Independent Clauses (IC): Who are your major influences (musicians to your music and movie or TV stars to your look and painters to the way your apartment looks)?
Steven Luscher of Lakefield (SL): We think we’re pretty transparent with respect to our influences. Kate and I are big fans of Mates of State, and we place our guy/girl harmonies front and centre accordingly. Another guy/girl duo we love is Stars’ Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell; we love the way they weave stories in their back-and-forth way, atop epic cinematic arrangements. Lakefield’s visual aesthetic is mostly my doing. I’m a fan of capital-M: modernism, minimalism, and high-concept design, which should be evident when looking at things like the brand system on all of our albums, posters, and press materials, or our “Awkward Turtle” and “Camping With Bears” photoshoots. It’s less punk rawk and more Dwell magazine.
IC: Does Vancouver have a lot to do with your lyrics?
SL: For most of us, having moved to Vancouver counts as a pretty significant life-event. This city means so much to me; I’m sure that no matter what I write a song about, something about this place, or an experience that I had here will sneak its way in.
IC: Do past relationships have a lot to do with your lyrics?
SL: It seems that way, doesn’t it? You know, I’ve heard people refer to our debut album Sounds From The Treeline as a breakup album. I would tend to agree, though even I can’t tell you who’s being broken up with; those secrets will die with Kate.
IC (aside): Well, Blood on the Tracks….
IC: Who’s your go to for fiction/or creative writing? Authors, TV writers, loudmouths, comedians?
SL: I’m about to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, a book about living in a modern surveillance state (so, you know, real life). Have you seen the bit where Russell Brand roasts MSNBC’s anchors for being an embarrassment to journalism? It’s poetic. And of course, all of us go nuts for Louis CK.
I’ve never seen anything Russell Brand has ever done. Louis CK is the bread, butter, plate, and table… yes.
IC: Does having a major influence (I saw this on Facebook and they happen to be one of my favorite bands ever) like Mineral leave you feeling a bit pigeonholed as maybe a leftover emo-era-sounding (this is not a critique or a criticism. This was very much so MY big coming of age genre: the late 90’s emo-indie bands) and expound, please. Or, have you never felt this way at all or heard this before?
SL: Recently, in conversation with a well-respected Vancouver area producer, I had a small epiphany. He warned me that I’ve been writing music for a very narrow audience of people like me: musicians. Most people who listen to music are, generally speaking, not musicians. They don’t hear music the way a musician does – thankfully, some might say. Where I might perceive a reference, a mistake, or a cliché, most might hear a summer’s day, a first kiss, or nothing at all. Puzzled though I am at the fact that bands like Mineral, Battles, Cornelius, The Appleseed Cast, and American Football aren’t massive commercial success stories, maybe it’s because they just don’t resonate with the masses like they do with me. I accept that as a criticism of Lakefield; though we’re undoubtedly more pop than emo, in some small way I’ve been writing music that my 19-year-old musician-self would love. And let me tell you, there aren’t enough of my 19-year-old self left to turn Lakefield into an international success story today.
IC: Also, I think the vocals in Lakefield sound akin to and maybe are written to sound very much in the JeJune and Rainer Maria vein. Again… just what I’m hearing (not necessarily even going to make it into my review).
SL: I flew from Vancouver to New York City to see Rainer Maria’s farewell show at the Bowery Ballroom. When I was 17 years old, my band opened for Rainer Maria at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto – Caithlin said that she loved my band. I saw Rainer Maria’s very first show in Vancouver. If you hear Rainer Maria in Lakefield, it’s because they’re in my blood.
I have some funny stories about running into Rainer Maria a bunch in my past, too. I’ll save them for another time, though.
IC: Are you all married or single or happily involved? If not, do you meet a lot of hotties because you make music… or because you’re at bars more than an average person (performing)… or after performing (after a sweaty rave-up or after an awkward stage to front two rows too-long eye contact)?
SL: The band elected Bryan to be the official Lakefield hottie. Whenever there were Hott™ duties to perform, we could count on Bryan to come through.
IC: Who’s the most famous musician you’ve ever met? Is there a story there?
SL: I’ve been backstage / around back with Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Slean, Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), and Hayden. The entire Appleseed Cast stayed at my house once, on their way through Vancouver. I won’t name the musician, but once an industry friend of mine took me backstage to meet someone famous (well… Canada-famous anyway). The musician thought we had met before – I have this face that everyone thinks they’ve seen somewhere – and I replied, without hesitation: “not in real life.” My industry friend doesn’t talk to me anymore.
I bet it was Anne Murray. In fact, I KNOW it was.
IC: Why did you start writing songs? The catalyst?
SL: I remember watching Daniel Johns from Silverchair play on Saturday Night Live when I was a kid. My face was 3 centimeters from the screen, and I was soaking it up. Here was a young band, playing three-chord ditties to a massive audience, and I remember thinking: “I can do that.”
IC: I remember seeing Jawbox on 120 Minutes on MTV, and being like… what you just said, but more chords, and all jangly and shouty. I wanted to shout.
