Today’s Feature, November 29th-30th: Dave Ford

November 30, 2007 at 8:45 pm (Today's Feature)

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Dave Ford is one of the bravest guys I’ve worked with, period. He’s the type of character you may even envy and wonder if there is any way to follow in his footsteps. I know I’ve thought about it: quitting my job, selling my car, renting out my house and just taking off to see the world. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? I mean, there’s no real way you or I could do that… right? Well in December of 2006, that is exactly what Dave Ford did. He gathered up the courage to do something remarkable, trekking across the globe and keeping the world up to date on http://www.DaveFordDoesEarth.com.

It all started in January in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica – all the way keeping his own blog at DaveFordDoesEarth.com with details of his adventures. His life has “never been better.” He’s proud to say that he’s “walked through Penguin colonies in Antarctica, climbed mountains, laid on some of the best beaches in the world in Brazil, and have stood in front of wonders of the world.”

He’s proud to say it because he was able to successfully transform his lifestyle into something he can’t wait to do each and every day. He literally wakes up in the morning with his senses in “constant overload.”

Right now Dave is driving from Baltimore to Southern California working on a new web TV project called “Cross Country TV,” but his big dream is to someday climb Mt. Kilimanjaro… which he plans to do on his 30th birthday. He’ll be taking off for Cairo in January, followed by Capetown five months later. Before you dive into his XXQ’s, please heed his advice: “Fewer than 20% of Americans hold Passports. If you do not have one, go get one and see what else is out there. I promise you will not regret it.”

XXQs: Dave Ford

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first start “DaveFordDoesEarth.com”? And tell us about where you have been already.

Dave Ford: I took off on a one year World Trip last January that started in Buenos Aires, Argentina. What actually ended up happening was completely different then my original plan. In short, I fell in love with South America. In my 8 months down there I traveled through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, and Antarctica. I started a basic travel blog before I left to keep my family and friends updated with what I was doing. Early in the trip I realized that a lot more people then just my friends and family were reading.

PEV: Growing up, were you always interested in traveling and nature and adventure?

DF: I have always loved to travel. But, to be honest, I was never really into the nature thing. I had always been a “city guy”. I did a five day trek in Torres Del Paine (Patagonian Chile) that almost killed me at the start of my trip. Nonetheless, I saw some of the most beautiful sites of my life on those trails and was hooked from then on. I did six multi-day treks including the Inca trail and the Lost City trek in Colombia.

PEV: Was this something you imagined you would be doing when you were in high school or college?

DF: Not at all. I met an Australian guy named Steve Huppity when I was 23. He had randomly ended up in Baltimore, Maryland on his travels around the world and ended up becoming one of my best friends. After a few years of him telling me about how “traveling the world” was the best thing he ever did I bought in. Before meeting Steve I had no idea that so many people did this around the world.

PEV: What finally brought on this desire to quit your job and travel the globe?

DF: I would say it was a happy mix of “corporate burnout” and the fact that I was 28 at the time I made the decision and felt like if I didn’t do it just then, I was never going to do it.

PEV: Out of all your travels, which place has been the most memorable and why?

DF: Antarctica. The mix of history, wildlife, sheer beauty, and the fact that you are literally at the end of the earth made my experiences there unforgettable. It blew my mind. I saw a giant glacial calving, whales, penguins, and leopard seal ripping a penguin to shreds, and made a lot of lasting friendships on that trip.

PEV: What did your family and friends all say to you when you told them what you had planned?

DF: Almost everyone was very supportive right out of the gate. However, this kind of life for an American is completely out of the norm. So, there were definitely a few people that took a little longer to understand my new path.

PEV: Now, what do they think of what you are doing?

DF: At this point in time my family and friends are doing everything they can to help me fulfill my dreams of really getting this thing off the ground.

PEV: Tell us about the first plane ride to your first location. What was going through your head?

DF: It was flying into Buenos Aires reading Che Guevera’s “Motorcycle Diaries” not knowing what to expect. I had a lot of nervous energy. I was excited though. Wow, that feels like a really long time ago. I know so much more about traveling then I did back then.

PEV: Has there ever been a time so far that you have felt like, “This is way too much, I have to turn back”?

DF: No. Not a chance. There is way too much to see out there. I am completely addicted to my new lifestyle.

PEV: How do you pay for all the trips?

DF: It’s a combination of the cash I put away from my six years in the radio business and equity that I pulled out of my house in downtown Baltimore. It took some guts to take everything I had and put it toward this dream.

PEV: What is it like when you go to a place that is not used to seeing Americans and here you are an excited kid from the states? Any negative feelings towards you?

DF: All of the negativity that I have experienced is at the American government, not the American people. Luckily for me, I am in agreement with a lot of the arguments that were presented to me. So, there were very few political debates. I think that people worldwide forget just how incredibly huge the USA is. Life is very different from one part of our country to the other. To put it in perspective the entire UK is similar in size to New York State.

PEV: What do you travel with? Is it just a bag and you?

DF: Its best to travel light. Its just you and the backpack a lot of the time. However, my experience in South America was that it was extremely easy to find other solo travelers to travel with. The rest of the western world takes significantly more extended trips then Americans.

PEV: What is your feeling about the heated debate over global warming and the direction our environment is going?

DF: I think it is ridiculous that the United States has not signed the Kyoto treaty. The scientific community is unified on the matter. They say that global warming is a reality. I believe them. Furthermore, the only studies being produced to refute the facts are backed by special interest groups. I feel like this puts all of us in a very tough, sad situation. I feel like the US public is by and large confused on the issue due to media spin and conflicting reports.

PEV: What kind of music are you listening to now? Do you take a lot of music with you on the trips?

DF: I take an iPod full of music with me everywhere. I am currently on a cross country road trip and we have been listening to the Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Hilltops Hoods (Aussie Hip Hop), the People Under the Stairs, Bob Dylan, the Killers, Kings of Leon…. Its all over the place. In general I like intelligent music. I love jam bands and underground hip hop. Our theme music from this trip is without a doubt “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” by the Flaming Lips.

PEV: What is one thing you miss from back home?

DF: My friends and family. I guess that’s two things.

PEV: Is there one place you haven’t been that you dream of going to?

DF: I have always wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. So, I just made plans to do so on my 30th birthday next year. I’m pretty pumped about that.

PEV: What is the best part about traveling?

DF: I would say that it’s a toss up between the people you meet and the places you see. How is that for a generic answer. But, its true. I wake up everyday and my senses are on constant overload. PEV: Where do you see yourself 20 years from now? Still traveling?

DF: Without a doubt.

PEV: In one word, describe Dave Ford?

Real.

PEV: So, what is next for Dave Ford and DaveFordDoesEarth.com?

DF: Well, I am on the road right now driving across the USA heading for California. We are working on a web tv project called Cross Country TV. It is a fairly absurd idea and that is why I have confidence in the product. It is basically my crew and I interview locals, record the sites, and upload it all to the world. After this trip I leave for Africa on January 17th, 2008. I fly into Cairo and Fly out of Capetown 5 months later.

For more information on Dave Ford, check out www.DaveFordDoesEarth.com

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Today’s Feature, November 27th-28th: Cary Judd

November 28, 2007 at 10:09 pm (Today's Feature)

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There’s a lot to like about Cary Judd. He writes meaningful songs and performs them in a must-see one man show – “He starts by playing a riff or progression that finds itself embellished in a swirl of drum and guitar loops that he masterfully creates with a series of electronic pedals at his feet.” With that said, its stories such as this one that will really sell you on the multifaceted performer:

When asked about the CD currently in his CD player, he replied, “My friend got in my car two months ago and put a Cool and the Gang CD in while I wasn’t looking, it got jammed some how. We went back to my house and attempted to pry it out with a fork, but the fork got stuck, so there’s a fork handle sticking out of my CD player right now.”

He’s got other great stories such as when he hitch hiked to Salt Lake City for his first live performance, but his latest shows with artists such as Citizen Cope, Lifehouse, Reel Big Fish and Stars Align have been garnering a little bit more attention. While Judd plays what seems like 100 different instruments (guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, harmonica, mandolin, toy piano, jaw harp, and kazoo), he also calls on an impressive list of guest musicians to sub in, such as Josh Moraeu of Hoobastank, Scot Alexander of Dishwalla, John Stephens and Henry Flury of Stars Align and guitarist Ian Nickus.

Judd’s latest project “Looking Back from Space” is full of songs about the people within Cary’s life, an album in step with his reality. The record is “geared more towards observations of the universe rather than relationship stories.” They are “vulnerable, clever, explosive, and beautiful… they appeal to virtually all listeners because of their raw connection with human fear, hope, and triumph.”

You can expect a lot more from Judd in 2008, including a live album, a new studio album and an acoustic EP. You can also find him on tour early and often in the future – and he will do anything to entertain, even if it calls for “self deprecating humor.” About the distant future, Cary is looking forward to 70 years old, where he’ll “start taking up dangerous hobbies so I can skip the part of life where you sit around and poop your pants and lose your dentures and are forced to eat apple sauce until you can remember what you did with them.” Jump into his XXQ’s.

XXQs: Cary Judd

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get involved in music?

Cary Judd: My dad ran a small, very unsuccessful collections agency when I was 5 years old. More often than not he’d have to just go repo unpaid for items. He had an account with a music store and had to collect on an account, he repoed a cheap $50 guitar that he gave to me.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you told yourself that music was going to be a career rather than a hobby?

