Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Iron Frenzy interview with Reese Roper (frontman) Part 2

 
After eight solid years of retirement, Five Iron Frenzy has announced that they will reunite to record a brand new record just in time for 2013(the earliest date they agreed to reunite). The band has put a KickStarter page to help raise funds for the independent album  So far the band has raised over $180,000 by selling some cool exclusive items, and they still have over two weeks left in there campaign. I was able to contact FIF’s lead singer, Reese Roper, to answer some pressing questions regarding the big comeback, future album plans, as well as Roper’s take on the Christian Music industry today. Please go and check out their new single “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” http://fiveironfrenzy.com/site/album/it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night/, which is free to download right now! Big thanks to Dave Thomas for all of his help!
Also please check out my first interview with Reese: http://mousertime.blogspot.com/2011/01/reese-roper-interview.html
How did the FIF web scavenger hunt come together?
It was the idea of Joel, the guy who runs our website. He is so smart- it is borderline evil.
Whose idea was it to resurrect this awful band and how did this tragedy come to pass?
I guess it was all of us. I don't know why or how it happened, it's just that one day I was a starving musician, and the next  day I woke up and I liked talking about Post-modernism and the Arts-and-crafts style vs. Art Deco. I have a lot of gray hairs and someone is constantly grabbing me around the legs wanting to be picked up. A kid- I think. Anyways, we're old, and we missed the days of yore.
Will this new album lean more to the silly side, or serious side?
This new album will be somewhat like being punched in the face by Pee Wee Herman. Yes, he's hitting you, and that sucks, but really, -PeeWee? You're back? Thank God.
Hope is a very common theme in your lyrics. How do you define hope? What compels you so much about it?
Hope, to me, is wishing for something good to be true. I believe it is inherent in all of mankind to hope, not because we need to escape where we are, but because we have souls- and those souls were made for something greater than this world. I write about it so often because I think it compels us all. I want to make songs that people at any intellectual level can feel stirred by. Hope is the basest of human feelings to me, the feeling that all emotion springs from.
Have you guys discussed a direction that you want to take this album, sound wise?
We have all decided, as a group, that this album must be bad-ass. That it must be the best album ever, or we should stay retired. I know, that's very vague, but just wait 'till you hear it.
How did "It Was A Dark and Stormy Night Come Together?" (AMAZING by the way) Is this the only song you guys have in the bank right not?
It is the only song we have a final recording of. There are 5-6 more in the works right now, and hopefully 5-6 more on the way. It is a long and sordid tale on that one, though. We decided last summer to try and make a new album, and hopefully make one free song downloadable at the time we announced it. Scott wrote it and bounced it around to us all via the internet, and it slowly became what it is. He asked me to write new lyrics, but it wasn't until flying to New York (and half in the car on the way to the studio) to record it that I was able to get them the way that I wanted them to be.  Everyone but Micah and Sonnie flew to record in NYC when they could, and recorded it a piece at a time. The guitars were recorded in Denver, and mailed to Jeremy- the producer.
Have you guys practiced for the live show coming up? Just like riding a bike I would assume?
Like riding a bike on a tight rope with replacement hips and knees.
Tell us a little about the KickStarter Campaign. Are you surprised with how it has turned out thus far?
Holy crap? Did anyone see that coming? We thought we could maybe make enough to pay for half an album. Yeeeesh. We are in it deep for sure.
Last time you implied that Christian music is inferior to secular music(I tend to agree). Why is Christian music sub par and what does it need?
Christian musicians today, minus about ten bands, have never had to fight to be accepted or heard like general market bands have to make a living. It's just overlooked that the Christian market is safer and more lucrative, but requires musicianship that applies to the lowest common denominator.  Early on in Five Iron we played a few shows with Less Than Jake. They were by far one of the best sounding bands of Third Wave Ska. What amazed us about them, was that they cared more about their fans- keeping tickets and merch prices low, giving out toys, mailing lists, etc.- than 99% of the Christian bands we had played with. It was humbling. If Jesus Christ truly loves us, and His love has TRULY changed us, then why aren't we losing more blood showing that to the world? Why does this have to be some padded, sad, soft version of music lite, so that grandmas in Family Christian Bookstore will be buying our albums for their grand kids at Christmas? I am SO glad that we all have jobs now. I believe that when Jesus walked the earth He did two things: 1. He came to save and heal the lost, and 2. He infuriated the religious people. Yeah, that's where I'm at right now. I hate the Church and what it has become. We are pulling no punches for this one.
You mentioned the development of Pool Party Death Machine last time we spoke. Any updates on the side project?
PPDM is slowly coming together. Matt had to go on tour in Japan this fall, and I've been working on Five Iron a bit more- but we are still really excited about it. It is just going to be some fun, poppy, new-wave stuff. I've never gotten a chance to write music that poppy, so it's awesome.
Are you going out to the Desert any time soon? Ha.
I wish. I live in Virginia now, and it NEVER stops raining. Never. They filmed Evan Almighty in my town. I am not making this up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Silent Night" Threadbare, Brother and Melanie Annabelle

