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Marianas Trench

September 13th - Toad's Place, New Haven - Words: D.C. Washington

 

Multi-double platinum selling pop band Marianas Trench have consistently raised the musical bar both in the studio and via their explosive live shows.  They have built their name on relentless touring across North America and globally, headlining tours in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

The tour will feature material from Marianas Trench’s new studio album Phantoms, in addition to fan favorite hits from their previous double platinum and gold-selling albums.  The shows will be held at venues that will give the fans more of an up-close-and personal live experience.

 

SOUND:  The fifth release, Phantoms, as with your previous releases, has an entirely different sound.  How much pressure is building to continue on that path as it seems now fans are expecting the change from work to work?

MT:  It’s actually no pressure at all.  Sometimes coming up with the theme takes a while; but, once we have decided on one, it makes our job a lot easier.  You'd think it would be restricting to have to stick to an idea, but, it’s actually quite freeing.  Once we have the new canvas, the ideas begin to flow, and it’s a lot of fun to be in new territory.

 

SOUND:  Following up on that question, even though the albums sound different there is an undeniable Mariana's Trench sound still infused into the material.  How do you continue to grow as artists knowing you have to keep that sound still embedded in each work?

MT:  We don't like to repeat ourselves when it comes to writing.  Once an idea has been exhausted, it’s time to move on so growth is the only option.  Josh's background in vocal jazz and being influenced by bands like Queen and Jellyfish are part of his DNA.  Hence, the heavy harmonies and vocals.  We can always change how we do it, but there is no getting away from who we are.

 

SOUND:  The band drew inspiration for the latest album from haunted experiences out on the road.  With the popularity of shows like Ghost Hunters and the fact that it appears so many venues are haunted to a degree, have you ever thought of spending the night at some of those venues (to which you are performing) to see what pops up in the night?

MT:  Mike and I actually used to live in a house that was haunted, and it wasn't a great experience as the energy in there wasn't a positive one.  We'd hear footsteps and things would always get moved around, and let’s say I saw a few things.  Weeks of little sleep and one starts questioning one’s own sanity.  We actually had to have a priest come in and bless the house as one of our roommates was out of there and it continued.  When I eventually moved out some of that energy followed me to my new place.  I can tell you from experience that this stuff isn't to be messed with so my days of playing with the haunted life are over!

 

SOUND:  With Halloween coming up, does the band have anything special planned around performances during the haunted holiday?

MT:  We always dress up when we have a show on Halloween.  One year we were the cast of Back to the Future.  My personal fav was when Josh was dressed as Bo Peep and the rest of us were sheep.  No show this year on Halloween, so sad.

 

SOUND:  With a lot of dark-themed albums, bands often tend to fall deeper down the rabbit hole as the tracks progress, with Phantoms though there is a lot of hope and light associated with the material.  Was that the plan from the start or did that evolve during the creative process?

MT:  We came up with the theme for this album when we had a day off in New Orleans.  We were very inspired by the Voodoo and death culture and the positive spin they put on them, so I guess that made its way into our writing.  Death and darkness don't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

 

SOUND:  We know that with such heavy instrumentation with the new record you have a fifth member on stage for part of the performances playing guitar.  With that chemistry has there been thought of having him stay on for some of your older material as well when you perform those hits live to see where the music can further evolve to?

MT:  Royce is that new guy, and he's a fantastic musician.  He doesn't take a song off, including our old material, he's playing guitar, keys, and even singing vocal parts when there are more than four harmonies.  It’s been such a pleasure having him on stage.  He makes us a better band for sure.

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Sean McConnell

August 8th - Stage One - FTC Fairfield - Words: Derek Signore

 

Nashville-resident Sean McConnell is an unsung hero of country music. He has seen his songs cut by country stars Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Brothers Osborne, pop diva Christina Aguilera, Plain White T’s, and even Mr. Bat Out of Hell himself, Meat Loaf –– a dizzying list that spans not just styles, but generations.

SOUND:  When you write material for another artist, we understand that it is supposed to be in their voice.  How personal can you get with that connection?

SM:  Whenever I write a song, even if it’s for someone else, I always write it with my perspective, just so I can connect with the lyric. As far as another artist that brings that connection out of me, there’s a song I co-wrote with Brett Young which went to number one last year.  It was an example of that deep connection where the material affected us both in similar ways.

SOUND:  You co-wrote one of 2018’s biggest country hits, Brett Young’s “Mercy,” and just played and sing on the acoustic version of “Don’t Wanna Write This Song”. With such a connection, how often do you find yourself writing material for you both to perform together?

SM:  That’s kind of hard to say.  It’s when the inspiration hits in the moment. Maybe a song title will pop up, and I think should write this the next time we get together.  There’s a few instances like that with Brett, the very beginnings of a song for us to brainstorm when we are together again.

SOUND:  With your success creating material outside of you performing them have you ever thought of scoring a film or composing a sound track?

SM:  I would love to do that. Actually, it would be a dream to do that. I’ve had some action in that world, and it was a great experience. Many of your readers would remember the popular television show Nashville that’s not on anymore, I had 10 or 11 songs on that show.  I would love to step into something like that again.

SOUND:  You’re release Undone was a stripped-down version of your self-titled album. It’s was quite a revealing work.  What spurred on that iteration?

SM:  I come from a family of musician’s growing up in Massachusetts and most of the folk music growing up was just a guy or a girl with a guitar playing to a crowd. I think that deep down, part of it was wanting people to be able to leave a concert that sounded like what they heard on the album. The other part of it was letting the listener hear what the song sounds like when it’s born.

SOUND:  For your latest album you wrote and performed nearly all the material in your home studio. As you embark on the road, is it different letting other musicians interpret your work out on stage with you than when you write material for another performer because you are up on stage with them?

SM:  It’s exciting to take this record and go on tour with it and have my band interpret it in their own way. They bring their own talent to whatever instrument they are on and make it their own thing which is what was always intended. It’s been fun to reimagine them on stage and not play the songs just by myself.

SOUND:  Outside of writing material for other artists, has an artist ever covered your material in a manner that impressed you with their take?

SM:  Not so much from other artists, but more from my fans who are themselves musicians. People have tagged me on Instagram of them covering my songs and I love that.  A time honored tradition to pay respect to someone you like; and, when I see something like that up on the internet or Instagram, it’s an honor.

 

SOUND:  Do you ever perform covers during your sets?

SM:  Not really. I don’t really do covers much, growing up I did a lot more covers as I was learning how to perform both in practice and on stage. But, even then, I didn’t tend to perform other peoples music out on stage. Performing in a practice space has always had a great influence on me. Nowadays I’ll perform a cover from time to time but only if the moment strikes me or if it’s an amazing new song I’m turned on to.

 

SOUND:  Going back to Undone, have you ever thought of recording material again – not acoustically – but now that they have evolved out on the road, to show fans where the songs stand now?

SM:  That’s a great question and that happens a lot on the road. For my new record Second Hand Smoke, every night you might add a different thing here and there to the material; and, by the end of the tour, a five-minute song might be a ten-minute jam. If you do that night after night, it becomes a thing. We’ve recorded live material that documents the progression and evolution of those songs, and I’d love to release an album down the line of love material showcasing what those songs have become.

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The Crash Test Dummies

December 5th - Ridgefield Playhouse - Words: Derek Signore

 

This Canadian alt-rock bank is reuniting for the first time in 17 years to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal sophomore album, God Shuffled His Feet, featuring the original line up of Brad Roberts, Ellen Reid, Dan Roberts, and Mitch Dorge.  After a huge hit in Canada with our folksier debut album, our next effort was dubbed ‘too new a sound’ by our Canadian compatriots.  However, in America it managed to pique the interest of a new, and frankly much larger, group of listeners and soon ‘MMM MMM MMM MMM’ became a bonafide hit south of our border and eventually all over the world,” says Brad Roberts.  “It was a wild ride for us that year. Now, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary reuniting with out original line-up and dusting off our old set lists.  It will be the first time we’ve toured with the full band since 2001, and we’re very excited about it.”  The 1993 platinum selling and Grammy nominated album, God Shuffled His Feet, hit number nine in the United States on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart.

 

 

SOUND:  As the band preps for this new tour for the 25th Anniversary of God Shuffled His Feet fans are asking might there be other songs played that night in addition to tracks from that album?  After so many years it seems everyone wants as much as they can from the original lineup.

CTD:  We’re going to be playing almost everything off the album with the exception of the few songs that never really resonated with the fans with a few hits from our other albums mixed in for good measure.

 

SOUND:  Touring tracks with such history did the band feel the original album cuts were the best to refer back to or are we going to see you perform the tracks as they had evolved out on tour?

CTD: They won’t exactly like the album because I think the fans who will be coming to see us will be more in tune with the live versions and their evolution than the album cuts.

 

SOUND:  As comic books and comic book inspired moves have taken over pop culture, has your song Superman been talked about at all in regards to being used for any upcoming television and movies?

CTD:  You would think that it would be right?  But sadly no one has contacted us yet to use the material.  That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen one day though as I don’t see the trend in comic book movies going away anytime soon.

 

SOUND:  One of your hits ‘Mmm…Mmm… Mmm… Mmm…’ made waves over the summer when it was used in the end credits scene for the hit movie Tag. With the song having been used so often over the years we have to imagine this was by far the most enjoyable.

CTD:  Oh yes, if fans haven’t seen it yet, I would say they should rent it today, it’s amazing.  Also, if Jeremy Renner is out therem please know that you have a lifelong open invite to any of our shows (laughing).

 

SOUND:  We always appreciated that the band dabbled into a few different genres including folk and electronica.

CTD:  Brad never wanted to write the same album twice.  I think we just liked trying new things and to experiment with our own tastes.  In the end you are trying to write a song regardless of the genre.

 

SOUND:  You might have one of the best band names there ever was.  We have to wonder, was there ever a runner up name or was this it from the rip?

CTD:  There was, we were going to be called the Oxy Morons; and, to be honest, I kind of preferred that name, but the other stuck. Over time it just kind of fit for me; and, now, I don’t think we could have been named anything else and reached the success we did.

 

SOUND:  Seeing the praise you are all receiving from your shows so far in Canada fans have been asking if this reunion tour will turn into something more…possibly a new album in the future.

