Today’s Feature, January 30-31: Paul Gambill

January 31, 2008 at 9:35 pm (Today's Feature)

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Combining a love for the French horn with a passion to create original and powerful compositions, Music Director Paul Gambill founded the Cumberland Chamber Orchestra in 1990. In 1997 however, it became the Nashville Chamber Orchestra… and eventually and finally, it is known today as Orchestra Nashville. While the name has changed, the mission remains the same: “To engage and inspire audiences and musicians with the innovative presentation of traditional classical repertory and new music that celebrates Nashville’s eclectic music community.”

Gambill does more than celebrate music through the richness and vigor of his orchestra; he also finds new ways to create “Music without Boundaries.” This style of musical programming goes through commissions (36 works in the past 10 years) with composers that can “integrate folk, jazz and world music with orchestra performance practice” to form a truly innovative sound. The approach began with the success of their first commission of cross-genre music, “Blackberry Winter,” a concerto for mountain dulcimer and strings by Conni Ellisor with David Schnaufer. The style challenges one’s expectations on what an orchestra should be, ultimately proving that “it’s limited by only the scope of our imaginations.”

This work certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, attracting “recordings for major record labels, national concert broadcasts on NPR’s Performance Today, an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, and feature length profiles in SYMPHONY and Eastman Notes magazines.” But there’s something more to the music for Gambill and Orchestra Nashville. They empower their audience by inviting them into the artists’ studio with their “Uncovered” project, as well as provide for them though the “ENCORE” project serving young adults working toward their GED and the “Kid Pan Alley” songwriting project that serves second and third graders in Metro Nashville Schools.

It’s hard to describe a live Orchestra Nashville performance, for as Gambill puts it, there is “no bench mark for what we do.” You’ll just have to check one out for yourself. Do that and keep an eye out for the February release of three singles from collaborations with current Artists-in-Residence John Jorgenson and Darrell Scott Ð recordings from the 2007-08 season of the “Uncovered” project. Learn more in the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Paul Gambill

Pen’s Eye View (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music; Performing and conducting?

Paul Gambill (PG): My commitment to a musical life began in Junior High school when I discovered a love of the French horn and decided then to be a band director. But I quickly learned it was more about the music then the teaching for me. So I shifted toward a professional conducting career as soon as possible.

PEV: Growing up, who were you listening to that impacted your style the most? Why?

PG: Up through college it was the likes of Pink Floyd, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean-Luc Ponty, Supertramp and Yes. Once I started down a classical path I fell for the great romantic composers that wrote those fantastic horn parts, like Mahler, Struass and Bruckner. All of this music felt very theatrical to me, which I think has led me to have a certain kind of theatrical philosophy toward programming my concerts.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for you as a then, “up and coming” musician? Did you see then, that your career would take you where you are today?

PG: Even though I used the French horn as my vehicle into professional music, it was always about finding the next opportunity to conduct. I struggled as a horn player. It was always a challenge, whereas conducting was something that just flowed for me. I’ve known from an early age that I wanted to conduct. But I never imagined I’d be in Nashville as a “classical” musician making music that combined my love of different styles the way Orchestra Nashville does.

PEV: In 1990, you founded Orchestra Nashville (formerly the Nashville Chamber Orchestra). How is the unique style of “Music Without Boundaries” programming you’ve developed with Orchestra Nashville different then other orchestras out there today?

PG: Orchestra Nashville does a lot of commissioning-36 works in the past 10 years. That’s the first big difference. Then, when you commission composers that can integrate folk, jazz and world music with orchestra performance practice, you really have a one-of-a-kind “band.”

PEV: Orchestra Nashville is about cutting edge and presenting new sounds to the masses, however when you first developed this concept, did you have any apprehensions that this unique way would not work out? Was there any doubt?

PG: We committed to this direction of creating Music Without Boundaries after the success of our first commission of cross-genre music, which was Blackberry Winter, a concerto for mountain dulcimer and strings by Conni Ellisor with David Schnaufer. The premiere of that work was the first concert we sold-out, and we’ve never looked back. The audience response was so overwhelmingly positive that it seemed like the only option as we worked to define a niche for Orchestra Nashville is Nashville’s amazingly rich music scene.

PEV: Tell us about the “Uncovered” project and what can fans expect?

PG: Orchestra Nashville Uncovered is powered by ArtistShare, which is a fantastic company created by Brian Camelio. Brian’s concept is that fans are interested in an artist’s creative process, and not just the end result of their work-the CD. So with Orchestra Nashville Uncovered, music fans get to be involved with us through streaming video, audio and downloads as we plan, rehearse, perform and record our season of concerts and special recording projects. At the end of our season you can pick a “Best of the Season” CD from either our Adventure concerts (full-orchestra) and/or our Acoustic Cafe concerts (string quintet with rhythm section). And with John Jorgenson Uncovered, we’re making an album of gypsy jazz guitar and orchestra works that we’ve commissioned for John.

PEV: When an audience leaves your show, what do you hope they have taken away with them?

PG: A new way of thinking about music, and the feeling that they’ve been challenged to engage with the world around them in a new way.

PEV: What was it about music in the orchestra setting that attracted you to it, versus any other?

PG: I think the orchestra is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. The richness of textures and the expressive power of that collection of instrumentalists is limitless. And once you stop putting expectations on what an orchestra should be, then it’s limited by only scope of our imaginations. In Nashville, we’re surrounded by great artists that are innovators and willing to experiment with us, which is what keeps my creative juices flowing.

PEV: As the music director for Orchestra Nashville, what has been the biggest challenge that you face as the “the face” of the company?

PG: I’ve really struggled with how to explain the experience of an Orchestra Nashville concert. Because there’s no bench mark for what we do, you can’t compare it to another concert experience. So many times we’ve heard from people that they had no idea what our concerts were like. They just thought it was another typical classical orchestra event. And once they experience it, they’re hooked. But now we feel we’ve found that right tool with the Uncovered projects and our work with Brian Camelio and ArtistShare. With the popularity of high-speed internet we can open up our world , bring everyone inside the process with us and let the music speak for itself.

PEV: What was the first Orchestra Nashville show like and what was going through your head? As well, how has it changed since its earlier years?

PG: That seems like a lifetime ago! Artistically it was, because Orchestra Nashville began as a traditional orchestra performing traditional classical repertory. The first concert had Debussy, Haydn and Stravinsky on the program. But I’m sure my head was full of all the non-artistic details since I was also stage manager, production manager and you-name-it manager in those early days. We still perform classical masterworks, but the programming mix is designed around the new music we commission and the non-classical artists we collaborate with.

PEV: Orchestra Nashville’s ENCORE Project, which served young adults working toward their high school equivalency degree (GED) was featured at the National Family Literacy conference as a model for integrating music into the family literacy classroom. This is something that most orchestra companies have not done. Why did you decide to focus on such a rewarding project?

PG: One of my passions that goes back to my days as a music educator, is to use music to lead audiences to a place they didn’t expect to go. So I wanted to create a program that tapped into the power of music and help bring a creative element into the GED classroom. So I designed a program that used the orchestra’s music to inspire adult learners to tap into their creativity and write about and create murals on what they felt the music was saying to them. The experience was amazing and the essays and art work they created went far beyond our expectations. ENCORE turned out to be one of the most rewarding outreach projects we’ve done.

PEV: When you sit down to study scores, what kind of atmosphere do you surround yourself in?

PG: I have a studio separate from our house. It’s a 15×15 foot room with a vaulted ceiling. It’s just my piano, desk, book shelves and a stereo. With my chai latte in hand I spend quite time out there, detached from the rest of the world.

PEV: If you had to pick one, just one, what is the most memorable moment of your career so far?

PG: The most memorable and dramatic moment was conducting Orchestra Nashville with Trey Anastasio for the closing performance of the 2004 Bonnaroo Festival. There were 90,000 fans in that audience that night. The previous act had been forced off the stage by a serious thunder storm, and we were all huddled in the buses wondering if we were going to go on. Then it totally blew over and cleared up into a beautifully calm and clear night. We had a 45-piece Orchestra Nashville performing Trey’s works with him singing and on guitar, and the audience really loved it. I’ll never forget the powerful emotion that that huge audience projected towards us on stage. It was really fantastic.

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

PG: I’m putting my money on a model that has artists in control of their on-line distribution. We’ve had major and independent label releases with varying degrees of success. But I feel our on-line Uncovered projects and our work with innovators like Brian Camelio at ArtistShare gives us the best chance at developing broad support for our music.

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

PG: Check out Gabe Dixon – http://www.gabedixonband.com

PEV: When you are not performing, writing, working, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

PG: That’s all family time with Joy and our boys, Nicholas and Benjamin, and Sebastian, our golden retriever. Our favorite is camping in Tennessee and extended trips to Vermont.

PEV: Known predominately, but certainly not only for country music, how has the Nashville community embraced Orchestra Nashville?

PG: The fun part of the Acoustic Cafe is that I get to lead the preparation of the program, then sit back and listen as it unfolds at the concert. So that’s fun to be inside the audience and feel the response to what I’ve helped create form that perspective. The joy of conducting comes from leading the performance and having the chance to create an intimate interactive experience with the audience as I talk and draw them into the program.

PEV: Sometimes you are conducting a performance, and other times you get to sit back and listen like during Orchestra Nashville’s Acoustic Cafe Series. Do you feel the same kind of Ôrush’ or satisfaction with both? What are the differences for you?

PG: The fun part of the Acoustic Cafe is that I get to lead the preparation of the program, then sit back and listen as it unfolds at the concert. So that’s fun to be inside the audience and feel the response to what I’ve helped create form that perspective. The joy of conducting comes from leading the performance and having the chance to create an intimate interactive experience with the audience as I talk and draw them into the program.

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

PG: I love 70’s-80’s pop!

PEV: So, what is next for Paul Gambill and Orchestra Nashville?

PG: We’re getting interest from composers who want to write for us because of the orchestra’s ability to really dig into both classical and non-classical styles with equal success. There are some very exciting collaborations in the works with composers and soloists that we will be bringing to our Uncovered projects.

For more information on Paul Gambill, check out www.nco.org

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Today’s Feature, January 28-29: Serena Ryder

January 29, 2008 at 2:04 am (Today's Feature)

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If you were to take a glance at the musical resume of one Serena Ryder – her songs, her lyrics, her beliefs, her remarkable three-octave range – you’d probably gather that the Canadian-born recording artist is a veteran musician of several decades. Then again, you may think twice when you read that Billboard recently awarded her the title of “Canada’s Most Promising.” While she revels in covering songs written over fifty years ago such as Shelton Brooks’ “Some of These Days” and Percy Faiths’ “My Heart Cries for You,” the fact remains that this songbird is only 25 years old.

The definition of “an old soul,” Ryder “views herself as part of a long musical continuum… that sense of history, of belonging to something greater than the moment, simultaneously roots Ryder in a glorious tradition, while also setting her apart from most of her modern musical peers.” Her new EP for American audiences speaks to this – “Told You in a Whispered Song” will turn listeners across the nation into believers of the comparisons to legends such as Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. And while her colossal talent truly allows Ryder to stand out, she doesn’t try to be different. She finds peace in “knowing how much the same we all are.”

