photo credit: molly francis
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CoG Interviewed The Sharp Ease via email in September 2006

Church of Girl has loved The Sharp Ease ever since we received their first full length album, Going Modern, released in the spring of 2005. Immediately, we were taken with Paloma’s voice: at once authentic and urgent.  We have only grown to love them more and are excited to share our email conversations with Paloma Parfrrey (vocals) Dana Barenfeld (bass) and Christene Kings (drums). 

CoG: How did you get involved with music?

Paloma: From the time I was born ‘till 12 or so, my parents would take me chanting to protests on a bi-weekly basis. My mother would lead many of the folk or protest songs and hymns with her beautiful voice and impeccable {Appalachian} dulcimer playing. I remember once when she sang this really bluesy Irish piece at hippie-mass in the commune ,where I spent most of my youth in, when one of the guests {non-community-member}wearing black Birkenstocks and a short brown beard came up to me after the sing a long part and asked me quite rudely "Why do you yell? And sing so sharp? You could have such a pretty voice like your mother's if you practiced." This was devastating for a 10 year old ...I told him I was just trying to make up for everyone who sang so silently. I thought to myself that they acted as though they didn't believe in what they were singing. I trusted my mother, I'd believe her! I didn't want her to feel alone. The "sharp" thing did stick with me funny enough {God, and all the Van Morrison they listened to!} There was the birth of contempt for hypocritical hippies and the search for where my voice fit. I couldn't give up on singing I thought: My younger brother was already taking better to the piano then I ever had. So I just got louder at protests and bitter at mass. But my mother is why it is even an option. She has always been my biggest support as an artist.

CoG:What kinds of music were you exposed to as a child and what did you listen to while growing up?

Dana: My Dad listened to Donna Summer. My Mom listened to everything from the Beatles to Earth Wind and Fire. My sister listened to ELO and Olivia Newton John. I guess I grew up listening mostly to pop music until I was about 12 and started getting into classic rock, like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

Paloma: Pretty much everything but Metal & Classic Rock.... well actually there where some metal heads in the commune who I think were more into Bad Brains and Circle Jerks, it was that time. My parents have told me that the first music I was ever drawn to was Native American Folk. Second: Boy George. Eventually my dad would quiz me on jazz, and my mother on soul, I was taught that Billie Holiday was God and Aretha a saint. Truthfully I really was surrounded by every kind of music and all types of people growing up the way I did. My family left the community when I was 12ish that's right around when 'Smell's Like Teen Spirit' came out so like most kids my age we all totally freaked out and got really into punk and blues luckily I had my aunts and uncle and parents kinda directing me in the right direction.... so I never got into Green Day or any other shit. I'd say The Pretenders and Elvis Costello are who I first got into without social or parental influence though. And I’ve always had a weakness for Otis Redding.

CoG: Do you have formal training or education?

Paloma: A lot of Chorus, and I was chosen to compete in sum opera shit in 8th grade. At that point I was already such a little performance artist. I choose songs that would piss off the judges and snuck in snarls and humor where ever I could, so I never won. I had already inherited my aunt's old punk records and stuff like Kate Bush so it was really easy to mix operatic train with reality's drama.

Dana: I took piano as a kid and a few guitar lessons but have never had any formal bass lessons. I’m not super technical.

CoG: What was your first significant musical experience?

Paloma: It was blowing a toy trumpet out of my nose (at the Impala Cafe'{RIP}) - when I was in The Grown-Ups.

CoG: Who are some of the people and/or bands who influence you?

Dana: Peaches is an influence to me. I met her 5 years ago. She’s a really cool and really talented performer. She's humble even though she's gotten pretty big. She doesn't give a fuck and she's true to her heart. She's also one baddass karaoke singer.

Paloma: Throughout the years I always seem to go back to The Birthday Party and The Slits for guidance. But my recent influence, which often changes, is Tina Turner, and before that I'd say Phil Ochs and Mingus; sometimes it's what they're saying, not how they say it. The real influence is right here in Los Angeles seeing bands like: Lavendar Diamond, Lily Marlene, Silver Daggers, Weekend Warrior, Devon Williams, Horses, Rose For Bohdan, Carla Bozulich, No Age, Mika Miko, Barr, etc. is really what keeps me going, We may not sound like our peers but we couldn’t do it without them. These are bands keeping the LA music flowing! And it's soo exciting to be a part of.

CoG: What keeps you going personally and as an artist?

Paloma: Lottery tickets...kidding. A better chance of getting laid. Still kidding. Personally, jeez I can't even live without it, I've tried not singing and it's miserable! Even when we're taking breaks I end up in some crazy art project.

CoG: What bands are you currently listening to?

Paloma: Jesus & Mary Chain, Babes in Toyland, The Cure, Longstocking, The Wipers, Mia Dio Todd … getting ready for fall, I guess.

Dana: ELO. They write really good songs. Brings me back to the days of Xanadu. As far as new bands, a friend made me a really good mix with some songs from Fischerspooner, and Montreal. I have a place in my heart for old-timey music (from the 40's) and ambient music -- It’s my easy listening music.

the sharp ease
photo credit: molly francis

CoG: How do you describe your music?

