By Nicholas Jason Lopez
The saints have indeed marched in by now.
With an adventurous sound inspired by afro-beat, marching bands, hip-hop and choral music, New Orleans-based pop-art/electronic project People Museum recently unveiled their debut EP ‘I Could Only See The Night.’
The EP essentially marries brass-inspired beats with sleek synths and gives you flavor you just can’t find in a cajun-concocted cuisine.
The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with members Claire Givens and Jeremy Phipps about ‘I Could Only See The Night’ and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe New Orleans to someone who has never been there before?
Jeremy Phipps – Florida has Disneyworld, New York has Times Square and New Orleans has its live music. It’s a great place to be a musician and music fanatic. You hear singing and instruments in the streets constantly. The houses are colorful, you say hello to all your neighbors, plans are made word-of-mouth a lot and things move slow. You can drink on the streets and there’s celebrations happening all the time.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Claire Givens – I’m excited by the different ways Jeremy and I have been able to manipulate our main instruments – voice and trombone. I think a lot of the times we get to reverse our roles, I become an instrument and he “sings” with his trombone – we use pedals and processors live and in our studio recordings. Our drummer Aaron, of Mopodna, has been collaborating with us also for new music, which has been another evolution for us musically. From the beginning, we’ve had this visual image of our music being this combination of plants fused with silver, synthetic, foil-like texture and Aaron connects with that and has injected a clubbier side.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name?
Jeremy Phipps – I was in Los Angeles in 2015 and I joined a friend to watch the MTV Awards from outside the arena. A whole sea of people were gathered outside a window to see celebrities pass through to their dressing rooms. I was reluctant toward it, until I saw Willow Smith walk by and wave at us. I love Willow. I said to myself, “It’s like a people museum” and I wrote that as a note in my iPhone under “possible band names.”
Music Bugle – What was it like making your debut EP ‘I Could Only See The Night’?
Claire Givens – It was a huge relief during lockdown to make our pod and be able to record. It gave all of us a sense of purpose again and something to look forward to. We recorded in New Orleans with our drummer serving as engineer and co-producer and met up every Thursday for a few months to lay everything down.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Claire Givens – I’ve been listening to Angel Olsen’s “Whole New Mess” on repeat recently. I also just live with NPR on in the background, as well as WTUL, which is our local alternative radio station. During COVID, it sort of made me feel connected to other people when I’m alone in my house, just knowing its live and other people are doing the same.
Jeremy Phipps – I’ve been in a house music mood for, like, two years straight. I love the pace of it. Someone recently introduced me to some of the originators, Mr Fingers and Frankie Knuckles.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Claire Givens – In New Orleans, everyone has their hustle, so it’s been a journey of losing your old hustle and figuring out a new way to be an artist and still make enough money to survive. I lost a good bit of my hustles, but I’ve gotten to continue teaching piano and voice lessons to kids, which I think has been fulfilling for everyone involved. It was so incredibly hard at first, but I needed it and the kiddos needed it.
Jeremy Phipps – Performing took up so much of our lives. Everything was preparing for the next show and dreaming of a bigger show. Last year, I had this identity crisis trying to find what my purpose is outside of performing. On the brighter side, I’ve learned so many things that would’ve been impossible during my normal life – how to fix things, how to make things and how to not go out on a Saturday.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Claire Givens – I definitely don’t love social media or what it does to my brain. I love being able to stay in contact with people, but overall, I think it hurts all of us. I want to try to keep off of social media until I have art to share and then bounce when I’m working, but I’m working on that.
Jeremy Phipps – Depends on how you use it. I think social media can be great for finding yourself as an artist. There are cool styles of art that are tied to social media. Specific internet humor, fashion and music that are geared toward the instantaneousness of social media. That can be beautiful, but the sacrifice is our shortening attention span. Something can be amazing and not capture attention on the scroll. My stance is fuck a like, fuck a comment, I’m doing it from the heart… but also, please like me…
Music Bugle – If you had to pick your own theme song, what would it be?
Claire Givens – Oof. I think maybe “Spring” by Mia Doi Todd. The lyrics are about remaining resilient, always persevering – “Break all my bones, I’ll learn to walk again.” I aspire to be that way in my living.
Jeremy Phipps – Any Kaytranada song.
Music Bugle – What’s something that you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Claire – I wish young musicians starting out were paired with accomplished musicians and were taught all aspects of the business. There’s so much more to music than the music. Booking shows, dealing with money, copyright your music. I think we are still learning all this and are constantly asking for help and questions.
Jeremy – I wish more risks were taken. I blame YouTube tutorials that say, “Here’s how you make the perfect thing in five minutes.”
Music Bugle – What was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue music?
Claire – I’ve never not wanted to be a musician. It’s what has brought me joy and fulfillment since I was a kid and I never really worried about “what I was going to be when I grew up” because I knew I’d be singing.
Jeremy – When I first learned the song “Little Drummer Boy” in middle school symphonic band. They had to create a fourth trumpet part because I wasn’t good enough to be in the third trumpet section.