Talk Thursday to Me – Pezzettino

Today we talk with Brooklyn-by-way-of-Milwaukee artist Margaret Stutt – aka Pezzettino.

Postcard Editor: Hey lady.

Margaret Stutt: Heyyy! WASSUP!?

PE: Oh you know, at the office, drinking at lunch, the usual. What about you?

Margaret: haha. Creating FB invites for upcoming shows, the usual! On the edge of a sneeze for a good 5 minutes, the usual.

PE: Wait, so are you usually holding back a sneeze? Is that the secret to your charm?

Margaret: hahah. Not holding it back really, or maybe I am, maybe that’s a deeper question. Maybe I need to reflect more.

PE: Maybe it’s just that you are constantly tickled by life. Or, you’re doing too much coke.

Margaret: HAHA. Tickled by life. Or, not enough sleep.

PE: You are living in Brooklyn now after all…

Margaret: Yeah… I know, that’s around but I try to stay out of those crews. I’m crazy enough as it is.

PE: That’s why we love you. Good midwestern girl knows that there ain’t nothing you need past whiskey.

Margaret: hah, right. Pick yer poisons the MW way.

PE: Beer, whiskey, cheese, deep fried food…the way god intended.

Margaret: Yah I was about to say I’m much more of an amber beer girl. Wait you’re in Indiana right!??!

PE: Proudly, yes.

Margaret: I’m a huge fan of Sun King Brewery

PE: It’s good stuff. We also have Three Floyds, although very few people seem to know they’re Indiana.

Margaret: I don’t think I’ve had that one yet.

PE: Extremely high quality. Beer nerd nirvana.

Margaret: Where is it based out of? I’ve had that Bloomington one, and Sun King but I think that’s it. Do they distribute out of state?

PE: Yeah Three Floyds is based in this tiny town, Munster, and it’s more known out of state than it is in it seems. You should be able to find it.

Margaret: Thanks!

PE: Anyway, so before we get to talking music and your big leap from Milwaukee to Brooklyn, I have to ask if you were dancing a happy dance when the Packers won the Super Bowl, or if you are the worst Milwaukeean to ever live?

Margaret: I was partying all day while working at the coffeeshop! I cut a big G into a coffee filter and taped it to my back and also proudly paired Perrier water (green bottles) with Energy vitamin water (yellow).

However– WI related— I am VERY concerned about the political situation there..did you see what happened last night? (editor’s note – we did this interview two weeks ago)

PE: Yeah, I saw they passed it through the house. Still has to make the Seante though right?

Margaret: Yeah, but the way they passed it through- they didnt give dems enough time to even vote.

PE: Indiana has started following suit. All of our Democratic house members are hiding out too, to boycot a similar bill.

Margaret: Hell broke loose and yelling “shame! shame!” Kind of intense.

PE: Yeah, they changed the rules so they could still pass it.

Margaret: But I mean– it happened in a matter of seconds, a lot of dems didnt even know the vote was happening after 60 hrs of debate.

http://www.620wtmj.com/news/local/116906488.html?video=pop&t=a&bctid=CLIP_ID_1252632

PE: Yeah – it’s fucked, no doubt. I’m going to get depressed. Let’s talk about music.

Margaret: Yah ok

PE: Ok – so let’s back up to when we first met. You had just put out Because I Have No Control and you were gigging around Milwaukee.

Margaret: Woah, really? That feels like forever ago.

PE: Yeah, you gave me an advance copy of Lion, but it was just a burn. May not have even been mixed yet. It was at that show at Linneman’s and I think even at that point you hadn’t played many shows yet either right?

Margaret: Wow, ok. Yeah, that was a couple months after I first started playing out. 3 months.

PE: I just want to touch on that, because even back then, when you were just starting out you stood out as an artist…

Margaret: Thank you.

PE: …and not just because a lot of the time it was just vocals and accordion, but also songwriting wise. And in the new album, which is very different than what you’ve done before, with loops and a very pop production and elements from dub and all these different club genres, that still remains. Even though some of the songs are very “poppy” in their production, there’s still this very interesting approach to it, and I just wanted to talk about what your songwriting technique is, where you’re coming from as a writer – whether that’s composing for just voice and piano or accordion or composing with a much fuller sounding end result in mind.

Margaret: Hmm…I think it’s always with the full production in mind, and piano/accordion end up as a medium just because that’s the technical skill set I have, but during the writing– I hear the range. By writing I mean, walking down the street and singing songs to myself, recording them as snippets in my phone. I can’t read/write music very well anymore.

PE: So with that sort of big picture in mind as you’re “writing” the song, composing it as you’re thinking/singing it – are you thinking specifics or just a general sort of thing? like, “this one should be really driving and crazy” or “this will be quiet and fragile”?

Margaret: Like I hear it.  I can sing the different parts. The bass part, the drum beat. Usually, not always, but I mean the important parts to me, I can hear. Always a melody I can sing. Always a rhythm that I could tap out. When it comes to bringing it to the band, they really help flesh that out. I work with amazing musicians, and I give them a sketch and they create a world in their own section, which is great, because I don’t really “speak” in guitar or drums you know?

