WORDS + PHOTOS BY AYSIA MAROTTA
Knitting Factory – Brooklyn – New York
I have never heard of Newfoundland, Canada – not until two weeks ago that is. Newfoundland, as per Wikipedia, is an island off the east coast of America with a population of 526,702 people. They’re known for their beautiful evergreen forests and dramatic coastline. It also just so happens to be the home of seven-piece indie-rock band Hey Rosetta!
The band were only on the second night of their three month tour (promoting their sophomore album ‘Second Sight’) when I met up with lead singer Tim Baker in Brooklyn, before their sold out show at the Knitting Factory. As I strolled up to the venue, I was almost immediately introduced to the group, whom were all smiles and laughter prior to their show. We all got to talking about the evening glow that Brooklyn gets in the springtime and discussed the deliciousness of Momofuku Milk Bar, which was conveniently across the street from the venue.
Tim and I decided to fight our sweet tooth and engage in conversation over a walk; enjoying one of the first warm evenings Brooklyn has had in quite a while.
AM: There are seven people in the band, which pretty much has to make you a family then. How did you all meet?
TB: Well, we really met through the band. I wanted to start a band and I had a bunch of songs that I had written and was just playing by myself around St. Johns. I don’t know . . . I got kind of sick of it really. The songs deserved more sound, more dynamic – so I went looking for some like-minded, good people. St. Johns is a pretty small town, and everybody pretty much knows each other.
AM: Hey Rosetta! is a pretty interesting band name, how did it come about? Forgive me for the typical band interview question, but I’m genuinely interested in its origin.
TB: That’s really the most difficult part though, isn’t it? Finding the name? We’re a pretty serious band, in terms of our songs and their subject matters. I wanted a name that sort of reflected the ideas behind the songs. I always was pretty fascinated by anthropology in University and other ways of seeing the world, other possibilities of living in the world. So, ‘Rosetta’ is a reference to the Rosetta Stone, and it’s a calling to that. That stone opened up a way of seeing the world. I thought that was kind of beautiful.
AM: Well I’m glad I asked my corny question then. Speaking of ‘seeing the world’, you do a lot of work with USC (A non-profit international development organization that promotes agricultural biodiversity).
TB: Yeah, I actually went to Honduras back in 2012 with them – with Wayne Roberts [a highly regarded Canadian food policy analyst]. It was an absolutely beautiful place, but kind of heartbreaking at the same time.
AM: There’s so much imagery in your lyrics, and you seem to really be inspired by nature. Do you ever find yourself inspired by city landscapes, or is it overwhelming?
TB: I don’t know, cities really speak a different language – and I don’t find it as eloquent, most times. It’s too preoccupied with humans, and them wanting to do things quickly. It’s just not really designed for you to receive things – ideas – as well. I don’t know, I just feel like fear, and love and hope – emotions like that, feelings like that really open up for me when there’s quiet around. I actually really enjoy staying in shitty highway motels, because you can just swing out back and see open fields. On tour, you kind of just drive by all the nature to get where you’ve got to go. You’ll have moments where you hop off the bus, get your feet on the ground – but it has a great impact, on me at least – especially when bouncing around the freeway for 6 to 8 hours at a time. There was a little stream behind our hotel yesterday in College Park, Maryland. I just sat by it for a few hours.
AM: It’s the little things.
TB: Yes. Absolutely.
AM: So, what was some of the music you grew up listening to? Did you have a musical upbringing?
TB: I just really listened to my parents’ music – it ranged from Clapton to AC/DC. My parents aren’t musical, but they love music. Luckily, they’ve always been supportive of me, and the decisions I’ve made about my career.
AM: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
TB: You know . . . I don’t actually.
AM: I wanted to talk to you about the track ‘Kintsukuroi’ off of ‘Second Sight’. You’ve spoken about the breakup that inspired this song and how much it means to you.
TB: Yeah, Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. I didn’t really have the right language to write the song in – I don’t mean Japanese. I just didn’t have the right words to tell it. I was actually in a yoga class and the instructor brought up the idea of ‘Kintsukuroi’ as something to meditate on during the class. It was exactly what I was trying to write about. This idea, that through this breakup, we were actually becoming closer. Our relationship was stronger and had more depth.
AM: How does it feel to perform something so personal? You’ve deemed the situation ‘traumatic’ – is it hard to move on from when you’re reliving it on stage in front of an audience every night?
TB: It’s strange really, all of our music is personal, but this song is much more personal – to me at least. I wouldn’t say it’s easy to perform.
AM: Was she cool with the song being written about her, and you performing it?
TB: Well, I wouldn’t say she was ‘cool’ with it, but she is okay with it now. She understands – she’s an incredible songwriter, so she understands this whole process. We’re on good terms, so I think that makes the performance aspect of it a lot easier on both of us.
AM: Do you have any pre-show rituals with the band?
TB: Haha, no. Not really. I mean, none that I’m actually aware of. We just mentally prepare to go out and give our all.
And that they did. Hey Rosetta! Had sold out the Knitting Factory that evening. The crowd was filled with loyal fans, some who had even travelled from Newfoundland! Tim had mentioned that the trip was a whopping fourty-hour journey that involved ferries and plenty of busses. I’m pretty sure the fans opted for an easier plane journey.
Regardless, the room was filled with a beautiful energy, as the band played to a room of people shouting the lyrics back at them. I can’t imagine that there’s a better feeling. Each member of the band plays at least two instruments, which was obvious considering the stage resembled a Sam Ash store. There were xylophones, trumpets, upright basses, pianos, tambourines – and the list goes on. My favorite part of the evening was seeing at least two members of the audience be moved to tears when Tim began playing ‘Cathedral Bells’.
Hey Rosetta!’s music, as well as their live show is a soul awakening experience, one that truly emphasizes the power of music and lyrics.
Thank you to Tim Baker and Hey Rosetta!