Today’s Feature – February 27-28: James Peel

February 28, 2008 at 12:26 am (Today's Feature)

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You’ve seen James Peel before – he and musical buddy Kevin came together to bless a huge TV-viewing audience with their rendition of “Killing Me Softly” on the highly rated “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” You do remember, don’t you? Think about it for a minute. I’ll give you a hint. The performance didn’t exactly take place on the Tonight Show stage… or in front of a studio audience. Actually, this act played out on the sidewalk… as part of one of Leno’s usual outdoor bits involving a few random fans.

Ok, so maybe Peel isn’t the household name you’d see on national television. Yet. This artist is just starting out and he’s taking a route all of us can respect. It’s no secret that many of today’s young musicians (especially white guys with guitars) look to more established stars for inspiration, often times to the point of imitation. Peel is sure to avoid that trap, “I had my Dave phase, my Mayer phase, my open tuning Dashboard phase, and I thank them for teaching what good songwriting is, but I have tried to steer clear of that since then.”

A collective sampling of such work is on his latest album, “Asphalt,” a record that required Peel to step out of his comfort zone. Typically writing music for solo acoustic performances, he now needed music for an entire band. It seems his effort was more than successful, “Everybody that listens tells me their favorite song, and no one song outranks the rest. That makes me really happy because, if I write an album and only one song is the best, that means the rest are subpar.”

There’s typically always something that stands out at a James Peel performance, “like a kazoo solo, or a xylophone player, or a beat boxer.” You’ll also get to hear James talk about some stuff he really cares about, like http://www.BuyShoesSaveLives.com. The site sells life-saving hand-made Iraqi shoes – with all profit going towards heart surgeries for Iraqi children. So check that out and keep an ear out for an upcoming acoustic EP from Peel, possibly called “Recess.” Dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: James Peel

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

James Peel (JP): I started playing guitar the summer before 8th grade. I can’t pin point any reason I started. I wasn’t really good at anything except being pudgy and obnoxious. It just seemed like a good idea. Interestingly, I thought I was tone deaf till I was a junior in high school. I just never sang in front of anybody until then, except in the crowds at church.

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

JP: I grew up fairly sheltered. Jars of Clay is the first band I listened to as a kid that I still listen to. Then in 8th or 9th grade I heard Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College and was floored by the what the acoustic guitar was capable. That is when I really started playing and practicing a lot.

PEV: Was there a certain point when music went from hobby to knowing you could do it for a living?

JP: I chuckle at this, because it is still not a “living.” At some point during my senior year of high school, I kind of gave up on music dreams in the push to pick a college and career and retirement plan. But soon after during my first semester in college in California, I found myself writing lyrics in class instead of notes. I decided to start really trying to find my own writing style and try to move away from the sound of all the white boys playing acoustic guitar. I had my Dave phase, my Mayer phase, my open tuning Dashboard phase, and I thank them for teaching what good songwriting is, but I have tried to steer clear of that since then. They have their niches so well covered, why would the world need a follow up act in the same vein?

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance. How did it go?

JP: I had played in church a lot in high school, but I consider my first real true performance, where I was playing a set and my name was on the posters was December of 2004 on my college campus. I had a lot of songs. A lot of bad ones. And this show date forced me to really consider what I wanted a large crowd to hear. I really worked on a few songs and honed them into something I could be proud of. I’d say it went pretty well. I had a lot of fun. I have since learned a lot about crowd dynamics and stage presence though.

PEV: From that first time on stage to now, have has your performance style changed, if at all?

I have never been nervous to perform, but when I was first starting, I was pretty quiet between songs and fumbled quite a bit I am sure. Now, I like telling a short story or two for a laugh and tell folks where the songs came from. I make fun of myself quite a bit. I like it. But I also use the platform to briefly tell folks something I care about. Right now and for a long time to come I will be telling folks about Buy Shoes. Save Lives. http://www.BuyShoesSaveLives.com.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live James Peel performance?

JP: Generally there is some sort of fun instrumentation that is rarely repeated. Like A kazoo solo, or a xylophone player, or a beat boxer. I like to feature friends. Fans can expect to have a good time though. Some fun tunes, some laughs, and hopefully a bit of insight into something they have not thought about before.

PEV: Tell us about your latest album, “Asphalt.”

JP: It came together amazingly smoothly, and I have my best friends to thank for that. They helped musically, financially and artistically. I could not have done it without Jeff, Kevin, zak and Thomas. Best friends ever. I wrote most of the songs on late 2006 and early 2007 with a full band EP in mind. In the past I had only written mostly thinking of solo acoustic songs. My goal for the album was for it to be diverse both sound wise and topic wise.

PEV: What can fans expect from the music on “Asphalt?”

JP: Everybody that listens tells me their favorite song, and no one song outranks the rest. That makes me really happy because, if I write an album and only one song is the best, that means the rest are subpar. But on “Asphalt,” there is something for everyone. Hopefully everybody likes all of it, but I like to think that even if the EP is out of somebody’s genre list, they would still hear a song or two that they like.

PEV: How is “Asphalt” different from other music out today?

JP: Hmmm. Well, honestly I feel like what is popular at the moment is moving away from my style, which is simple, thoughtful, and hopefully good songwriting. What’s popular right now, is often times a little hectic and musically eclectic. I really like some of it. But I do think that the pendulum will always swing back to the singer-songwriter, and more timeless songwriting. Instead of going for something crazy, I went for what I would want to listen both now and 20 years down the road.

PEV: Tell us about life on the road for you. Are you a fan of touring?

JP: I honestly have not toured yet. I love to perform though. I am very very indie, and am new to the business and still trying to sort it out while maintaining a day job and paying college loans.

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

JP: I sleep with my eyes open. And I sang on Jay Leno (but it was during a side-walking segment. My friend Kevin and I sang “Killing Me Softly”).

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

JP: I like to be alone in my apartment. I pull out my laptop and record as a write with my Mac’s built in microphone.

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

JP: They are proud and very supportive. They are eager to tell their friends about my music and what I am doing with it.

PEV: What has been the most memorable part of your career so far?

JP: Working with Thomas, Kevin, Jeff, and Scott in the studio. One of my best memories in life so far for sure. Seeing my dream come true with my best friends.

PEV: When you aren’t touring or performing what can we find you doing in your spare time?

JP: I manage Congress Clothing. It’s a fun retail store in Waco that my brother owns. Fun clothes and fun people make it a fun job.

PEV: If we were to walk into your house right now what would be find?

JP: Guitars, pedals, books, clothes and dirty dishes. And you’d be hit by a strong cigarette smoke smell even though I’ve never smoked a cig in my life. I live in a pretty seedy apartment complex. I try to assume the best in people, but if some of the folks around knew the kind of equipment I had in there, it would probably be gone by morning.

PEV: What artists have you not collaborated with yet that you would like to?

JP: Wow, I honestly have not thought about that one for awhile. I would have loved to tour with The Format, but they broke up recently. Boo. But, not to shoot for the stars or anything, but Paul McCartney is my current songwriting hero. Nigel Godrich produced Paul’s amazing 2005 release “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” and he has produced a great deal of my favorite Radiohead work, so having him as a producer some day would be a dream come true as well.

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

JP: My good friend Jeff Given is a name to remember for the future. Check him out at http://www.myspace.com/jeffgiven. Also, an older album that went under the radio that is amazing is “Magazine” by Jump Little Children.

PEV: What one word best describes James Peel?

JP: Sincere.

PEV: Where will you and your music be in ten years?

JP: Hopefully, I can leave behind this whole day job thing and just write, record, perform, and tell folks about how they can help those in need, for example checking out http://www.BuyShoesSaveLives.com to see the awesome things that are being done to help kids with heart problems in Northern Iraq.

PEV: So, what is next for you?

I am working on an acoustic EP to feature some old and some new songs, as well as a cover or two with old and new friends. I think I am going to call it “Recess”

For more information on James Peel, check out www.JamesPeelMusic.com and www.myspace.com/JamesPeelMusic

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Today’s Feature, February 25-26: Stuart O’Connor

February 26, 2008 at 1:30 pm (Today's Feature)

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It isn’t a surprise to hear many of our readers are unfamiliar with the work of Stuart O’Connor. He’s a secreted revelation from London, England, a master of the modern folk movement that helps to prove a saying of one of his good friends: “There’s more talent within 10 miles of your front door than there is in the top 10.” While this may or may not be true, O’Connor is a fine example of an immensely gifted artist simply busting at the seams with unreal potential to take over audiences across the globe.

The first time I heard songs such as “Note that Says” and the instrumental, “Ask All” I was hooked. These songs so simple yet so refined evoked images across my mind from the first note to the last – something just about every artist strives for and something O’Connor achieves with seemingly relative ease.

O’Connor’s debut record, “Autonomous Debut” which was released with the label “Late Bus Records” was a different kind of experience for the folk artist. “I’d never considered working with different musicians and instruments. Suddenly I had all these new options for the songs and I took to them with massive enthusiasm. I called on the talents of many great players and friends to make a body of work I could be proud of.”

