interview via email September 2002
What’s there to say with Lycia? QRD started because Mike VanPortfleet agreed to do an interview with me 8 years ago now. Over that time Mike & Tara have become two of my best friends. When I look in the mirror I sometimes even think I look like Mike with my short cropped hair & sleeveless shirt (though I guess this isn’t a commonly recognized image for either of us). Anyway, they recently have had a lot of changes with deciding the direction of how to integrate their music into their lives rather than the common trapping of how to integrate your life with music. They also have a new record out called tripping back into the broken days that’s a departure from the extremely harmonized guitar & drum machine style into a laid back acoustic style that was previously featured in their side project Estraya. So anyways, here’s the interview….
QRD – What, if anything, is the difference between Lycia & the side project Estraya?
Tara – I don't know that there is a difference really. All the music stems from the same place. We decided to go with the Lycia name because we knew no matter what name we use it will always be compared to Lycia anyway, so why fight it?
QRD – Is it easier for you to write songs using an acoustic guitar than with your electric guitar & drum machine?
Mike – I wouldn't say it was easier. But with this group of songs, & the time frame that they were recorded in, it felt more natural.
QRD – Do you think your effect units were becoming a crutch?
Tara – I don't know that I’d call them
a crutch because there's always been very definite songs underneath all
the noise, but I just think Tripping... needed to be more
quiet & personal & raw.
QRD – On the new album do you use the LXP-5 at all? Are there keyboards on it or were those tones created in some other way?
Mike – I did use the LXP-5. I used reverb for all the instruments & vocals & a bit of chorus on the guitar. There are keyboards on the release.
QRD – What role did Steve Roach play on the new record & why did you bring him in?
Tara – Steve really added a nice swirly element to the ambience in the background. He has a great feel for where we're coming from musically & also on a personal level. I can't really think of anyone else who could've done anything to that album besides Steve. We had talked about working together in some capacity for several years & since we live so close now it seemed like the right time. Hopefully we'll work together again in the future.
QRD – "gray december day" & "cat & dog" seem more stereophonic than most of your songs are, is there any particular reason why?
Tara – I’m not sure what you mean with this question. So I’ll say, "No, there is no particular reason," it just happened that way.
QRD – By stereophonic I mean there are parts of both of these songs that when you listen with headphones or sufficiently apart speakers there's some really hard right left panning & motion of where the sounds are coming from. Most of your songs are relatively steady in that things stay where they come from.
Tara – I think that's a bit of Steve's wizardry!
QRD – Where's the farm you took pictures of for the album artwork & how does it relate to the record?
Tara – That farm was right up the street from our home in Ohio. That place had been vacant my entire life. It was really creepy because there was still furniture inside. There were these two huge trees which were growing from beneath both sides of the house that looked like arms wrapping up around it. "give up the ghost" was inspired by that house. Mike took those photos only a few days before we moved from Ohio. We waited to develop them until after the album was finished because we wanted them to be fresh when we saw them again. I don't know, that house (& the rest of the photos) really just seem to represent the vibe of the album really well.
QRD – What's the next musical step for Lycia?
Tara – Off a cliff. Really, who knows? We always have fifteen different ideas at any given time. Our current plan is to get settled in our new house & worry about music when the time feels appropriate.
QRD – Freaks or Geeks?
Tara – Hmmm..... I’ve never fit in anywhere & don't ever expect to, so I suppose freak & geek would be appropriate.
QRD – What have been the biggest advantages & disadvantages of recording at home for the past ten years?
Tara – Not having to spend money would be a definite advantage. I think studios offer the use of some equipment we don't have, but time is money, & who needs some other dirtbag getting their hands on your music? Who knows your music better than you? I like the fact that we can take as long or as little time as we want & need to record something.
QRD – What's your current recording set up?
Tara – Nothing. It’s packed in boxes collecting black widow spiders.
QRD – Will there be another Bleak or Tara solo record?
Tara – I can say for a fact there will never be another Bleak record. As far as a solo record goes, I think there will be solo Tara songs, but probably not an entire album. Sadly I have not the time or energy anymore to devote myself to an entire record. I feel sort of pathetic when it comes to that, but that's where I am in my life right now.
QRD – What record do you think is your emotionally saddest & why?
