On the cusp of their upcoming Rain Delay b/w Goodbye Ball 7” on High Fives & Handshakes records, and subsequent record release party at Cairo this Saturday, we sat down with our four favorite Witches for a nice Q&A. Photos by Lena Joy Whittle.
IAN JUDD: Let’s start with your band name. Sources say that it came from a dream, did it not? What all happened in that dream?
SARA BEABOUT: It did. It’s kind of hard to explain, because it was a dream after all, and they’re hard to explain in full detail. But it was a very bleak, dark, misty area that made me think of a witches’ garden, and there it was! That’s how it happened – it’s not that exciting. I could lie and say there were a lot of cool things about it…
CASEY CATHERWOOD: I remember that I almost didn’t like it! I love (the name) now, and I can’t imagine it being called anything else. But at the time I was like, “that’s so stupid” (laughs) But I think that’s the thing about band names, it’s like, you think about them so much but then if you own one, it sort of just becomes a representation of what you’re doing. So if you really like what you’re doing, then the band name isn’t really that important, it’s just a name.
I: Were there any alternate names that you considered?
KAROLYN KUKOSKI: I only remember “The Age of Rings”…lots of rings.
C: Sara B and I were into tarot stuff for a while, and we were flipping through some and thinking, “what if we were to combine these two, like, the page of wands and the page of rings?” And then we were just like, “this is so stupid, let’s just call it Witch Gardens, or wait until it becomes more mystic. (all laugh)
I: Let’s share a little bit of your musical background, I know that most of you have grown up playing an instrument, like I know that Beth, you played classical piano growing up; Karolyn, you played the autoharp for years before you joined Witch Gardens; and Casey, you played a few other instruments before the guitar. Sara, I know you played bass in a band once?
S: Very briefly I played the bass. I wouldn’t say that I playedˆ the bass really. I tried. I grew up singing in theater but I never played an instrument before the picked up the drums. I’ve been playing the drums since I was 23! Being a drama nerd helped me with my confidence, like in trying new things, and wanting to get out there and perform. Confidence is the key, the rest will come to you.
BETH CORRY: I grew up playing classical piano, and I played for 10 years. I miss it, but I do feel that it provides an interesting and helpful angle in our band, because it’s fun to come with that background and understanding in music and try to make something new with people who don’t. You end up creating something cool.
K: And we need you to translate most of the music. (laughs) She’s the Beethoven of the band.
C: In learning new songs, it’s her ability to hear something, figure it out, and relay it Karol…her inherent ability to hear music and process it into notes and chords is a major boost to the communication of our band. For awhile it was like, playing a note on guitar and looking it up on Wikipedia, like searching “guitar” (laughs) to find what note it was, and it seriously took forever.
K: I signed up for autoharp lessons with Katherine Britell, who’s a cool autoharp lady, but I crashed my car and couldn’t go to all of them. There was another woman in the class named Karolyn who was 40 years old and wrote a song called “Bassett Hound Blues”…and I felt like I was looking into my future. (all laughs)
I: How did this record come to be? Out of all the songs that you have written, why did you choose “Rain Delay” to become its own single? Was it out of practicality or preference?
S: Peter Lowe approached us and wanted to put something out for us, so we got the ball rolling with him. We had a lot of songs at the time, but the majority of them were already on our Alice, Agatha, Branch, and Christ cassette. So to be honest, there weren’t a lot of songs left to put on this record. But we thought that Rain Delay and Goodbye Ball went together nicely!
C: It’s interesting that it’s coming out now, almost a year after it was written! The song is very much inspired by Pacific Northwest life. You can do all of these great things, but the weather is not accommodating, you’re harshed out, so you have to make the best of it. I love playing that song. I’m stoked that it’s getting its own seven-inch.
I: Would you want to elaborate on “Goodbye Ball”?
B: “Goodbye Ball” is a song that was inspired by Koko (the Gorilla)’s kitten. We wrote this song without lyrics, and when we sat down together to write some lyrics for it, the clipboard that I was using to write on top of was Casey’s copy of “Koko’s Kitten”. A lot of the lyrics are actually quotes from Koko.
C: But the actual chorus of “Goodbye Ball" is not in the book at all. It is referencing Koko’s cat, “Ball”, who dies. But the idea of a ball was inspired by this day that I was walking with Matt Lawson, up Union Street and we were just literally watching these kids lose a ball. And they were these tiny kids, so they were just chasing this ball all the way down Union, they were maybe like a few steps behind it the whole way. We watched them, they passed us, the ball keeps rolling, we don’t stop it, the ball keeps going. It was just like, “see you later, goodbye ball.”
