Hannah Ford: The Princess Ride
The Glee-esque level of discipline in 3rd Eye Girl is not unlike the manic energy a pack of cheerleaders would deliver. Unlike that fluffy blood sport, though, Ford and her fellow Girls seem to be having a ball. “When we got off the stage me and the girls all started jumping around and like hugging each other; it’s so much fun,” she says. “On stage you see us and we’re like hardcore rock and roll chicks and then when we get off the stage we totally turn into these middle school girls.”
For all its spontaneous energy, Live Out Loud is a well-rehearsed set. The band records each performance as well as every rehearsal to see what works and what doesn’t. There’s a pep talk before shows, mini-pep talks on stage, and a post mortem the next morning. Even then it still doesn’t seem like enough preparation. “You never know how the sound is going to turn out,” Ford offers. “Sound check can be great but when all the people come in it totally changes the room.”
The moments before the lights go down is the most crucial: “If I can I get away for a couple of minutes before I go on and stretch and breathe and pray that the show goes well and that I have the strength to get through it, that’s a big help.” The key, Ford says, has been to trick herself into thinking of live performance as just another practice. “And Prince says the same thing. He tells us to think how we’re just jamming and we’re not doing all kinds of crazy tricks and that the music isn’t loud, and that we’re not in a sphere with all the lights. Just go back to find your center and go there and stay there. As the show goes on we’ll get to that crazy place.
“People say I look relaxed when I play but I totally feel like I’m a monster,” she laughs. “I totally go into this like whole other place where I’m literally – you can’t hear it but I scream and really lay into what I’m doing. I smile a lot when I play, which I think gives the optical illusion of relaxation. But relaxation is something I really work on. [Drumming] is so physical that if you are tense and tight, right away trying to play like that for two hours it’s not going to work for your body.”
No “I” In 3rd Eye
A serious head-trip comes with the delicate dance between Prince’s fickle temperament and the stresses of delivering on supersized artistic ambition. Ford has tasked herself with laying an effortless-sounding pocket but also playing with big ears. Maybe the average rock bassist and drummer lock as a unit, but in 3rd Eye Girl all bandmembers’ energy flows to the singer: “Mainly I think we all really tune into Prince and his vocals,” Ford says. “Because at any given point he can call a cue to break the song down. Or he’ll say ’Just groove’ and so I’ll have to [vamp] so that he can play with the audience a little bit more. Within the same song, though, different melodies or even the bass line will cue another section, so I listen a lot to everything and I listen to the music as a whole. But we really focus on Prince to make sure that we’re all on the same page.”
This mindset is a fundamental change for Ford, who in many ways drove her previous bands with a blend of showy musical playing – first with fusion trio Pandorum and, later, Bellevue Suite, which broke up for good last December. “As a drummer we tend to [want] to be in control over the music with the time and the volume and fills leading in to the next section, and being the ones making the cues.” she says. “So one thing that I really had to do was remind myself to always stay focused on the band because ordinarily I love to just close my eyes and put my head back and play the music.
[laughs] But because at any given moment he could call [out for something] that’s not what we’re used to, I have to really pay attention and keep my eyes on him. That’s something I had to make second nature.”
And has The Artist been pleased with the results so far?
“We talked last night about the first show,” Ford says carefully. “And he was just saying how good it felt and how it’ll only get better and that different sound issues will get fixed. After the shows it’s just a really good vibe so I think he’s been very pleased so far and he will continue to because it will only get better.”