Paloma: I'd like to think of us as an action. Sometimes, when I see packs of dogs running around Echo Park late at night barking and intimidating drunken cars, I see us. Is that weird?

Dana: The sharp ease… is exactly that: we have a sound that can be quite jolting, but, there's something that always brings the music down to a settling place, I think.

CoG: What are some of the unusual or unknown factors that contribute to making The Sharp Ease such a fantastic band?

Paloma: We're aliens. We're all such spazzes in our own way, I’m sure lots of amazing folks would like to play in bands with us, but we really get each-other we always have, artistically, at least. We're definitely all each other's biggest fans....But the real difference, I think, is that we are a really good paradox. Our friend and journalist, Chris Zieglar said a while ago: "You can tell your punk friends they're punk and your pop friends they're pop" but now I think as we've aged that applies to many different sounds and aspects of this band, like we have blues songs that are formatted like Prague or Noise that's really Beatlesy if you pay attention..... My favorite example is "Peoplewhich" which reads like crass but sounds like early Sonic Youth sped up, to me, sometimes.

CoG: The Sharp Ease recently won a Daisy Rock Guitar contest. What comes next with that?

Christene: This means they give us good press and we play their showcases and their guitars, although we are not exclusive to Daisy Rock. They have really cool gear right now and their guitars are a lot fun to play!

CoG: Do you identify as feminists? Is it relevant when creating music or art?

Paloma: Oh! my God! We so are feminists. I could not write with anyone who I didn't consider a feminist, unless it was like some clashing political statement.

CoG: How else do you spend yr time - professionally, creatively, and leisurely?

Dana: By day, Christene Kings and I work slinging handbags. I 'm the director of art. Leisurely, I spend time working on my own art, spending time with my family, and being domestic.

Paloma: I'm into nature walks and checking out butts. I do a bit of writing, directing, organizing, gardening, sewing, acting, and art-making as well, if I'm lucky I'll get a teaching gig....with some non-profit. My favorite past time is coming up with new vegan/vegetarian recipes. I just started creating my own cheeses, fermentation is so fascinating! I'm the inventor of the anti=knit button scarf, which is a must in winter.

CoG: Are you passionate about any publications? What about recently read books?

Paloma: I've been reading mostly poetry and short stories, probably because we've been so busy lately. It's rough being in suspense of a thick one! The last big books I read were 'Bulletproof Buddhists and Other Essays' by Frank Chin and 'The Transmigration of Timothy Archer' by Philip K. Dick. Both opened up my brain way more than I was suspecting...even more afterwards... sometimes subtly but that's what really sticks the most sometimes. I've bonded over a lot of Sylvia Plath with roommates lately.

CoG: Paloma, I have read some of your MySpace bulletins encouraging friends to become more aware of where their $ is going. We applaud you and wonder if you can tell us a little more about your sources for staying informed, aware and active.

Paloma: I just go to:, outside of random articles and conversations I get caught up in. Loudmouth and Beyond The Wall are both inspiring LA based Mags. My father is an environmentalist so he keeps me updated, most of the time. I really wish the west coast had its own BuyBlue or Black because of it's base in Boston a lot of west-coast stores or items are left out. Maybe next year. Hah? Last week I was freaking out a little, because it seemed like all rubber and imported beer is a big collection for republican businesses.... So I'm trying used bicycle tires and sneakers but I think it's ok to slip sometimes, as long as you’re aware of it. My friend and Cristine's boyfriend the artist/D.J.Abstractmachine aka Patrick Miller had a great point the other day: He's like do I drive 5-10 miles in traffic using up gas to get to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for a bag of tortillas? or do I walk a block to Ralphs? Thinking to myself I know how to make tortillas from scratch so that wouldn’t be an issue, but he's right sometimes you have to make decisions like that and of course I said walk, they're getting a veg oil car soon so I don't think it'll come up again. But these are issues you have to deal with daily as a conscientious consumer. I've been crippled for over a month now and it has been very hard to make it to all the p.c. stores, I'm lucky I have a garden and generous roommates. As a side-note part of why I became so obsessed knowing exactly where my money was going was because I had to stop being vegan for a while. My estrogen levels got abnormally high and I've had to get used to leaving out soy all together. Anyways, this caused I great guilt for me because I've been Vegan/ Vegetarian off and on {mostly on} for an average of 9 years.

CoG: What advice can you offer to other young musicians who are beginning to experiencing success in the music industry?

Paloma: Don't fuck over your friends... but most of all don't get LAZY! Be honest with each other, and practice as much as possible. Listen to Confusion Is Sex {Sonic Youth}, it got me through 14.

CoG: Tour Plans?

Paloma: We're going out in Nov. Totally Stoked! We'll keep you posted.

The Sharp Ease are:
Paloma Parfey  (ex-Grown Ups/SFTRI) / Vocals
Dana Barenfeld / Bass
Christene Kings (ex-Chubbies/SFTRI) / Drums
Aaron Friscia / Guitar
Anika Stephen (ex-Grown Ups/SFTRI) / Sax


Keep up with The Sharp Ease online:

By Mary Ann Naylor + Church of Girl
Published 21
September 2006