Ladyfingers: Leaving Nashville Behind
Imagine Captain Beefheart having his way with Tom Waits while a rockabilly band plays in the background and you have an inkling of what "My Prom", the debut effort from New York's Ladyfingers, the solo project of Adam Weiner, sounds like.
Weiner's upcoming jaunt to Toronto will be his second in as many months. He came to the Big Smoke for the first time to play NXNE in June and he's back to play four shows in TO from September 30th to October 3rd.
He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to speak with me.
Q: Give me a bit of background on yourself and how Ladyfingers came together.
AW: I lead a band for a few years called Shadow Boys and out of the ashes of that group, not really ashes but as the project changed direction sonically I took a new name and that was about just over a year ago and Ladyfingers became my solo project's name.
Basically the main thing was the focus of the project became a solo project.
Q: What brought you back to Toronto so soon after your last trip?
A: I had such a great experience back in June, North by Northeast was just an excuse for me to come up there for the first time and I scheduled a whole bunch of shows around it and I just got such a great response and it's a very warm response and I just wanted to get back there very quickly.
Q: You recorded "My Prom" in three days on vintage equipment, what was that like?
AW: At the time I was living in this really awful house in Queens in a neighbourhood called Astoria and I was working with my friend who's a producer named Neil Duncan who's sort of an analogue snob like me we also had no funds so it all necessitated a hastily made album.
And we had done it once before, my last album with Shadow Boys called Harbor and we had done that in about two weeks. This time we had to do it even quicker. So the machine is just an eight track reel-to-reel quarter inch tape so it was pretty much all done live, 80 to 90 per cent of it was done live and all recorded in one room.
In the instrumentation on the album we got this guy Colin Stetson who's from Tom Waits' band to play on one track. He was playing winds for Arcade Fire on their last tour and he's in Antibalas so people know who he is.
Q: You initially considered a career in country music. Tell me a bit about that and why you decided to get out.
AW: (Laughs) I don't know if I considered a career in country music but country music was considering me. I call it my Nashville period.
I got approached by this talent agency who wanted to represent me and they're in Nashville and they cut a demo with and from the first moment it clear that this was going to be a straight ahead, Nashville country product. Including outfits, string ties and the production was very, very slick Nashville and a lot of schmaltz was overdubbed onto my stuff so I pretty much had to disown the whole project and it was a big waste of time and money and it necessitated the lo-fi album that I did after that both because of a loss of money and just being disillusioned with the recording studio.
Q: You draw from a diverse pallet of sounds on the album, was it matter of wanting to combine your different influences or was that the direction the album ended up going in?
AW: I don't actively or in any conscious way try and fuse genres or seek out some kind of hybrid form; it's just how it happens. I'm working with a lot of root tool I guess you'd say, instrumentation from root and rockabilly and Americana.
But, I'm from New York and I have a pretty extensive background and apply that to that sound and I guess you get what I do.
Q: I read a review of one of your live shows where it says you switch between different personas over the course of a live show plus the show has a reputation as being "in your face in a non-confrontational" way.
How do you find that audiences react to that?
AW: Hopefully well. Usually, well but occasionally it's tragic. But for the past six months it's been really good no matter where I've gone. I'm not a confrontational performer but, like I said, there's a high level of theatricality to the delivery and my vocal style are all over the map and so I'm putting on a show.
And sometimes when you're in a more roots venue, that's not what people are expecting to hear. But they can be pleasantly surprised when they get a little more performative thing going on.
(After a slight misunderstanding about something I came across while researching this interview about Weiner planning to move to LA, he clarifies that he won't be relocating.)
AW: Oh, my play! I have this play Lap Dog and we're supposed to do it in LA in early 2008.
I don't know that I'm moving anywhere, I've spend two months in Austin this summer, I'll be in LA and Austin again, and I'm also in Europe, I'm in the UK and France November, December. So, I don't think I'm moving anywhere; I'm just constantly moving around.
Q: Speaking of which; what was making the transition from playwright to songwriter like?
AW: My theatre self predates my professional music self so it just got put on hold for a long time. So it's just this past year that I got back in to writing plays and performing and acting again.
But it's totally natural! I think that my music has slowly moved more towards my theatrical side and it just seemed like a natural thing to move the Ladyfinger into a pure theatre project.
Q: What can the audiences at your four shows in Toronto expect and how are you planning on mixing things up?
AW: The four venues are very different. The Drake, you know what the Drake is about, they're calling that night Elvis Night. (Its actually called Elvis Monday) I'm not sure why. So I'm sure that will attract a certain crowd. And then there's the Wavelength event and then there's C'est What but I think it's more of a singer/songwriter roots thing.
I'll play them all and every show will definitely be different and I'll have a lot of material and it'll be different every night, my sets are never planned out, I pretty much go with how I'm feeling.
Q: What does the future hold for Ladyfingers?
AW: A lot of great things. I've demoed a new album that I'm looking to get a label or somebody with money interested in. (Laughs) I'm about to go to Europe then back down south. I'm pretty much booked on tour for the next six months and hopefully some South by Southwest activities.
So, I'm pretty much constantly busy and that's how I like it!
Ladyfingers Toronto shows:
Sunday September 30 @ Sneaky Dee's (Wavelength)
Monday October 1 @ The Drake Hotel
Tuesday October 2 @ C'est What
Wednesday October 3 @ The Boat
Photo: Ladyfingers' myspace
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