Here’s the Q&A we did on Twitter last month, cleaned up for easier reading. Many thanks to Twitter users trialia, roofboy179 and kalenabear for archiving, formatting and sorting!
_flynn : when you’re trying to tell yourself something, by what name do you call yourself?
viennateng : I scold myself as V for musical mishaps (or cough missed flights to gigs), but for more personal stuff, usually C.
reirei86 : Are you going to cover or write anymore Chinese songs?
viennateng : We recorded a cover of kanji for Inland Territory, will probably come out as a b-side sometime.
reirei86 : I can’t wait to hear The Olive Tree! Do you play for private parties? A.k.a. My house? Free room and tour of the city!
disarming : So excited you have a DC show coming – I haven’t seen you in a year! What are the best concerts you’ve ever attended?
viennateng : Some favorite shows: Spring Standards, Kaki King, Pete & J, Radiohead @ Bonnaroo ‘06, Regina Spektor @ Outside Lands ‘08
viennateng : Enjoying shows is as much about environment as performers I think. Sadly was distracted for much of an Imogen Heap show once.
CharlieWaters : Hi Vienna – any plans to gig in the UK in the near future? (Love your music!)
trialia : when are you coming back to Britain, any plans to in the near future
viennateng : Would love to return to the UK. Timing CD release there has proven tricky but we’re working on it! Hopefully next year
viennateng : Hope next time we’ll play places outside London, I know the city can be claustrophobic for some (though I confess I love it)
Eridanus : Whilst recording IT u preferred studio to live shows; 2 yrs ago the reverse. D’you actually prefer whatever’s current?
viennateng : Hmm, you’re right. Recording/playing live, the current activity is what I prefer. Guess it’s better than the inverse…
viennateng : Prefer for different reasons, I guess: live performance is play, studio is work. Work->sense of worth. Play->instant grat
Eridanus : I asked cos of how you interact with an audience.Live: inevitably tech.’imperfect’ – but with a vibrance the studio lacks
viennateng : Yes, studio/live provide different parameters for making music, focus one’s mindset in different ways.
kurtharsis : Your arrangements tend towards unique with unusual instrument choices. How much of that is you? What guides the decisions?
viennateng : Album arrangements or live? Lately for both Alex plays a central role; he’s behind most inspired choices
kurtharsis : Album arrangements specifically, but speaking of live, whom do I have to bribe to get you to play in St. Louis?
viennateng : I believe we’re working on a Nov date @ Off Broadway in St. Louis. Send good booking vibes Jordan Burger’s way :^)
gulliverbear : that would be AWESOME if you came to St Louis!
_flynn : Thanks, one (two?) more for the moment: which songs’ve been hardest, and easiest, to play out?
viennateng : Gravity is still most satisfying & malleable to play. White Light is tough. Going to brave putting Radio in the set soon too.
Eridanus : Relieved you still like Gravity – the remarkably intense&versatile song which hooked me when you&Marika played it for BBC
_flynn : Concur w/Eridanus on Gravity. You’ve already heard how much I liked White Light live.
annaybunny : What’s the story behind Augustine? What inspired you to write it?
Eridanus : I’d like some Augustine hints too. Scott & Rotkehlchen puzzled about the lyrics since you published them
viennateng : Experimenting w/only octaves on piano + memories of reading Confessions in college + fascination w/faith & conversion
invokeuse : I’m curious about why you switched over to first-person tweets?
viennateng : 3rd-person inhibited sentence construction. Having an observer tweet on yr account in 3rd person would be funny though.
viennateng : e.g. “_ has that pensive look, like she may have found some gravel in this mouthful of Grape Nuts but isn’t certain yet”
smallred9t7 : Any plans on coming across the border and touring Canada?
