Roadkill Rising is a multilingual duo whose traditional folk music conveys a message that is nature-centric and hopeful. Comprised of visual artist Sol Anzorena and musician Tom Grotewohl, Roadkill Rising is ultimately a merging of musical and visual forms, where Anzorena's vibrant watercolor art illuminating their videos naturally compliments the sparse, two-voices-and-a-guitar musical setting. The duo recently returned to Kansas City from a recent trip to India and Nepal, an adventure away from modern technology in the midst of COVID. Enjoy our interview with Tom and Sol about these topics and more.
How did Roadkill Rising originate? What did you choose this particular name for your duo?
Tom has been a musician for many years and has composed his own songs since college days. When we met and became a couple, Tom taught Sol how to play guitar and encouraged her to sing. Over the years we have written many songs, but the majority for our Roadkill Rising project were composed during our time in India and Nepal.
We chose the name 'Roadkill Rising,' because the main inspiration behind our music is Nature and repairing the relationship our species has with it. Roadkill is a perfect symbol of the way civilization has stormed over innocent animals without even noticing, sheerly for the sake of speed and convenience. Gotta reach the shopping mall! Gotta get home before my favorite show starts! And the 'Rising' is so that these unheard voices in the world will at last find representation.
Plus, it just sounds cool and is a funny image. We don't take it too seriously. Most people seem to think we are a heavy metal band, and then they are surprised to hear acoustic guitar and flute!
Tell us about your time in India. What brought you there to begin with? How this did this experience make you better artists?
We have always wanted to travel in India to explore the colorful culture, especially the music, and to experience nature on the other side of the globe. When Sol finally finished her university studies, we at last made it happen in October 2019. We traveled for six months in India and Nepal with no technology -- no phone, no laptop, no camera, nothing! It was a wild time, and you can read about it here: https://thetechnoskeptic.com Since we weren't distracted by gadgets, we had a ton of free psychic energy, which all went into making art, music, and enjoying our experience.
It was an amazing trip. Then coronavirus came. Since we didn't have any tech, we weren't really following the news and were caught off guard. India went into lockdown and cancelled all flights, trains and buses, with only five hours of advance notice! We spent almost three months holed up in an apartment near the Ganges River waiting for international flights to open. But during that time, we worked a lot on our music, and we started playing Indian bamboo flute, called bansuri, which you can hear on some of our tracks.
Describe your creative process as a duo. What are each of your strengths as songwriters and performers?
Tom writes most of the songs, but Sol's harmonies really bring them to life. We also feel like we perform live much better together than separately. Having another person at your side helps take you out of your own mental space, so that you don't think about being nervous and can lose yourself more in the experience.
We worked the songs out for voice and guitar in India. But now that we are home with all this free time, we are having a blast fleshing them out in the recording. We see live music and recorded music as two totally different artforms, and it is fun to discover each composition anew as we record it. When we play live, it's about connecting with ourselves and the audience, but when we record, it's like creating a whole world.
Sol, your visual art complements your music in a striking way, especially with the videos you have made. How do you see your art informing your songwriting and vice versa?
I am new to making music videos and animation, so it feels like being a kid again with art. We don't have any training with this kind of thing, which makes us free in a way to try out any idea we can imagine. We do as much as possible in "the real world," with minimal editing on computer.
When I listen to a song, I just close my eyes and see what images come. With the lyrics, it's like listening to a story, and I wait for something to come that fits with the theme. I am the main artist, but Tom and I definitely work together in that regard too. For my song, "Tengo," I gave him the art and he made it fit together in the video, whereas for "Another World," I did the editing myself. For "The Plague," Tom did half of the artwork, but I had to clean it up, since he is very messy.
What are your hopes for 2021?
We have a list of fifty songs or so, and it's taken us a month to record each, so there's a long way to go. We have a big collection of instruments, so we'll keep introducing new ones and trying out new recording ideas, doing anything we can to keep inspiration fresh. And hopefully, if the pandemic settles down, we will start to play live and tour in the new year.
Tom is also working on a novel, and the two of us together are working on a children's book, with illustrations from Sol. We would love for them to see the light of day in 2021!
Tom and Sol's recommendations from Johnson County Library's catalog:
Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock
Junun by Shye Ben-Tzur and the Rajasthan Express
Ali and Toumani by Ali Farka Toure
The Best of the Black President by Fela
The Butterfly by Martin Hayes