Friday, April 09, 2021
Interview with Elephant
The recently released debut EP from Rotterdam's Elephant is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I recently did an email interview with the band where we covered their time in a Fleetwood Mac theatre show which actually led to their formation, the impact of covid, working with a member of DeWolff as producer and more.
Thursday, April 08, 2021
Classix Nouveaux - The Liberty Recordings 1981-83
Interview with Megan Lacy
I recently had the chance to do an email interview with Megan Lacy about her outstanding new EP Salvation. In addition to that we also discussed her move to Austin from California a few years, her lyrics, the plans for her next release and more.
First of all, Geoff, I just want to say thank you so much for reaching out and connecting with me - it’s very cool to be able to share with you!
I’ve always been a singer, and I started writing songs when I was a little kid - all melody, hardly any structure, and no instrumentation. I got my first guitar when I was 18, a blonde D-16 that I named Lucy, and I really started writing songs around then. My brother taught me what he knew on guitar, and he and I started playing around our hometown, a little rural gem called Volcano in the California gold country.
I moved to Truckee when I was 20 to be a ski bum, and over the course of the next decade I met some pretty influential people on my music path. I played solo for a while before meeting my friend, Gil Gaus. Gil is a killer songwriter, and a great guitarist, and he set me on a path of really learning about songwriting. We both had a lot of opinions, and I didn’t always listen very well. When I would actually take the advice he was giving me, most of the time the songs would take some kind of turn that was really unexpected. A couple times that turn ended up forging a totally new relationship to the song, and I started to crave that new feeling - almost like I was free from what the song had meant to me, and was able to help the song become more about the feeling it was trying to create. Gil and I played together for about 4 years. We co-wrote the song “Salvation” together! Over a decade ago.
You moved to Austin from California a few years ago. How do you think that move has impacted your music?
I just can’t even iterate how impactful a move it was. My partner and I moved in search of something much bigger than what seemed to be available to us in that small town where we were, and we both got such a kick in the britches out of moving here and starting fresh. I mean, it was hard. Neither of us knew anyone, or had any connections, and starting at the bottom can feel like a pretty big punch in the gut. But we did it. Made friends, slowly, and at one point I thought like, how come I’m not getting invited to people’s backyard song circles? And then I realized I had to create that. So I started hosting them, and soon I was meeting all kinds of songwriters, getting invited to other people’s song circles, and just feeling involved in the experiences I was craving. I love feeling connected to people, it’s what inspires me most. I do tend to get a lot of material out of feeling disconnected, ironically, but I prefer the joy that comes from relating deeply with people.
Your lyrics sound like they could come from a very personal place. Does that tend to be the case or are they more fictional?
The emotion is always real, but the details don’t necessarily need to line up exactly with what my experience has been. When I started writing, all the songs were relatively autobiographical, but as I’ve had more and more experiences, I think I am able to draw on imagery in ways that are more in service to the emotion behind the song than anecdotal. Sometimes the lyrics are able to say something that I’m experiencing emotionally, but have not experienced in my life.
I think a lot of us need help getting in touch with our emotions. Maybe we even feel numb to our emotions - we’re kind of taught to suppress them, or to disown them, especially the more difficult emotions. So the feeling a song can bring is kind of a tool to help us discover those areas in ourselves that might need a little attention. The story is just a story, but the feeling it can give you ends up feeling pretty real.
The whole EP has a really stark atmospheric sound. Is that something you already had in your head when you went into the studio or was it more the influence of your producer?
I think Justin was very much in service to the song, and to the feeling of the song. We had used Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball as a diving off point - his idea. Semi-stark, impactful, much more than my little record, but the intent was there. I think his own stoicism is very much a part of this record. I certainly didn’t want a lot of bells and whistles, and what ended up being on the record I needed to feel solid.
