Fresh off a win at the Nashville Industry Music Awards and consisting of 4 equally talented and versatile musicians, The Weird Sisters are a funky Nashville indie-rock band with a talent for telling under-appreciated stories through their music. Fresh off of the release of their debut self-titled album, I chatted with them about everything from how they got their name to Willie Nelson’s granddaughter – read the interview below.
CRAVE: This leads into my first question: I know that you all come from different musical backgrounds, such as orchestral conducting, 50s Rock, and the blues, and I want to know how it all fits and you create a collective sound despite the musical differences?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Our strength is in our differences. We believe that music is universal and, fortunately, we have a really wide pallet that we draw from. Izaac's background is rock/blues, Gabrielle's is classical/jazz, Caitlyn's is pure soul, and Jeff is the most beastly pocket drummer in the world. It's really great that all of our favorite elements of music can coexist, and our musicianship provides the opportunity for music to do whatever it wants.
CRAVE: The Weird Sisters is quite the name. Where did it come from?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: The last thing our father said to us before he fell into a volcano was "Y'all sure are a weird group of sisters." The pyramid on our album cover represents the volcano into which he fell.
CRAVE: Now I have to ask- I’ve heard of a “fateful evening” in which Izaac and Gabrielle met at a spaghetti dinner. What’s the story behind that?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: We were both friends with this dude named Russell who invited us over for spaghetti dinner. We hit it off before the garlic bread was even toasted, and listened to Echoes by Pink Floyd while watching the Twilight Zone with the sound off. By the next week, we were jammin' everyday and have been ever since.
CRAVE: When I was listening to all of your songs, I was drawn to Mercury 211. I looked it up to see where the name might have come from, and I found a vacation rental property in Nashville. Is that where the name came from? Why did you name the song that?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: First of all I have to say that this is the craziest, most impressive investigative journalism I have ever heard of. The answer is yes. It is in fact named after the Mercury 211 vacation rental. I, Izaac H M Short, am a maintenance guy. I fix all sorts of things at all sorts of places all over Nashville. On my first day as a maintenance guy I was brought to Mercury 211 to fix a bar stool and the name, quite frankly, sounded like a spaceport. I couldn't get it out of my head. We wrote the funky groove soon after and I immediately knew what to do. The song itself is about watching the sunrise on Mercury with your homies and shades, which admittedly is much more funky than an airbnb in the Gulch. The real interesting thing is we dropped it on 2/11 which is Gabrielle's birthday as well as my Father's. That number is everywhere if you pay attention.
CRAVE: One thing I noticed about all the member’s music taste is that none of you put down country as an influence. Being in Nashville, do you ever feel any country influences on your music? If not, what kind of influence does being in such an iconic music city bring?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Well, Jeff actually loves old Country like Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. I wouldn't say our music is influenced by Country, per say, but good songs are good songs. However, Nashville isn't' the great music epicenter it once was. Being surrounded by a relentless stream of aspiring pop/country artists is absolutely discouraging. Their lack of originality in art and thought in conjunction with their reliance on Daddy's money results in a caricature of a once beloved and respected genre of music. In 2019 it seems like they'll let just about anyone on stage in Music City.
CRAVE: Izaac, I love the riffs you come up with. Who are your biggest guitar inspirations? Where do you get your sound from?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Thank you so much! Biggest guitar inspirations... Thats a pretty long and ever changing answer. I mean Eddie Hazel, Shuggie Otis, Hubert Sumlin Alvin Lee, Mick Taylor, Buddy Guy even King Curtis. The list goes on and on in no particular order. I still spend hours a day listening to my favorite music and it never gets old. I love good riffs as much as any long haired guitar dude. To me the difference between a good riff and a great riff is melody. I try and keep it simple. It helps being surrounded by band mates that expect the best out of me. They make me work harder and I'm super grateful for their constant inspiration. As far as the sound goes, It's a Marshall and a SG baby. Loud, Fat, and Funky.
CRAVE: You recorded John Coffey Style, Texas Toast, and the Improbable Beat in your home studios, and the other 5 at Welcome to 1979. Have you found a noticeable difference in your recording/writing process in a professional studio versus a home one? How so?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Recording at Welcome to 1979 was awesome because Izaac didn't have to be the engineer (for once) and could actually focus on playing guitar! Seriously though, the studio itself was a fantastic space with a very inspiring decor. It's a labyrinth of rooms and each one has a unique personality. Of course our favorite room was the control room, and the massive hallway outside the control room is where Izaac recorded the unplanned guitar solo that ends "Will You Be Mine?" the 7th track on the album. We had 2 days to record the 5 songs, so we only taped the core elements. For us that's drums, guitar, and keys. Izaac took the unfinished songs back to our home studio. That's where we did all the vocal overdubs, the solos, acoustic guitar, percussion and where we ultimately mixed the whole record. The home studio has been host to countless jams and practices. It's the room where we all go when we want to create. It has our vibe from floor to ceiling and is the secret 5th member of the band. That room is all over the album.
CRAVE: Congratulations on selling out your album released show at The High Watt! Can you describe what that playing that show felt like? What it meant to you?
Izaac: Dude it was nuts, there was so much energy coming on and off that stage. It was one of the most euphoric performances of my life personally. I konked my tooth on the mic at one point and backed up in my verse but it didn't matter cause everyone was singing along. I hate the word fans ya know? This was an audience of friends. That's 250 friends in a room losing their shit together. 250 people each with a lifetime of thoughts, joy, memories, and hard times letting it all hang out in the name of music. There's a real connection we feel with everyone every time that we play. It's love, it's music, whatever you want to call it. It's that funky sisterly love. My only hope has ever been to create some form of unity through music. We're all weird sisters and that doesn't wash off in the shower.
