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Schoolcraft Interview

Schoolcraft Interview
January 21, 2013 (via Skype)

Winter is when my taste takes a decided turn towards music with a melancholy flavor, but still with enough warmth and hope to prevent me from diving head-first into the nearest snow bank … music that is like wrapping yourself in a thick blanket, while watching the snow fall on a hushed world. Canadian singer-songwriter, Schoolcraft, treads that fine line between hope and despair with her debut EP, Rushing Through The Sky. Mmmmmmm, just what the season calls for!


Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down for a long chat with Schoolcraft to talk about Rushing Through The Sky, totem animals, her frantic preparations to nail the keyboards and vocals for the upcoming Cradle of Filth tour, and much more! Dive in to get the whole story on Schoolcraft.

Robin:  Sonic Cathedral is delighted to welcome Schoolcraft to talk about her debut solo album, Rushing Through The Sky. Would you start off by introducing yourself?

Schoolcraft:  Sure! I’m Schoolcraft, and I’m a songwriter, pianist, harpist (laughs), and all-around jack-of-all-trades. Did I ever say I was from Canada? Well, I’m also from Canada! (laughs) Yeah, I’ve been doing music for all of my life. Thank you for having me at Sonic Cathedral.

Robin:  After being a musician for more than a decade, what caused to you start your own project and to write Rushing Through The Sky?

Schoolcraft:  I think I came to a point in my life, where I was so clear and concentrated on what I wanted my songs to be, that writing with other people just wasn’t gelling for me anymore. Don’t get me wrong … I can still write with other people ... but when it comes to something that I’ve poured my heart into, I have a specific formula. I know the way I want it to be and pretty much the direction I want it to go into. Then somebody comes along and wants to change it, and I’m like: “No, no, no. This is from my heart, and it needs to stay this way.”

That’s kind of where Schoolcraft came in, because it was a breaking point for me. When I finally got the confidence to write on my own, is when I formed Schoolcraft. I was like: “You know what?! I am going to start writing on my own because I have all these songs that I know the way I want them to sound.” That was pretty much it from there. There was of course the whole recording process, and just getting it to happen was a two-year epic.

Robin:  What were some of the challenges that made bringing Schoolcraft to life a two-year process?

Schoolcraft:  My biggest issue … well, it wasn’t actually an issue, but you have to work with the right people. Outside of (of course) being the head songwriter and visionary, that means finding the right producer, and I had two producers fall through. We would work together for a few months or for six months, and then it would just fall from underneath me. No offense to those people, but they just weren’t the right people or it just wasn’t the right time for them to do it. So eventually, when I found the right producer, then it finally came about.

But of course, I’m not one of those musicians who has all the free time in the world. I don’t. I have done school; at the time, I had three jobs; and I’ve always had extra stuff on the side. So, what would have taken maybe two weeks in a perfect world, instead took a span of about eight months. You know, I started Schoolcraft and I had the songs there. But then, it wasn’t until two years later that everything was done. It was just stretched out.

You learn from it, though! Now I know how I am on my own as a songwriter, how long it takes me to do things, and how I can do things next time to be more efficient. I am hoping that it won’t take two more years to release six to eight songs, when really it could be done in six months, if I really focused on it.

Robin:  I was interested by the Facebook note you wrote, called “Coming Back to the Love of Music”, especially the references to your totem (the kestrel) and your First Nations roots. What is the significance of the kestrel to you?

Schoolcraft:  It is my foremost totem. There are different totems that you can have: you can have a totem for your heart, for your career, for your dreams, for your struggles, and so on. It is kind of whatever you need in that moment. The kestrel has always been me in the physical form … how I am socially and how I am with my decisions. It is descended from the falcon (the totem of my heart), which represents dedication. I would like to think that I’m a passionate, dedicated person.

