Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dead Men's Hollow


Over the past twelve years the Baltimore /DC area band Dead Men's Hollow has been putting out their own brand of bluegrass/folk.  Here's what Caryn Fox (vocals/mandolin) had to say when I touched base with her recently.

MK - Can you give me a little background on history of Dead Men's Hollow?
CF - This is from our website, and is pretty accurate:
Dead Men’s Hollow began as an impromptu backyard pick n’ sing in the summer of 2001. Several hundred shows later, the group is now a well-established regional band. Dead Men’s Hollow performs at a wide range of venues from churches, bars, wineries, and festivals to fine arts halls such as Strathmore and the Kennedy Center.
Dead Men’s Hollow draws its influences from bluegrass, country, blues, and gospel. The result is a unique sound of tight harmony vocals backed by traditional bluegrass instrumentation: fiddle, banjo, mandolin, upright bass, and guitar. The group’s repertoire comprises a vast array of original and traditional music, encompassing the early centuries of America’s musical history as well as modern tales of love and loss.
The group has recorded four commercially released CDs and has tracks on numerous compilation CDs, appeared on national television, received 20 Washington Area Music Association “Wammie” Award nominations, won six Wammie Awards—including Best Bluegrass Group and Bluegrass Album of the Year—and continues to be played on radio programs around the world.
MK - With Angel's Share you released your first gospel CD. What made you decide to go in that direction for that release?
CF - People have been asking us for *years* to put out a gospel CD – fans, show attendees, radio hosts, just about everyone. We felt strongly, however, that if we put out a gospel CD it would have to be something classically Dead Men’s Hollow. So, that’s just what we did. You’ll find that on Angels’ Share nearly all songs are original and nearly all songs are non-denominational (there is one traditional, which is also the one that has a Christian-based message). As a group, we are focused more on spirituality than religion, per se, and feel strongly about writing and playing our own original music. We are quite proud to have Angels’ Share reflect who we are in those ways.
MK - How does the songwriting process for the band usually work?
CF - We used to put out “band challenges” to write a song about one thing or another. We also used to write more songs as a group. Now, we usually write songs on our own (or two people together) and bring them to the group for tweaking, arranging, or simply for adding to our repertoire.
MK - How would you say the band has evolved since your debut?
CF - When the band began in July 2001, we were an alt-country band with drums and electric guitar. We quickly morphed into an acoustic group with no drums, all acoustic instruments, and a much heavier emphasis on original and traditional music. In January of 2004, with a new sound and some new players (Marcy on fiddle, Amy on vocals, and Bob Peirce on bass) we played our first all-acoustic show (at Jammin’ Java) and never looked back. Since that show, our only personnel change has been to bring in Jared Creason on bass (Bob lives near Annapolis and the drive got too difficult. We’re all still very close, and Bob fills in sometimes if Jared is unavailable).
MK - I've been reading on your facebook and website that you've been recording some songs for a Christmas album. What's the status on that?
CF - Yes! This release was a pleasant surprise. A group in Front Royal, VA called National Media Services did the mastering on Angels’ Share. It was such a great fit for both organizations that NMS approached us about recording a series of Christmas songs to send out as their annual Holiday CD Card. This card is always a CD, but is usually a compilation of groups/individuals that record there. We were honored to be offered the opportunity to be the single artist on this year’s CD. We said “yes”!
The Holiday CD Card went out in December. We are now in the process of revisiting some of the songs to do some tweaking/reworking/re-recording and we plan to release our own Christmas CD this year (2012). **A Dead Men's Christmas has now been released and is available on itunes and cdbaby.
MK - Angel's Share has been out for a little over a year now. Besides your Christmas CD do you have another release in the works yet and if so what can we expect?
CF - While nothing solid is in the works, we’ve discussed a variety of ideas for our next release. Stay tuned!
MK - With Angel's Share you won a Wammie (Washington Area Music Award) in 2010 for Bluegrass Recording. How was it to get that recognition?
CF - We are always thrilled and honored to get that level of recognition by our peers. Wonderful!
MK - Are any of you in any side projects or other bands?
CF - Several of us play in other capacities, either as pick-up musicians in other bands or on other musicians’ records or on other side projects. In fact, every one of us has had *some* side project at some point. We strongly support and encourage this! As musicians, getting out there and playing – in any capacity – is kind of what life is all about.
MK - Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
CF - We play out regularly – once or twice a month. We’re easy to find ( and ticket prices are usually quite reasonable. We’d love to see readers’ faces at an upcoming show!

