New York duo Talk Normal make a joyful noise, pitched somewhere in between Laurie Anderson and Sonic Youth. Wonderland talks to guitarist Sarah Register and drummer Andrya Ambro about their exuberant post-punk album, Sunshine.
Introduce yourselves: who are Talk Normal and how would you describe your sound?
Sarah: We’re two pals who have lived in NYC since we were 18. We didn’t officially play music together for years and years though – and our sound is an evolution of our mutual and individual likes/dislikes over all this time. Our sounds varies between a raging wall of guitar and drums, down to the tender twist of a manipulated noise. Plus vocals.
How did you guys meet – what did you guys think of each other at first?
Andrya: I thought Sarah was a very strange and curious bird. I liked her instantly.
S: I’ll second that – I did immediately like Andrya, and thought she was of a kind I hadn’t met before, yet still familiar.
What’s your new album Sunshine inspired by? How is it different from your debut?
A: Sadness. Joy. Defiance. Fortitude… and all the roads in-between.
What did you grow up listening to?
S: Oldies radio, 80s and 90s MTV, 90s Top 40, R&B, punk/ska, Pixies, experimental stuff, “everything”. That’s a chronological list starting from as early as I can remember up to about age 22. And I’d like to say – never underestimate the power of oldies radio.
You’re both sound engineers, so how does that impact the way you make music?
S: Probably the biggest advantage of our combined and differing experiences is that perhaps we’re got an overview on how the whole thing works technically – though there’s always more to learn. Andrya has a lot of empathy for live sound engineers, as a direct result of some of her jobs. Sometimes I want to get her to ease off, she’s always telling them to make sure to take breaks, and get their dinners, etc.
What’s the story behind your band name?
A: Sarah was rifling through a book on Laurie Anderson. In it she saw Laurie wearing a shirt that read “TALK NORMAL” and taped the words to her refrigerator. I very much liked Sarah’s tape letters. They stuck (pun intended)! The name “Talk Normal” was many things to Laurie Anderson i.e. the name of a piece she performed on the process of work, a song and later an anthology. We were not named after any of these things although we do not mind the association.
S: I replicated the shirt, or tried to. My attempt wasn’t a great success, but it did start me on a big kick of ‘tape letters’. Anyway the original letters from my faux-mimic shirt were on my fridge, and, as above. Laurie’s great. You should probably go listen to her right now.
You guys went on tour with the legendary Wire in the UK, how was that?
A: A privilege. I think we danced at every show. Those guys really still rip it up. Plus the fans in the UK (at least the ones who attend their live shows) are much different than in America. They were mostly an ‘older’ generation of fervent post punkers. No doubt many generations listen to them but it was refreshing to bear witness to this particular enthusiasm. And I think their fans liked us too! Total bonus.
S: But beyond their music each night (which I swear just got better and better), perhaps my favorite moment was when I was headed to a food truck at 3am, totally determined but also thinking that everybody would yell at me for holding them up… Graham jumped in immediately and ordered something crazy too, which set off a chain reaction of late-night-slop-eating. It was wonderful.
What’s next for you guys? Any UK dates?
We’ll be touring the US October through November and the UK and Europe November through December. Dates are still being firmed up! Stay tuned…
Sunshines comes out on October 23rd. talknormaltalknormal.com
Words: Zing Tsjeng
Images: Crystal Gwyn