Caithlin De Marrais talks moving on from Rainer Maria and recording “Red Coats”


It wasn’t so long ago that Caithlin

De Marrais
was rocking out loudly as the frontwoman for indie

darlings, Rainer Maria. In the

time since the group disbanded in 2006, Caithlin has gone through a lot

of the life changes many of us go through with settling down, shopping

for condos, having a baby and going through the dreaded internal, “Do I

have to give up everything I was?” conversation that we all eventually

have when a big life change sets in. While the answer to that question

can sometimes be polarizing, the musician actually turned this

circumstances into a fantastic learning experience resulting in her

latest release, Red Coats.

We got to catch up with Caithlin to talk about family, not letting

preconceived gender roles dictate what you’re going to do with your

life post-pregnancy and how growing technology is changing the way

music is being made, distributed and possibly even learned. Do you have any big plans

set up for the holiday season?

Caithlin De Marrais: Visiting

parents, which we do every year, so it’ll be a nice chance to get out

of the city.

AE: Well that should be great! By the

way, were your parents in your “Birds” video?

CDM: Yes, they were in my

“Birds” video!

AE: Well I love the song and the

video. Both are so playfully nostalgic, even when singing about some of

your former insecurities. The video really shows how happy your family

makes you — especially your little boy, who is absolutely adorable. He

looks like the spitting image of you!

CDM: Oh, that’s so sweet, thank you so much. Usually people say the

opposite — that he looks like his dad.

AE: In this video he looks just like

you. How has your song writing process, and, in turn, I guess your

worldview, changed since becoming a mother?

CDM: It changed my songwriting

process a lot because I’d have to do it all in the wee hours of the

night. When I was first writing it he was a newborn and I’d have to do

it while he was sleeping. It was literally like, the minute I put him

down to sleep, that’s when I would start my work. So other things had

to slide if I wanted to get the record done. I had to make a lot of

choices and for a while it was just him and music, so it really


me to take risks that I had never taken before.

One of the risks I took

was to teach myself these recording applications that I had never used

before and they were conducive to putting my headphones on and writing

songs in silence so that no one else would hear and I wouldn’t wake

him up. There are such a wide variety of instruments and sounds you

have to choose from so I made this lush sounding record of the demo and

many other songs.  I was going crazy, all of these songs were just

coming out. Then I took the songs to the studio where I recorded it.

As far as changing my worldview, I think, I’ve always had a love for

children but I feel this affinity even more so now that I’m a mother.

And I can see how everyone was once a child, too! Like, people who say

they can’t stand children or get very annoyed by them, I just

think, “That was you, though! You were a child.”

AE: I’m sure that reading the press

release about the making of Red Coats

played a small factor in my

overall takeaway as a listener, but I have to say it really struck me

as being a great indie answer to the obnoxious CDs from Kidz Bop. It’s

not that the content is necessarily directed towards children, but your

voice is so soothing and even the percussion is played in such a way

that the album seems perfect for pleasing indie-music loving parents

and the children they’re trying to keep away from Ke$ha.

CDM: [Laughs] Well one of the

producers of the record has kids and the drummer has kids. I think now

that I’m a little bit older, I’m surrounded by musicians who are

married and have kids, so — I don’t know. The children are in the

studio sometimes and Oscar, my

son, played on one of our songs and I

just think that’s so great. Some friends have reached out to me and

said, “Oh my son really likes your record,” and I just think that’s the

sweetest thing.

AE: Definitely! I don’t know if you’ve

been to Lollapalooza in the last few years but they’ve opened up

Kidzapalooza and it’s awesome. They’ve had really big acts play there.

Chrissie Hynde, Perry Farrel and Ed Kowalcyk from Live have played. I

love the idea of getting kids involved with great music and

not just the music you would hear on your local pop station. Is that

something you’d ever be interested in doing?

CDM: Oh, for sure. I think my

career will take me places I’ve never been to before. It has to,


what I used to do isn’t sustainable for me anymore — to go on the road

for weeks at a time and live that lifestyle. You know, I have friends

in a band called Mates of State,

who take their kids with them on tour.

They’ve changed everything to accommodate their family, which is

incredible. So I’m open to whatever I can create and collaborate on

with other people in terms of where I play and for whom I play. It’s

always changing.

AE: Well it’s interesting talking

about technology and needing to change the way you’re doing things

because the album was in part brought to the public by the public with

your Kickstarter campaign. So first, what made you decide to go that

route. And second, do you think something like this is the future of

releasing music? I mean, there’s so much going on with illegal

downloads and that’s really mostly effecting the labels. From

what I’ve heard, the artists don’t really get much money from the

albums they sell anyway. So do you see these campaigns as changing the

way music is being distributed for the future?

CDM: Oh yeah, definitely. Well

it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. At a time when a lot

of people are poor in our society, (music is) seen as a non-essential

part of

our world. And in ways it is, because it’s obviously not building a

house for somebody. But in a way it is essential because it is very

fulfilling. So how do you compensate that? And artists of all types are

trying to figure that out. The internet is awesome and free music is

great. So we need to figure out how to keep going. The Kickstarter campaign was

the way to do that for me and it was also used as a way to gauge my fan

base and I was so grateful when that went through. I don’t know if it’s

the future of music, though, because it’s tough to do.