A live Serena Ryder performance is generally a serene event, where the artist likes to “shine light on dark places.” We all have a dark side after all, and it’s there that Serena feels we “find our most precious treasures.” You can get a real taste for her style from her past albums, “Unlikely Emergency” and “If Your Memory Serve You Well,” but keep an eye out for the new record that will soon follow her EP. Now, dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Serena Ryder

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Serena Ryder (SR): I’ve been in music since I was in my momma’s belly. I did my first show out of the whomb when I was 2 at my sister’s wedding reception. I played legions and motor hotels when I was 7 and 8–you couldn’t stop me from singing.

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

SR: AM radio. Roger Miller, John Prine, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

SR: I always have. I know that sounds funny but I have… always.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for your music? When you were just starting out and getting into the music business and before you were signed?

SR: Well, I played a lot more at home… wrote a lot of songs that sucked, did a lot of shows that sucked… until they started not to suck. Well, not all the time anyhow… ha.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

SR: I’ve always loved performing live, so the studio was a bit frustrating at first…always going back and doing another take. There’s so much beauty in the imperfect. Now I know you can record live…it’s in pre-production that the slivers can be sanded. I don’t mind slivers, as long as you get them out before they get infected. I’d hate to be resposable for that.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage. What was going through your head?

SR: Absolutely nothing. It’s amazing how peacful it’s always been for me up there.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Serena Ryder performance?

SR: Well, I suppose I’d love people to have no expectations…not that I’d give them nothing but I try to play each show as a blank canvass. Every audience is so different. I like to shine light on dark places. We all have dark places and I think we find our most preciouse treasures there…that’s what I try to do onstage.

PEV: What do you want fans to take away from “Told You In A Whispered Song”?

SR: I hope they take what they need… it’s all there for them.

PEV: How is “Told You In A Whispered Song” different from other albums out today?

SR: I don’t know and, not to sound contrite…I don’t care. So many people try so hard to be so “different”. I find peace in knowing how much the same we all are.

PEV: Describe to us what it was like when you heard one of your songs on the radio for the first time.

SR: Exciting…surreal. To know that my dreams were coming true…that’s what I felt.

PEV: Being compared to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, is there someone you haven’t worked/collaborated with that you would like to?

SR: I’m sure there is but I suppose I’ll never know until I do. People and their music are so different…god…I’m in love with so many artists out there but I’m not sure I’d like nessesarily to collaborate. I’d love to have a beer with Towns Van Zant…but he’s dead.

PEV: Is there an artist/band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” and we should all be looking out for?

SR: The great lake swimmers, seriously…wow.

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

SR: Gosh…I’ve been on the road 9 months out of a year for the last 2 years there’s been so many ups and downs and I guess, like in life. I’m happiest healthy and in love and down when I’m unhealthy and lonely but being that also gets some good songs out of me.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Serena Ryder?

SR: My family found me floating along the back creek of their property when I was a baby…I had a post-it note stuck to my bonnet…it had my name…Serena Ryder…everything was wet but the post-it note.

PEV: When you get to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?

SR: I like hanging with my friends…ignoring my phone and drinking…water…yum.

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

SR: They are totally supportive and loving. My mom was a gogo dancer and backup singer…she loves showbiz.

PEV: In all your travels (US or International), which city has been your favorite to play? Why?

SR: Planet Earth because I’m trying as hard as I can to convince myself that’s where I live.

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

SR: I try not to think…doesn’t so much matter where I am. It’s what’s on the inside that I try to bring out. I hear that’s where god lives.

PEV: What’s one word best describes Serena Ryder?

SR: honest

PEV: So, what is next for Serena Ryder?

SR: Well, I have a hard time wrapping my head around what’s going on now but I’m working on a new record. So I guess, I’m gonna be a mommy….”congratulations miss Ryder! you’ve got yourself a beautiful baby record!”

For more information on Serena Ryder, check out www.SerenaRyder.com

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Today’s Feature, January 26-27, 2008: Jinnrail

January 27, 2008 at 2:03 am (Today's Feature)

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Ever read Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet?” It’s a book detailing these letters that the author Rilke receives from a young poet named Mr. Kappus, who is seeking advice regarding his poetry. Anyway, in describing the life of the emerging indie musician, Jinnrail lead singer Reade Tilley draws from these letters (in both a clever and non-prick way). At one point in the book, Mr. Kappus writes that he can’t decide whether to be a poet or not. Rilke replies, “The question is not whether to be a poet; it’s whether you can not be a poet. If you don’t have to be a poet then by all means, don’t be a poet. But, if you can’t not be a poet, then the decision is already made for you.”

Elegantly precise; so many of the incredible artists featured on PensEyeView do the things they do not for the glitz, glamour and girls, but simply because they love it (the girls are a nice bonus though). The life of the upcoming musician can be very rewarding, but at the same time it accurately weeds out those who lack the passion to succeed, giving way to artists that truly do. Jinnrail, which also includes Marc Jordan, Matthew Wiley and Lance Causey, is one of those bands full of real enthusiasm for what they do. And they have every right to be excited – They’re good. Really good. Hell, some of their tunes have already been featured in shows on FOX and MTV with plenty of regular airplay on XM, college radio and international radio.

Their latest release, “Million Lifetimes,” debuts next month. It is unadulterated Jinnrail, an essential blend of “New York City street smarts, haunted Southern summers and some laid-back California sunshine.” Tilley describes the collection as “a single life full of numerous lives,” soaring through perspectives and emotions that make the album as thought-provoking as it is satisfying. You can witness this live at one of the bands frequent shows where you should expect to get more than “a burger and a Coke Ñ you get the whole cow, a bucket of Tabasco and as much rocket fuel as you can drink.” If this is the first you’ve heard of Jinnrail, it definitely won’t be your last – believe me. Get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Jinnrail

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

Reade Tilley (RT): JINNRAIL started in Queens, NY back in 2000. I answered an ad: “Band seeking lead singer.” Met and worked with some great guys. Since then a few names have changed, but everyone’s had an impact.

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

RT: When it was just mom and me, whatever was on the radio in the car, otherwise music didn’t really factor into our lives – until I saw a classical concert on PBS. Then she somehow figured out how to afford a piano and lessons. The local symphony back home in Florida used to do these free (or really cheap) Saturday morning shows, rehearsals really. They’d play in jeans and T-shirts, barefoot or something. That was probably my first concert. When I found rock, I was done with piano lessons.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than just a hobby?

RT: Not to sound like a prick, but there’s a bit in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” where the young poet, Franz Kappus I think his name is, writes to Rilke and says he can’t decide whether to be a poet or not, and Rilke writes back that the question is not whether to be a poet, it’s whether you can not be a poet and if you don’t have to be a poet then by all means don’t be a poet because it’s a crap life. But if you can’t not be a poet, then the decision is already made for you and you’re fucked so just deal with it. For me, it’s been like that.

PEV: What were your first years in the music business like for the band? When you were first starting out? Did you ever think you’d be where you are now, then?

RT: I never doubted. Of course, somewhere between New York and LA we’ve hit all the clichŽs right on the head Ð the van, infighting, meltdowns, meetings with fat rich guys who could change your life but don’t, who don’t hear a note but who say “I love the band” like they’ve said it a million times, and they have.

PEV: Having had music aligned with FOX, MTV, XM Satellite and college radio. What was it like the first time you heard one of the Jinnrail songs on the radio?

RT: Drinking a beer in a New York bar, trying to chat up the girl serving drinks, a song came on the radio and I thought, “Hey, I know this… Who plays this?” When I realized it was me singing, I didn’t jump around or anything; I was more dumbfounded than anything. But then I started smiling, and I don’t think I stopped all night.

PEV: What can fans expect from your “Million Lifetimes” (debuts February 26, 2008)?

RT: Some might say “multiple personality disorder,” but I don’t hear it. The songs all sound like they’re from the same place to me: a single life full of numerous lives. The person behind the cash register isn’t a retail slave at home. They’re a lover, a maniac, a kid, an addict, cowboy, stockbroker, queen, priest in training… Who knows?

PEV: How is “Million Lifetimes” different than others out today?

RT: I’m not going to compare our stuff to what other artists are doing, but I will say that – like many indie bands out there – we were more concerned with the integrity of the songs than we were with their appeal.

PEV: How is “Million Lifetimes” different from your previous works?

RT: Maybe more ugly and more beautiful.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourselves in when you sit down to write music?

RT: I never sit down to write music. I’ve done it once and the results weren’t great. It’s just there in my head, like a radio playing…

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

RT: Friends are all happy. Family is happy, even if they don’t really get it.

PEV: Having traveled everywhere, what city do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

RT: All places have different relationships with music. If you’re in the country lying in bed at night listening to the radio, or if you’re walking out of a city club with the sunrise in your face and your ears ringing, it’s all good.

PEV: What is life on the road like for the band? Best and worst parts?

RT: There’s a certain member of the band who produces as much gas as a utility company, and that sucks while driving. Best parts are the people, dive bars, loud music from local bands we meet, girls, not washing dishes or working a register or sitting in an office or whatever else is not playing music.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist or band right now that you think we should all be listening to?

RT: JINNRAIL (and anyone in your local indie music scene)

PEV: Is there someone you have not had the chance to work with or collaborate with, that you would like to?

RT: Sure, tons. Brian Eno, Bjšrk, Sepultura, Lou Reed, Rick Rubin, Roger Waters, Lucinda Williams, Damian Marley, Monica Bellucci…

PEV: When the band is not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

RT: Motorcycles, reading, writing – and traveling and performing.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Jinnrail?

RT: I can’t tell you that.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio what would we find?

RT: A lot of things that make loud noises, and some Vietnam War-era recruiting posters from the Chinese army. PEV: What is a live Jinnrail performance like?

RT: You show up expecting a burger and a Coke – you get the whole cow, a bucket of Tabasco and as much rocket fuel as you can drink.

PEV: In one word, describe Jinnrail.

RT: Ready

PEV: So, what is next for you?

RT: Bigger, faster, better. Punch that button on the great glass elevator: Up and Out.

For more information on Jinnrail, check out www.Jinnrail.com

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Today’s Feature, January 24-25: The Bill Owens Five

January 24, 2008 at 11:19 pm (Today's Feature)

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To be living there on Foundry Street… it could be nice. Well, if the Bill Owens Five was performing at the corner bar, it would work out just fine. The Bill Owens Five, out of Hoboken, New Jersey has been setting trends in alternative rock for quite some time now, and it’s just a matter of time before their distinctive blend is topping iPod playlists everywhere.

While Bill Owens himself doesn’t actually exist in the band, the artists that do are currently busy supporting their debut album, the aptly named “Foundry Street.” The collection is a “melding of the solid roots of classic rock with improvisation that digs deep into the spirit of raunchy good times.” From songs like “Garden State,” “Bull,” and “Shot at Me,” the talented team knows how to bring a tune to life in ear grabbing fashion. Whether the heavy initiation of a drum beat or a gentle strum of guitar, each melody stands out as uniquely Bill Owens Five, “from hard rock, funk to experimental soundscapes, BO5 is always ready and willing to take chances all over the musical spectrum with the audience riding shotgun.”