CTD:  Right now, it’s not out of the question, but we are just really trying to gauge the audience reaction right now.  The future is not set it stone but not out the question either.  It’s all a matter of how we feel, and how the shows progress as a band and the fans public perception.

 

SOUND:  The original members have not toured in over a decade.  While some of you continued on in this line of work, we have to ask how things have been coming together, gelling as both a band and the sound coming together out on tour night after night.

CTD:  We sound as good as we did twenty years ago.  It is a bit odd that when we started our demographic was 18-25, and now it’s the same people - just twenty years older (laughing).  We have begun to see a newer generation of fans come to our show, children of our fans, but also those who found us through streaming sites over time.  Technology, while the advent came after our first success and didn’t really help us seems to be paying it back over time which is nice.

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Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

January 26th - The Capitol Theatre, NY - Words: Derek Signore

 

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a band whose very existence is rooted in the unyielding quest for joy and positive energy, blends infectious funk grooves, psychedelic jams, and experimental electronics.  The Baltimore four-piece’s new album, ‘Pizazz,’ is a buoyant, blissful reminder of just how much fun music can be.  Eschewing the traditional funk band lineup that typically includes keyboards, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong constructs effervescent soundscapes with just two guitars, bass, and drums, crafting their music with a sophisticated ear for both open space and dense layering.

 

 

SOUND:  The band used Kickstarter to fund their latest studio album 'Pizazz', but unlike similar Kickstarter’s really upped the ante in terms of a variety of different packages your ‘Flock’ could buy into.

PIGEONS:  When we do anything, we do it full speed.  So, with that in mind, we had numerous conversations about how we were going to pull this off between us as a band and our management.  To your point, we also did our research and found that many kick starters were under delivering in terms of what they were giving back to the fans.  We offered things such as skype lessons, personalized VIP meet and greet packages, and more.  I think our favorite reward was offering to record people’s voice mail messages for them.  That was a blast, and we hope they still work with.

 

SOUND:  The band has an interesting method of recording sound checks and practices.  Do you allow fans to record your shows, and do you find yourselves checking the recordings out afterwards?

PIGEONS:  Allowing tapers has kind of evolved over the years for us especially with platforms like nugs.net emerging and offering more in terms of quality control.  It allows us to filter through the good and bad and keep a quality amount of content flowing out to the fans.  Early on, of course we allowed tapers as it was the best way to get the music out there.  That being said, we do prefer not to use those recordings but rather make our own high-quality recordings for fans if needed.  We prefer our fans to keep their phones in their pockets and keep immersed in the show.  We’re a band that thrives off the energy of the crowd, and we kind of lose that looking out in the crowd and seeing fans recording the show on their Snapchat accounts.  Millennial’s have a tendency to record every life experience on their phones.  If we had our way, we would have a say in every recording going out to the public; but, sadly, that is not the case anymore. 

 

SOUND:  The band founded their own gathering, Domefest, which recently celebrated its eighth year and attracted nearly 2,000 members of The Flock for an immersive weekend of love, music, and community.  What is in store for the 2019 event?

PIGEONS:  With Domefest approaching its tenth year in 2019, it was started as a thank you to the music community that gave our bandmate Jeremey his start many years ago.  As time evolved, we have a better understanding of both sides of the festival from both the band and attendee perspective.  I think that what is great is that we have an opportunity to showcase some amazing up and coming bands for people to come out.  We also moved to a new location for the 2019 year at Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia - where the All Good Festival used to take place. That being said we’re going to plant our own roots and definitely not going to be another All Good Festival.  Another cool thing is that it seems only the best like-minded fans ever show up for our festival, the ‘cream of the flock’ you might say (laughing), leaving the more rowdy crowd at home.

 

SOUND:  Your dedicated fan following call themselves ‘The Flock’.  As you continue to grow in size and stature, has the flock grown as well?  Do they migrate with you from show to show?

PIGEONS:  We just came off a west coast tour where we saw the same faces in the crowd for as many as three weeks.  The first three rows of people we’re almost starting to learn the names of even.  It’s dedicated fans like that which makes us put more petal to the metal for them to ensure each night is a special night with its own setlist.  A funny thing to mention is that our song Kiwi has a few fans of its own, we call them Kiwi chasers, who bring Kiwi with them in the hopes it will inspire us to play the song or them.  Some nights we would and others we would make them wait just to see if they would show up for the next show.

 

SOUND:  This past new years the band paid tribute to Disney, all dressing up as Mickey Mouse and performing songs like 'when you wish upon a star' and Hakuna Matata', we have to ask, what are the plans for NYE 2019?

PIGEONS:  The theme can be revealed. Like you said we loved doing New Years themes and we are pleased to announce that this year will be themed ‘New Years Steve’, with music selections from everyone Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and the list goes on and on. It also leaves plenty of options for costumes for fans as well…Steve Young, Steve Martin from the Three Amigos and more. We’ll celebrate the night together and our love for all things Steve this NYE.

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Umphrey's McGee

October 14th - The Capitol Theatre, NY - Words: Derek Signore

 

The music of Umphrey’s McGee unfolds like an unpredictable conversation between longtime friends.  Its six participants—Brendan Bayliss [guitar, vocals]; Jake Cinninger [guitar, vocals]; Joel Cummins [keyboards, piano, vocals]; Andy Farag [percussion]; Kris Myers [drums, vocals]; and Ryan Stasik [bass]—know just how to communicate with each other on stage and in the studio.  A call of progressive guitar wizardry might elicit a response of soft acoustic balladry or a funk groove could be answered by explosive percussion.  At any moment, heavy guitars can give way to heavier blues as the boys uncover the elusive nexus between jaw-dropping instrumental virtuosity and airtight songcraft.

 

SOUND:  The band has trimmed their performance schedule back from nearly 160 shows a year to now down under 100.  As we know, the money in this business is in the tour and not album sales.  How strategic does the band have to be for the dates and tours you select making sure you are hitting the markets your fans are clamoring for while being able to make this a suitable life and work style for you?

UM:  It’s just a matter of strategy and understanding your market over the year.  That’s the pro of what we’ve done since the early 2000’s tapping into our audience before that became the standard.  Back then the transition in the industry was the option to download music, free or not.  We were already ahead of the curve being in the subcultures of the jam world where playing live shows trumped record releases.  If you know where to put your efforts and where not to, you get to know how to make more capitol and can do it with authenticity and integrity.

 

SOUND:  You released two albums within six months of each other this year against the grain of an already strained album cycle.  What was the motivation to release in such a fashion and not with smaller EP’s over a longer period of time?

UM:  We did think about holding off on some of the material to release down the road or maybe to release smaller EP’s over time.  What we figured is that we’re not under the pressure or worries of having a profit from album sales, so we could be creative and flexible with our release schedule.  While the theme only remains in the title,we figured that the way we have found a way to build an audience in this new social media world because quantity is very important.

 

SOUND:  Obviously two releases will take up a lot of space in your set list.  How do you balance being able to give these songs a life on the road but still give fans a taste of the songs they have come to love in a set list with all these new songs trying to make their way into the rotation?

UM:  That’s a good question, and I’ve actually asked that of the band a few times when we are making a set list.  Mixing the old and the new is the method to the madness so far.  You need to be able to meet your fans in the middle and give them what they want as some fans like old school and others like the new material.

 

SOUND:  There are quite a few singers in the group.  With so much talent how often are the vocal roles of songs juggled around throughout the tour?

UM:  We think about the variety and uniqueness between voices all the time and try to break it up as much as possible.  Over time we just try and make the effort to sing somewhat decent and make it through the elements of the world around us.  Trying to perform at a festival a few days you would be surprised at how much that effects your voice especially as we get into allergy season.  The main thing is not to expect perfection with the vocal part, it’s a different world on stage than when we are in the studio.

 

SOUND:  The festival season is coming to an end here in the Northeast; and, while it is a sad moment, we have to imagine for a band it’s a welcoming aspect getting away from festivals and playing an indoor environment going forward.

UM:  I think the key is to have a positive element to every part of the year, but it can be overkill at the end of a long summer tour.  I think that we have scheduled ourselves to plan out our year to not be as grinding.  The summer tour was great, but the elements do wear on your gear.  Indoor shows sound better as well and the load in arrangements are easier.  Especially when you take into consideration the Capitol Theatre, with it’s amazing acoustics.  You really do look forward to those performances.

Eddie Montgomery

July 27th - Ridgefield Playhouse - Words: Derek Signore

 

Montgomery Gentry released their final album, Here’s To You, in February, just months after the famed country due las recorded together.  Montgomery Gentry effectively came to an end after Troy Gentry died in a helicopter crash this past September.  Eddie Montgomery now carries on the legacy of the world famous country music due and celebrates the life of his friend with a night of new music and hits, Some People Change, Hell Yeah, and Something To Be Proud Of.

 

SOUND:  Tragedy befell your band back in the fall of 2017 when your partner tragically died in a helicopter accident.  How close were you to retiring from the business?

EM:  We were together for about 33 years so it’s been a little different.  We actually finished our last cd a few days before the accident.  It has been a rough last few years between losing Troy and also losing my son.  I won’t lie that there were thoughts that maybe taking time off or just hanging it up was possibly an option.  Nashville didn’t put this together.  This was something that we came up with on our own so there was no outside influence in terms of what the future was going to be.  I had to take some time to reflect on what had happened, speak with the band, and then his family before deciding what the best decision going forward was.

 

SOUND:  We live in a world now where holograms and other musicians have come in to replace band members upon their passing, was that ever the thought here or did you always know you would go on alone?

EM:  Not to sound morbid but we actually talked about it a few years back in terms of what the other would do if something befell one of us so I knew that he would have wanted me to go on alone, a replacement could never be had.  When you spend time with someone like that, in this case decades, longer than we were with our wives, you understand their mindset; and you can feel them with you even though they aren’t there.  I can only describe to you how nervous I was the first show without him, sweating and pacing back and forth before I got up on stage, but then I could suddenly feel him with me; and I knew it was going to be okay.  I knew this was the right decision and that he wanted me to carry on without him.  I don’t really know how to explain it past that, it’s just a feeling, and I knew he was there.

 

SOUND:  How have you decided to handle the signing duties?  Are you now taking on Troy’s lyrics?

EM:  I thought about singing everyone but I didn’t think Troy would want that.  So, we decided to spread it out amongst the other musicians, and I think it sounds better that way.

