Five Questions With… Romy Lightman of Tasseomancy

Since first appearing on the Canadian indie scene almost a decade ago as an experimental folk outfit called Ghost Bees, sisters Sari and Romy Lightman have continued to push musical boundaries in an ambient direction under the name Tasseomancy.

The group’s latest album, Do Easy (Outside Music/Hand Drawn Dracula) has been accurately described as “pop from a parallel world,” with the songs offering dream-like imagery consistent with the work of some of the Lightmans’ non-musical influences like David Lynch and William S. Burroughs.

The album is also consistent with work made by many of the sisters’ close associates such as Timber Timbre, and Austra, with whom they toured as backing vocalists. Still, Do Easy builds on the genre-defying sounds of their previous album, Palm Wine Revisited, which was an admittedly more laborious project.

By contrast, the new material is more concentrated, albeit beguiling on first listen with its use of primitive synths, steel drums, saxophone, and other seemingly incongruous instruments. But once hooked into the mystery, the effect can be mesmerizing, a trait that may have been inherited from the Lightmans’ great-great grandmother, a tea-leaf reader who came to Canada from Russia in the 19th century.

Romy Lightman shed some light on the new album before Tasseomancy prepares for European tour dates with Andy Shauf this coming February and March.

 

What sets Do Easy apart from your previous work?

It was written at a time when we were really understanding as a band what our musical language was all about. I feel like all the choices on Do Easy were more deliberate and intentional then anything we’d ever done before. Our previous record, Palm Wine Revisited, had taken three years to make, whereas recordings for Do Easy came flying out in a matter of five days. My sister and I were living in separate cities at the time, Toronto and Montréal, and we were both unemployed, with lots of time on our hands for roaming and reflection. I remember spending my days and nights wandering through the intricate alleyways of west-end Toronto, skulking around coffee shops on off-hours and smoking miniature joints trying to find the “sweet spot” in my musical mind. I can’t ever remember a time like that, where the days seemed eternal and I had nothing to do but just jam out my own ideas.

What song do you feel best captures the overall musical vision you had for the new record, and is there a story behind writing it? 

I think my sister and I both resonate with a track called “Wiolyn.” I had actually written it after I came back from a summer tour and it’s a pop song about the coming of the Messiah. It’s also a love song. I was riffing off of one my favourite films, Wings Of Desire, as well as re-evoking my childhood love for The Supremes.

 

What has been the biggest change in your life over the past year?

My sister and I moved to Los Angeles this year as a social science experiment. We were interested in what California could teach us.

 

What do you recall about your first time performing in public?

I remember Sari and I busking at the Halifax farmer’s market when we were teenagers and being asked to leave because the butcher complained to the market manager and said our music was making him uncomfortable.

 

If there were anything you could change about the music industry, what would it be?

There are over one-thousand things I would easily like to change about the music industry, but to begin with I think that we need to re-adjust people’s relationships to artists, first and foremost. Artists are not the scum of the earth, nor are they gods: they’re people who have made it their life’s mission to try and keep their imagination intact and their sensitivity on point - sometimes. But when it comes to how musicians are supported and received, there’s a vast spectrum of experience. Some musicians are literally getting burned alive because they can’t afford to pay their rent in major cities and venues are not up to code.

Artists should be supported in all stages of their career, even if they don't become incredibly famous. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen had six or seven people in the room. I guess this is greater criticism of capitalism and its disposability of souls, but I just find it so dumb how we often fall into this trap where artists only receive public and private support once they’re already or almost famous. It speaks poorly on people’s general cultural ambitions as to why we need outside opinion to dictate what we consume before we’re ready to embrace it.

I know this also has to do with other elements such as exposure, but both artists and audiences need to take more artistic risks. They ought to go out to more shows and support local musicians who are trying to do things that are completely uncompromised. I get it that there’s a game involved, but in general, people need to get more comfortable with raw expression and supporting the notion that not everything needs to be beautiful and easily digestible. Give musicians room to evoke a myriad of emotions other than awe or arousal, and also, stop making us compete with each other.

 

 

 

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