Do yourself a favor and download the album. And of course, check out a show. The Bill Owens Five takes pride in providing their audiences with pure energy and a spontaneous performance; Definitely worth the price of admission. Learn more and read the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Bill Owens Five

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first from as a band?

Jamie: After I graduated college from the University of Connecticut in 2003 I moved back to NJ and started working. I immediately moved out of my parent’s house to Hoboken,NJ in an effort to be close to New York City. The first thing I wanted to do after I graduated was form a band. I found/met up with Steve around September of ’03 and we began playing music together. Steve worked with Adam and I believe Adam overheard Steve and I chatting about music on the phone and mentioned he played piano. Adam lived with Joe and we all met in at this studio in Jersey City where Steve and I used to rehearse at. We played “Down By the River” for like 2 hours, longer than any Neil Young version on record. Like Spinal Tap, our drummers spontaneously combust. Brian is our 19th drummer and I hope death doesn’t find him like the other unfortunate gentlemen. Actually, I do wish death on him. He’s marked by the beast.

Mike: November 5th, 1955.

Steve: I first played with Jamie in a friend’s basement and we jammed covers and worked on fragments of songs. I met Adam through a mutual job we had and he knew Joe. The original core of the band came together in a rehearsal studio in Jersey City where we jammed the song Down By The River for hours.

Brian: I found these guys on CraigsList…just like that Panamanian hooker I left decomposing in a bathtub in Alphabet City.

Joe: No grand evolution here. Just a group of guys that met through avenues outside of music. A couple of us went to college together. A couple of us worked together. A couple of us met online. I think most band’s origins are much less dramatic and historic than they’d hope them to be.

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

Jamie: I always had great music playing in the house. My father is a drummer and used to be on the road with my Mom when they first got married. My Mom wasn’t in the band but boy could she play a mean set of spoons on her knee! Always had The Beatles, Billy Joel, The Band, Hendrix and other amazing artists playing in the house along with the voices of the 80s in full effect: Anita Baker, Hall and Oates, Gloria Estefan. Inspired by the slew of artists always playing in my home, I ventured out and listened to a ton of Zeppelin, AC/DC and Black Sabbath as a young teenager, rocking out and playing the shittiest versions of their material on my first guitar. Then as I made my way to high school, my friends and I would always get extremely stoned and play choice Phish shows and dance like teenage quasi-hippie idiots in my parents living room! The first concert I remember (wasn’t a concert but a show) was Masters of the Universe at Radio City Music Hall.

Mike: My mother, mostly

Adam: I listened a lot to my parents’ generation’s music – songs from the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. My father was very into music, was, and still is, a musician himself, but really got me listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. My brother helped introduce me more specifically to bands like: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, AC/DC, and Boston.The first concert I attended was in 1987, the Rolling Stones played at Shea Stadium during their Steel Wheels Tour.

Steve: My parents were always playing classic rock growing up, specifically the Beatles and the Doors. I still love that music to this day.

Brian: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden in October, 1993 on the River of Dreams tour. I was ten years old. I remember during the “Piano Man” encore, my parents wanted to leave early to catch a train. When they tapped me on the shoulder to go, I said, “you can go, but I’m staying.”

Joe: I listened to a lot of Classic Rock growing up. My pop loved the harder side, like ACDC, the Stones and Zeppelin. He was a rock drummer. My mom played a lot of singer/songwriter artists, such as CSN and James Taylor. I also got my love of the blues from her. BB, Buddy, Howlin’ Wolf, that’s from my mom.

PEV: Who is Bill Owens?

Jamie: A giant mythical being living underneath the ocean whose voice is the siren song of early Metallica records…

Mike: 40th Governor of Colorado.

Adam: He is nobody and all of us at the same time; the perfect representation of our style and sound: Intriguing, undefined by standard, and always evolving into a new body.

Steve: Some guy from Boonton, NJ.

Brian: Come to a gig and find out. He shows up every time we play.

Joe: Not many know it, but he’s a homeless man from Trenton that used to hit on all the elderly woman in town. He also played a mean harmonica, and was probably the most well-adjusted dude I every met.

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

Jamie: I believe it was in pre-school singing “This Land Is Your Land”. My youthful career highlight was performing “Grease” in 5th grade. I played Danny Zuko. No body can beat my “Tell Me More”. Not even Travolta in his prime.

Mike: What about the time I stepped on stage to not perform? A much more entertaining story, indeed.

Adam: I played Axel F (from Beverly Hills Cop) on my Yamaha keyboard for my 5th grade talent show. Nervous as hell, thought it was the coolest synthesizer song ever (until I heard Karn Evil #9), and played possibly one of the best renditions of Axel F in the history of Axel F renditions…by a 9-year old anyway. I didn’t win because I was…well, a boy…with a crappy keyboard…playing Axel F. I should’ve gone with my well-rehearsed one-man dance group idea to Ice, Ice Baby. Vanilla was on top of the world that same week. Anyway, I think the janitor and his wife applauded (not my parents, by the way), and I’m pretty sure it prevented me from getting laid until the end of high school.

Steve: Probably in college sometime at an open mic, don’t really remember.

Brian: I was at my high school talent show and my band played an 11-minute version of “Sunshine of Your Love.” I remember that I couldn’t see anything past the lead singer and it was probably the quickest 11 minutes of my

Joe: Where the F*CK did my voice go! Get me the F*CK outa here!

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

Jamie: When I know I have a guitar signal after I set up my amp and pedalboard. Once I know the gear works and nothing crapped out during transit, it’s time to melt some faces.

Mike: Modern technology makes it so much easier.

Adam: I get to play music I wrote, or helped write, and explore what I believe to be good music with other musicians I believe in, and I know that people voluntarily paid money to see us do that. It’s empowering…it makes me believe I would trade up any job in the world to be on stage playing music. Steve: Def. the 30 minute bass solos.

Brian: Hey man…free drinks.

Joe: Seeing a connection. A lot of performers say it, but it’s very true. You get a real high seeing people connecting with what you’ve created. When it’s there, it’s better than that first hit of crack in the morning. Kidding! Nothing’s better than that first hit of crack in the morning.

PEV: Was there a certain moment in your life that you knew music was going to be a career for you?

Jamie: We are not there yet but hopefully the next time we talk we will be knee deep in booze, drugs and women with a bunch of circus midgets dancing to Foghat “Slow Ride” to substantiate our rock and roll prowess.

Mike: Well, it’s not, really. So I guess I don’t “know” that yet.

Adam: Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to make it a career yet, but the first time someone asked me to play something original, and then asked me to play it for other people, I felt like this would be something I would want to do as long as I possibly could. A career in music…I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Steve: I’ll get back to you on that one.

Brian: After I lost my 45″ of The Ghostbusters Theme, I think the rest of my life has been dedicated to spiritually regaining that feeling of listening to Ray Parker, Jr. I think my entire musical life stems from that incident.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Bill Owens Five performance?

Jamie: The Electric Slide. But you can’t see it, it’s electric.

Mike: Volume. And flatulence.

Adam: Besides 6 people, you should expect creativity, passion, and hearing original music written in the vein and tradition of classic rock with the diversity that keeps us from conforming to one style or sound.

Steve: Tommy Please (The Avenger)

Brian: The…best damn drumming in town!

Joe: A good ol’ fashioned rock show. Plain and simple. No teen angst. No glitter and mascara. No whining about the futility of life. Just sweat and balls.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Foundry Street”?

Jamie: It’s 10 tracks of our earlier material on record. It was great to record for a few days with Grammy Award Winning Engineer John Seymour (Santana-Supernatural). I cannot wait until when we have the time (and money) to really immerse ourselves in the recording process and record another album. It’s a solid debut nevertheless. Play the album in reverse after 3 hits of acid, watch some Fellini and then, and only then, will you comprehend the album.

Mike: It’s different from other albums out there today.

Adam: A proud collection of our “beginnings”. A true reflection of our evolution from early writing to expanded boundaries. A starting point to give the world an idea of what we can do, and where we’re headed.

Steve: We recorded it in several weeks with John Seymour (Santana, Dave Matthews). It’s mostly songs that we’ve been playing for several years, and it’s great to finally have them out in the world.

Brian: It’s a think piece…about a mid-level rock band struggling with our own success in the harsh face of stardom.

Joe: It’s our first full length release, and made up of songs we wrote during our first couple of years playing together. We recorded it in Hoboken, NJ with Grammy winning engineer John Seymour.

PEV: How is “Foundry Street” different from other albums out today?

Jamie: It’s Post Classic Rock

Mike: Who said that?

Steve: It will never be labeled as emo.

Adam: No song is like the next. We may or may not have our radio hit yet, but you can hear there is some really good writing on this album, both lyrically and musically. You can sense that this is a collection of musicians crafting art, and gives me faith that we are constantly building and getting closer to having that commercial hit that achieves the goals of numbers-oriented record labels and still maintains and properly exemplifies what Bill Owens Five is about musically and ideologically.

Brian: No other album out today has free matchbooks to go along with it.

Joe: Everything you hear we can reproduce on stage. There was very little production involved with making this album. I’d say that alone sets us apart from much of today’s rock bands. We’re also the first band since Bowie to make use of the word “nazz.”

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to the band’s success?

Jamie: They all have Bill Owens Five tattoos. Don’t know where on the body but I know they have all been tatted up. We have a BO5 Biker Gang and BO5 Cooking and Book Club too. They meet on the 3rd Wednesday every month if you want to join.

Mike: One time my friend came to a show!

Adam: My father has been in a band since he was in college (almost 40 years ago), and has played countless live shows at clubs and bars, and my parents have been enthusiastic supporters of our music. My wife is one of our biggest fans, and my friends regularly make it a point to come to shows, ask about new music from us, and contribute to our online network of fans. Do I think they’re persuaded by being my friend? Sure. Do I think they actually want to come hear us play? Without a doubt.

Steve: Very supportive, we have a good base of friends and family that come out to see us regularly.

Brian: They all still ask, “So who is Bill Owens?”

Joe: We get a lot of support. When you’ve got a corporate day job, like most of us do, it’s tough to look someone in the eye and tell them you’re a rock musician without drawing some long incredulous stares. But things always change once they hear us.

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?

Jamie: I love NYC but it’s a difficult place to break into. So many bands competing for time slots. I mean any city that has steel cage matches to the death in order to play a Saturday, 9:00 time slot at a hip club downtown? Where can you find that? My favorite place to play is Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. Great stage, great vibe, great room.

Mike: Well so far we’ve been to New York, Hoboken and Teaneck. Oh yeah and New Brunswick. I’d say Hoboken appreciates live music the most, but that’s probably because most of our friends live there.

Adam: Our “touring” has been limited to the tri-state area, but we are playing in Burlington, VT on 1/19, and a festival in PA Memorial Day Weekend, so I’m personally excited to check out those areas. But to date, the Hoboken scene is alive, and the Village in New York City is definitely hot for original music. Maybe not as hot as we’d like, but you can always find an original band packing the house.

