"If you listen to the radio, you’ll notice a lot of stations rarely play female artists back to back. It’s absolutely appalling" Madison Violet
Hey Brenley, hey Lisa, how the devil are you?
Great thanks! We just got back from lovely Muskoka, which is cottage country in Ontario, after playing on Saturday night.
What have you been up to today?
Lisa: So far it’s been nothing but coffee (several of them) and a laptop. That is the real life of a touring musician. You spend 4/5 of your time facing a screen, answering emails, and just a sliver of your day is left to be creative and musical. We are trying to reverse those percentages!
Brenley: Today, I got up, walked my dog Jersey and then played tennis for an hour. I’ve seen more daylight that Lisa today. But now I am back to the grind.
What’s the concept behind your recent record, The Knight Sessions?
Brenley: Five of the songs are acoustic renditions from our previous, unreleased in the UK, album, Year of The Horse and five are brand new songs, but also very stripped down to the bare bones. The album is about the vocals and the songs with very little instrumentation behind them. I think the unifying theme in this collection of songs is about trying to get out the other side of a hard day, or a hard year, and giving everything you’ve got to keep moving forward.
How did you go about selecting which songs you’d give the stripped back treatment to?
Lisa: I think it came down to which ones that we felt had more of a story to tell. We wanted to make sure that songs, like 'Same Sun', were heard. That song is very special to me, and was written about the night that I found out that my brother had been killed in a car accident. The song’s lyrics have a very sombre tone, but the original version that was recorded, on Year Of The Horse, was a full on, upbeat electronic dance track. Although we love that version, we felt like the message may have been lost for some of our fans, and we decided to strip it back, and open the song up to tell the story.
And has your way of songwriting changed over the years?
Brenley: We’ve always and still are writing from a personal experience, so I’m not sure that our approach to songwriting has really changed, but in the 17 years we’ve been writing music together, we’ve definitely learned more about each other and about how to successfully collaborate on our ideas. Some things have changed because we don’t live under the same roof like we once did, so we can’t just pick up the guitar at any time and start writing together. We’ve learned how to navigate that by starting new ideas independently of one another and then when time permits, we finish it together. I’ve been working on a song this week that is, I suppose an ode to the man who murdered my brother 10 years ago, and I called Lisa up to play it for her and then sent the lyrics to her. She immediately began her research and sent me what is now the second half of the chorus.
Which of your songs really represents you as a duo?
Lisa: Well…. Hopefully all of them! Honestly, we write together and apart, but it’s rare that we put a song on an album or in our set, that both of us didn’t play a role in writing. Even if it was just one line or a guitar lick. The songs just don't feel like ‘us’ unless we both have skin in the game. 'Haight Ashbury', one of our earliest tracks, is a waltz, and the first song we ever wrote together. I think it set the tone for our style of writing. It’s honest, simple, and a song about love. We have had several people tell us that it was their wedding song, which is such an honour.
So 2017 for you so far, tell us about it?
Brenley: It’s been a pretty chaotic year but a great one so far. We released The Knight Sessions in Canada and it had been five years since we officially released a new album in our homeland so that was pretty exciting. We’ve been to Europe on two separate tours, played a number of festivals this summer here in Ontario. I went to Italy for a vacation, Lisa went to Germany for vacation and I’ve had lots of time home with my dog!
What’s coming up for the rest of your 2017?
Lisa: We have a few more Canadian summer festivals and scattered dates in and around Ontario. In September, we head to Australia for a few weeks. We are looking forward to that. (Except for the deadly snake and spiders!). Then we return home for a couple weeks before heading back to Germany and Switzerland for another tour. It’ll be a busy fall for us.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
Brenley: I would have to say it was on a 100-year-old Swedish light house ship in Rostock, Germany, named Västra Banken. Pure magic.
You’re women in a predominantly male industry, has that had any impact on your careers so far?
Lisa: Sure. If you’ve ever listened to the radio, you’ll notice that a lot of stations rarely play female artists back to back. It’s absolutely appalling. It’s gotten better, but there is definitely still some work to do. Over the years, we have gotten more confident and outspoken about what we need. Sometimes, as a woman, that can label you as being difficult, whereas, if a man was in the same position, and did the same thing, he would be considered assertive. It’s not just our industry, it’s the world we live in today.
Are there any instances when you’ve thought “A bloke wouldn’t get treated like that!”?
Brenley: How much time to you have? Yes. A number of times. ;)
What female artists inspire you?
Lisa: The lyricism of Gillian Welch. The boldness of Miley Cyrus. The humour (and pipes) of Jann Arden.
What advice do you have for people trying to get into the music industry?
Brenley: Pay attention to contracts and get good solid advice on when and if you should sign them. Stay true to yourself as an artist and learn how to run your business, your brand on your own, so that you know what to expect from the team that you’ll eventually hire.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Lisa: Harry Styles ‘Sign of the Times’.
Brenley: 'Dreams' Fleetwood Mac
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Brenley: If you could have, would you have voted for Hillary Clinton? Yes.
What are you doing next today?
Lisa: Brenley and I are getting together to finish a new song. Or at least try to. We are hoping to put together a new show for our European tour in October, as it will be our 3rd time touring there with The Knight Sessions, so we will be adding brand new songs to the show. Fingers crossed!
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
Both: Black coffee (Americano) and sauvignon blanc from New Zealand (the Marlborough region has the best wines)!
Thanks so much for your time Brenley and Lisa.
For more information on the duo visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or check out their Facebook page. You can stream their albums, including The Knight Sessions, from all streaming services. Tidal below.