Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interview: Thao Nguyen

If you were lucky enough to see Rilo Kiley this summer, you may have caught the energetic set from opener Thao Nguyen as Thao with the Get Down Stay Down. You may have also had a chance to meet her after the show and pick up a copy of her debut LP, We Brave Bee Stings and All; you may have watched her sign copies of it for fan after admiring fan, humbly accepting compliments in her sincere, easy-going manner. The budding rock star from Kill Rock Stars was kind enough to answer some questions for WTBU before she heads out on her first headlining tour. Enjoy.

- Jessy Bartlett

J: First, did you ever get your super-fly cowboy boots back from the Palladium in Worcester?

T: Next question.

NO IT'S FINE i can talk about them--- they sadly were never seen nor heard from again but i guess the most you can do is hope someone is sporting them with care and appreciation. I was devastated for a long time as i searched the ENTIRE EAST COAST AND SOUTHERN U.S. for another pair on tour and found nothing as good. but then i came to sf and got a pair the first day. they are darker brown and i hope just as fly. thank you for asking.

J: It must have been a thrill to tour with Rilo Kiley. Can you share any gems of wisdom they gave you?

T: They were all incredibly kind and gracious and hospitable. They said things like: "what size shoe do you wear? i'll keep an eye out for boots" and "hey, good show" (but in a sincere way) and "that is a really rad guitar" and "don't listen to your family, you should keep playing music"

J: Has it always been your goal to be a musician? Or is it something you've always done on the side that ended up taking off?

T: It has always been my goal to not do things i didn't want to. And music is the only thing i have always definitely wanted to do.

J: You've said you're interested in women's advocacy because of the way you grew up. I know some songs on the album are about your mother, who raised you... how has that upbringing influenced your music?

T: My mother is a woman of incredible strength and resolve and I watched her endure a lot of trespasses and indignities on our behalf-- it gave me a certain humanity and attraction to sadness i don't think i would otherwise have. I think that is where a lot of the melancholic lyrics come from.

J: You were a sociology and women's studies major, and many of your lyrics reflect that. Do you want to be seen as an artist who stands for activism & feminism?

T: Those elements surface because I write autobiographically- but I don't have a political agenda for my music and I don't intend on assuming one. That said, I do have leanings and causes I support and will do what i can to contribute.

J: Many of your songs seem to have an easy-going, brighter sound, but with lyrics that deal with more serious subject matter ("Swimming Pools," "Big Kid Table"). Is it important to you as an artist that people who enjoy your music get that whole picture? Or is it cool with you if people listen and just say "oh, this is light and fun!"?

T: I would prefer that folks form a connection with the lyrics as well, because they are a very important component for me. But really people will like and glean and absorb what they want and I have no say in the matter. Them liking the songs on whichever level is better than them not liking it. I think.

J: We Brave Bee Stings and All is a hit with critics and bloggers everywhere. It seems like you've found a lot of success in a short amount of time. How are you dealing with this new-found fame?

T: I would say quite smoothly because i don't think any degree of fame has been reached. certainly no one is taking pictures of me in a nightgown with boots and big sunglasses on at the drugstore. Nothing much has changed really- we're still in a van driving around endlessly and looking for places to pee. It has, however, been an absolute honor to see more and more people at shows and singing along and it makes us think we are not totally wasting everyone's time and gas money.

J: One of my favorite lines on the album is from the end of "Geography": "My blood is thin with aspirin/ I throw you in, I throw you in." Can you give any clues as to where that line came from or what it means to you?

T: UM this line is sort of about a person whose very existence gave me angina and all sorts of body and head pain and i required over the counter relief but for some reason i wanted them in my body. FIGURATIVELY. mostly.

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