THE NEW ZEITGEIST

——- Duo musical couples seem to be rarer and rarer these days, was the potential to work together on music part of what brought you two together? 

Eddy: The first night we met was at a singer/songwriter open mic in Wrigleyville. Jen was expecting to meet a friend. That friend never showed and I eventually offered her my guitar so that she could perform after she noticed me performing and turning her way from two feet away over and over. After some good conversation, I offered her a ride to the train station downtown since I lived close to there. I mentioned that we should make some music together sometime and she gave me her MySpace card. The rest is history.

Jen: Strictly…at 1st J Eddy also possessed the alluring quality of a man of culture. I wanted 2 things in a man that were not easy to find:  1.) Finding a rock star to do music with 2.) Marrying the musical rock star

—————- Your personal musical influences seem as incongruent from one another as possible yet they find a comfortable balance with The New Zeitgeist, did it take time to develop its cohesion or was it immediate? 

 Jen: Ha, really?  There was immediate chemistry, yet as we explored places we had never been between his twangy-blusterous grit and my tailored velvet, our songwriting individually wandered untested roads, and our sound became more intimately entwined.  I suppose what helped our unlikely and risky launch is the somewhat later exploration in my 20’s of my personal music taste and, therefore, probably the largest genre evolution out of the two of us.  For me, mostly Church Gospel songs to uh, rap and punk in middle school, then indie folk, and finally, what we identify loosely as roots/Americana now.  I was definitely at a point in my music where I wasn’t being challenged creatively and feeling a musically plateau as a solo artist just before we met.

Eddy: Jen had such a remarkable natural ability to sing amazing harmonies. When we met, I was asking her to accompany me on my old material and she made it ten times better! She was working on her sound at the time and wasn’t sure she wanted to abandon that and start a new band. We started the first album in the summer of 2103 and released it in December of 2014. That was The New Zeitgeist. We met as acoustic artists but she had encouraged me to return to playing electric guitar and, I couldn’t have been happier getting back to my rock roots on our second album which was released in summer of 2017.

————— How does the writing process work for you? does it vary song to song? 

Jen: I’m really great at listening for arrangement and structure (Evaluating Eddy’s songs), but Eddy’s also greatly improved the musical riffs of my songs. I’m currently trying to expand my writing process beyond waiting for the inspiration of that flaky muse, but traditionally it’s very lyrically dominant for me and the melody drives the song.  The voice creates the music and the instrument, many times comes later.  Since my main instrument is my voice, I feel if you have a strong melody you have a strong song.  We’re also opening up our songwriting experience to collaboration in smaller ways, but not necessarily co-writing.  We’re both very dominant songwriters and I think it’s an intimate and personal experience for each of us.

Eddy: I am not at all disciplined as a songwriter. I listen for the music in my head. Either I will find a hook or a riff that I like, or stumble across one while practicing guitar. It may be a thought or an idea. I think choruses are meant to connect with. If I find one, then I try to write a song around it. I do enjoy using a word processor, using word documents to create a poetic structure, and then filling it in around the hook. I still will write down a phrase on a piece of paper if it comes to me. When I was at NIU in the late 80’s, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop with the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks. I read a song of mine to her and she responded with something I have taken to heart until this day. ‘Revise, revise, revise.’ I try to practice that.

————— Is there a tune of yours that you feel is the quintessential representation of who and what you are?   

Jen: Definitely “Desert Rose,” since it’s the most original on lyrics and music, and a classic sappy love tune. I never wrote a personally real or convincing love song before that, and also pushed myself to write outside my genre zone of comfort—an ode to classic country. 

EddyOf my songs on our recent album, “Myths and Mortals”, I have a difficult time choosing one.  I think it has to be “Lack of Linear Thought”. It is my 60’s dream pop song. The cast of characters playing on this track includes Alton Smith on the Farfisa, whom I think takes it over the top! I was playing though a sweet little vintage Supro amp on most of the album and made the most of it on this track, too!

—————- The New Zeitgeist has a lot in common with the late 60’s folk movement in terms of lyrics and messaging: were your parents hippies? What did you grow up listening to in the house? 

Jen: My Dad was definitely a “Jesus Hippie”!  Definitely no for my mom!  They were opposites musically as he would have the oldies playing in the car and he was especially a lover of classic folk like Dylan while my Mom preferred Italian opera.

EddyMy dad was definitely not a hippie, but he did appreciate the pop music of the 60’s era. His favorite groups were The Everly Brothers, The Righteous Brothers, The Ventures, and The Animals. He would say that once The Beatles went to see the Maharishi they became too “out there” for him. I remember my parents having Elton John’s Greatest Hits, Jim Croce, and the red and blue vinyl Beatles Greatest Hits. The blue album, which included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, was my favorite, of course! My mom and dad listened to the radio with us a lot throughout the 70’s and the 80’s. My mom wasn’t a hippie, either. She liked to dance to good music and we would watch American Bandstand. Her favorites included Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. On a further note, my grandfather was an accomplished accordionist and he performed with my father on drums at VFW halls around the SW suburbs. We would hear them practice often and that would include hearing a lot of polkas and waltzes. I loved it! Hearing that made me want to make music, too!

