Singing Sisters The Roches Seeking New Playmates

by Seth Rogovoy

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 31, 1996 -- After nearly two decades as a trio, the singing sisters known as The Roches are on the verge of something new.

"We all kind of feel the desire to have lives of our own," said Maggie Roche in a recent phone interview from her New York City apartment.

"For so long we've just functioned as this threesome, and we kind of would like to loosen that up a little bit," said Roche, who added that sisters Suzzy and Terre are working on solo projects in the early stages of development.

"I'm a little slow, slower than the rest," said Roche. "I haven't got any ideas at the moment. I seem to have my hands full with adjusting to the changes that are happening."

If it sounds like the Roches are breaking up, they're not. First of all, they are about to begin a full summer schedule of performances, which brings them to the Night Shift Cafe in North Adams on Saturday night at 8, when they will warm up the crowd for Arlo Guthrie. For ticket information call Berkshire World Travel at 413-663-7646.

"We would like to be able to continue as a group," said Roche, the oldest of the three sisters and for most of their time together the primary songwriter and keyboardist. "It has required just one- hundred percent from each of us all these years, and it's time for us to be able to have a little more independence."

While the trio made its official debut in 1979 with its eponymously-titled first album, its roots go back to their childhood in Park Ridge, N.J., where they sang Christmas carols and helped their father make up songs to support local Democratic candidates.

"When we were kids we all shared the same bedroom for a while," said Roche, "and we used to just play and make things up and sing and write stories, and it seems like what we do now is simply an extension of that. There's still that element of those three kids in that room making up stuff."

That childlike sophistication may have been what first attracted Paul Simon, who brought Maggie and Terre into the studio for backing vocals on his 1974 album "There Goes Rhymin' Simon." The following year he co-produced their debut as a duo, "Seductive Reasoning." With Suzzy's graduation from SUNY-Purchase a year later, the Roches began performing as a trio.

Their unique style of folk-pop, comprised of equal parts madrigals, art songs, early-'60s girl-group rock and synth-pop, couldn't have been more unlike the prevailing trends that surrounded them in downtown New York in the late-'70s.

Just a few blocks away from where they lived and performed in the West Village, punk-rock was all the rage. "We'd find ourselves mixing it up with people from that scene," said Roche. "What we had in common is we both wanted to do it. There were so many rules and regulations, and the punks were kind of saying we just want to play what comes out of us. We could always relate to that, because we never passed any of the tests with any of the organized music scenes."

Their signature three-part harmonies and songs that examine the ambiguities of contemporary romance are found on about a dozen albums, including "Will You Be My Friend?" (Baby Boom), a children's album, and last year's, "Can We Go Home Now" (Rykodisc), a stunning return to form that showed the sisters ripening musically and lyrically.

Throughout it all, said Roche, the sisters have remained friends as well as musical partners, although she admits it hasn't always been easy.

"We haven't pulled guns on each other yet, but by this time we've felt the full range of emotions," she said. "It really is an intense thing to be involved with the family for so long. I guess it really is phenomenal that we're still friends. We find ourselves, in spite of ourselves, even socializing together when we're not working."

On occasion the group has made use of non-sisterly collaborators: musicians, vocalists, arrangers, technicians. "Sometimes they're like fourth members," said Roche. "But we've got the triad covered with the three of us, and I think if there were a fourth singer it might be a little too crowded. This way everybody gets her own note.

"Plus, it's a built-in vote, too. Two against one wins. If there were four we'd have a lot of stand-offs, probably."

(This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 31, 1996. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 1996. All rights reserved.)

On occasion the group has made use of non-sisterly collaborators: musicians, vocalists, arrangers, technicians. "Sometimes they're like fourth members," said Roche. "But we've got the triad covered with the three of us, and I think if there were a fourth singer it might be a little too crowded. This way everybody gets her own note.

"Plus, it's a built-in vote, too. Two against one wins. If there were four we'd have a lot of stand-offs, probably."

(This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 31, 1996. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 1996. All rights reserved.)


Seth Rogovoy
rogovoy@berkshire.net
music news, interviews, reviews, et al.

Next ArticlePrevious Article
Back