HANK & CUPCAKES

When did you realize you were a musician?

Hank > When I was 18 and about to be incorporated for the IDF (It’s mandatory in Israel which is where we’re from…). I was confronted with the thought of not playing my bass for 3 years and realized that thought was unbearable.

Cupcakes > I was always interested in performing arts whether singing, playing piano, acting or dancing but honestly when I met Hank I was inspired by his complete dedication and I started to focus in on music.

What was the first album you purchased and how do you rank it today?

Hank > My parents gave me Abbey Road when I was about 13 and it’s still is one of my top 5 today.

Cupcakes > I think it was an Israeli artist called Eviatar Banai, I haven’t heard it in years so I’m not sure where it would rank today but in my memory it’s pretty good!

How did you two come together to form Hank & Cupcakes?

We had just come back from a long stay in Havana Cuba in late 2007 and decided to wrap up our life in Israel and relocate to NYC in late 2008. We had a full year of limbo and were bored silly, to the point we actually said let’s jam together and see what happens. And then all these songs started coming and it was fun and made sense!

What’s your role in the songwriting with the ‘band’?

Hank > The songs are written by Cupcakes, usually on a piano and I contribute on the arrangement / productional side. I also started writing recently so maybe we’ll have some of my songs on the next record.

Cupcakes > Some of the songs have come about from jamming together in the studio, some from combining ideas (like in the song “Cocaina” for example, Hank came up with the chorus first and I later wrote the verses) and many from the piano as Hank

Do you write music for the iphone, walkman or the live performance?

Hank > We make no conscious effort to write for anyone, just try to have fun and keep it real.

Cupcakes > I never used to confine myself when writing but recently I sat down at the piano and asked myself “now what would I want to be playing on stage?” and a really groovy high energy song came out which we’re both super happy about so I might continue to “lead” myself that way!

 

What are your musical differences?

Lets see… We argue during rehearsals sometimes, it’s usually some stupid argument about a part or something of that sort that gets blown out of proportion because we are so emotionally intertwined… It’s not so much about the differences but more about the amount of passion invested meeting the occasional frustration.

What are your earth signs and how do the movement of the moon n’ planets affect your ability to work together as a team?

Hank > We’re not heavy on astrology… I’m Scorpio and Cupcakes is Virgo, I phoned the moon but got the answering machine…

Cupcakes > Yup, not strong on the star signs… I try to let my inner voice lead my actions. As far as working as a team, it’s really about knowing how to communicate, listen to each other and always remember that we’re both striving for the same goals.

If you had to choose, what are your personal & band theme song(s)?

Hank > “Enter The Ninja” by Die Antwoord

Cupcakes > hmmm…that’s a tough one, all I can think of right now are really cheesy 90’s songs.

Whats the best / favorite gig you have ever done?

Hank > I don’t know about best / favorite, we don’t look into the past with longing… We had 2 amazing shows this weekend at Nashville and St. Louis Pride events right after the supreme court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. It was very emotional and we felt lucky to be a part of these events at this time in history when progress and justice were glorious.

Cupcakes > Yeah last weekend at Pride was amazing. I also love the show where people start taking their clothes off and throwing them on stage. We tend to encourage releasing the beast within!!

Your next album goes all the way to #1, whats your essential backstage rider wishlist include?

A helium container, two full body rabbit costumes, mini golf, live flamingos, 4 palm trees w/ 2 hammocks (Parallel) and a Magician. Thank you! – Hank & Cupcakes

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GAVIN DUNAWAY

libel_matchless21What got you hooked on rock & roll?
 
105.9 WCXR – the main classic rock station in DC during the 80s. My father blasted it in the car wherever we went, and I fell in love with the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, etc. Mainly stuff with badass guitar work – I knew by the age of six I wanted to be a guitarist just like my idol George Harrison. You couldn’t imagine how upset I was when I found out Eric Clapton actually played the guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
 
But yeah, they turned me into a rock addict at a young age, and I haven’t been able to shake it after all these years.
 
