In the midst of a powerful movement full of female vocalists and entertainers, She Keeps Bees, comprised of Jessica Larabee’s soulfully daunting vocals and Andy LaPlant’s unforgiving drumming, brings something unique and profound to the scene.
The Brooklyn duo impressively compounds beautiful melodies with a formidable edge, at times channeling the sultry melodies of Mazzy Star with an intense reminiscence of Grace Slick. The guitars are big and bold but their song structures are easy to digest. We caught up with Jessica Larabee to talk about their latest record, Eight Houses, working with producer Nicolas Vernhes and their relationship with Sharon Van Etten.
She Keeps Bees play at Brick and Mortar Music Hall September 3rd
How’s the tour going?
Great, we’re really happy. It’s wild because we’ve been haulin’ ass. Five days ago we were in New York and now we’re driving through South Dakota. It’s been a good turnout and we’re confident with the new songs.
You’re on tour supporting your new record, Eight Houses. What are your personal feelings about this album?
It’s the first time we recorded in a studio, so Andy didn’t have to run to the computer and the drums and makes sure the microphones were right. We were able to be full creators and really sculpt this album. Usually we write while we record, but this time we had a plan so it seemed a little more refined.
In the subject matter, there are a lot of interpersonal relationships, not in a self-help way, but figuring out your own medicine from this needless suffering that can happen from habitual thinking that can sometimes put spells in your brain. Also, driving through the country a couple years ago and seeing all this land and wondering what we’re doing with it helped me remember what I learned in school and realized that these stories are actually happening again. I want to make sure these things aren’t forgotten.
The song “Greasy Grass” talks about how Colonel Custer is still a war hero, although he was a tyrant. What I read about the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore was this atrocity that’s been worshiped, and that area was sort of this sacred heart to Native Americans and he went and seized it without any retribution. We can’t be healed without facing the truth of history.
How was working with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Deertick, Call of the Wild)?
When we met we immediately understood each other and he respected that we’re kind of a bare bones band. He really pulled and stretched and pruned us, and shot down certain songs that weren’t working and toned down songs that were a little too aggressive, which allowed us to really consider these things. Usually Andy and I are like a two-headed monster, but Nicolas would be like “that sounds a lot like Soundgarden, and I’m not sure you want that.” He also had this studio full or organs and pianos, so the first three singles have pianos and other things going on.
You also had Sharon Van Etten and Adam Schatz (Man Man, Landlady) on the record, how did you link up with them?
Sharon and I have been friends for years. We actually met through Myspace and she had some kind words for me. We ended up being neighbors so we’d go to each other’s houses and jam. We eventually played on her album, Epic. I always loved the way our voices sounded together and she happened to be in town while we were recording.
We met Adam at a festival in Puerto Rico. He’s hilarious and an amazing musician and came in and heard the songs a couple times and nailed it. He called himself “Studio Jesus.”
You had been in bands previously and played solo, what compelled you to start a band with Andy?
I had a band for a while and just felt like I needed to leave. New York really kicked my ass. Everything was stolen from me and I worked to get my guitar back and went a while without any outlet for music. When I got back up on my feet I wanted to record. I was bartending and met Andy, who was an engineer. When we got together he immediately wanted to support the songs, and it wasn’t about his ego or about showboating.
I had played drums throughout high school so I taught him how to play drums and as we played together he really allowed me to be the musician I wanted, which was this simple soul style mixed with rock and roll.
You’re playing Brick and Mortar here in San Francisco, how excited are you to get to the west coast?
Northern California is really cool; I’m kind of a freak for the Redwood trees. The last time we played there we had a lot of love and we’re playing with our friend Shilpa Ray. Between the two of us there will be a lot of powerful female energy.