Larkin Poe on Siblings, Elvis Costello, and Improvisation
There were never such devoted sisters...
Photo by Mark Hug
Tegan and Sara assure the world that "Everything Is Awesome" while Atlanta sister duo Larkin Poe reminds us how important it is to "Play On." Going by these two pairs, it's clear that the future is looking rad for singing siblings.
Both girls are set to open up for the great Elvis Costello Wednesday night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Not even 26-years old yet, Rebecca and Megan Lovell embrace spontaneity and, according to their online bio, have even called their musical choices "schizophrenic."
Adept at a number of instruments, the two are sure to keep listeners on their toes. We chatted with the indie pop two about musical improvisation, being related to Edgar Allan Poe, and the problem with touring with your sister.
New Times: How did you find out you guys were related to Edgar Allan Poe?
Rebecca Lovell: We are very distantly, but we named the band after our great, great, great, great grandpa “Larkin Haskew Poe.” We kind of found out when reading his writing in our teens. We loved how dark and mysterious it was.
Megan Lovell: We started the band in our mid teens and started researching our ancestry. Luckily, we has an amazing genealogist to help us out.
How does it feel to be opening up with Elvis Costello?
Rebecca: We has heard him five years ago at an Americana fest called Merlefest [in North Carolina] … He was headlining the fest, and we were playing on a really, itty bitty stage. He loves to sing harmonies and has two younger brothers singing… It was a family harmony. Over the years he had us open with him, and he’s generally a class act and is terrific.
When you open, you are on stage with him as well?
Rebecca: It’s an all-star jam when they mash people together. Whoever has the opportunity to play at fest can jump on the stage and sing. That’s the beauty of Americana – there’s the opportunity to improvise and make the music spur of the moment.
So do you use a lot of spontaneity and improvisation during your performances?
Rebecca: Yeah, I think that being able to be proficient on an instrument and having a song memorized is so important to being a well rounded musicians. Megan plays fly guitar and plays incredibly well, and when we play with Elvis, she plays a long solo. That’s unusual in this day and age… the level of proficiency is important to us as musicians.
Megan: That helps us not only play with Elvis Costello and all the other people, but at our own show. We like to have a level of improvisation that keeps us on our toes. For instance, we leave a part of our show open ended. Having that level of uncertainty night after night keeps you fresh and new. I will play a solo and the band doesn’t know when I’m done – they don’t know if it’s a 30 second solo or longer, so they have to wait on me and feel what I’m doing.
Rebecca: It’s less about the set list and more about feeling the song than playing the same rhythm and song every night. That just gets boring! To live on the edge of the night, to live in uncertainty makes it so compelling – it’s like a train wreck, you could mess up and people keep watching because its captivating! You can’t look away.
What are all the instruments you know how to play?
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Megan: Classical violin, piano, dabbled in banjo, and dobro and then fly, and lap field.
Rebecca: I’m a jack of all trades – I started on classical violin then piano then banjo. I was an obsessive banjo player [also played acoustic guitar, mandolin and electric guitar]. I did some cello. Someday in my life, I want to learn to play. It’s my dream instrument…I’m not very good now.
What are some of the instruments you want to play?
Meg: I want to play pedal field. It’s expensive, so if anyone wants to get me one, let me know.
Rebecca: I want to own a baritone guitar.
What is it like touring with siblings? Do you guys ever get sick of each other?
Rebecca: Touring with a sibling is one of the best and worst things possible. As sisters, we experienced so much together and seen so many cool things together, it’s so special. I don’t know how many people experience that bond. It’s all wonderful, but it is hard. It’s hard touring with people [in general] whether or not they are family. It baffles other people that we do this. We’ve been doing this for ten years [been touring since Meg was 16, Rebecca was 15]. We were babies!
Do you guys have any other siblings?
Meg: We have an older sister [Jessica] that used to play when we were in our root acoustic phase and have a 12-year old brother [Thomas].
Why did you stop touring with your other sister?
Rebecca: If it’s hard to tour with two sisters, its hard with three [laughs]. She moved on to other things – music wasn’t her strongest passion and she moved onto other passions. She did it for five years.
Megan: We have no hard feelings
She must be proud.
Rebecca: She is. She understands because she toured. She gets what we’re going through.
Elvis Costello with Larkin Poe, 8 p.m., March 18, Au-Rene Theater at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $49.50 to $129.50. Visit browardcenter.org.
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