Was there ever a time in which you imagined you may be cured or give up? 
 
Honestly, in 2008, my band The Alphabetical Order lost its fourth drummer (sequential) and I’d tired of the sound and the DC music scene. I was pondering graduate school, writing a novel (still working on that one), maybe even teaching overseas. But I couldn’t shake it – I still wanted to rock, play guitar loud as shit and make at least a few more albums. A good friend explained that Brooklyn was the place to fulfill these dreams, so I packed up my equipment and never looked back. Well, except to visit friends… And family, if I have to.
 
What essentially makes Libel tick so urgently?
 
A fair deal of angst, discontent and disillusion – possibly some very hot overdrive pedals. Certainly the espresso IV bag hooked up to my left arm, which is easier to play guitar with than you might imagine. 
 
My initial goal with Libel was to blend my love of post-hardcore – e.g., Mission of Burma, Fugazi, Shudder to Think, Jawbox – with my affection for Bowie’s vocal stylings (he taught me how to sing, whether he knows it or not!) and songwriting prowess. And then, yeah, I wanted to layer in some heavier shoegaze atmospherics a la Swervedriver and Ride. I was influenced by very intense music, so it’s all I know how to make.
 
Seems like NYC projects break-up and reform under new banners if they don’t pop quick, or did you already?
 
Nope – we’ve been flying under the Libel flag since 2009, when we released our first EP, “The Prolonged Insult,” though the lineup has changed over the years. Pop culture memories are super short, so there’s a huge push to appear fresh and new (although it’s our fourth release, we do market “Music for Car Commercials” as our “debut LP.”) I think many people that re-brand constantly like you suggested are trying to chase the popular sound, trying to keep in step with what’s hip, which is definitely not my philosophy. 
 
There are plenty of great bands that didn’t get a lot of attention at first (maybe they didn’t have the hot sound of the moment) who eventually broke through, and people were then blown away by their back catalog. But, those bands stayed true to their ideas and evolved organically, not at the behest of the latest sonic trend. They’re the ones we remember.
 
How / where does the writing process seem to work best for the band? 
 
The magic songwriting window opens right after falling off the bar stool and right before vomiting and blacking out. It’s a short nirvana, so the process must be repeated regularly.
 
No, it’s more like this: I’ll come up with an idea – a lot of times just fumbling around with the guitar while watching TV – record it via Logic, and then build other ideas on top of it over a while until it seems like a sketch of a song. I’ll record bass, program (basic) drums, throw on some extra guitars and maybe keyboards, all the while working out draft lyrics. 
 
When I feel the tune is far enough along and is worthy of their ears, I’ll send off an MP3 and get feedback from the guys – while hearing what I was thinking, they’ll bring their own (better) ideas to the table when we jam on it. Nothing is set in stone – parts will disappear, parts will be added. I say that I provide the skeleton of a song, and together we develop a body for it.
 
What’s first for you in terms of material: a feeling / vibe from the music or the subject matter?
 
A lot of times they’re not even connected. I used to have notebook upon notebook with random lyric ideas, while now I keep them all stored in my iPhone (notes are great, save trees), which in turn gets saved to iCloud. You can tell I embrace the tech. While we’re writing a song, I’ll just sense that such-and-such random verse would be perfect and build the rest of the lyrics from there. Or it could go the other way around – I’m constantly humming works in progress to myself, and on the train something may click. Not to sound too hippy dippy, but often my musical ideas and lyrical subject matter just seem to find themselves in my head. Must be some kind of holy function…
 
libel_coco035Your bio mentions imaginary tours from a past age; do you really feel that out of place?
 