Yeah, the kestrel represents focus because, when you’re creative, you’re scatter-brained. It is a true fact! (laughs) The only way that you can make art … I heard this quote, and I don’t remember where it came from or where I read it, but the quote was: “Creativity without discipline is chaos, and no art can form.” And it’s true! So I needed to focus, and I needed that totem for me with my roots. I needed that totem to be like: “Okay, you’ve got to focus. You know what? Don’t be a perfectionist. Throw that out the window because art isn’t meant to be perfect.” Nothing is perfect. Just work your hardest, but FOCUS. I don’t have time to do my chores today? Who cares! What is more important, your stupid chores or getting your EP done? So, that was essentially it. (laughs)


Robin:  In looking at the artwork for Rushing Through The Sky, there are faint little birds in the sky, and I like to think that it is your totem flying above you.

Schoolcraft:  Yeah, they are! I specifically told Gogo Melone, my graphic artist, about my totems, and she put them in there for me. She is so sweet! She was like: “Yeah, I have some in my graphics files.” So yeah, she definitely added those in for me. It was so solid!

Robin:  You had described writing and performing music as, in many respects, a form of self-healing. For you, which songs are the most healing?

Schoolcraft:  That’s a good question. Uhm, I am just going to think about this for a minute. (pauses) I have to say they all are in their own way. For some, I needed 10 minutes … like “Your Mind,” which I wrote in 10 minutes and then I was fine. Every time I revisit that song, I’m okay. But I think it’s a tie between “Your Mind” and “December Rain.”

“Your Mind” is about my own stupid doing and being in love with someone who wasn’t in love with me. It was just a long process that dragged out longer than it need to. It was painful, but it taught me the hardest lesson in life, which was to put myself on a pedestal and to not cave to anyone else just because you are in love with them. Honestly, I can say that I’ve gone back to “Your Mind” a lot of times. To this day, even playing it on stage, I still get emotional. I try not to cry, but it makes me cry sometimes, especially if there is a night where I’ve had a few glasses of wine and am playing my piano. Gosh, here come the tears!

But that’s the thing. I think “Your Mind” actually healed me more than I ever expected it to. It got to a point where the situation was so BAD that, if I didn’t start writing about it … not that I’d say I would become destructive, but everything would be off-kilter with me, and it wouldn’t be healthy. You know what I mean?

In the music business where I’m from (because I am from the little town of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada), there are egos, two-facedness, masquerades and back-stabbing. Don’t get me wrong. I do have some amazing friends in this business, who have good hearts, and I trust them fully. In order to know who your friends are, who is good for you and whom to trust, you have to deal with all these … I don’t know quite how to put it … with all these “shady” people. So, with “December Rain,” I wrote that song about being alone. You live in a town; you think you’re part of a community; but you feel ALONE. You don’t feel like you belong. You feel like you’re in music for the right reasons, and you are who you are, and you just don’t feel like you can connect with anybody.

I have never really been overly proud of anything that I’ve done, until “December Rain” was finished being recorded. I give full credit to Daedalus (Daedalean Complex), who did all the orchestration, because he captured that song exactly how it had been in my head for years. He captured it perfectly! It was kind of scary, in fact. So, those two are essentially the biggest healers. They helped me through whatever I’m feeling. I do have songs where I’ve written it, it’s out and whatever, but they are just songs. But there are songs that I write that I need to go through them and sing them and play them again, just to help myself. If I don’t, what other device do I have to really heal myself?

Robin:  What kind of feedback have you gotten about Rushing Through The Sky, as far as an emotional response from people who have heard it?

Schoolcraft:  I have heard all of it. It’s funny, I am who I am, and I’m an artist who cares about my art. There were some torrents that got posted on metal websites, and I was like: “Guys, my music isn’t metal. Why is it here?” I mean, I am involved in the metal community, and metal is one of my favorite genres. But yeah, some people were making fun of it: “This is boring. It puts me to sleep. It’s not metal.” Well, DUH. It is not supposed to be. There was this one person who gave me a review and was being so critical: “Not enough riffs here” and kind of coming down on me. That is the raw end of it.