The new album set for release next month carries a lot more experience behind it. Playing over 400 shows across the planet since his debut collection, there are so many stories to tell through these new pieces. Stories that O’Connor hopes will give audiences “a realization of ones personal strength when backed into a corner.”

If you go to a live Stuart O’Connor performance, you’ll notice he always plays bare foot (for reasons surprising – you’ll have to read further to learn why). Swing by his site to check out the multitude of videos he has posted of past performances and look into his other efforts that include the progressive rock trio “My Pet Junkie” as well as the collective called “Midnight Moth.” The new record will be launched in North Hertfordshire on Easter Sunday, March 23rd. Learn more in the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Stuart O’Connor

PensEyeView. com (PEV): Was getting involved in music something that you always wanted to do?

Stuart O’Connor (So): No never. I knew I liked music but assumed that being so academically bad my music skills were just as bad. So I never pursued it. I always found it so regimented and boring. It was only when I was 17 that I decided to try guitar because I liked so much guitar music.

PEV: Hailing from London, England, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

SO: I was defiantly a late developer as far as taste was concerned. I grew up listening to anything my older Brothers were listening to which stemmed from NWA to Dream Warriors to really poor music I’d never openly want to confess to, Despite still having a soft spot for (nostalgia reasons only of course).

Funnily enough the brother who listened to NWA became a policeman. If you can’t ‘F–k em’ then I guess you might as well join em.

PEV: Tell us about the music scene in the UK and what is your take on it?

SO: The UK music scene is shrouded in sub-scene’s which is dominated by the major music press. There’s the general metal, punk & Rock scene which is written about by Kerraang! Magazine. Then there’s the Trendy hair and fashion indie scene which is written about by NME. Then there’s the rest. The rest is usually where the good stuff is. A good friend of mine who used to be a journalist had a saying “There’s more talent within 10 miles of your front door than there is in the top 10.” I honestly believe that to be true.

I guess I might sound overtly cynical about it. I’m not. Being independent has opened my eyes to the masses of great people and bands there are out there. You’ve just got to find them.

PEV: On your site you offer a lot of videos for fans to see your shows. Do you find the videos have helped move your career forward?

SO: I think they have. People have spoken of them at gigs which is a good sign. I need to get some proper videos together though. Some of them are very rough.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Stuart O’Connor performance?

SO: It’s always different. That’s one thing for sure. Because I play over 200 times a year I’ve stopped writing a set list. I let my mood run things. I recently did a show on the south coast of England where I didn’t play a single song on my record. I also linked every song together with loops and ambience so it all merged into one 45 min set.

Also the line up for my gigs changes fairly regularly. Sometimes it’ll be solo or with Riad (Double Bass). Then other times it’ll be with keys or percussion or even with Didgeridoo.

PEV: Tell us about your debut, “Autonomous Debut”. SO: I wanted to go full time and so having a record to sell was essential. So I spent 6 months recording and re-recording all these songs that had just been sitting there waiting for a home.

Until then I had only really recorded with ‘My Pet Junkie’ (A Prog Rock Power Trio I’m in) and so I’d never considered working with different musicians and instruments. Suddenly I had all these new options for the songs and I took to them with massive enthusiasm. I called on the talents of many great players and friends to make a body of work I could be proud of. The songs themselves are very emotive and making the record very much helped me deal with a lot that was going on at the time (an old cliche` I know but true none the less).

PEV: How is this release different than your previous works?

SO: Like I said until then I’d only really recorded with MPJ. So to go from making prog rock with a very democratic 3 person system in place to introverted folk tunes was very different. It was daunting but refreshing at the same time to know that every decision is yours and yours only.

To be honest it was perfect for that time in my life.

PEV: What can fans expect from the new album?

SO: It’s quite simply a progression. Since ÒAutonomous” came out I’ve been played 400 plus shows on both sides of the world. I’ve gained a lot of confidence from this and also had some very turbulent times. All the songs are results of this.

One song is about a run in with the police I had whilst on tour in England. Another is a reaction to gigging in Auckland and to feel as though it could still be London (Due to the same shops and restaurants being owned) despite its geographic distance. Generally it’s a sense of realization of ones personal strength when backed into a corner.

PEV: In all your travels, what has been the favorite city to play and why?

SO: I would have to say Sydney. Even the nothing gigs have amounted to a big something in Sydney. They really took to me well there so I guess I can only reciprocate that.

PEV: Is there a certain “up and coming” band right now you think we should all be looking out for?

SO: Well I have to rate North Herts band Frog Stupid. They always put on a good show. Also West Herts Trio Ocelot. But on a non local front I have oodles of time for The Todd Sickafoose Group, Special Benny, The cinematic Orchestra & Youthmovies.

A lot of people in the UK don’t seem to have heard of the Mars Volta yet. But they’ve very much up and come by now I reckon. Also on a singer songwriter front I’d recommend Lianne Hall.

PEV: How would you describe your sound?

SO: Modern Folk

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

SO: I wouldn’t say I’m that successful. But I’m surviving and that’s enough. My friends and family both have mixed reactions. My family worries for me but seem to support me. I think my friends have generally supported me but some have turned their back. I worry that ambition makes me look ugly from time to time. But I know I’d be far uglier living a life I didn’t like.

PEV: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

SO: I honestly can’t answer that. My life is so open right now it could go anywhere. I’m only on album number two. I’m just gonna let circumstance lead. Come back to me in 5 years. I might have a better Idea then.

PEV: When you aren’t performing or traveling, what can we find you doing in their spare time?

SO: Usually being really lazy. The touring really does knock me for six. So that involves listening to music (Thelonious Monk Especially); playing guitar and watching films.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Stuart O’Connor?

SO: I love Horror films. Especially Japanese ones. If they get the mood right I’m hooked. The original of the ‘Ring’ still scares me to think about the mood it creates. Oh and I broke three guitars in three gigs with my over energetic playing style.

PEV: What is a normal day of a show for you like? Any pre-show rituals?

SO: I usually put off thinking about the show till I’m on my way to it. Then whilst I’m driving there I like to consider a set list. I always play bare foot. I guess that’s my gimmick now. But it honestly makes me feel more relaxed on stage. I learnt it as a technique from the intro scene of ÒDie Hard” when Bruce Willis gets jittery about flying.

PEV: In one word, describe Stuart O’Connor.

SO: Understated (I hope Ð That’s three words, Doh!)

PEV: If you could have your “dream collaboration” with any artist, who would it be and why?

SO: Although I’d relish working with heroes such as Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan, Thelonious Monk, Tom Morello, Cedric Bixlar or Miles Davis. I think the only one that would feasibly work would be with Bjork. I think she’d be a joy to work with and really get the best out of me.

PEV: What has been the best part of your career so far?

SO: Playing Support to Ocean Color Scene. They were one of those bands that were a part of my adolescence.

PEV: What is next for Stuart O’Connor?

SO: Get the new album out there. It’s getting launched at a gig in North Hertfordshire on Easter Sunday, March 23rd. I can’t wait.

For more information on Stuart O’Connor, check out www.myspace.com/stuartoconnor

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Today’s Feature – February 23-24: The Whybirds

February 24, 2008 at 1:02 pm (Today's Feature)

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Welcome to PensEyeView’s latest effort to discover the finest and most distinctive talent across the pond! What better way to continue our global search for the best artists than with a band out of Bedford, England – a group the Bedford Roar Club describes as “Great big rollicking honkytonk harmonies that jump into a kingsize water-bed with songs made out of tears, beers and cactus;” a band that has found the natural recipe for mixing style with substance… The Whybirds!

It’s more than talent that however that makes the Whybirds special – it’s a lot of dedication too. Most of the group (Luke, Ben and Taff) had been tearing up the region in a band called The View for years… but ended their run in 2005. The three tried performing under different acts, but hit some bumps along the way; bumps that had Luke admitting that old View fans were wondering, “what the @!#$ happened to them? They used to be so good!” After a near breakdown, the band decided to go with what felt natural in the recording studio, writing songs without limitations and sharing the role of lead singer. After this renaissance, their act turned into The Whybirds, a group that sounds like “Johnny Cash had he grown up on a sprout farm in Mid-Bedfordshire listening to Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam.”

Following up on the success of their “Tonight” EP, the Whybirds will be releasing a brand new album on March 8th that contains more uplifting material than ever without one song written in a minor key. Luke describes it as “Good songwriting, good guitars, good vocals, good harmonies, happy songs, sad songs disguised as happy songs, Hammond organ, and all in 47 minutes!”

A Whybirds show is the best way to truly get to know the band. Playing from a different set list for every performance, the group makes sure that listening to them live is a whole new experience. Taff has “seen too many bands these days who play note for note what’s on their album and it’s just plain dull.” The group will be busy preparing for their release later this year, as well as a launch party the night of at Camden’s famous Barfly venue. You can also catch them on a more regular basis at the Man on the Moon in Cambridge. Jump in now and learn more in the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Whybirds

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

Luke: Ben, Taff and I had been playing together in a band called The View since we were 14, but when that broke up in 2005, we reformed with Dave as our singer. For a while, nothing really gelled and we kind of stumbled around for a year or so, playing under different band names, and frankly we were shit. Loads of people that came to see the new band were like, what the fuck happened to them? They used to be so good! Then Taff nearly left, and we decided to write the kind of music we naturally write, rather than the 70s rock that we were doing in The View. So in late 2006, we became The Whybirds, which is when we started sharing lead vocals. Once that happened, we were writing new songs at every practice and built up the material for the first album over a really short period.

