Sunday, September 5, 2010

Faye's history of lady instrumentalists [part six: Gretta Cohn, Stefanie Drootin, Azure Ray/Maria Taylor/Orenda Fink, Jenny Conlee, Petra Haden]

Hello, dear readers! I apologize: this one is going up late - but never fear, your weekly supply of female instrumentalists is here in the nick of time.

Think you might be in need of some more real heroes in your life? Check out the series archive: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Gretta Cohn is (in the music world) best known as the cellist for the band Cursive, performing with them from 2001-2005. Cohn contributed significantly to Cursive's sound at the time. She also collaborated prolifically with other indie rock bands at this time, guesting with The Faint, The Good Life, Rilo Kiley, Thursday, Tilly and the Wall and Maria Taylor among others. After she left the band she moved to New York, where she continued to focus on collaboration with other artists as well as pursuing other interests. She is currently a radio producer and her website is largely a radio documentary blog.

Neat Trivia: She was a playable character in the online arcade game Emogame 2 (fun to play, and witty wrt music and sometimes politics, but also contains a lot of misogynist, pointless humor, just fyi).

Lyrics Excerpt: Cut it out!| Your self-inflicted pain | is getting too routine | the crowds are catching on | to the self-inflicted song| Well, here we go again | The art of acting weak| Fall in love to fail | to boost your CD sales

It's Saddle Creek day on Deeply Problematic! Stefanie Drootin is the bassist for The Good Life, which was formed as a side project to support songs that didn't fit into Cursive's repertoire; they are a well known band within that scene. Before and during this endeavor, she also played with other Saddle Creek or Team Love bands (Bright Eyes, Azure Ray [and Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor separately] and McCarthy Trenching), as well as She and Him. Most recently she and a friend, Chris Senseney, under the name Tin Kite, recorded an album together. In a quote she says, “I had my eight-month-old baby strapped to my body during the entire recording. We recorded most of it live and didn’t stop takes if he cried or if a truck drove by.” AWESOME. Listen to some of that on her Myspace page (linked with her name, above) - or, check her out with The Good Life below.

Lyrics Excerpt: You've got a new friend. | You've got a new friend. | Likes to go to movies. | Likes to drink red wine. | Sounds familiar, better hold on tight: | a film school drunk can be so hard to find.

Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink met at the age of 15 while both attending the Alabama School for Fine Arts, and fronted a band called Little Red Rocket, which released two albums in the late 90's and draw comparisons to Veruca Salt. Fink plays guitar; Taylor plays guitar, piano and drums. Both are better known for their dreampop two-piece band, Azure Ray, which began in Georgia and relocated to Omaha, NE to work with the music scene there. Azure Ray was active from 2001-2004, when they broke up to work on solo projects and side project Now It's Overhead. (However, the band reformed temporarily for "5 or 6 shows" in 2008 and are now releasing another record.)

Now It's Overhead, out of Athens, GA, features both women, as well as Andy LeMaster and Clay Leverett, and was originally a studio project to produce some of LeMaster's old work and grew into a full-fledged band. The band has toured as support for REM and Idlewild during respective US and UK tours.

Orenda Fink has released three solo albums, as well as albums with bands O+S and Art in Manila; Maria Taylor has put out four solo albums; both collaborate with other artists including Moby, Joshua Radin, and Bright Eyes.

Lyrics Excerpt: I'll be alone but maybe more carefree | Like a kite that floats so effortlessly | I was afraid to be alone | Now I'm scared thats how I'd like to be

Stepping away from the tangled webs of Nebraska indie music for a moment!

Jenny Conlee
, notably of the Decemberists plays almost any instrument you've ever thought of (hammond organ, accordion, melodica, glockenspiel, piano and keyboards just according to Wikipedia - and also sometime backup singer). There isn't a ton about her, but she's also collaborated with a number of other bands in the Portland area, and before she was in the Decemberists she played piano for Calobo. She also currently plays keyboards, glockenspiel and accordion for Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, and is in the acoustic band Black Prairie.

Re: the video - I believe the violinist on this is their sometime member Petra Haden - an extremely accomplished musician in her own right. She's been a member of several bands and has collaborated with dozens of bands from indie to poppunk to death metal.

Lyrics Excerpt: We are two mariners | Our ship's sole survivors | In this belly of a whale | Its ribs are ceiling beams | Its guts are carpeting | I guess we have some time to kill

And that, my friends, brings us to the end of our adventures in lady instrumentalists. Did I miss something? Was it terrible that I didn't include _____? Should I do another one? Enjoy this series? Hate it? Leave your thoughts!

I know I'm going to miss writing it!

Also, if you feel inclined to support Deeply Problematic, it's always much appreciated!


  1. Oh, how I am going to miss this series! You mentioned Petra Haden, who is such an amazing instrumentalist that I must point you to, if you have not heard it already, "Petra Haden Sings The Who Sell Out" which is mostly her voice instead of instruments (although her voice is mimicking the instruments, so it sort of counts?) and it is one of the most interesting pieces of music I've ever heard.

    She was also a member of that dog., an amazing power pop/alternative rock band from the early to mid 90's.

  2. I'm glad you've enjoyed it! :)

    I haven't heard that yet (although I've seen it mentioned in writing about her) -- but I totally have to hear it now, especially since I'm a fan of the Who.

    I definitely meant to mention her membership in that dog.! Facepalm! I think it was one of the things I edited down for space. Whoops!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the fantastic series! I loved this and am sad to see it end.

    Awesome work. Awesome artists.

  4. Thanks so much, ContraWhit! :D


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