Poetic Memory: Picastro (List)

MP3: Picastro – “Skullduggery”
Stream: Picastro & Nadja – Fool Redeemer EP

Toronto experimental trio Picastro has released four full-length albums since its 2002 formation, the latest of which is 2009’s Become Secret. This year, the band collaborated with fellow Canadians Nadja on a split called Fool Redemer. Unlike a traditional split album, with side A featuring tracks by one band and side B by another, members of both groups contributed to each other’s songs, creating a tour de force of atonal experimentation.

Picastro will join Scout Niblett at the Soda Bar on December 5; in anticipation of the show, band leader Liz Hysen sent us a list of her influences.

1. Boxing: I am not a sports person, but I really love boxing. I read about it, watch it, take classes; no sparring yet. I like it because its not really about hitting people at all; there’s so much going on. If you can gauge a person in 30 seconds and knock him out, its almost more of a psychological fight. I’d recommend Tyson by James Toback and Shadow Box by George Plimpton. I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t be a good boxer and be dumb.

2. Crazy string arrangements: I don’t remember what got me interested in strings, I am going to guess the Velvet Underground. There was also this song by Eric’s Trip with a really strange sounding violin. After that, I just decided I needed to incorporate strings into the music I wanted to do in this new way. Some of my favourite string arrangements are on pretty much any Scott Walker record, Alice Coltrane, Charles Ives, Luciano Cilio, George Crumb, the Ex.

3. Cooking: I think about food as much as I think about music. I try and eat or make something new every day. So, either I will make a recipe or look one up. I usually read Chow Hound or Grub Street. Some of my experiments are great, some not so great. I tend to buy a lot of new things from various ethnic grocery stores. Nothing is ever in English, so again, it’s a bit of a gamble. But then you get something incredible and it makes everything worthwhile.

4. Russians: I am of Balkan origin and studied Russian as my undergraduate degree. I also took film, but kind of lost interest after a while. The students in my Russian language classes were really intelligent and much more funny. Most of themes I still consult are from books or films, or paintings I studied then. Russians don’t let anything slide and completely confuse me in the best way possible. It’s really true that everything comes down to Shakespeare, the Bible, and Dostoevsky.

5. The Ocean: I live in Toronto which is completely land-locked, and people pretend that going to a lake or a river is the same thing as the ocean, but it is not. At all. If I don’t get to swim in the ocean at least once a year, I go crazy. I haven’t tried any seas yet; I know they’re different. But it’s all about the waves, how they whip you around and are unpredictable. That’s the best part: you have no idea what you’re getting into. The ocean does not care about you or need you. Also, those neon fish that live miles and miles deep in complete darkness. Amazing.

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