Quick Q+A: Irene Ruderman Clark + StoLyette
Much like a certain national political party or fans of GLOW, we’ve recently developed an intense love for Russians, thanks to the beautiful, sparse electronic music of StoLyette. The musical trio rework traditional Russian folk songs into emotional soundscapes full of click-pop percussion, heavy effects on the bass line, and singer Irene Ruderman Clark’s gripping vocals delivered in mother Russian.
On Friday, StoLyette release their new album Summer, a project three years in the making that shows some subtle stylistic changes. It is a fantastic album—we have been listening to our copy over and over all week. The event includes a huge lineup of artists: Ryan Olcott (who produced the record), Devata Daun, and some of StoLyette’s label-mates from Totally Gross National Product, Invisible Boy and Andrew Broder. Before the show we sent some adoring questions over to Irene Ruderman Clark to hear more about it all.
Secrets of the City: With yourself, Ben Clark (Pornonono, Votel, tiny deaths) and Mitch Miller (Beasthead, Sun Gods to Gamma Rays), is StoLyette basically a super group? Also how hard is it to schedule rehearsals?
Irene Ruderman Clark: Not supergroup at all. We feel really lucky to get to play music and be able to create songs that we like to listen to. One of our favorite things to do is practice, which is where we create new music and get better at what is already made, so we’re all usually excited for practice night. Maybe most importantly, we really like each other and like to hang out together, which is also very lucky.
With your live theater background, how much of the vocal delivery for StoLyette is a persona? It has this very beautiful personal—engaging, alluring, empathetic—character.
Thank you! My favorite thing in all the world has always been acting and pretending to live in another world. This feels different to me, because many of my lyrics and all of my intentions in the music are very personal and exposing (thankfully mostly in Russian, so not too much for English speaking audiences), so I can’t really hide behind a character and that makes me feel more uncomfortable. Overall, I still get to be theatrical and expressive, but in StoLyette, it’s definitely me on stage, not a persona—maybe a more dramatic and theatrical me, but still me.
What’s the songwriting process like for StoLyette? Is the rhythm line always first, followed by the other layers? With such a sparse sound, how do you know when a song is done?
Typically Ben starts with a loop and develops a musical theme. Then I come in vocally on top of that theme and we improvise. Then Mitch comes in to add fullness and clarity. We’ll record various improv sessions and Ben forms a structure to create an actual song with a beginning, middle and end. Meanwhile, I usually refine and create complete lyrics based on the improv sessions. And then, we come back together, play the song and geek out over how exciting it sounds to us. The last one we make is always our favorite, which is a pretty exciting place to be.
Your new single off of the new album Summer is a little more pop than we expected, but it’s fantastic. Are you all lightening up a little with a warm weather album?
Thank you! So glad you like it. Don’t worry, the words are still super dark. The rest of the album is the same mixture of dark nostalgic dance . . . or something.
What do you only work with producers named Ryan?
So far we’ve worked exclusively with Ryan Olcott on all three records. Ryan Olson is an old friend of Ben’s, supportive and always admired by us for numerous reasons, but he hasn’t worked on any of our music so far.
If we programmed a birthday party it would basically be the lineup for your release party, which is the collision of Ptych and Totally Gross National Product. On a scale of one to ten, how crazy is this show going to get?
Wow! I agree! You should do it, but add a lot! It’ll be incredible—I expect you to do it! As far as our show, I am so excited that we managed to secure such a stellar lineup. I will be there as a huge fan of all the other musicians and I can’t wait to be on the same stage as all these guys. I also can’t wait to share that unparalleled feeling when music fills the air and all of a sudden everyone in the room is connected on an illogical level. It all feels very special and important to me.
Catch StoLyette and the other incredible musicians at the Summer release show at First Avenue’s 7th St Entry on Friday at 8 PM. $7.