Friday, April 09, 2021

Global Village Trucking Company - Smiling Revolution


Often called Britain’s answer to the Grateful Dead, Global Village Trucking Company lived the epitome of the true hippie lifestyle with the band, roadies and families all living in a commune in Norfolk in the early 70's (the BBC actually filmed an interesting documentary about this that can be found online).  During their three plus years together the band managed to record one album, but unfortunately by the time the album was released the band had called it a day. 
Smiling Revolution is a two disc anthology and includes a remastered copy of that album along with bonus tracks that include their contributions to the double live album Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwall’s Dance Hall and a few recorded for John Peel’s show.  First and foremost there is a quirky, free spirited element of fun here, something that is apparent from the get go with the upbeat and extremely infectious opening cut “Judgement Day” and while they do have a bit of that Dead-like jam band vibe they mix it up with piano driven pub rock, some soulful blues, honky tonk country, psychedelia and even some prog elements (“Short Change Tall Story”) resulting in a sound that is familiar but still refreshingly their own. Rounding out this anthology is an excellent 28 page booklet full of pictures and an outstanding essay on the band.   


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.

Can you tell me who the band members are and what they play and also give me a little band history?

Elephant’s band members are: Frank Schalkwijk (vocals, guitar), Michael Broekhuizen (vocals, guitar, bass), Bas Vosselman (vocals, bass, guitar) and Kaj van Driel (drums & percussion).
We’ve been playing in different bands for a long time. At one point we all played together in a Fleetwood Mac tribute show. That’s where we grew close and decided we wanted to start a band. Because of the pandemic and the lockdown, the band became almost a religious exercise.

How does your songwriting process tend to work?

We have a very organic way of working in which all four of us contribute. Most of the time one of us has a riff or a hook and we start jamming on it. Then someone takes it home and writes a second part. We then develop it further in the rehearsal room. We don’t limit ourselves to our instruments. For instance, Kaj often plays guitar during songwriting. It’s always about the song, never about who plays what.

Your EP was produced by Pablo van de Poel from the band DeWolff. How did you hook up with him and how was the experience with him producing?

Pablo is an absolute legend. We already knew him and figured he would be the best match for our music. We recorded on tape which gives our songs the sound that we want.  Pablo also has great ideas to lift the songs to another level and always goes for that extra mile.

There are three of you that sing lead vocals along with some outstanding harmonies. How do you decide who sings lead on what song?

The song actually decides whose vocals should be lead. We all have different styles of singing, and most of the time it quickly becomes clear whose voice fits the song best.

Was it odd putting out an EP without really being able to test the songs much live due to covid?

Very odd! The pandemic made us grow closer as friends because the band is all we got. It has become a therapeutic activity for us. So in that sense the pandemic helped. However playing live shows is what we all love to do the most. We really miss that. For shaping and testing the songs we wouldn’t know, because we didn’t have much opportunities yet…

You have some various live performances on Youtube with alot of great tunes not on the EP (I absolutely love “Hometown”). I know the EP is just out, but do you have any plans for recording any of those songs and was there any reason you didn’t go ahead a record more for a full album instead of an EP?

Most of those songs are newish. The EP was recorded a year ago so we simply didn’t have them yet. However there is a rumour that we have just recorded our full length debut album ;)

You have a couple of really cool animated videos for “Bird’s Eye View” and “Never Know It’s Real”. Can you tell me a little about those?

Thanks! They were made by friends of ours. Cox Janssen did “Bird’s Eye View” and Emile Maigyte did “Never Know It’s Real”. We gave them total freedom to do what they want. I think that worked out really good. Maybe in the future we’ll work with them again.

How is the Dutch music scene?

Up till the pandemic it was very much alive. Great festivals, great venues and all that.
We’re hoping that things will be as they were soon… In the meanwhile, be sure to check out a live show of DeWolff or The Dawn Brothers on youtube, they really are amazing.

