What better way to debut a brand new song than entering it into NPR's Tiny Desk Contest? This is a new song called, "The Work" and we are thrilled to be sharing it with you. We always love "Tiny Desk Season" when we get to see all the other amazing independent musicians' submissions - it reminds us of the wonderful community we get to be a part of. Please enjoy "The Work."
We just got back from Kansas City, MO where we attended our very first Folk Alliance International (FAI) Conference. For those who are not familiar, FAI is an annual gathering of artists, agents, promoters, house concerts, festivals and industry professionals in the folk music world. It's inspiring and overwhelming to be among such accomplished, talented people - but also invigorating to find this incredible community of music lovers/creators.
We went to Kansas City for the FAI Conference, but also to perform at the Kansas City Folk Festival, which is open to the public and concludes the week-long folk festivities. We performed on the FAI Regions stage, representing the FAR-West region, which covers California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada. This was one of the biggest shows we've ever played, which was nerve-wracking, but we were honored to have had the opportunity to represent our region of FAI.
Huge thanks to Playlistplay for their lovely review of the festival and of our performance:
The duo create soft melodic songs, that could just as easily exist as poems. Beautiful and full of soul and emotion, the quaint pair swept the audience away; first time listeners and long-term fans.
Read the full review and see a photo gallery of the festival performances here.
We're so proud to share the music video for our song "Wild Heart.” We had the great privilege of working with The Company on this project, whose incredible choreography, passion and artistry brought this song to life in a beautiful way, and we could not be prouder of this video. We've been long-time fans of The Company and it was a dream-come-true to work with them.
The song was inspired by Rachel's grandmother who, as a young girl in Mexico, used to sneak onto trains with her friends to steal the sugar cane that was drying on top of the cars. That image of her as young girl has always stuck with us - just how vibrant and fearless she was. This song is a testament to that courageous, rebellious spirit. We hope this song resonates with you, and empowers young women to be strong, brave, wild and free.
We also hope you’ll share the video with the courageous and powerful women in your life.
"Wild Heart" is currently available for purchase and streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, CD Baby and all other major platforms. The video is available on Youtube.
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who purchased the song and donated to the campaign. We were able to make generous donations to both organizations this past month. We hope you'll continue to follow and support these organizations - we definitely will!
We are very excited to announce that through the month of December, all proceeds from our song “Give Love” will be donated to MADRE and Girls Rock Camp. We are passionate about the missions of these two organizations and think they are doing valuable work. Click below to purchase and download the song on your preferred listening platform while supporting two great causes. We hope you can join us in giving and getting more love this holiday season!
Learn more about the organizations here: https://www.madre.org and http://girlsrockcampalliance.org/
Purchase the song here:
We’ll also be playing a string of California shows this month as part of our Give Love Holiday Tour to spread the word about these organizations.
12.02 - San Luis Obispo, CA - Luna Red
12.03 - Cambria, CA - Cambria Christmas Market
12.07 - Larkspur, CA - Marin Country Mart
12.09 - Alameda, CA - Off the Grid Market
12.09 - Novato, CA - Mantra Wines
12.13 - San Luis Obispo, CA - House Concert
12.14 - Carmel, CA - Barmel
12.15 - San Luis Obispo - Palm Theatre - Get Tickets!
12.16 - Cambria, CA - Cambria Christmas Market
12.17 - Cambria, CA - Cambria Christmas Market
12.21 - Larkspur, CA - Marin Country Mart
Have you heard what critics and blogs are saying about our new EP, DIRECTIONS? We're honored to have received some really thoughtful and kind praise from publications we admire like The Huffington Post, Elite Muzik and Indie Band Guru!
We've compiled some of our favorite quotes below for you to check out!
"Garcia’s voice commands attention. It reminds me of Adele, but exhibits more resonance and luminous texture than Adele’s. It’s rich and mellow, strong and elegant, delicate and turbulent, all at the same time. Candidly, it’s one of the best female voices around. In short, it’s nonpareil
Directions radiates gorgeously contagious melodies, palpitating rhythms and luscious harmonies and, of course, Garcia’s unparalleled voice."
