When Music Is the Family Business: Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: I was thinking about writing a swan song for myself because I’m old and that song just kind of plopped out like, you know, when a cat throws up.

S3: Have you ever seen the cat throwing up? You know, like looks at it like, whoa, what’s that? As if you didn’t even do it.

S4: Welcome back to Working.

S1: I’m your host, Isaac Butler, and I’m your other host, June Thomas.


S4: June, we just heard the great folk singer songwriter Suzie Roach. I can’t wait to talk about your conversation with her and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. But first, the days are getting shorter, the air a bit colder. While we’re recording this, there’s a surprise snow flurry going on outside. We’re stumbling towards a very peculiar version of the holidays. How’s it going for you?

S1: Well, 20/20 has been the year when I finally learned how Prospect Park, which I live very close to changes with the seasons because instead of getting my exercise, if you can call it that, on my commute to work, we’re now taking walks to and in the park. And so pretty much for the first time, I actually know what’s going on in the park, but I am aware that as it gets colder, I’m less inclined to linger in the frigid air of frozen precipitation. So I’m like preemptively worrying about becoming a total shut in. I’m not there yet, but I can see it coming. But I’m also a very lucky person in that I enjoy the holidays without having to put too much effort into them. Like we never hosted or even attend really big gatherings or send or receive a ton of gifts. So it’s really easy to find it fun and not terribly overwhelming. What about you?


S4: Yeah, I mean, there are things about the holiday season I miss. We used to always our holiday card was always a photo of Iris in front of the Temple of Dendur. So you see her getting bigger and bigger with the Temple of Dendur in the background at the Natural History Museum. Of course, we can’t do that. I just finished a big project, as you know, and I usually like to recharge by like spending my days at film forum and at museums, just kind of, you know, and I can’t do any of that stuff. And I’ll admit I’ll miss the holiday party and seeing you and your partner there and catching up about your latest trip to Japan and all that stuff, I mean, that was really a fun part of the year for me. Yeah. But at the same time, the smaller scale is a little more manageable. You know, my calendar now makes more sense. I now have more time to do the things that I actually, you know, want to do. December normally feels like a real it’s probably the most exhausting month of the year normally. And now is the time that I get to spend it trying to recharge with my family. So there’s there’s an upside to it for sure. And speaking of family, you interviewed creative collaborators who are family today, Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roache. Can you tell us a little bit about them in their work?


S1: I can. So Susie Roach and her sisters, Maggie and Terry, they were together, the roaches, and they were probably my favorite group when I was in college. They were big in Britain at that time. And so I saw them a lot during my college years. And in many ways, their records, the roaches and nerds at least, were the soundtrack of my college years. And it seems fair to call their music folk music. But a lot of their appeal to me was that they really brought an American idiom to the music. I was pretty familiar with, like the British folk tradition that’s very much based in traditional songs or contemporary compositions that were just as dark as those old songs. And the roaches sang, first of all, in this unbelievably tight harmony, which they could reproduce perfectly in life, appearance’s your words go through and through me and leave me time to read. Taste and the songs were about things that would matter to three young women in their 20s, like getting jobs and holding on to jobs or getting back jobs or upsetting their parents, being attracted to the wrong person being nerds, they would open their concerts with the song We, which is a biographical number. And I think the first verse gives you a sense of the appealing casualness of the language, because we are Maggie and Terry and Suzie.


S5: We are Maggie and Terry and Suzie, Maggie and Terry. And so she wrote Maggie, Terry. And we don’t give our ages and we don’t give our phone numbers, give our phone numbers, get out our phone numbers, give out our sometimes our voices give out, but not our ages and our phone numbers, but not our ages and our phone number.

S1: So it’s silly, but like very delightful, you know, Lucy Wainwright Roach is the daughter of Suzie Roach and musician Loudon Wainwright, the third, and she grew up on the road with her mom and her aunts. And as we’ll hear, even though she thought she was going to become a teacher and she trained as a teacher, she has been working as a professional musician for her whole adult life, recording and touring solo and also appearing with people. I am mostly in the Indigo Girls and with lots of family members, apart from working with her mother, which she’s done a bunch. She’s also performed with her sister and brother from another mother, which is to say, Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright, who are themselves the offspring of two great musical dynasties since their mother was Kate McGarrigle, another folk singer who sang beautiful close harmonies with her sister, Anna and Susie. And Lucy just released an album together called I Can Still Hear You.


