A few months ago, I got a message regarding a possible interview opportunity with Schoolcraft. I had a Check It Out post about Mary and the Black Lamb quite a while back, and had been curious for a while about Lindsay’s new solo project, Schoolcraft. The result is the rest of this post, with added bits of witty conversation via email and Skype chatting.
Also, we’re putting this up today as a bit of a treat–today marks the one-year anniversary of our first post on this site, so today marks another first for us! Thank you all so much for an amazing year. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
UTF: Why did you decide to do a solo project after Mary and the Black Lamb took off?
Schoolcraft: As far as the band goes, I do love the band, I love MATBL and I love what we do. And there’s nothing wrong with saying this, because it’s the truth. It’s a wonderful thing for us. I don’t want to say it’s not unique, but what we’re doing is not unheard of. There are a lot of bands out there: symphonic sounding, female-fronted, there’s a huge underground movement. I’m proud of what we’ve done; I love MATBL, it’s like my perfect female-fronted rock band. With going to school for music, I started experimenting with new sounds and new things I wanted to do. The reason I started the solo project is that I kind of needed to break free and express the different music that I’ve been creating. With the band we create a certain sound together, and it’s great, but when I’m on my own, I have different ideas that I don’t think would work very well with MATBL, so I just kind of decided to break away. And I did it for a while without announcing it; it was a few months before I put up the media and the web site and got the ball rolling. It worked, and even though it’s different, it needed to happen because if I don’t do it for myself or for the idea of new music and adding something new to the music world, I would feel like I was suffocating myself as an artist. It needed to happen; it was never a competition between projects or anything.
UTF: Are you going to continue both projects going at the same time?
Schoolcraft: Yes, definitely. With MATBL, things have slowed down. I mean, the guys have lives now. They have a lot going on with careers and significant others. It’s respected and it’s not frowned upon because it’s life and in society there are a lot of demands so that you can live. I understand that. We will keep going, probably not as fast as it used to be. The first two years we released our album and did so much crap for the media. It was a lot of work, but if we do that again it’s gonna take a while. I don’t want to put a time limit on it; it’ll come when it comes. I do plan to be a part of both, but my focus for right now is going to be on the solo project, just because it’s me doing everything; I don’t have to rely on anybody else’s schedule or time limits or commitment. It’s all on my shoulders in a healthy way, and it feels right for who I am now and this year ahead of me.
UTF: How do your goals differ between the two different projects?
Schoolcraft: I’m satisfied with how MATBL has been going, and it still is a priority, but I wouldn’t say it’s the highest right now. Obviously, being a musician is very expensive these days, especially if you want to expand your fan-base; you have to invest a lot of money into it before you get something back. What I’ve found in MATBL is that because everyone else has other financial commitments, the money doesn’t come as fast. Schoolcraft will be a higher priority. I want to release my first EP, and if I can do well and keep on top of my own personal stuff, my goal is to release an EP every six to eight months, maybe five or six songs. And some covers, because covering music is a lot of fun, especially when you have your own twist on it. I have a lot of plans for that, because I have a lot of weird influences, and I feel that if I put my new sound on their songs, it’ll turn out really well. One thing that I’ve wanted to do since I was fifteen and in my first punk band, is to release a music video. I’ve never had that and I feel that with Schoolcraft, that would come very naturally. I put a high priority in that, because I’ve noticed that a lot of bands only put up a live video or an acoustic session video, and that’s cool. But what happened to what people did in the ‘90s? The music videos were art itself! I think videos these days are kind of lacking, and I want to find the right directors and screenwriters to make it really great. It’s something really close to my heart and I feel that it needs to happen especially with Schoolcraft, because it’s so experimental and different. Why not release a music video that’s going to be artistic? That’s a big goal of mine. I can’t say when it’s going to happen, but I’ll know when the right song, the right people come along and the funds are there, we’ll have a music video. I’m looking forward to acting in it, too! I’ve never done acting; I’ve done modeling and all the other realms of artistic visual expression. It’s exciting. I don’t see it happening with MATBL anytime soon, though. We were still writing and recording and making art; it’s a slow process. Between the two projects, there’s a huge difference between priority and goals, but it’s all positive.
