Little Orange Room Sessions is a one-take, one-shot, “living-room”-style performance video series recorded in Eugene, Oregon. Each two-song session is recorded in the 125 square feet that I use for mixing, producing, and sometimes even recording entire albums. Little Orange Room Sessions grew out of my crazy love of music and mixing, a growing curiosity about film and cameras, and a deep-seated passion for performance and the art of song.
*photo: Keenan MT
Session #1: Dead Horses
Wisconsin based folk duo Dead Horses is Sarah Vos (gtr & vocal) and Daniel Wolff (upright bass & vocal). They stopped by Little Orange Room Sessions this past July while on the west coast leg of their summer tour. Last month they played a string of shows supporting Joe Pug and graciously took time to answer some questions.
LORS: You guys have released 3 singles in 2019 so far: “Family Tapes” (JAN), “A Mighty Storm” (APRIL), and “Birds Can Write the Chorus” (JULY). Is this a sign of what’s to come as far as how you release music moving forward? Are there plans to release these songs on an album down the road?
DW: We are planning to release Birds Can Write the Chorus, Mighty Storm, and Family Tapes as part of an EP by early next year. We intend to record two more songs this fall to add to this collection. This will be done in a similar fashion; Sarah and I self-producing the tracks. We’re also stepping outside of The Refuge in Appleton, where we did the first three, to explore other Wisconsin based recording facilities. The approach we used to craft this EP is something we’re going to continue expanding on in the rehearsal room this fall. The recording process for each of our three records has been different based on the situation at hand. The self-producing route is forcing us to craft our material and expand the ways in which we collaborate with each other as well as other musicians.
LORS: I’m a songwriter so I’m always fascinated talking to other songwriters about their process. Is there sort of a trusted approach…or maybe…an habitual route a Dead Horses song takes from being an idea to becoming “done”/ready to play live/recorded?
DW: The process starts with Sarah sharing anything she’s been writing and exploring musically. Often but not always through the medium of phone recordings. From there it’s always changing. Earlier on, we’d form songs in real time and they would develop a lot in the live setting. The songs from our latest two albums My Mother the Moon and Cartoon Moon formed in a mix between live performance and time in the studio. Lately, we’ve been demoing songs before even going into a studio to record. We’re still exploring new ways to record and work out new material.
LORS: Sarah, I know there are a lot of personal experiences you draw from in your writing, especially on your 2018 album, “My Mother The Moon.” In your bio its described as an “album of catharsis and redemption.”Do you feel like the writing process for you is generally an introspective and retrospective one?
SV: Yes, I think that’s a good way of putting it. My nature has always been to write songs; it is very instinctual and innate for me to express myself that way, and it’s been one of life’s greatest gifts to practice songwriting. To really get down to it, I don’t think any of our ideas as songwriters are completely original or unique. We’re all drawing from this source of muse- a combination of human experience and observation of what we sense around and inside of us. This is what art is, right? And one of the beautiful things about it -that I think gets pointed out often- is how we all hear and interpret music differently. There are all these individual things about creating and receiving art but it all really comes from the same thing!
LORS: Guy Clark sings, “Some days you write the song / some days the song writes you.” Which line best describes you?
SV: That’s a great quote! I have felt best about some of the songs that seemed to write themselves- almost like I had very little to do with it. It’s within our nature as humans to see meaning in things. I think this is one of our most beautiful qualities! I have had some uncanny experiences with words I have written in the past that seemed rather ambiguous to me, without much interpretable meaning, and then some time later made a whole lot of sense.
LORS: Any music that you’re both listening to that I should put in my ear holes? Or any good books you’re currently reading or just finished?
SV: I’ve been loving everything Big Thief has been putting out. I also just discovered Department of Eagles. They’re a duo that includes Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear. As far as books go, I’m knee deep in one called “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.” It’s monumental!
DW: I just started reading a book by Tobias Wolff titled “Old School”. It’s told from the perspective of a senior year student on scholarship (presumably Tobias himself) at an elite East Coast all-boy prep school (1960-1961) where literature and writing is of main focus. The students are overconfident yet desperate for approval from the likes of Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway who all pay visits to the school to judge writing competitions. It’s been an interesting look into the writing process and to see how the author trivializes some of the teachings at the prep school.I just discovered Arthur Russell, a cellist, composer and singer-songwriter originally from Iowa. He crossed a lot of musical styles in his 42 years alive. ‘Love Is Overtaking Me’ is one compilation of his work that Audika Records put out after his death in ‘92. To me, it starts like Nick Drake but then morphs into something reminiscent of The Smiths. I was happy to find it. Another album of his called ‘First Thought Best Thought’ is 20 tracks of fully instrumental music which is pretty minimalist in nature. There are some really beautiful sounds and melodies on there.
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