Help Wanted: Before beginning this week’s column I’d like to ask what sort of people and jobs you’re looking to see covered in Quit Your Day Job. Are music-industry types a bore? The weirder the job the better? Does a boring 9-5 become interesting when the musician’s well known? I could go one for a few pages with these sots of questions, so why not treat the comment section like your wish list: Name names and I’ll do the snooping.
Until this week we haven’t come across anyone involved in fashion … not even close. (Any hairstylists out there? Guyliner appliers?) Switching the style frequency, I caught up with Whitney McGraw, who plays glockenspiel, keyboards, and most noticeably, sings in Page France. Her lovely voice generally plays backup to boyfriend Michael Nau’s sad-boy reediness, but she handles lead in their duo The Broadway Hush.
Page France formed in 2004, made their mark a year later with Hello, Dear Wind. Just yesterday, the quintet released its third full-length …And The Family Telephone yesterday. It’s an impressive collection of toy-orchestral folksiness with a rich, colorful, sylvan, slightly surrealist lyrical streak (Wooden Wand after inhaling a bit of helium?) — all the more so considering Nau (the primary songwriter) is just 22, McGraw’s not yet 21, and the rest of the band tops out in that ballpark (unless there’s some 75-year-old percussionist I don’t know about).
Scoot on down to the much traveled, sugar-hopped “Hat and Rabbit” and the less
traveled, mid-tempo, playfully plaintive start/stopping “Here’s A Telephone” after the interview to sample McGraw’s glockenspiel styling(s) and sweet, atmospherically dusted vocal turns.
Before that, though, while we’re talking age, find out what it’s like to work at a formal wear store with Marlene and Ida, two women in their sixties.
STEREOGUM: Michael said you work at a wedding dress store with two older women. How long have you been there?
WHITNEY MCGRAW: I’ve been working at the store for about three years.
STEREOGUM: Can you tell me a bit about the store?
WM: It’s called Lennox East, after the owner Marlene Lennox. She’s 66, and I’ve grown to like working with two old ladies much more than people my own age. I definitely get a lot of crazy stories, and they don’t get along with each other very well, so I get wrapped up in their feuds pretty often.
STEREOGUM: Marlene’s one of the two coworkers?
WM: Yes, she is one of the ladies I work with … also Ida Long, the manager.
STEREOGUM: Why don’t Marlene and Ida get along?
WM: It’s really just a power struggle I would say. Marlene has had the store for about 25 years and Ida has worked with her for about 11. They both come up with these crazy ideas and shoot each other down, then a week later the other one will come up with the same idea as the other one the week before and it’s just a never ending run. I just get a lot of whispers: “Can you believe she did that?” It’s quite entertaining.
STEREOGUM: What are some of these “crazy ideas”? Ways to display items? New designs?
WM: It’s usually always something different, usually just an excuse to argue I think. I’m sorry I can’t really think of a specific instance, the best part I think is just that they like to try to pull me to their side.
STEREOGUM: Why do you like working with them more than people your own age?
WM: I guess it’s really just a different experience. I’m with the boys all the time on tour and at home too really. We’re all about the same age and we all have really similar things going on in our lives. I like talking to the ladies about their husbands and grandchildren. They also think I’m really funny. I like that!
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
WM: I pretty much do everything there, tuxedos, prom dresses, bridal gowns and pretty much anything else involved in wedding planning. I do sizings and place orders and a lot of sales and planning with customers. I also usually go on a buying trip with the owner to Atlanta about once a year.
STEREOGUM: You’re based in Maryland. Why Atlanta? Is that the hot spot for formal wear?
WM: The are buying markets all over the US not just for formal wear, pretty much every store in the country goes to the same markets just different areas of them. There are markets in New York, Vegas, LA, Chicago, pretty much every major city. Marlene has just always gone to Atlanta so that’s where we go! I think the buying is one of my favorite parts, I’ve thought of doing that if we ever decide to pause Page France.
STEREOGUM: Can you explain a typical buying trip?
