'Just Horsin' Around!'
She may be transplanted from the streets of NYC to the highways of LA, but
HOLLY RAMOS has left behind neither her edgy attitude nor musical talent.
The former lead singer of punk rock band Fur has merged her swank and
swagger with Americana alt.country on Racehorse, her debut solo CD slated for release May 29th. Never one to forget old friends, RAMOS has called upon her longtime occasional songwriting partner Jesse Malin to produce the cut “Waterfall” along with roots-rock poster boy Ryan Adams. And while 10 of the album’s tracks are self-penned, RAMOS chose to include a breathtaking rendition of “Art Lover” by The Kinks’ genius tunesmith Ray Davies.
RAMOS will travel back to her hometown NYC to grace her old stomping ground
with a live concert at the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, April 17th, opening
for high school buddy Jesse Malin. As an advance to the official release of Racehorse, RAMOS will preview songs from the album in a solo acoustic performance.
And if you doubt she still possess the fire and spunk of her lower east side days, think again: she’s even signed to a label called Ford To City: Drop Dead Records. How rad is that!?
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up
and how many still factor into your music today? "Growing up I listened to the radio: funk and soul (I ordered 'Super Bad,' a Funk/soul compilation off of the TV when I was in first grade. I thought "everybody plays the fool sometimes", was everybody plays the FLUTE, because there was an interesting solo that might be a flute). Rock - the Rolling Stones and Bowie were my first two concerts in 6th grade! By 7th grade I was into punk and seeing the Ramones, which was a bit more underground at that time."
"By high school I was listening to hard core; Minor Threat, Bad Brains. It ALL factors into my music today on some level (see: I ask myself "how many times I've been a fool (flute) before"). Take the Ramones ballads like 'Danny Says' and The Rolling Stones' 'Exile On Main Street' - I certainly don't try to sound like these artists, but I am completely influenced by their feel, passion, and song sensability. Simple writing with warm arrangements, words about real life, and poppy (in the classic 70's sense) melodies."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of
buying your debut solo CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "For the 'Average Joe' I would say cool interesting songs that you should definitely hear. An original perspective somewhere between folk
or quirky Americana with a New York attitude. Modern female singer/songwriter reminiscent of 1960's and 70's pop. Melodic tunes with simple beautiful production. I might say ... sounds like the 5 corners intersection of Shelby Lynne, Mazzy Star, Johnny Thunders, Lou Reed and the Ronettes!"
Your album title 'Racehorse' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it
originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it,
perhaps? "I took the title from the song "Gold and Catholic", which is about my father. In it I say "I wish I was a racehorse, so I could run around in circles as fast as I can without any thought." In the song I want to avoid difficult feelings, and expressing that desire leads me to expressing the feelings. For the title I just liked the word and the mystery of all the things it can mean to anyone."
Also, please reveal to us the major differences from having once been a
streets of NYC girl to now being a highways of LA gal! "I Learned to D R I V E ! ... which I would have never done if I had stayed in my hometown. People learn to drive to escape their hometown and go to the big city, etc. I was already there and didn't have a need to drive. In NY you walk, but in LA you HAVE to drive!"
"There are millions of other differences; the move is like a sociology experiment for me. I never cease to be amazed. It is shocking how different people and places can be just because of geography. The light is different, the sky is different ... NY sky is a changing expressive sky of a million moods and LA sky is a consistent cloudless awesome blue. NY has a constant soundtrack - music plays out of stores and windows and radios on the street. LA is a private sound design - you in your pod (car) or home. Much more solitary daily experince - you have to create a social life. In NY you just go out your front door and it is there!"
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant,
wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical
wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I have no idea. I just try to use my gift - that is all I am trying to do. Be greatful for the talents I am given and express them so that others might be moved or inspired. It is easy to get up everyday and do something creative. it is hard for my artist brain to do it in a productive way that gives equal time to all the business details that an artist has to do; that is where my struggle is."
Having once fronted the punk rock band Fur, why was the time right to
change musical direction (for the new CD) and come at us now in this new
Americana Alt. Country vein? "The change was slow-gradual and natural. Fur broke up in '98 and I tried to quit music at that time. I want to acting school and did a few films. All the while I was still writing and evolving as an artist and person. The sound of my songs on 'Racehorse' was just what came out of me when I opened my mouth."
Having included longtime friend - and occasional songwriting partner -
Jesse Malin on this new release, just what did he bring that was so missing
that only he could fill the void? "Jesse is awesome. He was the person who got me back on the horse, so to speak, in that he produced a demo for me a few years ago. The demo was my first recording since Fur and it featured three of the songs on this CD. He is such a high energy music loving person, you can't help but be inspired around him. His production of "Waterfall" was perfect and rather than re-record it I had to use that version."
Also, why (although covered brilliantly, may I say!) include the The
Kinks' classic 'Art Lover'? "I did The Kinks cover because I really like the song - especailly the line "like a degas ballerina." I love the melody of those four words. Life is short and one should go with their instincts and do what makes them happy as long as it doesn't hurt others. So four words is enough of a reason for me. Also, it is an interesting subject matter, very sad actually and it makes one think. There is a Billy Bragg song that I might cover because of a beautiful 14 word melody line. (I won't say which because I don't want to give my idea away!)"
Taking a gander at the new CD cover and I'm wondering what was going
through your head that day of shooting that happy, dress-twirling front
cover art? "Proud horse!"
Where's your most interesting tattoo located ... and what is it of?! "My tattoos are from another life. I have probably lived 10 lifetimes in my short life thus far (lucky me, yes!). You'll have to wait for me to write a book!"
If asked for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song
would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "The Go Go's "We Got The Beat" ... not cheezy!"
Lastly, and throwing in a comedic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love
Penguins ... do you?! "Yes, I love penguins! And ocolots!"
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for
the future "Thanks, deer!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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