Rock N’ Recipes: Heather Trost

Heather Trost is perhaps best known as one half of Hawk and a Hacksaw, but as we’ve tried to show on this site recently, their new album Desert Flowers has us excited for her solo work. We were fortunate to catch up with Heather, talk about the record, influences and her favorite food memories. Plus, she leaves us with a wonderful recipe for corba, which is a great red lentil soup with Turkish origins. Check out the interview and recipe after the jump!

Buy Desert Flowers HERE via Ba Da Bing.

ATH: With Hawk and a Hacksaw (and Beirut), you’ve got a huge Eastern European musical approach, yet your solo work feels so far removed from that sound. What influences operate as footnotes in Desert Flowers?

HT: I really love folk music from that part of the world of course. One of the influences on Desert Flowers I would say is the French chanteuse Catherine Ribeiro. The production on her albums with Alpes, especially their album Paix, is really beautiful and astonishing in terms the reverb and other effects they used. It has a kind of minimal krautrock vibe, but with these haunting dreamy vocals floating over the top. I also love a good classic R and B bassline. Other influences I would say are definitely kind of classic 60s and 70s stuff, musicians like Harry Nilsson, Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Canned Heat. I also have a deep love for British acts like the Kinks and the Zombies. But I also listen to a ton of 60s and 70s rock and roll from places like Turkey, Brazil, Europe, Mexico.

ATH: Speaking of Desert Flowers, you’ve been involved in a lot of film work, and “Blue Fish,” the first single, is featured in Flux Gourmet. So what’s your approach to crafting for that medium? Song first, then hope it fits somewhere, or have filmmakers/screenwriters come to you with a vision?

HT: Peter Strickland, the director of Flux, has been a dream come true to work with, as Jeremy and I were both fans before we started working together. We discovered there was a mutual admiration through a Polish journalist which was a great discovery, so we got in touch and soon after started working together. He has such a clear vision of what he feels a scene needs in the moment in terms of sound which makes it very easy to work with him. It’s a little of both in terms of which comes first. Jeremy Barnes and I co-wrote “Blue Fish.” In this instance we sent him a bunch of ideas and he chose “Blue Fish.”

ATH: Which is easier? Film scores or traditional album songwriting?

HT: They each have their unique challenges. It’s nice to have the chance to work in a different way from traditional album making. Scoring for film has been a great skill to develop, and a fascinating creative process.

ATH: The opening track on Desert Flowers references the classic children’s book Frog and Toad Are Friends, and H and a Hacksaw is a Cervantes nod. What are three pieces of literature that influence you as an artist? And, if Jeremy sees himself as Quixote, what great character does Heather get to play out?

HT: There’s another literary nod on the record in addition to Frog and Toad, “The Debutante” is based on a short story by the same title by the surrealist writer and artist Leonora Carrington.

It’s so hard to pick just three! But I would say one of the most memorable books I’ve read is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bolgakov. I also love Carrington’s novel The Hearing Trumpet, and although it’s hard to pick just one of her books, I love Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I deferred the Quixote question to Jeremy and he said Dulcinea.

ATH: It seems like the New Mexico landscape plays a huge role in the creation of this album. What is unique about that landscape that you can’t necessarily find elsewhere, and how does that get represented on this LP?

HT: Something I was reminded of recently by the art critic and writer Lucy Lippard is that it’s not the landscape alone that makes New Mexico unique, but the people. For me the combination of the high altitude, mountains, the light, the architecture, not all of it picturesque of course, and the vastness of the wilderness and sky that ignite my imagination and creativity. In “You Always Gave Me Succour,” I sing about an encounter I had as a child with a coyote outside my tent in the dawn, we locked eyes for a minute and a bolt of electricity went through me. I was reminded of that moment when reading Journey to Ixtaln by Carlos Castenenda for the first time. After my meeting, coyote became a sort of psychopomp to me. Creatures and nature often unlock parts of my psyche or memory, which often end up in my songs.

ATH: And, for avid travelers, what are some “off the beaten path” spots to visit in New Mexico? We need the insider info?

HT: The mountain villages north of Santa Fe are very special, the food, the people, the adobe architecture and the peaks make a super special cultural microclimate.

ATH: Do you have any memories of cooking with a family member growing up? If so, what is something you made together or what is something you miss that a family member used to make?

HT: It’s not something we made, but my grandmother was the first person to feed me Mediterranean food, olives, feta that kind of thing, and I fell in love. Her father was stationed in Europe, and they lived in Italy and Turkey for a while and she remembers the food and the cats fondly.

ATH: Have you ever tried to recreate that dish?

HT: Yes! I go to a place called Cafe Istanbul here, the owners are Palestinian and the whole family is there, kids doing their homework in the kitchen. I buy olives and homemade pita and their dates, which are the best. They also have the best chile paste and feta. Then I make hummus and babaganoush at home, barely hard boiled eggs, and try to recreate the mezze my Grandma fed me when I was little.

ATH: You’ve traveled extensively in your musical career? Best food memory on the road?

HT: So many! Once after a show in Terracina Italy, A Hawk and a Hacksaw had played on the Piazza, the organizer took us to another tiny piazza where we ate pasta with these special clams that meant little candle in Italian because they were long and thin with beautiful shells. Then we had ravioli with pumpkin, and strawberries for dessert. Perfecto.

ATH: What is the story behind your Rock n’ Recipe?

HT: One of my favorite things to eat when we visited Turkey is corba, which simply means soup. It’s a smooth, lemony lentil soup that is super comforting and delicious, garnish with some sumac and parsley and mint and lots of lemon juice. This is adapted from Istanbul and Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt.

Heather Trost’s Corba – Serves 4

4 tbs unsalted butter or a good glug of olive oil

1 medium potato, peeled and cut

1 medium carrot

1 small onion

5 cups water or broth

1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed

Salt to taste

1 tsp Turkish or Aleppo red pepper flakes

1.Heat butter or oil in a big soup pot. Saute onion until translucent. Add carrot and potato, cook until softened.

Add lentils and toast a little while stirring to prevent sticking. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the vegetables and lentils or soft, about 20 minutes.

2. Using an immersion blender or a food processor puree until smooth.

3. Return soup to pot over low heat and stir. Add hot water or broth if it seems too thick. Taste for salt.

4. To serve garnish with the red pepper flakes, lemon juice and fresh mint and parsley.

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