—————- Would you guys ever consider expanding the presentation to include a full band and, if so, what would be your instrumentation wish list?   

Jen: Oh, yes! The recent album Myths and Mortals (2017) was the real creative impetus for our dream instrumentation at every turn.  The opportunity to work with some really great Chicago musicians, including Gerald Dowd (drums), John Abbey (bass), Alton Smith (organ), Nora Barton (cello), and Austin pedal steel extraordinaire Lloyd Maines, strengthened us to be tighter musicians and more intimately entwined as a duo.  A lot of those songs inspired Pedal Steel, Bass, and Percussion to be added to our duo’s mandolin, acoustic, and electric, but I can see also stripping it down to an even more simple roots package with an upright, chains/rattles, and dobro.

EddyFor me, there is nothing like playing in a great band situation. Jen was very conscious of the different sounds she wanted when planning ‘Myths and Mortals,’ and those included a rhythm section. She insisted on the pedal steel and after hearing the initial takes in the studio, I was convinced of almost every idea she had. Playing with the truly great musicians that performed on “Myths and Mortals” was a dream come true and I would wish to bring them together again in the future if possible.

——————— What were the first 3 albums (for each of you) you purchased as a kid? Which is the best? 

Jen: I probably didn’t purchase my own music until I was 12.  My very 1st, ahem, (cassette!) was The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” with the cartoon cover…I mean, hey, I grew up in Florida. J Then to CD’s, Grammatical Revolution (1999) by Christian hip hop group named Grits, and definitely my most memorable album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek (2001) from punk-rock band Reliant K, which is very worn and whose several albums really motivated my learning of guitar chords.

EddyThis has been challenging to remember. My parents were in the habit of occasionally purchasing a new album. I remember receiving as a gift the album ‘Double Vision’ by Foreigner in what must have been the Christmas of ’78. In the following year with my own money for the first time, I must have wanted to buy a Kiss record, but my parents “encouraged” me to buy something else first, so I bought the first Foreigner album and then the Ace Frehley solo album! I think the third album I bought was ‘Double Platinum’.

——————– What do you guys like to listen to together these days if you are going to pop on an ‘album’?

Jen: Hmmm…it’s not that easy!  It depends on mood, flexibility, and activity—like driving, or…other things!  I think Zep has done us no harm, some Johnny Cash, some Neil Young, or even U2, but usually it’s nothing newer than the 80s or 90s. J  I’m embarrassed to admit how much we just listen to our album!

EddyIn the car, Zep is our go to, or 93.1 WXRT. At home, it’s U2.

—————- What’s the best thing about Chicago and ‘our scene’? 

Jen:  I’ve found that it’s sometimes the less appearance-driven and smaller profile neighborhood dives that have the strongest music influence because they operate more at a community grassroots level and are not caught up with ticket sales or official advertisement.  While we greatly respect some of the finest names in Chicago’s music scene, some of the best recent times for us have been the meaningful connections we make up-close like Lizard Lounge’s 2017 Ugly Sweater Party singing ‘Silent Night’ to be followed by an outstanding woman just from Ireland jumping on stage to belt a cappella a traditional tearjerker.

EddyI really enjoy all the different little bars and the different music scenes at each one, especially those places that haven’t changed much since the 90’s or at which no more that ten people regularly attend! Also, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the singer/songwriter scene there has been really important for us, and we really appreciate all the great people and musicians that we’ve had the pleasure to get to know there. We attend a lot of shows that the people we’ve met at the Old Town perform.

A new show bubbles up in which musical duo couples compete for the affection of millions of young Americans. In the finals, you are forced to dress up like and perform a couple classic couple duo number by Donnie & Marie, Captain & Tennille, Sonny & Cher, Paul & Linda McCartney, John & Yoko, Stevie & Lindsey, Ike & Tina or any other of your choice, what songs do you chose and which do you think you could pull off best?  

Jen: That sounds like loads of fun…well, my 1st instinct is to be our real-life heroic couple, Piggy and Kermit.  However, there’s a history behind the song “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher being played at a party in our pre-dating hangouts which really sparked the idea of getting romantically involved with Eddy.  We also walked up the aisle to that song. J

Eddy: It was at my long-time buddy Jeff’s birthday party singing karaoke in the summer of 2011 at which Jen and I sang “I’ve Got You Babe”. I think that would be the one!

