Interview with Mother Falcon
Reminisce about this year's SXSW with indie orchestra Mother Falcon in our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. In this exclusive interview you'll also get details about their previous SXSW experiences, their upcoming album Good Luck Have Fun, and their fantastic new music video for "Kid".
NoiseTrade: First off, thanks so much for being a part of our NoiseTrade SXSW Day Parties this year! How was your SXSW experience overall?
Tamir Kalifa: Thanks for having us! That show at the Blackheart was a lot of fun. Overall, we had a great time at the fest, which is par for the course. This was our 6th year as official performers at SXSW, so by now we've got the hang of it.
For the past few years, we've performed at least eight times and this year was no exception. We play the fest like a touring band trying to get the most out of their time in Austin, yet, we get to sleep in our own beds at night. So, the fact that we are local is one of the things that makes our experience unique. For example, most of us have jobs that we need to schedule around. Dusty (Bass) is a chemist that works at a local lab, Matt and Claire Puckett (both play guitar and sing) work at a juice bar, and Evan (pedal steel) is a live sound engineer and had to miss all but one show.
I'm a freelance photographer and ended up working for Esquire Magazine throughout the week. Through a feat of scheduling acrobatics and fast driving, I managed to shoot portraits of Wayne Coyne, Will Butler, Shakey Graves, Hippocampus, John Legend and Snoop Dogg without missing a single show. I cut it pretty close though - on two occasions I hopped on stage five minutes before the set started. Regardless of whether one holds down a job during the week or not, I think everyone in the band would agree that SXSW is a marathon.
NT: How did this year’s SXSW festivities compare to years past for you guys? What sticks out as your most memorable SXSW experience this time around?
Kalifa: Like running a marathon, playing at least eight shows in six days doesn't really get easier. You just learn to anticipate what is going to happen, plan accordingly, and brace yourself. Last year, we went way too hard. Mother Falcon played 10 shows as a band, a majority of us played an additional five shows as the backup band for our friend Kelly Pratt and his solo project "Bright Moments," and about half of that number played a single show with local band "Sip Sip." That put most of us, myself included, at 16. I think Sterling (tenor sax) won the gold medal: he played all of these shows and more, putting him at a whopping 22 shows. This year we only played eight times, which gave us a chance to actually enjoy the festival.
As far as memorable experiences go...For the past few years, Mother Falcon has kicked off SXSW by curating a show full of our friends' bands and bands we hope to become friends with. Last year we gave it an official name: All the Friends Ball. The idea is to get as many friends to play on a bill as possible. We invite our Austin homies, who we've played shows with and known for years, and invite bands we've toured with or met on the road. We also invite people whose music we love or are curious to hear. This year we had music on three separate stages from 35 bands including two Pakistani bands playing traditional music, a folk quintet from Alaska, a Sun Ra-style arkestra and every other genre imaginable. Seeing four traditionally-dressed Pakistani musicians sitting on the stage and performing inside at Empire Control Room, then walking outside to hear our friend Gina Chavez play incendiary Latin jams made me feel incredibly lucky to know all of these badass musicians and to live in the fine city of Austin, TX.
NT: You also shot an incredible music video for “Kid” that doesn’t seem like it was a very easy, laid-back process for co-lead singer Claire Puckett. How did you all conceive of the idea for the video and how did you convince her to go along with those underwater takes and cricket-covered scenes?
Kalifa: The music video for “Kid” was conceived as a meditation on the near-death experience that Claire had as a child. In the song she reflects on coming face-to-face with death and, later on that same day, killing crickets in the hallway with her friends. That cognitive dissonance that resulted from thinking about the fragility of life followed by casually killing crickets inspired the imagery for the video. Our goal was to create a feeling and evoke a visceral reaction rather than pursue a more literal narrative.
Believe it or not, Claire didn't really need much convincing to do any of this. She was totally game and enthusiastic from the beginning. I believe that because it’s an interpretation of her story, she was willing to put herself in more physically demanding circumstances to raise the level of emotional intensity. It also helped that the whole project was produced in-house. Matt Puckett and I came up with the idea, I directed, shot, and edited it, and band members and close friends stepped up as crew members.
Claire and I have known each other for seven years, so there was an element of trust and comfort that streamlined the process. Plus, for every scene that Claire is underwater, I'm in there with her. We did a handful of takes with the live crickets and after each shot, the crew had to run around the room catching and returning them to the bag so we could reuse them and avoid causing an infestation in our friend's studio. It was definitely a shared discomfort (that Claire bore the brunt of) but I don't think the video would be as effective if we didn't deliberately put ourselves in these gnarly situations.
NT: Along with “Kid,” Mother Falcon Summer Sampler also includes tracks from your previous albums and an extended version of “Waltz” that’s exclusive to this release. What inspired you to pick these specific songs to introduce the band to a new audience?
Kalifa: Because it is summer, we want to be there with you. To ensure that you won’t shrug us quickly, we wanted to give you the range of sonic elements we had to offer. For that perfect summer morning, trade your alarm clock in for “Fireflies”. Afternoons, as you sit in your car shaking off the heat with a little AC, treat yourself to textural baths of “Porcelain.” “Sleep” and many others offer you that late night magic that ensures this will be a summer like no other.
If you become hooked, this mix also gives you hope for what our new album could offer you. The exclusive “Waltz” gives a little glimpse into the second half of our new record - an instrumental suite dedicated to the lives of the Starcraft gaming community. Our single, “Kid” gives a hint to what might be into our next chapter, our slow dive into the groove pool. We are pumped that you have chosen to let us in those ears of yours. Enjoy and remember, this summer is all about good luck and having fun.