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.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
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 - How do you think you've managed to stay together for so many years?
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 - 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?
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
TM - Well we have been working on this for about 4 years..... i have had other things goin on too... and family stuff .. so its just the way it turned out really.
MK - How does the songwriting process tend to work on your collaborations with Dario?
TM - Dario sends me riffs in the shape of songs ..... verse chorus bridge stuff..... but i usually cut them up and make them into tracks that i can work with then write the melodies and lyrics... if neccessary i add sections to make it work and send it back... then Dario records it with various musicians and then mixes it all together.... very relaxed and easy way of working.
MK - With all the different bands and projects you've been involved with over the years does your lyric writing process ever change much to fit what you're working on?
TM - er..... interesting....... let me think..... ok the process doesnt
change..... the lyrics change but not the process.... so the answer is no.
MK - Do you and Dario have any plans to do any touring to support The Third Cage?
TM - he does... but i'm not privvy to those ideas and arrangements.... i cant see me taking part in it much to be honest.
MK - I've seen mention several places of an unreleased solo disc from you called Book Of Shadows. Is there any word on it's release?
TM - yes.... it is still on my wish list ..... i started it and got about half
way done... Book of Shadows is the story of a persons life.... and the shadows clearly are the past events.... the individual tracks are meant to represent stages through that life. How the person responds and feels about others and things that have happened.... it still needs completing but the idea is all there. but the industry is such these days that i am uncertain if i should even bother.... essentialy music is just lost these days and i cant see the point in making all the effort that go's into making it just for it to be stolen or given away....
MK - Are you currently working on any other projects?
TM - I am... I have 5 things running... and as they appear I will be happy to let you know and talk to you about them...
MK - What's your take on the upcoming Black Sabbath reunion?
TM - I have no feelings toward it one way or the other... clearly its one of the few original line ups still able to work and thats worth considering... but time will tell if its a good move. **note - this interview took place before the reunion fell apart**
MK - The Internet has completely changed the music business since you started. What are your thoughts on that?
TM - This is a HUGE huge question!!!!!!!!!!!!! And i'm not sure you will have the space or the will to read the answer!!!!!!!! ........... the internet is only part of the change...... to be honest its not the internet so much as the people that ABUSE it .... The internet is a wonderful thing..... and the tech is wonderful, we love the technology that is not the problem either..... the problem is the emergence of people WILLING AND ABLE to steal other peoples work and either sell it or give it away for free.... Music is NOT FOR FREE!!! .... And the change now has to come from the artists....... it has got to the point where WE have to take control of our work..... In the past we needed labels to get our physical product in the form of vinyl or cd's around the world..... we dont need that anymore.... Time for US to use the internet to distribute our work.... a lot are already doing that.... But also... we need to change the contracts we sign.... most people that live off the back of music are STILL taking the same percentages that they always did.... it makes sure THEY are ok but leaving the artist with less and less..... The thought that giving music away for free somehow makes it better for sales is a myth..... when all the people that ARE interested in your work have got it for free there is hardly anyone else left to sell it to!!... Stop giving music away for FREE its not working..... Bands are doing free shows and pay to play shows these days.... it gets rid of the risk for the promoter and venue.... but means the artist gets nothing.... while the venue get to sell other stuff like alcohol.... and the promoters have
discovered it is posible to make some money on merchandise and CHARGE for the simple task of selling it.... in my experience across the world promoters have taken from me between 20 and 50%!!!!!!!!! of the merch revenue .. just to stand there and sell it... Stop working for FREE.. its not working..... if you want to know the reasons why... its the same reasons that have ALWAYS been there.... it is too tempting for humans to get something for free.... and when you have given it,... you will be expected to give it away next time and the time after that etc.... that clearly can't continue. I made the same mistakes.... when i had my solo band i did a whole year making a loss so that we could "introduce" the act to the various territories..... on top of the loss i had idiot promoters that cost us money and then on the return when we were supposed to be making more of it..... we were told "Well you did it for 20 bucks last year you really need to do it for 10 bucks this year.... !".... Add that to the fact that there is no control over show appearance these days. The appearance is video'd and put on youtube whether you like it or not.... we don't have the opportunity to release the best performance ... it's warts and all voyeurism now..... in the past we had controls on what equipment was taken into concerts..... for some reason that has gone its easy to see what the problems are ..... and i believe the artists have to start taking control and get these things corrected...... Stop giving music away for free.... stop working for free ... dont sign contracts that take 25% or 20% .. make it 15 or 10%.... refuse to pay promoters between 20 and 50 % to sell merch .. make it 10% ... insist on concert controls and ban phones and cameras in concerts like it used to be.... i can hear gasps of horror at the thought..... the horror is ... Music is a worthless art these days.... its time to put the worth back into the art.... The last part that is essential ... is attitude....... people have got the attitude that it's ok for artists to get nothing out of the work we do.... its not ok.... not in any other profession would you be expected to work for free!!.... unless you are in a charity .. responsibility lies with us to show people that the product they buy is something they should treasure and respect...... instead it's become throw away art.... When you buy an album its yours for LIFE!!!!!!!!!!! We don't insist you pay something every time you PLAY it!!!.... unlike the cinema for example... you pay every time you go to see the film. If we dont make the changes and recover the art of music... it will be flooded by useless uninteresting bands and unprofessional products with more and more cover acts and rediculous antics to gain our attention ....... wait..... does that sound familiar??