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RICH KLEVGARD w/ THESE PEACHES

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?   I went in the studio with the point of releasing an EP. Kind of a bridge to carry over from the debut album, Almost Heard the Ocean to my second album. I was in the studio last week and tracked a brand new song. Then it seemed like maybe this should be its own album. So now, that is what I am pretty much working on. The band is on hiatus for the time being. We lost a few members to distraction and lack of focus.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  My parents were classical music people. So a lot of concerts that they attended, I did too. It was always on in the house. In my room there was a lot of Kiss, The Beatles, Boston, pretty much ‘70’s rock. When I went off to boarding school my range of music appreciation began to grow Dylan, Stones, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and after heading to college I became exposed to the blues- Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Elizabeth Cotton, and also into jazz music as well — Art Blakey, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Willem Breuker Collektif. Classical performances were at the beginning but not without ironically Hank Williams, “Your Cheating Heart” around the time I was 3 or 4 years olds.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  I think seeing a Bob Dylan show seemed to really show how tight a band can be but at the same time so very loose, authentic and unscripted as well. Giving the sense of spontaneity always impressed me, that and the connection of the artist to the audience.

What was your first public performance?  A group of friends playing together on and off as Surf Jazz Kill and The Uninvited Guests showed up at a party and using the house bands instruments tore it up. Talk about loose, unscripted and spontaneous!

How do songs come about for you?  Certain cadences of words arrive. Sometimes with a melody, sometimes not. I write everyday but don’t always play guitar everyday. Basic song structure comes through exploration and discovery-one my talent on guitar isn’t that great, but I have taught myself to create moments where the melody embraces the lyrical direction pretty easily.

You’ve been around the Chicago music scene for nearly 30 years now, in different roles, what’s the (your) state of the union?  This is an extremely difficult business. That in of itself is an incredible detractor from the act of making music. The task of making yourself the center of attention is a guilty pleasure it seems. I don’t like being in the spotlight, but once I am there it feels unreal. I’m lucky to have my own songs to play and to not be spending time and energy covering everyone else’s stuff. In Chicago there is an incredible community of caring and generous artists without a doubt. In the land of performance there is a whole lot of hurt going on. It’s where most bands usually seem to fall apart trying to get from one gig to the next. The recording process is time-consuming and expensive. Manufacturing even with the return of vinyl is on the way out. Digital streaming and social media savvy is where it seems to be. Performing is the only way to make money but it is also an extremely arduous path to navigate. People like to hear bands and unless you are established with a fan base over 1000 people locally, you are not going to be actively sought after to headline someone’s club.

Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?

Miles Davis- spirit, creative genius, longevity

Bob Dylan- words, music, reinvention

Vivaldi- summer, fall, winter, spring

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?   Play anywhere and everywhere you can, surround yourself with people who are kind, generous and honest.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  In Chicago, The Flat Five, Cardinal Harbor is cool, Big Sadie is as solid as they come!

You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind?  I always thought it might be some sort of graphic design tome of visual delight that would be remarked on and celebrated for all time. Now, maybe one or two songs and a story about how we aren’t who we think we are — maybe something much more…

JONAS FRIDDLE

U2tUN19rQUtqTmsx_o_old-mother-logo---jonas-friddle-the-majorityAre you happy with how Use Your Voice turned out?  Absolutely. Working with John Abbey at King Size Sound Labs we were able to really capture the sound of our live show.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording? Philosophy is a strong word for it, but we definitely strive to maintain our personality in the recording process. It can be very easy to make decisions in the recording process that trim away character in the pursuit of perfection.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album or is it all about the single mp3?  I believe in the album. I love albums.  If songs are telling a story or expiring a feeling then it has to be true that the artist has more than one take on the same idea they want to present.  On the other hand…if you’ve got a great single there’s nothing wrong with letting it stand alone.

How does the songwriting process work for you?  I like routine.  Days in a row of uninterrupted time so when the ideas start coming then you can use them right in the moment.  I read an interview with Neil Young where he says that’s the only way to do it. If you store ideas for later you can forget why you had them in the first place.

Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  It feels like they just happen, but I’m sure that’s because something has been stewing for a while.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did  it have on you?  I can’t say for sure what the first one was…might have been George Winston.  I saw Jackson Browne a couple of time solo and that was amazing.  He played for hours taking on request after another.

c927e37cd6502ca7ec57575619efe3eaWhat is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? Playing live is the pay-off so we try to enjoy it as much as we can.  As and independent band it takes a lot of work to book and prep all aspects of a show. So it’s important to press the reset button and lose the stress before playing.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why? Paul Simon.  I saw him perform with his band and I can only imagine how fun the dressing room jams must be.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky, Paul Simon: Rhythm of the Saints, John Prine: John Prine.

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what would it be? Well with that prompt wouldn’t it have to be Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”?

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