This October, Sacramento was blessed with the biggest (and arguably best) festival it has ever seen on October 3rd, 4th, and 5th. On Tuesday, September 30th, (DJ) Mappquest had the opportunity to interview a Sacramento local star and performer at TBD Fest, Autumn Sky. The audio for the interview is linked below to listen to while reading the interview.
MAPPQUEST (MAPP): Alright ladies and gentlemen, you are tuned in to KSSU.com, Sac State student run radio. My name is DJ MappQuest and we are having a special day today. That last song you just heard was Bells by Ms. Autumn Sky off of the Scout EP. It’s an exciting week here in Sacramento as we get ready for TBD Fest this weekend. Hopefully everybody already has your tickets, or at least you day pass for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And joining me on air here on KSSU is Autumn Sky herself, good morning.
AUTUMN SKY (SKY): Good morning.
MAPP: How are you doing so far?
SKY: I’m really good; I’m in my pajamas.
MAPP: I know, it’s phenomenal! I wish I could do that. But it’s alright. I mean, I know here on campus I’ve seen so many people who walk by and are in their pajamas. I’m slightly jealous.
SKY: I kind of respect that, I can’t leave the house in pajamas. But when people walk by I’m like you know what, one of us is right and it’s not me.
MAPP: So for those who don’t know, Autumn Sky will be kicking off TBD Fest altogether. I didn’t even look at the schedule that thoroughly until just a moment ago. You’re starting off the entire weekend.
SKY: Yeah, yeah we are.
MAPP: So are you excited for that?
SKY: Yeah, we’re all really super excited. It’s going to be 7 people together on stage, lots and lots. We’re also working with an installation artist. It’s just going to be really cool. We’ve been practicing and preparing for like a month and a half now. I think we’re just anxious at this point, we just want to play.
MAPP: I totally understand. Is there any added pressure compared to other shows because of the fact that you guys are kicking off the first ever TBD Fest?
SKY: No. I think it’s more of that it’s a really cool honor. I think we’re more excited. I like to get into a positive headspace before we play. So I’m always just like I’m not nervous, I’m anticipatory. I just want it to happen, like a birthday party.
M: Exactly. What other festivals have you guys performed in?
S: we actually played at Bottle Rock in Napa this year, we opened for Hearts. And we played in their VIP lounge so we actually played twice at that festival, it’s pretty funny. Somebody ended up dropping off one of the shows and they were like “well you’re already here so you might as well play that one too.” We played four shows that day actually, one of them was three hours long.
M: Wow that’s impressive.
S: There was a point at the end of the night where we took a break in between this really long – so we played the Radiohead tribute show, did you know that was happening in Sacramento this year? (MAPP: I knew it was happening but I didn’t get a chance to go out) Well go next year! But we played this last year and it was the night before. It didn’t end until 3am so we loaded in our cars and we got to Napa around 4:30 in the morning. And we slept for about 2 hours and then we got up and had to be at Bottle Rock by like 7:30 for a call time. And we had 2 shows after that and a restaurant gig later on that night that was like 3.5 hours or something. We breaked and my whole band were like sitting along the sidewalk and they were all, like, crying out of exhaustion. They were, like, falling asleep on stage. My drummer almost fell back into the big bay window we were playing in front of. Like, off his drumset. It was teambuilding for sure.
M: Teambuilding and teambonding.
S: Yeah, oh my god. Like when you go through something horrible with your friends and you’re like “now we’re real friends because we know we don’t break under pressure.” That was exactly that.
M: So we just played Bells off of the Scout EP. Do you have a favorite song off the EP at all? Is Bells your favorite?
S: Um, you know what I really like Bells. I think it’s there- the three songs that we did put in there we picked for very particular reasons. There’s one called My Worst Enemy, which is really poppy, melodic and it’s got really good strong structure. It feels like a regular pop song. Bells is the showcase for singing, I guess for me. But I actually like Young for the Night a little bit better, just because it’s darker, more moody and atmospheric. It’s much more of a rock song than what people typically expect from me. So I just like it because I can turn it on and then everyone is really confused/surprised. I feel very gleeful, it’s nice.
