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INTERVIEW: Sandy Davis of Pecas

By: Morgan Y. Evans
July 1, 2015

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Sandy Davis is the ray of sunshine/driving force of Upstate, NY dream pop act Pecas, a project that deserves to seep into the mainstream  (or certainly the playlists of the discerning indie music snob) like a welcome breeze. Spacelab checks in with Davis to find out about her process, pride and point of view when it comes to new album Dwelling. Don't sleep on this, dream to it.  


Spacelab: How did it feel to make your latest record, Sandy? I really love your voice. It has a lot of depth of feeling. The music also sounds very organic but still is a smarter kind of pop.


Sandy: Well, thanks. The latest record was actually really hard, because I recorded it mostly alone and then mixed it alone, and it was the first time I really took on anything of that magnitude.


When I was younger, I had a Tascam digital 8-track so recording wasn’t unfamiliar, but this time I was using Logic for the first time, and really trying to understand as much as I could about tracking and mixing. I was learning everything as I went, so I learned a ton, but it was hard not having someone like a producer or other bandmates to bounce ideas off of.


It was a journey alone down this rabbit hole, and at a certain point I just decided to end it and put it out there. I’m really humbled that people have responded well to it. It’s all a bit of a blur to me, so the fact that it was comprehensive in any way is really more than I could ask for.


Spacelab: Something about your music reminds me of a kind of content but somber day by the ocean for some reason. Maybe it’s that a lot of the guitar and vocals kind of drift like a breeze. Do you relate to that?


Sandy: Yeah, I can see that. It’s great that people can get really specific impressions or visions from a particular song or album. I strive to create a mood more than anything, and that isn’t necessarily tied to a very clear image, like being on the ocean on a somber day, for example. Most of my music tends to be kind of abstract so listeners can impart themselves on to it. But yes, content but somber really does sum up the mood pretty well. Heavy but lighthearted, constant but ephemeral. Those are the themes I like to play with often. I was also really obsessed with the color blue while making this album. Like Christmas light blue, so maybe somehow that came through. I think if that if blue had a sound it would be light and dreamy but kind of sad.


Spacelab: Were you influenced by Mazzy Star? Some of the dreaminess in a song like “Dwelling” reminds me of Hope's material a little bit.


Sandy: It’s funny, because when I wrote that song I was really obsessed with Widowspeak, who’s been compared to Mazzy Star a bunch. But before them, I had no idea who Mazzy Star was, so I credit that inspiration to Widowspeak. They actually played at the release show for Dwelling and it was really awesome, and also pretty nerve-wracking performing in front of someone I look up to.


Spacelab: What's “Dear Ghost” about? I like the sort of folk presence haunting some of your material amidst the dream pop.


Sandy: At the time I wrote “Dear Ghost” I was living in this really old farmhouse in New Paltz. The original inhabitants were one of the earliest families to ever live in the area, so suffice it to say, the house was haunted. I was living there with a few friends but my room was isolated, and only accessible by going down this eerie long hallway. I used to imagine getting abducted by a ghost as I walked down this hallway to my room. So the song plays with the idea of befriending or loving someone who isn’t actually accessible, like a ghost, and the confusion and alienation that causes.


The folk influence is definitely a by-product of living in New Paltz. Pre-college I never listened to folk so that kind of crept up on me while living there.


Spacelab: Do you consider yourself ambitious, or more interested in just making sure each individual song is good, whoever it’s going to reach?


Sandy: Well I don’t necessarily think you can’t be both. You can be very ambitious about ensuring that every song is genuine and good. But in terms of having any career ambitions, or trying to reach as many people as possible, it’s definitely hard to strike that balance between prioritizing the business side and the creative side. It’s something I struggle with.


There’s just a ton of outside information about what you should be doing as a musician, what constitutes good, and you know, you have to do X, Y, and Z to get to point A, B and C. I don’t think all of that information is wrong, but I certainly think it can be distracting.


I have goals for what I want to achieve with the next album musically, and the rest I guess is about finding the right people who you trust and can work with to help that vision become a reality. But I’d say 80% of the fun for me is in writing and recording a song and creating something out of thin air.


The rest is playing those songs live and the magic that can happen with the band or the people in the audience. In general I think it’s important to land on the moon before you reach for the stars. If you have something solid, and focus on that, I think trying to reach people will come naturally.


Spacelab: You're a multi instrumentalist, and played a lot of the instruments on the release. Did you record it yourself as well? How long have you been playing music? As a talented woman with special powers, an enchanting voice and red hair ... have you ever been accused of being a witch?


Sandy: Ha! I wouldn’t be surprised if people got that impression. I’m a pretty solitary person, and live in the woods in the middle of nowhere right now. The red hair might just add to the mystique.


I think my musical superpowers come mainly from my family though, none of whom are redheads themselves, but are musicians of some sort. It’s my blood I guess. But I taught myself how to play everything I play, and it was really about just figuring out a way to make it sound good to me.


When you approach learning an instrument in that way, you can pretty much learn anything. I used to refuse to play bar chords for the longest time because I just couldn’t get my hand to do it, so I worked around it, and when I first learned to play drums I couldn’t figure out the kick, so I used the floor tom, and little by little you create your own sound and get more comfortable with each instrument.


With the album, I recorded most of everything myself. I had a few drummers help me, because I recorded drums last and some of the songs weren’t to a click, so I really needed drum masters to intuit changes in the songs and keep up.  I had DJ Vascianne, Roger LaRochelle, and Joe Ruotolo on the album, and it was great because they wrote their own parts. I was also lucky enough to record some of the drums with the help of Kevin McMahon at his studio.


Spacelab: What's coming up for the summer that you're looking forward to?


Sandy: I’m focusing on finishing up writing the next record, and hoping to record it this fall. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with the songs on Dwelling for such a long time, but I think these new set of songs are just more fun. I’m looking forward to playing them live. We’ll be playing our first New York City show this summer.


Spacelab: What do you love about the Hudson Valley area where you live? Do you feel like it is welcoming to a band like yours?


Sandy: It’s very welcoming, so it’s a good place to get your feet wet creatively and figure yourself out. It’s also a concentrated little pocket of creative people. A lot of my favorite bands have come from this area, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with them or play shows with them, and in general just learn from them. I really have been inspired a lot by the indie bands in the area. It’s definitely home, but having lived here most of my life I’m kinda itching to see what else is out there. I’m curious to see if Pecas has legs outside the Hudson Valley.

 

 
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