I read that a couple of you were involved in something called Fleetwood Mac: The Incredible Story from The Cosmic Carnival. Can you tell me a little about that?

We all were! It was a theatre show about Fleetwood Mac. We played all the songs starting with the legendary Peter Green and Jeremy Spence songs, and ending with the success of Fleetwood Mac up until this day. The show was a big success in Holland. We had such a good time zooming in on Fleetwood Mac, they’re such a diverse band! Truly one of the greatest of all time.

Are any of you involved in any other projects at this time?

Nope. Elephant is all we got. This way we can give the full 100%!

I know people can listen to the EP on Spotify but I didn’t see anywhere online where people can buy physical copies. Is there somewhere for them to go to order one if they are interested?

They can message us on Facebook or Instagram. Or email us at : info@elephantmusic.nl

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Did you know the Elephant Song by Kamahl?

      


  

Thursday, April 08, 2021

 Classix Nouveaux - The Liberty Recordings 1981-83


Following the demise of X-Ray Spex in 1979, two members of the band (Jak Airport and B.P. Hurding) joined forces with Mik Sweeney and vocalist Sal Solo from the band The News to form Classix Nouveaux.  Taking inspiration from Bowie and Roxy Music, over the next six years and through several lineup changes Classic Nouveaux released three albums (four if you include the alternate version of their debut album) and alongside bands like Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Japan and Duran Duran, Classix Nouveaux was at the forefront of the New Romantic movement.  Their debut Night People (and the slightly different eponymous US version) is a really strong release full of infectious synth driven tunes and Solo’s distinctive vocals, and even though it contained  a couple of UK hits with “Tokyo” and “Guilty” you can tell the band is still getting their footing and finding their direction at this point.  Their sophomore release La Verite found the band heading in the same direction as their debut, but they really found their sound at this point by smoothing things out a bit and resulting in the biggest hits of their career with “Is It A Dream” reaching number 11 on the UK charts.  Unfortunately on their final release Secrets the band seemed to be pushing too hard for radio hits and the album sounded way too polished and completely lost any edge they had before.  Having said that Classic Nouveaux is definitely a band that deserved more attention than they got and The Liberty Sessions is an outstanding box set that not only includes all of their releases, but also contains 24 bonus tracks consisting of b sides, extended mixes and single versions along with an essay on the history of the band from Sal Solo.  

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.


Can you give me a little background on yourself? 

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!

(Megan Lacy)



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 Living Pins)

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.  

(Cherry Red Records)

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.

Can 
you give me a bit of a band history?

About 7 years ago Bices and I (Brian) met during high school. We got introduced to each other by a couple of mutual friends. Once we had met, we started jamming and it was sounding pretty good. We asked some other friends to join us and formed a small band. We couldn’t really find any places to play shows, apart from 1 cool venue called JH SOJO. That’s the only place where we had some shows. During that time we had written around 40-50 songs. 3 years after starting this band, the band had split due to our friends wanting to go in a different direction, so it was only Bices and I left. We didn’t really want to stop playing, we still loved playing music. At the time we didn’t know anyone who played an instrument so we had to find a way to play music with just the 2 of us. This would, 6 months later, become Melting Mallows. By starting this new band, we felt like we should have a fresh start and make new songs instead of keeping the songs we’ve previously written.

Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?

It’s mostly Bices who has an idea and an almost finished lyric that he wrote at home. The next day he comes to my house and we see if we can work out the song. At first we take 2 acoustic guitars and make some changes in the structure, well only if that’s needed, and see where we can add some backing vocals and riffs. Once that’s done and the basic song is ready, we go over to the electric guitar and drums, and figure out those parts. We can’t really play riffs with only 1 guitar and a drum kit, then we would lose the ‘drive’, so sometimes the structure has to change a little again, just so the song won’t get boring in a live setting.

I hear alot of diversity and a wide variety of styles popping up throughout the 16 tracks including garage rock, surf guitar, strong 60‘s pop hooks and psychedelia.  Are there any particular bands or artists you would consider your biggest influences?
 
