Get to know the transnational, female-fronted lazy-punk band, What Would Tilda Swinton Do! Their newest single out now is “Waves, Waves.” On the same date of the release, the band also held a fundraising event called No Voice Hush’d, in support of the ACLU and their fight against abortion restrictions. The event showcased NYC’s bands fronted by female-identifying musicians and interdisciplinary artists.
Named amongst to the top 150 independent rock bands in NYC by The Deli, these rising stars of the Brooklyn underground scene are making waves at home and abroad, with their music played in radio stations including FM4, one of Europe’s most important alternative rock stations. What Would Tilda Swinton Do has been covered by V Magazine, Culture Catch, NewStand, and A&R Factory and their music has been played in Austria, Germany, Italy, and the United States.
Connect With What Would Tilda Swinton Do Online Here-
Learn more about What Would Tilda Swinton Do in the following All Access interview with their lead singer Suzie Léger and drummer Tania Kass-
Now that the year is about over, how would you say that 2019 has treated this band?
TK: 2019 has been overall positive but I can’t deny that it’s also been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. We released three singles – Liebesrausch, Oathmaker and Waves – the music video for Kill, played many shows around New York and successfully organized our first benefit event for ACLU. The most recent news is that Jason Smith, our bassist, decided to leave us to pursue his own goals and projects. We were shaken at first… the four of us have been making music together for more than three years, which counts like a full-on long-term relationship. But we were able to talk, understand each other and maintain our friendship, which is what we all care about the most.
What have been some goals this group has had this year?
TK: We started 2019 wanting to write new material to share with the public, as well as getting more involved in our community to act on issues that we feel strongly about. We shot our second music video, Kill, in October 2018, and planned the release in summer 2019.
How close are you to reaching them?
TK: I think we’ve done pretty good for ourselves, considering the amount of work that goes into releasing and promoting music as independent artists. We were able to create a deeper connection with our audience and put out work that makes us very proud.
What are you already excited about for 2020?
SL: I am pretty excited about working and creating with our new band member. It’s a little like dating – you feel each other out; new energy is being generated. There is a rush of adrenaline. So many new musical perspectives and possibilities can open up …
There will be lots and lots of songwriting. We are experimenting with new influences – trying to merge the traditional punk elements with more electronic sounds. It’s thrilling.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together?
SL: It all started with an ad that I put out on craigslist. It was something like: “Looking for musicians for a band that are into avant-garde and non-linear ideas musically and performance-wise.” And then, everything happened pretty organically – we grew into it.
TK: If I had to recall one specific moment, it would be the night when Tom (guitar/synth) came and jammed with us for the first time. We just clicked and the air was filled with magic.
Was it hard to think of a name that you could all agree on?
TK: It took some thinking, but when Suzie came up with “What Would Tilda Swinton Do”, I immediately found it genius! We settled on it very quickly.
How on Earth did you come up with this one?
SL: Tania and I know each other from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. There, I had a joke that when our peers were nervous about an audition or a performance, I tried to cheer them up by saying: ”Hey calm down, just think: What Would Tilda Swinton Do?” It happened quite frequently.
So when we were actively looking for a band name, I thought that that phrase – but as a statement, not a question – could be an interesting and different twist for a band name.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
SL: Being from Vienna, Austria, having had the pleasure to study Art and influence actively the Cultural landscape there, definitely shaped my style of songwriting and performing. I was exposed early on to Performance Art and intrigued by Austrian artist groups such as the Viennese Actionists, VALIE EXPORT, Gelitin, but also international art rockstars like Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson, Andy Warhol, Andrea Fraser, Matthew Barney. Chicks on Speed is an Austrian art punk group that merged art with music and that I loved and who were pretty influential – very Riot Grrrl like Bikini Kill, Le Tigre. Also Falco who had also #1 hit here in the US in the 80s with Rock Me Amadeus, is a hero to me.
Before moving to New York, I was also part of the all-female art rock band “Pearls for Swine” that created edgy and provocative music, transcending boundaries of genres. This experience really helped me understand in which direction I want to further develop my artistic voice.
Speaking about roots: Something I am realizing more and more is that my Austrian background and the country’s history with two world wars does influence my songwriting subconsciously. There is a lot of melancholy, heaviness and unfinished business which affect our psyche still.
