The story of Lilith (a wild woman with inhuman blood- who was thought to be part snake*) is sadly misrepresented by the well-known Lilith Fair concerts. If there were going to be a concert lineup in the true spirit of Lilith and what compliments this aesthetically, an obvious choice is Diamanda Galas- but also in a completely different musical realm yet embodying free spirit, I nominate Tara VanFlower (Lycia) to be right up there on the main stage. Why aren’t there more women artists creating music as unencumbered by boundaries and limitations such as Tara’s first solo work: This Womb Like Liquid Honey? *See the 1986 book: Idols Of Perversity by Bram Dijkstra
JULY 23 1999
JARBOE: At what point in your life did you become interested in performance and/or making music?
TARA: I would say i was probably about 18 years old. I had just discovered all this wonderful music. I was out of school and had met a group of musicians. I realized i really wanted to use my poetry and voice in music.
JARBOE: What do you see as a source of inspiration? Can you reveal your muse for us?
TARA: Well, many things inspire me. I’d say mostly personal experiences. Whether it be something that’s happened….or a place i’ve been….or something i’ve seen that struck me in one way or another. A lot of the time i’ll just think of something, some sort of situation, that i want to try to capture with music or poetry. My beliefs are an important inspiration as well.
JARBOE: What are 3 things you have discovered as truths that other young women would do well to heed?
TARA: 1) there are many “things” in the world which seek to destroy you. 2) freedom comes through discipline (which i have yet to master!!) 3) it is vitally important to treat people the way you would like to be treated.
JARBOE: Hardship and perseverance can strengthen character but cal also feed cynicism. What do you see as necessary factors in an artist’s life to combat disillusionment?
TARA: Oh boy, this is a difficult one! It’s so hard to not give into that bitterness! I always try to believe that all things happen for a very specific reason, and that if something doesn’t go the way i think it should, then it just wasn’t meant to be, and therefore is for the better. I really strive to be a positive person, because i don’t believe being negative solves anything. I have not been able to completely master this, but i strive to, and i guess that’s the important thing!
JARBOE: What are 2 albums/recordings that hold endless fascination for you and why?
TARA: There are so many……
I’ll have to say LYCIA-IONIA because it was upon hearing this release that i contacted Mike, and thusly changed the course of my life. The second is a bit harder to choose……because there are just so many good releaases!! So, i’ll say SWANS-BURNING WORLD because on every trip or tour i’ve been on for the past five years we’ve brought that cd and it just represents so many fond memories…not to mention i just think it’s really beautiful and sort of stark in a way…very much has the feeling of the “southwest” to me.
JARBOE: How important are books and/or films as sources of creative stimulation? Can you name a few you have recently enjoyed and what they meant to you? (I find that certain purely non-musical arts recharge me sometimes and that energy goes back into my own creativity.)
TARA: Well, naturally i love good books and movies……but i rarely use them as a source of inspiration in my writing. I will say a number of passages in the Bible have conjured imagery by which i’ve written. (namely EZEKIEL 37:1:14 among others) The most recent film i saw that had a bit of a profound affect on me was EYES WIDE SHUT. Which i thought was really good. It had this desolate, hopeless vibe that really seemed to do something to me.
JARBOE: Is there a character from your childhood fairy tales or otherwise that made an impression upon you and why?
TARA: II can’t think of any specific character per se….but childhood in and of itself is an emmense source of inspiration to me. The whole idea of being able to return to that naive, innocent, unjaded mindset is just so appealing to me. I just think back to when i was a child and remember so many happy times. There were no worries……..you are taken care of……..and everything is magical. I just really wish i could be able to view the world the way i did as a child again. Through innocent, unjaded eyes. I’m always trying to write about this….and have yet to really capture it with words. I’m also really fascinated by the whole idea of “the monster under the bed” and those types of childhood things. Things lurking in the shadows waiting to come out when mommy and daddy are asleep. It all just fascinates me. I’ve written quite a bit of stuff about this “subject”.
JARBOE: Tell us something about your recording process that was perhaps unorthodox for one or more tracks on your new c.d.: This Womb Like Liquid Honey..
TARA: I don’t know that anything i did was too terribly unorthodox. I’m not a musician in the standard sense of the word. I’m not trained at anything…i just know what i want. So i guess in that sense, the whole recording process was a bit unorthdox. I based pretty much everything around the voice and vocal loops. i used things like butter bowls filled with rice, rusty wind chimes, things of that nature. A lot of what i did was way different than what we do in Lycia. Everything was sort of free-form to a certain extent…whereas Lycia is quite mathematical and structered. Also on a couple songs we left my voice very dry and direct….which is quite different from what i’ve done in Lycia.