I had played the songs for so long as a solo performer, that when it came to developing them with other instruments, I didn’t really know what to imagine. All I knew was that I didn’t want the instruments to cave in on the song. I wanted there to be a lot of space in between everything - like I wanted it to feel like you were in a room with the song being played, and you could walk around in between the instrumentation. Justin was well aware of this, and naturally has such a sonic understanding that everything he did seemed to create more and more space, and for me it helped to deepen the solidity of the sound. It feels like a stepping stone to me - like I can stand on it for a second before I jump off again.
Instrumentally “Watch This” is one song that really stands out to me, especially the really cool percussion. Can you tell me a little more about that song?
Right on, Geoff! Well, it was the last one we developed in the studio - we had brought the others along, and sort of didn’t have too much of an idea of how to move that one forward and make it stand apart from the others. It’s a really slow mover, and I suggested banjo, thinking that it could have some weird effect that we weren’t expecting, but that idea quickly got nixed.
The four of us sat around, and Justin picked up the dobro, and I was like, Oh yeah, that’s gonna be it. Aaron picked up this wooden conga that his dad, who is a luthier at Collings had designed and built for him. Chris sat down at the Wurlitzer, and we started playing the song. It was pretty magical! And when we kind of figured out how it would go, we ducked in and did a couple takes, and the last one was it. That dobro solo is one of my favorite moments on the record.
You have quite a few videos on youtube of live performances of some really good older songs. I know some musicians don’t like to look back at older songs and just tend to record their newer ones. Do you think we will be hearing some of those on future releases?
I’d love to bring those songs to tape! I am really excited to move forward - I just learned so much in the process of making this first record, that I’m kinda rearing to get back in there and develop more songs. I’m always writing, but it takes time for songs to come up, and for them to become what they want to be, so I think it’ll be cool to try to give light to the songs who have been with me the longest. (I have one little record of newer tunes that I want to put out before anything else, though…)
I see that you have a couple of live shows listed on your website, but with the pandemic alot of live music is still shut down. Do you have any alternative plans for getting the word out there about the EP?
Well, I think it really matters that you are helping people get the word out about their music during all this - it’s really awesome to have people listening and sharing and engaging. Thank you so much, Geoff!
I’m hoping now that things are opening back up, I’m gonna get to do what I always planned to do, which is to play live music as much as I can. The live music experience is such a beautiful aspect to the songwriting journey, and I think a lot of people are ready for it to come back.
I’m in this for the long haul, and I know about slow returns, so I’ll be alright with however this path wants to roll out.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I’m working on getting that second record together - it’s got an Alt Country/Cosmic Americana vibe, and it’s really upbeat and positive, if you can imagine that, haha. I’m looking forward to getting those songs out there in the world to you soon, so stay tuned! Your readers are welcome to follow @MeganLacyMusic wherever they do their media, and I’ll keep y’all posted. Thank you beyond words for your great questions and for this opportunity to share about the record, Geoff!
The Living Pins - Freaky Little Monster Children
Twenty-five years after their first release (a cover of T Rex’s “Spaceball Ricochet" on the Wheatsville band compilation The Wheat Album) Austin, Texas’ The Living Pins are back with the Freaky Little Monster Children EP. This time around the band is comprised of original members Carrie Clark (also a member of the band Sixteen Deluxe) and Pam Peltz with some help from producer Jeff Copas and Medicine’s Matt Devine along with Brian, the drum machine. Opening things are the slow, psychedelic garage rock groove of “Raven”, a song that virtually lulls you into a trance with it’s droning, yet infectious hooks, and “Downtown” which musically throws in a bit of a Lou Reed / Velvet Underground vibe. The glam sound of “Jaguar” finds them picking the pace up a little with it’s definite T Rex influence coming through and closing things is “Fish and Beads” an outstanding straight ahead psychedelic rocker. Hopefully this EP is just the beginning and we won’t have to wait another twenty-five years to hear more.
