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Aoife O'Donovan

A Conversation with Aoife O'Donovan

Puremusic: It's my pleasure to speak with you today. I first got turned on to your music through Crooked Still. But I know that you just came off the road with your all-girl trio, Sometymes Why.

Aoife O'Donovan: Yeah. We were out doing some dates with Chris Thile, actually. [Probably the greatest young mandolinist out there; he's known best for his work with Nickel Creek, but he's also recorded a number of great solo records.]

PM: Since that's the freshest thing in your mind, let's talk about Sometymes Why, first, shall we?

AO: Okay, that'd be great.

PM: Love them.

AO: Thank you.

PM: Luckily, my publicist buddy, Angie Carlson, zipped me out a copy for this interview--

AO: Oh! I just got a message from her, too. That was one of my other missed calls.


PM: So we're on the same wavelength.

AO: Yes.

PM: So do you know her personally?

AO: No, I don't. But we just started with her, and I have to say I have nothing but good things to say about her.

PM: She's fantastic--she'll never tell you, but there was a very important band around the outbreak of R.E.M. called Let's Active, and she was in that band with her husband of the time, Mitch Easter, who is and was a very important person in that sphere and time, the whole DBs/R.E.M/Let's Active scene. Yeah, that never surfaces, but she's also a very good musician and a major chick in general.

AO: Cool, very interesting.

Let's Active (hey, that's Angie!)

PM: So how did Sometymes Why come together?

AO: Well, Ruth Ungar Merenda, is how she's called now--she married her bandmate in the Mammals, whose name is Michael Merenda, so her name is now Ruth Unger Merenda. Ruth and I, anyway, had gotten together about seven and a half years ago at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, where both of us were singing with the Wayfaring Strangers, which is another band that I used to be in.

PM: Right. And we're going to get to them for sure.

AO: So that's how Ruth and I met. And we were sort of drawn together at that festival--never met, and Matt [Glaser] said, "You guys are going to go on stage and sing this duet." And the Philly Folk Festival is really big.

PM: Oh, yeah, I grew up going to that every year.

AO: So it's really, really a pretty big festival, and it was kind of nerve wracking. I was only eighteen at the time.

PM: Damn. And what were you going to sing?

AO: We were going to sing "When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall"; there's a duet of us singing it on the Wayfaring Strangers album, This Train.

PM: Okay.

AO: Anyway, so we did it, it was just almost perfect. We kind of rehearsed it once, and then got on stage, and it was gorgeous.

PM: Wow.

AO: And that sort of began our musical relationship. And then I think I met Kristin Andreassen a couple months previous. I met Kristin before I met Ruth. But I didn't really start hanging out with her until the following summer. And we kind of all met individually. Anyway, Sometymes Why started the December 2004 or January of 2005, so almost two years ago. We just got together to do a couple songs at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York.

PM: Where's that, the Sidewalk Cafe?

AO: East 6th and Avenue A.

PM: Right.

AO: And it worked out really well. We kind of traded songs. We got together in a Brooklyn living room where Kristin was living, and played all these songs. Went to the Sidewalk, did it. Did it again a month later. And then in May, went up to just sort of hang out at Ruth's house in West Hurley, New York, and put up a microphone, and that's all the album.

PM: "Put up a microphone"?

AO: Two.

PM: Two.

AO: We put up one right in front of us, and sort of one really up high in the room to get ambient sounds [laughs] from literally--

PM: And who was recording it, on what?

AO: We were recording it onto somebody's laptop, it was all Digital.

PM: Holy jeez! Two mics into a laptop and it sounded like that record?

AO: Yeah, that is that record.

PM: That is the record. Yeah. Wow. Nice mics, like an old Neumann or something like that?

AO: They were Audio Technicas.

PM: Good mics, yeah.



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