Wanna read more? Check out links to the full articles (and then some!) below:
It's here! Our new EP, DIRECTIONS, is out today!
When writing this record, we explored a new creative process, starting with strong, anthemic drums as the impetus for each song. We set out to create music for blasting loud in your car with the windows down while singing along at the top of your lungs, which has always been a kind of self-care for us. We hope these songs can be uplifting, especially in these times of deep political, social and emotional unrest.
The EP was recorded at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco with producer and engineer Stevland McDowell (The Head and The Heart). Featured on the album are SF Bay Area musicians Aaron Kierbel (drums), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Joe Lewis (bass), Scott Griffin Padden (bass), Mia Nardi-Huffman (violin) and Gerry Grosz (piano).
The incredible album art for DIRECTIONS is by mixed-media artist Danielle Krysa (creator of the popular blog, The Jealous Curator, and author of Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk). We fell in love with Danielle's original work entitled, “HOLIDAY SCHMOLIDAY – EDITH PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL AND HEADED FOR THE COMFORTS OF HOME.” (Mixed Media on Paper, 2017) because it captures the vibrant tone and adventurous spirit of the songs on DIRECTIONS.
We're really proud of these songs and hope they move you. Find it on iTunes or Spotify!
This year we will be attending the Folk Alliance Region - West Conference in Bellevue, WA for the very first time! It is our honor to be performing as an Official Showcasing Artists on October 6th at 7:30pm. We're also excited to be meeting and learning from amazing folk musicians from all over the country!
And in addition to our Official Showcase, we will also be participating in the New Voices Showcase, featuring newcomers to the conference, as well as the "Now See Hear" showcase: an ongoing, collaborative art-share project where we will be debuting a brand new song we wrote specifically for the conference! You can find all our performance dates, times and locations for the conference in the photo above.
We have a brand new music video that premiered on The Big Takeover Magazine's website! "Anywhere, Everywhere" is the first single from our new album, DIRECTIONS, coming out on October 6th. The video uses footage gathered from our past year of touring and traveling to 79 different cities across 25 states. We hope you enjoy the song and the video!
We loved this interview and article in the Pasadena Weekly about our upcoming appearance at the Wine and Song concert series in South Pasadena! We talked to writer Bliss Bowen about our adventures on tour, our writing process and our feelings about living the road life. Check it out and come and see us if you are in the LA area on April 19th!
We've got some exciting news to share! Our song, "Someday" was featured in the opening scene of Bravo's new show, Imposters. You can hear it in the series premiere, playing as the central characters of the show watch their wedding video. We especially love how it segues into the shows title card!
You can watch the show now on Bravo's website! New episodes every Tuesday on Bravo.
We excited to share the session we filmed with Little Fella Media. They are committed to supporting indie artists, attempting to capture the essence of the live experience by filming performances in a single take - imperfections and all! We did 5 songs with them and will be updating this post as the videos are released. Enjoy!
We have been longtime listeners and fans of the incredible podcast The Longest Shortest Time. A few years ago, Rachel wrote Hillary Frank as a fan to share "A Lullaby (for Malcolm)." LST featured the song on their blog (you can see the original post here). Then, just a few months ago, Hillary reached out to Rachel to follow up on the story, just as we were planning to go on tour, and the result is the interview and story you hear below:
We are so proud of this story and we're excited to share it with you!
We have had a recent string of awesome press for our EP, Ballads for Trying Times. Below, check out a roundup of our favorites
Ballads for Trying Times is a delectable listen, an emotional journey down a sullen, yet hopeful trail. Garcia and Tran bring together songs that appear written just for the listener, and no one else. A very personal and intimate release. A+
While the songs explore disenchantment, Garcia's rich, warm voice wraps around you like the softest quilt and Tran's subdued guitar shines at all the right moments, creating somber tracks that are more than palatable and neccessary.
Their economically composed songs address challenges and spirit-boosting moments of an artist’s life, with smart commentary on social attitudes
The folk-driven duo write baroque lullabies that move along with an ease and fluidity that showcases their musical maturity and sensibility. García’s torchy vocals have a soft spoken tone that can surely alleviate the end of a busy shift, the kind that befits their knack for lilting bossa nova rhythms and lush jazz arrangements.