At first I was going to say, “Oh yeah, I wish I was in the 90s!” We probably would have seemed among peers 20 years ago, but in the current landscape, it’s nice being unique and difficult to classify. Other 90s-throwback bands getting attention sound a lot like one particular act – Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, vintage Weezer. But our influences are pretty mixed, and they’re not groups that really roll off people’s tongues, although they have loyal followings – bands like Jawbox, HUM and Swervedriver. We’re not lonely – we got a lot of Brooklyn peers with raucous sounds – but standing out in the current morass is gratifying, 
 
What’s the bigger high for you: writing, recording or performing?
 
Ugh, must I decide? Performing is certainly the most exhilarating, leaving you tingling for hours – maybe – days afterwards. Performing offers the quickest gratification, but writing and recording an album gives a sense of accomplishment that cannot be matched.
 
You wanna know the biggest low? Marketing – trying to convince people your music is special, especially when their senses are saturated by media. “Well, my mom likes it!”
 
What’s your philosophy (if any) when it comes to playing live?
 
As rabid fans of the great German group Autobahn, we practice nothing but nihilism. Emphasis on nothing.
 
A spaceship lands on your roof, a small gray humanoid emerges with a vinyl record he knows you will approve of as a first offering / means to an end: what (most likely) is it?  
 
Though it may sound cliche, I think there’s only one record that could be in his hand: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” This starman has come down to meet us because he doesn’t think he’d blow our minds. Basically, he’s telling us not to blow it because he thinks it’s all worthwhile. Let the children lose it, let the children use it, let all the children boogie.
 
However, that LP better be a first printing, or it’s galactic warfare up your ass, buddy.

NATALIE MISHELL

NatalieMishellWhen you think about the new disc Goodnight Stranger in general terms, what’s it about?

Hmmmmm, well that’s a pretty loaded question… or more so a loaded answer, lol.  This was a really hard and personal record for me to write and even harder for me to listen to now.  In a nutshell I would say that when I was writing these songs I was in a very dark and confusing place in my life.  I felt I had lost a lot of my spirit, peace and the happiness.  I sort of became this person that I didn’t know.  When you listen to the record you hear a recurring theme in the lyrics of unfamiliarity and loss of one’s self…  and so the title “Goodnight Stranger” is referring to me as the Stranger.   I felt the title suited this chapter in my life…

How was it working with producer JP Bowersock?

From the moment I met JP I knew I wanted him to producer my record.  Not only was he a pleasure to work with, but he’s energy really helped bring such an emotional record to life. He kept the vibes positive and made sure I was always happy and comfortable.  I learned so much from him and Mark Dann (engineer) on the production side of things and in turn I feel like my ear is better because of them.  They really kept me apart of the whole process, and let me, the artist, make all the final decisions in the studio.  JP had a way of giving my songs the roots and character I wanted but at the same time keeping the sound “up to date” per say.  When we talked about how we wanted the record to sound we decided that we wanted it to have an old school 70s vibe, with a modern Americana sound.  I think we nailed it!  JP and I were both thrilled with how it turned out.

How was your approach to the studio this time different than when you recorded your debut EP In My Shoes a couple years ago?

So this is the first record that I have funded myself.  That being said, we were on a TIGHT budget lol!   Everything was carefully planned out as to not waste any studio time because every minute costs.  Believe it or not we got all the basic tracks recorded for this record in one twelve-hour day!   It was crazy and stressful but we did it!  JP had set up some rehearsals with the band prior to the recording session so we were prepared and super sharp for the recording.  You could technically say this is a live album because all the basic tracks were played together as a band and mixed in a live room instead of each musician recording separately.  That being said, we did have overdub sessions and of course I went in to do most of my vocals separately.  One of the greatest things about this record is that I have a stellar band now that I have been playing with for the past two years and so we naturally vibe together which I think you can tell from the recordings.  On my first EP, I didn’t even really know the musicians that played on the record and every track was recorded on a separate stem.  It’s not to say one way is better than the other for the listener but from an artist point of view I definitely dig recording with my band that knows me and my songs.

What do you feel are the high points (or best moments) on new album?

