La Sera | Evolving From Solo to Duo

Katy Goodman may love the vocal cord-shredding sounds of early '80s hardcore, but four albums into her own La Sera project's jangled-up discography, she's fully accepted that she'll never be popping neck veins in the booth with bulldog-vicious growls. "High Notes," the hay bale-toppling foot-stomper that kicks off the band's new Music For Listening To Music To, is a winking reflection of this, and plays out with Goodman's pristine pipes soaring over a countrified beat.

"I have a very high, girly singing voice. Every time I try to yell or scream, it's not right," she explains over the line from her home in Los Angeles, adding that she's been "at ends" over the issue for years. "The song is about accepting my voice. You know what? I'm going to sing high, and that's just the way it is. I don't care if you think it's not super punk. This is me and who I am."

Over the course of four albums, what La Sera is, exactly, has shifted a bit. Early on, it was a solo outlier from playing bass in New York garage rock band Vivian Girls. True, records like La Sera's Hour of the Dawn from 2014 had been collaborative affairs made with other musicians, but the Ryan Adams-produced Music For Listening To Music To is the first to be fully prepped between Goodman and guitarist Todd Wisenbaker, who also happens to be her husband.

Sonically, it's the first of the group's records to pass the mic around. The sleeve art's portrait of the pair marks the first album cover to not solely feature Goodman. The La Sera founder points out, however, that this has been a natural evolution, with Wisenbaker having played in the group in some form since 2012.

"It seems like all of a sudden it's a duo instead of a solo project, but it was years in the making," Goodman explains, adding with a laugh of the extra vocal presence on the LP, "I don't want to hear my own voice all the time anyways, so it's kind of nice to have someone else singing."

Stylistically, the record can showcase call-and-response vocals over rippling, Johnny Marr-inspired six-stringing ("One True Love"), but a bolder Western influence has also seeped into La Sera's sound. Whether via mellow boxcar shuffles ("Shadow of Your Love") or through speedy, silk shirt-soaking cowpunk ("Time to Go"), Goodman credits the twang to her partner's rustic touch.

"When he adds his guitar flourishes, it takes it into a country-ish realm," she confirms. "I thought that worked perfectly with the record, especially with Ryan [Adams] producing since he borders on country also. It was the perfect storm of dudes playing guitar with country ideas."

Married last fall, Goodman and Wisenbaker have been pretty up front with their professional and personal unions. Their respective Instagram accounts present band practices, as well as happy home life with their schnoodle Bo and a pair of cats. When the phone is passed over to Wisenbaker, he admits that hearing an in-song PDA on-stage is a plus too.

"There's a little bit of blushing when Katie's singing love songs that I know are about me. It's kind of amazing, you know,” he says, emitting a beet-red aura over the phone about being in a band with his wife. "Whether she just sings me a song or whether other people get to hear it, it's a cool thing. There's nothing like it."

It could be noted that while Goodman's golden vocals run smoother than a hardcore singer's furious shriek, the feelings she's communicating are just as intense.

Photo: Julia Brokaw

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