S4: Amazing, amazing, you know, it is funny that you say that thing about them being classified as folk, but not always feeling as folk because, you know, one sign of that is that the Roaches first album, the self-titled one, is produced by and has electric guitar played by Robert Fripp, who is, of course, the man behind King Crimson and the electric guitar soloist on talking heads remain in light. You know, he’s a prog rock God, but he produced this beautiful, beautiful, very funny folk album. It’s one of my one of my favorites. Before we get to the interview, we should mention that Slate plus members will hear a little something extra from your conversation. Could you tell us a little bit about that?


S1: Yes, we talked about how the pandemic has affected their work. And I also learned a lot about the roots of the Roaches Christmas album, which is called We Three Kings, and which I think for a lot of people is the ultimate signal that the holidays have arrived.

S4: Listeners, if you subscribe to Slate plus you could get the ultimate signal that the holidays have arrived along with all sorts of other bonus content and ad free podcasts. So why don’t you sign up right now? You can get two weeks for free. Just go to Slate Dotcom working plus. All right, now let’s hear Jeunes conversation with Suzie Roach and Lucy Wainwright George.

S1: Who are you? What do you do and how do you know each other?


S2: Well, I’m Lucy Wainwright Roache and I’m her mother. And what’s your name? My name is Suzie Roach, and I have been anyway before the pandemic, a touring musician, a writer, performer, songwriter, theater artist. God have done it all.

S1: You have amazingly, the two of you released an album at the end of October called I Can Still Hear You. First, I have what might be a dumb question. Is it very different to sing in two part harmony, as you mostly do? I know there are other people singing on the album, but you know, when the two of you sing a two part harmony as opposed to three part harmony that you sang for many years. So when you were performing with your sisters, Maggie and Terry in the roaches?

S2: Yes, it’s very different because in three part harmony, you’re always defining the chord that you’re singing and in two part harmony. The third note of the chord is variable. So you can sing two parts without completing the court, if that makes any sense, huh?

S1: So you’re very aware of that when you’re writing? I mean, when you’re writing, so you’re writing a song, are you thinking of the harmonies that will kind of surround the notes that you’re writing or to what extent are you aware of it and to what extent is it sort of instinctive?

S2: Well, for me, I always hear harmony parts when I’m writing. I guess it’s just because I’ve been doing it that way for years. But I don’t know. What would you say about that time?


S6: I mean, I would say that if I’m writing, I’m just relieved that I’m writing somehow and I just do whatever happens and don’t think about anything at all, if possible, until afterwards.

S1: I’m really curious, like, can you talk about how you begin to write a song like how’d you get into the right mood?

S2: Well, it could happen at any time. You know, it really could happen when you’re walking around the street or it could happen if you pick up your guitar or if you’re listening to somebody else’s song. I’m always looking for the possibility, though, that it may happen about you, Lucy.


S6: Well, I agree that sometimes hearing something else or being somewhere or just picking up the guitar will do it. But one of my very nonromantic avenues towards writing is when you have to write something, that’s a good way to have to start. That’s an interesting mood to kick things off.

S1: In what circumstances do you have to write your song?

S6: Well, for example, on this record, I had made a record the year before and I didn’t have any new songs and I wanted to contribute a song at least to a song to this record. And I don’t know if that would count as having to, but I set out to write a song for this record, but I had no idea what it would be. And then in retrospect, it seems like obviously it would be the song it was. That’s the funny thing, is that even though you feel like you’re doing it almost on assignment at some times, it’s sort of magically seems like it was meant to be somehow, if you’re lucky.


S1: So can you remind me which song you wrote for this album?

S6: I can still hear you. Oh, so the title track. Yeah.

S7: Remember the words of the pirates that you saved or get resources or some. Are off in the distance, remember me to call?

S1: I can still hear you. Can you kind of talk us through that song, like even if it’s just like which came first, the concept, the lyrics, the music?

S6: Sure. I mean, we we had started recording the record in in Nashville with my friend and our producer, Jordan Hamlin. And we were working down there and I was aware that I was sort of like I needed to be thinking about writing, but I hadn’t started at all and I had no idea what it would be about. And then by the time we finished the first week of recording, the pandemic had begun. And so then we went home and we never ended up going back to Nashville because of the pandemic. So two weeks earlier, I had no idea what on earth I could possibly have to say about anything. And then it was the pandemic. And the song kind of came out of having a lot of time on my hands. Being just at home in New York during the most shut down part of the shut down when everything was quiet except for the sirens and stuff. And that’s where that song came out of. So it’s sort of like it handed the EP. The song appeared out of that, even though it seemed like there was nothing. Then suddenly there was something.

S1: As I said, I was a big fan of the roaches and there was something about I don’t know if you say like this is a roaches song, you know, there was a particular style and often it kind of seems you were the first time you would listen to it seems kind of silly often. Not always, but often. And then actually you would realize, wow, this is really profound. And on the new album, Swan Song kind of reminded me of that tone, like starting this like these sort of jokey lines. And then suddenly you you’re kind of listening to the lyrics and realizing, no, this really is a song that has profound meaning. Can you sort of explain where that song came from and how it evolved?