Steve: I think Hoboken has a great scene. People underestimate Jersey.

Brian: My favorite is Mexicali Blues in Teaneck, NJ. Although we have an upcoming gig in Bay Shore, Long Island, so you never know. Ah, the travels of a megastar rock band.

Joe: Camden. No, Newark. No, Queens. You’re looking for the best hookers, right?

PEV: Who is in your CD player right now?

Jamie: Battles-Mirrored , Dr. Dog-We All Belong, Radiohead-In Rainbows

Mike: Ummm, I usually put CDs in my CD player. Weirdo.

Adam: My cd player is broken, but the cds it has taken hostage, include: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Wilco, Travis, and BO5 (yeah, I’m that guy).

Steve: Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Brian: The Meters

Joe: Tom Waits – Mule Variations. “House Where Nobody Lives” is one of the most meaningful songs written in the last ten years.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist you think we should all be looking into today?

Jamie: Us and this little thrash metal bluegrass band called Odoyle Rules.

Mike: Watch your mouth!

Steve: This great band from Hoboken… I think they’re called Ben Folds Five or something.

Brian: Savu Sea; ambient, rocking, just plain weird soundscapes based out of Hoboken.

Joe: I like James Morrison. He’s kind of a pop artist, but has a very addictive voice.

PEV: Living in Hoboken, New Jersey, right outside of New York City, what is your take on the New York City music scene?

Jamie: Lots of clubs, lots of bands. Unfortunately every where you play the focus is on how many people you can bring, not the quality of the music. The one thing that stinks about NYC is there are not enough SOLID Kosher delis. There used to be a ton of them but all the good ones are no longer around and it’s a struggle to get a good pastrami on rye with mustard, a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda and potato kinish.

Steve: New York is huge. We love playing there. It’s hard not to get the adrenaline going in the big city.

Brian: Living on Long Island, right outside of New York City, I think the NYC music scene is there, but you have to spend some time looking for it. It’s not front and center, like, say, the Hot Springs, Arkansas music scene.

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

Jamie: I have developed a serious addiction to calling Adam, Dad. He isn’t related to me by any means but I call him Dad. Weird. The worst part though is the fact that we aren’t on the road full time. If we were on the road full time, it would be swell. Especially if we actually made money doing it.

Steve: Best: USS Chowderpot II. Worst: McDonalds.

Brian: Best part? Waking up late. Worst part? Joe’s scent; he uses a lot of hair gel, but doesn’t change his underwear.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys in The Bill Owens Five?

Jamie: Brian is one helluva shot. He used to bulls eye womp rats in his T-16 back home; they’re not much bigger than two meters.

Adam: Uhm, that there are actually six of us? None of us knew each other prior to getting into this band.

Steve: Jamie has a secret wife and kid living on a beach in Ecuador.

Joe: We pray before every show. We find it loosens us up on stage. Nothing like getting a few prayers in us before hitting the stage. Wait, shit! I meant we drink before every show. That’s almost the same, right?

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your down time?

Jamie: Watching too many 80’s horror movies. Can you blame me? Have you seen Return of the Living Dead 1 and 2? Those are two of the many gems made during that decade of genius B- rated horror films. Fright Night is on right now! Sick.

Mike: I like to travel and play music in my down time.

Adam: Working, going on vacations, playing XBox, staring into the abyss.

Steve: Watching a Yanks game.

Brian: Painting little, metal, Roman warrior figurines.

Joe: I try to transcend my generation and get outside more often. I’m making light of it, but I think there’s a huge difference between how my peers pass their leisure time and how past generations spent theirs. We’re the video game generation, expecting to be entertained rather than finding our own entertainment. I’m trying to reverse that in myself. I’ll do small things, like eat breakfast outside, or go for a walk after dinner rather than planting myself in front of the television.

PEV: In one word, describe The Bill Owens Five.

Jamie: Scrumtulescent

Mike: CrazySexyTofu

Adam: Unexpected

Steve: Porkroll

Brian: Quan

Joe: Oooomph!

PEV: So far, what has been the most memorable part of your career?

Jamie: Brian couldn’t make one of our shows because he is a teacher and had a Parent/Teacher conference, so my father played a show with us. It is a highlight in my music career and in my life. Aside from the fact playing music with your father is an incredible and emotional experience on many levels, he kicked ass and brought the rock.

Mike: Joan Rivers opened for me once. But that was another band… and they wouldn’t let us watch unless we paid the cover. So we decided not to let Joan in unless she paid. But she ended up having to leave, or something?

Adam: Finishing the first album, and hosting a huge party to celebrate its release with our closest friends and family and about another 150 people too.

Steve: Our record release party. We held it at Fontana’s in NYC. We sold it out, but there was so much close family and friends that came together it was just an amazing experience.

Brian: One time, at this bachelor party…nah, forget it.

PEV: What is next for The Bill Owens Five?

Jamie: An album complete of rap battles

Mike: Dinner

Adam: Get ourselves spread out further around the country, let our music be heard, keep writing in the studio, and who knows, maybe a second album.

Steve: The Superbowl

Brian: Lunch

Joe: More writing. More touring. More balls out rock’n’roll. Gotta feed the beast!

For more information on The Bill Owens Five, check out www.BillOwensFive.com

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Today’s Feature, January 22-23: David Saw

January 23, 2008 at 2:18 am (Today's Feature)

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Every night that I drag myself upstairs to my bedroom for some much needed shut-eye, I play a portion of my “sleep” playlist off my iPod to rock me to slumber… and I hardly ever remember hearing the end of the first song selected. Definitely not a bad thing; the tunes on the list are there for a reason: I love em’ because they’re calming. It’s a list of songs that rest the mind performed by, among others, Colin Hay, Nick Drake and today’s feature, David Saw.

While David’s reasons for getting into songwriting aren’t nearly as relaxing as his melodies (he was accidentally kidnapped by a roving band of adolescent female cellists with nymphomaniaical disorders… so he says), he still produces songs that will clear your head and rid the fog. Ideal for an evening’s rest or long drive into the night.

Saw’s music career truly started moving after meeting his good friend and musical partner, Ben Taylor in London right outside his hometown of Aylsberg. David’s latest full-length album and U.S. debut, “Broken Down Figure” is full of “very simple but honest songs that are about Saw’s life over the last three years.” It is with Taylor’s help that the collection “doesn’t have any massive production to hide behind,” work that belongs to the artist, not the record company.

The album is due out in March, so prepare for purchase. Of course shows will follow in support, so also check out the web page for a show near you. Jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: David Saw

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved with music?

David Saw (DS): When I was a young boy, I was accidentally kidnapped by a roving band of adolescent female cellists with nymphomaniaical disorders. Needless to say I was easily influenced…

PEV: Growing up in Aylsberg, outside of London, England, what kind of music where you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

DS: My friends were listening to the latest thing in the charts; I was really into James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than a just a hobby?

DS: As soon as I began to realize how dangerous and fickle being a male escort was turning out to be.

PEV: What were your first years in the music business like? When you were first starting out? Did you ever think you’d be where you are now, then?

DS: My first few years were hard, holding down day jobs to go out and play at night then get up the next day and go back to work. Yeah it was tough, but worth it.

PEV: Tell us about the story of meeting your good friend and musical partner, Ben Taylor?

DS: I met Ben in London about 3 years ago at a gig. He was up on stage, let’s say after having one too many to drink. After he came off stage I said to him, “I think you’ve had one too many.” He laughed and said, “I think you’re right.” We met up the next day and became like brothers.

PEV: When you came to the United States with Ben, what was your initial take on the American music scene?

DS: Well, I came out to Martha’s Vineyard where Ben and his mum (Carly Simon) live and met some amazing people, mostly his mum who is an amazing songwriter, as we all know.

PEV: What can fans expect from your full-length album and US debut, “Broken Down Figure”?

DS: Very simple but honest songs that are about my life over the last three years.

PEV: Having wrote and produced this album, how is “Broken Down Figure” different than others out today?

DS: It wasn’t just me who produced this album. Ben and Larry (Ciancia) played a major role. This album doesn’t have any massive production to hide behind. It is what it is and it’s me, not some major record company’s idea of what should be successful.

PEV: How is “Broken Down Figure” different from your previous works?

DS: This album is based around my guitar playing and how I link that with my vocals, which I didn’t have the chance to do before.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

DS: Not really. I write songs like conversations. I just come back to them and put them to music.

PEV: Having traveled everywhere, what city do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

DS: Scotland is amazing. People are so into music there. But I must say being on tour with Ben, people in the States really do want to listen. I like that a lot.

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

DS: The best part for me is the playing. The last tour I did, I opened the night on my own, then played for Ben and for Sonya Kitchell. I was playing for three hours a night for two months. The worst part is being away from family.

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

DS: A girl in London called Carrie Tree – voice of an angel. Yeah, check her out on MySpace for sure.

PEV: Having worked with some of the most talented artists in music (Ray Davies, Ben Taylor, Robert Cray, Carly Simon, Patti Griffith, Eric Bibb, Paul Carrack, and Chris Difford to name a few), is there someone you have not had the chance to work with or collaborate with, that you would like to?

DS: My dream would be Jackson Browne, love him.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

DS: I like to spend time with friends and family.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to you hear about you?

DS: That is a malicious fabrication; I don’t even know that woman! Did Steve tell you that?

PEV: What’s one thing that you miss about England that you can’t find when you come to the United States?

DS: A good cup tea and my Mum and Dad.

PEV: What is a live David Saw performance like?

DS: Well, I like to not take myself too seriously. I like to have a laugh on stage. Too many people try too hard to be cool. I’m me – that’s all I can be.

PEV: In one word, describe David Saw.?

DS: Saucy, ha-ha.

PEV: So, what is next for David Saw?

DS: My album is gonna come out in March, then I’ll do some shows. I’m also working on Ben’s new record, and Carly’s, so I’m pretty busy, just how I like it.

For more information on David Saw, check out www.DavidSaw.com

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Today’s Feature – January 20-21: The Floating Men

January 21, 2008 at 2:10 pm (Today's Feature)

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Been to Nashville before? If you consider yourself some sort of music aficionado, the answer better be yes. Nashville, a land that breathes and feeds music; a city that appreciates a good melody for what it really is: pure ol’ fashioned human expression.

So what’s it take to hold the privileged title of “Nashville Legends”? A lot of hard work, enthusiasm and of course, superior talent and songwriting. After seven critically acclaimed albums, this is a title reserved for Jeff Holmes and Scot Evans… The Floating Men.

Their latest offering, “Pleasurado!” is the prefect crown to their designation. Like any Floating Men album, the goal is “to create the richest, most enduring popular music experience of the listener’s life. We strive to make each album always instills a fresh, vital and deeply rewarding sense of discovery.” It’s certainly unique among other works of popular music, addressing “the sexual, chemical and socio-economic issues of America’s dark side with intelligence, maturity, artistic delicacy and yes, where appropriate, bawdiness and humor.” The collection directly attacks the topics behind what is “perhaps the most basic of all human truths: sexuality.”