Call Of The Wild


MikeSOS recently interviewed Johnny Coolati about his new band Call Of The Wild and their new release Leave Your Leather On.

Mike - How did you form and get the name of the band? 

JC - My friend Gregory Stovetop actually thought of it when we were trying to come up with band names a few years ago on the subway. I remember when he said it we both completely lost it because I had just read the book by Jack London and was telling him how I forgot how good a book it was because I hadn't read it since 8th grade. Years later when I moved back to New York after doing a stint in Nashville, Gregory again was sort of the glue. He was having a drink at Daddy's Bar where Allison was serving drinks, on the phone with me trying to convince me to move back to NYC, and Allison overheard him and offered to play drums. Maxwell and I had played together for a bit in short lived projects in NYC before I moved and he was just an obvious pick as bassist. All of us had been friends with each other for a while and it was just good timing.
Mike - When I’m not playing in Call of the Wild, I’m….?
JC - Well, honestly drinking. But I'm taking a break from that. We'll see how it goes. It's hard not to drink but I'm giving it a shot. I'm still a wild man though.  

Mike - How would you best describe your music?
JC - We sound like what it feels like to be eaten alive.... Hard, scary, fast and brutal.
Mike - How does a COTW song get written?
JC - All different ways. Sometimes it will be a joke we're throwing around. Some songs are more personal than others. We all pitch in. In the end everyone contributes.
Mike - Who are some of your influences? Any we’d be surprised with?
JC - For me it's a lot of Thin Lizzy and Motorhead. I also like a lot of old punk bands like the Germs, Wipers and what not. Allison and Max are really into Cock Sparrer right now. I also like them. The Damned is a big one. Early Metallica, Rose Tattoo, you know, tuff guy rock 'n' roll basically.  
Mike - Talk about Leave Your Leather On, who worked on it with you, if there were any interesting experiences that occurred during the recording of it, etc.
JC - We recorded it at Rare Book Room in Greenpoint/Williamsburg area with Nicolas Vernhes. Matt Sweeney (of Chavez, plus a lot of other things) and Jesper Eklow (of Endless Boogie) were there helping out the whole time. Tom Gloady was assisting with things. We recorded it in like 3 days and mixed it in 3 days. Unfortunately I wasn't there for the last day of mixing because my ass was in jail that day -- an undercover cop busted me for some stupid minor shit.
Mike - What sets COTW apart from other bands?
JC - Well, I kinda hate coming off like this but what sets us apart is that it's real. All the songs' subject matters relate to our lives. Hard partying, abusive relationships, movies we like, etc. Track One on Leave Your Leather On is really about the Autobahn in Germany. They drive really fuckin' fast on that sucker. I think a lot of bands try too hard and end up coming off, I don't know... not like us. This is a really hard question to answer sometimes because I'm not trying to come off righteous. But whatever, I'm going to end up sounding that way anyway because I'm doing an interview, haha. We aren't trying to look cool or sexy. This is the way we are. Some people will probably just think we're a bunch of dicks. I'm fine with that. People are entitled to their opinions. I know I'm a nice guy. If someone has a problem with something, keep it to yourself though. I hate it when people try to belittle people. It's one of the only things that can make me lose my temper. I don't like bullies. I root for the underdog always. Call of the Wild are not bullies. We bully the bullies.
Mike - Why should people come see you live?
JC - I don't know. Because we're fun? If you like high energy rock n' roll then yeah, come see us. We won't disappoint.
Mike - Any final words?
JC - Um, hello everybody! Hurray!