M: So then I’m assuming that when you were getting ready to put out Scout there were multiple songs for you to pick from so these were the three that you picked?
S: Yeah, absolutely. Scout is really the EP though. It’s just three close-up looks at songs that are going to be on the album. Just early. I just wanted to have some kind of music to give people. It’s been a long time since I’ve had an album. Especially with newer stuff that I’ve written I’ve really hit a good stride in these last 3 years. I wrote some of what I feel is my strongest material. I just had to have music. I’m really very impatient.
M: How do you feel the reception of the EP has been so far?
S: Oh it’s been awesome! I was extremely afraid. I think that if you wait that long you’re just full of fear. You’re like what if I waited this long and it doesn’t go well. What if all my opinions are completely wrong? What if I’m totally wrong? But I don’t think we were. I think we put a lot of love into everything and it has had a really good reception so far. And I think it gives people a more accurate understanding of who I am as a musician and what that means. And where we fit in the world of music.
M: And so are all or any of these songs expected to be on the upcoming album?
S: Yeah, all three of them.
M: And when is the album actually expected to be done?
S: It’ll be this next year, as soon as this festival wraps up actually. It’ll be our last show of the year. We are recording with Pat Hills up in Rocklin. We’ll pretty much be doing that. Focusing on getting that finished, touched up, pretty. Possibly by spring of next year I think is when we’re going to release that and go on tour.
M: So absolutely no shows between now and then?
S: Maybe next year once or twice but definitely not this year. That’s definitely my tag line, seriously though. It is literally your last chance.
M: So you mentioned a tour. Is there going to be an album release party?
S: Oh yeah definitely, even if it’s just myself. The issue with having a band when you are an adult is that everyone in your band is an adult too. We all have fulltime jobs and we have to work everyone’s schedule around. What usually ends up working better is we end up doing a three piece version of the big band. That’s probably what we did with touring just because it’s simpler. We don’t have to – I mean getting 7 people to take 2 weeks off in a row would be almost impossible. Unless, Gods of the Universe, somebody decides we were awesome and they gave us all the money in the world and were like “Do whatever you want, play anywhere.” Then it’s probably a different story. But when you do it on your own and you’re indie like us and you really are a self-run band you’ve got to make it work however you can.
M: So is the tour going to be more of local/regional or are you looking more of a greater tour, like the west coast or something?
S: I’m actually looking to do a west coast thing. We’ve been doing regional touring forever and ever. Lots of stuff in the bay area these last two years actually, kind of on purpose. We played a set with Bottom of the Hill and we were shocked. We were super shocked and surprised. I think we suffer from this weird thing where everyone went to high school with us here and so they see us playing and they’re like “oh well we went to school with those guys.” And they don’t really see it as a “this is an official band.” It’s more like “this is my friend’s band and they do pretty well in town.” We went to San Francisco and nothing is more heartwarming and inspiring. I don’t know it just made us all feel so much better about ourselves. People freaked out and it was so nice. We were like, really? Oh. Maybe it’s just that we shouldn’t be in Sacramento. Forever. I mean we’ll definitely come back, we love it. But we miss people freaking out. We’d like that to happen more.
M: So going back to the album, is there any collaborations you could disclose at this point? Any bands you’re working with, any artists that you’re working with on the album?
S: We’re working pretty much solely with ourselves. Other than perhaps the inclusion of – we’ve been working unofficially with Joe Kye from Joseph and the Well for a while. Love him, he’s awesome. But it really is a band gig now. A band show. Everybody is really super talented and I picked them and eventually I decided that I like them a lot because everybody has a great sensibility, they have great taste in music, and more importantly they have musical taste and musical style that already complement what I’m already doing. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to play with anyone else because I have so much faith in my guys.
M: Alright, understandable. Respectable. So I looked and from what I’ve read and what I understand you are a huge supporter and fan of the Sacramento music scene.