PE: That’s interesting, and maybe something that comes from always being more or less a one woman show. Because i know a lot of songwriters will have their part and the basic melody, but all the parts that get added – the beat, counter melodies, etc…get worked out later, and very often will transform the song rather drastically than the original stripped down part.

Margaret: Well the song inevitably gets transformed. Well I mean, even when I sit down by myself with an instrument, the song gets transformed because there’s a translation gap between the head and what actually happens on an instrument, and the band mates help translate something to life that isn’t complete as the stripped down version– it’s like the stripped down version is really just a 2D Blueprint, and the live performance is more accurate/3D, but I feel.. constantly trying to become more accurate with the translation from source to presentation.

PE: Well let’s touch on that – you’ve moved from Milwaukee to Brooklyn – are you still working with the same Milwaukee players, or is it a new Brooklyn crew, or a mix?

Margaret: It’s a mix of players. Obviously budget plays a big factor, as plane tickets cost money and we all have rent to pay. Allen Cote is my bassist/guitar player from Milwaukee, and he has been flying in for many of the Brooklyn shows. I fly back to the Midwest frequently as well– I have started to work with new players in Brooklyn, it takes a while to find musicians that you really respect and mesh well with– I don’t really know how that will play out.

Allen is the closest to the project right now. I respect his musicianship, and know that he is dedicated to the project. He is willing and able to sacrifice for it. Not to say that the Milwaukee drummers aren’t…I don’t know. It’s a rough territory. I play with a handful of musicians in various cities, ultimately I hope to eventually find myself in a situation that can financially support one group of consistent players.

PE: Cool – so I know you decided to move to New York after playing there on tour once – how have you felt the change in location has affected you as an artist?

Margaret: Well..and this is also WHY I moved…I’m very uncomfortable. In that this city is a dump.

PE: So you sought out filth? To inspire you?

Margaret: It’s just very hard to get comfortable in NYC, and I feel like the move is my way of making sure I don’t get too comfortable or complacent– by living in a cube room with mice, with 3 roommates, it’s a constant reminder to work harder, push harder, that there is a lot of work yet to be done. I feel like comfort breeds laziness. This came up last night with a friend at a bar about relationships. It must be some bigger issue with me– to never allow myself to be too comfortable. It’s a reoccurring theme in my relationships as well. I probably need a therapist, but then, that’s what the music is. Maybe it’s all because I was raised Catholic, self-flagellation.. I dont know!

I feel like there’s also a culture in smaller towns where musicians become very satisfied with the attention they receive in their circles, but don’t want to really risk rejection on a bigger stage. I guess that’s fine, but I love rejection… I love a challenge. I thrive on it. It’s very aggressive. Ultimately, I’m a very aggressive person.

PE: Have you ever punched anyone in the face?

Margaret: I mean, I was the most sensitive and shy little kid. I was very very quiet, and when I started playing soccer in first grade with boys, my dad would tell me every Saturday after games that I needed to be more assertive, aggressive. I think that’s a lesson I took to heart over the years. Soccer was a great lesson.

PE: I’m just going to assume that’s a yes.

Margaret: Hahaha.

PE: Or maybe not punch in face, but at least a knee to the junk.

Margaret: I mean, I have to be careful about what I say here.

PE: Was your dad the soccer coach?

Margaret: My dad was the coach when I was a kid, yes. I was very competitive in soccer, that was a big part of my life until I got injured senior year of high school.

My best friend will tell you that I stabbed her in French class, but that was an accident.

PE: I want that to be part of your lore as an artist. “Pezzettino once stabbed a girl for speaking French.”

Margaret: Hahahahahha

PE: So have the shady living conditions worked? Do you find yourself creating more than before? How has it gone in terms of making a dent in the NYC music scene?

Margaret: Yes, the NYC environment has inspired me in writing, and also in making sure I send a bazillion emails a day. There are drawbacks, of course, the main one being that I don’t have a piano or keyboard here yet. I’ve been playing in hotel lobbies. Making a dent in the NYC music scene, I’m discovering, is much different than other cities, but I’m seeing some change. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to land in Bushwick, where I am meeting teams of seriously amazing, warm-hearted people. Working at the coffeeshop has helped immensely with meeting new people, people who are interested in the arts. This is also great for inspiration– being introduced to other people’s sweat and blood. I am surrounded by a lot of hard workers. It’s good for glum days.

Brooklyn is really just another place where people live and buy groceries, you know? Moving is always difficult, but in the end, when you’re talking about a scene, you’re really just talking about reaching people. And people are the same everywhere.

PE: Explain the lobbies of hotels gigs.

Margaret: Oh, I really wouldn’t call those gigs. I found this one hotel that has a gorgeous, tuned grand piano in the lobby, and nobody stops me when I play.

PE: The new album LubDub is a very different album for you, which I’m assuming is in large part due to LMNtylist on board as producer. How did the two of you end up working together?