UTF: Well, that’s good. Now, in terms of a music video, are you thinking of something that tells a story, or one that just shows your band—the way videos are?
Schoolcraft: That’s a really good question, thanks for asking that, cuz I’ve never really thought about it but… If I do have the band playing in there, it will be very, very, very miniscule. You’ll see maybe the instruments going, especially the stringed instruments because they’re so emphasized in this project. You’ll see hints of maybe Kittie playing the cello, or my violin player; you’ll see them kind of rocking out, but it’s more so going to be a storyboard. I’m a huge fan of, um . . . like, you know, there’s the Tim Burton idea—every Goth person, I’m sure, is inspired by him in some way even if they don’t want to admit it—and there’s …I’m searching for the guy’s name. I don’t remember, but he did Aphex Twin. And Björk. And you don’t ever see the artist doing anything; you just see a crazy visual storyboard. Actually, one of my favorite ‘90s artists, VAST with Jon Crosby … For his music videos, it was just straight up, like, crazy visuals, and it was just so intense because… there is a part of you that is the music, yes, but when you’re writing and creating, you’re also trying to tell a story. I really wanted to do that with MATBL because I felt every song we released was like a new, creepy kind of fairy tale story. It’s stuff we never got a chance to do in music videos because there are so many crazy ideas, that if I were to actually bring forth a storyboard in a music video for Mary and the Black Lamb, it would just cost thousands of dollars. [Both laugh] So if it’s just me kind of… I mean, I can act in some of it, but I really want to have like a huge, insane storyboard that involves whatever the song is portraying, and lyrically, too, because I find that if you don’t have the visuals to match the lyrics… What are you doing, what’s the point in making a music video? [Both laugh]
UTF: Good point. How are your influences different between the two projects?
Schoolcraft: They’re actually insanely a lot alike. The empowering part of female-fronted metal just kind of inspired me more than anything because when I started music ten years ago, especially being in an all-female punk band, there was no kind of… respect or appreciation or reputation for females in music, but it’s changed, obviously. Now whenever I hear like a female voice over anything, whether it be experimental trip-hop or metal or even Celtic music. It’s like “Oh my god that is so awesome; I can relate to this, I can sing to this.” I have a lot of the same influences like what I have for MATBL when it comes to all the, like, the scattered spectrum of Evanescence and all the side bands that are involved with that, and Nightwish, Within Temptation—there’s that, right, and The Birthday Massacre, of course; how can I forget my friends right here in Canada? [both laugh] They’re huge influences of that, but going into Schoolcraft there was also inspiration from, believe it or not, Dimmu Borgir, who has a huge symphonic element. Johnny Hollow, who’s very experimental and Victorian and atmospheric as well. I love Björk. I love what that crazy Eskimo lady does, no matter what she writes or releases or what she howls or cracks over with her voice. It’s so cool and different. Actually, one huge influence that really pushed me to think outside the box… his name is Menton, and his project’s called Saltillo, and he’s from Chicago. What he does is he writes like break-beat trip-hop music, but then he just puts in tons of cellos and violas and violins and it’s so powerful and big-sounding. Another band that I really love, but I’m like “Oh my god, I could never do that” was Apocalyptica.
UTF: Oh, I love them!
