Photo Credit: Sara-Anne Waggoner
For a long time in schools across the US there were young ladies many referred to as horse girls. They were a part of the fabric of a playground just as much as the jocks, the nerds, and the kids that ate glue were. So much so, horse girls inspired the set for “Enjoy the Moon!” from Night Palace. It was something I had to ask about when it came time to talk to frontwoman Avery Draut about said video.
We dished about her equestrian past, utilizing one’s phone for future ideas, talked about Night Palace’s February 2022 debut ‘Diving Rings,’ and so much more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: You started in the theater realm, so performing isn’t something out of the ordinary for you but was music ever something you’d thought you’d dive into in your life?
Night Palace: I grew up singing, but for so long I didn’t know I’d end up writing my own songs. Even (or especially) after going through music theory and analysis classes in college, I was always afraid of writing music. I felt really comfortable singing other peoples’ music, and I thought “other people write music, I don’t write music!”
After singing a lot of opera for five years in school, there was a moment of some space and quiet in my life, and I started hearing little melodies and pieces of new songs. The songs on “Diving Rings” are some of those first songs I ever wrote, having now blossomed into a garden together.
Kendra: Speaking of theater, you spent a great deal of time working in that world and studying visual art. How do you feel that knowledge has helped you in starting your career in music and making your debut, “Diving Rings?’
Night Palace: While music and sound can of course create an entire environment on their own, I’ve learned, from collaborating on theatrical things, that it’s thrilling to consider the music as one central aspect within an entire universe. I love discovering how visual details can combine with music to create an entirely new thing together; one of my favorite parts of this is learning how the visual for a song can push against and challenge the music, or highlight otherwise hidden aspects about it. A lot of times, I find myself feeling that it’s impossible to create something that encompasses/accomplishes everything I could ever want it to (I guess this is why we get to write many songs), and experimenting with visual accompaniments feels like making a whole new window of possibility.
There are so many ways that these different worlds that I’m a part of interact, but something more trivial that’s coming to mind is that I had to learn to be nervous on stage for so many things by the time I started playing as Night Palace, that I don’t get nervous at all for Night Palace shows.
It felt so free when I began to play in this context; when a musician in a band context forgets lyrics or something at a show, it’s charming – at least I find myself grinning with them at their mistakes, like I’ve witnessed something special and rare. And there’s laughing and clapping and starting the song over if they want. But when your brain decides to disappear for a moment in a lot of other performance worlds, like opera, you’re stuck on your own, scrambling, the orchestra keeps playing, the audience is silent and terrified for you haha. I forgot some lyrics during my junior recital in college in one of these nightmare scenarios, and my mom told me she sweated through her suit – a fun time for everyone!
Kendra: So let’s talk about one of the songs that can be found on ‘Diving Rings’ and that’s “Enjoy The Moon.” The video instantly took me back to middle school because as you said yourself, it was shot in a horse girl’s room. While I was not the horse girl of my class…we had one that we STILL talk about today from time to time. I’d like to know, what was your sort of label back in junior high?
Night Palace: Haha I am obsessed with this question! I will give you the inside scoop on my horse girl inspiration – I absolutely rode horses for an enchanted period of time when I was little (two pictures of me as a tiny rider made it into the “Enjoy the Moon!” video), but it was super expensive and I landed on rec league basketball shortly thereafter.
I have to say I never quite fit the horse girl bill, but I was certainly solidly in the middle school band category. I still play the same clarinet from middle school at Night Palace shows. I was a very talented child clarinetist in sixth grade and have enjoyed a solid plateau in skill from that exact moment over the rest of my life.
Kendra: Everyone should note this is after that fact and I’m just as obsessed with Night Palace’s answer, but…more about the song though, it has this daydream-like vibe to it. Was this a song you came up with while perhaps caught in your own daydream while working at The Metropolitan Opera?
Night Palace: I want to say that the seedling of this song was born before I started working at the Met, but I have recorded tons of voice memos in the bathroom there over the years I spent working on ‘Diving Rings.’ I get inspired anytime I hear the orchestra there, it never gets old.
Kendra: How many of those little moments from work that you recorded on your phone made it onto ‘Diving Rings?’
Night Palace: Oooh that’s a good question. It’s tough to say, as I am horrible with naming the voice memos in my phone (there are over 800, and they are named mostly with no words and only emojis), but I can say that I was directly inspired by the celeste (a jingly magical, piano-like instrument, well-known for its role in ‘The Nutcracker’s’ “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies”) in The Met’s production of ‘The Magic Flute’. When I drove back to Georgia to record, we borrowed a celeste from the UGA School of Music and put it on “Fig Dream,” and “Silken Ilk,” and it has its most shining moment as a solo on “Titania,” which comes out this month (February).
Kendra: Which, when did you know that it was time to take your music to the next level and make a record?
Night Palace: My bandmates can tell you I dragged my feet on recording; we were playing a ton of shows when we first started, as you do, and I knew from the beginning of everything that I wanted to make a record. But a challenge I faced every time I tried to think about recording ‘Diving Rings’ is that I always wanted it to reflect what I wanted it to be at any given moment, when of course my taste changes all the time, shifting day to day or minute to minute. I was scared to make something permanent, and I still kind of am.
I had all these ideas about how it should happen, and that it would include this or that weird instrument, and that I needed to write the arrangements for those instruments, and I was very, very careful with it all. And I was back and forth between New York and Athens while writing and recording, so it was slow, but that also allowed it to live and breathe and change, which I’m grateful for.
Kendra: Side note – being that it’s February, I’m asking everyone to please share their favorite love song and also why you think it’s one of the best?
Night Palace: I have to go with Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” – absolutely iconic!! This song is so close and so huge at the same time, and his voice is one of my favorites on earth. It’s dramatic, and so wildly confident. As I’m writing this, I’m remembering a night before my boyfriend Zack (who is the bassist in Night Palace) and I started dating, when we went on a late-night, freezing car ride with the windows down, screaming this song at the top of our lungs. So I love it for that too!
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Diving Rings’ out right at the start of April this year – what else can fans both new and old be on the lookout from you in the coming months?
Night Palace: We just announced the vinyl pre-order, and we have a few more little visual goodies and live videos that are going to trickle out after the release on April 1st. We’ll be touring this spring to support the release, and are looking forward to announcing those dates soon! Very ready for us all to hear these songs together!