CJ: I was playing at a coffee shop a few years ago and someone threw in a $20 bill, I did the math and figured out if I could do that several times a week I could still eat and play music.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

CJ: The music I remember the most was from a Czech radio station that I was able to pick up on a beat up AM radio, I never did learn to make sense of eastern European folk music, but it was what I remember most from when I was young. The first album I bought was ‘Disintigration’ by the Cure, it’s still probably my favorite ablum of all time.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you performed live. Did you think, then that you would be where you are now?

CJ: It was on a street corner in Salt Lake City, I had hitch hiked there. I thought it would be the best way to start performing since I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t want to perform in front of my friends and torture them, I figured this way no one would be forced to listen to me. I had no clue where I was going to be a few years later, but, I did know that playing in freezing cold weather for 5 hours, losing your voice and being mostly ignored was better than having a job.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Cary Judd performance?

CJ: I would say, come with no expectations, you’re bound to be surprised if that’s the case. I also promise it will be entertaining even if I have to resort to self depreciating humor.

PEV: Although you are a “one man show” do you prefer to work in a solo setting or with other bands?

CJ: I like playing with other bands, especially if they’re really good, that way I put more pressure on myself to play as hard as I can. Sometimes I can also borrow band members to play during my set.

PEV: Tell us about “Looking Back From Space.”

CJ: I recorded that album in my friend Dave’s apartment. He had some nice gear so it sounded like I’d hoped. The songs are all about people I know, I mean, I’ve written myself into the songs that really have nothing to do with my real life.

PEV: How is “Looking Back From Space” different than your previous works as well as different from other music out today?

CJ: I think the main difference is the use of opiate based painkillers in writing ‘Space’, I’m not a junkie, but I had a chronic pain in my back for most of the time I was writing songs and for the whole recording, it’s as though I was another person then. The new songs will be geared more towards observations of the universe rather than relationship stories.

PEV: In 2008 you plan to release a live album, a new studio album, and an acoustic EP. What can people expect from them?

CJ: Expect that they’ll all be substantially different and better than anything else I’ve done to this point in my career. The acoustic EP is for the people that got mad at me for using more than just acoustic guitar on ‘Space’, I hope we can all be friends again.

PEV: Having worked behind the scenes producing, most notably with another artist named Ashlee House. Do you find that to be more of a challenge for you to work with other people’s writing and styles? Does that affect your styling?

CJ: It’s easier to boss someone else around. I find that when I’m producing my own music I take it very hard when I give myself orders. Ashlee hardly ever mouths off, especially since the first time she did, I made her do 50 push ups before we could continue working. It affects what I do with my own music in that I stay more disciplined, I don’t want to have to baby-sit someone, least of all myself.

PEV:Who is currently in your CD player?

CJ: Funny you should ask. My friend got in my car two months ago and put a Cool and the Gang CD in while I wasn’t looking, it got jammed some how. We went back to my house and attempted to pry it out with a fork, but the fork got stuck, so there’s a fork handle sticking out of my cd player right now. It’s a shame, I really would like to hear the new Beirut CD I just bought.

PEV: What up and coming artist do you think we should all be listening to now?

CJ: Ashlee of course, but we’ve kept her music a secret, you can’t find it online yet, but artists that I’m not working withÉ I really like Joshua James from Nebraska a lot. I’ve crossed paths with him a few times and am always surprised at how much I’m surprised by how good he is.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music?

CJ: I really like Chicago, it’s one of the big cities where I haven’t had any sort of food items thrown at me. Plus they have that really good popcorn place.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

CJ: The best part is the wide array of places to eat. When you drive across the country several times a year you find out where the best food is in every town. The worst part is the skinheads that I encountered in the parking lot of the Super 8 in Mauston, WI, my rib still feels a little bruised, but, the jokes on them since I’m not actually gay.

PEV: Clocking in over 175 shows a year, when you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

CJ: I’m thinking of starting a church in my spare time. I’m not sure yet what it’ll be based on, but I think there’s a lot of money to be made doing that. Plus if I have one of those mega churches it can double as a rehearsal space/venue/recording studio. I think the key will be thinking of something unique that everyone wants to hear and will pay money to hear it, and somehow make it sound like it’s from the Bible, people seem to really like the Bible. Other than that I like to skateboard. Some times I’ll book shows based on their proximity to a good skate park.

PEV: What do you love most about living in Moose, Wyoming?

CJ: I love the wildlife and the mountains. The mountains are obviously beautiful. But the wildlife is really fun. There’s this game my brother and I play called ‘smack the animal’. We don’t actually hurt them, though. You basically just have to touch a wild animal. Different animals yield a different number of points. A chizzler (ground squirrel) is worth 5 points, but a black bear is worth 40, and a grizzly is worth 60. So far the best I’ve done is a Moose Bull. That was 35 points. My brother smacked a black bear this summer, right on the nose. But he got arrested and has a bear claw slash scar across his chest, he’s lucky to be alive. He’s ahead of me in terms of our little game, now if he can just live to exercise his bragging rights. I’m thinking of looking for a grizzly den this winter, since they’ll be in a deep hibernation sleep, it should yield some easy points.

PEV: What’s one thing, people would be surprised to hear about you?

CJ: In a different life I’d really, really like to be a chef, or maybe later in this life.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

CJ: I light 26 candles, and it has to be after midnight. I’ve never written a decent song that was conceived between the hours of 8AM and midnight. It helps if there’s a full moon. The gravitational pull of the moon tends to pull ideas out of me. I’m not sure if there’s any scientific proof to back that up, or if it’s just a coincidence.

PEV: What one word, best describes Cary Judd?

CJ: “Rainbow” – I’ve been told I’m a colorful character.

PEV: So, what is next for Cary Judd?

CJ: As for the near future, after this interview I’m going to get my woman and go eat sushi. As for the next year I’m going to be super busy touring and recording non-stop, hopefully creating a beautiful story along the way. As for the distant future, well, I guess I’m looking forward to sitting around with my friends as we get old and grey, maybe around 70 years I’ll start taking up dangerous hobbies so I can skip the part of life where you sit around and poop your pants and lose your dentures and are forced to eat apple sauce until you can remember what you did with them. This sounds like a reasonable plan.

For more information on Cary Judd, check out www.CaryJudd.com

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Today’s Feature, November 25th-26th: Hurt

November 26, 2007 at 10:19 pm (Today's Feature)

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The best performances, the best shows, the best music I’ve ever heard were unsurpassed because of an overwhelming passion behind the sound. Passion brings life to a band, life to a composition, life to an audience. Many musicians fail due to their lack of infatuation with their sound. That’s not a problem found with Hurt, the band behind the albums “Vol. I” and “Vol. II.” After all, music literally saved the life of lead singer J. Loren, “I’m compelled to do it. I have no other functionality in this life.” Drummer Evan Johns will go as far to tell you, “our bank accounts may be empty, but we are the richest men alive.”

Just because Loren, Johns, Josh Ansley (bass) and Paul Spatola (guitar) have the drive to bring Hurt to stages around the world, doesn’t mean it was easy. For their latest record, “Vol. II,” the recording sessions were “exhaustive.” Johns says “through adversity we’ve done this and I’m really proud of it. When you can’t afford to eat and you work 18 hours a day for six months, I’d call that adversity.”

This second album ties in directly to their debut release “Vol. I.” Both records are “like a collection of short stories. They often intertwine and cross-reference each other between the albums.” Critics raved that Hurt’s debut was “gothic, confessional, soul-searching… Each song ebbs and flows on waves of flattened, heavy guitars, acoustic strums and symphonic samples, which carry whispered vocals, guttural screams and minor fifth harmonies to the forefront, then gently ease them back again.” The latest release however improves upon that, adding a variety of new sounds with instruments such as the banjo and dobro.

“I want to invoke feeling. Period. If listeners feel good, if it compels them to tears… if all you can think about is a song for five minutes at a time, I’m happy to be that distraction.” Loren’s words couldn’t make Hurt’s mission clearer. Keep an ear out for the new single “Ten Ton Brick,” catch their current tour with Seether, and jump into their XXQ’s.

Hurt – Josh Ansley

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey, how are you? Where are you guys right now?

Josh Ansley: Everything is good man. We are in Dallas. Coming off one heck of an adventure with our bus breaking down. We are on the road with a band called Cinder Road and we were lucky enough to jump on their bus and we just through it all together last night. One of those rock and roll moments.

PEV: You are in Dallas now, but which place has been your favorite to play so far?

JA: I hate to pick one, since there are so many places. Our hearts really go out to Indianapolis. Indianapolis is a place that has supported from the very beginning. Connecticut, Denver, Colorado Springs…it’s really wherever the crowds are giving something back. Those are places where you can really feel the excitement in the room.

PEV: Despite the recent bus breaking down, what is road life like for you guys?

JA: It’s a living hell (laughs)…a living hell. Like drugs… a living hell but you can’t get enough of it. It’s a love hate relationship. I miss my family, I miss my fiance, my little dachshund-Romeo. I miss my friends. It’s unbelievable how lonely it can be. But when you are home you wake up, and can’t wait to be back on the road. Myself I went to school for acting, so I am used to performing. I love making records but I love that interaction with people. Being on stage, that is what keeps me going.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

JA: (laughs) My friends and family have always been really supportive of me, without them I couldn’t do this. It’s what keeps me alive doing this. When people can’t make this in the business; they can’t handle the crap that comes with it. They can’t handle living on their own, or being away from home. People think we roll up in this bus we are some rich rock stars but it’s not like that. I’m originally from New Jersey, but in LA, where a lot of my friends have moved, they don’t really see the full scope of it… and it’s so new. We don’t get much air play in LA, so when my friends see us there, it is only like 200 people. They don’t get to see us play in front of 20,000 people. But as far as people being weird to me, that hasn’t happened at all. It hasn’t got in the way of any friendships or like that.