Check out the following video "Silent Night" Arranged and Performed by Threadbare, Brother and Melanie Annabelle Recorded and filmed live in Marietta, Georgia on December 5, 2011. Video Directed by Brent Clouse Recorded and Mixed by Brian Hansen Cinematography by Takashi Doscher...

http://vimeo.com/brentclouse/silentnight

For more information on Threadbare, Brother and Melanie Annabelle, check out their facebook sites:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Threadbare-Brother/138365626208633

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Melanie-Annabelle-and-the-Sparrow/122269111157619

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fake Problems Interview with front man Chris Farren and guitarist Casey Lee


Photo by Bryan Sheffield
 Fake Problems, the Naples Florida group made up of vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren, bassist Derek Perry, drummer Sean Stevenson and guitarist Casey Lee have gained a great deal of attention since the release of their second full-length album, Real Ghosts Caught on Tape. On this record, the band flawlessly combines a wide variety of genres to create a unique one-of-a-kind sound. Currently the group is working on new songs for their next full-length record.
I had the chance to briefly speak with guitarist/ vocalist Chris Farren and guitarist Casey Lee, before their show with Carter Hulsey, A  Rocket to the Moon, Plain White T’s and Never Shout Never.
For more information on the band, and latest tour dates please check out their website: www.fakeproblems.com
How has the tour been thus far?
Farren: it's different. We been touring for six years, and it's the first time we've ever been on a tour like this before. I mean, we've been on the force before but we haven't played for such a youthful audience. But it's cool because I think about how excited I was to go to a show when I was 13, it's really exciting. We’re shaping their brains to like the music.
Lee: They’re that young that their skulls are still soft. They're basically newborns, so that's how we are shaping their brains, physically. I go out into the crowd every night and do at least five or six. Want to know how I make them? Long. Real long. So in about 10 years, you see some guy walking around anywhere we go with a really long face, you'll be like "Hey have you ever seen Fake Problems live?” An they’ll be like “no, I just have a really long face (Laughs)."
Farren: “Yeah, people ask me that all the time (laughs)."
As far as new music goes are you guys working on anything new right now?
Farren: We’re just writing I guess. We’ve been talking with Ted Hutt, the producer of the last record, just making another record. Is coming together kind of slowly, but are we definitely writing as many songs as normal.
How does the writing process normally pan out for you guys?
Farren: Usually all write a song on my computer or acoustic guitar, and then we'll just bring it all together and write our own parts to it and everything like that.
Are you a continual writer?
 Farren: Like constantly? Any time we’re at home, I'm writing songs.
Listening to the last album, you guys definitely seem to pull together a variety of genres. Why doyou think that is so? Is it because you guys have completely different influences?
Lee: Yeah, I think it's because we have different influences and we are all over the board anyways. It makes sense that sounds like a mishmash.
Farren: Also, definitely on our last record I think it all comes to a cohesive level or point.
What kind of genres do you think mix in? I hear a bunch of different stuff personally.
Farren: We used to be pretty heavy on country, I’m not to say it's gone away, but it's definitely not the primary thing anymore.
Why do you think that is?
Farren: Once you do something for long enough, you're like “well, I know how to do that. Let's see what else I can do." On Real Ghost Caught on Tape, we tried to make classic pop arrangement songs, a lot like the Phil Spector and Girl Group arrangements. That was the emphasis for sure.
Before you guys began writing and recording, did you have an idea of what direction you wanted to go in?
Farren: Not before we began writing. Usually how will go is I will probably write 20 songs and there will be like five, that sound like this, and five that sound like this. There are a few different directions, whatever direction we are most excited about steers us.
Are they for songs? Or are they just ideas?
 Farren: Yeah, they're always full songs. Sometimes they might just be acoustic, but rarely will I just bring a riff or part of the song. That seems like it would be annoying, four people trying to write one song (laughs). I mean we all write the songs, but that would specifically be a weird process.
Casey do you bring any songs in specifically?
Lee: I would never (laughs), let them be part of the genius in my brain. I don't think they deserve it. Everyone else is pretty good, but I don't know if you noticed, I'm pretty amazing.
Farren: we do have one Casey's songs on How Far Our Bodies Go, called “Crest on the Chest.” We named it after his own tattoo (laughs).
Lee: I did not name it. I was too distracted with shaping heads and writing more genius ideas down.
Who are some people that you guys are into right now? Anyone you specifically see shaping your music?
Farren: I have just been listening to podcasts. I'm really into podcasts right now.
Which podcasts?
Farren: I like Comedy Big Bang, Professor Blastoff, WTF, Adam Corrolla, the Nerdist, the Judge John Hodgeman and This American Life.
Lee: I like a few the podcasts.
Farren: Casey and I are going to make our own podcast, called “Gabbin’”. It's just, at least once in seen I try to go for a walk around town that we are in, like maybe walk to Starbucks, and just the whole way there we talk about stuff and then we play some games. Casey has some games where the stakes are that if I guess some correctly…
Lee: I will buy whatever he want wherever we go. I usually pick where we go (laughs).
Farren: I can't think of any music right now, specifically.
What were some of the main influences when the band began?
Farren: They were mostly “saddle creek” bands like Bright Eyes, Cursive, the Faint and Rilo Kiley. Just all the kind of early 2000's indie rock. That got us into more classic country music.
Like who?
Lee: Randy Travis (while pointing at was shirt). We have a 7 inch of a Waylon Jennings cover, so that makes us cool (laughs). So if anyone is listening or reading, if you are wondering if we are cool or not, I am. We are.
I'm excited to see you guys play tonight, and I've heard you guys have a pretty energetic show?
Farren: These shows are some of the funniest shows that we’ve ever played, because the crowds are so different.
Do you find yourself calming it down when you're on stage?
Farren: No! I kick it up a notch for sure. When I'm playing shows, I don't feel as judged as I normally do. I'm free to do whatever I want. Don't get me wrong, I love playing with The Gaslight Anthem and Murder by Death, but the crowds consist of a bunch of old jaded dudes. These kids are just impressed by you walking out on stage (laughs).
What do you have coming up after the tour?
Farren: We are going to be home for the holidays and then I don't know! Write 20 or 30 more songs? Who knows?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Graham Colton Interview Part 2