Schoolcraft: Aren’t they amazing? They’re just so talented and they’re like one of the best bands I’ve seen live, like next to Epica and Within Temptation. They’re just so amazing! And I’m like, “Oh my god, the idea of distorted strings is just brilliant!” And when they bring in guest vocalists and when they do that, the transition from loud to soft to ambient, they’re perfect. I’ve kind of started hearing my music with distorted cello and, like, ambient strings. It’s made sense for the piano ballads I was writing. I was like, you know what? This is definitely going to work. It just took me a long time to believe that I could fit it all together. I’m so excited to finally get into the studio later this month and start recording all of it. When it comes to influences, it’s such a mess and it’s all over the place that it’ll make sense once it’s like down and recorded and released. It’ll just make sense. It sounds crazy right now, like anybody reading this interview will be like, “What the heck is this woman talking about?” It’s gonna work, I promise. I’m not gonna say I won’t do it. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I’m really lucky that I’m one of those musicians that can kind of hear everything in my head before it’s recorded because if I didn’t have that ability, I think I would have given up on being a musician a long time ago [laughs] or as a writer, anyway.
UTF: How is it to be signed to a brand new label?
Schoolcraft: Good. Um, it’s small; it’s literally just Chee Kam, who started Arcane Records, and me, his first artist. And there’s a friendship there, and it’s exciting because it’s just the two of us. There’s no huge “oh, I gotta go through this person and leave a message with the receptionist” kind of thing—no, no, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s just me and him hanging out and drinking tea, planning and making jokes. It’s really exciting; it’s like a really personal experience. It actually reminds me of… There was a label started here in Ontario near Toronto called Underground Operations, and my friend Arif who’s the bassist at Protest the Hero. He was the first artist signed to that label, and I saw the relationship the label owner had with the band and how they were able to just grow so strong together. The band was talented and they had a person backing them and there was the right amount of drive and energy and I feel like me and Chee at Arcane Records have that. That’s why it excites us, because we kind of saw that happen locally and now like Underground Operations is huge, like they signed a lot of amazing artists and made them successful, and that’s kinda what Arcane wants to work towards. It’s a process because… well, I think Underground Operations started eleven to twelve years ago and now they’re finally established and I think that Chee kind of has the same vision. I don’t know, I’ll have to ask him, but I’m pretty sure from what we’ve talked about, that’s kind of what we’re going for. [Laughs]
UTF: Do you think it will be more difficult to become successful under a brand new label?
Schoolcraft: No—it’ll take more time, but I think that success is what you make of it. If you are focused and strong and dedicated and have good communication and organization, you can do anything. I’m glad I signed to an independent label because… the best example I can think of is the Estonian pop star Kerli, and before she signed to a major label she had a really awesome image and sound and I love her album. I’m actually kind of inspired by it; it kind of influenced my new sound. She had still not released her second album after years because she’s writing this beautiful, raw, kind of gothic music, and the major label was like, “No, we’re not going to make money off this. You need to be pop.” And that’s why I’m happy because I would never want to sign to a major label unless it was on my terms completely, but you don’t see that these days for anybody. So I feel that with my artistic freedom and my ability to freely create art with no restraints or conditions on it, I think that’ll speak louder than, like, “oh, here’s this package pop star we threw a bunch of money into. Like her this month and forget about her next month.” I don’t have any doubts about it.
UTF: Do you find yourself inspired by sort of fantasy literature? I know you’ve expressed yourself a fan in terms of the music and how it comes through into fantasy. Do you read the same sort of books?
