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Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 24 / 8 / 2007

Stephanie Dosen - Interviews


One of the latest signings to the Bella Union label, Stephanie Dosen has recently relocated to London from her rural home in America. Benjamin Howarth speaks to her about 'A Lily for the Spectre', her much acclaimed new album

Stephanie Dosen has been in London since February, when she moved here from her rural American home, lured in by a new record label, Bella Union. In July her second album, and the first to be available easily to British audiences was released, to generally positive reviews. Having had a tremendously successful year in 2006, Bella Union had become one of the trendiest indie labels, and as such ‘A Lily For the Spectre’ has been praised widely in the indie press. But, the album is far more closely rooted in the lineage of the likes of Tori Amos. There is a hint of mystical folk in her music, but this is music that could easily be very commercial, and every track features strong melodies and confident, uncluttered arrangements. Indeed, alongside obvious names like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, she has a huge admiration for Sarah McLaughlin, whose emotional AOR tends to be derided by the alternative music fanbase. Her songs are almost all sad and in a minor key, with acoustic guitars and strings. But they also have soaring choruses, and effectively channels that kind of sadness that rarely fails to be uplifting. She has a sweet, but strong voice and isn’t afraid of holding a long note and building the songs to terrific climaxes. Don’t expect the understatement of a lot of indie-folkies. I meet Stephanie an hour before she is due on stage at the London Spitz for what is her first ever headline show outside of the US. It is also her first performance with a newly recruited band. “I’m freaking out right now!” She explains, “Sometimes before shows I am so nervous I don’t know what I’m doing.” I ask if the nerves will get better or go away when she makes it out onto the stage, “It depends on the crowd. Sometimes the crowd and the venue are dead and I can feel that, and then I start talking shit on stage. I have this nervous talking thing. Did you ever see 'Say Anything' ? That’s me!" Stephanie is certainly an exuberant character. Dressed in an angelic white dress, with bright blonde hair and extravagant white boots, she cuts quite a dash when she climbs onstage an hour later. But sitting in the outside area of a café bar in Spitalfields market, she more than stands out. I certainly didn’t have any trouble locating her when I arrived. She has been singing for several years, and had released an album back home before a Myspace message from Bella Union boss and former Cocteau Twins guitarist Simon Raymonde turned into an offer to produce, play on and release her second album. “I had a manager and he had been bugging my about Myspace. Finally, I gave in and signed up. After two years, one night I had a message and that was that. Now I’m in London!” “When he found me, I couldn’t quite believe it. I needed a producer. So after I had finished hyper-ventilating… I had to ring my parents, I had requested that if I ever went into a coma they had to play me the Cocteau Twins. I don’t think he knows the extent to which I am a fan. I mean, I played his solo record every day before I went onstage.” 'A Lily For The Spectre' is the result of their collaboration, Raymonde providing bass guitar and his production talents. “I feel like it is a step up from the last one. I felt that I was very mothering on the first album and on this one I came to my senses a little bit and I stopped doing that so much.” “Simon had a very big influence but the final say was mine. It was a very big thing for me to have to say to one of my biggest heroes in the world that I wanted to try something else. It was a big step, and I was worried at first. Was he going to say, fuck you or would he be okay with it? But, he had only heard the songs for a few weeks when he started out, so it was actually okay for me to say that I heard it differently.” “Of course there was a desire to make something good. I wanted to make something that I liked, but you also know that there are a lot of discerning listeners out there and you want them to enjoy my record, so that’s the pressure that I put myself under.” I asked how she felt the record was doing, it had been out for just over a month when she played this concert in the mid-week of August. “It is good so far“, she answered. “Some four star reviews. People seem to be liking it. Sometimes when you start reading the reviews you can’t stop, but if I can avoid reading them altogether that’s good. People are going to be saying all these things about you, and does anyone normal need to hear all that ?” Moving to another country seems like a huge commitment for a relatively unknown artist, even with the backing of one of her biggest heroes. She left behind a career teaching elementary school children to pursue her songwriting. I asked what had made her want to be a songwriter and a singer. “I’ve written since a little girl, but I never took myself seriously and then I realised that I wanted to write songs more than anything else”, she explains. But she still needed a prod. “A friend came into my life and told me they thought I was good. I think you always need someone to help you and make you realise that you can do things. Those friends kept me going and if I haven’t have had that I would never have done it.” “It seems like what I’m supposed to do”, she went on to say. “At the beginning a lot of doors opened, and then a lot seemed to stop. I carried on anyway and kept banging my head on them. Now this big door has opened. So I’m going to ride this puppy until it is dead really.” Asked what in particular had dragged her to London, she says simply that it was the home of her label. But she had been pleased to find a music audience different to what she had been faced with at home. “It seems that people - should I say English or British - well, the British seem like they really want to listen. I think people are out listening to music, and there’s an audience of all ages. At home, if you’re over a certain age you don’t go anymore in the states. I love the fact that people of sixty are coming out and watching shows. They don’t do that in the states.” I can never resist the temptation to ask bands how they would classify their music, even though they almost always refuse to even try. Stephanie has a go but doesn’t find it very easy. “I seem to straddle the fence between the younger crowd and older crowd. I’m literally indie in the sense that I am doing it on my own, but I don’t really think that’s a very good description of the music.” Finally, I ask about the band that has been compiled over the months she has spent in the UK, and is getting its debut tonight. Simon Raymonde may have played a lead role in the recording, but he is in the audience for tonight’s show at the Spitz club. “I call them the foxy bunnies but they don’t really like it. I knew I wanted them immediately, almost before they played. When my drummer walked in the room, I thought, it's her. And she can fucking play worth shit. She’s shit hot, and she can kick the shit out of those drums. We didn’t want to get a boy because we thought all us girls would drive him crazy. We’re a nightmare!” “I plan to play with them as much as possible, I hope to take them to Europe”, she adds. Will this be the band that plays on the next album? ‘Yeah, maybe… yeah, I don’t really know. I’m not there yet!” There will be another album, she insists. ‘I’m not planning to fuck off. But I’m kind of like Alice In Wonderland. If a little bunny goes by, I’m like ‘ooh’. I follow shit. I’m open to doing something crazy, but I haven’t really planned it out.” Finally, I ask if there is anything else we should have talked about but didn’t get round to. Stephanie feels that there is one factor in a perfect gig that tends to get ignored. “A gig really depends upon the sound. A soundman is the most important part of any band, you know. I’ve played shows where I couldn’t hear my vocals at all… And of course you have a different sound out there to what we have on the stage. The sound is such an art, and the soundmen don’t get the respect they deserve and the pay they deserve.” The gig went well, an end to a strong evening where both the support acts also got resounding applause, and I doubt many of the audience would have been able to tell that it was the first time that the band had played together. There was no way of knowing, though, because it was the first thing we were told when they walked on. They will tour the UK in October, and the evidence presented by this gig and her album would suggest that it will be a fine evening out.

Picture Gallery:-
Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

Stephanie Dosen - Interviews

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Stephanie Dosen - Ark, Edinburgh, 27/2/2008
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