Random Rules: Leigh Watson
The shuffler: Leigh Watson, who, along with her identical twin sister Chandra, rose to prominence singing backup vocals on Jenny Lewis' solo outing Rabbit Fur Coat. Years before that, though, the Louisville-born Watson Twins established their roots in Los Angeles' Silver Lake music scene, performing as part of the local group Slydell, then as a duo. Following the success of 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat, the sisters released the well-received Southern Manners EP later that year. Their first full-length, Fire Songs, followed earlier this summer.
Wilco, "Shake It Off"
Leigh Watson: I'm a big Wilco fan, I think ever since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I think they're a band that is constantly evolving and creating. I think with Nels [Cline's] addition to the band, they've become more of an experimental rock band, kind of pushing boundaries. I think they're great. I love Jeff Tweedy's lyrics, I think he's a talented lyricist. There's another song called "Impossible Germany" which is my favorite off that record. I would say Wilco is for mostly summertime, like right now. I think it's a great soundtrack for the summer, and for drives, too. It's a little rock 'n' roll and mellow at the same time.
Gram Parsons, "In My Hour Of Darkness"
LW: With Gram, I became a fan through being a fan of Emmylou Harris and going through the projects she's been involved in. She's really one of my heroes, I guess you could say. Or an inspiration. She's sung backup vocals with so many amazing people, and that's sort of where my sister and I come from, singing backup vocals. So she's definitely someone I look up to. And I feel like she and Gram had such great chemistry, and that's really where she started honing her skills, singing with him. But the song "In My Hour Of Darkness" is just a great little country jam. And Grievous Angel, that album is really good.
The A.V. Club: Did you pick up that track specifically for Harris' involvement, or did you come across it as you were exploring Parsons' discography?
LW: I think it's a combination. I really like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers. I like his voice, and that record in particular is one of my favorites. But you know, I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan as well, and I feel like Desire is one of my favorite records of his, and I think that's because she's on it. [Laughs.] Maybe I'm a little biased, but I think Gram has an interesting story as well, and that sort of adds dimension to him being this California-country-brother.
LW: This song is so funny. It probably came up because I've been listening to it a lot. I've never really been a Goldfrapp fan, and then a friend of mine made me a mix-CD and put this song on there, and I just totally was drawn to it. You know, trying to sing along. She doesn't really enunciate any of the words she's singing, and my sister and I were talking about this song, so we ended up getting online and looking at the lyrics and finding out that it's actually about fake boobs. [Laughs.] And one line is, "Only clowns will play with those balloons / What do you want to look like Barbie for?" So we just have the funniest relationship with this song, because it's so beautiful and amazing, and it's about this pretty insane subject matter. But it's definitely worth a listen. And I was never really into Goldfrapp and her more dancey stuff, but this record, I really, really like.
Palace Music, "Arise, Therefore"
LW: Being that we're from Louisville, Kentucky, they're sort of a staple in our musical scene, and have been for a long time. Palace was actually, oddly enough, brought to my attention by a friend in Chicago. I mean, I knew who they were, but I had never really been into them. And then we started listening to this record [Arise, Therefore]. So we got into them, and it's made me sort of a lifelong fan of not only Palace and Palace Brothers, but also Bonnie ["Prince" Billy] and the collaborations he's done with different people. I feel like for Palace, his writing is so creative and metaphoric—he's like a poet, you know? He's definitely one of those musicians that I completely look up to and respect. And I think he doesn't really care, you know what I mean? He's going to continue to do whatever he wants to do, and go to Iceland and make weird records. He's kind of, I think, an honest musician. He's not making music to please the scene, but more to please himself. I love him, because he always shows up wearing something insane, like an entire outfit of hospital scrubs, or a pair of overalls and no shirt. [Laughs.] And his beard in braids, or something insane. He has his own set of rules, and that goes for musically or personally. And he's a nice dude.
Band Of Horses, "The General Specific"
LW: I got turned on to Band Of Horses by their first record [Everything All The Time], which I enjoyed, definitely. This last one [Cease To Begin], there's a couple tracks like "Ode To LRC"—I've basically broke my CD listening to that song over and over again. But the Band Of Horses guys are super-awesome. We played in their hometown last fall on a tour with our friends Magnolia Electric Company, and they were so sweet. They had a big party at their house afterward for us. We ended up hanging out around the lake, around their back porch, just kickin' it, ya know? They're really great guys. I think musically, they're defiantly relatable. You can totally relate to them, but they're also creating really great melodic changes. And they're just a good live rock band too, which is, I think, really important in this day and age. It's great to go see a band and actually see them deliver.
Cowboy Junkies, "'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel"
LW: My mom was a huge Cowboy Junkies fan, and I never really listened to them, but she always was buying their records and playing them. I feel like as the Watson Twins, our music sort of operates in the same spectrum, country-wise. It has a twang to it, but it's not deeply set in country music. It definitely has nuances of that, but it doesn't only operate in that scene. I think that their songs are storytelling, which I totally relate to, and that's similar in how I write as well. But I became a fan of them because of my mom. Thanks, mom! [Laughs.]
Chet Baker, "The Thrill Is Gone"
LW: I've always liked his music. You know, it's mellow, it's laid-back. Beautiful singing voice. There's a documentary that was made about him in the '80s called Let's Get Lost, and I kind of got obsessed with him for a while. There's footage in that documentary of him, he's totally old and looking a little dilapidated, and he's in a studio, and he opens his mouth, and this angelic voice comes out. And he's telling stories about how he's gotten all his teeth knocked out because he was involved in a deal gone bad, or whatever, just like all these crazy stories, and he still continues to have this beautiful angelic voice that can melt an ice cream cone. But that documentary is really cool. It's crazy, he's like in the back of a convertible, riding around Los Angeles with Flea and Anthony Kiedis and two really hot girls. It's pretty bizarre. But it's a good documentary. Chet Baker is one for the books.
Modest Mouse, "The Air"
LW: I believe this is off Everywhere And His Nasty Parlour Tricks, which is my favorite Modest Mouse record, actually. I remember the first time I heard them. My friend Jen and I, once we got out of school, took a road trip across the United States, and we just kind of drove around for six months. A friend made me a cassette tape of The Lonesome Crowded West, and I kind of got obsessed with them and became a listener. But Everywhere And His Nasty Parlour Tricks, I think that's just my perfect Modest Mouse record. So this song is off that one.
Feist, "How My Heart Behaves"
LW: This one is so good. My favorite song on her new record. I think Leslie's a great singer, and I love her records, but there were certain songs that jumped out, like "1234" and "My Moon My Man," but this track is at the very end of the record, and I think it's just a really beautiful song. I think she's a great singer. The first time I saw her, she was opening up for a band called Stars, which I'm friends with, and I went to see them play. Torquil [Campbell], who sings for Stars, told me, "Make sure you get there early, because this girl Leslie is opening up for us, and she's really cool." And she does her whole thing of looping tracks, you know? She would play a guitar riff and then sing something, then loop that, and then all of the sudden, there was this full-blown orchestra. And I'd seen dudes do that before, but I had never seen an awesome woman do that. And also shred on guitar. She was owning it and just completely killing it, and I was a fan from that point on. And that was before Let It Die came out. Like, right before that. So I've been a fan since then, but I really like this song.