Photo by Josh Welch
After a number of years of doing the whole “major label” thing, artist Graham Colton has returned to his independent roots where he began. Colton’s most recent release, Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 2, includes all of Pacific Coast Eyes Volume 1, plus several new songs and remixes. I had the chance to sit down with the singer/songwriter before his recent sow in Atlanta to discuss a number of things including his latest release, embracing social media and future plans for his music. Also, please check Graham's special acoustic performance of "Everything You Are" below! 


For the latest news on Graham, including tour dates, check out www.grahamcolton.com.

How has the tour with Matthew Mayfield been thus far?

Colton: The tour has been good. It definitely feels like I am kind of re-connecting the dots in a sense, but also there is definitely a new audience that is coming out. Which kind of makes me feel old, but I realized that when I first started I was super young. It’s going really good man.

So is it kind of a younger audience?

Colton: No, you know it’s weird because it is such a wide range of people that come to the shows. Some people know me from my first album, some people know me from the stuff that is floating around the internet and some people know me from the new record. It’s been cool, because I feel like every night when I play, it kind of feels like that whole group is kind of coming together.

Have you heard any specific feedback from the people that first heard about your music via social networking and sites like Noisetrade.com?

Colton: Yeah, for the last six months it definitely feels like I’m sort of reaching people through social media in the right kind of way. I feel like I’ve been late to the game with the whole Facebook/Twitter thing, because I always thought it was cheap. But, when I started really using it and trying to be myself when using it, which is the hardest thing. Some people use Twitter and Facebook, and they are really funny, while others write motivational sayings and stuff. I just never felt like I was either one of those things, and I think I have found a good way to be interactive using social media, but still make it be about the music first. I feel like a lot of people are really responding to that. I really get a kick out of talking to everybody. Anybody who writes me on Facebook or Twitter, I make sure to write them back. If they are going to take the time to write me, I definitely think I should write them back. Which is awesome, because when you are on tour you have the iPhone with you all day and so you get to interact with people constantly.

Has anyone come up to you at a show and thanked you for writing them back on Facebook or Twitter?

Colton: Yeah, I don’t know how cool it makes me. I think it makes me less cool, but that’s okay. I will be less cool to show my appreciation for people that write me all of the time (laughs).

Right now you have Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2 out, so the obvious question would be why a second volume and not a new EP? What sparked the remixes?

Colton: That’s a good question, being an independent artist again there really aren’t any rules. I have spent the last six or seven years on a major label where one formula exists. You write twelve songs, you release them every two or three years and you tour on those songs, or you try to get those songs only out there. Now it is a totally different landscape. The new songs that I wrote for volume two didn’t feel like a new EP, they felt connected to what I’m doing now. So I didn’t necessarily do a new thing, I still wanted it to be a part of this new album Pacific Coast Eyes and so far it’s working.

Do you think that the album, Pacific Coast Eyes, didn’t get the shot it deserved?

Colton:  I think as an independent artist, because it isn’t getting major marketing, it is never going to get “the shot.” But, I also think that with albums these days, as long as you are moving forward and not trying to re-create things and looking back, albums are like living breathing things. They change, they evolve and it’s this big thing that you are trying to get out to people. To me, whatever you can do to get it out there, do that.

Photo by Lauren Leone
What are some of the bigger advantages of being an independent artist?

Colton: The biggest thing is that you are in control of everything. You get to call the shots and you have complete creative control. That was certainly instrumental in making the album and writing the songs. There isn’t a person(s) looking over your shoulder saying “well, we really need this to be a single” or “this song needs to lean more towards ‘top 40’,” or “this song needs to be in this certain radio format.” For the most part, it has given me the opportunity to think “small” again. Which I know that sounds counterproductive, because I have been doing these ten years now and I think the idea is to get bigger, and bigger and bigger. Really, I’ve found that the last six months for me, since I have released the album, now that I’ve started to think small and began interacting with people on the ground level, touring more and meeting just one person at a time(Facebook, twitter and in-person). That has really served me well. When you are on a major record label, you’re just forced to think big. You are forced to think about things like “how many radio spins did we get this week?” or “how many albums did we sell across the country. Being independent, you are just focused on the city that you are playing in tonight. How many people can I meet and become friends with tonight. That’s one of the great things about being an independent artist.

