Contributor’s Note: A Place Both Wonderful and Strange is more of an experience than a band. Their music is dark and more evocative than descriptive. Their shows are captivating, unpredictable, and challenge audience’s ideas of what a show can be. Russ Marshalek and Laura Hajek gave us a peek into their creative process, what’s been going on, and what we have to look forward to with them.
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What’s the song writing process like for you guys? You write such interesting, off the wall, crazy songs I’m interested to find out how you go from initial idea to final song?
Russ: It starts with something that’s not really related to music at all outside of inspiration. It can be a movie, a line from a book, anything–that, synesthetically, becomes an idea for a sound, which ends up being hammered, more or less, into the shape of a song. Lately that’s been driven by an overarching idea to make a collection of songs about similar things, but that album idea doesn’t show itself until way late in the process. Whatever we do next is the first record Laura and I will be writing together as a duo, and we have a Google Doc of lyrical ideas just to keep any/everything on the table until we figure out where this thing is going.
Laura: Up until now, I’ve come in after the songs have been written and added my parts like drizzling sugar onto a fresh bowl of strawberries. For the next record, I’m looking forward to being the China wherein strawberries lay.
What was it like being featured on Rolling Stone’s ‘15 Great Albums You Didn’t Hear in 2017?
Russ: Totally unexpected and amazing. I got texted on the subway home after a particularly awful day at work with the news. Also we’re in the pull image, which is….incredible.
Laura: god it was so exhilarating. I remember calling a friend and just cackling on the phone.
Did your writing process differ when working on this new single? I know it’s more of a post punk track which is kind of a departure for you.
Russ: “Kristae (The Strawberry Girl)” came from our desire to, specifically, write a post punk song. We riffed on the chorus, I could hear the beat immediately, and then I brought it to Laura and said, and i quote, “do a post punk bowm bowm low-slung bass thing”..and she did.
Laura: Kristae came from a joke between friends and evolved into something much greater. I think that’s how they wrote “blurred lines” too.
What sort of equipment, effects, or instruments do you use that you don’t see other musicians using?
Russ: I think we’ve weaponized our affinity for sounds from disparate influences–right now I’ve been really into sampling storytelling podcasts.
Laura: We use the effects of our crippling heartbreak and depression.
What’s your Holy Grail piece of equipment?
Russ: I don’t fetishize gear as much as a lot of people, but the ZOOM ARQ would be a damn fine way to drop some cash and get something VERY COOL.
Laura: I’m pleased to use a roli seaboard but I’d also like to get a Juno 60.
Do you approach performances differently than more sonically typical alt-rock/punk/indie bands?
Russ: I think so. Because we’re not as concerned with having to reproduce a sound live, we’re able to focus more on what the performance should look like, what it should feel like, even to some degree what it should smell like (incense, perfume, etc).
Laura: Every performance is a piece of living theatre for us.
Who are some of your favorite bands to perform with?
Russ: The Values! Also Winkie, the punk-noise band, and Prima Primo. Also we’ve been playing a lot of shows with the Lynchian band Fuck You, Tammy! And they’re just great. Also my wife’s project, Knifesex.
You’ve named your band after a quote from the show and you’ve released a series of songs called ‘The Laura Palmer Deviation.’ What about the TV show Twin Peaks inspires you?
Russ: It’s the combination of dark/light, the mixing of absurd with absolute terror.
Laura: I like the drug use and the clothes.
So where are you going on your tour this summer? Any shows you’re particularly excited about?
Russ: AAAHHH. Very excited! We’re spending a lot of time in my home state of Georgia, which is very cool, and we’re always up for St Louis (which surprisingly became a favorite stop last time) and the weird wonderful ways of Richmond.
Laura: oh. My. God. I agree with Russ. This is going to be the best tour ever. Excited for my favorite city Memphis and catching up with old and new friends across the whole country.
And there you have it! Thank you to Russ and Laura for taking the time to interview with us. Check out their music video for “Prom Night” below.
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