Interview Tickley Feather: Still Very Strange

Recently Willis Arnold met up with Annie Sachs, better known as Tickley Feather.

Recently Willis Arnold met up with Annie Sachs, better known as Tickley Feather, and asked her a smattering of questions at Monster Island Basement in Brooklyn.

So I hear you’ve been living in Philadelphia, how did you end up there?
I moved there when I found out I was pregnant, to be with my baby daddy. I moved there to be with him. Originally I’m from Richmond VA. But West Philadelphia, where I lived, is just such a wonderful cultural atmosphere.

I recently interviewed a band from Philly, do you know Grandchildren?
Actually, they booked my first show. I played in one of the guy’s bedroom’s at Danger Danger. Before they had the Gallery, they had a house and they were actually my neighbors. I hadn’t even made a record or anything at the time, a mutual friend just told them that I made music. They asked if I’d ever thought about playing a show. My response at first was no way! And yet some how they convinced me to play at their big yearly show. And so I played in Russell’s bedroom - I was nervous as shit - and I had to put stickers on my keyboard and I had all these notes to help me remember how to play the songs. It was wild. Occasionally they like to remind me that they gave me my first show (laughs).

Well, they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, too.
Yeah, West Philly had a lot of stuff cranking out and Philly in general has had a bunch of people get noticed, like Kurt Vile, and Cold Cave, and tons of people that I’d been seeing in the same media circle.

What’s changed in your recording process from the first album to the second album?
Well the first album I recorded before I knew that anyone was going to be listening to it. It was just stuff that I recorded for fun. I had to give myself a little time before recording this one because I was little taken aback from getting any attention. It really threw me off course for a while. For the second album I was definitely aware that there would be other ears listening to it. So that changed some things.

In what way did that actually affect your song-writing or style choices?
I think that it became much more important to make things… I guess with this album it became important for me to make something that was kind of a bridge between me and other people. I was hoping to make more sense to them as listeners. Because I want to make another record that is really strange, and I kind of want to have their confidence (laughs), I’m not sure.

Did any of the decision to connect more with people come from playing with larger shows?
I think so. I was also really surprised after I put the first album together by how kind of sad it sounded. I was sort of embarrassed, and I thought maybe that those things should be private. I don’t really think it will affect me that much in the future, but I think that for that one I needed to try something new. I wanted to try thinking about people I don’t know. And yeah, that came from playing bigger shows.

Was your actual songwriting process affected at all?
For this record I wanted to make things that were a little more anthemic, with a sort of a rallying sound. It’s not like that for the whole record, but I just wanted to make something that someone could like put on in a bar and not feel embarrassed or feel like they were pushing the boundaries by liking it. But I guess it’s still very strange, but kind of an opening point for others.

What has been the hardest thing to adapt to, from being a solo musician to playing with a group?
Well those guys are so sweet, they really try to help me make this project of mine work. And they guys I play with are all solo musicians with sounds very similar to mine, so it seems very brotherly. They just want to help me. But it’s such a personal thing to record. I have yet to write songs with the intent of playing them live. I know at least that people may hear them now, but I don’t always think far enough to think of how I’m going to play something live. I guess that’s the difference, trying to adapt something that’s written really off the cuff which has been my recording style. Record a track, record the next track, and then the song is done, never touch it again. But the band really helps. They help me recreate things that I can’t play on my own.

And who are your band members, do you want to give a shout to their solo projects?
Brandon, my guitar player is Serpents of W.I.S.D.O.M. And he actually put out my first album. We did a split seven inch, and that’s the album that Animal Collective heard, and then asked me to do a record. And Akasha Blade is just awesome. They’re all just secret geniuses. And then there’s Tim, most of his stuff is with a band and it’s called My Mind now and it’s really great. We were actually all laughing because we just went to the record store and saw his little My Mind seven inch in the case. I think we were in Academy, and were just like, “That’s cool! Somebody likes your band.” Weirdly, we’ve gotten to know each other better since I moved back to Richmond, because we were recently in Europe.

Could you talk a little about what the differences have been between playing in Europe and playing in the U.S.?
The thing that was most profound about being there was how much people over the age of 30 appreciate music and collected records. I got to meet lots and lots of people with gray hair that were at shows. People that liked really experimental music, and were really into what was going on. There would be groups of guys discussing what was going on, and pointing, and then they’d buy a bunch of records. That was amazing. And we stayed with this woman who was fifty and had this record collection, in the UK, and all the guys were freaked out over her record collection! They were all “Where the hell did you get this totally rare and bizarre record?” It was great to see so many people really viewing music as an art form.

You mentioned that Animal Collective first heard your split with Serpents of W.I.S.D.O.M., and I was wondering if you could talk a little about how that relationship began?
The guy that is doing their musical film, my friend Danny Perez, he directed it. And he asked me and another friend to go and be in the movie. So we were two actresses for a moment, in the last scene of the movie. So I met them then, and hadn’t previously listened to their music, so I was just blindly going to do this thing. And later I was invited to go see Avey Tare play with his wife at the time, Kria Brekken, and my friend slipped them my record. I was super embarrassed and couldn’t believe he gave it to them. I told him you don’t just slip people your record, but after that Dave (Portner, Avey Tare) wrote to me and asked if I would want to do a record.

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