Features - Interviews

Q+A: Spires That in the Sunset Rise


Psych-folk exponents Spires that in the Sunset Rise have been on the road and in various configurations for the better part of fifteen years. Next week, they’ll be hitting Ireland for only their second excursion here in that time, touring new record ‘Beasts in the Garden’. TTA caught up with one half of the duo, Taralie Peterson, and talked albums, labels and touring…

You came together musically over ten years ago, after growing up together in Decatur, IL. Can you tell us about growing up together and how that played into your becoming musicians?

Growing up in D-town greatly influenced our passion and musical direction. It being a typical, depressed, polluted factory town, we had to create our own fun and passion there. Music was the most important thing at the time. This was back in the early 90’s, so over 20 years ago. It was the source of inspiration and freedom. We stayed on that path apparently. Though it’s been a long path and much has changed.

Your debut released on GA-based Graveface Records, a US DIY label with Irish connections. Do you still follow their ongoings?

We have very little connection to Graveface Records. Of all the labels we have been involved with, they have been the least responsive. I believe they still have hundreds of our first album and refuse to even respond, they kind of piss me off. Our first album was released also on LP by Eclipse Records, in conjunct with Galactic Zoo Dossier and they were much more supportive.

In 2010, you became a two-piece. What changed for you, the dynamic, the arrangements for touring, etc.?

As a two piece, things became easier. Practical things like scheduling, touring, the practical side to song writing got easier. What is missed is some of the good times, and the more dynamic scene of 3 women hangin’ together instead of 2, and of course we were a 4-piece at two different times as well, which was very high energy! The band has always been a group of good friends and hangin’ out and having a good time was always a part of it all.

The two-parter Ancient Patience records saw you take on a much bigger workload in creating and releasing two parts of a double record as a smaller outfit. How did the idea and execution come about?

The songwriting was over many years, and the recording. me and Kathleen did it all by ourselves and because we had so many songs, naturally needed to be two records. The Hairy Spider Legs label wanted to release the double separately, I believe, thinking it would be easier to promote two singles rather than one double. It’s an interesting concept and so me and Kathleen went for it. Though it was our first album with only 2 people composing, the sound is just as rich and complex, I think this has surprised people. We started to use our looping pedals more which accounts for some of the songs but not all. Me and Kathleen have always been complex oriented song writers, meaning we don’t really gravitate toward simple themes really. I think with less people it is actually easier to express that since there is less tangle. In fact, if you listen to old STITSR albums you hear how really there is a lot of competing for sound space. Nobody is playing much in the way of pop music theory.

You’ve shared the stage with avant-garde exponents like Kawabata Makoto, John Zorn, Daniel Higgs and others. What’s it been like to be around these people and see their creative processes in person? 

Awesome. fucking great experiences. I’ve been on tour with two of those artists actually, Higgs and Makoto. I love watching people night after night and seeing how they sound in new spaces and how they deal with different audiences. A great way to learn how to experience my own relationship to touring which hasn’t been easy. Every artist has a bad night -or less than totally awesome night- once in a while.

‘Beasts in the Garden’ sees you digging literally into your musical pasts, fetching old instruments from the closets. Tell us a little about the concept, and recording of the album.

Not too much pre-thinking on this. Kathleen and I taking up our old highschool concert band instruments wasn’t exactly done on purpose. Maybe we even pulled them out as a joke, but the music came quick and easy and recording and composing this album was the easiest of the seven we’ve recorded. I believe there was some impetus that came from a dream I had. A vision of me and Kathleen playing our woodwinds and having a good time.

What next for STITSR? Gigging, touring etc.?

We want to do a US east coast tour soon. We have some musical desires/visions yet in our bag. One of them involves Kathleen exploring more on piano. She is also currently releasing her solo piano album under the moniker “Sapropelic Pcynic” called ‘See Sun Think Shadow’ (on Perfect Wave). We have done a lot of exploring recent years in our hometown with improvisation in performance and some great ideas have come out of that. So I think we are gravitating towards staying with the flute and sax, both processed and acoustic, and with Kathleen on piano.
You’ve been to Ireland on two occasions. Any stories or thoughts?

I wished I had more time to look around, travel to the countryside. I was stunned by the green, the clouds, and the rainbows when I flew out last time. The cliches seemed spot on. What a magical place! The people seem extra cheery as well compared to most other places, but who knows, it’s hard to tell these things in two days!

STITSR tour Ireland the week after next, playing Cork’s GULPD Cafe on the 24th, and Dublin’s Bello Bar on the 25th. More info at this link.

Contributor, distributor & occasional Cork correspondent for The Thin Air, as well as Broadsheet.ie, Cork's Evening Echo and others. Likes some things, dislikes other things. Tweets, Instagrams and Snapchats at @mike_mcgb.