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A Dirty Dozen with ALEXANDRA BLAIR and JAMES MULLEN from SILK WAR – May 2021


According to a recent press release: “The Silk War soundtracks nighttime with their patented post-wave sound, threading together transmissions of nocturnal alternative, gothic electro, punk energy, and cinematic production. The electrifying five-piece band—Alexandra Blair [singer, lyricist], James Mullen [guitar, songwriter, producer], Angelo Miliano [keyboards], Josh O’Guinn [bass], and Andrew Mega [drums]—dive into the dark on Come Evening. The forthcoming album – produced, engineered, and mixed by James – is a thought-provoking 11-track collection inspired by the band’s love for the arts and New York that touches upon deep topics ranging from anti-bullying and self-worth to gun control and empowerment and so much more.” We get guitarist / singer Kyle Woodland to discuss new music, influences, and more…5

Photo credit: Hector Perez

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Come Evening, our debut album that was just released May 14, soundtracks the infinite dark alleyways of a night in New York, an ode to chaos and a celebration of self-awareness when faced with despair.  Each song takes on a world of its own both musically and lyrically, so within this complication we hope that there are many instances throughout the record where the listener has to listen a few times before fully divulging into the madness.  Specifically in “Slender Slander” there is such depth in the meaning behind the lyrics in direct contrast to the music.  We also experiment with strange arrangements on songs such as “Agora Phobia” having basically melded 2 songs into one.  One hidden moment on the record that means the world to us is the beginning of “Barcelona.”  The intro starts off with a recording of Jimmy’s of children heard laughing outside of a hotel room in Barcelona. This was the initial inspiration for the song.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Alexandra: I became hyperaware of my stutter at about 4 years old because I was obsessed with commanding a room like my father.  I was so taken with how effortlessly he could charm a room with humor and vivacity.  The only time I could ever truly join him in this effort was when we sang together, specifically the song “Always” by Irving Berlin.  This realization that my stutter could magically disappear with music truly changed my life.  I began to write lyrics incessantly to try to come up with ways to express myself, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never write anything that was rooted in hilarity.  Stolen napkins under my parents cocktails and ripped paper tablecloths from Italian restaurants became my canvas, a common occurrence.  I found myself spending years writing about the rain, trying to write melodies that sounded like the rain.  My obsession with disappearing in plain sight began to bloom.

James: When I was 14, I went to my first punk-hardcore show at the University of Connecticut and it completely changed my life.  I saw Breakdown and Outburst.  The sheer energy of it made me realize that music was the only thing I ever wanted to do.  Immediately after I formed one of my first bands and from there I got into engineering and production.  I love both sides of the glass.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

James: Jeff Buckley’s Grace was a watershed moment for me as a songwriter.  Same thing when I first saw Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and became completely obsessed with Bernard Hermann’s score.  As far as live performance goes, when I first saw Bad Brains play live I was blown away.

Alexandra: There were a few performances in particular that undeniably changed and molded me for the better.  I remember seeing Crystal Castles when I was 15 in Chicago at a super small venue filled with maybe 20 kids going absolutely nuts.  I was completely mesmerized. The other two performances were both at Lollapalooza.  The first year that I attended I saw Death Cab right after their release of Transatlanticism.  I couldn’t believe that they played the 8-minute long title track at the very end of their set.  It must have gone on for at least 15 minutes. It was the first time I had ever cried during a live show.  The other live show that completely reset my entire life was seeing Arcade Fire play The Suburbs in its entirety the day after it came out at Lollapalooza. Another instance that guided me as a performer was watching The Doors live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968.  He famously spent most of the performance completely still, but as soon as he moved toward the very end of the show I was just completely caught off guard and went ballistic over the sudden wildness of him.  And of course, I remember when I first read Patti Smith’s “Early Work: 1970 – 1979.”  Seeing the evolution of her writing and lyrics before my eyes astounded me and I became completely obsessed with the process.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Alexandra: Radiohead, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Stevie Nicks.

James: Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, The Cure, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Smiths.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

James: Tori Amos.  She has the most unique and beautiful way of interpreting other people’s songs.  If she ever covered one of our songs, it would be a highlight of my life.  I would also say GG Allin just for the insanity of it.

Alexandra: I would definitely say Thom Yorke.  When I first heard “This Mess We’re In” by PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke I became unbelievably jealous.  Even though I have such love for them both, to write with Thom Yorke would be to write with the musician and lyricist I look up to the most. Also, to write lyrics with Patti Smith would kill me eternally in the best way possible.  She is the reason I started writing lyrics in the first place.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

An amalgamation of all of the noise in our heads competing for attention.  We honestly haven’t had one yet thankfully.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Alexandra:  Jimmy cooks.  I always get the booze. If Jimmy and I are alone, I always get the acoustic out first.  If we are around other people, Jimmy is always the first one to start playing.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

James: I was at the cast and crew showing and afterparty for Interstellar.  It was the most “A-list” room I had ever seen, maybe second to an Oscar ceremony.  Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Chris Rock, Jon Bon Jovi for some reason, Matthew McConaughey, and at least 15 other people at that level.  I didn’t care at all.  And then Neil deGrasse Tyson asked to share my table at the afterparty buffet.  I almost passed out with excitement.

Alexandra:  For me, it would definitely be when I met Lenny Kaye for the first time.  I was doing the door at an East Village venue and in walks Lenny.  I truly didn’t say anything because I was super worried about my stutter.  I finally went up to him and he started showing me all the 45s that he brought to spin.  He pulled out Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and I told him to please play it and dance with me.  As soon as he put it on, he left the DJ booth and we danced and screamed the entire song.  It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Alexandra: I crave human interaction on a very serious, deep level.  In everyday life a lot of people use the word “intense” to describe me.  I know I expect a lot/too much out of relationships, which normally leaves me with nothing.  As a musician, to be serious and intense is to show your true self through your art, so for me to be a musician is to be understood and to help others feel as though they are understood as well.  That’s all I’ve ever really wanted.  If I wasn’t a musician, I would write a lot more stream of consciousness lit and continue solely as a poet.

James: Free Drink Tickets.  I would be a Physicist.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Alexandra: I just want to feel uncomfortable and challenged when interviewed.  It always leads to an undiscovered truth.  My favorite questions are always about specific lyrics of mine.  If the interviewer can kind of gage maybe why I am esoteric in certain scenarios or beg to know more about a certain rhyme or word-choice, that always makes me excited.  Since we are releasing our first album and we are introducing ourselves, I really don’t mind answering the same questions over and over again. What does your band name mean, what is the album about, what is New York to you, all of these questions are completely understood on my part.  It’s part of being a new band.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Alexandra: We haven’t really been around long enough to have any long term regrets yet.  We definitely had made some mistakes at our live sets before.  I, for sure, fell off of the stage at Soho House when I drank too much wine.  I got right back up though so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Dark Side of the Moon.  It invented the idea of a concept album that completely sucks you in and affects your mood, your headspace, and consciousness. It’s our biggest inspiration a far as what an album as a whole should accomplish.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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