It’s not really a band in particular, but we get our inspiration from a couple of songs per band. Mostly British and American Bands.
The Beatles (I guess people say this band all the time), Beach Boys, King Khan, Ty Segall, Jack White, The Ramones, Spencer Davis Group, The Kinks, Car Seat Headrest, The Undertones, Simon and Garfunkel, Chuck Berry, ...

I read that you built your own studio in a 200 year old farm house.  Can you tell me about that?

The house has been in my family for about 7 generations or so. It’s basically been in the family from the day it was built. In recent years the house is no longer being used as a farm. 
Once my father heard Bices and I play together about 7 years ago, after a year he thought ‘wow, this is starting to sound good!’, and he also didn’t really want to annoy any of the neighbours. He had the idea of building a practice room in one of the old stables. But when he was still in the planning stage, he got the idea that, now that we are building this together, we could build a recording studio instead, in that way we did not have to hire a recording studio every time we wanted to get something recorded. So the old pigsty became our private recording studio. 

It says in your bio that you are 100% DIY.  Can you tell me a bit about the DIY recording process for the album?


A whole lot of struggles haha. I think in total we’ve re-recorded all of our songs about 10-20 times. We didn’t have any engineer, producer or arranger, so we had to learn everything ourselves. We had to learn using the mixer, the different types of microphones and placements, and the mixing process itself. We’ve just been experimenting with 'what would happen when we try this?’. 
We started with some demos of the basic ‘live’ recording of the song, after this we started adding other instruments on top just to have our songs sound like a full band. When we were playing our music acoustically, we had the riffs we needed, but when recording it for our album we had to look for sounds and that was the hardest and most time taking part of the recording. We’ve used about 9 different guitars and 3 different amps to get the guitar sound right. For example, on the song "Telephone", to get the sound of the guitar solo as we wanted it, we let a clean guitar go through a small amp, connect the headphones output of that amp to another amp and cranked up the volume of the first amp to get the sound all fuzzy. Also the drums, we tried different microphone placements and drumkits to get the sound we wanted. For example on our song "Nowhere", the drumkit only consists of 2 microphones, one above the kit and one at the snare, but on the song "Telephone", we’ve mic'd all separate parts of the drum kit. On the vocals, we’ve also tried different microphones and placements. On Nowhere we were singing the backing vocals together, both standing at one part of the mic and had a room mic high up at the side of the room. By accident on the high ‘oeh’ I moved my mouth to the right and it came in louder in the room mic. When mixing I’ve panned the normal mic to the left and the room to the right and it gave an interesting stereo effect. We’ve just been experimenting with things like this.

Does anyone else play on Something Sweet or is it just the 2 of you?

It’s just the 2 of us. We didn’t really know anyone at the time who played instruments so we had to do everything ourselves. 
A little later, we started knowing a whole lot of people who play music but we thought to just keep doing what we’re doing and stay as a duo. On most of the songs it's Bices playing the bass and guitar, on some songs it’s me playing a rhythm guitar or bass.  

Was being a 2-piece a conscious decision or did it just happen?

It just happened due to not knowing many people. A little later we thought of getting some extra musicians, but the thinking process of the songs is a lot faster to do with 2. But it’s not easy at times because for a moment you need to think as a drummer, then as a guitarist and then as a bassist, instead of only focusing on your instrument. But it's fun to do, I’m not complaining.

I know you released “Nowhere” as a single in 2018 and I read that you were planning to start recording the album in late 2018.  Was there anything in particular that took so long to get  it finished?