PEV: How did Hurt first form as a band?

JA: Well, J had been playing with Hurt ever since he first started out. Then our manager Tom Lewis, started working with him and introduced him to Evan, our drummer who was in LA. They met and they started playing and they clicked right away. I had a couple of other bands and moved out to LA after acting school. We were all on the scene out there and they were looking for a bass player, so I took over that. Then they needed another guitar player, so I pulled in Paul, who I played with in high school. This is all before we got signed. We were all living in LA… (laughs) actually Paul still doesn’t have a place to live. He came out to LA and started doing some showcases. Ever since then it has been hell trying to keeping ourselves afloat. I mean any day this thing could go under due to the state of the industry. But that’s how it came together.

PEV: What was your first performance with Hurt like?

JA: (laughs) Our first official performance on the road, was in Indianapolis. It was like 40 days before the record even came out and I was like ‘nobody is even going to know who we are.’ But it was unbelievable. I had no idea what to expect and there was like 600 people going nuts there. We thought there would be like 20 people there. So, Indianapolis is a very special place for us.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you into?

JA: I had a pretty eclectic background. I love classical music. It is quite honestly unparallel. It is dynamic. That is what I think our music is trying to entail. I couldn’t play only one kind of music. I love the heaviest of music I love the softest of music. The guys make fun of me because of what is on my iPod (laughs). But I have such an eclectic background, that classical music is the only thing that is dark, like dark as hell and heavy – so heavy to create emotion. But then again it can be the most angelic thing and that is the only style of music that we are trying to emulate. There was also some Pearl Jam, STP, rap… when it just sounds right, it is undeniable.

PEV: Who are you currently listening to right now?

JA: Cinder Road! Good ol’ 80’s style pop rock. Them and some old country when I’m on the road… makes me feel like a ramblin’ man.

PEV: Is there a certain up and coming band that you think we should all be listening out for? JA: There are so many. I say Cinder Road because they know how hard it is. A lot of people say they want to do this but don’t know how hard it is. They worked together as a cover band, saved their money, bought their own bus. They do everything themselves. They will not take ‘No’ for an answer. I really admire these guys.

PEV: What can people expect from Hurt Vol. II?

JA: I think that for me, I think it shows a band that has really grown and come together. There is much more dynamic. I think everyone shines in their own right but not selfishly. It shows a maturity, it really does. As a band we’ve really grown. Some people think it may not be as heavy as “Hurt Vol. I”. But one thing we want to get out there is that Hurt is not about anger, Hurt is not a heavy metal band. Hurt, as an emotion, can lead to so many things. It can lead to anger, but it can lead to anguish, it can lead to redemption. Pain is a part of life and moving on. This record shows another side; the softer, prettier things. It is a great companion piece to Vol. I.

PEV: when you sit down to write music, what kind of atmosphere do you surround yourself in?

JA: Well, it’s kind of tough now on tour and that is very difficult. You don’t really have the option you would like to. I like being in the studio because you have the focus. Your mind is constantly going and you tap into this focus and zone. We need to snap into that artistic mind and then we become that channel for great ideas.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys in Hurt?

JA: (laughs) We have this thing, that every time we find ourselves doing something ridiculous someone says, ‘I wonder what the guys in Hurt are doing right now’. I don’t know, we are trying to get an idea of who people think we are. We love to have a good time, love to meet people. We are just normal people, really.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you heard your songs on the radio?

JA: We were in St. Louis on our way to Indianapolis, that first show, and we are driving and it came on and we were like little kids, just jumping around and screaming. I have to remind myself that, I mean I’ve been burnt by other bands and heard other songs on the radio and that was the end of it, so I have to remind myself of that. But that feeling is great… it’s still great (laughs).

PEV: What one word, best describes Hurt?

JA: I think we did that with the name of the band. I really think we did.

PEV: So, what is next for Hurt?

JA: One day at a time you know. But we are going to finish up this tour. We have some great markets we are going to. Then there are a few other things, trying to hop onto some other tours. Take the holidays off. Then start the new year with a new single and keep touring as much as we can. Everyone is proud of this record and we worked really hard and the fact that it came out how it did; we just want to get it out there. We are going to be touring our asses off for as long as we can… or as long as we can afford to. That’s it man.Hurt

For more information on Hurt, check out www.HurtBand.com

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Today’s Feature, November 23rd-24th: Powerspace

November 24, 2007 at 1:18 am (Today's Feature)

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It all began in a pretty common way: Childhood friends Tom Schleiter and Daniel McMahon began playing together around the time courses commenced at Miami (of Ohio) University where they met current Powerspace drummer Kevin Kane. After an exhaustive vocalist search, another Miami student and high school friend of Schleiter and McMahon’s, Alec Cyganowski, joined the group and Powerspace was born.

While the roots are familiar, the result, the sound and the band are not. Fueled by Ramen Records (who has also signed The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship, Cute Is What We Aim For, Fall Out Boy, Gym Class Heroes, Panic! At the Disco and Paramore) saw the exceptional ability behind Powerspace, signed them to a deal and helped them produce their debut album, “The Kicks of Passion.” The record is a sort of “Frankenstein” creation with a complete collaborative quality to it “full of dancing, catchiness, guitar solos, and basically everything else that is good and right in the world.”

One of their singles, “Powerspace Snap Bracelet” was recently featured by SPIN magazine. You can find other “ballsy pop songs” on the record, such as “Sleep Everyone,” “Quarantine my Heart Baby” and my personal favorite “Right On Right Now” (seriously, check my MySpace). And luckily for America, this is a band that loves to tour… probably why they put on a ridiculous show with “lots of energy… a sick intro… and an amazing light show.” TheyÕll be wrapping up their tour with Madina Lake and Mayday Parade soon, so get out and catch them before they take off for Japan in April. Dive into their XXQÕs.

XXQs: Powerspace – Daniel McMahon

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did Powerspace first form as a band?

Daniel McMahon (DM): The band started a little less than two years ago. It was the summer going into my freshman year of college and I was going to be attending Miami University where Tom had already completed a year. We had always wanted to be in a band together and even had a couple failed experiments in the past. So we decided to start writing some stuff. Tom had been playing in a band with Kevin, so he was the obvious choice for drums. We auditioned (and in some cases scared off) a few singers. We settled on Alec, who we had been friends with but never knew could sing until he told us he wanted to be in the band.

PEV: What was it like attending college (Ohio’s Miami University) and putting together a band? Was it hard to manage both simultaneously?

DM: I always felt kind of out of place in college. My heart just wasn’t in it. So when the band started becoming more and more serious, college turned into second priority. I think I would have been unhappy there even if I didn’t have the band to worry about.

PEV: Growing up who were you listening to?

DM: I was always surrounded by music growing up. My parents both really appreciated good music. So from an early age, artists like Bruce Springsteen, INXS, The Grateful Dead, and Genesis all had an effect on me. When I started getting serious about playing in bands, I drew inspiration from the local music in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, which was dominated by more pop punk and post punk bands. Fall Out Boy, 504plan, The Academy (Is…), Knockout, Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence arms. Those bands made me want to be in a band, and also influenced me a ton musically.

PEV: Tell us about Powerspace’s first live performance together. What was going through your heads?

DM: Well when the band started, it was kind of just a fun thing to do. We didn’t really take it too seriously. So we booked this show at a place called Pachinko’s in Oxford, Ohio. We dressed really crazy and we were kind of drunk. We probably played our songs about 30 times faster than they were recorded. It was a lot of fun.

PEV: How have you changed from the first year together to where you are today?

DM: The band has gone from a small part of my life to pretty much all I do. It is still really fun though. I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.

PEV: Describe to us the first time Powerspace stepped into a recording studio.

DM: In the beginning, that’s all we did. We started as a strictly studio band. We’d sit in this kind of make shift studio in the basement of the dorm Tom and I lived in and kinda write and record at the same time. We didn’t even start playing live until we had like 13 demos recorded.

PEV: Tell us about your full-length debut, “The Kicks Of Passion”. What can people expect from this album?

DM: I think the album came out as a completely collaborative effort. There’s a little bit of each one of us on the record. It’s basically like if you sliced our four brains in quarters and took a quarter of each and sewed them together to make one brain and then you put it in some sort of Frankenstein. And then he recorded an album. The KOP is what you would get. Full of dancing, catchiness, guitar solos, and basically everything else that is good and right in the world.

PEV: How is “The Kicks Of Passion” different than any other music out today?

DM: If you’re referring to the bands that we often are grouped with or compared to, I think the KOP doesn’t really conform to many things you’ll hear from your average “scene” band. All we really wanted to do was make a ballsy pop record, and in my opinion we did a pretty good job.

PEV: What is your take on the current scene of pop/rock music?

DM: I think the scene has its strengths and weaknesses. I wish more kids would actually buy music, rather than steal it. But that’s basically just so I can eat. Also, I think there are just too many bands these days. Sometimes kids just get it in their head that they can pretty much regurgitate whatever their three or four favorite artists are doing and just start a band. I wish people would think a little bit harder about what they want to do before just deciding to start playing shows and plastering themselves all over the internet. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of great bands that get lost in the shuffle.

PEV: How has life on the road been for Powerspace? What are the best and worst parts about road life?

DM: I love touring. It’s literally the only thing I want to do. We get to see so many places I never dreamed I’d get to see. Yea sometimes we don’t sleep and money is tight, but in the end it’s the best thing in the world to do.

PEV: In all your travels, which is your favorite place or city to play? Why?

