When Alice Genese (Psychic TV, Sexpod, Gut Bank) and Shaune Pony Heath started meeting every Tuesday to write music together, they saw it simply as a creative exercise. But the collaboration evolved into Ov Stars and a debut EP, aptly titled Tuesdays (out 4/23/22). While Alice is known as a bassist and Pony’s primary instrument is the piano, the duo challenged themselves by writing on guitars. For the recording, they worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Berner (Psychic TV) as well as musicians John Weingarten (Psychic TV, Naam), Randy Schrager (Jesse Malin, Scissor Sisters, Psychic TV touring drummer), and Richard Salino (Psychic TV live sound engineer).
Over a Zoom interview, Alice and Pony discussed their collaboration and the making of Tuesdays.
How did this project come together?
Alice: Pony and I met and started writing together on Tuesdays. I live in Ocean Grove, Pony lives in Asbury Park. When we decided, after becoming friends, that we would try to write some music together, we would meet on Tuesdays in my apartment. That was the beginning, and we didn’t start writing with an intention of doing anything. We just were writing as an exercise, to write.
Pony: Yeah. Just to write, just like to flex your creative muscle. And also there’s an accountability; every week, one day a week, we would meet, and we were going to work. Just to flex that muscle.
Were there any specific common interests or common influences that made you decide to write together?
Pony: We were friends first. I was introduced to her by her brother and then we were just hanging out and talking about … we have common interests like music, spirituality, and art. She’s a jeweler as well. I studied fashion, so there’s a design element as well that we could discuss and just we clicked.
At what point did you feel you were establishing a musical direction, and are there ways that you feel it evolved from the beginnings to what we hear on the EP?
Alice: In the very beginning, the first time we met, Pony was playing piano, and I was playing bass. And we wrote our first song on the very first day that we got together, both of us weeping. It was very sad. But it also was that moment where we both also discovered that each of us has our own distinct trauma that … I definitely was working through at the time that we had met. And I think as human beings, we all work through any kind of traumas as long as we’re alive. So we sort of found that we had that common factor between us.
Pony: At that point in time, we both needed a certain kind of emotional support. And I feel we’re similar, but we’re so very different as well. She had the capacity to facilitate that emotional support. And I think it was a two-way street and writing together is … it’s not talk therapy, but it’s a form of therapy where you can feel less alone and actually share and try to work through it and make something beautiful.
So what was the overall timeframe? When did you actually start making the EP?
Alice: I would say somewhere in 2018. It was also around the time that Genesis P-Orridge had gotten diagnosed [with leukemia] and I was less and less busy musically with Psychic TV, and still very much wanting to work on and write music. And again, we didn’t start writing to record, we just wrote as a form of creativity.
Given that, what made you decide that this was time to put out a release?
Pony: There’s a lot of material. And it was very much the same list [of songs] we had, not identical, but it was the five songs that spoke the most to us at that moment when Alice decided we’re gonna pull the trigger and make an EP now. [She said] ‘we’re gonna record now.’
Alice: I just sort of sprung that on him.
Pony: Yeah. But it is great. I think the songs relate to each other really well. Even though they weren’t specifically written to be heard together, there is a common thread that goes through it. As we were working on the setlist and which numbers it should be, that became a clear narrative.
Was it obvious that you wanted to do an EP as opposed to an album at this point?
Alice: It started as a single! First, we recorded ‘Ov Stars’ and ‘Crying Time’ and we were just going to do a single. We started that process probably in April 2021. By the time we got out of the studio and I heard the masters, then I also realized how delayed vinyl is going to be, because we are pressing on vinyl. I thought, you know, maybe we should make this a little bigger and do another three songs. I supported, I funded the project, so it’s not like I have a tremendous amount of extra money lying around. So it was sort of what we could afford to do. Yes, there are other songs. Hopefully, we’ll go back in and record some of those other songs someday. I don’t know, in the next month or year or something. So when it started out, it was going to be a single, and it ended up being a five-song EP and we will press that on vinyl. It is currently in the vinyl factories.
Could you talk about the recording process and what role Jeff Berner may have had as producer?
Pony: Well, we had a joke in the studio that we kept saying, “let go and let Jeff …”, because he is a genius. So we sent the songs to him, and he had some ideas about them. And then, we brainstormed a little bit, like with basslines and that kind of stuff. It just was very organic and … I love Jeff.