Garcia’s expression of toil through her floating vocals simmer above Tran’s steady guitar rhythms and his bluesy playing, reflecting their optimism in the midst of self-doubt.
Other press for Ballads for Trying Times:
Each of our songs goes through multiple incarnations before we end up with a final version that we both agree on. This writing process has developed over many years of working together, as we learn the best ways to communicate and give feedback, and never compromise for something less than our best writing. Of course, this process can often be fraught and frustrating with each of us fighting to defend the reasons why we love or hate a certain lyric or melody.
The first track on Ballads for Trying Times, "Nights & Weekends," started in a very different place than where it ended up. It started with Rachel having an idea about the subject matter for the song, which was born out of a fear that all of the work and sacrifice we put into our music would eventually go unnoticed. We were hitting a series roadblocks in our music which caused us to question and doubt ourselves.
The first draft of this song was written in this minor key with a foreboding chromatic walk-down, based on a guitar riff. That, along with the dirge-like tempo, gave the song’s lyrics about the disparity between artistic pursuit and practical adulthood a feeling of a long and tedious slog - familiar to anyone who has had to live their artistic passions on a part-time basis.
After Rachel heard this minor-key demo, she said, “The lyrics are good, but the melody is not quite right. This song sounds like it should be a prayer. We should re-write it as a gospel song.” So we reworked the song in the style of a spiritual or hymn, in a major key, which gave the song a yearning and hope that more accurately reflects the plea of the lyrics. In musical theater, they often talk about “the need to sing,” as in a character’s motivation to break into song - when speaking will no longer suffice. Oftentimes, this reason comes down to persuasion, lamentation or, like in the case of “Nights & Weekends,” prayer. As in, calling out into the void in the hopes that there is some greater force at work on your behalf. What originally was a song about desperation, revealed itself to be a song about hope in the face cynicism.
We always love hearing and reading about different artists' writing processes (a la Song Exploder, one of our favorite podcasts), so we wanted share ours with you. We hope you enjoy it! Here's the final song we ended up with:
This is such a special song to us because it was the first song we ever wrote. Thu wrote the main guitar part along with the verse and chorus on the porch of a bed and breakfast in Ashland, Oregon. We had just reached our final destination on our Pacific Coast Highway road trip and Thu was trying to write a duet to sing with Rachel (we weren’t officially a band yet). The resulting song ended up being a dialogue between two people - a kind of call and response, where one person asks a question and the other answers it in the next line. It was cute. So we recorded this original version (as Ampersand) as a demo in 2009. But as we kept playing together and developing our writing style, the cute duet nature of the song stopped ringing true for us, so we shelved the tune.
Years later, our dear friend, John, was remarking on our first album, saying that he really loved it, but he wished that “We’ll Get By” was on it, since he loved that song from our demo (John’s been a long-time fan). So we played through it again, and Rachel said, “The cuteness undercuts the melancholy that’s very present in this song.” So we reworked it into the voice of a single narrator, and though we kept most of the words and sentiments the same, this shift into a single narrative voice revealed the song’s duality and ambivalence, resulting in a more thoughtful reflection on the myth of pursuing your dream, the romantic notion of “love conquers all,” and the frank reality of being in a committed partnership.
We had the privilege of working with the super talented Liz Manashil and Nick Luecking on this lyric video. Let us know what you think!
For the last month, I've been writing a new piece of music everyday, with the hope of being less precious about song ideas and more prolific in the practice of writing. The benefits of prolific creation is, by no means, a new idea. In fact, I took inspiration from a few great pieces of writing that articulate these ideas in succinct and profound ways.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield talks about the value of establishing a regimen of creativity in order to battle the spectre of Resistance, which is the invisible force that keeps us from our creative goals. Similarly, in his e-book, Mastering Creativity, James Clear talks about the value of creating in large volumes because it increases the chance of creating something great.
