Wishbone Zoe finds her sound
Sara Kochanski is Wishbone Zoe
ARTS BLOCK, 289 Main St., Greenfield: Pioneer Valley Woman Songwriting Collective, a collaboration between six western Massachusetts women singer-songwriters. Friday, 8 p.m. As a live performance, the collective brings multiple genres and instrumentation together to create a “singer-songwriter-in-the-round” experience that is rare and very special. Members include Lexi Weege , Lisa Marie Ellingsen, Wishbone Zoe (pictured), Katie Sachs, Carolyn Walker and Christa Joy. $10 at the door; $7 advance: www.theartsblock.com.
There are many ways to describe Wishbone Zoe’s music, but mainstream isn’t one of them.
If you ask the 19-year-old, she’ll tell you her music is a little junkyard rock, some vagabond scuff, a taste of klezmer polka and polka folk, and some alternative New England, Pioneer Valley, western Massachusetts ambient folk. She also throws rock and indie into the mix.
Wishbone Zoe, whose given name is Saera Kochanski, loves to accompany her banjo and guitar playing with sounds from a collection of objects. She calls it “found sound.”
“As for junkyard rock, it’s a term I’ve used loosely to describe my use, or experimentation with, found sound,” she said.
“I use trash cans, electric drills and appliances, pots and pans, bottles and nails, gas cans, anything,” she said. “I try to constantly be on the lookout for interesting, odd or unlikely sounds in everyday and discarded objects to add to my music, which is hopelessly and forever driven by the rock ’n’ roll I was raised on.”
The young woman with big beautiful eyes, who immediately turns heads as she walks into a room wearing an aviator cap and goggles, is also interested in painting, drawing and illustrating.
She is working toward a degree in visual arts at Greenfield Community College and said someday she’d like to combine her music and art by creating graphic novels with sound tracks.
Kochanski said she wants her music, which she describes as quirky, to conjure up images of gypsy caravans and carnivals at night.
She calls herself a “teller of stories” and says her music is lyrically driven.
In the song “Senescence (One in the Afternoon),” she writes, “In the singing fields the bees have come back and fill the air with anxiety.”
“There’s a boy lying down with scissors in his hand pretending to gut the belly of the playful sky, and when I told him not to let that snake too close to his face, he turned and he asked me, ‘Why?’”
She continues, “See, he’s the kid who calls the spiders to his fingers. Sees the cells in every laughing leaf. And he can call the comely demons out of the sky and he rides on their backs and he calls himself Chief.”
Kochanski describes her song “Lostin Fown” as something a little lighter than she usually writes.
She said “Hazel and Wine,” is her attempt to conjure up images of gypsy jazz caravans, campfire smoke and dark travels.
“‘Sacrificial Lamb’ has a lot of biographical stuff in it,” she said.
Kochanski, who chose to perform as Wishbone Zoe — because she felt it was a good name for both a solo act and a band — has played throughout Franklin County. Zoe is the name of her dog, which is now 16 years old. She’s not sure where “Wishbone” came from.
She has performed at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, the Green River Festival in Greenfield, The Rendezvous in Turners Falls, and the Montague Bookmill in Montague. She has also performed, and continues to, in Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke, and other places throughout the Pioneer Valley.
Kochanski was born near Boston and lived there until she was 2. Her father, a musician, and her mother, a painter who also carves carousel horses, decided they wanted to live in the western part of the state, so they moved to Westfield. She said they liked that the area had so many artists here and that it was more quiet than Boston.
Kochanski grew up with her two younger brothers, one is a drummer and one an animator. She graduated from Westfield High School and still calls Westfield home. She is in her second semester at GCC and has no idea what she’ll do or where she’ll go after college.
“I guess I have plenty of time to figure it out,” she said.
Kochanski said she grew up listening to all different types of music. Her dad is a bass player, so music always filled her home.
She said she wasn’t in high school chorus or band, but did play for her school’s jazz band.
“It was when I was 13 that I decided to go to a summer camp for girls interested in rock ’n’ roll,” she said.
“It was at the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen and, at the same time, I was getting to know a lot of local musicians through my dad,” she said. “I also traveled back and forth to Northampton each week to play with other teens.”
Kochanski said she picked up her father’s bass when she was 9 or 10 and loved it.
“He taught me a few things and, over time, I realized music is what I wanted to do,” she said.
Kochanski remembers she would quote The Beatles or The Replacements in her essays as far back as elementary school — “No other kids were doing that.”
“It was always in me, now that I look back,” she said. “I just needed something to bring it out.”
Kochanski describes herself as “incredibly quiet and painfully shy,” but said she becomes a totally different person when she’s on a stage.
She said she’s been recording at home — her dad has all of the equipment.
So far, she has released one CD, which she sells on her Web site.
“Incomprehensible Sky,” a compilation of six of her songs, all of which she wrote the music and lyrics for, was released in March 2011.
Her song “Lostin Fown,” which is on that album, was included in Valley Rising’s 2012 compilation CD.
Kochanski said she’ll soon release her second CD, “It’s Only Ever Grey In Somedaytown,” which will be accompanied by a companion book filled with her original writings, observations, drawings and new songs. “I’m really excited about the one coming out,” she said. “I think people will like it.”
Some of the local musicians who have influenced her include Katie Sachs, Heather Maloney, Erin McKeown and Carrie Ferguson. She has opened for or played with many local musicians and continues to do so.
Looking ahead, she hopes to play in some of the area’s larger venues and would like someday to travel and play in other parts of the country.
She doesn’t plan on being “hugely famous,” she just wants to be able to communicate her thoughts to as many people as possible. “I don’t have huge plans for huge fame, but I’m very excited to see where this all takes me,” she said. “This all feels so natural to me.”
For more information on Wishbone Zoe or to purchase Kochanski’s first CD, visit www.wishbonezoe.com. She is also on Bandcamp and SoundCloud. To hear samples of her music, check out http://wishbonezoe.bandcamp.com/
You can reach her at
The following is a list of venues Wishbone Zoe will be playing at over the next several months.
A more complete list can be found on her Web site.
∎ March 23: Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton (she headlines after 9 p.m.)
∎ March 29: The Iron Horse with Who’da Funk It at 10 p.m. in Northampton
∎ April 7: The Rendezvous in Turners Falls
∎ April 27: Amherst Sustainable Festival in Amherst
∎ June 22: The Montague Bookmill in Montague
∎ July 27: The Upper Valley Music Festival, Turners Falls
Staff reporter Anita Fritz worked at The Recorder from 2002 to 2005 and then returned in 2006. She covers Greenfield and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.
Staff photographer Paul Franz has worked for The Recorder since 1988. He can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 266. His website is www.franzphoto.com.