A mere five years ago, Regina Spektor was hypnotizing small crowds at hole-in-the-wall venues on New York 's Lower East Side . After playing hundreds of shows in and around NYC, Spektor became the talk of the burgeoning music scene. Though she was selling many copies of CDs she had recorded and produced with friends ( 11:11 and Songs), it was her next album, “Soviet Kitsch,” that would become her calling card. Originally released as a CDR and handed out at shows, Spektor signed with Sire Records who re-released “Soviet Kitsch” in 2003. While touring nationally and abroad in support of “Soviet Kitsch,” Spektor began as an opening act but by year's end was the main attraction. Going from 200-capacity venues to selling out 1,300 capacity-venues like New York 's Irving Plaza and London 's Shephard Bush Empire, this Russian-born chanteuse's songs have gone from being burned in her bedroom to receiving a worldwide fanfare. Though in love with playing shows to her rapidly growing audience, Spektor had written hundreds of songs since “Soviet Kitsch” and was eager to get back into the studio.
Abandoning her usual method of production and opting for a new experience, Spektor holed herself up at New York Noise Studios in NYC's Meatpacking District with seasoned producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney). Spending two months during the summer of 2005 working on her fourth release (this new album is also considered her major label debut), Spektor had the opportunity to experiment "until a little Frankenstein was born." Taking two months to record was a huge amount of time by Spektor's standards, since she had recorded her “Songs” record in 1 day and “Soviet Kitsch” in 10. “To work like this had been a dream of mine, but I thought it would be years before it happened. I definitely tried to put every aspect of myself into it. We played with wires and sounds, set the lab on fire a bunch of times, laughed and started again.”
"Before I even started I knew I was going to experiment with things I've only thought about, like beats and drums," explains Spektor, a multi-instrumentalist. "I really wanted to play with electronic instruments and bigger arrangements. Still, on this record, there are some songs where it's really sparse. You don't want to arrange just for the sake of arranging. I had to be careful so the music wouldn't be more fun to make than to listen to."
Judging from the final product, we'd say mission accomplished. On “Begin To Hope” Spektor took the lyrical vignettes and sparse instrumentation she crafted for “Soviet Kitsch” and pushed herself more in every direction—both lyrically and musically. From the staccato strings plucking the opening chords to the album's first song, “Fidelity,” to the blues-infused homage to Billie Holiday “Lady,” Spektor isn't able to pinpoint the exact inspiration behind her musical musings.
“You don't ever know the true lineage of your songs,” reveals Spektor. “Maybe I'm becoming less of a narrator and more of a character these days. I was always used to observing and writing third-person narrative stories about things I was seeing. Then, as time went on, I started placing myself in these scenes, more like an actor.”
"I don't fully understand the fascination of people wanting to know the 'real' you after listening to your songs" says Spektor, who is still extremely careful when it comes to sharing her personal life with the public. “I understand the fascination of people to want to know you,” admits Spektor but “ People always want to know which part of the song really happened, they want to know some sort of a "Truth." For some reason they can see the same actor acting in 17 different movies, using 17 different hair colors, using fake props, changing their voice, changing their accent, being evil or being the victim, and they are okay with that. They understand that it's just a movie, they understand that it's an art. But with music they forget. Music, somehow, is life."
Always willing to damn convention for the sake of creativity, Spektor is one of those rare talents who manage to outrun the trends and force the rest of the world to keep up. “The more I experience in this world, the more questions I seem to have about where this life is leading,” reveals Spektor . Begin To Hope might still mark the beginning of her career, but Regina Spektor has been carving out her place in music history since she sang her first note.
Live On Stage:
Regina has become quite the indie-darling over the last year with Begin To Hope popping up on a ton of Best Of lists by the end of '06. While I haven't heard much of that album I did review her first Soviet Kitsch - check that out here. Here she is performing "Fidelity" on Conan....
Going with one more since I really dig this collaboration she did with The Strokes on their B-Side "Modern Girls, Old Fashion Man" plus I was at this show too (though I missed her set, and almost missed most of the Kings of Leon who also opened)....
I go back and forth on Regina. I think I just really enjoy her in small doses - may have something to do with the fact that she played for way to long when I saw her a few years back. I do recommend giving her a listen though, she's a pretty dynamic performer. Here's some shows for you (via Dimeadozen)....
Regina Spektor - 2007-04-28 - Coachella Festival - Coachella Stage - Indio, CA
Regina Spektor - 2006-05-13 - The Independent - San Francisco, CA
Regina Spektor - 2006-10-26 - Moore Theatre - Seattle, WA
Here's the cute video for "On The Radio".....
Some more to check out....
Ode To Divorce
For more on Regina head on over to her official website.
Friday, May 18, 2007