Noveller is the solo electric guitar project of Austin-based composer and filmmaker Sarah Lipstate. Handling the guitar as her muse, Lipstate summons a sonic palette so rich as to challenge the listener to conceive of how it’s housed in a single instrument manipulated by a solitary performer. Her one-woman guitar soundscapes have captured the attention of NPR, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and The Wall Street Journal.
She released her first two full-length albums on Brooklyn noise label No Fun Productions in 2009. In 2010, Lipstate started her own imprint, Saffron Recordings, as a vehicle for releasing the Noveller full-length ‘Desert Fires’ and a split LP between Noveller and unFact (David Wm. Sims of the Jesus Lizard) titled ‘Bleached Valentine’. In May 2011, she released the critically acclaimed ‘Glacial Glow’ jointly through Saffron Recordings and Weird Forest. Her newest full-length, ‘No Dreams’, came out on October 22nd, 2013 on Important Records. In July 2014, Shelter Press released a vinyl pressing of a collaborative effort between Noveller and thisquietarmy. Lipstate is currently planning a duo release with JG Thirlwell as well as a new Noveller full-length.
Lipstate’s festival performances include the Suoni Per Il Popolo fest in Montreal, No Fun Fest in NYC and Sweden, Decibel Festival in Seattle, Ellnora Festival in Illinois, New York Guitar Festival, Ecstatic Music Festival, Kilbi Im Exil in Zurich, and Unsound in Krakow. Noveller has toured the U.S. and internationally, at times supporting acts such as St. Vincent, Xiu Xiu, the Jesus Lizard, U.S. Girls, Aidan Baker, and Emeralds. Lipstate has collaborated with several renowned musicians, including live improvised duo performances with Carla Bozulich (Evangelista, The Geraldine Fibbers), David Wm. Sims (the Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), and JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia). She has previously performed as a member of Cold Cave, Parts & Labor, and One Umbrella. Lipstate has also participated in Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Army, Ben Frost’s “Music for 6 Guitars” Ensemble, and Glenn Branca’s 100 guitar ensemble. Lipstate joined the hit podcast Radiolab on a nationwide tour of their live show, Apocalyptical, performing a live cinematic score for their show along with fellow musicians Glenn Kotche (of Wilco) on percussion and Darin Gray on upright bass.
Sarah Lipstate began composing for film in 2012 in collaboration with renowned composer Nathan Larson (Boys Don’t Cry, Margin Call). Lipstate has composed original music for the following features and short films, The Truth About Emanuel (dir. Francesca Gregorini) - 2014, The Skeleton Twins (dir. Craig Johnson) - 2014, Happy Baby (dir. Stephen Elliott) - 2014, Flushing Flesh (short film, dir. Taylor Cohan) – 2014, The Animated Life of A.R. Wallace (animated short film, dir. Sharon Shattuck & Flora Lichtman) – 2013, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (dir. Sam Fleischner) – 2013, The Moment (dir. Jane Weinstock) - 2013, Plus One (dir. Dennis Illiadis) - 2013, The Supreme Price (dir. Joanna Lipper) – 2013, TRAITORS (dir. Sean Gullette) – 2013, Grand Street (dir. Lex Sidon) – 2013, Sarah Lipstate’s Film REEL
The D.C. based ensemble, Low End String Quartet, approached Lipstate in late 2010 to compose a commissioned work for their 2012 season. The quartet premiered her piece, “Into the Midnight Sun” at the Reston Community Center in Reston, VA in April 2012. The instrumentation featured electric guitar, electric violin, cello, and double bass.
Lipstate received a BS in Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin in December 2006. Lipstate’s short films screened at the SXSW film festival in 2006 and 2007, and earned Lipstate the “Diamond in the Rough Cut” award for exceptional emerging filmmaker at Cinematexas 2006. She debuted a new film, ‘Interior Variations’, at the New Museum as part of No Fun: Infinite Sound and Image in May 2009. The film also screened at the 12th Kyoto International Film & Video Festival in Japan, and as part of the ‘New York Avant Cinema Series’ at the 23rd Singapore International Film Festival. Lipstate’s film works were showcased in the Women of NY Cinema screening as part of the 2009 NY Eye + Ear Festival in Tribeca.
