Posted Feb 12th, 2009 (2:34 am) by Joe McCarthy

Princess Mabel are Frank Moscowitz and Martha Kronholm. They have been active in the Upstate New York scene since 2001 and they recently hauled it down to Brooklyn, although not for the reasons you might assume. When they returned to one half of the band's alma mater to play a show with a few of their friends, I sat down with them to shoot the breeze and find out what makes them tick.

IYS: So, when did you start making music?

Martha Kronholm: Me, 15: guitar.

Frank Moscowitz: Me, 5th grade: trumpet.

MK: But before that that 10, I played the saxophone.

IYS: When did you start playing together?

MK: Pretty much when we met, spring of 2001. It was a gateway to an eventual romance

FM: It seemed like a logical progression.

MK: It was an excuse to hang out together ‘cause we liked each other.

IYS: Ahh...I saw that according to your myspace, you are now out of Brooklyn.

MK: Sort of, did we change our address?

FM: I changed it on the myspace, yeah.

MK: What? I feel scandalized by that...

FM: We met in Albany, lived in Albany. Then we were in Kingston for 2 years. Then we were in Troy for 3 years. And we've been in Brooklyn since September.

MK: I'm almost hesitant to even claim to be from Brooklyn because its like, who's not. Who cares?

FM: Right, exactly. At least we didn't just say New York City. Maybe we should just change it to Crown Heights.

MK: Is it more pretentious to be concerned about seeming to be pretentious about being from Brooklyn?

FM: Or is honesty the best policy?


MK: We live in Brooklyn.

IYS: Alright, so why did you move to Brooklyn?

FM: It was not musically motivated. It was because Martha had finished law school and had a job lined up at a firm in Manhattan at a firm.

MK: Yeah, the short version is that I gave up on being broke and decided that we should move the land of the mizuny for a little while, I guess..

FM: So you know, we are down there for a little while, trying it out. No word on whether we are thinking of staying.

IYS: So, it sounds like you have located in a couple different places. How do these different places influence your music? Are they a part of it at all?

MK: Yes, yeah.

FM: Martha, when she was interning there this past summer wrote a record based on her experience of doing just that.

MK: It's called I Lived In Brooklyn, Too.

FM: Previous to that, most of Martha's songs are written about experiences that she's had - that we've had. And that's changed over the years. Do you think that location really influenced it one way or the other, or is it more what we were doing?

MK: I think its probably more, well. How can you separate...

FM: Right, its sort of all one thing.

MK: To the extent that your question is how much does your context influence the way you create, the answer is very much.

IYS: So, you just wrote the album?

MK: Right, I write the music.

FM: This was her first effort at recording it as well. Normally I've been in charge of that. I got to play drums on one thing, but that was it.

MK: It's only like 12 minutes long, but it is very obvious that I tried to record it myself. But it is also brilliant!

IYS: How would you describe the writing and recording process?

FM: Martha writes the song, it is done. (Martha laughs) I try to suggest changes, they are denied. (Martha laughs again) We record one version, I'm unhappy with it, she's fine with it. It takes two years to end the process and then we release it.

MK: Well, I would sort of supplement that to say that the initial writing process is music first, words later. I do permit it to be subject to some critical scrutiny, as long as it is a collegial way. It is tough to work creatively with somebody that you are also romantically involved with because you basically almost breakup every time you try to record something. That's an exaggeration, but yeah, it is a bit of a struggle. For me, writing the songs is strumity strum, it takes about a week usually.

IYS: There isn't a whole lot of going back and revising or does that all take place within the week?

MK: It all takes place within the week. I like this question because it asks me that is pertinent to how much you are obligated to adhere to the initial gesture of whatever it is that is created initially. And then how much are you supposed to question your own instincts in the interest of of creating something that surpasses that initial gesture. I think it is a higher expression of integrity to not change yourself too much.

IYS: Ok, so, I had a question about how your last album came out on Matthew Loiacono's label, Collar City Records. Are you planning to continue to release on that label? It does seem to mostly be local Troy area bands. So are you looking to expand?

FM: We actually had one offer from someone that we don't know; from Adam. Well, friends of friends offered us an opportunity. I don't know if that would mean we would have to leave that record label or not, but Matthew has been a great friend for a long time. In fact, he was the one that introduced us. He has done a lot of work for us, more work than we have done on our end, as far as playing and trying to push our record wherever it would go. He was the one that got us digital distribution that we have and blogged about us a little bit. He has generally shown great interest and kept us interested at times. So, I guess we would have to say that we have no plans of leaving.

MK: Very much, he has excellent sensibilities. But if part of your question was a bigger label, no.

FM: It would have to be something you can't say “No” to.

MK: Yeah, for us the point of making music at this point is just fun. We don't charge for our CDs.

IYS: When I listened to Listen Quick (Cause I Don't Know Much), it felt very intimate, very small room. Is that something that you had in mind when you wrote and recorded it? Or did it just happen that way?

FM: That is a very interesting question, if you listen to the album before it is very big room. Extremely roomy. Also, longer songs. I believe that this album defined itself in contrast to the previous one, which I think is pretty normal. Those songs were written over a long period of time, they kind of fell together as we were working on it. The song lengths and the record length was definitely a conscious decision. The sounds we were, hard to say as far as a small room affair. More of it was recorded in a different room, the one previous was a cavernous place.

IYS: I guess we already touched on this, but is there anything you hope to accomplish through your music or is it just something you do out of enjoyment?

MK: Well, hope to accomplish is an interesting question.

FM: We have no real monetary ambitions.

MK: To save the world's oceans.

FM: It is an outlet.