In my humble opinion, this conversation IS the review of Lakefield’s new album Swan Songs. Here are a few blurbable blurbs about it. The lead track, “Good Guy,” grabs the listener so tightly. You can’t touch Kate’s voice on this song. She’s “sorry for this heartache, but it’s all for you.” This reviewer’s favorite track is “Your Conviction Is So Sweet.” “Don’t give up before the end of this song;” if one did, they’d miss a powerful denouement. The guitars light up, and the keys and drums kick like a corrected toddler…like the last few beats of a heart once in love. Lakefield is a really focused band with great songs and, most importantly, great vocals. They tug at one’s heartstrings a lot, so get ready for that. Hear their new album, Swan Songs, when it comes out. There’s a count-down clock on their website. Exciting!–Gary Lee Barrett
Angst goes in waves, and surely there has been an outpouringof angstabout music recently. People want to pay less and less for music, at the same that it’s becoming more and more important to us via portable listening that allows integration of music and daily life with unprecedented ease. However, Soundsupply wants you to pay for music. Granted, it’s 10 albums for 15 dollars, which is less than one CD was going for in the heyday of the big major label. Still, I can guarantee bands get paid better than $0.06, which is what 10 streams on Spotify will get you. If you’re lucky. When you go buy one of Soundsupply’s bimonthly Drops, you’re paying for hand-picked music from the guys who introduced me to The Felix Culpa (Tim and Eric Mortensen ran Common Cloud Records, which released Commitment all those years ago) instead of ripping off bands. I’ll take that every time.
Tim graciously responded to a request for an e-mail interview, where he expounds on how Soundsupply is doing its thing to help out in the crazy world of the new music industry.
My brother Eric and I started Soundsupply after closing down the record label we had been running for a few years. We wanted it to be easier for bands to be discovered. The old days of buying an album you picked up in a store simply because you liked the cover art are almost over. Soundsupply is our attempt to bring back music discovery through ownership.
2. How do you find/pick bands for Soundsupply?
A lot of the bands we’ve worked with so far have been friends (or friends of friends), which made it easier to get started. Pitching the idea without any evidence that it would work is less difficult if it’s to someone who has slept on your floor when touring.
We choose bands who have enough similarities that there’s a chance that if you like one of the 10 albums in a Drop, you’d probably like most of them. We like to spotlight hard-working bands who tour a lot and are doing something unique.
3. What’s in the current drop?
Drop 3 is our widest variety of artists so far. We’ve got some more well-known bands like Hellogoodbye, The Dear Hunter, The Get Up Kids and Asobi Seksu. There’s some under the radar bands like The Small Cities, Young Statues and Tall Ships, who all NEED to be heard. We’ve got some heavier stuff like Pianos Become The Teeth. Some lighter stuff with Via Audio. And Gobotron continues a trend from Drop 2 of an album made by a member of Manchester Orchestra. There’s also two amazing, potential bonus EPs by Wildlife Control and Bearcat.
4. What is your payment model for consumers?
We try to keep it simple. You can purchase the Drop for $15 and it comes with both MP3 and FLAC formats, or you can purchase a Year Supply, which is the next 6 Drops (or 60 full length albums) for just $75. With the Year subscription, you also get all Bonus releases included and you can download each Drop a day before it goes on sale to the public.
5. How do bands get paid?
Each bands make an as-large-as-possible cut of the purchase price. It’s definitely a deep discount from their normal gain from an album, but given the quantities we deal with in a 10 day period, it’s a good experience for everyone. The main goal is exposure. Each band gains the chance to get their album in the hands (or iPods) of a bunch of music fans looking to discover their new favorite band.
6. How have the previous drops gone?
The first two Drops went really great. The bands we got to include were all fantastic. The biggest thing for us is the community that is starting to develop around the idea of Soundsupply. Anytime someone comments that they can’t wait for the next Drop or that they’re going to see a band on tour that they discovered through downloading from our site, we feel that we’re accomplishing what we set to do.
7. How do you see this business model working in the future? Do you hope that this will affect the industry at large?
We hope to continue introducing new bands and growing the music community around discovery. Anything that helps an artist get their music out on the internet, while also seeing money in their Paypal account is good progress. If it does anything for the industry, I hope it allows bands to do things on their own and make decisions that are best for their art and their careers. I don’t think we’re setting out to disrupt the industry, but if it happens along the way we wouldn’t hate to see it get better.
8. What’s the most important good trend in music right now (other than Soundsupply)?
I think the best thing lately has been when bands embrace technology. The music industry typically isn’t the first onboard for new and inventive things, so when a band releases an iPhone app or live streams their practices, it’s the fans that win. The access a fan can now have to a band can be almost constant. The artists that harness that are the ones that are going to succeed.
9. What’s the most important bad trend? How do you propose we stop it? (We can be anyone from consumers to bands to labels or beyond)
In my opinion, the toughest trend I’ve seen lately is the disconnection between listening to music and supporting a band. With the amazing things that technology brings, it also makes it easier to be passive towards the artists that are creating the music we listen to everyday. In the past, “liking” a band would mean purchasing their album, buying tickets to see them on tour, making a mix to give to friends. All these very active things. Now, you can experience a band by clicking a link on your cell phone. There’s very little investment on the listener that it sometimes means massive disengagement. The solution is that everyone needs to be more creative. Bands need to work harder to create opportunities for listeners to support them. Music fans should be getting more creative, too. I heard some people the other day talking about taking their most listened to artists on Spotify each month and buying a piece of merch from their website. It’s small, but a start?
Dignan brings a different meaning to the “indie” tag. Being an independent band means a lot more when you’re coming from the very deep south of Texas. Four of the five members of Dignan hail from just barely north of the border, in McAllen, Texas.
“A lot of times people are surprised that anything is coming from South Texas,” said bass player Devin Garcia.
A Love Like Pi’s recent debut full-length album, Atlas and the Oyster, combines catchiness and intellectualism in an electronic-rock package that utilizes elements of classical music. Frontman Lief Liebmann says the group’s name comes from this dichotomy and duality of their sound.
