January 31st, 2018
Thin Lips - So Stoned
“Music has helped me overcome so many of my fears. I really learned that its okay to be afraid of things, and that I probably can’t help it, but I help what I do about it.” -Chrissy Tashjian
At the end of September, 2017, before embarking on a long tour, Thin Lips spent the weekend with us at Miner Street Recordings collaborating and a new song for an episode of Shaking Through.
When we were planning this episode, Brian reached out to friend and longtime supporter of the series Frances Quinlan (of the band Hop Along) to curate the session. He spoke about our focus on artist who exemplify how music can be used as an expressive and restorative tool. Pretty quickly, Frances suggested we contact Thin Lips and Chrissy, and we’re so glad she did.
Thin Lips is fronted by Chrissy Tashjian, as the lead singer, songwriter, and (rippin’) guitarist. Michael Tashjian, Chrissy’s younger brother, is the drummer for the band and Kyle Pulley (Co-Owner of local recording studio “The Headroom”) plays bass.
Frances and Chrissy met through the Philadelphia music scene and became close friends very quickly, opening up to each other about their families, insecurities, and deeply connecting through their discussions about songwriting.
“Its really special to me to be able to connect with other women who play music…I don’t have any other friends like that, that I think about music with in that capacity, that aren’t Kyle or Mikey, who I’ve been playing music with for twenty years…and Mikey Longer, cause he’s my actual brother.”
At the beginning of the day, we spent a while figuring out exactly what speed we wanted the song to be. Kyle and Mikey were pushing the tempo a bit, but everyone liked the lethargic quality of Chrissy’s demo for the song. As a result, one of the main technical ambitions of the session was to record the basic track to our tape machine at a faster speed, and slow the tape back down to the speed it was originally intended to be. The issue we quickly ran into was that, to get the effect to be pronounced, you have to play the song so much faster that the groove and feel of the song was lost. In the end, we recorded the song at 121 BPM and slowed it down off the tape machine to 119 BPM. The effects are subtle, but if you listen close, the drums are pitched down, the toms are thicker, and the cymbals are darker and elongated. The effect was cool, and we’ll try it again for sure, but it was definitely an extra challenge.
In her interview, Chrissy talks about her struggles dealing with Agoraphobia, and how, as a child and into her young adulthood, she could barely get out of the house. Eventually, she went off to college and started playing in a band called Dangerous Ponies. Mikey and Kyle were also in that band, and on their first tour, Chrissy found herself facing one of her deepest sources of anxiety: Traveling.
“Our first tour, we did seven days to Austin and back. That was terrifying. I took Klonopin the whole time and laid on the floor in the back of the van. But, I kind of started to learn that it’s ok to be afraid of things, and how to expose myself to those things.”
Chrissy wasn’t about to stop playing music because of her fears. Her desire, or really her NEED to make music and play with people, meant that she had to develop techniques and systems to deal with her anxiety. The courage that that exposure instilled in her remains to this day, and while she still deals with her anxiety everyday, it no longer prevents her from getting out in the world and doing what she loves.
“I really learned that it’s ok to be afraid of things. Often times I can’t help it, but I can help what I do about it. I still get nervous every time I play, but if I avoid doing those things then I kind of end up shutting myself out of the world. I make music because I have to. Music is like my therapy.”
It was such a pleasure recording “So Stoned” with this fabulous group of collaborators. The day was full of laughter and great ideas (at times, perhaps an overwhelming amount, but great none the less). We hope that Chrissy and Frances can come back soon to be a part of another Shaking Through — their strong, creative spirit and positivity truly made a long session fly by.
NOTE: An audio version of this story appeared on WHYY’s The Pulse. The collaboration between The Pulse and Weathervane Music was made possible by a grant from the Thomas Scattergood Foundation for Behavioral Health. Give it a listen!