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Columbus Makes Art Presents: HighBall Performer Damn the Witch Siren on Columbus, Artistic Inspiration & David Bowie

Dana Bernstein Dana Bernstein Columbus Makes Art Presents: HighBall Performer Damn the Witch Siren on Columbus, Artistic Inspiration & David BowiePhoto by Kate Sweeney.
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On Friday, Oct. 21, HighBall Halloween will pay tribute to rock legend David Bowie for HB: On The Rocks. Damn the Witch Siren looks forward to playing a mixed set of originals and David Bowie covers, along with Fabulous Johnson Brothers and headliner dance pop-superstar Robert DeLong. HighBall Halloween continues on Saturday, Oct. 22 with HB: High Fashion featuring the Battelle Costume Couture Fashion Show. Bobbi Kitten of Damn the Witch Siren talks about their upcoming performance.

Bobbi Kitten as David Bowie. Photo courtesy Damn the Witch Siren.

Bobbi Kitten as David Bowie. Photo courtesy Damn the Witch Siren.

Dana: David Bowie seems to have a huge influence on the band’s sound and costuming, and you’ve even written a song about him. Can you tell us a little bit more about how he inspires your music?
It might be easier to list how he HASN’T inspired us. He was such a brilliant songwriter and lyricist. Actually sitting down trying to learn his music has been pretty humbling; he was indisputably a musical genius. There was a fearlessness to his performances and intention behind all his work. Most of all he was always reinventing himself. We love so many kinds of music, and we’ve been doing this sort of bright, synth-pop stuff for awhile now, but there’s no way we could do the same thing forever.

Dana: What other artists or musicians are you inspired by?
Too many to name, of course! But we go through phases. Right now we’re really into Frank Ocean’s new album. And Cocteau Twins (every fall). And the show Stranger Things! We’ve also been listening to some of the artists we met on tour over the summer, HR_Lexy, McWavy and Carpoolparty. Also there’s a new Columbus band called Mungbean that we’re really excited about. Their song “Waking Up” is really awesome… it’s a breath of fresh air, honestly.

Dana: Last year, you came out with two new albums — Superdelicious and Back to Dreaming — but this year, we’ve seen you release a few singles. When can we look forward to another full-length album from Damn the Witch Siren?
We’re planning to spend all winter working on new material and making some drastic changes to our live show. We don’t want to give anything away but our next work, whatever form it takes, is going to be a huge departure from what we’ve done before, sonically and aesthetically.

Damn the Witch Siren. Photo by Kate Sweeney.

Damn the Witch Siren. Photo by Kate Sweeney.

Dana: How do you approach songwriting with the band?
I don’t think we’ve made a song the same way twice. Sometimes I write something on guitar. Sometimes we’re messing around with an iPhone app and we make a crazy sound out of my voice. We have no rules. It does seem like all our best songs happen very naturally and get written in a day.

Dana: What do you love about the creative community in Columbus?
We’ve met so many incredible people and continue to do so all the time. Most people here are so passionate about their art and it doesn’t seem like there’s much pretense. It seems like everyone just wants you to hear their music and enjoy their art and photography. Of course most of us want to create for a living, it’s what we love to do — but that’s not why we’re doing it. I think that’s really apparent in our scene.

Dana: How would you describe your stage shows to someone that hasn’t see you before?
We’re (currently) an electronic band that plays like a rock band. I think a lot of people have this stigma about electronic music that it’s all made on laptops and pre-generated and you can’t really do it live. But we’ve been focusing on how to make it as live-performance-based as possible since we started. A lot of our songs have pre-programmed beats but that’s pretty much it; when we’re on stage we’re playing all the synth lines, triggering all the samples, making loops, we don’t use any backing vocal tracks… it gets pretty chaotic. Sometimes we screw it up, haha. But that’s what a live performance is, right? What fun would it be if it couldn’t fall apart any second?

Dana: How has fashion and costuming played into your performances?
We’re a very visual band and we have always put heavy emphasis on that. Every band has an aesthetic, whether it’s deliberate or not… some people walk onstage wearing the same thing they wear every day, and that’s perfectly fine! But that has never been our thing. We’ve always been most inspired by artists like Bowie. You’re going out there to put on a show.

Dana: Without giving too much away, what can we look forward to for your performance at HB: On The Rocks?
This is going to serve as our own personal memorial to our hero, mentor and friend David Bowie… so we have to celebrate his time on Earth and his departure from this planet as hard as we can. There will be lots of dancing, and screaming, and Bowie-inspired fashion and videos. And we will both almost definitely cry.

See Damn the Witch Siren, Fabulous Johnson Brothers and electro-pop headliner Robert DeLong play at HB: On The Rocks, a tribute show to David Bowie, on Friday, Oct. 21. HighBall Halloween culminates on Saturday, Oct. 22 with HB: High Fashion, featuring the Battelle Costume Couture Fashion Show and performances by DJ Charles Erickson, Nina West & the West Family, Nick D & the Believers and Mojoflo. Both nights feature over-the-top public costume contests and hosts Nina West and NBC4’s Monica Day. HighBall Halloween happens outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center on High Street in the Short North Arts District between Goodale and Nationwide. For more information, visit highballcolumbus.org.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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