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Artist on Artist: Thee Oh Sees

Brigid Dawson, vocalist for the San Fran garage rockers, talks to Lisa Roe of CoCoComa and Trouble in Mind Records about touring, painting, and rock 'n' roll heartthrobs

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Brigid Dawson
  • Brigid Dawson

Thee Oh Sees backing vocalist Brigid Dawson, whose harmonies lend the San Fran band a sweeter flavor than many of its garage-rock peers, has a kindred spirit in Chicago's Lisa Roe, who spent years playing drums in Headache City and guitar in CoCoComa. Thee Oh Sees have a reputation for staying busy; they're on tour supporting their second full-length this year. That's not counting their split 12-inch with Australian tourmates Total Control, their contribution to volume one of Castle Face Records' Group Flex compilation, or their split seven-inch with the wildly adored Ty Segall. Roe is likewise no stranger to overachievement. She and her husband Bill run the Trouble in Mind label, which has released more than 25 records in the past two years, and make music together as the Marble Vanity. She's also a mom with a second baby on the way. Feel like a slacker yet? Thee Oh Sees play the Empty Bottle on Wed 11/23.—Luca Cimarusti

Lisa Roe - ALEXIS WILSON-CASTALDI
  • Alexis Wilson-Castaldi
  • Lisa Roe

We saw you in the summer when you were here in Chicago, playing at the [Logan Square] monument. You had said then that you were hoping, when you had some time off, to do some painting. Did you get to do that? I did. I had a really good summer for that. I have an art show at a place I always wanted to have an art show at.

When you're going back and forth between being in bands and trying to concentrate on painting, is it hard to go from an outlet that's very dependent on other people to something that's really solitary? It's a really nice change of pace. You know, you're on the road, which sometimes can be lonely but is mostly a very social thing. And then you come home and you have to adjust. You cook. You have time. It's just a different frame of mind.

So how's the tour been with Total Control? I was just listening to them before you called, on my iPod. It's so good. They're lovely boys. [Singer] Dan [Stewart] brushed his hair out last night with a comb. He looked like a guy from the 60s, and a little bit less strange. All the girls were talking to him.

Some of [Thee Oh Sees'] records have been mostly [front man] John [Dwyer], but this one was a full-band recording. It was recorded over a week? Is that true? Well, we had five days. Some of the songs were written in the studio and are the first or second take.

You strike me as a band that doesn't necessarily go for 10 or 20 takes on a song. Oh no.

I've always thought that you and John's voices worked really cool together. Is that something you worked on, or is it kind of a happy accident? One of the things he told me when he asked me to be in the band was, "You know, you sound like me." I think I know what he means. Some voices blend together well. You know how cousins or brothers or families will always sound good when they sing together?

I've noticed that. I have a terrible voice, but Bill can sing. But when [our daughter] Ronnie and I sing together, I think it's the greatest thing that's ever happened. But Bill is in the other room plugging his ears. He must have heard something in her voice, where he was like, "She sounds like me. We'll probably sound all right together."

Has it been an adjustment to have a superstar heartthrob like Lars Finberg [of the Intelligence] in the band now? It really has. He's super fun to have on the road. It's nice for me, because he has a splitter on his computer so I can watch True Blood in the van. I'm the only person who doesn't have a computer.

Who's most entertaining to watch night after night: John, [guitarist] Petey [Dammit], or Lars? That's such a hard question. Petey's as solid as a rock. Every time you look over there you're going to see pure good times. John is, like, spitting and frothing on the other side. He's super charismatic; you can't take your eyes off him. Lars just has this sly grin—but then at the end he'll get up and try to climb on Petey's back. He's got some slick surprises up his sleeve.

This is your typical interview question, but Bill and I are both interested: what are your plans for next year? In January we're going back to Australia for about three weeks. And we're going to go to New Zealand for the first time, which is neat because I have an aunt who I've never met in my life who lives there. And then we're going to play the Bruise Cruise again. You want to play tambourine with me?

Done. I'll book my flight tomorrow. And then after that we're going to Europe. And then beyond that I'm not entirely sure.

Are there more records in the works? I did hear John briefly mention we would try to record in May. We actually wrote a couple of new songs; one we're playing, one we haven't played yet. That will probably be the germ for the new album.

There are a few songs from this record that I remember you playing live, and it's really cool to see where they ended up on the live record from the earlier versions I heard you play over the last year. That record jams! You like it?

Yeah. That's rad. Thanks, man.

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