One album every two or three years is often the norm, but it seems like Sarah Schonert doesn’t like to do the expected. Last year she delivered two albums, one as personal as her fingerprints and the other the rouge, vintage-inspired Penguin Party. We talked about music, moving forward and even Pure Moods (shout out to one of the best CD commercials ever).
Kendra: What is it about vintage instruments that you connect with?
Sarah Schonert: Vintage instruments come with a story and some soul. To feel someone else’s finger grooves on a guitar neck and see where their oils stained the fretboard makes you feel like you’re not alone while you play.
Kendra: You also hooked up with a photographer who uses vintage cameras for all the art for Penguin Party. Was that the selling point when it came to Brian Rowe?
Sarah Schonert: It was by the time I hired him. At first, I was just looking for a photographer with some experience, and when I was introduced to him I didn’t really know he dealt mainly in vintage B&W. After I started thinking about how cool that approach could be versus my very digital approach to this album, it really felt right.
Kendra: Musically speaking, what era do you feel listeners are transported back to when they press play on Penguin Party?
Sarah Schonert: I don’t really think I could pin down a particular era. I felt as though certain songs fit with different times. Queen of Panels is very disco, for example, while I think of “Overdriving Headlights” as a nod to Pure Moods and Enya out of the early 90s.
Kendra: If you could, would you go back to that time and happily live out the rest of your days?
Sarah Schonert: Most certainly not. Music, art, fashion, science…all ever-evolving things. Nice to revisit moments but I like pushing forward. I’m much more interested in learning from those eras and making the future more interesting.
Kendra: For me, “Astound Me” has this line I couldn’t forget later in the day, “…did you say something new? Are you worth listening to?” It made me think of social media and how it’s this sort of repetitive force in our lives. With that, do you find that social media has helped us move forward or backward as a society?
Sarah Schonert: Overall forward but with cautions. Social media definitely drives us forward in reaching more people, sharing information, and entertainment, but I think it’s also exhausting and puts a lot of demands on a person to respond instantly. If you can engage meaningfully, it’s very exciting. There are good and bad points to anything that can take your attention for a while. However, I think it is important to set down our phones occasionally.
Kendra: You managed to drop two records last year. Looking at Penguin Party and Exposition 1893 as siblings, which would you say is the troublemaker and which is the angel? There’s always one of each, right?
Sarah Schonert: Penguin Party is totally the troublemaker. I took a different approach which can be a little frightening. I wasn’t sure how it would be accepted. Exposition 1893 was mainly for me so it was only me and my feelings on the keys.
Kendra: What’s coming up with you in the new year?
Sarah Schonert: I’m already working on new music, but I’m also hoping to work on a music video for one of the Penguin Party tracks.