Wash Your Hands
By Peter Erickson
Glacier City Gazette Intern
Sara Jean Larson-Greenberg, known as Wash Your Hands in the local music scene, graced the Silvertip Grill with her fantastically whacky presence last Friday. Her set, which included thought-provoking originals as well as time-honored classics, drew plenty of attention and at one point saw the Tip fill to near capacity. The Gazette was lucky enough to get a chance to talk with the artist after her set and get the lowdown on the solo act.
GCG: How did you get your start in music?
WYH: Well I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. My dad was always playing the guitar. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on my parent’s bed singing along as he played. As I got older I really wanted to learn to play the guitar but dad said I needed to learn to play the bass first. So I learned to play the bass. It wasn’t easy by any means but I just kept at it.
After high school and college, I moved to Vermont where I befriended some local musicians who really brought me into the fold. We had one jam session and I guess they liked me because they asked me to keep playing with them. I remember that was really when music got serious for me. You know, I had been writing songs since before college and done a few open mics here and there but nothing so involved until Vermont.
GCG: What brought you to Anchorage then?
WYH: Well my job in Vermont was terminated and around the same time my boyfriend was making plans to move to Alaska to open a glass studio. So a month after I lost my job, we packed and left. I figured it would be an adventure, you know?
GCG: How has the Anchorage music scene been treating you since you got here?
WYH: We got here in October 2016, and I didn’t know anyone up here or what to do so I decided to look up open mics. There weren’t too many that stood out. The music scene can be kind of sparse up here, but I found one at the Taproot and signed up. I showed up for my slot and initially it felt weird, but everyone really accepted me and my music and drew me into the fold. So I would say it’s been treating me great! It’s all serendipitous really that the wrong choice of words can lead to laughter, and that leads to friendships.
GCG: Tell me about your music then. What do you think it is that draws people to it?
WYH: When I started really getting into it I was looking for a genre descriptor and initially I decided I was filling the folk/punk niche, but I don’t feel that so much anymore. Not because I’m not rowdy enough or anything like that. I’m just all over the place. I want to share things and experiences that are relatable, so I write about weird situations and anxiety and so on. Like you’re in that dreamscape and something feels wrong but you don’t know what it is. I try to capture that because I think that’s how a lot of people feel, myself included. It goes hand in hand with the visual arts I like to make as well.
GCG: Visual arts? Like beyond performances on stage?
WYH: Yeah, for example I also like to make sketches and blow glass. My senior show was the first stepping stone to those visual mediums. Making a connection between visual art and my music felt almost natural, and I try to capture the same ideal in my visual arts that I put forth in my music. I also like to write poems on cards illustrate the backs and then send them off to old addresses that friends or acquaintances used to live at. I’ll just address them to the current resident, and if it’s my old friend great, if not then I hope the new folks like the surprise!
GCG: That’s amazing, and what inspired all this? Tell us about your influences musical or otherwise.
WYH: That’s so tough! There have been so many. It’s hard to nail down even just a few. Let’s see, I grew up listening to classic rock. Mom and dad loved music, so there was always music in the house and the car. I remember getting burned copies of Nirvana CDs at an early age. One time my dad bought me a Beck CD. That stands out. Being surrounded by music from an early age definitely influenced me.
And now on top of that, I like to look to a lot to strong women songwriters and narratives. I’m always trying to find new music which is actually kind of difficult in the internet age. Yeah, you have access to just about everything but you get inundated with all this flotsam and experience information overload. You end up missing a lot of the music people are posting. And there’s Elton John. I’m such a fan, so I had to learn his stuff. And Cher, and the Screaming Females, the list goes on.
GCG: What can we look forward to in the future? Is there anything in the works?
WYH: There is a show coming up March 30th at Vans in Anchorage. It’s debutant ball themed and I’ve been looking for a wedding dress to serve as my ball gown. It turns out Value Village and the Salvation Army are great places to find those for cheap. I have plans in the works to come out with some fresh, clean recordings of my stuff. You can find some now at Washyourhands.bandcamp.com, but those are still in the rough more or less.
OH! And I’ve been playing and collaborating with another local musician, Jay Straw. He’s this super driven bassist that kept pushing for us to play together. When we finally did, it really clicked, so we’ve been putting stuff together. Hopefully there will be more band recordings to come. KEEP AN EYE OUT!