Noveller “I fell in love with my double-neck guitar when I first saw it at Doc Holiday’s pawn shop in Austin.”

It’s likely when you read the small newspiece that stated Sarah Lipstate was leaving Parts and Labor to pursue the pleasures of a solo career, you paid no mind. Since that amicable split, though, Ms. Lipstate has gone on to release two fantastic LPs via the Carlos Giffoni-helmed No Fun Productions as Noveller, as well as an equally entrancing split LP with Nadja’s Aidan Baker. Her NYC-based performances, combining her handpainted films and painstaking guitar compositions, have garnered Lipstate a quickly growing fan base and helped land her the opening slot on Xiu Xiu’s March West Coast tour. This rise in prominence has yet to slow Sarah Lipstate down — and with new albums on the horizon (including an improvised duo release with Carla Bozulich) and ambitious film projects ahead, 2010 looks to continue the atmospheric trajectory of the Noveller brand.


How did you get involved in creating films?

I made a series of Super 8 short films for this class I took called ‘Experimental Film Foundations,’ and that really kicked things off for me. I bought my own Super 8 camera so I could work on my own projects outside of school.

What was your first [Super 8] film? What inspired it?

My first Super 8 film was this black & white collage of various objects and liquid in motion. It’s titled AEAEAE, and I created it as my final project for this Introduction to Image and Sound class at UT [University of Texas]. It was actually inspired by the soundtrack, which is a piece of the same name by the duo I used to play in, One Umbrella. The track is a heavily manipulated ukulele recording that sounds very dark and almost choral in its distortion. Sounds nothing like a ukulele! The film is actually up on my website under the film section for viewing.

Could you explain how you create your films? What sort of time and effort is put into the collage and hand-painting process?

Hand-painting film can be pretty tedious depending on what I’m using. When I work with India ink, it takes much longer to apply and dry than when I use spray paint. The India ink produces really beautiful, vibrant colors and is definitely worth the effort. When I spraypaint film, I usually bring a reel of leader up to the roof and unspool it onto this ancient clothesline and spraypaint it as quickly as possible. I vary the intensity and proximity of the spray to achieve the effect I want. My friend Chris Habib just laser-cut some rubber stamps for me from several line drawings I made. They are about 5 inches long and designed for stamping onto 16mm, so I’ve been experimenting with that lately. Most of the collage effects that I create are done in post-production using Final Cut and are usually the most time-intensive part of my process.

Do you begin spontaneously or, when you set about creating a song or a film, do you begin with an outline or rough idea?

All of my current music and film work has been the result of me picking up my guitar or paint brush respectively and just trying things out until something interesting develops.

Is there any style or format you would like to explore with your films?

I’d like to eventually shoot on 16mm. I recently bought a 16mm projector on eBay and am really excited about creating new things to project at my shows.

Will your work continue to converge? Will your film and music begin to intertwine in more than a live setting?

Hopefully, yes.

How do you plan to marry your film and music in a live setting? Will you be composing one medium to fit the other?

I’m currently working on creating a 30-minute-long, painted 16mm film to accompany my live set. I bought 1000ft of clear 16mm leader to work with. The result is going to be pretty abstract, but I’m going to try and correspond color and movement in the film with the pieces in my set.

Are there any ideas that you haven’t been able to realize thus far due to technological or monetary obstacles?

I’d love to work with a vari-speed 16mm projector and shoot my own 16mm footage at some point. I’ve always acquired gear slowly, so hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have access to those things. The wait gives me something to look forward to.

It’s rare that someone uses a double-neck guitar as often as you do. Are there certain sounds you find yourself drawn to in using it?

I fell in love with my double-neck guitar when I first saw it at Doc Holiday’s pawn shop in Austin. I decided to put it on layaway to purchase it and that I’d figure out what to do with it later. The first time I ever used it at a live show, I layed it flat on a keyboard stand and dropped a heavy metal chain onto it over and over again. Later, I decided that bowing it was maybe a better use of the instrument. I like that the two necks allow me to setup multiple tunings and that I can have two ebows going at the same time, but lately I’ve actually been using my Jaguar for writing new pieces. When I did some touring earlier in the year in Europe and Scandinavia with Noveller, I realized that there was no way I could travel with both my double-neck and pedal case, so I started modifying my setup with travel efficiency in mind.

Has your ‘travel efficiency’ affected the way you compose new material? I imagine as exhausting as touring can be it also provides some creative influence.

Yes, it definitely has. I recently bought a new compact tremolo pedal to bring on tour in place of my substantially larger Moog ring modulator (which I was using for tremolo), and found myself coming up with an entirely new arrangement of my track “Rainbows.” The new tremolo sounded really different, so I starting working with its sound and this new piece emerged. With new material, I’ve been trying to work with my setup at its most minimal and challenging myself to find new ways to use my tools.

How many pedals do you use? Any particular favorite(s)?

My current setup includes 12 pedals. As flawed as it is, I couldn’t play without my Line 6 DL4 pedal. It’s how I create my loops and other trickery.

Is there a lot of trial and error involved in working on guitar and pedal set-ups?

Definitely. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that I could play my track “Rainbows” live with ease if I put the tremolo pedal last and processed the backing loop and everything else through it, as opposed to having the tremolo before the looping pedal and trying to time the loop with the oscillations.

Did you have any mentors and/or peers that pushed you into music/film/etc.?

I started playing guitar when I was in high school because I was so inspired by the music that I was listening to at the time. I was too young to go to shows in my hometown, so I would sit at home with my records and practice playing chords and try to play along to my favorite Pixies and Sonic Youth songs. My senior year I kind of withdrew from my friends at school and started going to shows with older kids. Music was all that I cared about and I felt really compelled to learn how to play the guitar and start something of my own. When I went off to college in Austin, I was able to connect with other musicians and eventually started playing in a duo called One Umbrella that was pretty instrumental in my musical development. Meanwhile, academically, I spent my first two years as an English major taking mostly general requirements and then decided that I wanted to transfer my major to Radio-Television-Film. I was really drawn to the experimental film and video art courses that the film program offered and felt like I needed to pursue those interests.

When did you decide to turn music, film, and art into a ‘career’?

After my last office job letting me go for taking off time to tour, I decided that I was getting enough opportunities to get paid for playing guitar to make it feasible to focus on that as a career. It’s hard sometimes, and I’m still figuring things out, but it’s completely worth it.

Can you tell us anything about the new LP? How far along is it?

The new LP is titled Sisters, and it should be available on Important Records in late Spring 2010. Each side of the LP contains two brand new tracks that I’m very excited about. It will be my first release comprised solely of guitar. No other instrumentation whatsoever. However, I guarantee that it won’t sound like any other instrumental guitar record you’ve ever heard.

Any plans to work on non-guitar based material as a change-up/reaction to making Sisters?

I’m going to see how far my guitar takes me before I try to work with other instrumentation again. The idea is exciting to me.

[Photo: Chris Habib]

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