DM: Personally, I like hanging in Portland, Oregon. The Northwest is a beautiful place to be and that city has this chill vibe about it that you don’t really get anywhere else.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

DM: I am definitely blessed with some amazingly supportive friends and family members. I miss them a lot, but they are always encouraging even when times are rough.

PEV: Is there one artist that you have not had a chance to collaborate with that you would like to?

DM: Tough question. At this point, Kanye West.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys of Powerspace?

DM: 75 percent of us are single? Wink.

PEV: When you guys get some downtime what can we find you doing?

DM: Alec likes to build and fix things. Kevin likes to read and play Tetris. I like to bum around Chicago. Tom likes to hang out with his girlfriend.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Powerspace show?

DM: Lots of energy. A sick intro. An amazing light show provided by our TM, Bob Debelina.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

DM: On rare occasions, hearing people sing the songs you wrote.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist that you think we should all be paying attention to?

DM: I’m psyched to hear the Cab’s new record. We’re actually going to chill with them in the studio in the next couple days. Good dudes.

PEV: In one word what best describes Powerspace?

DM: Sexplosion.

PEV: So, what is next for Powerspace?

DM: Finishing out this amazing tour with Madina Lake and Mayday Parade. Going to see our families for the holidays. Other than that, we don’t have many plans for the New Year besides going to Japan in April. I’m sure we’ll be on tour though.

For more information on Powerspace, check out www.PowerspaceTheBand.com

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Today’s Feature, November 21st-22nd: Antje Duvekot

November 21, 2007 at 8:28 pm (Today's Feature)

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Perspective. It’s what separates the true singer songwriter from the lip syncing aspirant. It’s what makes Antje Duvekot stand out even within a Folk Music scene where some of the most talented musicians practice. Antje’s perspective is unique. Born in Heidelberg, Germany before landing somewhere in Delaware, she has an outsider’s perspective on “wrong and right.” She has said, “A lot of Americans think, ‘This is the way it is.’ And in Germany, it’s more, ‘This is the way it is here.'” American culture itself provides the opportune place for an artist like Duvekot to step in and shine.

Perspective from others can be just as important… and Antje has plenty of big names throwing out their two cents on the rising folk performer. Legendary producer Neil Dorfsman says, “Her songs are stunning paintings of color and shade, and always generate the heat and light that real art should.” Boston-based folk pioneer and PEV alum Ellis Paul has even claimed “she’s going to be the next great American folk singer-songwriter. She’s writing songs we need to hear right now. I feel like I’ve been waiting for her to come along and join the club of traveling musicians that I’m in because we need a fresh voice to shake things up for all of us.”

Duvekot’s latest record, “Big Dream Boulevard” is being produced by another respected name in the industry, Seamus Egan of the band “Solas.” This release is different for Antje; it’s her first “deliberate studio record.” She refers to her other works as “snap shots” or “progress reports.” There are deep-rooted songs on “Big Dream Boulevard” like “Jerusalem,” as well as tunes with more of an edge like “Sex Bandaid.” They fit the style of Duvekot – her voice deep and strong, “letting us know she believes every word she sings.”

You can take her music for a test drive before you buy the album if you like – Antje is currently touring wherever and whenever. She is “trying to build a grass roots career so that means playing live and building a fan base.” Get out and see what she has to say after you read over her XXQ’s.

XXQs: Antje Duvekpot

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get involved in music?

Antje Duvekot: I don’t know. As far as I can remember I was singing from the moment I was born. Pretty much lived for the vinyl kids records my dad played for me. There’s a recording of Christmas songs I sing as a five year old in which my brother sabotages my rendition of silent night. Apparently jealous of the attention. I should try and dig that up. So my extreme love of music was present from the start.

PEV: Born in Heidelberg, Germany and later moving to Delaware (USA), what kind of music where you listening to growing up? Who helped shape your sound?

AD: Before I was a teenager I was pretty much captive to the music the adults listened to. My parents, while they weren’t particular music-philes, luckily owned the compulsory collection of James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and such. So I adored those few records (and still do) but I had no clue as to find my own music. When I got older I listened to the radio. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered folk music.

PEV: What was it about American folk music that attracted you to that genre?

AD: I discovered folk music by myself because let’s face it, it is not the kind of music that is on suburban high school kids radar. It started with a compilation from Philo or Rounder I forget. Containing folks like Ellis Paul, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Catie Curtis. Once I found that disc, I went after those writers with a vengeance and discovered the whole scene of modern singer-songwriters and with them the more traditional folk music.

PEV: Was there a certain time when you said to yourself, “Music is going to be a career for me”?

AD: Let’s just say that during my adolescence I didn’t have much of an idea about what is so great about living since I didn’t have an ideal home life and few friends to speak of. But this folk music really excited me and pushed my buttons so I think it’s only natural to gravitate toward that which makes you feel impassioned and alive. Especially if you are a messed up despondent teenager so I can say that in the abstract sense I had decided that I wanted to do this early on.

PEV: Tell us about the first live Antje Duvekot performance? What was going through your head?

AD: I started writing in high school but never performed until I was in college or college bound. I don’t really remember my first performance it might have been an open mic contest at a brew house. I’m sure I was a nervous mess. I won but… well, it was an open mic contest at a brew house.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you stepped into a recording studio to lay down your own tracks? What kind of feeling was that?

AD: Yeah, actually that was the prize of that contest; recording time. When I heard my songs back recorded I thought ‘now I’m a pro’ the songs are for real now. Set down for eternity. I don’t know… I was not a pro at all but those recordings definitely give me a good chuckle now.

PEV: Tell us more about your latest release, “Big Dream Boulevard.”

AD: It is produced by the brilliant Seamus Egan of the band SOLAS and I’m pretty proud of it. These songs span a good long while of my having been writing. There are old and new ones on here and they’re brought to life through great production.

PEV: How is “Big Dream Boulevard” different from any of your past work and how is different than other music out today?

AD: It’s the first deliberate studio record I have put together. Unlike the others, it’s well-thought out project. All my other semi-live recordings until big dream boulevard were just snap-shots. Progress reports if you will. It’s great to put something together with care instead.

Big Dream Boulevard is surely inspired by the type of production that you would hear on alternative female records such as Patti Griffin or Suzanne Vega but it also is unique due to the unique combination of Seamus’s sensibility and my songwriting.

PEV: When you write music, is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in?

AD: Not really, I tend to be inspired when my life is turbulent or if someone else inspires me (for instance I just toured with Peter Mulvey who is great and so I feel like picking up my guitar because of it) but I don’t require an environment per se. I just need privacy. The more the better. That is why I moved to a cabin in Vermont at one stage. When there’s no one around, I am definitely freer creatively.

PEV: In all your travels, which city, International or US do you think offers the best appreciation for art and music. As well, which has been your favorite to perform and why?

AD: Boston hands down. Boston is a great folk town. Unlike in many other cities, there are people of all ages that are into folk here. It’s not just the graying hippies from the 60’s. I personally find that that inter-generational factor lends the genre a feeling of urgency and relevance rather than musical nostalgia.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? What are the best and worst parts?

AD: Best parts: I have a job where people are happy to see me, glad I came and value what I do. I have had plenty of waitressing and public service sector jobs where people are displeased for one reason or another and don’t treat you as an individual but simply as a means to an end. I will never forget those jobs and thus never cease to be grateful.

The worst parts: there is a lack of routine in the constant travel of my job that makes it difficult to have particularly constant relationships without a great deal of effort. Many great people I meet once and then never again. And many of my relations at home don’t receive the maintenance that I would like to grant them because I’m so often away. So it requires a deliberate balancing act. Another downside is that traveling is simply tiring. As the adage goes they pay us folk singers to travel. The performing is the icing.

PEV: Have you come across an up and coming artist that you think we should all be paying attention to?

AD: Anais Mitchell and Meg Hutchinson.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, alive or passed, who would it be and why?

AD: Paul Simon please. He’s brilliant.

PEV: What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?

AD: I keep my room really neat. My car is a disaster; I am generally disorganized, creative chaos. But my living space itself would make Martha Stewart proud. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I work from home, that’s my refuge. But most people tend to be surprised since this does not fit with the rest of me.

PEV: How is the music in the U.S. different from that you experienced in Europe?

AD: I really haven’t spend enough time in Europe since I left there as a child to have a good grasp of their scene. Certainly in England the folk scene seems to be alive and well. And I would love to go to Ireland eventually. PEV: What is currently in your CD player or who are you listening to right now?

AD: Joanna Newcom. Strange little girl with a harp. Reminiscent of Bjork.

PEV: When you are not performing or traveling what do you like to do in your down time?

AD: I paint sometimes. I like to go for long walks (oh, geez, now I’m starting to sound like a personal ad)… I like to do regular things: hang out with friends, see music, read books, write emails, play guitar… got no strange fetishes or cockroach collections… sorry.

PEV: What can people expect from your live performance?

AD: I usually play alone. I tend to narrate my songs in between.

PEV: In one word, what best describes Antje Duvekot?

AD: I take the fifth on that one. One word…. Ok. Sorry, I’ll try to answer your question. I really don’t know. Musical. How’s that? It doesn’t describe all of me…because I’m kind too, but….

PEV: What is next for Antje Duvekot?

AD: Touring, touring, touring. I am trying to build a grass roots career so that means playing live and building a fan base.

For more information on Antje Duvekot, check out www.AntjeDuvekot.com

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Today’s Feature, November 19th-20th: Birds Of Wales

November 21, 2007 at 1:53 am (Today's Feature)

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Birds of Wales is one of those bands on the verge of an explosion here in the U.S. – a group that has been teeming around the edges of American mainstream for a while now, and is set to make a significant mark at any moment. They’ve been showcasing their talents all around the globe in the meantime, first in Canada with a foundation of “strong songwriting and outstanding live performances,” becoming a regular on the Toronto music scene. They were also noticed across the Atlantic where they made their first tour of the UK in August 2006. Two tours have since followed, as well as the re-release of their CD as the “Fall of the 49 EP” in the UK and Spain.