OSMOSExINVERSEE : will you come to canada? the fans in winnipeg would love to see you perform!
viennateng : Playing in Canada is often tricky to justify financially (1-2 shows for steep immigration/work permit fees)
viennateng : But if we could tour w/Canadian artist (e.g. Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards) that would be a great way to get there
OSMOSExINVERSEE : aww thats to bad =[ us fans in winnipeg would love to her you sing! =D
OSMOSExINVERSEE : well, i do hope some day you can come to Canada ^^
annaybunny : I'm in love with your cover of Idioteque. Any chance of an official recording?
viennateng : Idioteque was another fine idea from Alex Wong. Plotting for live album, that'll likely be in the set. Glad you like!
annaybunny : A live album sounds awesome! I'll look forward to it.
kalenabear : I'm il-twitterite, so let's hope this is right. What's one of the biggest misconceptions of the industry,iyo? Thanks for the q&a!
viennateng : Perceptions by the industry, or of the industry by music fans? (Also, hi!)
kalenabear : the latter.
viennateng : Main misperception of industry: that there is a single music industry, maybe. Many worlds that hardly know of each other.
trialia : thought of something else- your music is used in Battlestar Galactica fanmixes for Roslin & Adama a lot. Ever watch it?
viennateng : Fanmixes = fascinating new form to me, albeit foreign since I hardly watch TV. Should watch more SF shows and anime perhaps.
proclubboy : How did you come to realize you wanted to be a musician when you were at Cisco? Were you scared of the job switch?
viennateng : Realized I wanted to pursue music well before Cisco, so it was just a matter of timing. Signing w/Virt was the impetus.
viennateng : But leaving Cisco was still scary. Mostly b/c I had no idea what to do music-business wise and had no talent for it.
trialia : also if you ever get the time, would love sheet music for DTTN someday if it's a possibility? thx!
viennateng : The goal is to have sheet music for every album over the next few years. Maybe released concurrently w/audio, eventually!
rflrob : At what point, and why, did Blue Caravan lyrics change from "Go IF you have to" to "Go WHERE you have to"?
viennateng : I think "if/where" switch in Blue Caravan happened over course of a tour. Seemed right to have him accept an inevitability
kalenabear : what can we Angelenos do to help get you in SoCal more often? Appreciate it every time you make a stop here, tho!
viennateng : Trying to figure out how to do something a bit different each time we return to LA. Would love to play theaters more...
_flynn : Ah, two more: how many interpretations have you heard for who "she" is in Recessional, and what's your favorite?
viennateng : Re: interpretations of Recessional, I love the one where someone actually put the lyrics in reverse: http://bit.ly/18SZpE
annaybunny : What are your favorite albums of all time/of the moment?
viennateng : All-time favorites: most of Simon & Garfunkel and Radiohead discographies. Current obsession: Laura Veirs' Saltbreakers.
frazierd : Who are your favorite artists/bands? Who did you enjoy playing with the most?
viennateng : Some great hangs on tour: Paper Raincoat, Ben Sollee, Julian Velard, David Berkeley, Jenny Owen Youngs, Kyler England
viennateng : Also Elizabeth & The Catapult, Katie Herzig, Glen Phillips, Brandi Carlile. Marc Cohn and Joan Baez were wonderfully kind headliners too.
FredLI : Concur w/you re: Joan Baez. Very classy; she's boosted many others' careers over the years (e.g., Dar Williams).
roofboy179 : What song from IT do u like playing live the most? Also, do u want another pie when u make your way back thru Milwaukee?
viennateng : Grandmother Song is most fun live from Inland Territory, though success rests heavily on audience. Also Antebellum.
viennateng : Thanks for awesome pie last time! Also, not sure whether to thank or hate you for getting Alex that xaphoon ;^)
_flynn : Not sure of the title but years ago you did something live with the chorus "...and the boy with the piano plays on..."
_flynn : Did you ever record that?
viennateng : Boy At The Piano was fun to play live for a while but lyrics are hard to sing w/a straight face these days :^) Should be some on archive.org though, as I've greenlighted releasing bootlegs of it: http://bit.ly/HxZx6
JohnnyNaked : Can you see the sun setting from where you're sitting? (Enjoying the informative & pleasant tweet cacophony!)
viennateng : On 2nd floor of a cafe, can see sunset reflecting off palm trees across the street. Many geeks w/laptops all around...