Well lets talk about some songs first…I think everyone’s opinion is and will be different but for me I love the song “My Peace”  That songs has some really raw and honest moments…I’m sure that’s not going to be my “hit” per say but I think that song best plays out my life during the writing of “Goodnight Stranger”.  On a lighter note, “Blue Moon” is a solid track, and it’s kinda of a break from more of the moodier stuff on the record.  Everyone seems to think that that song is going to be well received and as a band we all vibe really well together on that track!  And finally, one of my favorite moments on this album is the slide guitar in “Muela West”.  It’s the first thing you hear when you start the record and I think it’s interesting, strong and beautiful.  It really captures your attention and makes you want to keep listening…

Mishell_GibsonNYCHow did you track the vocals?

There were a couple of songs that I actually used the scratch vocals on.  “My Peace” being one of them.  But for the majority I came in separately from the band and tracked my vocals with just JP and Mark.

Who plays on the record and what do they bring to the personality of your band / music?

Neil Cavanagh, Billy Grant, Tony Oppenheimer and Neil Nunziato.  I had been playing with these guys for a while prior to the recording and I have to say that their time and devotion to this project gave me the confidence to put thing this down.  These guys were all so positive and talented and if it were not for them, these arrangements would not exist.  They all pretty much had creative control over their own parts and I never really needed to worry about it “sounding good” because they are killer musicians.  All of us were super honest, supportive and professional and that’s what makes a successful band.

Which tunes of the record are you playing live and which of them seems to go over best?

We have played most of them live at one time or another but the ones that seem to always be on the set lists are, Blue Moon, Never Really Tried, Between the Lines, Bag of Bones, Muela West and Riding the Wind.  Blue Moon is always a favorite of the crowd.

Does your background in acting inform your live performance as a singer / musician?

Absolutely!   I think my experience with acting gives me the confidence and personality to get on stage night after night and at least look like I know what I’m doing hahah:) Also, something that I learn in acting is how to be vulnerable which is really hard for humans to do in general.  As a musician though you have to be because you are always trying to communicate and relate to your audience and if you can’t “let them in”…what’s the point?

Socially, how is New York city different from where you came from in California? 

No where is like New York.  New York is its own animal and I think about this all the time.  My life socially here is an adventure everyday, filled with twist, turns and surprises, giving me more inspiration to write, experience, and love.  I like to think that I have a “New YorK” family as well as my real one.  The people that I know here have brought such joy and positive energy into my life and I think that’s because this city just has that effect on people.  I’m not a world traveler so I can’t say that this is the only place in the world that has this effect on people but I find myself falling in love with my life here in new york more every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my home and where I come from in Southern California but for me my environment is so important and this cities people, culture and life brings me experience every day…and that’s what people strive for…”the experience”.

In a strange twist of fate, you are hooked up to a lie detector by angry ASCAP agents …you are surprised when the question they ask you is simply “What are your three favorite albums of all-time?”.

Don’t make me do this!!!  Well these are certainly not the best records of all time but it’s 3 of which I can’t live without…I had about 15 and then did eeny meeny miny moe and this is what I got….

Radiohead- The Bends, Joni Mitchell- Blue, Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker

.NatalieMISHELLAre you happy with how your debut Natalie Mishell EP, In My Shoes, has been received so far?

When I was in the studio recording “In My Shoes”  I was overwhelmed, being that it was the first time anyone had taken my songs and gave life to my music.  I feel like the end result was more than I could have asked for at the time.  I have a product I am proud of and I feel, for my first record, it did pretty well with fans on both the east coast and west.  The feedback I get from people has been very positive. I do wish, however, we got to put more songs on it:)

Did you have specific goals going in to the studio?