The catalyst behind the Birds of Wales rush in the U.S. will likely be their upcoming full length album release that follows up on the self-titled EP, “Birds of Wales.” The EP stands out with its “honesty and vulnerability,” an “eclectic listen… ranging from Neil Young Rock n’ Roll to Acoustic ballads to Pop to Tom Waits styled music.”

The new album however, will give an updated look into just what Birds of Wales has to offer. Their sound, “a melding of Folk with Indie Rock,” also includes “some toe-tapping driving country beats, some straight ahead 60’s rock Ôn roll, some softer acoustic folk ditties.” The new full length release will also feature some talented guest work that enhances the record both lyrically and musically.

You may notice their single, “My Lady; In July” in the upcoming feature film, “Ecstasy,” based on a story by “Trainspotting” author, Irvine Welsh. You may also take notice of the fact Birds of Wales will be doing some touring before the release of the new record. Take advantage, and get a live look at the material before you buy the new album. Jump into their XXQ’s.

XXQs: Birds of Wales – Morgan Ross (lead singer)

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did Birds of Wales first form as a band?

Morgan Ross (MR): Birds of Wales started as a collection of songs I wrote while in University in 2004. A Canadian band, Stabilo(Emi), met me in Prince George, BC, where I went to school, and really liked the tunes, so they offered to play as my band, and help pull strings for recording time in Vancouver. I took time off school, racked up my credit cards and recorded what would become Birds of Wales freshman disc. I also wanted to have a band, so I named the work, Birds of Wales- giving freedom to have a band or solo. I moved to Toronto shortly after in the Summer of 2005- auditioned musicians, and formed the band in Oct. 2005.

PEV: Was there a certain time in your life when you thought, “Okay, music is going to be my career”?

MR: When you’re young, you rarely think in terms of careers, all you really do is daydream about what you want to be doing. For me, I ate, breathed and slept music- I just followed where my heart was pulling.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music did you listen to and who helped shape your sound?

MR: I grew up listening to a jumble of everything. The soundtrack to Good Morning Vietnam has always been a staple love of mine- everything from the Beach boys to Louis Armstrong. Mid teens I found myself obsessed with Punk music/culture. The socially conscious side of punk really helped shape me though.

PEV: Tell us about the first time Birds of Wales performed live on stage? Where and when was it?

MR: After auditioning and putting together a lineup in October, 2005, I convinced a Toronto promoter to give us the headlining spot at Lee’s Palace(a great venue in Toronto) on a Saturday night. We drew over 250 people to the first show- November 5th, and it was seen as a huge success.

PEV: What can people expect from your EP, self entitled, Birds of Wales? As well your up coming full length release?

MR: People can expect a eclectic listen from our EP. 7 very differing songs- ranging from Neil Young Rock n’ Roll, to Acoustic ballads, to Pop to Tom Waits styled music.

Our upcoming full length is what I am truly excited about – I have come a long way since the EP, and am really proud of the skills I have picked up along the way. I have been lucky enough to work around and with some great musicians and songwriters this past couple years, and I am proud to say I have really stepped things up lyrically and musically. I’ve even embraced the two step!

PEV: How is the music on the EP, Birds of Wales different from other music out today?

MR: Honesty and vulnerability are what make the EP something I am proud of. Coming from a more lyric based upbringing- I feel as though I came at the album from a differing angle than most. I tried to let the lyrics speak before the music, and I am really happy with what happened. In addition- the sheer eclectic nature of the disc adds something new to the world.

PEV: What was it like when you stepped into recording studio to lay down the tracks for Birds of Wales? What was going through your heads?

MR: Every time I’m in a new studio I feel like a kid in a candy store- as if I just want to set up shop and live there fiddling with things for ever. I was very excited to get the recording process started- The way I see music is that I will bring forward a basic song structure I am proud of- and I love the idea of everyone else pitching in and lending some of themeselves to it.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of atmosphere do you surround yourselves in?

MR: For myself, I write most all of my songs alone. I write the most while in Vancouver at my family home- a block away actually- a water reservoir on the mountain we live on, overlooking downtown Vancouver, the harbour and mountains. Once the skeleton of the song is written, I take it to the band, and we hammer away at it- making it into something we’re all proud of. This always happens in our rehearsal space.

PEV: Having traveled/toured all over, which has been your favorite to perform in and why?

MR: Definitely Spain. The first show we played in Spain was last May, and it was one of the most encouraging things I have ever had happen to me. We didnt know what to expect- a new crowd, a new country, but it was amazing. They physically made us have 5 encores- lasting longer than our headlining set, before I finally had to put my guitar away, lock it, and head for a drink. The people were fantastically welcoming and supportive there.

PEV: With that, how has life on the road been? What are the best and worst parts?

MR: Life on the road is an interesting part of being a musician. I would say it is one of the easiest and quickest ways to collect amazing stories- but as with most great stories- they arent some comfortable in the moment. I love the aspect of meeting new people and seeing lots of beautiful places- I dont always like the aspect of knowing you have to leave the next morning or that night.

PEV: When you have some down time from touring and performing, what can we find the guys of Birds of Wales doing?

MR: I am still trying to squeeze in University courses in between tours. I’m studying German Political Economy at the moment. We all try and fit in music related work – as well as Mike, our Lead guitar player is a Graphic designer.

PEV: How have your friends and family back home reacted to all your success?

MR: Interestingly. People back in Vancouver treat me a lot differently. The guys giving me a hard time in earlier years are now going out of their way to be my friend, and the girls at home suddenly think you’re cuter than you probably are! In addition- they all think we’re wealthy. So far, only in stories.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist that you think we should all be looking out for?

MR: Justin Nozuka. Very talented young Toronto singer songwriter. He’s going places.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys in Birds of Wales?

MR: 3 of us are history buffs- which make travel more rewarding. Also- Mike is quite the straightedge

PEV: What is your take on today’s music scene?

MR: Today is a great time to be a music lover. With affordable recording gear and easily promoted music- comes a revolution of great new music- and the ability to try new things.

PEV: Is there an artist that you would like to collaborate with that you have not had a chance to yet?

MR: A few hundred. John K. Samson of the Weakerthans

PEV: Describe to us what an average show day is like for you? What are you guys doing before a show to get ready?

MR: We always geekily do a hands in the middle- cheer before each show. I’m the geeky ringleader on that one.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you heard your songs on the radio?

MR: Vividly. I was on a bus and my bass player called me screaming. Toronto’s big rock station was playing Fall of the 49 and talking about us. I went nuts! or seen in the stores? What kind of feeling was that? I felt really proud. As if I was going to yell to everyone to come look.

PEV: In one word, describe Birds of Wales?

MR: Audacious

PEV: So, what is next for Birds of Wales?

MR: Recording the new record is our priority. We’re VERY excited about the new songs. We will also be heading back to Europe at the beginning of 2008, for our 4th tour of Europe in 16 months.

For more information on Birds Of Wales, check out www.BirdsOfWales.com

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Today’s Feature, November 17th-18th: Koop

November 18, 2007 at 6:34 pm (Today's Feature)

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You can’t capsule the style of Koop, but they can take a shot at it – “We have a love / hate relationship with Jazz music. No music can be so swinging beautiful and no music can be so boring as jazz. We sometimes are accused of being retro, but no other jazz related music sounds as modern as Koop Islands.”

While Sweden’s Koop continues to progress and excel on their latest album, “Koop Islands,” the record is also a sort of back to basics for this distinctive duo. Perhaps basic is a bad choice word – Koop’s music sounds like it’s made by a small orchestra. But the music is actually based on samples; “thousands of small clips from records puzzled together into new songs.” With that said, “Koop Islands” still has remnants from when Magnus Zingmark & Oscar Simonsson pieced together melodies for the first time. Sitting on the floor of Magnus’ parent’s living room with two turntables, the pair found that “playing a little flute melody from Debussy and a double bass line from a jazz record at the same time created a totally new sound.”

The album that follows the success of “Waltz for Koop” does more than remind listeners of how the group first discovered their sound. You’ll also notice a new level of songwriting, lyrics sang by an assortment of gifted vocalists such as Yukimi Nagano, Ane Brun, Hilde Louise Asbjornsen, Rob Gallagher and Mikael Sundin.” Check out their single “Come to Me” – it sums up “Koop Islands” quite nicely; “Come To Me is the point where the Swedish summer solstice meets a Caribbean Christmas.”

Luckily for American audiences, Koop is touring the U.S. before they head back to the studio to record a fourth album. When you see them live, Mangus will be on the sampler while Oscar takes over the piano and accordion, but you may also notice a 7-9 piece swing orchestra including one or two singers. The ensemble’s purpose: “to make people move their feet.” Buy the album, find a show and read their XXQ’s.

XXQs: KOOP

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did Koop first form as a band?

KOOP: We met at student clubs in the mid nineties. I played in a jazz band and Magnus was DJing at the venues we played. We became friends and the first time we made music together we were sitting on the floor of Magnus’ parents living room with two turntables trying to find samples that fit together. We found that playing a little flute melody from Debussy and a double bass line from a jazz record at the same time created a totally new sound to our ears. So different music and eras but it totally made sense. That sound lead to the song “Glomd” that is on our first album “Sons of Koop,” released in 1997.

