Fresh off her tour with Parts & Labor in Berlin and Norway, Sarah Lipstate these days can be found with a double necked guitar and Moogerfooger Ring Modulator pedal for her solo project Noveller. With her second album Paint on Shadows, Sarah has carved out a niche for herself mixing Phillip Glass like minimalism with pulsing meditative rhythms. Just this week Sarah announced that she was parting ways with Parts & Labor to focus on Noveller and her film making career. We caught up with Sarah to see what she’s been up to.
Full name: Sarah Lipstate
Where were you born: Birmingham, AL, but I grew up in Lafayette, LA
Where do you live now: Brooklyn, NY
Bands you are in currently: Noveller, Parts & Labor
Bands you were involved with in the past: One Umbrella, Sands
What you do for a living: This is it
Something outstanding about you: I’m really good at eating
“I like to let my pieces have kind of an organic pulse. I
have a Moogerfooger Ring Modulator pedal that I use a
lot for creating rhythm.” – Sarah Lipstate
Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been playing music? How long have you been playing the instruments you use for Noveller?
Sarah Lipstate: I started taking piano lessons when I was in 2nd grade. Throughout middle school and high school I played trombone, and when I was 17, I started teaching myself to play guitar. I found the double-neck guitar that I use for my Noveller setup at a pawn shop in Austin, TX sometime in 2004.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you get involved with Parts & Labor?
Sarah Lipstate: A couple of months after I moved to Brooklyn, I got an email from a mutual friend, Jesse Hodges (Pterodactyl / When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth) asking if he could give my contact info to the Parts & Labor guys. He told me that they were looking for a guitar player and thought that I would be a good match. I met with Dan a few times and learned a couple of their songs and then “auditioned” with the full band. They asked me to go on tour with them a couple of days later. (Sarah no longer plays for Parts & Labor so that she can now focus more on Noveller and her film making career.)
“I got really into using objects to make sound with the guitar. I used a carrot peeler on my Telelcaster when I played in One Umbrella.” – Sarah Lipstate
TTM: What lead you to do your solo project?
SL: I started Noveller in 2005 when I saw an open call for submissions for the Women Take Back the Noise compilation. At the time, I was playing in a duo called One Umbrella and the other member was a guy, so I decided to record a solo track. After that, I recorded several other tracks for compilations and released some 3” cd-rs on my own. I didn’t play a live show as Noveller until 2007 after I moved to NY.
TTM: Do you have any other projects / collaborations in the works?
SL: Right now I’m focusing on Noveller and my film work. I finished a new short film in March for the first time in two years and it felt really great. Hopefully, I can work on some new films before the year’s over.
TTM: What is the most notable show you’ve ever played?
SL: My favorite Noveller show was at the Un Son Par Là festival in Nîmes, France. It was the longest set I’d ever played (45 minutes) which was a challenge, and I got to play to a packed auditorium in a beautiful modern art museum.
TTM: Where is your favorite place to perform?
SL: The sound at Music Hall of Williamsburg for No Fun Fest was amazing. I’d love to play there again.
TTM: What influenced your choice of instruments for Noveller?
SL: I went through a phase in college where I was constantly pawning and buying gear. There was a particularly awesome pawn shop in Austin that I went to regularly. At one point, I pawned an acoustic guitar and bass amp and bought an electric sitar. I bought a Theremin online and put the double-neck guitar on layaway at the pawn shop until I could pay it off. I started using an Ebow after a friend gave one to me my freshmen year of college. I got really into using objects to make sound with the guitar. I used a carrot peeler on my Telelcaster when I played in One Umbrella. Luckily, I’ve grown out of buying new gear and have sold everything that I don’t use regularly. I’m more focused now on making the most with the instruments that I have.
TTM: What is your approach to making beats in your music?
SL: I like to let my pieces have kind of an organic pulse. I have a Moogerfooger Ring Modulator pedal that I use a lot for creating rhythm. I have a favorite setting that I use to make a driving beat. I also use my delay pedal for making beats by repeating chords or harmonics and then looping them.
TTM: Are you a full time musician?
SL: Currently, yes. Luckily I’ve gotten some pretty cool gigs like playing in the revival of Rhys Chatham and Karole Armitage’s “Drastic Classicism” at The Kitchen, and playing with Rhys at the Met. I try to supplement Noveller and P&L shows with other interesting guitar-playing opportunities when I can.
TTM: What drives you to compose/perform music?
SL: It’s the most satisfying job I’ve ever had. I love recording and playing shows. There’s nothing better.
TTM: What has influenced your music the most? (Specific bands, musicians, film, video, art etc…)
SL: I was really inspired by No-Wave around the time that I started playing guitar. I worked at an independent record store in high school where I discovered Lydia Lunch, Theoretical Girls and The Contortions. Sonic Youth was a huge influence as well. I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but I wasn’t interested in standard tuning or traditional playing. I really latched on to bands that had innovative approaches to making music.
TTM: What is your creative process with Noveller? How do you compose your music?
SL: I usually start out with a basic idea or object and improvise until something interesting develops. I’ll decide that I want to do a new piece using my violin bow or tape player and go from there.
TTM: If possibilities were endless, what would your fantasy instrument look like?
SL: My fantasy instrument would be a double –neck guitar with infinite sustain that weighs 5 lbs.
TTM: Out of all of the instruments you play, which is your favorite? Why?
SL: I really enjoyed playing trombone when I was younger. It can be a really beautiful instrument. Currently, my favorite is my double-neck guitar. It inspires me. There are so many possibilities.
TTM: If you could collaborate with any one in the world, who would it be?
SL: I think Zeena Parkins is amazing and would love to do a collaboration with her.
TTM: Where do you record? Does anyone help you with the production?
SL: Prior to recording my LP, I recorded all of my tracks at home on my laptop. I recorded the tracks for Paint on the Shadows at Colin Marston’s studio in Brooklyn.
“I’ll decide that I want to do a new piece using my violin bow or tape player and go from there.” – Sarah Lispstate
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
SL: I love traveling with my girlfriend, working on my short films, reading, doing graphic design. I got really into knitting last winter when I visited my friend in Norway and she taught me the basics, but I haven’t kept it up. I have a burgeoning interest in learning how to not be terrible at cooking because I really really really love eating.
TTM: Who are your favorite female drummers?
SL: Janet Weiss is great. I got to see her play with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Siren Fest and she was fantastic. I also really like Andrya Ambro from Talk Normal and Libby Fab from The Paranoid Critical Revolution. Awesome drummers. Awesome ladies.
TTM: What are some of your favorite bands ?
SL: Right now I like Grouper, Emeralds, Talk Normal, The Goslings, & Marnie Stern. Favorite bands ever include Sonic Youth, Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, Rhys Chatham, Brian Eno, & Einsturzende Neubauten.
TTM: Who is your favorite noise musician?
SL: At the moment, I’m really enjoying Prurient. His set with Kevin Drumm at No Fun Fest was so good.
By Vicki Simon