Q&A: Janel And Anthony On D.C.'s Experimental Music Scene And Their New Record, Where is Home

Down in the nation's capital, a vibrant and thriving experimental music scene is currently emerging thanks in large part to the Maryland-based, genre-encompassing label Cuneiform Records. That label recently released the beautiful second album by Janel and Anthony, who have helped spark their hometown's avant-garde ascent with an ethereal combination where guitar and cello melt into each other. Where Is Home showcases the twosome's natural, conversational magic (they've known each other since high school): Anthony Pirog's fingerpicking impeccably fuses Nels Cline-esque jazz riffage, drone-y dirges and country-twang with Janel Leppin's delicately strummed, picked and scraped cello.

As staples of D.C.'s experimental scene, Janel and Anthony have been instrumental in expanding the annual Sonic Circuits Festival, which brings local artists together with legends like Glenn Branca and Lydia Lunch, who will be performing at this year's event in September. The duo recently graced the Kennedy Center stage, where they played the music of John Cage to celebrate the composer's 100th birthday.

Sound of the City caught Janel and Anthony in Maryland, where they were playing the Capital Audio Fest, to talk D.C.'s experimental music scene, touring and their new record.

Where are you now? Are you on tour before heading up here to play Ibeam?

Pirog: We're in Rockville, Maryland. We're playing Capital Audio Fest.

Leppin: There's audio files everywhere synced to our music. It's really cool! This is kind of a one-off special weekend.

Since it's only two of you, there must not be too much gear to haul around—just a guitar and cello?

Pirog: I wish it was that easy!

Leppin: [laughing]

Pirog: We don't travel light. I bring three guitars—baritone, twelve-string and a standard six-string and we have a lot of effects.

Leppin: ... and I have a cello and I have a Mustang and we both have effects things and we both amplifiers.

Pirog: Our van is full.

I imagine you have rows upon rows of pedals and stuff.

Leppin: Yeah...

Pirog: That's exactly what it is.

I've read you two from both Seattle but now live in D.C. Is there a misconception about where you're from?

Leppin: The situation is that I had been working with some people in Seattle and was there for about six or seven months. So I guess the person who put out the show trombonist Brian Drye, met me there so that is why he thinks we are from Seattle, WA.

And the two of you have known each other since high school?

Leppin: Yeah...

Pirog: ... in Virginia.

At what point did you start playing together?

Leppin: When we were both in college. Anthony was in New York and I was in D.C. and every summer we'd get together and play.

Pirog: That's when we were just improvising together...

Leppin: ... just having fun, improvising, late at night or around a bonfire—that kind of deal.

Janel, when did you start playing cello?

Leppin: 24 years ago—so a real long time.

How and when did you come to be in a band together?

Pirog: That was 2005 when it became official and we started performing together.

Leppin: We started writing down some of the improvs we were making and started realizing that the music was something that we found valuable and other people enjoyed it. So we started recoding it and performing a lot.

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