Mary Pearson and Rob Barber, who previously made music under their solo monikers Transformation Surprise and The Urxed, embarked on a mutual musical journey after first meeting in 2006. Their bass-heavy, sample packed tunes combine with Mary’s sublime vocals to instantly transport the listener to dreamy ‘high places”.
Now, the Brooklyn duo – who recently relocated to sun-kissed L.A. – have just released their latest album, High Places vs Mankind on Thrill Jockey. So, what better opportunity to catch up with Mary and Rob to pick their brains to find out what gets their creative juices flowing.
1. What gets you both going in the morning?
Mary: Some strong espresso with soymilk and a walk down the driveway to pick up the newspaper. I feed the cats, water the plants, and then go for a jog.
Rob: Moshing around the house to 80′s NY hardcore. Long walks through the hills around my house, sitting on my roof to collect some rays, surfing if I can fit it in. And, yes, embarrassingly strong coffee.
2. What five records would you take to a desert island?
Mary: Joni Mitchell – Blue, Cat Power – Moon Pix, Portishead – Third, Led Zeppelin - The Song Remains the Same, Bob Marley vs. Lee Scratch Perry – The Best of the Upsetter
Rob: Uniform Choice - Screaming For Change, Earth – 2, Sister Nancy - One Two, Jesus And Mary Chain - Psycho Candy, Grateful Dead - Anthem of the Sun, Skinny Puppy - Remission
3. What inspires you to create?
Mary: Just seeing any artist being really prolific is always inspiring to me. I like to surround myself with people who have that insane creative itch. You can tell they are more wrapped up in the process of making something than in the end result. That type of forward momentum is super inspirational to me.
Rob: I just really enjoy surrounding myself in making music – the types of sounds we make are very soothing and comforting. It’s how I relax. It isn’t so much an inspiration, but just the need to buffer the world with something that is self created, and that I have control over.
4. What book or piece of literature are you reading at the moment?
Mary: I’m reading this book Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. Each chapter title is the Latin name for a eucalyptus species. It impresses me how much Australians know about their native flora and fauna. I’m also in a long distance book club with my sister and a couple of my friends from New York. We’re just starting to read some George Saunders essays from The Braindead Megaphone.
Rob: I was reading about terrariums, because my last one I made failed. But, I get sort of car sick on tour.?
5. Favorite piece of literature and why?
Mary: I will always and forever love Annie Dillard’sPilgrim at Tinker Creek. There’s a Quaker-like quiet introspection to Dillard that really appeals to me. She combines nature exploration with self-examination in a way I would love to emulate in song. Plus one day I hope to go off the grid a bit myself and, I’m sure when that day comes, I’ll be using the book as my handbook.
Rob: I am pretty amped on Greek mythology. It blows me away how old it is, and yet it is just well put together and you can’t put it down.
6. Favorite club?
Mary: Kraftbrau Brewery in my hometown of Kalamazoo. A train would inevitably roll by just outside the window in the middle of every band’s set. The building is an old feed mill or something of the kind, and the brewery makes a mean blackberry merlot.
Rob: The Smell in L.A.. Every city needs a Smell. Kilby Court in Salt Lake is pretty awesome, an all ages spot with an outdoor courtyard and a fire pit is fine by me.
7. Which historical figure inspires you or would you like to meet?
8. List five movies that you couldn’t live without?
Mary: The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Sans Soleil, The Decalogue, The Neverending Story, The Taste of Tea
Rob: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Killing Fields, Lost Boys, Decline Of Western Civilization, Up In Smoke
9. Favorite director or actor?
10. Favorite piece of architecture or building?
Rob: I love all the abandoned 1880 to depression-era cabins and homesteads I am seeing right now, as we are stuck on the side of the road in a blizzard in Wyoming.
Mary: James Turrnell’sRoden crater. I have yet to see it in real life, but it’s one of my life’s goals.?
11. Favorite combination of food or recipe?
Rob: Vietnamese food is completely perfect in its balance of all its elements.
Mary: Spinach, pomegranate arils, edamame, carrots, cucumbers, beets, tofu, balsamic vinegar.
12. Favorite musical genre in the last 100 years and what would you mix it with if you could?
Rob: Funk and metal. Like peanut butter and chocolate.
Mary: Rap. I wouldn’t mix it with anything. I’m not big on fusion.
13. Favorite Internet site?
Rob: Wikipedia, totally obvious, but it is true. I get stuck on there way to often.
Mary: priceline.com I get a rush from finding 4 star hotels for $40!?
14. Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
Mary: My family. I realize more and more how nearly everything I do is based on my upbringing.
15. What is one record you should never be seen dancing to in a club?
16. Favorite 5 music artists currently listening to?
Mary: Rye Rye, Linval Thompson, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, Awesome Color.
Rob: No Age, Frankie Rose, Rye Rye, Oh Sees, Ponytail
17. Favorite piece of art or artist and why?
Rob: I almost bought this amazing and frighteningly realistic 3-D cougar at a Flying J truck-stop in Oregon. But it was sort of freaking me out. I also really like Joseph Yoakum. He draws the way I used to, but have forgot how to.
Mary: I loved when Doug Aitken’s film Sleepwalkers was projected on the outside of MoMA. I went back there many times that winter to watch different parts of the film. It was the perfect example of installation art making use of location.
18. Artist you’d most like to collaborate with?
Rob: Boy George
Mary: I want to make some songs with Marnie Stern one day. We’ve talked about it a lot, so hopefully it happens!
19. One obscure band you think should be more popular?
Mary: Bow Ribbons from NYC.
Rob: I agree.?
20. What’s your ringtone?
Rob: I have dropped my phone so many times, my vibrate now sounds like a chainsaw.
21. Do High Places have a favorite sauce?
Mary: HP sauce, I should hope.