Monday, 1 March 2010

Nina Violet Interview

Clubs are fun, we all know that. From debate to dancing, swimming to s&m, we all like to be a part of something. Over on Martha’s Vineyard they’ve pretty much got it going on; with hats, badges and t-shirts, quietly buzzing away it is one of the most exciting clubs I’ve seen in a long time.

I first had the pleasure of hearing Nina play with Willy Mason on his last tour in the UK. All growing up on the island together, it was home to a thriving arts community who as Nina says “have all been playing together for what seems like forever in different incarnations”. . When I ask Nina to draw a picture of herself at her happiest, the result is a big bunch of people sitting smiling on a huge sofa, surrounded by books and instruments- a picture paints a thousand words.

Nina’s first record, “Lose Strife” is the first release from Willy Mason’s new music label, ‘Grandma’s Basement’. The very name in essence reflects the spirit of the island- my Grandma’s record collection is non-existent, save Katherine Jenkins and the CDs you get free in the Daily Telegraph. Nina hails from a very musical family; with her mum and sister playing on the new record; Nina started out playing the pianos her parents rebuilt, she moved onto viola and then guitar. Inspired by going along to her older brother’s band practices, Nina started writing songs and working hard on guitar.

Nina Violet and the Invisible Orchestra play beautifully. Obviously true to herself, Nina professes that lyrics are the most important part of her music. With songs like My Brother- “At the zoo, he tried to open cages and he cried the whole way home…I don’t know how to get you”, Yellow Flash- “Your love is like the yellow flash beneath the wings of flying birds”, and Tiny Seeds- “I will dream of you my dear, dream so loud that you can hear me longing, longing for you”, not only are the words exquisite, so is the rest. Using strings, banjo, mandolin, organ, harpsichord, sitar, synthesizers, electric and acoustic guitar, perfect and sweet harmonies and haunting melodies, it is clear that each member of the Invisible Orchestra are brilliant in their own right. In my opinion, Nina Violet and the Invisible Orchestra hits a beautiful potential from so much talent in a group of friends. On this tour the band was made up of Nina Violet, Colin William Ruel, Matthew Cullen and Sam Mason. Colin’s music is superb, with a new band name “Chorus of Arrows”, whose record is equally as impressive and also brilliantly presented- each CD coming in a grocery bag with a hand drawn cover by Sam Mason (mine is a naked woman atop an elephant).

These are evidently a group of artists continually inspiring each other. The band agrees that the combination of Willy Mason’s successful house party tour and the experience of touring with him in the UK inspired them to do the same. I asked them the secret to setting up a successful house party tour. “The key to doing it is that you don’t cover all your costs.” Joked Matthew. Colin added, “The key to doing it is that it’s a losing situation, mostly. It could potentially be a winning situation for everyone in the future, because if you get like 20 people, and they each throw down £10, or £5, then that would cover gas...” Clearly not a financial winner, the touring format may also not be suited to a band with lots of gear. “If you were an acoustic guitarist you could do it in a car, which would be a lot easier. Willy rented a Nissan Micra and just showed up.” Nina points out.

So they’re not making much money, but they’re definitely having fun, shoehorning the drum kit into living rooms, sleeping head to toe all in the same room, and all with no CDs in the tour van. The house party tour is definitely a way to win fans for life however, “It’s great” Nina enthuses, “you get to meet people who listen to your music, meet their families…” she pauses… “Although you never quite know what you’re going to get.” Laughter ensues from the band. Evidently, playing small country towns like Reepham to a bizarre mix of children, teens and the elderly is an odd experience. The band seems ready for anything however, with Colin laughing “it’s just interesting to see what happens. I mean, we have no idea where we are going, apart from an address on a piece of paper that we put into the GPS. And see what we get when we get there”.

So what did they get? As well as a roast dinner and some dodgy whiskey, hopefully a brilliant time. I know I danced all night. And next time round, I’ll be ready with my own hat and badges.

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