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Musical friends enjoy ‘rad life’ on first tour

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

At first listen, Saul Conrad’s record sounds folky and a bit country, with its twangy guitars, mandolins and banjos. But as the record plays, there is also a saxophone, trumpet and other instruments -- two different genres joined together.

There is something else: no chorus or repeated phrases. This is something entirely unique of the 24-year-old musician.

“I’m bad at telling what happens. [I write about] the changing of emotions,” said Conrad over the phone on Friday. “A song is an emotional thing that happens, the journey from one place to the other.”

Conrad invites his Pittsburgh fans to take that journey with him. He and his friend Katie Schecter are playing a free show at Inn Termission Lounge at 1908 E Carson Stin Southside at 9 p.m. Feb. 20.

The duo began their first tour in Conrad’s hometown of Boston, Mass., and will make their way to Chicago, Ill., by next month. Conrad has never been to Pittsburgh before, but he is excited. Then again, he seems excited about everything when it comes to music.

The classically-trained Conrad draws inspiration from the average bad day. While he tries to tell stories through his music, he does it a little differently.

“I try to find ways to portray conflicting, complicated emotions,” Conrad said about his songwriting process.

Although Conrad started playing music since three of age – beginning with piano – he did not start writing until he saw the movie “Ray.” That is also when he started his first band and picked up the guitar.

Conrad took a break from songwriting and tried short stories and poems instead. But his love for music brought him back to songwriting.

“Music is one of the best ways of expressing what’s going on in my head. It is a big part of life; keeps life revolving, and that’s very important to me,” Conrad said.

He recorded his first album, with Schecter on background-vocals, in a friend’s bedroom in Rochester, N.Y. That album, “Poison Packets,” was produced under the label Mountain of Leopards and released on Nov. 6, 2012. While iTunes classifies it as “Rock,” Conrad calls it something different: “Cosmic American rock.”

However, he is already working on a second record. Conrad said this will be more pop, with a full orchestra and many layers of sound.

Schecter, 25, had a similar upbringing, growing up in a musical family, going to recording studios and playing shows. When the New Yorker went to college in Boston, she met Conrad. After hearing her sing, he asked her to join his newest band, ‘The Graces,’ in 2008. It was when the band broke up that Schecter realized she needed to depend on herself.

“It was that moment in life when I realized I needed to rely on myself, so I just started writing music all the time,” said Schecter in a phone interview on Sunday.

Like Conrad, she also writes her music differently and is inspired by what she is currently reading, and emphasizes the use of imagery.

“I’m focused on the language. I like pulling things out of context and putting it into a new meaning,” Schecter said.

When asked to describe her sound, Schecter said she considers herself to be more folk/rock. She released her first EP in 2011, and just completed a full length album with Mountain of Leopards, to be released in the spring.

Now the duo is focusing on their 14-date tour, and Conrad and Schecter said it has been fun. Schecter seemed particularly excited.

“This is ideal for me. I feel depressed and useless when I’m not playing shows or gigs,” said Schecter. “Put me to work, I’ll play every single night.”

It was not always like that, though. Schecter admits that she used to have stage fright and never thought she would be able to get over it. Then she experienced the confidence it gave her and she craves it now.

“It’s the best job ever…You get to express yourself in a new way,” said Schecter. “Music reaches other people through an emotive expression. That’s so special, and to me, what makes the world go round.”

Schecter is enjoying this “rad life” and feels privileged to be touring with her friend.

“[Saul] creates things in a sense so pure. He doesn’t care about the outcome, just the art of it,” she said. “He’s a true artist.”

Conrad explained the vulnerability that comes with being an artist – or musician. They put themselves out there and a lot of people do not appreciate it or make quick judgments. He also said playing live is difficult in trying to recreate the whole idea of a song without the full band. But he knows he will overcome that.

“I expect myself to play well,” said Conrad of his expectations for tonight’s show. “I hope the people are ready to go on an introspective journey, and they enjoy it.”

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