[The Organ]

- By Andrea Grant

This is what an Organ live show looks like: lead singer Katie Sketch is wrapping the microphone around her neck like a noose. She is aware of the audience but reserved, and there is not much interaction. By the third song the sound tech finally gets her microphone to the perfect level so fans can hear her haunting lyrics, and they get as excited as an indie rock audience possibly can without losing composure.

Shelby is the spine of the group on her kick-ass drums, and perhaps the friendliest of the group. Jenny is on the famous Hammond organ, timidly singing backup vocals that are somehow not audible. It appears that she may even be mouthing different words than the actual song lyrics. Deb is deliberately out of it, regarding the audience as though she is looking at fish in an aquarium. Ashley closes her eyes and doesn't look at anyone. They are strange and transfixing.

People say that The Organ sound like a female version of the Smiths, with their haunting melodies and morose lyrics, except that Katie has a voice that is clear and lilting, without the whining quality of Morrissey.

It's true that they do have a sound that reminds you of listening to music alone in your bedroom at the age when you hate your parents the most, but to just compare them to famous eighties bands is a cop-out for a band that is really good of its own accord.

Grab that Gun is the first full-length album for this Vancouver band. They are signed to a joint record deal with the independent Mint Records and the growing powerhouse 604 Records. They are touring like crazy.

Enthralled with their music since it was recommended to me by dead-on Jonathan Simkin of 604, I was glad to interview Katie and Shelby in the dank basement of Piano's. They are obviously exhausted. Katie's birthday was the day before and they admit to being a little hung over, possibly along with everyone else in New York City on a Sunday.

A: How's the tour going?
K: The tour is really hard.
S: We've been touring really hard since March and have only gone home for little bits.
K: We're getting really tired. Even if you get to go home for 6 weeks or something it doesn't even really give you enough time to check your phone messages. That's just the life of the musician.
S: It's amazing that we get to do this and I wouldn't change it for anything but it's definitely hard and it takes its toll.
K: Yeah, I've aged about 40 years in the last year. Even in the last night I put on 25 years (laughs) but that's the way it goes. We're doing something - we're always out, always on the road.

A: Tell us about any 'starving artist' experiences versus life after the record deal?
K: I think we're broker now than we've ever been.
S: I am so broke right now it's unbelievable. The money we get to keep is from selling merch at our shows.

A: I don't think people realize that, but it's important to talk about.
K: People think that we have lots of money. We just bought a van and Jenny had to go and take a credit line out at her bank and we're paying it off.
S: We pay it off by selling CD's and putting the money back into her bank account.
K: So if we have a couple of bad shows, we're really stressed about it. I know people don't realize that at all. It's not just our band - but unless you are a big band - you are hurtin' for money. The record labels give us money to make videos and if we go on a tour and we didn't make enough to cover, say, our plane tickets, they would give plane ticket money. They don't help us in a personal way but they help us in building the band so that it can exist on some level.
S: I had a full time job for 6 years and I had to quit 2 months ago and it's brutal. I have no income. We all own apartments - and had to find people to sublet because otherwise you just can't make the payments.
K: When we're back for 6 weeks and not making any money it's not like you can just get a temporary job. I was doing some gardening for my mother last month. That's the way it is. Unless you're Interpol or Hot Hot Heat or something and are getting radio play and selling out these thousands-of-people venues, you're struggling. I don't think bands like to talk about it because it's embarrassing.

A: Because you can't buy the necessities, like clothes…
S: You can't eat sometimes.
K: We dress down because we can't have it any other way.
S: But you accept it because you love it.
K: We're still alive. It's not like I can't buy cat food. But I may have to borrow money for it!
S: And I would rather be hungry and wearing the same pair of jeans for 6 weeks in a row than working a 9 to 5 and not being stoked on what I'm doing.
K: We've done that, that's the thing. We know the difference between working in a coffee shop and doing this and we'd rather do this.

A: Did any of you go to art school or have other creative interests besides music?
K: Jenny went to art school for about 6 months before she had to drop out because she couldn't do it and tour at the same time.
S: I went for one year. That was before I started with the band.
K: Deb's dying to go do some sort of fine arts program but there's just no time for that at all. And I'm four classes short of finishing my BA - I was chipping at it, like, one class at a time a semester to see if I could tour with it, but I just couldn't do it anymore. I spent more time writing apology letters to profs and trying to change exam schedules than I actually did reading books and it just became ridiculous. The thing is, school's always there at the end of the day.

