The Room Outside
There’s a dreamy kind of time-traveling that happens when you listen to The Room Outside. They have a late 60s feel – beautiful harmonies and intricate guitar lines awash with reverb, a solid rhythm section, and earnest lyrics about how things really could be better if we tried. And while they definitely hold appeal to fans of bands like Beach House and Foyxgen, they have more in common with The Velvet Underground and Fleetwood Mac. The songs move like nighttime desert wind, navigated by the yearning voice of Karrie Hopper, which is childlike but also has an eeriness to it, like a phone call from the 1920s or a voice in the background on an old record.
And maybe I’m biased. I had the privilege of befriending Karrie in Austin, Texas in 2006. She played a solo set at a house I lived at and I fell in love with her music immediately. I wrote down a lyric she sang that night and later quoted it in one of my songs – “living reckless didn’t work for long.” Something I was overly familiar with at that point in my life.
Our friendship grew. She started playing electric guitar and singing in my band Real Live Tigers and I played drums for her. Her roommate went on tour for two months and I moved in and let her practice acupuncture on me while we showed each other new songs and played music together more often. One night we heard fire trucks close by and stepped outside to find the guesthouse in the backyard on fire. We were in a haze of creativity and music.
We toured together in 2007 and afterwards our hearts led us away from Austin. I moved to Fayetteville and she moved to Chicago and then New York.
But we’ve still held a strong bond. We were born eight hours apart, on two different continents, and it’s easy to think of that as one reason why there’s so much shorthand in our friendship.
She now lives in Santa Fe and her new band is The Room Outside, a band that includes her older sister Roxane on bass and a talented jazz drummer named Loren Bienvenu. They just digitally released their first album via Bandcamp, but will be selling physical copies when they play a free show at Maxine’s Tap Room in Fayetteville on Monday, Nov. 11. The show starts at 8 p.m. and they’ll be joined by locals Fire & Flood.
I asked Karrie some questions about her new band:
1. How did you decide on the name The Room Outside and what significance does it hold?
Roxane and I have a 90-year-old friend named Bette. She is a collector of different things, mostly natural, like rocks and plants. We were looking through Bette’s library one day and saw the words “The Room Outside” in an ancient book on gardening. Those three words brought many different concepts to mind. They speak of the vastness of the outdoors for sure. But they also speak of the possibilities “out there,” like in the song “The Room Outside,” which is actually about living in New York City.
2. This music is very different from your earlier solo stuff. How much do you think the landscape in New Mexico, especially the landscape of the high desert around Santa Fe, informs the band’s music?
The land is a comfort and a friend to me. There are beautiful drives in every direction. The views fill me with clear-headedness, open-heartedness, and unlimited possibilities. Also an awareness of time, history and how old the planet is, and an awareness of eternity. These things are most definitely the subject matter on our album.
3. Is that one of the goals of the band, to incorporate the landscape in creating something larger, more organic, or tangible?
The landscape is a symbol of our own unlimited potential, so I think it is a goal to incorporate it. Having The Room Outside for a band name helps with that incorporation. The name destines us to expand and grow as a band. To take our creativity where no one has gone before.
4. How much collaboration takes place? Do Loren and Roxane help shape the songwriting process or do you bring completed songs to the band?
More collaboration is taking place as we grow together as a band. When we started I brought completed songs. But now we are beginning to song-sculpt together. Loren and Roxane have unique voices too, so it’s fun.
5. Do you already have ideas and themes in mind for the next album?
I predict the road is going to tell us what to do next. With all that time to imagine and bond over our music. We’ve talked about a few ideas up to now, but we’re really going to get deep on the road.
6. What are some of the band’s favorite snacks and favorite bands to listen to?
Grapes, carrots, celery, hummus, olives, cheese, apples. I’m looking forward to listening to Stevie Wonder.