Q&A with The Ropes

Hi Sharon and Toppy! How’re you doing? It’s really sweet to be doing this interview with you both because I love your tunes so much. I dig your melodic songcraft, disenchanted to heartfelt lyrics, Sharon’s breathily cool, deliciously deadpan to softly melancholic vocals, and alluring mix of guitar distortion and percolating electronics.

You have a new 4-song EP out since mid-October, the wonderfully titled Lack of Technology Made Me a Killer (all your song titles are brill!). Is it in the same stylistic and conceptual vein as your previous EPs and album? Where can the EP be ordered from?

Sharon: Sonically and lyrically, this EP was just the next logical step for us. It’s available in the usual places (iTunes, Amazon, etc…) and the 7” can be ordered via our website at http://theropesmusic.com/

For a limited time you made most of your EPs available for free download at your official site. What was the reason behind this move? Are certain EPs discontinued now? Is your debut album from 2008, What They Do For Fun, still available?

Sharon:  We disowned What They Do For Fun and our first few recordings. To us, the band begins with Be My Gun, the first EP we released as a two-piece. That’s not to say that we don’t still feel strongly about the core of those early recordings. We will revisit many of those tracks when the time is right.

Toppy:  We do still play some of the disowned material live.

You’ve toured the U.S. and U.K. over the years and I was wondering what your live show is like. Do you replicate what you’ve put on record or do you go for a more stripped-down (well, or elaborate) sound live?

Toppy:  We’ve done both. We’ve played tours where the set was completely stripped down to a point where it was approaching the avant-garde. Currently, the live show is fairly faithful to the recordings. It really could change again at any time.

Delving into your lyrical content, I’m picking up on recurring themes of self-doubt (the excellent “Kill Her Off”), disillusionment, diffident to anti-social insularity, failed relationships (the awesome “Water and Headphones”), and ambivalence with the modern world; maybe not on all tracks, certainly, but on many of them. The outsider vibe on the lyrics “What they do for fun / reminds me that I’m not one of them.” from “What They Do for Fun” sums it up pretty concisely. Is that how you generally feel yourselves (I guess we all do at times), or is this one aspect of your personalities, or are you portraying various characters and their emotional/psychological states in order to tell a story that is not necessarily yours?

Sharon:  All of the concepts that you describe have been raped by so-called artists who have never really felt those things. It creates a void. That’s the void we fill for the very few people who value and will ever know The Ropes.

On that note, I reviewed your song “I Miss You Being Gone” at this site a year and a half ago, and silly me, I think I misunderstood the gist of the lyrics. I thought the protagonist was sad and missed the person who had left, but it’s really the opposite, right? I just listened to the song again and picked up the phrase “…basking in the lack of us…”, which totally changes the meaning of the song!

Sharon:  Indeed. It means quite the opposite.

Can you walk through the creation of one of your songs; do you write the lyrics first and then work on the sonics, or vice versa? How do you decide on the style of the song; whether it will be aggressively noise-pop (the scintillating “I Stand for Nothing”) or more dancefloor-oriented or even acoustic-based like “Let On”?

Toppy:  An idea that is worth pursuing is the prerequisite. Nothing comes before that. There are no rules after that.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Are you planning on recording a second album at some point? I dearly hope so!

Sharon:  The immediacy of releasing EPs is something that we feel suits us, although I would never rule out a full-length. It all depends on whether or not the prerequisite discussed previously has been met.