The Lightmans, of Tasseomancy
Sari and Romy Lightman have been making music together for a decade. The Toronto sisters launched their first project, Ghost Bees, when they were studying in Halifax. Their debut record was called Tasseomancy, and in 2008 they lifted that title to rename themselves and reorient the project from its folk roots to more experimental territory. After returning to Toronto, they made Ulalume, a collaboration with Timber Timbre, but then they put the project on hold to join Toronto electro-goths Austra on tour, a gig that kept them on the road for three years.
Since returning to Toronto (and Montreal — Sari moved here a year ago), the Lightmans immersed themselves in Tasseomancy once again, recording between Toronto and the Bay of Fundy with new band members Evan Cartwright (percussion) and Johnny Spence (keyboards). Finally, on June 2, they released Palm Wine Revisited on Toronto label Healing Power, revealing the full expression of their folk/psychedelic/new age/new wave voice.
I spoke to Romy Lightman about the rebirth of Tasseomancy and the folly of the socalled sister act.
Lorraine Carpenter: How much would you say touring with Austra influenced Tasseomancy?
Romy Lightman: Our musical foundation is based in experimental folk music, so with Austra that was our first real in-depth experience with electronic music, and that exposure to dance music triggered excitement in our own musical practice. We also did a lot of touring, so we got comfortable performing in front of large crowds, got over stage fright and any inhibitions that we might have had.
LC: How much touring had you done as Ghost Bees?
RL: We were kids when we started that, so we did the standard tour across North America, but those were really small DIY shows. But yeah, we cut our teeth as Ghost Bees.
LC: Apart from the Austra influence, your sound has clearly progressed quite a bit, with the passage of time and new band members.
RL: This is our first album playing with a full band, so it’s like an introduction to our own music — that’s how we’re both seeing this record. It was a really nice relationship that we had with this band; we slowly built the songs over three years while we were intermittently touring with Austra, on break from that. We’re cultivating our own sound, and you can hear the experimental nature of that. It’s a wide variety — some songs are electronic, some songs have folkier aspects. It feels like we’re developping a lexicon for how we want to communicate musically. These songs [on Palm Wine Revisited] are older now, and we’re already working on a new record.
LC: Are there any assumptions or clichés about being sisters in a band that you’d like to dispel?
RL: Oh my God, I’m really happy you asked that. Now that we’re a little bit older and I feel like people can’t fuck with us anymore, we have a more developped sense of self, but when we started music a decade ago, there was all this pressure to play into the tropes of sisterhood and twininess. There was always this pressure to play up on it because it’s marketable but we always felt it was in bad taste. It felt condescending and infantilizing.
We don’t want to deny we’re sisters but we want to redefine what that means. Essentially we won’t be braiding our hair together or holding hands or wearing inverted outfits or talking at the same time.
It’s funny ’cause my sister and I couldn’t be more different from one another: My sister’s definitely more of a traditional timeless songwriter and I come from a more experimental background with art, and I think that’s why we get along so well and work really well together. But we’re just siblings, it’s not some supernatural thing.
Sorry, that was kind of a rant. But it’s been on my mind for a while. ■
Tasseomancy performs with headliner Jennifer Castle and New Chance at Bar le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon W.) on Thursday, June 18, 9:30 p.m., $8/$10