"It enhances things," says Keene. "For better or for worse."
Damon and Naomi
“We’ve always looked for collaborations. It’s an extension of the relationship."
That's how Naomi Yang parses her band-to-relationship translation on the phone from Cambridge, where her husband (and other half of the folk-pop duo, Damon and Naomi), Damon Krukowski, has picked up another extension so that they can both speak at once. Yang and Krukowski's multi-faceted relationship began as a friendship when both were prep school kids in New York City in the 80's. The roots of their musical relationsip stem from a band mentioned previously in this article - Galaxie 500 - for whom Yang and Krukowski helmed the rhythm section, after founding the group with classmate Dean Wareham.
After Galaxie 500 broke up, in 1991, Yang and Krukowski refocused their attention on starting up Exact Change, an independant publishing house for experimental literature and books on avant-garde art. Before long, though, former Galaxie 500 producer Mark Kramer nudged them back into the studio. Since then, they've recorded seven albums as Damon and Naomi, and three albums as part of a psych-rock band called Magic Hour. Inevitably, their skills as musicians and collaborators have evolved, sharpened, and intermixed over decades of playing together.
"Generally, we each write our own lyrics and our own separate instrumental parts," Krukowski says. “I complimented Naomi on one of her lyrics the other day, and she said ‘You wrote that.’ I’d be better at parsing John and Paul’s songs than ours.”
And Exact Change is still running strong as well, in addition to Krukowski's gig teaching "Noisy Art" at Harvard, which essentially involves fieldtripping with a group of students to a thrift store, and encouraging them to make music using only what they find there as instruments - an idea based on the English avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew's Scratch Orchestra.
So music is part of Krukowski and Yang's grand juggling act of professions, a process they say is made easier by the fact that they're in a relationship."Every musician probably considers quitting a million times," says Krukowski. “With a band, you have to make a commitment to stay in it. But in a relationship, you can give the music a break and return to it. That process has repeated itself over and over."
“We just keep playing at home for ourselves," says Yang. "It’s like Damon and Naomi, Inc. The main thing is whatever has a deadline at the moment.” The main thing at the moment this winter will be a European tour, in support of the rerelease and remastering of their first album as Damon and Naomi, More Sad Hits (20/20/20). “The irony is we don’t play any songs from that album," Krukowski jokes.
"It's connecting in a different way. It's unique. Not that many people get to do that."
Tina McCarthy, bassist for the Cambridge-based, angular rock trio Helms, reaches this minor, epiphanic thought, on the phone with me from the apartment she shares with husband/Helms guitarist and vocalist Sean. Playing music together, Tina realizes, provides an alt-level of intimacy for their relationship; one that many couple will never experience. But she's also aware that there are downsides to being married to your bandmate - "We were on a label called Kimchee, and three-quarters of those bands were also couples," she says, then several of these bands ended when the relationships did. "It's sad to see them end that way."