Interview: Tiny Vipers

words by Heather Schofner | photo by David Belisle
| Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

tinyvipersOriginally published in Verbicide issue #25

On the fifth volume of Burn To Shine, Jesy Fortino (a.k.a. “Tiny Vipers”) stole the show. Settling onto a stool, her tiny frame eclipsed by an acoustic guitar, Fortino’s unique, warbly voice filled the room. The clear, mournful sounds of “On This Side” made for a perfect dirge for the doomed building in which she was playing.

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Burn To Shine is an ongoing project created by Trixie DVD, a collaboration between filmmaker Christoph Green and ex-Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty. For each installment of the series, bands are gathered together in a house that is scheduled to be demolished. Each band plays one song in the home. The performances and the destruction of the building are then filmed and assembled on a DVD with no overdubs or corrections. Fortino mused, “I didn’t really understand the concept when I was asked [to perform]. Someone called me and asked if I would play at a house that was going to get destroyed while they taped it. I thought they were asking me to play in a squat or something.”

Rubbing elbows with the other Seattle musicians scheduled to perform — Eddie Vedder, Benjamin Gibbard, Jesse Sykes — might have been nerve-wracking for some, but to Fortino, it was just another day: “I just showed up, played a song, ate a piece of pizza, then left and went to work. I remember it being a good day though.”

Fortino got her start playing music as a child. “I always messed around with instruments, anything that might be around. I would make little songs on a piano at a friend’s house, and when I was around a piano again I would work on that song, or just mess around. I still feel that way with guitar and stuff — I don’t technically know how to play. I just know how to memorize the things I do and replay them.”

Tiny Vipers’ debut album, Hands Across The Void, was released in July of 2007 by Sub Pop. The songs sound like the contemplative, beautiful musings of an artist with a rain dappled windowpane in her view. They have a quiet strength — a subtle power which might stem from the theme of perseverance through difficult times that runs through the album. Fortino says, “A lot of the songs are about getting through hard times. The mythology people create to get them through hard times is really beautiful to me — like people who believe in a bigger picture. I like to try and understand that picture.”

A new album, a follow up to “Hands,” is currently being recorded. Fortino is unsure what the title will be, as well as what the future may hold for her.

“I think about [the future] all the time. A lot of people say the world’s going to end in four years, but I’m not sure if I believe that. I would like to not be broke someday, but making money isn’t some huge priority. I don’t know what my plans are for the future. I wish I did sometimes.”

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