When Carletta Sue Kay was first emerging on the Bay Area scene back in 2007, the SF Bay Guardian described the music as “lilting, Emmylou Harris–meets–Magnetic Fields tunes.” Turns out the SFBG hit the nail on the head with that description: Carletta Sue, a.k.a. Randy Walker, is a big fan of The Magnetic Fields. So you can imagine how stoked Walker was to have been asked by Stephin Merritt himself to contribute to the new Magnetic Fields album, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea (which you can stream in its entirety on NPR right now).
This is shaping up to be a big year for Carletta Sue Kay. Fresh off a Noise Pop 2012 show with Chapter 24 and Dirty Ghosts, Randy is taking the band down to Austin for their first official SXSW showcase later this month, with plans to drop CSK’s debut album — at long last — on Kitten Charmer Records, which has put out this song, “For the Birds,” as a teaser:
The Magnetic Fields being indie rock royalty, and Carletta Sue Kay being a hometown hero, we figured we should check in with Randy and see just how awesome the experience recording for Love At The Bottom Of The Sea was. Hit the jump for the interview, but first watch Carletta Sue Kay killing it on a track called “Cruel Cruel Man” at the Hemlock Tavern.
MG: How did you get involved with The Magnetic Fields?
RW: I met Stephin Merritt at a party he threw in NYC a few years back. I then ran into him again in the now-closed Eagle Tavern and gave him a copy of my debut album, Incongruent. He wrote me an email a few weeks later saying that he really enjoyed my singing and asked me if I wanted to be on the next Magnetic Fields record. Honestly, I thought it was one of my friends playing a fucked up trick on me. So I responded, two days later, “It would be a dream come true. Let me know when and where and I’m all yours. P.S. If this is one of my friends playing a joke… you’re mean and you’re cruel.” Stephin wrote me back immediately and put me in contact with his manager and bandmate Claudia Gonson, who then arranged the recording session.
MG: Which songs did you contribute to on the album, and what were your contributions?
RW: I sang backing vocals for the first single, “Andrew in Drag”, “When Next in Love I Fall” (B-side on 7” vinyl only), “Born for Love,” “Infatuation (With Your Gyration),” and “Goin’ Back to the Country.”
MG: Did you go to their studio?
RW: Stephin flew up from L.A. and we recorded my vocal parts at John Vanderslice’s fabulous Tiny Telephone studio. I also got to meet Mr. Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler, who played accordion, organ and piano on the record. Stephin Merritt is a super funny, very droll and extremely smart guy. Working with him was a blast because I actually got to see him work. He’s a total pro and really fun to be around. I had to pinch myself a few times finding myself sitting right next to the guy on a couch at Tiny Telephone. He forgot to print out the lyrics for me, so I got to use his hand-written lyrics from his personal notes. While I was in the Iso booth, I peeked at a few of the pages. That was a real highlight for me. I jotted down a few of the choice lyrics and plan to use them in my own songs in the future. Kidding.
MG: So this was a “dream come true” scenario for you? You were a fan already?
RW: ENORMOUS fan! I’ve seen every tour from 69 Love Songs on. Also, when we go to SXSW in March, my boyfriend Lee and I are going to get to see them play their very first SXSW show at the place where they record Austin City Limits.
MG: Any plans to play live with them at all, maybe at least if/when they play through SF?
RW: Ah man… I tried really hard to get that to happen. Was corresponding quite hopefully with Claudia and Stephin, who both wanted me to do support, but the fickle finger of fate flipped me the bird and they booked someone else. WHATEVER!!!
MG: How was your Noise Pop show?
RW: Our Noise Pop show was really fun. We got to work with our pals Chapter 24 from London, as well as Bare Wires and Dirty Ghosts at The Brick & Mortar, which, for my money, has the best sound in town!
MG: What’s next for CSK?
RW: After having played SXSW two years in a row, Carletta is playing her first official SXSW showcase this year. And, if you can believe it, Carletta Sue Kay, after a very, very long time, is finally going to be releasing her debut full-length record, Incongruent. Kitten Charmer Records, an S.F. label, is putting it out for us and we’re super grateful and excited. I’m working on an E.P. all about Monsters, debutante Zombies, Grace Zabriskie, narcissism and The Apocalypse! Here’s a sample lyric:
“I was caught up in The Rapture and very near fainting…
…my life as a Hieronymus Bosch painting!”