 

SOUND:  Your music translates so well across to southern rock and other genres without being crossover music.  Why do you think the average joe takes so well to your material?

EM:  We grew up in bars so we never knew anything else.  We always joked that growing up the bartenders were our babysitters.  We cater to the working class, and we never turned our back on that.  Nashville never had a say in who we were and what we played, we always did.  I think people get it because everybody lives our material.  We all work our ass off all week to get a paycheck and party on the weekend.  Whether it’s having dreams or living everyday life, we seem to provide a soundtrack that is very relatable but that’s who we are.

 

SOUND:  I agree, you are very honest musicians. The stories are reflective and not just to sell records.

EM:  I think that’s the majority of country music in general.  We are the voice of the people.  We have to be relatable without putting on a front.  This isn’t the movies, actors need not apply.

 

SOUND:  You are considered a traditional country musician, so how do you classify someone like a Taylor Swift?  Is she country or now a pop artist?

EM:  There aren’t many honky-tonks around anymore so it’s really hard to find what you would call a ‘traditional country musician’.  People like Taylor Swift and even Luke Bryant just happen to hear music differently than what we did growing up. Their influences steer the direction of their music.  I don’t pick their minds; but I would say that they aren’t really straying away from the genre, they are just playing towards their own musical tastes.  There are a lot of channels on the dial, even more so now with streaming. It’s hard not to take a listen and even harder not to be influenced by the new musical world around you.

 

SOUND:  You are happy with the current state of the country music genre which has grown exponentially and even out numbers traditional rock stations in New York City five to one as of last count.

EM:  The thing that I hope that we don’t forget is the true country musicians like George Jones and Randy Travis.  What I’m seeing now are two different kind of country stations - one for the new crossover artists and one for the classic guys we grew up with.  It’s all country.  The more we separate it, the more it feeds the public discourse and discussion into where the genre is going.

 

SOUND:  That’s interesting that you are seeing that trend.  Here in the northeast we are seeing those artists just hop the dial completely to pop stations.  That being said the tracks those jockeys are playing are always just the singles, nothing random from the album ever seems to make the radio playlist.

EM:  Radio doesn’t seem to want to open up their playlist anymore which really hurts the business.  I get it, we are a singles-driven society, but I think that occasionally they should play a random track off an album other than what the label is suggesting be played as a single.  At the end of the day if someone is playing your music you should be smiling, but people need to remember there is a whole album of music out there for them to listen to. This makes the live show better when they can sing along the whole performance and not just to the songs they heard on the radio on the way to the show.

Spoon

June 19th - The Capitol Theatre, NY - Words: Derek Signore

 

After nine albums across two decades Spoon has proven to push the threshold in an industry where longevity is becoming rare.  More impressive is that across their catalog no two albums sound the same.  Some may label them consistent, but we apply that in a different tone.  Spoon will always surprise you, and that’s what makes them one of the most creative bands on the scene today.

SOUND:  Twenty-Five years later what do you think is the true testament to the band.  What impresses you most over such a storied career?

SPOON:  The fact that the band is consistently putting out albums, not singles, not little EP’s, it’s always about making a record.  Putting out a full album every time I think is the greatest accomplishment because as an artist it’s the best form of artistic expression.  That and the fact that we’ve been able to do it without being beholden to anyone else is a testament to the band as well.  It allowed us to do our thing which has always been important to us.

 

SOUND:  Two and a half decades in you have a lot of material to choose from when out on tour.  How difficult is it to balance the new material with the older classics fans have come to expect you to play from show to show?

SPOON:  When we release a new record we obviously want to put an emphasis on those new tracks in our set list every night.  It’s always about striking a balance, the new material is always going to be the most exciting for us to play, but you also need to remember that the crowd is made up of fans and by definition they are a fan of all of your music so they need to hear a variety of songs from your catalog, not the new tracks.

SOUND:  The new album touches on the current political climate especially with the song Tear it Down.  The band has never really dabbled into the political arena with their music.  Was it the intention from the beginning to throw your hat into the political arena with this new album?

SPOON:  We have been very political on our social media, but the feedback from some fans was that we needed to ‘stick to music’ so we had that thought back in the back of our heads when making the track.  To be honest when we wrote the track Trump hadn’t won the nomination yet, so we were actually most concerned that the song wouldn’t be relevant by the time the album came out because at the time who could have thought he would go on to win the election?

SOUND:  The band has constantly been labeled the most ‘consistent’ in the genre today.  Does that label hurt the band though?  We have to imagine that such a generic label can downplay your future creative efforts, making it sound like more of the same.

SPOON:  I don’t think it really applies to a consistent sound but just to the consistent quality of the new material we release.  I do understand where some people think that can be a bad moniker to have applied because it seems very routine.  I would say we consistently have to break that moniker every time the word is applied to us in a press feature.

SOUND:  Do you ever get a night off on tour; and, if so, what do you do in your free time?

SPOON:  We actually had a night off out on tour a few years ago and spent the night out on the town.  We came to a bar where the artist was playing one of our albums in its entirety.  Boy were they surprised when we hopped up there with them to perform the tracks as well.  Other than that, we kind of don’t follow such things on YouTube.  We know they’re out there, and we’re happy people have been able to put their own spin on the material.

SOUND:  On tour the band always seems to be paired with either a charity or a political action group.  Who have you chosen to partner with this time, and why?

SPOON:  We always like to bring out some sort of political action group with us out on tour whether it is Headcount or Move to Amend. 

SOUND:  When you start tying in charities to events, some of your fans might not agree with the cause even though you are just starting a conversation not necessarily pushing your opinions down their throats.  Has there ever been backlash from fans who might not have thought a particular pairing worked for the band?

SPOON:  It’s more generally people just asking us not to talk about politics.  In a world where everyone has an opinion it’s unfortunate that people feel the need to express theirs.  It’s as if we should be muted or silenced just because of the platform we have; but, in reality, we have the same right as them to voice our opinions.

Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos

May 29th - Ridgefield Playhouse - Words: Derek Signore

 

Apocalyptica is best known for their recently reissued 1996 debut, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.  Hear this cello-driven rock opus in its entirety, along with other heavy metal tracks at this show.  The album was a new approach to the hits of the biggest metal band the world has seen, creating epic new versions of Enter Sandman, The Unforgiven, Master of Puppets and other classic Metallica songs.  Apocalyptica created their very own genre and laid the foundation to a career that has lasted for 20 years so far with millions of records sold and sold out shows around the world.

 

SOUND:  The band has been touring your massive hit Plays Metallica By Four Cellos for the past few years well past the 2016 twentieth anniversary.  What has inspired the band to continue on with the anniversary tour?

APOCALYPTICA:  At first it was really just a shock that it had been 20 years from that album.  The second thought was just how different our records had been since that release that we realized that many of our fans hadn’t heard those songs live.  When we announced, originally we only thought it would be a 30 show run, but now, almost 130 shows later. the fans seems to still clamor for it so we are giving them what they want and are continuing on with the tour with another 40 left to perform.

 

SOUND:  Do you feel you have turned more cello fans onto Metallica or the other way around?

APOCALYPTICA:  That’s a difficult question.  I think Metallica fans were cello fans already so we had nothing to do with that (laughing).  I think the cello is a very accessible instrument for people to get into so when we perform these songs it connects a different base who would not normally be interested in that kind of music.  It’s definitely an interesting fan base looking out onto the crowd every night though seeing these classical music fans sitting next to diehard Metallica fans.

 

SOUND:  Metallica has performed a few Orchestral shows as have others in the genre.  Do you think the success of your album helped spur on that movement?

APOCALYPTICA:  We actually were invited to one of Metallica’s Orchestral shows in San Francisco by the guys in the band to see the show because there was talk that our album helped inspire them to perform in that setting.  We have actually played 13 shows with a 20 piece orchestra.  We collected an orchestra with like-minded people without a conductor, which resulted in a large metal band on stage, hardcore people with the same heart playing in unison on stage.  We have been thinking about another show run like that again, but it’s all about finding the right people with the right mindset to have that perfect feel and look on stage.

 

SOUND:  With this current tour has it changed the creative process for the next album - maybe resulting in a work that is strictly instrumental in nature?

APOCALYPTICA:  This has showed us now that the audience has taken to a strictly orchestral performance without a lead singer.  On the other hand, when we produce an album with a vocal track it has an influence on how we perform with our instruments, so it’s a double edged sword creating a work where there are two different styles influencing the final outcome of the music, a creative freedom with either choice vastly different from each other.

 

SOUND:  You have collaborated with a variety of lead singers.  How difficult is it to formulate a tour with someone else stepping in on the microphone making sure the album track is fully represented?

APOCALYPTICA:  Being independent is always nice, but there are issues when you have to tour without a singer who made a certain track special.  We have always had very good singers on tour, but there are always going to be fans that will only connect with the album track versus the live tour.  It definitely is something we are taking into consideration with whom we work with going forward in terms of how those tracks will perform out on tour.

 

SOUND:  How does the Metal scene in Europe compare to that in the United States?

APOCALYPTICA:  It also has changed.  In America Metal seems to become main stream at some point which I think is ridiculous, Metal should be anarchy.  Nowadays Metal is found on radio stateside, whereas in Europe, it’s not on the radio at all.  That means in Europe the sound is much more experimental and more brutal which results in a more interesting sound.  I think the community outside the states is growing with lots of bands making noise in the scene whereas in the United States most people can only name a few of the bands who seem to highlight the genre.

O-Town

March 4th - Stage One, FTC Fairfield - Words: Derek Signore

 

O-Town’s story began in 1999, when “Making the Band” produced the very first musical reality show in major network history.  If you were a kid in 2000, you probably have fond memories of popping in your Now That's What I Call Music CD and belting 'Liquid Dreams' or awkwardly dancing to 'All or Nothing' at the school dance.  Now, nearly twenty years later, the band returns, one man short, with their most creative and explosive music yet.

 

SOUND:  When it comes to your audience, now with a new feel to your music, how have they held up over time?

OTOWN:  Obviously we all grew up together, and now these older fans have families so a lot of the time, we see them bring their kids along, five or six year olds, who know every single word which is kind of fun.  The husbands at the shows are a sight to see though, you know they’re there taking their wives out for a good time, but, by the end of the show, they are singing along with them as they start to remember the songs as well.

