THEESatisfaction Weathers the New York Storm

Chul Gugich / August 30, 2011
Photo Credit: K. Nicole Mills

THEESatisfaction’s recent week-and-half long swing through New York City was hugely eventful. Group members Cat and Stas can thank both Mother Nature and their new label, Sub Pop Records, for that. They performed well-received shows at Bowery Ballroom, where they opened for labelmates the Handsome Furs, and were a featured act in the 14th Annual Black August Benefit Concert at S.O.B.’s the following week. And oh yeah, just for good measure they also survived the Virginia earthquake of August 23 and last weekend’s Hurricane Irene debacle.

A more fearful duo may have called it quits but, consistent with their cool demeanor, THEESatisfaction took it all in stride, the same way they seem to be handling all of the burgeoning stardom brightening before them like the sky after a tropical storm. At the Bowery performance, the duo displayed a funky but refined elegance that has become their unique calling card as performers. The crowd, which was at about 70% of capacity when THEESatisfaction took the stage, seemed mostly ambivalent at first but were eventually won over by a charm that only naturally gifted performers can convey with such ease.

When I first met Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons over two years ago, they had just quit their day jobs at Costco and committed themselves to the full-time independent artist grind, with little in the way of immediate financial reward and even less in the way of certainty for the future. Since then, however, things have changed a lot for THEESatisfaction. They’ve found a musical home at Sub Pop and settled into a groove of steady performing and readying their debut album, Awe Naturale. I caught up with the group to talk about their new lives a few hours before they were set to take the stage at S.O.B.’s.

The first time we spoke was back in 2009 before you were signed to Sub Pop. You were still self-managed, unsigned, hustling on your own. What are the biggest differences in your musical lives between then and now?

Stas: It’s still a hustle. But you have more people to hustle to.

Cat: And more people to hustle with. There’s a lot of support with Sub Pop. A lot more audience. Our music is put out in a bigger way now, but a lot of it’s the same. We still book some of our own shows, but not the majority of them.

Stas: We’re a lot more visible. It’s just a lighter load on our parts.

Cat: We still work as hard, but we put that energy into other stuff.

You’re playing bigger venues now. You played Santos Party House a few months ago, Bowery Ballroom last week. What’s the difference between the small places you were playing before and now?

Stas: The difference between [playing the smaller venues] and now is that we had no idea what we were getting into when we were booking our own shows, whereas now when you have that support behind you; there’s a system set up [to help].

Cat: We have a booking agent and everything that deals with the majority and we’re still able to do things here and there to help out.

How is it for you as performers in the bigger venues? You seem like natural performers regardless of where you perform, but do you get nervous playing the bigger places?

Cat: I mean, not really. It’s just another energy to connect with. You kind of get a feel for what’s going on and go with it. You’ve gotta be prepared for whatever crowd’s gonna be there whether it’s ten people or two hundred.

Stas: I think I’m more nervous when there’s smaller crowds. When you see the three people who aren’t dancing and you’re like, “Aww what do I gotta do?”

Talk a little bit about how your relationship with Shabazz Palaces came about. Did you know Ishmael Butler before or did you come to meet him through Sub Pop?

Cat: He’s somebody we knew through friends. We hang out in the same kind of circles and everything. I mean, everybody knows Ishmael in the Town, really. He’s like a big brother, friend, just cool people. He and Tendai [Maraire], that’s just family.

Stas: Seattle legends, really. Their whole families are rooted [there].

Cat: I feel like all four of us really fit together. We have the same manager now and [we] all just flow together.

What can you tell us about the new album? Any word on who you’re collaborating with?

Stas: It’s called Awe Naturale.

Cat: It’s close to being done. It will come out sometime next year on Sub Pop.

Stas: We’re working with [producer] Eric [Blood], but everybody knows that. [Laughs]

Cat: We wanna keep [the other collaborations] a surprise.

How much longer are you out on the East Coast? Where are you going next?

Cat: We have another show tomorrow at a beach party and tonight’s show at S.O.B.’s. Tomorrow is at [Jacob] Riis Beach. We already did most of our shows out here and then we go back to Seattle. There’s a DJ show called Grand Groove. We’re going to be doing an L.A. date, maybe some other Cali dates with Shabazz in October.

How are you guys feeling about the Seattle hip-hop movement these days? What are you listening to?

Cat: It’s not always just hip-hop, it’s a music scene in general that’s really booming. A lot of indie music’s been booming for a while now. We listen to Fleet Foxes, too. Definitely Metal Chocolates and OC [Notes] and Chocolate Chuck. There’s a lot of stuff.

Stas: You heard of Swampman?

Cat: He’s a great producer, as well.

Stas: He’s young, like nineteen or something. We went to this show at Faire Art Gallery, I think everyone there was under 21. Nobody was drinking, really. There were like eight acts and they were all rowdy!

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