“It’s basically an extended metaphor. Love and pi operate in different arenas of your mind but they are both eternal,” Liebmann said.
A Love Like Pi hails from New Jersey and have been playing together for about two and a half years. The trio consists of Liebmann on lead vocals, synthesizers, and violin, bassist Collin Boyle, and drummer Chris LoPorto.
“Collin and I grew up playing music together,” Liebmann said. “This really benefits the band because there’s this kinship. We know each other and our playing so well.”
Liebmann and LoPorto were once members of feuding groups, he said, but that they eventually reconciled and became great friends.
Liebmann got started in music at a very young age when his parents enrolled him in violin lessons around age 4 or 5.
“As with all things that your parents make you do, I hated it at first,” Liebmann said.
But eventually, he said that he grew to love the violin.
“The violin introduced me to the world of music,” he said.
However, this early start did have a disadvantage.
“I never really listened to music as a kid because I plunged right into playing,” Liebmann said. “I feel like I’m missing that element because I was always taking apart the structure or listening to chord progressions.”
Atlas and the Oyster both reflects this classical influence while also sounding amazingly modern. Liebmann writes the band’s music, saying he felt like an “alchemist in sound” in the studio, and Boyle and LoPorto add their own spin to the songs.
Liebmann said that the recording process took about a year because he wanted to make sure that he got everything right.
“I’m a little bit insane when it comes to the organization and sequencing of songs and lyrics,” Liebmann said.
The debut is also (ambitiously!) a concept album. The first half reflects on Atlas, a character in Greek mythology who was forced to hold the world on his shoulders. Liebmann said that the oyster portion of the album is about “taking pain and making it beautiful,” like an oyster’s pearl.
“Atlas and the Oyster is a multi-dimensional record,” Liebmann said. “It has songs that are fun to listen to because the spoonful of sugar method is important – you don’t want to preach on a record.”
Liebmann said that now that the album has been released, he has mixed emotions.
“I feel two things: one is an overwhelming sense of completion and satisfaction. Another is apprehension because I spent a whole year of my life working on this album and now it’s out of my hands,” Liebmann said.
But, he said that so far, the reviews of Atlas and the Oyster have been very kind.
“I’m still crossing my fingers against that one bad review that says, ‘who does A Love like Pi think they are, singing about mythological creatures?’” Liebmann said.
Currently, A Love Like Pi is touring the country. Liebmann says that sharing the music is important to him.
“We’re playing every night, which is important for me because music is my reservoir,” he said.
Without getting it out there, Liebmann said that he could get a little crazy.
“Things inside of me become songs, so I can get neurotic if they are kept bottled up,” he said.
Another benefit of touring is the time spent with band members and the strong friendship this produces.
“We all really love each other – no lies. We’ve been through so much together,” Liebmann said.
Liebmann said that A Love Like Pi’s live shows are in-your-face, powerful, and emotionally-charged.
“As intellectual as our record is, the live shows are wild. We really try to take elements of what makes one of the songs good on the record and amplify it,” he said.
This summer, A Love Like Pi will continue touring and they will also be working on a video for “The Atlas” in L.A., but the details are a surprise. Liebmann plans to keep busy.
“I have to be doing projects forever – as the band and everyone who knows me knows,” he said.
Liebmann hopes that all the touring will expand the band’s audience, and that the new album will reach a point where the imagery and message of the songs are recognized on a national level. A Love Like Pi also wants to create a name for themselves in the music industry.
“We want to establish a place in the industry where we can release music that constantly surprises people,” Liebmann said.
The scope and range of Atlas and the Oyster certainly surprises, but very pleasantly so. Check out the band’s myspace or website to order their debut or sample some songs.
Liebmann encourages listeners to spend a little time considering or analyzing the music.
“Never fall for music just because it’s catchy,” he advised. “Take an extra five seconds to think about what the music is actually saying because this might make you love the music even more or make you realize that it’s not worth your time.”
When Andy Werth began playing trumpet in the middle school, he probably didn’t realize that this instrument would be the first of many that he would learn. As a sophomore in high school, Werth started teaching himself piano after hearing some ’50s songs on the radio. And then, as a senior, guitar almost literally fell into his lap.
“I actually picked up guitar because a friend of mine left his acoustic guitar over at my house when he went on vacation, and I began teaching myself,” Werth said.
Werth gradually began writing his own songs, and now, years later, this singer/songwriter and accomplished musician has two EPs under his belt, and a full-length album that has just recently been released. He says now that learning so many instruments helped him grow as a songwriter, especially with writing for his band members.
“You learn how to speak with a different voice, and it unlocks possibilities and new capabilities for writing for others, too,” Werth said.
The new album, called Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass, is a step in a new direction for Werth and his band, because the music is moving away from piano pop-rock into new and varied directions.
“It’s all over the place, which makes it kind of hard to label,” Werth said of the album’s sound.
Werth describes Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass as a grab-bag, but adds that its diversity makes it possible to keep the fans of the EPs happy while also “bringing new people on board.” But it didn’t come easy.
“It was like giving birth to a mountain,” Werth says. “It ended up being very fun, but definitely exhausting.”
With the album out, Werth and his band are now focusing on playing live shows around their hometown of Seattle. Onstage, the musicians consist of two guitarists (one of which also sings backup), a bassist, a drummer, two trumpet players, occasionally different string instruments or saxophone players, and Werth singing and playing piano. In other words, their set is not usually what a concert-goer expects.
“Playing at indie clubs, people see instruments on stage that they don’t normally see,” Werth said.