PEV: Hailing from Bedford, England, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

Luke: I remember listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits and this compilation tape called Blues Brother Soul Sister on every family trip I ever went on. But when I really started getting into music, about age 13, I was really into the Seattle scene, particularly Pearl Jam. Through Pearl Jam I got into Neil Young, and from Neil Young I got into loads of singer/songwriters like Dylan, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter and so on.

Dave: Same as Tuck, I grew up listening to my parents’ music, Rod Stewart and The Beatles and stuff and my love of music grew from there. Aerosmith and Guns ‘N’ Roses played a big part, but Bruce Springsteen I guess was my first real obsession from when I was about 15.

Ben: Yeah, my dad’s a Beatles nut. So I heard them pretty much every day and loads of other 60s and 70s stuff. Guns ‘N’ Roses were the first band I really got into too, but I got heavily into the grunge scene too before alternative country. Dave and I actually became mates through Springsteen.

Taff: If I answered this question completely honestly I’d probably get kicked out of the band, but like the others there were a lot of things like the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple and so on played by my folks when I was a kid and my brother was always discovering new music, which naturally had a big influence. It was when I first heard Appetite for Destruction that I started getting really obsessed with music though and from there on I think The Who, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake were three of the most influential artists for me.

Luke: Being an alternative country band, we should probably say Gram Parsons and Hank Williams, but we didn’t listen to them till way later!

PEV: Tell us about the music scene in the UK and what is your take on it?

Luke: It’s all style and no substance. Loads of people are in bands just because they think it’s cool to be in a band, rather than because they want to play music. They all sound the same, but with varying degrees of competence. It’s frustrating. It makes me want to spit.

Dave: You have to dig deep and look hard for good music these days. Since the days of Supergrass and Oasis there aren’t many bands from the UK that really excite me.

Taff: We very rarely see any bands on the same bill as us who are any good. We played around 70 gigs last year and I would say there were maybe two or three bands that we played with that I would want to hear again. If you think that on average there are four bands on each bill, that’s pretty poor.

PEV: At what point in your life did you decide that music was going to be more than just a hobby for you?

Dave: Everyone has their dreams when they are young, but I guess I was about 16 or 17 when I knew I didn’t want to do anything unless it involved playing music.

Ben: As soon as I started playing guitar I wanted to be in a band. I must have been about 11.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Whybirds performance?

Luke: We’ve got enough material now to mix things up a fair bit, so we do pretty much a different setlist every night. We’re also a lot heavier live than on record, unless we’re playing unplugged of course, which we also do quite often.

Dave: We also do some extended jams.

Luke: Some self-indulgent extended jams. So, it could be a few things, but it’s an area we really pride ourselves on. I don’t want to sound bigheaded, but we’re really, really fucking good live!

Taff: We like to make the live experience something that’s different from listening to our album, which is what most of our favourite bands do. I’ve seen too many bands these days who play note for note what’s on their album and it’s just plain dull.

PEV: Tell us about your “Tonight” EP released in August of 2007. How did fans react to the sound on “Tonight?”

Luke: Well, the EP was a strange one really. The EP was made up a couple of old View songs and a couple of songs that were a bit too punky for the album, and it reflects our kind of rock sound far more. Also, with the exception of What it Means Ð which I wrote but Ben sings Ð the album tracks are all sung by whoever wrote them, whereas on the EP Dave sings a couple of mine, because that was the format when we first started playing together. In terms of fan reaction, some people had already heard a lot of the album tracks live, and were disappointed that they weren’t on the EP, but we wanted the EP to be an entirely separate entity from the album, and I think it does show a different side to the band. Personally, I like it!

PEV: How is your upcoming self-titled release different than the “Tonight” EP?

Taff: I think the album is a fuller representation of the Whybirds. Tonight focuses on a certain part of our style but the album covers more of our musical bases. And the cover art is different.

PEV: What can fans expect from the new album?

Dave: It’s an uplifting, summery kind of record, in fact, we haven’t written a single song in a minor key yet, but at the same time the lyrics aren’t always happy. And because we all write there’s a good mix of styles and flavours in there.

Ben: A breath of fresh air.

Luke: Good songwriting, good guitars, good vocals, good harmonies, happy songs, sad songs, sad songs disguised as happy songs, Hammond organ, and all in 47 minutes!

PEV: In all your travels, what has been the favorite city to play and why?

Luke: Personally, I’d say Cambridge. We’ve just had some really good gigs there.

Ben: Yeah, either Cambridge or London. But that’s more because we’ve had some weird gigs in London.

PEV: Is there a certain “up and coming” band right now you think we should all be looking out for?

Dave: We’ve played a few gigs recently with a band called Small Devices and they are definitely worth looking out for!

Luke: Yeah, they’re cool. Apparently they don’t have any set lyrics, they just get on stage and the singer sings whatever comes to his head, but you’d never notice. I’d also say that Tinker Jack, Sister Ray and Sulfer are all worth checking out. Not because they’re our friends either, it’s just we happen to be friends with some really good songwriters!

PEV: The bands has been described as “a mix of Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd and occasional Eagles”. How would you describe The Whybirds’ sound?

Luke: We can accept the Tom Petty thing. But Lynyrd Skynyrd aren’t an influence, despite what people say, and the Eagles certainly aren’t. As Tom Waits said, the best thing Eagles records are for is keeping dust off your turntable.

Ben: I don’t think we’re influenced by either. I quite like Skynyrd but the Eagles aren’t really my cup of tea.

Luke: I suppose our sound is exactly what we say it is, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, with an alternative country edge. Or alternative country with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. Depends on how you look at it.

Taff: Imagine if Johnny Cash had grown up on a sprout farm in Mid-Bedfordshire listening to Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam and you’re half way there.

Luke: And he had four heads.

Taff: It’s alternative southern country rock with an East Anglian twist and a hint of grunge.

PEV: On the Barfly website it was said that The Whybirds are “Generally accepted as the UK’s best alt – country band”. How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

Taff: I think it’s safe to say they are keeping level-headed about it.

PEV: What is the meaning behind the name, The Whybirds?

Luke: It’s a reference to the Yardbirds and Gram Parsons-era Byrds. It’s kind of a nod to our rock ‘n’ roll side and our country side.

PEV: When you aren’t performing or traveling, what can we find the Whybirds doing in their spare time?

Ben: Taking the piss out of Dave. That, and eating.

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

Luke: We still currently hold down day jobs. Although hopefully this will change soon.

Ben: We’re all pretty much the same age.

Luke: Is that surprising?

Taff: I’m surprised that Ben is surprised enough to think that people would be surprised to know that.

PEV: What is a normal day of a show for you like? Any pre-show rituals?

Dave: Usually a lot of travelling, possibly some fast food, and a few beers!

Ben: A car crash. Luke: Traffic jams.

Taff: Shouting at Dave because of car crashes and traffic jams.

PEV: In one word, describe The Whybirds.

Ben: Tight.

Dave: Hairy!

Luke: I was gonna say something rude then that would go along with what you two just said, but I think I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

PEV: If you could have your “dream collaboration” with any artist, who would it be and why?

Luke: Well, like any self-respecting alternative country band, we should probably do a duet with Emmylou Harris, cos she’s appeared with everyone from Neil Young to Steve Earle to Ryan Adams, but other than that, I’d probably still like to do something with Pearl Jam, just because without them, I really don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing.

Taff: I think it would be cool to share the stage with Bruce Springsteen.

Luke: Yeah, that’d be alright I suppose.

PEV: What has been the best part of The Whybirds’ career so far?

Ben: Hmm…playing the Secret Garden party maybe.

Luke: Recording the album probably. It only took two weeks, but it was the best two weeks of my life.

Taff: Yeah, I think recording the album really changed us as a band and gave us even more belief in what we’re doing.

PEV: What is next for The Whybirds?

Taff: We’ve got a few irons in the fire but we’re releasing our debut album in March this year and then we’re hoping to get back into the studio to record the next album in the summer. It took about year from recording the debut to releasing it but now we know what we’re doing so we should be able to get the second one released by the end of the year. We’ve written half of the songs already, so by the summer we’ll have enough to get in the studio. Otherwise we hope to do a few bits like acoustic EPs and get some live recordings made. 2007 was our first proper year as a band and we developed a lot over the course of the year. In 2008 we hope to build on our success and establish ourselves as a touring band. We also hope to get over to the States sometime soon too.