I: Word is that Witch Gardens are contributing a track for Cairo’s Expo 89 compilation (Coastal Sightings) and it’s a collaboration with USF and Haunted Horses. Your group seems to be very open to collaboration – you cut a track with rapper Manch Malevolent a couple of months ago – is there anybody in the contemporary moment that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
B: My mind goes straight to top 40.
S: Lil B, the BasedGod.
C: I’ve wanted to write a song with my friend ISSUE, and I’ve been talking with him a little bit about it. He’s a young guy, totally weird, we both think a lot about creativity; just on the same wavelength. We’re friends on twitter. We’d like to collaborate with artists that sound completely different from us. I don’t think collaborating with another rock band would be very interesting, unless it was a collaboration of voices or something. We can make rock music, but we’re not very good at making rap or dance music.
I: I know that the four of you are all big rap and hip-hop fans, and you’ve played with a few rap & hip-hop groups: who are some of your favorite emcees/rappers?
S: Luda. Ludacris is my all time favorite.
K: Dead Prez, Brother Ali, Eminem. I love Eminem.
B: Pharell, but I mostly care about Snoop Dogg. I’ll be honest. Metal Chocolates are a favorite.
C: So much great local rap these days. Brothers From Another are amazing, Kung Foo Grip, Don’t Talk to the Cops, Metal Chocolates. OC Notes is super influential. Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction...Proud to be from Seattle, all love to all rappers from Seattle, except the negative ones.
I: There’s a lot of imagery in your lyrics, but there’s an equal amount of humor and sadness to be found as well. Would you agree?
B: I would say that in terms of humor the four of us like each other a lot, get along really well, and have a really good time together. Humor just plays into that because we’re all funny people, and we take that into account when we’re writing lyrics, because we don’t take things that seriously. I mean, we take things seriously, we want the music and lyrics to be good, but we also want to have fun, and that’s just a part of our band and our personalities. In terms of sadness, I would just say that we’re sad dudes.
C: I would say that there is an element of true sadness in every one of our band members. I’m not trying to milk it but every one of us uses humor in a way to paint a positive picture to what are actually very dark issues. A lot of our songs are about things that I find to be truly sad, or a lot of the songwriting will come from a sad place, but if you can laugh about it all with your friends, that’s what our band is about, I think.
I: There’s also a heavy visual element to Witch Gardens. You make your own banners and posters, there’s a lot of iconography and references in those show posters - basically, you seem to have a good handle on the visual aesthetic of your project. Why do you feel that it’s necessary to have complete control not just over the musical aspects of your band, but the visual parts as well?
B: It’s exciting to be in this project with Casey, who has seemingly unlimited creative drive, and works with a variety of visual elements. It definitely adds a lot to the band.
C: Think about your favorite bands, they usually have cool album covers, who doesn’t like an album more when it looks good? When you get a book and there’s two different copies of the same book, like Art of War or whatever, and there’s the Barnes & Noble copy that looks like crap, or a different copy that some great graphic designer created. If they’re the same price, of course you’re going to choose the one that looks better. There’s something about it that’s just visually appealing. The band is like an art project. We have spent a lot of time on video work too…
I: You’ve made all of your own videos, except for the “Goodbye Ball” video, right?
B: Yeah, there’s also a video that Pierce made for “Small Daring Boy”.
I: Witch Gardens marks the first time that three of you have been in a band. When you were starting out, what were the biggest obstacles to being in your first band? Also, what came easiest?
K: It was really scary playing live for the first time. You don’t even know how nervous you are, you can’t feel it. I remember when we played “I Wanna Get Sick” the first couple of times, and there’s a part where I play the keyboard, and afterward you said to me, “your hands were trembling, were you nervous?” And I remember saying, “I had no idea, I can’t remember anything that just happened!” (laughs)
S: Travis Coster gave me some advice after our first show. He told me, “don’t forget this feeling, because at a certain point, you will lose that feeling of super nervousness,” and he was saying that he wished that he still felt that way sometimes.
B: Travis blows my mind…I would never want to feel that way again! (laughs)
I: My final question: what’s in store for the future of Witch Gardens? What do y’all see in your crystal ball?
S: We see a full length that we’re recording for Couple Skate in the future. That’s our next project that we want to focus on.
C: Happiness, taking things out on to the road, more music videos, more art.
B: I just want to keep playing and meeting more great people. Those are probably the best things about being in a band.
K: Beth and me have a two-piece called “Two Girls on a Porch”, we only play Linkin Park covers. We’re excited.
WG: See you in two weeks.
WITCH GARDENS PLAY SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH AT CAIRO WITH STEPHANIE AND JOHN OVEN / THE MILLENIALS. Show starts at 8PM. Cover is $5, $7 gets you in with a record!