Americana Highways brings you this premiere of The Bowmans’ song “Digger” from their forthcoming album due in 2021. The Bowmans are twins Sarah and Claire. The song was written and produced by Sarah Bowman;
recorded at SoundFarm Studios, Luzern Switzerland & Chäslager Stans Kulturhaus, on Stans, Switzerland by Marco Jencarelli and Darren Hayne; and mastered by Marco Jencarelli. “Digger” is Sarah Bowman on vocals, keys, acoustic guitar, and cello; Claire Bowman on vocals and keys; Mathias Kunzli on drums; Patrik Zosso on beat programming; Christian Winiker on electric guitar; and Wolfgang Zwiauer on bass and synths.
We asked them a few questions, here in our mini interview. The song premiere is beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: How did you get involved with music?
The Bowmans: I think music got involved with us, actually. We were so young when we started singing and harmonizing together. Dad recalls that we were only 3 years old when we sang in harmony in the backseat on a car ride. Mom and Dad enrolled us in piano lessons at an early age, and then took us to The Peace Chautauqua on an Iowa Farm when we were kids. We sat under a tarp in the rain, watching Pete Seeger, Inti illimani, Ronnie Gilbert, Sweet Honey in the Rock and others perform, and because the rain never let up, we sat around in people’s tents. Our neighbor Carol had a guitar. I remember that’s when I wanted to learn to play. She let me hold it, but I was an anxious kid and I remember feeling paralized. But a nylon string guitar found its way to me shortly thereafter. Claire and I loved playing four hands on the piano, or six hands with our older sister Emily. Claire and I started our singing puppet shows around the age of 7 or 8, and we made up songs on the spot – some of which were catchy enough to repeat like ‘My Nose’ and ‘The Porker Song,’ which we later included on our breakout album. Then elementary school orchestra auditions rolled around, and we selected the violin and the cello, and everything went on from there: formal education in music for me, philosophy and psychology for her – which is not unrelated, because here we are writing and interpreting songs.
AH: What were your early inspirations? What was music played in your house growing up?
Sarah Bowman: Dad sang Gregorian Chant among other things, played a recorder, and two part inventions at the piano. Not nerdy at all. Mom had a famously loud voice, but no sense for pitch as she belted Joan Baez tunes or Simon and Garfunkel. She loved all the freedom singers, and Maria Calais, and Dad loved Baroque and Renaissance music. But I wonder if the rehearsals streaming out of the windows of the neighborhood Gospel choir was what initially made me want to sing. I remember how that sound used to feel from my place on the sidewalk. And that vibration is how my cello makes me feel when I lean into it, or my guitar to play and sing. But there is no vibration more powerful, more invigorating than the one that emerges when Claire and I lock in harmony. Nothing like it
.Our early inspirations were diverse. Mom was born in the Bronx and Mom and Dad met at Fordham in the 60s so anything that graced the Greenwich Village stages or Lincoln Center (They spoke often about seeing Leonard Bernstein conduct the symphonic dances of West Side Story) was part of our fabric through them. But as teenagers, I found Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, and Janis Joplin and I really wanted to be in a rock band while Claire was getting into everything from The Beatles to Depeche Mode and R.E.M to Cocteau Twins. We shared our musical tastes, but identified with these bands separately.
AH: As two artists living in different places, what is your creative process like?
Claire Bowman: Sarah writes songs on a regular basis – never plans it that way, but they come out like clockwork after the first coffee Monday mornings because that’s when the kids were out of the house and the house became still.
Sarah Bowman: Sometimes we catch ‘aha’ moments in conversations, and someone stakes the claim on what was said for a song that will be written someday… but mostly songs come out of a strong and urgent need or habit without too much deliberation. Claire wrote her first song in adulthood for this album, and it may be the most impactful song to emerge from the two of us yet.
Over the past years, we’ve been getting together a couple of times a year to rehearse, perform and toss around ideas. During the process of planning this album we went on a self made retreat in Croatia, where we discussed the direction we wanted to go in musically, with the new songs that had been written. We really had a moment of clarity where we were able to be less closeted about our true inspirations, then and now.
AH: What inspired you to write “Digger”?
SB: I remember the moment but not the details because these songs come to me almost like a dream that you forgot about until it hits you mid day. It was probably a Monday, and I was sitting outside in my sun chair when my husband came out with a couple cups of coffee, handed me mine, and told me something he had just read in the headlines. I can’t remember anymore what it was, but suddenly this really quiet kind of rage took over me and I went to the keyboard. I didn’t even bother to shut the garden door, so the whole neighborhood heard me bang out this tune. Whatever the headline was, it forced me to reflect on a couple of selfish men from my past, and then on the whole problem of their mentality – how there’s so much focus on individual success and getting ahead that women end up sacrificing a lot to be appealing to these toxic narcissists who, when won, will never be a partner or a true companion. And this value we put on getting ahead has destroyed so much of American life for so long. It’s all showing its ugly head now, so why am I still looking away or feeling inferior? I wrote this song to replace submission with empowerment.
AH: How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard of you?
SB: The first thing people tend to comment on is our harmonies. It’s hard to tell which twin is singing which part, and we like to weave around each other and create countermelodies. Without a doubt, the songs contain highly personal subject matter. Themes include family dysfunction, coping mechanisms, destructive societal norms, and overcoming mental illness. However, the music doesn’t buckle under the weight of its content. Many of the songs carry a groove, and stick-in-your-head, upbeat choruses reminiscent of the alt-rock, grunge, and 80’s pop that we were into during their formative years, plus echoes of our folk and classical roots. Scrutiny finds a way of being light— without making light— of personal struggles.
More recently, we’ve been compared with The War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etten, and Brandi Carlile.
AH: What’s next?
SB: This is the first track of several singles to come leading up to the album release later in 2021. We have an accompanying monthly podcast where the twins have heart-to-hearts, sing, and “play” while discussing the meaning of each song.
Sarah and Claire will openly explore their current adult struggles while also spontaneously revealing their childhood selves. The Bowmans explore coping with the passing of time and buried regrets, here in their latest offering. The Bowmans are no wallflowers, they are true heavy hitters. All the bridges you burn for a taste of lightning.
PRE SAVE their music here: https://ps.onerpm.com/2945811320