In March 2011, Lipstate showed ARTIFACT, a multimedia installation exploring process, rescission, and artifact in film and sound, at Splatterpool Artspace in Brooklyn. She collaborated with Chris Habib to create an interactive personal echo chamber fitted with a cassette player running one pre-recorded tape loop. Each time a participant engages the echo chamber, a switch activates an erase head atop the structure deleting a portion of the audio randomly from the loop. As more people visit the chamber, more silence is restored to the tape.
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?
My parents started me in piano lessons when I was in 2nd grade and that was really my first exposure to complex composed music since there wasn't a lot of music played in my house growing up. I remember being really drawn to composers who used dissonance in their works like Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. My piano teacher joked that while I was playing a Prokofiev piece I shouldn't worry about hitting a wrong note because the music was so dissonant that no one would notice. I really liked the freedom of this music and I believe it definitely influenced me down the road when I started getting into No Wave and noise rock.
What do you recall about your guitar learning process?
I was very frustrated when I first started playing guitar because at that point I was excited to try making feedback and crazy noise with the guitar but I couldn't figure out how to turn my dinky Danelectro guitar and practice amp into a noise machine. That's when I discovered distortion and effects pedals and an entire world of possibilities opened for me.
Why did you decide to pick up the guitar?
All of the bands that I loved at the time had amazing guitarists doing interesting things with their instrument. I wanted to try it out for myself.
What do you expect from music?
I get so much out of music. It's the best drug in my opinion. If I ever reach a point where playing my guitar or composing music for a film doesn't make me happy then I'll really be in trouble.
Where are your roots? What are your secret influences?
I love reading and feel like my favorite books usually end up influencing my music. Lately I've been on a kick of re-reading books that I love and it's been interesting to revisit these narratives and get inspired all over again. I'm a big fan of William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, and Don DeLilo... though the list goes on and on...
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?
Very first record I bought was a MC Hammer cassette tape. Last record I bought was a used CD copy of Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa.
Directed by Sarah Lipstate and Chris Habib.
If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your musical career?
I wouldn't say a thing.
How many guitars do you have? Select only one.
I only have 2 guitars at the moment. Both are Made in Japan Fender Jaguars. My main guitar is my white Jaguar and it's my love. I bought my first Jaguar in 2009 when I was playing with Parts & Labor. We were getting ready to record the album 'Receivers' and my bandmates encouraged me to buy a guitar with a richer sound than the Custom Telecaster that I had been playing. I love everything about the Jaguar from the tone to the feel of the neck to the amazing body shape. I've had mine fitted with a Mustang bridge which is a standard swap, but aside from that it's all original and fantastic.
Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?
Laurie Anderson. She's incredibly inspiring and I love the live collaborative sets I've seen her perform with other musicians.
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
"Anyone can make noise. Make something beautiful. That's the challenge."
What gear do you use?
I recently switched up my pedalboard setup and it's pretty perfect. I'm always trying out different pedals and seeing what new things are out there but when it comes to my setup I try to be as practical and efficient as possible. I just swapped out my two Eventide Space and TimeFactor pedals for their new H9 pedal. It's INCREDIBLE. I also picked up the Boss DD-7 for simple delay. My looper is a Boomerang Phrase III Sampler. I play a Fender Jaguar through an Ampeg Superjet guitar amp.
What do you like the most about being a musician?
I love that I get to make music every day in many contexts. Even if I'm composing something for a film score and the director rejects it and tells me to start over and try something else, I still got to spend my day creating a piece of music and that's amazing. I've actually turned rejected film cues into Noveller songs in the past. It's the best job in the world for me.
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
I just finished the new Noveller album which I'm very excited about and am currently in negotiations with labels to decide who will release it. I'll also be recording a duo album with JG Thirlwell soon in NYC so that will be fun. I'm going on tour on Europe in Oct/Nov so that will be a journey. All in all the future looks amazing and I can't wait to get there.