Because the group is from Seattle, Werth says that there is a lot of competition, but also adds that the wide variety of music coming out of the city is more of a blessing than a burden.
“On any given night [in Seattle] you can hear a DJ, or a jazz concert, or a rock set. The clubs are overflowing with great music from Monday through Sunday. I love to be influenced by lots and lots of different music, especially hearing it live and then incorporating it,” Werth said.
Werth’s personal music taste is also diverse, like his songwriting style and the city he lives in. He listens to jazz, indie, and classical, among other things. And while he’s not rehearsing, writing, editing, or working on lyrics, Werth spends his time reading, writing in journals, enjoying the outdoors, and delighting in all the vegan food Seattle has to offer.
In eight or nine months, Werth plans to head back to the studio to record another album. But, in the meantime, Andy Werth is offering a promotion for Burn the Maps and Bury the Compass: send an email to email@example.com with the subject Andy Werth, and you’ll get a code that you can plug in on the homepage of the website that will enable you to download tracks from the new album.
The Cool Kids recently played a show last weekend at the college I attend, Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas. The Cool Kids are one of the more recently exciting hip-hop groups to emerge recently. Some label their sound as “hipster-hop”, and others cite the heavy influences of the Golden Age of Hip Hop. The point is, you can’t pin their sound, and they are always doing something new. The Cool Kids are a couple of really young, laid-back dudes. It took about four hours to get an interview with them, but not because of their ego or pretentiousness. It’s just their youth; like the rest of most young people, it’s tough to get down to business. The concert was presented by KHDX, and the profits of tickets went to the charity club, Campus Kitty. The Tennessee native hip-hop group Free Sol opened for them, and I missed it because of the interview. After the interview, The Cool Kids were chill and discussed hip-hop with me. When The Cool Kids finally performed, the show was fantastic. The turn-out was small, but those who came got into the music, even though most of them didn’t know most of the songs. The Cool Kids surprised with a beatbox rendition of “Mikey Rocks” and brought a few new songs out, which suggested that new bloods are keeping hip-hop alive. These guys were the perfect choice for the night’s entertainment.
How did you guys feel about asking to be played at a show in Conway, Arkansas, at Hendrix College?
Chuck Inglish: I didn’t know that I had a show here til’… two days ago. We were working when we got the news. If I wasn’t working I’d probably be more excited, but we were in the groove. But I’m excited now that I’m here. Everybody’s been extremely nice. It looks like it’s gonna be a nice show. About to do a brand new song that we did two days ago.
Chuck Inglish: It’s a song off of our Gone Fishing mixtape. We’re gonna have everybody with camera phones put their camera phones up, and I want everybody to put that shit on Youtube, once we do the song.
You guys are stationed in Chicago and are on your own label. So, how is Chicago for an independent rap artist?
Chuck Inglish: The worst place ever. [Laughs]
Mikey Rocks: Yeah, this ain’t your planet right now.
Chuck Inglish: It’s against all odds. This ain’t 1999, where everything works. Like, you got to damn near be a rapping Olympian in order to get shit poppin’ nowadays, and at the same time it’s cool. But the worst part about is that anybody new that’s been coming along has been a flash in a pan, that was the whole set-up. Like, we got this song with “these guys,” you don’t even know the guys…. And the song runs, don’t know who did the song, and the next thing you know they disappear. It’s just how hip-hop’s getting treated; we’re getting treated like Bush right now. Basically anybody new that comes along has to bury the shit that someone else f*cked up for a really long time.
There seems to be a lot of guys, Hollywood Holt, Mic Terror, etc., that are part of the immortal nation movement in Chicago. Can you explain more about this?
Chuck Inglish: The Movement? Yeah, those are friends of ours. We know them beyond music.
Mikey Rocks: It’s more of just, you know, we’re just friends. It’s less about making songs together, and more about just everybody being cool.
Are there any of those guys that are going to be breaking out?
Chuck Inglish: I think Mic Terror… Mic Terror will murder shit, if it’s done right. Mic Terror’s got a song that he just put back out. He’s working with our sound engineer right now on some stuff, and he’s got some really good songs.
The album you’re working on is called When Fish Ride Bicycles. Where’d you guys come up with that name?
Chuck Inglish: We were really, really “relaxed,” and were watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” And, I believe it happened when Hillary was going to do a Playboy shoot for the weather girls, and Carleton wanted to go to the Playboy mansion, and he asked and Phil told him, “When fish ride bicycles.”
How is the album progressing right now?
Chuck Inglish: It’s done.
What can listeners expect?
Chuck Inglish: You’ll throw Bake Sale out. We’re brand new people. That’s just what happened.
Mikey Rocks: It’s a whole new album, it’s not a continuation.
Chuck Inglish: I can say this on this day, ‘cause it’s just realized. The Bake Sale was us being kids, and just getting shit out.
Mickey Rocks: Yeah, just playing around making songs, not really knowing how to record.
Chuck Inglish: Now that this is our life, we are taking it as serious as our life. We want to go down, we want to be in that history book, in the first couple of pages. We ain’t trying to be in the back of that book. We’re just working towards it, and I don’t believe in talking yourself up. I believe in “you shut up and you work,” and you make people recognize you for who you are for what you’ve done, not what you’ve said. Like, a lot of the shit we did before, we would never even listen to. If The Cool Kids came out right now, like two years ago, I would hate them. I can be honest with you, I’d be like “yo, those motherf*ckers are wack.” I would seriously do a “diss record” against us two years ago. But now, because we know each other way better, we’ve been roommates for the past two years, we play. When I come up with a new sound, or he comes up with a new style of rap, we are ready to go there with it. That’s basically what we did with this album. We wanted to see how far we could go, and we went there.