MK - I was checking out your facebook page and it looks like you are really involved and keep in touch with your fans really well. Do you enjoy having that direct connection with them?
TM - ...... its a vital part of my belief that a new contract is to happen.. that with the fans and consumer ..... a more direct and personal sell ... and in return they agree to be guardians of the music they own. I still see those willing to give stuff away but increasingly i see more people getting the message of ownership and being part of it. It means spending more time with them and that can be a very cool experience..... i would warn against letting your guard down too much, there are lots of idiots out there too..... but in most situations you are able to block those that become too invasive.... I also seem to have become someone of advice.... people seem to get some comfort from the experience i have gathered in my life and thats cool.
MK - Are there any current bands out there that you are listening to?
TM - listen to everything...... From Ramstein to Foo fighters .. Radio head to Elgar!!!!!! ........ not many get me to turn off the sound !!!!!.....
|PARALLEL PLAY |
With their debut release "The Floor's Made Of Lava!" Dallas' Parallel Play make their mark with their own brand of Folk music. I recently talked with guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Drake about the band's history, their CD, their unique choices in covers and a whole lot more.
MK - Can you give me a band history?
JD - A divorce lead to alot of songwriting. So myself (Jeremy Drake) played these songs for Jason Miears and he then made the wise decision to buy a banjo off ebay. About a year into it we met Tomy Lee who would take up upright bass and would later engineer and produce our first album. The band was ready to evolve into something bigger and this became the time for Jason who had a love for music as a hobby to step aside and let us make a shot at making it a career. Tomy being a sound wizard instantly became our new banjoist. His former bandmate, Erin Gayden, would become our new upright player (super female bass player UPGRADE!) and a new friend I made through Assassination City Roller Derby, Pappy McCall, would become our percussionist. I have to say percussionist because there are chimes present. At some point it stops being a drum set, right? Therefore you're not a drummer. He's more of a commander in a fortress of hittable things.
MK - If you read through reviews of your CD you see references to alternative, 60's pop, folk, bluegrass... How do you describe your music?
JD - All of the above! I like to say folk alternative. Its bluegrass instrumentation with a 60's pop song structure and a 90's grunge mindset. That sound not really having a home, we decided to invade the folk genre and claim it for ourselves. FOLK ON!
MK - I noticed that there have been some lineup changes since you recorded "The Floor's Made Of Lava!". How has that affected your sound?
JD - I got really lucky meeting the individuals I have. They like it, they get it and its a sweat covered stage where we folk. The album was recorded with three musicians, Sound Wizard Tomy Lee playing bass and drums. Now having 4 unique people playing it live, there's another layer of energy to our music and we can't wait to capture it on disc.
MK - You have a couple of really cool covers on the CD with Green Day's "Pulling Teeth" and The Cranberries "Linger". What goes into your decision in choosing a cover? Do you do any others in your live show?
JD - "Pulling Teeth" was pure accident. Jason wrote a banjo riff and we later figured out what chord progression he was playing and put it on top of the recording. "Linger" came to me while in the car and I realized how different and cool it would be if a dude sang it.
As for what we cover, its a lengthy process. We try to do 90s but we make some 80s exceptions. There has to be something about the song the banjo can imitate. We're not a big fan of treating the banjo as an ambient instrument finger rolling chords all day, we instead treat it as an electric guitar taking the front of the song and creating melodies. We also like if there's some memorable harmony parts already in the cover.
