Pamela Martinez who performs under the name Teletextile is a woman that can make even an accomplished musician feel inadequate. Besides the ability to switch between a plethora of instruments that include the harp and violin during her live performances with the utmost ease, she possesses a voice of shining sweetness. While she claims with complete humility that she has failed to master any single instrument, it’s hard to take her seriously. I caught up with Pamela while she was on tour with British musician Chad Valley and spoke with her about the progression of her sound and her upcoming album.
Q: Teletextile’s sound as a band has changed from soft and folk inflected to a more electro-pop sound. Is there anything specific that influenced this shift?
A: Well, I don’t really think that much has changed in Teletextile’s music, but that’s my insider perspective. It’s kind of how I look in the mirror and don’t really notice my hair growing or skin tanning, but it’s definitely happening. So, no, there was no specific catalyst for development. I would say that my sound is constantly changing depending on what instrument I am most drawn to at a specific time, and who I am recording with. Right now I’m really into analog synths. I’ve always loved electronics and production sounds that we make in the studio after I’ve recorded all the violins and harps and such, but I left a lot of those decisions and technical know how to the engineers and producers I was working with. Now I’ve got more skills in those areas, and I do some of my own record engineering rather than everything at a studio with an engineer.
Q: Are you still playing the harp as much?
A: Well, yes as much as I play piano. At the moment I’m juggling a lot of roles from singer to writer to engineer to side-man in Chad Valley, and I teach private music lessons at Brooklyn Music School.
Q: Do you write all the songs?
A: Yes, but I get help making them come to life. Depending on who is performing with me at the time. I direct the songs, but everyone has lots of freedom to be creative within the song form. Right now I play with Alex Nelson (synth bass / vocals), Zach Fisher (drums / vocals) , and Annie Alauzen (guitar / flute). I also play with a wind/ horn section depending on the shows comprised of Tim Cronin (trumpet), Jason Shelton (clarinet), and Deb Douglas (bass clarinet).
Q: You are a multi-instrumentalist, playing as far as I know, the piano, xylophone, violin, and most uniquely the harp. Which one did you start playing first? Is there one you feel most comfortable with or that holds a special place in your heart?
A: I started playing piano first at 6. I play many instruments and sing as well, but I’m not really that technically great at any of the instruments compared to someone who has a specialty instrument. But I’m really aware of what an instrument can do (or what I can make it do). So when I hear music in my head, I know the quality it should have and where it fits. So in other words I might hear a line in my head, and I know it has to be a vocal, or I know it has to be on the trumpet, or I know it has to be on the harp. That’s kind of the way it works. I think it’s because I played in orchestras for so long as a violinist. I just know the character of things. On a side note, I will be playing the violin at Carnegie Hall as part of a string section for their International Music Festival with a classical Indian music group called Spring Nectar Ensemble. I’m excited to play with a live sitar. They are collaborating on the performance with Brooklyn Music School.
Q: You are currently on tour with Chad Valley lending vocals. How is the tour going? Do you like being on the road?
A: Yes, I’m in Chad Valley and I love it. He and I get along very well. In that group I sing and play an electronic drum pad with a UK artist. it’s hard to juggle Teletextile and my work life as a private music teacher and being on the road about over 3 months this year with Chad Valley. It has taken up a lot of time, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I really love the travel. Touring is such a funny thing because I sometimes think my life and identity are at home or with work in NYC, but being separate from everything makes me realize who I really am – for better or worse.
Q: You are the major force behind Teletextile. Does the band have a somewhat fixed form, or is it constantly in flux?
A: I wish Teletextile was a fixed group, but Teletextile is really just me. It’s taking me a really long time to come to terms with this. I am the root of Teletextile’s flow, direction or stand still. It can feel like a big responsibility at times.
Q: Are you working on a new album now? If so, when can we expect it to be released?
A: I’m working on a new record. It’s almost done, but I’ll have to spend some time seeing who will help me release it. I intend to release it this year. This record is about connections. The more I meet people, the more I realize how small the world actually is. It’s practically impossible to get away from people and things, even when I want to. Somethings just seem to pop up and reappear. A big part of my life has been trying to break connections – getting away from undesirable people/habits , but I think in the last couple of years I’ve realized I may never actually break a connection. Instead I breathe with my connections. It’s a network of rubber bands pulling and loosening depending on who I’m around and what I’m thinking about, but never really snapping or cutting. And I guess I kind of like it that way, knowing I can create distance without endings. I don’t believe in closure at this point, just a pulsing chimera of haunting constellations.
Pamela Martinez plays with Chad Valley and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at Webster Hall on March 26, 2014. Tickets are available here.
You can listen to some of her work as Teletextile here.