 

SOUND:  So your female audience has matured over time?

OTOWN:  Well when we first started out, a lot of our female fans were in those awkward teenage years, but they filled out quite nicely (laughing).

 

SOUND:  Your last album came to fruition from a Kickstarter Campaign which embarks on a relationship with your fans where they share in both the risk and reward of the success of your album.  Do you now see that relationship that same way?

OTOWN:  Yeah that’s the connection that we enjoy right now.  We’re a band now without a label, so the fans are our employers, and we play music for them.  The fans gave us the money to create these songs so our relationship with them has never been stronger.  We knew that the fans wanted our time, so we set up some incentives for just that, skype phone calls with us, private studio viewing with the band while we were rehearsing, and stuff like that.

 

SOUND:  Was the decision to move to Kickstarter the plan all along?

OTOWN:  We knew from the jump that we wanted to do it this way.  The way we were put together as an ensemble on a television contest show during the boy band era, we really felt our ideas weren’t heard and our opinions weren’t taken seriously.  Kickstarter gave us the opportunity to approach music the way we always wanted to.  Now we realize that our successes might not be on the level that they were 15 years ago, but we know that it’s just us, now that we put all the hard work in the success is sweeter than ever.

 

SOUND:  Do you feel that if the band had not come out in an era where NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys crowded the marketplace, and, maybe a little later, you would have been more successful?  I mean One Direction had a 3d movie come out when they emerged a decade after the ‘boy band era’…

OTOWN:  We are extremely grateful for being able to do what less than one percent of the population has the opportunity to do.  Yes the timing could have been better, but we don’t prescribe to that sort of thinking.  There are few band members though who are still mad at their moms for not letting them try out for the Mickey Mouse Club, though as the end result would have been NSYNC and not O-Town (laughing).

 

SOUND:  How are you taking on the digital realm, connecting with fans socially now when that wasn’t available when you first started out?

OTOWN:  Unfortunately, we’re not as tech savvy as some of the younger artists out there, but we do the best we can.  The issue is that depending on your age you might be on a different platform.  For example, our younger audience seems to take more to Instagram than anything else, so it’s a matter of being connected across a few different platforms.

 

SOUND:  The band is a foursome now, so obviously you see the benefit of only having to split the check four ways.

OTOWN:  Yeah Buddy.

SOUND:  That being said, how do you address fans asking whether Ashley will be back or that they miss him as part of the live show?

OTOWN:  To be honest, when we first got back together, we were really nervous about that; but it has come up so infrequently that it doesn’t really bother us.  The people that want him there and think that we aren’t whole without him aren’t really our fans.

 

SOUND:  American Idol is making a comeback on ABC this Spring.  Do you feel a show like Making the Band, that assembled all of you back in the 90’s, is possible for a reboot today as well?

OTOWN:  I don’t really think that a show like the one we were on can really happen anymore.  If you look at social media and Instagram, you’ve got this amazing up and coming talent with thousands, if not millions, of followers that the A&R’s are constantly looking at.  There is no need for an ensemble show like that anymore.  To be honest, our show only really worked for the first few seasons, once it lost that competition factor, there really wasn’t much else for them to go on.

Lake Street Dive

February 18th- College Street Music Hall  Words: Derek Signore

 

It’s been an amazing few years for the pop quartet Lake Street Dive, emerging from the vibrant Boston Music Scene to selling out Central Park, Radio City Music Hall and playing to screaming crowds at Bonnaroo and Boston Calling. They finally make their way to Connecticut this February but not before stopping by The Sound offices to discuss their meteoric rise to fame and how they stay sentimental after all of their success.

SOUND: Last fall the band had a run of shows called Memory Lane', playing smaller more intimate venues, a stark contrast from the crowds of Bonnaroo and Boston Calling. What was behind the decision to perform at those smaller venues when some bands would leave those spots in the rear view mirror?

LSD: Part of the reason we did those shows was strictly sentimental. These were venues or places that helped form who we’ve become over the years and we wanted to pay homage to that. Playing in those bigger rooms night after night can foster a growing distance with your audience…purely natural, but in the end, not ideal…so getting back to intimate crowds helps reset your perspective on why we do this in the first place. Not to mention smaller, grassroots crowds from our early days are great, forgiving places to try out new songs. It takes the pressure off of the practice.

SOUND: Side Pony is the band's first major label release landing on nonesuch records alongside other acts like Wilco and the Black Keys. In a world where many bands are going the self-release route what appealed to you to pair with a major label over a decade into the band?

LSD: At the time we made the decision to jump to a major label it was more or less a necessity, as much as it pained us to leave our first supporter ever, Jim Olsen from Signature Sounds (an independent label out of Northampton MA-Ed). We had grown to a point where our distribution…publicity…etc…would benefit from a larger operation with more resources at its disposal. It may not have happened so easily, however, unless a label like Nonesuch came along. With such an eclectic roster, and our inability to decide on a specific sound, (laughing) we found a home next to so many other artists that couldn’t fit in anywhere else.

 

SOUND: Bad Self Portraits launched the band onto the world spectrum winning praise from critics and fans turning intimate crowds to sell out shows across the country. With so many people in your ear and so many suggestions on the direction going forward how did the band stay so grounded to deliver what is much more lyrically based piece to accompany the bands incredible style?

LSD: I think what continues to resonate throughout the band to this day, despite our growth, is a feeling of wonderment; how did we get here? How did this happen? Because we certainly never sought out to ‘become big’. No matter how big the rooms get or what celebrity may retweet one of our videos, we still feel like a bunch of confused, dopey jazz kids in a practice room somewhere. We’re nonplussed, to this day, every time something bigger happens. It’s gratitude for this life that keeps us humble and grounded.

SOUND: The band recorded the album live in the famed Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville which we assume was a push from Dave Cobb as is his style. What other influence did he have on the recording process which differed from the way the band approached such work in the past?

LSD: Dave was a big fan of what I call the “lizard brain” approach to making music. Most of the new methods he threw at us were an effort to keep us fresh, both playing and hearing-wise. whether it was having us play live in a room all together, no headphones, very old-school, to get that 60’s band sound, or having us copy grooves from obscure Tamla releases and track it with a brand new song idea right then and there, he moved in quick bursts. It left us little time to second guess or get microscope-brain, and thus pulled some different sides of us out, unencumbered. 

SOUND: The band is four albums and over a decade into the business, which would make you veterans of this business...do you feel that way or has the recent mainstream success made you feel like freshmen on the scene again?

LSD: Ha, I wish. Although we still feel grateful, the time in the business and 5 straight years on the road leave their mark, and that freshmen feeling sounds like a holiday. Maybe that’s something you only really get to feel once. What’s good though is that no matter how far you go, there’s always someplace further, and that’s something you can only truly know if you do this for as long as we have…and that keeps things fresh.

SOUND: There is undeniable influence on your album, spanning decades of music. Is the method of the band to draw inspiration solely from the past and not from on-the-scene artists today? We only ask because that seems to be very common among your brethren. 

LSD: Yes, we definitely share that with most bands these days, in that we take inspiration from the past decades of music. I’d be wary to call it a method though, only because it’s not the goal of the band to recreate the music of the past. The method is in the songwriting for us, and that certainly- at least up until this point- has been our goal, taken from the classic songwriters of pop in the 50s, 60’s and 70’s. But inspiration is all around us, and I would say that a lot of our contemporaries are creating work that is food to us in that timeless way of the past decades.

SOUND: The band was part time for a long period of time, what made you all decide to quit your other diversions and focus on this full time, the recent switch to instrumentation the industry has seen over the last decade?

LSD: We were at a point where there was potential for us to make something of ourselves, and the only way we could give that potential a fair shake was to give the band our full attention. It was the common factor in each of our lives that brought us the most excitement and feelings of expectation. Not to say it was easy to decide, but the choice was at least clear.

 

SOUND: Miranda Lambert is quoted as saying that Bad Self Portrait helped heal her broken heart after her much publicized breakup with Blake Shelton...it's one thing to receive praise from an icon but to be quoted as being part of her therapy for recovery is amazing, have you ever had a chance to meet her in person?

LSD: We have in fact! She came to a show of ours in Chicago, where the wonderful Anderson East was opening up for us. Very sweet. Very normal and that’s what is such a great lesson for us. That even at her level, she can maintain her humanity, which doesn’t always happen to people up there. And so she’s connected to the other folks at our shows who say that songs of ours helped them through tough times. That’s really the greatest compliment we could receive about our work.

SOUND: The band is originally from Boston now some band members call New York City home where you recently played Radio City Music Hall. Was it an easy transition between cities or did it take some time to win fans over in NYC?

LSD: It did take time but not as much as we anticipated. One of the benefits, actually, of not getting to return too often to cities due to touring, is that when you come back you’re way better sounding and there’s been hopefully some hype surrounding your next show. We also picked the right venue to build in New York, Rockwood Music Hall. Kind of a no brainer. Music lovers go there and tell their friends. Venues are important!

SOUND: It's been nearly a year since the record release, which song from the album has surprised you the most that the fans have taken to that you hadn't expected that now finds itself in the set list?

LSD: To be honest, the title track, side pony. We recorded it at the tail end of our session as a bit of a lark. We were searching, at least, for additional material. It felt goofy and fun but not like a comrade of the other, more serious songs. So it feels good to be wrong! Balance is important, you know.

 

SOUND: What's been the best part of your ascent to success?

LSD: For me, finding purpose. When you’re working on your instrumental skills or your songs in your bedroom, it’s fun, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense at first as a worthwhile use of your time. Then you take it on the road and find people who connect to it, as if all that time in the room you were spending futzing around actually touched on something that’s ubiquitous in all human beings. And that’s why we’re no different from the audience. We’re just looking for connection too. What we’ve built is just a mechanism for reaching people, and feeling when they reach back. In a word, sharing. It takes the edge off of existence, brings relief to the day. That’s where the purpose is.

Peter Murphy Interview

June 11th, The Ballrooom at The Outer Space, words: D.C. Washington

SOUND: You are known to be a very theatrical performer. Do you feel that music is the last pure form of theatrics left?

PM: I think so. When I’m up on stage I’m not trying to encompass the embodiment of anyone else, it’s all just a reflex of me reacting with the audience. In the early days my theatrics were to a greater extent but I think over time things get muddled. It is quite difficult to manage that on stage persona and people often compare that element to acting but for me it’s just a natural reaction, I come alive on stage.

