PM: So to people like myself who aren't from Boston, you seem to have just exploded onto the scene, a lovely entrance, to be sure. But what's the real story?
SB: Boston is a hard town for making a go of music. It's kind of saturated when it comes to good musicians. And the roots music part of the Boston scene, it's not huge, but it's very warm. So I've been doing this here for probably about three years or so, and it's only since we made this record that we've really gotten any notice at all. We've always had good fans who come up for the shows and packed our record release party, which was a coup for us. And we just were nominated for the Boston Music Awards, which is kind of a ceremonious thing that they have here. We're going to play on the award show, that's next. But it really just took so long. The first year we went to South By Southwest, the reception that we got there was better than the reception we were getting at home.
PM: Ah, yeah, I'm not surprised. Sometimes the prophet is not recognized in his or her hometown.
PM: There are so many musicians in Boston, and because it's a college town, the kind of music that the audiences want to hear isn't really what we do. And there are just so many options for people to go see.
PM: Right. I'm not really that clued into the college crowd and mentality, but that's easy to imagine. I don't know what they're after, exactly.
SB: They're after a lot of indie rock. And another thing that was big here for a long time is bands like Interpol, which is not a band that I'm wildly familiar with, but I do know their style of music, and certainly bands that I'm sure are very entertaining, but I just don't know how to do that stuff, nor would I want to.
PM: Well, wasn't there a period before you started playing Americana, at least that is what one reads about you, that you were into some of the indie rock scene, as a performer.
SB: Sure. Well, when I moved to Boston for college, which was in the '90s--
PM: Where did you go out there?
SB: Emerson College. So I moved here in '95.
SB: From Taunton, about four miles away. And at the time I moved there, which was in 1995, indie rock was the thing. And a lot of the major labels had umbrella divisions where all the indie labels were housed. They were signing bands out of Boston like crazy, bands like Throwing Muses, or Buffalo Tom. It just made it seem so much more accessible to me. These were people that you'd go to see in the clubs--
PM: You'd see them in the clubs and then they'd get record contracts.
SB: Yeah, and then you'd see them on 120 Minutes, which was on MTV then, that was when MTV still actually played music and played videos. But I would stay up late every Sunday night when I was a kid and watch all these bands that I could go see like that weekend in the club down the street, or whatever.
PM: That is pretty unusual.
SB: It was an amazing feel, especially for someone who was an aspiring musician and didn't have a heck of a lot of background. I didn't ever go to school for music or have really a lot of formal training. And I guess in the kind of punk rock aesthetic it made it just seem like there was a path there, and I could take it, and it wasn't exclusive at all.
PM: Right, and it was working.
SB: Yeah. So like probably everyone does, you find people who are sort of of the same mind and you start a band. I had this band that was this rock band called Kipper Tim, which was a revolving cast of thousands. [laughs] I had so many people in that band. And I did it for about six years.
PM: I'm a little friendly with Dinty Childs, who plays accordion on your record.
SB: Yes! I met Dinty because my boyfriend, Jake Brennan--
PM: Ah, I figured he might be your boyfriend. What a nice guy he is. [Jake plays rhythm acoustic in Sarah's band, and has his own record out, Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men.]
SB: The way I met Dinty is--I mean, he's certainly a personality here in Boston. But Jake was doing some demolition work for him. Dinty runs a lot of demolition work here in Boston, like breaking down walls and--
PM: Really? Demolition work! It's crazy what musicians do.
SB: But he's an ace musician. Today, I've just come back from my straight job, and I've got to tell you, I'm shell shocked. I just don't know what to do. People are asking me questions that are not about a band. I work at a college by day, when I can.
PM: Which one?
SB: Berklee College of Music.
PM: What do you do for them?
SB: I work in the admissions office. And I love my job, but it's so different from what I do, it's a hard transition. On a physiological basis, I'm getting up early, and I'm working--I have a tough schedule, on one hand, and on the other hand it's just a completely different hang. [laughs]
PM: Even though it's theoretically a bunch of musicians there, it's a job in admissions. One's not hanging out with the sax players.
SB: Right. And a lot of the people here, they're kids, they're students, and they haven't gotten to the part in their music life where they get in a van and drive around, and they may never.
PM: They're copying Larry Carlton's "Kid Charlemagne" solo, note for note.
SB: Which in and of itself is a beautiful thing. Berklee has morphed a lot over the last twenty years and they pride themselves on being into contemporary music and fusion, which they really are, but now they have a heavy metal ensemble and a Bob Marley ensemble, and a Bob Dylan one, and now they're trying to have bluegrass. Actually, this guy, Matt Glazer, who's--
PM: He's amazing.
SB: Yeah. So you know him. He's the head of string department here. And once a year he gives a talk about the history of American music, and he has all these great video clips and audio clips. It's fantastic stuff. So there are definitely perks.
PM: Yeah, absolutely. continue