Eridanus : Do you enjoy your Forum as much as we do? I like to think you lurk occasionally, & secretly read some of what we post
FredLI : Concur w/Eridanus on forum. Good folks.
viennateng : I do lurk on the forum about once a week. Lovely group of folks, though occasionally strange ;^) Also sometimes exceedingly polite/sincere re: me. Critical/sarcastic is OK, no really! But grateful for such thoughtful listeners.
JohnnyNaked : You may want to be careful what you ask for! (So says the one who curbs his sarcastic tongue way too much in his old age.)
reirei86 : Do you publish majority of the songs you write or do you keep a lot private?
viennateng : Any song that gets finished usually sees the light of day. Sometimes I keep private ones that aren't really written for strangers to listen to (too many inside references in lyrics to be accessible, or attempts @ new style that aren't good)
invokeuse : When picking songs for an album, which is more important: a song's individual strength or how well it plays with the others?
viennateng : Song inclusion on album depends on a) quality & b) whether similar one is already on/out there. Art not science though.
viennateng : Grandmother Song was tough call for Inland Territory; unlike rest of album but we really wanted it on & not as bonus track
invokeuse : Glad Grandmother Song is on IT, though, the "good boys in grad school" line always gives me a giggle
BahamCrackers : Do you ever listen to your own music for enjoyment or is that too weird? Do you have a favorite song of yours?
viennateng : I'm often in the awkward position of not liking my own music for listening (genre/sound in general). Tried creating my own station on Pandora recently and much preferred Andrew Bird Radio & Jesca Hoop Radio.
kalenabear : Since you mentioned it, I took your recomm. on fb and saw Spring Standards @ the Levitt Pavilion, CA. AMAZING! so, thx!
viennateng : Yay! So glad you got to see Spring Standards. They're about the nicest people ever too; always cool when amazing performers are.
smallred9t7 : Who is the original artist on The Olive Tree?
viennateng : Not sure who originally performed The Olive Tree, but Qi Yu's version is most famous I think.
dslnyc : CHYI YU was the original singer of oliver trees. She is the most sophisticated Chinese singer.
FredLI : Do you have a favorite venue type as performer or as audience member? Theater, sit-down club, ballroom, outdoor, etc?
viennateng : Favorite venue...tough call! Bowery Ballroom, Rockwood in NYC have great energy. Many cozy listening rooms all over that make you feel totally connected to performer/audience. Altes Pfandhaus in Köln Germany is unique http://bit.ly/MOfDt
viennateng : Oh, and Cayamo! An entire ship of raptly attentive crowds for great music. Sometimes solid-ground festivals are magic too.
recessional : of all your songs, which lyrics are you most proud of?
viennateng : Most pleased with...Recessional, actually. Hee. In Another Life, Passage & a fair # on Dreaming are up there too.
gulliverbear : I love the new album! I was wondering about 'Watershed'... what inspired that song?
viennateng : Watershed inspiration: jamming w/delay pedal & Nord Electro + read Jared Diamond's Collapse + heard Björk's Oceania
FredLI : Is there buzz in the industry about the 2010 Lilith Fair? Are you interested?
viennateng : Would LOVE to play next year's Lilith Fair. I may build altars to the gods of festival booking to help make that happen...
roofboy179 : Are we ever gonna hear "House", which I think was cut off the new album. Unless i'm horribly mistaken
viennateng : House & The Olive Tree will get released eventually. We do like 'em, didn't want to make a 14-song album is all...
disarming : LAist interview piqued my interest - what became of the songs with the really emo titles? What's one you could recycle & redeem?
disarming : Also would love if you shared more titles - as it's comforting I wasn't alone in writing emo poetry all over my Trapper Keeper
viennateng : There was one called Farewell To the Unknown Soldier that wasn't too bad. Might make it a b-side of b-sides one day...
viennateng : Some of the more egregious included "it's me. but you wouldn't know that." and "Sorrow's Melody"
chirrio23 : No room for an LA show in the fall?
viennateng : We're looking to open for/share w/someone for our next LA show. Routing didn't work for this fall, but next spring!
