Meredith Hobbs spoke with Taylor Belmore about performing for tired adults, growing up in an outdoor paradise and what instrument holds a priceless value for her.
Although I did dance throughout my childhood and always enjoyed being dressed up and on the stage, exposing my voice felt incredibly vulnerable.
Meredith Hobbs Coons
What was your first experience with live performance?
Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach. It was a bar full of disinterested, tired adults and I was a 17-year-old girl with a guitar. It was so bad that I told my mom I would never perform music again. Although I did dance throughout my childhood and always enjoyed being dressed up and on the stage, exposing my voice felt incredibly vulnerable.
What is your religious or spiritual background, and how do you identify now?
My parents had no intention of raising me to follow any particular faith. My parents did encourage my brother and I to engage our imaginations, however, and that certainly fostered some kind of spiritual magic. My father also loves Joseph Campbell and we frequently discuss myth, which I think is so deeply imbedded in art and our psyche that it feels spiritual to me.
Your instrument, the viola de gamba, has strings made from a sheep’s gut. Do you feel like objects made from living things carry some essence of the creature they were before?
The instrument certainly holds an archaic power. I have remarked on how un-vegan it is to have this mixture of tree and animal parts, horse hair and sheep gut; I believe a part of the bow has ivory on it as well. This organic instrument was given to me by my teacher and holds a priceless value to me; there is no way that I could ask for it to be changed. I feel that music, like food, is a cultural gift and a spiritual connection to each other and our earth. I am aware of its power and hope to treat it as respectfully as it deserves.
This book tends to disappear and reappear in unexpected places. We like to think that it’s off in the other dimension for just a minute.
What are your thoughts on animism in general? Do you own any possessions that you feel have lives of their own?
When my brother and I were teenagers, we found this very special book in a tiny bookstore (very Never Ending Story!). We pooled our money together and bought the book. This book tends to disappear and reappear in unexpected places for irregular amounts of time. We like to think that it’s off in the other dimension for just a minute.
Tell me about baking.
It’s funny that I have ended up being hired as a baker so frequently. I am not a very orderly person and by no means a chemist, and people often say that baking is more of an exact science, as far as cooking goes. I never tried to be a baker; people have usually just put me into that position. I guess I look like someone who should produce cookies.
What does it mean to you to be a Californian?
Disillusionment happens to everyone somehow as we grow up. I have grown up seeing the world as an outdoor paradise. I grew up in the social bubble thinking that people are beautiful and should be treated as such. But then you find out that things don’t go that way and that people don’t behave that way, and the beauty all around is vanishing. But everything is relative.
What do you think California needs right now?
A reality check, some humility and to earn its voice.
Your current band has a distinct jazz influence, and several band members have received classical training. Has this prompted you to go in directions you hadn’t expected with your music?
Artistically, I think that I have always been inspired by those who step out of the lines. Jazz is the inception of that for music. My musical goals have always been to make whatever naturally comes out of me, and to work with musicians who are miles ahead of me. I am secretly starstruck by everyone I get to work with.
Adam Nash, who plays guitar in the group, definitely approached me about turning my songs into this band. He is incredibly talented and wholly obsessed with music, so it was a no brainer to dive into this project. He has studied jazz, among other styles, and could honestly play anything you throw at him. So he wasn’t afraid that my songs were too “out there,” and he expressed to me his need to experiment with his own sound as a guitar player.
More than anything, I want to write music that gives others the platform to be creative. We have approached this music from two very different worlds and it is more and more exciting to see where it is going the more we work on it.
I am constantly anxious to work, developing the world and characters that are just waiting in the other dimensions.
When you aren’t playing in Arthur Watership, you are involved in multiple musical projects as a collaborator — playing drums, singing, etc. How does this role influence your approach to songcraft?
Oh, I really love hearing the other guys’ tunes. I play drums for Jon Bartel of The Creston Line, which is on the verge of country twang, but with a real and sensitive grit. His words paint distinct and heartfelt pictures, and I enjoy his punk rock approach. I also sing backup for Josh Barnhart. He writes the parts and weaves colors with his tunes. It’s a groovy trance that I like to get into when I play with him. He has a great command and vision for his sound that I respect so much.
One thing that constantly impresses me about your music is your command of vocal harmonies. What is your approach to crafting them? Do they take on any sort of image in your consciousness?
Harmonies have terrified me, with the exception of when I get to sing with Chloe Smith — for the band Mothra — or Josh Barnhart. I can’t explain what happens. It’s just the right thing to do.
What do you imagine the next three years will look like for you?
I hope that this next year, after putting out our first full-band recordings, we will be making a big push to perform, and I expect to put a lot of work in. I also hope to work with new artists, particularly visual artists. I am constantly anxious to work, developing the world and characters that are just waiting in the other dimensions.
Curated by: Meredith Hobbs
Conducted by: Email
Edited by: Morgan Enos
Published: July 12, 2018
Total questions: 11
Word count: 1023
Reading time: Four minutes
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