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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
DIanne-I’d probably be in theatre, which could mean I’d be waiting tables. I did quite well in drama classes in high school and college but singing was something I was always doing and it came so naturally. From the age of six, I went to bed (not to sleep) with a radio by my ear. Mitch tells me he was great at math but other than that it’s been music his whole life since he was 12.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
A few years ago, I got back into painting; just a cheap set of (8) Crayola watercolours and no judgement! It’s so therapeutic; not only watching the colors bleed and blend (which can and does happen musically) but the actual sound of the brush in the water glass…puts me into a meditative state. In fact, we used some of my work for the album cover and the insert. When I hear music I hear it in colours, so the connection is very strong.
How long has your band been around?
We’ve worked together doing straight ahead jazz for a few years but this band, The AltoRays, with this mixed-genre new chill jazz sound has only been around for about a year and a half.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We’re based out of Austin. Although it’s a music town, it had less to do with our sound than one would think. The music we made came out of everything that has ever influenced us and the fact that we were in lockdown for a year and a half.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Ha! We were going to call ourselves “Cloud 11” but there’s a metal band with that name. I liked the cloud idea and I thought I might go with Altostratus or Altocumulus but then the idea of Rays came up and we both loved the idea of light etc. (plus, I’m an alto first and foremost).
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
We haven’t done any shows with the AltoRays yet, as right now, we are more of a studio band, (lots of layering of voices and sounds). I know that Mitch has some very special memories working with Leonard Cohen (4 tours). I have special memories from doing a Pops concert, at the National Arts Center, as the “girl singer” in The”Tribute To Harry James”, with Canada’s Gary Guthman and the late/great Tommy Banks (one of my mentors).
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
For Jazz for me, it’s the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton. A great listening room and one of the oldest jazz clubs in Canada. Mitch has played all over the world. Mitch says the Concertgebuow in Amsterdam (with Leonard Cohen) was a great room. I would love to play jazz clubs and tests as the AltoRays in Canada and NYC, if we could make our music a little more LIVE-friendly.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jack Dejohnette, Victor Wooten, Stevie Wonder,
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
It’s one you’ve heard again and again. Be true to yourself. Don’t just do music to try to please others. This is if the first time I’ve worked on a recording not thinking about what others will think. It was: “Let’s just try this,” or “that sounds cool” and it’s the freest I’ve ever been as a singer.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Be bold. You can be bold and still be a kind person.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Chance Chants-We both agree on that. It has some written parts, but lots of improv and layered harmonies. While we were working on it, it evoked Weather Report and I felt like I was channeling Milton Nascimento from a great album he did with Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer. It felt like I was flying while singing on this. Unfortunately, it’s a little long for a single.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
We haven’t performed it yet but lots of folks dig Lift and Marilyn (the breathy song,-the vocals on that were inspired the 70’s, Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk”).
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
For both of us, usually there is a melodic hook or a base groove, then we build from there. Personally, I just love singing a line and then layering it with harmonies and other effects.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I think the message is that we we have to rise above the onslaught of divineness and downright hatred.
The spoken word song, Swamptalk, talks about the intolerance I’ve seen/experienced first-hand. Always look for the light.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Strangely, we’ve had disagreements while working on traditional jazz projects in the past but this album just flowed. We were really “hearing each other” maybe because we were the only ones in the room, given the lockdown etc.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We really want to get this album out to as many ears as possible and start working on a new one. It would be nice to get at least one set’s worth of tunes that we could do live, pairing down the layers and maybe using a sequencer. Also, we have just a few special guests on our album, all recorded separately. Perhaps on the new album we’d have a few more guests but we wish to remain a creative duo.
Thank you so much for taking the time and thank YOU for the fine questions.