Music tumbles from teardrops
- JASON VONDERSMITH
- Portland Tribune - Features
10 Questions for Stephanie Schneiderman
It's a brave new world for Stephanie Schneiderman, who has made the transition into electronic music from her indie roots, a move readily apparent in the new album 'Rubber Teardrop.'
The second venture with producer Keith Schreiner, 'Rubber Teardrop' mixes Schneiderman's sultry voice with electronic more than ever, and it has been an exciting and adventurous step forward for her, following up on previous album 'Dangerous Fruit.'
'I love the idea of something organic living in a synthetic world,' says Schneiderman, a three-year resident of the Alberta Arts District who graduated from Beaverton High School in 1990. 'I call it 'ambient indie-pop,' because I don't know what else to call it.
'There are a lot of textures in 'Rubber Teardrop,' which I might have been resistant to the first time. We went right for them, and it made sense. I wrote songs with the idea of different loops and atmospheric, sonic landscapes, and things gelled so well. It was a really easy album to record and put together.'
Schneiderman, a former member of Body 'N Soul who also sang on two of Dirty Martini's albums, raised nearly all of the money for the album on Kickstarter (kickstarter.com), which lets fans support artists' projects through electronic fundraising. It took only 48 hours. And, Schneiderman looks for not only national appeal through Allegro but international distribution through Zero Entertainment, the company of former Portland musician Dan Reed.
Schneiderman burst on the music scene in the late 1990s. She was featured as a regional artist on the 1999 Lilith Fair. She has earned extensive radio play - KINK, KNRK - and her songs have graced television shows 'Jack and Jill,' 'Bad Girl Club,' 'Real World' and 'Felicity' and the movie 'Kat and Allison.' She also appeared as an actress in the movie 'Men of Honor.' In 2007, she produced 'Voices for Silent Disasters,' a series of house concerts in Portland that raised $70,000 to go toward Mercy Corps' efforts in Uganda.
Schneiderman will put on a 'Rubber Teardrop' CD release party, 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6 at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St. The Tribune caught up with Schneiderman:
Tribune: Expand on the big change in your musical direction with 'Dangerous Fruit' and 'Rubber Teardrop.'
Schneiderman: I've put out albums that had more normal texture surrounding it, normal drums, bass, organ/piano. 'Dangerous Fruit' was a departure for me, more electronic bass and drums. It changed my sound. (Keith) required me to wrap the songs around the production equally. We changed the way I was playing, minimized everything. He wanted me to find this softer, more introspective vocal performance that fit inside the textures of that environment.
Tribune: 'Rubber Teardrop,' a title song about robot love?
Schneiderman: It started as a sweet love song, and I have a hard time writing love songs, so I made it about robot love.
Tribune: But you look sad on the cover photo, why?
Schneiderman: 'Forlorn' I'd call it (laughing). I was making a music video, and it was a moment where I was coming out of the water and looking into the camera. Surrounding me were about 30 crawdads, and I was freaking out.
Tribune: Dan Reed wants to help you sell bigger?
Schneiderman: It'll help me broaden my market in Europe, which is what I want, he says what I'm doing works well over there. (Reed has lived in London, and currently lives in Prague, Czech Republic). … Now that I have a bigger team helping me, I think it's going to change sales and we'll do well. … Downloads have gone well; I joke that next time I'm just going to release a verse.
Tribune: You could be a spokesperson for Kickstarter, as well as it worked for you.
Schneiderman: It allows fans of the artists to become the label - they funded it, the mixing, engineering, art work, even publicity. The idea is to put out an album that has high quality … if you went to L.A. and did the same thing, all the same players, the label, the price would be three times more. But because it's personal, and I'm working with somebody who has worked on five albums before to mix it (David Friedlander), who knows how to meld the different worlds, you're still getting the same quality as if somebody's spending $50,000 on it.
I've been funding my own albums for years. I haven't done it any other way, except with Dirty Martini, and we still funded it ourselves. This is the first time I've gone to fans, 'Here's the breakdown, here's what I need, here are the rewards I'm offering.' I gave myself 30 days to raise the money, and I raised it in 48 hours. I set out to raise $7,200, and I raised $14,000 all together.
Tribune: 'Voices for Silent Disasters' turned you into an activist musician?
Schneiderman: It's not like the only thing I do. I don't know if I have a mission. Mercy Corps thought I should focus on Uganda, and this one little idea about a house concert turned into 10 huge concerts within a period of a month, featuring 37 top Portland acts. We raised $70,000. It was huge.
Tribune: You want to do more activist things?
Schneiderman: I have another idea, which goes back to house concerts. I think you can maybe raise just as much, if not more, within a smaller realm, through a house concert template, treat it like a website. We would do what Mercy Corps does, 'Here's our family of supporters, artists, wineries, caterers, and everybody will give you things at a discount' … it's jumbled in my brain. We'd create a house concert series, starting in Portland. It hasn't been my focus for the past couple years, I've focused on the last two albums.
Tribune: Tell us about songs on 'Rubber Teardrop.'
Schneiderman: The song 'Anchor' sounds like what happened with the tsunami in Japan, metaphorically speaking. It fueled the choreography for Northwest Dance Project, which will be performing during the CD release party. I'm coupling the CD release party as a partial benefit, proceeds going to Mercy Corps Japan. … I started the album with 'Wide Open' and 'Hush,' they defined the rest of the album. There are two or three songs about death. Some songs about love.
Tribune: You've played all the cool venues around the city - Alberta Rose, Doug Fir, Aladdin, Roseland, Keller, Mississippi Studios, Dante's, Berbati's Pan, etc. - what is your favorite?
Schneiderman: Jimmy Mak's. I like the sound there. But I also love Doug Fir, one of the best ambient sounds in town. Mississippi Studios has a great vibe.
Tribune: You also love the Alberta Arts District?
Schneiderman: The one thing funny about this album, most everything took place in the Alberta Arts District. It's like the Brooklyn of Portland, a thriving, tight-knit arts community. I love it here.