Really my only goal was to learn as much as I could.  I was new to it…this was my first time in a major studio in NYC and I had no idea what to expect.  Rich Paganowho produced it, was a pleasure to work with and kind of guided me through the whole process. As I got more comfortable with him and the process I started coming in to my own. One thing that I was really picky about was my vocals sounding too “clean”; I really wanted there to be a lot of feeling behind the lyrics and I think that comes across when the vocals are “true”, without auto tuning, or effects, things like that.

You did a solo east coast tour this summer in support of the disc, how did it go and is it scary playing solo?

I was a bit nervous you could say lol.  I didn’t have a band backing me up.  I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be enough to portray the songs like the record cuz’ there is definitely a lot going on instrumentally.  I thought the people that had heard the record but never seen me live might be disappointed but thankfully I was wrong. I had a great response and some fans even preferred me live, alone on an acoustic – that was a great feeling!  I had a lot of support from fans on this tour and it made me a better, more confident musician. But, at the end of the day, I love having the energy of a band behind a song.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to performing live or anything you hope to get across to the audience?

Hmmmm, I don’t know if I would call it a philosophy…for me, I guess it’s about sharing myself with the audience.  If I am connected to the song, if I am “in the moment” and really feeling what I’m saying, then I feel that comes across to the audience and they connect with me.  So to do that I actually have to forget they are there while in a song and focus on what I’m singing.  And then when a song is over I immediately try to re-engage the audience, so they know I am present there with them, and not in my own la la land. lol.

What songs (or artists) had the biggest impact on you as a kid?

As I kid I grew up on all the greatest… Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel,  Joni Mitchell, etc.  My parents were pretty hip you could say haha. Well, at least I thought so. Classic rock and folk music was huge in the family.   The songs that told a vivid story, with a voice I could actually feel were my favorites.  Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin were probably my top favorites growing up.

What came first for you, singing or the guitar?

You probably won’t believe this but I started singing at 8, taking voice lesson regularly.  My dad bought me a guitar when I was 13 and didn’t pick it up until I was 20!  It’s terrible, I’m actually really pissed at myself for waiting so long to start playing.  I could have actually been “good” at it? But all kidding aside, I’m so glad I at least picked it up finally. Changed my world as a songwriter and performer.

What was the first song you ever wrote and what was the inspiration behind it? 

The first song that I ever wrote using the guitar was, “Without You” when I was 20.  My inspiration came from what every young girls goes through at one point; a broken heart.   I had been playing about a month and knew like 4 chords.  The song just sort of wrote itself.  I actually love this song and I don’t have any professional recordings of it, but lately I have been thinking it might be kinda of cool to put it on my next record as a bonus acoustic track… Maybe :)

How does the song writing process start for you, with a subject, a guitar line, a melody?

I could write for hours on this but as to not bore you I’ll try and sum it up.  The process for me is pretty much always the same…First of all, I can only write when I am in the mood.  It has to be totally organic.  I used to try and set aside time for writing and that was a huge mistake, I only wrote bad songs and got frustrated with myself.  I find music comes to me when I don’t force it.  When I’m mentally ready to write something I just feel it.  I’ll stop whatever it is I’m doing, lock myself in my room and write.  It starts with the mood I’m in and one chord and everything else just falls into to place.

What’s your favorite thing about the scene in New York City?

Oh god, what is there not to love about this city.  This city has everything to offer someone and more.  I can’t just pick one thing. The culture, the creative artists, the food, the seasons…  I really could go on about this.  So, the best thing I would say, is the opportunity.

What ‘guilty pleasures’ might one be surprised to find on your deserted island playlist?

HAHAHAH…Well this is funny.  Snoop Dogg :)

DONALD DUCOTE

url1.0 – Labels aside, the music on Tracks is hard to pin down, is that part of your vibe as a dude?

I don’t think so.  Maybe more now than the years previous.  We started recording Tracks in 2010 and you could take one look at me and figure it out.  Recovering hipster/pothead and you can bet the farm he started off in the suburbs.  Is that what you’re asking?  I have an aloof card that I can play pretty well, and I have, but lately I’ve been trying to shut that down; it’s boring.  I don’t think anybody wants to be easy to pin down.

