[sic] Magazine

Interview – Boxharp.

Having spent my whole life being told that I have weird tastes in music it was only natural that I sought out Hidden Shoal act Boxharp. The North Carolina duo are layering electronica and folk, highly popular genres today of course, with chamber pop and their own, distinct, almost avant-garde approach. Richly atmospheric, their latest, album The Green is by turns beguiling and enchanting. Companion EP, The Loam Arcane is arguably even more experimental. Critical response has been lavish and the band even found themselves championed by none other than David Bowie.

Love it or loathe it, the music of Boxharp is impossible to ignore, impossible to claim indifference to. It is music that can easily become someones favourite. Get the feeling you need to find out more? I certainly did, so I caught up with one half of Boxharp, singer, Wendy Allen.

Spaceman: What is a boxharp?

Wendy Allen : A wooden, triangular, dulcimer style harp that we use quite frequently in our recordings.

Spaceman: What is Boxharp?

Wendy : We are singer/songwriter Wendy Allen and producer/engineer Scott Solter with help from various collaborators such as Liam Singer, Will Johnson and Andrew Hiller.

Spaceman: Did you go to art school? Do you see music as a kind of collage?

Wendy : I studied performing and visual arts in school, Scott is self taught. We very much see music as a collage on both an aural and visual level and
we both reference visual artists when we are working in the studio. I have always been preoccupied with creating little worlds; each song or piece of music is a little world to me.

Spaceman: With chamber instruments and, at times, your vocal are you setting out to sound ghostly?

Wendy : We tend to really dig thick atmospheres in music and the lyrical content on this album deals with a lot of “ghosts” from my family. But I don’t know that it was a conscious choice to soundly ghostly per se.

Spaceman: Wendy, did you base your vocal style on anyone in particular? You’re almost pure folk at times on The Green. Some tracks really feel like folk standards.

Wendy : I’m equally influenced by folk and pop and classical. I grew up going to fiddler conventions in the Virginia Mountains with my parents; I studied classical music including piano and voice throughout my school years; I listen to a very wide variety of music as an adult. I don’t think I consciously chose a vocal style. I tend to shift it somewhat depending on the lyrical and musical content of the song.

Spaceman: “Odd”, “quirky”, “weird” – complements or insults?


Wendy : I think that very much depends on the intent of the person using these descriptors, although “quirky” is the most neutral. We never set out to be odd. If someone were to find us so, then we can only hope that they are also “intrigued”.

Spaceman: Do you accept the ‘experimental’ or ‘quirky’ tags? Or does this devalue what you’re trying to achieve.

Wendy : The landscape of music is so wide right now, we don’t think of what we are doing as being either. We set out to achieve what interests us, if people respond to what we do as ‘experimental’ or ‘quirky’ then so be it.

Spaceman: Song titles show that you aren’t afraid of being twee. Eg The Moon’s The North Winds Cookie, Can you explain that one?

Wendy : That song is a cover of a Burl Ives tune I learned as a child from a stack of 78’s I inherited from my mother. The lyrics are a poem by Vachel Lindsay. The Leatherwing Bat is also from those 78’s. That one is a traditional tune that dates back as far as 1733 and is also known as “The Bird’s Courting Song”.

Spaceman: Tell us something about yourself that we would never otherwise know.

Wendy : My day job is visual artist/designer/crafter; I design and make hand-felted hats. Our house is part recording studio, part design studio. I employ visual art students who come and study/work with me for a couple of months at a time. There are times when there is a band staying here to record with Scott and a couple of artists living and working with me, so our life is full of music and art most of the time.

Spaceman: How does it feel to be championed by David Bowie? Does this make you the new TVOTR?

Wendy : It feels wonderful of course. We were stunned for a few days. It was a black swan for us. We have no idea how he even got a copy of the first album but we couldn’t be more pleased.


Spaceman: Is Boxharp a fixed group then, or a collaboration?

Wendy : Scott and I are fixed members and do the bulk of the writing and composing. The rest is collaboration.

Spaceman: Your full-length is more accessible than the (Loam) EP. Normally it’s the other way around isn’t it?

Wendy : Is it? We produced the EP after the full length was already done, so the EP probably reflects the direction we are going in next.

Spaceman: Wooden Music is a really beautiful piece. Very spacious, reminds me of some of Eno’s production, eg Talking Heads, Remain In Light…. How do you feel about producers and studios generally? Do they ‘get’ what you’re trying to do?

Wendy : Since Scott is a producer/engineer we must feel pretty good about them in general. He’s the only that has ever had to ‘get’ what we were trying to do so we have never had any experiences otherwise. Thanks for the favorable comparisons.

Spaceman: Wow I didn’t know Scott had produced all your output. Kudos. So let me ask you this, if Hidden Shoal is the “new 4AD”, which 4AD band would be the ‘old Boxharp’? My vote goes to His Name Is Alive.

Wendy : This Mortal Coil…..definitely This Mortal Coil. Oh no, wait, The Frazier Chorus + Wolfgang Press.

Spaceman: Ha ha, well, maybe you could cover Sloppy Heart? There’s a challenge. So, what is the Boxharp masterplan?

Wendy : To start collaborating with some folks in other countries so we have an excuse to spend more time outside the states.

~[sic] Magazine thanks Wendy, Scott and Cam. The Green is out now on Hidden Shoal records.~

Boxharp myspace

Hidden Shoal recordings