Interview By MikeSOS

Vanessa Lively


Singer/songwriter Vanessa Lively is quite of a jack of all trades. In addition to releasing a diverse array of CD's, she is an artist (the cover of her latest CD is one of her paintings), has done volunteer work in South America, worked as a migrant farm worker and much more. I recently talked to her about all of this and here is what she had to say.

MK - Can you give me a little background on you and your music?  

VL - I grew up in San Antonio, TX and when I was in high school, I sang backing vocals for a group called Bucketfunk. Then at 18 I joined a Greek/gypsy band called E Serenes (later called E Muzeki). I was the lead singer for that group and also played tambourine and symbols. It was so much fun participating in those two very different musical acts and I think it really is what sparked the fire inside me to eventually want to pursue my own musical career. 

Growing up, I was very interested in fine art and theatre. I studied under a mentor named Vie Dunn-Harr who taught me most of what I know in the realms of painting. It wasn't until around 2004 when I really started to shift towards music. I knew basic guitar and loved to sing, but writing songs was definitely new territory for me. But once I wrote my first few songs, I was hooked! It felt so good to have this new form of creative expression that totally had a different voice and sound from my other art forms.
I wrote most of my initial songs between 2004 and 2006. They just seemed to come pouring out and I recorded my first album while living in South America. The debut release is actually not available anymore but was such a magical experience for me. And a huge learning experience as well.

MK - How does your songwriting process usually work?
VL - I am not someone who sits down and writes a song in a disciplined manner. I keep a daily journal, and then I write songs when I feel truly moved to do so. When I look back at my journal pages, so many of the words, images and subject matter seemed to be forming for weeks and months prior to the song's creation. So on some level, I feel that I am always aware and always tuned into life - both mine and those around me. 

The songs come out when they are ready. Sometimes they seem to fall from the sky and just pour out and I feel like I am scrambling to jot down all the words, but most times I will have a chorus and verse that I am singing in my head and eventually write down on paper. Other times, I really have something on my heart that I need to express, so I will just sit with the guitar, start playing around and just see what comes out. I am an artist who enjoys playful exploration and the process of creating art. I generally don't sit down with a firm idea or outline of what I am about to do. This is the exact same approach I have to painting. I just pick up a brush, choose some colors and go to town! Then as I go along, I begin forming object, pulling certain things forward, pushing others back and towards the end, I will fine tune, polish and get it to a finished place. But certainly not too soon...since so much of what I enjoy is in the journey.
I have recently been doing a lot of co-writing. This is a totally different and unique approach because we are given a finite amount of time together and really need to sit down and write something. So with this process, my favorite way to approach it is to sit down, chat and get really comfortable with each other and start to be on the same wavelength. Then we start exploring ideas, sharing thoughts and just diving in. It is always unique and always surprising! I find it to be a really fun challenge and very gratifying.

MK - Uncovering Stones is your fourth CD.  How would you say things have progressed since the first one?
VL - My first album Let Me Rise (which was recorded in Quito, Ecuador while I was living and working as a volunteer) had most of my songs written to date on it. I recorded this in 2006 and had not even done a single public concert with my own songs at this time, and so I feel this was a true snapshot of the very beginning of my career. Many of the songs were written while I was living in Ecuador, or just before I moved there. 
Then at the end of 2007, I went to stay with close friends that I met in Quito who were from England. They were both very talented songwriters and musicians, and were a big part of the first recording so it felt very natural to go record the next album (which was titled A Chain Unbroken) in their home studio with their friends. At this point in time, I had spent the last year playing shows all over Austin and had also gone on tour to promote the first album, so I had much more experience performing my songs to people in public. I was excited about all the fun creative collaborations that happened with this record. I also had a lot of time to just record myself and my vocals and really play with it. It was a beautiful time.

MK - Your third disc "Canto Y Cantera" was recorded all in Spanish.  Can you tell me more about that disc?
VL - When it came time to start thinking about a third album, all I knew is that I wanted it to have a broader World music influence. Then shortly after, I heard about the passing of Argentine Mercedes Sosa. She was someone who I had grown to love during my time in South America. She was a mover and a shaker, unafraid to use her powerful voice to make changes in this world. I was very saddened to hear of her passing on Oct. 4, 2009. 

