FACE TiME POLiCE
|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS THEORY OF TiDES
FiNDiNG A GROOVEIt’s a romance made in modern rock heaven! When the JUILLIARD-trained MIRANA met her future husband – guitarist RICK COMSTOCK while auditioning for a cover band, a connection was made – both romantic and musical. As thrilling as the romance sounds on paper, just as thrilling was the duo’s pursuit of their own sound and setting up shop in the eighties New York music scene marked by noted acts as THE TALKING HEADS and BLONDIE. Along with establishing the recording studio SOUNDSPACE, MIRANA and RICK made their presence known with the band SIGHS FIVE – a band often billed as “BLONDIE meets LED ZEPPELIN” by local critics. The duo continued in this hard rock vein with SECRET SERVICE whose songs SEVEN IN NEW YORK and WHEN MEN REMEMBER received moderate airplay on MTV. “It definitely had an effect on our writing and where we were going because we were expose to what was on the circuit at that time.” reminisces MIRANA COMSTOCK of the New York scene “It was a pretty exciting time to see the shift in the music which panicked some of the bands because it was a shift away from the big-haired, excessive things into something that was fresh and young and kind of compact. It was a time of change and it was interesting to be a part of that.”
MiRANA COMSTOCK OF THEORY OF TiDES
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR SELF-TiTLED DEBUT
A LiFE iN MUSiC
AND FORGiNGA DANCiER SOUND
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
Now the life long musical partners have turned the guitars down just a smidge and have cranked up the synths and bass on their latest incarnation THEORY OF TIDES. Taking a cue from that other new wave couple TINA WEYMOUTH and CHRIS FRANTZ, THE COMSTOCKS are ready to dance as evidenced by their embrace of both techno and electronica without sacrificing content. “This time it seems to be coming out of itself.” says MIRANA of the duo’s bold new approach. “It’s got a more natural flow and movement that sort of takes on a life of its own. It’s not something that is intellectualized. It just is.”
ROCKWIRED spoke with MIRANA COMSTOCK of THEORY OF TIDES over the phone. Here is how it went.
How do you feel about the finished CD?
We feel good about it. For a while we couldn’t listen to it anymore. We’re lucky enough to have an in-house digital studio which means you can work when you are really inspired at weird hours but it also means that you can listen to it endlessly. There is no meter running and you aren’t going anywhere else so you go right upstairs and torture yourself over whether you think that note is okay or not. At a certain point we couldn’t listen anymore, but now that there is a little more distance on the process, we’re happy with it. There is a sweep to it. It has an album feel and it doesn’t feel like a collection of singles. You can always go back and think that you could’ve done this differently or that differently. We’re half way through our next CD at the moment, so the work hasn’t stopped. We’re not resting n any laurels. We have a lot to say.
You two have been a musical and romantic couple for a long time. How does that work?
We met in the womb of course! The music brings us closer together because we can share things. I’ll find myself working on a song in which I can say something to him that I might not say to him otherwise so you do have moments where it’s like ‘Is she saying something about me?’ There is a communication thing within the music that adds to the material as well as to the relationship. We’ve been through a lot together musically – that’s for sure.
In having your own studio at home, is there ever any delineation between the personal life and the musical life or does it all just come together and you guys don’t mind?
It all comes together. It’s amazing having it in the house. It’s a great place to go to instead of watching TV and vegging out. It’s great to play with the toys and have it come together. It played a major part in our sound ending up where it ended up because we had the luxury of trying different sounds in a very relaxed fashion as opposed to being somewhere else that wasn’t your place with strangers around. The studio is a nice little sanctuary to go to.
Talk about how music began for you. How did that start?
