'm into feelings. So if you want to know what our music sounds like, we invite you to experience it with us. What I want people to take away is that they can relate. They may not know what it is or why, but that they want more.
AP: Agreed. I took a class with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan that permanently changed the way I think about music. We make paintings. You've got to see it to appreciate it. If anything I would say our music can be mildly hallucinogenic.
TC: Who are some of your major influences?
AC: Right now? Austin [laughs]. I was in this musical black hole, and he kind of saved me. Prince, because he is such a butterfly/butterflytree simultaneously. There are so many. Any artist that pushes against the grain influences me, wholeheartedly. I need that. It fuels me. Any artist that is true in his or her emotions while creating influences me. Love influences me, in an insane way. Colors influence me. Smells. It's so hard to narrow it down.
AP: Anything that pushes the imagination away from New York City. Both in space and time.
TC: What's on your iPod these days, and what are some all-time favorites?
AC: As far as what I listen to, I'm being somewhat lazy right now. When I'm in creation mode, I don't listen to a lot, but it's on purpose. I don't want to be influenced by what's current, so I shut myself out a bit. I'm a die-hard James Blake fan. He gets a lot of my attention when I give in to my musical desires, and I happen to really, really love Kanye. I get a lot of shit for that, but if I cared what people thought, I wouldn't be a real artist, now would I? Ella, Billie, Jaco Pastorius. I'm just into good music! My taste changes like the wind, and I like that.
TC: Any new projects coming up?
AP: April 19th, we're playing on the same bill with Cam'ron, JMSN, Kelela, and Sangobeats at Broccoli City Fest in D.C., hosted by Va$htie. Pinch me. We played our first show at the Apollo back in January, and a number of great Brooklyn shows in between. We're just focusing on getting the word out, because the projects are steadily getting bigger for sure.
AC: I feel butterflyTree has the potential to be a Tasmanian Devil. So I think pointing it in the right direction when we unleash the beast is one of our main goals. We want to wreck shit, in a good way.