Monday, May 18, 2015

SW10: Colette Lovelace of The Clockwork Dolls, on Inspiration and the Human Experience

If you attended Steampunk World's Fair this past weekend, you heard the vocals of the lovely Colette Lovelace of The Clockwork Dolls on the Midway Stage. Last week we featured Colette's bandmate, Allison Curval. This week, Colette, who also hails from Baltimore, tells us how she got into Steampunk and describes the labor-intensive process of writing lyrics. To listen to more of Colette's work, check out The Clockwork Dolls on Bandcamp.

How would you define/describe yourself?
That is a mighty broad question and one that is genuinely hard for me to answer. I think one of the best descriptions of me is that I am someone who is exceedingly reluctant to describe herself. If pushed, I’d say I am a pretty calm, practical, flexible person; I’d like to think I have all but mastered the art of “rolling with the punches.” I like to stay positive, supportive, and optimistic when I can; I think it’s healthy for not just the individual, but for the world on the whole.

I’m also someone who loves production as much as consumption. In addition to making music, I love to cook, knit, brew, garden, do needlework; anything that produces tangible results. There is something so fulfilling about creation and being able to share the results with those around me.

How did you find steampunk?
The way I find everything meaningful in my life - the internet. I think my first real exposure to the subculture was through Datamancer’s work. I remember being blown away by his computer modifications and thinking, “So, how can I see more of this?”

Colette (left) and Alison (right) performing Saturday
at the Steampunk World's Fair in Piscataway, N.J.
After being clued in about Steampunk, I was really excited to look into it. I was already very much interested in historical costuming, and just history in general, and I loved the idea of modifying and romancing Victoriana in a sci-fi setting. I really loved the aesthetics of it all, as well.

Describe one of your creative processes.
Well, the biggest part of my work with The Clockwork Dolls is writing lyrics. I’d like to tell you it is some sort of spiritual process filled with candle-lit rituals, but it really is more mundane than that. There’s this old joke that goes, “How do you carve a marble elephant? You get a block of marble and carve off anything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” The joke is dumb, but it’s weirdly analogous to my process. Allison’s music overwhelmingly follows a narrative, so the first step really is just trying to get a feel for the content of the song. Then I take a few deep breaths and try to imagine the narrative in my mind. Then, I’ll just brain vomit onto paper and write down every little scene and dialogue and feeling that I have on the matter. After that, I’ll sift, sort, cut, and edit all of those snippets into a workable piece; essentially carving away anything that doesn’t “look like an elephant.” Then I go through and polish it again and again, adjusting wording and phrasing, until I’m satisfied; or, more often, until I’ve run out of time and convinced myself that I’m satisfied anyway.

Who or what inspires you?
Lots of things inspire me, I suppose. There are definitely musicians that inspire me, like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, June Tabor, and Sophie Tucker; and I take a lot of inspiration from things like history, folklore, and mythology. But I think I take most of my inspiration from the human experience. The way people react, their emotions, their connectedness, their stories, their triumphs, their failures; it’s an endless vein to mine. There are people who have affected the world in enormous ways, whether through justice or tragedy or progress, and the way those people have affected the world is so inspiring to me. The idea of a single person affecting the lives of those around them through greatness or through mundanity; it’s a fascinating area to explore.

What projects are you working on right now?
We have easily half a dozen projects in the pipeline at the moment, but front in the queue is our new album. The working title is "The Sleepwalker Chronicles" and it’s going to be AMAZING. Allison has written some incredible music for it so far and has really been pounding out this amazing, detailed, intriguing plot line for it as well. We have some ambitious plans for this album and I know it’s going to be incredible.

What advice do you have for young Steampunks?
Don’t let anyone define you. There’s always going to be pressure to conform to preconceived standards, but don’t feel like you have to abide by them. Don’t let others judge you for your choices and question any self-proclaimed authorities. I think sometimes there is a fear among younger and/or newer Steampunks to “get it right.” That mindset makes them too cautious. Deviate, take leaps, and make choices. Take risks and don’t let anyone hold their judgments over you. Creativity requires deviation; that’s what makes it so exciting and beautiful.

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