The passion doesn’t stop here for Holmes and Evans, having already written over half the songs for the next album. Before you scope out the records you’d like to add to your collection, make it out to a Floating Men show. It’s “two-and-half to four hours of passion, sweat, drama, heroics and incredible musicianship,” whether “from a smoky little three-piece acoustic trio or a 7-piece armada of rock and roll fury.” It’s there you’ll see the two musicians “continue to focus on barely evading utter failure.” Pretty funny. Jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Floating Men- Jeff Holmes

PEV: How and when did the band first form?

Jeff Holmes (JH):The Floating Men evolved out of other bands that Scot and I led in 80’s. If you want to waaaaay back, Scot and I played in the Furman University Jazz Ensemble first, then formed a blues band. The Blues band eventually evolved into a new wave/punk band, which eventually evolved into a southern gothic college alternative band… our family tree is pretty crooked and complex.

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

JH: I started out with rich foundation in American folk and popular music. My paternal grandfather played harmonica and guitar for dances and medicine show-type events in the early 20 th century. So my father grew up in a musical household and became a pretty fair folk guitarist himself. He was a big fan of bluegrass, folk and country and an excellent ear for quality writing and musicianship. He introduced me to The Beatles when I was about 3 years old; I can remember him saying how great the songs were but that I should “never, ever grow your hair like that.”

So I had a pretty diverse range of influences in my early years. By the time I reached my early teens, I was locked in my room studying blues and rock guitar heroes (Winter, Beck, Page, Clapton, BB, etc.) for hours every day. In my later teens, I immersed myself in jazz, fusion and prog rock, which was a nice complement to my formal music training in classical and jazz guitar, vocal performance and music theory. By the time I hit college I was a pretty formidable guitar slinger, but I was becoming increasingly interested in writing. I studied Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in my room, Gregory Corso and James Dickey in English class, and everything from Bach to Brittan in music class. In the end, my aspirations shifted from guitar hero to songwriter. Perhaps all these diverse and somewhat esoteric influences might help explain why our music is so hard to classify.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

JH: My first conscious thought. Period. It was never in doubt.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for your music? When you were just starting out and getting into the music business.

JH: It was pretty easy in college because we didn’t have to play gigs if we didn’t want to. But once we graduated and hit the road for a living, it was HELL. I drank and/or cried myself to sleep on more than few nights because I was utterly penniless, hundreds of miles from home and literally hungry. It’s a great weight loss program, but not recommended for the casual musician unless they’re comfortable with the bulk of their daily caloric intake coming from free draft beer at the club every night.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music as a band?

JH: It was part natural, part intimidating and awkward. It felt like a culmination of my evolution as a writer and musician but, being a perfectionist and somewhat green, I worried excessively over a myriad of minute details that, upon reflection were trivial in the grand scheme of things. You can’t and shouldn’t micro-manage every note every musician plays, every sound the engineer dials in, etc., but green songs and green musicians never sound like you envision, so it’s understandable that I was never satisfied- I simply didn’t have the tools to translate my ideas into well-written, well performed, well-record music. As the quality of the writing, playing, producing and engineering progressed, the process became much less arduous. Nowadays, if it takes more than a couple of days to record an entire album, then I probably need to hit the woodshed and re-write the songs, because everyone else in the process are top-shelf pros that zero in on exactly what is needed with dazzling vision and sensibility; if it’s well-written, they’ll only make it better. And we seldom need more than one or two takes, again, as long as the writing is up to my standards.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage with The Floating Men. What was going through your heads?

JH: “Damn, these songs are really working! We’re going to be superstars overnight!” Boy, were we surprised.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Floating Men performance?

JH: OK, I’m not even going to pretend to be modest on this one. It’s simply one of the best shows you’ll every see. Two-and-half to four hours of passion, sweat, drama, heroics and incredible musicianship. I’m the luckiest writer on earth to be surrounded by what I consider the finest collection of musicians I could ever imagine. Of course the line-up can very from a smoky little three-piece acoustic trio up to a 7-piece armada of rock and roll fury. It always works, no matter the configuration.

As a vocalist, a smaller band or even a solo acoustic concert works beautifully simply because it’s easier to sing when I don’t to strain to hear myself.

As a composer and performer, however, the larger line-ups are a dream come true for my inner “rock star.” I don’t think there is a better one-two punch in the guitar hero world than Chris Cottros and David Steele on the same stage- it’s utterly jaw-dropping. Throw in jazz and pop master Jody Nardone on keys, Steve Ebe on drums, and Andra Moran on backing vocals and it becomes a “supergroup” of Nashville’s, perhaps the Southeast’s, most exciting and explosive musicians. Anything can happen and usually does.

PEV: What do you want fans to take away from “Pleasurado!”?

JH: We don’t aim too high (wink):

Our sole goal with “Pleasurado!” and all its predecessors was to create the richest, most enduring popular music experience of the listener’s life. We strive to make each album so densely bejeweled with musical and lyrical treasures that, from the first listen to the thousandth, it never gets old and is always instills a fresh, vital an deeply rewarding sense of discovery.

PEV: How is “Pleasurado!” different from other albums out today?

JH: I’d like to make three points on this topic:

1. Musicianship : See comments on live performance above. ‘Nuff said.

2. Stylistic Vigor: Many bands are either formulaic, simple-minded or both. Many of those who aren’t are compelled or even forced by their labels to “dumb it down” for commercial purposes. I am fortunate to work with intelligent, talented, well-educated and highly experienced musicians in an environment free from commercial pressures. Our only formula is that there is no formula. Anything goes. If we can dream it, we can be it. At any given moment, we may be your favorite rock band, jazz ensemble, bluegrass trio or opera company. Is it self-pleasuring? Absolutely. Do we care? Hell no.

3. Subject Matter and Content: In popular music, the sleazy underbelly of the American or, more specifically, the Southern Experience is almost inevitably addressed with (often hackneyed) humor by novelty or comedy acts. In popular media and daily conversation, the emotional, physical and mental dimensions of this same suite of topics are so often addressed in broad generalities. We so often hear whispers about “problems in the bedroom” or “a drug problem,” the details of which are nearly always left unspoken.

“Pleasurado!” addresses the sexual, chemical and socio-economic issues of America’s dark side with intelligence, maturity, artistic delicacy and yes, where appropriate, bawdiness and humor. And it deals with these topics in relatively specific detail. Exactly what is wrong in the bedroom? Exactly how is his drug problem impacting his life? What is really being said in online adult chat rooms?

I am particularly proud of how all of my writing, not just “Pleasurado!”, handles the entire spectrum of human sexuality, from the romantic to the unusual, with candor and comfort. If the aspiration of art is to illuminate basic human truths too complex or subtle to be articulated in ordinary discourse, why do so many artists, and indeed western culture as a whole, ignore the details and astonishingly richly varied specificities of perhaps the most basic of all human truths: sexuality.

Sorry for preaching. I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

PEV: How does the music on “Pleasurado!” differ from that of your earlier works such as 2002 release, “A Magnificent Man”, and 2004 release “The Haunting”?

JH: Here again, it is an issue of subject matter and ongoing maturation as artists. Perhaps the most notable difference, at least from my perspective, is that “Pleasurado!” has as much intellectual impact as it does emotional appeal. Not that it is a chilly or clinical album by any stretch; it’s just more objective musically and lyrically, which feels right on the mark given the subject matter. I think the subject matter begs for slightly less sympathetic characters and slightly more numbness.

PEV: Can you tell us about the meaning behind the name, The Floating Men?

JH: In one of our previous bands, shortly before it evolved into The Floating Men, a critic said we made it look so easy he thought we were going to float right off the stage. That was a very high compliment that became our central mission. Hence, it was natural to adopt it as our name.

PEV: Is there an artist/band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” and we should all be looking out for?

JH: I’m sorry, I’m so out-of-the-loop in the popular music world I have no idea what’s going on out there. The last acts I got really, really excited about were Jeff Black, Angie Aparo, Tom Waits and Beck, so I’m not the most up-to the-minute tipster.

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

JH: These days it’s good. As I said before, it was pretty awful in the early days. Worst Part: Having to share rooms with other band members. Best Part: not having to share rooms anymore.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Floating Men?

JH: Scot has a PHD and is a professor and researcher specializing in the growing field of community psychology. I am a biodiversity conservation consultant and co-chair a large national conservation organization.

PEV: When the band gets to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?

JH: Laying on the sofa staring blankly at The History Channel or out in the woods studying rattlesnakes.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? Are you surprised at where you are now, from where you started?

JH: Success? I would characterize it as barely evading utter failure. My mom is still waiting for me to pay for having her driveway paved. And no, I’m not nearly where I thought I would be, especially in the first few years of The Floating Men’s existence. We have attained the level of success I always said I would be willing tolerate, but not nearly what we wanted or expected.

PEV: In all your travels (US or International), which city has been your favorite to play? Why?

JH: I can’t say! That’s like asking me which is my favorite child. Even if I do have a favorite, I’m not telling!

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

JH: I have an antique chair beside the fireplace in my living room. I pour a cup of expensive dark roast coffee and begin what my wife calls “rocking and muttering” as I work through lyrical and musical ideas.

PEV: What’s one word best describes The Floating Men?

JH: Good.

PEV: So, what is next for The Floating Men?

JH: I’ve already written over half the songs for the next album but, for now, we’re going to continue to focus on barely evading utter failure.

For more information on The Floating Men, check out www.TheFloatingMen.com

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Today’s Feature, January 18-19: Rachel McGoye

January 19, 2008 at 1:12 am (Today's Feature)

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There’s a lot to adore about Rachel McGoye. The singer/songwriter out of Stuart, Florida took on classical music training with former opera great Rita Vallis at age 16, sang competitively across the U.S. in the very respected show choir O.P.U.S. throughout high school, obtained a B.A. from the acclaimed Berklee College of Music and is as gorgeous as she is talented. But what I really admire about her is what she has to say about her latest release, “Beautiful Disaster.” She states “It takes really good music to move me, so if I can move anyone through my music, I feel accomplished. I also want fans to see that Pop music or music that can have mass appeal doesn’t have to be meaningless, or completely over produced.”

It’s always pleasing to hear an immensely gifted emerging artist comment that her work is more than just what a producer wants. The melodies have a purpose; the sounds have a mission. That’s what makes “Beautiful Disaster” stand out in the Pop universe, and the fact it was recorded in just one day. “It’s pretty much as organic as it gets,” she says, “It’s an honest album and most of all I didn’t have anyone directing me and forcing me to record my music in any certain way, which for new artists, that’s a miracle.”

Rachel is hitting the road now to support the new collection, so check out her show dates and buy your tickets. Her shows tend to be intimate, but she likes to keep the atmosphere laid back… so don’t be surprised if she says something about her armpits; The artist after all is simply keeping that balance between the seriousness of her songs and the joy of music. If you get the chance, ask about her “repeatedly stolen bicycle.” It’s a good story. The album just came out, so buy it and dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Rachel McGoye

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

Rachel McGoye: I believe it had to be in utero. My parents were huge into (good) music, so I was subjected to it ALL from the get go.