How do you guys feel about the state of mainstream hip-hop right now?
Mikey Rocks: It’s f*cked up.
Chuck Inglish: It is what it is. It is what people wanted it to be.
Mikey Rocks: I see how it happened though. It started out when we had a couple of select people that were a little bit smarter than people who were currently in power of hip-hop, and they took advantage of them. They thought “we could make some bread off of this shit.” They didn’t care about the state of the art form, they didn’t care about quality of the music, or the effect it would have on the kids.
Chuck Inglish: When shit gets bought out, that’s when it’s over. A lot of thing lose it’s mystique when you sell your shit for a price.
Mikey Rocks: Yeah, turn it into a Walmart or Target. Pick your sound, pick your clothes, and go up there… and that’s it.
Chuck Inglish: Rappers shouldn’t have stylists. You can quote that. They came in setting shit. The drug dealers were dressing like the rappers were. Now, the rappers are dressing like the drug dealers. It’s like the tables have turned. That’s what happened, it became a supermarket. You find someone who can halfway rap, if you have enough money, you can get a whole bunch of hot-ass beats and a bunch of expensive producers. People hear that’s who did their album, so it must be good, and then it ain’t good. If you do that 15 times for 10 years straight, people are going to be like “all right, I get it, I’m sick of you crying wolf all the time.”
Do think the mainstream is going to stay like this for a while?
Mikey Rocks: Nah, because the money is not coming in as much as it used to, and you’re going to start seeing it crumble. You are going to start seeing those people who were in power, are going to start backing up and think, “whoa, I’m not making cash no more, I’m done with this shit.” Eventually, it’ll break down into what it once was. Because as soon as that money starts leaving, you’re going to see who really enjoys this, who’s really trying to rap here. You’re going to see a lot of people going back to work, and going back to shooting hoops and shit, trying to get it some other way.
Chuck Inglish: You can live off of it, but at certain times, even I think how can you possibly get really rich off this?
Mikey Rocks: You can definitely live off it, but the millions and all of that crazy shit that was happening, that’s about to be x’d. …That’s really not going to make money any more.
Chuck Enlgish: That comes with work.
Mikey Rocks: Technology’s too advanced for people to be getting screwed over anymore. They ain’t gonna have that “people trying to steal your shit, and charge some money for some wack-ass single that you made.” The money level of hip-hop is not the same as it was a couple years ago. It’s a different world, now that everybody’s kind of tightening their belts. Those that really give a f*ck about trying to be the next Bill Gates of rapping, those people are starting to get a little bit more frugal. But people who are still going to decide to do this regardless, are going to do it anyway.
Are there any particular artists that you’d want to be able to work with at some point?
Chuck Inglish: For me, yeah, cause I write songs, and I like making music for other people. As far as The Cool Kids go, I don’t know. I feel that every time we work, we’re working with someone. Because he always knows something I don’t, or I’ll come up on something he doesn’t know. He started making beats now, so things are getting a little interesting. On our mix tape we have a collaboration with a girl name Jada. I didn’t know here prior to yesterday. She was just there, and she heard the beat and starts kicking a rap over it, and we were like “yo, you should go rap that.” So, that’s what a collaboration is, it’s not like “let’s force something because it’ll chart.” You can’t work out with people you can’t hang out with.
Do you guys plan to be doing this for a while?
Chuck Inglish: Yeah, I ain’t got no other plan. I’m not gonna be the rapper that retires. I’m going to do this ‘til I can’t speak.
Mikey Rocks: Yeah, I’m setting up shop for a while.
Chuck Inglish: The shit I rap about is everyday regular man stuff. Where me, you, some kids you grew up with, and some kids I grew up with can be in a room and all laugh about the same shit, because it’s the same stuff that all of us go through. As we get older, the people that like us now… Just like, how Guns and Roses can do a concert, and the crowd’s all old and some are little, it’s just you take your fans with you. You get older, they get older too. That’s what people’s problem is, they get older and they want to get the young kids, but the young kids always want to know about the older stuff first, so just stick to your guns. Young kids now f*ck with Ghostface; he’s not done anything different. He still kicks the same ill-ass shit he’s done since day one. He didn’t do a song with Mariah Carey cause she’s popular.
Dennis Coyne, singer and guitarist of Stardeath and the White Dwarfs, describes the group’s live shows as having “a lot of lights, a lot of loud music, and a lot of fog.”
“It’s absolutely psychedelic,” Coyne says.
The group’s musical style fits with these aspects of their live performances.
“It’s loud and bright in every sense of the word – loud and bright in sound and in color,” Coyne says of the band’s sound.
Stardeath and the White Dwarfs formed about four years ago, and its members hail from Oklahoma City and Norman. Coyne says he got started playing music by being around it a lot as a kid – he’s Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips’ nephew!
“I grew up around music my whole life, and by being close with the Lips,” Coyne says. “Growing up, it was always around, so that really had to give me some interest in it.”
Coyne says that Wayne helps the group “in a way that any good uncle would,” but that he also helps and influences Stardeath and the White Dwarfs musically.
“It’s awesome,” Coyne says of having Wayne as an uncle. “There’s nothing to complain about except that he’s hard to keep up with because he’s such a hard worker.”
As a band coming out of Oklahoma, Coyne says that he has always liked the Oklahoma City and Norman music scenes. And, in addition to this, he says that it’s nice having just enough bands in the area without having an overload of competition. Oklahoma’s low cost of living is also a benefit.
