Erica Quitzow has a lot on the go. Her latest effort, Juice Water, was written, recorded and produced almost entirely el solo, and the summer tour she just wrapped up in support of it included a New York gig with Joan Baez. A classical musician at heart, Quitzow (her last name doubles as her moniker) has combined synth with strings to create a sound that is fun, above all else. Sick of the Radio caught up with Quitzow recently to discuss her unique musical aesthetic, her summer tour and her affinity for Keith Richards.
SICK OF THE RADIO: You’re obviously a strong believer in the DIY mentality. Why is it so important to you to see your work through from start to finish, in a mostly solo process?
QUITZOW: I don’t have a strong moral stance here on being totally DIY, just an instinct for what is right for me in the moment. Having worked in band situations in the past, I’m at a place where I have a lot of ideas that I want to see through. That may change at any moment, I sometimes miss another’s input. As far as business goes, I’m happy to be in control of all the business decisions concerning my work. Artists with a big team can become disconnected from their work, having no idea what sort of deals their management is handing them to sign. I sympathize with this. I have an aversion to red tape and paperwork, but am grateful that my situation has forced me to be on top of it.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Having started out in music playing the violin at a young age, at what point did you decide you needed to pick up the pace and fuse strings with more upbeat music?
QUITZOW: I’d play various instruments in bands from time to time and when I got recording equipment, I very naturally started experimenting. For example, one of my favorite sounds is layering moog with either violin or cello. It sounds so much like a mellotron, way better than any midi mellotron I’ve heard. I used to play in orchestras and analyze the string arrangements, I still play in chamber groups though I haven’t had much time for that with recording and touring. I’m spending a lot of time with midi instruments lately, I’m more attracted to current synth sounds than ever before, though I still have a place in my heart for vintage sounds. These things aren’t decisions as much as natural inclinations that occur from who knows where. What you listen to seeps in and changes your aesthetic.
SICK OF THE RADIO: I always find it interesting when elements of classical music make their way onto dance or electronic recordings, but it doesn’t seem all that rare these days. Can you speak on the idea that genres are becoming less rigid and pronounced?
QUITZOW: It’s fantastic, this post modern era, where anything can work. I love watching how culture is subtly mutating constantly, re-inventing trends from the past and merging them with each other. Sometimes I’m sad that almost everything has
an element of camp, even a sunset, but I like that artists are taking themselves less seriously. I come from a lineage of artists where art was deadly serious. Isadora Duncan burned her bra and denounced ballet slippers. The artists from the beat generation were revolutionizing society. I think of art as playful, lending comfort to a pained existence. You know, bringing the party.
SICK OF THE RADIO: There’s a line on Juice Water where you sing “More Keith Richards, less Betty Crocker.” What do you have against Betty Crocker, and more importantly, why could we all strive to be a little more like Keith Richards?
QUITZOW: This is just a momentary thought, it’s about coming off tour and having to clean the house, cook my own meals and [about] missing the freedom of the road. It’s also about ignoring my instinct to nurture and care for myself and those around me and forgo sleeping and making meals in order to stay up all night recording music.
SICK OF THE RADIO: You played a show in New York this past summer with Joan Baez. As someone in favour of ditching a Betty Crocker idealism, was this a particularly meaningful gig to play?
QUITZOW: To clarify, I’m not really in favor of ditching a Betty Crocker idealism as a whole, just in moments. I can be pretty domestic and hard working. It’s an illusion that artists often create, this reckless abandon. Creating the sensation of recklessness with electronic music requires a lot of technical knowledge and the focus to sit in front of a computer for hours on end. Then you have to also bring in a party spirit. It’s a very disciplined party, but it does get me feeling all elated! As far as Joan Baez goes, I really admire her, she’s a relentless activist. She’s incredibly involved politically, now and in her past. I’m not like that. I recycle and vote, but am much more involved in keeping my head above water financially and making a sort of blue collar living as an artist than saving the world.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Finally, if you could choose one musician (dead or alive) to join you, making Quitzow into a duo, who would it be?
QUITZOW: Well, Gary Levitt from Setting Sun already gives me a ton of feedback and I value his ideas to the point where I’d be hard pressed to make a record without his input. He also mixes my records brilliantly. I’ve already had a long collaboration with Jennifer Turner who is now playing with Here We Go Magic, and we plan on working together in the near future. She has an amazing ear and is an incredible player/ producer. I’ve worked with cellist Topu Lyo from Live Footage and would love to take that further someday. He’s incredibly inspiring and innovative with the sounds he gets out of the cello, like nothing I’ve heard before. People love it, it’s so emotional.
BY: CARLY LEWIS