The third Three Six Five Live Session features Ellia Bisker of Sweet Soubrette and Charming Disaster. Ellia was kind enough to meet with me at Washington Square Park, where we filmed a couple of songs and talked about her two bands and her love books.
The Ruckus: How is your CMJ going so far?
Ellia Bisker: Well, it hasn't really happened yet! I play with Sweet Soubrette later tonight. I've done CMJ before and it's different each time.
TR: So you just released a new EP of remixes?
EB: Sweet Soubrette released our third full-length album in January of this year and in the spring I decided to run a remix contest. I was flabbergasted by the response because apparently remix artists all over the world are looking for things like this, so we got lots of entries from all over the world. The EP is of our five favorite entries.
TR: I wanted to ask you about Sweet Soubrette and its stage presence. Your style has been described as like a cabaret and your shows are grandiose in that nature. Do you feel like that is an extension of how you are off the stage?
EB: It just happened like that! I think without a channel for it, that might manifest differently in my life. But I front two bands that are very different in how I have to approach them, so that energy goes places.
TR: The other band you are referring to is Charming Disaster. How did that project come about?
EB: To answer that, you’d have to know the history of Sweet Soubrette and how that led into it. I started Sweet Soubrette as a solo project after I was given a ukulele as a gift. That solo project morphed into something bigger when I went to record and added different instruments and then wanted to bring that onto the stage with me as well. So now we have all these very talented musicians on a stage and that’s also how, like you mentioned before, the grandiosity of the shows came about. So Charming Disaster happened after I had seen Jeff Morris of Kotorino perform. I talked with him after and we hit it off and decided to play a show together, which led to us to try writing a song together and that turned into “oh we have another band!” But that really worked out because we both have big bands and the scheduling headaches that happen when we try to get everyone together aren’t as much of a problem with this.
TR: You’re releasing a new album for that soon?
EB: It’s actually coming out now in a way. We’re doing a set of shows around Halloween and the album will be available there, but we aren’t going to do a full release until the end of the year so we can do a really big release show for it.
TR: I had seen you perform as the opener for author Cheryl Strayed as part of the Largehearted Lit series. Have you opened for authors before and how was that experience different from other shows you’ve played?
EB: That was such an amazing night and a wonderful experience! Everyone came prepared to listen closely and be emotionally engaged and you can’t ask for more than that of your audience. I felt like the songs I played were so line with her subject matter. We were invited to do that by WORD Bookstore after I had done something over there. I have a collaborator named Emily Raw, she’s a photographer and we’ve done a couple of music videos together, we’ve done photo shoots together. She lives across the street from WORD and she has a project called “What’s the Worth” along with writer Manuel Gonzales (The Miniature Wife). She sends him a photo of a songwriter and he writes a short story about the photo. So then I wrote a song based on that short story, then there’s another picture based on the song, and finally another short story about the photo. It’s such an amazing project. When Manuel was going on his book tour, I performed some songs when he was at WORD.
TR: Do you often find inspiration from books?
EB: Yes, I read all the time and a lot of my songs are based on things I’ve read. The song “Ghost Ship” that I just played was actually inspired by a column Cheryl Strayed wrote. It moved me so much and it was a powerful image for me. I’m also part of this other project called the Bushwick Book Club where we read a book and then write a song based on it and perform it. I’ve participated in that many times.
TR: Any book recommendations?
EB: I just read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I love all of his books. I want to go back and re-read them now because he keeps bringing characters back. I’ve got the new Sarah Waters book, The Paying Guests, on my phone. I’m constantly reading and always find inspiration there.