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ROOM 19 @ THE NICE ROOMS presents

Accolade: "Cartharsis Of Rhetorik"
Date of Article: 14th March 2015

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Sean Henry - Stefanie Renée  - Aaron Goldstein

ACCOLADE is an independent Seattle-based band founded by classical singer Stefanie Reneé and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Goldstein. The band favors experimentation with different genres, yet always maintaining their signature dark, haunting melodies and classical ethereal soprano vocals.

Aaron and Stefanie welcome back to The Nice Rooms. It certainly doesn't seem a year ago that you kindly gave an interview to The Nice Rooms.

Stefanie / Aaron:  Thank you, it's nice to be back! Yes, this year has flown by pretty quickly for us, too. 

The interview back in January 2014 (See bottom of page for link)  ended with me asking you what the long term vision for Accolade was and I remember you both saying at the time that you planned to just keep on writing and recording music in order to see where that took you..

Stefanie / Aaron: Yes indeed, it's been a really busy year, and we've been writing and recording more music. We have a new release Catharsis of Rhetorik, a 5-song EP that is a collaboration with our good friend and talented electronic keyboardist/composer, Sean Henry. This album is a bit different from our previous releases. The style is more electronic and experimental, built from Sean's lush yet edgy soundscapes, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. We also collaborated with Sean on Lost Fair, which is included on our first album, Festivalia. We had the pleasure of working with Martin Bowes of ATTRITION on the final mixing and mastering for Catharsis

In 2014, we were also included on three different compilations. The first one was a colored vinyl LP released in July 2014 by The Lovecraft Bar in Portland, OR, where we played live in 2013. The Lovecraft Bar Compilation Volume III included our song Scaulding Cauldron, alongside other bands who have played at The Lovecraft live, including The Prids. The second compilation was released by Martin Bowes, the genius of ATTRITION. Cage 21 is a comp of bands that he has produced, remixed and/or mastered at the Cage studios in the past year (the 21st year). The ACCOLADE track included is Bleeding Cry from Catharsis of Rhetorik.

Lastly, we were included on a gothic Christmas CD, Ethereal Dreams. Our song, a cover of Walking in the Air from The Snowman, is included amongst some great artists including our friends from SF, Battz in the Belfry. David Slaya Smith produced the album. In both October 2013 and April 2014, we did two west coast tours, playing in San Francisco, San Diego, Portland and Seattle. The second tour we had the pleasure of opening for Projekt band Mercury's Antennae.

Aside from our musical endeavors, but as a result of our touring, we have also relocated from San Francisco to Seattle. This move has been nothing short of incredible, and this beautiful area has proven time and time again that we belong here. Seattle's thriving music scene, gorgeous landscapes and substantially better cost of living have us both completely smitten. We just love it here. :) In August 2014, we played in our new hometown of Seattle, opening for Italian goth band The Spiritual Bat. We have since taken a break from live shows to focus on writing and recording.

I want to turn to your new 5 track EP Catharsis of Rhetorik and its title.. Are you are happy to explain the title's meaning or would rather leave it open to people's own interpretations?

Aaron:   I guess part of the fun of reading an interview is to break the mystery, so I'll be happy to explain...  Well the story is, Sean Henry and I used to play in a band together in San Francisco called Lurid Bliss.  When he moved away in 2005 we always stayed in touch and talked about doing some music together by remote.  He began sending tracks over -  instrumental compositions with titles.   When we finally got to working on the material I tried to think of something that would tie them all together.  Sean had been calling his solo project Rhetoric Radish and later shortened it to Rhetorik.    

He had also been going through some rough times for a few years during the time when he sent the tracks.   It seemed to me like he was releasing some of his emotions into the music as a way to move forward.  The word catharsis  is defined as: ca·thar·sis 1. the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotionsSo it is literally about Sean's releasing this art into the world. 

Aaron Goldstein and Sean Henry 

Sean:  Well, Aaron nailed it.  Trying to make something out of myself after leaving San Fran, whether a musician or a homeowner, came with lots of opportunities for reward and disappointment.  I soon became one of those losing it all after our economic crash.  There was lots of loss between the time we started talking about this project and the time we finally finished it.  But during that time there was always an underlying need to feel creativity deeply, whether writing music or some other media. 

The first track on Catharsis of Rhetorik is Gaze..