The Blips - The Blips
With Will Stewart leading the way, this five-piece rounded out by Wes McDonald, Eric Wallace, Taylor Hollingsworth, and Chris McCauley is a bit of a who’s who when it comes to Birmingham, Alabama musicians with bands like Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Timber, Dead Fingers, Vulture Whale and Holy Youth amongst their pedigree. Written and recorded in late 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the album was then mixed and mastered throughout the rest of the year through texts and emails due to the pandemic. The resulting eponymous disc is 10 cuts of raw, ragged, rootsy garage rock with some punk and pop sensibilities kinda like the bastard child of The Replacements, Big Star and The Long Ryders.
Monday, February 15, 2021
Fraternity - Seasons Of Change – The Complete Recordings 1970-1974
Before becoming the lead singer of AC/DC, Bon Scott fronted the band Fraternity. Seasons of Change is an outstanding 3 disc box set that contains their two studio albums, which have been remastered from the original tapes, along with a third album that is actually a collection of session tapes and some live recordings. In addition to this there are also non-album single and EP tracks. Disc one starts off with their debut release Livestock, which opens with a couple of rootsy rockers (the title track and “Somerville”) with a vibe not so unlike The Band and The Allman Brothers. The next cut “Raglan’s Folly” finds them bringing in prog elements reminding me of a rootsier cross between Jethro Tull and Procol Harum. After that they shift gears with the percussion driven, bluesy jam of “Cool Spot”, which has a bit of a Santana feel. Other highlights on the debut are “Jupiter Landscape” and the dramatic “If You Have A God”. Closing out disc one are 6 bonus cuts taken from 3 singles including the jaunty “Why Did It Have to Be Me”, an interesting cover of The Moody Blues “Question” and “The Race”.
By the time they released their second release, Flaming Galah, they had added new members on harmonica, piano and slide guitar to further enhance that country rock sound. Because of this they decided to re-record four songs from the debut to showcase this added element. While the change is definitely evident, for the most part it isn’t too drastic with slightly newly named “Somerville RIP” being the most evident with alot more emphasis on the keys and harmonica. As for the new songs the band for the most part moved away from the prog elements that popped up from time to time on the debut and moved further into the aforementioned country rock sound. While The Band continues to be the most comparable (their outstanding cover of their song “The Shape I’m In” is actually one of the bonus tracks on this disc) there are some CSNY like harmonies here (especially on “If You Got It”) and the more rock oriented “Hemming’s Farm” has a bit of The Faces vibe. Also included as bonus cuts on this disc are single versions of two of the album cuts and their live performance of “Seasons of Change” and “If You Got It” from Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in 1971, an annual band competition held in Australia from 1966 to 1972 that they won that year.
Second Chance, the third disc of the box set is actually, with the exception of three, a collection of previously unreleased tracks recorded by the band between 1972 and 1974. First up is “Second Chance”, a more straight ahead rocker and the last song recorded by the band with Bruce Howe on vocals, because Bon had just left the band. The next six cuts are demos that were recorded in England. Some of these like the blues tinged roots rocker “Tiger" and the cover of Don Nix’s “Going Down" show signs of the band evolving a little towards a more straight-ahead rock sound, but then there’s also the more root/blues oriented “Requiem" and “Patch of Land” that still show where they came from along with a very funky jam alternate version of “Cool Spot”. The last of these demos is “Hogwash” a kinda goofy song that is notable for Bon’s spoken word vocals that would resurface from time to time later on in AC/DC. The Band shows up once again on a cover of “Chest Fever” that was recorded during an Australian TV documentary about the band. Next up are four cuts recorded live on a South Australian tour including a couple Chuck Berry covers, another cover of The Band (“Just Another Whistle Stop) and the only recorded version of the song “The Memory”. Closing out the box set are four cuts that have Vince Lovegrove, Bon’s old bandmate in The Valentines on vocals and backed by the band. Interestingly two of the songs he sings are covers of Fraternity songs “Livestock” and “Getting Off” (renamed “Getting Myself Out Of This Place”) that aren’t that unlike the originals. Completing the package is a fantastic booklet with a detailed biography, song notes and anecdotes from the surviving members and tons of pictures. Seasons Of Change is a well deserved look back at this underappreciated band’s place in music history and shows there was more to them than being Bon Scott’s band prior to joining AC/DC.