S: Yeah. Well for a long time I used to live in Carmichael, when I was still young. I started playing at 15 years old so it’s going to be 11 years this October of me playing music. For ever and ever and ever everyone I talked to was all “you can’t move downtown and you can’t move midtown because it’s so expensive.” The it’s so expensive sign always floated in front of my eyes every time I looked at the beautiful houses and I looked at the people. My heart wanted to be here so much and one day I finally just decided to freaking do it, just try to make it work. And if it didn’t work I could say I tried. So I went down here and, not only is it extremely easy to find something cheap, if you are the cheapest of poorest musicians like I was you can find something for really not a lot. You just have to have a good network of people. More importantly I would start going to the open mic scene. I mean, I would go literally every single week. It was less for the chance to play my songs as it was to meet the musicians in the area. I don’t know when you play in the suburbs there’s this weird disconnect. You’re in Sacramento and you’ve been playing music for years. But you go downtown and you know literally nobody. Everybody’s like “I know you exist but I’ve literally never seen you.” It was so revolutionary to be able to meet these people that I admired.
M: So what’s your opinion/take on the Sacramento music scene as a whole?
S: The Sacramento music scene is probably in the best place it’s ever been right now and that probably because of the attitude people are giving it. For the longest time we allowed people to talk badly about it. We allowed people to talk down about it. And we kind of accepted out fate when people were like “ugh, Sacramento that’s nothing. There’s no music scene.” Instead of speaking up for ourselves and standing up for ourselves we agreed. And that’s kind of the worst thing we did to ourselves and it took us years to bounce back. We don’t agree anymore because it’s not true. It’s absolutely not true. If you want to have tons and tons of kids at your shows it’s a possibility and it is super fun. And it’s something that happens very often. And if people are still on the outskirts, like I used to be, and they think Sacramento sucks it’s probably because they haven’t been here in a long time.
M: I wholeheartedly agree. I mean, a lot of my friends say “aw, man Sacramento’s so boring. Sacramento this.” And I’m like (S: Just look at them and, like, you never leave your home.) I’m actually from Stockton and I moved up here last year and I’m probably not going to look back because I love the scene down here.
S: you know what I’ve played in Stockton and I didn’t understand how great and how well our scene worked until I went there. Their scene struggles to exist period. I played at Plea for Peace, I love that place. IT’s so scary in a punk rock way. But there’s hardly a scene there and the punk scene is the only thing that holds it together. And I went and played there and I felt so much better. We have venues, we have all ages venues. We have bands that regularly pull over 200 people at every show. That is something that would never happen in Stockton, unfortunately. People have believed badly about their scene for so long that it becomes truth. The difference between us and Stockton is that we refuse to believe that that’s our fate.
M: So with the state of music as it is now in Sacramento, what is your opinion on what can be improved on in the scene for artists in the area and for music as a whole here?
S: I’d really like people to be more connected. I think we’ve got a really good thing in TBD and the Launch team from last year and putting that on this year. It’s so, I mean its life changing for a lot of people here. It opens so many doors for so many bands. I’d just like to see maybe a better community, better communication between bands and maybe something like, even if it’s just as little as having everybody know that this is the music block you go to to read about Sacramento music. And P.S. we need more music blogs, people who blog. It’s something unifying and tying together. Like, San Francisco has more music blogs than you can shake a freaking stick at. Everybody writes about music there. There’s not a lot of coverage so I think people feel pretty disconnected. I don’t think anybody would know that successful shows are happening right now. Just because there’s nobody who – it’s just like if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, that’s kind of like our music scene. Somebody’s got to write about it. Somebody’s got to say some hint about it and encourage people to come out. That’s my biggest thing is we need more music blogs.
M: For sure and that’s something we’ve been doing something here at KSSU. We’re actually one of the few places that supports and plays local music.
