Left Bank caught up with Phoebe Novak during Northside Fest in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and boy are we glad we did. She’s sassy and irreverent, and a damn good singer // songwriter. Check out her site for more and spend your lunch break reading the interview below.
Words by Alex Norelli
Alex: Your vocal style is so diverse, do you have a inspiration or someone you see as your soulmate?
Um, I have a lot of favorites of course, but I’ve always been singing in whatever style I am listening to at the time. I am influenced by everything. If I told you who I was listening to with each song you’d be like “Yes Yes, I hear it.” And lately it’s been the artists I collaborate with because I’m working with them. Diane Cluck and Larkin Grimm I feel are total kindreds vocally, and PJ Harvey is a an artist I love ever since I found out Nirvana existed. Its mostly Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Radiohead are the big musicians that I consistently listen to, but lately its the local artists I’ve collaborated with.
Alex: And do you have any inspirations for how you play guitar?
That I think is just from a classical training on the violin, and because I was trained classically on the piano and violin it transposed to the guitar in a minor classical way. But lately I’ve been trying to get out of that because I know what I’m doing, I’ve done it a million times, so I’m trying to find another way. Because I’m already bored with myself.
Alex: If you were a Rare Earth Mineral what would your qualities be and where would you be found?
I would be like pyrite, like fools gold, but blue. I feel like I would be found in the arctic and I would definitely have a blue tinge, but an iridescent blue, cause it keeps changing, all of the color spectrums are in there but it’s mostly blue.
Alex: Why do you think you’d be fools gold?
Because of my own self-deprecation in my mind, it’s my own permanent struggle with myself, it’s totally this inferior/superior complex, and its gotten way better, but it’s still one of the things I’m struggling with. I would put that into my mineral right now.
Alex: Sometimes in music, people create an image, and then their music doesn’t hold up to their image, but I feel with you have an image that is interesting and your performance is interesting. Have you worked on creating this balance between your image and your music?
Well I am essentially 100 percent being myself. I mean wear these clothes to work. And I don’t know why they’re cool enough to let me wear them. Well, actually its cause my job is customer service so I’m on the phone, so they’re like “you can do what you want, we don’t care.” So permanently as much as possible I am myself, so what I am bringing to the table is literally what’s going on with me. So each song is literally like a documentation of my life. But what I have been putting thought to lately—because what I wear is how I am, and visually I’ve been going more into wanting to provoke even more than I already do in my expression. So I’ve been using nudity, or using what the world I would like to create. I feel that’s what really good artists that I appreciate do, they create things like worlds, these empires, these places that you go. And I am realizing that I really need to suck people into the world that I am trying to explain to them. So visually capturing the savage on a mountain peak. I’ve been playing with nudity a lot.
Alex: Has there been any bounce back from your album art?
Nothing is thought of as a gimmick or tactic, I mean I am admittedly horrible at promotion. I’m sometimes better. But usually the asset that I give is my art, and so what I’ll do is find someone that’s really good at promotion. Point being, whatever I am doing anything is pregnant with meaning for myself. Because I had someone tell me once, when I went to college for two seconds, there was this author who came to speak, and he said “once you’ve written the thing and give it away, its not yours anymore, everybody’s going to interpret it how they want” and that was really really comforting, because I am the type of person that is anxiously wanting people to really understand what I’m saying. So I let go with that, and I know people are going to interpret the nudity in a million different ways, but so far everyone actually understands what I mean with it. Which is a million metaphors, I mean I am naked with my music so thus on the album. And again I am imagining the world that I want to live in. I want to live a world where nudity isn’t associated with only sex. Its not bad that there’s a sexual response to women’s breasts, it’s just bad, in my opinion, that that’s the only response, and that it’s SO sexual. I’m performing with a friend, Matthew Silver, in Union Square, topless, because I need to keep pushing this limit, because I think its needs to be pushed. But unfortunately I think I also definitely need someone with me, in case there’s somebody that thinks, “oh there’s breasts exposed I am allowed to touch them because she’s exposing her breasts,” you know what I mean? Its really tricky.
Alex: Where do you want to be in a year?
I’ve been obsessed with touring in Europe, and the people I want to go with, if one of them just said lets just fucking go, I’d be gone in two seconds. But because they’re reminding me about things like stability and money and what not, I hold back and say, Ok, I’ll stay back and go to Europe someday. But everything in me just wants to abandon every stable thing I’ve worked for and go be a gypsy vagabond in Europe and have Experience … and that’s the conflict.