Sean: Gaze was the first thing I wrote after moving to Florida.  I had a bedroom dedicated to my gear so I could lock myself in there, with some beer of course, and just get into it.  I can only remember the thought of the purity of being next to a stream in an untouched forest, collecting water.  No other agenda.
Stefanie: When I started writing lyrics for these songs, I really wanted to know where Sean was coming from, so we asked him what the songs meant for him. This is what he sent me for Gaze:

" I think for Gaze I was just thinking of very ethereal and dreamy states
of painless, effortless submission floating in peach and pink and red.
Think of drugs that are so good that you get to leave this world of shit
and go to a place so peaceful that you wont ever come back.  Thats what 
I was thinking when I wrote that.…"

I took the drug trip idea and ran with it, but then added my own spin on it. The song begins by illustrating how wonderful it can be to engage in that state of bliss. But I decided to take the point of view that this dreamlike state is not only temporary, but not real. My answer was to take a piece of this paradise with you, obtaining a genuine sense of peace in reality. Finding this pleasure, this fantasy, in the real world is ultimately what we're all after. 

Stefanie Renée 

Can we ever find this state that you speak of Stefanie or is it  'forever an ongoing process?'

Stefanie: ;-) Well, we're all familiar with the quote, "Life is a journey, not a destination." It IS 'forever an ongoing process' as you say, but the key, I think, is that this bliss is the search, itself. This is one of the many reasons why the holy grail legend is one of my favorites. We are all essentially searching for what we already have. 

And so to the second track and Bleeding Cry...

Sean: Bleeding Cry was whipped out really quick for some reason.  I thought of this arrangement often while riding my motorcycle long distances.  It kept me company.

Stefanie: Again, striving to express what Sean had in mind when he wrote this, we asked him and this was his response:

"Letting your guard down. Exhaustion from being emotionally involved in relationships, career, etc.  Let fucking go!  Last attempt to feel some peace without fighting for it. Let go of drive for status. Frustration from trying to make everything around go the way you want it to. Let it go."  

It seemed to me that this was the song that exuded the most conflict. While reading this, the image of the Three of Swords Tarot Card came to mind. The typical image of this card is a heart with three swords pierced through it, with a backdrop of clouds and rain. This card commonly signifies sorrow, pain, heartache, grief, rejection, loneliness. The reversed meanings, however, signify a release of that pain, so his line "Let it go" really spoke to me then. Often what accompanies release after this kind of grief/loss is a good cry. Consequently, the title perfectly embodied all of this imagery. This piece, I think, is the most difficult part of this whole experience. Of all of these songs, it is the most vulnerable, raw, exposed.

The stand out cover art for Catharsis of Rhetorik is striking..What's the thinking behind the imagery?

Aaron: Well Stefanie had just taken up painting and was experimenting with some abstract ideas.   She had made one piece based on the colors that Sean had mentioned (and subsequently became some of the lyrics) for Gaze. I also remembered seeing some of Sean's drawings years ago in a sketch book, and so I had this idea of superimposing one his drawings over the painting.  I had no recollection of what the drawings actually were, but when he sent the hands I knew it would work perfectly!  The 'warm' hand reaching out for support and the 'cold' hand pulling away seemed to fit the overall feeling of the music.  I did the concept and graphic design to put it all together.  So it is fitting that the album art is a collaboration as well.

Sean:  I was in LA trying a go at it before coming up and meeting Aaron and Stefanie in San Fran when I drew the hands.  I had such a hard time getting on my feet there, which I never did, I was hoping for some help from somewhere, even if drawing a symbol of it myself.  I think I was again trying to dream of some visual that was apart from the rat race that I was experiencing every day.  Someone or something reaching out of the surreal to help get me the hell outta here.
Stefanie: All of these meanings adequately apply to the songs on this album. 

March is the 3rd track on Cartharsis Of Rhetorik..

Sean: March started as a rhythm in my head while sitting on top of a mountain in Death Valley starving for four days back in late "05.  I was there with a vision quest group that splits up and fasts, lookin for some meaning to life besides advertising and debt.  I had just recovered from a house fire, and felt angry at our cultural need for nothing more than image and ego.

Stefanie: When we first started working on March, we both found it to be very Native American sounding and I seem to remember Aaron saying that he thought it was about the Trail of Tears. So, that is what we decided for it. We later found out that Sean wrote it while on a vision quest, which seemed so fitting. I am part Native American, though only a really small percentage (about 1/32nd, Cherokee and Wyandotte), but I am very proud of it and found this subject to be very sad, and very powerful. This devastating part of history is something that does not make me proud of this country. In a small but hopefully meaningful way, I wanted to show my respects in honor of those who suffered this tragic event.

