Gracie and Rachel at Savannah Stopover

Gracie and Rachel

Brooklyn-based duo, Gracie and Rachel, make their Stopover debut Friday, March 10th at Trinity United Methodist Church. Mixing classical elements with dark, edgy alt-pop sensibilities and fiercely tight vocal harmonies, these two are a musical force to be reckoned with. Ephemeral yet powerful. Nebulous yet precise.  Trinity Sanctuary doesn’t know what’s about to hit.

Recently, hissing lawns caught up with Gracie and Rachel to learn more about the duo, where they’re from, and where they’re headed.

You are both originally from the Bay Area–how/where did you meet? How long have you known each other?
G: We actually met in high school! We were placed in the same dance class junior year, and at the beginning of the semester the teacher asked who the musicians in the classroom were. Rachel being a violinist, and myself being a piano player, we both raised our hands and it was decided: we were to make the music for the dance performance. I remember being a little annoyed like, ‘Hey I wanted to dance in the dance class, not play music for it!’ But it resulted in Rachel and I rehearsing together at my house after school for this performance, ultimately realizing we really enjoyed playing together, and coming to explore our own voices as writers together. So I refer to our meeting as an arranged marriage that ended up feeling like we chose it ourselves. We were about 16 when we met so we’re coming on a about decade of knowing one another! I mean, just kidding… We are only 17, so it’s just really been a whirlwind of a year.

Can you share a little about how you began working together? What is your collaborative process like?

G: Initially, we would expand simple ideas I had written on the piano, just very basic four-chord patterns, with verses and choruses and sometimes even bridges. Rachel would find ways to dress things up or tear them apart, and we’d ultimately just work together to mess the sound up a little bit to make it more unresolved and exciting. Then got into doing instrumental vamps that started with say, a violin drone, and we’d try to open that up a bit to become more of a score-like piece. Through the years, though, we’ve come to hone combinations of these kinds of approaches so that our music speaks cinematically and still with a sort of indie-pop foundation.

R: Gracie will come to me with a piano ‘seed’ she wants me to evolve and, vice versa, I’ll come to her with a sound I want to further explore but don’t know where it should go yet. Together, we trust in one another to explore the sounds we want to hear and bring them to fruition with a little give and take. It’s very much collaborative, patient, and full of experimentation.

G: It’s a lot of voice memos sent back and forth, hating an idea you loved yesterday, figuring out how to make it better, and trusting in your partner that when you can’t pick up the slack, they will. I think we both feel very grateful for what the other brings to the process. With Rachel being a classical violinist and me coming from a more contemporary background, the cliché has always been: Rachel gives Gracie structure and Gracie gives Rachel freedom, and I think that’s how it was a lot more when we first began writing together, but now it feels much more open and limitless in terms of how we individually and jointly interpret and develop various sonic ideas. It’s always different, but it seems to get stronger by the day and feels like an adventure we continue to want to explore and go deeper into.

Why did you decide to move to Brooklyn? What’s it like being a musician in the Big City?

G: You know, it was kind of a toss up between Los Angeles and New York as we really felt pulled to both those cities in strong ways, and we just decided that because we’re from the West Coast already we wanted to get a taste of East Coast living and give it our best go. We had some musician friends who were moving to Brooklyn and playing shows there around the same time we wanted to make a transition, so that also helped us feel confident in making the move, like we had somewhat of a community that we could tap into there. We got a big loft space in Bushwick and built it out so that we could both live and work in our space without driving each other too crazy. That’s not to say we don’t drive each other crazy – we do! It’s wild to live, work and breathe the same air almost nonstop, but it’s been important to us to live in the music together in order to evolve our sound more presently and really keep things flowing in exciting ways every day.

Gucci, Gucci is off the chain. What inspired you to cover that song? Did you arrange the song, if so, what inspired that arrangement?

G: Thank you! So glad you like it. Well to start, Kreayshawn is from the Bay Area, so it was a lot of fun to see all the action around her in our hometown when “Gucci Gucci” came out, and we’ve just always appreciated that song for its quirky, empowering attitude. One day we were driving back from a show in Carrboro, North Carolina, and “Gucci Gucci” came on the radio, so it was stuck in our heads pretty much that whole day. When the drives are long like that one was, you have to get inventive with car time to keep it from getting too monotonous. Rachel and I started harmonizing an acapella arrangement of the song and just decided to make it our mission to finish an arrangement before we got back to New York. Rachel is pretty deeply influenced by renaissance and early music practices, so she really took the reigns in terms of the harmonies and kind of made it a tribute to early western polyphonic music. It was a unique challenge and something we hadn’t done before so we had a lot of fun with it.

Your EP available on iTunes–who recorded and produced it? 

R: It seems like that question is more loaded than ever these days as we’ve been going back to revamp certain songs, bring new layers to things, and record new songs with different producers in various studios, but the general rundown goes: Garrett Eaton, Greg Giorgio, and Steve Wall. To specifically site who recorded, produced, and mixed each individual track would take a little while, but you’ll get all those answers when the album comes out very soon!

Where did you record it?

G: We recorded the core of the album in our loft in Brooklyn with producer and friend, Garrett Eaton, who actually moved into our space for a month and literally set up a tent in our living room which was both hilarious and so appropriate. We were recording 12-hour days for about a month straight where we would essentially wake up, record all day, go to sleep, and repeat. At the end of the day, we all needed have some zen moments alone where we could close/zip our doors shut. Then more recently we did additional mixing and production up at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut with Greg Giorgio, and finally recorded some new songs with Steve Wall at Room 17 in Brooklyn as well as did some additional mixing and production with him. What a longwinded answer to such a simple question!

You are performing at the Trinity Methodist Church during Stopover–an excellent venue revered in Savannah for its sweet acoustics–have you visited Savannah before? Is there anything that you are looking forward to in Savannah while you are here?

R: We really love performing in churches – the acoustics are right in line with how we like to mix our music in the live setting. We strive for that full, cathedral-like ambiance so it is going to be a real treat to take that stage. We haven’t been to Savannah before and are so amped to be there! Unfortunately, our time there will be quick as we play Atlanta the day after our Stopover performance, but we hope to soak up as much of the city’s energy as possible and are always welcome to recommendations! We’re really looking forward to seeing so many Brooklyn bands on the lineup this year so it should be a good time.

G: We’ve heard Savannah is really, really ugly. (Laughs)