It was right around this time that I decided to put out a tribute album in her honor. I began researching the movement that she was a part of called "La Nueva CanciĆ³n" or New Song. I discovered that so many of the songs and artists I had grown to love were a part of this same movement, which was crying out for social justice in the face of sever government oppression. I found 6 songs that each came from unique artists, places and times and I began learning my own versions of these songs. We recorded right away and had the album released by Spring of the following year (2010).

MK - Can you tell me more about the artwork for your cover and about the process of making it?

VL - Before I began recording my latest album Uncovering Stones, I started thinking of ways to help fund the record.  I really wanted to paint the front cover myself and thought maybe I could sell the artwork.  But selling one piece of art to one person really couldn't do too much to help defer the cost of recording an entire album, so after a bit of thought, I decided to create a large canvas out of many smaller canvasses, then separate them and sell each piece individually.  In the end, the canvas was built of 42 smaller one.  I stapled them together, painted the cover art (which was about 5 feet long & 5 feet wide), then divided it up into the smaller parts.  I sold almost every single canvas and helped raise a good part of the money!  There is a time-lapse video online where people can see the entire painting being created:

MK - Austin is so well-known for it's burgeoning music scene.  As an Austin musician do you feel that's more of a blessing or a curse?
VL - Oh definitely a blessing! I am surrounded by so much talent, amazing artists, venues, organizations who support musicians and a general love for live music. We have a few really awesome organizations here, such as the Austin Music Foundation and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. I am very grateful for these services and much more.
I will say though that it can be very hard to make a living here since there are so many willing to play for free. The paid gigs are few in this town and many are needing to make money with what they do. As a singer-songwriter, I am able to tour listening rooms and smaller venues and make money on the road. And I do make it work here in Austin as well, but it is not always easy.

MK - You lived in South America for awhile.  What kind of influence did that have on your songwriting?
VL - Living in South America had quite a big influence on my writing. Since I mainly write what I see and what I live, that makes anywhere and everywhere I go have a huge impact on my songs. One song called "Further to Fall" was written while I was stuck in the town I lived in because the entire country was experiences widespread striking. The title track "Let Me Rise" was written just after a volcanic eruption that covered the town in ash. The imagery was astounding and I ended up writing about women's struggle to overcome male dominance and oppression that was still very much a part of certain people's lives.

MK - I read about some songwriting workshops you did with kids that resulted in the song "Chocolate Milk, Pickles and Cheese".  Can you tell me more about those workshops and your involvement?

VL - Oh my gosh, how did you hear that? Yes, I did some songwriting workshops with kids in South Austin and decided to do the assignment myself the night before. I picked the piece of paper that read "I love chocolate milk, pickles and cheese" or something like that. I wrote this song very quickly and the kids loved it. I later made a video that I posted on YouTube acting out the song with food. It's all pretty silly! And I actually really do love chocolate milk with a grilled cheese & pickle sandwich! Around the time I wrote this song and recorded the video, I ate so many pickle, cheese & mustard sandwiches!  (Here is the video link:
MK - I was reading on your facebook about some recent co-writing sessions with various other songwriters.  Is there a plan for these songs?
VL - I have actually been thinking about releasing an entire album of co-writes. I do most of my co-writes with a wonderful program here in Austin called The House of Songs. It is an exchange program of sorts where artists from other countries come here with the purpose of writing songs with Austin artists. Since so many of my co-writes are with folks from Denmark I had wanted to make this album happen before my recent tour in Europe, but my focus turned to releasing Uncovering Stones which had been picked up by a label in The Netherlands.  I am still continuing to do a lot of these co-writing sessions and hope to put together an album soon....we'll see!