Schoolcraft: Definitely. When I had time, when I wasn’t in school for music, I read Lord of the Rings and a few other unheard of sci-fi/fantasy stuff. Yeah, actually—total nerd coming out right now. A huge influence to my fantasy side is, believe it or not, a lot of anime. I love it because of the fact that it’s all art and it’s not like people acting. I settled down this Christmas, and me and my boyfriend watched all of Lord of the Rings, and the music in that movie is brilliant and it spoke to me louder than [other things]—no offense to a lot of my influences—but it really did, next to like Nightwish and Dimmu Borgir, that soundtrack that Howard Shore put together for Lord of the Rings is a huge inspiration. It’s like he was just painting a palette on silence and he was just like, boom, here it is. Yeah, fantasy is huge for me. I do write myself, like I wrote a huge story for Mary and the Black Lamb as an archive, and I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light, but maybe down the road when I have more time. You never know where life’s going to take you, but it’s there. I love any fantasy that’s ever come out that’s dark and spooky and twisted. You know, even if it’s like your typical elves and dwarves and princesses and all that stuff, that’s amazing. Another thing that really kind of… it ate my soul for the time I played the game, but it inspired me too. World of Warcraft. I did have to quit, but in the time I played it, the stories were just so epic and I think it actually inspired a bit of As the City Sleeps. I don’t want to really put that out there, cuz it’s kind of embarrassing and nerdy in all realms, but those stories… it’s kind of like what Within Temptation does, cuz they do story-based things too, and it’s so good. There’s an influence there. I’d say that when I write, it’s fifty percent fantasy based, and then fifty percent personal… either stuff I’ve been through or like spiritual experiences and it’s good to write about that stuff and bring it into art form.
UTF: How’s the tattoo artistry coming along?
Schoolcraft: Like designing tattoos?
Schoolcraft: It’s been slow. I designed a few for people and they’ve used them. More so the only ones I’ve actually thought about or started sketching have been my own personal ones. They’re very different because I have my fish one and that was just kind of out of nowhere my tattoo artist took over. I’m working on a Native American one and then I’m also working on an art nouveau one, so it’s like two completely different styles of visual art, but I still love it. And my boyfriend’s always getting tattoos and it’s really cool to help him design concepts but I don’t draw anything for him. I love it. If I wasn’t a musician, I probably would have ended up doing visual arts for sure! [Both laugh]
UTF: How did you decide on your stage name?
Schoolcraft: Oh, for Schoolcraft? It actually came to me. Oh, it’s a long story. I don’t want to touch on religion too much because… I don’t know, it’s really personal and can bring up a lot of conflict when talking about it, so I wanted to kind of stay away from that subject altogether. But I was in Catholic school for fourteen years, and the religion just didn’t work for me. I’m sure some people will read this and go, “Well you’re going to hell and should burn at the stake!” And that’s fine; if that’s your personal belief, I’m okay with that. So I [do] a lot of soul-searching and I have always had a huge love for nature and animals and I was going to school for zoology and that was really close to my heart. I always felt that everything had a life source and energy. So my dad actually traced back our family roots a couple… really far back, I mean like back to the clans in Scotland on his side. We found that along our family history, there was a Native woman who came in, and her name was Schoolcraft and she actually—we’re still trying to prove it—but we think she was related to the writer Jane Schoolcraft. It just kind of hit home when my dad told me that [I was] part Native and it’s in our blood. It was like a curtain kind of fell; my eyes were uncovered and it made sense, and it was like, oh my goodness, like this sense of why I feel what I feel and why I know what I know and I’ve known it since I was born. I looked into it and I studied it and just changed it to my last name on Facebook cuz… it’s always good to have privacy, you know. I just chose Schoolcraft because everything I’ve ever done or accomplished personally, it’s really been influenced by my Native spirituality. I felt kind of in a way that the only reason I was able to connect and write this new art is through that open mindedness and everything I’ve learned through the teachings… it made sense. And it’s different and it’s cool and it’s a very uncommon name. I’ve had people come to me and go, “Schoolcraft? What, like Kraft dinner?” kind of jokes. [Both laugh] And I’ve been like, whatever, I think it’s funny. I don’t care. At least people remember it. It’s not like it’s my name or… well, it’s kind of my name […]. With being somebody who is really into Goth culture, and the whole finding beauty in darkness, a lot of that is in the Native beliefs. There’s a place for darkness and there’s a place for light, and kind of in a bad situation there’s a blessing in it. It ties into both, so it kind of also tied into my artistic vision… it all made sense. Like, that’s it, that’s the name. Nothing fits better.
