Arts DEVO meets up with MaMuse



Strange wonderfulness I was very pleased and honored to have recently received a super-secret advance copy of Strange and Wonderful from Karisha Longaker and Sarah Nutting of MaMuse. The local acoustic duo is having a CD-release party this Sunday, May 2, at 6 p.m., at Chico Women’s Club, so I asked if I could hear the album beforehand and ask them a few a questions about it.

After the first handful of listens, the unexpected and playful turns their voices take leave the biggest impression. Currently slaying me is Karisha’s Van Morrison-like runs on “Natural Order”—“Me I ain’t been no morning glory. I have lived another story. I’ve been afraid to get out of my bed.” (See the sweet video for the song at

My favorite tune, though, is one that I saw make female fans squirm and squeal during a performance last spring at Café Coda. “Springtime” (track two) is the pollen-filled season of procreation in song form. It’s a great example of the many powers of MaMuse coming together at once: coy, emotionally committed harmonizing (“And all of my creeks are overflowing/ Flowing over former banks.”), the perfectly chosen strutting these-boots-are-made-for-walking bass line and dissonant chords drunkenly tugging at the end of lines. “Boy, have mercy on me/ It’s spring time,” indeed!

Can you say something about your process of songwriting?

Sarah: Songwriting begins with the process of noticing. Noticing what inspires, a story that wants to be told, or perhaps even a subtle emotion or feeling. Sometimes a song is born from a melodic pattern that insists on returning. Sometimes I’ll say, “I’m being haunted by a song.” If they’re juicy, they won’t go away.

The interplay between you and the audience is such an important part of the MaMuse experience. Did you consider this when you went to record?

Sarah: With the recording process it is different in the sense that no audience is present, and yet at the same time they are. The magic is there in the song when that interplay is transmitted through the recording. This is often what we’re listening for when deciding if we “caught” a good take of a song or not. So, it does all come back to the art of playing in the studio as if all of our favorite people were there watching us.

Now that “Springtime” is on a CD that people can take home, have you thought about its becoming part of someone’s personal “Romantic Playlist”?

Sarah: We most certainly would feel honored to contribute in any way to more love-making happening in the world.

“A Styrofoam cup full of monkey dust” (from the title track) sounds like something out of a Southern voodoo shop.

Karisha: “Monkey dust” is what our good friend Jimmi Wiz—who drove us across the U.S. that fall [2008]—calls any substance that gets you revved up—like cheap coffee, and candy bars, the gooey-er the better! You can find all the best kinds of Monkey Dust in gas stations and convenience stores across the nation!

“On the Altar” and “Natural Order” are really soulful tunes. When I’ve heard you live, the soulfulness is the thing that really seems to catch people. What are the influences/experiences that contribute to that?

Sarah: The more I allow myself to give over to this process of opening and allowing music to move through me, the more that it does. Getting out of my own way is the biggest challenge. … A word Karisha and I like to use is “committed,” meaning that in our moments of being up there in front of an audience, we are committed to the music, no matter what happens. It is definitely a practice, and one that continues to bear sweet ripe fruit.

Karisha: This whole process of being alive is so full! Ahhh! I feel so deeply! Sarah and I both do. I feel like we both would say that it is our greatest work to have the courage to do so.