All photos courtesy of Brett Clarke

For more information on The Whybirds, check out /www.myspace.com/thewhybirds

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Today’s Feature – February 21-22: Rue Melo

February 22, 2008 at 3:35 pm (Today's Feature)

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“I like to get in touch with the ocean every once in a while,” says Rue Melo, an emerging artist out of California who, like the sea, is both beautiful and ever-changing, using her music to reveal an assortment of striking influences. Growing up in Paris, moving to New York City and finally landing in California, Rue has seen and heard much more than her young age would lead you to believe. Her experiences, coupled with the fact she grew up with both Spanish and French speaking parents (that were musicians and ballet dancers respectively) makes Melo and her band one exhilarating force.

She met her band; guitarist Martin Estrada, bassist Bryan Bush and drummer Idris Tate in spring 2005 and the four have hardly looked back. Transforming and integrating genre upon genre, the group works within their own form of “Urban Pop,” complete with beats backing lyrics in English, Spanish and French. Needless to say, the show is something you gotta witness for yourself.

The self-titled debut album is in stores now; a collection that Rue says “will take you to different places… remind you of old experiences and new ones… expect to listen to an album that has had a lot of passion, blood, sweat and tears poured into it.” It’s undeniably more than your standard pop record – it contains that contagious rhythm and pulse, but breathes of something more spectacular, more rooted.

Melo is just recently coming off a tour with G. Love & Special Sauce where audiences everywhere learned they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Anticipate witnessing something similar at the Rue Melo performance you make it to, and realize that you’ll find yourself more than satisfied. Keep an eye out for their latest video, “This is my House” and jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: RUE MELO

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey Rue how are you?

Rue Melo (RM): I’m doing great, thanks.

PEV: So, where’d I catch you now?

RM: I just got down working out in Santa Monica, walking by the ocean and enjoying the view.

PEV: Is that one of your favorite parts about living out west?

RM: Oh yeah, defiantley one of my favorite parts. I like to get in touch with the ocean every once in a while.

PEV: I was reading about your background and is says you are from Paris, France, a pretty artistic family background as well. It seems that music just came pretty natural to you.

RM: Yeah, I mean it was in my surroundings constantly.

PEV: Your parents had a big influence on that?

RM: Yeah! My dad was always rehearsing in the basement right underneath my bedroom. My mom was constantly playing music. My whole family was living in the arts.

PEV: When did you move to the states? How was that transition?

RM: I moved when I was about nine or ten. It was crazy… We didn’t speak any English and didn’t really know how long we were going to stay here. I mean, Paris is a big city but New York is totally different kind of big city.

PEV: What are your first memories when you came to New York?

RM: Oh, there were so many of them. When you are that age you are so amazed at everything. It’s funny because at that time, my brother and I were really into The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it was at that age when you really want to believe in things like that. So we used to play around with the idea of it and used to walk around the city looking for Ninja Turtles to come out of the sewers. That was one of the earliest memories I have.

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

RM: You know, it transitioned so much. It depended on what we I was around. When I was younger, my mom and I would listen to like Janis Joplin and opera a classical music. My dad was into Hendrix and like all the Latin groups that he grew up listening to. I was exposed to them all at such an early age then moving to New York, I was exposed to Hip-Hop a lot; Busta Rhymes, Mary J, Tupac, Sublime, Biggie. We were moving around so much that it was always changing.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Rue Melo performance?

RM: You can’t describe what you don’t know… It’s been really crazy reactions. We’ve been opening for G Love and people have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Some people do their research and know we are a good opening band. We’ll play a song and the looks on people’s faces, are like “What?!?” They don’t know if they like you at first or what. But they can just expect a real show, there is no way to explain it.

PEV: How has the tour been with G Love?

RM: It’s been amazing! I have never been to the midwest before and it is freezing over there. The first night in Iowa City it was zero! St. Louis was great, I love St. Louis. Chicago was great. Everywhere we went was so different. I mean, we were waking up at 6 AM and packing six people in a van and driving to the next city, four or five or six hours. It was insane but really cool.

PEV: How is road life been for you? Good? Bad?

RM: It’s been crazy you know. I mean, people can’t stand it and are always missing home and stuff. But I think because we moved around so much as kids, we moved 14 times, so I’m kind of used to different sceneries… so I don’t get homesick. It does get a little crazy with only sleeping three or four hours a night and then getting to the next city… it becomes just an amazing experience.

PEV: Which has been your favorite city to perform in, so far?

RM: Oh, God, I don’t know! So far? That’s an unfair question to ask! I loved Chicago, it has been my favorite city. My favorite show?… Probably a tie with the St. Louis show and with the Los Lonely Boys a little while back, in Oregon.

PEV: With all the touring, when you get to come home and relax, what can we find you doing in your spare time? Aside from working out?

RM: Sleeping! (laughs). Working some more, I have to keep going and keep the energy up. I get home and I take a couple days off, then hit the studio and practice. I work a little side job right now and a gift shop that I hope I won’t have to much longer. I get back to everything, get back to life… and defiantly sleep more, for sure.

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

RM: It’s funny that you say that because my brother and I were just talking about a guy that he knows and I would love to work with him. I have so many names written down in my journal… like a list and goes on forever and ever. Lauren Hill, Mary J Blige, I would love to see what comes out from that.

PEV: You’ve been compared to people like Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Sublime. How does it feel to be compared to people like that? And how would you describe your style?

RM: It’s crazy, real crazy. I had someone say I remind them of Erykah Badu, Selena, I get Fergie every once and a while. My style, we’ve been calling it “Urban Pop”. Because we could not just figure out a way to explain to people what it was. It was the only way we could figure out to call it, so when people ask we had a answer.

PEV: Tell us about your self titled album. What can people expect from it?

RM: They expect to be taken to different places. Be reminded of old experiences and new ones they are going through at the time. They can get to know more about me and maybe themselves too. They can expect to really listen to an album that has really had a lot of passion, blood, sweat and tears into… It is just a really passionate album.

PEV: Have you been surprised to see how “Check It” has become so popular so fast?

RM: Yeah (laughs)! We all knew “Check It” was a dope song but you never know, I mean you can’t predict what will happen. You just hope for the best and have confidence in yourself.

PEV: What’s one thing would people be surprised to hear about Run Melo?

RM: Surprised to hear about Rue Melo… Well, I’m a hell of a cook. A friend of mine and I do an “Iron Chef” night. We have a couple friends pick a secret ingredient and then we go shopping… we do the whole thing. It’s really fun.

PEV: What is your main dish you like to cook?

RM: My main dish, I would say are my cookies. I have these cookies that are super healthy and taste great. I have given them as gifts and the next day they are already gone. That is my specialty. I really like baking things that are quick, nothing crazy, pretty simple stuff.

PEV: I think you need to branch out the marketing of Rue Melo into cooking.

RM: See, we can’t tell anyone about my cookies, I don’t anyone stealing my idea (laughs).

PEV: Well the world is going to find out once this interview comes out…

RM: Ok, you’re right.

PEV: Don’t worry we won’t give out the secret recipe.

RM: I won’t give you the secret recipe so don’t worry about that! (laughs) Maybe I’ll send you some.

PEV: That’s fine, I don’t cook at all. I’m a cereal for every meal kind of guy.

RM: Really, for every meal?

PEV: Well, basically, not every meal but… I’m not a chef by any means.

RM: That’s funny!

PEV: Funny I guess… but a little sad.

RM: (Laughs)

PEV: So, how is this album different than others out today?

RM: Um, I don’t know, you are really stumping me. Let’s see. It’s weird because we had a time when there were a lot of albums that came out that weren’t really great. But now there are a lot of artists really pulling through with some good stuff. I think with this album it can fit into that pop category and go to that other level that people will hear it and people will go into it. But it’s not that washed out pop stuff. It’s contagious but not that washed out kind of stuff. I don’t know how to explain it… you’ve kind of stumped me.

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

RM: There are a few actually. There is a reggae artist named Sizzla. An artist named Kevin Michael. So many of them. There’s an artist named Rue Melo… I don’t know if you’ve heard of her. She is really cool and her album is really dope. But there are so many great ones. I look online and on MySpace… Sometimes I’ll go into a record store and just pick up a random album. I get very pleasantly surprised sometimes. You’ve got to look for great music.

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

RM: They’ve been really great. They are really happy for me and everyone is very supportive. My family and I are very close.

PEV: So what is next for Rue Melo?

RM: What is next for Rue Melo?… Well, we are shooting a video for “This Is My House”. And trying to figure out stuff to put on the second album. A lot of stuff going on. Trying to be on the road as much as possible.

PEV: I appreciate you taking out the time with me.

RM: Thank you so much.

For more information on Rue Melo, check out www.RueMusic.com

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Today’s Feature – February 19-20: Will Dailey

February 19, 2008 at 9:59 pm (Today's Feature)

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Will Dailey has a lot to be proud of. The respected and celebrated singer/songwriter out of Boston, Mass is one of the most promising emerging artists on the indie scene, a recipient of the 2006 Boston Music Award for Best Male Singer/Songwriter, a performer at this year’ Sundance Film Festival as well as a 2nd degree black belt. And as you might imagine, all of this wasn’t achieved without a bit of struggle.

