On the (Guitar) Case

Written by Jordan Galloway on . Posted in Posts.

Early birds not only get worms, but also all the tables
inside air-conditioned Five Leaves Café as well, if a recent weekday evening at
the oyster bar in Greenpoint is any indication. It was that lack of available
seating and dinner-hour din that led Tanya Horo, lead singer of Australian
indie band Sherlock’s Daughter, to suggest eating supper outside instead.
Unfazed by the balmy weather, after a year living in New York, Horo hasn’t lost
the easy-going air of a native New Zealander—she’s originally from
Christchurch—propping her guitar case against the wall before swaddling a scarf
around her shoulders to shut out the sun and picking up the menu.

“It’s a
survival mechanism,” says Horo about her Down Under attitude. “Sometimes when
I’m sitting in a cab and the taxi driver’s honking and swearing, I just feel
like laughing and going, ‘This is crazy. This is amazing.’ Like, how passionate
are these people? The passion may not be one that’s nice, but it’s still

is a familiar feeling for Horo, who started Sherlock’s Daughter in Sydney,
Australia, in 2008 with a MySpace page, a prayer and some creative inspiration
from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

“I was reading Sherlock Holmes at the time and thought
Sherlock’s Daughter would be great,” Horo says. “I played a couple songs to
Graeme [Pillemer, a friend and fellow musician], and he really loved them and
asked if he could help me play them. Then he played them to somebody else, and
suddenly I had this beautiful group of boys around me helping me play the
music.” In Horo’s telling, Sherlock’s start sounds somewhat like an indie-rock
version of Snow White, though Horo herself is less damsel in distress than driving force
behind bandmates Pillemer, Tim Maybury and Will Russell, forever pushing the
band and the boundaries of their music to the experimental brink.

“What I love doing as a musician and as a writer is taking
a very generic song, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-end, and chopping it up into
something completely different,” says Horo, trying to explain the kind of
tribal trance music, driven more by beat than melody, that accompanies her
child-like vocals and lends an otherworldly feel to the band’s first EP,
released this past spring. “The thing I really love about Sherlock’s Daughter
is that we’re all really into the idea of experimenting with music. We’re not
specific about a genre that we like. In Australia, what gets played on the
radio is quite specific, I think, and we’re not such obvious pop that it was
easy for us. We still had some amazing shows, but then coming over here, you’ve
got so many more bands that are similar that it was easier. I think
influence-wise, it’s probably made us feel more confident or made us feel a bit
better about what we do because we’re not so alone in it.”

But even in the mélange of New York’s indie-music scene,
Sherlock’s Daughter stands out with an enviable indie-rock résumé. Since coming
stateside in an attempt to gain acceptance to College Music Journal’s annual
music marathon almost two years ago—a wager that wound up paying off—the band
has performed at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas; held
residencies at both Knitting Factory and Pianos (it started a second,
month-long residency at the Lower East Side bar Aug. 3), booked gigs with the
likes of Temper Trap, School of Seven Bells, Freelance Whales, Metric and
Warpaint; toured with The Charlatans; and caught the attention of Sonic Youth.
In fact, Thurston Moore mentioned them in an interview with National Public
Radio, and producer John Agnello worked with them on their debut album.

“We had a list of dream producers and he was the first
one,” Horo says. “Just randomly, I emailed him and asked if he’d be interested
in doing an album. He emailed back, which was amazing. We’re all big fans of
Sonic Youth. He came to our show and saw us play, and it all just went on from

The resulting untitled album is “a physical representation
of the journey we’ve had for the past three years as a band,” Horo says. “For
me, when I hear the songs, I don’t hear the songs. I hear the moment that that
song was conceived. As far as an album’s concerned, we’re all really happy with
it. Now we’re excited that we’re finally ready to let it go,” though it’s
unclear when exactly that will be. The band is currently shopping it around to
record labels and hoping for a release date of early next year.

Picking through her salad and sipping green tea, Horo
takes a philosophical attitude toward what the future holds for Sherlock’s

“There are certain elements in life I live by,” she says.
“It’s not blind faith, but you just kind of have this faith that everything’s
going to work out and you trust in it. It’s like moving to Australia and
dropping everything and saying, ‘OK, this is my next step,’ or meeting the guys
and starting Sherlock’s Daughter. There’s a synchronicity in life that I think
that, if you’re open to it, you start seeing it and you start following it,
then everything just starts to fit in.”

Sherlock’s Daughter

10, 17, 24, Pianos, 158 Ludlow St. (at Stanton St.), www.pianosnyc.com; 10, $8.