The other end of it is that people really like it or it soothes them. The album is not necessarily for everyone, but there are people who can appreciate it for what it is. That is the nicest thing. So, that has been the reaction. Some people really like it, but there are always going to be people who don’t think before they speak. At the end of the day, criticism doesn’t upset me.

Robin:  In October, you were at the fabulous Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium. Please tell us about that.

Schoolcraft:  That was AMAZING! I was soooooo honored to be a part of that. I didn’t even think I was going to make it there. It has been a dream of mine since I was in Mary and the Black Lamb, and it was just like: “Man, one day I want to play Metal Female Voices Festival.” Essentially I did with the Eve’s Apple night on the Friday (October 19, 2012). That whole weekend was like, when you are little and watch Disney movies, and you see the princess? Yeah, that was it for me! That was the Mecca; it was just sooooooo awesome!!! I miss it; I miss everybody I saw there; and I miss all the girls in Eve’s Apple. Some of the acts were just brilliant. Overall, it was one of the most magical experiences of my life.


Robin:  MFVF weekend was a BLUR of amazing experiences, but are your top highlights?

Schoolcraft:  I would have to say my first and foremost highlight was the fact that I got to go up on stage and sing with my best friend, Grace Méridan. We are both in Eve’s Apple, and we covered Evanescence. The first night was kind of covers of famous female-fronted bands and other stuff, but it was the girls in Eve’s Apple doing covers and some original work. Unfortunately, me and Grace didn’t get to do any of our original stuff, but it’ll come. I only thought there were 300 people, but the door person proclaimed that there were 1000 people. I couldn’t believe it, because I’ve never performed for that many people before! It went so well, and we both gave it our all. VK Lynne did a stunning job for the whole night. So that was number one for me, because what is a better way to celebrate one of the finest moments of your life, other than to share it with your best friend?

Number two (and it ties in again with Grace) is when I saw Grace up on stage with Dimlight. We come from North America, and the recognition for female-fronted bands is not as contagious or infectious as it is in Europe. So, when I saw her up on stage in front of thousands of people with Sanna Salou and Angel Wolf-Black, singing “Absence of Light”, I was overwhelmed. When she got off stage, I was actually crying so hard that I couldn’t form words. I was just so HAPPY for her, because she went up on stage and did what she was always meant to do -- conduct a crowd, and sing her heart out. She has a very powerful presence in her voice, and she fit it so well. The three girls did such a great job together, and I was just so proud of them, and proud of Eve’s Apple, and proud of Dimlight. (laughs) Oh my god, all of these seem to involve crying.

Number three … I don’t really know what to say for number three, but the one thing that comes to mind is that I never thought that I would get a chance to see Amanda Somerville with Trillium. (She lives on the other side of the border from me, and we’re technically neighbors in the global scheme of things.) She got up on stage, and I was just so blown away by her voice. Dayum, that woman can SING. It is more of a gospel style and belting. You know when you see someone who is so dedicated to their craft? That is her; she is a muse. I got to meet her, and she is an absolute sweetheart! I won’t lie, I was pretty star-struck. I even asked her if she would give me some vocal coaching, and she was so nice. It won’t happen because she does studio coaching, but at least I asked her. That is one more off the bucket list, to have asked. With Amanda Somerville, I would say that was my number three.

Robin:  I am of course giggling inside about you saying that playing for 1000 people was a record for you, because CONGRATULATIONS on being hired as the keyboardist and backing vocalist for the upcoming Cradle of Filth tour. I dare say that you might play a venue or two with some pretty huge crowds. What did you do when you found out the news?!

Schoolcraft:  Honestly, it kind of progressed really slowly. I flew to Minneapolis and sat down with Paul Allender, who is really a nice guy and really laid-back. We sat down and talked for a while, and it was one of those “what do you need from me?” sessions, and I asked him questions. From the first email contact with Paul to the first “oh my gosh, I’m on a plane to go meet him” … you know, it’s never really solid until you get approval from the person in person … it’s just really strange how it worked.

