While many have struggled to adjust to pandemic-induced close quarters with roommates (be they friends, partners, family members or total strangers), Bushwick-based duo Gracie and Rachel are fairly seasoned when it comes to cohabitation and collaboration; having worked on their forthcoming record (Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong) pre-Covid in a near quarantine-esque style, being held up together in actual isolation felt like old news for the old friends when it came down to it.
“We met in a dance class in high school, so that was the first thing we did together on a stage. I think it’s what’s united us and driven us to keep doing this work,” keyboardist-vocalist Gracie Coates said in a recent phone call.
This long-term bond has fueled a strong creative partnership between the two, now roommates in addition to bandmates, to the point that much of their communication process can go unspoken.
“I think that’s the beauty in our collaboration; she can hear me even when there are no words being said,” violinist Rachel Ruggles said.
And with this record in particular, it seems Coates and Ruggles were keener than ever to explore brutal honesty, fearlessly exposing flaws and asking each other difficult questions. Certainly their trust level in each other played a big role, and it also highlights their uniquely balanced connection.
That’s not to say the relationship is always free of contention, but more often than not they’re on each other’s side.
“It’s so insular for us that when we’re just us together in our concentrated environment, we can focus on the things that aren’t working, or feel the frustrations of a moment that isn’t easy,” said Coates, but “the best moments that happen make us realize how silly that is, and how much we want to center on the good; when we’re in the studio with other people, we get to be a team, us against the rest of the world as opposed to against each other.”
They clearly had an aligned vision for Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong, which is out this Friday (September 18th) on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. I asked them whether or not the notorious “sophomore scaries” had set in during their writing and production process, which they said they wished they’d realized were a thing while they were in the thick of it. (If there was any trepidation, though, it’s impossible to hear on the finished product, which is a masterful follow-up to their 2017 eponymous debut.)
Obviously there won’t be any big IRL celebrations when it comes to releasing this record, but that won’t stop the duo from marking the momentous occasion somehow.
“Even doing little pop-up performances is something we’re entertaining,” said Ruggles. “But we’re learning the tech part of it, too. After this, we could really just go on our own tour and run our own shows.”
Of course, it might take a minute for them to put those skills to the test, considering nobody knows when live gigs (at least the indoor kind) will be back up and running; that’s easily one of the most difficult parts about our current circumstances, because while live streams are all well and good, nothing can take the place of the in-person experience.
“We miss the connection with people, just getting to meet new faces every night and feel your music hit people in a live room, have them hit you back with their emotions. We’ve joked that playing on stage together is our way of making love, and if you don’t get to do that, it’s just a really dry year,” Coates said.
But the pair are trying to look on the bright side, and appreciate the space that’s unexpectedly been afforded them.
“We’ve always wanted the time. Everybody’s always saying, ‘I wish I had more time!’, so let’s take that and use it and not be too hard on ourselves,” Ruggles said.
Certainly words to live by on many levels, but in the immediate and literal sense, be sure to take your time with Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong; it’s one you’ll be coming back to again and again.
Featured photo via Tonje Thilesen