Amber Papini of Hospitality: "Unknown Things...Are Just Out There Lurking."
Talking to Hospitality's Amber Papini is quite the experience. The highly talented songwriter is an idiosyncratic thinker, whether it's discussing the influence of the ocean on her songwriting or her love of gas station food. And that is reflected in Hospitality's truly distinctive music.
Speaking from her home in Brooklyn and in anticipation for tonight's show at City Tavern, Papini talked with DC9 about Trouble, Hospitality's great new album.
There has been a big promotional push for your new album, Trouble. Were you anxious to get it released?
We were ready to get it out there and then see what happened.
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A lot of reviews say the album is quite a bit darker than the debut. Do you agree?
It was a conscious choice we made to make it darker. We like dark things. I like the sound of dark, dark things. I also like the sound of light things, too. I like both.
What jobs have you had besides being in a band?
I taught second grade. I was a secretary for a little bit. I recently started giving music lessons to kids. That is about it. Nathan is a composer. Brian helps make documentaries and he distributes them.
Did teaching second grade prepare you for being in a band?
I don't know. It did help me dealing with audiences, the performance aspect of teaching. That relates to being in a band, you have to perform as a teacher.
When did you get the band together?
We started playing together in 2007. We would practice in our apartment in Brooklyn. We would play small coffee shops and then we got to play bigger bars. We had to change our sound when we started playing bars. We started playing electric instruments and using real drums. I guess we grew from there. I met [percussionist] Nathan [Michel] at a party. He was in music school and I was in drama school. We met [bassist] Brian Betancourt through mutual friends.
Many trios are tempted to add a fourth member. Does that thought ever cross your mind?
We like the sound of the three of us. We always overdub a lot in the studio. On tour, we have a guy who plays drums and keyboards. He also plays guitar. He switches around a lot. I guess we truly are a four piece when we tour. When we record, we are a trio.
Where did you come up with the name?
We went through a list of band names and I just liked the sound of hospitality. It didn't sound obviously like a rock act. It was the opposite of what you think of as rock and roll. Rock is dirty and dangerous, but there is nothing dangerous about hospitality.
Are you working with a string section on this tour?
Yes, that's what we did in New York in January. Nathan arranged some songs for a string quartet. Before that, we had not played with a string section before. On record, we had used a cello. Nathan knows what he is doing. Was the song "I Miss Your Bones" recorded live?
It was. It was just the three of us playing live. There were a few overdubs, but not too many. We just jammed it. It was intentionally a loose song. We knew it would sound different every night we played it.
How does silence influence the band's sound?
On this record, we intentionally left a lot of things out. There was a lot of intentional silence. There is this theme of the unknown; unknown things that are just out there lurking. There are a lot of unknown things in life. That's what I was interested in. This record is about the ocean. The ocean fascinates me -- there are a lot of unknown things about the ocean and about sea creatures. Out in the ocean, you get a sense of how big it is, how out of control it is. Being a human being in the water holds a fascination for me.
In so many reviews, your lyrics are labeled idiosyncratic.
Yes, I guess that makes sense. I try to write in an unusual form. I guess it is personal music.
Also, it has been written that you explore loss with wit.
I think comedy helps with a lot of hard things, with loss. I guess you could say that. I can agree with that.
In 2008, you put out your first EP, but it wasn't until 2012 that you recorded a full-length. Why the gap?
It was a combination of things. In 2009, our bass player went on tour with another band. He was gone for two years. We were dealing with that and we didn't have a label. We stayed in New York. I kept writing songs. I did some composing. We sort of laid low. We finally got in the studio and then got signed. That was when things started picking up.
Have you been to Texas before as a band?
Yes, we have played Austin and Houston and Dallas. We love Texas. I am from the Midwest and we used to go to Texas when I was a kid. I always enjoy driving through Texas. The gas stations are different. The food that you get at gas stations is different. In the northeast, it's ranch dip. I guess I feel at home with tex-mex and Mexican food. I like Texas.
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