I first heard of THEESatisfaction when they were touring with fellow Seattle/Sub Pop act Shabazz Palaces. As difficult to describe as their idiosyncratic labelmates, partners Catherine Harris White and Stasia Irons create a unique blend of feminist, Afro-centric, funk/soul/hip-hop that’s completely unique and blends their multitude of influences in an endlessly fascinating way.
For me, the first time I heard THEESatisfaction’s debut, awE naturalE, it was Curtis Mayfield, Parliament, Erykah Badu, ESG and Digable Planets, all thrown in a blender and poured into a shot glass handed to me by Angela Davis.
So it was great, on a sketchy Skype line from Stockholm, Sweden, no less, to be able to chat with these two dynamic women, who will perform at the Casbah on Monday night. There’s no doubt you’ll be hearing plenty more from them in the months and years to come.
Scott McDonald: Hi, Cat.
Catherine Harris-White: Hey. Stas is here, too.
Stasia Irons: Hi, Scott.
SM: Hey guys. How has the tour been thus far?
SI: It’s been great. We started on June 1, so it’s just been a couple of weeks. But it’s been really good.
CHW: We have a large fan base in London and Paris, and all of the English shows have been really well attended. But, then again, they’ve played us on the BBC and the national radio out here.
You have a lot of different styles represented in the music. Do you think being from Seattle has helped you or forced you to work harder to get the songs out there?
CHW: It’s a bit of a toss-up on that one. It has been difficult at times. I think people don’t expect us to be from Seattle; they tend to think we’re from New York or Oakland, or something. But Seattle’s a very special place to us. We’ve been there for a really long time, and the city has a very rich cultural and musical history that’s oftentimes overlooked. And that has a huge influence on our sound and where we’re coming from. Our families may be from the East Coast and Texas, but Seattle plays a huge role in why we speak the way that we do.
SM: It did lead you to Sub Pop, and they seem like a good fit for you.
SI: They are. And they kind of started the same way we did -- in the sense that there was something that they wanted to do, and at the time, there wasn’t something else like it around. There wasn’t a Seattle record label until Sub Pop came in and did their thing. It’s a grass-roots common ground, so it’s been working out very well.
SM: This seems like it’s all been going pretty fast for you guys.
CHW: It has. But it’s very exciting. And it really feels just like a natural progression. We have spent a lot of time getting this to the place where it’s at. However, we’re also very grateful for, and completely humbled by, the whole experience and everything that’s going on. It all happened kind of randomly, and now, to be doing all of this international stuff is pretty exciting.
SM: How does the live show work?
SI: Mainly, when we travel, it’s just the two of us and our tracks. But we’ve been incorporating some live elements when we’ve been home and doing things on the West Coast. We’re always looking to change it up and we’re never going to do the same show twice. And that’s mostly because we get bored.
CHW: [laughs] Definitely! We’ll always expand it and try different things.
SM: Do you guys work on new stuff while you’re on the road?
CHW: We’re always working. We constantly work on music and new songs. But we do want to give the proper focus to awE naturalE because it was a powerful project for us to put out, and it represents a relationship between the two of us that has really developed over time, and it also represents all of the other relationships that have really bloomed during this time -- whether that was with Sub Pop or Shabazz Palaces, or whoever. But as we said, we do get bored and need to do new songs and new things all of the time. When we perform, you’ll always hear new stuff, songs from the mix tapes or different versions of things. We’ll always have an arrangement of things to keep it fresh.
SM: You have a relationship outside of the band as well. Has that been easy or a challenge as things have taken off?
SI: Well, when we first started becoming friends, we worked together at Starbucks and at Costco, and then we started dating, but we definitely noticed that we worked well together at the jobs -- we were fast, efficient and got the job done quickly. We were always great at what we did together. So when we decided to do music, it was just something that came to us -- and I don’t want to say naturally a thousand times...
SI: But it did, and we’re good together. And it’s always going to be difficult working with anyone -- mother, brother, best friend. But we always work it out.
SM: Of course. I love my wife dearly, but sometimes it’s great to have some time to yourself.
CHW: Definitely. And we do things apart form time to time to get that space. We read, we go on walks, whatever we have to do. [Laughs] But we are around each other a lot! And it’s just not business 100 percent of the time. I don’t think it’s even 75 percent of the time. It’s pretty evenly divided. There’s always a time to say, "OK. Stop working on that beat and let’s go on a date." You just have to give yourself limits.
SM: This feels like such a personal project.
SI: We always do whatever we feel like doing. All of our projects, mix tapes and songs are direct expressions of how we’re feeling at the exact time we wrote it. We’re not going to do anything we don’t feel like doing. There’s a lot passion behind everything we do. And it’s just for us in all corners of it all. This is for Catherine and Stasia. And it’s fun for us that way. And if people like it or they don’t, that’s cool. As long as people keep asking us to perform, we’re going to take it. We want to have our music find a place in this world. We’re glad the word is being spread, and we’re grateful for it all. But we really do it for ourselves. And we really enjoy it. We’ll never lose that passion we have for creating music.