Merely clutching her guitar and singing songs won’t tickle Kristin Hersh’s fancy when making her debut at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington tonight.
“I’ll often read from my book ‘Rat Girl’ and the text will bring a song up for me that I’ll play,” explained Hersh, 45, the founder and lead singer of the art rock band Throwing Muses, who also fronts the alternative rock outfit 50 Foot Wave. “Then that will remind me of a piece of text I can read and I bounce back and forth from reading to music.”
Follow the ‘Rat Girl’
Reading spontaneous passages from “Rat Girl” — a memoir Hersh penned, released in 2010, that chronicles her teenage years from 1985 to 1986 while entering success with Throwing Muses and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder — is the only roadmap Hersh will use when deciding which songs to perform from her deep catalog (comprised of 20-plus studio albums she released as a member of The Muses, 50 Foot Wave and as a solo artist) during her solo acoustic show at The Queen, which will mark another stop on her solo tour this summer.
While Hersh, of Newport, R.I., quipped that she’s recorded “50 million songs,” there’s a good chance she might perform her top-five favorite tunes during her set.
“I like ‘No Way in Hell,’ a Throwing Muses song on ‘University,’ for a really dumb reason,” she beamed. “I really like the electro-harmonic buzz wah that I played on that song!”
Hersh’s darling songs also include 50 Foot Wave’s new track “Radiant Addict” as well as the band’s tune “Pneuma.” Not to mention, she’s keen on The Muses’ “Tar Kissers” and her song “Crooked,” a title track off her latest solo album released in 2010.
‘Purgatory and Paradise’
The Muses — known for sharing the stage with the legendary Pixies and delivering popular hits such as “Dizzy,” “Counting Backwards” and “Big Yellow Gun,” as well as offering lyrics centered around relationships and Hersh’s mental-illness — are in the process of dropping its ninth studio album, the first since “Throwing Muses” was released in 2013, Hersh said.
“It’s done, essentially, which is sad for me,” said Hersh, who added, “mastering is next” for the listener-funded album, which is tentatively titled “Purgatory and Paradise."
Page 2 of 3 - “It’s taken me three years to make it because it’s such a work of obsession and I never really want it to end. And three years is a long pregnancy, so it’s time.”
With at least 45 tracks recorded for “Purgatory and Paradise” — titled after Purgatory Road and Paradise Avenue in Middletown, an intersection near where the original roster of The Muses hung out in Rhode Island — the band is aiming to feature about 33 songs on the album, which is slated for a release in spring of 2013, Hersh said.
One of the glaring differences with “Purgatory and Paradise” compared to “Throwing Muses” is the band has had ample time to construct the project.
“It was sort of pretend,” recalled Hersh of when the band recorded “Throwing Muses” in 2003. “I had money leftover from a solo advance so I talked the other Muses into the studio for one weekend. It was a nice kind of bratty, demo-y record for that reason. But [“Purgatory and Paradise”] is very realized. This is a record [where] we’re allowed to die after releasing [it].”
For the upcoming project, The Muses tinkered with a wealth of recording techniques to deliver a more intimate experience to the listener, she said.
One of the techniques used on some of the songs was jazz-inspired, and was applied when Hersh sings close up on a microphone. The result produces a “very dry, very flat, very intimate” sound, Hersh explained.
On particular songs like the aforementioned, she mentioned her bandmates would follow that technique by playing their instruments into mics that were set up throughout the studio to create “real reverb, the real effect” of listeners being in the same room with the band.
Another recording method The Muses experimented with was recording instruments into high-raised mics, which also creates authentic reverb and presents a live-performance atmosphere.
As for the lyrical content on “Purgatory and Paradise,” Hersh said, “I’m more about music than lyrics. The lyrics are one of the instruments to me, I use them as phonetic melodies and I don’t always think of it as my role to go in and analyze them.”
She then mentioned the lyrics on the project are “very fractured and often very sweet and then very harsh in the next breath, which is sort of our signature sound when we were teenagers, too. But this is an exaggerated version of that.”
‘Spark Meets Gasoline’
In addition to “Purgatory and Paradise,” the frontwoman recently began working on her new solo project, the first since “Crooked” in 2010, which is slated to drop in fall of 2013. The album is tentatively titled “Spark Meets Gasoline,” inspired by lyrics from one of the new songs on the album that Hersh doesn't recall the name of, she said with a laugh.
Page 3 of 3 - “Spark Meets Gasoline” is about “16 to 20 percent” complete, Hersh said.