Photo credit Hazel Pine
by Alex Teitz
Last year we heard of the electronic duo Cardiknox at CMJ. By the time CMJ ended Cardiknox was catching fire. Cardiknox is Lonnie Angle & Thomas Dutton. They met while working on music for theater and have expanded and grown since then. Their debut album, Portrait comes out in March 2016. They are joining Carly Rae Jepsen on tour. We were honored to speak with Lonnie Angle recently. For info visit www.cardiknox.com
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
LA: We normally begin writing a song around an idea—the main lyrical phrase or concept that often becomes the chorus. Sometimes we’ll build a progression around that lyric or sometimes a beat. Oftentimes, once you work out the heart of the song, the rest of it—verses, bridge—are far easier to create. But this is just a rough example, because songwriting, like any form of creativity is hard to know when it will strike. Sometimes you’ll get an idea while driving or hiking and sing something into your phone’s voice memo app, rush home, scratch out some lyrics, and boom … you have the skeleton of a song.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Portrait?
LA: To understand our biggest challenge, you also need to note our biggest luxury. We had the gift of time and space in writing this album. We worked with our producer for nearly six months in a world class recording studio. John was so generous with giving us ample time to create a real honest, strong body of work. Within that time, though, we were fairly prolific and so when it came to really honing in on what songs we wanted on the album, and in what order … that became incredibly challenging. You’ve worked so long and so hard on writing so many different stories and songs and they all hold a special meaning. Then you have to chop off your arm to spite your body. That was probably the most challenging part. Walking away from a bunch of songs that meant a lot to us. But who knows, maybe they’ll resurface one day.
FEMMUSIC: How was it working with John Shanks? What did he bring to the project? What did he do for you with the album?
LA: Working with John was remarkable. He is truly a genius and has such a breadth of experience and success, yet such a hunger to continue creating new work and pushing the envelope. He has an incredible ear, and was able to elevate our soundscape in ways that only world-class producers can do. They hear things the normal person doesn’t hear. He’s also an incredible writer and co-wrote on most of the album with us. He would push us to tell stories we weren’t sure we were alright telling, and explore styles we hadn’t yet explored. Through the writing and recording process, he became like family to us. We have a tremendous amount of gratitude and love for him.
FEMMUSIC: I was looking at your early history. I was wondering if you could describe your journey from classical piano to theater to Cardiknox. They seem like such different leaps.
LA: I grew up playing piano from the age of five. One of my favorite parts of playing was performing at recitals and adjudications. I played until I was about 16 when I became more consumed with other high school activities—school leadership, academics, sports, and most importantly theatre. I loved acting and pursued it through college, where I majored in Theatre Directing. I went on to work professionally at a major regional theatre, but my heart was really missing the artistic side of the business. I met Thomas and began developing a musical with him, Razia’s Shadow. We spent a few years developing the piece, moved to NYC, worked with The Public Theater on it, etc., and eventually needed a break and started writing pop music. That’s how I found my way to Cardiknox.
FEMMUSIC: I was also very curious how has the conversion been of playing an instrument to being primarily a vocalist. Do you want to play an instrument more on stage? Has it been hard taking control of the mic and the show so much?
LA: I love performing. And it scares the shit out of me. But I live for it. So, moving into the role of a frontwoman on stage took a lot of different parts of my earlier life and brought them together in a unique way. Emoting on stage, telling my stories via song … all of that is pretty magical for me. And I like being untethered while I’m on stage. But as our set evolves and when we move into headlining our own shows, I imagine I’ll hop behind the piano for a song or two and change things up.
FEMMUSIC: When you were in Denver we spoke about the artist for both the album cover and the amazing shirts, Tristan Eaton. How did he become involved in Cardiknox? For info on Tristan Eaton visit www.tristaneaton.net
LA: Thomas and I have been fans of Tristan’s work for quite some time. He has a mural in NYC of Audrey Hepburn that originally turned us on to him, but we’ve become completely entranced with his entire vision and catalog. While recording the album, we spoke to John about him, as John is also a huge lover of art . He suggested we connect with Tristan and see about collaborating. Tristan came into the studio, listened to some songs and hung with us. He was stoked to collaborate and it was like a dream come true for us.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
LA: Of course. I think that goes without saying. As a woman in any industry you face hurdles that men don’t. And it’s unfair and totally fucked up. But the only way you can combat it is being extra prepared. Extra well-read. Extra thoughtful. Don’t let your worth be determined by how you look and don’t allow people to dismiss your thoughts and ideas, just because they’re yours. I think discrimination is a strong word, because so often … it comes across subtler. More like a bias that you can’t totally put your finger on. And that’s when it’s hardest to stand up against. Because it’s that kind of bias that skirts just under the surface of people’s consciousness. I am fortunate to have a number of very strong women working on the Cardiknox team with me. This has been tremendous in terms of ensuring that my voice is heard—and also in bouncing my thoughts off of other intelligent women. I recommend for any young women in this industry, if they can, to try and surround themselves with like-minded women. This industry certainly needs it.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?
LA: I think I just answered that. 🙂 I’d love to see more strong female executives across the board in music.