S2: Yeah, that song, the swan song I was thinking about writing a swan song for myself because I’m old. And I was thinking, well, this is probably it for me. And, you know, that was just a little idea that kept coming to me, but I didn’t do anything about it. But one day I sat down and just that song just kind of plopped out like, you know, when a cat throws up. Have you ever seen the cat growing up? All too often? Yes. Well, you know, like looks at it like, whoa, what did I what’s that? As if you didn’t even do it, you know, the cat. As if the cat didn’t do it. So then I of course realized it wasn’t really a swan song, it was a duck song.

S8: I went to the pond today looking for the swan, but the swan had turned into a duck.

S2: But the quality you’re talking about, about taking something that almost seems silly and it actually then leads to a profound idea, I think I’m very drawn to that because when I want to be serious, it kind of gets maudlin. And also, I like I like childlike things, you know, like fairy tales and children’s books and things like that, you know, because I think that they often have that same quality where they don’t seem like they’re saying anything, but they do. Yeah.

S1: Can you sort of talk about the meaning of that song for you?

S9: Well, I think what it wound up meaning is that there is so much loss, you know, loss of identity, I guess as you go through life, you think you’re someone and then things change after going along the same way forever. And then you change into something and it doesn’t feel so good. But you have to go through that. And then the next thing you know, you change into something else. And I think that that’s really true. And it happens to be very relevant also right now with the pandemic, because nobody knows what’s going to happen. And it doesn’t feel OK right now, a lot of the time.


S10: The strange doesn’t mean.

S1: There is an old roach song or is actually a traditional Irish song, I believe, on the new album that was also on the roaches and that you often used to perform with your sisters factory girl. I smile.

S11: I fear that so far I fear that.

S9: Why did you want to revisit that particular song?

S6: I mean, I personally grew up listening to the Rossia sing that song on the road, and I always loved that song and I love a lot of those traditional songs. But Factory Girl stands out because it’s very hard to find those traditional songs where the woman in the story triumphs. Oftentimes they they meet a very tragic end or terribly abused in some way. And so that’s one of the things about factory girl that’s so great is that the female character in it is like kind of the powerful and also in control and the story. And so that’s that’s a reason why that song at this moment is especially appealing. Plus, it’s just a beautiful song. Plus it. I’ve known it for my whole life, so I’m very I’m very into it. I love it.

S2: One of the themes in this record is, I think, a reaction to the whole Metoo movement. I shouldn’t speak for Lucy, but I think both of us do have been very affected by that. And I wanted to have a lot of songs that were in praise of women. But, you know, without apology, you know, my sister Maggie died on the night of the inauguration of Donald Trump. And to me, that was like a starting point of this record and the abuse, the constant abuse, the disgusting comments and and then and that leading into, you know, Harvey Weinstein and all all of it. It was like almost for me everything that I grew up, the changes that occurred in my lifetime seem to be wiped away in one fell swoop, you know? And so I got mad.


S1: Yeah. Just to get back just briefly to Factory Girl, I mean, it is a traditional song. It’s not like you radically transformed it for this album, but it’s not quite the same as the kind of the old version. Like, were you kind of aware of wanting to do it differently or not want to do an identical kind of rerun?

S2: Can you talk about that a bit for me? That song we had to find a new way to do it, because for me, I have such an association with doing it with my sisters. And also on that song, Amy Ray sings as one of the characters in the song is a dialogue between a woman who works in a factory and a man who is enamored of her. And Lucy sings with the Indigo Girls now. And I have been very affected by the Indigo Girls from a long time ago when Lucy was a little girl. It was the first time she met them. And so I had the idea to have Emily play guitar. And Emily and I kind of trade off guitar parts on that song. And Amy comes in as the character of the Sudar of the woman, I said. And so in that way, it turns the whole thing on its head, but also it’s a full circle of, you know, the roaches were a big influence for the Indigo Girls and then they were very big influence on my life and Lucy’s life. And it was sort of a way to connect all of the things that have been happening.

S6: Yeah. And then I would just add another thing. For people who know the older version and who would hear the new version is that you in a more technical sense, one of the changes is that when you spent some time with the song alone to put down your guitar part, you changed the feel of the time of the song. So it’s it’s I don’t I don’t even actually know what technically how to describe how it’s different. But the feel is very different from the original one. And by a very I mean slightly and it makes a big difference.