“Being a band from Oklahoma is great because everything is cheap,” adds Coyne.
About seven months ago, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs was signed to Warner Bros. Records, but when they first found out, the group was working as a road crew for the Flaming Lips. They were so busy that Coyne says the group didn’t have a lot of time to consider the news.
“It was weird because we didn’t have time to digest anything,” Coyne says. “We didn’t get the news until we had arrived in England and were setting up for the Lips.”
The band recently finished their full-length album with Warner Bros., and it will be released in May. Also for the label, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs collaborated with the Flaming Lips on a cover of Madonna’s “Borderline.” The song is included on a compilation of Warner Bros. Records covers, released for the company’s 50th anniversary. Coyne says that “Borderline” was chosen carefully.
“Well, you wanna do something absurd, but not too absurd, but also not so serious that it’s boring,” he says.
The recording was completed long-distance – at the time, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs were recording in Oklahoma, and the Flaming Lips were working on Christmas on Mars in New York. They worked on the track in their two separate studios, emailing pieces back and forth, and working out issues by talking on the phone.
Currently, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs are running a very busy tour, playing a show in a different state almost every night.
“The schedule sounds brutal, but once you get rolling, it goes by so fast,” Coyne says. “There’s no sleep, and you’re driving a lot, but doing a lot in a little period is better because it keeps you on track.”
The band stops in Tulsa, in their home state, this Monday, March 16. The show is scheduled for 9 p.m. at Bob’s, inside Cain’s Ballroom. Be sure to check out Stardeath and the White Dwarfs for an energetic, psychedelic spectacle, and to support an Oklahoma-bred group!
“The world we came to know is an extremely absurd place, where a humongous aluminum pipe is flying in the sky with people in it,” Aki says. “We roll a chain around an animal’s neck and call it a family member. People paint their faces and call it beauty. We tend to take these things for granted. But if you take a look around and really think about it, this place is f***** up.”
However, life’s oddities don’t drag Aki and Voluntary Mother Earth down. In fact, this satirical, insane, genre-diverse group gets their inspiration from our weird world.
“You can take what’s f***** up and get angry, feel depressed, go crazy – it’s your choice. I just decided to laugh at it. And that’s how the songs are born,” Aki says.
Claiming to be one of the weirdest bands to ever exist on Earth, Voluntary Mother Earth is a three-piece rock group that formed in 2004, originally hailing from Denton, Texas. They released an album (Voluntary Invasion) there, but soon relocated to Tokyo. Withstanding several lineup changes, Voluntary Mother Earth toured the U.S. and released a new album (Unacceptable Vegetable) in 2007. Now, band members Aki Hayahawa (guitar and vocals), Noriff Micky (bass), and Fujita Fajita (drums), are going on another U.S. tour and bringing their unique blend of musical styles with them.
“It’s like Frank Zappa meets Jimi Hendrix in a playground where serious right brains are hanging out and having a great time,” Aki says of their sound.
The group’s music is frequently hilarious, with song titles like “I Said, ‘Just Water, Please,’ And She Gave Me Sprite,” but Voluntary Mother Earth is not merely funny. They glide effortlessly through many genres – hard rock and funk, to name a few – showcasing a wide understanding of music and sophisticated songwriting from Aki.
When their music is played live, Aki says that there are usually two “tribes” of reactions from the audience. One tribe, he says, is called “Idigthistus,” and consists of people who “really go for it,” dancing, screaming, and occasionally giving painful high-fives.
“What can I say, love hurts at times,” Aki adds. “When I find folks from this particular tribe during our set, I tend to invite them to come up onstage and have them dance with the band. As it turns out, America is the home of this tribe.”
Unfortunately, the second tribe, “Idontgetthistus,” does exist in some towns, Aki says, but VME doesn’t let these non-right-brainers bother them. In fact, during one set, a woman named Sandra from Connecticut began as a member of this latter “tribe,” but was soon converted. Aki says that Sandra, who he dubbed “the drunk woman from hell,” was loudly yelling “Booooring!” in between the songs of the set, and causing a lot of trouble for VME.
“I was on the verge of making full use of my right to free speech, and telling her to go have intercourse with her good self,” Aki says of the incident. “That’s when Zen came down on me all the way from the East, and spoke words of wisdom. The answer, my friend, was surely blowing in the wind. Instead of shouting at her to get lost, I asked her, as politely as I could manage, how she’d like to come join the band onstage and sing a song with us. She thought it was a great idea.”
Impulsive, audience-engaging actions like this one are common during Voluntary Mother Earth’s live shows.
“Expect to be brought up onstage and be asked to dance like there’s no tomorrow to a song that’s not danceable,” Aki says, also adding that sometimes it’s push-ups instead of dancing.
And as for their live music, Aki says that they like to play different versions of the songs on their albums.
“Expect higher-energy versions of the songs with live-show-only arrangements,” he says. “You can hear a punk version of what was on the record a ballad, and things like that. Expect FUN.”
Aki adds that these live performances are a part of what makes them one of the weirdest bands on Earth.
“It’s the atmosphere we create together with the audience that makes us one of the weirdest,” he says.
So, this March, if you need to exercise your right brain, if you need a heaping dose of the absurd, or if you feel like dancing like a maniac, check our Voluntary Mother Earth on their tour, which is listed in full on their myspace. And for those who can’t attend one of these locations, they will be releasing a new “official bootleg” live album on March 11, which even includes the incident with Sandra, the drunk woman from hell.
