Hello, New Year, how are you?
What’s that? Still terribly fucked worldwide? Eh, what can you do other than forge ahead. Here’s to working to make the world a better place, fine music to set the mood to doing so, and fine wine to celebrate.
To that penultimate point, a new artist that’s got us excited for the wealth of creative expression sure to come our way in twenty nineteen is NYC-based newcomer Margaret Sohn, AKA Miss Grit. She’s just released her debut EP—which you can stream in its entirety below—and we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out more about Ms. Sohn, her skilled feline engineer, and the ideas behind the songs that make up Talk Talk.
raven + crow: So, first off, formalities out of the way—is Miss Grit you/are you Miss Grit or is that more a moniker for the band? Or is it like with PJ Harvey, where she kinda wanted the freedom of flexibility to have it be either or both depending on the project?
Margaret Sohn: Yeah more like a PJ Harvey or St. Vincent. I’m a little shy, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily something for me to hide behind, but definitely a character that I wanted to take on its own persona and one that I’m able to work creatively behind without all of my stresses and insecurities getting in the way as it would have if I presented myself as Margaret to the world.
Where does the name come from?
I am so glad you asked.
We love name stories.
Well, all my life I’ve been given about a million nicknames. “Margaret” has a plethora of versions, and I’ve been called about all the ones you can think of multiple times. But one that really was the most creative and has not been thought of by anyone since was from my childhood friend and next door neighbor, Charlie. He called me “Grit”. My dad got wind that he called me that and latched onto it right away and has also been calling me “Grit Dog” since then. He likes to make songs up about the name as well and sing them around the house when I’m home. So I picked this name for this project because it means one thing to me, but means something totally different to other people. And I liked that fact a lot because I could get behind both the noun “grit” as well as the personal meaning it has to me.
We promise to chant ‘GRIT DOG! GRIT DOG! GRIT DOG!’ at your first Los Angeles show.
So, I read that the EP started as demos you recorded in your dorm room and was finished or fully came into being at your friend’s home studio “with his cat Anton.” First off, these final songs sound very un-demo-y—what were your priorities in building them out into fully finished songs? And how integral was this cat in the process? I assume very.
First of all, this record could not have been possible without Anton, the engineering cat master. He is wise beyond his years and elevated these tracks with his grace and knack for analog synths. But as far as the demos go, I don’t think anything from those made it onto the actual EP, but it really was my first time writing fully fledged songs. I thought they were crap at first, and even was hesitant to ask Charles (Anton’s owner) to help me with them because I wasn’t sure if they were worth digging into further. But those demos are what gave me the ability to write music. I was so scared to for so long in fear of writing something bad, but I’ve really mastered the art of vomiting my ideas into an ugly, ugly Pro Tools session and then redoing it 5 times until it’s decent enough for human ears to handle.
Well we’re happy you persevered—the EP’s wonderful. One of the things that appeals to us so much about the four songs that make it up is how well they combine very melodic guitars + electronics/keys in really cohesive, beautiful ways—you hear that often enough, but not necessarily done this well. How’s that broken down in terms of who’s writing and playing what? Is it mostly you or is this more of a collaborative process.
I wrote and played all of the guitar and synth parts on this record (with the exception of Charles’ exceptional performance of pressing the hold button on his Juno to arpeggiate through ‘Talk Talk’). The writing of these two instruments together is quite imperative to me. I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years so I naturally start writing songs centered around it. But I only bought my first synth, a Korg MS-20, a year ago. And I think that was the key weapon I needed in order for me to actually start liking the music I was writing. I’ve always had this deep admiration for all the sounds bands like LCD Soundsystem create, and was so jealous because I couldn’t make those sounds on my guitar. So once I got a synth in my hands, I found that missing piece in my music that made it all click.
Is there a theme or common chord that runs through the songs for you and does the song/EP title play into that?
I like to think of my EP in two parts. The first being about people talking about nothing too much, and me wanting all the noise of misleading things to go away. The second half being about the inaccurate portrayal of love by pop culture, and my own personal faults in past relationships due to those portrayals. I feel both parts have a similar theme of weird societal norms that people follow that eventually led to some downfall of mine.
That’s interesting. Can you talk specifically to the lyrics for “Dry My Love”? As a longtime vegan, the ‘Don’t let me eat meat’ line caught my ear.
At first I wrote that as a joke lyric, but it made it onto the final take. I am definitely not a vegetarian (Korean BBQ is my weakness), but I know I should be because the meat industry is villainous and all that stuff. That first chunk of lyrics is kind of like me asking for help from my weaknesses that include all or nothing ways of thinking, or straying from myself in relationships, or eating meat when I know I shouldn’t be. BUT I would like to happily say my New Year’s resolution is to eat meat no more than once a month.
I’ll take it! So, I also read that you build guitar pedals and voice-activated light displays in all that spare time between recording EPs and taking classes at NYU? Any chance you’ll be bringing anything like that out on a tour or some live shows any time soon?
I actually spent a lot of the summer dreaming about building my own stage design with a lot of interactive lights and motor-controlled objects. Unfortunately, the dream requires a lot of time and money to do it right, but I’m hoping once I graduate or take some time off school I’ll be able to invest more time into those plans to make it a reality.
Well, we can’t wait to see where you go form here and we’ll keep an eye out for any tour announcements that might bring you to our neck of the woods.