Sean Henry

Aaron, you mentioned the idea of "remote working" earlier..

Aaron: Yes, Sean lives in New Mexico. Stefanie and I were in San Francisco for the beginning of the project (recording vocals, arrangements, etc.) and then we moved to Seattle in May 2014 and finished up the project here (bass recording, mixing, etc. ) We also worked with Martin Bowes (Attrition) on the final mixing and mastering who is located in Coventry, England.  It's quite a worldwide production!   It has become so easy to send large files over the internet.  Of course we would have preferred to all work together in person. But I am thankful that we've had a way for us to keep in creative touch with our good friend Sean even though life circumstances have separated us geographically. 

March is followed by Carthage Fog..

Sean: Carthage Fog was something that I had originally came up with on bass, back in the mid '90s, daydreaming of empty halls and tombs. 

Stefanie:  Again, I'll share the notes that Sean sent originally:

"Ancient city.  Creepiness of place that is gone. Gut wrenching nostalgia.
Lycia influenced.  Real bass guitar- plucky.  Make good out of shitty situation.
Death of of an entire culture."

At first, it was a challenge for me to figure how I could add a vocal line to this one. It is definitely the most experimental song on the EP. But then around that time, we watched an old favorite movie of mine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and there was a wordless vocal line in a few of the scenes with an ominous green fog that just captured that mystery, tension, and pure creepiness that I was after. So, we decided that it didn't need lyrics, and instead I would just use my voice in this same creepy way, singing two notes just a step apart simultaneously, creating an eerie dissonance. This really seemed to work well for this song, acting as the wailing spirits lingering in this ancient abandoned city. 

Do you envisage Accolade playing any gigs in Europe in the near future?

Aaron: We have always dreamed of coming to Europe for a tour.  

It's mainly just the cost of getting over there that has stopped us.  We have applied to several music festivals in the past.  If we got booking at something good we would then build a tour around that.  Right now we are still getting settled here in Seattle- financially and otherwise. We have so many songs and albums planned, and we are anxious to put out more releases! We have invested in our own recording gear over the past few years, and now have our own studio in our basement.  So it won't be as expensive to produce albums in the future. Perhaps 2016 will be the year we finally make it to Europe. 

And last but by no means least we come to the fifth and final track on the EP: Heaven ..

Sean: Heaven has been rolling around in my head since the 90s as well.  I was more into piano then and sometimes go back to less synth.  This one has always been the song for me that needed to be done.
Stefanie: In conclusion, Sean's final notes: 

"As far as Heaven goes. Just put in a lot of juicy feelings. I always hope that when I die that I hear a woman's voice, and not some marketing tool like creed. That's why I like female singers. They accommodate my seriousness. That's what I was thinking when I wrote Heaven."

For this one, my approach was to illustrate that true heaven is not a far-away place that we go to after we die, it's not this distant idea of something intangible. Heaven is here on earth. It is within us. There may be some version of what we perceive as heaven after we leave this life, but it may not be the paradise that we expect. It's possible that there are many things here in this life that we will miss so greatly in the hereafter that we won't find happiness there. And to try to live this life as best we can while we're here, to have gratitude and appreciate what a wonderful world it really is. 
Aaron: Ultimately, this album has been about friendship. Our collaboration with Sean has served to connect us despite our geographic distance. We had been talking about this project for several years, and we're glad to have finally completed it and released it to the world. Hopefully having this background will make the music more enjoyable for our current and future fans. 

                                                                           Sean Henry - Aaron Goldstein Stefanie Renée

It's been great to speak with you again here at The Nice Rooms - Thank you

Accolade: Thanks again for the interview!


"...thanks to the angelic voice of Stefanie Renée, the music always comprises a good dose of fantasy against a backdrop of gorgeous melodies." Peekaboo  (Belgium)

"'Catharsis Of Rhetorik' from the city of Seattle three eclectic talents giving life to a glorious EP inspired by the most passionate and dark roots in music." Lux Atenea (Spain)

" ... five fragments scattered between languor and dreamy shoegaze and romantic follies..." Sounds Behind The Corner (Italy)

"5 Tracks and 5 Stars"  The Nice Rooms / gR (UK)

"A unique and enjoyable listen"  Terrascopic Rumbles (UK)

Cartharsis Of Retorik is available to buy at: CD Baby and at Amazon 

Accolade Interview (2014) @ The Nice Rooms: Room 3

gR 2015