Sabina Sciubba often goes simply by Sabina. She's a lead singer with the great little New York bass band Brazilian Girls.
She's also about to drop her first solo album, called Toujours.
Sabina brought her guitar to The World's studios at WGBH in Boston and played the song, "I won't let you break me."
We also had a chance to talk about her music.
Marco: When a tune like "I won't let you break me" rocks out as it does, how hard edge can it be when you're trying to write it on the acoustic guitar, or a piano?
Sabina: No, I wrote it on an electric. And I recorded it, and we weren't even home, we were on the south on vacation, on the south France. And I had a small setup with an Mbox, you know, with my laptop. So the sound is a bit distorted when you record into it, so it was actually perfect. I just recorded the electric guitar straight into the Mbox and the vocal. It was distorted and I was pissed off [laughs] and it was just ideal.
Marco: You've got a fantastic voice and in the opening notes of your album Toujours, the song "Cinema," it feels like I'm about to hear this homage to Nico & the Velvet Underground, but it's not consistent throughout. Did you have them on your mind? Are they an influence?
Sabina: Yes of course they're an influence. Needless to say, I'm half German. I grew up in Germany and I have a very German voice. I'm reminded many times. People catch that very quickly. And I think so did Nico, so it's something that's quite natural. You know, I have a low voice. But then The Velvet Underground was a reference that came up just because as I was writing, the songs went into that direction and I was wondering if I should crop that? You know, not let that happen. And then I just said, 'no, it's fine. It's a good reference.' I like it and sorry, to the Velvet Underground.
Marco: Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say.
Sabina: I suppose. And plus there are so many other influences that it's not just exclusively that.
Marco: What does it mean, 'a typical German voice?'
Sabina: It's a low, female voice and it's a bit guttural ... And bit in the back.
Marco: Was Nico German?
Sabina: Oh, yeah. I forget what her name was, but she was German.
Marco: I know you're the lead singer for the band Brazilian Girls. I love Brazilian Girls. A lot of this album is sung in French, but you're neither Brazilian nor French. So, what is your story? Where are you from?
Sabina: I'm a European mutt ... summer of love [laughs] in Italy. No, my mum is German and she lived in Italy for many years. She met my father and had two children. And then we came back to Germany when I was five. We went to France when I was 19. Stayed there. Came to the States. Stayed there for a couple of years. I'm not going to say the numbers, so you can't calculate my age.
Marco: [Laughs] But you're back in France?
Sabina: I'm back in Paris. Yes.
Marco: So, do you consider yourself a New York artist? Brazilian Girls is kind of a New York-associated band, but you don't live there anymore.
Sabina: Well, I lived there for 10 years and you know that was kind of formatory. But, I don't consider myself anything, to tell you the truth.
Marco: Which is the definition of the perfect New Yorker these days because it is the melting pot from all over the world.
Sabina: Yeah, I just spoke about it with my bandmates. Musically speaking, you can't find another city in the world like New York — as alive and so many talented people and such a vivid exchange. It just doesn't exist anywhere else. There's a great music [scene] in Paris, there's great live music, great musicians. Very talented people, but it's just not like New York. No other city, not even London, I think.
Marco: So this album Toujours — it's lovely song writing, but when Brazilian Girls came out with their album in 2008, you got a nod from the Grammys for Best Dance Album. I'm just wondering, did you think that album was a dance album?
Sabina: [Laughs] Well...
Marco: You can dance to it. I do all the time.
Sabina: Well, I don't know. I never considered that music entirely dance music, but certainly, I mean our audience is a dance audience. When we play, people want to dance. There's no doubt. We couldn't do a set of ballads. And, in fact, that's why I did this project because I felt like I needed an outlet for the less dance music, less beats, less grooves and all that. More introspective.
Marco: Well, that's a perfect segue for the song you're going to play for us going out. It's called, "Fields of Snow." It is definitely down tempo and it was recorded originally acoustically, wasn't it?
Sabina: Same actually. You know I recorded that too in the south of France by coincidence. I recorded it in the winter. In the kitchen. With my little set up. With my electric guitar.