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Discussing edgier Bangles flip side with Katy Guillen & The Drive

Katy Guillen and Stephanie Williams discuss their August debut album and inspiration from The Bangles
Katy main

Guitarist Katy Guillen and drummer Stephanie Williams comprise the duo Katy Guillen & The Drive, who have released two EPs this decade. This month marks their full-length debut album Another One Gained.

GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine. Another One Gained is a wonderful album with a variety of great sounds created by the two of you on guitar and drums. Steph, I know you are a big Bangles fan. When I interviewed their drummer Debbi Peterson in 2016, we discussed “Manic Monday.” Let’s talk about the flip side of that hit single, “In a Different Light” for a moment before we begin discussing your new album.

STEPHANIE WILLIAMS: Sure. The Bangles were one of my biggest influences growing up, and the song "In a Different Light" always stood out as a favorite from their Different Light album. "In a Different Light” is a great example of The Bangles’ catchy songwriting, awesome 1960s harmonies, with an edgier vintage sound than their A sides showcased. It taught me the value of a well-placed tambourine for elevating pop songs, which is something I continue to use in recording sessions. I attribute a big part of my sound to my time listening to The Bangles.

Katy flip side

The Bangles

Fabulous Flip Side: In a Different Light

A side: Manic Monday

Billboard Hot 100 debut: January 25, 1986

Peak position: No. 2

Columbia 38-05757

Katy Guillen & Stephanie Williams, photo by Morgan Jones. Album to be released August 19.

Katy Guillen & Stephanie Williams, photo by Morgan Jones. Album to be released August 19.

GM: Katy, your voice on the title song “Another One Gained” reminds me of The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde.

KATY GUILLEN: I think The Pretenders are awesome. I really respect Chrissie Hynde and love her voice. She has a cool style and is incredibly unique. Getting a reference like this is a humbling honor and not necessarily the music that I grew up on. My mom listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter, so her music was often playing in the background along with folk music, including Peter, Paul & Mary. When I began playing electric guitar, I had more of an ear towards blues listening to Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi. 

GM: When I listen to your guitar playing on “Another One Gained,” initially I thought of Red Hot Chili Peppers with what they brought to “Under the Bridge.”

KG: That is a first for us. We have never received a Red Hot Chili Peppers comparison, which is really cool!

SW: I can hear that in the guitar opening, too.

KG: “Another One Gained” does have an up and down bittersweet dynamic to it.

GM: Like many bands, The Pretenders and Red Hot Chili Peppers are quartets. I remember in the late 1970s when a few bands decreased in size to being just a nucleus of two main people. It happened to Steely Dan, America and Badfinger, for example. When you are performing live, is it just the two of you?

KG: It depends. A lot of our touring has been the two of us backed by bass tracks we have recorded for the album, with the two of us adding vocals, guitar and drums live. For a couple of shows we have played recently we have had a bass player join us. For our album release concert on August 26 here in our Kansas City base, we will have a four-piece band so that we can have all of the layers that you hear on the album. We have done that before with an auxiliary player on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals. Steph and I are the core of the band but when we can, we like to have other musicians play with us. Touring has been a little harder with the pandemic still impacting us. It has been nice to be able to do it as a duo. 

GM: “Discoloration” is powerful, and the bridge goes even deeper. Do you write these songs together?

SW: Generally, Katy writes the chord progressions and all the lyrics first. Next, we will get together on her compositions for structure, arrangements and tempos. I can contribute the different feels to the songs, but they are based on what Katy has brought to me, which is a pretty finished idea.

KG: Steph helps me a lot with counting and timing. When I write, I don’t count or do anything technical. The bridge for “Discoloration” actually came last and is probably my favorite part of the song, being warm and hopeful. I was in a better place emotionally when that came along, sounding more like a breakaway for that reason. 

GM: Continuing with the timing and counting theme, after Katy sings about “pitter patter” on “Nothing Comes Close,” Steph, your drums pitter patter along and there is this pattern that is Ringo Starr-worthy creativity. It is unique! Throughout the album it seems like you are trying to add something different to each song, and that certainly comes through on “Nothing Comes Close.”

SW: Thank you. That makes me very happy to hear. I think with that song I needed something more delicate. Initially I wanted some sort of loop to continue throughout the song as I didn’t think it needed a big beat behind it, so that the vocal could be showcased. Katy sings this song in a beautiful way. I started simply with a quarter note pulse and tried to build it into a loop to follow itself. We created the bridge, where it opens up, in the studio in the Silver Lake region of L.A.

KG: It was our first time recording outside of Kansas City and with Kevin Ratterman as our producer.

SW: We can credit all the cool textures and ambient sounds to Kevin. They add a lot emotionally to the album.

GM: Is “Harsh Realization” in 6/8 time?

SW: Yes, that is how I feel it. When it gets to the solo section, it becomes a very intense waltz.

GM: It sure does. Katy, your guitar is very powerful on the song and the emotion in your voice reminds me of Susan Cowsill. After she lost two of her brothers, one due to Hurricane Katrina and the other from health reasons, she released an album called Lighthouse that was so emotional, deep, and honest, it became my favorite album of that year. I hear a similar honest emotion in your voice on “Harsh Realization.”

KG: That song is one of the songs where after I did the vocal take, Kevin said, “I don’t think we need to do anything else to it.” It captured the personal aspects of the song about a difficult moment. I was trying to harness that in the studio, even though it can be hard to put yourself in those places again. I’m glad that it comes through and that you can feel it as that was definitely the goal.

GM: Years before Bananarama reached No. 1 with “Venus” in the mid-1980s, in the era of The Bangles and other female led bands, The Shocking Blue, from Holland, reached No. 1 in 1970 with their original version of the song. Their U.S. album including “Venus,” on Jerry Ross’ Colossus label, was a bit like Jefferson Airplane with a female singer and catchy psychedelia. I am reminded of that with “Bottom of Your Belly.” It is catchy, has a steady rhythm and a powerful instrumental break. It also bounces along like another European 1970 gold single, Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride.”

KG: That’s awesome. I love The Shocking Blue reference and we have also gotten into Jefferson Airplane over the pandemic.

SW: With The Bangles being influenced by the 1960s and early 1970s pop music, and my Bangles influence, this comes full circle for me. Going back to your Susan Cowsill reference I know that Vicki Peterson Cowsill of The Bangles has also played in The Continental Drifters with her sister-in-law Susan Cowsill, which is how I became familiar with Susan and her music.

GM: It is fun to see both of you playing your instruments in the video for “Set in Stone.” Steph, I enjoy your drums, and Katy, your fluid guitar solo reminds me of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane.”

KG: Thank you. “Set in Stone” was one of those songs that just came out of both of us at the same time.

SW: We ended up simplifying the first verse to match a beat. It came out very naturally. We were in a guitar shop in Colorado, which is also a venue. We stayed there that night with our equipment set up and began jamming, which is how the song began for us. The guitar solo on “Set in Stone” is one of my favorite things on the album. It takes you on a journey and you can feel every note that Katy is playing.

KG: That shop was very inspirational for us. There are guitars on all the walls and hanging from the ceiling. 

GM: You have so many shows in August for your album release month. I know that my daughter Brianna and a friend of hers are looking forward to the Richmond Music Hall show. Enjoy the tour and congratulations again on this wonderful album.

KG: Thank you. We look forward to meeting her.

SW: Thank you and Goldmine. We are excited.

  

Related links:

katyguillenmusic.com

Goldmine 2016 interview with The Bangles' drummer Debbi Peterson

Fabulous Flip Sides now in its eighth year

goldminemag.com/columns/fabulous-flip-sides

  

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