Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan are best known for work with their indie pop bands (La Sera and Springtime Carnivore, respectively), but the two Los Angeles artists also have special places in their hearts for ’70s and ’80s punk and new wave music. They recently joined forces to record Take It, It’s Yours, a 10-song covers album featuring some of their favorite songs by artists like the Misfits, the Buzzcocks, the Replacements and Billy Idol. They recorded the tunes with Drew Fischer at Comp-NY Recording, finding ways to channel their myriad influences — like girl groups and ’50s rock and roll — into new takes on old classics. The title comes from the Replacements song “Bastards of Young,” another of the album’s covers.
Goodman and Morgan discuss how they put the album together, how it influenced their own songwriting processes, and, most importantly, how they wish they could deliver Glenn Danzig a pie.
Katy: The idea for this record originated when we were playing Misfits songs on guitar in your backyard and singing harmony. Why do you think “Where Eagles Dare” was the song that prompted the rest of this album?
Greta: Singing the lyric “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch” with a pretty harmony felt like a unique reinvention because the sweetness of our voices clashed with the harshness of the lyric. After that, we started brainstorming a lot of other possible songs to cover and this idea became more real. I remember that you excitedly kept YouTube-ing videos … “What about The Ramones? What about Vibrators? Oh! What about X?” I think we ultimately put 20 songs on the brainstorm list and recorded 10 of those.
Greta: Out of all these covers, which do you wish you had written?
Katy: I’m gonna have to go with “Over the Edge” by Wipers. It’s simple, straightforward, and powerful.
Greta: Yes! I love how direct that song is. I connected with those lyrics so deeply.
Katy: You’ve told me before that some of the lyrics on this record are more direct than anything you’ve sang before … What’s an example of this? Which songs did you connect with most on an emotional level?
Greta: I usually write abstract lyrics to avoid sounding cliche, but this record taught me that often the simplest lyric is the best. I probably wouldn’t write the line “Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?” because it’s so simple, but that Buzzcocks song is one of my favorite songs of all time and our cover is my favorite on the record.
Slowing these songs down also made me aware of their greater poetic sensibility. One that stood out as being more poetic than I originally thought is “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which has some gorgeous lines: “I‘m ready to close my mind/ I’m ready to feel your hands/ lose my heart on the burning sand.”
Katy: What are the biggest songwriting lessons you learned by making this covers record?
Greta: I have heard about authors typing their favorite books word for word to understand what the act of writing them would be like. Making this covers record was the musical equivalent of that for us musically. I learned how effective a primal, simple lyric can be. I learned that, even when expressing a simple idea, every author will have their own unique turn of phrase to make it their own.
I learned how much I value a rich, unique visual lyric like in “Sex Beat”: “And yes, you do look cool / by the floodlights so blue / make my tropical apartment bed / your sacrificial pool.” I keep picturing the tropical apartment bed and blue floodlights every time I hear the song.
I’m amazed at how durable these songs are. Our versions of “Pay To Cum” (Bad Brains), “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (The Stooges) and “Rebel Yell” (Billy Idol) are such drastic reinventions that only the lyrical skeletons are the same. And yet, the original songwriting is powerful enough that the songs can shine in a new context.
Greta: Can you describe the relationship you have with a few of these songs or bands? What do they mean to you? Have you seen any of these bands live?
Katy: I have always loved the Buzzcocks, especially “Ever Fallen in Love.” 2003 was a whirlwind year for me, moving from New Jersey to Rochester to Boston to Austin and back to New Jersey, all for the sake of love and adventure, and that song in particular really summed it all up. I had missed them a few times already, but I finally saw the Buzzcocks play at Irving Plaza on Dec 4, 2003. That was a really crazy year in my life, and the Buzzcocks (and the Smiths, of course) were the soundtrack.
I won tickets to an Iggy Pop show when I lived in Boston in 2003, which is the first and last time I’ve ever won a contest. He was incredible, I felt like I was transported back to the ’70s. I saw him again at All Tomorrows Parties in New York in 2010 when Vivian Girls played, and he was just as energetic. Dude is unstoppable.