_flynn : How many folks at the cafe have figured out what you're doing?
viennateng : There's been live music up here for the past hour, and I've sadly become one of those jerks on her laptop at a performance...
_flynn : Oh no! Smile Hope the music is good, at least.
_flynn : Informal poll: how many people watching #vtqna are in fact listening to Vienna Teng? @reply me if you'd be so kind.
kalenabear : not listening atm but listen every morning on the way to work btwn the 4 albums. Shame that my commute is only 15 mins
trialia : lol, was singing Love Turns 40 actually, but watching early Stargate: SG-1 so not listening. too busy logging #vtqna to a text file!
kalenabear : Silly/stupid ?: Ever consider doing smthg as tongue'ncheek as http://bit.ly/W19px [w/ Alex]?
viennateng : I SO want to be in a spoof music video! My sister thinks Alex & I should cover I’m On A Boat for next Cayamo.
viennateng : I’ve also always wanted to write a song & make a video for an über-pop song in which I attempt & utterly fail to be sexy.
kalenabear : “I’m On A Boat” at Cayamo?! lol. Genius.
annaybunny : I would die if you covered I’m On A Boat. Hee.
viennateng : Bet we could rope Brandi Carlile & Katie Herzig’s bands into I’m On A Boat too. ;^)
thinkshrink : InlandTerritoria -cannot get enough of it. Antebellum? War Protest Song?
viennateng : Antebellum (& much of Inland Territory) came from thinking about parallels between personal relationships & politics…seems like the struggle of human beings trying to live w/each other is hauntingly similar no matter what the scale.
thinkshrink : I think I listened to an interview you did abt that. Not parallel universes- as in Mark Oliver Everett.s father (ELLS) ???
thinkshrink : Each song on Inland is so unique & incredibly complex. The variations are staggering.
thinkshrink : I has been so helpful that you twittered while on tour and while recording Inland. It gave us so much more insight.
dslnyc : Where are you going to base in coming years?
viennateng : Don’t know where I’ll be based, though staying in NYC would be great. Maybe LA, maybe Chicago/Ann Arbor, maybe abroad…
DanielPLawson : How much of “Recessional” is biographic? I often wonder. It’s my favourite of yours; I relate to it like no other song.
viennateng : Recessional is fictional, but draws on personal events for mood & certain details. Like most of my songs, actually.
nowhereguy : fav on IT is Augustine – recall you saying it struggled to the surface. What holds a song back? Any struggling right now?
viennateng : Most songs struggle in the writing process…Augustine just took longer than most (3 yrs). All are struggling right now!
_flynn : OK, on to the important stuff. What’s your grandmother think of Grandmother Song, and what’s your favorite drink?
roofboy179 : In addition to _flynn ’s question; You’re in a coffeehouse, i think. What are you/were you/will you be drinking? ;D
_flynn : Good thing we’re not in Amsterdam or the cafe/coffeehouse distinction would be important.
viennateng : Lavender chamomile tea. Mmm. :^)
thinkshrink : Will you be on Cayomo 3?
viennateng : Yes, we’ll be on Cayamo 3 for sure! http://www.cayamo.com/Artists/
Jenster : i really hope your music and YOU will come to Hong Kong some day soon!
viennateng : Hope I get to come to Hong Kong too! Still searching for a good way to tour in Asia…working on it…
thinkshrink : Do you consider NYC to be your ‘home” or is it still San Francisco?
viennateng : Home = strange concept these days. I guess SF is “where I’m from” (roots), NYC is “where I’m based” (state of mind now)
reirei86 : How often do you get to go home during the year? Do you ever get homesick?
viennateng : I don’t get homesick because I…have no home, at the moment. I do get wistful for things like gardening & a closet though.
viennateng : Thanks everyone! That was great fun. Will have to do it again, maybe on a night off on tour this fall :^) Off to find food…g’night!
That's me in the middle of the Venn Diagram. http://viennateng.com/