“Have you ever heard ‘field recording’ of local tribes living in the depths of a jungle singing their local folk tunes, and stuff like that? Take this album as the field recording of a low-budget touring act,” Aki says of the live album.
The band will also be releasing a new full-length studio album sometime this year. In the meantime, stay weird, Aki suggests.
“I want you to know that if you are not afraid of breaking through the walls around you that keep you “normal” and are ready to find out that the world is a really absurd place, then the beer’s on me.”
Nothing More‘s new release The Few Not Fleeting is coming out this upcoming Saturday. IC writer Brian Murff had a chance to visit with lead singer Jonny Hawkins about the album and the processes behind it. The physical interview is below. Brian also compiled a video, which can be seen here: Nothing More by Brian Murff.
Nothing More has had a lot of changes in lineup. Can you tell me a little about the band’s history?
We didn’t quite get it right the first six times around, so seventh or eighth time’s the charm for us. The core of the band was always Mark Vollelunga, Josh Kercheville, and me, Jonny Hawkins. We went through bass players and singers like fast food, basically.
We finally teamed up with Daniel Oliver a little after Josh Klaus parted ways with the band. That really formed I think the real core of the band right there. Then we got Travis as our singer and released Madhatter’s Bliss, and after that, we got Trey Graham as our singer when he got off tour with Kelly Clarkson, and released Save You/Save Me. And I think Save You/Save Me was our first big push, in regards to touring, and playing with 30 Seconds to Mars, and Burden Brothers, and on the Warped Tour – stuff like that. Then things went south with our singer Trey. The whole time through all these people we never really quite felt like it was there yet, like it had sunk in and… I don’t really know how to describe it; it just didn’t have that peace.
Josh Kercheville ended up leaving the band, which was a big blow too, so that left it to Mark and Dan and I. I can honestly say I don’t think we’ve ever been happier creatively, through the writing process, playing live… I play all the drums on the album, but we hire a drummer for shows. He’s on contract for now, I don’t think I’m ready to give up all the drumming right yet, but I can say I’ve never been with somebody that I’ve been as open to the idea about potentially joining the band. He’s an amazing guitar player, drummer, writer, artist, so he brings a lot to the table.
How did you go from being the drummer to being lead singer?
I got kind of into a depression in the last year. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life with my mom and cancer, and Trey – we parted ways and it felt like the band wasn’t going to go anywhere. And I had this revelation that I told Mark one night. I was like, “I want to sing for the band.” Let me say this: first of all, my biggest fear has always been speaking in front of people. I would lose sleep in high school if I had to speak in front of the class the next day. I wouldn’t sleep the whole night! So the idea of getting in front of hundreds of people and singing was enormous. Second of all, I couldn’t sing. I was not a singer, I’d been a drummer my whole life.
I was like, I’m afraid to be in front of people and I can’t sing. That’s not a good combination for a lead singer, right? But I felt very passionate about music.
So the last year all the guys were like, “All right. Jonny, we believe in you, even though it sucks right now and you sound like crap.” I’m lucky to be with guys that… we know each other well, we believe in each other to the point of, even if it doesn’t make sense now, we support each other. And they supported me and believed in me, and I never could’ve done it if they hadn’t been there and believed in me.
Is this upcoming album (The Few Not Fleeting) is pretty big for you?
This CD is kind of monumental for us because it’s kind of our first “This Is It” CD. Not that the other CDs don’t mean a lot to us musically, but this is the first CD where, like I said with the other lineups and everything, it wasn’t quite “It.”
You’ve gone through a lot of changes. As far as musical influence goes, there was a time where your music almost had a funk vibe, and then you had a pop thing going for a while. This album feels like Shelter, but what Shelter should have been. What was that the result of?
When you watch a lot of bands, you can see them start somewhere, and then they kind of trail off and start exploring, and then they kind of go back to their roots but in a new way. We obviously all listen to so much music. There are a lot of bands that only listen to one kind of music. “All we listen to is punk rock, so we play punk rock.” Or, “all we listen to is hard rock, so we play hard rock.” We listen to jazz, to funk, to death metal… we’re very open-minded.
I think it’s taken us this many years to find out what it is that our musical soul, if you will, resonates at. Because we love playing funk! Daniel brings a lot of funk to the band, I love playing funk on the drums, but it doesn’t have as big of a portion of our heart as progressive/alternative rock like what we’re playing right now. But members are a big thing – when Trey was in the band, he brought this pop, kind of mainstream… I don’t really know what the right words are, but a little softer around the edges. We always wanted to rock, but we felt like we had to compromise, and that’s what Save You/Save Me was, was a compromise between the two things. Now it’s complete exploration of the progressive rock, harder rock direction.
Along those lines, the new record is coming out. In what ways have you made improvements on this one?
I feel like we’ve improved on the production value. This album is different from the rest because we produced the album at home in my room – half the album. With that, we had a lot of time and flexibility to explore the production side of things that we really didn’t have time or budget to do in a studio where we were on the clock, or with a producer that’s on the clock. So we really got to explore and flex nuts on the production side, if you will.
On song writing, we put more time and thought and energy and emotion into all these songs than we ever have. This year has been the hardest year of my life. I lost my mother, I lost my girlfriend of five and a half years, I lost one of my best friends in the band, lost our lead singer, had all these great things that went to nothing, you know, along with a lot of other stresses of being in debt and being on the road. It’s been a monumental year in the amount of pain that I’ve felt and the band has felt, and that’s translated I think through the music. I think the greatest things come from the greatest suffering, the greatest pain. I’d say that’s been the biggest factor through all of this.
