Named after the world's first film studio invented by Thomas Edison, The Black Mariah Theater is Sophia and Analiese Motta, twins who share a deep love of jazz, blues and all things Jack White. Their stripped down guitar-drums-vocals approach to their music places the focus squarely on their superb musicianship. We are extremely fortunate to share an interview with Sophia and Analiese, as well as their book, music and movie recommendations on Listen Local.
Please introduce yourselves. Describe your music for new listeners.
The Black Mariah Theater is made up of twin sisters Sophia and Analiese Motta; mixing blues, jazz, and indie rock into our angsty, original tunes. The Black Mariah Theater’s songs have been described as eclectic mixes of jazz and pop, creating somewhat of a unique mix of genres.
Talk about your history as music-making twins. How was music part of your upbringing?
We started playing music in the second grade, violin and guitar, but always wanted to start a band together. A huge part of this came with growing up watching The Blues Brothers; and finally getting our first electric guitar and drum set in elementary school. We started out learning early Green Day and White Stripes songs, formed a pop punk band in middle school, then ultimately swayed toward more jazz influences, becoming The Black Mariah Theater in high school.
How did your debut EP Black Hearts come together? How did your collaboration work in terms of songwriting and recording?
We had three songs written for the EP and had been playing them live for a while, before deciding we should put out a record. We tried (and failed) home recording for a few months before caving and deciding to seek professional help from Joel Nanos at Element Recording Studios. The last song on the EP “Emerald Cut” was originally written as a straight ahead jazz tune. However, on a split decision to add one more song to the EP, we decided to try and record a funky version of it for Black Hearts. We had never played the song together, and recorded it live on the first take at Element.
What influences do you draw from in your music?
Some influences include: Billie Holiday, The White Stripes (and literally any group Jack White is a part of), The Rolling Stones, and Thelonious Monk.
What inspires you about original music in Kansas City?
The music scene in Kansas City, whether the other bands around town, or the venues, have always been really welcoming to us. It’s inspiring that with the welcoming spirit we’re constantly making new band friends to play shows with, and even collaborating with other bands to work on other projects.
The Black Mariah Theater's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them by Buzzy Jackson
This book tells the incredibly interesting backstories on the lives of legendary women blues singers ranging from Ma Rainey, to Janis Joplin and beyond. It’s always cool to read about badass women in the music industry and how they got to where they were.
The Land Where The Blues Began by Alan Lomax
A must read for any musician, written by the man who recorded most of the earliest blues singers. It’s about early blues and life in the Mississippi Delta.
We both love Frank Sinatra, this book is a look at his life and how he and the Rat Pack influenced culture. We even took some of his advice to heart in regards to always dressing our best for shows.
Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross
We have both loved Jimi Hendrix since we were children, and this is one of the best biographies that we’ve read. It covers everything you’d ever want to know about his life and his music. It’s so good we both read it about 10 years ago and still reference it to this day.
David Sedaris And our last book recommendation, while not music related, is literally ANYTHING written by David Sedaris because everything he writes is hilarious. If you have a sense of humor, read David Sedaris.
Medicine by Tab Benoit
White Reaper Does It Again by White Reaper
Coming Home by Leon Bridges
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats by Nathaniel Rateliff
The Blues Brothers We had to recommend The Blues Brothers, because as we mentioned before, we grew up watching this movie. It is one of the reasons we love the music and musicians that we do, as well as one of the reasons we always wanted to be in a band.