Actually, calling it “a bit” of struggle doesn’t do Dailey’s situation justice. Facing several of the obstacles many new musicians go through, Dailey emerged from the masses poised to explode across the worldÕs musical palate, only to be derailed by a painful hospital stay with appendicitis. The real challenges however came after the surgery when Will was slammed with a $50,000 hospital bill… and no insurance to help out. It would soon become clear that Dailey’s resiliency was more than strong – he’s “kind of like Bruce Lee; be like water. Always be ready to form and do whatever the situation needs.”

“Back Flipping Forward,” the follow-up to “Goodbye Red Bullet” is that trophy of resiliency that Will can hold high within the industry. Much like the events leading up to its creation, a good deal of the album is based on struggle. The songs contained on this release shows off a variety of influences, as if youÕre “hearing a long forgotten master being channeled,” according to one reviewer. The music on “Back Flipping Forward” is a step above “Goodbye Red Bullet” in that this record was developed as a shared experience. Dailey recalls “Last time I was more on my own, but I didnÕt want this album to be that way. It is not as much of a spiritual experience. When you bring in all these different talents and personalities on something that you created and bring it to the next level together, itÕs tremendous. I remember being in the studio thinking, this is the best thing IÕve done so far.”

Dailey will be out supporting the record, so make sure you pull up to a show. The performance goes from a whisper to a scream – starting out as an acoustic one man show and turning into a full blown band tearing through the audience. Learn more by picking up a few Will Dailey albums and jumping into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Will Dailey

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey Will how you doing?

Will Dailey (WD): Good how you are you?

PEV: I’m actually looking at your video [on your site] from your trip and performance at this year’s The Sundance Film Festival. How was it?

WD: It was good, it was good. But a lot to cover in a couple days. Next time I’ll make time for leisurely movie viewing.

PEV: Was is pretty much all work?

WD: Yeah, I wish I would have had more time to ski and see some movies. I was talking to a lot of the musicians there and was like, ‘Has anyone seen any movies?’ No one had time to see a movie.

PEV: What was the atmosphere like? How were the crowds?

WD: It was great. It was packed. The one I did at Music Cafe was my first one in Park City. I had no idea what was going to happen but the room was full. There were all kinds of good people in the crowd.

PEV: Traveling around, what has been your favorite city to play?

WD: I really like Seattle, Boulder, New York is always an experience. Going home is always the finish line.

PEV: Where is home like for you?

WD: Boston.

PEV: What’s the music scene like in Boston?

WD: Great! There are a lot of good musicians here. This home to Aerosmith, Cars… The roots are always here. I know New York has great bands, but Boston has bands that tend to hold on tight.

PEV: What is your take on the east coast music scene versus that of LA?

WD: East coast-west coast battle?

PEV: (laughs) I know there is a dividing line and I’m interested on your take?

WD: I’ve lived in LA and played many, many shows there. My label is there and have a lot of friends there who have made a really good career for themselves. I also feel like if you are in LA, you are just trying to make it. You live in Chicago or Boston, you are trying to make it but it seems like you will do your art regardless of the income you will make. It’s a lot of like how people experience God. It’s like how Pearl Jam had that connection with Seattle. It’s just a connection that you have and they kept it.

PEV: You are the first to be signed to CBS Records. How has that development been going so far?

WD: It’s been great. It’s looking at the music industry from a different angle. And it’s taking it on with a little more reality, I want to say. I mean it’s not like, ‘Let’s sign an artist for one million dollars and then pour three million on him.’ With CBS they are doing a lot traditional things like radio. And I’ve made an album with them and we are talking about releasing singles. It’s like a little bonus.

PEV: What can fans expect from the new album, “Back Flipping Forward”?

WD: I had a lot of material to select from. I picked these ten songs because… The struggle of making “Back Flipping Forward” to get it recorded and get it out, I was doing before I got signed. A lot of themes in the album are based on struggle. I had the opportunity to go back to LA to record it but I stayed here in Boston with some really amazing musicians. If the songs needed petal steel, we had this amazing steel petal player. If we needed horns, we had a great horn player. We had all these cats from the Boston music scene; they are the real deal. I had my regular backing band on it as well. It basically these little ditties I wrote (laughs).

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

WD: I usually just make sure I have some sort of instrument in hand and a pen and paper or a phone I can call into my voicemail. I don’t really check time I just make sure I am always ready. Kind of like Bruce Lee; be like water. Always be ready to form and do whatever the situation needs. I usually make music for Bruce Lee. When I make music, it’s about being on your toes, I always make sure I am on my toes. I don’t ever think about it as a task.

PEV: I can honestly say you are the first person we’ve had that compares the music process to Bruce Lee…

WD: I actually think you should compare everything to Bruce Lee.

PEV: Nice. When you go on tour and you are playing, what are the best and worst parts?

WD: Sometime when your are doing the van thing, it is like a ten hour drive, just do wake up in the morning and do a radio show. That can be the worst part. The best part is like, I said, going to Park City for the first time and the room is filled and they want to talk to you, for the first time. That is usually the most rewarding.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Will Dailey show?

WD: All kinds of things. I like to come out in a whisper, with just my guitar. And then the band will come out and by the end we are tearing it up. Kind of like someone fighting Chuck Norris… very, very bloody on stage. It’s that whisper to a scream, it’s that kind of journey I want to take them on. It’s like Billy Joel or Elton John, who can just be at their piano and then all of sudden there are like nine guys on stage; horns and everything is just way over the top.

PEV: When you get to back home, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

WD: Well, I just moved. But sometimes I end up hermit-ing a lot. And kind of just holding up inside my place. I go to see my friends bands in town. I just walk a few blocks and catch some great shows. Maybe watch some movies. Like the other day I saw “Juno” and “There Will Be Blood”… Back to back. It’s very much like my show- “Juno” is very uplifting and then “There Will Be Blood” is very bloody.

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

WD: They don’t think I am crazy anymore. I’m not the black sheep any more. It’s amazing what happens when people start seeing your mug on TV. There is a confidence when you thrust yourself in a career that has no step ladder.

PEV: All of a sudden you were right.

WD: Yeah! All of a sudden everyone knew you were going to make it. And the ones that really did know you were going to make it can be the most dangerous. They like to remind you that they knew it before.

PEV: You get to to a lot of shows, so is there an up and coming artist or band you think we should all be looking into now?

WD: Yes, I’ve played with my new friend Tim Williams, he is great. And my friends from Rhode Island, The Low Anthem, are quite brilliant. My friend George Stanford is good. I love the band Mid Lake. I never get bothered by any of those “End Of Year-Top Albums” lists but it really bothered me when Mid Lake’s album was not on any of them. I was really upset, I was mad at myself that I was really upset.

PEV: Do you find it frustrating with the mainstream media about how artist get out there?

WD: I’m not Bruce Springsteen, so I can’t really complain about what it’s like to do like 50 interviews in one day. But what is interesting is that you have to have like five personal websites – MySpace, Facebook… I mean that is not really my job. There are all these different outlets and you have to put so much energy into it. I mean, which magazine to I pick up now or which website do I go to now? But I think just recognizing it is a large step.

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

WD: Um, surprised to hear about me?… I’m a second degree black belt.

PEV: So, what’s next for Will Dailey?

WD: Touring… and taking my little sister to see “Cloverfield” (laughs). Catching up on my movies. And I’m also demoing a lot. Hopefully put something out in the next year.

PEV: Thanks for taking the time out with us, we really appreciate it.

WD: Thank you!

For more information on Will Dailey, check out www.WillDailey.com

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Today’s Feature – February 17-18: Last Night’s Garbage

February 19, 2008 at 12:50 am (Today's Feature)

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We here at PEV love sites like today’s feature – ones that are truly original with an admirable purpose and mission pushing it along (much like our site, we like to think). Last Night’s Garbage (LNG) is a creative reminder that the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks each day, piecing together a photo blog of the litter in their own backyard: New York City. The identity of those working on the LNG site is a little secretive, but it’s for good reason; “Each person in New York contributes to the waste that is produced. I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures, created by the inhabitants of this city, which last for very short periods of time… Physically these pieces of ‘art’ will never exist again.”

Because of the anoniminity of LNG, we don’t even know who created this blog. But we do know the individual who had a vision shaped out of “junk” was tired of suffering at the hands of the litter hounds in the city while calling an apartment in downtown Manhattan home. Apparently there was “garbage outside the building, garbage in the hallway and garbage on the stairs, garbage everywhere.” In fact, when this unknown tenant would look out each of his four windows, all he could see was garbage… obviously a problem considering the prices of downtown Manhattan apartments. Thus, this all lead to a creative solution: “I thought that if this is what I was paying to look at, then this is what I will look at. I no longer walked down the streets with blinders on. Looking at garbage, I found colors, textures, volume and lines that I had rarely seen anywhere else. I decided to document what I was looking at and post them on the Internet to create a collection.”

Visit the site, and you’ll see there’s more than pictures to it. Some of the stories that coincide with these photos are pretty interesting/hilarious too. And the site also works as “a library of sorts for information about recycling and responsibly discarding your personal waste. It is a resource if you need environmentally friendly information about getting rid of your Christmas tree, computer or electronics, batteries, plastics, and the list goes on.” Keep an eye out for LNG – chances are they’ll soon be expanding out to cities here and abroad, as well as even broadcasting some of these great ideas on our television airwaves. Check out the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Last Night’s Garbage (LastNightsGarbage.com) PensEyeView.com (PEV): How did the concept for Last Night’s Garbage first come about?

