New York “charmed the shit” out of Khaela Maricich last year.
“New York just put on the charms so hard,” says the visual artist and one-woman pop musician known as The Blow since 2001. “It just kept doing that to us again and again so we were like I think New York is trying to tell us something.”
The former Pacific Northwest staple and now Boerum Hill resident says she’s “keen on all five boroughs,” but after a series of serendipitous encounters over a three-month respite from Portland the choice was clear, and she moved on up to the East Coast.
“Everytime I go out [in New York] I run across people who know how to have an interesting conversation,” she says, “even if they’re never ever going be your friend again.”
By all accounts Brooklyn provided a fine showing at Glasslands last month by selling out the final in a series of regional dates for The Blow. In a bill that boasted some of the more name-checked locals of late, Maricich debuted new songs to a packed space with partner and collaborator, Melissa Dyne providing the visuals that effectually put the entire performance piece over the top.
“It was great,” she says of the show and tour previous. “It was smaller venues. It was kind of experimental, because I haven’t been performing for awhile.”
Dyne, an accomplished installation and conceptual artist in her own right, was working with lights and sounds “trying to frame the show and make the show an installation” by addressing what each space could add to an already fractured aesthetic borrowing from the likes of Miranda July and the late Tracy and the Plastics. In Maricich’s words, she’s been playing with the idea of truth in performance for years.
“I feel like I’ve got what I’m trying to do down enough that I can be flexible and adapt and Melissa is a skilled enough technician to make whatever it is sound good, make whatever it is look good,” she says. The result took a warehouse of kids in Providence and served them merlot at a random lounge space or transformed a coffee house into a basement setting for the Krec artist.
“We just realized we can work with anything,” she said.
But not new material – as Maricich’s much anticipated follow up to her breakout Paper Television (K, 2006) awaits. “The arch, the body of the songs are there,” she says, but this was the obvious talking point leading up to the Glasslands date according to most local press. “It’s funny, I’ve realized with Melissa, I’ll cut things with a chain saw and she sands them with the finest finest sandpaper. Things I can’t do with a chain saw,” she says, “because it’s not my interest.”
Maricich says she’s more “interested in story and the pictures and muscling it into shape.” And while capable of recording herself, she’s currently looking for the right engineer and possible compatriot in a long line of collaborations, most recently with Jona Bechtolt of the DFA-darlings YACHT. Bechtolt’s involvement was the catalyst that took Maricich’s storytelling style and paired it with the danceable beats that she claims is still paying her New York rent in sales alone.
“My approach is really the same as it was before,” she says of the years she recorded and toured and ultimately whipped into shape with Bechtolt’s enthusiasm for the project. “And I made albums before, so it’s always sort of been mine. And the work that is mine is to figure out what I’m thinking about and write the songs and the performance around that.”
Maricich admits sometimes it’s the song first, sometimes the story, but never the expectation of what an industry demands from a release that certainly moved the needle enough to remain on the road for nearly two years straight. “I’m not following the music industry etiquette of what you’re supposed to do,” she says. “We toured [Paper Television] really hard for two years, so why would I have any songs to release in 2008?” This realization, along with her move to New York and the following year of getting “up to speed and just having a life while simultaneously absorbing so much information” explains the stall.
“Of course I recognize it’s an industry, but then also maintain a connection with what’s not industrial about it. It’s not a factory. What are the ingredients that help you write a good song and that’s not on a time schedule?”
Right now Maricich is happy just trying to navigate a scene that doesn’t put a premium on being up-to-the-minute informed with every micro scene the borough has to offer. “Not having [lifelong friends] around you allows you to see the negative space.”
“I’ve been trying to see as much as I can partly because I’m in a confident enough frame of mind now. I wanna see everything,” she says. “I don’t feel threatened by stuff. I feel way more at home here.”
The Blow is performing a rare local show at Joe’s Pub on July 9th before supporting Jens Lekman for a block of European dates this summer. Here’s to hoping she updates her excellent blog in the meantime.
“I’m just slow, I love it. It’s there.” And for now, she’s here.