S1: You mentioned your sister Maggie passing away. So there is also a song by her on the album, which I believe is the first time it’s been recorded. Yes, that’s Jane. Right. Can you sort of talk more about why you wanted to record that song?

S12: I first heard that song when I was 16. My Aunt Terry gave me a cassette tape of she and Maggie had 27 songs on it from 1973. I believe that a cassette of them kind of both a mixture of demos and them just sitting around playing into a tape recorder. And it had a bunch of songs on it. I had never heard that. I’d never heard the roaches do. And one of them was Jean. And she had some kind of Prenter program that allowed her to print out a tape cassette insert and it said Happy birthday.

S11: And so it really paid off because now we sing that song. That’s one of my favorite songs to do off of the record. It’s really a pleasure to get to sing. Yeah, it’s a really beautiful song.

S13: I never called her Jane. Last year, I called the gym.

S6: My mom and I have loved that one for years from afar, but we never tried to tackle it. And then for this record, we we tried to to tackle our own version of it.

S12: So it’s that was many years ago now. So it’s taken us all these years to get around to doing our own version.

S1: One of my co-hosts I’m working I know is a huge fan of Hamman song, which is in his he says it’s one of the most perfect songs in music history. It was written by Maggie, right?


S9: That’s right. Yes.

S14: If you go down downtown, you’ll never come back.

S9: Is there’s a story in the song, I mean, the song is a story, but, well, imagine Terry had met this guy who had a kung fu temple, as you do in Hammond, Louisiana.

S15: And by the time I was was down there, when I arrived in the middle of the night by Greyhound bus, I realized quickly it was an abandoned telephone company building. And there were all these guys there who were studying kung fu. And us and Maggie and I had jobs at a truck stop and Terry was working at the Magnolia Diner. And I really cannot tell you how strange it was, is very extreme. But needless to say, my parents were not terribly thrilled about the whole thing. And I think that that song, the Hemond song, has to do with that.

S4: We’ll be back with more of John’s conversation with Suzie and Lucy after this. Hey, listeners, we are going to do a special year end advice extravaganza episode here I’m working and we would love to include your questions, ask us anything you want. Maybe it’s something about a collaboration or the creative process or a particular way in which you’re stumped with your own work. We would love to help give us a ring at three zero four nine three three work or drop us a line at working at Slate Dotcom. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to working wherever you get your podcasts. OK, let’s get back to the episode already.

S1: We talk about collaboration a lot on this show, obviously it’s a key part of the creative process, but it feels like there’s something extra about collaborating with close family members, as we’ve said a lot so far. Suzie, you’ve been working with family members for most of your life, first with your sisters, and in recent years with Lucy and Lucy. The same for you with with your mom, but also with your sister, Martha Wainwright and brother Rufus Wainwright. Clearly, music is a family business for the two of you, but that’s how it seems to me from the outside. So is that how it seems to you to like it’s just what your family does?


S16: Well, for me, I don’t think I ever would have gotten into doing music if it wasn’t for my sisters and doing it with them. I really like being part of a bigger thing than just myself. I did do a couple of solo records and toured a little bit by myself and I really didn’t like it very much. I love singing in harmony and I like hearing other voices in my own songs too. But Lucy does both very well. I mean, we’re very different and as collaborators, very different. I mean, one way I think about Lucy and I is that have you ever seen that movie Chariots of Fire? Absolutely. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, there’s it’s about two runners. And one of them is like doing, you know, sit ups and all sorts of exercises every day. And and the other one runs barefoot through the woods. And, you know, it’s just naturally gifted as a runner. And I kind of feel like I’m the one who’s doing, you know, sit ups and push ups and stuff. And Lucy’s just kind of their footing.

S15: I don’t know.

S6: I’ve never heard you say that before, but I definitely do think that. I mean, I don’t I don’t think either of us know any different, really, from how how to the line between work and family. Because you guys, Varosha started singing together as kids two. And so and then when I was a kid, all the adults were doing that together. And now the adults still are doing that together. And in a way, we end up probably spending more time together as adults in our family than almost any other family. I know because you’re working. So, yes, it is about work. But, you know, there’s a lot of in between the work, too, so there’s a lot of time spent together and like a kind of a common goal. I mean, going on tour with your family is good because it’s like a family vacation, but you’re hopefully getting paid and there’s a joint plan, you know, and everybody is going towards the same plan. So but it’s hard to speak to it in a way, because it’s in a vacuum of having always been that way.


S1: You know, Soucy Lucy, when you collaborate on a track, how do you divide up the work and how do you provide feedback on each other’s contributions?