MK: I think that what it accomplishes is forces you to ask and try to make something else. Which is an ends and a means.

FM: Being part of group of people that also like to do the same has many peripheral benefits socially, just having a group of people who all look at things in a similar way and can exchange music and share.

MK: And look at things in a different way. Challenge your own peripheries of your own expression.

FM: Right, right. Broaden.

MK: The short answer would be community.

IYS: I play guitar, but I don't take it very serious. I don't really consider myself a musician because I don't put in the time and effort to achieving that status. Do you feel that in order to be a musician you need to put that commitment in? If you do, when and why did you take that path?

FM: I think that it is just the word, the usage is bad. It rhymes with things like statistician, where you are supposed to be highly skilled before you're considered able to do it. Before people had so much distraction instruments were a fixture in the home. Families played music, it was an activity. It was a medium of social exchange. Now, we're are living in a time where you are not supposed to play in front of people unless you've really worked hard. It is something that is reserved for a very skilled few and it really discourages people from just playing music. To that end, no. But also to that end, I don't consider the word musician to be all that meaningful. Can someone speak through their instrument? Does someone like to play? Do they treat it well? When someone picks up an instrument and starts to play, I do my best to not be judgmental and just listen to what they are trying to say.
As far as when that moment came for me where I decided I wanted to put more work into music, it was one year out of high school, going to college for mostly god-knows what, I decided that it was something that was very central to my existence and I couldn't get away from it, ever. I figured I might as well go to it. I call it more of a calling and less of a career.

MK: I agree with your points about the label of musician and this idea where you have to be good enough or you shouldn't do it at all or you should just do it in your room.

FM: I think electricians need to be good at what they do. Civil engineers, definitely. Auto mechanics, yes.

MK: But when it comes to any sort of expressive vehicle, good at it, good enough, is just a fake idea.
And in terms of pursual, it was a important to ride that wave of major teen angst. I just had so much garbage to say about my suffering, you know, my preposterous teenage suffering. It was an engine for me as soon as I realized that the guitar was my way to create and have an output to tape.
But I don't consider myself a musician, I'm the worst musician in the band always.

FM: But without songs a band doesn't do much.

IYS: I think everyone has an album that is played in your house, but you don't really realize it is playing until you go back and go through your parents record collection. Then you are just like “I know this album, I remember all of it.” For me that album was Déjà vu by CSNY. So, I guess what I am asking is what is your earliest musical memory and what is that album that is ingrained in your head? And how did these things effect how you thought about music?

FM: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes. The theme for the Olympics was another early musical memory. My mom made a point of pointing out to me the sound of Eric Clapton's guitar and how it almost sounded almost like a violin at times. You know, that might actually be a violin...No, no. It is Duane Alman and Clapton dueling with some slide stuff, so that is kinda why it sounds like a violin. It clued me in, I think from that point I started to listen to elements a little more instead of just being there.

MK: It was all about the car for me. My mom played Sousa marches. We had Peter, Paul, and Mary greatest hits in the car forever and the The Beatles' White Album. So that is definitely my musical backdrop for every single time I rode in the car. Well, except for the annoying parts of The White Album that are just jibberish.

IYS + FM: You mean Revolution 9? (Laughter)

MK: And there are some other parts at the end that are sort of sucky. But for earliest musical memory? Man, did I love singing patriotic hymns. The Star Spangled Banner, that was my call to arms. It's a beautiful song.

FM: It is tough song to sing.

MK: Oh, we were supposed to say something about how the album has influenced us. I suppose I would say a lot more intrinsically than...(trails off)

FM: Subliminally, one word. Next.

IYS: Alright, change of direction. Favorite show you've seen?

FM: Favorite show that I've seen recently was Cuddle Magic at Cafe Lena on a Wednesday for three dollars. It blew my mind, it was great.

MK: Katie Haverly's release show at Red Square. It was killer, it was a really good time.

FM: I'd say so too, but I'd be biased.

MK: Before that it was definitely Mike Doughty at Vassar for free. What was that? Four years ago. Yeah, we saw Mike Doughty solo before he got all crappy and Dave Matthews. He was awesome.

IYS: Alright, I have some fun questions to ask. So, the whole theme tonight is a coffee house and baked goods thing. Imagine you are going to walk into a coffee house, what do you order?

FM: Chocolate croissant.

MK: Milky flavored beverage and probably a pound cake-y thing.

IYS: Favorite movie ever? Best movie you have seen recently and the worst?

MK: Harold and Maude.

FM: Same. Worst?

MK: Punch Drunk Love sucked. It sucked so bad.

FM: We'll we're going to give you the same answers because we watch movies together.

MK: Yeah, we have the Netflix now.

FM: Right. Best movie recently?

MK: I don't know. I don't watch good films because they tend to have violence and I find that upsetting. So I don't watch really good movies, like I'm not going to see Slumdog Millionaire.

IYS: I didn't like that movie...

MK: Really? That makes me feel better about not going to see it.

FM: We need to go see Milk. But, meh. Pass.

MK: I'm really bad with movies.

IYS: How about if you change on thing about the world, what would it be?


FM: (Laughs) Change the monetary economy to a resource based economy.

MK: Yes.

IYS: Worst question, this is worst question I could ever come up with.

FM: It's the best one if it is the last one.

IYS: We'll see. If you had to describe your music to someone that had never heard music before, how would you do it?

MK: Organized noise. A little bit sad, slightly girly.

FM: Has never heard music, but has obviously digested sounds all their life, right? Birds, rubber bands, pots and pans, and dirt.

Princess Mabel's Myspace

© Inyourspeakers Media LLC