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

RM: I listened to everything from my parents record stash of Elton, Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Van Morrison, Phil Collins, Tom Petty and then of course Pop which was Madonna, Whitney, Mariah and Mc hammer at the time.and about junior high I got really into r&b music.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

RM: I think around 16 I started to get serious about studying music. I had this urge to want to just quit school and up and move to either NY or LA, and I hadn’t ever even been to either. My parents were huge advocates of college, so I figured if I had to go, then I was going for something I loved. Music, sports and dancing were my life, but music prevailed.

PEV: What were the earlier days like for your music?

RM: When you were just starting out and getting into the music business. Well, I do believe I am still in the earlier days of my music. In five 1/2 years in LA I feel as tho I’ve just begun the dipping of my toes into the mud. It’s a very long and winding road you see. And very muddy.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

RM: So cool. I was 18 attending Berklee. I wrote my first song ever for my boyfriend at the time who was in Florida. It was a pretty bad song looking back. But I remember when it was on a CD and I popped it in and I was like “whoa.” it was me. Pretty cool.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance on stage. What was going through your head?

RM: I danced pretty much my whole life starting at age three. So the stage was my second home. Then going to school for performance I think can strip the first live performance experience a bit because every day you’d have to get on stage and perform in front of everyone. And be critiqued. In front of everyone. But my first official big stage, lights, the whole thing was at school and I was a background singer. I just remember thinking the whole thing was so freakin’ cool. But I would envision myself jumping of the rafters and taking the mic from the solo artist. I wanted to be in the front, not in the back. But thank god I never actually did that. But yes, almost every show I sang back up in I had that urgency.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Rachel McGoye performance?

RM: Utter entertainment and a lot of laughs for sure. Most shows I’ve done thus far have been very intimate. So I like people to feel that I’m approachable and relatable. I am a very honest performer. If my pits are sweating unusually more, I may comment on it. If I just learned a new dance move, I may ask for audience opinion. You just never know. I’m a bit of a goof ball, but I mostly write serious songs, so my live sets are fun because I get to balance it all out.

PEV: What do you want fans to take away from “Beautiful Disaster?”

RM: Most of all, I just want people to be moved. It takes really good music to move me, so if I can move anyone thru my music, I feel accomplished.

I also want fans to see that Pop music, or music that can have mass appeal doesn’t have to be meaningless, or completely over produced.

PEV: How is “Beautiful Disaster” different from other albums out today?

RM: We recorded ‘Beautiful Disaster’ 10 tracks in one day. It was pretty insane. But so amazing. I mean all these people pulled together and made it happen. Records just don’t get made that way anymore. It’s pretty much as organic as it gets. And I don’t think “organic” is a word that is often used to describe records that are made today by artists my age.

We did go back and redo some vocals and harmonies to beef it up some for radio. It’s an honest album and most of all I didn’t have anyone directing me and forcing me to record my music in any certain way, which for new artists, that’s a miracle.

PEV: How does the music on “Beautiful Disaster” different from your debut EP, “What Day is It?”?

RM: My Ep. was all acoustic where as Beautiful Disaster is a full band. People would tell me that they’d put on certain songs from the EP and just cry, or take a bath or whatever. I never really knew if that was a good thing, but I always got good feed back and I’d see them at shows, so I figured it can’t be that bad. The new album is more up beat, bob your head fun, but with the same seriousness of heartbreak and all that good stuff.

PEV: On your MySpace page, you said that “Beautiful Disaster” was inspired by “several recycled and unsuccessful relationships, and a repeatedly stolen bicycle.” Can you elaborate on that for us?

RM: Do you have five years? Well, so lets see. Apparently my judgement of men is painstakingly terrible. So I just started to Recycle. They are “Recycled Goods.” You know… the one’s that weren’t The ONE, but that also didn’t carry any emotional baggage and didn’t end badly. This was also when I was introduced to Casual. Meeting Casual gave me a whole new outlook on relationships and a whole new outlet for song writing. Before I was always writing about broken hearts, then I discovered casually broken hearts. And about the damn bike. I could write an entire book about that story. But it’s pretty self explanatory. I lived in a closet. Not really, but practically. I tried keeping my bike in my apt. but I just couldn’t muster it. So eventually I started keeping it in the back of my apt.building, locked up to a bike rack. Almost immediately the fancy lights and stuff were stolen off it and that pissed me off. so I tried keeping it back in my apt. until that made me cry of suffocation. So basically for the next several months someone(s) had been hacking away at this crazy gladiator bike lock that my dad bought for me that I made fun of. I thought, Who spends $65 on a bike lock, that’s insane?! Well, the only reason I had my bike for as long as I did is because of that fancy expensive bike lock. Eventually my tire went missing. And no kidding, a week later, I saw it on a bike parked outside someone’s door in my apt. bldg. so I went knocking door to door asking whose friend was over with a blue bike because they had my tire. Sure enough four nights later my bike tire was back. But about four months later, my entire bike went missing. I guess the bike lock wasn’t fancy and expensive enough. I pass my bike every so often a few blocks away locked up on a pole out front of an apt. bldg. This story gets even better with all the little details. Maybe I will write a book.

Anyway, there’s no song on “Beautiful Disaster” about that incident specifically, but just an over all tone of surrealness that I feel sometimes of my life in LA. (I guess I could’ve just said that and sparred you the whole bike story, but that stories’ more interesting.)

PEV: Is there an artist/band on the scene right now that you think is “on the rise” and we should all be looking out for?

RM: Uh, yeah. Pretty much half of the songwriters I’ve met in LA that should be on the radio but aren’t. I don’t think most people know how much work independent musicians actually do. A very good friend of mine, Victoria Vox, is the most admirable and talented singer/songwriters I’ve met. She’s got a new album coming out soon and she uses every thing imaginable for instruments.

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

RM: I am just beginning my life on the road. I like getting out of the city. I like unfamiliar faces. It’s refreshing to play anywhere outside of LA because LA can taint the idea of any music scene. I don’t so much enjoy sleeping on air mattresses and I miss my bed after a while, but you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re just starting out.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Rachel McGoye?

RM: I have a huge fear of needles. It’s a problem.

PEV: When you get to relax or have some down time, what can we find you doing?

RM: I try to get to the beach or on a boat anytime I can.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? Are you surprised at where you are now, from where you started?

RM: I’m not surprised at all. Well, that’s not true. I definitely imagined I’d be much farther along by the time I was in my mid-twenties. But I knew I’d get there no matter what. I don’t think my friends or family are surprised at all by the blossoming success. I just think that somewhere in their heads they may think “holy shit, she’s crazy to actually pursue THAT industry.” But I’ve been blessed with a solid and consistent support system.

PEV: In all your travels (US or International), which city has been your favorite to play? Why?

RM: Well, like I said, my travels have just begun, so I don’t have any extravagances to compare. But I think I’ll always like playing in my hometown of Stuart because here I’m just me. I’ve grown up here my whole life. I’ve gone to school with everyone here since kindergarten and I’ll just always be Rachel from Jensen here. It’s nice to come back to.

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

RM: I’m usually at home in my pj’s or sweats. I wish I could say I have some routine but I don’t.

PEV: What one word best describes Rachel McGoye?

RM: Real.

PEV: So, what is next for Rachel McGoye?

RM: Well, right now im in Florida hanging with my parents and friends for the holidays. Im heading back to LA in a few days and from there it’s kinda of a free fall. The release of the album is a few days a way and I have no idea where that’s going to lead. I quit my day job, so I’ll be on the road a lot starting in Feb. To make sure that I never have to have another day job. Playing shows, playing shows, writing. Playing more shows.

For more information on Rachel McGoye, check out www.RachelMcGoye.com

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Today’s Feature, August 3-4: Trevor Hall

January 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm (Today's Feature)

A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Trevor Hall

over the phone. We greeted each other with your normal ‘Hello’s’

and of course I thanked him for taking the time out of his

very busy schedule to talk. I had only heard his voice from songs like

“Other Ways” from the Shrek 3 soundtrack and a previous recording I hunted

down after looping “Other Ways” on repeat for a week straight.

When he answered the phone; friendly, calm, happy, my ears did a double

take. Hall is so casual and relaxed, I felt like I was talking to an old friend,

just catching up and granted this was all in the first two minutes of meeting him.

However, it was this maturity and positive outlook that I would later learn, is what

Trevor Hall is all about. But still, the person on the phone could not be the booming,

electrifying voice on his four song Geffen EP, “The Rascals Have Returned”. When you listen

to Hall’s music you immediately want to start throwing comparisons at him; The next

Dave Matthews, the next John Mayer, the next Jack Johnson, even the next

Bob Marley…albeit with a west coast style. Musically and professionally I realized that

Hall trying to compare him will be a greater challenge then I thought. He does sound like

the above mentioned, his guitar playing is on point with the most seasoned guitarist and

his lyrics do compare to the “big names” that deservingly so, have become legends. However

all those greats that have paved the way, made their names in their late twenties to early

thirties…Hall is only nineteen! His fresh and original sound has

placed him in an entirely different category. A category filled with great young prodigies

like Brett Dennen or Jonny Lang all of which have become leaders in their field.

I learned a lot about Hall during our phone call. For one thing, I have yet to meet an

artist with his kind of outlook regarding their career. He refers to music as ‘food’, refers

to himself as a ‘listener’ rather than a performer and

that making music is an incredibly spiritual thing for him. Unlike his musical counterparts

in the business, Hall doesn’t see his career as well, a career. He didn’t

get into music for money, fame or recognition (all of which will be coming

his way) and laughs at being called ‘successful’. He openly stated that he would

still be playing music even if he was still working at the old surf shop and

doesn’t understand all the attention that he is getting. Well, Trevor, get used

to the attention and if he ever went back to just working at a surf shop,

chances are that would be the most popular surf shop on the west coast…and not

for the great deal on Oakleys.

You could throw his tracks to any ‘music head’ who claims to not listen to mainstream

and even they will be obsessed with his magnetic sound. Unlike the other artists his age,

you won’t find Hall tracing around Hollywood or making an unwanted spectacle of

himself or getting hooked up in the tabloids. Hall is the complete

opposite of what ‘young music’ has become these days. He is very close to his family,

goes to Temple, keeps in touch with his friends and to say that Hall has a “good

head on his shoulders” is a blatant understatement. Take it one

step further, he’s got the music down, he’s already carving a tight niche in the music

world but he a humanitarian as well. Hall has not only stepped outside of the box, he

is crushing any kind of packaging that people may try to place him in. Deeply spiritual

and thankful for every day, Trevor did a benefit concert raising about $5,000

for the ashram boys in India. All proceeds benefited the education,

clothing, food, etc. for the orphan children at Yoga Vedanta Kutir, which

of whom Trevor had stayed with while living in India. Show me this kind of

character in modern music today…you can’t, which simply is why Trevor Hall

could very well be the best young artist today (he is going to hate me

saying that).

His latest EP, “The Rascals Have Returned” has an official home on my iPod.

I even went to the Apple Store at my local mall and asked if there was a way to make sure

his tracks could never get erased from my iPod, barring any of those

crazy updates they send me (true story…I know, I’m weird like that…but

on a side note, the Mac people were very sincere in their sarcastic

eye rolling when I posed this question). On “Under His Blanket” Hall’s lyrics

run off smooth and put together; a mix of pop, blues, rock, reggae, even rap

at times, drenched in some of the most original poetry music has heard in years.