Alice: Jeff and I played together on Psychic TV for a long while. So I trusted him, and we did the last few recordings of Psychic TV out of his studios. First, it was Galuminum Foil and then it was Studio G, when he moved there. So I felt personally very comfortable working with him. Recording can be such a sterile experience; you feel like everybody’s plugging stuff in everywhere, and you’re hooked up to wires, and it’s terrifying. I feel that, when I work with Jeff, it doesn’t feel that way: it just feels like going home again.
Do you plan on doing live performances to promote the EP?
Alice: We’re playing at the Danny Clinch Gallery on April 24. We’re probably going to do that more of like our living-room set. So I think just Pony and I will do that acoustically. And then we’re doing a performance June 30 at Pioneer Works in Red Hook in Brooklyn, and that’ll be a bit more involved, and we’ll also do a few songs as a tribute to Psychic TV and to Genesis during that set. We’ll have the same live video artist who worked with Psychic TV, and Jeff will actually play with us that day as well. We’re still working on all the details, and hopefully we’ll have another member or two come on just to do like a little bit of a tribute toward the end of our set. And then we’re just sort of feeling it out right now to see what’s working. Also, with COVID still being a factor, it didn’t feel like it was time to book grand tours, lots of shows. I feel like everybody that I know who is booking lots of shows is canceling lots of shows.
Do you feel that COVID had any impact in terms of actually making the EP?
Alice: I don’t know if it really impacted us because we got together every Tuesday.
Pony: We were in a pod together. So we never stopped writing. We never stopped throwing ideas around and then, wasn’t it during the pandemic that you did the song “Funeral Boots”?
Alice: Yeah, I did. I recorded at home. There’s a tribute album to Genesis P-Orridge, “Not in My Future” that was released very recently on Gen’s birthday. We did that here. We borrowed Pony’s piano, and I played guitar on my little computer.
Pony: That’s probably the only home recording we did.
Alice: Otherwise, Pony and I had been getting together every Tuesday for a couple of years and that didn’t change. What was nice was that I could still look forward to seeing him every Tuesday. We were both pretty diligent about who we would be around.
Were you both working on any other musical projects at the same time? And if so, what does ‘Ov Stars’ fulfill for you creatively that other work might not?
Pony: It’s like you go back and you keep refining and refining and refining and refining. On some level, you’re like, this isn’t good enough. The work, it needs to be better. It could be better. And what’s interesting … We were writing with guitar. Only the first day we were writing with the piano and bass, which, like I said, are our weapons of choice. And we have a broader range of playing on them. We just started guitars because my piano is solid wood and heavy to carry across the bridge from Asbury Park to Ocean Grove. So we were like, I’m going to get a guitar, let’s play a little bit of guitar. And we are not the world’s greatest guitarists, but we can navigate our way around it. So it’s that thing where you have a constraint or parameters in which to create. Sometimes it forces you to create, find a creative way to make something within that, that shines. But also it gives you a point to stop and know when it’s done. And it’s being accountable. If I say my work sucks that I made with her, technically I’m saying her work sucks too. And it doesn’t, so that took care of the imposter syndrome.
I don’t want to dwell too much on Psychic TV, but Alice, I’m just curious about how you got involved with them and what you got out of the experience.
Alice: Well, I knew Edley, who’s the drummer. He and I, at that point, had been friends. And Edley was friends with Jackie, Lady Jay, Gen’s wife. And then Genesis and I became friends, probably beginning in 2000 when it was just sort of like a whisper that maybe Gen would want to do Psychic TV [again]. So it really came from a friendship, first through Edley, but then through my introduction to Genesis because s/he wanted jewelry made. I became their jeweler, for Gen and for Lady Jay. Gen and I would meet for lunch at Odessa in the Lower Side, in the East Village, which was an amazing place. So we would sit and have lunch and we just sort of got closer and closer. And then I recall, one day we were just walking down St Mark’s together. And s/he’s like, ‘oh, you know, it’s gonna be really fun when we start playing together.’ And my thought was, and I spoke it, ‘Gen, you, you’ve never heard me play. What do you mean when we start playing?’ S/he’s like, ‘I know Alice, we’re gonna be playing together.’ Just that way, that Genesis was just like very offhanded about it. Of course, there was at some point an audition, which was fine. From 2003 on I was in Psychic TV and it was an incredible journey to be on.