LastNightsGarbage.com (LNG): Well, I was still adjusting to my new apartment in downtown Manhattan, not because of the incessant noise of sirens or the signs up in the building warning about burglars coming through ill-installed AC window units. It was because of the garbage: garbage outside the building, garbage in the hallway and garbage on the stairs, garbage everywhere.

The first post on Last Night’s Garbage.com is an actual photo I took to complain to the management company about the garbage problem in and around the apartment building. The copy in that post is a letter to my management company that was inspired by an actual phone conversation I had with the landlord.

You can view that post at http://www.lastnightsgarbage.com/?p=4

I not only had to wade through garbage to get to the front door of my building but once inside my apartment, when I would look out each of my four windows, all I would see was garbage. My apartment was on the first floor and mounds of garbage lined the courtyard and back of the building. Some people pay massive amounts of money for houses that have views of oceans, sunsets, mountains and even city skylines. The fact that I was paying New York City prices for unobstructed views of garbage was the inspiration for Last Night’s Garbage.

I thought that if this is what I was paying to look at, then this is what I will look at. I no longer walked down the streets with blinders on. Looking at garbage, I found colors, textures, volume and lines, that I had rarely seen anywhere else. I decided to document what I was looking at and post them on the Internet to create a collection.

PEV: LNG is an anonymous site… why so secretive?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage isn’t about the vision of one person. I’m really just capturing in an image, what an entire city is creating. Each person in New York contributes to the waste that is produced. I view the garbage on the streets as sculptures, created by the inhabitants of this city, which last for very short periods of time. Either someone comes along and adds to the garbage with more garbage, or someone picks through the garbage and changes it or sanitation workers pick it up and leave room for an entirely new sculpture to take it’s place. Physically these pieces of ‘art’ will never exist again.

PEV: Has anyone ever tried to track down the real person behind the photos or try to offer their own version of the LNG concept?

LNG: I do allow comments on the site and a few people will riff of off a photo and give their two cents. I encourage that. As far as anyone tracking me down… Well if they have tried, I guess they weren’t successful because I haven’t heard from anyone. And no, that isn’t a challenge to anyone.

PEV: What has been the most surprising piece of trash that you have encountered?

LNG: Human hair, toilets, funny and odd self-help books. It’s all pretty surprising because it is such personal objects that are later exposed to everyone. There are surprisingly a lot of baby strollers in the garbage. I envision these kids getting up out the baby stroller and running for the first time like Forrest Gump, when his braces came off.

PEV: The stories on LNG are extremely fascinating and really give you an idea of the person (or persons) behind the most recent disposed piece. What has been your favorite story so far?

LNG: I liked the story of Billy Ray “9 to 5” Rodgers. He was a gambler that came to NYC looking for high stakes Poker games. Unfortunately things didn’t end well for him. I have a few recurring characters and I enjoy writing their stories as well.

PEV: Since you won’t tell us who the people are behind LNG, give us a little insight; what kind like of music does the LNG team to listen to?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage likes, what do the kids call it? Indie music?

PEV: LNG is turning trash into art, a new movement in pop art for the new millennium. What is your take on people that can’t see the site as a work of art of as a pop culture center for discussion and fascination?

LNG: I wouldn’t pressure anyone into thinking that the site is anything more than pictures of trash with semi interesting commentary. But, artists have been using discarded materials for the last one hundred years. I believe that each New Yorker is an artist, because they contribute to the aesthetic of our environment, be it intentionally or not. Duchamp put a toilet in a gallery and he will be in art history books forever. Today a bath and tile guy will put a toilet on the street [to get discarded] and I believe it carries just as valuable a statement. Not the same statement as Duchamp, but it’s own statement.

PEV: Which part of NYC offers the best environment for art and art appreciation?

LNG: Chelsea has the international, big money work. But the Lower East Side is coming into it’s own with a more DIY approach to art. As far as appreciation, Brooklyn has more communities where art is more a way of life instead of an afterthought.

PEV: Growing up, did you ever think you would be living in NYC and talking about the garbage of New York City?

LNG: No. No I did not.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to the success of the site? Well, for those that know who you are.

LNG: People think it’s interesting. No one thinks it’s as odd as I thought they would.

PEV: Ever found something that was very valuable? Or a “buried treasure”?

LNG: I really haven’t. But I do not touch the garbage or have any interest in bringing it home. There are plenty of people in the city that find value in the garbage. A few months ago I was moving and I discarded my mattress on the sidewalk. It took no more than 15 minutes, for a guy to come by with a truck and take it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I guess.

PEV: “Each day the United States throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.” (The Cass County Solid Waste Management District). If there’s one thing you could tell people about reevaluating their disposal of garbage, what would it be? Is it safe to say that LNG recycles?

LNG: Last Night’s Garbage recycles as much as humanly possible. And actually recycling is probably the most interesting aspect that I have learned about from doing this site. Did you know there is a Peanut hotline? When you get a package in the mail and it has all those packing peanuts, there is a number you can call and they will tell you where the nearest peanut drop-off center is and they will connect with a business that can reuse those peanuts. Last Night’s Garbage has become a library of sorts for information about recycling and responsibly discarding your personal waste. It is a resource if you need environmentally friendly information about getting rid of your Christmas tree, computer or electronics, batteries, plastics, and the list goes on. I try to post relevant information about the environment or current articles and opinions about what to do about the problem that we have found ourselves in concerning the environment.

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

LNG: I enjoy the city. That is why doing this site is not that time consuming for me, because I am walking around the city anyway. Now I just have to remember to bring my camera.

PEV: Any plans on taking LNG to another city? Or even overseas?

LNG: I received a great garbage image from France a few weeks ago. I would love to expand Last Night’s Garbage to as many cities as possible.

PEV: If you could look at a celebrity’s garbage, who would it be and why?

LNG: Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. Pregnancy tests and condom packaging have so many stories behind it. I’m looking out for a dumpster baby, although ethically, that may be kind of dicey.

PEV: Whose is more “full of garbage”— Politicians or “Young Hollywood”?

LNG: Both.

PEV: Where do you see LNG in ten years?

LNG: I would like Last Night’s Garbage to be seen by as many people as possible, in as many mediums as possible. A production company approached me because they wanted to base a TV show off of the site. They wanted to have me go around and pick through garbage and talk about it. I don’t know if I’m into that specific idea, but hopefully I can put something together that will expand on this concept.

PEV: Which “borough” of New York, tends to have the most interesting garbage?

LNG: Manhattan just because of the density of people and the fact that there is so much foot traffic on the streets. But Staten Island has the Fresh Kills Landfill which is the largest manmade structure on earth and can be seen with the naked eye from space. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to photograph Fresh Kills.

PEV: What’s one word that comes to mind when you think of New York “garbage”?

LNG: Plentiful. PEV: So, what’s next for Last Night’s Garbage?

LNG: I look forward to expanding Last Night’s Garbage to other mediums so more people can relate to it and find it relevant.

For more information on Last Night’s Garbage, check out www.LastNightsGarbage.com

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Today’s Feature – February 15-16: Mere

February 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm (Today's Feature)

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Mere, the band out of Hoboken, New Jersey is one of those units that are strong on all fronts – they can write, they can play, they can sing, they can put on one hell of a performance… and they stick together through the occasional band inflicted concussion blow. It isn’t unusual to see Mere dive deep and get lost in the lights and sounds of their shows (and those shows tend to be the best ones). So deep that the group’s two guitarists will sporadically catch each other in the face with their swinging instruments. In fact, Brian once caught Brett so flush, that the cut required 15 stitches… after the show. Like I said, Mere is on stage for one thing – to grab their audience by the skull and push those songs through; medical attention comes later.

Braz on the mic, Jonathan on the drum kit and Kyle on bass forms the rest of the 5-piece band, and together they have opened for HUGE acts such as INXS, Seven Mary Three, OK Go, Oasis and The Black Crowes. Their “powerful, hook-oriented music and live show” has been grabbing that kind of attention, as you can tell from their latest release, “Switches & Dials.” The band describes the writing behind it as unique, with “chords and rhythms that go beyond the basic 8-bar, 1-4-5 arrangements… it’s accessible, but not trite. It comes from a really honest place… more melodically focused than a lot of indie music.”

As mentioned a few times before, a live Mere show is explosive and intense. They describe it as “sort of like Ultimate Fighting but with only half as many injuries.” The band is packing up for a European tour right now, but you can catch their music on shows like The Hills, Grey’s Anatomy and Extreme Makeover. That and the album should hold you over until their return to the states. Jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Mere

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us about how Mere first came together as a band.

Brian: Braz & I are both from Colorado, but didn’t know each other. We both independently knew the same producer out here in New York. He knew I was looking to form a project and was looking for the world’s best rock singer, so he introduced me to Braz.

PEV: Being a five piece band, and having five different personalities, what kind of music inspired each of you? Or do you all share the same interests?