 

SOUND: Such theatrics taking the forefront can often lead other band members to feel less important and this can create turmoil. You, though, have always seem to have taken steps to ensure the spotlight shines on all and not just the one carrying around the microphone.

PM: The band are very important, as important as me, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. It’s not the case of just using any musician, they are family and value the music as much as myself and are required to be there. Being on stage with that mindset translates to the audience who I feel recognize that as well.

 

SOUND: With fans able to find music easier than ever before it appears that Bauhaus has garnered many new fans as a result. With that in mind, is this the best time in your career you had to put out new solo music?

PM: Things have changed dramatically now across every music spectrum. In terms of its effect on me I would say I’ve never been more reliant on touring as a solo performer. Performing material in front of my fans to see where they want me to go next. I have an extensive catalog and have tried many things so those new fans might like that they hear but there is quite a bit more for them to explore to know the musician I am and to truly be a fan.

 

SOUND: Decades into the industry what do you miss the most?

PM: I like to take a back seat in terms of being present on the internet. I miss having to be less upfront and less vocal and focused as I have to be now. We live in a world where anyone can post to a variety or forums and that can be intrusive, a world where everything you do can become public record. It’s all a little too much for me at times.

The Slambovians Circus of Dreams

December 14th at The Kate in Old Saybrook  words: D.C. Washington

 

SOUND: Hailing locally from Sleepy Hollow, New York what are your thoughts on the metropolitan scene near devoid of a notable rock station?

TGS: It’s funny you mention that because we’ve been such oddball outcasts for so long nothing has really affected us. Even stations that should’ve been playing our stuff early on when we started packing large venues never really gave us support. I think the problem is that people really don’t know what to call us. We decided to go with the name folk rock for a while just to tap into and steal all that good folk money, making our fortunes there. We cut our teeth in Connecticut having banned ourselves from New York City a long time ago and have traveled the world since so the local aspect hasn’t really affected us. It is nice though to have a station like WPKN in Bridgeport that supports the free form stuff so when we do return we are embraced.

 

SOUND: Your wife Tink is also in the band. As music and marriage usually make bad bedfellows what is the secret to your sustained success?

TGS: Well we are both very volatile but we raised a family doing this the hardest way being empty nesters bringing our kids on the road. We fight like a cat and a dog sometimes but I think the important vision we both share is loyalty and common goals. As long as money doesn’t become the common goal we’re going to be ok. There’s something we want to do in a show regardless of the support we’re receiving and that is giving attendees an immersive show that transcends reality, tapping into the sixties and seventies when we thought we were going to be enlightened. We also eliminated the artificial drugs from our lives that can sometimes cloud people and turn them on each other. We tell the band that look you can do whatever you want on off nights but for the show if you can’t get stoned off the music don’t even show up. We want the altered state but if we can’t create it in the show, tough shit…don’t come.

 

 

SOUND: Being from the Northeast, does the band have a distinct advantage to be able to put on the best type of holiday shows for Halloween and Christmas?

TGS: I do. I really think you feel it because you are steeped in it. I think the reason why we love the holidays so much is that when you’re in a cold place you need that thing, you need to find out. I think those traditions came out of it. Our Christmas show is nostalgic in that fact pulling on the fabric of the season that we all love as we’re inspiring to find God and Santa Clause. 

 

SOUND: How has the recent shift towards instrumentation benfited the band?

TGS: We didn’t stop on the road for years…I mean who tours the UK three times in one year? We didn’t have time to breathe. We would never sign on with anyone either…Sony, Columbia…nothing. Recently we met a guy who wanted us on a small label with Sony and he wanted us to release a Greatest Hits album that nobody’s ever heard…so we just released something called ‘A Box of Everything’. Because of that release it has us playing out old stuff again and reconfiguring it and rethinking it for a new generation of fans. It makes us wonder where some of the stuff was coming from? The good news now is that the instruments we used on stage are popular now so we won’t be laughed at anymore for bringing an accordion out.

 

SOUND: What is the bands Christmas wish for the new year?

TGS: I want to be part of solving the world…to stretch reality and create new options. To make our shows a spiritual experience where we can all tap some new level to figure out what we’re not doing right so we can unravel the bullshit and enhance creativity for everybody especially for the kids growing up…we need to once again create a fun world for them.

 

Chris Robinson

November 19th - The Capitol Theatre, NY   words: Scott Yager

 

SOUND: What makes CRB different from your other projects?

CHRIS: This is something that is completely free of any corporate interference. It’s not something born out of great commercial success that has to feed the beast. I am in no way mocking or taking for granted the unique experience of that and what an amazing gift it is to have success befall you and start you on your way…but one thing that made me a difficult person to people as a youth is, I’m a purist. My music has to be authentic to where I am and who I am and how that relates to other people’s experiences. That’s why I took to the medium in the first place as a way to express myself. It connects with people on another level. I think the better your music is, the less special you feel. It’s an ancient thing and a futuristic thing in one moment.

 

SOUND: Does starting over, for lack of a better term, reinvigorate you as an artist? Is getting to the top more fun than just being there?

CHRIS: Music does have a spiritual component and when you build your temple and for me, I think I’ve been able, no matter what I was going through, I never thought my music was cheap. So I shouldn’t treat it as such. I find little inspiration in commerce. I find inspiration in a lot of other things. I think when you find the basis of your expression comes from that place, you’re going to get something that’s authentic. Not only to remove yourself from that environment and record companies, to have this moment where you feel like Tom Sawyer in the middle of the Mississippi. We are the hunter gatherers of the music industry. If your body and soul can let it go and you can have good ideas, maybe you can start over and as long as you do it with passion and hard work and dedication.

 

SOUND: Does it help to not be tied down to preexisting material?

CHRIS: I’m a writer at heart. That’s what makes me feel comfortable. To be able to have the freedom and the access where we are with CRB. We don’t have a temple of hits to worship. This is something in the present that’s happening now and that’s what is our creative impetus.

 

SOUND: Sounds like you’re having fun…

CHRIS: We all love our band. I know people say they love their band but we spend a lot of time together. It’s not a show biz scene. It’s not a heavy brass scene. It’s a music thing. We feel more in tune with jazz musicians’ mentalities and their commitment to the muse and what it means to use it in our lives. If we can regenerate those vibrations through our expression and people pick up on that, then it’s a positive thing.

 

SOUND: Does today’s day and age and the current landscape of the music industry make it easy to succeed with a project like this, where you essentially do everything yourselves?

CHRIS: That’s why we tour so much. In our situation. We’ve made three records and I have never even had someone say that we had a song short enough to be a single. It’s easy to lip service and show business is a lot of lip service and I don’t think this is a show biz act.

 

SOUND: What’s changed between when you started out, compared to now?

CHRIS: When you’re young, you have a lot of people in your ear. Now, you’re in an adults game cause you’ve made a lot of income. Now you’re the race horse, or the race dog. Don’t get me wrong, you’d gladly do it again in a second. But to be able to exist, it’s far better. Could you imagine having an album with four songs that were eight minutes long back then? Success is measured by the amount of freedom you have to do what you want to do.

 

SOUND: What sort of satisfaction and other pleasure comes with the nature of this project and all the creative liberties it affords you, across the board?

CHRIS: I do the art design with artists and to work with them, that part gives me great fulfillment too. It works on a big level as a family operation. It’s our own making. For me, it’s one thing to have the power to say no to something but it’s another thing to have to be in a position where you don’t need other people to say yes to you.

 

SOUND: Are there any other musicians from your era who, like you, have managed to reinvent themselves and continue to stay relevant and true to themselves that inspire you at all?

CHRIS: This person was around before me but in my first year of touring, I opened six weeks for him, is Robert Plant. I saw him six years ago or so and I see Robert as a guy of that generation as the iconic front person but when I went to see his show it was so new and different and his own music it was Rock N Roll. Robert is one of those guys who wasn’t satisfied. He wants to play music. He has ideas and he goes and he does it and it’s great. To see a guy from that generation, compared to some of the choices other people have made, that’s inspiring to me.

 

SOUND: I am sure you get asked this kind of stuff a lot these days. What are your thoughts on the current state of the country, heading into this election cycle?

CHRIS: As a middle class white male, no one should care about my opinion. I’ll give you mine but I really feel that way. Control and fear and ignorance and it’s hard to see and it’s a status quo. When it’s in your face, it’s hard to see hate. Hate is bred by those things. We endeavor, like I said, in decisions we make. Music is one of those things that should be positive vibes. Our music has our pain and anxiety in it too but it doesn’t have to be bleak music. There can be other poetic release in another way. Other times great anxiety and looming chaotic scenarios, it’s whatever gets you through the night, man. We could do our best just by trying to be the best people we can be. I think politics is just a game anyway. Either you’re living your life as a progressive, positive person or you’re driven by fear and want to stay in the dark. We hope the light shall shine, you know    

Chris Robinson

November 19th - The Capitol Theatre, NY   words: Scott Yager

 

SOUND: What makes CRB different from your other projects?

CHRIS: This is something that is completely free of any corporate interference. It’s not something born out of great commercial success that has to feed the beast. I am in no way mocking or taking for granted the unique experience of that and what an amazing gift it is to have success befall you and start you on your way…but one thing that made me a difficult person to people as a youth is, I’m a purist. My music has to be authentic to where I am and who I am and how that relates to other people’s experiences. That’s why I took to the medium in the first place as a way to express myself. It connects with people on another level. I think the better your music is, the less special you feel. It’s an ancient thing and a futuristic thing in one moment.

 

SOUND: Does starting over, for lack of a better term, reinvigorate you as an artist? Is getting to the top more fun than just being there?

CHRIS: Music does have a spiritual component and when you build your temple and for me, I think I’ve been able, no matter what I was going through, I never thought my music was cheap. So I shouldn’t treat it as such. I find little inspiration in commerce. I find inspiration in a lot of other things. I think when you find the basis of your expression comes from that place, you’re going to get something that’s authentic. Not only to remove yourself from that environment and record companies, to have this moment where you feel like Tom Sawyer in the middle of the Mississippi. We are the hunter gatherers of the music industry. If your body and soul can let it go and you can have good ideas, maybe you can start over and as long as you do it with passion and hard work and dedication.

