Interview! Sarah Neufeld

Purveyor of: Muscular melodic minimalism for solo violin 
File next to: Steve Reich, Colin Stetson, Owen Pallett, Bell Orchestre, John Adams
Plays #WL13 Saturday, February 16 @ The Great Hall Upstairs

We are very proud to feature a solo appearance by Sarah Neufeld on the Saturday night (February 16) line-up of our upcoming Wavelength Music Festival THIRTEEN at the Great Hall. Sarah is of course best known as a core member of the Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, and more recently Montreal art-popsters The Luyas - though when they played Wavelength for their album release in November, Sarah’s violin parts were played on pedal steel by Mike Feuerstack from Snailhouse and the Wooden Stars.

At WL13, Sarah will be performing her new solo violin material, which is impressive and powerful stuff. For those familiar with her partner Colin Stetson’s work for the bass sax, this music takes you to similar places – ruggedly minimalist looping phrases that reel you in with both melody and urgent repetition. Jonny Dovercourt interviewed Sarah Neufeld about her bold step into the spotlight.

How long have you been developing this new solo material? What inspired the creation of this work?

I wrote most of the body of work in 2012. It's an idea that’s been incubating for a while: to take the instrument past what I've known as a limit; to write music for one violin that gets really ferocious, explores it as a driving rhythmic force but still leaves it exposed and vulnerable. It’s able to tell all these stories.

The world first heard your new music in on online video called “Scalpel/Stradivarius” commissioned for Italian Vogue. How did this project come together? 

My good friend and incredibly talented artist Jason Last had the idea for a piece involving me — writing and performing solo violin and being this character in it.

What are your plans for recording and releasing this music?

I just finished recording and mixing with Nils Frahm, a German composer/pianist/engineer/producer whom I know from his releases and production with the label Erased Tapes. We worked in different acoustic environments around Berlin — some studio stuff and some extremely wild places. 

Would you say that Colin Stetson's musical approach was an influence on this music at all?

It's been really fun and inspiring watching Colin's solo music develop over the years. Being around that kind of musical force is a great thing.  

What does it feel like to step out on stage solo, rather than as part of a band posse?

Being on stage alone rather than with a band is a whole other kind of invigorating. The heart beats faster, brain works differently. It’s really fun and energizing and there’s of course way more pressure to make it happen up there.

Where are you calling home these days?

I'm based in Montreal, la belle ville. I visit many other places very often.

What is happening with Bell Orchestre? Any new releases or touring on the horizon?

Bell Orchestre peoples are busy doing various wonderful things and when that magic time window opens, we will jump in.

Okay, inspiration, motivational New Year's Resolution time… Tell us a bit about your other life as a Moksha yoga instructor!

It’s funny, I got off the plane from Berlin, my head full of that process and pretty much stepped into the yoga studio. Kind of did a double take — it’s just such a different world from the creative process, or the touring process, and at the same time I just connected to it instantly. It’s such a beautiful thing to see all these smiling faces and help people to connect with themselves in this other way. To help people feel great is such a huge gift for me. It brings me back to earth.