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Hey, Hilly Eye, What Are Your Reasons to Live?

Hilly Eye / Photo by Haley Jane Samuelson

Since ending her two-year tenure as guitarist for Titus Andronicus, Amy Rebecca Klein’s life has shaken out to being a little less illustrious but much more artistically rewarding. After a year in the studio with her collaborator, drummer Catherine TKCQ, she has taken her much-anticipated next step: the duo’s din-pop debut as Hilly Eye, Reasons to Live, a buzzing, bruising, dispatch from Brooklyn basements, combining Sleater-Kinney melodies with the gnash of mid-’00s noise rock. Klein spoke to SPIN about giving up indie fame for real life and what exactly are her reasons for living.

When you were thinking about leaving Titus, was there anything that was holding you back from that decision?
I loved being in the band. Being in that band opened up my whole world; it caused me to think about myself in a totally different way than I had before. Before I was in Titus, I worked for the city of New York in a government office, a normal nine to five. I thought that would be my life. Then, all the sudden, I was asked to join this band. I had experiences and opportunities and I saw people who were devoting their lives to art and it showed me that that was a way you could live you life…. As soon as I had the confidence and guts, it was a matter of making that leap of faith about whether I could give up something that I love to do to do something I really love. It’s a tough choice; it was tempting to stick with something that made me happy. Something that held me back was fear of doing it on my own. Say I got off and do this thing and no one really cares. But one of the interesting things about this past year and half is the question — if you are doing something and working your ass off and no one is paying attention, but you’re happy with what your doing, can that be enough? And it turned out that the answer is “yes.” This is something I will continue to do for the rest of my life.

In Titus, you were getting in a typical version of success — did you think you could replicate that? Were you afraid to give that up?
It’s totally surreal, that success, that part of my life. It is weird to try to integrate that part of one’s life back into a very different life I have now. I work as a tutor for standardized tests and kids who are having trouble in school, and then I take classes for creative writing and I work really hard [on music]. I don’t tour. I had to have my own vision of success. I thought a lot to me what it means. There was a way in Titus it was cool to be a performer, but I realized I am songwriter and there is something about performing that is different when you are sharing a song you have written. My vision of success involves the artistic aspect; the feeling of playing a festival is not the same as the feeling of writing a song.

The record is called Reasons To Live. What are your reasons for living?
Aye. That’s a deep question. Ahhhh. [Laughs] I’d have to think about that.

No. Don’t think about it. What’s the first reason?
The first reason I have for living is the people and things I love. Friends and family. The reason anyone lives. Second reason, art/music/writing community. Third reason is, the things that you do may have a big impact on someone else, and even if you cannot see it, the things you do have a meaning to them in their life. That is a big responsibility.

How did you feel the first time you realized you were being that kind of an example to someone?
It was thrilling in the immediate sense and after it was more, “Why me?”

When did that happen?
In Titus, after the shows. Saying I was inspiring to other women and girls. The idea that I could be inspiring in that way, it was really thrilling. Wait, I have one more reason to live! Even if things suck now, you never know what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours. [Laughs]