Lori Goldston has done experimental collaborations with bands such as Mirah, Nirvana, Earth, Black Cat Orchestra, Broken Water, Dave Abramson, Karl Blau, and countless other artists, indubitably giving her a unique view on music.
Her mastery of the cello and personal artistic process are evident on her latest album, The Lichens in the Trees. Shortly after this release, Goldston talked to She Shreds about her meditative genre-spanning approach to performing, recording, improvisation, and getting by with a little help from her friends.
She Shreds: When did you start playing the cello? What initially drew you to the instrument?
Lori Goldston: I started on guitar when I was seven, and took up cello when it was offered in school when I was about eleven. I didn’t really know much about it. Someone had said it was kind of similar to guitar, which is not really true.
Does the rarity of the cello ever hinder your ability to collaborate or does the sound of the cello allow you versatility?
Well, there are a lot more of us these days. I don’t feel like I’ve come anywhere near the limitations of the instrument, and after so many years of dropping into all kinds of situations I’ve gotten good at adapting. In general I’m pretty happy to play an instrument that’s a little unusual, and to play it in a way that no one else does. Guitarists have to deal with a very crowded field.
What pedals do you use when performing?
I don’t usually have a complicated pedal setup. There’s always a distortion pedal turned down low, just to add a bit of grit and responsiveness. Usually there’s a tremolo, too, just that green Boss one— nothing fancy. Sometimes a MXR Phase 90 for a moment here and there. Once in a while I use a Cry Baby wah, but not so much lately. More recently I’ve been excited about the MXR bass octave pedal. Sometimes I’ll add some fuzz or crazy distortion, too, again just here and there. But generally I keep it pretty simple and focus on seeing what the instrument and amp can do. Amplifying cello is pretty hairy in terms of feedback management, so I’ve had to learn to embrace the unpredictability.
Tell about the process of making The Lichens in the Trees.
I’d had the idea to ask Karl Blau and Kanako Pooknyw [of Broken Water], both friends and great musicians, to play together with me for a while, so when I was asked by Sub Pop to contribute a song for a compilation I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I asked Dave Abramson to join us because he always adds so much feel and texture. That single is two of the songs from the session that didn’t get used for the compilation. I proposed some ideas to the three of them about the shape and feel of the songs and we improvised.
What are some favorite collaborations that you’ve done?
It’s a long list. I liked playing with Earth and figuring out the weird logic and feel of those songs. I played a couple of weeks ago with Mirah and was very happy to revisit that long musical friendship. I had a satisfying, challenging time working with Ellen Fullman, who uses a different tuning system with an instrument she invented. Playing with Nirvana was great partly because I liked them and their music but also because I got to see so many excellent bands every night for a couple of weeks. Also my dear singer friend Jessika Kenney, and my husband Kyle who plays accordion. Those are some of the longer term collaborations, and there have been lots of wonderful short ones as well with composers, film makers, choreographers, bands.
How do you balance the aspects of technical music proficiency and making music that is more experimental?
I straddle those worlds pretty equally and don’t really see them as a duality. Ideally, regardless of the situation it’s all about listening and responding as best you can.