An Interview with The Corner Laughers
If you love California, then you’ll love Poppy Seeds, the 2012 album by The Corner Laughers. With songs like “Bells of El Camino” and “Transamerica Pyramid” on the album, it seems only fitting that the band would be a part of the Tricycle Music Fest West lineup coming to the Bay Area.
Band co-founder Karla Kane, who provides vocals and plays the ukulele on their songs, took time out to answer some questions for us. Her responses have been edited for clarity and/or length.
How have libraries or librarians been an influence in your life or your music career?
We LOVE libraries! When I was a kid, I wanted to live in the Fairfax library. As an adult, I couldn't survive without being in walking distance of one, and I have cards for several. We're a "bookish" band in general and literary references do show up in our lyrics, from Lewis Carroll to Sherlock Holmes to the children's book Stonewords, which inspired an entire song. We even did one of our early band photo shoots in a Palo Alto Library, where a dear, late friend of ours worked, and that is mentioned in our song "8:18."
Band names are usually memorable or intriguing in some way. Is there a story behind yours?
I met my band co-founder, Angela Silletto, in high school, and long before we conceived of writing songs or playing music we developed the term "corner laughers" on a school trip to Italy, describing people giggling at the absurdities of life from the sidelines. Though neither of us thought it was a great band name, somehow it was the only one that stuck. Seems like a lot of people end up relating to it.
Your 2012 album Poppy Seeds has songs mentioning Bay Area landmarks and its cover art even features the California state flower, the poppy, and the state bird, the California quail. Besides the Bay Area and California in general, what else influences your songwriting?
It's difficult to pin down influences, and I'm sure each band member could answer quite differently. Of course, I'm influenced by my own life experiences, but inspiration can also come from . . . overheard snippets of conversations or simply out of nowhere. All of my favorite bands from throughout my life have had an impact one how my songs sound, I'm sure, and I'm certainly influenced by my talented musician and songwriting friends all the time. I love to travel and those adventures are often great sources of inspiration for songs. Poppy Seeds is heavily California-fied, although the first track, "Grasshopper Clock," was written after a visit and tour in England with Anton Barbeau. Ah, the perfect segue ...
You released a song called “Drinkin’ Horn” earlier this year where you sang with Anton Barbeau and recording was done in Berlin and Oakland. Can you talk a little bit about what that recording process was like?
We've known Anton for a long time and have been lucky enough to play and record with him fairly often in recent years. He's from California originally but has been living in the U.K., and now Berlin. We can collaborate in person, of course, when he's back here or we go over there, but thanks to technology we can also make magic remotely. With "Drinkin' Horn'" he sent us the piano and vocal tracks via email and Dropbox and we did the rest at our guitarist's studio in Oakland. We've done a lot of stuff this way -- including "Grasshopper Clock" and several tracks on our upcoming release Big Cinnamon, the second album by our alter-ego psychedelic side project, Agony Aunts -- and look forward to much more.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked you?
In case you want to know our lineup, we’re me, Karla Kane, on vocals and ukulele; Khoi Huynh on bass guitar; Charlie Crabtree on drums; and KC Bowman on guitar. Our record label is Mystery Lawn Music and it’s been great to be a part of this small-yet-awesome local music scene. We also play in the Mystery Lawn bands Agony Aunts (mentioned above), Allen Clapp and His Orchestra, William Cleere and The Marvellous Fellas, and Tricycle Fest’s own Alison Faith Levy’s Big Time Tot Rock!
The Corner Laughers will be performing on the following dates:
- Saturday, September 14 at 11 am, Parkside Branch Library (San Francisco)
- Saturday, September 14 at 2 pm, Portola Valley Library (San Mateo County)
- Saturday, November 2nd at 1 pm, San Carlos Library (San Mateo County)
Listen to the album Poppy Seeds, the song “Drinkin’ Horn,” and more on The Corner Laughers’ website.
Photo credit: apw photography
Jessica Chung is a MLIS student and an intern for the San Mateo County Library.