Is there anything you really miss, in terms of working with a major record label?

Colton: (laughs) I mean you certainly miss big album budgets. I was nice to have a bottle of wine in the studio every night that I could expense. But to be honest, I do think that the way that I made this album I can kind of hear the passion that I put into this album, not to sound too corny. I really pulled every favor that I could. I sang a lot of the vocals in my friends’ living room and put guitar amps in the closet. There was no big studio and there was no big budget, and I hope that comes through. I hope people really hear that I did it myself. I really did.

How does the writing process pan out for you now, after ten years plus years? Do you have a set process, or is it all over the place?

Colton: It’s all over the place. That is the most exciting thing about where I am. Everything that has happened to me in a good way, I never thought in a million years those things would happen. Now that I have achieved those things, there’s kind of always another mountain to climb. The exciting part about sitting down and writing songs, playing shows, or being a musician in general is that you never know where those songs and that music is going to take you. There’s such a cool feeling about that the phone could ring tomorrow and someone could say “he guess what? your song…” That really is cool.

Are you a continual writer?

Colton: I write all the time. I do find myself kind of having seasons where I just don’t want to write anything, and nothing’s coming out. I’m not inspired by anything.

So it’s never forced…

Colton: Every time I’ve tried to write where it’s pencil, paper, light a candle, glass of wine, or whatever, it just doesn’t work. It always seems to fall out of the sky. I have dozens of memos on my iPhone where I am just singing. “Pacific Coast Eyes” was written in my rental car and I just had most of that idea and I just sang it to my phone.

Did the idea for “Pacific Coast Eyes,” come together in clumps or did it all come together at one time?

I had the girl from the story in my head, before anything else. I just kind of saw her. I saw her packing up her care and driving to the west coast. Then I kind of had the instrumental part and the vocal part, the “ba ba ba” part(laughs) if that makes sense. It is amazing when you try and write songs without an instrument. It kind of forces the melody to be honed it. It has to be good. A lot of what I think are my best songs were made without an instrument.

After this tour what do you have lined up?

Colton: This tour goes until December 17th, so there will definitely be a break for Christmas and the holidays. In January, I have a couple of possibilities lined up. I find myself in this spot of not really knowing what’s next which is really exciting. There are songs that I’ve written that are very, very different…

Different in what sense?

Colton: I don’t know, it’s weird. Different instrumentation, a different spot in my voice, totally different themes that I am writing about and that’s scary and exciting all at the same time. So I don’t know, but I know January is a month where I am definitely going to catch my breath and look at these songs and figure out if they are “Graham Colton” songs, or if they are maybe songs for another project, or whatever that means. It is the first time really ever in my career, where I have thought to myself “these songs are coming from a totally different place, and it scares the living crap out of me.” We’ll see.

Have you ever flirted with the idea of setting up another project?

Colton: Yeah, I have. I’ve just started to flirt with that idea. I’ll just say we’ll see. I just know that the songs that are sticking with me that kind of started out as this exercise, they are just becoming a reality pretty quick. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet.

Are the songs looking like they are cohesive?

Colton: They feel like they are all cohesive, they just don’t feel like the songs that I have been writing for the past ten years. I am definitely going to chase it down in January, because that will be a really good time re-examine everything. It’s a good feeling you know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

La Dispute Interview with Front Man Jordan Dreyer

Combining elements of progressive rock, screamo, blues and soul, La Dispute aims to create a unique and passionate experience for their listeners. Their latest release, Wildlife, has gained a great deal of praise from critics, as well as fans since its October 4th release. The band is currently on tour with Thrice, O’Brother and Moving Mountains, delivering a must see live performance. For the latest La Dispute news, check out their site http://www.ladisputemusic.com/.
I had the chance to speak briefly with front man Jordan Dreyer and discuss the new record, Wildlife.

How has the tour with Thrice, O'Brother and Moving Mountains been thus far?

Fantastic, man. Three incredible bands, three unbelievable groups of people--every night has been
A blast to this point and I don't see how that could possibly change from here to the end. And, on
Top of the abundance of good people, the shows have all been really, really great.

Your latest LP. *Wildlife,* dropped earlier this month to rave reviews. Are you guys surprised at?
How well it's been received?

Honestly, I try not to pay too much attention. It's enough for me that we're all immensely proud
With the end product after so, so many months of work. What people think of it is kind of
Arbitrary in that sense, although I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't mean something when
Someone gravitates towards it. Obviously you want people to enjoy what you've done, and you want
People to find something in it that they enjoy or that resonates with them personally, but if no
Does it's alright. We put a lot into making this record and we're really happy with how it turned
Out. But, again, it's amazing to see people singing along and to hear from them that it means
Something to them. It's just an added bonus.

Before writing and recording the album, did you guys have a direction that you wanted to take the
album in mind?

We had a concept pretty early on, but as far as how that was going to play out we didn't pre-plan anything or pick a direction to pursue sonically, that just kind of happened naturally. Three years passed since our last full length, and with it three years of growth and experience. If anything, the record's sound and direction is just a testament to the passing of time, and three years more making music, hearing music, and making friends. Of course, having a specific concept in mind influences tone and mood a bit, so there's that, but as far as arrangement and style and all that goes, it just kind of came together.

