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October 2, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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The Rogers Sisters: Keeping it in the Family (Kind Of)

The Rogers Sisters are made up of Laura (drums), Jennifer Rogers (guitar and vocals), and Miyuki Furtado (bass and vocals). Their XTC meets B-52s meets Talking Heads meets Sonic Youth template was laid down and defined by their 2002 debut Purely Evil and expanded, and deepened by last year’s mini-album Three Fingers and this year’s full length release The Invisible Deck. In the past few years they have built up a legion of fans with near constant touring and spastic-dance inducing live shows, and will play Wellington soon, for the second time in the last two years. SALIENT Editor James Robinson talks to Laura Rodgers about taking their own little piece of New York to the world.

Rogers SistersLaura: How are you doing?

James: Good. How are you doing?

L: It’s morning there right?

J: No, it’s early afternoon, it’s about two o’clock.

L: Early afternoon huh? Yeah, it’s about 11 o’clock at night here, and I am hanging out at my bar. (Laughs)

J: Well at least you are out. I’m at work.

L: Yeah, I finished work and some friends met me at the bar. So we’re sitting around talking.

J: You have to work as well as being in a band?

L: Yeah… Well my sister and I own a bar, and sometimes I work there because I like it.

J: Do you find that more people go to the bar as your band gets bigger and bigger?

L: I never feel like that! People who work at the bar always tell me that people come in and ask “are you in the Rogers Sisters?”, but I always think that they are lying to make me feel better. But certainly people ask about us because they know we own it, so hopefully it is doing some good. I’m not above using my band to promote my business.

J: How did you guys all come to form The Rogers Sisters together?

L: We usually try to make up something that’s fun. But, I can’t think of anything good right now, so I’ll give you the straight story. My sister was asked to play some songs at a birthday party, we were all in between bands and she was too scared to play alone. She’s really shy, unless she’s backed by a tornado, so she asked me to play with her. And she happened to mention to someone that she wanted to find a bass player to play and they said, “hey, you should call my friend Yuki” [Rogers Sisters bassist/vocalist Miyuki Furtado]. And the next day we got together with him and he learnt to play like eight of our songs in a couple of hours and the next day we played them without practising and so we all sort of said, “hey that was kind of easy, that’s never happened before.” A lot of other bands we were in, it was so hard to get anything done. And this was sort of fun.

J: The chemistry just worked.

L: Yeah. I guess that’s how you know what you’re supposed to do.

J: What’s it like being in a band with your sister?

L: Yeah, when we were kids we didn’t get along at all. And now that we do, we kind of only get along with each other. It’s really cool, especially when you’re travelling together. It’s nice to have someone that you really relate to.

J: Your new album has been out for a while now. Anything you’d change?

L: There’s always things that I’d change. I’m a perfectionist anyway, but there is never enough time to do what you want to do. You always want to change things, and then when you listen to it a week before you send it away you think, “oh, man, now that doesn’t sound good anymore,” and you want to go back again. There’s a lot of stuff I’d change. But, I can’t so I try and not pay attention. (Laughs) I just ignore it.

J: When you guys sit down to write songs, what’s your creative Process?

L: When we first were a band and we didn’t think we would ever do anything, we would just play all the time because it was fun, and we would write ten songs a week. Now we’re constantly ducking in and out of town and we don’t have a tour bus, so we can’t play there, so it’s a lot of bits and pieces, we try to write skeletons in practice, and then work on them during soundcheck. It’s a lot different then it used to be.

J: How do you think The Invisible Deck differs from previous releases?

L: Well with all our records, we try and do something new every time, we don’t want to play the same song over and over and call it a different name. Hopefully we’ve expanded the song writing, and tried to incorporate a lot more singing together. We’ve gone for some more classic song structures and made them more than two minutes long. And tried to make an album with highs and lows instead of here’s a song, here’s a song, here’s a song. We added a flute, and some different instruments, a little more percussion.

J: What were you guys listening to at the time of recording the album?

L: So much different stuff! I know we were listening to a lot of Brazilian, tropicalian music, and some old psychedelic music, and some Turkish psychedelic music, and just a lot of psych music in general. We didn’t get to incorporate as much of it as we would like to, hopefully that’ll be in the next album. For Three Fingers [2005 released mini-album] we were listening to a lot of hip-hop, just for production values. We got a lot of ideas from that, and we’re always trying to incorporate new production ideas.

J: How hard is the whole American scene to tackle, being such a big country?

L: It is such a big country! So much of the middle of the country is completely unimportant and further behind places like London, and New York and LA…and Sydney and Melbourne and Wellington… all the big cities are such different places than say Detroit, or anywhere in Ohio, and you have to go through all of those places to get from one side to the other. It’s really challenging for anyone to come out and see you.