Margaret: The new album is different entirely because it’s a heavy collaboration with LMNtlyst. He first contacted me after hearing “You Never Know” on the radio, a song which has funk/hip hop tones and includes the accordion and glockenspiel. This struck a chord in LMNtlyst because he is a hip hop producer, multi-instrumentalist that is heavily influenced by funk and had been using melodica in some of his work. We got together to jam, and seemingly out of nowhere we had an album’s worth of material on our hands. I had been touring solo a lot, driving in the car by myself, writing songs at the steering wheel without much time to flesh them out, but also- I had been listening to a lot of Santigold and Yeah Yeah Yeahs It’s Blitz to keep me awake. I was becoming bored with the singer-songwriter folk/pop/Indie sound, and craved something different that I haven’t done before. I was writing songs to keep me hyped an entertained in the car, and many of that new material just simply don’t fit a folk/pop/rock sound– the defining characteristics were in the lyrics, beat with this idea of larger, more electronic production. LMNtlyst came in the picture around that time, it felt serendipitous. You can see that process by watching this tour vlog:

and then the album version:

PE: Do you feel like this is a new direction you’d like to explore further, and with the live show too? Or was this a nice experiment and it’s back to the more traditional singer-songwriter thing now? Or something else entirely?

Margaret: I felt like it was a good exercise for production, but I still prefer to keep live shows “live” by having all sounds being played in the moment by musicians. We’ve adapted many of these songs to a band-lineup, which has been really fun. The “Pezzettino Live Show” these days has several variations right now to fit budget, but now, also genre, as I’m currently working on an Indie symphony that is definitely not traditional singer-songwriter… I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of that tradition…

PE: Tell me about the symphony. Is it a strictly instrumental piece, or is there a lyrical narrative to the piece? What inspired it?

Margaret: It has lyrics but it’s not a lyrical narrative per se. I would say that it’s pretty accessible, as alienating as the word “symphony” may sound. The music takes the forefront as the storyteller, and lyrics pepper in once in a while to clarify or, just as more of a “vocal solo” or something. I’m still figuring out how to describe it, as it doesn’t fit squarely in the singer-songwriter, classical, folk, pop, or experimental genres but it shares some similarities with all of them.

The title is “Pedestrian Drama” and is inspired by Janet Zweig’s public art installation:

http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/article-9057-janet-zweigrss-art-on-the-avenue.html

It is a 30 minute piece with 4 movements.

PE: Have you contacted Zweig about it? Does she know you’re putting her work to music?

Margaret: Yes, Janet Zweig called out to Milwaukee residents (as I was at the time) to contribute 1 minute visual narratives, and offered a stipend. I became very engaged with her theory, as it helped me define what I had been composing at the time. She ended up using some of my ideas for the visual narratives of her piece, and I became a part of the casting and filming as a subject! It’s been an enriching exchange of ideas.

It’s also pretty neat that there will be our exchange will be permanently installed on the main thoroughfare of downtown Milwaukee. There will be a series of kiosks lining the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue, each kiosk presenting a flipbook-style visual narrative of Milwaukee pedestrian life. I will appear in a winter scene playing the accordion. I like the idea that people will be able to hear my musical interpretation, then take a walk down Wisconsin Avenue and see the original “Pedestrian Drama”!

PE: Very cool. So I assume there will be a public performance in Milwaukee of this new piece? Along with a commercial release? Anything special planned there?

Margaret: The public performance of this in Milwaukee will be a large “unveiling” either to celebrate the release of the finished recorded production or the installation of Janet Zweig’s work. I’ve been performing the piece on the road and next week in Brooklyn to help me work out the kinks. I have no idea what the commercial release will be yet– the piece is accompanied by film, which introduces a new element for release mediums. I suppose a digital file (surround sound?!) or a DVD… but I can’t think about that yet, I’m throwing everything I have into the recording and production process.

PE: Ok, so to wrap it up on a personal note – what are three things (could be anything) that are rocking your world right now and why?

Margaret: “Dolls vs. Dictators” by filmmaker Martha Colbum. I do a lot of video work, and after seeing this piece at the Moving Image Museum recently, I’m inspired to try new techniques using stop motion animation. It’s also very political, and I’m finding the urge lately to express solidarity with worker’s rights as they are being attacked in Wisconsin and other states. Last week I made the first music video for LubDub as a response to the WI Governor’s oligarchical behavior:

“The Last Fire” by playwright Dea Loher and translated by Daniel Brunet. I attended a script reading, and the language blew me away– I scored a copy of the script and plan on attacking it with a highlighter on the plane.

Espresso. Because it’s delicious and evil. It’s really, pretty evil because it keeps me going after all-nighters playing with dolls in the kitchen in an attempt to make a stop motion. So espresso rocks my world but in like a… rebel way. In a “I’m in love and running away with the bad boy on his motorcycle” kind of way…

Margaret Stutt records and performs under the name Pezzettino, you can find out more about her work here, and check out her latest release “LubDub” here, and catch her live at one of the dates listed below.

Mar 11, 2011 9:00 PM Cactus Club Milwaukee, WI
Apr 9, 2011 9:00 PM The Firehouse North Manchester, IN
Apr 13, 2011 8:00 PM C-Haus Beloit, WI
Apr 15, 2011 8:00 PM Winona Masonic Temple Winona, MN
Apr 16, 2011 2:30 PM Unity Park Winona, MN
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