AE: Yeah, I really hadn’t thought of

that — especially, I guess, for someone who is just starting out.

CDM: Right, and to get flooded

with Kickstarter requests, you may not be likely to donate to any of

them or as many of them. So you would have to pick and choose. I mean,

I think it was great,  I would recommend it, but I don’t know if

I would do it again, though. I don’t know.

AE: Well, and I think with the

emergence of more technology, there will be even more ways to do things

that we can’t even imagine yet.

CDM: Yeah and I was actually

just wondering about this the other day: Will there be less people who

actually know how to play instruments? You know what I mean? Like, you

can play the guitar on your computer or keyboard.  So why would

you want to learn how to play the guitar. Or playing actual

instruments, will all of these instruments become antiquated?

AE: Oh I hope not.

CDM: Well it might be! It might

become a novelty, kind of like how very few people know how to knit now, or sew. Whereas in the past it was essential and not just a skill to


AE: Well, now you’re just scaring me.

CDM: [Laughs] Well, I’m trying

to embrace it — even though it’s hard to lose something we know and love. You know I just saw a quote, I don’t know if it was C.S. Lewis but,

it was something saying like, “Don’t regret what you’ve lost because

other things will come. So keep looking.” Like, now I can think as a

mom, “Oh my God, what will my son be doing when he’s my age? Things

will be so different!” Because everything is changing so quickly. What

are the skills he needs to have? What is he going to enjoy doing and

will be able to make a living off of? It’s really important.

AE: Well I guess the good news is that

we’ve been able to somehow adapt with the technology and still make a

living doing what we do.

CDM: Yeah and music is just

like water: It always finds its way around every stone. You can make

music out of anything, even just using your body like singing and

clapping. So music always finds a way.

AE: Well and for listeners, it’s

certainly a much less-expensive form of therapy.

CDM: Oh yeah, it’s certainly

saved me  many times.

AE: Yep, and even in ways you would

never think about unless you actually sat down to think about it. So,

while we’re on the topic, who are some of the artists that you can

point to and say that they’ve influenced you as a person.

CDM: Well as a teenager, Siouxsie and

the Banshees
were just awesome.

That’s who I listened to and I was lucky to grow up in the alternative

world where there were people like Kate

and Bjork and

those were

my heroes. So I feel really lucky because I looked up to them and

they’ve all had sustainable careers and some of them have families. And

now, really, everything influences me. Like when I was making this

album, I was listening to bands like The

and The National and

— particularly The xx — I was like, “Wow, they’re taking risks but


things stripped down that sound old and new at the same time — just

dialed in so perfectly.” And that really inspired me especially because

I was using digital recording and it showed me I could reach for

that.  You know, I had been in a rock band for so long – but I

love what people are doing with electronic

music right now. It’s just awesome.

AE: Yeah, I guess with The xx in

particular, you kind of forget the electronic element. Which is really

exciting because a lot of the times — and I keep going back to pop but

I don’t have anything really against pop music — but a lot of times it

will just drill the electronic elements into your head and

everything starts to sound so similar. But with The xx, and with a lot

of some of the other music coming out, you would just never even think

about it being electronic. It’s a really refreshing take on electronic

music and it opens up the doors to so many other genres using it.

CDM: Absolutely, because when

we went into the studios, we had my demos there that had all been done

electronically and we said, “OK, now let’s make the analog equivalent of

this.” So, sometimes, like in one song we ended up playing a drum case

instead of the actual drum because it sounded more hollow or absurd in

a way. So it was like us being like kids and having fun with sound. We

were just running around having fun. It was such a great experience.

AE: Well it sounds like a great way to

record an album, especially to have your kids involved on the album.

Since this was creatively such a huge experiment for you, what would

you say was the biggest creative lesson you learned while making the


CDM: Well, never give up. Never

give up on yourself creatively or on what’s possible. There are gender

issues as far as what’s expected (being a woman and a mother) and what

I’ve learned — what my

expectations are of myself. And it’s like, breaking through all of

that. Stop limiting yourself. So what, you’re a mother? Cool, go

downstairs and mess around with GarageBand. It’s so accessible right

now to find your creativity. A lot of people are doing that. We’ve got

a lot of young creative people who are playing around and going crazy

with it — so the future of art and music is just going to be


AE: You make a really interesting

point in terms of — well, first you say there are a lot of young kids

playing around with this, and I’m not saying you or I are old — but

you just saying that you can do this even as a mother and not let being

a parent get in the way is big. I feel like a lot of new parents feel

like once they have kids, they have to give up their creativity and

their passions and just settle down.

CDM: Right, or even just, “OK,

well now I’ll be creative through my kids.” And that’s just not going to

be enough for me. I want my son to be creative in any way he wants to.

I also want him to see me being creative. And who knows, it might look

ridiculous to him. [Laughs] But some day he’ll understand. When he

becomes an adult or a parent he’ll look back and say, “Oh, that was

cool.” So just keep your head down, keep doing your work. Do whatever

is going to fulfill you. I’m at a turning point and that’s a lot of

what this record is about. It’s a lot of loss but with that loss comes


Caithlin will be starting her tour on the West Coast in January. Keep up

with her on Facebook and make sure to check out Red Coats

along with her music with Rainer Maria.

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