Braz: We’re all over the board. I grew up singing gospel music while Brian listened to the Beatles and Kyle was listening to Abba.

PEV: Hailing from New York, New York, what is the New York music scene like?

Kyle: It’s a music lover’s dream–any band you like will pass through town at least a couple times a year. And the music vibe varies depending on where you are…frat-party bands in Hoboken, too-cool indie hipsters in Brooklyn, and Manhattan’s a total mash of pop, rock, and everything else.

PEV: Most people have a misconstrued view of New York City, that it is rougher than it really is. But tell us, what is your favorite part about living in New York?

Jonathan: Chinese takeout at 2 AM.

Brett: From not growing up here, I am always a tourist. I am constantly amused by things that I see on a daily basis that I would never see any place else on the planet.

PEV: On your site, you said that you have an “explosive live show”. What can fans expect from a Mere show?

Brian: It’s sort of like Ultimate Fighting but with only half as many injuries.

Kyle: Expect a lot out of BrazÑhe’s simply one of the best live singers I’ve ever heard.

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

Kyle: I tend to judge a show by whether or not the screaming from the fans is enough to drown out the stage monitors. When I can’t hear my own bass or Brian’s guitar because the crowd’s so into it, that’s the best feeling in the world.

PEV: Any live “war stories” where you couldn’t believe something was happening?

Brian: Many, both on-stage and off! On-stage there are always times where technical stuff goes horribly wrong. The worst was when my amp blew, Kyle’s mic kept cutting out, and I broke strings on three different guitars in one night.

Brett: I’d cite the time Brian caught me in the face with his guitar. I bled the whole show and then had to go get 15 stitches.

PEV: Having opened for national acts like INXS, OK Go, Oasis, and The Black Crowes, who is the one group or artist that you would love to share the stage with?

Kyle: ABBA. Maybe lcd soundsystem.

Brian: Kula Shaker, mostly because it would mean they were back together. I’d love to play with Counting Crows also.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Switches & Dials”.

Kyle: It’s just ridiculously catchy. All of it. And Brian’s a different kind of songwriter than most pop-rock writers. The chords and rhythms he uses go beyond the basic 8-bar, 1-4-5 arrangements. That’s evident especially on songs like Lifeline, Through Me, and Run.

PEV: How is “Switches & Dials” different than other music out there today?

Braz: I think there are a lot of great bands doing great things, but I think this album finds its own space. It’s accessible, but not trite. It comes from a really honest place, which I think sets it apart from a lot of mainstream music, whereas it is more melodically focused than a lot of indie music.

Brian: Sonically and dynamically it’s also a big album, but without getting monochromatic like a lot of dynamic albums.

PEV: You’ve had songs appear on MTV (The Hills), Grey’s Anatomy, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (to name a few). Did you like how the songs were used?

Brian: Actually, our experiences with song licenses have all been really positive. The agencies and producers we’ve dealt with have all been great.

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

Brett: We talk about politics and religion as much as we talk about music.

PEV: When the band isn’t performing or traveling what can we find you doing in your spare time?

Brian: Writing songs. We write about 10-15 songs for every one that makes it onto an album.

PEV: What have been your favorite places to play so far?

Brian: We’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of cool places. I love outdoor shows, so for me probably Fiddler’s Green (opening for Oasis) back home in Colorado was the highlight. Others on my list would be Warsaw out in Brooklyn, Maxwell’s in Hoboken, and the Viper Room in LA.

PEV: What is road life like for the band?

Braz: A lot of fun and fast food.

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

Braz: You know, they’ve been really supportive, even though music is a career choice that can be harder on loved ones than most jobs. And they’re proud of our accomplishments – I get calls from back home saying “I heard your song on TV!”

PEV: Where do you see Mere ten years from now?

Kyle: On a reunion tour. Braz will be fresh out of rehab, so it will be the perfect time to get back on the road.

PEV: In one word, describe Mere.

Jonathan: Delicious.

PEV: What has been the best part about your career so far?

Braz: Just getting to play our music and do what we love, and to see people really respond. We get random emails saying they love the album and how much a certain song means to them – that is really cool.

PEV: So, what is next for Mere?

Brian: We’re setting up a European tour right now. A few weeks after we released Switches & Dials, I noticed we were getting a bunch of orders from France and Germany. Apparently a couple DJs at French radio stations heard it online and started spinning it, and it caught on. So, it’s gives us a good excuse to go to Europe!

For more information on Mere, check out www.Mere.net/

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Today’s Feature – February 13-14: Cary Brothers

February 14, 2008 at 10:30 pm (Today's Feature)

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Honestly, Cary Brothers thumped the eardrums of America with a sonic boom when his soft spoken tune, “Blue Eyes” appeared on the soundtrack of “Garden State,” a film that starred and was directed by good friend Zach Braff. But “Blue Eyes” certainly isn’t what defines the young musical career of the strikingly gifted Brothers. Rather, the process that created this almost legendary soundtrack is a story that defines an artist.

Brothers and Braff, classmates at Northwestern University and former struggling artists in Los Angeles, California, came together to form an album built on raw impulse and enthusiasm, following a course that was strictly organic. Brothers discusses the procedure of musically defining Garden State: “the night before he (Braff) sent that script out to investors, he came over my house and just sat with my CD collection and made a mix tape to send out with the script. He wanted them to listen to it as they read it to give a better idea of what the movie would be like. That soundtrack was really like a mix tape – just some friends coming over and throwing out song ideas. So it worked and I think that’s why it worked.”

Today, Brothers is a leader on the indie music scene with songs containing a balanced array of influences from 80’s British Pop New Wave to the tones of 70’s folk music. His debut album, “Who You Are,” includes songs that genuinely grew along with Brothers. A musician dedicated to his fan base, Cary sticks to the road more often and not, allowing his songs to mature before they enter the recording studio. His audience is a key element in his musical method as he tempts and finesses them with melodies never heard before.

You’ve probably already experienced more Cary Brothers than you realize – his songs have appeared on shows like Scrubs, Bones, Smallville, Grey’s Anatomy and ER. You can experience him live as well – as usual, he’ll be touring the country soon… not to mention Europe as part of the “Hotel Cafe Tour.” And if that wasn’t enough, HIS new label is starting to take shape. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Cary Brothers

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Hey Cary, how’s everything going?

Cary Brothers (CB): Great. I’m navigating myself through rainy Los Angeles right now.

PEV: I thought it’s always sunny in Southern California?

CB: Yeah but when it rains, just a slight drizzle, people act like it’s a blizzard. People have no idea how to f–kin’ drive in the rain here.

PEV: So, you have a new tour coming up, right?

CB: Everything is about to start up again. I was on the road for like eight months last year and got off around Christmas. I had a little break time and then it starts all over again.

PEV: What did you do for Christmas?

CB: Just went back with my family. My family all lives in Nashville… Took some time off and now just really enjoying sleeping in my own bed.

PEV: How’s life in Nashville different than in LA?

CB: I mean, growing up in Nashville I hated it. But now, the music scene there, rivals anything I’ve seen. They have let go of just being a country town. There are so many people in Nashville that I want to play with.

PEV: Have you played in Nashville?

CB: It’s always a stop on the tour but I haven’t spent a whole lot of time there. I usually get back there like every three months or something like that.

PEV: How have all your friends and family back home in Nashville reacted to your career?

CB: I think my family is just shocked in awe that I can just pay my bills playing music for a living (laughs). Half of the joy is that my mom always brags about me to her friends… She has bragging rights now (laughs).

PEV: When you talk to your friends from high school is a little weird that you are all over the place, touring, they can buy your music.

CB: Yeah, I mean it’s a little bizarre. Like going out to dinner with friends of mine back home, some kid at the table next to me notices me. But I’ve been doing this for so long that any time someone notices me, I get excited.

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

CB: Well, growing up in Nashville, I was surrounded by country stuff but I wasn’t such a country fan. I kind of reacted against country. I grew up listening to The Cure… Brit-Pop kind of stuff. It wasn’t until I left Nashville that I started to appreciate country.

PEV: And when you were at college at Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois), was that how you broke into music?

CB: I wrote songs since I was thirteen when I got my first guitar. I had my little tape recorder and I would record songs but I was just doing it for me… like therapy more than anything. I never had any intentions (then) of going out and starting a band. I was an English major in college and I started a little band and played at some frat parties to make some money, stuff like that. But it wasn’t until I moved out here (LA) and I was working in film production and helping a lot of other people realize their dreams, working as their script writer and stuff. Then I thought, ‘I’m going home and writing songs and then spending all day helping people do this… what if I just one hundred percent just went for it?’ Then I just started my whole life over. I figured come hell or high water. Then I started playing open mics in town.

PEV: I want to touch on your role in “Garden State”. The soundtrack is one of the best of all time and your song “Blue Eyes” was a part of it. Tell us about that experience.