S17: I think between the two of us, we sort of stay off each other’s backs and let each other be who we are because it’s hard, both of us can be easily crushed by criticism. And often I don’t know what Lucy should do. And I think probably, you know, that works both ways. Every time I send something to Lucy or she said something to me, we sort of just figure out our own part. And I’m always delighted by what she sends back. And once in a while they’ll be like, oh, but could you sing this note on that one part? Because that’s what I hear in my head and and there’s no problem there.

S18: Yeah, mostly we agree, I think is also part of it. It’s not like I think I mean, I don’t know what you really think in your head, but maybe you hear things and then you’re like, oh, you don’t say anything. But I think mostly we have a shared sensibility. But I also think on this record, we we crossed over more than we normally do. Like there’s one song where I wrote the music years and years ago, and then I didn’t like the words, so I scrapped almost all the words and I just gave that song to you. And then you wrote the words for that. And we’ve never done that before. Or for example, on another song, you wrote the song and then I sang the lead of the song, which also we don’t normally do switch that much around. So there was a little bit more crossing over than we normally do.


S17: And you say, yeah, yeah, it was fun to to do a song together, write a song together. But it’s kind of scary too, because I didn’t know if if Lucy was going to like the lyrics that I wrote. But I also would never have written those lyrics if I was writing a song of my own. So it’s it’s what I would call cross pollen.

S15: What is the word prosperous pollinating. Yeah. Yeah.

S18: And I did like the words to the song, and I was so sick of my own attempts at trying to write lyrics to that song and so disgusted with myself that I gave them to you. And then when you wrote them, I was like, great, that’s great. And then I wanted to take every half of the song that I have and give it to you to finish to get it off my plate. And the you know, it’s sometimes a relief to have someone else do something, take it out of your hands, you know.

S17: Yeah. Because you would never write the same thing if you were doing it all yourself. So the collaborating is is a great source of energy to because you have somebody else’s energy coming in.

S1: Could you just tell me which the two songs were that you were talking about?

S18: Sure. The song Get the Better is a song that I wrote the music to and the chorus of years and years ago. And then Mom wrote the all the rest of the words.

S19: A damsel in distress. I thought that she escaped. In the nick of time when I woke, I heard her singing and I.

S18: And the other song was I Think I Am a song that was written by Sosi, but you sang the lead.


S9: Yeah, I think I’m a soul.

S1: Just I’m curious if your dynamic together, even if it’s just the way you talk to each other, the kind of how much patience you have with each other, anything is different when you’re working on music or performing together than it is when you’re like doing other things, like cooking together or planning a family holiday gift exchange or whatever it is like. Do you behave differently together when when music is involved?

S6: I think it’s very similar. What do you think?

S16: Yeah, I think it’s pretty similar. It’s like Lucy said, it’s kind of always been like that. So even when Lucy was a kid, she was on the road with us. So she was backstage and, you know, she knew how she grew up on the road. And we were just always going to shows and she was always going to show. So it just very natural.

S1: Lucy, I believe, though, that you did. I don’t know if attempt is the right word, but you did for a while. You were a teacher, right? Attempters, a good word. So what what what did bring you back to music?

S6: I taught elementary school and got my master’s degree in education. And I and when I was a kid, that’s what I thought I wanted to do in college. That’s what I wanted to do. And obviously in graduate school, that’s what I wanted to do. And I think what happened to me was that as I step further and further outside of the seat of the family, I got further and further from the world of music, which had always just been built in. And so as I got older and went in another direction, it got further away. And then and then at some point, I was interested in going back towards it, I guess. Yeah, I don’t know why, because I knew what a what a what a difficult thing it is. And I had no I don’t have any excuse of saying I didn’t know what was coming. So I’m not sure why I did that. But I did.


S1: I saw you two performing together at Joe’s Pub a few years ago and I’m pretty sure that I remember. Soozie, you were you kind of indicated that the like romanticized notion of like a musician bringing up a child in Greenwich Village, like, wasn’t totally accurate or ideal. Did you did you ever try to discourage Lucy from choosing a life in music or maybe even in New York?

S16: I don’t have a feeling of ever trying to tell Lucy what to do. I feel like she had a very strong sense of direction from an early age. It’s odd she seemed to know always be interested in something and she would just go about doing it. But as far as I mean, I did I think I did once say to you, you know, if you can think of something else to do, maybe you might want to think about that.

S6: Well, you were you were not you weren’t sorry that I finished my master’s degree before I left.

S16: I was very happy about that. And I believe it was, wasn’t it the day you got your master’s degree that Rufus called you up and said, meet me at the tour bus and something like that?

S6: It was pretty much as soon. So now I’m I have two degrees that I’m paying for, but I’m being a folk singer instead, so that’s not a great job.

