TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is constantly on the prowl looking for new musicians, and music styles, to introduce to our readership. A short time ago we had toured San Francisco and wrote an article about it in our ‘NEWS’ section. Recently we were introduced to a new group from there called Firekeeper.
The group is comprised of Becky White and drummer/ designer Nathan Pundt. Becky, we understand that you and Nathan were associated in your musical endeavor for a long time. Please tell us about how you met.
BW – Nathan Pundt and I met my last year at Prescott College in Arizona. The first day we met, we actually moved into a big house together with four other mutual friends. We had some great parties in that house which was a little ways out of town, near the national forest. We played a lot of music then and Nathan and I have been collaborating on musical and life adventures big and small ever since!
TAEM- Your music style is called ‘electro-folk’. Please explain that to our readers.
BW- I started calling the music of FIREKEEPER electro-folk because it used strong elements of electronic and acoustic music. The first songs I ever learned to play on the guitar were folk songs, from Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, old cowboy songs, old blues songs, folk ballads and the like. I loved playing old time music covers which ended up influencing my songwriting with lots of guitar parts. I think of my songs as folk songs because they are about issues that everyday people face, that everyone can relate to. I also have always played my vintage Gibson guitars that have a pretty classic folk sound. Now I’m starting to feel more comfortable laying down the guitars and playing keys or just singing.
When we started FIREKEEPER we added the electro to our established folk sound to give us the freedom to explore a direction that we’re excited about. While I was composing our album To Wake the Living I had so much fun using midi, synths, beats and found sounds. FIREKEEPER strives to maintain an organic and authentic feeling of live instruments, but utilizes the freedom to explore the possibilities that come with electronic instruments. It’s also nice to be liberated by electronic additions to play a full live sound as a duo without needing a big band.
BW- I like to use a piano/keyboard or a guitar to get down basic song structures, but sometimes it all just starts with the vocals and a melody or words that I really need to express. I also at times compose with the computer and a midi keyboard.
TAEM- How does it differ from the band that both of you were in before FIREKEEPER?
BW – Nathan Pundt and I started Becky White and the Secret Mission with our friend Chalo Jules (bass) and a revolving cast of characters. One of our dear friends and band mates Becky Tarbotton (violin) tragically passed away in an accident last year in Mexico. After Becky’s death I felt the need to down size and just work on things on my own and with Nathan.
The Secret Mission is really about a live sound, no electronics, upbeat – posi-core (as in positive) music as some our fans jokingly call it. The Secret Mission material will materialize here and there in our FIREKEEPER sets, but we are excited to expand our potential at this point and not feel like we have to stick to one kind of formula or style.
TAEM- Where do you record your music?
BW- We recorded To Wake the Living partially at Rami Jaffee and Ran Pink’s studio Fonogenic in LA. It was a rad experience to record there and those guys are very inspirational. We feel really lucky to have had that chance and we hope to go back for some future projects.
During the time we were working on the album I was living on a floating house in San Francisco’s Mission Creek where I had a home studio. We would do some clean takes at Fono and then come up to the houseboat and lay down vocals and various edits and additions. It was a pretty awesome place, you could watch pelicans fishing and seals swimming by while editing and laying down vocal tracks.
I currently have a studio in the rolling hills outside of San Francisco. It’s really great to have my own space to record and practice and experiment. It’s such an important part of the process of being a musician. I’m so glad to have the tools to record when I’m feeling inspired and the skills to produce music.
TAEM- Tell us about the many places that you have performed and the type of audience that attend them.
BW- During our recent FIREKEEPER To Wake the Living album release tour through the US South West most of the shows we played were at fairly established music venues or clubs. We appreciate playing at traditional venues but we also like doing other sorts of shows. We played at some fun music festivals in 2013 and we hope to do more in the new year. FIREKEEPER also has played various private parties along with special art and benefit events. We like playing shows that are out of the box. Along with being a drummer, Nathan is an architect, so we really appreciate playing in venues with amazing acoustics or unique and special structures. We also love to play outside in a beautiful natural areas!
The folks that attend our shows are mostly on the younger side with an appreciation for art and music, but it really depends where we are and the specifics of the show. We hope FIREKEEPER’s music can reach all people, regardless of age or nationality. One great thing about touring and performing is meeting amazing people where ever we go. That’s a big part of why we do it, to connect with our friends and meet new ones along the way.
BW- I perform because that is what feels right to me. I’ve got so many songs inside my body and sometimes you got to just let them out. It’s also something I’ve been doing my whole life, at this point it just feels natural. Music is a connecting force. We’ve turned it in to something to consume, but music really is an important part of building culture and expressing our connection to the world and community around us.
I have a few themes that run through my music, although sometimes they are not always obvious. One main inspiration is the natural world and the mysteries of the Earth. I’m constantly writing about the idea of wilderness within and with out and how we as humans relate to nature and the wildness of the human condition. I studied Conservation Biology in school and I have a on-going theme in my songs about the state of the planet and our relationship with animals and plants. I am also drawn towards beauty & truth, adventure, cosmic love, death & reincarnation, revolution and breaking rules that don’t serve us. All of these ideas seem to get expressed in my songs.
TAEM- We understand that you have a new album out titled To Wake the Living. Please tell us about how you developed it and the songs that it is comprised of.
BW- To Wake the Living is an album of 10 songs, about 47 min long. I wrote the album over the last few years. It has a series of songs that range from deeply personal to more esoteric and poetic. During the process of recording the album I actually ended up writing some of the songs that made it on the album. “To Wake the Living,” the last track on the album, was actually the last song that I wrote for the album; although it was in the conceptual phase for a while! I was really going for a specific feeling and expression that all the songs reinforce.
TAEM- How can our readers hear your music, and where can they purchase your album?
BW- You can check out our various websites:
TAEM- We also understand that you have a website that our readers can see. How can they reach it?
BW- Yes here’s our FIREKEEPER Website www.firekeepermusic.com and my website www.beckywhitemusic.org
TAEM- Is there any new projects on the blackboard at present ? If so, when will they be coming out?
BW- Yes, we’ll be releasing some various singles over the next couple of months along with some new videos from the album so stay tuned!
FIREKEEPER will be performing at Sundance Film Festival 2014 and during SXSW and around the west coast and NYC in 2014. Look for us!
TAEM- Becky, I had the privilege of listening to some of your music and found it quite stirring. I also want to thank you for your time with our interview and hope that you keep in contact with us so that we can let our readers know of any new work that you produce in the future. We want to wish you much luck in all your future endeavors.
Photos By : Aliona Kuznetsova
FIREKEEPER album cover:
© FIREKEEPER 2013