By Mike Watier
Interviews in stuffy offices can be really boring. If it were up to me…I’d hold it somewhere else. Same interview, different setting for a portrait of September 67 and their music.
So this interview will take place on a late spring afternoon in my dirty red pickup, driving through an empty countryside. The windows are rolled down, warm air rushing in. You can faintly hear the crackle of loose gravel against speeding tired over a treble-heavy cassette deck playing Lucky Shoe, September 67’s first album. Shannon Worrell (guitar and vocal) and Kristen Asbury (vocal and keyboards) are squeezed beside me on the cab’s worn vinyl bench. We’ve gone for a cruise so I can discover the music and motivations of this female duo. They met by fate a little over two years ago at the University of Virginia. Kristin was a Spanish literature major and Shannon had recently graduated, going on to film school and working as a film editor. After graduation Kristin worked in a high school cafeteria and spent her evenings in a cover band. Shannon, with only an acoustic guitar, sang as a folk singer with one solo album already under her belt.
Having recorded Lucky Shoe before being signed to a label, after only two months of playing together, Shannon describes the experience as being “…without any industry input or control over what we were doing… hopefully they’ll allow us to have the same freedom when we make another record.” Their songs are a blend of nostalgic snapshots from their hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. “It’s a small town and you have to exploit all of your neighbours for material,” says Shannon. “The very tradition of story-telling that comes from when small towns were small… that’s kind of the way I’m trying to write songs.” Looking out across the dashboard the sun slowly sets into a kodachrome blue sky and I can smell the air getting colder. Their Canadian reception has been good so far says Kristin. “I’m sure they’re all just marking their spots for Wilco… but at least they’re not just up there talking.”
It’s sometimes tough to be inquisitive while handling a meandering forest road at 95 clicks. Shannon has a white grip on the door handle for stiff turns. A noticeable silence. Ask a question: “What makes you stand out as a girl band with all of the bands out there?” Kristin is the first to answer, “I don’t think that we’re out there for women or something… I’m representing out band and we’re just up there playing.” I reach a paved intersection, and for my passengers, a merciful stop sign. Shannon continues the thought with a sigh, “Why does it have to be other women anyway? Why do all girl groups have to be lumped together in some eternal game of bridge? I don’t believe that Melissa Etheridge, Alanis, Jewel and Joan Osborne are all sitting around a fire somewhere making plans for women. Why can’t a band be taken on its own terms instead of having to be politicized?”
I raise the volume and race along a riverside road toward the freeway. The September 67 sound combines acoustic guitar, soft bass lines and simple percussion which carries comfortably through the album. As we hit the on-ramp and head for the city lights, Shannon summarizes that, “If making Lucky Shoe was the childhood of the band, then we’ve had a happy childhood which will carry us a long way.”