 

SOUND: Does it help to not be tied down to preexisting material?

CHRIS: I’m a writer at heart. That’s what makes me feel comfortable. To be able to have the freedom and the access where we are with CRB. We don’t have a temple of hits to worship. This is something in the present that’s happening now and that’s what is our creative impetus.

 

SOUND: Sounds like you’re having fun…

CHRIS: We all love our band. I know people say they love their band but we spend a lot of time together. It’s not a show biz scene. It’s not a heavy brass scene. It’s a music thing. We feel more in tune with jazz musicians’ mentalities and their commitment to the muse and what it means to use it in our lives. If we can regenerate those vibrations through our expression and people pick up on that, then it’s a positive thing.

 

SOUND: Does today’s day and age and the current landscape of the music industry make it easy to succeed with a project like this, where you essentially do everything yourselves?

CHRIS: That’s why we tour so much. In our situation. We’ve made three records and I have never even had someone say that we had a song short enough to be a single. It’s easy to lip service and show business is a lot of lip service and I don’t think this is a show biz act.

 

SOUND: What’s changed between when you started out, compared to now?

CHRIS: When you’re young, you have a lot of people in your ear. Now, you’re in an adults game cause you’ve made a lot of income. Now you’re the race horse, or the race dog. Don’t get me wrong, you’d gladly do it again in a second. But to be able to exist, it’s far better. Could you imagine having an album with four songs that were eight minutes long back then? Success is measured by the amount of freedom you have to do what you want to do.

 

SOUND: What sort of satisfaction and other pleasure comes with the nature of this project and all the creative liberties it affords you, across the board?

CHRIS: I do the art design with artists and to work with them, that part gives me great fulfillment too. It works on a big level as a family operation. It’s our own making. For me, it’s one thing to have the power to say no to something but it’s another thing to have to be in a position where you don’t need other people to say yes to you.

 

SOUND: Are there any other musicians from your era who, like you, have managed to reinvent themselves and continue to stay relevant and true to themselves that inspire you at all?

CHRIS: This person was around before me but in my first year of touring, I opened six weeks for him, is Robert Plant. I saw him six years ago or so and I see Robert as a guy of that generation as the iconic front person but when I went to see his show it was so new and different and his own music it was Rock N Roll. Robert is one of those guys who wasn’t satisfied. He wants to play music. He has ideas and he goes and he does it and it’s great. To see a guy from that generation, compared to some of the choices other people have made, that’s inspiring to me.

 

SOUND: I am sure you get asked this kind of stuff a lot these days. What are your thoughts on the current state of the country, heading into this election cycle?

CHRIS: As a middle class white male, no one should care about my opinion. I’ll give you mine but I really feel that way. Control and fear and ignorance and it’s hard to see and it’s a status quo. When it’s in your face, it’s hard to see hate. Hate is bred by those things. We endeavor, like I said, in decisions we make. Music is one of those things that should be positive vibes. Our music has our pain and anxiety in it too but it doesn’t have to be bleak music. There can be other poetic release in another way. Other times great anxiety and looming chaotic scenarios, it’s whatever gets you through the night, man. We could do our best just by trying to be the best people we can be. I think politics is just a game anyway. Either you’re living your life as a progressive, positive person or you’re driven by fear and want to stay in the dark. We hope the light shall shine, you know    

Megadeth

Dystopia - Out Now -  words: Scott Yager

 

Megadeth are one of heavy metal’s so called “Big Four,” along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. These four bands have stood atop one of music’s most consistently viable genres since the 1980’s. They have managed to maintain their level of success through each decade, reinventing themselves while also staying true to themselves and their fans. Their latest record, Dystopia, is one of their most well-received and most successful albums in many years, and their tours are said to be better than ever. Megadeth dropped by The Sound to discuss how important it is to maintain the values and work ethic that got them where they are, but also to relish in the massive accomplishments they have made.

SOUND: How has 2016 been for you guys so far?

MD: It’s probably been one of the best years we’ve had. If you look at charts and sales it’s probably one of the best years we’ve had since the 90’s. The new album Dystopia is charting better than any album since 1992.

 

SOUND: The music industry has changed so much. Do record sales and numbers mean as much to you today?

MD: The industry has to measure you somehow so they do it by numbers and chart positions and history. But the reality is that a fan is a fan is a fan. When you’re a fan of music, numbers don’t matter. This is about heart and soul and the spirit of music that connects us all. That’s the only thing that matters. Whether we’re performing for a few people or a ton of people. When you’re a fan, it doesn’t matter if there’s ten people or ten thousand.

 

SOUND: What is it about your band that keeps fans so dedicated over the years?

MD: Megadeth, we’re the kind of band that we all grew up with. It’s so cool to have Megadeth be your own personal band. That’s like what Kiss, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest were for me in my little town in Minnesota. And then suddenly when they were playing them at the high school dance, they didn’t feel like my band anymore. We have fans that have been coming to see us for years. And that’s why this set-list on this current tour encompasses songs from our entire thirty-three-year career. Regardless of how society and culture and everything has changed, Megadeth really hasn’t.

 

SOUND: How does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath with Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, the big four if you will?

MD: When any one of our bands has success, we all do. It’s because we are all leaders of the genre. We’re all very different. We were number three, our first week on the chart, after Adele and Justin Bieber. And the reason is that’s how many fans we have. It’s a sales number and that’s all that is.

 

SOUND: Is it less competitive now than it was when you guys were all starting out and fighting to achieve success within the same genre? Is it easier to appreciate each other now?

MD: There is a competitive nature when you’re starting out because you’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. Sometimes when you have nothing to lose, you’re the most competitive. As you go on and you collect some spoils of war, you realize that every battle you fight is important and every one you put the same amount of blood on the line for it but you get a bit more selective about it. When you look around at your comrades and see you’ve all walked a mile in each other’s shoes, there is respect there.

 

SOUND: What is left on your bucket list as a band?

MD: There is always a new mountain to climb. Last night we just played in the Bay Area. We were talking about how far the show has come since we started the tour back in February. Our goal is how do we improve, even if it’s 1% every day. Cause you never stay the same. You’re either moving forward or sliding backwards. There is always something we can improve, lighting cue, fan interaction, anything. It’s our duty to make sure it’s the best experience that all of us can have together. I think the fact that we approach it that way is what keeps us still here and keeps our fans so passionate.

 

SOUND: Any artists that mean a lot to you that you’d love to play with?

MD: Kiss are my Beatles. As was AC/DC and Cheap Trick. There are only a few bands that we haven’t played with. Led Zeppelin would never happen so Megadeth on the same bill as Van Halen or Cheap Trick would be pretty cool.

 

SOUND: Does the RNR Hall of Fame mean anything to you guys?

MD: You have to be grateful as an artist when people form public arenas for accolades of your work. They’re striving to become more broad and inclusive. If we got an invitation I think we would be thrilled but is it what gets us out of bed every day? Absolutely not.

Articles

Melissa Etheridge

December 5th - Ridgefield Playhouse  Words: Derek Signore

 

A cultural icon, Melissa Etheridge has won Grammy awards, an Oscar and battled back cancer.  Any of those by itself would be an amazing accomplishment but they embody the kind of artist she is. Constantly in her prime Melissa returns to Connecticut hot on the heels of her new tribute album Memphis Rock and Roll to perform her annual Holiday Concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse. We had a chance to sit down with her to discuss her storied career and the responsibility she bears as a female musician in an ever changing world.

SOUND: Your tribute Memphis Rock and Roll was one of the year’s most critically praised releases. What was it like to record in the birthplace of Rock and Roll in such a storied studio now as an independent artist?

ME: It was such an amazing experience. Just knowing that I was recording in a place where some of greats who inspired me recorded and performed was a life changing experience. Even the musicians that I worked with were great and we would share stories of touring in the sixties in the south for hours before each recording session and I would listen and become more engulfed in the immense atmosphere there, it really blew my mind. They were stories of love, such soulful people who would go to church on Sunday mornings and be a part of such soulful music and go home and listen to the grand old opry and hear the echoes of the blues guys playing on the corner and then be able to blend the three into such amazing music makes such sense to now. It connected with that soulful part of me that understands the pain, the desire and humanness of it all, it was a transcending experience.

SOUND: Putting your own spin on classic material can be daunting as you still have to pay homage to the source material. Was that a difficult task?

ME: I really felt like I was piloting a 747 while making this album, trying to really just land it on the runway. A combination of knowing that I could sing the songs helped. To really get in and perform those songs was one thing but what would the music sound like? I had such infinite ways to shape the music. I could have made it a hip-hop, a soul album, electronic, anything I wanted to do. That’s when I realize I wanted to be in Memphis when I recorded the album because I needed to feel what the scene felt like. I wanted to record with these musicians who know this music, played this music, played with the original artists and then I want to walk into that room and join in with my sound and feel. I felt like I was getting into this amazing car and driving it exactly where I wanted to go. I was able to use the masters on the Staples Singers material, seriously they are the most amazing singers and I did not know if I was capable of replicating their sound so what you hear there is from the original track. My goal was to refresh the lyrics and make them meaningful for today and I think I accomplished that.

SOUND: Were there any songs that were off limits to you, materials perfect as it was?

ME: I approached Tribal Tenderness and thought ‘you know not only is the original outstanding but it has been covered so outstandingly well’ that I knew that I didn’t want to play around with it. Knock on Wood was another song where I found versions that were so perfect that I didn’t want to enter the fray.

SOUND: Our new president elect has an uphill battle trying to win back the hearts and minds of females across the country in lieu of the comments made public in a video he made a few years back. As an artist and a female do you feel any responsibility to speak out to your fan base to try to unify and provide hope for them in these trying times?

ME: It is a responsibility and honor and the duty of the musician, the town crier, to tell the people the news of what is happening everywhere. The songs by pass your mind and go straight to  your heart to give you peace and though to inspire listeners to think that maybe there is a different way to think about things and to inspire hope within them. That’s why we have art in this world.  It’s a different contrast, the greatest issue in front of us. The way that we are in relation to each other is what life is all about. Yes I’m honored to bring people together to a show and say that not only are we going to get through this but isn’t this great that during such a trying time in our nation’s history we can show our children and our children’s children what we did?

