In conversation with: Loving You (Tuesday show @Trash Bar)
Starting March 1st, Trash Bar will be no more. “We can’t afford to stay in Williamsburg,” the bar’s booking agent, Walter Stack, has said. “Our rent is going to quadruple and that’s out the question.” One of the last bands to play at the legendary venue this month is extraordinary duo Loving You, comprised of composer-cellist Chris Lancaster and dancer-vocalist Alison Clancy. Greenpointers caught up with both in their Williamsburg apartment this weekend as they fried bacon for lunch…
Alison offers me tea, and Chris checks if I prefer coffee. Both finish each others’ sentences, and live in a colorful, second story apartment on Frost Street. “I didn’t really want to live in Williamsburg as much as I wanted to live in this neighborhood, like this particular part, whatever it is, off the Graham stop,” Chris explains. He’s lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, after starting off in Bushwick because that’s what “all young artists who move to the city often do.” Alison, similarly, first “moved New York to be a dancer because that’s where you go to be a dancer.”
Both hail from California, from places that are “miles apart, culturally,” Alison explains. “I grew up in a cabin in the woods [in Nevada City], and he grew up in a suburb in a cul-de-sac [in Orange County].” By way of comparison, Chris adds: “I was on Baywatch.” I push him for stories, and he recalls running races with Hobie Buchannon, hearing Pamela Anderson call in rescues over the life guard radios, and seeing Mitch Buchannon/David Hasselhoff patrolling in the lifeguard towers. “All I did throughout my childhood was practice for the [Orange County] Junior Guards and play the violin,” he says, laughing.
So, I turn on my microphone and we dive right into the questions…
Alison Clancy: We met at Chris’s first job, right? When he moved to New York City, he was playing cello to accompany my ballet class at NYU. It was also the first ballet class he ever played.
Chris Lancaster: I had always been like a ‘contemporary dance guy,’ where tempos are just—
AC:—it’s more loose.
CL: Yeah, people are just like, “5-6-7-8!” [snaps fingers]
AC: And you sort of play something.
CL: But in ballet, you’re just supposed to know that this exercise has this music.
AC: It’s a lot more specific, the rhythms.
CL: I was kind of thrown into it. I had just moved to New York, and someone was like, “You want this ballet class?” I was like, “Yes! How do I do that?” So I showed up on the first day and was totally lost. But Alison was standing right in front of me—that was basically the first time I saw her—and I just followed her long legs—
AC: —to know what the rhythms are. And, it was super trippy because I was like, “Wow, he’s really playing to me. This feels great. Everything I do, I’m exactly with the music.” It created this very intense connection right away, I think.
CL: So we weren’t really speaking, but I was just playing ballet, staring at her for awhile…that went on for a few years [laughter].
AC: I think we both liked each other, but at the time I was really shy so we didn’t talk to each other, but there was a strong, energetic connection.
CL: Then, when I heard her band a couple of years later [dreamthrash band HUFF THIS!], I listened to it and was so blown away. I felt it was something I wanted to be a part of. I started playing with HUFF THIS! and that was how we started our musical…
AC & CL: …connection.
CL: I was shocked, but [HUFF THIS!’s music] was so raw. I’m a classically trained musician, and her songs made no sense to me. Just like, the tempo dives and there was this freedom—it wasn’t even like breaking the rules because she didn’t even know what the rules were and neither did the other musicians—so it was this mind-fuck to play these songs that didn’t follow any of the logical things that music normally did for me. It was very liberating and I learned a lot. That was a great connection for me. And then what happened? Then I stayed in the band for many years [laughter].
GPers: Do you co-write the music now for Loving You?
AC: Our new songs are co-written. For the HUFF THIS! songs, I would usually write a basic structure on piano or guitar and vocals, and then Chris would come and help arrange them or fill them in. Whereas, the Loving You songs are mostly more cello-based.
CL: Well, they’re all cello-based.
AC: Yeah, they’re all just cello and voice. They’re definitely co-written. He’ll be playing a hook and I’ll start improvising over it. It’s a different process, too, in this project.
AC: When he’s playing cello, he loops it through a sampler so he’s creating these—it’s not just a single cello line—it’s walls of layered sound. But because we’re playing to those looped samples, once that sample is set, I can’t change it. So I have to really, really listen and clock in to that loop. Whereas, when it was a song that was piano-based and I’m playing and singing, I could really do the crazy tempo dives and he could follow me. In Loving You, I follow him. So that’s definitely been more of a shift.
AC: I feel like he’s definitely expanded what the cello is as an instrument through the way he modifies it with his pick up and going through the sampler and the effects peddles. He’s expanded what a cello can do quite a bit, so I think it is really surprising to people to hear him. You can’t believe that he can coax all these amazing sounds out of this instrument that we’re just used to being used in a very specific way.
GPers: For Tuesday’s set, what are you going to play?
AC: We’re playing the new stuff that’s all really cello. It’s basically just cello and vocals.
CL: Effected cello beat-down love songs [laughter]. We’re also going to do a couple of songs off this hip-hop project we just completed in Copenhagen.†
Loving You is comprised of electro-acoustic cellist composer Chris Lancaster and classically trained dancer, model, and vocalist Alison Clancy. Their first album, Tuff Love, was re-released in January. You can follow Alison on IG (@_alison_clancy_) & Loving You on FB. They are slated to start playing at 11pm at Trash Bar (256 Grand Street) on February 3, 2015.