Indie-folk duo Tasseomancy shift name and tea leaves

By Andréa Rojas

Borrowing their name from their great-great-grandmother’s practice of tea leaf reading, Tasseomancy sews together musical divinations out of soft note bends and lightly-plucked guitar. Formerly performing under the name Ghost Bees, Tasseomancy began in Halifax and is comprised of sisters Romy and Sari Lightman. Three years after their first appearance at Sled Island, the duo will pad softly into Calgary hearts wide-eyed with a sound that will swath them in delicate lace and death ritual chants. In anticipation of the August 30 release of their upcoming LP Ulalume, Romy spoke with me over the phone from her home in that same city.

The Gauntlet: We interviewed you before when you were still Ghost Bees. You’ve gone through a name change and you’re preparing to release your first LP. What have you been up to since then?

Romy Lightman: In that time we’ve developed as people, but moreso musically. We’ve moved away from working as a two-piece and now we’re forming as a band. We’ve become more interested in creating an atmosphere that’s larger than you would get from a folk performance. We’re working on expanding and experimenting with creating ambient sound– using pedals and experimenting with technology and sound manipulation.

G: Ghost Bees has been described in the past as indie-pop. How would you describe your music right now?

RL: I wouldn’t call it pop music. [We’re] making music that’s a bit more ambient [but we’re] still interested in melody . . . [and] beginning to play with a band makes a huge difference. We [have] a percussionist and we’re playing with a synth player and blending more acoustic elements with more synthetic sound. Before we were much more lyrically-based, but now we’re leaning more towards melody and sound. I think both of us are interested in the environment and creating all-encompassing experiences [and] having a sound that can articulate that.

G: And that’s what prompted your name change, right?

RL: Yeah, I think so. I think we just grew out of it. Ghost Bees was not like a kid band, but we started it when we were really young, and I think [Tasseomancy] is just more suited to the music that we’re playing today. At the time, we just wanted a name that resonated with us. It was a bit more authentic to our music and what we’re interested in. Ghost Bees is a name that could have been applied to a whole number of bands, but I think that this is . . . something that is significant to us. Maybe when we do another record we’ll give ourselves a new name. I think the name is suited for this record that we’re putting out. Our friend Taylor Kirk from Timber Timbre . . . produced it, and his bandmates Simon Trottier and Mika Posen co-produced it. So it’s just sort of the right fit, I think.

G: How did you get involved with Timber Timbre?

RL: We’re musical allies. We’ve known each other from the beginning. We met in Nova Scotia. We met Taylor in Toronto when he was playing solo. I don’t know how many years ago, maybe four or five? No one was really paying him much heed. We saw him and we became fast friends.

G: I was listening to your [October 2010] 7-inch Healthy Hands and I was really struck by how it was really delicate musically, but kind of heavy in the subject matter.

RL: I think that’s something that we learned from our last record. I would definitely categorize Ghost Bees as being something that’s very delicate, very ethereal, very feminine, and we were trying to counter it [and] bring in some heavier, darker, more masculine elements. This record [will be] kind of like an experimentation to bring in some heavier aspects, for sure.

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