When the Organ announced that they were breaking up in December 2006, the news came as an abrupt shock to their steadily widening fan base.

2006 had been a busy year for the all-girl Vancouver-based five-piece, which had consisted of Katie Sketch (vocals), Jenny Smyth (organ), Debora Cohen (guitar), Shelby Stocks (drums) and Schmoo Ritchie (bass ; replaced Ashley Webber late 2005). While their only album, ‘Grab That Gun’, which had been released as a joint offering between Mint Records and 604 Records had been out since late 2004 in their native Canada, their audience had continued to grow there due to the group’s hard touring schedule. In Europe they had also started to make an impact. ‘Grab That Gun’ was released in the UK in mid 2006 on the now defunct Beggar’s Banquet offshoot Too Pure and French label Talitres to ecstatic reviews, and the band had played five tours there in a period of just over a year. It seemed that they were on the verge of a breakthrough.

Perhaps even more surprising, however, was the announcement earlier this year that the Organ post break-up in early 2007 had briefly reunited to record a final set of six songs. That EP, ’Thieves’, which is being released worldwide as another shared release between Mint and 604, finally sees the light of day in mid October.

The Organ in their lifetime regularly drew comparisons with Blondie, Joy Division and the Smiths, but perhaps had more in common with girl-fronted 80’s synth acts such as the Passions, the Tourists and above all fellow melancholic Canadians Martha and the Muffins. The seventeen minute ‘Thieves’ combines together many of the Organ’s previous trademarks, Jenny Smyth’s echoing organ, Cohen’s peals of chiming guitar, and Katie Sketch’s sexually ambiguous tales of love dying and dead. The group were often described as miserablists, but songs on this final offering such as ‘Even in the Night’, Let the Bells Ring’, ‘Can You Tell Me One Thing’ and ‘Don’t Be Angry’, are even by the Organ’s standards uncompromisingly dark.

The reasons for the Organ’s break-up were mysterious. In an interview on the Canadian radio station CBC3 the day after the split, Jenny Smyth declined to discuss why the Organ had broken up, saying that there were issues that they preferred to keep private. Pennyblackmusic last spoke to Katie Sketch just before the Organ made its first tour of Europe in 2005. In a second interview with her to promote ‘Thieves’, she, however, proved surprisingly willing to talk about why just as they had seemed set to scale new heights the Organ had split up.

PB : Why did you decide to call the new EP 'Thieves' ?

KS : I just liked the title. The meaning I have behind it is a meaning that maybe some of the other band members don't have, but mostly I just liked it. I think that it is catchy. I just like the title.

PB : Did you take a long time to record it or was it all done really quickly ?

KS : The recording itself took about five days, which is not very long. It took me a lot longer to mix it. That is the way it always is with me.

PB : You recorded ‘Grab the Gun’ twice because you were unhappy with the original recording and mix. Did ‘Grab That Gun’ prove as problematic to mix or was it much easier this time ?

KS : The reason it took ages this time was because we did it entirely on our own terms. My friend, George Pasles, is an engineer in New York and we flew him and all his recording equipment up to British Columbia and we did it at my Mum's house in her living room. There was a pressure on us to get it done before he had to fly back, but the actual pressure of being in a recording studio and feeling not comfortable about being there or worrying about the money you are spending wasn’t there. It was a very relaxed setting.
PB : It must have cost you an absolute fortune though to fly George up to Vancouver with all his gear.

KS : That was what we spent our entire budget on to be honest (Laughs). Flying him up wasn't expensive. It was shipping up all his gear that was really expensive, his soundboard and all his monitors and stuff.

PB : Did it feel sad recording ‘Thieves’ because obviously this was going to be the last time you were going to be together ?

KS : Absolutely. I think we had all moments where it felt totally emotional.

PB : Do you think that shines through on the EP ? It is easy to imagine and over strees things in a situation like this, but it seems even more melancholic than anything else that you have done.

KS : I think so, but I think a lot of that was to do with regards to my singing.I had by that stage started beaming into my voice more and become more comfortable at sounding emotional. On 'Grab That Gun' I certainly held back vocally at times. I think that a lot of that was down to feeling more confident.

PB : How long after you split up in December 2006 did you get back together to record the EP ?

KS : It was in maybe in March or April 2007.

PB : And how long before that did you decide that you were going to do this final recording even though you had actually split up ?

KS : A couple of months before. What happened was that I heard that the record label was planning on releasing some demos of those songs that we had recorded. None of us were happy about that. I hadn't even worked out all of my lyrics and some of the parts needed changing. They were six songs that we had spent a lot of time working on and that people had been e-mailing us about and saying, "Where are those songs. Are there copies of those songs ?" We had played those songs live for a couple of years. I really liked those songs and I just wanted them for myself as much as anything else.

PB : 'Grab That Gun' came out in Canada in a pretty unique way as it was released as a joint offering between Mint Records and 604 Records. Why did you decide to release that album on both those labels ?

KS : It was because 604 was pursuing us really aggressively, and at the time I didn't feel comfortable just signing to them. They had a lot of bands on their roster that I didn't relate to. They are straight up mainstream and we weren't and it wasn't our objective to be. Mint Records was a small record label that I felt just more comfortable being a part of. The two record labels know each other because they used to be in the same building, and so Jonathan (Simkin)from 604 said, "Why don't we do a joint release ?"

