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An Interview with Rachel Trachtenburg

I honestly don't remember how I came across the name Rachel Trachtenburg. All I remember was being completely absorbed by her angelic voice, her unprecedented creativity, and her charming fashion sense. Each of her projects enthralled me, from her family band (The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players), to her admittedly saccharine but undeniably convivial teen band (Supercute!) to the delightfully surreal and twee TV pilot for Rachel Trachtenburg's Homemade World, and finally the dreamlike melodies of her current band, Wooing.

Although Rachel will no doubt have other projects in the future that will continue to amaze, inspire, and captivate me, Wooing's EP "Daydream Time Machine" seems like the current epitome of Rachel's creative achievements. Inspired by a documentary about LSD experimentation, the EP is an amalgam of influences that, through Rachel's vision/direction, come together euphoniously. She was as careful and articulate with her interview answers as she is with her lyrics.

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When you were creating Daydream Time Machine, what feeling did you hope to leave listeners with?

A very "down the rabbit hole" kind of feeling. The songs are dark yet playful. There is a lot of raw emotions within the lyrics. Each song has a very different subject, but I feel like they overlap at points.

When composing songs, do you usually start with lyrics or melodies?

Our process is always evolving. The melody usually comes first with "fill-in" words and then I'll take more time with the final lyrics after developing the music arrangement. I like to know how much room we're working with.

What were your inspirations for the music video for "In Colour"? I heard the song was inspired by a documentary about LSD experimentation but did you have any other visual influences for the mv?

The director John Zhao wrote the story after hearing the unreleased recording. John also shot my first solo music video for "I like to be alone." He really understands my aesthetic and fascinations. Subjects like UFOs and eerie cults. The story and concept for the video was all his. I helped with the casting and styling. John did a lot of research on different cults before shooting. It was a really special process. Definitely feels like a foggy dream. The song was inspired by the idea of personified thoughts and how that concept can kinda just go on forever.

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Why did you decide to title Wooing's EP Daydream Time Machine?

It was the title of a song that I never finished and felt like it really fit the vibe I was looking to capture for our first release. I've definitely wished for a time machine while daydreaming, and I liked how the words flowed together into one concept.

Who are your musical inspirations?

I grew up listening to oldies and classic rock. I love bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. I also get a lot of inspiration from more underground musicians/bands like Quasi, Jeffrey Lewis, Daniel Johnston, Sibylle Baier, and Helium. A lot of my musical inspiration come from film. I love soundtracks and movie scores.

I really identify with "Two Can Keep a Secret" because I've lost a lot of friends over the past year, and I find it really hard to accept that friendships (or anything) are over. Do you have any advice on letting things go? Also, what songs do you listen to when you're trying to move on?

I've found that the people who are true friends always come back into your life at some point. Sometimes space from an unbalanced friendship is what's needed to get perspective on the situation. I also like to keep in mind that people are always changing and growing. Life's too short to force anything that's not meant to be. There's one song in particular that always helps me: "I Never Want To See You Again" by Quasi. That one is good for the early stages of moving on. I love that song always though.

I've been listening to a lot of Al Green lately, really lifts the mood. The song "I'm So Glad You're Mine" is my new jam. Can't get enough of literally everything about it!

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What's your favorite song on the EP?

That's a hard one! I go through phases of each one being a favorite. I love hearing what other people connect with the most, it changes my personal relationship with the song in a good way. Recording wise, "Tear World" is the one I'm most proud of. The producer/engineer Bryce Goggin really helped capture the emotions that I wanted to convey throughout our first release.

I really love the cover art for the EP and it's so impressive that you embroidered it! How long did it take you to do that? And what's your favorite embroidery that you've done?

Thank you! I don't remember how long it took me, probably a few days. I did the whole cover without drafting or penciling any ideas, all freestyle design. I'm always proud of each embroidery piece for different reasons. I'm mostly self taught with embroidery, so whenever I learn a new technique it's very exciting. I sew a lot of Death Head Hawk moths and recently started with some butterflies. I did a morpho butterfly art patch; I used 7 shades of blue that I hand mixed to create different shades. I was able to mix the colors to look iridescent which was really cool!

Daydream Time Machine is so trippy and otherworldly. What made you gravitate towards psychedelia with this EP?

Overall, the sound I'm trying to hone in on is psychedelic-grunge. JR, our guitarist, is amazing at creating weird sounds with his guitar naturally. Psychedelia is definitely something we will continue to play around with in the future.

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I really admire how you're an advocate for animal rights, and it's so cool that Wooing has performed songs regarding that topic. Do you think that you'll ever write songs about other politically charged topics? What issues are important to you right now?

I get a lot of inspiration writing from the perspective of animal rights. I'm sure we will explore other political subjects in the future, but right now I'm mostly focused on animal advocacy. I get most of my news from Democracy Now. Their program keeps me informed on world issues that matter to me. I try to only take in what I can handle though. Looking out for your own mental health is the most important thing to do during this time.

What's your best memory of being a part of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players?

Touring was my favorite part. Being so young on the road taught me a lot. We had one tour manager who wasn't necessarily the most professional but who always put adventure and fun first, which as a kid I loved. We would pull over to climb hills or jump into a watering hole that was famous for having gold flakes in it. During summer tours, I remember letting chocolate melt in a cup on the dashboard of our van to make fondue. Being in a band with my parents was all I knew and it never felt out of the ordinary to me. As an adult now looking back at the whole experience, I can see why people were so fascinated with the project.

Your personal style is seriously the coolest. What do you look to for fashion inspiration?

Aw that's so sweet of you! I love almost anything with flowers on it to start with. I hold onto clothes for way too long. I don't like buying anything new. About 95% of my closet is vintage, hand-me-downs, gifted, or homemade. I like to mix decades, 60s and 90s mostly. I love when a piece has a lot of wear and history in it.

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What was the worst show you've ever played?

The bad ones usually involve someone having too many drinks or whatever. Wooing had one last year where the sound guy was either having a mental breakdown or was on a whole lot of drugs. I think both. The whole show was running hours late and when we got up on stage to play he couldn't get any of the mics on and when one started working it would feedback horribly. They had to escort him out of the venue and I think one of the other bands ended up running the sound! Even "bad" shows are still fun, or good learning experiences, or something to laugh at later.

What was the best show?

I love playing shows on my birthday. We had one a few years back that was extra special. I actually got kind of emotional onstage and almost cried while thanking all my friends and family for their love and support. The venue surprised me with a person dressed in a cake costume who danced on stage and delivered a birthday cake to me. I'll never forget that night.


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