SOUND: You are a cancer survivor, a terrible disease that took so many iconic artists away from us this year. Looking at fellow artists such as David Bowie and the recently passed Sharon Jones, does that play upon your own thoughts of mortality and inspire you at all?

ME: Absolutely. The gratitude I have for every breath I have and every day I live goes without saying. Knowing that what I understood twelve years ago is that health is my responsibility and that I actually have some control over this. We’re all going to die but the quality of life and the length of life I have a little bit of control over. I can be aware of the food I put in my body, the thoughts I’m thinking and the stress it is causing me and making health my top priority. When I see the many paths that this disease can take I am very grateful for the twelve cancer free years that I’ve had.

SOUND:  You released the song Pulse as a reaction to the nightclub shooting in Orlando this past summer. Coupled with the tragic venue shooting in France last December were you concerned at all that the song might make you a target from these terrorist groups?

ME: Along with going through my bout with cancer is understanding fear. I made a choice twelve years ago not to live in fear. I could conjure up enough fear in the morning that I wouldn’t want to leave my house. I have made a choice to not let fear stop me from doing things that I feel in my heart and soul. I don’t think it does myself or anyone any good to be hindered by the horrors of this world.  

SOUND: You have always been very gender non-specific in your music but they tended to draw mainly a female audience. In the past few years though it seems that the male attendance has risen, why do you think that is?

ME: It’s funny I’ve always felt I related more to a straight male than anyone else (laughing). The fact is that my audience has been so predominately female for so long that it used to be made fun of. Over the last five years I’ve seen a lot more men at more shows and it being more comfortable for them to be there. It’s not such a novelty anymore for a female being on stage rocking out. I think men are more comfortable relating to another woman than ever before. I think the difference is that I’m not gender specific and that people are getting more comfortable with it.

Fitz and the Tantrums

November 11th Dome at Oakdale Theater - Wallingford  Words: Scott Yager

 

Sure, Fitz and the Tantrums would also make a good title for a book about the New York Jets’ 2016 season so far. But it is also the name of one of the most energetic and unique bands out right now. Replacing guitar parts in their songs with an eclectic group of instruments and sounds, keyboards, saxophones and sometimes whistling are what drive the catchy hooks and keep their people bouncing at their high octane live shows. You might think you have never heard of them, but you have probably found yourself walking down the street whistling one of their songs (likely “The Walker”) and not even realized it. The Tantrums dropped by The Sound on their way to their stop at the Oakdale Theater to talk about their recent success and the individuality that got them there.

 

SOUND: You guys have a very energetic and dynamic live show, which is extra impressive being that you don’t rely heavily on guitars, which is an instrument that is tailor made for live shows. What goes into a live show for you guys and getting your songs to that level where they seem even more full and more vibrant than on the album?

TANTRUMS: It’s an interesting lineup. No guitar and yet, sax. I remember when the band started about eight years ago that it was unique and strange. As the keyboard player, it was a bit daunting, not having a guitar player in the band. It put a lot of responsibility on me that wouldn’t have been there if we had a guitar player. I think because of the lineup it forced us all to step up the energy and step up the focus of what we do. That has been a tradition since the band started. When we started out we were playing for ten people at a time and we still had a blast, even back then.

 

SOUND: What is the song writing process like for you guys? With so many different instruments driving different songs, is there a typical way in which you guys trade ideas or an order in which certain elements to songs come about?

TANTRUMS: It definitely varies from song to song. The whole sound has really evolved from album to album. On the first album, the sax was really featured. It was a lot about organs, sax, people thought we were a retro soul act at the time. And I guess we sort of were on that first album. As time went on we decided to show people that we were more than they thought we were. People tried to put us in this box. The music comes from different places. Every band member turns in songs and ideas and tracks and it’s this crazy process. We gather it all together and see what fits where, it’s like a puzzle.

 

SOUND: What comes first? The music or the lyrics?

TANTRUMS: I think the music pretty much always comes through. That’s pretty common in general but definitely in this band. The music comes first and you vibe off of that. It can come from one person, it can come from a jam session, it can come from any number of places.

 

SOUND: You guys have some really catchy songs and catchy parts to those songs that will get stuck in your head for days. I am thinking of songs like “The Walker” and “Out of Your League” and those are just a couple. These aren’t typical hooks or choruses cause they aren’t vocal based, but sometimes they become the iconic part of the song that you come to know it by. What part of the songwriting process brings about these parts? Are they the first thing you write, the last thing you write? Does it vary?

TANTRUMS: It’s funny that you say that. We definitely are hook oriented. Catchy is a good thing in this band. I still wake up every day with “Handclap” in my head. If I wake up in the middle of the night I will have the chorus of “Handclap” in my head. Which is why I need to listen to podcasts at night, or else I will go insane. We have the hooks. There are lyrical hooks, melodic hooks. You’ve got the whistle sounds, the handclaps, the horn intros. I’d say we like to layer our songs with layers and layers of things that will catch your ear.

 

SOUND: As a person who loves to whistle myself, that whistle part to “The Walker” really gets stuck in my head and I have always wondered what the initial recording process for that was like. Is that actually you guys whistling or does it get laid down as an effect or sample? How does that work?

TANTRUMS: Those are real people whistling. It was James and someone else, I am not sure who. It was really us whistling on those samples.

 

SOUND: Is that a hard thing to do? Whistling doesn’t get a lot of credit because you can just picture of a couple of guys on the train tracks whistling while they work, but I have to imagine it’s technically hard to perfect…

TANTRUMS: Whistles are notoriously tough to record and replicate live. There is a little bit of a sample at the live show but we are actually whistling over that as well. And when we do an acoustic show we actually do all the whistles live and ourselves. Whistling is really hard for recording and engineering and I didn’t even realize it until we did that song.  The first time I tried whistling for “The Walker” I almost fainted.

 

SOUND: What is your ideal setting for a show? I know the easy answer is all venues and types of shows are great, but if you had to pick one…

TANTRUMS: As a musician, as much as festivals are great and it’s always aww-inspiring to see a sea of people and I love it, but when we play smaller clubs, it really feels like you connect with the audience a lot more. I like playing a place where the audience is in your face and it’s hot and it’s sweaty and it harkens back to the days from before you were successful. When we do clubs like that it really makes me feel like we’re connecting with the people.

Michelle Branch

August 5th - College St Music Hall Words: Derek Signore

 

With Hopeless Romantic, Michelle Branch propels herself back into the music foray with songs about relationships and human stories about people interacting with each other.  Stuck in label hell for the better part of the last two decades, Michelle has emerged a stronger, more refined singer and songwriter whose music survived untainted by the perils she has faced.  We had a chance to sit down with her in advance of her College Street Music Hall show to discuss the new work, her relationship with Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, and how she finally has that sense of Freedom all artists wish to achieve.

 

SOUND:  We loved the Goodbye Ted Cruz bit that you put together.  Do you enjoy getting involved in political satire?

MB:  That was actually from the minds of the brilliant writers at Samantha Bee.  It was actually mother’s day weekend, and I got called and asked if I would do it.  As much as I didn’t want to miss out on Mother’s Day with my daughter, once they sent me the rough lyrics, and I had a chance to look it over, I knew that I had to do it.  In past elections I’ve never felt the need to be involved or say anything.  It didn’t seem as important or dire.  My mom and dad always taught me that you never talk religion or politics, and I kind of lived by that rule until this election.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m a mother, it seems all too important not to speak up about.  It was funny and cathartic , and I’m glad I was able to get involved.

 

SOUND:  The last 15 years have been very turbulent times for you with label hold ups and genre transitions.  Looking back now, do you feel most of those issues arose as a result of you being a female or just the constantly changing music landscape we all live in?

MB:  I don’t know and believe me I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what was at the heart of it all.  A lot of people tell me that a lot of what had happened wouldn’t have if I was a male, and I’m not so sure I believe it.  When all of this trouble started with my transition to country music I was writing new material for a future album, and when I turned the music in there was a new label president who shot it down for not being country enough.  When I took it to the LA office for review they said it wasn’t pop enough.  I think a lot of my drama was because I was stuck in corporate label restructuring.  I watched four label presidents come and go, and every time a new label president would come in they would fire half the company, have to do re-hires  and would put a new marketing and AR on with me, and they would have me scrap my music and start over.  I think it’s a combination of a few other things as well.  I had a few managers that, in hindsight could’ve helped more during those times, but I don’t know.  I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and looking back now I’m happy that those albums didn’t come out because who knows if it would have ever led me to create this album.

 

SOUND:  How far down the rabbit hole did you go during that time?

MB:  Truthfully I had moments in tears where I would say to myself ‘Okay, maybe I had my moment, maybe I’m not supposed to be making music anymore and now it’s time for me to go and get a job’.

 

SOUND:  How are you coming to terms with social media now and the direct link you have to fans?  Some musicians find it uncomfortable not to have that buffer anymore.

MB:  It all feels like I have more power that I used to and making this album it’s all me trying to gain independence in a way.  Being able to go on Instagram or Twitter and share what I’m doing or what I feel without having a third party in between to confuse it or muck it up has been a positive for me.  I wasn’t putting this record out with the thought or goal of selling a million albums or having a number one record.  The goal was to get a record out, to be on the road, and to be able to make a record whenever I want to make it without the genre mattering.

 

SOUND:  In this new TMZ world how are handling shielding your family life away from the public spotlight.  Unfortunately in this social driven world privacy is not a luxury for musicians or their families anymore.

MB:  I don’t think I’m at the level at celebrity where people give a shit about what I’m doing (laughing).  I was asked at the beginning of this album to do a story on motherhood for US Weekly, and I said no.  I’m trying my best to keep the worlds separate.

 

SOUND:  Would you support your daughters decision should she want to do so one day considering how rough it was on you for the past 15 years?

MB:  I would let her choose her own path.  My parents were very supportive of me.  They actually let me go to Los Angeles by myself to follow my dreams when I was younger, mainly because they knew I was going to move anyway and figured they might as well be supportive of it (laughing).  While my daughter can definitely carry a tune, she is actually more interested in natural science.  She wants to be a natural biologist.  She is so passionate about nature and animals like I was about music at her age.  I feel like she might actually have a real job (laughing).

 

SOUND:  Patrick Carney of the Black Keys helped produce the album and during the course of the process you two became romantically involved.  We have to wonder though that it must have been tough for him not to pry into some of the lyrics to see the stories behind them.