S1: You’ve mentioned Rufus like I mean, again, you’ve got to dynastic musical heritages. And I know you do collaborate with with Martha and with Rufus. Like, are you recreating the roaches? Are you recreating the McGarrigle sort of family, Dinah? Are you aware of like that history when you are with them in whether performing or just hanging with them? Definitely.


S6: I mean, it’s so present. They really grew up in the seat of their mother’s family and I really grew up in the seat of my mother’s family. So I think they really are. Dad, that we share was sort of a. Like a more of a satellite figure when we were kids and our mothers, families were really where we were. Mm hmm. So now as adults, we know each other much better than we did as kids. We spent and have spent more time together around work than than we had otherwise. And it’s an interesting cross, like a mixture, a hybrid mixture, because we’re in a way where we form our own little unit of the family that shares my dad, even though we we were sort of stratified across different mothers and different countries, right? Yes. In different countries.

S15: And it’s but it’s odd because now a lot of times it’s more often than you would think. Somebody will say, oh, I met you at such and such. And they’re basically talking about Kate McGarrigle or No one who we are.

S6: They’re all right. It’s all a big pile, right?

S1: Do you want to talk? It’s all about sort of growing up, you know, the the cool rock and roll lifestyle of bringing up a kid in Greenwich Village. I mean, it is it is it’s the most romantic thing. It’s the the kind of the ultimate musical, you know, especially sort of folk music, folk adjacent music. It’s like being in Mecca. But it probably wasn’t like a super ideal situation. Right.

S15: Well, looking back on it, I think I was completely out of my mind. I don’t know what I thought I was doing. I mean, we were living on a wing and a prayer. I mean, there was no safety net whatsoever. But also having Lucy when I was so young, it was great for me because the entertainment world is so full of traps that you could fall into, you know, ego traps or, you know, dangers, you know, going off the deep end with drugs or things like that. And once you have a baby, you are not doing those things, hopefully, you know, because, you know, there’s an urgent situation there. Somebody really needs you. And also, Lucy and I, we were just this, like, little team. It was fun, right? Yeah, it was terrifying, too. I mean, I wasn’t terrified.


S6: I was having a good time, so I missed out on the stressful part of that.

S1: I think, Lucy, as you’ve mentioned, you spent a good chunk of your childhood touring with with your mom and your aunts. Was there anything that you experienced in that time that you really wanted to avoid in your career or something that you wanted to replicate when you committed to a career in music? Well, you know, it’s a lot things are a lot funnier when you’re with other people on tour.

S6: So I think one thing that I discovered going out on the road by myself, which is a lot more of what my dad has done and his career, I do much more of that, which is just yourself and yourself by yourself. And it’s not as funny as when you have other people with you. It’s also probably not as annoying in some ways because people don’t get on your nerves, but yourself gets on your nerves. And that might be the worst of all. And, you know, when something goes wrong, like when when we’re on the road together as a duo, when something goes wrong, it becomes funnier a lot quicker than when you’re alone and you just are in despair about something going wrong or no one coming to the show or being in a terrible hotel. So I think it’s a very different thing to be alone on the road or together. But there are certain things that that are there no matter what, like the soulfulness of being out, out and driving around and the connections that you make with other people who come to the shows and stuff. And those exist in both places. But it is a pretty different thing that I didn’t know a lot about until I did it by myself.


S1: Is this kind of the longest the both of you have not been touring for four while you’ve been professional musicians?

S6: I haven’t been home for this long. 12 years or 13 years?

S1: Yeah, I can imagine there are rooms that you’ve never decorated because it’s like I don’t use that room, but. Well, OK, we live in New York.

S6: There were no yeah. No extra rooms, you know. But I’ve been very amazed to find out how much more dish soap you use when you’re home, how many more. I’ve actually finished containers of milk, which never used to happen because I was never home.

S9: So, yeah, I think that the fact that it happened to everyone and all at the same time, you know, within one day every gig was cancelled for everyone. And that changes it from something that’s just totally personal, you know. Yeah. And I don’t know if that made it easier or harder. Like, I think what Lucy said, it’s shocking, you know.

S6: Yes. But there’s something, you know, when things start to fall apart in a bit by bit way, sometimes we as humans think we can do something about it, like, well, I’ll just try to do this to fix it or I’ll just do this. Or and especially when you’re an independent artist trying to piece together your thing. But this was so complete that in a way, it was sort of like, huh? Well, there’s nothing I can do about that. And in a way, that was maybe a good thing because there was no scrambling to try to fix that. There’s nothing you could do about it. It’s just done. Oh, yeah. You know.


