Who is this Sister Ex?
Tell us about how Sister Ex started? Claudia: We got started as a result of Anthony wanting to play songs that I had written. I was pretty shy about my songwriting even though I have been writing since my teen years. I had a brief push from a voice teacher in LA who booked me to showcase at McCabes Guitar center in Santa Monica. McCabes is where people like Lucinda Williams got their start, kind of small and exclusive, small enough for people to see the sweat that was rolling down my face. One day when Anthony had all the usual suspects over for a jam, which happens regularly at our place, he called me out of hiding and asked me to play my stuff, and I did, and the rest is well…. At that time we had a different drummer and a different bass player. It took us a long while to find the right band members. We consider ourselves blessed with Jeff and Johnny. Jeff came to one of our gigs and, well, long story short, he was available and it was chemistry from the start. Sister Ex started in the winter of 07.
The most important quotes that inspire the band? Claudia: ‘Stab a sorry heart, with your favorite finger, paint the whole world blue, stop your tears from stinging, hear the cavemen singing, good news their bringing…’ Jeff: Be true to yourself and play what you feel in your heart and not try to follow whatever is trendy at the time. Johnny: Individual inspiration would be one great show can change the world.
Why Sister Ex? Claudia: My song writing and art work come out of a heart felt love of the Shadow side. I have had this life that has been filled with very spiritual sorts of adventures: I am actually a minister if you can believe it. I have taught yoga for almost 30 years and I have done a lot of serious spiritual and psychological exploration of my own dark side, only to realize that the solution is pretty simple: ‘life has it’s ups and downs’. It’s been a hell of a ride. I came to conclusion long ago that art is heavier than God: meaning that if I can make a song or a poem or a painting out of the places within me that hurt, then I have done what is the ultimate spiritual truth for me. I have also found that others relate to this process and ‘get’ my lyrics, art should serve others, I pray every day that mine does. In the world of spiritual seekers, I found that I was involuntarily designated the role of being the confidant: everyone confides in me. I was a psychotherapist for quite a while, maybe that’s why. In short, I have seen the underbelly of the most spiritually skilled people I know, they’ve showed me their ‘other side’, which has really been an honor. My songs come out of that polarity between order and chaos, heaven and hell, whatever you want to call them. To me, they are both essential, spiritual practice is not about crunching the dark side, it’s about embracing it. When we decided to call band Sister Ex I saw images of the nuns on motorcycles that was going around at one time. The Nuns are awesome, I know several Nuns and love, love, love them. The Ex is like void, it says, void out the superficial stuff that you dress up all of your holiness in and get to the real stuff. The worst items in stock make for the best transformations.
First Paid Gig? Anthony: Our first gig happened two days before our scheduled debut in Washington, D.C. We got a frantic call to fill in for a band that had to cancel at the last moment because one of it’s members had been arrested for trying to kidnap a child or something crazy like that. I think we had about three hours notice. D.C. has the worst traffic in the nation, so we had to borrow a rig for our bass player, because there was no way to retrieve her gear in rush hour traffic and make it to the show on time. It all happened so fast that we had no time to be terrified over playing for an audience for the first time, at least until we hit the stage. We met a lot of nice people that night and The Quarryhouse Tavern paid us the princely sum of $150. with complimentary dinner and drinks. Johnny: You mean we’re supposed to get paid?
Favorite song off your last album and why? Claudia: I love the “Work Song” a lot lately. That was one that came out of me like a hen lays an egg. I’d been so humiliated at work that day and sort of came home and immediately was able to write about the bitch that gave me shit that day, and, every time I sing it, I feel good. Anthony: “Candy” I suppose, because we took a fairly standard rock song we had been playing and deconstructed it, turning it into something a little more ambient. It was of an afterthought to the record. All of the other tracks were recorded and almost done, then in a fit of inspiration we threw this one together right before we went in to mix. Of course, I wrote it so…… Johnny: “Pretty Face” cause it rocks. Jeff: “End of Summer” (“Pretty Face “isn’t on a cd). The video is great and the song/recording creates an emotional response and is one of our most well received songs live.
Any technology used in producing your art? Ahh, well, the house: we turned it into our recording studio and recorded the last nine songs that way… Anthony: While we much prefer the sound of analog recording, digital technology makes life easier in many ways….we were able to record our basic tracks at a very nice commercial establishment and then take them home to work on them in our own studio. Our latest single, “Pretty Face” was recorded entirely at our own place. We use a Protools rig for recording, but, Pretty Face could have been produced the same way on an old 8 or 16 track analog machine. We used the first take, redid the vocals and added a guitar. None of this quantize or pitch correction….but those can be useful I guess for a different kind of music than we do. Whatever works. Johnny: Mics to interface to pro tools. Jeff: The only thing I can add to this is that we use real instruments and tube amps, no auto tube or studio wizardry.
What’s next? Anthony: We’re writing and recording new material right now. The plan is to release each song as a single with an accompanying video, with an eventual album featuring those songs plus extras. There is also talk of a vinyl release, with possibly a split EP featuring another band we really like. There are a lot of options for distribution these days. We are looking at all of them to see which make the most sense. We’re still playing a lot of regional shows and looking forward to putting together a European tour sometime in the near future. Johnny: Gigs,recording,videos…
Strangest thing ever happen while on tour? Claudia: Jezzz, what hasn’t happened to us while we’ve been playing gigs? We seem to be the band that gets the most action when it comes to drunks falling on in the middle of our set. Once our friends band that was on the bill with us at a club in DC that was playing with us a had an incident with their drummer, who stood up during their set and ended up falling into his high hat and puncturing his neck, I went running up on stage and grabbed the first thing I could, which was a filthy t-shirt, and wrapped it around his neck AFTER he pulled the high hat out of his neck…the paramedics were pretty shocked when they got there… Aside from this there was that time I did a headstand on stage when we played Night of 100 Elvises….
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Photo by Joe Butrim