UTF: That’s awesome, I like that. Now, I don’t have to put this in, but I’m really curious: Are you… when you say you were sort of drawn away from Christianity, I wonder what you were drawn towards instead. It sounds to me, what with the research that I’ve done about religion, that it’s going a bit towards a Pagan sort of path. Is that a thing?
Schoolcraft: Yeah. You can put this in if you like. I mean, I’m not gonna bash Christians or anything. Every religion needs to kind of work for the individual and what they believe. With Christianity, it kind of tied in to my European upbringing, cuz both my parents are European, and of course through that they are Christian, or the different sects of Christianity, which is fine. What happened is that they just kind of… had a plan for me and said, this is who you’re gonna be, and if you don’t follow this, you’ve disappointed us. I didn’t agree with that because it was partially influenced by the European upbringing—there’s a lot of Italian (I’m not Italian) and German and Scottish influence in my family and being Christian kind of went into that. I didn’t like that because I knew in my heart who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do the minute I found it, especially the minute I found music. It’s true that a lot of people are kind of going to a more Pagan-based spirituality. I think there was a statistic actually—in one of my teaching books, apparently 80% of kids coming out of Catholic, Christian schools are abandoning the religion when they graduate. And it’s true, and I know a lot of people who are either Wiccan or German Neopagan or… I know some people who have gone back to even doing like the Goddess kind of thing with the Vikings. And there’s the Druids from Ireland, the Celts, right, and a lot of people are going back to that because they’re kind of seeing how—and I don’t mean to offend any Christians out there; this is just what I’ve read, and I’m not saying I personally believe in this, this is just a fact that I found—they feel that it’s kind of a control system and it’s kind of like… I want to word it in a way without getting in trouble, but… they feel trapped and they feel like it’s very contradicting especially when it’s like Church versus Bible. To me, honestly, the Bible to me is just a wonderful story. It’s a collection of beautiful stories that have lessons, and that’s so different from what I’ve been studying the past two years. But I think there’s a lot of emphasis now… people are starting to see what we’re doing to the world. We’re not respecting the balance, we’re taking away from resources, and it’s very sad. It kind of hit home when I started into these teachings because it was around the time, I think they said, a giant piece of Antarctica fell off and melted into the ocean. I cried when I heard that news. This is our world; who are we to have the right to not respect the balance and take and take and take and expect that everything’s going to reflourish and grow back so fast. A lot of people are going to that spirituality and it pisses off the Christians… I can’t really speak for Muslims because I don’t fully understand the religion, nor do I know any (I don’t have a problem with them or anything), but any monotheistic religion, I’ve noticed, have a lot of younger generations kind of abandoning it and finding their own spirituality. The reason I kind of stick with it is because I go by what I know, and I know there are energies in this universe and I know… like, for example, my fish died this morning, and I was like, “oh, that sucks,” because I liked my fish. It was cute; it was like a rainbow fish. A Beta, right. And it was dead, and I was just sad, like, oh, that sucks, but at the same time it was so fascinating that there was energy in that living body. And now it’s gone. And where does that energy go to? I’ve always had these experiences with energy in different levels, and whoever reads this will think I’m nuts, but whatever. The point is, that it’s based off personal experience and it’s like, well, why would people be abandoning those monotheistic religions if it was working for them and they were finding solitude and comfort in it? They wouldn’t leave, right? So people are coming to these Pagan, earthbound spiritualities, and they’re finding so much peace and happiness. Something that actually… when I heard about it, it just kind of lit me up… that a lot of kids who were born into Christian families and are part Native, and a lot of them—I’ve even met them and talked to them—the minute they were done with the schools, they just told their family “no” and went right back to their Native spirituality, and they’re just such humble, happy people now. And when you find more people who are going through the same things as you and you see a movement, it’s really comforting and feels like a community. And I got lucky because my parents kind of abandoned Christianity too, now, and they’re more spiritual and very accepting of my beliefs. So I got very lucky because I know a lot of people out there right now who have found their new Pagan spirituality and their families are not supportive or accepting. And it’s sad. Religion should teach love and there are religions out there that are angry and controlling and put others down because they found happiness somewhere else. To each their own; religion should be a great, personal thing and shouldn’t be something where we all attack each other. But that’s just the way it is now, as much as I talk about it. [Both laugh] […]
UTF: What would you have to say to people out there who admire what you do and want to also be a front woman of a band?