PEV: Hailing from Stockholm what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

KOOP: Abba and (early) Beatles. In our teens we discovered jazz and Hip Hop. When we were old enough to visit clubs we started to discover technological music.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for Koop, before the sell out crowds and tours?

KKOP: An example: Our second album was ready in January 2001. We were signed to Universal in London since our first album, which was no success for them at all. They didn’t want to release the new album and we had to use lawyers to try to release us from the contract. Time went on, and after a half year it still wasn’t solved. We had our instruments and samplers at the pawnshop, and I was starting to think that it was never gonna be released and all this work we’d put down making the album was wasted. Luckily Universal let us go a few months later and the album “Waltz for Koop” was released January 2002. One year late.

PEV: Tell us about the first ever live Koop performance. When and where was it? How did it go?

KOOP: First gig was on a poets night in our hometown Uppsala in 1995. We claimed we had some poet samples in our music and that’s why we should play there. We played the song Glomd (which means “forgotten” in Swedish) featuring Magnus on sampler, me on moog and a girl playing harp that we met earlier at the venue. People actually liked it a lot, which was a strange surprise to us.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life where you were like, “Okay, music is going to be my full time career”?

KOOP: Koop has had a very slow and bumpy career. It’s been so many ups and downs, so suddenly you are there without noticing it.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you both stepped into a recording studio together to lay down some tracks.?

KOOP: After starting at Magnus’ parents living room floor, we decided to borrow a studio from another band. We were allowed to be there on Friday nights and they had a sampler that could store 1 megabyte(!), but that was enough to produce our first EP.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

KOOP: We meet at the studio every day. Make samples, have coffee, smoke and argue about music. Then we give up after 6 hours. All the good ideas, melodies and lyrics come on the way home or later in the evening. Then we text each other for a while. The next day it starts all over again.

PEV: Your latest release, “Koop Islands” has been very well received. What do you want people to take away from this album?

KOOP: After making music together for a long time, and evolving, we are now in a phase where we want to improve ourselves as songwriters. Our sound has been defined for a long time. There are a couple of songs that are really up there. Great melodies, and with the same surreal feel as the first time we mixed jazz with debussy back at Magnus parents’ living room floor. “Come to me” is one of them.

PEV: How is Koop Islands different from any other music out today?

KOOP: We don’t have to struggle to be different. The way we make music is so fundamentally different in the first place, so it can’t sound like anything else than Koop.
We have a love / hate relationship with Jazz music. No music can be so swinging beautiful and no music can be so boring as jazz. We sometimes are accused of being retro, but no other jazz related music sounds as modern as Koop Islands.

PEV: What can people find different on “Koop Islands” then they did on “Waltz For Koop”?

KOOP: Well, it’s even more about classic songwriting. Less about sound and grooves.

PEV: What is a normal “show day” like for the band? Any pre-show rituals or anything?

KOOP: Before the show we do our make-up and have a couple of drinks.

PEV: In all your travels, what has been your favorite city to perform, International or US and why?

KOOP: It’s all about expectation and comparing to how the previous show was. It’s always nice to be surprised. When we played in Seoul last month it was complete Beatlemania. We could sometimes not hear what we where playing because of the screaming. But that must be annoying in the long run. The shows we’ve had in LA. have been great. Our American audience is focused on the music, and also gives a lot back. When it comes to things like environment and food, nothing beats Italy.

PEV: Speaking of traveling, how do you like life on the road? What are the best and worse parts of road life?

KOOP: The best is when the gigs are good. That’s the reason we do it. The worst part is that you loose your routines in everyday life, and the phone bills.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing and you get some down time, what can we find you doing?

KOOP: Sleeping.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

KOOP: They don’t see so much of that. Even if our records have sold gold in Sweden it’s not like we’re on TV every day. People tend to measure success by how much you are on TV.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band that you think we should all be listening to?

KOOP: I like Beirut, and a Swedish band The Tough Alliance.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player or on your iPod now?

KOOP: Metallica. The black album.

PEV: What’s been the most memorable part of the band’s career so far?

KOOP: It’s was a real struggle to follow up “Waltz for Koop”, and we had a very hard time, both musically and personally, making “Koop Islands”. But it feels like we are starting to be understood for real with this album. People seem to like the music for exactly the same reasons we do.

PEV: What is something that fans would be surprised to hear about Koop?

KOOP: We are straight.

PEV: So, what is next for Koop?

KOOP: We have to move our studio on the 1st of January. We see that as the start of making our 4th album. But first we’re gonna tour America.
Bye!

For more information on KOOP, check out on MySpace.

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Today’s Feature, November 15th-16th: Ellis Paul

November 18, 2007 at 6:25 pm (Today's Feature)

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A “songwriter’s songwriter.” A simple phrase, but nonetheless a title that goes only to those that have earned remarkable admiration from peers within the music industry. It makes sense that the Boston Globe crowned folk musician Ellis Paul with such a designation, claiming in 1993 that “no emerging songwriter in recent memory has been more highly touted and respected by songwriters.” After more than a dozen albums, 13 Boston Music Awards and hit songs on soundtracks like “Shallow Hal” and “Me, Myself, & Irene,” Paul has proven his critics correct.

At the start of his career, Paul helped lead a wave of singer/songwriters that emerged from the Boston folk scene, “creating a movement that revitalized the national acoustic circuit with an urban, literate, folk pop style.” He is also credited with bridging the gap between “the modern folk sound and the populist traditions of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger more successfully than perhaps any of his songwriting peers.”

Ellis Paul’s 14th record release, “The Dragonfly Races” is actually also his debut into the family/children’s genre. Why the new direction? It wasn’t long ago that Paul noticed his oldest daughter, Ella, was singing along to songs made famous by Barney and Elmo, not tunes from dear old dad. Working with his wife and friends, Ellis pulled together a group of songs in hopes of creating music that people could escape to; sound that allowed others to enjoy the fantasies created behind the words. After hearing his daughters Ella and Sofi once again sing along to his music, he knew he had found the melodies he was searching for.

When you do pick up “The Dragonfly Races,” you’ll certainly notice the radiant illustrations that come with the record – paintings and art that demonstrate more of the talents of Ellis Paul. Paul decided to lend his artwork to this album because he’s “always believed that art was a part of the songwriting in a way… It’s painting with words and music and is an extension of illustrating.” You can see more work like this in Paul’s upcoming children’s book, as well as in “Notes from the Road,” a book of poems and stories from the artist himself. Read on for the answers to his XXQ’s.

XXQs: Ellis Paul

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get started in music?

Ellis Paul: I started playing music in college when I was 21, had some free time and a friend lent me her guitar…

PEV: Growing up in northern Maine, who were you listening to? Do you remember the first concert you attended?

EP: Ted Nugent. The Nuge came swinging in on a vine wearing his glorious tarzan outfit. I was fourteen.

PEV: Emerging from the Boston folk scene, what were the earlier days of your career like; when you were first getting started in Boston? Why folk music?

EP: Mostly my early days were spinning around the open mikes with the likes of Dar Williams, Martin Sexton, Gatty Griffin, The Story, Vance Gilbert, everyone was getting their feet wet at a place called The Old Vienna Coffeehouse, which was about 40 minutes outside of Boston. They had a Thursday open mike, many of us got our first professional gigs there as well.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you stepped on stage, live, to perform.

EP: Boston College, where I attended school. There was a benefit concert for mentally retarded kids. Half way through the set one of them climbed up on stage and played drums for us. I think he was the best musician on stage at the time.

PEV: Years after that, being able to play much larger stages, in front of thousands of people all over the world, how has your on stage presence changed since that first day?

EP: I am less self conscious, and more present. I’m more able to be spontaneous, and not say awkward things out of nervousness, or insecurity. Usually, I feel confident that can handle whatever trouble may come my way– a broken string, power outages, etc.

PEV: With all your touring and traveling, which city, International or US, do you think offers the best appreciation for music? As well which has been your favorite to perform?

EP: I don’t have a singular favorite. Boston is incredibly supportive of singer songwriters and folk musicians, and the crowds there are generally the most informed about all of us as a group, because there is so much exposure there for us. I like playing Chicago. Atlanta. Houston. But everywhere is great, because I have had the chance to develop an audience everywhere. I like it when it’s a little rowdier than your standard church folk gig.

PEV: With touring; how has life on the road been for you? What are the best and worse parts about road life?

EP: I’ve enjoyed the life I have built on the road. I have great friends in every city in the country, and I know the towns and clubs and cities and feel comfortable getting around, and nostalgic for the the place when i arrive. The tough part is having a family and having to be away to make a living.

PEV: When you get a chance to stop touring and performing, what can we find you doing in your down time?

Being with my kids and reading, drawing, writing, and catching up with the day to day life maintenance that i missed by being away from home.

PEV: 1993, the Boston Globe called you the “songwriter’s songwriter”, adding that “no emerging songwriter in recent memory has been more highly touted and respected by songwriters.” When an article like that comes out, how does that affect your career so early on?

EP: It didn’t change my life dramatically, but became something I could use on the resume to help with shows outside of Boston. It’s always good to have someone champion you, but each little comment, or compliment needs to be seen and heard by tons of people before you build any reputation at all. I got lucky with some of the early supporters I had, Scott Alarik at the globe and Bill Morrissey were helpful, as were the radio stations in town WERS and WUMB.

PEV: Your 2006 release, Ellis Paul Essentials, came out to rave reviews. How is this work different from your earlier albums? How has your music evolved over time?

EP: This is a “best of recording” so it shows stuff from 15 years ago as well as my newest. I’m more melodic these days, less wordy, more direct, generally more accessible.

PEV: Your latest venture has brought you to the working with Children’s music, with your release of “The Dragonfly Races”. How did this project come about and how was this something you have always been interested in?

