Interview with Indigo from Guitar Moderne:

Spotlight: Indigo Street

I was attracted to the playing of Indigo Street through her creative guitar work when backing up singer/songwriter Jolie Holland. On Holland’s record, Wine Dark Sea, Street’s use of fuzz, dissonance and feedback within the context of Holland’s roots moderne sound was letter perfect. When Holland played Nashville, Street showed she was capable of pulling off the same hat trick live. Shy Hunters, her duo with drummer Sam Levin, opened the show. During their set another side of Street emerged; one where she played complex single lines while singing. I had to get her in the mag and—after months of patience—succeeded. Her story was well worth the wait.

What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?

I came to guitar late, and can unhesitatingly say that I became a guitar player by accident.  I had been dabbling in singer-songwriter type stuff, writing songs on acoustic guitar, and playing solo gigs—guitar and voice—in my very early 20s.  When I was 22, someone very close to me was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I fell into a kind of despair, quit playing music, and shortly after, got married.  My life became about caring for these people. I missed playing music,and wanted to get back to it, but the whole thing seemed inadequate somehow—an inappropriate or selfish pursuit in the face of these other things. I had changed. The landscape was harder and darker, and I just didn’t feel able to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar anymore: the why of it had been lost to me. I think there’s something very innocent about the pursuit of songwriting in its purest, simplest form—chords, words, a melody or two. I had lost that innocence, and therefore felt alienated from the medium.

A year or two later, after the intensity of that period had dulled a bit, my dear friend Ed Pastorini began calling.  He’d say, “Hey Lewis! (for some reason, he calls me Lewis), how’s it going? Can you come over and help me with something?”  So I’d go over to “The Loft”, which was a tiny, dark rehearsal space in this seriously dilapidated building in Chelsea, owned by Giorgio Gomelski, this eccentric indeterminate European, who’d produced the Yardbirds, and introduced The Stones to one another.  An influential guy at that time, I think, but who now lived on the top floor of this leaking, falling down building Ronnie Wood had given him as payment for something years earlier, and who, it seemed, never left the building.

I’d go over there, and Ed would have a couple of crappy guitars lying around, and he’d say, “I want to hear how these two parts fit together. Can you play this for me?” And then he’d proceed to play some completely abstract and nonsensical series of bleeps and urps, I mean, just a really un-guitaristic, wild string of sounds, And I would say, “Er, I dunno, can I?” and do my best to imitate it.  At first it was really hard, but also fun and engaging.  Almost like being asked to mimic a highly specific finger painting.  Doing this kind of work is an intense memory exercise—great for the brain: Here, memorize this great swath of abstraction. The abrasive picking technique involved was completely different from the finger style stuff I’d done before, so that was a big exciting new thing and a terrific distraction. I remember one time, early on, where he was trying to get me to play this staccato picking thing, and he kept saying, “Like a chicken, Lewis. Make it like a chicken. Bock, bock, bock.”

At the time, left to my own devices, I don’t think I would’ve become a particularly creative musician, but he recognized I had incredibly quick, pliable, open ears that didn’t differentiate between “normal” and “abnormal,” could grasp anything, and he saw an opportunity to mold my young mind, so to speak, and turn me into the guitarist he’d always wanted.

[Read the full interview here]