ROOM 3 @ THE NICE ROOMS presents
Date of Article: 23rd January 2014
Aaron Goldstein - Stefanie Renée - Cade Burkhammer
Welcome to The Nice Rooms! I was going to start by asking you how best you would describe your music but your website sums it up beautifully "a gothic / ethereal progressive rock band" For those people unfamiliar with Accolade is there anything else you can possibly add to this description?
Stefanie / Aaron: Thanks for your question, it is pretty apropos considering the different themes and stylistic plans for our forthcoming releases. Our first album, Festivalia, has a dark carnival / circus-y theme. This specific theme was intended for this album only, and it is possible that those who have heard it have misconceived us as a circus band. The genre of this album is primarily gothic rock, with classical/renaissance elements
Accolade's First Album: Festivalia
Lost Fair From Festivalia
Our next album, Legends goes more in a progressive rock direction with a focus on the divine feminine. Again, this particular theme is meant for this album only. The same classical / renaissance influence remains on this release as well as the first. The content we are working on currently is a small collection of songs written by Sean Henry, to be released in 2014 as an EP. This release will be more electronic than our previous releases. We do have plans for future releases as well, but that will have to remain secret for now. :) Despite the various themes and genre experimentation, there are a few key elements that remain in everything we do: classical ethereal soprano vocals, dark, haunting melodies and fantasy / magical subject matter.
Accolade's Latest Album: "Legends"
Stefanie, you mentioned "The Divine Feminine"...What exactly are you referring to here?
Stefanie: Thank you for asking. :) The Divine Feminine to which I am referring is, in a Thumbelina nutshell, the Goddess, or any female form of the divine. In Arthurian legend, it was believed that this search for the sacred feminine (the chalice, or grail) was the answer to everything, the key to life's mysteries and joys. Our song "The Journey" is all about this quest, suggesting that this sacred feminine is already with us- it's in us; it IS us. We also have included on this album our version of Hymn to the Moon Goddess, the oldest song in the world.
It is truly fascinating that the oldest known song to man is about a goddess- specifically Nikkal, goddess of the moon. We've also dedicated the entire second side of our album to The Lady of Shalott, which is not necessarily about a lady, but certainly gives it a feminine characteristic nonetheless.
Why the deliberate progressive rock approach to Legends? What is it about this style that lends itself to the album?
Stefanie / Aaron: The Lady Of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is a rather legthy poem written in four separate parts.We feel that this lends itself perfectly to a progressive rock style as we've assigned each part its own melody... Choosing to truly honor the text and avoiding cutting any of the lines, we ended up with a 22-minute long epic. The Journey is another that we refused to cut or shorten, containing three distinct musical parts that resulted in an 12-minute piece. We both grew up listening to and admiring the great vinyl albums of the 60s and 70s, and have always dreamed of releasing one someday. This album was written with this same intention and desire that we both still possess after all these years. We feel that the content of this album is so special and sacred that it deserves the best possible medium, which has always been vinyl.
Aaron, I suspect that releasing Legends on vinyl has added considerably to the overall costs..So my question is: Why vinyl?
Aaron: Yes, it's very expensive to produce, but vinyl is actually making a major comeback. Record sales have been growing every year since 2000. As CDs wane in popularity and people increasingly stream their music online, I think there is still a need for fans to own something tangible. The music and concept for the album really called for this as well. We really wanted to create something timeless and organic. But most of all I just love vinyl records!
I love to sit on the floor and look at the artwork and read the lyrics while the record spins. It's kind of like going to the theater to watch a movie, versus watching television.It's been on my bucket list for a long time, and I'm so glad to have finally produced a proper LP. Hopefully someone a hundred years from now will find our record in a thrift store bargain bin and bring it home and get inspired in some way. Vinyl is just fantastic!
One of the tracks on the album Legends is entitled Elf King I believe that this track has recently - and very sadly - taken on a certain amount of poignancy for both of you..?
Stefanie / Aaron: Randy David, the owner of the beautiful shop The Sword & Rose in San Francisco, has tragically passed in December 2013 from a house fire. His partner, Patrick, survived the fire and will be re-opening the enchanting shop when he has recovered. David was a Bay Area icon who inspired many with his beautiful oils & incenses, tarot readings and tremendous wisdom. Our song 'Elf King' was named after one of his intoxicating handmade incenses that we purchased years ago at his shop. The incense is a gorgeous bright red powder that took us on an otherworldly voyage to a red planet, a post-apocalyptic world devoid of magic... The Elf King then returns magic to this world. Randy always seemed to be a mystical creature not of this world, and we feel like he is the Elf King, now traveling to other realms to spread healing magic and wisdom. The last time we saw him, we mentioned our song to him and promised him a copy of the vinyl when it was ready. He was very interested and said that he still owned a record player. We sadly were unable to gift him with a copy of the vinyl before he passed.
Elf King - Live in Seattle - From the album Legends
Is it right that the new album Legends was inspired by your visit to the Chalice Well located here in England at the base of Glastonbury Tor?