Lyrically, I hadn’t quite gotten a grasp on this album until I read the jacket. How much of this is based on things that have happened in your lives?
Most of the songs are pretty deep. “Gone” was about my mother, “Blue And Gold” was about my friend that died in a car wreck. “The Cleansing” was about a friend of ours that got raped, “Salem” was about a very tight-knit group of friends that got destroyed by gossip and lies and all these things.
I’d been wondering about that one. Metaphorically, it’s a little bit more out there – witches, etc.
Yeah, it’s sarcastic. Well that song… I guess before I keep going on, I’ll let you know too that we’re going to release a website. There’s a thing in the album jacket that says for a deeper look into The Few Not Fleeting, go to www.nothingmore.net/thefewnotfleeting. There’s nothing up there right now, but probably in a month or two months we’ll put out an announcement. We’re going to release that website and it’s gonna be a handwritten website, very personal, and it’s going to be about all the songs and what was going on with me and my mom, or with “Salem” – what was really happening. Because it’s a quirky take on something that was very real and happening.
As far as coming into songs in a playful manner, I can’t think of one song on the album that’s not deep and real. One of my friends listened to the album, and she said, “We gotta start working on writing some happy songs.” And I was like, you know, the funny thing is that my happiness and I think the band is this way, too, is that we express our joy and happiness and all these emotions, not all positive but light-hearted emotions through hanging out with friends and very light-hearted things. But the deep, dark, very hard things in life, for whatever reason… music, that’s just what it does for me. That’s where it comes out. It doesn’t come out in other areas; it just comes out in music. So that’s why our music is dark, that’s just how it is I guess. But it’s hopeful, you know? It’s not just leaving you helpless, at least I hope not.
Okay. Now in contrast to that, you’ve got “Fat Kid.”
Wait a minute, never mind, I take back everything I said! That’s one song, there we go. I would say that it’s a slightly light-hearted, sarcastic song. “Salem” is sarcastic, but it does have a lot of angst in it. This one was more of the, “let’s write a song about Daniel, who grew up as a fat kid.” It’s like a look at me now song.
We’ve talked about how this album really feels like “It.” Do you anticipate the band taking off, or do you have any big tours lined up?
I definitely see this as a catalyst album, to our success as a band. I mean, Nothing More has been, every year, “Okay. Work, work, work, make an album, tour, here’s Nothing More, gain a bunch of fans.” Tear all that down, say, “forget that, here’s the new Nothing More,” lose all those fans, and gain new ones. This is the first one where we say, “Here we’re starting, and we’re following through with this, or we’re just going into the ground,” you know what I mean?
But this is a catalyst album. I would say the music industry as a whole isn’t what it used to be. Nobody’s selling millions of albums anymore, because music isn’t selling. But more bands are popular; it’s much more spread out. With that said we have a greater chance to reach more people, but it’s harder to make money in the industry than it ever has been. It’s a new challenge. So I guess what I’m trying to get at is yes, this album is going to be a catalyst as far as making the big bucks. I’m not quite sure yet, I can’t give you an answer. As long as we can do what we love and we can make a living at it, that’s success to us.
Big tours – we have some things in mind, we’re talking to some management in Dallas who can get us on tour with Fair To Midland. Are you familiar with Fair To Midland? That’s a potential. We’re talking to a lot of management right now, because we’ve been self-managed for a long time. We’re talking to some promotions companies to help us out. We have a lot of things in the works. I don’t have any solid tours that I can say, “we’re going to be on tour with this or that band,” but we are going to be touring the region very heavily on our own for the new few months.
What do you think your future is? Is there a road map that you’d like to be able to follow?
I would say we definitely have a very headstrong goal to do this as a career. Most people, especially in the art world, approach things with “if it works out great, if it doesn’t I’ll go do another job,” a plan B, right? We all purposely haven’t had a plan B, because we didn’t want any excuse when the going gets tough to get out of this, because we all know that deep down inside, music is what makes us happier than anything. I can’t picture myself not doing music, so that’s it. That’s my tunnel vision. I can’t predict the future, I know things change, and I change as a person, I may like different things and value different things in the future but for right now we’re dead set on making this a career and being the greatest band in the nation, if not the world one day. We have big goals, and we’re shooting for it. I’m not going to say we’re there by any means, no way, but…
Over the years of touring, performing, this whole experience, is there any wisdom you’ve learned?
We have learned what not to do a lot. If I were to pick one thing, I would say that the greatest asset we have above anything else is knowing who you’re working with and having trust. Our band wouldn’t have survived however many years as it has if I didn’t have guys that I trusted one hundred percent; we’ve been good enough people to lean on each other in the hard times. Bands freaking rise and fall like there’s no tomorrow. There have been millions of bands. It’s the highest turnover rate of any industry, I think. But knowing and trusting the guys in my band, and knowing and trusting the people we work with, is invaluable.
I’ve seen bands rise and fall based on trust, and it’s like the Roman Empire – some of the greatest bands have fallen from the inside. There wasn’t trust, or greed crept in; some little thing that destroyed a great musical thing. Happens all the time, I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. Know who you’re in bed with, you know what I mean?
On a slightly lighter note, what would the famous last words of Jonny Hawkins be?
You’re giving me some tough ones here. Famous last words… Is this funny last words, or serious?
It doesn’t matter.
I’d say hard work goes a very long way, but relationships are the most important thing. In business, in work… relationships are gold. I had to lose a lot of relationships to learn how much they’re worth, you know? That’d be my famous last words, hang onto your relationships.
Is there anything else you want to mention?
Just keep your eyes open this next year, because we expect great things with this album.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.