A Conversation With Emma Ruth Rundle

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Emma Ruth Rundle is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, but don't write her off as one.

All the immediate singer/songwriter associations - bare acoustic accompaniment, coffee shops, etc. - are dispelled quickly after one listen to Some Heavy Ocean, Rundle's fantastic and haunting reverb-soaked new album.

The craziest part is that she can pull off the songs live in typical singer/songwriter gusto - just her and a guitar, aided only by a few effect pedals. Scores of bedroom producers couldn't even come close to pulling off Rundle's multi-layered sound live with a laptop, never mind without one.

At the Hamden, CT stop on the Sargent House 2014 Fall Tour, Rundle talked to Empty Lighthouse about the freedom of playing alone, recording a full album in the back of a van and using art as a mistress.

Read the full chat below.??

Empty Lighthouse: Thanks for talking to me today. How's the tour going so far?

??Emma Ruth Rundle: It's one of my favorite tours that I've ever done. I absolutely love my Sargent House family. TTNG and Henry [Kohen, of Mylets]...

??EL: That's what I was going to ask you about next - this whole Sargent House thing.

I did a little bit of research before this interview and I kinda found out a little bit about it, but could you elaborate, is it like an artist-in-residency kind of deal?

??ERR: Well no, [Sargent House] is a management company and record label. I think what maybe you're talking about is that there's often times there's someone staying at the house.

??EL: So it is an actual house, right???

ERR: There's a place, yeah, and it is Sargent House. Cathy [Pellow, Sargent House's owner and manager] does host her artists there.

I stayed there for awhile when I had nowhere to go and fell onto hard times and she took me in.

And of course bands are always welcome when they go through town and stuff. So yeah, it's a pretty great place to be.

??EL: When you recorded Some Heavy Ocean, were you living there? Was it mostly just you or were there other people involved???

ERR: Well, Chris Common was there. He was running this little studio and he produced, along with me, and engineered the whole record. So we worked together a lot. And then Andrea [Calderon] plays strings on it.

She works at Sargent House too and she's an amazing musician. She has her own band, Corima, who are amazing.

Henry played on it...It's just, everyone's around. Everyone's talented, so I'm just trying to steal as much of their energy for that moment.

??EL: This is kinda the first album under the Emma Ruth Rundle name, right?

??ERR: This is the first kinda singer-songwriter-y record.

The other record I released was called Electric Guitar One and it's experimental ambient guitar music, so it's a different genre - one that's a lot less appreciated by people.

I've released several other records under the name The Nocturnes, instead of my own name, which is more along the lines of the music on Some Heavy Ocean.

EL: So could Some Heavy Ocean have been a Nocturnes record?

??ERR: It could have been, yeah. But I decided to not do The Nocturnes any more.??

EL: So there's some sort of significance behind that???

ERR: Yeah, I just thought it was a wise decision to not, you know, pretend like it's a band when it's not.


EL: Given your resume - you were in Red Sparowes and also Marriages...??

ERR: I'm still in Marriages, that's still happening.

??EL: And that's with members of Russian Circles, right?

??ERR: Well, no. It's with Greg Burns, the bass player from Red Sparowes.

He also plays pedal steel.

And then we've had several drummers guest with us...like Dave Turncrantz from Russian Circles played drums on tour with us when they were headlining and we would do back-to-back sets.

We've had other people come and play drums as well, but the drummer now is Andrew Clinco and he's a permanent member.

??EL: What's the priority right now? The solo work or Marriages?

??ERR: Well, I'm on tour alone right now, so...{laughs}??

EL: Maybe not right now in this moment...

??ERR: Like in the coming year? I think it will probably be Marriages, because the record we've been working really hard on will be coming out and hopefully there will be a lot of touring and things to do to support it.??

EL: Now that you are touring as Emma Ruth Rundle, do you play with anyone else or is just going to be you up on stage?

??ERR: It's just going to be me. Sadly.

??EL: Is that something that you've been dreading or looking forward to? A little bit of both???

ERR: I'm kinda used to it at this point. I did a whole tour with Buzz from The Melvins. I played over there a couple months ago [points out the window to The Outer Space, a venue that shares a parking lot with The Space] doing solo stuff...opening for him. I've gotten used to it, but it would be nice to have some others musicians to fill in the sounds. The way that I play the songs live is an interpretation of the songs and I play them differently every night, so it's not representational of what the record sounds like, because there's instrumentation, drums and all the kind of stuff on the record and I don't do any of that live. At least not on this tour.