Something interesting happened late 2018, starting as a joke we signed up for one of the biggest music contests in Belgium called ‘De Nieuwe Lichting’ a music contest by one of the biggest radio stations, Studio Brussel, in Belgium. We thought ‘ah we're not going to get chosen but let’s sign up anyway and see what happens’. A little later I was having a home party at my house with some friends when I suddenly got a call from a guy saying ‘Hey I am … from the radio station Studio Brussel, we like your track and you’ve been selected in our top 9 songs from the 1200 submissions. We would like you to come over to our radio station on Monday and have a chat.’ Well let me say the party couldn’t be any better after that haha. When they played our music for the first time on their radio, within a minute after that, we received about 6 emails of venues that requested us to play a concert in their venue, including one of the biggest venues in Belgium called ‘De Vooruit’. It was a pretty strange time, one week we were nowhere and suddenly everyone knew us and we had mails coming in for bookings. We didn’t think we would ever have this coming at us, or at least not at that moment. We didn’t have a lot of live experience so we decided that we should put the album on hold and now focus on getting our live set as good as we could, so that’s what we did. There is one venue I’d like to thank in particular and that’s Het Depot, the biggest venue in our hometown, Leuven, for international artists (The Pretty Reckless, The Damned, Steve Vai, Jools Holland, The Strangles,...), they’ve booked us 3 times in 2019 and 1 time in 2020 during the covid pandemic. Apart from the concerts there were also a lot of managers and labels who contacted us, but for us that wasn’t really what we were looking for. What has been a little setback is that everyone in the music industry told us ‘The next track needs to be even better than "Nowhere". You should release an EP before the album.’, we picked that up making us confused by thinking ‘Is this new song good? Are we mixing good?’, a whole lot of questions popped up in our minds. After 1 year of playing a whole lot of shows we’ve decided that we can’t keep waiting on releasing new music. We got a little stuck in writing new songs since we were so busy with live shows and playing the same old material, we had to get these songs out to start on something new. So we hired a producer and a studio and recorded the song "YA YA YA YA", we’ve got it mastered at Abbey Road Studios just to make sure that it sounds good. The song got picked up but it wasn’t as highly picked up as "Nowhere". After this single we started thinking ‘Why are we spending this much money? We can do everything ourselves and sound just as good'. That’s when we decided, December 2019, that we should just do it our way as we did with "Nowhere". Bices still had his university exams in January so we’ve planned on recording the album in the first week of February at my house. That’s what we did and it worked out pretty well. We first thought of releasing the album in June 2020, but due to covid we thought to wait a little longer and release it a month later or so. When the 2nd wave came, we didn’t want to wait any longer since we’ve basically been quiet for about 6 months. The last song 'Something Sweet’ is an experimental song, with just guitar and vocals, to show that we wanted to have our album out and that we were pretty tired of waiting. The song contains just one sentence: ‘Something Sweet is all I need’

You have released several of these songs as singles over the past couple years.  Are those versions the same as what’s on the Something Sweet?

Those versions are the same as on the album. Since we were a little quiet for some time because there were no concerts, we wanted to let our followers know that we still existed and give them something to look forward to, instead of looking forward to a concert.

You also released an acoustic EP last year.  Can you tell me a little about that and the decision to throw that out there before the actual release?

Since everyone in Belgium who followed us, knew us from the song "Nowhere" and that competition we joined, we wanted to show them that we were going back to when we first started. The recordings from the acoustic EP were made a little after we’ve released our song "Nowhere". It was not necessarily an idea of ‘let us release an EP' but we meant it more as a sign to let people know who we are and where we came from. We thought that was important. 

Something Sweet is just available digitally at this time.  Do you have any plans for a physical release?

Our original idea was to have it printed on vinyl, but we don’t know if anyone is interested in buying one at this time. When the concerts are happening again, we might get it pressed and maybe also a CD. For now it’s only available to stream or to be bought digitally. (For example: Spotify, Amazon)

Since you just released Something Sweet and all the covid restrictions are still hindering things do you have any special plans for promoting it?

Not really, we thought of giving an online concert, but with the restrictions we are not allowed to come together with more than 2 people. And we would need some people to hold a camera. Once the restrictions are lowered, we might still do it.

How is the music scene in Belgium?