Stefanie: Yes, indeed! We took a pilgrimage to the Chalice Well on our honeymoon on New Year's Day 2009. This was the pinnacle of our entire journey to the UK. While sitting at the beautiful wellhead, a sudden wave of inspiration like I had ever known swept over me. It was so powerful and moving that tears streamed down my frosty cheeks. I was visited by an other-worldly energy and was left completely inspired to write a song. I uttered this amazing recount to Aaron, and I truly felt at that moment a sense of belonging to the history that had called me there for so long. A feeling such as this surely was what inspired those from legend to carry out their own quests and originate their tales. This inspiration was what generated our song "The Journey", and subsequently our entire album Legends.
Could you give the readers some background as to how Accolade came about and your musical influences?
Stefanie: I had a collection of songs (an entire album's worth) that I had written over 20 years ago that lay dormant just sitting on a shelf for most of that time. When Aaron & I decided to start a band, the lyrics were dusted off at long last, and new life was breathed into them. These songs developed into our first album, Festivalia, which we recorded ourselves in our home studio. At the time, Aaron had been a bass player in several San Francisco rock bands, but also owned an antique reed organ that he had been wanting to record with. The carnival-esque songs that we were working with lent themselves perfectly to this organ, and it is used throughout the album. Rather than waiting to form a full band, we decided to do everything ourselves- Aaron took it upon himself to play all of the instruments, even teaching himself classical guitar in order to record our cover of Black Flame by Renaissance. We started out as a duo; then Cade joined the band in 2012, adding more energy and completion to our live shows and lending his talents to Legends. We chose the name Accolade for many reasons... Initially from the fantasy painting "The Accolade" by Edmund Blair Leighton, although further inquiries demonstrated that all of the other definitions of the word seemed to really fit the band as well. I've always held an affinity for the Renaissance and Medieval times, and the knighting ceremony from that time is called an accolade. Other definitions of the word include: An award or special honor", and Praise or admiration. It's also rather fitting that an accolade is a classical symbol connecting the treble clef to the bass clef.
Many different things inspire us musically, but much of it comes from the ocean, magick, nature, dreams and from other bands including: Renaissance (70's prog rock band), Miranda Sex Garden, Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Loreena McKennitt, Muse, The Cure, Delerium, Kristen Lawrence, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc...
We are also inspired by early music, classical, progressive folk, and many other music genres.
Renaissance has been my favorite band for many years, and Annie Haslam is undoubtedly my favorite singer. Quite a few people have told me that I sound like her and have mistaken her voice for mine, including my mother. I can't tell you what a thrill and an honor it is when I have Renaissance's music playing in the background, and someone asks, "Is that you?".
It's truly one of the finest compliments I can imagine! We had the privilege of seeing the band live at the end of 2012 on their Scheherazade / Turn of the Cards and Novella /Grandine Il Vento tour. As you likely know, Michael Dunford tragically passed away less than a month after then. He is pictured upper right in the 1979 photo image of the band.We saw their last live show with Michael, just before Hurricane Sandy hit. We were able to give him a copy of our first CD, Festivalia, which includes our cover of Black Flame . As such, we have dedicated our album Legends to him.
Stefanie your voice has been described as “pure, silvery and ethereal,” and Aaron your ability to play all the instruments that you do and then teach yourself classical guitar.....Just where does all this talent come from?
Stefanie: I've come to realize over the years that singing is truly a calling for me.
Aaron: When I was child we had a baby grand piano, and my dad taught me a few songs. I would sit next to him and copy the notes he we was playing. My parents also let me bang on the piano and I remember just trying to imitate the grace the that my father had on the keys. I think this is how I learned to improvise and compose. Later I did take piano lessons and at age 14 I got my first electric keyboard (Kawaii K1-II) which I still use!
In my later teens a drummer friend of mine needed a bass player for his band and so I just picked up a bass guitar and started playing it. I remember it being easy to learn, but my fingers hurt like hell! Over the years I've played many different instruments, but my only regret is that I never become an expert on them - I just learn enough to get by and then start recording. I guess my creativity often moves faster than my technique.
Sometimes I think of myself as a sound artist, rather than a musician.
You must be very proud of both Festivalia and Legends?
Stefanie / Aaron: We are happy with the favorable reviews and great feedback that we've received for both albums. Sometimes it's an uphill battle getting these releases out. There are so many steps, and each step takes so much time and money. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is a great feeling when a project is completed and we can share it with the world.
Caravan - Live in San Jose (2012)
What is your long term vision for the band?
Stefanie / Aaron: We have many more ideas brimming for future releases. We realize that our music is very fringe. It's hard to imagine mainstream success but we do hope to reach out internationally to folks who appreciate what we are doing and build a larger fan base. We are also hoping to expand the band with additional members and put together a more theatrical live show. We've had a great response to our music in Europe and plan to tour there when we have the means. Another goal is to do some scoring for television and film. For now we will just keep writing and recording music and see where it takes us!
Many Thanks to Accolade for the interview.
Photos courtesy of Lars Kampmann