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Interview: Sloppy Jane talk recording in caves, PF Chang’s, and how to organize a tour with 11 members

Sloppy Jane are somewhat of an enigma in New York, playing shows at most of the Brooklyn’s venues with a variety of instruments and an ever-changing lineup. Somehow, things always come together, perhaps thanks to vocalist Haley Dahl, who coordinated an eleven-person interview following the band’s recent show at Rough Trade opening for Cherry Glazerr. She has a flip phone, and gathered her merry band of Brooklynites via a group message.

Seeing Sloppy Jane live is sort of like seeing experimental theatre. Haley certainly leads the group, and she’s been the focal point of most of the band’s press due to her atypical fully nude performances and artificial blue “vomit.” This show built on the band’s shows I had previously seen, with a new song about shampoo as well as a new bit where Haley conducted her on-stage symphony. The 45-minute long performance largely felt like a more thought out production of what I’d seen before, featuring songs from their album Willow, released in March.

Still, talking with Sloppy Jane on Friday night felt like joining a group of friends. The heirarchy only existed becuase Haley was where my mic happened to be pointed. After the whole group was gathered, we talked about touring with a dozen people, former Sloppy Jane member Phoebe Bridgers and recording in caves.

You’re about to head out on tour. How do you organize a tour with 11 people and a bunch of instruments? How does it come together?
Haley Dahl: I’ll say that it’s pretty much the same honestly as with a smaller band. Everybody in the band is pretty game which is cool. But I mean it’s a nightmare logistically [Laughs].

How many vans are there?
Haley: We have one van.

That you all fit in?
Lily (violin): We have a clown van 1:00
Haley: Yes, it’s a clown car. It’s I really want to get a school bus.

Do you have a tour manager?
Haley: No.

And you don’t have a publicist either.
Haley: [Laughs] No, we don’t. I get a lot of emails.

Do you like doing that side of things?
Haley: No. [Laughs] But it’s one of the things where even if I delegated that, I would still have to answer those questions about scheduling and doing press. But I mean I would rather have somebody else do it. Is there anybody out there? Hello? It’s me Haley and I’m wondering if there is anyone else out there who wants to answer my emails.  

Would you describe your role as a band leader, a mother-figure…
Haley: Father! The mayor of drink tickets, I guess. But a father figure absolutely.

Before the show you lead the band in a sing-a-long?
Haley: We do vocal warm-ups.

Yeah, we could hear it coming from backstage.
Haley: You could? [Laughs]. We always do it for a couple reasons. Mostly to warm up, but then also it’s just helpful to have everybody do something together right before going on stage. It’s a really large group sometimes. Some people have been there since like 4 p.m. at soundcheck and like some people came in at like 7:00 right before the show. It’s good I think to kind of all come together and do something like that real quick.

Do all of you live in Brooklyn?
Haley: Yes.

Do all of you live together?
Haley: No. [Laughs].

But at one point didn’t you live in a big house in New Jersey?
Haley: [Laughs]. Underneath PF Chang’s. In New Jersey. No, I need to clear this up right now. To be honest, I made a joke once, but then it turned into a lie. You know it was a joke, but then people thought it was true and therefore it became a lie. But I never lived underneath a PF Chang’s in New Jersey. What happened was I lived in a house venue in Bushwick, and I wrote that in a interview answer but it sounded stupid so I changed the words to something that I thought sounded more funny. House venue in Bushwick became PF Chang’s basement in New Jersey. It’s followed me, and I feel bad. I’ve been meaning to clear it up.

So, this is my third time seeing you and I feel like in the past year the show has become more scripted. Not necessarily in a corny way but it almost feels more like a play. Do you think that’s true and how do you go about adding new things into what’s already an full-length show?
Haley: I mean it sort of is in a corny way. But I think that I’d really like to keep it the same, but develop it so that the music there is very high quality. Like it’s important to people to be putting out a lot of content and be seen as prolific, and have a lot of different content and a different show every day but I would like to just take this and make one perfect thing. Ultimately, I think it will become sort of like a symphony-format show. Right now there’s only one record but there’s two other ones that are being planned.

You’re making the next records now?
Haley: Yeah, we’ve been going to caves.
Jack: The next record we’re recording all in caves.
Haley: Me and Jack just spent a week in Kentucky. We were dragging pianos into caves. And then me and our friend Mika were in Virginia for a week in caves.

I also want to clear up two more thigns. I don’t want this interview to be about Phoebe Bridgers but she was in Sloppy Jane at one point.
Haley: [Laughs] Yeah, she played bass.

Okay and the second thing, a few articles say Sloppy Jane is singular, like Haley is Sloppy Jane.
Yeah, some people think that it’s my name, but it’s not.

But you also have said that Willow is a character that you play? Or is that something that’s kind of up in the air.
Haley: That’s confusing to explain and I don’t want to explain.

Last question. What’s your favorite book by Roald Dahl?
Haley: My favorite book by Roald Dahl? Probably Big Friendly Giant, or Matilda. 

Sloppy Jane is:
Jack, guitar, loves lavender
Lily, piano and flute
Lily (or Violily), violin
Tamar, vocals and “guitar for 30 seconds”
Noor, backup vocals, likes milk
Bailey, vocals, trumpet, and percussion, allergic to milk
Katie, bass, is excited to learn how to tap dance
Al, drums and vocals, wants to learn how to cartwheel
Lucas, cello
Kate, vocals
Haley, mayor of drink tickets
More at sloppyjanemusic.bandcamp.com.

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