How did the writing process pan out for this album , maybe in comparison to your previous releases?

Previously we've almost always worked music first and then lyrics but we wanted this record to be more cohesive and more collaborative so we started with a story or a theme and built the song accordingly. Some stories required structural direction, and some needed to capture certain moods, so we'd sit down at practice and discuss amongst everyone and someone would either write a part to push those things across or they'd bring out a part they'd already written that they felt fit. Sometimes they'd take the ideas home and hammer out a whole song and then bring it out at practice where we'd all give our ideas and adjust it as needed. After everything was done musically I'd sit down and put the actual words down. It was definitely a different process, but we're all pretty happy with how it worked.

How does a song normally come together for you guys? Is it a collaborative process?

Definitely collaborative, but to varying degrees depending on the song (see above). It almost starts with one person's part or idea, but we assemble the actual songs at practice bit by bit as a group.

Specifically, how did "Harder Harmonies" come together?

"Harder Harmonies" started with a part that Chad had written. I had an idea for a song and typed up a summary of the idea for everyone to read and Chad suggested the aforementioned part and we built it from that. The biggest thing to consider for us when writing that particular song was the structure, specifically the end where everything kind of falls apart, and that was very much a collaborative effort amongst the five of us.

The album seems to have an overall lyrical theme, was this intentional?

Yeah, absolutely, but a lot of different themes came out in the process that we didn't plan for, which I think is probably pretty often the case when creating anything. You never really know what will come out until you sit down and fully immerse yourself in what you're doing. And then who knows what other people will take out of it when they listen, that's a whole different conversation. It's an interesting thing, really, the artistic process or whatever, and then people's interpretation. It's one of the best parts about any art. But I'm rambling. So, as I mentioned earlier, we had a concept early on in the process and along with that concept came certain themes that definitely show up consistently and intentionally throughout the record.

Who did you guys work with during the recording process? What attracted you guys to work with them?

Friendship. But seriously, as corny as that sounds, that's the first thing that really attracted us to working with the people we did, being our friend Andrew who plays keyboards in Thursday and his friend (and Steve from Thursday's brother) Joe who is an exceptional engineer. We started talking with Andrew while we were on tour with Thursday a while back about working together and then made it happen for the two splits we did last year. Long story short, we were happy with how those two things turned out, and we built a really strong relationship in the process, so working with them on "Wildlife" was a really easy decision for us.

What would you like for listeners to take way from the album?

I don't know, to be honest. Or, maybe more specifically, I don't want to say. For the most part, the intention in writing this record was to leave it open-ended so that people could take from it whatever they wanted or needed when they listened. I have my own ideas and I'm sure my band mates do as well, but we really just want people to take from it what they want.


I had the chance to see you guys play live at the show in Atlanta, and put on an amazingly energetic show. The crowd participation was unreal! What kind of advice would you guys have for band starting up, in terms of creating a good connection with the audience?

Again, I don't really know for sure. I don't think there's a formula for success other than work hard and be honest about what you do. More and more people see through gimmicks and people will take to you on a personal level if you put yourself out there personally. Being dishonest or fake or having some sort of marketing angle might sell you records but it doesn't have any lasting power. At least I don't think so, but again, I don't know. I'm not an expert. I only know what works for us. And every band is different.

Who are some people that you have looked up to in the past in terms of live performance and stage presence?

Well, a long time ago Zack from Rage Against The Machine made me want to be in a band and a little while after that Cedric from At The Drive-In, but the bulk of the people that inspire or influence me now are all friends of ours. Kyle from Pianos, Jeremy from Touche, Chris from Hostage Calm—the list is pretty extensive. We're privileged to know a lot of immensely talented people and being around them so often is inevitably inspiring.

What do you have lined up, after the tour ends?

Nothing concrete at this point. Some time off, Europe and Australia at some point, and then a headliner in the States in the Spring sometime. Details to come.

Perfect day, driving with the windows down, what are you listening to?

Changes with the day and the weather. Right now, in the spirit of Fall and being from the state of Michigan, "Our Own Wars" by Small Brown Bike. But there are so many great records out there. "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" by Modest Mouse is a great one to drive to, as are "Lonesome Crowded West" and "The Moon and Antarctica." Anything Mountain Goats. I don't know. The list is endless.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Seryn Interview with Nathan Allen (Guitar/Banjo/Vocals)

