Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Incognito Theory - Incognito Theory 

Although they’ve been around since 2009 and their new self-titled EP is their third release, somehow New Jersey’s Incognito Theory has flown under my radar.  That has all changed with their new self-titled EP, which is one of those releases that will have you backtracking to check out what else you’ve been missing. Strongly reminiscent of Zakk Wylde in  southern rock mode, the EP is definitely heavy, full of thick crunchy guitars with some killer solos (check out “Smokin’ Gun”), strong melodies, a rock solid rhythm section all topped with Dave Incognito’s powerful vocals.  They also manage to keep things fresh with enough diversity from track to track, while keeping the root of their sound in place.  While there’s not a bad cut in the bunch, highlights include “Fired Up”, “Smokin’ Gun” and “Set It Off”.  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

 Interview with CALICO

CALICO initially got it's start as a batch of songs written by Tony Cecchetti and then evolved into a full blown band who have now released their debut Under A Sudden Sun.  In a recent email interview Tony discussed this along with the recording process for the album, their plans for more albums, touring and more.

The foundation of the band started with a set of songs that you wrote and then it evolved from there into CALICO.  Can you give me a little background on this evolution?

CALICO was really formed out of the pandemic. Like you mentioned, I had written a number of songs over the years that were just sitting around. I had never recorded them and quite frankly didn’t have concrete plans to record them. It was a distant aspiration of mine that seemed unattainable. When the pandemic began it gave us the time that I don’t think we would have had otherwise in the fast paced nature of our lives. Not to mention we are in different cities. 

When the Pandemic began, I had a zoom call with good friend and co-founder, Chris Couto, and we decided to start a project and take all these songs that I had written and try and do something with them. We had a friend in Portland originally that was interested in playing bass on the tracks. That plan fell through, so we reached out to a couple other close friends in Vancouver, Will Lloyd, and Jeanse Le Doujet, to see if they were interested in joining the project. They agreed and that was how CALICO formed. From there everything has just naturally evolved and the music has really taken on a life of its own. 

How does your songwriting process tend to work?  

My songwriting process has changed over the years. When I first started writing songs I didn’t really play the guitar so most songs were poems that were strictly lyrics. I took a song writing workshop in 2016 where a mentor of mine pushed me to pick up the guitar and from there I started to pair chord progressions with my poems. Over the last few years, as I have become more comfortable playing the guitar, my song writing process has evolved but still changes from song to song. Some are still written as poems and then I match guitar to the words. Some are written with chord progressions first and then words are added after the fact. I try to have each song come to me naturally. I’ll sing melodies into my phone or sing lines that come to me that I think would be nice choruses. Songwriting is a part of me and my everyday life, so it follows me everywhere I go. 

Can you elaborate on where you tend to get your lyrical inspiration?

I tend to write best when I have something that I am specifically writing about. My songwriting derives from experiences in my life. They are stories with messages and memories intertwined and engrained in them. Many of them are deeply personal and nostalgic. 

When I first started writing, I resonated with free writing from a stream of consciousness place.  I would sometimes perform without any lyrics or songs prepared. I would go to an open mic that my friend ran and meet fellow musicians, get on stage, and depending on what direction the music went I would just start free versing. 

My lyrical inspiration nowadays is a little more refined than when I was younger. I really try to hone in on the emotional aspect of experiences and convey that through my words. Often I write based on prompts that a friend will give me. I’ve written songs about art pieces, conversations, losses, my guitar.. the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can write songs about.

With the band coming together during the pandemic were you able to record together in the same location or was everything done remotely? (Also, can you tell me a little about the recording process?)

Everything that CALICO has released to date was recorded in home studios doing our individual parts separately. We didn’t get together in person until just before Under a Sudden Sun was released on August 6th. The project had already been a thing for a year and a half before we finally got together to play the songs in person. 

Each song started with me recording the rhythm guitar and vocals. That was then passed on to Chris Couto, how laid down percussion and drums, off to Jeanse Le Doujet next, who played bass, and lastly, Will Lloyd, who played electric guitar. Once we had the foundation of the songs completed, Chris Couto would complete the arrangement and and we would send the tracks off to Braeden Rangno, who mixed the album, and lastly, Stuart McKillop, who mastered the album. 

The album has a very relaxed, laid back groove to it.  Was that what you were striving for?

Thank you. The goal, from the beginning, was to make easy to listen to music. I think for many musicians that is what you strive to create. Music that is friendly to the ears and resonates with people. More than anything, my hope is that people connect with the music. Like I mentioned above, these songs are deeply personal to me and I hope people listen to the album as a whole. I wanted to create an album that was an experience where more than just one song was played.

The other guys added alot of really cool musical flourishes throughout the disc, whether it’s a certain drum sound or some of the guitar work.  Is there anything in particular that you feel took any of the songs to a completely different level beyond what you envisioned when you wrote it?

The complimentary pieces and additional instrumentation took each song to a completely new level. I’d say well beyond what I ever envisioned these songs sounding like. I am so fortunate to have some of the best players Vancouver has to offer playing in this group. I mean that sincerely. They are incredible musicians and part of what made the recording process so much fun is that everyone had complete freedom. There were minimal instructions on where the direction of the songs should go. We are all good friends and there is a built in trust over the years that whatever each person adds is just going to make the song sound better. 