S: See? That’s so cool. And it’s not even that difficult of a thing to do. I don’t know, vie had some interesting takes. If I go play particular songs that over written, if it’s too indie –and I don’t even know what that means, I guess if it’s a happy song sung by a girl its fine but if it’s an angry song sung by a girl then its indie. And even if it’s a better song, which PS it was a better song, they won’t play it because it’s too far out of the range of what people are comfortable hearing. But I refuse to be Ariana Grande. It’s just, she does a great job. She can totally be Ariana Grande. I have lots of feelings and I’m definitely not going to stop at happy and love. I definitely want to keep pushing that envelope and I guess make angry girls a little more accessible.
M: So in looking at your Facebook and some of your tweets you post sometimes pictures and things of that sort because that’s your inspiration for music. Kind of elaborate on how you write music and poetry, because I know you write poetry as well, where do you find your inspiration? What’s your process like?
S: Yay, that’s such a cool question! I’ve been posting very occasional images, really strong images that speak to me. This year in particular I noticed a recurring trend. And it was that I was being attracted to similar images of similar color schemes with kind of the same ebbing theme behind them. And instead of being like “oh well isn’t it funny that I like these things” I purposely started collecting them. I’m like a massive hoarder of really beautiful graphic images. And to me that is part of a wider view of what it means to be an artist. And I think people don’t understand that it’s an amazingly fun thing to be a creative person because your inspiration can come out of anything and anywhere. And as an artist it’s your responsibility make your soul happy, to feed yourself inspiring things, to chase after inspiring things, to read inspiring books, to challenge your worldview and to be super open minded. Because those things are going to make you think and when you think really hard about something that’s been on your mind or been on your heart or something that you’re really distressed about or that you care about very deeply, those are the things that start that spark in you where you’re like I have something to say. And it’s really all about having something to say. At the end of the day I don’t think and unopinionated person would be writing very good songs because you have to have these stark contrasts, highs and lows, blacks and whites. And that’s definitely why vie been posting those pictures. It’s a closer look at the process vie been going through personally this year, and it directly affects and inspires songs that are going to be on the album.
M: I also noticed that on Facebook and twitter you pose a lot of questions to your fans and followers. Any reason behind it? Is that how you feel that you use social media?
S: Yeah. Honestly it’s because I feel there’s a really big disconnect between people who, this past year we hit over 15,000 people, which is crazy and weird and mostly it made me feel disconnected to a fanbase that used to be a lot smaller. I feel like we used to be really super close, I used to know everybody personally and see them at shows. The more it climbed the more I kind of desperately grasped for any semblance of human contact and relationship. So instead of just posting things on my page: please buy my ITunes CD, please go to Spotify, just to the random crowd of ghost people that they’re becoming. Instead of that I kind of like to post questions so they can talk to me and I can talk to them. To that I guess I feel like that’s a more human thing to do. It makes me feel better about the situation. It makes me feel like I still have a little piece of what I had when I first started. I don’t think I’ll ever stop, its pretty cool.
M: Yeah that’s fantastic. It’s something that myself and my cohost on my radio show that I host weekly talk about. In some genres a lot of artists try to do that but in some genres it’s not a thing and after a certain threshold the artist stops communicating with their fan base.
S: They do, yeah. And that’s so sad. Because, I don’t know, I’m at a weird place right now that I’m happy to be playing festivals. That’s a huge plateau. I mean, anyone in music knows that’s a huge plateau. It’s so difficult to break into that. You have to have played a festival to be booked at a festival but unless you’ve played a festival you can’t book a festival. You just have to know somebody or something like that, it’s difficult. But then you end up losing this beautiful – I was a singer-songwriter for a really long time and the cool thing about that to me is that people are very personal. You build personal relationships with people and the reason why I had such supportive people supporting my music is because I knew them personally. I had met them personally, I had hung out with them after shows, they liked a particular song. Or they would email me and be like, hey our little boy really reverberates with my life story. And then we trade, like, personal stories and what we’ve been going through and we support each other. It’s really more of a symbiotic relationship. And you’re right they lose that after a certain point. Then it feels to me that you run the risk of being a really narcissistic person, like it’s just about you. So maybe that’s what it is. I’m so afraid.