The scene in Belgium is really diverse, you have about everything going on here. That’s also the hard part, to find people who are listening to your genre of music. What separates us from other bands in our genre is that we do it all, live and studio, just by us 2. In that way we stand out from the other bands.

Is there anything else you want to share with readers?

I wish everyone a happy time singing with and dancing to our songs! I am pretty sure you’ll like our music. I hope the covid period will not last long, not just for us, but for everyone who is struggling financially and psychologically. For now, get those happy feelings by listening to our music and have a good time discovering new bands.




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.

Can you give me a quick background on the band's history?

Eric Croft: vocals/guitar, Keith Kemmerer: guitar/vocals, Michael Osborne: bass, and James Watson: drums.  

Well, Go Analog has existed throughout the 2010’s.  We all grew up less than 15 or so miles from each other but started playing together at different stages in our life. Michael and I went to the same high school, but didn’t play music together until our 20s.  Michael’s bass lines really evolved and stand out on this record. Jim was in one of the earliest formations of the band, and came back for round two right before we decided to make this record.  Jim’s parts have always been the right fit for us. Keith and I have been doing this together since the beginning. 

Basically, we have had a couple of highs, a few lows, and long stretches of being latent. More than anything else we just like creating together. In all honesty, we are horrible with self-promotion, which we realize is a necessary part of this industry, so we appreciate you setting up this interview.

How does your songwriting process tend to work?

When we began writing this record we started clean and without a template.  It was winter and we hadn’t sat down to write together in a serious manner for close to a year. Many of the melodies and progressions were written over 5-10 sessions in an upstairs bedroom in rural Ohio. Acoustic guitars, a rickety drum set, and a keyboard were our tools. I think you can feel that atmosphere in parts of the record.

The lyrics started in stream of conscious form just as a way to give the melodies life.  The feel of a word or phrase in a melody can be just as important as the content. Once I would sing a phrase that connected to one of us we’d then build on that foundation to create the story. The songs titles come from those stream of consciousness phrases that guided the rest of the lyrics.

You worked with producer Eddie Ashworth who has worked with a diverse array of big name artists over the years.  How was it working with him?

It was our first time working with him and we were all terribly impressed by his skill, composure, and musical ear. It felt very natural for us to be there in that space, which is something that can be excruciatingly difficult to create.  It was just a positive vibe that made it fun to create. While his influence is definitely on the record, he did it in a subtle manner. The album took about 5 full days of recording to finish. Without the atmosphere he created these songs might still be stuck in that upstairs bedroom in rural Ohio. 

I can hear some similarities to the sound on your first EP and Moonlight Gram, but I definitely hear a band that has matured and to me the new EP has a smoother sound with a bit more of a retro vibe (although “Time Wasted” on the debut definitely sounds closer to what I hear on Moonlight Gram).  How do you feel your sound and lyrics have evolved from the debut to now?

As I mentioned, the lyrics started in stream of conscious form just as a way to
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. 

Musically, we really didn’t write with any sort of agenda or template in mind.  Maybe that is to our peril haha.  But we just kept the songs we felt were good songs, regardless of what genre, or box, they fit in.  We probably had a dozen or so more songs that we decided to shelve. It was all pretty natural, and we were all in agreement on what made the final cut. 

“Oh My” is one song that definitely stands out with a darker, much heavier edge than the rest.  What can you tell me about that song?

I agree. I think it’s the most somber sounding and heaviest song on the record.  I remember that one started with Keith bringing the riff to us, so it is very guitar driven. While the lyrics are pretty heavy as well, they come from a positive place of self-reflection, and trying not fall into predictable patterns.

To me there is a real diversity amongst the tracks while still maintaining a familiar sound throughout.  Would you agree to that?

I would- for better or worse we do have a sound, and although it has changed throughout the years it is still us. I really don’t think anyone else on the indie scene sounds like us. It’s pretty apparent that we are not chasing a new, popular sound, but we are just happily writing songs the way we know how to do that. The type of comments we get from fans about how they relate to our sound is all over the map, which I think is pretty neat.   