Again, back to the womb. My mother believed in playing a lot of music when she was pregnant. She also did a lot of dancing and a lot of things that were related to music and what the unborn child would hear. My whole family is made up of musicians and artists and writers so I was exposed to the arts from the beginning – all forms of art. My grandfather was a writer and a musician and we had a Hammond organ that he would play BACH on and stuff like that. My aunt was an opera singer. My family is part gypsy so there was a lot of music in the house. My mom – as a painter – did portraits of BERNSTEIN conducting the PHILHARMONIC. Every form of the arts was around me from the time I was very young and I had a lot of music training. I went to MUSIC & ART as a voice student and attended JUILLIARD as a pianist. I was around music a lot.
So there was no question about what you were going to do.
There was a question of what art form I was going to follow because there were so many. It was kind of confusing – an embarrassment of riches. There were so many different aspects to it and I think that most creative people can create in more than one area of the arts. You have what I call ‘stories to tell’ and the different mediums that you tell them in which is why I am also a photographer and a screenwriter. You have things to say and you sort of land in one or the other to be what you mainly see them in but you could probably work in more than one aspect. I think it’s apart of you that has something to say and needs to communicate it.
You and RICK met in a cover band. Talk about that.
I auditioned for a band that he was in. At the time, I was doing other kinds of music. I was actually going to LEE STRASBERG and was training for Broadway. I was up for the lead in the revival of GREASE right around the time I met RICK and he was all worried that I was going to get the part. I got the guy but I didn’t get the gig. We hit it right off the bat on many levels. The cover band did a lot of FLEETWOOD MAC, but we threw in a little HEART and BAD COMPANY and BAD FINGER and the occasional weird stuff like THE MCGARRIGLES. We tried to shake things up and not be the standard cover band. We played a lot in Jersey and a little bit in New York and it became pretty apparent that we didn’t want to stay in a cover situation because we wanted to do our own material so we split from the band and worked on our own music. We moved to downtown Manhattan and started a music studio.
Talk about that New York scene that you were surrounded by.
We were only half a block away form MAX’S KANSAS CITY which was a very hot scene at the time. We got a lot of people that were hanging out at MAX’S and we got REGINA RICHARDS at the time, who ended up doing a lot of dance stuff. She was working with RICHARD GOTTHERER who ended up producing THE GO-GO’s. He was in the studio all of the time. We had bands that were under contract to SWANSONG RECORDS when that still existed. We had a lot of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW crowd. There were a lot of different groups that came in and out of the studio. It definitely had an effect on our writing and where we were going because we were exposed to what was on the circuit at that time. It was a lot of different people in their early bands like BRIAN SETZER. It was a wonderful downtown scene at the time. You’d go to THE RITZ and see THE PRETENDERS or you’d see SQUEEZE at THE BOTTOM LINE. We saw THE POLICE for their first tour at THE BOTTOM LINE.
There were two-hundred people there and they had eight songs. For their encore they played two of the same songs again. It was pretty exciting! TALKING HEADS was playing CB’s at four o’clock in the morning with five people there. It was a pretty exciting time to see the shift in the music which panicked some of the bands because it was a shift away from the big-haired, excessive things into something that was fresh and young and kind of compact. It was a time of change and it was interesting to be a part of that.
Talk about your husband and co-songwriter RICK. What do you think he brings to the to be musically and personality-wise that has made this thing work.
RICK is actually an amazing guitar player but we don’t use that as much as we did in our previous band in New York because we’ve made a shift in what our sound is. We’re going for something that is a little more electronic and more dance-oriented. The bands that we had in New York were like “two-guitar” bands with these wailing leads. People said that we were BLONDIE meets LED ZEPPELIN so we were always sort of genre hopping as we do now. We never fit into a total slot which I think hurt us then but will hopefully help us now. Back then, we would play KENNY’S CASTAWAYS and then play CBGB’s and then open for JOE PERRY of AEROSMITH at THE BOTTOM LINE. I loved the fact that I was able to book us into clubs that were different from each other and that we would have a crowd at all. RICK is very much a rock guitar player even though he’s got jazz training and can play acoustic but he’s also got these wailing leads. He brings a rock aesthetic to the table. He plays bass also but he doesn’t play bass that way your usual bassist would play it because he approaches it as a guitar player. He was more into funk and hip-hop with people like KANYE and JAY-Z before I was. He introduced me to them and I think that brought the funk and the beat type thing into the mix more than I would’ve brought it in. He also produces. He is much more involved with the technical aspects than I am in terms of producing and finding a different sound. There is a really good mix in terms of our backgrounds. We come from two different places and I think that makes it sound special.
