Q & A: Noveller's Sarah Lipstate On Working Alone, Opening For The Jesus Lizard, Panic Attacks And Getting Kicked Out of Cold Cave

Louis Caldarola
Noveller is the nom de musique of Sarah Lipstate, whose precise compositions build on a cathartic repetition of righteous riff aktion colored with gorgeous loopingfuckdoodlery and noise gush. Live, it's just Lipstate, all by her lonesome, just the way she likes it, slinging her guitar with rows upon rows of pedals at her feet while abstract, mind-bending visuals play behind her. She's not partial to "band" situations—but more on that later.

The Branca/Chatham/No Wave disciple has been a Brooklyn mainstay since arriving in 2007, pulling guitar duty for electronics-twiddling noiserock mashmongers Parts & Labor (she quit) and minimalist synth-popsters Cold Cave (she got kicked out) before focusing on Noveller full-time.

Lipstate has a mesmerizing new LP called Glacial Glow, releases her own shit via her own Saffron Recordings label, and tours in her sister's Jeep. She recently paired up with Lee Ranaldo and played with feuding guitar army visionaries Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham; she also serves as mentor and frequent collaborator for Jesus Lizard bassist David Wm. Sims and his experimental solo project, unFact. We had a lot to talk about.

As a solo performer, do you have something against drummers?

No, I don't have anything against drummers. It was a revelation to me when I first started playing with Parts & Labor. They have a great drummer (Joe Wong) but one day at practice I was like "Oh, if I listen to the drummer while I'm playing, I'll be in time and the songs will sound good!" I'm glad I figured that out. [Laughs] Yeah, drummers are great but I never considered having percussion with Noveller.

Why did you quit Parts & Labor?

I didn't have any clue what I was getting myself into when I started playing with those guys. At the time I was 23 and pretty new to Brooklyn. We had a mutual friend from Austin (where I went to college) and it was suggested they contact me because they were looking for a guitarist. I ended up meeting Dan (Friel) a few times, learned a couple of songs and then met with the full band—I guess you can call it an audition. Then they said, "We're touring down to South by Southwest. Do you want to come with us?" I was like "OK, sure!" I told my day job that I was going to be away for a couple of weeks and they were cool with that. So I hopped in the van with these guys that I had never really met except for showing up for these auditions and we just went on tour. Then I was like, "Oh, I'm in the band?"

Playing with them was a great experience for me and I learned so much about touring, which is something I'd never really done extensively. What it came down to was I was pretty unhappy with the amount of touring they did and also being just one of four people in the band. If I didn't feel like going on tour when it was proposed it was 'Too bad.' That kind of bummed me out. I ended up losing my job because we toured so much. Having someone in the band who isn't really happy isn't fun for anyone. So we were all ready to move on.

It must be a lot simpler to tour alone as Noveller.

It's so great. With Parts & Labor there was money being made but I was like (laughing), "Where is this money going?" It wasn't going in our pockets necessarily. With the solo thing it's a lot easier. I know what my fee is and it's going to me. And that's definitely a huge benefit of being a solo performer.

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