2.0 – It sounds as if Ancient History has, ironically or not, been a real organic evolution of sorts; how did it come together?

I met Jim Smith, Austin Lemeiux and Paul Johnson while managing a cafe off the Morgan L stop in Brooklyn. They were all regular customers. I got to know Jim because he recorded the final record of my previous band.  He was also roommates with a friend of mine.

Paul lived in my building and we had been wanting to play together for a while.  Once things got situated with Jim he was the first person I called and we worked out the first couple tunes in his living room.

I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but whatever, it’s funny, I asked a co-worker with which customer she would most like to copulate.  She said, “The earl grey guy with all the tattoos that looks fucked up every morning.”  That was Austin and I can’t imagine there being a better-suited lead guitarist for my songs than that guy.  The next time he walked into the coffee shop I asked if he was a musician.  He said that he was a guitar player and he listed Jeff Buckley as his first influence.  We clicked immediately.  The first song we cut was ‘She Gave You the Keys’ in a basement art gallery in Dumbo and it was just the four of us, Jim was behind the board.  I believe we got it in about 3 takes and I remember us listening back and just being very pleased with what everybody was bringing to the table.

3.0 – Is understanding your sound as simple as the mix of your southern roots embracing the indie biosphere of Brooklyn?

I’m not convinced my roots are southern. I think, if anything, it’s the other way around. When I was in 4th grade I had a Garth Brooks tape and a Trisha Yearwood tape, but as soon as Nirvana showed up I was out.  I’ve always appreciated a sturdy song and I’ve always respected country music for being such loyalists to songcraft, even at the expense of any significant experimentation, but I think for me it’s always been the songcraftier end of my indie influences embracing whatever genre has a documentary streaming on Netflix.

4.0 – How did you approach the recording process for Tracks?

I had recorded with Jim Smith on my last project and he approached me about wanting to record some songs without a full band.  We put our heads together and decided to buy an old tape machine and record another record.  We didn’t want a clock ticking over our head and we didn’t want to record in a sterile studio environment.  That was it really.  We were going for natural reverb and mic placement.  We wanted to use tape and we wanted it to be warm and ambient.  We didn’t want a band album. We made a rule that we couldn’t use a drum kit and we wanted to focus our energy on a song by song basis.

Jim found the machine he wanted and he drove it from Detroit to NYC and we just hacked away at it whenever we could.  It took about two years.  I can’t tell you how important Jim was to this record. He’s amazing at what he does and because of it he is very busy, so there were long stretches between sessions, months at a time, to prep the songs and figure out over-dubs.

AncientHistory5.0 – As trippy as it gets at times, the tradition of story telling seems an important feature to your stuff; to what other artist, or artists, might you attribute the influence?

Storytelling is something that comes very naturally to me.  Anybody that knows me will tell you that I love a good story.  As a musician I’ve sometimes felt that I should’ve spent more energy trying to repress the urge to over-indulge my personal experiences but still, love and heartbreak are not topics that I write about very often. On the three records before TRACKS there are probably only 4 or 5 songs between them that are about romantic relationships. When it came time to write for this record I just said, “Fuck it.  Here’s all the shit I’ve been saving.”  Not sure I’ll ever endorse such straight-ahead narrative ever again, not because I think the record suffered for it, but because nothing I have left to purge is anything that anyone wants to hear about. Regarding influences, I’ve always been drawn to the more subtle characters of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith. I like songs that can capture ordinary moments and infuse them with something unordinary, but at the same time Pedro the Lion’s Control and Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker are two desert island records for me.  I don’t know, I have an undying admiration for Jeff Mangum and the words he writes. Lyrically speaking, I would like to adopt a more abstract state of mind going forward.

6.0 – What tunes on the disc are you digging most now that it’s done?

