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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: The Telephone Line

Michele Vottero

The Telephone Line formed just over a decade ago on Twitter, of all places. Now, the band are calling it quits and investigating what their musical futures look like, but not before they sign off with a killer new album. Though it’s not necessarily a Fleetwood Mac situation, the song “Why Don’t You Call Me?” was written by the guitar player about the singer.

Addi Twigg (the singer) recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar about what it’s been like making music with The Telephone Line over the last decade. Listen to their new song “Why Don’t You Call Me?”

The Telephone Line are (were):
Brad Crouse – drums, percussion
Jojo Gustafson – keys, guitar
Jason Krivanek – guitar
Addi Twigg – vocals
Lacey Volk – bass

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Tele Line formed when our drummer Brad tweeted our keys/guitar player, my husband Jojo, back in January 2013 (I even attached an image of the tweet for you). We were fumbling around with a folk sound initially (Mumford and Sons had such a chokehold on indie music back then!), but once we started playing together we settled into what would eventually be our pop/rock sound. I was loosely acquainted with the Hootenanny house band lead at the time (Andy Mulkerin), and he graciously invited me to sing something at the 2013 Hoot. I met so many music friends through that event — Molly Alphabet, André Costello, Josh Verbanets, Casey Hanner — and suddenly The Telephone Line had connections to the local scene! It was relatively easy from there to jump on a show or two a month. We’re so lucky to have had such a flourishing scene in Pittsburgh when we were getting started.

How do you describe your sound?

Pop/rock on the edge of soul probably fits best! Cindy gets credit for the “edge of soul” bit.

What’s your favorite memory from the last decade of being a band? 

Playing the main stage at Three Rivers Arts Festival in 2018 feels like a trite answer, but it really meant something to us as Yinzers! There was also something special about playing The Elks for Deutschtown Music Festival in 2019. That crowd was practically vibrating.

Tell us more about the song “Why Don’t You Call Me?” What inspired you to write it?

Jojo: The framework for the song had been rattling around my head for about 20 years. Originally I imagined it as a slower acoustic country song but I decided to make it more poppy and New Wave-y when I brought it to the band. Also, I thought a song called “Why Don’t You Call Me?” would be perfect for a band called The Telephone Line! The song isn’t 100% autobiographical but I wrote it from Addi’s point of view about her struggles interacting with her uncommunicative husband (me!) who screws up (but his heart’s in the right place), Ultimately my goal in writing the song was to help show the world that Addi is a badass lady and she is not to be messed with!

What was the first album that really changed your life? 

Joey this is impossible! If I have to pick just one, I might say "Jagged Little Pill." As the daughter of two ministers in a small Pennsylvania town, that album (and especially the song “Forgiven”) blew my teenage mind. I’d never heard a young woman say things like that, let alone sing them, with such fearlessness.

Which Pittsburgh artist(s) do you wish more people knew about?

Our band besties Working Breed! They’re always experimenting and growing and they’re fun as hell to see live! I also adore INEZ, her productions are amazing. And Big Blitz is a band to watch, too – those guys are surfing the jam band circuit and I just know they’re amassing a huge following!

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

Jojo was such a snob about playing a “real” organ that for our first show ever, we hauled a FULL-SIZE HAMMOND ORGAN up the steps at Brillobox — and then we couldn’t even get enough sound out of it to hear it properly! After that the rest of us bullied him into buying a Hammond keyboard, and now he loves it.

Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.