Schoolcraft: Oh, wow, thanks for asking that. I’m kind of blushing. That means a lot because when I think of people looking up to me—I mean, I have people contact me and it really means a lot—I don’t ever see it like that. I mean, I try to be like a role model if there was anybody to look up to, but… wow, that’s really… I can’t even find the words. I’ve had a lot of talks with people going through hard times lately and the one thing that I want to tell everybody is that truly, you’ve gotta love yourself first before you really accomplish anything in life. If you want to be a musician or you want to be a front person, never lose sight of what you want and how you want to express it, and never ever feel that you can’t express yourself in any way. I mean, if it’s a negative thing, if you’re gonna say something negative… probably not a good idea, as it will come back and bite you in the butt. But when it comes to your own art, just remember that we are all unique individuals and we all have our own way of expressing ourselves and our artistic views, and everybody is completely unique. I find that the more people who express themselves artistically, the more cool, different art we get in this world. That’s why in the femme metal movement, there are so many female-fronted bands, but they’re all so different. And it’s great. You can have a new listener who’ll come in and would be all like, “ugh, they all sound the same.” Well, that’s because they’re probably not exposed to a lot of different artistic views, but if you’re a musician who can appreciate art, or just a huge fan who can see all the different voices and different musical styles—it’s awesome. It’s definitely [about] being open minded and confident, but at the same time, you’ve got to work hard, and you’ve got to ask yourself how badly you want it. I still have to keep up on myself when it comes to studying music, because, you know what, sometimes it gets boring, and I don’t want to do it, but you’ve gotta remind yourself that it’s worthwhile. Work hard and remember that the most important thing is how you present yourself and how well you perform and write. I mean, some people can write and some people can’t, but if you’re gonna write something, write for yourself, and if people can connect to it, great. If it’s just an artistic piece, that’s cool too. But as a musician, always keep improving yourself, always keep working hard. We’re all capable of greatness; everyone is capable of anything. One of my closest friends, she was a model, and she’s really like starting off her career, and something her dad taught her that she preaches a lot is… you can do anything. Some things you’ll be good at, and the things you’re not so good at [are things] you’ve just gotta work harder for. And that kind of inspired me, cuz you know what? I want to be a Supermusician, but I’m not a good sight reader, I’m not good with the mathematical side of music. But if I keep working at it, I’ll eventually get it. And that’s something we all have to keep in mind. Another aspect—I hope this is good advice to somebody—I actually talked to my boyfriend today about it… we’re two very different people about how we socialize and how we are as musicians, and that’s okay because it works; we kind of learn from each other. Something that I’ve noticed is that I always like to be really positive and supportive to everybody around me and everyone I believe in, and if I’m not a huge fan of something somebody’s doing or saying, or how they’re presenting themselves, I just don’t say anything. It’s like the energy thing, with the spirituality; if you put out negative energy, it’s gonna come back to you. Something that you can learn, especially if you’re new or younger or starting out is that, just presenting yourself in a really positive way will come back to you. And that’s really all I have to say to touch on that, and I hope that somebody can take something from it.
UTF: All right, well that’s great. I certainly got something out of it. Do you have anything more to add?
Schoolcraft: I honestly can’t say that I do [both laugh]. You pretty much got the best outta me.
UTF: Hooray, that’s awesome. Well, thank you very much for being here and doing this today, I know it’s been awhile since we started discussing it.
Schoolcraft: No problem, I hope you’re happy with it.
UTF: I certainly am—thank you again.