We prefer to choose songs no one ever covers, not bad songs just forgotten songs (or the ones you pretend you don't like). Sometimes its a song that I loved but no one dares try to cover.
Our current roster includes: Gin Blossoms "Found Out About You" (going on the next album), Weezer "Surf Wax America", Golden Earring "Twilight Zone", Hall and Oates "Maneater", Tom Petty "Don't Do Me Like That", Human League "Don't You Want Me Baby", The Killers "Mr. Brightside" and The Cure "Just Like Heaven".
MK - How does your songwriting process work?
JD - Sometimes the riff comes first like it did with "Fighting For" our opening track on The Floor's Made of Lava! Sometimes a line comes first as it did in "Your Kiss".
Imprints of Your Kiss make trouble
Your lips should have missed but I'm terrible
With permittin' when I should be committin'
I thought of that and knew I had a song. My process is very mathematical. If you like at those top two lines, I have three cases of near rhymes happening on the same syllables with exception to the third which I found ironic because its terrible to rhyme "terrible" and "trouble". So to take it even further the top two lines in the next two verses keep the same near rhyme syncapation with the delayed third rhyme followed by a third line with two quick rhymes. Symmetry of rhymes is pleasing to my ears.
MK - You list Tom and Jerry as one of your influences. Can you elaborate on that?
JD - Besides having a fantastic orchestral soundtrack, the episode "Solid Serenade" where Tom sings "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" is responsible for my early childhood introduction to the power of music. I then spent most of my life as a bass player before my Parallel Play 5-string acoustic guitar days.
MK - What can you tell me about Perpendicular Stop?
JD - Back in the duo days we would take out anger during our shows to our fabricated bizzaro archnemesis, Perpendicular Stop. We haven't heard much from those evil folkers lately, though I fear the day bizzaro Pappy debuts me an ass beating.
MK - I love the artwork on your concert posters on your website. What's the story behind those?
JD - Leesie Pool, my fiance, believes if you want to excel to the levels of rock gods then your posters require hot red heads on them. Its a tried and true method. I've gotten gigs from agents based on our posters alone.
MK - I noticed that most of the live dates I read about were in Texas or that vicinity. Do you have any plans to do any more extensive touring?
JD - We've done several festivals in Oklahoma and we headed to Arkansas for New Year's Eve. There's lots to conquer in those three states for now but we'd like to make our way as far east as North Carolina and fill in everything inbetween. Louisiana and shooting up north to Kansas and Missouri are our likely next steps.
MK - What other plans do you have for 2012?
JD - Our YouTube series What the Folk! will start in the upcoming months which wil feature us folking up other people's songs. We're throwing our first festival in March, Deep Ellum's BIG FOLKING FESTIVAL. We're also starting on our second CD with the working title, Take Your Pants Off!
MK - Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
JD - The Floor's Mad of Lava! is best listened to loud and on repeat. FOLK ON!
The North Hollywood based duo Harlequin Jones has recently released their 2nd EP The Bad Beginning (currently available for free on their soundcloud page), showcasing their fascinating dark amalgamation of blues, punk and cabaret. I recently had a chance to talk to Amanda von Loon about the band, their new EP, future plans and a little more.
HJ - My name is Amanda von Loon and I sing and play piano. Jesse Arcadio plays drums and any extra instruments like bass and guitar on recordings. We met all the way back in high school and started playing music together when we were about 18. We drifted apart for a few years, but then rejoined and officially formed Harlequin Jones around 2005. Originally I had songs that were too abstract and Jesse came along and helped mold them into something more cohesive plus adding drums. It was really just an experiment to see where things might go. We really learned how to play our instruments by playing together. We were musicians beforehand, but I was new to piano and he was new to drums. Ever since then we have been playing music together.
MK - It was 5 years between your 2 EP's. How do you think the band has evolved over that time?
HJ - The band has definitely gotten more aggressive and has more attitude with this new EP The Bad Beginning. The structure is a little more pop and more catchy in my opinion. The first EP came from a very sad, hurt place. That sounds pathetic, but it was a very “nobody loves me”, insecure, self loathing place. The new EP is moreabout feeling misunderstood, trying to get rid of wreckage of the past, trying to stay sane while struggling to live life. The song “Worried Ugly” is the most positive song. Its actually a love song about how everything almost went wrong but despite all the ugliness, a good thing came to be from the ashes of other disasters. “Will O’ The Wisp” is about how some people will never understand where you're coming from or the depth of what you've been through. Kind of like how some people will understand these songs and some people will never get it.