J: Do you guys find it quite challenging travelling across country, just realising how big America is?
L: We did a tour last Spring where we literally drove all the way across one way and all the way across another in a matter of two weeks. And we went through so many different places, so many different climates and there were a lot of places I’ve never been before. And we went through forests, we went through deserts, we went through rocky mountains, we went through all of California, and that’s such a huge state on it’s own that you go through five different kinds of landscape, its really incredible that it’s all one country.

J: How influential is New York on your music? Do you guys have any favourite local bands that are influential to you?

L: Everyone we know is pretty much in a band. And every band is totally different, and I think that’s really cool. We know people that do everything, and everyone has really eclectic tastes. And then there are so many insane nerdy music collectors connected to us, or parts of us are like that. And we get exposed to a lot of different kinds of music. I just think we’re surrounded by so much of it here that it has given us so many ideas and inspirations.

J: Sounds like a good place to be a music fan.

L: I think so, because it’s not just about what we’re playing, it’s what everyone’s listening to, and finding something new and interesting and exciting, and seeing the different ways that people develop it to their own personality. It’s a great place to be, I love it here.

J: Were you guys in town for the fifth anniversary of September 11?

L: Yeah… we were. It was weird, there was all these television specials and movies coming out, and I don’t think anyone who lives here really wanted to watch it because we were here when it happened and we remember. And it’s really kind of painful to go back and watch that stuff.

J: Does it continue to be an influence for the people that live in the city?

L: Kind of, everyone tries to move on, but it comes up often in my life. Anytime you meet someone from out of town, it’s still right there, with this war and this president and this government, it’s still a national concern… Whether it’s in a positive way or a negative way or a truthful way. For whatever reason it comes up, I remember it, I saw it out my kitchen window, it’s really kind of heavy.

J: You guys released an album with George Bush on the front cover.

L: Yeah… (laughs) we did.

J: How do politics and music interact within the band?

L: Well. It’s kind of backwards with him being on the cover, that was kinda funny, and kind of an art project taking us back to like, the 80s hardcore music [an era rife with anti-Reagan imagery and motifs], because those were the kind of records we had as kids and we’d look at them…It was like, what came before our band was all this pretty, heavy, serious, indie-music, and we wanted to do something really spazzy and hyper, so we just took records from a different time and tried to do this really funny thing with naked butts and presidents and meat on the cover, and we did. So it wasn’t really that political… But people are accused of being political all the time, and we’re political people, and we’re trying to be smart sometimes. Everything’s not all “ooh, baby, baby”, some of our songs are about dreams, and big hair and Gene Hackman, but there are some songs with social commentary. I don’t know how it fits in… we’re an enigma, for sure.

J: Is it an eye opener being an American sometimes in other countries?

L: No, people are really nice to us. We always get really nervous when we go to town but people know that most of the people in this country are not directly affiliated with what’s going on, and people are nice and are always excited to talk to us and find out what’s going on over here and people are really generous everywhere we go.

J: Any favourite places to tour in the world?

L: Well, we just went for our first time to a play a festival in Istanbul, Turkey. Which is ridiculous. It was one of the most exotic places I’ve ever been, and we’d heard all kinds of mixed reviews. I’ve known people who had been there and had said “oh it’s amazing you’re going to love it”. But to really have been there and seen Turkish fans calling out our name on stage was really surreal.

“I think they were into it. It’s funny though because it seems that in Turkey grunge just hit. We were playing in this festival and more than one band played Nirvana covers, and one band played three Nirvana covers – as part of their own shows, which was weird.”
Laura Rodgers


J: How did the people like your music?

L: I think they were into it. It’s funny though because it seems that in Turkey grunge just hit. We were playing in this festival and more than one band played Nirvana covers, and one band played three Nirvana covers – as part of their own shows, which was weird.

J: That is pretty strange.

L: Their songs kind of had this grunge edge, and they all had all these traditional pretty Turkish Arabesque melodies and they were a little bit reverby, a little bit grungey and a little bit psychedelic. They turned them all into this mish-mash that was really amazing. We loved it.

J: And you guys were dropped in the middle.

L: Yeah, I don’t know what they thought. They seemed to like us, but we were more impressed with what was going on there because it was so weird and great.

J: So you guys are coming down to New Zealand for the second time within a year or so.

L: I can’t believe we’re coming back! I mean I got to once, and now I can’t believe we get to go back, it’s unbelievable.

J: So you guys enjoyed it here last time?

L: I had the best time. I wish we could stay for a little bit longer. It’s so beautiful and the people are so friendly and the shows were so much fun. And the sky was beautiful and I got taken to a black sand beach, which we don’t have here. It was amazing. I felt like I was standing at the edge of the earth and if you went any further you’d just fall off.

J: Well, we look forward to seeing you guys back down under.

L: Thanks!

THE ROGERS SISTERS PLAY THE SAN FRANCISCO BATHHOUSE ON TUESDAY THE 10TH OF OCTOBER. AND I’D SUGGEST GOING ALONG.

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About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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