TK: I was born and raised in Trieste, on the North-Eastern coast of Italy. It’s famous for a very powerful and cold wind called “Bora”. It originates on the mountains of Slovenia and makes its way towards the Adriatic sea blowing straight through my hometown. You either love it or you hate it. I have always loved it and felt its reinvigorating energy. I believe it’s one of the many elements I carry with me, as a person and as an artist. Wind brings me back in touch with nature in an instant and makes my core vibrate like few other things.
How has the music scene there changed over the years?
TK: I haven’t lived there for 15 years, so I’m not particularly in touch with the local music scene anymore, although I’ve briefly been a part of it in high-school. Back then, there were some cool small/medium-size venues in the city center that were ideal for local bands. Unfortunately that’s not the case anymore… The few venues that existed have closed down, which forces local artists to travel for miles around the region in order to perform. On the other hand, for a few years now, Trieste’s arenas, stadiums and theaters have been hosting some of the largest concerts in the region, so that’s pretty great.
Let’s talk about your newest track, “Waves.” What was the inspiration for this song?
SL: I couldn’t make the rehearsal one day, so the gang sent me this instrumental track that they jammed together. I loved it instantly. Images of a passionate and insane summer romance came to my mind and I felt that rush of blood through my veins. So I knew: “Yeah that’s it!”
How would you say that it compares to anything else you have released?
TK: It’s some kind of perfect mix between the style with which we started the band, and the new direction our sound is taking. I think Oathmaker and Waves are the perfect bridge towards our next chapter…
When do you plan on putting out more new music and a full collection of new songs?
SL: We are excited to put out new songs in spring of 2020. We are right now in “winter hibernation mode” – writing, jamming and writing more. A full length album is also in the making. We don’t want to disclose any details yet, but I will say this: “It’s gonna be wild and unapologetic.”
Generally, how does this group go about writing your music?
TK: We normally start from jam sessions and see what happens from there…
Do you write together or separately? What is the first step in your music-making process?
TK: We like to create organically, leaving room for each member to express themselves freely. We believe that our strength lies in our individualities and our differences. Jam sessions are usually our starting point. If we like an idea we focus on it and try to shape it into something. It’s an extremely collaborative process since most of us are multi-instrumentalists and singers. Everybody has a say. Up until now all the lyrics of our released songs have been written by Suzie, but even that might change in the future… We’ve been talking about writing songs using Italian and Portuguese (Suzie lived in Brazil for a year). So stay tuned to find out!
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music?
TK: We would definitely like to do that more often! New York is a big place and everybody is very busy, so it’s hard to find time. We mostly go to live shows together to check out and support other bands.
In other words, when you aren’t working on music, do you guys enjoy hanging out for fun?
TK: We practice at least twice a week, so we see each other quite often. We might not hang out for fun as much as we want to, but we end up being in touch almost every day to keep each other updated, exchange material and thoughts.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years?
SL: We started from scratch when it came to the whole music business side of things. DIY is the way to go. We definitely learned a ton here – we started our own publishing and all those tasks like registering songs and artwork, copyrights, submitting to playlists, licensing, setting up contracts or negotiating with bookers became habitual to us and not something to be intimidated by.
We are also creating our own events such as the ACLU benefit “No Voice Hush’d”, a WOMXN ART PUNK FEST that showcased NYC- based, female-identifying musicians and performance artists. We are all in the same boat and supporting each other is our credo.
And it almost goes without saying that we definitely grew musically – in so many directions. We know each other very well now, we learnt how each one of us ticks and we grew very confident in combining our individual artistic visions into one.
What has remained the same?
SL: Tania is still takes off her shirt on stage and plays the drums in her jeans and bra only.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
TK: This is another aspect that proves how different we are… I am a performer, so that’s what I enjoy the most. Getting lost in the moment and playing with my friends… it’s so much fun! I love letting loose and using my physicality on the drum kit. It’s a very different experience from when I perform solo as a singer-songwriter or when I’m acting in a play. I get to express myself in many different ways and it’s so special!
Suzie is on the same page… We’re both interdisciplinary artists and performers and she openly started the band because she wanted to rock on stage. She’s always trying to find new ways to make our performance more engaging and visually interesting.
Tom is different. He’s probably the one of us that enjoys the creative process the most. He has been mixing our tracks this year and has his own electronic music solo project, so he’s definitely comfortable patiently working with different instruments, finding new patches and developing new sounds.
