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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Q&A with indie musician Tova Katz

It’s always the indie musicians that you take a sort of
religious pride in for knowing and you return to their social media pages day
after day to monitor their progress. Out of the sea of underground musicians, there
is one particular musician by the name of Tova Katz who stands out. Katz is an
up and comer currently residing in Chicago and recent graduate of the
University of California – Berkeley whose style is reminiscent of Feist,
interspersed with the glottal stops and ever slight raspiness of Regina
Spektor. Among her and her friends, performing under the name, Scattered
T-Storm and her Fair-Weather Friends, she’s the lone Scattered T-Storm, whose
nickname serves as a testament to the day by day lifestyle she lives in order
to make music her priority.

To go from university straight into pursuing a music
career is a brave step. What was it that compelled you to pursue the arts, and
more specifically, music?

TK: I was playing the piano since I was pretty young and I
was also singing and doing musical theatre for most of my life. When I was five
years old my parents could tell that I loved the stage and singing and dancing.
So I went to Saydie Bronfman Fine Arts camp in Canada when I was five or six
and we did musicals there and all kinds of art. When I got to middle school I
used to use science assignments and find a way to turn them into music and
musical about a scientific subject to find a way to write and to be creative
and sing. When I went to high school I chose to go to San Diego School of
Creative and Performing Arts. I had an amazing teacher in particular, Phil
Doyle, who was a huge mentor to me and, I got to understand that we can not
only learn from the arts in significant ways.

Then in college I studied arts and power, which was a major
that I created that has to do with the relationship between the arts and social
change. And in the course of doing that I started writing my own music and
usually what just happened when I was feeling anything strongly emotionally I
would start singing. One day I was singing something because I was feeling
something intense and then I sat down on the piano while I was singing and it
was a song.


What was that first song?

TK: The first song that I wrote that had significance to me
was “Spin the Bottle” and I wrote it right before I was about to move and now
I’m about to move to new York and that song is particularly resilient.

With your songs being heavily inspired by your emotions,
what types moments in your life make you stop you to sit down and write music?

TK: Usually it’s a couple of things at once. In our lives we
don’t experience one thing at a time in a compartmentalized way but then music
is an emotional moment for me where a convergence of a lot of significant
things in my life like what’s going on. Also I’ve been told that usually the
emotional place I often hit in my music is where love and passion meets

Love and passion meets contempt. Those are powerful
emotions. How do they translate into your music?

TK: I want to use art with music, creative writing and
performance all in a way to make the world better. In the meantime I’m figuring
out what spectrum I want to be in. You can change the world in a lot of ways
through that. On the far side of the spectrum you have very overtly political
art about issues and on the opposite side of the spectrum, you’re completely
non political but you’re making a statement just by making a something
beautiful for the sake of making beautiful art and so I’m figuring out where in
the middle of that spectrum where my voice fits my art fits.

What part of the spectrum do you feel that you’re leaning

TK: I’m definitely leaning away from heavy handedness of
telling your audience what your message is. Telling them how they should think
about something they think about differently from right now. I feel like first
of all that’s not that much fun. Secondly, it would be alienating the audience
and it doesn’t provide a true experience.

Can you elaborate?

TK: For example, something I’ve noticed when I go to watch
shows or performances and I was shocked at how there would be this amazing dance
music playing and nobody in the audience would be moving. So it’s kind of sad.
It got me thinking that a lot of society – the majority of the population is
not as happy as they could be because they’re not being creative.

I think all human beings are creative beings but we sort of
compartmentalize that in society. Human begins are created equal and everyone
else could be creative because they don’t have an art. There really are many
ways to be creative and as humans what makes us happy is to be connected and
feel like we’re making something even if it would not be traditionally
considered an art.

I’ve read about the arguments, by Seth Godin for example,
decrying the school systems that prepare students to work for companies as the
reason behind the dumbing down of the human inclination for creativity. From
your experience would you agree with the reason for a lack of creativity
stemming from the systematic lives we live?

People think things to do things for others and are not
connected to the work that they’re doing and not addressing the deeper
questions outside of that mode of thinking which is highly dangerous. I think
another consideration is this. Time-wise when you’re in school full time or
working full time it’s just a challenge to logistically get some practicing in
or time for messing around to get to a point where you have to get stuff out.
But I also think it goes the other way.

I know that a lot of experiences I had in school and working
really influenced the creative process in my music. If you have any interest in
subverting the oppressive systems in our society, which I do, I think it’s very
difficult to be doing that without having experienced firsthand being a part of
that institution and knowing what it’s about. So in that sense I think it
really in an indirect way to enable artists to have something to write against.

With the fact that people are disillusioned, do you
engage your audience so that they can feel connected to your performance?

During the song I pass out shakers and tin cans with coffee
beans in them – things that make noise to the audience to encourage the
audience to shake their instruments to get them moving during the song. The
hope is that through that experience they will get the message of all that it’s
tell you about all that we’ve been thinking about all that makes us happy
during the song. It’s about providing that experience to the audience so they
take that element of that with them without saying that explicitly.

Tova Katz will be performing at the Elbo Room in Chicago
on Saturday Dec. 11.

Check out her music on her Myspace page @

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