But when I left his house and I got back … I stayed at Melissa Ferlaak’s place, who was in Visions of Atlantis and now she has some new things going on with Plague of Stars … the minute she cracked the champagne at 4 PM, it was like “OKAY!!!” We were getting totally silly, and did a personal video to Eve’s Apple, freaking out and laughing. Then the whole night was just giggles and a girls’ party. Then it kind of hit me: “Oh my god, Cradle of Filth? That’s my little brother’s favorite band!” I remember seeing Cradle of Filth videos in high school. (No offense to the guys.) It was like: “What? Excuse me? Am I really going to be part of the live end of Cradle of Filth?” It was just CRAZY. It’s good, and I am really excited!

I love black metal, and have always been a fan of it. It was an honor to be considered, when I am just little Lindz from Oshawa, Canada. Yes, I am a musician through-and-through, and I’ve always worked hard. But after years of hard work, I feel like a little bit of luck finally came my way, and it’s finally a chance to bring forth who I am as a musician. It is really a chance to prove not only to myself, but to prove to others too, who I am and what I have chosen to do as a career. Music isn’t just a hobby. The area that I grew up in and the family values of where I am from are: “Well, you just finished high school, so you better give up music because you need to get a real job now.” (laughs) Guess what? I don’t have to anymore! (all laugh)

Robin:  While you have been a long-time Cradle of Filth fan, it is one thing to lip-sync along while watching a show, and quite another to nail the keyboards and lyrics on stage. With less than a month until the tour starts, what are your days like?

Schoolcraft:  I won’t lie, it’s a time crunch! It involves long days of me just sitting in front of my piano and practicing. You have got to do your piano warm-ups, your vocal warm-ups; you’ve got to warm up, and then go from there. I was in university, and I wasn’t necessarily doing the technical end of singing -- I was just doing some theory and doing some electives. I kind of got a little lazy, so now I’m back and I’m getting my voice into shape. That is a huge responsibility, and it’s a lot of work.

It is not just your vocals, but it’s what you eat, exercising, making sure you get enough sleep, not tiring out your voice, and not drinking too much wine. (laughs) And I only have a month, so it’s like dayum! I just literally went from being “Christmas Holiday Lindz,” who drinks wine and eats cheese, to being “Vegan Lindz,” who doesn’t drink anything or eat meat and dairy. I just want to drink a glass of wine and eat a brick of cheese, but I can’t because it’s not good for the process. (all laugh) That’s my days! I have three jobs, but it’s only a few hours every day, so it’s not too bad. But oh man, it’s gonna just prove to myself that I had a month to do this, and I did it!


Robin:  Getting back to Rushing Through The Sky, I’d love to hear more about some of the collaborations on the album.

Schoolcraft:  Well, Scott -- he’s my drummer and we lived together for the longest time -- he just offered. He heard me jamming one day, and he just offered: “Can I join you on drums?” My response was: “Yeah dude, of course!” We worked together in Mary and the Black Lamb, and it’s been a good relationship. So Scott did the drums, and I think he did a solid job.

I knew Johnny Hollow because, when we did a southern Ontario tour, we got to open for Johnny Hollow. So I kept in touch with Kitty Thompson, and she and Hank (her cello) came out and lent their talent to the EP in certain areas. They are like a musical family. (laughs) They are like a cousin that you can call up, and hang out with, and do stuff together.

There were more people who were going to be involved in parts, but sometimes people’s schedules and lives just don’t line up. So there’s always down the road, where I can get them involved. So there were just those three collaborations who were the biggest. I was really happy that they wanted to do it and that they worked with me. It was a real honor. Otherwise, it would just be me by myself, going: “Oh god, I’ve gotta do strings now. Ooooooo!” (laughs) Of course, with this EP, I would have pulled a Wintersun, and waited 10 years to release six songs. (all laugh) Wintersun, please don’t hate me; I’m a huge fan! When you read this, please do not think I’m a jerk, because I love you guys very much.

Robin:  What about your collaboration with Daedalus?