I don’t know exactly where I was when I first heard Gun Club, but it was when I was a teenager that had just gotten really into record collecting. Fire of Love was on my short list of 20 must-haves, and I finally found it at a record store in Seattle in 2006. It’s still one of my favorite records of all time, and probably the most valuable record I own.
I remember the night I decided to get really into the Wipers… I was at a house show in Brooklyn in 2006, and this band Defect Defect covered “D-7.” It was such a powerful song, I went home and proceeded to get really into the Wipers. To this day, no band can make me feel the same way as listening to a Wipers record can make me feel. It’s really intense. Greg Sage is a genius. I think “Over the Edge” is a perfect song, lyrically and musically, and it ended up being the first song we recorded for Take It, It’s Yours. I think it really sets the tone for the whole thing, which is why we put it first.
Greta: Which lyrics did you connect with most on the record?
Katy: Singing “Pay to Cum” was really eye-opening, because before we recorded it, I had never really known what all the lyrics were! I was always a huge Bad Brains fan, but doing this cover really strengthened my connection to the band and the song.
Greta: What were some of the sonic and tonal references we discussed in the recording process? Do you think we achieved what our daydream of the record would be?
Katy: The record came out ten times better than I could have ever dreamed, thanks to you and our engineer/producer Drew. I think it’s actually a perfect mix of your style in Springtime Carnivore and mine in La Sera. There are harmonies, but also a loud, clear lead vocal. The fact that Drew had a vibraphone set up in his studio changed the game, because it added a magical quality to a number of the songs and made the record feel more unified. Originally, the reference that we were going off was “two sisters lock themselves in an attic with their 4-track and a collection of punk records,” and the album came out like a surprisingly well-executed version of just that.
Greta: You deserve a ton of credit for being so skilled at brainstorming which songs would make the best covers. Also, you’re such a harmony queen — Your skill with choral arrangements constantly impresses me. The sonic texture of our layered voices is a huge part of the record’s sound.
I remember also referencing that we wanted these songs to fit on the soundtrack of a desert-noir mystery film. We joked pretty often, “What Would Quentin Tarantino Want?” It was interesting to see punk anthems turned inside into mournful torch songs or ballads and the choir arrangements hint at some work from that desert-noir world. I kept thinking of Ennio Morricone film scores.
Katy: Aww thanks Greta. Have you ever recorded a record like this before? Have you ever played so many different instruments on a recording? You are such a great multi-instrumentalist!
Greta: I did the self-titled Springtime Carnivore record in a similar way, but not quite the same. That record relied on programmed drums and loops, so the computer was part of it. For our covers record, we recorded many songs live (or as live as possible for the two of us). The way we did “Rebel Yell,” for example, was one full take where you sang lead vocals while I played piano and we just kept the one full take. I want to make records this way from now on! We spent more time setting a mood and less time recording, which made the process more inspiring and exciting. I also really enjoyed playing drums on our record because I’m not the best drummer, so it working within the constraints of my skill level kept it the arrangements very primal and direct.
Katy: You’ve been directing and editing a bunch of videos for this record launch! How many videos are you making?
Greta: My goal is for us to have visual content for each song. Some videos will be non-narrative … just tonal pieces. For “Over The Edge,” I filmed a boxing match in slow motion that gradually progresses to full speed. That represents, to me, the lyrical content of the song — being slowly pushed to the edge of one’s limits as if in the final round of a fight.
Greta: Which of these original artists would you most like to hear our cover?
Katy: I really, really want Billy Idol to hear our version of “Rebel Yell.” We changed that song around pretty drastically, and he seems like a really cool dude who might wanna hear it. I would also be really into Danzig listening to our Misfits cover. Now that I think about it, the idea of Danzig doing ANYTHING is cool.
Greta: I know where Danzig’s house is and I’ve suggested many times that we ring his doorbell, but you alway say no. Why, Katy, why?
Katy: That’s creepy, Greta!
Greta: Even if we deliver a pie?
Katy: Especially if we deliver a pie.