MK - It's been over a year since Uncovering Stones was released.  Do you have any plans for the next CD?
VL - Well if the co-write album doesn't come together, then I will most likely put out another album of my own songs soon. I am spending a lot of time now taking a look at my half-finished songs of the past year. I was very busy touring this past year and I am not so good at slowing down to write when I am performing so lately I have been collecting all the recordings and lyric sheets to do some fine tuning and see what happens.

MK - What are your plans for 2013?

VL - I will be heading back to Europe in the fall once again and will also have some tours around the U.S. I think it will be a year of writing, playing and having fun yet again! I am always so grateful for the life I live and just hope I can sustain it for as long as possible...I have a great city to call home, so many wonderful friends and family nearby and absolutely love all that is around me. I get to enjoy the simple pleasures when I am at home, such as gardening, yoga classes, long walks & coffee and then hit the road for new adventures and wonderful new friends along the way!

MK - Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
VL - I always like to tell people not to be afraid of living the life they want to live. We are here on this Earth to share our talents and gifts with each other and try to make the world a better place wherever we are and however we can...and it can be simple just figure out what makes you excited and what you are most passionate about and then live it!
That's all. Thank you for the interview!

Vanessa Lively
Austin, TX
Interview By Geoff Melton 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Trouble With Templeton


With the very first song he released, Australia's Thomas Calder (aka The Trouble With Templeton) has become one of my favorites and his aforementioned debut "Bleeders", has shot to the top of my favorite songs of 2011. I've since had the chance to hear a few more of his songs and am eagerly awaiting the release of his upcoming debut CD. I recently had the chance to talk to him about "Bleeders", the upcoming CD and his plans for the new year.

MK - Can you give me a little background on yourself?

TTWT - I started writing music as a young teenager and dropped out of school at age 16. I’m also a photographer and actor, and I come from an incredibly creative and supportive family.

MK - Why did you decide to go with a band name as opposed to just using your name?

TTWT - I wanted the project to be about more than just the concept of one person’s expression. I want the music to be like a world you visit when you put your headphones on. I think a moniker gives the project a much larger scope and gives the music much more mystery to get lost in. hope that makes sense! I’m sure it doesn’t.

MK - The Trouble With Templeton was the name of a Twilight Zone episode. I'm assuming that's where the name came from. Why did you choose that?

TTWT - The Twilight Zone is one of my favourite shows of all time.  Rod Serling is a huge Idol of mine.  I've always loved the Episode titles, and in particular "The Trouble With Templeton" was just one I've always thought would make a great band name.  The episode itself has a strong sense of nostalgia and whimsy, which are elements I think are also apparent in the music I write. 

MK - Since most people reading this have most likely not heard you yet, how would you describe The Trouble with Templeton and who would you say are your biggest influences?

TTWT - I find that question very hard to answer because it’s so different from song to song. I try to shy away from putting the music in any “genre. The only way I know how to describe it is to say I try to write honestly about my thoughts and experiences, I love language and the lyrics and melody are the most important aspect of a song to me. I hope the result ends up being something thoughtful and passionate. This record in particular really wears its heart on its sleeve. In terms of influences, there’s so many! The Beatles of course, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Death Cab For Cutie, Elliott Smith, Bonnie Prince Billy (to name a few!) I’m influenced a lot by Film. Buster Keaton, Rod Serling, Woody Allen and Tim Burton are some of my Heroes. Photographers too, Richard Avedon, Elliott Erwitt, argh I’ll stop now.

MK - I want to congratulate you on the song "Bleeders". For me it's a definite frontrunner for best song of the year. I'm also extremely impressed with the video. Can you tell me about that?

TTWT - First of all thank you so much for the kind words. Secondly the video was directed by my brother Josh Calder. We both had some ideas to bring to the table and worked together to create a concept we were both happy with. I couldn’t be happier with the end result and the feedback and support for the video so far has been overwhelming.

MK - What is your typical songwriting process?

TTWT - It differs from song to song really, I usually start on guitar. I find a chord structure or set of notes that interest me, then I start exploring a melody. I improvise and explore words to fill in the melody and then slowly a meaning or direction reveals itself and I start to properly write the lyrics. Some songs are harder to write than others, some just come out and it’s this incredible spontaneous release. Others take weeks, months, sometimes years. It’s usually a very different process for each song.