Is there a connection to the album title and the baseball player, doctor and Field Of Dreams character Moonlight Graham?

It’s phonetically very pleasing to me- Moonlight Gram. To me it has a “cellar door” quality. Like with lyrics, I think the sound is important. But yeah, Moonlight was a guy that was so close to achieving his boyhood dream, but was at peace with how his life turned out and was at peace with not quite getting there. It goes against the “follow your dreams, and you will achieve it” mentality most millennials were raised upon, which is just a ridiculously high standard for measuring success. 

There are also themes of struggle, addiction and temptation on this record that plays into the title as well. 

I saw a video on youtube of one of your performances from 2015 and there are four really good songs (“Black and Red", “I’ll Be Waiting", “Stay" and  “Ballroom Dancer") that you performed that aren’t on your debut or the new EP.  From some of the things I have read it sounds like there was another release in the works a few years back that I’m assuming was never released.  What took so long between releases and are any of these available anywhere and if not, do you think any of these will ever show up?

You went into the deep catalogue. Thank you.  We had a limited release of "Black and Red" and "Ballroom Dancer" long ago when Jim was in his first run with the band.  They didn’t work as well without him. I still think they are really fun songs and we plan on putting them into our live show from time to time. 

What kind of impact has the pandemic had on the band?

We took off the winter to finish this record, so we haven’t played a live show in front of people yet in 2020.  Pretty crazy. Like most people, we took March through about June off without doing much of anything musically. Just existing.

But it hasn’t all been bad- we have spent the last 2 months trying these songs in an acoustic format for smaller venues where social distancing can be achieved. That’s been fun, and I think they sound really good in the type of atmosphere.

What’s next for the band now that the EP has just been released?

We go back into hiding for another few years, of course. No, we are so happy to offer our first vinyl run to people. Hopefully, full band shows once that becomes a thing again, and some smaller acoustic sets in between. Keith and I have been having a weekly writing session the past 2 months that has gone really well, so hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for a follow-up album.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Thank you so much for listening, and we would love to hear from you on the socials or with our email: goanalogband@gmail.com.



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)


Can you give me a bit of a band background? 

Located in Reykjavik, Iceland heavily influenced by the infamous Seattle sound, the tasty riffs of blues-rock and the headbanging effect of metal, Mad Nona have been working on creating their own material. Powered by aggressive riffs, energetic vocals and powerhouse drum style Mad Nona, hit their own envisioned sound which takes you for a ride, followed with words which many can relate to. Although Mad Nona is just a toddler in a sense only formed late 2019, by local boy Arnar and UK born Thor, they had known each other for over 10 years. The pair admitted that they had not yet done shit with their musical gift and decided to team up and record an album, which they did. During Covid19, whilst that son of a b***h virus pandemic was causing lock-downs, jeopardizing everyone's health and threatening lives, the two stayed home at Fitzgerald's place. In his hallway they bounced some old riff ideas of each other, wrote new ones and slowly progressed their delicious tasty style. When they knew they had material which was not for just anyone to kick the beat to, the pair reached out to drummer Kristjan B. (artist at both Pearl and Paiste), after having his name repeatedly being brought up to their attention. Accompanied with Kristjan's stellar groove they were able to push their boundaries by twirling heavy rock towards the rhythm of blues only to top it off with the perfect amount of metal twist. With their heart and soul input, out-of-the-box song structure and audacious lyric composition they are sure they have something new and exciting to offer the modern music scene. Thor, our guitarist is a really blues orientated guitar player and he has taken a lot from the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton. Despite his bluesy heart Thor has always been a fan of groovy rock though. Arnar also has been blues-rock orientated liking the great Zeppelin a lot but the person who has influenced him the most is Chris Cornell. Chris´s songwriting and voice skills are something Arnar has dreamed of getting close to. Mad Nona´s powerhouse drum machine Kristjan B., is what you call a musical fanatic, loving a wide variety of genres but his admiration of metal has made him a first class metalhead. Also, Kristjan has been playing guitar for a long-time which kind of describes his love for music, he wants to do it all.   

