Lottie Leymarie (vocals, keyboards) and Bret Puchir (drums, backing vocals) can in some way trace the origin of their band Says She’s Ms. Blat back to when the pair both lived in the Bronx over 13 years ago. As Leymarie describes it, when both her and Puchir occasionally jammed together, and when Puchir and Leymarie were attending Fordham University, Puchir lived in a small apartment with an equally small home studio setup. After both graduated, Leymarie had a bunch of material she had written and she asked her friend Puchir if he could help. And although Puchir had previously played guitar, he jumped in feet first into the project, offering to not just be her producer but to be her drummer.
Although coming across a duo has been increasingly common since the White Stripes and the Black Keys have become huge, the band who derives their name from an old New York Times article about a con woman who took advantage of rich men, has a sound that’s highly unusual in Brooklyn’s contemporary indie scene. After all, out of the countless acts I’ve caught over the years as a freelance music journalist and as a blogger, I can’t think of too many times that I’ve caught a keyboard and drum duo. However, if you pay close attention the duo’s sound owes a great deal to both hip-hop and punk rock as their high energy material has an “in your face” style.
Says She’s Ms. Blat has developed a reputation locally for a high energy live set that has a “flying at the seat of your pants” improvised feel. And with the release of their latest full-length, Stinger both Leymarie and Puchir fully intend to burst out into the both the local and national scene.
Lyrically, the material on the album portrays a woman who manages to not only be complex but endearingly and proudly eccentric, and in many ways a dynamic and forceful presence. At times, the narrators of Stinger’s songs manages to be frank and seductive, vulnerable and heartbroken over a lover, and yet someone who isn’t afraid to kick ass and take names – all simultaneously. She brags, roars, cries, laughs, stomps and through it out, she spills her very soul out with an unvarnished, unfiltered honesty.
In this Q&A, I spoke to Says She’s Ms. Blat’s Lottie Leymarie about the band’s new album Stinger; how much hip-hop and punk rock have influenced Says She’s Ms. Blat’s sound; the personal nature of SSMB’s songs; the full story on the band’s name; and more. Leymarie also offers some great and pretty timeless advice for just about any musician. Check it out below.
Photo Credit: Aileen Abercrombie
Photo Credit: Lauren Philson
WRH: How did you get into music? And when did you know that it was the only thing you wanted to do?
Lottie Leymarie: My mother played piano and it always intrigued me. I found it fascinating how she could just sit down and play. I asked her if I could take lessons and I started at 7 years old…. I always knew it was part of me; I never questioned it.
WRH: Who are your influences?
LL: It’s always hard for me to say who my influences are. I’m a huge music fan. Honestly, life is my biggest influence.
WRH: What are you listening to right now?
WRH: You and your drummer Bret Puchir have known each other for over 13 years and have been in the band together since 2008 or so. How did you guys meet? And when did you know that you two were best suited for each other musically?
LL: Bret and I met while we were living in the Bronx. We were going to undergrad at Fordham. We were always friends and had jammed occasionally. He lived by himself in this little apartment and had a small studio setup. I used to go over and jam, but that was about it. After college, I had a lot of material that I wanted to record, so I approached him. We literally jumped right in to the process; we didn’t plan anything out. I had laid down keyboard and vocal tracks and he got behind the drums to add the beat. It all happened so naturally. We didn’t rehearse the songs until after they were recorded. I basically told him that he was going to be my drummer. It was simple, meant to be, I guess.
WRH: How did you come up with the band name?
LL: The meaning behind the name Says She’s Ms. Blat stems from an old New York Times article found on the Internet. The headline was “ She Says She’s Mrs. Platt”. The article was about a woman in 1915 who had continuously married wealthy men, divorced them, took their money, changed her name and moved on to the next victim. She was a con artist who was quite progressive for a woman in the early twentieth century. “I liked the idea of her ever changing persona. As an artist, you are constantly changing and coming up with new ideas. Ms. Blat is the persona I took on as a musician. Although I write from personal experience, my world is constantly forming and reshaping around me, I’ll never be the same person I was when I wrote a particular song or album. I’ll be whatever I want to be and right now, I say that I’m Ms. Blat.”
WRH: The lyrics on the album portray a woman who’s not only a complex woman, but a woman who’s an eccentric and dynamic force. The album’s narrators are unconventional and they’re proudly so. And more often than not, the narrators are incredibly seductive. How much of the lyrics come from a deeply personal place or from personal experience?
LL: The only way I know how to write is from personal experience. I don’t make anything up. So there you go, it’s all me, or at least some sort of allegory for my life.
WRH: The material on your latest album Stinger sounds as though it owes a great debt to both hip hop and punk rock in the sense that it has an in your face attitude. How much did those genres influence you and your work?
LL: Bret and I both listened to hip hop growing up; we were teenagers in the 90’s, there was a so much good stuff! I definitely listened to punk music, even played in a punk band called the Trolls when I was in high school, but that wasn’t really Bret’s cup of tea. I think that those sounds just come natural to us when we blend our styles. When I was writing and recording Stinger, I was experiencing life at a heightened level, so the whole album process was therapy for me. I got out a lot emotions through the songs, so I guess that is why it’s very “in your face” … It was a cleansing. I’ve been writing a lot of music lately, and the songs are a lot more mellow, not as a abrasive …
WRH: When do you know that you have a finished song?
LL: It depends. If I’m just writing it, it’s normally after I have finished the lyrics. When we are recording, it can take a while. Months … It all depends, but when we know. We know. Most of the time after we have finished the song, I never want to hear it again …
WRH: Your sound is incredibly unusual in a very crowded and competitive indie rock scene – I don’t come across many piano and drum duos in my experience unless they’re a jazz duo. How has the response generally been to your work? And have there been any instances where you’ve encountered someone who hasn’t quite gotten it?
LL: It’s hard to pitch the band to bookers, writers and other types of music industry people. People always seem a bit skeptical when there is a chick behind a keyboard, but after people experience our live show, they seem to understand. I think being unusual helps us, we don’t really sound like anyone else – at least I don’t think so … I never want to be a band that says, “We sound like X …” I want people to search for a description for us. I want to define a new genre, even era, of music. I want to musically confuse, surprise, shock and enlighten my listeners. . . I want the music to make them feel happy, too. That’s important.
WRH: During the summer, BMI had a launch party for their BMI Creators App. And it included a short performance by Beast Patrol and an interview session with the Deli NYC’s Paolo De Gregario and Beast Patrol’s Vanessa Bley. He asked Bley a question that I had never thought of in my three years of running this site and it’s pertinent when you consider the disarray that the music industry seems to be in. If you had the opportunity to pick one service for free – say, between a pr firm/publicist or a booking agent, what would you choose? Why?
LL: Hmm, I would like to tour the world, so a booking agent!
WRH: What advice would you give artists trying to make a name for themselves?
LL: Just write and record music. Play shows. Play your instrument. Do it because you love it and because it makes you happy. If you project that to your audience, people will love you back.