Tables Turned: André de Ridder Interviews Channy Leaneagh / by Liquid Music


This interview mini-series began with s t a r g a z e's André de Ridder answering questions posed by Pola's Channy Leaneagh (if you missed it, you can read the interview here) as part of Liquid Music's first ever "virtual residency" featuring the two ensembles. This round, it was André's turn to ask Channy a few questions about her favorite things, thoughts on Classical music, and dreams for the future. Enjoy!

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh, Photo Credit:  Cameron Wittig

Poliça's Channy Leaneagh, Photo Credit: Cameron Wittig

Who, What, Where, and Why

Did you have musical parents? Was music present in your house or did you discover it completely by yourself? Do you have siblings and did or do you make music with them?
My mom learned the accordion as a kid. That was a valuable instrument in the small Czech community she grew up in South Dakota with all the polka dances and etc. My dad was a self-taught piano player and pursued songwriting until I was about 9 years old. He is a very talented musician and I learned a lot from him about songwriting and evoking emotion when I sing. They both valued music and put all of their three kids in private lessons and orchestras and gave us access to music both live and on the stereo. I have never made music with any of my siblings though.

What is your experience with and attitude to 'classical' music? Did it change from when you first got into music to how you perceive it now? Do you agree with many that it has an elitist feel and social connotation about it? What interests you about it? Do you go to opera or orchestral concerts when you're at home?
I’ve had four wonderful violin teachers, and they all introduced me to some really great classical pieces for solo violin and also chamber and orchestra; so my first introductions were as a student. I liked classical music as a kid and I still do; it’s soothing to me even when it’s jagged and dissonant. Music with lyrics/vocals can be too stimulating for me sometimes. I often want to listen to sounds without a personal point of viewI just want to feel the music. It’s similar to electronic music to me in that sense. You have to search it out a lot more so than other musical styles; it’s separation from pop-culture makes it seem exclusive but I think it’s just modest. It’s like a shy kid being accused of being snobbish. I don’t discredit classical music’s part in history of being very white and western though; it’s past isn’t as inviting as rap or jazz but I hope that is changing and the future of classical music will be a more inclusive one.

What classical instrument do you like most the sound of and which one are you most intrigued about to feature in our collaboration?
My favorites are the viola and oboe. I like those tones the best. I hope those two instruments will be involved in our collaboration and I am also looking forward to the bass flute.

What's the compositional process in Poliça? Do you personally write songs and then bring them to the band to arrange and develop?
The compositional process is akin to an assembly line. We are very egalitarian. Ryan is always at the head of the line. Most of the time I react first to what he’s made and lay down the lyrics and melody. The bass player, Chris Bierden comes next reacting off of the new combination of Ryan and I. And finally the drums come in to react with their beats. Sometimes I come after the bass and drums but always Ryan starts the clock.

What do you like doing to switch off from everything, what gives you respite and recharges your batteries, creatively speaking?
Walking is my main thing for switching off but I also like reading and drawing for getting away.

Where would you like to live and work/write for a while, if given the chance, outside your home country?
This question was probably the hardest. I never dream about moving somewhere else. I lived and worked in Cambodia for a few years and do miss it now and then. I guess I could see hiding away there for a few years someday.

As a conductor I am often told that life only starts at age 70! On the other hand I have heard people say pop music is a young wo(man)'s game. How do you feel about that and where do you see yourself in say 20 years time? Are you sometimes thinking about musical life after relentless touring and album-cycles? What are your dreams for the future?
I believe that’s true for the life of a conductor; I predict you have a long and fun career ahead of you. I believe the future of classical music is strong and exciting and it is doing such cooler and more rebellious things than pop music! I don’t consider myself a pop musician but the kind of music I make is for sure a young woman's game and; being a “professional” musician also feels like a branding game and a self serving game but I like fighting against those things and seeing if I can still stand on my own two feet.

I always want to make music but I don’t hope to engage in selling myself for too much longer. In the future I see myself screaming into the microphone in a cacophony of noise at night while teaching pre-school during the day and spending my in between time fighting the evils of capitalism.

André de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e,   Photo Credit:   Emanuel Florakis

André de Ridder conducting s t a r g a z e, Photo Credit: Emanuel Florakis

Favorite Things

Favorite contemporary/modern composer?
Nico Muhly

Favorite old 'dead' composer?
Fritz Kreisler

Favorite recent band/artist discovery?
Oneohtrix Point Never

Favorite recent collaboration (outside your work), in the music world anywhere, recently?
The Body and The Haxan Cloak; I Shall Die Here (2014 via RVNG).

Favorite music festival, currently?
My favorite collaboration thus far was with Alex Ridha of Boys Noize, Orlando Higginbottom from T.E.E.D (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) and Ryan (Olson). We met up at a studio after a Poliça show in LA and jammed out. Orlando was on piano, Alex on electronics and Ryan was processing my vocals and I just sang over them and we made one of my favorite songs ever. We were listening to each other and reacting without any walls between us. Those are the most treasured moments in making music; when we listen to each other and we are subtracting our own self to combine with others. I hope some truly inspired moments can occur in this Stargaze and Poliça collaboration.


"Raw Exit" from Poliça's Shulamith (2013)

“Relief” by The Dodos featuring s t a r g a z e orchestra at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland (2014)