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5 QUESTIONS FOR: Samantha Hartsel of Tysk Tysk Task

Samantha at Hotel Vernon the night of a TTT show 10/5/19

A mainstay of local music radio programming, and a regular of Somerville’s ONCE Ballroom even post-quarantine, Tysk Tysk Task are one of the Lowell scene’s great recent success stories on a local level. Their’s is a sound that combines the classically crunchy fuzz guitar of indie rock acts of the 90s, with insular emo lyricism, and occasional flourishes of dirty blues. At the forefront of the band is singer/songwriter/guitarist Samantha Hartsel, who surely by now must be ready for…

5 QUESTIONS FOR SAMANTHA HARTSEL

  1. What’s the last GREAT album you’ve recently listened to?

These days, I think it’s rare for artists to put out an album with the “collective thought” of making a statement through multiple songs, in a specific order, as a cohesive thesis. Hell, we’ve even lost that charm in building mixtapes for lovers and friends – I always put order into consideration, with fluid intro/outro connections worked in on my playlists. Those hopes are inevitably dashed when a recipient tells me, “Yeah, I got through half of it. I put it on shuffle.”

So the last cohesive thought I listened to on repeat for weeks with deep concentration, noticing something new and special every time, was Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters. Maybe it was the timing of it that made it especially hit me – I’ve loved her music for years and years but this, in mid-April, as I was a few weeks into single-living life in pandemia, just struck a chord. It’s amazing how truly expressive, emotional art created in different contexts can apply to any circumstance. That’s what makes works like Apple’s timeless. But if you are the shuffling type, make sure you include, “Heavy Balloon” in your next weekly Spotify roundup.

  1. What band or artist would you most like to share a bill or collaborate with?

There are so many local bands right here that I’d want to choose from – I was sad to hear Powerslut disbanded earlier this year, but I can’t wait to see Linnea Herzog’s latest project, Linnea’s Garden, grow and continue to prosper. We hoped to have our album release party with Oroboro and learned they broke-up during the pandemic, as did Debt. out of Fitchburg, too. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d want these rad bands back on a bill. Stretching further back, Hayley Thompson-King used to have this incredible outfit called Banditas with members of Mr. Airplane Man. If we could all host a reunion night, I’d be so happy.

But if my wishes can’t come true, I did miss the West Coast’s She Keeps Bees show at ONCE Somerville; I’d love to have them back in our area.

  1. What passions and hobbies do you follow outside of music?

I’m a full-time artist in addition to being a solid pet-parent to our band mascot, the sheltie Winslow. I operate a boutique art shop out of Lowell Makes at Western Avenue Studios called Bloom & Book (Guests are allowed by appointment anytime and must wear a mask! Email bloomandbook@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram.)

The art we sell out of this studio is heavily influenced by Tysk Tysk Task’s music creations, made in the same space with a little reconfiguring of amps and drums and some shelves. The music is also informed by the art we make here.

I’m proud to say TTT is an art-rock band. My personal heroines like Karen O, PJ Harvey and Leslie Feist (aka Feist) apply the same principles to their work and it absolutely shows, plus you can hear it in the music.

  1. What’s the one thing about the music scene as a whole you’d like to change?

We are new to the scene, as a whole. TTT formed in the summer of 2018 and I had been playing out as a solo folk artist in the Greater Boston area on and off for about a decade. From what I’ve seen, over-saturation of bands, great and sometimes not-so-great, can make things difficult. People have too many options so the crowds thin out at the shows, or they have too much Netflix to catch up on, and we lose them to their couches. I would love to see more collaboration within the local scene to bring festivals and activities with great media hype to give lesser-known, still amazingly-talented, bands in our area a platform. Boston can get hyper-focused on the same groups over and over – I’m grateful for all of my talented peers, even our popular ones who’ve moved out of our state, but we have to band together and share the wealth, especially when the pandemic ends and we struggle to get people to feel comfortable out in public again. Keeping things local, supporting our local artists and venues, is what matters most.

  1. In what ways has creating music affected your life? Positive and negative?

(This question comes from the previous 5 Questions interview Curtis Ambe)

The negatives of music making allow for great bar stories, but they’re drops in the bucket of the beauty and joy that washes over me when our band plays. Sure, there’s some flagrant sexism and misogyny directed at us in the Boston area, since we are a predominantly-womxn led group. Sure, lifting gear is hard and not making as much of a payout from a bar or at the merch table can be disappointing, but all of that spent energy is recovered when I look out and see people dancing or nodding their heads or focusing as we rock out. We pour our hearts and souls into the music first, and then into the lyrics. To see people move makes me feel like I’m flying when I flip my Fender Double Reverb switch from black to red – and the mental health benefits are insane. I couldn’t get through life or these troubling times without my therapist and anti-depressants, but the true highlight of any day or week or month is the ability to make music with people I care about the most. You can’t ask for anything better than that.

Tysk Tysk Task is currently working on a live EP and studio EP to be released in the coming months. Further information can be found via their Facebook or Instagram pages. Their releases can be found via their BandCamp page.