Although technically a Boston resident, I like to consider Marissa Nadler an honorary Philthadelphian. The hyper-lo-fi singer/songstress produced her last two releases in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, she’s worked with a number of Philadelphia musicians, and her local appearances are always more than noteworthy. This May Nadler released, The Sister, her sixth studio album and a companion of sorts to 2011’s self-titled record. Although Ms. Nadler has established herself as more or less the least-cluttered songwriter of our generation, The Sister is her most refined and striking yet. It rings of the most melancholy brand of humanity. Marissa will be giving Philadelphia the live premiere of her new songs tomorrow night, June 13th, at Johnny Brenda’s. I recently got a chance to catch up with her to find out just what went into her latest release, both practically and theoretically.
Izzy Cihak: Your past two albums have been produced here in Philadelphia and you’ve had quite a few notable area appearances. What are your general thoughts on the city?
Marissa Nadler: I have some roots that extend back quite a few years now, with Brian McTear and Miner Street Studios, and I also have played with quite a few Philadelphia-area musicians both on record and live, including Greg Weeks, Jesse Sparhawk, and Helena Espvall. I also was involved with a Weathervane music episode featuring Faces On Film, who happens to be on the bill for tomorrow as well. I find it to be a great artistic community with a real heartbeat and there is always a lot going on.
IC: What are your thoughts on contemporary high technology, whether in regard to the consumption of media/art, or otherwise. You noted at your last Philadelphia appearance that you still had a flip-phone (I can say the same), a rarity in our culture. Do you have an aversion to high technology, or do you find it simply unimpressive and uninteresting? You do utilize YouTube quite a bit.
MN: I don’t have an aversion to high technology, but I do find myself, often times, longing for the time before the internet. There was more privacy and things moved at a quieter pace. I find technology both impressive and interesting. It’s undeniably changed the universe. On a day-to-day basis, sometimes it’s nice to unplug though.
IC: Of The Sister, you have said that it was inspired by nearly all facets of your life. Have you had any existentially profound experiences in recent history that have caused any particularly profound musing? Maybe some that is present on the album?
MN: I do feel like I’m at a mid point in my life where for the longest time I didn’t question things and now I am really questioning my next steps. So, there is a lot of introspection and looking back, which is more pronounced than on other records.
IC: How did the album’s title come about? It’s both quite prolific and quite ambiguous.
MN: It’s simply a mini-record that is intended as a companion to my self-titled record. So, it’s a sibling.
IC: How do you feel as though the two work as companion pieces of sorts and how do you feel as though your latest work compares to your previous efforts?
MN: I try not to compare records to each other. That’s one way to drive yourself crazy. I just see my songwriting as a continuous piece and a lifelong effort. On every record, there are some songs that are a lot more successful than others. I see this EP as a darker, more understated production. I feel maybe it’s more of a nighttime listen for rainy nights.
IC: And finally, because I’m feeling mildly whimsical and slightly poetic (which is not me at all), I would love to ask, what are your feelings on summer? Your album release and tour would seem to coincide with the changing of the seasons.
MN: I love the summer. It gives us an excuse to take the day off. Hopefully this isn’t disappointing, but there really wasn’t an artistic reason for me putting the EP out in the summer.