Arnar (lead vocals/guitar) and Thor (lead guitar/vocals) met ages ago but it was only through a mutual friend that this journey started a year ago. This mutual friend approached Arnar at a bar while he was performing shitty cover songs for drunk ass people and just shouted at him: "What the hell are you doing here bro, you are wasting your goddamn vocal talent for drunk people at a pub, let's rock brother" he said. Both Arnar and Thor have been paying the bills by playing at the pubs and all that stuff but they have always wanted to create, record and share their musical gift. At that time Arnar and Thor both realized that they should give this career a chance and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, the mutual friend as the bassist had to withdraw from the band due to personal reasons but Arnar and Thor kept on going. The pair then met Kristjan when the first Covid wave had cooled down a bit here in Iceland. We were impressed with his skills and ambition and just knew that this long hair tall dude was the one we were looking for. We have been playing together for almost 5 months now but before the launch of the band we all had been a part of the Icelandic underground rock scene for many years. Even more so Kristjan, our beloved drummer even played with Skálmöld, one of Iceland's most well-known metal bands in the summer of 2014 while their drummer, Jon Geir was recovering from surgery. Currently we are working on promoting our self-titled debut album and we will keep on going after that. Now it's time to give it all we can. 
 
I really like the diversity of your release.  There's a definite bluesy rock element throughout, and I hear a vibe in alot of the songs that reminds me of bands like Skid Row, Tesla and Motley Crue, but then “Cul de Sac” sounds alot like Alice In Chains.  Is that diversity something you strive for in your sound?   

Well, all of us like a wide variety of genres, which have influenced us all, and grunge is a heavy factor in that equation as well as blues and metal, so when we were strumming our acoustic guitars one night and this song partially popped up, we knew we had something to work with. The whole album was written with what sounded right to us as our guiding light and though we were not thinking about diversity too much to say the truth that song really just sounded right to us. But of course, as we were working on the song, we realized that we had a song that was a bit more relaxed so of course we wanted to showcase our softer side if we can put it like that. This album was a work of finding our sound so we guess people can expect some more grunge sounding tunes in the future. 

How does your songwriting process tend to work? 

Well we are going to take you through our debut album songwriting process. So, our songwriting is something we have been experimenting with since late 2019 and though our album contains 9 songs, we wrote almost 20 in 6 months' time, so we had to find our sound through trying out different things. While we were writing the songs for this album, we decided that we would not follow the so-called song-structure, instead we wanted to do what sounded right to our ears. As a result, some songs don't have a preferred verse, chorus or pre-chorus, it was the feeling and flow that led the songwriting way. As you might notice a few of our songs contain a lot of anger, well that is the result of both tragic events and past experiences as well as state of mind feelings. While recording the songs we used a drum kit software to kind of get the rhythm in shape but when Kristjan put his stellar groove into our songs, the songs just got lifted to a higher class and just to give an example he drummed "Paranoia" in a way that we had never thought of and the way he used the snare and the kick in that song just blew us away. So, it all sticks together although the songs had been written before Kristjan joined in but we believe the ratio of drums importance is 50% of all rock songs and he did an amazing job creating the beat.

Do you feel being from Iceland has impacted your music? 

Well maybe in a sense. Being from Iceland in the era of grunge as young boys and having all the different rock genres played to our ears at our house ever since we were toddlers has impacted us a lot. Iceland at the time and honestly still today had only a few selections of radio stations, so what we grew up with and heard on the radio we fell in love with and that was at large scale the American rock'n'roll. So, it would be the isolation of our nation that led to us liking the kind of music we like. Also, the Icelandic underground rock scene has always been a strong one here in Iceland although it has never quite overachieved the mainstream and we have never really liked the mainstream so we have always been a part of that underground group. Therefore, being an Icelandic teenager isolated from the big world has definitely colored our view on music.

