Sarah Neufeld Talks Yoga's Influence on Debut 'Hero Brother'

Sarah Neufeld Talks Yoga's Influence on Debut 'Hero Brother'
Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld's first solo album, the fast-approaching Hero Brother, is an engrossing whirlwind of minimalism, Appalachia and ambience, but as she tells Exclaim!, one big non-musical element in her life had a profound influence on the disc: her passion for yoga.

"Compositionally, I am inspired by movement and humanness" she says. "I've been doing yoga for a long time. I don't know if I'd be reaching if I said that kind of practice enables a certain connectivity with my own kinetic human physical flow, and that kind of cohesively aligns with the way I hear and play music.

"In terms of the actual physicality, being in good shape helps the ability to play [an arpeggio] over and over again, especially something that's quite fierce and demanding like [the song] 'Hero Brother.' It's quite long and it never stops and it's really fast. Your muscles can seize up. But when I'm at the top of my physical game I notice a huge difference; I can fly through those pieces without the numbness and the shooting pains. I do use the breathing stuff while I'm playing; if you're having physical pain, all you need to do is breathe through it and it comes back to feeling good."

She's quick to point out that although yoga helps her playing abilities tremendously, the physical demands on her playing are "much less so than a Colin Stetson set. I don't have to do a 20-minute circular breathing piece."

"I am kind of the yoga influence in Colin's life," she says of her boyfriend. "I kind of helped him to it. When we met, I'd been into it for years. When we started dating he started practising it more. He's really open to all sorts of stuff. He's really interested in technique and feeling really good and getting himself healthy. This was at a time when he was developing his solo stuff. He started following along with the yoga practice and it took him a while to find his own way with it, his own practice. He primarily practises yoga by himself before a show; he has a whole routine. It's been so cool watching him come to that. The muscular, vascular, skeletal stuff, even the mental, he really uses that in performance."

Her zeal for teaching got even more serious just over a year ago. Time management-wise, she says, "I only made it more interesting for myself by opening a yoga studio in New York [Moksha, which she co-owns with Montreal cellist and labelmate Rebecca Foon, of Esmerine/Saltland, and another partner]. I would say I wrote the record equally spread between being in New York, being in Montreal, being on the road and being in a cabin in Vermont. So yeah, I do tend to go a little crazy sometimes."

Maybe yoga would help her relax.

Hero Brother is due out August 20 via Constellation Records, and you can stream the entire album below.