THE STAFF MAGAZINE
Interview with Julia Frodahl by Simonida Tomovic
March 15, 2004
I met Julia a few years ago in the loft of an obscure industrial building that will probably be remembered in music history as the place that housed some of the most unique Brooklyn bands of the early 2000's. I made her a red feathered dress and she presented me with a box of Edison Woods Cd's enshrouded in black silk and feathers. Getting to know Julia is like taking a long quiet walk through Edison Woods. What is Edison Woods you might ask? I asked her that question and she wickedly smiled and responded "that is a very good question, but I cannot tell you". I ask you to try to define Julia's music in as little words as possible, as those words might just contain the answer. Julia does many things, which in artistic terms would consist of composing music, playing various musical instruments and performing on the stage as some kind of biomechanical human doll. She also teaches yoga and curates an art collective called Habit of Creation. All this is somehow connected to that little invisible soft spot deep inside the heart. It is to no surprise that to most fans of Edison Woods, Julia might take the form of a frail and sensitive girl from Brooklyn. That happens to be a side of her that she has exposed to us through her latest release, "Seven Principles of Leave No Trace". But Julia is like a well-kept secret that quietly reveals itself in time. She has a force, an ability to inject people with energy, to motivate them to do what they do best. I, for one, find myself moved by her, her gestures, and her offerings.
Simonida Tomovic: It always surprises me to read the impressions of you by those who know you only through your music. People assume you must be pale, translucent and frail. I donít think they realize that you're also a business person, that you're dealing with an eight-person band slash performance group and directing it all, writing the music, doing the merchandise, the costumes, the logistics. How do you reconcile these two images?
Julia Frodahl: Well, I don't actually think contrasting images need reconciling; people can be dynamic. It happens that writing music is the thing I do most often when I'm melancholy. It makes me feel better, and keeps me from weeping on your feather dresses. So it's true that I understand sorrow, but there is an equal capacity for vibrancy. In fact, I am finding that the deeper one grows so does the other.
ST: What are your rituals, the repetitive gestures you do before you sink into the creative zone?
JF: I make sure the bed is made and I have to clear away clutter. Then I sit on the floor with my glowing birdcage, my instruments, and song fragments, usually in my patent yellow shoes or wrapped up in something to cast me off into the strange and fanciful places.
ST: Tell me about Habit of Creation... When you initiate these things, do you think about art movements and art groups? The dada and surrealists, for example, lived in proximity and fueled each other. Is Habit of Creation something that leans towards that kind of umbrella of artists that may be, in the future, seen as falling under some kind of ism?
JF: An ism -- this is a good question -- With the Habit group, I am bringing things together that simply make sense to me intuitively. And I will say, there is an energy about this group that is incredibly magnetic. It is still rather new, Habit, so exactly what shape it will finally take is unclear. But it is an artistic community that is offering significant creative work of all kinds. Significant to our time, I mean. Being creative, experiencing creative things, is fundamental to our openness and our exchange here. You know, when I went to Barcelona for the first time, the spirit in which Gaudi and his peers collaborated was a huge source of inspiration. It made me want to make more songs so I could trade them for handmade lampshades and more of your zipper corset collars. We don't need objects so much as the life force that goes into their making. This idea is a lot of what Habit is about. What Edison Woods and the yoga classes are about too. Exchange. Collaboration. Moving forward with an interest in everyone's progress, sending everyone's vital offerings into forward movement.
ST: Collaboration is obviously an important method for you, judging by the way Edison Woods is unfolding. The project is getting more and more complex with the performative, theatrical aspects, but in a way that makes an even clearer message, using all the languages of art to create one big language of your own. There is clearly a strategy in your work. It seems like you know exactly how to shape it and this usually involves collaborating with very particular people. How do you choose those people?
JF: Oh, that is instinct. And to your point -- you know, universe means one song. If all the voices are working together, moving towards the same point, the many voices make for something even stronger and clearer like a choir. Which is why collaboration can be so moving.