Phoebe Kreutz’s career is a bit of a paradox. She never fashioned herself a performer, at least not the songwriting, singing type.
Yet the New York-based musician finds herself crowned queen of joke-folk, a musical style she cultivated from her passions for other artistic media like TV and movies and theatre.
“Music has never been something I’ve really been all that interested in outside of me doing it — I’m sort of selfish about it in a way,” she grants with a bit of humour in her voice.
“I never had any rock’n’roll dreams growing up.”
At the outset she and musician, author, playwright and journalist Dave Bidini couldn’t be any more different in how they approach their music.
Bidini, who spent nearly three decades as singer and guitarist of Canadian rock band the Rheostatics, says he owes his artistic opportunities and accomplishments to the success of his former band.
All the same, the pair are affectionate opportunists, creators of their own destinies, artists in every sense.
“Any quote-unquote artist-if you have a lot of these different tools at your behest, do you park the idea in a novel, in a song, in a film, in a play, instead of just sort of funnelling it all into one discipline?” Bidini says, speaking to the relationship between his ideas and creative outlets.
“It forces you to get up on the tightrope a bit everyday, especially when you’re working with new projects in new areas. For me it’s just a way of staying engaged.”
Kreutz, to keep things interesting and remedy occasional creative blocks, experiments with other outlets too.
She’s a member of the Bushwick Book Club, which convenes monthly at Brooklyn cafe “Goodbye Blue Monday.” Rather than discuss a chosen work of literature, members perform songs about the book they’ve read.
“I like writing songs about books because ... you can examine things in your own life through the lens of something else,” she says, explaining how the exercise has influenced her own approach to songwriting.
“There’s perspective that you get when you’re writing a song on a situation just ’cause you have to get outta your head a little bit. It’s a nice thing to be forced to think clearly about what you’re trying to say and come to it in the most economical way possible. I think it’s good therapy as well as being cathartic-oh no, those are the same thing,” she laughs.
Bidini says each artistic medium he employs serves the whole of his creative output.
“They’re all cousins,” he says.
“I can write a song on a Tuesday and it’s alive and part of the world on Thursday. With books you have to ruminate, they stew a little bit, you sit in them for a couple years and you end up trapped by them, ultimately (having) to pare your way out,” he explains.
“With film and television ... that’s more of a dance, an awkward ballet that you have to play out. But I think I would go insane if it would have to be one or the other.
“Rock’n’roll is at the centre of my life because it functions as a more visceral outlet. Certainly, when it comes to writing, it’s a long time spent in your own head, alone in a room working, where playing in a band is like four animals together in a cage. You tear each other’s hair out and then you’ve created this beautiful thing.”
Bidini, Kreutz and local musician Mark Bragg shared the stage Wednesday at LSPU Hall in St. John’s as part of the inaugural Lawnya Vawnya art festival’s opening night.