Gabrielle: I've played some great concerts in my life and conducted a 130 piece orchestra, but none of those experiences compared to our album release show. There were people as far as my eyes could see, and they were eating up what we served. People were singing along to music and lyrics that I had written, groovin to our jams. There were some familiar faces, but mostly new friends. To the new friends, I say this: the best is yet to come. We want to get to know each and every one of you. Connect with us, say hello, we will respond. Without you our music would have no purpose.
Caitlyn: There was a whole lotta love under one roof that night. It was our second time back at The High Watt after the first show we'd ever played together on 4/20. I just wanted to deliver. I've never played an album all the way through on stage, and was pretty anxious right up until the final moments of walking out there. But then, I felt completely at home.
Jeff: Jeff was unavailable to comment, but we know he had a great time!
CRAVE: I read that you, Gabrielle, didn’t know what jamming was before playing with Izaac. How do you feel that new musical experiences like that have helped you develop your own personal sound? What was that first jam session like?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Before meeting Izaac, I mainly stuck to what was on the page. I play the way that I do because I studied The Masters (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc) since I was a child. I couldn't forget my classical roots if I wanted to, and I definitely don't want to. I feel that having a background in classical piano and orchestral conducting prepared me for the transition to playing two keyboards simultaneously. The Weird Sisters doesn't have a traditional bass player; my left hand is the bass player on a Moog synthesizer, and my right hand plays harmony/melody riffs on a keyboard. Studying classical and jazz provided me with a harmonic and melodic library that I subconsciously draw from in my own writing and improvisation. I would say it is a defining characteristic of my sound.
The first jam session was difficult. Izaac had to coax it out of me. We were in my conducting professor's studio at Vanderbilt, I was playing the grand piano and Izaac had his SG with him. We played a very soft, two chord jam, E major to F sharp major. I remember feeling the apprehension melt away as I was overtaken by the beauty of two chords.... two chords! I recall wondering how something so simple could be so beautiful. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
CRAVE: Caitlyn Crawley joined the group with six weeks left before finishing your debut album. What was the process of integrating a new member into the group, mid-project? Caitlyn, what was the experience like for you?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: It was the best decision we've ever made. We knew that the music wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere that the three of us were breathing on but couldn't quite grasp. Caitlyn was that missing link. She jumped in and was a complete professional from the very first night we met her. We knew she was the one within minutes of showing her one of our songs. Her voice took it to places we only dreamed it could go, and that was only the beginning. The album was basically finished except for vocals, so we united at the absolute last moment. She brought her own flavor and helped us make something bigger than ourselves, bigger than life itself.
Caitlyn: "I felt like it was a relatively effortless transition. I had sort of been on a two year hiatus, musically, and was contemplating leaving Nashville after making it my home for ten years. I just jumped right in because I already loved the music they were playing, and a whole new set of creative challenges presented themselves to me. Some songs have definitely morphed and evolved from me adding my own flavor. I have all the respect for these guys, not only as humans, but as gifted musicians. I could see how passionate everyone was about this project, and how hard they were willing to work for their art has been very motivating for me. Right now, I'm looking forward to the personal growth that comes with just joining a band, and the adventures to come! Hopefully lots of touring!"
CRAVE: With the new addition that means that Jeff is no longer the newest member of the band. Jeff, how does it feel to be a veteran in the group?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Caitlyn has been a great addition to the band. I love the energy, creativity, and enthusiasm she brings to the group. Honestly, I've always kind of felt like the veteran in the band. I've lived and played around Nashville for over 15 years and have been able to bring those experiences, and the lessons I've learned, to the group. You need all the help you can get to navigate the highly competitive and ever-changing music business. I've been in lots of bands in Nashville and this is a really great unit. Our strengths compliment each other very well, and Gabi and Izaac are some of the most creative people I've had the pleasure of knowing.
CRAVE: Jeff, I know that you have drummed for Raelyn Nelson, Willie Nelson’s granddaughter. What kind of transferable skills have you brought to The Weird Sisters from playing with Nelson? What are the some of the key differences between the experiences?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: Although it was just a short-term gig while she found a drummer available full time, I had tons of fun playing with Raelyn and her band. They are a well-established band, so it was a lot more "business as usual" than The Weird Sisters. We are still carving out our space in the rock and roll world, trying to push the envelope and seriously live up to our name. But, at the end of the day, my skill set is still the same. Keeping good time and stay in the pocket!
CRAVE: Speaking of your debut album, I am fascinated by the album cover. Can you explain what exactly is going on there?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: That specific image of Saturn has been our logo since the beginning. If you look closely at the top left, you’ll see a small, white dot (Earth). We chose it because it represents Earth’s size in comparison to Saturn. This perspective is meant to keep us focused and humbled by how small we are in the universe, and of how fleeting our human existence is.
CRAVE: I’ve heard that you are going to have a new record out in the next eight months. Is this already in the works? What’s next for The Weird Sisters? Any plans for tour?
THE WEIRD SISTERS: We have plans to release the next album in 20/20 and hope to do a tour out west to celebrate the release. Anyone in the US or Europe that wants to see us live, send us a message! We'll plan to visit a city near you soon, and maybe even crash on your couch if you'll have us! As for upcoming shows, we are playing at a free showcase at Mercy Lounge on September 26th called Stranger Sounds, it will feature some of Nashville's most alternative self-made DIY bands.
Give The Weird Sisters a follow at @the_weirdsisters on Instagram, and, while you’re at it, check out their debut self-titled album, out now on Spotify.
Interview by Kylie Ketchner