Maybe in the future I'll have a band. There's freedom in playing alone in that you don't have to worry about what other people are doing. There's no rules, you know what I mean? It's just completely free, but then there's the whole 'hey, I'm actually up here by myself" thing.

I'm enjoying it at the moment. But it's nice to be around such supportive people: TTNG, Henry and Justin, our tour manager. It's like the best group of people ever so I feel pretty safe.??

EL: I was listening to the album on my way to the show. That backwards loop in on Some Heavy Ocean's title track, is that like a happy accident? I mean, how would you plan to write things in reverse???

ERR: That was a happy accident. It really came in trying to salvage a song that I had recorded for the record that just wasn't coming together. It's didn't sound right.

It didn't work.

So I just took pieces of that apart and I was going to try and rearrange it and ended up just reversing parts, then treating that like a new song and recording new parts over what I had reversed from the original chorus of this one song.

Yeah, it was a happy accident and I think it worked.??

EL: It does work. ??

ERR: Thank you. ??

EL: I was going to ask you about your art. You're an artist, right?

??ERR: I'm a...kind-of...doodler, yes. I do a little bit of drawing.

??EL: Do you absorb any influence from that side of things that comes across in your music? Or are they isolated from each other?

??ERR: I think they're just two different venues for creativity. In the sense that I think the drawing can change its purpose. It can be light-hearted. It can also be dark, but music tends to reflect more of a somber place in my heart than the drawing does.

They're separate. Sometimes I won't write music for a little while and I'll draw.

It's nice to have. I've described it as having a mistress, someone else to go visit - to take a break when you're not able to express things through music.

??EL: How much "doodling" do you do while recording?

??ERR: Usually if I'm pretty focused in on music, I'm not doing that much artwork.

If you're recording a record, it's just all you're doing all day and night, so not a lot. I used to do a lot of drawing in the van.??

EL: That's how you recorded your first album...??

ERR: In a van? Yeah.

??EL: How was that???

ERR: It was very cool. I was very lucky in that we had taken two Sprinters, which are very large vans.

We're driving across Europe for six weeks on the Red Sparowes tour.

For some reason, mostly everyone went in the other van and I got the whole back of this giant Sprinter to myself and was able to play guitar and make that record and I'm really happy with it.

??EL: Did you use Traveler guitars?

??ERR: I used a Traveler guitar, yeah, which I've sold since.

[pause] Sorry I'm distracted because they're doing this thing down there...we're talking about covering a Smashing Pumpkins song together and they're playing it.

Yeah, Traveler guitar...very cool, it has an active pick-up and you just plug it in - there's a little preamp in there - straight into the computer.??

EL: On a scale of 1-10, how much of a guitar nerd are you?

??ERR: I probably know more about guitars than I do about playing guitar. I worked in a guitar shop for a decade so it's hard to avoid learning about them. I know more about acoustic guitars than electric guitars.

??EL: Is there anything non-musical that influences you?

??ERR: I love film and cartoons. Especially cartoons. I love Japanese cartoons. I mean, I don't know. Everything influences you and everything effects you.

??EL: What kind of films???

ERR: I like nature documentaries and I like horror movies. I don't know if they influence me so much as they relieve my mind of things. It's nice to just enjoy them.

??EL: Is there anything else you would you like to add???

ERR: Music is not the most important thing in the world, but it's just all that I know how to do [laughs].??

You can stream and purchase Some Heavy Ocean on Emma Ruth Rundle's Bandcamp page. ???

Emma Ruth Rundle w/ Mylets and TTNG 2014 Tour Dates:
???Nov 07 - Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz (formerly Il Motore)
Nov 08 - Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
Nov 10 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Garfield Artworks
Nov 11 - Grand Rapids, MI@ Pyramid Scheme
Nov 12 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
Nov 13 - St.

Louis, MO @ The Demo
Nov 14 - Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot Music Hall
Nov 15 - Denver, CO @ The Marquis Theater
Nov 16 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The Shred Shed
Nov 18 - Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
Nov 19 - Portland, OR @ Slabtown
Nov 20 - San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
Nov 22 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo (Early Show)??