Setting Sun with Quitzow
10 p.m. Tuesday
309 White, Norman
When conjuring up the best collaborator for Erica Quitzow, a classically trained violinist and music teacher with an affinity for writing complicated, '80s-inspired electronic pop, Gary Levitt is probably not who comes to mind. As the songwriter and guitarist behind New York's introspective experimental folk act Setting Sun, Levitt acknowledges the disparity behind the match, both in the studio and onstage.
"We definitely have a different approach. She's a lot more analytical," he said. "I kind of just go by my gut."
Quitzow and Levitt are longtime musical cohorts, although each writes his or her own songs and retains creative control of individual projects. They're co-owners of independent label Young Love Records; they co-habitate in a house/recording studio in New Paltz, N.Y.; and they've toured together almost nonstop over the last few years.
Their newest records " "Juice Water" for Quitzow and "Fantasurreal" for Setting Sun " were both released on June 1 by Young Love. Yet, despite all this overlap, audiences remain perplexed about the partnership.
"The comment we usually get is, 'Wow, I can't believe how different the sounds are from the same batch of people,'" Levitt said.
Quitzow's "Juice Water" is a synth-heavy, danceable record cut with intricate layers of orchestration and alternately revealing and emotionless lyrics, while Setting Sun's "Fantasurreal" leans more toward the expressive folk made famous by artists like Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes. Trraces of each exist on the other, however; Setting Sun's "Don't Grow Up" features prominent cello solos, while Quitzow's "Money Talks," if unplugged, easily could have found a second home on "Fantasurreal."
"Erica is a music teacher, so this is going to hurt her industry. I was drawn to the guitar because my friends were playing, and my older brother and father played," Levitt said. "I took two lessons from this guy, and he kind of killed the urge that made me want to pick up the guitar in the first place. I was more into exploring it on my own, rather than being formed and shown where to go."
Levitt also engineers other artists' discs " a "day job" of sorts, to which he attributes much of his tendency to experiment with Setting Sun.
"Certain things, because I do them every day, become so routine that I don't want to do them when I'm doing my own music," he said. "Also, certain things are very easy. Getting an acoustic guitar sound " I can do that super-fast. When things become so easy, it also makes some things mundane, so I'm forced to do things differently when it comes to my own music."
Quitzow, when she is at home, teaches her students via the Suzuki method, which educates using a combination of musical immersion and environmental encouragement, rather than the strict adherence to technical skills as she was taught.
"I've recorded a lot of classical musicians, usually string players, and most of them can't improvise at all, even though they're amazing players and can do amazing things," Levitt said. "I actually had one cellist have a nervous breakdown in the studio. She started crying and just scraping the strings with her bow violently. The outro of the song was just the C chord to the F chord " it's very, very simple. We said, 'Just do whatever,' and she said, 'I can't do whatever. What do you want me to do?' She needed something written in front of her."
Conversely, Levitt said he requires the absence of over analysis in order to write and perform effectively.
"If I start to not trust my instincts and try to analyze it, I start to glitch," he said. "She's able to chart things out, and I'm not really able to do that, but we're still able to totally work it, even with our differences of approach."
Despite Levitt's admission that the gaps in style and method have worked thus far for the pair in the live setting, he said, "We do think this will probably be the last tour we do together, unless there's a special request for both bands. It might have run its course for now." "Becky Carman