Recently a friend turned me onto a band by the name of Seryn, after hearing them play at the Catalyst Conferenc in Atlanta Georgia. In their debut full-length, This Is Where We Are, Seryn manages to draw from several different genres, including folk, country, rock and indie. Pulling together a plethora of organic sounds and instruments creating a beautiful, unique sound.
 For the latest news on Seryn and for upcoming tour dates, check out their site http://www.serynsound.com.
Cliché one, where did the name Seryn come from? Is there a story behind how it was chosen?
At one point, someone wrote it on something. 
How/when did this project begin?
The band started forming during the spring of 2009 while Nathan and Trenton were roommates. By that May we had the current five-person line-up together.
With five members, each able to play a variety of instrument I would assume that you would all have different musical tastes. How would you say you arrived on your sound?
Hopefully we haven’t arrived at a sound. We all listen to different music, but we all align on certain aspects of music itself.  The record came about in a time we were entrenched in folky music, so it came through in what were attracted to sonically.  Currently we are gravitating to new sounds, including vibraphone, piano, and sound manipulation, i.e. sampling, covering a glockenspiel in foil©, you name it. We just really like making noise.
What can people expect when they come to see you live?
All of our favorite noise! People have complained that we don’t really talk that much onstage, but when we are up there, the focus is on experiencing the music. That’s our presentation, and none of us are as funny as Ryan Adams or have stories like Jeff Tweedy.
Nathan Allen of Seryn (above)
Who are some bands/artists that you have looked up to in the past, in terms of stage presence?
In terms of stage presence? It’s impossible to emulate someone else’s moves. Just seeing people play music with conviction. It’s a different list for each of us, but we just play.
How did the writing process pan out for you on This Is Where We Are?
We had almost everything finished before heading into the studio, it’s the only way we can afford to do it. The studio is a well oiled machine, we just go in and rip through the songs as fast as we can.
How does a song normally come together for you? Is it completely collaborative?
Writing for us is a slow and arduous process. With lots of backtracking, rethinking, deleting, re-arranging, and all other sorts of time consuming things. Then we come up with something completely different that just works! We strive for a result that we all love, and can fathom playing for years. We still get the same feelings playing the songs as when we first wrote them.
Are you guys currently working on any new material? If so, about when can fans expect your next release?
We are churning out new songs like crazy right now.  Look for new material spring of next year, even earlier if you come out to a show.
What role does your faith play in your music?
We don’t make any distinctions along religious lines inside the band, or with our audience. We don’t have a religious message, nor do we intend too. We just like making noise.
Who are some of your bigger musical influences right now?
Hmm... everything is on such an osmotic level at this point. I feel constantly pulled to hear some new sound on the radio or a blog, and discovering where all the standard sounds came from in old recordings of the past, or things I missed out on when I was younger.
It's fascinating to find out what other people grew up on too. My folks raised me on The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, stuff like that. Then later Dad went through a year of only Mozart, and we listened to every piece of music he ever wrote, more than once.  I never listened to The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan, so finding their music is like a new band to me.  I know Trenton spent more time with Journey and TOTO, and then started playing hardcore/screamo type stuff in high school.  I love when someone burns me a CD and says "you gotta check this out! "  That's how I found out about Nick Drake and Van Morrison. 
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to
 Ambivalence Avenue by Bibio (Chris)
Superbass by Nicki Minaj or Party in the U.S.A. by whoever it is that did that song. (Nathan)
Bobby Darrin (Trenton)
Akron/Family S/T (Chelsea)
" I'm listening to Dethklok. The sounds of insane double bass, shredding guitars, and thick growling vocals really calms me down. " (Aaron)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Lot Like Birds Interview with Michal Franzino(guitarist), Ben Wiacek (guitarist) and Joe Arrington(drummer)