JARBOE: You’ve just released this first solo c.d. In what ways was it a different experience for you from Lycia?
TARA: In a lot of ways it’s different. Lycia is more or less Mike’s baby. He has the final say. So when i work in Lycia there is a certain way Mike works. In my solo stuff i can do anything i want. We naturally have different influences and different ideas…….so what i would do on my own is going to differ from what we do together. Plus i write a lot of stuff, and have a lot of ideas, and it can’t all come out in Lycia….so it’s nice to have another outlet. I think that if Lycia “fans” go into my release expecting it to sound like Lycia, they will be dissapointed. It’s a lot different from my work in Lycia……and not quite as “pretty”.
JARBOE: Please tell us two “stories from the road” from a Lycia tour. Perhaps a stage / concert experience and a non-stage experience..
TARA: I’ll tell a serious story and an amusing story….. 1) One time we were playing a small art gallery in Pittsburgh and it was the middle of Winter. When i perform i usually don’t wear shoes, so i was walking around barefoot. I was sitting in a chair watching one of the opening bands play and a skinhead girl came up to me and asked if my feet were cold. Not really thinking much about it, i sort of nodded yes and she got down on the floor and started rubbing my feet. It was really strange for me because i’m not at all used to having people react to me that way. At any rate, i told her she didn’t have to do that…and she continued to try until she finally must’ve given up. The next time we were there a friend overheard a girl at the bar talking about all these things she wanted to do to me. Either it was the same girl….or i have some strange appeal to the girls of Pittsburgh!
2) Mike had been really sick from diabetes for a long time. He was basically getting more and more sick and so we reluctantly decided we were going to end Lycia completely. The work had just become too much to deal with on top of his health problems. We had agreed to play the Projekt festivals as our last “hurrah”. ( of course no one knew but us because we didn’t want anyone making a big deal about it) The final show was at irving plaza in new york city. It’s a beautiful venue with lovely lights and beautiful decorations. When we went on the crowd was screaming and cheering and it made us feel so good. Knowing this was to be the final Lycia show ever (or so we thought at the time) it was emmensely emotional. The crowd was so kind. It really just made this huge impact on us and it was hard not to breakdown and cry. Thankfully mike’s health is back and we are able to continue…though it’s doubtful we’ll ever “tour” again….just maybe a few shows here and there.
JARBOE: What are some other creative endeavors other than music with which you engage? (I know you make wonderful handmade dolls for example… Mine sits atop a big wooden clock my brother brought back from Germany that is now in my kitchen here in Atlanta)
TARA: It makes me really happy to know you liked her! I like to write and draw. I think writing makes up the majority of my “art”. Unfortunatly i rarely have time pursue anything other than work these days.
JARBOE: Please pick two songs from your new album and talk about what you were thinking when you wrote them..
TARA: TALITHA KOUM-I wrote this based on an idea i got from reading a certain passage in the Bible. In this part a man comes to retrieve Jesus because his daughter is dying and he wants Jesus to heal her. By the time jesus makes it to his house the girl is dead and the family is mourning already. So Jesus tells him she is only sleeping , to which they all scoff and laugh. So he takes her hand and says “little girl get up”…and she wakes up…..or comes back to life. So my idea for the song was to sort of tell the girl’s side of it. At that time there was no way to get to heaven because Jesus had not yet died….so there was this place that was divided (hence where pergatory comes from i think) so i figured the girl would’ve witnessed some pretty intense things. At any rate, i came up with the idea for the “words” after the music was written. The music had such a dark, almost cave-like vibe to it….like walking through the center of the earth. And around the recording is when i found that passage in the Bible. It all just sort of fell together quite nicely. (and probably not accidentally!)
OPAL STAR- I chose to do “my version” of TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR because i used to sit on my mother’s lap in front of the window watching the birds and we would sing this song. It’s always been a favourite song of mine too. My mom had moved away and I’d been thinking a lot about my childhood while writing the release…so it just made sense. I named it OPAL STAR as a tribute to my neice Cortny Opal.
JARBOE: what your plans are at the moment?
TARA: Currently we’re recording a treated acoustic project called ESTRAYA which will be released only on our website. We hope to have it available this Fall. It’s really simple and pretty….but very moody and emotionally raw. We will begin recording the next LYCIA release in October or November. We’re really looking forward to it because two of the old members are back! So it will bring in some fresh energy. We haven’t made any plans to play live….but i definitely want to do some. I guess eventually we will play out again…….we just don’t know when.
(JARBOE : personal note: when they do, I will be sure to catch a show.)
Visit the Lycia website for recording and performing info. http://www.lyciummusic.com