I read that there were already two albums worth of songs when you guys started recording.  I know that Under A Sudden Sun just came out, but have you given any thought to recording more?

Definitely. We have our second album finished and already recorded and our third is under way. We wanted to space out the releases a bit but there will be a lot more music coming soon from CALICO. 

Now that there is a band do you think you will still handle all the songwriting in the future or do you think there will be more input from the other band members?

There will always be space for everyone to bring forth ideas. I think for the most part I will handle the lyrical side of things but we have played together and written over the years and that process will always be evolving. I enjoy putting down the guitar and just singing and letting Will Lloyd take it away on the guitar. 

I read that you sometimes play live music during yoga classes.  Can you tell me a little more about that?

A couple friends of mine used to own a Modo Yoga studio in Squamish, BC. That was my first introduction into playing live music and playing songs that I had written. I would play the Friday night live music class and sit in the back of the room while the class went through their yoga practice. It was an incredible place to start playing live music and allowed me to share my songs in a safe and supportive environment. 

Do you have any plans to do any live shows?

We can’t wait to play live and are hoping to get our first booking once the opportunity presents itself. We hope that is soon especially now that live music and shows are beginning to happen again. That’ll be a dream come true. 

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

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and listen to our music. I hope that our new album takes you to a special place of your own. We appreciate the support so much and can’t wait to start playing live shows for you. Stay healthy and safe. 


Monday, August 02, 2021

The Sorrows - Pink, Purple, Yellow & Red: The Complete Sorrows

Although they did manage to have a minor hit in the UK with the song “Take A Heart”, hitting number 21 on the charts in 1965, for some reason The Sorrows were one of the lesser known bands in the freakbeat scene and were virtually unknown in the States.  Throughout the course of their initial run from 1963 to 1969 the band went through quite a bit of a revolving door members-wise and there were two distinct phases of the band.  Pink, Purple, Yellow & Red: The Complete Sorrows is an extremely comprehensive four-CD box set that collects all of their recorded work along with a multitude of bonus tracks, many of them previously unreleased.  

Opening up disc one is a collection of the band’s first singles (many of these tracks combined with a few more that are included after the singles on this disc make up the mono version of their debut album Take A Heart) which do an excellent job of laying out their upbeat R&B laced garage rock sound.  Also included here are nine more unreleased songs,  four that were recorded at this same time as the album and five that were recorded in 1964 by the legendary producer Joe Meek that showcase the blues and R&B foundation of their sound (included in these are covers of “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Georgia On My Mind” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”).  

Disc two starts off with the stereo version of the Take A Heart Album followed by a slew of bonus cuts including several German and Italian language versions of their songs from singles released in those countries and a few more unreleased tracks.  Ironically at the same time as these foreign language versions were taking off lead vocalist Don Farden and bassist Phil Packham both left the band.  At this point the band soldiered on as a trio with guitarist Pip Whitcher also picking up lead vocals and rhythm guitarist Wez Price moving to bass, and with the success of these Italian language singles they became huge stars in Italy, starting phase two of the band.  Following this success they recorded two versions of the song “Pioggia Sul Tuo”, which were taken from a promo only soundtrack to the movie Come Imparai Ad Amare Le Donne and are included on disc two.  These are notable because they were collaborations with the legendary composer Ennio Morricone.  The first is a beautifully arranged version with an stellar string arrangement, while the other is closer to the band’s garage rock sound.  One other soundtrack tune can be found here in the form of the outstanding feedback laden “Ypotron”, which was the theme to an Italian spy movie of the same name.

Kicking off disc three is Old Songs New Songs, the band’s second (and final) album that was recorded for the Italian label Miura.  This time around the freakbeat sound of the early days has largely been replaced with a disc full of Cream and Vanilla Fudge styled psychedelic rock mixing originals with their covers of the Small Faces (“Rollin’ Over”), Traffic (“Heaven Is In Your Mind”, “Dear Mr Fantasy”) and Family (“Hey Mr Policeman”, ”Old Songs New Songs”). Another handful of bonus cuts are also on this disc including some single versions of cuts from the album (a couple in Italian), three demos recorded in 1968 by band members Pip Whitcher and Roger Lomas that are more on the pop side of things (two of these songs show up here again performed by Lomas’ band The Eggy, but this time around they have much more of a freakbeat sound to them).  Closing the disc out are two more songs from Whitcher and Lomas, a couple of stomping glam rock tunes from their 1974 single from their band Renegade.  

The first half of disc four contains a nine cut acetate demo originally recorded for Old Songs New Songs.  Alongside alternate versions of four songs that did end up on the album are covers of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood", The Bee Gee’s “New York Mining Disaster 1941“ and The Beatles “We Can Work It Out” and two originals that didn’t make the album.  Quite often the sound on these cuts has more reliance on the keys that gives them a little more of a prog rock vibe.  The remaining eleven tracks are from a 1980 Sorrows reunion show in Coventry featuring Pip Whitcher, Wez Price, Phil Packham and Bruce Finlay.  Although the sound quality is a little weak and the set is primarily covers they do include really enjoyable versions of their songs “Let Me In” and “Take A Heart”.

Rouding out the box set is a 32 page book full of pics, detailed track listings and an essay covering the band’s history. Pink, Purple, Yellow & Red: The Complete Sorrows is an extremely comprehensive collection of the history of the band and should definitely please fans of the band and bring some new ones to the fold as well.  

(Cherry Red Records)