An Observation of Earth: Interview with THEESatisfaction

Posted February 23, 2015 in
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THEESatisfaction
(L–R): Cat and Stas of THEESatisfaction. Photo: King Texas
Some of the most influential music and musicians of all time come out of Seattle, Washington. The area has spawned everything from guitar legend Jimi Hendrix to the godfathers of grunge, Nirvana. Those musicians represent bygone eras, but unsurprisingly, Seattle is fostering a new wave of progressive music, built on jazz, soul and hip-hop, led by THEESatisfaction and Shabazz Palaces. THEESatisfaction got their break when Sub Pop signed the duo after hearing their contributions to Shabazz Palace’s 2011 album, Black Up.
THEESatisfaction consists of the soulful singing of Catherine “Cat” Harris-White and the smoothed out raps of Stasia “Stas” Irons. Both Stas and Cat ooze with style. Even when simply carrying a conversation, each of them has a voice that floats with finesse. The duo met in 2008 and will release their second album, EarthEE, on Feb. 24, which will undoubtedly be a highlight for music in 2015.
SLUG was privileged to review EarthEE for the March print issue, and couldn’t be more stoked about THEESatisfaction headlining a tour later this year, once they finish their tour dates with labelmates and feminist punk icons, Sleater-Kinney. In light of the new album and tour, I had the opportunity to speak with THEESatisfaction about the making of EarthEE, and what the near future holds for them.
“[Initially] We really just wanted to jam out around the house by ourselves,” Stas says. “We weren’t thinking about anyone else. We just wanted to have a good time and vibe out to our own [style], but now we want to give people a piece of our world and share stories.”
It makes sense that THEESatisfaction would’ve come together so organically. They didn’t intend to make a name for themselves, but chemistry and natural talent made it so. That organic thread has stuck with them from the beginning and is inherent in the titles of their two albums: awE naturalE and EarthEE. “For EarthEE, it’s really about an observation of earth, how folks act here on earth and how the environment encourages us to act a certain way,” says Cat. “Like global warming or how our food has changed over the years. It’s a reflection of all of those things.”
“Planet for Sale” has one of the strongest messages on the album with lines like, “I’m a planet in the planting” and “how we destroyed a planet when we didn’t plant things.” It can seem meta at times but Stas and Cat keep their listeners grounded with soulful grooves and hip-hop beats that point to an elevated mind state while acknowledging the patience and focus it takes to get there. Lyrically, Stas and Cat clearly have an agenda to open people’s minds and the music they use to get listeners there is just as interesting. “A lot of the stuff we talk about is stuff we haven’t usually heard in music, like women being in love with women or black queer issues. We just want to spread our story,” says Stas.
“I was listening to a lot of soul, jazz and funk music: Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan. I tried to expand my mind again to the same sounds I grew up with. The music you listen to when making an album plays some part in what you create but I feel like we use all of our senses to create,” says Cat. Stas, however, found her musical inspiration coming from a different source. “I was listening to a lot of contemporary music: Thundercat, Flying Lotus, The Internet and A$AP Ferg, heavy,” says Stas with a giggle. “I don’t know if you can hear any of those elements in the album, but that’s what was on my head.”
The combination of old age and new age is relevant to everything THEESatisfaction has done with EarthEE. From the music and the cover art, to the music video for their lead single, “Recognition,” THEESatisfaction is defying time and genre by making music that sounds like it could’ve come from any era in the last 30 years, despite the fact that it also sounds so futuristic. “Nature’s Candy” is one track on the album that combines a progressive message of black queer love with a space-funk bass line that could sit right at home in a house party. While other artists are pushing forward the limits of jazz and hip-hop by combining the two in new ways, THEESatisfaction are doing so with a focus on content that’s meant to open people’s eyes to our current reality as inhabitants of a constantly shape-shifting planet with major issues of acceptance. “What we want for black people is what we want for most people: survival and good health,” says Cat.
THEESatisfaction is highly anticipating the rest of 2015 and with good reason. “I’m really excited. I like [Sleater-Kinney’s] music and I’m really excited to tour with a Sub Pop band that’s different from us but really similar in energy,” says Cat.
Stas adds that there’s a chance THEESatisfaction might make their way through SLC in late September. “We’ve [also] got some remixes for [EarthEE] that are in the gun. I’m not going to share who’s doing them but they’re very good at what they do,” she says.
There’s no doubt that THEESatisfaction are contributing in a big way to the legacy of Seattle music, Sub Pop and music in general. If you haven’t yet tuned in to what they’re sharing then recognize that there’s no time like the present to change your ways.
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