Edgar Jones - The Way It Is – 25 Years Of Solo Adventures
Every once in awhile you come across a musician who has been around for years, but has somehow slipped past you, and once you do find them you find yourself wanting to hear more and more. That was exactly what happened the first time I made my way through The Way It Is, 25 Years Of Solo Adventures, the 3 CD retrospective of Edgar Jones. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was first introduced to Jones with Mexican R'n'B, the outstanding 1992 debut CD from The Stairs, a band that he was lead vocalist and bassist in. Following that release (now available as a 3 disc deluxe version with two and a half discs full of demos and rarities) and a couple EP’s and singles with the band, Jones went onto a stint playing with The La’s (over the years he has also played with the likes of Paul Weller, Johnny Marr and St Etienne among others) and shortly after fronted his band The Isrites. Over the years since he has also had solo releases along with releases from his other bands The Big Kids, The Joneses and The Edgar Jones Free Peace Thing. The Way It Is contains 70 songs (some extremely rare) and covers music from these other projects. Making your way through these three discs you never know what is coming next. It is a fascinating journey of styles that will keep you on our toes from track to track and keep a smile on your face as he delves into everything from garage rock, jazz, R&B, soul and blues to psychedelia, funk, ska and more and handling each one as deftly as the next. Hopefully this compilation will give Edgar the recognition he deserves and others like me will start searching down the full releases that the songs were taken from.
Roof Beams - This Life Must Be Long
While 2020 definitely had a devastating impact on the music industry as a whole, it also motivated many bands to approach things differently than they ever had before. For the Roof Beams and their latest release, This Life Must Be Long, that meant everybody recording and arranging their parts remotely and then sending them to Nathan Robinson to do the final mix at his home. I don’t know if it was this approach that made a difference or not, but while this Roof Beams album has all the hallmarks of their previous efforts, there is an evolution to the sound that is very refreshing. Nathan’s lyrics are as strong as ever and very pertinent to the times we are currently living in. He sums them up best as “reflecting a very timely anxiety and struggle for connection”. Musically the overall sound still has an indie roots vibe fleshed out at times with instrumentation like mandolin, pedal steel, banjo and harmonica, with tunes like “Outer Rings”, “Clean Break” and “Witness Me” really standing out. Then there are a few that step away from that like the hypnotic sounds of the title track, the dreamlike sound of “Carry On”, with the subtle keyboards and electronic elements really setting it apart, “Awareness", which harkens back to the rootsier songs but with some melodica and “Buckle", which has some beautiful textures to the instrumentation and percusssion. Closing out the disc is “My Business”, my favorite track here and one that Nathan performed and recorded entirely on his own. It’s a tune that moves in a completely different direction with lots of electronic sounds and keys creating an electro-indie rock vibe and really opening the door to all kinds of possibilities for the band in the future.
Interview with Melting Mallows
Belgian duo Melting Mallows has recently released their extremely impressive debut full-lengther Something Sweet. I recently had the chance to do an email interview with Brian about the release, the path to getting there, being a two-man band, the Belgian music scene and more.
Sunday, November 01, 2020
Interview with Go Analog
With the release of their new EP Moonlight Gram, Ohio's Go Analog has come up with an outstanding effort that has quickly become one of my favorite releases of the year. Here's an email chat I recently had with frontman and guitarist Eric Croft.
give the melodies life, and we build the story around a phrase that sticks. In the past I feel I tried to force too much into the lines, which sacrificed some of the natural flow. So I feel we stripped down the lyrics as much as possible on Moonlight.
Monday, September 28, 2020
Interview with Mad Nona
After forming in late 2019, Mad Nona spent time during the pandemic putting together their self-titled debut. I recently emailed with them about their new release as well as being a band in Iceland, dealing with the pandemic and more. (note - the band’s native language is Icelandic and the interview is printed in their own words with a few tweaks from me)