MK - What can you tell me about your songwriting process?
HJ - Some songs I can remember writing, and some I can not. They usually start out as a lyrics. I remember writing the song “Unsought.” It was about starting a new relationship but being stuck in how old, bad, abusive relationships had been. Its also somewhat a pep talk to myself to get off my ass and make this new thing work. Usually I write a song because I feel horrible and need perspective into how to make things better. Or how to admit things to myself that I do not want to face. Sometimes its the only way to contain insanity.
MK - You posted demos online before your new EP was recorded and asked for feedback. How much does that input from fans affect the final song?
HJ - We didn't mean for there to be such a long period between posting the demos and the actual EP coming out. There was always a clear vision of how we wanted things to sound, but so much got in the way of releasing the EP. We recorded it multiple times! The recording would either get lost, whoever recorded would disappear with the copy, we had to rerecord it once because it wasn't good enough. The feedback from the demos we posted kept me encouraged to keep trying to finish the new EP. People were actually sharing it with each other and starting a buzz. I don't know if I could have stayed motivated with this batch of songs if I didn't know people were enjoying the demos. The feedback kept me going.
MK - You recently added a couple of new songs to your soundcloud, "Skull Cave" demo and "Home To Call Home". Do you have any future plans for those songs?
HJ - Yes, they are going to be on our full length that we have begun making demos for. We usually make quite a few demos of a song. Those previously mentioned demos are just vocals and piano. Next we will do another one with drums. We still have about 10 other songs to do. I feel like were better musicians now and can produce music a lot quicker than the old EPs.
MK - You've self released your 2 EP's. Are you interested in going the label route or do you prefer doing it yourself?
HJ - The thing about labels is, they don't care about us. We are hard to brand and a lot of labels don't want to take a chance with that. There was actually a label that offered to put out The Bad Beginning but as soon as we started communicating and sending them the music they stopped talking to us. I don't know what happened with them, but it was a blessing because we ended up rerecording the vocals which are much better than they were before. We self release our material because depending on anyone else always fails.
MK - Since it's just the 2 of you do you keep the translation to live performances in mind when you record your songs?
HJ - We try to make our recordings sound live. We always write with the live performance in mind. We never have any part of the song rely on an instrument that we won't have when playing live. It would be nice to add a bunch of layers of other instruments, but we wouldn't be able to reproduce it in a live setting. It's all about the live show. For two people, we can really fill in a lot of space.
MK - I read that you were initially a 3-piece. How did the evolution from 3-piece to 2-piece change things?
HJ - Although we recorded the first EP as a 3-piece, it was always just the two of us that wrote the songs. We experimented with a string of different bass players. They just never fit in really. So for the new EP we just decided to have Jesse play the bass instead of have someone else come in to do it. We really just simplified.
MK - You recently recorded a cover of Amy Winehouse's "Some Unholy War". Since you just have the 2 EP's do you round out your live shows with unreleased originals or covers and if you do any other covers what are some of the songs you cover?
HJ - Not until recently have we begun doing covers. We are rooted in blues so we've started rehearsing old blues standards. Sometimes I can't write what I'm feeling but someone else has already done the job for me. I'm very influenced by the old 1920s-30s singer Bessie Smith. She could really wail. I also love Nina Simone. We've just figured out how to play "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and "I Aint Got Nobody." I feel like I'm the only American who loves Amy Winehouse. She's made me a better singer so we HAD to cover "Some Unholy War." I don't think a fans appreciated it. Weactually have enough original material when we play live shows, but I think we're going to start switching it up and adding some songs where Jesse plays guitar and just sing covers instead of always playing for every song.
MK - What are your plans for 2012?
HJ - I'm going to be very disappointed if we don't record and release the full length were working on. That's my number one goal for the year. I want to get out of Los Angeles and tour. We really don't fit in in LA. Its really hard to book shows. LA's got no HJ love. I want more people to know about Harlequin Jones because I feel like we have a lot to share.
MK- Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers?
HJ - I think I've already talked your ear off and said too much. I can go on forever. Its hard to shut up.
Interview By Geoff Melton