S4: First off, June, before we actually talk about the interview, I just wanted to say thank you for asking our guests about Hamman song. I think I should out myself here. I was the one who said it’s one of the most perfect songs. I was the one who demanded that you ask them. And I actually teared up a little when you were talking about it with them. So thank you so much for bringing this perfect song into the interview.

S1: And to our listeners, you are so welcome. It is a perfect song. You know, the funny thing about it, though, preparing for this interview when I knew I would be talking to someone whose work was had been so meaningful to me for many years, it was really an odd experience because it got me to look at songs that I was super familiar with that I could, like, sing, you know, on cue, even as was the case, I hadn’t heard them for many years. And I always knew that that song was amazing. And as you said, you know, on the album, there’s this amazing guitar solo from prog rock hero Robert Fripp. But I never really like engaged with the words I would sing along with them without really thinking about it. So imagine my surprise to learn that it was literally about their going down to Hammond Hammond, Louisiana, and their parents worrying that it would put them on the wrong track. Like, that’s kind of crazy. And yet it is so utterly, utterly roaches ish.

S4: Yeah, it’s great that it’s so rooted in something kind of quotidian, but through just kind of leaving out a couple of details and through the power of the melody, it becomes about any time you feel a longing for someone who you feel like is making a life mistake. And I think that’s a pretty universal human experience. If you care about someone, there’s going to be some moment where, like I you’re fucking up your life, don’t do that. And that song really, really summons it. I think this is our first guest so far who is collaborating with a family member. I mean, we had Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, who are husband and wife, but here it’s mother and daughter. And that seems like it should or could be so fraught. But for them, it seems to feel very matter of fact. What did you think about their collaboration?


S1: Oh, I was so envious of their relationship and also of that collaboration, which seems to be one where they have absolutely total trust and feel able to just like share ideas and give feedback on those ideas without holding back from the outside. At least there’s like Gilmore Girls quality to their relationship. I mean, Suzie was young when Lucy was born and they were on the road and generally in like cheek by jowl proximity. And then I hadn’t really realized what an intimate act it would be to like write words to your daughter’s music or sing lead on your mum’s song. Like, there’s something really lovely about that.

S4: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s one thing to we’re going to put songs that we each wrote together on an album. It’s another to bring someone else’s idea a bit of their soul. Soldier wife. Exactly. I really appreciated, as I do whenever this happens with our guests, with how forthright they were about the life of a touring musician. You know, we think of that life as somewhat glamorous. Even if the glamour is a little grubby, it’s still, you know, sparkles in the in the moonlight. But, you know, actually being a touring musician and particularly a touring folk musician is a hard job. You’re traveling all the time. You never know how good a venue or an audience is going to be. You know, it’s not actually that fun a lot of the time.

S1: No. Agreed. And I guess it’s one of those things that you only do it if you are absolutely, like, addicted to it. There’s nothing else you would rather do because, you know, any job that involves travel, there are only fun, like when you’re fully, absolutely rested, when your health is perfect, which, you know, doesn’t happen after the first three days and adding on top of just the general stress of travel, like all the extra stress of stuff like will the venue be full, will I get paid? Will anyone buy the merch that I’m schlepping from town to town? Can I find a vegan hot dog like all of that stuff makes it just really, really hard line of work. So, yes, I was very relieved that they were so honest about that.


S4: Yeah. You know, another thing, they were both very honest about that I was really struck by was the different origin stories for this album, for this project that for Lucy, you know, it’s well, it’s easier for me to write if I have a deadline. Right. Like if I have something, if I have to write, then I’m going to write, which is something I very much sympathize with. So the writing comes out of a sort of logistical reality. But then for Suzie, it comes out of an emotional reality. She’s writing from emotion, and for her particularly, it’s a real rage at the anti feminist backlash, both of Donald Trump’s election and the response to me, too, and that that that anger fuelled an album that is this beautiful I was really struck by.

S1: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, it was kind of jarring to hear that Maggie Roach died on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. I knew that she had passed away. I hadn’t made that exact connection. With the timing and for a songwriter who’s so driven by events and emotions, knowing that clearly it was bound to lead to this burst of creativity, so it makes perfect sense.

S4: Do you feel like you hear those two different origin stories in the album itself?

S1: No, no. I certainly would never have thought of that. Lusi kind of wrote that song on Deadline. Never. That would never hurt me, which, you know, of course, as it should be. But, you know, I don’t think I really did with Soucy songs either, because I guess we always connect to certain songs and the songs that I connected to where we’re in a different thing. I absolutely love Swan Duck song, which we spoke about, which is about life changing dramatically in unexpected ways as we get older and continually changing. Or Jane, which is just a beautiful sort of love song by Mikey Roach or the great version of Factory Girl, which I perhaps know too well from before for me to hear it as a meta song, even though clearly that’s exactly what it is. So soon as she said that, I absolutely recognized it. But that was not how I kind of appreciated it the first time around.