Tara – I really think Tripping... has to be it. When I think of everything that went into the making of that album it really makes me cry. I don't really want to go real in depth with the details, but damn, it's been a rough past several years. The past two years have been exceptionally tough. “Blue Heron” brings back terrible memories for me...not to mention “It's Okay to be Small.” Holy schnikies!
QRD – How do you feel about the recent resurgence of rock & roll?
Tara – Bring it on! It’s so refreshing to flip through the channels & see something besides rap & teenyboppers on MTV. I swear, for awhile there was NOTHING for suburban kids to relate to on the radio/MTV. At least now there's a couple mainstream choices.
QRD – Are your health problems fairly under control?
Mike – Things for me have stabilized, but I still feel “not right” a good portion of the time.
QRD – Your cats are named after bands, does it seem creepy that some people might name their pets after you?
Tara – Well, really only Janemary is named after a band. Daisy got her name cuz she's just a cute little daisyhead. It’s sort of embarrassing that I wrote Jarboe eons ago & told her my cat's name. Snicker snicker. Anyways, it blows my mind to think anyone would name something after something we've written or come up with. Someone wrote us once & said they named their baby Lycia.... I mean...how nuts is that? It’s terribly flattering, but I often wonder if people really knew us on an intimate level how well they'd really like us as people?
QRD – What do you miss most about being a touring band & what aspect of touring are you most glad to be rid of?
Tara – I miss the comradery of it all. We had some great times! I also miss seeing the country. Things I really don't miss is the actual show part of it. Waiting around in a gross bar surrounded by people I can't relate to doesn't bring back good memories. The fact that we could never really present the music the way we wanted to because of financial reasons is upsetting. There are really only a handful of shows where everything really went well the way we wanted. I miss meeting nice people. I miss the goofy shenanigans. I miss sleeping in the van! Another thing I don't miss is people who for some reason think we can help them get somewhere hanging around & sort of kissing up. I mean, for God's sake, like we ever had any pull anywhere. hahaha!
QRD – What's the most disgusting thing currently going on in mass media?
Mike – All these TV shows that show deadly accidents. I don't understand how anyone can find enjoyment in that.
Tara – I think how most of the news is presented from an ultra leftist liberal viewpoint is sort of disgusting. Hmm...what else.....I think that whole American Idol thing was pretty nasty. & what Mike said too. Yuck. Anyone who enjoys seeing others in pain needs to have his/her head examined.
QRD – What bands would you most like to see on Behind the Music?
Tara – Swans. The Cure (which I’m surprised hasn't been done). Maybe Bjork, Radiohead, something along those lines. Christian Death would be interesting as well.
QRD – What do you do to practice besides playing your songs?
Tara – Absolutely nothing. We don't practice ever. I guess there's no need to practice when you're retired from playing live.
QRD – In what ways is Lycia a success & in what ways has it fallen short since its conception?
Tara – Oh lord. Success? Well, we did get to see the country (and a few places outside the country). We met a lot of wonderful people. We actually made a living for awhile. We’ve been able to create in a way we feel is honest. As far as falling short goes, I really think it would've been nice to get to that next level where we could've toured & had everything taken care of & made enough money to retire.
QRD – Are you still thinking about releasing some of the pre-Wake material?
Mike – If I could restore the old master tapes I would love to release that material. I think some of Lycia's strongest songs were written & recorded in that time period. It was an extremely special period for me, & those songs still mean so much to me. But unfortunately the masters are in terrible, terrible shape. I really don't think they can be saved, so... unfortunately that material will not be released.
QRD – What effect does physical location have on your songwriting?
Tara – It affects every aspect. Obviously we're pretty observant people & our environment plays a huge role in the way we both write. It’s not an obvious thing, & it's not done on purpose, it just sort of seeps in somehow. Mike told me one time that geography & music are the same to him. With geography he looks at the physical landscapes of things...with music he tries to capture the essence of time & place. it all goes together.
QRD – When was the last time you thought about giving up music & what changed your mind?
Mike – I think about giving up music, as well as going full blast back into music, every day, which is sort of ironic considering I've done very little since Tripping was completed over a year ago. I'm actually sort of obsessed with what I should do in regards to music. My mind is always racing with different scenarios. But it all just leads to me being frustrated.
QRD – Anything else?
Tara – I love you & am thankful to have met you all those years ago in Chicago. See, Lycia was good for something!
Other QRD interviews with Lycia: