Monday, December 22, 2008

sherocks - sugarhooker

yet another new venture.
this time a webshow on stickam. Here's my stickam site
The show will be with Sugarhooker
I will interview bands and other such artists.
Every Thursday at 5pm. :) Starting on January 8th.

I'll keep ya posted on the schedule of guests and all that good stuff.
Jan 14th to 21st - I shall be in LA
And from the 21st to the 28th - I'll be on a short tour with Peachcake.
See ya on the road.

Friday, December 12, 2008


From smaller club shows to packed Warped Tour sets, Bayside cultivates a relationship with the audience it has come to seductively serenade. The new album, Shudder, was recorded with the live show in mind. The members don’t shy away from mingling with the crowds at shows or being available by their merch setup for photos and conversations. They even maintain an active presence on their MySpace: reading and responding to the messages that pour in to their electronic home on the web. Bayside is nothing short than interactive and they take care to nurture the relationship with their fans; a relationship that uses music as a positive influence.
The band members draw on each other’s creativity to be inspired and influenced during the writing processes. Nick Ghanbarian, the bassist for the band says that he is “just really influenced by the people in [his] band at this point.” Those people would be Anthony Raneri, fronting the band as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist; Jack O’Shea standing his ground on lead guitar and the occasional back-up vocals; and Chris Guglielmo keeping the beat on drums. Aside from his makeshift musical family, Nick receives his inspiration from “people that make [him] want to be creative on a daily basis. Musician-wise that would be people like Ben Folds or Jenny Lewis.”
Music is something that Nick had to find on his own rather than through his parents or friends - the mainstream point for one’s musical exploration: either from records strewn about the house or from a mix tape that a friend slipped in your hand between classes. So Nick found music on his own. At the age of thirteen and fourteen the bands that were pounding their tunes into his eager ears included Green Day, Bad Religion, and other bands exploding the airwaves at that point in time. It was this music that convinced the youngster that picking up an instrument was a necessary action. At first, Nick found that “at a younger age it alienated me until [he] found the local scene, but ever since then it’s just made [him] an open minded person and very creative at all points of the day.” His interest in music didn’t marginalize him for long and became his “motivation to basically get up every day and try to accomplish something. Using music as a positive influence is something awesome. It could be background music to you or it can be something that you live and die by…But to find music that really speaks to you and is a part of your everyday life is the best part about it.”
So much of today’s music that kids are gathering to listen to lacks depth and simply hides behind “the guise of a scene band because that is what has become popular over the years.” Whether the bands are put together by major labels or the members are brought together looking for fame and popularity, they lack the skills and drive to write their own music. “It’s unfortunate but you kind of have to take it for what it’s worth. People are living and dying by Boys Like Girls lyrics and that’s unfortunate, but at the same time there are real bands out there.” Bayside, not surprisingly, is one of those real bands. One that takes the time to make meaningful music incorporating lyrics that they can actually relate to and that they hope their audience can relate to as well. It’s a conscious effort to be a real band, to be “Bad Religion rather than the aforementioned band.” One that pays off as other bands burn out and fade away, leaving Bayside still hosting massive sing-alongs at venues across the map.
The songs start with Anthony, who is the primary songwriter in the band. His melodic mind, acoustic guitar, and Garageband - equipped Apple computer lays the skeletal spine of the song and then the song is “actually talked about a lot, if not more than [Bayside] actually plays the song.” This latest record was always in the works beforehand, but the band as a whole didn’t get together to review and fully form the pieces until six weeks before heading to the studio. “A week to ten days of pre-production and six weeks in LA to record everything” and the result is a record with which the band feels content. Nick says proudly that the guys are “happy with every part on the record, which is a first time… And the performances on the album are really something; they’re not too far off from a live.” The energy that is present in a live show is present on the album. The audience has no time to wonder what has happened to the band between the steps from studio to stage; they are too enraptured by the charismatic presence that is Bayside.
The result being a band that hits the road day after day, week after week, month after month, connecting with their fans and giving them the gift of music with heart. Bayside and company give up seeing their homes, their families, their significant others to “play shows and meet people.” They want you to say hello. They want you to take a picture with them. They want you to be involved. Don’t let them down.

The Human Abstract

After seeing these guys play day after day on the Warped Tour, heading to one of their club shows was an interesting experience. The Human Abstract deservingly scored a spot on tour with Japanese superstars, Dir En Grey, gaining them the undivided attention of J-rock fans across the nation. The band certainly didn’t disappoint me or the other members of the audience. The vocals are smooth and, whether crooning or screaming, the listener is captivated. Like the spider’s elegant, knowing legs the fingers of the guitarists travel up and down the neck of their instruments. The drummer keeps the cadence, flailing rhythmically in the background creating yet another titillating visual element. And the bassist doesn’t just pound away but intertwines overhand playing with vicious scales. Interviewing Nathan Ells, the voice of the band, was difficult as we moved from one supposedly quiet corner of the venue to another to escape from screaming Dir En Grey fans and members as the headliner finished up their night’s set. But after Nathan finished a drink at the bar, found a ledge in the entryway, and started to get into the in’s and out’s of the band - The Human Abstract, that is: things ran smoothly.
The basis of the band’s name comes from a William Blake poem which touches on the animalistic nature and instincts of man, and is just as profound as the music that is heard on the three albums released since the inception of the band in 2004. With a self-titled EP released in 2005, the full length Nocturne birthed in 2006, and the latest album to hit shelves, Midheaven, The Human Abstract has musically proven themselves with each endeavor they undertake – whether on tour, in studio, or a prosaic daily live show.
Nathan joined the band roughly seven or eight months after the band had formed on a tip from a mutual friend, Barry, who plays in a band called Look What I Did. The current line-up of The Human Abstract wasn’t working out as “they were having trouble with their singer…who was a raging alcoholic.” And Nathan, looking for a band at the time, gladly stepped up to the position – but he “drinks a lot too.” No one trying to feign innocence here. His vocal influences include such greats as Mike Patton and Maynard: standard icons in the world of rock vocals. Nathan is working on a joke for when he meets Maynard because “joking on famous people is the best way to meet them.” Take Dennis from the Refused for instance. When Nathan met him, at an International Noise Conspiracy show in Atlanta, taking him a Refused album to sign (ever so slightly gauche) he asked if he “was in the Illuminati and he froze. It was short circuit time.” Nathan had caught him by the tongue at an inopportune time and, after letting the musician conversationally flail for a long moment, he put him at ease by saying, “No it’s cool. I know you’re a communist.” The meet-and-greet ended well and Nathan was even provided with Dennis’ friend’s anti-Illuminati site. Not too shabby.
Life influences the songs that Nathan writes. Life and “writing in general.” For when he’s not “doing stuff with the band [he’s] writing” whether in the studio, in from of the microphone, or wherever the mood strikes. It’s actually an effort to “go out and hang out” but when you are in clubs and shows constantly, it’s not too appealing to go to clubs and shows on your day off. Bit of an occupational hazard. There really isn’t a process to the song writing. “It’s all about not worrying about writer’s block. The melody comes first and the words come after that.” This is the process that has produced such songs as the singer’s favorite, “A Dead World at Sunrise”, the chosen set-opener for the Dir En Grey tour: an ironically appropriate choice. This way the set starts off rather quietly – just a keyboard and vocals, stripped down, and surprisingly intimate for a metal show. It gets everyone’s attention and an anticipatory calm settles over the crowd.
It won’t be the choice for the upcoming As I Lay Dying tour this winter. Just expect brutal. And expect to be bewitched by whatever the Human Abstract offers – there’s nothing they can’t pull off. From Warped Tour to a small stage, the performance is always a musical masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

cold company and warm rooms

and sometimes the room might be warm.
but the company cold.
it is all a toss up
and it's all fairly unpredictable.
there are certain sources of comfort that might seem surprising.
and only happen once in a while...
but that once in a while happens more often than not
odd timing.
but i'm not complaining.
what you are not looking for is usually what you need
and it is usually right under your nose.
if you take the time to notice and nurture it.
try it on for size.

Words are sometimes more than words. And songs are sometimes more than songs. Interviews turn into conversations and conversations turn into inspiration. After watching Tim Barry’s set at the Revival Tour, I waited on the sidelines until Tim was ready for the interview. Nothing was rushed: a cigarette was shared and an interest in existence was pondered. We picked apart my questions and talked about what made them good questions and what made them worthwhile. It is a lovely thing to interact with an individual, as actual human beings, rather than as two parasites hoping to gain something from the others’ existence. The music industry can be sadly two-faced and false, but the Revival tour brought back some of the honesty: musically, personally, and emotionally.
After being ushered onto Tim’s bus, a temporary home on wheels while bringing music to the masses, the questioning began. I am quickly put at ease and made comfortable in my surroundings, though a little cold in the Seattle night. The songs that you find on Tim’s records, both Rivanna Junction and Manchester, were not written so much as they took residence rattling their melodies inside the musician’s head. They are created while Tim walks his dog Emma and “about twice a week something shows up…there’s a cadence to your walk depending on the day…[the songs] are almost like journal entries or a therapy session.” A rather serendipitous birth to the songs that Tim brings to the stage. The song “Dog Bumped” with the opening lines “one quick minute got me twenty eight long years” hit him “like a hollow point bullet right in the fucking brain…it was done before it was even started.” Technically, a fairly simple process. But they compliment the simplistic lifestyle that Tim has adopted living “in a little shed with no running water and no air-conditioning.” He refuses to listen to the people that say he is “stupid and crazy” because it is where he finds himself to be “most comfortable and most focused.”
But being comfortable behind an acoustic guitar wasn’t always the case. It was in 2003 when a left-wing magazine based in Ashville, North Carolina asked Tim, first having inquired as to the possibility of Avail playing, to come down and play a benefit show to keep the magazine on its feet. He acquiesced to the request with ten songs under his belt that he could play. And he took the stage and “the challenge was real…[he] was shaking while playing the guitar.” “At thirty seven years old, it’s nice to be scared.” Through the nerves and the apprehension, Tim decided that being frightened felt good and so he went to Europe “to figure out how to do this in front of the Germans because it’s easier than doing it in front of friends.” After the tour dates in Europe, the stage with just him and his acoustic guitar wasn’t so daunting, even though he “was still a terrible guitar player.” It was all about being comfortable with the challenge and sitting down and saying “oh word, I’m going to pick up an acoustic guitar.” Facing challenges head-on leaves you with no regrets and nothing to be reconsidered repeatedly. And Tim has “no regrets as a person. Period.”
To have the connection between punk music and folk music, “the same fucking three chords”, be directly met in the music of Tim Barry is “pretty simple.” During Avail shows Tim says he feels like “some machismo craphead and kind of empty in the end, but with [the acoustic] shows I feel challenged…this is all I got. I’m going to tell you straight up: fuck with me and I’ll fight you. Love on me and I’ll love on you. That’s just what’s up. I will sing you everything I got and I don’t have much else.” So take it. And find a peace of mind or the pieces…whatever is left.
Living day by day is, in itself, a great achievement. And living as Tim does and “keeping everyone in consideration” is an even greater achievement. One of his closest friends and his mentor, is Weasel. A man whose values mirror those of Tim’s. “Living simply” in his early seventies, Weasel “takes care of his own. He’s caring. He’s giving. Anyone who needs anything he’s the first one there. Anyone that wants to throwdown a fight he’s the first one to back them. Anyone who just wants to get drunk and rowdy he’s the first person that’s throwing down.” No matter the situation, Weasel arrives with a solution and that’s Tim’s mentor, the kind of person he looks up to: “those that are seventy-two years old and vegan and showing [him] pictures of his wife and children getting arrested at anti-war protests…those that don’t have a ton of money but still live simply.” Simply. But profoundly.
Aside from music, Tim leads a real life. He doesn’t preach the same lines about music being his life and all that matters to him. And he lists what makes up his sense of self and the man that he is: his family, the river, his house, a couple close friends, riding freight trains, painting, aerosol art, marking freight trains. And then he stops: “You think I’m crazy don’t you?” And I don’t. I don’t in the least.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