How is the music scene in Iceland and have you had an easy time finding your place in it? 

The Icelandic music scene is admirably various and I would guess that compared to our population we have the highest tally of musicians in the world. We have been sticking with our style and we know what kind of music we want to create and so far, we have only heard good things about our stuff and we think we have found our place, but of course we want to share our music with the world and hopefully our debut album will unite some folks who like this kind of rock and we can work from there. Interestingly though when it comes to bands in the underground rock scene there really are not a lot of great venues to play here in Iceland. I would guess maybe 5 good ones but compared to the outer world we don´t have too much to work with. We take what we get, but in recent years some of our greatest and largest venues have been shut down. Despite that the Icelandic underground rock scene always seems to flourish due to the dedication of our fellow musicians, they don't care about the size of the venues. For instance, when Iceland Airwaves is held some bands play in book stores and even hotel lobbies. I think it’s the Icelandic way, we always keep on going.

You mention in your bio that you are dads.  How has that impacted your music and what do your kids think about it? 

Well, our kids are singing the songs right before they go to bed and in the car on the way to kindergarten so they have heard it quite often, and sometimes they ask us to play a certain song so the recording process has colored them and we now have a bunch of rock babies. Well, being fathers means that we have to make sure about the house´s income as well as serving our duties as role models and being there for them, so we really have had to orchestrate our time for rock a lot and it's not always easy. Even when we released the album, which was a time for a cold one both Arnar and Thor were trying to network with the kids barking up their throats for attention while Kristjan was doing the same on the road.

You have a really good acoustic cover of Motley Crue’s “Live Wire” up on bandcamp.  Do you think we might see more covers down the road or maybe acoustic versions of some of your songs? 

If there's anything we love besides groovy rock/blues/metal/grunge it's the beauty of acoustic guitar, so we will definitely work on a few of those in the future!  Having been inspired a lot by the infamous grunge scene we will surely be looking to do one of those shows like Chains and Nirvana did. Who doesn’t remember Nirvana: MTV unplugged! Man, we would love something like that. 

I know your vocalist Arnar recently tested positive for Covid-19.  Hopefully he’s doing ok.  Besides his illness has the pandemic had any impact on the band? 

Arnar is recovering quite well and actually, Covid was one of the main reasons we went ahead and made this album. You see, if not for Covid then the pair probably wouldn't have been able to find their style and record this album so fast. During the Covid pandemic we stayed at Fitzgeralds place, progressed our style, wrote some riffs and also took what had been in our mind for a long time. Songs like “Rock'n'roll” and “Tornado Jane” were just collecting dust in our bedroom drawers, and were taken out, adjusted a bit and recorded. Meanwhile “King of the Hill” and “Cul de Sac” were just a single riff idea. The others came with weeks and months of working on our style. So, although the Covid pandemic has been a thing nobody could have wished for, it kind of got us to start doing what we love and what we are good at!  Regarding release plans we have not been able to share our music due to the Covid pandemic yet but we simply can't wait. On the other hand, it means we have to do as much as we can online and try to reach out with our music and personality. We will be looking for ways to create videos in the upcoming weeks, but this era we live in requires a lot of innovative thinking ways in trying to connect our music with future listeners and fans. It won't be a long time till we release our first single for our next album that's for sure. We want to create more and more for ourselves and our fellow citizens of the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers? 

Please, above all in life; music, work or whatsoever do stay safe during this pandemic and take it very seriously because we know by experience this virus is one hell of a bastard. Also, stay true to who you are and try doing the most of what you love to do because otherwise our lives will just be a dull one and meaningless. Thirdly, if anything bad happens in your life, don't let it beat you, get back on your feet and carry on! Don´t be a victim, be a survivor! Lastly, follow us on Spotify because we are only beginning giving you guys some serious rock'n'roll!