Interview Rings

‘We had been playing music so hard that our hands were all bloody, but we didn’t even play half as good as these high school kids in a brass band.’


released debut album ‘Black Habit’ earlier this month, via Paw Tracks. Consisting of trio Nina Mehta, Kate Rosko and Abby Portner (sister of Animal Collective’s Dave), the band were known as First Nation until they recorded the album - in Kentucky with former Múm member Kristin Anna Valkysdottír - and thought Rings described them more accurately. We spoke to the band following their US tour.

You’ve just been out on tour in the US, how has that gone?
Tour was really wonderful. It was great for us to play every night. We also had fun outside of playing music, with each other, and with the other bands we played with. It is amazing to play shows, become tight with the bands you play and travel with, visit old friends and meet kids in different cities, and then spend a day off going to New Orleans, watching kids dance and play music in the Mardi Gras parade. It was a trip. We had been playing music so hard that our hands were all bloody, but we didn’t even play half as good as these high school kids in a brass band, playing so well that even a cop on horseback was dancing.

Why the decision to change name from First Nation?
We had always intended to change our name from First Nation. Our second show, we were called Coronation. First Nation stuck for a while, and we were interested in exploring the life of that name, the discussions that came from the name, the connotations, and politics of and in a name. But, we were ready to start something new. With the change in the line up of the band, and in the sound of the music, it seemed the right time for a name change. Maybe we will always feel that the name should reflect change, or maybe we will change the meaning of the name, without changing our name?

You’ve described yourselves as a ‘pop band for teenage girls’, what kind of pop band, and what kind of teenage girls?
Well, obviously we’re not just a pop band, and we’re not teenage girls. We don’t have a formula for our pop sensibilities and we don’t have expectations for what kinds of people will listen to our music, but we relate to its poppiness and to our teenage selves. I guess we first started thinking about teenage girls listening to our music when we played a high school amnesty international benefit concert. After the show, all these teenage girls came up to us and were really excited about our music. During this tour we had similar experiences, teenagers, and especially young women approached and were really excited about our music. that was super inspiring. I can’t imagine that we will ever fit into a prescribed pop formula, and I hope that we don’t just appeal to one kind of teenage girl. Those categories are big and shifting, and I hope that we can shift with them.

Does that mean you’d call yourselves a ‘political’ band?
Sure, I could call us a political band, but we don’t have a fixed political agenda. I think that politics is part of who I am, and the things I do, but always in ways that make space for openings.

Tell us about your album, ‘Black Habit’.
This album was initially a break-up album. We had all just come out of these long and important relationships. But the music and the experience of making the record ended up creating a space for and reflecting our closeness and relationships with each other.

How was it like to work with Kristin Anna Valtysdottir on the record?
It was great working with Kristin. She is a really close and dear friend, and is really supportive of our music, and our growth as individuals and as a band. She really tried to understand our sentiments, and what we were trying to do, musically and emotionally, and helped us relect those things. I don’t think that anyone else would have been as open, and as empathetic to our visions, as hard working, creative. She put so much energy into the record, in teaching us and being a part of us. In many ways she was like a mother, but she was also a play-mate, a collaborator, a teacher.

You seem to be part of a close-knit group of bands. Do you feel like you’re part of a particular scene in New York?
We are connected to bands and musicians in New York, but I don’t know if we are a part of a particular scene, and I certainly wouldn’t want to define it.

What do you have planned for the remainder of 2008?
We’ve been writing new songs, and hopefully we’ll start working on recording soon. We will tour and play shows. I don’t know what else we will do in 2008, but I hope that we will have more time to work on music.

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