Hmm.  I love four-leafed.  It’s a song that had been brewing a very, very long time.  My buddy PJ (Michael Poulton) played lead for the first half of the song.  I recorded him in my bedroom in the middle of the night.  I remember we were drunk and he was playing slide with a beer bottle.  It’s one of the few songs that isn’t about a female.  And it’s fun to play.  Clover Honey is a sentimental favorite.  I love Austin’s guitar on that one, when it hits the high note halfway through.  He nailed it in one take.  We were working on Subway Dream and I remember telling Jim that I didn’t want lead guitar on the song.  He said ok, then Austin gave me some weed and I went to smoke in the hall.  When I came back Jim and Austin had finished Austin’s guitar part: that warm, burning distortion that just rolls through the song until it spikes into the breakdown.  Jim just smiled at me.  It took them five minutes and it made the song.

7.0 – How do songs come to you: more as ideas or feelings that lead to ideas?

Lyrics are always last.  Melody happens when it happens.  The riff is always first, the progression, the picking pattern, whatever.  The initial musical idea is what puts the key into the ignition.  To turn the engine you’ve got to grab that change, that switch from verse to chorus or chorus to bridge or whatever.  That’s what excites me.  Great changes.  When it comes to lyrics, I draw from the past, which is something I hate about myself.  I wish I could lose the documentarian in me and endorse a sense of fiction, but I find it very difficult to separate myself from what I’m writing, especially if I’m gonna be asked to sing the words over and over again.  I’m still trying though.

8.0 – What was your favorite 3 records in high school?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is not a very culturally diverse place.  If you were in your early teens in the late nineties in Phoenix you didn’t have a lot of access to underground music.  Thankfully, there were a few people that knew how to find it and they ended up saving me my junior and senior year, but early high school was alot of Weezer.  Pinkerton changed my life.  Other than that my buddies and I listened to whatever radio hits we heard on the bus ride to school.

I was working as a prep cook in Scottsdale when I was 16 and one of the line cooks gave me Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.  It took me a while to absorb Modest Mouse but Jimmy Eat Word, being from Phoenix, was instant love.   They were a favorite for sure.  Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel were all bands that I listened to in high school but they didn’t really do their damage until I left home.  I remember the line cook saying that he listened to ’emo’ music.  That was in 1998 and I had never heard the word ’emo’ before.  It sounded exotic!  It opened my eyes and got me searching for music, as opposed to just buying whatever I heard on the radio.

So yeah, my favorites in high school were Weezer’s Pinkerton, Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and probably the second Weakerthans LP.  A buddy introduced me to Left and Leaving right when it dropped and for years it never left my side.  My first week of college was 9/11 and I remember being in my car driving to community college when the first tower fell, and ‘Everything Must Go!’ was on the stereo.  Since then ‘Left and Leaving’ has always reminded me of good ol’ high school and pre-9/11 America.

9.0 – What was the first concert you ever attended? did it leave any lasting impression on you today?

I wish I had scalped my tickets.  My second concert was Rancid opening for Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins and I wish that was my first concert.  My first show was important though.

Earlier I talked about my love for songs with good musical changes; the first concert I ever went to was Cheap Trick opening for Meatloaf at what used to be America West Arena in Phoenix.  I’m not sure I’ve ever said this out loud, but I remember watching Cheap Trick play ‘The Flame’ and I remember the changes in that song blowing my mind. First when he breaks into the ‘i’m going crazy/losing sleep’ part, then the way it pounds into the ‘wherever you go’ part.  I fucking loved it.

As you can probably guess, I’m a sucker for ballads.  “The Flame” really got me, the way the parts worked together to form these really heavy moments.  Those are the moments I look for in music.  Those are the moments I want to create because those are the moments that can change the way a person feels.

10.0 – If you were Grammy level stars what you tour stage design look like? 

Whoa. No clue. But pyrotechnics for sure.

RANDY BERGIDA

1.0 – What’s the best thing about The Letter Yellow’s WALKING DOWN THE STREETS?

