Multi-instrumentalist and composer Emma Ruth Rundle is in a mood. It may change in the span of a heartbeat or two, but it's never far from something like a storm-clouded beach with a single seagull circling, perhaps screaming. There may or may not be a carcass involved. Or a brooding flock of carnal impulses.
"I think everyone will agree that my particular moods are highly changeable," Rundle said, edgily, with her band members apparently overhearing her phone interview. She's speaking, specifically, of the way she interprets songs onstage. "Any given performance, there are lots of variables and logistical problems," she continues, covering most of what can go wrong with gear, sound, lighting and any other detail that may affect the artist's focus or the fans' reception. It's the kind of attention to detail that makes the difference between a mere talent and one bound for a successful career.
"Sometimes it's cathartic," she says. "Playing the instrument and in a state of not having to think about actualizing the performance aspect can coalesce into a successful performance—all demons exorcised."
Rundle used to be a lot quieter about it. "I'd been very shy my whole life, never identified as a front person, didn't feel comfortable having a spotlight on me, never made it out of the music scene in L.A.," she says. Still, she'd carved out her intentions with an education in music-making, sound and art at the renowned California Institute of the Arts.
Rundle eased into the new-millennial Los Angeles post-rock scene at the experimental end of shoegaze folk. Her own project, The Nocturnes, made largish waves in the local soup with its addition of goth flavors. But it was in L.A.'s Red Sparowes that Rundle began generating serious heat. With the confidence she was gaining Rundle began to grow into her own talent and clarify her vision for it. Some Heavy Ocean, her 2014 solo project for L.A.'s respected Sargent House label, spoke for her definitively, exploring stretch feats in her vocal expression and particularly in her guitar range, from nuanced to explosive.
Meanwhile, though, she had formed the band Marriages with fellow Red Sparowes alum Greg Burns. The duo later added drummer Andrew Clinco. In that project's 2015 release, Salome, Rundle's voice and guitar work are intentionally mixed down so that all the parts have equal importance, all members of the team. The songs on Salome don't explicitly report on the famous seductress' life and times, but they may reflect the complexity of Salome's circumstances, and, she admits, those of Rundle, herself.
"My life is not rainbows. None of this is story. The goal is to perform and not to act. The goal is to be present with the material and the music and the moment that you're making it. All of the emotion of that is all about things that happened in and around making that record. I don't know how to tell a story that isn't based in reality."
It's nonetheless a great story. Time Out London just called Salome one of the 25 best albums so far in this year that's seen releases from Blur, Sleater-Kinney and Sufjan Stevens among much more predictable company.
And not a drop of blood was shed.