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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Interview Tue Mar 27 2012

Interview: Bowerbirds — Building with Salvaged Wood

[This interview comes to us from reader Rachel Angres.]

Beth Tacular and Phil Moore of Bowerbirds were gracious to share a telephone line and a few stories while sitting in their un-finished cabin located in a remote area just outside of their hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. The cabin is a work in progress that Beth and Phil began building with their very own bare hands over the course of three years, coincidentally since the time they began recording their previous album Hymns For a Dark Horse back in the fall of 2007. The band just released its latest effort, The Clearing, this past month.

They started building the cabin by gathering scraps of wood from the surrounding land to build the structure and foundation. As an artist herself, Beth was exhilarated about this challenging process, perhaps because she utilized her craftsmanship and artistic talent to incorporate art into the manual labor.

[mp3] - "Tuck The Darkness In" by Bowerbirds from The Clearing

bowerbirds beth and phil.jpg
Beth Tacular and Phil Moore of Bowerbirds

How do you balance both building a cabin and touring with the band?

PM: It really hasn't been easy to balance the two.

BT: We try to focus on one thing at a time. If we are trying to build, we work on the cabin during the day- and at night we play music. It wore us out after a while.

You had a lot of collaborators work on The Clearing. Who were some of the people involved?

PM: We started recording with Brian Joseph, the sound engineer at April Base Studios based out of New York City for the initial tracks on the album. We worked with a reed performer over the course of a day. Other artists and close friends such as S. Carey and Bon Iver helped out with the instrumentals. When we came back [to Wisconsin] we started working with Rachel Rollins who did most of the string arrangements. I wrote some of the songs on piano...which Beth plays on the album.

BT: I have a piano in my art studio. I find it's easier for me to think of parts with the piano and my voice than it is when playing the accordion. It is less strenuous and cumbersome when you can actually see what you are playing.

How has building the house influenced your relationship with each other?
(There is a faint sigh in the background)

BT: Just so you know that sigh you just heard was not me, it was my dog, Olive.

PT: It has been really challenging; being around one person all the time has been difficult but rewarding.

BT: In a way it is creating all of these memories. If we decided to have kids it would not be as hard to make important decisions together. People tell you it is hard to build a house with your partner...and it is, but on the other hand it's symbolic: you're creating your future where you live and work out of, so you realize all these little details and learn how to really live with each other.

Does that concept of building something together bleed into your music at all?

PT: Yes, but the music is less than a "rest of your life kind of thing"; playing is more about being in the moment — whereas building the home has these pre-determined ideas of what our lives will be like.

BT: We get really stubborn about the music. Phil is more of an expert [playing 15 years more than I have], so I have to catch up with him in that regard. Yet neither of us had built a house before, and we had no one to defer to, so it sort of became a very arduous learning experience. When we return home from tour we plan on finishing our cabin so we can focus on writing more music.

Bowerbirds perform at Lincoln Hall on Thursday, March 29 at 9pm. Dry The River opens the show. Tickets are $14. 21+. Lincoln Hall is located at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. (773) 525-2501.

-Rachel Angres

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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