I am definitely curious to see how our new member of our band will fill the blanks and bring their personality to all this.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band?
SL: An ideal show is when we can give our audience what they desire – inspiration, connection, encouragement or just a fun, sassy, wild, gutsy night out.
What have been some of your favorite shows and venues lately?
SL: In general? My favorite show lately has been David Byrne’s “American Utopia”. I actually saw it in Vienna, way before it came to Broadway. I remember living in London for a semester to study abroad and I stayed in an apartment in a church. The friend who had rented it to me, had thousands of older vinyl records there- from the Fast Backs to the Pretenders to Phillip Glass and more- and I browsed through all of them. That’s how I got to know the Talking Heads and loved them. Then when I saw David Byrne’s show last year, it blew my mind. It’s an art show, not just a music concert. The choreography is by Annie-B Parson, with whom I recently had the pleasure to work. She is a genius. The combination of Byrne’s music and artistic ideas with her movement language, was mesmerizing.
Our friend, Prince Johnny, who is also a brilliant musician, organizes a regular event in NY called “The Troubadour Lounge”. It showcases queer artists and it usually takes place in someone’s apartment or an LGBTQ+-friendly venue. We played there a couple of times and I always love to go. The artists are original and fierce and not afraid to lend their voices to topics that are not given enough space in society, but definitely have to be addressed to make a change.
How was your recent Fundraising Art Event for ALCU?
SL: It was wild. We had a full house and were able to collect a good amount of money to give to the ACLU to fight against abortion restrictions. We had a wide spectrum of female-identifying musicians and performance artists who shared their works – from the country-punk-noise band “Irrevery” to the avant-garde performance group “Plastercocktail” that resembles the early Marina Abramovic, everything included.
How has social media impacted this band?
TK: I’ll admit I’m personally not great at it but I recognize the potential it has for artists. Finding a healthy balance is crucial to me. As a band we mostly use Instagram, although Facebook is a great tool for a different type of interaction. Suzie has been great at using her artistic skills to make our Instagram profile look sharp and stylish. She has been in charge of all our visuals and I find her graphic ideas always edgy, striking and slightly unsettling in a beautiful way. We certainly want to take even more advantage of these platforms moving forward. We definitely love real-life connections, but sharing our work and ideas on social media allows us to have an even larger impact.
How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans?
TK: We keep it fairly healthy, which means we’re not on it all the time. Suzie has been the one that keeps it going for the most part. Moving on we definitely want to find ways to facilitate one-on-one connections to get to know our followers on a deeper level, and allow them to get to know us better.
How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
TK: YouTube has been a great platform for us to share our music videos and other clips. We used Facebook to share our news and organize live shows; it’s still a very practical tool that many people use to stay updated on upcoming events. Instagram is our window on the daily happenings, we love the visual nature of it which makes it a perfect outlet for us, and it’s been very useful to connect with other artists as well.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today?
SL: Yes, the current times are heavy and truly upsetting. However, when I am in the rehearsal space, creating with my band mates, I feel free and alive. There is something genuine and unrestricted when creating art of any kind that is uplifting and can give hope. The political as well as my own personal circumstances are always processed into my songs, performances and art works. There is no separation. When I engage with a touching song, a good film, or a vibrant painting it connects me to my senses, body, and mind. It helps me to expand my notion of “we”, of society, of our world, and that sparks thinking, engagement, and even action.
Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
TK: It can be, but that’s not how I see it. I like music that is a reflection of the world’s state, in one way or another. I think artists have the power to transform pain into something tangible, alive and beautiful. The impact music can have in someone’s life is undeniable. I believe, as artists, we should embrace our gifts and service society through them by creating ways for other people to recognize themselves in our message and make it their own. To me it’s all about giving a voice to those who don’t know how to express themselves.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music?
SL: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, Jack White, Hole, The Knife, Annie Lennox, The Kills, Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Skunk Anansie, …
TK: Fiona Apple, Jeff Buckley, St. Vincent, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Queen. Oh, and I was totally addicted to Alanis Morissette’s first albums as a teenager…
What do you hope is the message of your music?
SL: “…don’t hide the madness!” (Allen Ginsberg)
TK: I don’t want to tell anyone what they should feel or think. They should find out for themselves. That’s how free I want people to be. Maybe that’s where the message lies after all…
What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
SL: Explore off the beaten tracks, seek the truth and envision your dreams and go after them!