I really connect to these songs.  They were extremely natural to write
and being that the majority of the songs were written one after the
next in a span of a few months, there is a continuity that weaves
throughout all the different feels and colors of Walking Down The
Streets.  I also love the freshness of the songs on the record in that
we had never performed prior to recording tracking.  The idea was that
the songs had a well rehearsed touch, but they hadn’t been
overanalyzed and over structured.  If a section wanted to extend
through the live tracking portion of the record, we went with it.  The
spirit is in the recording and beyond all the fancy things you can do
post production, it’s the spirit that lives in the performance that
I’ve always connected to on a record.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

The sound of the record was largely inspired by the 8×8 studio we
rehearsed in.  It’s hard to imagine 3 people and all our instruments
in this room, but it’s possible.  The limiter on the iphones was also
something that evolved our sound.  Hearing everything in a tiny room
with a big limiter compressing the music to the point that everything
sounds good gave us much hope.  When we were tracking with Quinn
McCarthy at The Creamery, we went ahead and recorded all the vocals
through the voxac30 as we would rehearse.  In the end, Joel Hamilton
at studio G took the clean mike and gave the essence of the amp with
his military grade compressors (no joke).

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process?

I think of it more as just letting your personalities come out.
Pretty much the same way I think with clothing.  It’s superficial yes,
but at the same time it’s nice for people to have an idea of who you
are just by looking at you.  All I want is for the music and the image
to be an honest representation of us. I would give credit to image
being a part of the artistic process much like when I write, I think
about how the songs will translate live.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs and what was your first?

My first!  oh my, I try to forget those songs, hahaha.  I started
writing when I started playing the guitar around 10 or 11.  I wasn’t
writing the same way I do now.  I was just trying to get better at
playing the guitar and I wasn’t so fond of playing other peoples songs
quite yet.  Plus I was so curious about theory that I would write
something and then try to analyze it.  So I wrote little things that
challenged me.  I never performed them.  I think my first official
song I wrote was called “One/People Get Ready”.  Of course both Curtis
Mayfield and Bob Marley have a song with that title and I’m honestly
not quite sure if they are the same.  That always confused me.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing?

Yes, when it comes grab it.  I have these moments of creativity and I
just know that these are my good songs.  But I have to be organized
and make sure to write things down and record ideas.  I have to
complete the lyrics before I can move on as coming back to lyrics
never works for me.  They are there in that moment and it’s my job to
write them down then and there.

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

I love it.  It has always fueled my well being I feel.  And it’s addictive.

7.0 – How did you catch the roots bug originally?

I suppose growing up in Indianapolis, it was a bit stagnant, but
getting out into nature was always fun and always lifted my spirits (I
never knew something like NYC would have the same effect on me).

8.0 – id you have to work at it or does it come naturally, or both?

Overall music came naturally, but I certainly have and still do work
very hard.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

That’s the heavy question.  As I’m playing through my music library on
shuffle, all these great songs are coming on “Side with the Seas” off
SKy Blue Sky by Wilco, Curtis Mayfield, Live at Bitter End...The Best
of the Wailers 
(which is not a compilation oddly enough)…And then
theres my Billie Holiday Collection on vinyl that just blows my mind.
Nonetheless, if you were going to leave me with only one of these
songs/albums with the trapped on an island metaphor, it would have to
take the The Best of The Wailers.  I’ve known those songs my whole
life and I still get happy every time I hear them.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and how did it impact your
life if at all?

The first concert I ever saw was John Mellencamp…he’s Indiana born
and bred like me.  It was actually pretty awesome.  After all, it was
my first concert and the venue, Dear Creek, is a really special venue
as it’s outdoors and country all around.   I think this year was the
year of my favorite concerts…I saw Radiohead which pretty much blew
my mind…I’m usually ready to let my ears rest at the end of a
concert, but after there 2 hour plus performance, I wanted more!