Lyrically, any other artist might have saved some lines for a whole other song,

just to fill an album but Hall doesn’t hold back. “Under The Blanket” gives you a

taste of what he has to offer and then piles on the extras. Rock turns into hip hop,

turns into pop, turns into blues, turns into reggae.

Line after line, he hits you with rhymes and stories so unique you can’t help but get

attracted, to steal one line from his song “The Rascals Have Returned”,

“like bees coming to the hive”. After I played his EP, I couldn’t help

but think, Hall may be the diamond in the ruff that today’s music has been waiting for.

If his upcoming album “All I Can Do” (October-Geffen Records) is only half as startling

as the EP, then well, let’s just say holiday season will come early in the PensEyeView.com household.

Check out his XXQs to find out more…

XXQs: Trevor Hall

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How is everything?
Trevor Hall (TH): Good, good, everything is good, thanks.

PEV: So, how and when did you first get started in music?
TH: My father was a musician, he was a drummer, so I kind of grew up beating around on the drums a bit. I started to play all kinds of instruments throughout my youth, and then kind of settled down on the guitar and you know, got some lessons and went from there. My dad was the seed and it kind of took off from there.
PEV: Describe the feeling when you step into a recording studio for the first time?
TH: It was really, really fun. I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to do but once I got settled into it, it was a lot of fun. Laying stuff down, being able to listen to it and being able to work with really great musicians was a real blessing. It was a lot of fun and that is one of my favorite parts of music; getting into the studio and seeing what comes out. It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun (laughs).

PEV: What can people expect from your EP “The Rascals Have Returned”??
TH: I don’t know really (laughs). They were a group of songs that as a team, we thought would give a good first impression. I hope they represent positively and love and positive things to people. I hope people in times of sadness can turn it on and feel good and times of happiness turn it on and feel better than good, you know. I just wanted to share some food with the people.
PEV: How is the sound on “The Rascal Have Returned” different from other albums out there today?
TH: I don’t know…I think that it has its own style to it. It has an acoustic kind of rock vibe but it does have a little bit of hip hop influence to it as well just from the way that I sing and the way that I rhyme. On “Proof Of Destruction” and “Under the Blanket”, I think it is a good blend of different things and I think it is a little fresh and new. I think it will be a good piece.
PEV: I really liked the design of your site and of your album. They seem very spiritual. Did you design the cover of the EP?

TH: No, my friend painted it.
PEV: The site though, does have a very spiritual and Zen-like design. Is that something that you had a big input in?
TH: I like to control every aspect of the artistic side of my career. The pictures, to the music, to the web site, no matter what. I want people to understand what we are trying to portray. The cover of the EP was painted by a friend of mine from high school. I just said, ‘the album is called Rascals Have Returned and just do whatever you want’ (laughs). She painted the two guys and I just loved it. I thought it was original, I thought it was cool. I didn’t want some picture of me on the cover…I didn’t want that, I just think it was just out there and liked it. For the website I gave them a bunch of photos and drawings of mine from over the years and asked them to do a collage and that’s what we got.
PEV: When you create music what kind of atmosphere do you like to be in?
TH: You know, it doesn’t really matter because the atmosphere really influences the music. I like to be alone, that is one thing. and I like it to be really quiet. I like to write in late afternoon or midnight or one. I just like things to be very chill but that doesn’t mean I have to be in the forest or anything. I can be in an apartment in New York City…whatever you know. As long as things are turned off, focus and just letting things come through.
PEV: You have been compared to artists like Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Bob Marley, to name a few. Were there any artists that influenced you growing up?
TH: The big, big influence was when I heard Ben Harper. I remember exactly where I was, I was working in the surf shop and then one day I was just scrolling through the CDs and I found the Ben Harper one. I put it on “Shall Not Walk Alone” which is a cover of a Blind Boys Of Alabama song and I was just like ‘Oh-My-God’ and listened to the whole CD. I was just blown away and really got me started into the acoustic kind of path. I have always been a huge Bob Marley fan, not just of the music but of his life and message. I read biographies oh him…the whole nine yards. I am just all about what he was doing. He was one of the pioneers that kind of pushed me along.
PEV: Another one of your songs that is getting a lot of attention is “Other Ways”, from Shrek the Third soundtrack. That is a pretty big honor. How did all that happen?
TH: I have recently been working on my new album and that was one of the songs on there that the Ron Fair, the president of Geffen, liked. Interscope was doing the soundtrack for Shrek and you know he just pitched it to them. It was just a timing thing. The song was done around the time that they needed another song for the album and he pitched it to them. I was really stoked to get it in there before the album even comes out.
PEV: Who is another artist on the rise that you think everyone should be looking out for?
TH: I love, not just because I’ve toured with him, but I love his live shows, they are awesome, and I think his music is awesome, Matisyahu. He has already made a name for himself but you can still go up to people and say, ‘you heard of Matisyahu?’ and they’ll be like, ‘No’. I think he is really big now and feel he is just in the beginning stage. But I feel like he is going to be much bigger. He’s doing something totally original and it’s not a joke, it’s full on real and once you go to a show you can see it. I think he is doing what music is all about which is just playing for people and letting people have a good time. I think is he definitely going to get a lot bigger and don’t underestimate him.
PEV: Do you remember the first live performance you ever did?
TH: Yes, I, do…(laughs)
PEV: How did it go?

TH: I was nervous, I didn’t want to do it. My manager, who wasn’t my manager at the time and just a family friend that lived in LA, I sent him my music, not to get a gig, just to say, ‘look what I did for my birthday, I recorded a CD’. And when I was in LA, he got me a show and was like ‘no way, I’m not doing it, not in LA’ but he talked me into it. It worked out and it was fun and the room was packed and I messed up a lot but it was fun, you know (laughs). It was a good experience and if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be doing this for a living.
PEV: Speaking of that was there a certain time that you said to yourself, ‘this IS what I want to do for a living’?

TH: People have asked me that and never at any time was I like, ‘I want to be a musician’, even after I signed the record deal…or not really even now. I know it is my job and know that I have to make money to live, I know all these things but at the end of the day the music has been with me since birth…it is a practice for me. It is a really spiritual thing for me. I mean even if I was doing some other job I’d always be playing music. I never really saw it as a job. I was never like, ‘Oh I want to be a musician’…even if this album comes out and Geffen drops me, I’d still be playing music. Maybe not on such a large scale but I would still be sharing my music with people. But never was there a time when I said, ‘I want to be a musician’. It never happened like that.

PEV: Well, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about it flopping, but that is just my personal opinion

TH: We’ll see…(laughs)
PEV: What is the best part about playing live?
TH: You know live is what music it’s all about. Music is food. The thing about playing live for me is when you have a good show…I mean, I’ve played shows where people are screaming for the headliner (laughs). Oh well, what to do, keep playing you know. But when the music clicks and the people click, the best part about it is I feel like I am not really performing, like the crowd isn’t really listening. I feel like we are all there, we have all come together, were all listeners. Shed our troubles from the day, you know. Music is a Godly thing. Whether you think it is horrible music or whether you think it is great music. Music is the language of the spirit. When everything clicks the best part about playing live is when you feel like you are a listener too. And you’re not the performer and I think that is one of the highs for performing. When you’re up there singing these songs…you are just there listening with everyone else, that is the best part about playing live.
PEV: How has life on the road been for you?

TH: Right now…it’s horrible(laughs). It would be nice if I had a big tour bus (laughs). But life on the road is good. The thing I like about the road is that you don’t have any attachments, you know. You’re in one city and the next night you’re in another city, then another. You can’t get attached to people or too comfortable because you never know what you’re going to get. I feel like that is a good practice, it’s a good spiritual practice; not to get attached to anything. The only hard thing about traveling is that I’m a vegetarian and your traveling with a van full of “band guys” who when you pull off at the next exit, all you have to chose from is Subway (laughs). Sometimes I feel like I’m going to turn into a Subway sandwich (laughs). Other than that it’s a beautiful thing. You learn a lot and meet interesting people.
PEV: What has been your favorite city to travel to so far, international or US?

TH: I have a couple favorite cities but I don’t really like cities too much in general, just because there’s a lot of people and noise and stuff. I love Chicago though…for whatever reason, I love it there. Everything about it, the food, the vibe, it’s a great town. I love San Francisco, it’s a good community. I would say those are my favorite places to play.

PEV: What is one thing we would be surprised to hear about Trevor Hall?
TH: What would people be surprised to hear about Trevor Hall…I don’t know (laughs), I’m not that surprising of a person (laughs). Besides my music, I’m not that interesting (laughs). Oh, man, I don’t know…I know you get that a lot but I don’t know (laughs)…I’m not that interesting.
PEV: So when you get to relax what do you like to do?
TH: Usually when I’m not playing I’m at the temple. I like to do a lot of painting and I like to surf. Music is what helps me relax so even when I’m not on the road I love to play music.
PEV: What do your friends and family think about all your success?
TH: They’ve all always been super supportive. They always call me, you know. Always asking how things are going and try to network me up. But they don’t treat me any different, I’m still Trevor. I’m still my momma’s boy, I’m still my dad’s son. I’m not anything different to them. I don’t like the whole scene, I don’t like where the scene is going these days. Famous people sit on this pedestal. I feel like we all people, we are all equal. They help with my ego and they’ve always treated me the same way. It’s been nice.
PEV: So what is next for Trevor Hall?
TH: The next thing is to get this record out. We’re about to go into the studio and mix it. Get it done get, it going and we’ll start to promote it. I’m doing some show this summer, some with Stevie Knicks, doing some shows around LA this summer and really just trying to get the album out.

For more information on Trevor Hall, check out http://www.TrevorHall.com and check out his upcoming full length album “All I Can Do” (October-Geffen Records).

For more information on Trevor Hall, check out www.TrevorHallMusic.com

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Today’s Feature, July 30-31: The Kin

January 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm (Today's Feature)


The Kin, a simple name for a pair of exceptionally gifted brothers who are producing sound that is anything but basic. From Adelaide, Australia to New York City, the melody that The Kin composes from an old guitar and a Fender Rhodes piano can only be described as a detonation of harmony, taking your eardrums north, south, east and west on a flight through beatific high and rasping low notes. One sampling of a song such as “Together,” and you’ll know what kind of experience The Kin creates.

Thorry and Isaac Koren, on the guitar and Rhodes piano respectively, don’t hide much about themselves or their music. It is their honesty that drives the sound they produce. For their upcoming September release, “Rise & Fall,” the duo realized a recording studio alone couldn’t contain the style, nor capture the vibe The Kin needed to craft. The album, produced by Nic Hard, was taken to “a barn, an old house, a huge castle on a hill, and a horse stable,” to realize the sound they had envisioned. You can witness that sound first-hand around the New York underground in jamming rooms like Rockwood Music Hall, Bar 4, Bowery Ballroom and late night venues like Kush on Chrystie Street.

