Tiny Rhymes, an indie/chamber-folk trio, sometimes quintet, based Buffalo, New York, will be releasing their debut EP, A Kinder History, on June 23rd. I was captivated by their music from the very first note; comprised of Sharon Mok (vocals, guitar), Katie Weissman (cello), and Kathryn Koch (violin), Tiny Rhymes’ fetching three part harmonies coupled with their graceful and soaring stringed instrumentation are like dessert for your ears.
Eo8: How did you form Tiny Rhymes?
SM: I’m a piano technician and moved to Buffalo, NY for work a few years ago. Shortly thereafter, I began writing music, and was looking for someone to play a show with me at a gig I had booked at a bar in town. I looked around and found cellist Katie, and then Katie introduced me to violinist Kathryn. We grew into a band, rearranged the tunes, and recorded them. It’s mostly the three of us, but sometimes we have a bass player and a drummer.
Eo8: Where did the name “Tiny Rhymes” originate?
SM: My family is Cantonese; I have a middle name that means “Little Rhyme” in Cantonese, and I kind of appropriated that for our band name. We did have another band name before, it wasn’t sticking because, you know, bands can change, and I thought, if my band changes, I’ll still have this moniker for myself if band members rotate in and out.
Eo8: You’re based in Buffalo, what’s the music scene there like?
SM: The folk scene is relatively small compared to the rest of the music scene here, which is mostly indie rock. There are a variety of genres here though, lots of venues and festivals. Herdfest is coming up, there’s the Buffalove Festival, lots of local things. Canalside is a venue on our waterfront that brings big bands in like Iron & Wine and Spoon, and they ask local openers to play; it’s all free and a great way for local bands to get thousands of people to hear their music. People who book shows in Buffalo are very cool about booking local openers for shows.
Eo8: How was the recording process for the EP?
SM: We recorded the EP at GCR Audio, which is Robby Takac’s studio, he’s the bassist for the Goo Goo Dolls. We recorded there because, as a piano technician, I was working with them to trade some work, I was really lucky there. It was long production process. We actually recorded the EP last August. It was a huge learning experience for us in all ways, and we can only get better form here. I’m really excited about that.
Eo8: Can you tell us the significance of the the cover art?
SM: For the album art, I really wanted to work with a local artist named Nicholas Dowgwillo, and this was actually a woodcut print from his catalogue. I just really like working with people who work with their hands, because I do that too. It’s significant because the name of the EP comes from the first song, “Arrows;” there’s a line in there about an arrow through the heart, and a knot was the original idea for what the symbol of the heart would evolve into.
Eo8: I heard that you’re inspired by Chinese opera. How does that come through in your music?
Yes, in a way. I grew up listening to Chinese opera in the background, and I didn’t appreciate it as a young person. As an adult I traveled back to China to visit my grandmother’s hometown near Shanghai, and that’s when I got interested in learning the ErHu, which is a Chinese cello. ErHu music is so beautiful, so I take a lot of inspiration from those kinds of melodies, you can particularly hear it in our song “Gold Mountain.” That’s when I started getting into writing music in the first place.
Eo8: How do your songs get created?
SM: I’m the primary songwriter, and I play guitar. I bring the skeleton of the song to the others, and I’ll ask them to think about it and come up with their parts. We try a lot of stuff, it takes many hours and many revisions to arrange the songs’ string techniques and vocal harmonies. We’re really picky about what works and what doesn’t.
Eo8: Will Tiny Rhymes go on tour, and specifically, will you come to Nashville (please say yes)?
We have some Canadian shows booked, mostly in Ontario because that’s where I’m from, and in the fall we’re looking at doing the same kind of run but we’re talking about touring with a friend of ours, Marian McLaughlin, who is a fantastic songwriter. I’d love to come to Nashville because one of my best friends is living in Nashville now, and he’s always trying to get me to come down there. I’m pretty familiar with the scene because I’m there almost every year. It’s so fun.
A Kinder History will be released on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, and iTunes on June 23rd. Go follow Tiny Rhymes on Facebook to keep up with all the good stuff coming up!