WM: Well, we usually fly out on Thursday and get there for a fashion show that night. We get up at around eight the next morning and go back to the market and hit up several appointments with vendors that we pick up every season. At each vendor there is a kind of mini fashion show and we have drinks and desserts or whatever and write down each piece that we want and turn it in at the end. After the appointments we just kind of wander around into different show rooms and see if there are any new things we want to pick up, jewelry, accessories, new dress lines etc. Then another big fashion show at nine. Then we wake up, do it all again and go home Sunday morning. It’s extremely tiring, but fun to get to know all of the people who run and design each line.
STEREOGUM: I imagine wedding preparation can be both satisfying and stressful. Does the job include much on-the-spot calming/therapy for anxious customers?
WM: It definitely does. Stressing brides, weeping parents, screaming bridesmaids … we get it all! It can definitely be both satisfying and extremely taxing. I think people just forget that they are going to be married at the end of the day whether the curls fall out of their hair or the flowers wilt or not.
STEREOGUM: How’d you land this the job?
WM: I went into the store just to look around, I started talking to the ladies a little bit and basically just got offered the job. I had a job at the time but thought it might be fun to try and I’ve been there ever since. I’ve been lucky that they have started to think of me as kind of a granddaughter so they are very lenient about me leaving for months at a time for touring etc.
STEREOGUM: Where’d you work prior to this?
WM: I was a lifeguard in the summers at a private swim club.
STEREOGUM: What was that like?
WM: I really liked it. It was fun being able to stay outside in the summers, and I got to teach swimming lessons and coach the swim team. I was a competitive swimmer for nine years so I pretty much grew up at that pool. I basically just fell into it, but I knew everyone that went there very well and only had to make one rescue in the four years I worked there.
STEREOGUM: Was it intense to be on watch for something so long, then to have it suddenly happen?
WM: It actually wasn’t that intense. The pool gets rented out some nights for private parties. I was guarding and it was a middle school football team, cheerleaders etc. One of the parents had one of their younger children there as well, a little girl about three years old. I was watching her anyway because I kept seeing her run off by herself. Then she just jumped in and basically sank. I just ran over, reached in and pulled her out by her arms. I didn’t even jump in. I was lucky that it was so simple and smooth. I’ve seen some intense rescues.
STEREOGUM: Back to the present … Do you make any of your own clothes? Do you have a background in fashion?
WM: I wouldn’t say I have a background, but definitely an interest. I don’t make my own clothes, my sewing skills aren’t quite there, but I definitely change my existing ones around a bit.
STEREOGUM: How do you go about modifying them?
WM: I do a lot of resizing, sometimes changing necklines or hems. I do a lot of shopping, so I always tend to have little projects going on.
STEREOGUM: What are some recent wedding trends?
WM: Well, I think that the bulk of weddings are moving to the fall months; whereas June used to be the big wedding month, I think September is becoming the one. Because of that we do a lot of browns and burnt oranges on bridesmaids, etc.
STEREOGUM: Strangest wedding?
WM: Several strange ones. I did a Halloween one once — the bride wore an orange-and-black feathered cocktail hat that had a giant wire tarantula on top of it … and orange and black feathered wrist cuffs!
STEREOGUM: What did the groom wear? Spider bowtie?
WM: Come to think I never saw the groom, I’ve wondered if there was one.
STEREOGUM: Do you get to deal with prom kids? Do they all still wear sunglasses? (Maybe a weird question, but the second I thought “prom,” a thousand images of prom goers in sunglasses flashed through my head.)
WM: Haha no, not many sunglasses! They are almost worse than the brides, but there are still a few good ones left!
STEREOGUM: Would you ever want to quit your day job, or is this something you enjoy too much?
WM: I think I would definitely quit. I enjoy it but am not a fan of staying put too long and doing the same thing everyday. I’m sure the fashion business will always be an interest of mine though.
STEREOGUM: Have Marlene and Ida listened to Page France?
WM: Yeah they buy every record. It’s funny, they are so supportive, and I know they don’t really know what it is that we do.
…And The Family Telephone is out via Suicide Squeeze.