Diane Cluck & The Van Nostrand Sisters

Diane Cluck & The Van Nostrand Sisters

Diane Cluck is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter based in Charlottesville, Virginia known for her intuitive folk background and her unique, textural vocals. Diane has showcased her talents through NPR and released over 8 studio albums as well as launching a fan-funded Song-of-the-Week project. Since her involvement with the Antifolk scene in New York during the early 2000s, fellow singer-songwriters Laura Marling, Florence Welch (of Florence And The Machine) and Sharon Van Etten have all cited Diane as an influence.
The Van Nostrand Sisters are a folk, performance art, vocal group comprised of Willa & Glenna VanNostrand of Providence, RI.
Diane Cluck and the The Van Nostrand Sisters will be playing AS220 on Friday, October 20th on the Main Stage (115 Empire Street,) @ 9.00pm. Diane will be playing with supporting act Sam Moss as part of her October 2017 Tour.

Interview Part I, Diane Cluck:

What initially made you gravitate towards becoming a professional musician and how have you been able to maintain music as a creative outlet while still keeping your career goals in mind?
Diane: I thought being a full-time / professional musician would make it possible for me to make more music. Haha…it doesn’t quite work that way. In being a full-time musician I’ve learned accounting, booking, project management, promotion, travel-planning, etc. Now the skill I’m focusing on most is discipline. Without it I could easily keep doing all those other things without making any time for music whatsoever. I’m not complaining when I say this; it’s a reality that seems to hold true for many other professions. The 10% of the time I spend doing the thing I love – singing, writing songs, and playing instruments – is completely worth it.

Who was the first person to have a meaningful impact on your decision to pursue music?
D: The desire to write songs emerged when I first entered the Antihoot at Sidewalk Cafe in NYC, though I was musical and in love with music from a young age. It wasn’t one specific person who influenced me, but an entire community.

What is Antifolk?
D: Everyone you ask will give a different answer. Antifolk was the scene centered around the Sidewalk Cafe in the early 2000s, though it began earlier than that and is still going. It was an amazing crucible of creativity, a community of songwriters, comedians, poets, and other varieties of unsung genius… What seemed to be the unifying quality in Antifolk was heart over chops. It didn’t really matter if you played guitar well. It did matter if you were willing to risk singing something revealing and true.

Since being featured on NPR and having the opportunity to play the US, UK, and Europe; how have you seen your music take on a wider audience?
D: It’s wonderful to visit places I’ve never been to before and meet people who already know and have connected with the music. I had that experience in Iowa and Kentucky last month, two states I hadn’t played in previously. I’m usually alone in making songs, and then they fly the nest and go out and cross-pollinate and it’s a beautiful mystery the way they interact with the listeners’ lives.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your performances on and off stage?
D: Cross-pollination of ideas and connection with others. I really love when the room feels like a hive or womb of energy, a place created by those of us making and listening. The communicative power of music is awesome. Old-school awesome; like the cosmos.

When did you first come in contact with Sam Moss?
D: We were paired up for a show in Burlington in 2013. It was a good experience, and Sam and I have played together in a few times in different cities since then. He’s great!

What messages come forth in your music?
D: More and more I’m writing sing-songs in a kind of self-help genre. Simple phrases that keep me on track in daily life, with color and story around the edges. “Not Afraid To Be Kind” was one of those from my last album, Boneset. “Learn to Lose” is a new song in that vein, and I’ve been working on one for awhile called “I’m Not Gonna Complain”. Lyrics from “Grandma Say” are a good example: ”do the things you love / and do them well / ’cause you can’t tell when things will go from good to worse / don’t live life like it’s a curse”.

Lastly, what feelings have you taken from putting yourself out there and showcasing your talent that you might not have expected before you were able to go out and do so?
D: My feeling of being at home in being human has grown. At first when I began making songs I was only concerned with self-expression. Over the years I’ve experienced that when I really open up and allow lyrics to come through me from a deeply felt but not logical place, those are the songs that end up resonating most strongly with others.



Part II, The Van Nostrand Sisters:


What is your relationship with the Providence art scene and more specifically AS220?
The Van Nostrand Sisters: As kids both of us grew up coming to shows in Providence and at As220. We’ve been coming to shows in PVD for about 20 years! Boarding school, college, traveling – through it all we keep coming back to Providence – we love the art and music scene here. Glenna lived at The Dirt Palace and met a lot of wonderful comrades; Willa’s first job in high school was at AS220’s Perishable theatre, which is now The Black Box. Willa had booked music and art shows in college and then at Machines with Magnets for a few years. We both worked at The Met and Glenna also worked at Lupo’s. To us, AS220 has alway been such a wonderfully open and hospitable venue for performers and listeners alike.

How has your experience of being raised on the small organic farm of Blessingway in Rehoboth, MA become a part of your performance and your personality?
VNS: We grew up in a really open, holistic environment- Lots of jam sessions in the back yard, a practice space in the garage, and someone always singing in the house or at the kitchen table. The stereo was always turned up in the living room or upstairs in each of our bedrooms. We were convinced that our mom was a rock star by how she’d belt it out in the car singing anything from the B52s to George Michael to Shawn Colvin. Our parents threw a lot of big summer parties with live bands and there would be beautiful fresh food and often a giant pig roast. We would like to think that these parties kind of taught us the basics of entertaining and hospitality: throw a big party, have something wonderful to offer your guests and share a special moment. We consider ourselves country girls that grew up a stones throw from Providence and an hour from Boston. Just close enough to the city but just far enough away to be raised in the woods with lots of barn cats and salamander hunts.

How long have The Van Nostrand Sisters been making music both from the beginning, and as a local act?
VNS: We’ve been singing together as far back as we can remember. We’ve been in bands together since we were in high school, hosting music shows in the back yard and even hosting big musical slumber parties in college back at the farm. We’ve been playing as VNS with our honorary Sister, Ken Linehan for a few years now – perhaps since 2013? Glenna has been performing as Omnivore for about 10 years. Liz Isenberg plays with us when her schedule permits and she adds these beautiful layers of vocals, upright bass and Wurlitzer.

What sort of message would you like people to take from your music?
VNS: We take so much joy in life and in writing our songs. We want to celebrate the ups and downs of the universe such as love, lust, and heartbreak. All of those weird moments you can only encapsulate with lyrics or the tune of a song. We hope that our listeners connect with our poetry and that they might hum the the tunes for days and days after the show.


Dave Hurley