If you find yourself at a Kin concert around New York, don’t be afraid to greet the brothers after the show, perhaps ask them how they are helping the victims of genocide in Darfur. One of their favorite parts of their performance is being able to “meet the fans, and hear their stories.” You can hear more of The Kin’s story, by reading their XXQs below.

XXQs: The Kin

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get into music and when did the band form?

Isaac: I first discovered music at age 6, got bored with my 75-year-old teacher, Mrs. Langley, who would tell me to take my chewing gum out and when I refused, she would rap my knuckles with a ruler. She would lock me in a room until I had practiced for 30 minutes. I busted out the window one day, and my parents never pushed me into music again.

Then when I was 16, I was at a campfire party one night in my mates backyard in Maroubrah, in Sydney. A prolific dude named Yaniv (who now plays under Sam Yoole and was best mates with Ben Lee) asked me to sing in his band. We played for 250 kids the next week and that was it for me.

I realized that singers annoyed the crap out of me with their antics and their egos. So I listened for the sound I wanted and heard the Rhodes on a bunch of records I love and started playing again. I forced myself to remember how to play piano when I started writing with Thorry. A song called ‘Arise’ was the first song I wrote with my remembered fingers. The Kin was formed 2 months after in September of 2004 at a Jeff Buckely conference in Chicago. That was almost 3 years ago.

Thorry: I, too, started piano and a couple years in, got distracted by guitars, which I started playing when I was 11. My voice came out soon after, and I realized then that I could sing a song and make an impact. You know, I guess it was the discovery of something I could do. It gave me a sense of purpose.

It took me to a high school for performing arts in Sydney-Newtown High. There, I cut my teeth, got a taste for really playing and performing… At 16, I had the opportunity to come to New York and attend a similar school (PPAS) and study jazz.

PEV: Was there a certain time or event that you realized music was going to be a career?

Kin: “Career” is such a sterile word to us…it’s more than that! It’s life for us. We both were called to music by different experiences at different ages.

There is a distinct time that we decided, “Let’s do the Kin” back in 2001. We were hiking in Woodstock, New York together. It was a time of uncertainty, a time when we had to make a choice to start this dream we had. We reached the top of a mountain and played for hours overlooking south to NYC… It seemed like a scary commitment to make. But we clearly committed that day to start this band.


PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record?

Kin: Ha! Horrible…it felt sterile and unnatural. A studio is a confronting place when you’ve never done it before. We were very serious when we first started. It seems that we really didn’t start to enjoy it until now. The album we just recorded-“Rise and Fall”-is the first enjoyable recording experience we’ve had!!!

PEV: Growing up in the small town of Adelaide, Australia, what is the music scene like and how is different from that of the United States?

Kin: We were too young to know…We left before high school and grew up in Sydney. The scene there is fantastic-The Hopetown, The Ananndale, outdoor beach shows, huge summer festivals…it’s the festivals that makes the summer so good!

Adelaide is home to some great artists. The scene is small, but tasteful. The Kin has been a US-based band for the most part. It is such a dense and rich scene for music here. You can tour so many towns and cities here. You can’t do that in Australia because over there, they have only a 10th of the population of the US.

PEV: Describe the first time you came to the US? Where did you first go and what did you do? Was it what you thought it would be?

Kin: At first, it was school that brought us to the US. NYC was a wild place for us as teenagers. It was unlike anything we had experienced. After that, a benevolent man named Tucker Robbins, a fearless NYC furniture designer, met with us when we were first over here together and offered to pay for our first demo if we got the songs together in 3 weeks. We did and it may be the best recording we have ever done…but we are not showing it to anyone yet.

Tucker then gave us both jobs in his workhouse for cash so we could pay for shoes. It was him?and our mother’s couch-that brought us to the City.

And Kenny Gorka gave us our first gig ever in NYC at the Bitter End.

PEV: What is it like to be brothers and write music together and travel around with one another? Does any sibling rivalry come up? Ever get sick of each other?

Kin: Of course we do! It makes the music better. We always joke that regardless, we have to see each other at family get-togethers!!! So we know that much we get that question a lot. We wouldn’t work together if it wasn’t something we enjoyed. The brother competition is healthy-it inspires us to do better.

PEV: What can people expect from your new CD?

Kin: The sounds of two guys in the woods with a lot of musical instruments and a kickass producer for 2 months. We went to four different places to get sounds-a barn, an old house, a huge castle on a hill with a big ceiling, and a horse stable studio. This album was an experience for us, we feel really fortunate about how it came out. It feels like the first experience of really “capturing” a vibe… Hopefully it’s something people can relate to. We wanted the songs to be honored…and to tell a story.

PEV: You have traveled all over the world. Which city do you think offers the best environment for music?

Kin: There are so many more places to see…. So far, we like Northampton, MA. They always seem to be so welcoming to us there. LA has been a great listening audience, too.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you?

Kin: Never a dull moment! We imagine it’s a bit like being a plumber-ha! Even after a couple of years it still feels like it’s just begun. There is no choice but to ride with it. I’m sure it gets old eventually but we don’t think performing ever will. We are truly a live act.

PEV: What do all your friends and family back home in Australia think about all your success?

Kin: Our family has never told us we were crazy for being in music, so I guess they are to blame for this!

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Today’s Feature, July 28-29: Craig Calfee

January 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm (Today's Feature)


We’ve all heard the phrase, “What do we do when we fall of the horse?” The majority of the world will tell you that the best advice is to, ‘get back on.” In the case of Craig Calfee of Calfee Design however, there?s a lot more to it. Calfee, one of the most innovative minds in bicycle design, literally flew off his own bike in a devastating head-on collision over 20 years ago. Ever since that crash, Calfee has been re-inventing the blueprint for bikes of all kinds, and helping others along the way.

The inception of Calfee Design in 1997 began a trend for Craig Calfee, constantly raising the bar in bicycle technology with designs such as the Tetra Tetra Tandem and the Dragonfly. Now working on his latest project, Bamboo Bikes, Calfee has realized this venture means more than building a superior bike frame. These novel bikes can not only assist some of the world’s greatest tri-athletes, but also help those less fortunate in third world countries, rich in bamboo. The Bamboo Bike Project is a collaboration between David Ho and John Mutter of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Craig Calfee that aims to both build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas, as well as stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to satisfy local needs. While the project is complex, don’t think that Craig Calfee is satisfied with only the business of bicycles. He’ll look to conquer the automotive industry next. Read his XXQs to find out more.

XXQs: Craig Calfee

PensEyeView.com (PEV): What was the original inspiration for your passion in building bikes?

Craig Calfee (CC): I’ve always liked building things. That led me to major in sculpture at Pratt in NYC. But I built my first bike because I crashed a bike and needed another one. I was working in a shop that made carbon fiber boats so i thought I’d try making a frame with that material.

PEV: What types of riders purchase your bike?

CC: All kinds. Racers, recreational cyclists, triathletes, bike messengers, geeks, anyone likes nice bikes.

PEV: Are you an avid rider yourself?

CC: I don’t ride as much as I used to. But when I ride, I ride pretty hard.

PEV: You’ve recently been in the news for your bamboo bike frame design. What was the inspiration behind this?

CC: I just wanted to try it. I needed a good publicity vehicle for the big annual trade show and my pit bull dog showed me how tough it was.

PEV: How do the frames hold up?

CC: Very well. They can be made very tough, with thick wall material. Much more impact resistant than carbon fiber.

PEV: Will they be beneficial in competitions like triathlons?

CC: Yes, especially with their vibration damping capabilities. People don’t realize it yet but road buzz makes you tired. It affects your racing far more than having aero shaped tubes.

PEV: Have you heard from any riders who prefer the bamboo design?

CC: Plenty of people who own several bikes have contacted me to tell me they always gravitate towards riding the bamboo bike over their other bikes. At least one top age group triathlete has relegated his $9,000 carbon wonder bike to the status of “training bike” after finding he is consistently faster on the bamboo bike.

PEV: One of your visions is to have the people of third world countries that are rich in bamboo construct their own bamboo bikes. What benefits will these people get from a bamboo bike?

CC: Ability to create tremendous value for their labor by using a readily available local resource to make an incredibly useful product. It can be done with minimal investment in tools, no electricity and provides much needed employment. The resulting bike can be designed for their particular use, and that might be the best thing about it. Oh yeah, it encourages the use of bamboo rather than clearcutting the forest.

PEV: Was there an experience in your life that urged you to help less fortunate people?

CC: I had travelled to remote parts of Africa 25 years ago and saw how desperately poor they were. Contrast that with how incredibly rich the developed world is and it becomes clear that we should all try to help balance the distribution of wealth.

PEV: You recently took a trip to Ghana to explore this idea. Did this trip meet your expectations?

CC: It exceeded my expectations. The people who expressed an interest were very enthusiastic, talented and ready to make this idea a reality. All the parts are there. They just need to get coordinated and managed well. I hope this is an example we can translate to other areas with the same success.

PEV: Did anyone accompany you?

CC: Two professors from Columbia University, David Ho and John Mutter.

PEV: What did it mean to you to have someone else see your idea and believe in it enough to help get the ball rolling?

CC: At first, it was no big deal – perhaps I’m too close to the idea and it’s obvious to me. But after hearing about the skepticism they met in the process of obtaining funding, I appreciate the efforts they made on behalf of the idea. They really came through.

PEV: What did you find out about the local transportation systems? Were bikes a mainstay? If not, would your bikes be a great use to the population there?

CC: In the countryside, people think nothing of carrying 100 pounds of agricultural produce for 5 or 6 miles. It takes all day, is hard work and nets them about two dollars. If you have a bike that can carry that kind of load, you have a serious moneymaker. The problem is that the bikes they have are not designed for that kind of work, so they break down a lot. Having a bike that holds up under hard use will allow them to triple their income. That will trigger a flood of improvement, like educating the kids, improving health care and making time to enjoy life.

PEV: Would bamboo designs aid, not only in transportation, but in the performance of jobs as well?

CC: The fiber wrapping technique we developed for making the frames can be used to make countless other things. It’s also great for repairing things like tool handles and furniture.

PEV: What other groups have shown an interest in your idea and share your vision?

CC: A few other NGO’s have written to me about trying it in the Phillipines, Malawi and China.

PEV: Judging from your last trip, will there be another one in the works, either back to Ghana or a different country altogether?

CC: We’ll do a follow-up trip back to Ghana and make sure it works there. Then we’ll evaluate it and consolidate the model for transferring it to other countries.

PEV: What would you say to your doubters about this project?

CC: When you see the reaction to the bike and the enthusiasm by people who recognize the multiple benefits, the doubters transform into encouragers.

PEV: Have you been involved in other charitable bike events?

CC: Not really. A few sponsored athletes but nothing on this scale.

PEV: What role should local governments have in promoting the use of bikes as an urban transportation device?

CC: Try to make the environment safe for biking by simply enforcing traffic laws and having substantial consequences for drivers hurting cyclists. Bike lanes help a lot, too.

PEV: What is next for Craig Calfee?

CC: Natural fiber composite electric cars.

For more information on Craig Calfee, check out http://www.CraigCalfee.com

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