Sacramento, California based progressive/alternative band, A Lot like Birds, is back with a brand new LP and a solid line-up. What started as the brainchild of current guitarist (and former lead vocalist), Michael Franzino, is now a six piece powerhouse featuring dual vocalists Kurt Travis (formerly of Dance Gavin Dance, O! the Joy, Five Minute Ride etc.) and Cory Lockwood. In addition to the founding guitarist, and vocalists, Michael Littlefield (bass), Ben Wiacek(guitar), and Joe Arrington(drums) round out the energetic group. A Lot Like Birds aims to push the normal boundaries of the music scene they are part of, and provide listeners with a unique musical experience spanning several different genres. Thus far, the new album Conversation Piece has received fantastic reviews from both fans and critics. For more information on the band, check out the band’s facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/ALotLikeBirds?sk=info.
I recently spoke with Michal Franzino(guitarist), Ben Wiacek (guitarist) and Joe Arrington(drummer) about the release, Conversation Piece, and how it came together…
Cliche one, how did this project begin? How did you guys develop your experimental sound?
Franzino: this project started in early 2009 when butter and I realized that all the musicians we were playing with at the time had moved away (or weren't working out for what we wanted to go for) and decided to do it all ourselves. The initial idea was simply to make the record I had always wanted to make, one where I could do any/all ideas I had without regard for how many tracks were being laid down, how impossible it was to play, how many people were involved, or if it were too weird. That record came to be Plan B and led us to the rest of our members. The band today is the manifestation of our efforts to create a solid record with a solid line-up that we can also take on the road.
How did Kurt get involved with the project?
Franzino: We played a show with La Dispute almost exactly a year ago that Kurt had showed up to. Butter and I had really dug what Kurt did with prog band O! the Joy, and thought he might have something cool to offer as a guest on a track in the future, so I approached him and asked. He told us he was interested, and eventually, a mutual friend of ours ended up just asking him "Why don't you just join their band?" We all jammed one night, had a bunch in common/liked what we heard, and just continued playing music.
Your latest release, Conversation Piece(released October 11th), has gotten some solid reviews thus far. Are you guys surprised by the reactions thus far?
Wiacek:  Yeah, it's been absolutely mind blowing. The response so far has been extremely positive. It's super flattering, I don't think we ever imagined people liking the CD this much. We definitely had high hopes, and considering how much faith we had to put in to the project we knew we had to make it good. Our lives pretty much depend on the success of this band. So I'm pretty stoked it's receiving such high praise. Plus, our fans are pretty crazy, so I'd expect them to be going extra crazy when the CD finally came out.
How did the writing pan out for this album, in comparison to Plan B?
Franzino : There are several huge differences. I think the biggest one, besides what has already been mentioned, is that Plan B was written over the course of years and recorded at our leisure for 9 months, while this record was laid down in 3 weeks (typically bands working with kris do full lengths in closer to a month and a half) and written with a deadline. This means we didn't have time for a lot of the little subtleties and character of the first record, but it pushed us to make the music strong enough to stand without it. Also, as Plan B was primarily an instrumental album, the music was a lot more busy and in your face to keep it interesting, where-as this record it was intended to be a tasteful avenue for Cory and Kurt. Finally, Conversation Piece was written with a real drummer, and actual solid members who all had a say and their own flavor to add this time around, instead of me basically hiring session musicians.
How does a song normally come together for you guys?
Arrington: Believe it or not, we will play our instruments for hours on end in a dark studio with a silent film projecting on the wall. We extract melodies from what we see... An audible extension of what we feel when we watch the imagery in these movies (David Lynch films among others). Provided that we adequately document these melodies, we use them in songs. Songs can start from a drum groove and build with layers, or they can begin as a rough conceptual structure and grow into a larger picture. We'd like to think that each of our songs, as crazy as they may seem to some, do have a "cerebral cortex" so to speak, and the song as a whole included extensions and melodic networks of these initial ideas. Also, Mega Man.
Specifically, how did "Sesame Street Is No Place for Me," come together?
Franzino: This song changed Many times in the course of its creation. The main riff came out in one the jam sessions Joe and I did while watching/trying write our own score to several different movies/images on a projector. I believe it's what came out when we watched Tom and Jerry (laughs). The demo version of it I did when it originally written has a very video game-y verse to it, it’s pretty funny, that will be released when we send out all the Kickstarter rewards. This song is actually my least favorite musically on the record, the band had to really convince me to keep it.
Did you have a direction in mind, before you began writing/recording?
Franzino: As stated previously, the mission for this record was to write something that could truly stand on its own musically with just two guitars, a bass, and drums. Truth be told, it is actually easier for me to write when I have a large array of instruments before me to perform the parts, dynamics and cool tones can be achieved by just switching focus to different musicians. I have never been a huge fan of the guitar as an instrument so it was a real challenge to find ways to keep writing with it interesting.
You guys seem to successfully combine a number of diverse sounds/genres in this record. Is that intentional? Is it ever a challenge?
Arrington: Intentional, yes. A challenge, yes. All for the greater good of getting our creative juices flowing. Our band is not only diverse musically, but the members themselves include everything from extremely inspired natural players to well-studied, diverse, reading musicians and many in between. This creates bonds that transcend normal band ties. This, I'm sure, has a lot to do with how broad our musical tastes are in this band. The cohesion that exists in my laying down a Songo-Baiao on the drum set and having everyone play creative, chaotic, and tension-building melodies layering above it is quite an experience. We've always liked toying with every sound and genre and will continue to do so in the future. What the listener does not witness, is how many of these crazy ideas DO NOT work at some point and have to be scrapped or re-written... But that's for the birds. And the process is worth it regardless. Our next record is sure to be packed with Opera and Polka songs.
Listening back to the record, could you hear any specific influences? Any specific bands/artists come to mind?
Wiacek: Oh yeah, there are a few parts here and there where I noticed certain sounds that remind me of a few bands. Kurt has some vocal parts in Think Dirty Out Loud that remind me of Robert Plant. Cory harnesses some Dr. Dre or something during a part in Truly Random Code. In other songs I'll hear musical influences anywhere from Rage Against The Machine to Radiohead, Refused, The Bled, Foo Fighters, Blood Brothers, Pink Floyd, and a plethora of other influences that wouldn't really be necessary for me to list... It'd be impossible to ignore the sounds that remind me of my favorite artists because they're the ones who inspired me (us) to do what I (we) do.
Were there any songs on the record that surprised you with how they turned out specifically?
Franzino: I think the thing we were all most surprised about was more the reaction to a specific song than how it turned out. Vanity's Fair was written fairly early on it the process, and all of us enjoyed it well enough, but definitely did not expect it to be the crowd favorite. We were all pretty convinced Orange Time Machines Care and The Blowtorch is Applied to the Sugar would take the cake. I guess that's just how the musician vs. the audience works, we value different things.
How did you guys land on working with Kris Crummet? What did he specifically bring to the table?
Franzino: Well Kurt had worked with him twice already/felt very comfortable with him, and all of us enjoyed the production on several albums in his catalog, so he was a natural candidate. At the time he was being managed by The Artery Foundation, which is also our MGMT, so that really helped in making it happen. Kris has the best ear I have ever come across, he just understands exactly what you are going for, and it’s uncanny. Most of us had never worked with someone who could really produce, so it was very interesting/beneficial how his opinion swayed tones, and what we got out of a take, and which effects were appropriate/how much. He and Kurt worked especially well together, as Kurt writes a lot of his melodies in the studio, he was very good at encouraging him and keeping him on track. Lastly, I think it was really good having a non-biased, knowledgeable opinion in the room when little disputes over how something was to be performed would happen.
What can people expect when they come to see one of your live shows?
Franzino: We really just want to give people our most honest performance possible. We try to make sure the only thing we have rehearsed is our music, and for whatever happens every night to be inspired by the moment. You can expect for schizophrenic, chaotic moments of in your face walls of sound, and minutes later find us gently painting an ambient soundscape. You can always count on us showing up sore and leaving sorer.
What do you guys have coming up next? Touring? After touring?
Franzino :There are two tours currently being worked out that we can't announce yet/aren't set in stone, but we are trying to get one as soon as possible to promote the record and then something in spring. We aim to stay out on tour/playing festivals as much as humanly possible for the next 8-12 months, all the while writing new material. We are all already anxious to write a new record.
Perfect day, driving with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Franzino: My taste by no means represents the whole bands, but personally I've been jamming the new Russian Circles, Giraffes? Giraffes!, and an artist called Kimbra lately. Classic go to bands also include: Paul Baribeau, Damien Rice, The Frames, and Pedro the Lion. If its a perfect day driving to the next date on tour, we are listening to the likes of Blakfish, Mew, Refused, or Rolo Tomassi