thoughts and gestures

neon lights and plastic emotions
a paved street of confusion
fall down the forty-four floors
to find your peace of mind - or the pieces
whatever is left after your wreck of a life
perhaps death is our final act of a life not lived
our brains giving up on finding any sort of meaning
our organs failing at pumping our rich blood into the veins of society's lay-abouts
our eyes tired of searching for a new direction or adventure and only finding a one-way street
our lungs tired of breathing the same stale air of failed desires
so we rest in a dark alley way filled with the destitute and emotionally penniless
mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, whores and carpenters, and candlestick makers...all curled up in the safety of a fetal position and inhaling the smoke of human waste and pollution
light the match and burn the imaginations of a thousand
a mission
a lifetime of murdered
of forgotten children

Sunday, October 26, 2008

valencia - do you believe?

Valencia –interview with George (bassist) and Brendan (guitarist)
What is the basis of the band name? How did you settle on it?
George: I guess when we first got together. We were kind of trying to figure out what our band would be called. We were so used to being in those other bands that we were having trouble. We came across Valencia. We did a little search on the back-story of what it meant. There’s a lot of different cities named Valencia and like an orange that is named Valencia. But that story of Valencia in Spain suits our band. During the Golden era it went through a lot of progression and evolution and when all of our bands broke up we really clicked when we were writing songs and stuff. WE saw that story and thought it clicked with our band’s story.
Can you list some of your musical influences – both musical and otherwise?
Brendan: Well musically we are pretty eclectic. We all like different things. Specifically I like to listen to the Beatles. I like older stuff, specifically Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I think the same goes for George. But it’s different for other people. As far as non-musically, I think we take inspiration from our family and from our friends. People we love.
How has music been a part of your life? How has it been present?
Brendan: Music’s everywhere. You can’t go anywhere without hearing music. IN Highschool I was in jazz band. Just grew up listening to music my whole life.
George; I went to a Catholic school until I was fourteen and we used to have to go to mass once a month in school. But the songs were so much different than what I used to listen to. That’s when it hit me that music was a big deal. That it was really important. That’s where I took it from. After that it aws listening to my mom’s CDs.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene? How do you feel your band fits in?
Brendan: I don’t know. What we tried to do on this last record we tried to stray away from the current music scene which is going towards shit with auto-tune and no one is playing their instruments.
George: Everything is so cut and paste.
Brendan: We tried to be a real band and play real instruments. And write real songs. Wt don’t fit into it. It’s a good thing because we don’t want to.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
Brendan: It’s usually one of us coming up with an idea. We’ll be sitting at home or in the van with our acoustic guitar or our laptop. Record it real quick. Bring it to practice and flush out the idea. It’s kind of an organic process rather than one person coming up with everything.
George: Sometimes we’ll just be at practice and somebody will play something that just catches everybody’s ear. It changes for every song.
Do you have a favorite track from your material?
Brendan: A song called “Carry On” – the fifth song on our new record. It’s just a sense of accomplishment when we finished that song. Because we’ve never written a ballad song. I mean we have, but they all sucked and that was the first good one. So we’re pretty proud of it.
George: I’m pretty proud of the last song on our record. Because it sums up the record as a whole. If you listen to the whole thing from front to back, it’s telling a story. And that is the conclusion of it. Everything about that song from the lyrics to the structure of it – it’s a good way to go through everything for me.
What do you consider to be your greatest musical achievement thus far?
Brendan: This record.
George: Yeah, I think finishing this record.
Brendan: It was a long process. We recorded it once and then re-recorded it. It was just a long process. So finishing it was a big deal for us.
George: Everything about the finished product is crazy for everyone. I mean, we got to do things we never thought we’d do. We moved out to LA and recorded the album for like two months. Worked in a bunch of different studios with a bunch of different people. The finished product is something we were all stoked about.

silverstein - smiling in their sleep

Hailing from Burlington, Ontario, the five members of Silverstein have created a following of both youngsters and mature listeners who support them throughout their musical ventures. Shane Told, the band’s vocalist, was kind enough to sit down and chat with me during his tour with guests Escape the Fate, Alesana, and Chiodos. His lively and pleasant nature made for a smooth conversation.
What is the basis of the band name?
That was a long time ago now. I still remember though. It was the year 2000. We started playing music and it was a side project. So we didn’t really know if it was going to last. I didn’t really think it was going to be a serious band. Just something fun. Something different. Then finally we decided we would make a go of it and we would play a show. So we needed a name. It was one of those dumb moments where you are in the practice space and you are looking for some kind of inspiration. And a few weeks before I had picked up this book to sing out of and then one day I picked up a Shel Silverstein book and I started singing out of it. He had just died two months before and then to forward to two weeks before the show, I looked and saw this Silverstein book that I had been reading out of earlier. And I said, “What about Silverstein?” And they were all like, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good name I guess.” And we just went with it.
Who are your musical influences – both musically and otherwise?
Influences are a weird thing. I mean obviously there are musical influences, but we’re five people. So there are bands that inspire me, but they aren’t necessarily bands that inspire our band musically. The Get Up Kids were probably the reason we started Silverstein. Then there’s also like Mineral and Promise Ring. Personally, the Beatles were always a huge influence, too. Billy Joel…I always just liked really great songwriters.
Do you pull from other avenues of life?
I don’t know. Not really. A lot of my main influences are musical and a lot of that has to do with how people are and their ethics. Somebody like Fat Mike from NOFX. He’s always someone I looked up to because he is honest about what he does and what he stands for. Music industry wise, he’s not concerned with what people are going to say about him, so I’ve always looked up to him.
How has music been present in your life aside from the band aspect?
I’ve always been a fan of music. It’s always been something that has been in the background of everything I have ever done. Even when I was three years old I can remember listening to Michael Jackson and Kiss and those bands. Putting on their records and how I would hang out with my family those records were always on in the background. I just associated that music with a good time. It’s always been important to me. As I got older, I found that no matter what happened music was always there for me. Through the good times and the bad times, music will always be there. I think a lot of people that listen to our band feel that same way. Maybe that’s the reason there is a connection there.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene and how do you feel Silverstein fitting in?
I don’t know. If you had asked me that question a couple years ago I would have had a different answer. A lot of bands now are doing things differently than I grew up doing them. A lot of people are worried about their image and that is coming ahead of a lot of other factors in the music. Which is something that Silverstein never thought about until we were a big band. When we realized that some of these things were important. But we never really thought about what we were going to wear on stage or backdrops. IT’s kind of changing the face of it. Punk rock is less punk rock now – it’s more of a major label thing. It kind of bums me out in some ways, but you know whatever. I think musically a lot of bands have really stepped it up and progress – a lot of people can play now. But there is less focus on songwriting. I don’t know where we are viewed compared to these other bands that we sometimes tour with. It’s always hard to be on the inside looking out. I think in some ways we do things like them but ethics wise we’re quite a bit different.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
It’s different every time. I play guitar and write some of the songs all the way through myself and then show everyone the parts. Then other songs, we’ll get in the room and someone will come up with a riff and we’ll grow from there. Put words with it and write it that way.
Do you have a favorite track from your material? Either to play live or to listen to?
That’s hard, you know. It’s kind of like picking a favorite child. There are definitely one’s that I like less. I’m pretty happy with all of them. There are some that are more fun to play live than others, like “Smile in Your Sleep” and “My Heroine” are two that kids really go crazy for live, so those are fun to play.
What do you consider to be your greatest musical achievement thus far?
That’s a hard question. It’s not like I’m writing symphonies. When you’re writing a three in a half minute song, can that be a great musical achievement. Or is a great musical achievement doing an entire a tour. I guess it could be an album. It’s really hard to say. I wish I had a straight answer for that. I think a lot of it is the progression that we’ve made as musicians. Coming from eight years ago when we started the band to now. How much better of a band we are, how much better of a show we have. I think that would be our greatest music achievement – our live show.
How do you feel that your musical outlook has changed over the years of being a band and touring?
I think I have become a lot more open minded about music. When we first started the band, I was pretty much only listening to punk rock, double-time fast music. And then a friend of mine, this girl I liked, made me a mix tape with “emo” bands on it. Which I’m sure nowadays they wouldn’t be considered emo bands. Bands like I mentioned earlier: Promise Ring, Saves the Day, The Get-Up Kids. I listened to it over and over again. I was like this is not fast punk rock, but I like it just as much. And it touched me. I really wanted to explore more of that side of the punk rock scene. So I did. And over the last eight years…
[door opens to green room slowly.
Shane: That was weird. Me: Yeah, that was odd. Shane: Is this venue haunted? Lauren: I think I saw someone push the door open. Shane: Oh you saw someone? Sorry, I watched this show about ghosts and now I’m all freaked out. You know when you watch that late at night and then you go to bed afraid you are going to see something out the corner of your eye.
Shane gets up and closes door]
But anyway…I’ve grown a lot over the years. I used to hate bands with keyboards in them. Absolutely hated them. I don’t know why I felt that way, I guess it was my punk rock background. I always hated when bands would use dance music kind of tones and now I’m like way into that. I guess I’ve just gotten older and way more accepting.
Do you have a favorite aspect of tour?
Touring isn’t very much fun except for the show part. The level we’re at now with a bus and everything is a lot better. A lot more comfortable. And there’s a lot less to worry about. We get a good night’s sleep every night and don’t have to drive. Back in the day we slugged it out in the van for a long time. I don’t know how I got through a lot of those weeks and months of shows. But you know, if it weren’t for those shows. Having the worst day ever, you get up on stage and the kids are there and there are excited about what you do. That is inspiring and makes you able to go on. All the sacrifices you make and being away from home. Tour sucks, but playing the shows is good.
I think if you look back at anyone’s life, over the last eight years, they have things that they would do differently. Personally, looking back at my past relationships there are things that I would have done differently. I made mistakes of course. I definitely have regrets in that since. But musically I feel pretty confident with everything we’ve done. We’ve been lucky and we’ve had fun with it. But the main thing I try to do every day is to look ahead and not regret. You don’t want to be living in regret at any moment.
Any upcoming projects?
Well, we’re doing a new album. We’ve almost done it. We’ve written all the music. I’m starting to get my notebook ready. I’m writing down lyrics. We’re going to be recording that right after Thanksgiving. Hopefully that will be done by the end of January and will come out by April. The new stuff is coming out great; we’re becoming more open minded with our music. I think we’re going to be doing some things differently.
Final comments?
Thanks for the interview and your time and everything. Yeah.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Music is often referred to as the universal language, but the meaning of song lyrics can easily be lost in translation. There must be a strong image to further represent the music and the musicians behind the instruments. Orange jumpsuits and a new wave soundtrack may just be the visual that is needed to lodge the name Polysics in the heads of modern-day American music listeners. The Japanese band is comprised of Hiro on vocals, guitar, and programming, Kayo on synthesizer and vocals, Fumi on bass, Yano on drums, and the energy of the audience.
With a wide foundation of musical influences ranging from, as Hiro offers, “not only a techno, hard rock, punk, and other music” Polysics primary influence is the new wave of the early eighties. Those bands that are most integral to the Polysics are Devo and Kraftwerk. The varied influences have “become one and then we have Polysics.” The band’s knowledge of the current music scene is fairly limited, not only by geographical and language barriers, but the lack of inspiration from modern day music. They hope to add a new dimension to music: “real new wave music that you can actually feel…evolutionized from past to present.” Not only have they brought an original and fortified new wave genre to America, but they have also “brought a lot of seaweed.”
A favorite track among the band members, aside from “every song” is “Moog is Love”, a track that brings the newly matured sound of Polysics to those listening. “If ‘Moog Is Love’ can break through, it would trigger people to know about Polysics,” Fumi interjects. The songs are started by Hiro, who comes up with a “rough idea on his guitar and computer”. After about a quarter of the song is completed, the skeleton of the song is taken to the rest of the band in the studio. The other members then put in the remaining music and sounds to the “core” that Hiro has created. The key component to the process is figuring out at which moment there is to be audience participation: when to jump, when to sing along, and various other physical personifications of the music. They “always have the audience in mind when writing [their] music.”
Music is the focal point in the lives of these four individuals. Fumi’s father was a guitarist, so the music was also around her in some form or another. When Hiro was ten, his father presented him with a guitar and “that is how [he] met music.” That guitar and a fondness for “animation songs” bred his love of music. Hiro says that “Polysics is who we are. There is never a time when we are not being Polysics.” Such dedication to the music and to their words is the dazzling facet that will not allow Polysics to be lost in the muddle of translation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the secret handshake

Led up the stairs to the backstage of the El Corazon in Seattle by the Secret Handshake’s tour manager, Mike Henry, I am surprised to find Luis Dubuc, the Secret Handshake in the flesh, huddled in the corner of his dressing room watching Family Matters on his laptop: a fitting introduction to this electronic, lap-top rocking MySpace-buzz sensation. It’s hard to hear Luis’ answers over the opening band’s sound check. According to Luis, this has been a normal occurrence throughout the tour and is certainly not out of the ordinary. So the self-standing air conditioning unit in the green room is turned off and the door shut which helps quiet things and the interview goes on.

A creative and self-sufficient entity, Luis’ musical project The Secret Handshake, was named after a story written in the musician’s youth. The storyline of the juvenile comic book has since been forgotten and convoluted, but it lives on as the namesake of this Triple Crown records artist. The pronunciation being difficult for some, it was a simple way to avoid calling the band Luis or something similar. The music stems from a collection of influences, most being the music of the eighties and nineties. As Luis says “any artist from that time period was awesome and influenced me.” Fair enough, as long as the Secret Handshake doesn’t become a one-hit wonder lost in the re-runs of VH1.

The set of a Secret Handshake show varies from tour to tour: sometimes there’s a full band, sometimes it’s just Luis and his laptop, and sometimes other musicians sit in and add larger elements to the songs. “There’s not too much of a difference [sound-wise] but it’s more fun to do a full band set…the full band rocks a little more and the audience gets more into it.” But in actuality, the audience is into the set no matter the line-up. When Luis says to throw their hands up, their hands go up. When Luis asks the audience to sing along to a new song, they do their best to sing along with as much gusto as they can muster.

The current music scene has been overwhelmed by the use and creation of MySpace – whether that’s a good or bad development is left up to individual interpretation. The buzz factor that it creates must be acknowledged, as it allows bands a somewhat instantaneous popularity that doesn’t last long. Luis realizes this and admits that he relied on MySpace to connect and reach out to those that might be interested in his music, but “with just MySpace popularity you can’t really do anything…you have to get out there and tour.” And that is just what Luis has done, even when the turnouts weren’t quite as big as he would have liked because “the bands that work hard will be noticed.” Because touring is such an odd routine, a band never quite knows what to expect, but playing a good show “makes you giddy” and it can really improve the general morale of the crew while on tour. So while Luis is heading from town to town make sure you make every show the best it can be “just like a midnight movie.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

mornings in seattle

rachel insists that listening to your heart is a choice.
that it's a choice to toss out the logical or the routine ways of over thinking everything.
but even then it's easier said than done.
as is everything.
it's easier to hide behind a decent vocabulary and the songs of others
it's easier to not let anyone in and to rebuild and reinforce the walls around you.

but it's certainly the lonely route.
because minus a few there is no one that truly knows you.
or who you will truly allow to know you.
so swallow your pride and your unspoken fears.
accept it for what it is.
and let yourself get carried up in the moment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

war stories - yep

war stories interview QandA

War Stories – Interview with Evan (singer)

Me: Hey Evan. How's it going?

Evan: Doing well. Driving in traffic. Besides driving in traffic, other than that I'm good.

Me: Do you want to try for when you're not in traffic?

Evan: Nah. I think I'm going to be in it for a while. So let's get this started.

Me: Okay. Well, let's start with how the band got together.

Evan: How the band got together. Well I can start by saying that Reid and myself met about seven years ago at a resort where we both worked. We worked in a restaurant there. At that point in time, Reid and I were both playing in previous bands and right around that same time we ended up leaving our different bands. I started playing material on my own and then one day at work, I approached Reid with it and gave him a very rough recording of some of the stuff I was doing. He really dug it and from there we met up at his house. He was living at a house in Temecula…it was this shed in the yard. We met up in the shed and jammed and collaborated on some of the stuff. We worked on some of the stuff that I had written at the time, which was very few. From there we just pieced a band together. We rehearsed in the beginning at Cal State San Marco, where Reid was going to the college at the time. He was part of the recording arts program so had access to these rooms to practice in with a piano, a drum set, basically everything we needed. That was where we first started practicing. And after six months of practicing, we cut a demo. And then we created a buzz among the record labels and shortly after the buzz was started we ended up signing with Columbia. Let me know if I'm going too fast. We kind of went to how the band got together to Columbia. Stop me if I get on a tangent.

Me: Okay. Tangents are good.

Evan: (laughs) So yeah, we got on Columbia. Got on national tours. Recorded a record. Before the record was released and halfway through our tour with Kasabian, we got dropped in the middle of that tour. We got a phone call from our management that said Columbia had dropped the band and was not going to put out the record. So, that was that and I informed the guys. And decided that we were going to continue to write music and be a working band. Do it independently. That's what we've been doing ever since. Now we have a record that actually came out on August 19th. Yeah, that brings us up to date.

Me: What did you learn from that experience with Columbia?

Evan: I learned a lot. Not only that had to do with the music industry but in dealing with people in general. You have to be very, very careful of whom you trust and in what hands you place your career. So basically…probably the greatest lesson learned, is that there is a way to do what you want to do and share what you want to share without compromising. That wasn't possible with the major label. There were a ton of people looking over my shoulder in the studio that were saying do this and do that. Working with a big name producer, which was great but at the same time it gave the label piece of mind knowing who was producing the record. We know our songs well enough to where we knew how we wanted them to sound. We had a vision. But there were some hoops that we had to jump through that weren't really necessary. Basically lesson learned was that you don't need to compromise your musical and personal integrity to make a record.

Me: Can you describe your song writing process?

Evan: Yeah. Definitely. It usually starts with just an acoustic guitar. I've been writing a lot just with the acoustic guitar. And then I bring the chord progression, the melody to Reid. He's real great at the additions to the song…any lead guitar parts, any hooks, anything like that. So that's one way is just starting with the acoustic guitar and then I bring it to Reid. Another thing that has been really effectively lately is that Reid has been playing the piano a lot more. So he'll come up with the chord progressions on the piano and bring them to me. When you start to write with the piano, it just has a different feel. So writing with the piano adds different emotions behind the feel of the song. Songwriting always starts between Reid and myself and either a piano or a guitar. We write that way hoping that the song can end on its own with just one instrument. So that if we strip it down to just acoustic, it's still a great song, rather than having to have any production value to it.

Me: Do you have a favorite song from your material? And if so, why is that your favorite?

Evan: Okay. Let's see. I have a favorite song off the record. We'll talk about these, because no one has ever heard the other songs we're writing. There's this track called "What Does God See" on the record that I feel really captures what we do. It really sums up everything we do as a band. And to have that all come together on one song is very rewarding. Because you can never expect that. You like certain songs for certain reasons at a certain time. But I find myself playing "What Would God Do" whether it's in the rehearsal room or at a show and it always feels good to play. Regardless of how shitty or good the sound is, the song always feels good. It also has that through-provoking, epic feel to it, too. It's always subject to change, but for now that's my favorite song that we play.

Me: What are your thoughts on the current music scene? And what do you hope to contribute.

Evan: I hope to contribute honest music. That's all…I mean I can't really get any more detailed because music can be so complex. You can want to say so much and the listener might not get what you're trying to say. So all we can do as a band is write honest, heartfelt music. And hope that it's a breath of fresh air. That's what we try to contribute. My thoughts on the current music scene…to be honest, I think there are a lot of bands who are bands for the wrong reasons. And that's fine…I have a deep respect for anyone that gets up on stage and shares their music, but to go deeper than that I feel that a lot of bands are there to party and not share their art. I think that there's a ton of great bands that do a great job, but on the same hand it's obvious to me when I see a band up there for the wrong reasons. And I could be wrong, but those are my thoughts on it.

Me: What do you consider to be your greatest musical achievement thus far?

Evan: My greatest musical achievement.

Me: Yes.

Evan: Hmmm. Well, I had a girl write me an e-mail one time and she said that she had lost someone that was very close to her. (Evan: Sorry, I just had to honk at this guy. Shouts "Yo!" into traffic. This guy is backing up into me. Me: Well, he should not do that. Evan: And his reverse lights are on and he's still backing up. But we're at a red light right now. You almost just got me into an accident, Lauren. Me: (laughs) Certainly didn't mean to. Evan: (laughing) Anyway, enough about my car wreck. Although, it would have been super mellow. ) Anyway, this girl wrote me an e-mail and she had just lost someone. No, she didn't just lose someone, but she had just found that her brother was diagnosed with cancer and he was just a kid. And she had a ton of feelings coming from the news that her brother was terminally ill. And she wrote me this page long e-mail saying that she found our current record very therapeutic and that she had used our record as therapy. And she found it to be a great tool to get her through that tragic of a time. So when I hear that the music that we are creating is affecting lives to that degree, to make someone want to keep living….that's the ultimate reward. I could not sell another record in my whole entire life and feel good about what we do. Because we literally helped someone firsthand with a very tragic situation. I would say that is my great musical achievement at this point.

Me: Do you have any regrets as a band?

Evan: Ummm. Let's see. I don't perceive them as regrets, I have some things that I would do differently now that I've learned from the experience with the label and all that stuff. But at the same time I would have never learned if I hadn't gone through it. So as far as regretting anything, no. But, like I said earlier in our conversation, just being very aware of who is guiding your band and to be careful with the people that you trust.

Me: Upcoming projects and tours in the works?

Evan: Upcoming project is basically just continuing War Stories. We are going to do an acoustic EP. Hopefully around Christmas time and the first of the year we'll be working with that. So we're excited about that. And we don't have any tours set in stone. We've been playing a lot locally between San Diego and Los Angeles. It just costs so much damn money to be on the road. SO it's hard for a band in our position to be on the road without any tour support. But that's where I hope to be, so hopefully this record will help put us there.

Me: Well, I hope so, too. Any final comments?

Evan: I don't think so. Unless you're looking for something that I didn't give to you.

Me: Nope. It's been a great conversation. Thank you.

Evan: Cool. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

a long day

so after you finish reading sartre's naseau...everything seems to exist a little differently.
even yourself.
so here i sit - and i feel the need to be industrious, but I am left wondering what the point would be. precisely.

so i have symphony practice tonight. and maybe a photoshoot within the next day or so. and several interviews on thursday - secret handshake and mercy mercedes. yep.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Just moved up this way.

It's lovely. I mean - the ocean is my backyard!! How much better can it get.

So - here I sit in Gig Harbor.

I worked the Bumbershoot festival all weekend which stalled for time on the job hunting front.
And futurgarb is amazing - so be sure to check them out.

I will write more when more has happened. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

photoshoot today

it went quite well.
not that i hadn't expected it to.
listened to the new death cab album while taking pictures.
no better way to relax...but i do have a short attention span when it comes to long intros.
the weather in tn is getting hot and humid again.
which basically equals it's time for me to get out!

couple pics from today.