MK - You're getting ready to release your debut full-length release. What can you tell me about that? Also, are you self-releasing it or is there a label involved? Will it be available everywhere?

TTWT - There’s no label involved, but I’m releasing with the help of a wonderful Distribution company here in Australia called “MGM Distribution”. It will be available physically all around Australia and digitally throughout the world via iTunes, Amazon e.t.c.

MK - You currently have a limited edition EP, Swell, that you are selling at tour dates and through bandcamp. It has 2 tracks from the upcoming disc and 2 that won't be on there. Do you have any plans to make those 2 non-album tracks available as downloads at some point?

TTWT - Not any time in the foreseeable future. Those songs were recorded especially for the EP and I’d like to keep them exclusive for the people who decide to purchase them.

MK - Do you have a band for your live shows or is it all just you?

TTWT - Eventually I’ll be putting together a band but for the time being It’s just myself and female vocalist, Betty Yeowart. The music I write usually involves a lot of additional instrumentation, but when it came time to start touring and playing the songs from this record, it just didn’t feel right with a band. I made every aspect of the album alone so I guess it makes sense that I felt the best way to represent the songs live was by myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love playing acoustically and playing to a room full of people with nothing but a guitar and your voice really kicks you into getting confident in who you are quick smart.

The Perms


Over the course of fourteen years the Canadian trio The Perms have put out five discs of infectious power pop music. I recently talked to the band about their latest CD Sofia Nights, the impressive European response to their music, their plans for 2012 and more.

MK - Can you give me a rundown of the band's history?

The Perms - The band started in 1998 in Brandon, Manitoba Canada. After, releasing our first record in 1998 and achieving a notable buzz, the band decided to move to Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada to concentrate on recording and touring. The band proceeded to record four more albums and tour across Canada.

MK - The band has been together since 1998 and Sofia Nights is your fifth disc. How would you say your sound has progressed from that debut to now?

The Perms - Well the songwriting is more thought out. We spend more time arranging, re-writing and experimenting with this last record.

MK - How does your songwriting process tend to work?

The Perms - Usually someone comes in with an idea, maybe a riff or most of a song and we just start jamming it out until we have come up with the basic idea for the song. We then go on to demo the song a few times to listen back and come up with more ideas.

MK - How do you think you've managed to stay together for so many years?
The Perms - Well we all love playing music, we all love playing live and creating music and we all are very easy going. No egos in this band.

MK - Looking through your archives of tour dates I don't see anything in the US. Why have you never played here and do you have plans to ever play here?

The Perms - It is very difficult to tour in the United States when your from Canada. There is alot of paperwork that needs to be completed and they have very bizarre rules and regulations about when you play and how far in advance you have to book. We have concentrated our efforts on Europe which is easier to tour and you don't have to go through all the red tape. So no plans to tour the United States in the next little bit.

MK - You did some dates in Europe last year. How was that experience and what was the response like?

The Perms - The response was amazing. It was refreshing to play in front of a new audience. The fans that came out were there to listen. It was a humbling experience. When we playing in Bulgaria it was especially humbling because we were treated with the VIP experience and the fans were so polite and responsive to our music. Were planning to go back in September.

MK - The Internet has completely changed the music industry since you started. What are your thoughts on the impact of the Internet on the music world?

The Perms - Well, the Internet has definitely played in our favor. We're able to get our music out to more people, we're able to communicate with our current fans and make new fans through social marketing sites. When we first started the band we were hand writing our mailing list newsletters. Things have changed. As far as piracy goes, it hasn't hurt us. We make money in other areas of the music business.

MK - I read that you consider yourself power pop and I would definitely agree with that. I have been a longtime fan of power pop, but to me it's never really gotten it's just due. Do you have any thoughts on why power pop has never been huge?

The Perms - Not really sure why, it hasn't taken on that commercial success that other genres have achieved but I guess that's kind of why I like powerpop music. It's only known by a small amount of music fans

MK - What are your plans for 2012?

