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TALK: My Brightest Diamond

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my_brightest_diamond_2.jpgYou may recognize her as the captain of Sufjan Stevens’ cheerleading squad, but roundoffs, cartwheels, and pom-poms aside, My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) is a lo-fi loving, classically trained vocalist who will make Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Bjork fans stand up and cheer. We met up in Union Square (New York City), months before the release of her highly anticipated album A Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty Records) and weeks before her performance at SXSW:

Jim: You grew up singing along to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey albums. When did you get into the heavier stuff, so to speak, like PJ Harvey and Bjork?
My Brightest Diamond: Probably my third or fourth year in college. I was a hardcore R&B head for a really long time.

J: So who were you listening to back then?
MBD: It was like Sade and Seal. I listened to Tori Amos, Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Jeff Buckley too. Those were the records I would listen to, but didn’t like. I would keep going back to them, because there’s was something about it that was so intriguing to me. Eventually I really fell in love with those artists.

J: Do you still listen to the R&B?
MBD: Yeah, I do. I love me some Cee Lo.

J: When you came to New York you were studying opera, how did you creep into the rock scene?
MBD: I moved to New York because I knew there was such a strong classical scene and I was also really interested in the downtown avant-garde stuff. That combination really drew me into the city. After about two years of studying in New York, I had to draw a line in the sand and make a decision about what life I was going to pursue–I ended up on the rock-n-roll side.

J: How did you meet Sufjan Stevens?
MBD: I met Sufjan six years ago. We were playing a variety show on the Lower East Side, and we had mutual friends that were like, “Hey, you guys should hang out.” The rest is history.

J: Then you became the captain of his cheerleading squad. How did this happen?
MBD: Sufjan hadn’t done a lot of extensive band touring. When Michigan came out he was trying to do some tours and put together a band, so he called up all his friends.

J: Okay, but how did you become a cheerleader?
MBD: (laughs) Every choirgirl has a fantasy of being a cheerleader, but you’re not allowed to be a cheerleader when you’re a choirgirl because it will ruin your voice. It was a secret fantasy of mine.

J: (laughs) Any training involved?
MBD: Yes we did have to do a lot of extensive stretching and yoga exercises every morning–a lot of strength moves, a lot of lifts and jump.

J: You’ve been know to play a wine glass, so including household items, how many instruments do you play?
MBD: I do alright with keyboard and guitar things, bells and kalimbas. Wine glasses are a favorite. You can also play crystal vases and bowls. Glass bowls have pitches, so you can put marbles in them and do various things to get the pitch to come out. You can also bow thin glass. This is limited only by your imagination!

J: When’s your new album, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, coming out?
MBD: I hope June 17th. I finished it last week.

J: What are you bringing to the table this time around?
MBD: This one is sort of like Tom Waits meets Peter Gabriel meets a dash of Post/Debut Bjork.

J: Instrument-wise, what’s going on? Do you have strings on the album?
MBD: Strings on every track with a full band, groove-oriented drums and bass, some kalimba and gongs–a lot of marimbas, bassoons, clarinets, French horns, and trombones. The orchestration is quite classical, but it’s still like pop tunes for the most part.

J: Switching gears here, what’s the best stage costume you own?
MBD: I have an ice skating outfit. It’s kind of like a circus, tight-rope-walker costume. That’s one of my favorites. I also have a clown outfit that’s pretty sweet.

J: Will you bust these out on tour?
MBD: Oh yes.

J: You’re doing SXSW this year, right?
MBD: I might do a couple of day parties, but there’s one showcase I’m doing with a string quartet. That’ll be fun. It’s at the Presbyterian Church. I’m also playing with my friend Marla Hansen, I’ll be doing some background vocals for her.

J: Sometimes you shorten My Brightest Diamond to MBD. How often does this occur?
MBD: It’s just a matter of laziness or convenience.

J: Has anyone ever seen your band name and mistaken it for a female hip-hop MC?
MBD: I don’t know. That would be super cool if that’s what they thought. I did some myspace researching and there’s a lot of diamond language floating around in the R&B world. They’re all my friends–I got them listed. Lavender Diamond not to be forgotten!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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