M: you’re afraid of falling into that trap?
S: oh yeah. Isn’t everybody?
M: Yeah. Well almost everybody. Is it ok for me to ask you one of the questions that you posted on your Facebook page?
M: When in life did you feel most proud about yourself?
S: I… oh man. Ok, so 2 things. I guess when I started going to school – I’d been homeschooled for a long time – when I started going to school and started trying to make friends I was such an anxious, awkward, shy person that even the act of making friends was total revolutionary for me. That was lovely. I think I was proud of myself again when I moved downtown on my own and started supporting myself. I felt like I would walk around and I would be like, I feel like Beyoncé. I pay my bills, I support myself, I run my own business, I’m so proud of myself. I think again this last year I got to be with my whole band – and they’re all guys which is really weird, it’s a really weird kind of unofficial statement we weren’t intending to make that I’m this woman and I front this band and they’re all guys. Instead of it being a weird, like kook, like “oh we hired this sexy girl to make us sexier” it’s like a club and they’re all supporting what I’m doing. Which is such a revolutionary, super cool, just awesome lucky position that vie got to be in. and we ended up winning a hall of fame induction and it was me and all my guys and we were all just standing around and ,like, these people, these musicians that I looked up to my entire life for the last 11 years were like, pretending to bow and it was so weird, so surreal, and so perfect to be right next to these people who’ve supported me while it was all happening and I got to experience it with them. That’s probably something I’ll probably never forget.
M: It’s amazing. So during the next 6 months until the album is done are we going to see you pop up at any open mic nights or with any side projects while the album is getting completed?
S: oh well you know musicians can’t really stop playing. I mean we won’t be doing shows but I’ll definitely be at open mics. I guess there’s a really good one at Goldfield right now, shout out to that one. It’s on Monday nights and it’s supposed to be awesome.
M: Doesn’t James Cavern host that?
S: Yes, I love him. So I’ll most likely be there.
M: Are there any other side jobs or side projects that you’re working on? Because I know that on your Facebook page it mentioned a lot of the things that are kind of personal to you that you are kind of an advocate for. Obviously you’re there to help spread awareness about autism and depression and sexual abuse and social issues that most issues shy away from.
S: Oh my gosh, you know, I decided not to shy away from because they make me so who I am that it feels weird to cut out this percentage of me and my life experience and kind of whitewash who I am. I think my songs mean more to people when they know that I experience life in a real way, and sometimes in a real bad way. I think that’s more honest, and honest is really my key word when it comes to my band. My songs are honest. I tend to be honest as a person. And that includes with my failures and y successes. I think something that my music tries to inspire in people is that I’m creating this world that they can escape to, almost. That they can feel safe in, that they can feel brave in. and where they don’t have to feel ashamed of where they came from or what they’ve been through and they have someone to talk to if they’re ever at a place where they feel like nobody understands. We want to create kind of a world where we do understand and we have even through exactly those same things and we want to help. I think that’s one of the coolest things you’re able to do when you get to the point where a lot of people see what you post. You can do nothing with it, totally acceptable, or you can choose to do something cool.
M: Totally respectable. Well thank you for your time and for calling in this morning.
S: Thank you so much.
M: Again, you’ve been listening to Autumn Sky as I poke her brain for questions. You can check her and her band out this Friday 3:30 at TBD Fest, the last time they’ll be performing in 2014.
S: Yes, yes, yes.
M: And then next year we’ll look forward in the spring for your guys’ full album.
S: Thank you so much, everybody have a good day.
We’re going to leave off with Young for the Night off of the Scout EP. You can get that on ITunes as well just a little promotional plug for that. Thank you so much Autumn.
S: Thank you.
DJ Mappquest is on KSSU every Thursday evening from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM for his electronica show with DJ Liradan, and every Friday morning, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM for his new music show with DJ Liradan – all on KSSU.com!