Set Sail Interview with Joshua May(drummer)

With their unique pop/rock sound, the Australian band Set Sail is slowly traveling across the world, picking up many fans along the way....
Check out my interview with drummer, Joshua May and visit their facebook page for the latest news on the band, as well as tour videos: http://www.facebook.com/#!/setsailmusic?sk=info
Cliché one, where did the name Set Sail come from? Is there a story behind how it was chosen?
May: At the starting out of Set Sail we all had a similar liking to boats and the sea, resulting in creating our first Single 'The Boat Song' and forming under the name Set Sail.
How/when did this project begin?
May: Initially we formed while we were all at school, going out to play in afternoons and nights to make some money about 2 years ago. It wasn't till November of 2010 that we thought we'd go full time music and run with the new model of getting our name out there and make it as a band.

How would you say you arrived on your sound?
May: At the moment the closest I've heard said about our band was 'Summery Pop’, or 'Beach Pop'

What can people expect when they come to see you live?
May: Make it the best bloody show they've seen. Playing on the street the honesty of your music and stage presence is emphasized, as you only have a few seconds to interact with 'busy' people, making them stop and then appreciate what you're doing. There aren’t any lights or stages to make us appear bigger and better.  So taking what we do on the street to stage is for us to accentuate our stage performance and get the people involved in our show. Pretty much a big party where everyone can have an energetic time.

How did the World Stage tour come together and how has it been?
May: It began when I started talking about potentially moving to London, target the Brit scenes. Then from there we thought, "why not add this city", another city got added until our imagination turned to conquering all 7 continents. It’s been a lot of work, but it's been amazing so far and a lot of opportunities have come through getting up and getting out there.

Who are some bands/artists that you have looked up to in the past, in terms of stage presence?
May: I love being asked this question because it's so fun to answer. Individually, we're all so different and listen to different music, so the contrast between all of us is incredible to look at. Josiah grew up listening to Classical and Punk then turned to folk/pop which turned him into to an ' Eccentric Mad Scientist'. Then there's Brandon who grew up in Sunny California listening to Iron and Wine, Middle East, Beirut etc, in effect he's this guy laid back joyful guy who doesn't have to do much for people to latch on to his personality. Then I grew listening to the Miles', Coltrane's, and big chorus melody pop artists like James Taylor's. So I just keep it real in the back as try and use creativity on the drums as a part of that.

How did the writing process pan out for you on The Riley Moore EP?
May: We pretty much do everything equal thirds. Whether its lyrics or musical. It ends up being equal third input, somehow.

How does a song normally come together for you? Is it a completely collaborative process?
May: We all have different strengths in writing. Brandon is good at making up these melodic hooks, where Josiah is a literature major, so words are his thing. Then I'm a hopeless romantic who loves big choruses. so blend it all together and we hopefully get something.

Are you guys currently working on any new material? If so, about when can fans expect your next release?
May: Sure are. There's going to be a limited release ep running with our National Tour in December, which will feature 4-5 songs that we wrote and recorded from travelling around the world. Then the big one of Album in September, which we're already working on now.

What role does your faith play in your music?
May: We're all about loving people. So while we're not a 'religious band' we do have a faith and believe in helping the need of people and with our lives and display love. That's why we're working with Compassion where we will be setting up a ' Set Sail village' in South America and hopefully in Africa. Where we want our fans to buy a goat for a person in the village, where they can use their milk and re-produce etc and support them that way - you get your name on the goat which is great!

Who are some of your bigger musical influences right now?
May: The Joyful Formidable, Bon Iver, Lykke Li, Jon Foreman and Coldplay's killing it at the moment.

Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
May: At the moment “Paradise” by Coldplay.