S4: So if our listeners hearing this interview now want to go check out the album, what song would you start with? What song would you be like? Listen to this one. Is it a swan song for you?

S1: It is. You know, as I said in the interview, it’s kind of a silly song. Yeah. It seems that way at first. And then actually, you realize not at all silly and also quite silly. And so to me that like, represents something that’s absolutely integral to the roaches vibe.

S4: Yes, absolutely right. It’s like in dear Mr. CELAC when she says when she talks about waiting tables and then I’ve been waiting for things to come true, you would not believe to come true waiting.

S20: Using that. Since I’ve seen you.

S21: I’ve waited for something that you.

S22: That pun is so moving and so funny at the same time, it really is the essence of their approach. Absolutely, yeah.

S1: Yeah. We hope you’ve enjoyed the show this week. If you have, please remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and then you’ll never miss an episode. And yes, I’m going to give you a sleepless pitch slate. Plus, members get benefits like zero odds on any slate podcasts, bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Dear Prudence. But more importantly, you’ll be supporting the work we do here on working. And it’s only 35 dollars for the first year. And you can get a free two week trial right now at Slate Dotcom working.

S23: Plus, thank you to Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche for being our guest this week and extra special. Thanks as always to our amazing producer. Cameron Drewes will be back next week for a conversation between Ruman Alarm and George Seawolf I Am So Jealous. Legendary director George Seawolf most recently of the film of Marentes Black Bottom. So make sure to listen to that and until then, get back to work.


S5: Steve Tabun.

S1: Hello, sleepless members, thanks so much for your support. We have some extra questions just for you. You would, of course, have been doing all kinds of touring for the new album, which clearly isn’t happening right now. Obviously, it’s very hard, if not impossible, to make plans right now. But do you have a sort of plan for how you will support this album without touring or are you just delaying? How’s that going to happen?

S9: Well, we luckily we have had an incredible response to this record, I think, which is surprising because when we were making it, you know, it just seemed like, first of all, it was going to be impossible to finish because of the pandemic. And also, no is going to even notice that it came out. But we’ve had a great deal of attention put on the record. And the touring is a shame, you know, because who knows when that’s even going to come back. And that’s something that I think we both miss very much. And it’s sad not to be able to go and see the people, you know and play for them live.

S6: It’s sad and it’s shocking. Also, it was a shocking thing that’s happened. I mean, too many people across many walks of life, but in our industry, in our small world of people doing small shows all around the country, it’s just a shocking wiping clean of everything you are doing. And it’s kind of and for the venues, to the small venues that we play at that are are not making lots of money where, you know, it’s a devastating thing and no one knows who is going to come out the other side, you know, and on the musicians side or the venue side. But but one thing that has been amazing about that is that the fans have hung in with us during this time and people have reached out and people have wanted to hear shows online, you know, which are very strange to do and feel very weird. But there are people who want to hear things and hear new music. And they they are they are saying back to you like we’re we’re here still and we can’t wait till you come back to this city or that city. And that has been just that means so much to us. It makes such a big difference.


S9: Yeah. And even with the record, people are ordering it from us, you know, which is just heartbreaking in the most wonderful way, you know, that they’re they want to say, you know, we want to support you. And that that is just a beautiful thing.

S1: You know, my last question, this episode will be airing around Christmas time, I think maybe a week before something like that. And I know people whose only commemoration of Christmas involves singing the songs on the roaches we Three Kings album. I’m very curious how the album came about. Did you always want to do a Christmas album? Were you surprised by how enduring has been?

S9: Well, for us, singing Christmas carols was a huge part of our life from being little kids. And it’s also how we started singing. We started singing in the street Christmas carols for, you know, putting out the hat, you know, for money, basically, or coins. And so we had all those arrangements and they were just so deeply vital to us. But we made that record in the summer, in the heat of the summer over, you know, the hottest times of the year. And it has endured as a classics. I listen to that record a lot, even all all year, because I sing to it, you know, as a vocal exercise, because the carols, as Lucy and I were doing some yesterday, they’re so rigorous.

S24: La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. All the age and you die.

S9: It’s an amazing record, and I think it makes people feel like it’s Christmas time, and when I was a little kid, we had one particular Christmas record by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that every time my mother put that record on, it was like, OK, now it’s Christmas. And that is what the roaches Christmas record is for so many people. And that is deeply meaningful for. I tell of you guys, treasure.

S1: Thanks, sleepless listeners.

S24: We’ll be back with you next week at.