Schoolcraft:  I found him and his band, Daedalean Complex (from Quebec City), on MySpace, coming up on six years ago now. We connected because we like all the same music, and he has always been a really good support system. He is really creative and efficient -- like he knows how to document his songwriting very well with his own self-production. So he let me sing on Daedalean Complex’s CD, and then he just wanted to work with me on Schoolcraft. He offered it, and I was like: “Of course!” I got really lucky with him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to project my sound as well as I did.

Robin:  How do the live shows work for Schoolcraft? I saw you guys at Dame-Nation last summer in Chicago, doing your first US show, with just you and Scott on stage.

Schoolcraft:  So far, it’s just me and Scott. (sighs) Unfortunately, at Dame-Nation, we didn’t have our backing tracks in time. Now, it’s just me and Scott, but I also bring up my harp on stage for a few songs. We use backing tracks from the album, which are fine. Because you know what, man? I can’t afford an orchestra or a string section, so I might as well.

We played Halloweekend in Ottawa, and even though there were 30 people there, it was really great! It was awesome sound, and we were received really well. That’s all that matters to me … as long as people are liking what they hear. In time, if it gets to the point where I can hire a harpist or get a string section or something going, then sure. But for now, even if it’s just me and Scott, we still have so much fun and have a great time together. That is all that matters.

Robin:  Would you like someone else on keyboards to free you up to move around more during live shows, or do you love the feel of the keys under your hands when you perform?

Schoolcraft:  You know, I’m torn between the two, right now. With the stuff that I’ve been writing lately, I could just front it, and it would be fine, and I should totally get a keyboardist. But then I love playing those songs; I love writing; and I love playing what I wrote myself on the keyboards. It would be hard to let go of that. So I’m kind of torn right now. Depending on what the next few sets of songs sound like … it depends on where they go and how they will be presented live … then it’s a possibility. I have no idea right now.

Robin:  What is coming next for Schoolcraft?

Schoolcraft:  I have heard that, when you go on tour, you must make sure you know where all the laundromats are and make sure you bring books, because you’re going to have a lot of down-time between shows. So I will be working on my lyrics during the Cradle of Filth tour. I mean, I have 13 songs ready to go … well, skeletons of them anyway. I just have to sit down and write them and work on them.

While I’m on the road, I’m really going to think about how I want them to develop. I may go a little crazy because they’ll be stuck in my head, and I won’t really have a chance to get them out and jam them. But the sound is going to … I don’t want to say “change” … but it is going to go darker and heavier. I am going to eventually go towards distorted cello, in place of the guitars.

With the first EP, it was more like heartbreak and essentially a very simple side of me. But in the last two years, I’ve gone through a lot of dark things in my life, and I feel like they haven’t been brought out yet. I have already got pretty solid ideas of what those lyrics and the melodies are going to be like, but it’s just going be a heavier and darker sound. I won’t lie, my life hasn’t been easy the last two years. Granted, there are people who have it waaaaay worse than me. But life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and I did go through some difficult times. That is going to come out.

Maybe I’m still angry about things. I don’t know, and I probably won’t find out until I actually start working on the songs. That is what it is going to happen. I would love to have enough to put out a full album. But even if it is just another EP by Christmas 2013, I would be happy with that! It would be enough for me.


Robin:  We have about reached the end of our time together. Speaking directly to Sonic Cathedral readers, what would you like to tell them?

Schoolcraft:  I want to say: Thanks for your endless support of women in music and the women of metal! It’s because of you guys that it has been easier to be accepted. I feel like we are at the point now that women in heavier music don’t really need to feel like they need to prove themselves anymore to keep up with the guys. We are there, and there is equality, and that is because of the fans. So, THANK YOU. If it wasn’t for you guys, I don’t know if there would be an Eve’s Apple. Your support means soooooo much to us!

Robin:  Schoolcraft, thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral tonight! We all wish wonderful things for you.

Schoolcraft:  Thank you so much for having me!

Read Sonic Cathedral’s review of Rushing Through The Sky HERE.

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