MB:  No.  He told me pretty much at the end of the album, and he turned to me and said that he never wanted to know what the songs are about or who they are about.

 

SOUND:  Working together with your spouse or sibling has a rough track history, and when you consider your previous marriage was with someone in your band, how hesitant were you to accept you had feelings for Patrick?

MB:  One of my dear friends was working with my management at the time. and I confided in her at the time that I might have feelings for Patrick.  She said, “Michelle don’t be an idiot,can you please just wait until the albums over!”  I called my record Hopeless Romantic because I do believe that love can work and that it doesn’t always have to end terribly.  It’s life, I guess.  When I met Pat, before it turned romantic, I told my sister that I was pretty sure I had just met someone who was going to have a tremendous impact on my life - little did I know it would turn out to be what it has become.

Megadeth

Dystopia - Out Now -  words: Scott Yager

 

Megadeth are one of heavy metal’s so called “Big Four,” along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. These four bands have stood atop one of music’s most consistently viable genres since the 1980’s. They have managed to maintain their level of success through each decade, reinventing themselves while also staying true to themselves and their fans. Their latest record, Dystopia, is one of their most well-received and most successful albums in many years, and their tours are said to be better than ever. Megadeth dropped by The Sound to discuss how important it is to maintain the values and work ethic that got them where they are, but also to relish in the massive accomplishments they have made.

SOUND: How has 2016 been for you guys so far?

MD: It’s probably been one of the best years we’ve had. If you look at charts and sales it’s probably one of the best years we’ve had since the 90’s. The new album Dystopia is charting better than any album since 1992.

 

SOUND: The music industry has changed so much. Do record sales and numbers mean as much to you today?

MD: The industry has to measure you somehow so they do it by numbers and chart positions and history. But the reality is that a fan is a fan is a fan. When you’re a fan of music, numbers don’t matter. This is about heart and soul and the spirit of music that connects us all. That’s the only thing that matters. Whether we’re performing for a few people or a ton of people. When you’re a fan, it doesn’t matter if there’s ten people or ten thousand.

 

SOUND: What is it about your band that keeps fans so dedicated over the years?

MD: Megadeth, we’re the kind of band that we all grew up with. It’s so cool to have Megadeth be your own personal band. That’s like what Kiss, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest were for me in my little town in Minnesota. And then suddenly when they were playing them at the high school dance, they didn’t feel like my band anymore. We have fans that have been coming to see us for years. And that’s why this set-list on this current tour encompasses songs from our entire thirty-three-year career. Regardless of how society and culture and everything has changed, Megadeth really hasn’t.

 

SOUND: How does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath with Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, the big four if you will?

MD: When any one of our bands has success, we all do. It’s because we are all leaders of the genre. We’re all very different. We were number three, our first week on the chart, after Adele and Justin Bieber. And the reason is that’s how many fans we have. It’s a sales number and that’s all that is.

 

SOUND: Is it less competitive now than it was when you guys were all starting out and fighting to achieve success within the same genre? Is it easier to appreciate each other now?

MD: There is a competitive nature when you’re starting out because you’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. Sometimes when you have nothing to lose, you’re the most competitive. As you go on and you collect some spoils of war, you realize that every battle you fight is important and every one you put the same amount of blood on the line for it but you get a bit more selective about it. When you look around at your comrades and see you’ve all walked a mile in each other’s shoes, there is respect there.

 

SOUND: What is left on your bucket list as a band?

MD: There is always a new mountain to climb. Last night we just played in the Bay Area. We were talking about how far the show has come since we started the tour back in February. Our goal is how do we improve, even if it’s 1% every day. Cause you never stay the same. You’re either moving forward or sliding backwards. There is always something we can improve, lighting cue, fan interaction, anything. It’s our duty to make sure it’s the best experience that all of us can have together. I think the fact that we approach it that way is what keeps us still here and keeps our fans so passionate.

 

SOUND: Any artists that mean a lot to you that you’d love to play with?

MD: Kiss are my Beatles. As was AC/DC and Cheap Trick. There are only a few bands that we haven’t played with. Led Zeppelin would never happen so Megadeth on the same bill as Van Halen or Cheap Trick would be pretty cool.

 

SOUND: Does the RNR Hall of Fame mean anything to you guys?

MD: You have to be grateful as an artist when people form public arenas for accolades of your work. They’re striving to become more broad and inclusive. If we got an invitation I think we would be thrilled but is it what gets us out of bed every day? Absolutely not.

Foster the People

June 6th - College Street Music Hall Words: Scott Yager

 

Recently, several music events have been hit with violent acts of terrorism, from the Eagles of Death Metal show in France to the recent attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Obviously there is no difference between one act of terror and another in terms of which is more important, which hits closer to home, and which deserves any added coverage, but there is no mistaking that when public events like concerts are targeted, it scares everyone who attend similar events. Not only do people fear that it could happen to them or to the fans of their favorite artist one day, but it could happen to their children. The topic of violence in youth culture and towards young people in general is not one that the music world is unaware of. Back in 2010, Foster the People had a massive hit with the melodic pop-rock tune "Pumped Up Kicks." Not only was the song one that got your head nodding and remained stuck in your head for weeks on end, but it's subject matter brought ears and eyeballs to the very real and very important topic of mental health issues, gun violence, school and other public shootings and many other newsworthy items that might go unnoticed by those who just choose to tune out and enjoy themselves. When a band can both entertain and educate at the same time, they are doing something right. We caught up with Foster the People after the recent tragedy in Manchester to discuss their music, what it means in the grand scheme of things, their thoughts on the recent events in the UK and how it makes them feel, as well as their upcoming appearance at the Meadows Festival at Citifield in September. 

 

SOUND:  When you have a mega hit like "Pumped Up Kicks", does it ever get old playing it or being asked about it?

FTP: I don’t know if it ever gets old. I feel that in a way songs gain their own life to themselves, whether it’s a long or short life is a hard predictor. On one hand we get asked about the politics about it which gets a bit overwhelming to answer but that’s a song that has lived on for years now that we do have a good relationship with.

SOUND: How has Mark Foster's experience as a commercial jingle writer influenced the band? It's probably hard to speak on his behalf, but have you noticed that skillset coming into play at all with your other music?

FTP: For sure. He learned a lot in that job in a very short time. He jumped in and had to learn quickly. It’s a job where you have to be on your feet whenever your brain starts sensing a jingle coming on so you can manipulate your emotions and feelings that fast. That has carried over to this band as well where he can capture those emotions and put pen to paper quickly resulting in a lot of material we can all pick through to then try and develop.

SOUND: With the problem of teenage and youth violence getting more and more prevalent each year, does a song like that take on new meaning, or cause you to look back on it differently? 

FTP: You know I don’t really look at it any different, I think that at the time Mark was speaking on something that was troubling him back then that unfortunately is still troubling today in our culture and around the world. Some people weren’t ready to hear it at the time but now people are a little more inclined to listen to things like that, listen to others who are more inclined to give a voice to some people that need it.

SOUND: Do you feel the ties and associations that many have made between the song and the cause/social issues have ultimately been a good thing?

FTP: I feel like most of the things we’ve ever said politically were not for our benefit at all. We just feel that it’s right to say something when you have a platform to do so. It’s right to say something that you believe might be right or wrong. There has been some backlash to what we’ve said but we try not to take that to heart too much and to speak out when we can.

SOUND: You guys are playing the Meadows Festival this September at Citifield with Jay Z and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You're also no strangers to big bills like this, having played many festivals in the past. What do you expect to be different about this show? Are you particularly excited about any of the other artists on the bill?

FTP: I haven’t really looked at the bill outside of the artists you just said, it’s just great to be a part of a bill with artists we really look up to, the energy around a show like that is going to be amazing and we’re going to feed off of that for our performance.

SOUND: You guys have said this next record might have some ties to hip hop. There are certainly a ton of hip hop acts on the Meadow's Fest bill, Jay Z, Nas. Might there be some synergy there?

FTP: It maybe a little too far out to speak about, we love collaborations so I can’t really speak on anything just yet but there might be some information soon.

SOUND: Following your massive breakout hit, the 2014 follow up Supermodel charted well but fans were looking for that next great single. Over the past few years the band has been very hush on an album far outside the normal production timeline cycle and had a band member exit. Having set the bar so high how does the band handle the pressures associated with the new work that the fans and critics are clamoring for?

FTP: We never let that stuff influence any of our creative stuff. We try to keep our creative world, the bind between band members is a very sacred thing and it allows us to keep those pressures and negativity out. We do our best when we dictate how our career should be. We don’t allow ourselves to get backed up into a corner. We gave ourselves extra time to put together this third record for a reason. We wanted to make sure we were doing stuff honest and doing the things we believe in, we’re not about putting an album out as quickly as possible.

SOUND: We hear Mark has something near seventy songs written for the new album, might we see some EP’s released past record to hold over fans seeing how much material there is that’s going to hit the cutting room floor?

FTP: Maybe, it is an interesting time where styles are always changing and evolving, we’re honing in on that a little bit. We’re excited to be making music again, I guess we’ll have to see how fans take to the new album to decide where those other songs end up in the future.

SOUND: We know you have been rehearsing the new material in advance of the new tour, does it bother you that you can’t take the material on the road prior to and test it out at some shows without running the risk of a copy leaking online and hurting sales?

FTP: It bothers me a little bit but we’ve always worked a little differently than other artists where the whole band is in the studio when we make music so things kind of evolve naturally that way. That way when we take things to the stage it works however you want it. Sometimes though some of the songs you have to learn to play live and you would love to certainly go out secretly under a different name and try them out in front of a crowd. For us we hold no punches, the industry is changing and it’s a challenge and we’re eager to figure it out to see how we benefit from those changes.

SOUND: In the wake of the horrific tragedy outside the Ariana Grande concert in England a few days ago and those surrounding the Eagles of Death Metal performance in France last year. Has the band thought about any adjustments to the tour regiment or safety concerns going forward?

FTP: We are definitely taking more safety precautions but more than anything what we are trying to do right now is bring joy around to the world to the people that need it. There is a lot of bad shit going on around the world and people are pointing fingers and more than anything right now I think pure joyfulness would help and that’s what we want to do. We cannot be afraid of what could happen or switch up what we are doing, if we do that then the bad guys win and we’re not going to let that happen.