The QuestIon: What is the most fulfilling part about what you do?
The Answer: It's kind of a tie:
1. making something out of nothing: the rush and the feeling of self-sufficiency that comes from creating and then solving a puzzle, then carrying all these songs around inside my head
2. not just making the songs but having them be out in the world independent of me, alive, and then having people respond to them, especially the young women and all the beautiful oddball kids who come up to us after shows to say they are listening and our music inspires them, matters to them
3. getting to experience the challenge and joy of collaboration, which is one of the true sources of happiness in my life and makes creation less of a lonely business
In speaking with Ellia Bisker – half of Charming Disaster, the megaphone wielding singer of the Funkrust Brass Band, the Sweet Soubrette herself – part of her story stuck to me even days later.
Recounting the first time she read her poetry to a group – high school, cafeteria, a battle of the bands-esque open mic.
It was there that she knew for a fact what she wanted to do, who she would become.
But it wasn’t the applause that cemented it.
It was the silence.
It was her peers, with their teenage mouths shut, fully listening to her words, to what she had to say.
The weight of words. The power of a story. The heft of lyrics.
That’s where Ellia plays, in between those sounds that strike chords and memories and cement songs into our brains.
She uses words with precision, even in regular conversation, or relating a story about a more than likely non-pc joke country band. She understands the power of words and knows not to take it lightly or use them flippantly.
The first thing Ellia talked to me about was the science of grasshoppers and locusts.
When grasshoppers find themselves in a place with little or no sustenance, they (on a cellular level) change into locusts. They band together and scourge until they find and consume all they can.
It seemed abstract at first – we were supposed to be talking about creativity and her artistic history, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
To survive as a creator, to be empowered by your creations, to harness the power of words, you cannot be a complacent grasshopper, sitting calmly on a blade of grass.
You need to flow through the city, through life, like a locust – consuming everything you can, pulling people along with you to share in your creative vision/frenzy.
It became more and more clear that Ellia had transformed into a locust as she ran me through the history of her faux-country band, how she gathered all of the musicians for Sweet Soubrette, how receiving her first ukulele “ruined her life,” how she helped to form Charming Disaster.
She’s ravenous for creation, for expression.
I asked her if it was difficult to co-write lyrics for Charming Disaster, since she is (was) a very lyrics first songwriter. The key, she said, was the songs weren’t overtly personal – they were stories.
Which is an odd sort of beauty, isn’t it? Because we find ourselves in stories, in myths and legends.
We learn about the great concepts like love and life and death and faith and hatred through stories. The personal is found in the non-personal.
Her trust with co-band member Jeff Morris shows in the seamless execution of their songs. I joked that they sound like one – singular – musician.
“Our first rule was we were allowed to write bad songs.”
Imagine the freedom, the trust in your craft and creative partner, to say “hey, this isn’t working, but maybe we try…”, the freedom that everything doesn’t have to be perfect.
The freedom to know that one, just one, word change can make a difference.
Ellia is tied to words, to lyrics, to stories. Personal, not personal, funny, whatever…words form the aura of an amazing songwriter and band leader and musician.
Charming Disasters new album SPELLS+RITUALS is available for pre-order now!
Find that, and Ellia’s other albums as Sweet Soubrette and Funkrust Brass Band on iTunes and Spotify!