Nineteen Thirteen, the eclectic and beautiful chamber rock trio from Milwaukee, is throwing a new single release party this Saturday at The Jazz Estate. We caught up with Janet Schiff, who plays cello (Victor DeLorenzo is on percussion, and Scott Johnson is on drums) for a quick interview in advance.
OnMilwaukee.com: So, tell me about the new single. Why now?
Janet Schiff: The two songs on Nineteen Thirteen's recently released single are "The Ballroom" and "Mr. Panicker" that pair as a traditional A-side and B-side. They were developed in our live performances then brought to the studio of our recording engineer Malachi DeLorenzo. We included guest musicians Abdul Alwan on Arabic tabla for "Mr. Panicker" and Malachi on bass guitar to support the low end of both songs.
"The Ballroom" and "Mr. Panicker" are part of an upcoming full-length LP that we will be releasing soon. Also, 2013 marks the 100th birthday of Nineteen Thirteen's namesake: the 1913 cello. It is important for us to have a release this year to celebrate the 100 years.
OMC: Nineteen Thirteen is such an interesting set up. Does the band's music have commercial viability? Does it need to?
JS: Yes, we are viable, versatile and we are ready to take it to the next level.
In Nineteen Thirteen the cello is the lead instrument, hooked up to phrase samplers to make orchestral layers, and is amplified between two percussionists. Indeed, this is an interesting set up for a chamber rock trio.
Something that we continuously hear from our listeners is that our music would be perfect for movies. We do pursue soundtrack and commercial work and we look forward to new collaborations and performances. On the single release day (July 13, 2013) we had the pleasure of hearing the single on the radio!
OMC: The music feels timeless to me. Not new or old. Is that intentional?
JS: Between the new and the old is the present moment, right? Nineteen Thirteen embraces that moment. By design, some of our pieces are composed, others only have a framework that we develop upon, and some are purely spontaneously composed. We experience the music at the same time that our listeners do, so it's fresh. We are also inspired by our environment, each other, and our listeners during performances.
OMC: I've heard your music described as dark and moody. I don't always get that vibe. Do you?
JS: Nineteen Thirteen's music embraces the broad span of human experience ranging from joy to struggle and everything that is in between. As an instrumental group we recognize that there are no words in these songs; only short titles, so the listener is free to connect to the music in their own way. Nineteen Thirteen provides a location and a character in "The Ballroom" and "Mr. Panicker" and the rest of the experience happens within the listeners.
OMC: Describe the chemistry between these accomplished musicians.
JS: Since our first show three years ago our dynamic as a trio has felt natural and electrifying. We listen to each other both on and off stage and we've developed close friendships. The members of Nineteen Thirteen also enjoy contributing to the project in other artistic forms. For instance, the cover for the single includes photography by each member. Scott did the graphic design and we worked as a group on each draft that he made. Nineteen Thirteen is a project where we can express ourselves artistically in many ways. As Victor says, Nineteen Thirteen is a nice place to think.
OMC: What's next for the band?
We are having a single release event Saturday, July 27 at The Jazz Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave. Milwaukee at 9:30 p.m. We are also having a Chicago release at The City Winery on Aug. 26 and performing/interviewing on WMSE's Local/Live, on Aug. 27. Nineteen Thirteen's single is available for download on many digital music sites and at live shows.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.