So for each day of the project, Rachel would write a prompt into my journal and I would wake up at 6:00am and spend 30-40 minutes writing a song in the garage before going to work. Sometimes the prompts were very broad, like "Fear" and sometimes they were very specific, like "Fall (no lyrics, using only the F# Aeolian Scale)." The time limit was something that Rachel was very insistent upon, and for good reason too, because the short time frame forced me to get out of my head and stop editing myself prematurely.
This daily exercise has not only demystified the writing process for me, but it has put me into the habit of creating something everyday. Most days of the project produced terrible songs, some days produced interesting results, but everyday produced something new. I posted a few of my favorite ideas below for you to check out.
It is honestly very nerve-racking for me to post these, as I'm not used to sharing unfinished, unrefined recordings for everyone to hear. And these recordings are as unrefined as they come (I'm not the singer of our band for a reason) - roughly 30 minutes from conception to recording - but I think it's neat to see how the germ of interesting songs are nestled inside these rough sketches.
The exact phrasing of this prompt was "Blue, the color (music only, no lyrics)." I am generally more comfortable thinking of myself as a songwriter rather than a composer, mostly because I don't have any formal music theory training, but I have recently gotten a lot of joy out of composing solo guitar pieces. In one way, it's freeing to not think about words, but then the song still has to tell a coherent story. So, in essence, the music has to do double duty: to be lyrical as well as musical. Since this was only the 2nd day of the project, I was still trying to get the hang of my writing process. So I came up with a musical theme quickly, and then I hit record to see what happened, which is why this recording is a bit long and unrestrained (lots of missed notes and experiments in tempo and rhythm). But what you are hearing is me improvising in the moment - of all the recordings, this one most captures the "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" spirit.
Bea is our dog. She is a gray and white Shih-Tzu and we rescued her abaout 5 years ago, and we love her to pieces. Sometimes, when she lays in the sunlight there's a little halo of light that reflects off her fur causing her to glow a little. I was writing this little waltz number and then I suddenly was struck with the sadness of what it would be like if she wasn't around, and then I got something in my eye and stopped writing.
Rachel thought of this prompt after seeing the painting, pictured here, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. After studying the image I wrote a draft of the song, but when I listened back to it, I realized that it was completely wrong. The first draft sounded as if it was capturing the mood of someone looking at this painting and not the actual essence of the painting itself. So I started over and and I really love the result, which, to me, sounds like ocean and sky, but also like the brushstrokes of the painting.
Our dearest friends (and tour companions!) moved away to Tucson this year. The phrasing of this prompt sounded just like an old country tune to me, so I wrote it as an ode to our friends' journey to the desert. I imagine them listening to this while sipping margaritas, surrounded by saguaros, looking off into the endless blue skies in the horizon.
All music and lyrics (c) 2015 Thu Tran
We had the privilege of mixing our new EP, Ballads for Trying Times, at the legendary New Monkey Studio in Van Nuys, CA. Bought in the 1990's by the late Elliott Smith, the studio sports an original vintage 1970's Trident Triad A-Range console. Believed to be #3 of 13 total A-Range consoles that were built, it was used previously on recordings by Rush, The Police and Cat Stevens (and many more) before being purchased and installed at NMS by Smith.
We worked with engineer Nick Luca (Iron & Wine, Neko Case, M. Ward) who did an incredible job not only making the songs sound great, but also establishing a relaxing, productive and creative environment for us.
It was our first time mixing in-studio (previously, we had only mixed our first album remotely with Mason Jar Music) and it was so enlightening to be able to do the detailed and nuanced work of mixing and editing in real time. We discovered an interesting dynamic during the editing process, in which Rachel focuses on the many meticulous, intricate details, while Thu focuses on the overall big picture. We never noticed these things when we were editing remotely - listening to mixes in isolated spurts and writing long paragraphs of notes. It was a joy to take all of the guesswork out, and allow the studio to provide the forum for critical listening and decision-making.
We are so incredibly thankful to Robert and Nick at NMS for welcoming us into their space, and giving life to these songs. Each song has the richness, complexity and immediacy that we always imagined when we wrote them.