Author: Moorman, Trent
Date published: November 23, 2011
THEESATISFACTION: PREFLIGHT CHECKLIST
This is not your captain speaking, but you may put your seats in their full-back recline position. Thank you for flying Dynasty Air. En route on this flight are THEESatisfaction's Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, bound for London to play a string of shows. Once we reach cruising altitude, undulation will begin. The fasten-seat-belt sign is off, and the bubble machine is on. Our flight path today will take us over the Sea of Chaka Khan and through the Kingdom of Stevie Wonder. The in-flight movie will be Sun Ra's Space Is the Place, and when you need a robe, press the "Robe" button on your armrest. The attendant will bring you one immediately, velvet or silk. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.
THEESatisfaction's Stas and Cat are conjoined, beat-made MCs, producers, partners, and lovers with nothing in this world or the next to hide. Their collective brain lobes contain hiphop acumen and insight. When their voices harmonize, it sounds like a human Moog synth rendition of keys Stevie himself would have played. Rangewise, Stas and Cat graze tonally into Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner. On the beat, rapped side of the equation, the Seattle duo spreads into Quasimoto's refined and raw oddness. Since 2008, THEESatisfaction have released five EPs. This spring, they are set to put out an Erik Blood-produced full-length on Sub Pop. I caught up with them preflight, prelaunch, hours before they leftfor London. (Note: Unattributed quotes figuratively come from both members' mouths.)
Are you packed for the trip to the UK?
What have you packed? Anything out of the ordinary?
Cat: Turkey and Swiss sandwiches. Swedish fish. Stas really loves Swedish fish.
The candy. No, we packed actual fish from Sweden.
Actual fish from Sweden-not such a great mid-flight snack. I need to improve my candy knowledge game. What will y'all read and listen to on the flight over there?
Cat: I'm going to be reading Harlem Is Nowhere by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and I'll be listening to Gang Starr.
Stas: I'll probably be listening to some Erykah Badu and some Mariah Carey.
Are you all good fliers?
I guess it's uncomfortable to fly. But if you go to sleep, everything is fine. We try to use up all our energy so we can sleep.
Are you excited to go play in the UK?
Very excited. We've never been there, so we don't know what to expect. All we know is Mary Poppins and Harry Potter. And The Office.
Dumbledore is frikking everywhere over there. With Jack the Ripper. Look out for that. And there's the London Bridge.
And Big Ben. Buckingham Palace. We may say what's up to the Queen.
What do THEESatisfaction think of all that royal-family business?
It's what they do, you know? It's how they do it over there.
You guys have a royal tone to your voices and phrasing. It's rich. There's luxury there. Makes me think of Cleopatra-type royalty. You know how when Egyptians died and were put in tombs, they would be buried with their closest treasures? What would you two want to be buried with you in your tomb? To have for all of eternity. Besides Chaka Khan cassettes.
Cat: Swedish fish, of course. My copy of The Wiz. My first dashiki.
Stas: I'm gonna be buried with Cat [laughs].
Your new album is finished, produced by Erik Blood, coming out in the spring. How was it working with Erik?
Erik is really cool. A really good person, very talented. It was nice to work with him and open ourselves up to the experience of working with him. It was fun and amazing. It felt very special to connect with him. I don't know what it is, but I feel like he really knows us, more than, say, someone you know your whole life. But I feel like he knows us, and that manifested in the studio.
He's a sonic mind reader.
Yes. He took things we gave him and put another light on it.
What parts of your sound have you built on?
We really have to say every part. Every part of our sound is built on each part of us, as individuals: our vocals, production-from doing our own tour, to working with Sub Pop now. And putting out our own mixtapes, having support to put out a project. All aspects feed on each other. It's just a matter of growth. We've been growing over this time. We still don't really know shit. You think you know things, but find out that's not the case. We're still learning and growing. Hopefully, we can get to where we want to be.
What was it that made y'all know you wanted to perform?
Stas: I feel like my whole life has been a performance [laughs]. Having to deal with family shit, school shit, being gay, being black, being a woman. Having to deal with those things, I feel like I've had to act at various points along the way.
Cat: I feel the same way. I've always been performing, getting people to listen-in terms of actions, singing, and dancing. I talked a lot about acting with my family, acting as my preferred mode of expression. Not necessarily like acting in a play. Even in talking to people, you have to put on a different voice sometimes, different outfits. You can't be the same way with everyone, because you have to be considerate. So in that consideration, it's a natural thing...