Breaking Down Sound, From Texas to Brooklyn

Noveller pic #1
Sarah Lipstate/Noveller. Photo by Aaron Wojack.
Starting with the percolation of New York's pan-disciplinary No Wave phenomenon in the late '70s, a small but steadily-expanding space has been cleared out for female musicians in the tradition of rock guitar. Groups like the Bush Tetras, Ut, and the various permutations of James Chance's bands showcased the intuitive, innovative playing of women like Pat Place and China Burg, who matched their contemporaries Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca in breaking down and reassembling just what six strings could do.
Sarah Lipstate (aka Noveller), who relocated to Brooklyn from Austin in 2005, stands firmly within this tradition. A formidable experimentalist since her college days, she extends the language of her guitar with both a sonic ferocity that make the boys blush and the tender sort of sensuality that makes them crush. I had the chance to send her some questions ahead of her March 12th show with Xiu Xiu -- which she graciously (and painstakingly) answered through the agency of her iPhone while driving between Little Rock and Dallas -- about finding inspiration, the perils of touring, and life after Texas.
Noveller is playing Friday, March 12th, at Warehouse Live, along with Xiu Xiu & Girl In A Coma.

SCR: What are the origins of your interest in music and, more specifically, the sort of music you are now making? What is your current setup, and how has it evolved over the years?
Sarah: Music was a huge part of my life starting around my high school years. I started teaching myself to play guitar when I was 17, and at the time I was listening to a lot of Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Toadies, [Brian] Eno, and No-Wave.
When I moved to Austin for college and started connecting with other musicians, I learned about guitar pedals and started building my arsenal of effects for creating soundscapes. My setup from Noveller has evolved over the past three years from heavily using my double-neck guitar and double E-bows to my current setup, which includes my Jaguar and Telecaster six-strings and 12 or so effects pedals.

You moved from Austin to Brooklyn several years ago. How do you find they compare in regards to musical culture, environment, and opportunity? More generally, has the pace of life in New York affected the way you make and work on music?
I love playing music in Brooklyn. There's a very strong community of musicians there that has been very instrumental in my growth as a solo performer. I feel like there are many opportunities that come along in New York, and sometimes I find myself stretched too thin, so it can be easy to get swept up in excitement of opportunity in the city.
You have also enjoyed some success as a filmmaker. Do you consider similar content in both fields? Are there any essential links, in your mind, between working with sound and working with images? Do you create narratives with either, or is impression more important than story?
I tend to approach both mediums in a similar fashion. I'm much more interested in crafting an emotionally rich and stimulating experience through sound and image than I am in creating narrative in either.
You are touring in support of Xiu Xiu right now. You did a fair amount of touring while playing guitar in Parts & Labor, as well. How do you enjoy traveling and playing music? How has your solo touring compared to touring with a band? Any memorable experiences and/or "tour-or" stories to relate?
Touring can definitely be a lot of fun, and it feels great to play for audiences outside of New York. So far, it's been very different touring as a solo act than it was with Parts & Labor. I love being in control of my schedule. When I was playing with Parts & Labor, we were in a high-speed chase pursing a drunk driver who hit a guy in our caravan of friends after our show in Oklahoma City. That was pretty terrifying.
You play music that is pretty distinct from Xiu Xiu. How did the tour come about?
The woman who did PR for my CD also does PR for Xiu Xiu, and she gave my CD to Jamie Stewart. He emailed me shortly after and invited me to open for Xiu Xiu on a leg of this tour.
Noveller record cover

You have been pretty prolific lately -- releasing two records, Paint On The Shadows and Red Rainbows, on No Fun and, most recently, releasing Colorful Disturbances, a split-LP with Nadja guitarist Aidan Baker. Any other recordings in the works?
I recently recorded with Carla Bozulich [of Evangelista] for a collaborative release on No Fun. I'm definitely focusing more on technique and relying less on gadgets in my newer material. I should have an LP of new recordings out on Important Records in late Spring, and possibly another full-length on No Fun.
Finally, despite all the success and opportunity you have enjoyed in New York, what do you miss the most about living in Texas?
Breakfast tacos. END