At the time I thought it was a really great idea because I thought we would have two different avenues. There would be an indie avenue with Mint which would get our records into the alternative record shops and which would enable me to do interviews from small blogs and zines to larger things. With 604, because they have more money because they are the bigger record label, I thought that they would be able to help us out with the bigger things, the sort of MTV music stuff. It seemed like it would be the best thing to do, but to be honest I don't know if I made the right decision.

PB : Why do you say that ?

KS : Mint and 606 weren’t in the same office. Everything as a result took about a thousand times longer than it had to. They had to be in agreement with every decision that was made, and they didn't necessarily make time for one another. The idea seemed a great one at the time and in practice, but in the end it didn’t necessarily work out.

PB : Why have you decided to revive that relationship now and put this final offering out on both labels again ? Was it simply because they were going to release your stuff anyway ?

KS : I freaked out when they said they would release the demos, and to be fair they then said they wouldn’t do it. I just wanted the songs to be released. We were on contract with them anyway. If I wanted them released it had to be on 604. The band also didn’t exist anymore. There was not really a lot at stake. We didn’t have a contract to negotiate or anything.

PB : When the Organ announced they were breaking up at the end of 2006, Jenny Smyth in a radio interview the next day declined to discuss the reasons for the band's break up, saying that it was private. Would you rather that that it remained private ?

KS : No. At the time Jenny said, that things were really fresh and she didn't want to say anything that would upset the other girls in the band. Now time has, however, moved on and we can reflect more objectively about it

KS :Straight up, we were really burnt out. We were exhausted. I don't know the last time any of us got any sleep. In band fighting was out of control and we had made some bad decisions at the beginning regarding record label stuff which we felt was stopping us from expanding our careers in any way. We felt like we were stuck in this situation where everything was a grind and in which we couldn’t get out of it. We had no control over our careers and we didn't feel like we were going to be able to move in a direction career wise that we wanted to move in.

We didn't have a record label in the States and we wanted to sign to a record label there and our Canadian labels wouldn’t let us. Without a record label in the States we felt basically that we had no career. You can't really have a career if you are unsigned in the States and we found a record label we wanted to be on and they said, "No", and we said, "This sucks (Laughs) and we can't keep this up any longer."

The record was released in different areas of the world at different times as well. It wasn't as if we did one gruelling world thing and then the whole world slowly caught up with the record. Every time we got busy in one place then we started to push the record somewhere else as well, so we were always in this state of having no money, doing poor tours, having no sleep and all being in the same bedroom.

We were never in a situation where we could take any time for ourselves, and when they wouldn't let us sign to the States that was the final straw. It was one of those situations that we couldn't stop, but that we could not keep up.

PB : Out of interest who did you want to sign to in the States ?

KS : We wanted to sign to Beggar's in the States.

PB : You have described everything that went wrong for the Organ. By the time you split up, however, you had received some excellent reviews and had gained a really loyal fanbase in Canada. You were also starting to build an audience in Europe. What is the thing that you are most proud of having achieved with the Organ ?

KS : Oh my God ! I am honestly proud of everything that we did with Organ. We had working really hard on an album that we all really liked. We had played as many shows as humanly possible (Laughs) and people had responded and we had been offered some amazing shows.

Everything. Everything. Certainly there are personal moments that I am not proud of. There were ways that we handled ourselves with one another which weren’t good. I can't say that I really blame any of us because the conditions we were in were not conducive to getting along, but I think for the most part we handled ourselves and did really well.

It's too bad we weren’t able to keep it together for another couple of years so that we could reap the benefits of doing all that gruelling work in the first place. When we broke up we had some amazing shows lined up, playing Coachella and a bunch of other big festivals. Those are the sort of things you have goals for and dreams that you have for your whole life. At the end of the day, however, we did absolutely as much as could both for the band and our fans (Laughs).

PB : You have also got a career now as a model. You did twelve pages in 'Vogue' about 18 months ago. How did that come about ?

KS : You know what. I don’t have a career as a model (Laughs). It was just a one off thing. At the time 'Vogue' needed someone who looked androgynous and they asked me to do it. I just went in and out. That was it. I think people thought that we broke up because I was attracted by modelling or something, but that is not the case at all. I have never thought about modelling since or done anything else to do with modelling.

PB : What are the other members of the Organ doing now ?

KS : We all really liked each other as people in the first place and were all extremely good friends. It is just that we didn't get on anymore when it came to working on music together.

Jenny has just moved to Toronto and we have just bought a restaurant together. We actually live above it in a teeny weeny apartment.

PB : You're in Toronto now as well, are you ?

KS : Yeah, I moved to Toronto at the time of the break up and Jenny moved here about five months ago. We wanted to do something together and we bought a restaurant/bar and we're renovating it. She is downstairs painting as we speak. We have been doing that.

PB : What is everyone else doing now ?

KS : Schmoo is in school. Both Debs and Shelby are working.

PB : You have played in another band, the Mermaids, since the Organ split Live footage of one song, ‘Say You’re Alive’, is on You Tube. Does that group still exist ?

KS : I am not in a new band. I wrote some songs and I got some friends to play with me, but I am writing music these days just as a sort of hobby (Laughs). I am really trying not to put pressure on myself. The whole experience of the Organ I still find really emotionally draining and I am not prepared to dive back into making music on a full-time basis. I don't want to commit myself by saying I am releasing a record. I may. I may not, but the Mermaids will be the name of my solo thing if I play more shows. As far as the band which will be playing with me, that will be constantly changing.

PB : Is your main plan at the moment then to concentrate on your restaurant ?

KS : Yeah, to concentrate on my restaurant and then to write music as I feel like it. I want to try to have a more relaxed relationship with it.

PB : Thank you for your time.











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