On paper, the pairing of Christy & Emily almost seems like the setup for a joke: one girl (Emily) is a classically-trained pianist who graduated from Oberlin College, the other (Christy) a California-bred rock guitarist who wound up playing in multiple New York indie outfits. When they finally meet up, however, it’s not a non-stop collision of wackiness that was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Instead, it’s a collection of remarkably sweet, understated indie-pop wherein the emotional power lies within the sheer economy of their arrangements.
The pair’s new album is aptly titled No Rest, which makes sense given that following the release of Gueen’s Head (2007), the duo toured relentlessly, joined up with Effi Briest for even more musical collaborations, and worked quite relentlessly on its moody yet potent new disc. Tracks like “Here Comes the Water Now” exude a gray cloud sky sort of idleness, while tracks like the more propulsive “Beast” show that the group still can display some biting rock when it needs to, and yet still make all its stylistic detours sound like they’re coming from the same place.
While still making the rounds promoting No Rest, Emily Manzo took some time to tackle PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, here revealing which Lost character she’s most like, which baked good she’d love to take credit for, and yes, why fried chicken and whisky are an unbeatable combination…
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I recently watched the movie Up with my two young nieces. They both told me that I was going to cry in the first 15 minutes, and they were right. I made Christy watch it and at around the same moment (when the wife dies), she looked over at me with tears in her eyes, and was like, “What is this?”
2. The fictional character most like you?
If I was a character from Lost, it’d be Juliet. I’d totally end up in the Dharma Initiative because I was trying to help my sister, I’d totally have a small crush on Jack but end up with Sawyer and still have tons of sexual tension with Kate. And in the end I’d be a martyr and try to blow up the island.
3. The greatest album, ever?
There’s no such thing, really, because it’s a giant tie between, like, 20 records, but for the sake of an answer, viBe SongMakers’ Volume One. I hope it doesn’t sound like a strange response because I play on it, but really it’s created by six high school girls who are incredible, it will blow you away. The viBe SongMakers is a program that’s been running now for five years, but that first year had a very special energy, because we didn’t know what we were doing yet! Allie Alvarado from Eyestek and Busy Ganges from Telepathe were also in the band and worked as mentors. You can’t buy it anymore, but you can hear a track from it and maybe Dana will make more copies if you go to www.vibetheater.org.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
If you’re talking about Star Wars (old) and Star Trek (new and old) then, both!
5. Your ideal brain food?
Bach’s French Suites: they have all of the counterpoint and complexities of fugues, but a lot more in terms of lyrical content and, well, musicality. It really gets everything moving, fingers and mind.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I guess you’re referring to our record release, and yes, I’m very proud of this because it took a lot of courage and faith to make it and put it out into the world. It’s a very, very strange record for us.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
Starting something and keeping it going.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Claudio Arrau, Clara Schumann, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Sonic Youth, Elvis.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
What a funny question. There’s a bakery in NY called Payard, which makes a flourless chocolate cookie that’s pretty much, hands down, the best thing ever. Let’s say it’s a creative masterpiece. I buy them for people all the time, and I wish I could take credit for making them, but Francois Payard did; not me, that’s for damn sure.
10. Your hidden talents…?
Origami. I can make a paper crane very, very fast.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
My professor at Oberlin told me: “Emily, do things one at a time. Then you will get it all done.” I don’t always follow that advice, but whenever I do, she’s right.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
On our first record, Gueen’s Head (Social Registry) the first song, “Ocean”, ends with a kind of chorus: “I’d rather beg / I’d rather borrow / I’d rather beg / I’d rather borrow / I’d rather steal than go back to you.” These lines are lifted from the song “Beg, Borrow and Steal” by the Ohio Express, which I heard on a Nuggets comp. I hope we don’t ever have to buy it! I steal musical ideas all of the time; it’s impossible not to. But I particularly like how that one worked out, and it eerily matches your question.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I love it when I look down at my outfit and I’m like, well, my shoes cost $5 on Grand Street, my skirt is from a clothing swap, my sweatshirt is a hand-me-down from Christy’s mom circa 1985, my jacket’s from $40 from a Greenpoint wholesale store, but ... my underwear? My tights are Wolford, my panties are bra are both La Perla. That’s where my money goes!
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
My mother. She’s just amazing.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I would actually like to go to New York in the ‘20s and the ‘80s. Just for a week each, living in my same apartment (I know it was around in both decades). Is that cheating? I can’t read enough about old New York, I think it’d be very scary and fascinating.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
I’m really into Spa Castle, which is a crazy Korean place up in Flushing, but you know, that takes all day to get there and back, which can be stressful! I’m big into running, yoga, and then sometimes a nice game of Tetris is very soothing.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
I’m a big mess without coffee. But I also love fried chicken. Whiskey’s up there, too.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Outside of New York, I’d love to live in Barcelona. It seems to have the best of everything and is just the coolest place ever. Portland, Maine (don’t laugh) also seems very livable and has a small-city-in-the-country kind of vibe.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I’m writing music (we will record a new album—again produced by Hans Joachim Irmler of Faust—in Germany in September). I’m working on playing the piano, which I will always be doing for my entire life! And I’m working on working (for money) less.