Originally published: The Stool Pigeon
Sleepy-headed Brooklyn duo chat nonsense about their alarming sound
Photography Mickey Gibbons
Trying to remember a dream after a night’s snooze is tough. Awake, you rub the sleep from your eyes, and the once-vivid images are erased from memory, or blurred into some lysergic, incomprehensible fantasy compared to what lays before you — reality.
Talk Normal’s guitarist Sarah Register is struggling to recount a dream she had a few years ago. Sat across the table, she balances her head on top of her hand, trying to stay awake. The Brooklyn duo have just arrived at London’s XOYO venue, following a four-hour journey stuck in traffic from Brighton, where they’ve been supporting Wire on their UK tour.
“Russia!” drummer Andrya Ambro interjects like an obtrusive alarm bell. “We were going to play a show and you couldn’t find your hat.”
“No,” Sarah wheezes out with a long yawn, “that’s not it. I’d lost a hat… Something about a glove… There was a hill… There was definitely some sort of struggle… The hat was very fuzzy and warm…”
The slumberous setting Sarah is labouring to recall became the title of the group’s acclaimed debut record, 2009’s Sugarland. “We wanted the record to represent some kind of fantasy land,” explains Andrya.
They are an unassuming pair. Both in their early thirties with teddy bear-brown hair and soft eyes, they appear more girls-next-door than girls-that-make-discordant-rock, as they do in Talk Normal. Along with 2008’s ‘Secret Cog EP’, their hypnotic dissonance has drawn comparisons with the likes of DNA, Sonic Youth and Laurie Anderson. But how would they describe it?
Andrya, tongue in cheek: “I’d say it’s like Bad Moon Rising meets Kanye West.” Whatever their nonsense patter and more ‘aggro’ elements of their music, Talk Normal’s output to date is surprisingly focused and free of extraneous detail, a fact the pair chalk up to the example set by their moniker: “It just reminds us to be more simple,” explains Andrya.
Like their music, Talk Normal’s conversational chemistry flows with sibling fluency. This is probably down to the close relationship they have held since meeting at NYU a decade ago on music-related courses. Both sound engineers by day, they are due to put the finishing touches to writing for their second record on returning to the States.
Is it hard knowing when to stop touching up your own work?
“Generally we agree whether or not the thing that we agree on yet,” explains Andrya, sort of. “Does that make sense?”
No. I thought you were supposed to talk simpler?
“In our minds [the record] is going to be the same thing,” she tries, again. “But whether or not what exists at the moment is that thing, we’re not sure yet.”