EP: I wanted to write songs for my kids, and i feel like this in keeping with the tradition of being a folk musician. Woody Guthrie and Pete seeger and Johnny cash all did children’s music, and i feel like my success as a children’s writer is no more important to me than the rest of my stuff.

PEV: You also do all the art work on The Dragonfly Races. Has painting and art always been a part of your life?

EP: I’ve always wanted art to be a bigger part of my life and the children’s music is finally forcing the issue. I am going to illustrate books of the songs as well, and I am really enjoying developing my skills as an artist. But I’ve always believed that art was a part of the songwriting in away, because i am trying to create visual images in the mind of the listener. It’s painting with words and music and is an extension of illustrating.

PEV: What do you want people to take away from The Dragonfly Races? Do you plan to write any more books as well?

EP: I want to have people escape into the songs and the fantasy of the worlds created there. Yep, more books will be coming to, first children’s books. Hopefully a book of short stories as well….

PEV: Along with children’s book, you mentioned that you have read Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” six times. What is it about that book that attracted you so much to it?

EP: I felt like it described my life as a 18 year old in many ways. Disconnected, observant. angst ridden, searching. Could be any 18 year old.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, work on art or write stories, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

EP: I have to write on the fly, so I have taught myself not abandon the preciousness of the environment. I don’t need a cabin and wine and candles. I write while I’m changing diapers, while I’m flying, while I drive, in my head I am constantly working on pieces. So if i seem distracted, I apologize. I’m writing a jingle write now, as i type this.

PEV: What is one thing fans would be surprised to hear about Ellis Paul?

They know me pretty well by now, so i don’t know what would surprise them. I like the Bee Gees.

PEV: What is the best part about performing live on stage?

EP: The occasional out of body experience of being transported with the audience to a very holy place. It’s rare, but occasioanlly the night is unbelieveable. it’s always good, and you can only control the element that you are bring to the night. But occasionally the venue, the sound, the crowd and the music all combine to make the evening a surreal experience.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist right now that you think everyone should be listening to?

EP: Antje Duvekot. she is the best young songwriter I have ever come across in my travels, and is one of my favorites of all time. Sam Baker, too.. A texas storyteller.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player right now?

EP: I have been listening to the Dragonfly races non stop, we just finished it.

PEV: Whats’s next for Ellis paul?

EP: I am writing and illustrating the children’s book, and I am working on new songs for my studio album coming next year sometime. Enjoying watching my girls grow up too. They are the best part of it all.

For more information on Ellis Paul, check out www.EllisPaul.com

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Today’s Feature, November 13th-14th: Umphrey’s McGee

November 14, 2007 at 9:43 pm (Today's Feature)

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The development of a band’s name is generally an extensive and intricate process… one that usually involves each member of the band agreeing on a name that reflects the sound and message of the group. You know the names that best represent the sound – Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down and of course the “heirs to the Phish throne,” Umphrey’s McGee.

Wait a sec. Umphrey’s McGee? “How does that name match up with a sound and/or message??” If this crossed your mind, then you obviously don’t know UM. Umphrey’s McGee, the 6-piece posse that formed in the late 90’s in South Bend, Indiana, “shuttles between styles with precision, from straight-up pop and rock to jazz, prog-metal, and classical.” Once you take in the Umphrey’s experience, you’ll understand that the name fits.

Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Jake Cinninger (guitar, Moog, synthesizers, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Andy Farag (percussion), Kris Myers (drums, vocals) and Ryan Stasik (bass, no vocals) made a statement right from the start when they released their first album, “Greatest Hits Volume III.” Their statement to the world was made official when “Anchor Drops” was released in 2004 – Rolling Stone placed them in their “Hot” Issue and the Washington Post named them “rock’s undisputed lord of sonic shape-shifting.”

Umphrey’s McGee’s latest release, “Live at the Murat” was recorded in Indianapolis in April 2007 and features fan favorites like “Push the Pig” and “The Triple Wide” along with rare tunes like the set-ending “Padgett’s Profile.” Throughout the album, UM’s “invention brings the progressive instrumental chops of Zappa and the stylistic savvy of Steely Dan. It is innovative without being indulgent, exhilarating without losing control, and there are plenty of improv passages that keep the band and their fans off-balance.”

Luckily for you, Umphrey’s McGee spends about half the year on the road entertaining audiences around the country. Their live show is quite the event – their uncanny visual language onstage that includes dozens of unspoken cues is more or less art in motion. So check their tour dates… and get into their XXQ’s

XXQs: Ryan Stasik – Umphrey’s McGee

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How’s everything going? Where’d I catch you?

Ryan Stasik (RS): Everything is going well. I’m in my place, reading the Jerome Bettis book.

PEV: Oh, big Steeler fan?

RS: Hardcore

PEV: I’m a Ravens fan so don’t be too mad (laughs).

RS: Sorry to hear that (laughs)

PEV: Nice, nice, thanks man. So, to the music, how and when did Umphrey’s McGee first form as a band?

RS: We started in 1998. At University of Notre Dame. A couple of years later, Jake and Andy joined us. Then in 2003, Chris became our permanent drummer and we’ve been the same group since 2003.

PEV: What is the story behind the name Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: Unfortunately there is not a really good story behind it. It’s actually Brendon’s (guitar player) lead singer’s cousin. We changed the spelling around and thought it sounded unique.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to?

RS: Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin… Snoop Dog and Dr.Dre were big. A lot of Iron Maiden, AC/DC. I like the heavy metal stuff too. In high school I went to some Pantera shows, White Zombie…

PEV:Who’s in you iPod right now?

RS: I’m listening to band called “Between the Burried and Me”. Death metal stuff too. I’m big into Death Metal.

PEV: Tell us about the Latest release, Live at the Murat?

UM: Yeah, we just recorded that. I don’t remember the date exactly but we did two live shows at the Murat in Indianapolis. And it’s out now.

PEV: How is this different than Bottom Half- Double Disk?

RS: Bottom Half Double Disk was never really supposed to come out. When we went in to record Safety In Numbers, we wanted to record a double disk; one acoustic and one electric and we found there to be too much material to pull out and make sense. And when we looked at Safety In Numbers we had all this material that we didn’t want to have to record again or it fit anything new, so we thought it would be a compilation B Side album. That’s what it ended up being.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

RS: It depends. Sometimes people write on their own when we are at home. If we are on tour, it can be back stage or on the bus. Whatever is there.

PEV: Speaking of road life, how is road life for the band?

RS: It’s all we know. I guess it’s normal.

PEV: Best and worst parts?

RS: The best and worst parts? Well, we have it down to a pretty good system. We are only on the road for two weeks or less. Then I come home in Chicago and spend some weeks here. We don’t get burnt out.

PEV: What’s a normal show day like for Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: We do sound-check around 3, then go find some good food that town has to offer. I like to eat good food… drink good wine. We rehearse for a while or hand out for a while. Or we listen to music together. We like to hear about what people are listening to. Then it’s show time, and when that is over it’s party time and then when that is over we do it all again.

PEV: In all your touring what has been your favorite city to play and why?

RS: My favorite city to play? I’m a big fan of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The people, the food, the weather. Every time I’ve been there it has been unbelievable.

PEV: You talk about listening to other kind of music and you get a good chance to see it. Is there a certain up and coming band we should all be listening to?

RS: Up and coming? Well, I would have to say the “Between the Burried and Me” guys. They are from North Carolina I think. Very smart band, heavy, heavy rock.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for Umphrey’s McGee?RS: Um, like six or seven dudes, living in a band (laughs). Driving around trying to make a buck. Sleeping in the same motel rooms, same money. We’ve upgraded a little bit (laughs). But then we were just really broke. It would be like ‘alright we got to do two more shows so we can pay our rent’ (laughs).

PEV: Is there one band you haven’t had a chance to collaborate with yet?

RS: Dream Theater. Haven’t had a chance to collaborate with them yet.

PEV: When you aren’t touring, what can we find you doing?

RS: Everyone does different things. I like to go check out fine restaurants…I’m into the food thing now. There is so much Chicago has to offer. Going to check out live music too, I do that a lot.

PEV: What’s the best place to check out music in Chicago?

RS: Oh, man, so many. If you want to find jazz players there is a place called the Underground Wonder Bar, live jazz and Brazilian reggae until 4 in the morning. If you want the indie punk scene, you go to Double Doors. The United Center as well.

PEV: What’s one thing would you be surprised to hear about Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: One thing is we’re pretty good poker players. If anyone wants to come over and lose their money to us. And that our keyboard player Joel, is newly single.

PEV: I’ll make sure to let our readers know that Joel.

RS: Thanks for that!

PEV: When do you guys get to practice?

RS: We have stuff set up back stage. Like before dinner or after dinner. I mean, it’s what we do so we do that a lot

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

RS: They love it. They have always supported it from the start and never really had that doubt question. They are very ecstatic about it.

PEV: So what is next for Umphrey’s McGee?

RS: We are going to the east coast and then flying out to the west coast. We have some projects down in Atlanta and then we start out the tour.

PEV: You coming up to Baltimore soon?

RS: We were just in Baltimore a little while ago and had the best crab cake in my entire life there. Somewhere in the harbor there.

PEV: Of course! We have the best. Well, thanks for the time and I appreciate you talking to us.

RS: Maybe if you guys get a bit tougher you may get that wild card spot (laughs). Good talking to you man.

PEV: Good one man, thanks. Good talking to you too (laughs).

