Best Friend Duo Appetite Are Anything But One-Dimensional

Sophie Weiner

By Sophie Weiner

on 10.14.14 in Features

Members: Jane Chardiet (vocals, synthesizer, and various effect pedals), Ciarra Black (drum machine, sampler, and various synthesizers)
From: Brooklyn, New York
Sounds like: Ghostly vocals over noisy new wave beats
For fans of: Fever Ray, Pharmakon, Tim Hecker, Throbbing Gristle

‘I never approach anything one-dimensionally, it’s not the way my brain works.
— Jane Chardiet’

Jane Chardiet and Ciarra Black aren’t sisters but they might as well be. Chardiet (actual sister of Margaret Chardiet, aka industrial goddess Pharmakon) and Black have been friends for nearly 10 years and their new project Appetite is only the latest incarnation of their long-running creative partnership. Previously, the pair worked together in a band called the Waitress, which used noise and shocking stage performance — in the past they’ve pretended to vomit on the audience — to explore the tribulations of working in the service industry.

With Appetite, their ambition is to make music that stands apart from their performance. The 10-minute-long “Kiss of Judas,” currently their only track online, seems an appropriate mission statement. Spectral vocals float over waves of ominous distortion, but before long, noise coalesces into a new wave beat, threatening to become danceable before descending into demonic cries. Chardiet and Black say the tracks on their upcoming EP for DIY label Ascetic House are the closest they’ve ever gotten to “actual pop.” Not exactly a predictable move from two people whose work exists in this realm of twisted darkness.

I sat down with the pair the other night to discuss friendship, the multimedia elements of their work and why they’ve never been more excited to be making music in New York.

On calling off their first collaboration:

Ciarra Black: Jane was doing a noise project called the Waitress that she started, and I joined in as a second member. We were doing that for about a year and a half and then there came a point where it seemed the Waitress has run its course in certain respects.

Jane Chardiet: It was a performance- and music-based project that was rooted in experiences of working as a waitress, and neither of us were doing that anymore. We had a bunch of practices, and things weren’t really coming together.

On their multidimensional approach:

Chardiet: It has to be more than just music. For our first set we made a movie with our friend and we had it projected [on a wall], which was really important for me. I think being an artist is just about finding the appropriate medium for whatever content you’re producing. I can’t say everything in a photo, I can’t say everything in an essay.

We’re working with our friend Chelsea [Marks]; she did the first video and I anticipate her helping me with the visual aspects in the future. I’m really interested in incorporating visual and performative aspects in every musical endeavor I do. I never approach anything one-dimensionally, it’s not the way my brain works. I have to bring those other things in to say what I want to say.

On their aggressive stage performance:

Black: Usually we look at things as a period of time in our lives, and work on our material based on what we’re going through at the moment — we shape our sound and our vibe around that. For example, there was one set as the Waitress that was really aggressive. Our set was us attacking a customer [while] dressed up as waitresses, [and] vomiting on them. It was like a weird horror film. And this past set we did was coming from a time of heartbreak and renewal.

Chardiet: The visuals were all blue. It was about letting the wrong person into your life. The video is someone entering my room and going up into my loft bed with me and me painting them blue, and them touching me and me crying. Everything was very emotional. This next set is rooted in anxiety and trying to work through different mental health issues.

‘Our set was us attacking a customer [while] dressed up as waitresses, [and] vomiting on them. It was like a weird horror film. — Ciarra Black’

On balancing the best friend dynamic:

Black: Jane and I have been best friends for almost 10 years now, so we’re extremely comfortable working with each other. It adds a lot to our band, music and performance. It’s kind of cool because we know each other and know what the other person might like or won’t like as we’re working on material. You can’t really create with a group of strangers.

We’re really honest with each other. We both want to be proud of what we’re doing so I told Jane the other day that her vocals sounded like Cookie Monster, and I felt really bad but I was like, we have to change that setting.

Chardiet: As much as I was really attached to the way that sounded, I trusted her and we changed it, and now I’m way happier with it.

On maintaining a sense of community in New York:

Chardiet: I think [New York's] at a really shitty place right now in a lot of ways, but within our group of friends it’s at an all-time high. There are really exciting things happening but New York is a really difficult place to do anything that’s sustainable. Every time I find a new place to book shows the place closes down or becomes too expensive. But I think in terms of community, things are really strong.

‘It’s hard, but if we just keep doing whatever we’re doing, we keep getting better, and there’s hope for us. — Jane Chardiet’

Black: As far as our community of collaborators and friends go, I think Jane and I agree that this is the best group of friends we’ve ever had. Everybody we’re close to or hang out with are all working on their own projects, starting record labels, touring, and it’s really cool because we all give each other opportunities and push each other forward. For example, we work with our friend Chelsea Marks, who was doing our visuals and is now doing all kinds of amazing things that she didn’t have a platform for in the past. Our friend Nick Klein, he recorded us and he’s let us practice in his room a million times. He makes amazing music and he’s just opened a record store and label called Primitive Languages. Our friends Christopher Hansel and JR Nelson both help run the label Ascetic House which we’re releasing our tape on.

On always keeping an open mind:

Chardiet: I just turned 27 and I feel like I’m at this very special and important age that I’m not trying to take for granted. We have a lot of experience under our belt but we’re still young, and we’re still willing to plunge into new territory, try out new things, and take risks. People aren’t set in their ways and tired yet. Things are kinda tough but we’re all going to find our way. It’s hard, but if we just keep doing whatever we’re doing, we keep getting better, and there’s hope for us.

Photo by Nikki Sneakers