The Perms - Tour of Europe in May 2012, Tour of Bulgaria September 2012, tour of Canada Oct 2012 and releasing album #6.

MK - Do you have anything else you would like to share with readers?

The Perms - You can check us out at

Interview By Geoff Melton


The Hello Strangers


I recently had the chance to talk to Larissa Chace Smith, one of the two sisters that head up the The Hello Strangers about the band, their transformation from an Austin duo to a Pennsylvania based 5-piece, their recent victory in the Airplay Direct Win An Americana Record Deal, plans for a new disc and more.

MK - Can you give me a band history?

LCS - Brechyn and I started The Hello Strangers in Austin, TX in 2006 as a duo, writing songs similar to the roots rock and country folk material that we heard so much while living down there. My husband, Ryan Smith, and I decided to move back to our hometown of Mercersburg in July 2007. It was a split-second decision made mostly because we were homesick and wanted to see what living back home would be like. Brechyn moved back home a few months later for similar reasons. We are very happy we did. We had wanted a full band since we started the project, so once we were settled at home we began the task of searching for musicians. Dave Holzwarth was an obvious choice since we had played music with him in the past, we knew him from childhood, and he expressed interest in playing with us again. Katie O'Neil (class of 1997) was another easy choice since she and I were old friends and classmates and she was interested in joining the band as drummer. Kevin Shannon, our guitarist was a friend of a friend and was looking to join in on a project like ours. It all fell together quite easily, as if it was kismet.

MK - I read that you don't write songs together. What can you tell me about the songwriting process?

LCS - Perhaps it's not that we don't write songs together, but usually don't start the collaboration process until one of us has started the melody or lyrics. Once we have a foundation, we get together and arrange the rest of the song, adding harmonies and finishing touches.

MK- What's the story behind the EP title "Introducing Max Schmidt"?

LCS - Max Schmidt is lovingly called our "band mascot." He is our accordion, named after the original owner, Max Schmidt from San Francisco, CA. Our bassist bought him at an estate sale when he lived out there in the 80s. He appears on several of our songs and is well-known by our local following.

MK - I read that you have a new disc in the works. What can we expect?

LCS - The new disc includes several years of songwriting that has yet to be showcased aside from at our gigs. We plan to include a variety of Americana gems, from a rowdy number called "What It Takes To Break a Heart" to a Townes-Van-Zandt-esque sentimental tune called "Never Roam Again." The plans are still in the works, and now that we are working with Steve Ivey at IMI Music, much could change over the next year before we plan to release the album.

MK - You recently won the "Airplay Direct Win an Americana Record Deal". Can you tell me a little about that and what that means for the band?

LCS - When we applied for the contest in November, we never expected to hear anything back. Then a few weeks ago we found out that we were in the top 5, and shortly thereafter, that we won! We describe it as winning the contest of a lifetime. How often do you win a contest like this, really? So it is at once surreal, thrilling, exciting, humbling, and a bit frightening. We are going to have the opportunity to work with an amazing team of professionals on a project that we had already begun, the release of our first full-length album. Now we will have access to innumerable resources that we never would have at the grassroots level from which we have been operating for the past 5 years.

MK - You do a lot of interesting covers live. Have you given any thought to recording any of them?

LCS - It has come up with Steve Ivey, but we will most likely focus this first album on our original songwriting.

MK - You released an EP in 2006, but I couldn't find much info on that. What can you tell me about it?

LCS - This was a demo that we recorded with the help of a friend while we were still living in Austin. This was when The Hello Strangers was still just Larissa and Brechyn. We had a small collection of originals that we were eager to record, plus a Ginn Sisters cover. We never intended to sell it, so we simply used it briefly as a demo before releasing our official EP with the full band in 2009.

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

LCS - Our songs are a combination of two sisters' real life experiences and imaginations running amuck. What we are most proud of in our music is the stories we tell. We hope everyone enjoys hearing them as much as we enjoy telling them.

Interview By Geoff Melton