A: How have your lives changed besides a lot of touring?
S: It's hard being gone because you don't see your friends anymore. You don't see your family.
S: Your relationships fall apart. You can't maintain them. It's very hard. We've all struggled with that.
K: Of course if you're single you can be a giant slut but if you're not single it can be hard.

A: So you all get along really well in the band?
K: No, that's not true.

A: We don't have to talk about that…
K: No it's fine. We got along really well before we were touring so much and now it's hard because we're always together. You can't do anything. You can't go to the bathroom without there being one of us in the bathroom with you. You can't go get juice. You can't do anything by yourself. It's like dating four women at the same time but they're all dating each other as well. That's literally what it is like. It is insane.
S: Only you don't get laid (laughs) at all. So there's just not that kind of perk.
K: That's disgusting.
S: No, I'm just joking. It's like the bad part of a relationship.
K: Yeah.
S: It's hard.
K: We speak in code. We don't even use full sentences. We just know.
Two people are always having a fight at all times. Sometimes there's side-taking and sometimes there's not. It's more just bickering. The van will pull over and you have to go to the bathroom and the person that's beside you isn't getting out of the way fast enough but they know you have to go but they're not paying attention to the fact that you can't get out and then you say 'get the fuck out of my way' and it turns into a fight. It's like that all the time.

A: What's your favorite city to play in?
K: We went to the U.K. twice this year and we went to France once, and we're going back to both places next month so it will be three times in one year which is pretty intense. London is really good and France is INSANE.
S: It's almost a bit out of control in France. We're not too sure…
K: It's strange because a lot of them don't speak English and I don't know what they think they're listening to. That's what I find weird about it.
S: My favorite city…I love playing in NY because we always have really good shows, nice people that come, supportive fans.
K: Montreal, Toronto. San Diego and it was INSANE.

A: Katie, is it harder for you to write new songs when you're touring a lot, or are you more inspired by the road experience?
K: Yeah. We have no time to write. It's unfortunate. But when I can't write it makes me want to write so much more when I get a chance. I feel like I'm going to have a creative explosion. I do keep a voice recorder that I put ideas into all the time so when I get back I will have new material to go on.

A: Do you girls have groupies around?
K: Yeah, sometimes. I don't know what the definition of 'groupie' is but we definitely have fans that are…around. And God bless them, otherwise we wouldn't be able to buy gas. That's what groupies are for!

A: What kind of fan base are you seeing?
K: Ever since we were on The L-Word I think the female fan base has increased…they were shooting a music video in the show and we were the band. We were on it for 10 seconds, but the reaction was enormous. There are always fans that came to the show because they saw us for 10 seconds on TV.

A: What's your take on endorsing commercial products?
K: The thing about endorsements is that it gives you money that can make the difference between still having a band or not having a band. I know The Shins who are one of my favourite bands did a McDonald's commercial that they are horrified and embarrassed about but they said straight up 'if we didn't get that money we wouldn't be a band anymore' because they needed it so badly.
S: Le Tigre did that Telus commercial.
K: You just need money so badly that if money is offered you don't really have the option. It can be the difference between going back to your day job or not.

A: What are you working on next?
K: We're literally touring till the end of November, and in December we'll take a week off from having to look at each other and then start writing again.

A: What do you want to happen in the next few years with the band?
S: We want to record a new album.
K: Yeah, next year I would love to record a new album. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll be doing a lot more touring in the New Year. We've never been a band that set ourselves up as having a specific goal because that's setting yourself up for failure and heartbreak and misery. It's more like 'what are we going to do for the next two months' and that's what we really talk about. You can't second guess how people are going to accept your albums and is radio going to pick it up or whatever. We don't write songs for the radio so it's going to be a matter of somebody else sitting in a chair who just makes that decision or not. It doesn't really have anything to do with us at all. I think if we just write some good songs and tour then we'll get what we get. WE don't judge success by how big we are. I think we judge success by how we played the show. How good WE think that our songs are.

A: Anything else you want to add?
K: We might come off as sounding kind of exhausted but we are.
S: I was just thinking that. Sorry.


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