Friday, August 15, 2008

the cute lepers - can you hear the handclaps?

The Cute Lepers, condensed but not diminished in the shadow of the full name Steve E. Nix and the Cute Lepers, blast through your speakers from their geographical location of the Pacific Northwest. The precipitation of the area may be heavy and somewhat depressive, but the Cute Lepers use their charm and musical mirth to brighten even the most rain-filled scapes and audiences. Choosing to announce their arrival with backup vocalists embellishing the songs with handclaps and tambourines versus the historical warning sounds of bells, these Lepers are happily welcomed by fans of all ages. Steve E. Nix, formerly of the Briefs, fronts the band on guitar and lead vocals, Stevie Kicks stands his ground on bass, Zache Out wails on guitar, and Josh Blisters pounds away on drums while Meredith and Prisilla take it all in and provide the audience with the titillating addition of backup vocals, tambourine, and rhythmic handclaps. After a set at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, Steve, clad in his striking bleach-blonde hair and a colorful, yet eccentric, wardrobe, enjoyed a well-deserved cigarette and shared the ups and downs of being one of the Cute Lepers.

The interview starts off with Steve making the observation that LA crowds are a bit funny when it comes to attendance at shows in that they are there just for whomever they came to see. And that’s true. The average LA concert attendee isn’t there for the rest of the bill beyond the chosen band over whom they obsess. But there is no doubt that those who came early or stuck around to see The Cute Lepers perform that night got their money’s worth. This man, when compared with the multitude of musicians that I have interviewed, is a charming conversationalist and adeptly articulate with his thoughts regarding the music scene and his place within that world. The catalyst for his musical life was a tape…an ABBA tape. A bit unexpected for this “record collecting geek” but an artifact whose existence is explained: “When I was in second grade I wanted to get a Kiss record,” starts Steve, the but that is to follow lingering mid-sentence. “But my parents wouldn’t let me. They got me ABBA instead…and I loved it. I had the tape memorized.” After that tape, Steve constantly had songs running through his head and it was simply a “natural attraction.”

Aside from Kiss, many influences exist within Steve’s veins. Be it first wave punk rock from England which includes Johnny Thunders, the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators, and all the “good English stuff”, or the Danger House scene in LA like the Weirdos and the Bags, Steve has a love for “raw music with hooks.” Maybe that can be attributed to all the power pop that has been gracing his ears over the past couple of years.

After the dissolution of The Briefs, which happened for various reasons after roughly an eight year stint, Steve decided that he “wanted to create a band that [he] could do no matter what. That would be more of a democracy.” So he set to the task at hand. When one is already familiar with the ways of being in a band and of the logistics of creating a band, the task doesn’t seem that daunting. Kicks came from the Briefs and the remaining musicians were nabbed from the Seattle area. The tracks were first demoed in basements and the songs were put together complete with backup singers. But the final line-up of the band wasn’t solidified until after the recording of the album. A bit backwards from the traditional process, but a successful process nonetheless.

The final lineup provides an “entertaining, heartfelt, passionate, and unreserved” experience for the concert-goer. These may be Steve’s own words referring to what the band itself is striving to achieve with its live show, but it’s a goal that has already been reached. Steve is paying for this creation with his demanding involvement on stage. “In the Briefs I didn’t have to sing all the songs,” he explains. “We took turns singing, and I could just play guitar some of the time. In this band I have to sing all the songs, and I don’t think that I even really want to. It sort of happened by default.” Either intentional or accidental, it’s a happening that is a positive addition to the resume of this music scene veteran.

And this participant in the music scene isn’t satisfied with the music that is churned out by the many bands that flood the scene. Just look at the title of the album: Can’t Stand Modern Music. If that doesn’t scream loudly enough, then what is needed to make the statement clear? In defense of the album title, Steve adds, “I think the majority of what gets passed off as rock music on the radio is terrible. It sounds like it comes out of a factory where it’s just processed to appeal to the lowest common denominator and that’s not the spirit of rock n roll.” But even with a plethora of bands spilling into the greedy public’s airwaves, there is to be something positive gained: if there is bad music in existence, however plentiful, there is going to be good music that is created to “rise against it.” Steve hopes to offer up his own taste to sway the ears of the record-buying public and diminish the existence of “punk-by-numbers bands.” A gallant feat if it can be accomplished. It seems as though people are more compelled to thoughtlessly snag the latest chart-topper while brushing past those albums offering musical integrity.

So while The Cute Lepers are riding in a van from state to state, catch a show. It might break up the monotony of your life just as shows break up the monotony of being on tour for the aforementioned band. But Steve takes pleasure in the characters that he meets on the road and the “sense of humor that goes around. The most retarded things become really funny and entertaining because you have to find something to cover the monotony…you get used to [being in a van for eight hours] but it puts you in a weird state.”

However, come prepared because the Cute Lepers do deliver. So pop in Can’t Stand Modern Music, a “compelling mixture of power pop mod revival and first wave punk rock with some dynamite backup vocals and amazing guitar tones”, and let its sounds take you to a place of wonder and melody. And Steve wouldn’t want you to forget that the show comes complete with “a handsome drummer.”