Talk about how a song gets written within this unit.
In terms of the basis for the song, it does start with me as the singer especially now since our stuff is a lot more keyboard oriented than it used to be. In the old days, more of the songs would start with a guitar riff and I’d be working on something over that. It was a little more cerebral then in figuring and working things out. I find – for whatever reason – in this incarnation of our musical partnership that I have songs that sort of just arrive. ‘m thinking about something emotionally and it almost has a feeling of speaking in tongues. It was almost scary to me when it started happening this way in the beginning about a year ago. I would wake up with a whole chunk of song in my head with the lyrics. I didn’t want to intellectualize it and turn it into a writing exercise. I wanted the music to continue to come from the heart and the gut and the soul so I did not allow myself to write anything down until it was done. I consciously said ‘You are not going to go to the computer, you are not going to pick up the pen! This is all going to get finished in your head! You are going to bring a little tape recorder with you so that you don’t lose it!’ That’s the way that things start. Sometimes, pieces of it will be missing but most of it will be there and I’ll bring it into the studio and we will start working with the keyboards, and RICK will pick up the bass and the guitar and start working on it. Then we start playing with what kind of beats we are going to add to it. The wonderful surprise has been that the beats actually worked with what I was doing. That was a surprise because on paper, they shouldn’t have. We’re not a hip hop band and we’re not a techno band but all of those things seemed to work with the songs. We just kind of went with it.
What kind of place are you coming from as a songwriter now as opposed to earlier bands?
A more organic place. Before, I was literally sitting down and writing lyrics and thinking about the words and reorganizing them. I don’t allow myself to do that now. Before it was more work – enjoyable work – but more of it. This time it seems to be coming out of itself. It’s got a more natural flow and movement that sort of takes on a life of its own. It’s not something that is intellectualized. It just is.
What songs stand out for you the most and why?
In terms of outside response, we’re getting a lot of response on ‘DARKSIDE’ which is the very last song that we added tot eh CD. It wasn’t even going to be on the CD. I t was something that RICK was working on keyboard and I had been working on a song line in a lyric and I came up and grabbed the mic and I started singing to it and he thought it was kind of a noodle-y thing and I said ‘No, no, no, no, no that’s a song!’ I knew there was a song there. The song just evolved. I like ‘ELATED’ because it’s got that thumping house beat to it and it’s very much affected by how much we’re into dance music at the moment. ‘AFRAID OF HEIGHTS’ has a lean-ness to it and an Eastern-groove that I really like and the vocal came out wonderfully. They’re all different.
Any plans for videos for any of the songs?
Definitely! There is definitely a plan to do that. We did two videos years ago with the band SECRET SERVICE that people are putting pressure on us to post but first, I want people to know who we are now before they go back who we were then. We did two videos in the eighties which ran on MTV for two different songs. I’m an advertising writer - that is how I support the music habit – who has done television commercials and am totally into making the mini movie of songs on this CD. The next big project for us is going to be the video without a question. There is going to be a lot of dancing in that. I am ready to dance. I’m already storyboarding videos in my head for sure.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this CD?
That’s a hard one. I don’t know about coming away with anything, but while they are listening, I’d love for them to be dancing to it. That would probably make me feel the best – that they are feeling the beat inside of them enough that it is making them want to move to it. I remember reading somewhere that when you talk or when you make music that you are actually physically touching the other person because the ear drum moves. It’s an interesting way to think about sound. I would want them to come away having been effected by the lyrics and moving to the sound and feeling like it was something that they had never heard before.