Six Questions With Karen & The Sorrows
Welcome to “Six Questions With…,” a series of interviews with emerging artists, musicians, and bands focusing on the music scene and how they live within it. It started as a quick, fun project, but has quickly gained serious interest, so we’re making this a permanent feature on the site. Over time, the questions may change, but the sentiment will stay intact. This is a way for independent artists to be discovered by new fans on a global scale.
Within in each post, you will find all of their social media links, and also either a link to their music, or the ability to stream at least one of their tracks or videos, depending on the availability.
We hope you enjoy this series, and if you know anyone that might be interested in being part of it, please have them reach out to us for more information.
Next in the hot seat is Brooklyn-based alt-country trio, Karen & The Sorrows. We have not had the privilege of featuring Karen & The Sorrows here on the pages of Indie Minded, so we are thrilled to bring you this short interview. If you’re not familiar with them, sit back and enjoy! This is what is great about this series – the discovery of new music.
For those who may not be familiar, please tell us about your music: the type of music you play, where you are from, and how you got started?
We play twangy alt-country. Bruce Robinson, an Americana singer-songwriter I really like, says, “I have two kinds of songs: sad songs, and slightly faster sad songs.” I think that pretty much sums it up for us too.
We’re a Brooklyn band and I grew up in New York City, my drummer Tami is from North Dakota, and Elana, who plays pedal steel and electric guitar, is from a small town in New Hampshire. I was singing in a punk rock band back in 2011 but secretly writing country songs and obsessing over the pedal steel when we ended up on a bill with Elana’s old band The Low & the Lonesome. I decided it was a sign from the universe that we were playing a show with an amazing pedal steel guitar player, so I convinced my punk band to let me do one of my country songs, and I asked Elana to sit in on it. And that was it—the first time we played together, I knew that this was what I had to keep doing. Meanwhile, Tami’s other band Dolly Trolly was sharing a practice space with us, and I was lucky enough to recruit her. We’ve been through some line-up changes over the years, but it’s been the three of us from the beginning.
As an artist, how do you define success?
I work hard on the business end of things, but I try not to define success that way. To me, success is about making music that feels true to my vision and that I can be proud of. Writing songs that people can connect with, that means something to them. And supporting other musicians and building community together. Though if you catch me on a cranky day, I would probably just say that success would be making enough money to have someone help us carry the amps.
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
There’s not much room in the country music business for a queer band. There’s barely any room there for women—just google tomato-gate! But one thing I love about country music is its focus on singing your truth, singing your sadness. It doesn’t really leave you any choice but to bring your full self to the music if you want to do it right. And I guess I’d rather do it right and struggle than not sing my truth.
If you could only play ONE of your songs for the rest of your career, which one would it be?
I love playing “Back Down to the Dirt” from our new album, especially when Tami does that drum breakdown in the bridge. That makes me so happy every time.
Who do you consider your greatest influences?
I think you could probably divide all the indie bands of the world up into the Influenced-By-Neil-Young camp and the Anti-Neil camp. And we are squarely in the Neil camp. I love the Drive-By Truckers. I love Stevie Wonder. Rosanne Cash’s album Seven Year Ache is my root. But my idea of what it means making music probably comes more from queercore. Before I had my own band, I was living in Boston and smitten with this badass guitar-playing girl. She was a part of the local queercore scene, and I would follow her around to all her gigs. She took me to see Sleater-Kinney and The Need and The Butchies, and I learned a lot about DIY community and creating the space you need if it doesn’t already exist. That’s why I’ve worked so hard on building queer country community. Queercore taught me that building community is an important part of making music and of resistance.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
I know this might be a weird answer, but doing nothing, just wandering around and getting lost in my thoughts, is what helps me the most. I’m usually pretty busy, so I don’t always get that kind of quiet time, but I always crave it. There’s a Cowboy Junkies song with this line—”There’s something about an afternoon spent doing nothing/ Just listening to records and watching the sun falling/ Thinking of things that don’t have to add up to something”—that I always think of when I imagine my ideal songwriting state.