The former Vermillion Lies star uncorks her own career.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
To listen to Zoe Boekbinder’s Artichoke Perfume is to enter an alternate reality populated by dead tightrope walkers, typewriter girls struck down by San Francisco streetcars and freshwater turtles dreaming of a dip in the salty sea. The world is colored with Boekbinder’s boiling tea kettle vocals, a subtle pulse of horns and some finger-picked acoustic guitar that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old country blues 45.
The 11-song, 32-minute CD begins with “Paralyzing,” a marching song of acoustic guitar strums and horns that kicks off with the lines: “When you go/ You don’t look back.” It could be seen as a declaration of independence for Zoe, who was half the cabaret and folk act Vermillion Lies with her sister Kim until this past summer when the band on an indefinite hiatus as the two pursued solo careers. Or it could be a defiant kiss-off to a former lover. Whatever it is, it is Artichoke Perfume’s best song and a great example of Zoe’s new solo sound.
Other songs on Artichoke Perfume find Zoe traveling down new roads. With its busy drums and horns, “Skeletons” sounds like big-band jazz. Meanwhile, the music of “Going Home” has a distinctive country flavor while the former Monterey resident sings lines: “I’m going home/ Where it’s cold and grey/ I’m going home/ Where the jobs don’t pay.”
Like her sister Kim, Zoe foresees a time in the future where there will be a Vermillion Lies reunion. But she also says that her solo work is “something I’m going to continue to do forever.”
“I think Vermillion Lies has sort of always been a little more of Kim’s project, and there was another project calling me,” Zoe says. “My album is basically more of what I want to do.”
To create Artichoke Perfume, Zoe collaborated with producer and songwriter Cesar Alvarez of the Brooklyn indie band The Lisps. The two met when Vermillion Lies opened for The Lisps at a New York City show. This summer, they spent almost three weeks in a studio within New Jersey’s Bloomfield College recording the project. During the making of the CD, Alvarez would suggest that Zoe use unconventional methods in the studio. “He’s really creative with how we recorded things,” Zoe says. “He had me sing through this cone thing into the microphone so it sounded more like a gramophone.”
Throughout the process, Zoe found that she trusted Alvarez more and more. “For most of the songs, I really just gave him his freedom,” she says. “I’m super glad that I did, because I think he took the songs in really interesting directions that I would have never thought of.”
Zoe says the collection of folk and jazzy numbers come from a different place than the music she created with her sister in Vermillion Lies. “It’s more personal,” she says. “It’s more intimate. The songs that we sing with Vermillion Lies are funny or not incredibly personal. The songs that I’m singing in my solo project are very much about vulnerable, emotional parts of my life.”
Without troupes of burlesque dancers or her sister with her onstage, Zoe says her solo show will differ from those wildly theatrical performances Vermillion Lies were known for.
“For my set, it’s just going to be me,” she says. “I use a loop pedal like Kim does [in her solo show]. We replaced each other with loop pedals.”