MusicMusic Features

Kristin Hersh Keeps the Music Flowing

Editor’s note: Kristin Hersh is currently touring behind an acclaimed new solo record, Possible Dust Clouds. She is also recording with her original band, influential alt-rockers Throwing Muses, who were chosen by The Cure’s Robert Smith to play the Pasadena Daydream festival in August. Flagpole contributor and former Pylon frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay caught up with her via email.

Flagpole: It’s a true pleasure to get to talk with you. Anyone who has followed music since the early 1980s is aware of your work with Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave—or should be! I have somewhat of a connection to you, in that my band Pylon recorded our third album, Chain, with your early producer Gary Smith and his engineer Steve Haigler. I reconnected with Gary briefly recently. It was good to hear from him. 

Kristin Hersh: Hi, Vanessa! Thank you so much for doing this. It’s an honor to “talk” to you.

FP: Reading your bio, I was surprised to see that you were born in Atlanta and moved to Rhode Island at the age of 6. Do you remember anything about your early years in Georgia? 

KH: Georgia made me. I was raised by Southern hippies who made it very clear that I was not ever to become a Yankee, that I was not ever to stop saying “sir” and “ma’am,” that I should be able to quote Jesus and the Buddha, to be able to throw a punch and make biscuits.

FP: Tell us about Possible Dust Clouds. The concept of “dark sunshine” is intriguing. I see that you both produced it and played most of the instruments.

KH: I usually produce my records and play the instruments—the sound of having no friends—but this time I let a handful of buddies, including my son, Wyatt True, play whatever they wanted to. For some reason, I had this idea that I could make it sound like the effect of a live show without sounding like a live recording, which often just sucks. Something close to chaos, but chaotic enthusiasm, rather than violence. Trying to play out of time and out of tune helps, but only if you have big muscles, and these particular friends have big muscles. Dark sunshine is what happens when intensity isn’t diminished by production, but enhanced by it.

FP: This is your first tour in several years with a backing band. Tell us a little about the experience so far, and the personnel. What can fans expect? 

KH: A review called this a “supergroup,” and we laughed, but [we] immediately adopted the term, ’cause it made us feel ’70s cool. Fred Abong from Throwing Muses and Rob Ahlers from 50 Foot Wave are my heroes, both musically and personally. Which means that I don’t let myself off the hook for one measure. You ask a lot of yourself when your heroes are hanging around.

FP: Any future releases or special tour dates that you would like to mention? 

KH: Throwing Muses is in the studio now. In fact, they’re yelling at me to get back in the control room. So, we’ll be on the road before too long. And Fred Abong and I are playing acoustic shows to promote both of our new records. Those are usually grown-up shows… less sticky, and old people like us get to go to bed early.