For more information on Umphrey’s McGee, check out www.UmphreysMcGee.com

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Today’s Feature, November 11th-12th: Jake and Amir

November 12, 2007 at 2:09 am (Today's Feature)

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Each and every day people suddenly find themselves in the middle of ridiculous/hilarious/stupid situations. Whether you’re at work forcing small talk about how it’s so cold outside (when it’s freakin’ January) with clueless co-workers, at the gym working out next to a guy wearing what resembles the standard ensemble of a trapeze artist, or hanging out with your roommates arguing over who is going to walk ten feet to take out the trash… examples of the humor behind everyday life are everywhere.

What isn’t everyday, is the ability to recognize and isolate such comedy. This is where CollegeHumor employees and stars of the absurdly popular Jake and Amir videos, the aptly named Jake and Amir come in. When they met a little over a year ago, the two had no idea that their constant repartee would be the subject of some of the most sharp, savvy and amusing videos on the internet (which is saying something when just about everyone thinks their lives are something worth filming). The fact this act isn’t forced also makes this duo stand out amongst a sea of many. These videos are “more or less real life.”

Jake and Amir spend their days doing what most 20-something males wish they were being paid to do. Aside from writing articles for CollegeHumor’s front page and scripts for CollegeHumor’s CHTV and acting in them as well, the two sometimes make time in their day to hang out in the Cute College Girl section of CollegeHumor. Rough. They generally end their days with a video such as “Burp,” “Screen Name,” or “Sunglasses.” “Office Tour” is the best though, seriously.

If you ever find yourself around the two with a video camera, beware. When it comes to participation, “no one is safe.” Take a break and check out JakeandAmir.com and buy one of their t-shirts at bustedtees.com… but not before you jump into their XXQ’s.

XXQs: Jake and Amir

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did Jake and Amir first meet? Did you know from the start you tow would want to work with one another?

Jake: We met in September of 2006. We didn’t really have any idea we would “work” on anything like this together. But when we moved offices Amir and I had new desks that were directly across from each other. We started joking around all day and then we just decided to film it.

Amir: Video it.

Jake: Same thing.

Amir: Not really.

Jake: Next question.

PEV: Was comedy (writing and performing) something you always wanted to pursue?

Amir: Ideally, yeah, but I knew that it probably wasn’t going to happen. That’s why I went to business school at UC Berkeley. That’s also where Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) went. When CollegeHumor offered me a job to write comedy for a living I felt as happy as Dogbert does when he proves Dilbert wrong. Hahaha, oh Dogbert. You are so sarcastic.

Jake: Same goes for me. Except the whole part about Berkeley. The part about always wanting to be in comedy and being happy about getting a job at CollegeHumor though. So true.

PEV: What other types of writing do you do for College Humor and Vimeo?

Jake : We don’t actually work for Vimeo, but we are run out of the same office and we think they’re awesome. We both write articles for CollegeHumor’s front page and we occasionally help writing scripts for CollegeHumor’s CHTV as well as acting in some of the videos.

PEV: How long have you guys worked for Connected Ventures, which owns Vimeo? Did you start before there was a Vimeo?

Amir : When I started, Vimeo was just a side project of Jake Lodwick who was a programmer at CollegeHumor at the time. I feel like an old man. “When I started, Vimeo was just an idea etched to the side of a well!”

Jake: I started about a year after Amir, so by that time Vimeo had moved from the side of a well to the internet.

PEV: It seems like at the beginning the skits were just to create content for Vimeo and then they just got better and better. How have the skits evolved from when you started them?

Jake : They really just started because my dad bought me a video camera. I think they’ve gotten better because they’ve gone from a bunch of random, goofy ideas, to a story where we have characters that we keep trying to evolve… “Just to create content for Vimeo?” You thought they sucked, huh? Say it then.

Amir : Calm down, man.

Jake : I’m not gonna calm down, not til he explains himself.

Amir: It’s an e-mail interview, he can’t explain it.

Jake : Fine. Next question.

PEV: Do people think that Jake really hates Amir in real life and vice versa?

Jake : I actually have gotten e-mails asking if this is what Amir is really like. We pretty much play our characters nonstop in every conversation we have, so the videos are more or less real life.

Amir : I think some people think I’m a huge loser. People have said that to me… they haven’t even seen JakeAndAmir.com either. Pretty weird.

PEV: What is a normal day like for you?

Jake : I write articles, I look through submissions for BustedTees (Another CV operated site) and I head up the Cute College Girl section of CollegeHumor. Then, around 4:00 PM I look across at Amir and say, “What are we filming today?”

Amir: 5:00 AM- Gym. Hard.

Jake: Tell the truth.

Amir: Okay. Wake up around 8:30 and I walk to work. At work I, along with some other folks, are in charge of finding videos for CollegeHumor. Uploading, captioning, etc. I also help make short in-office videos, and write articles as well. Then at 4:02 I look up and answer Jake. “What took you so long to say that short sentence?!”

PEV: In your free time, what can we find Jake and Amir doing?

Jake: Up until last Wednesday I was watching a lot of baseball. Now I’m watching Yankees Classics on YES and crying a lot.

Amir: I’m usually editing videos or writing. Though I guess that’s not free time. I mean, if you’re doing something, is it actually “free time?” Oh my God, what a self-realization. Also, I watch a lot of sports.

PEV: What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about Jake and Amir?

Amir: One of us is actually 2.5 years older than the other! Though, for the life of me, I SHALL NOT REVEAL WHICH ONE IS WHICH!

Jake : I’m 22 and Amir is 24.

Amir: Okay. You really shouldn’t have said that.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about the skits and what you have done?

Amir : Some of my friends like it, and follow them, some have no idea they even exist. My brother really enjoys it; we even let him be in one. And my niece hates them, but she’s two, so I’m not sweating that too much. She could at least chuckle when I fall down, though.

Jake: My whole family really likes them. My mom even checks the website on her own. I’m one of six kids, and all my sister’s and my little brother all watch the videos and share them with their friends. They’re so supportive I could puke.

PEV: Everyone seems to have a favorite Jake and Amir skit (I’m partial to [Amir’s video mail to his mom] and [Amir’s new website ideas] but that’s me…). Which was your favorite skit to write and why?

Jake: I’m a big fan of one of our newer ones called “Burp.” But I also really like some oldies, “Screen name” and “Sunglasses.” I’m not sure if I could really pick a favorite, they’re all so much fun to shoot.

Amir: I can DEFINITELY pick a favorite. It’s called HANG UP and it’s the only one you are not in.

Jake: I’m in that one. I’m in every one.

Amir: Then don’t make me choose. They’re all like children to me.

PEV: Do you ever get stopped out in public and what is the first question people usually ask you?

Amir: Usually I get stopped for the Yankee Prank thing I did for CollegeHumor.

Jake: I’ve only gotten recognized for Jake and Amir videos once or twice. It’s less a question thing and more just someone saying “I love your videos.” Which is awesome to hear.

PEV: What is currently in your iPod or in your CD player now?

Jake: I basically listen to other people’s iTunes at work. I’m going through a Ratatat phase right now.

Amir: Me too.

Jake: What’s your favorite song?

Amir: Next question, no time for this shiat.

Jake: So you don’t know who they are?

Amir: Next. Question

PEV: Do you find that people in real life think they know you because they see you acting “normal” in the skits?

Jake: When my mom first met Amir she hugged him and said, “I feel like I know you.” So I guess my answer is yes.

Amir: Jake’s mom also brought in cookies to the office, which was kind of the inspiration behind one of our videos called “MOM.” Side note: they were delicious. So I guess my answer is yes.

PEV: Have you got to the point yet where there are things in your real life that you won’t put in the videos? Ex: Jake’s girlfriend, co-workers who don’t want to be in them, etc?

Jake: No one is safe. But it hasn’t actually been an issue, we usually just ask people around us when we’re filming if they’ll be in one and they usually are happy to help us out.

Amir: Yeah, if anything we try to find convoluted ways to cram other people we know into our videos.

PEV: I see that you are now doing commercials for Mike’s Hard Lemonade as a Jake and Amir skit, any other commercial offers? How much free Mike’s hard lemonade have you consumed since doing the commercials?

Amir: That was just a one time thing. We were the spokesmen for a CollegeHumor campaign for Mikes Hard Lemonade.

Jake: I’m still doing stuff for them.

Amir: So am I.

Jake: I’m kidding.

Amir: Kay, good. Because I’m not doing anything for them either.

PEV: It seems like everyone at Vimeo is making little skits all the time. Does everyone at the Vimeo office just walk around with their video camera telling people to “do something funny”?

Amir: No, not really. The people at Vimeo are really hard workers. They just happen to capture great video when something funny happens.

Jake: Yeah, if the cameras were rolling in Vimeo all day you’d see a lot of footage of programmers hunched over computers.

PEV: Where do you see you guys going with the videos? Sitcom for NBC? A live performance of your favorite Jake and Amir skits coming to an Off-Broadway stage soon?

Amir: We don’t really know. For now we are just doing it for the love of the video, to have an outlet for our ideas.

Jake: Sitcom for NBC sounds pretty chill, though.

Amir: Yeah… Wanna just forget about the website and work on that?

Jake: For sure. Which button turns all the old videos off?

PEV: What’s one word that best describes, JakeandAmir.com?

Amir: Not reverent.

Jake: That’s two words. And you’re extra dumb because you could have easily said “irreverent.” Same meaning, but one word.

Amir: …that’s 18 words.

Jake: Nope.

PEV: So, what is next for Jake and Amir?

Amir: More of the same, hopefully. Just a bigger audience.

Jake: And T-Shirts!

Amir: Right, and T-shirts. We just got some BustedTees made for us www. bustedtees.com/shirt/jakeandamir/male.com

For more information on Jake and Amir, check out www.JakeAndAmir.com

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