CB: You know that soundtrack, I was just happy to be a part of. Zach Braff and I went to Northwestern together and we kind of knew each other but it wasn’t really until I moved out to LA… When I made the decision to start over and was playing open mics, taking odd jobs, he was waiting tables before he was acting for a living. And he had this movie he kept talking about that he wanted to write about Jersey. He would have the script every now and then and I’d read it, give him notes. When the movie came together, he used the leverage of “Scrubs” to get that together. We were huge music nerds and would always go to shows in LA together. The night before he sent that script out to investors, he came over my house and just sat with my CD collection and made a mix tape to send out with the script. He wanted to them to listen to it as they read it to give a better idea of what the movie would be like. Then once he got the financing for it, no one really knew him as a director so there weren’t that many expectations for it. When the real soundtrack came together, he asked me to put “Blue Eyes” on there. I was just happy to have something out there. And at that time, no one knew what the movie was going to be like, if the soundtrack was even going to get released.

That soundtrack was really like a mix tape – just some friends coming over and throwing out song ideas. So it worked and I think that’s why it worked. It was so organic. At no time did anyone come down from above and say, ‘Oh wait, that won’t work or you have to put this band on.’ It just worked as a collection. It can never happen again. People try to put “Garden State” soundtracks together and it just won’t ever work.

PEV: Do you and Zach ever sit back and think that when you were taking odd jobs, your lives would be like they are today?

CB: We always really creatively kind linked to each other. It was like, ‘If I ever find something then you have something’ and vice versa. But yeah, it is kind of crazy to do what we can for a living. I mean, I am lucky as hell for sure.

PEV: Tell me about the debut album, “Who You Are”.

CB: I was on the road forever. So when I had a chance I’d hop into the studio with my producer and knock out a couple songs. Then go on tour, make some money and then go back in. That record to me was great because I went in with songs that I wanted and going on the road again and again, the songs just really grew up and matured a lot. That is why I loved having the experience to tour so much. It is a reflection of my roots… a lot of Brit-Pop stuff but in the end of the day, I’m still just a kid from Nashville with my acoustic guitar.

PEV: What has been the best part and worst part about touring?

CB: Really just connecting with people. People can be real hot and cold sometimes but being a fan, a fan is a fan for life. Just making that personal connection. I record songs in a room and then throw it out there and seeing what happens. That being said, I was out for eight months last year, it wears you down after a while. I was really disconnected with any human life at home. I realized I need to really pace myself.

PEV: What has been the best place to play so far?

CB: Well, I played the Bowrey Ballroom in New York and sold it out this summer and it was really the highlight of my life. New York crowds can be tough and when you go big they are there and when you go really mellow they shut up.

PEV: What’s your take on the New York VS LA music scene?

CB: I’m so wrapped like seriously in love with the LA music scene. The Hotel Cafe, the room I play here is really where I got my start. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. My New York friends really wish they had something like it there.

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

CB: I really like this guy William Fitzsimmons. He opened for my tour this summer. Just some really, really beautiful acoustic stuff.

PEV: Is there someone you haven’t collaborated with that you would like to?

CB: You mean like dream collaboration?

PEV: Yeah.

CB: I mean, I want to make a record with Peter Gabriel one day.

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

CB: I think on thing that people would be surprised to hear is that I’m an official member of of the Jack Daniels Tennessee Squires (laughs).

PEV: Really? What exactly is the Jack Daniels Tennessee Squires?

CB: You know it’s funny, when you go out and play these sad mellow tunes, people expect you to be sad and mellow but I’m quite the opposite. I like to write music for one part of me and then live outside of that. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to be nominated to be a Tennessee Squire and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ And Jack Daniels actually has a secret club of squires and you actually get a plot of land in Lynchberg, Tennessee and you become a member and any time you can drink in this private drinking room. The town is dry so you can drink in this one room. I am going to make sure to route my next tour through there.

PEV: That sounds pretty cool!

CB: Yeah it is (Laughs).

PEV: What’s a live Cary Brothers show like?

CB: I’m really big on dynamics. Some people can kind of get up on stage and go from that. But I like play a lot of rock and then come down to the acoustic guitar. I like to create an arch with my performance… peaks and valleys.

PEV: When sit down to write music is there a certain environment you have to be in?

CB: Corner of my bedroom man, with my little tape recorder. With touring, I haven’t been able to write as much. I mean, some people can write in hotel rooms and stuff but when I’m done playing shows I just want to go home and go to bed. I’m not the kind of guy that after a show will see some people walking around the streets of Chicago and then go back and write a song about people in Chicago from that night. I like to just disconnect. I don’t know how it happens but I’m just happy that it does.

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

CB: I’m pretty much just watching movies and trying to reconnect with friends… whatever friends I have left when I come home! I’m just like a crazy movie geek. So I’ll come home off the road and try to catch up with things before I have to go back out on the road again.

PEV: What movie have you seen lately that your really liked?

CB: I saw Cloverfield the other day and it was pretty f–king amazing!

PEV: Alright, nice plug for Cloverfield. So, what is next for you?

CB: Well, taking a little time off and then do some writing. I’m doing some stuff with some friend’s music. I actually am starting my own label and look into artists that I really like to start working with. Then March 6th we start the next Hotel Cafe tour. Go over to London, UK and Europe. Get back the end of May, get some rest and then start all over again.

PEV: Cary thanks so much for taking time out with us. Best of luck.

CB: No problem man, it was good to talk to you brother.

For more information on Cary Brothers, check out www.CaryBrothers.com

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Today’s Feature – February 11-12: Shwa Losben

February 12, 2008 at 1:04 am (Today's Feature)

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “threat” of a recession to the U.S. economy. Some of you may not realize it, but there is both good and bad news associated with this typically unpleasant subject. The bad news is… well, people freak out, grab their money and run out of wall street causing businesses to come crashing down with a depressing thud. I know it all sounds dreadful, but the good news is that if it wasn’t for the staggering economy we wouldn’t have this emerging artist with unreal promise – a gentleman that has been compared to Elliott Smith and Coldplay on an everyday basis, Shwa Losben. To put it simply, after Shwa wrapped up his undergraduate career at American University, he turned to music because… he couldn’t get a job anywhere. See? Thanks recession!

Shwa started taking his musical career a little more seriously while he was at American, landing a regular gig at the Grog and Tankard where he first noticed his fans memorizing the words to his songs. “It was a great feeling,” Losben recalls, and it was likely the catalyst that catapulted him to his current position in the rock world, preparing to release his latest and highly anticipated album, “Chop Chop.” Drawing from his life experiences, Shwa comments “Every song tells a story from a unique perspective. In a lot of ways, I feel like IÕve found my voice with this album.” It’s not just a more focused effort lyrically on this album however – Losben is also excited about the new sounds that can be heard at every musical corner on the collection, “At one point we had Dony (Wynn) banging on a toaster with a spoon and Taylor playing mouth trumpet into a microphone that we ran through distortion. It was a lot of fun.”

After the record drops, the band will be taking to the road in support so check out the show dates. Make sure you get to one where you’ll see “Fire dancers. Lots of animals running on the stage. And gift bags.” Did I mention Shwa did some comedy in a former life? Get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Shwa Losben

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

Shwa Losben (SL): I guess I was always making up songs, even when I was little. I played trumpet for a couple years starting when I was in 4th grade. That was a train wreck. I was always last chair in beginning band, second trumpets. That’s real bad.

PEV: Growing up in Holland, PA, a small town outside of Philadelphia, what kind of music where you listening to?

SL: It feels like I was listening to something new every day, but most of it was grunge and brit-rock. I started with Pearl Jam and Nirvana then moved on to Radiohead and Pulp. This was back when listening to music was the form of recreation for me, not just something I listened to while walking or driving somewhere. But yea, I was big into Elliott Smith, Smashing Pumpkins,the Beatles, and Dinosaur Jr. too.

PEV: Was there certain time or even when you decided that music was going to be more than just a hobby for you?

SL: Probably right after college when I couldn’t find a job anywhere. I blame the economy for my music career.

PEV: What was your first live performance like? When and where was it?

SL: Wow. I played a show at my junior high in 7th grade. We played bad Aerosmith and Beatles covers. I’m pretty sure we were booed. At the very least made fun of.

PEV: From that first time playing live, did you think you’d be where you are now?

SL: probably not. Then again, I’m still living off grilled cheese and PB and J. I’m not really living the dream just yet.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Shwa Losben performance?

SL: Fire dancers. Lots of animals running on the stage. And gift bags.

PEV: Tell us about your latest album, “Chop Chop”? What can fans expect from this?

SL: I’m pretty stoked about it. I think the songs are all really strong. There are a lot of cool instruments on it too. At one point we were playing mouth trumpet and running it through distortion. We banged spoons on a toaster. We used kid keyboards from the 80s. Just a lot of cool sounds. At the same time I feel like there’s a lot of open space in the songs which is a cool thing too.

PEV: How is “Chop Chop” different from your previous releases, “Tender”and “Just a Thought”?

SL: well Tender was really just a rough demo cd I made for my friends so I kinda pretend like it didn’t happen. It was pretty bad, so “Chop Chop” is way better than that! “Just a Thought” was a lot more of a Brit-rock break-up record and I think “Chop Chop” is more of an indie singer/songwriter CD if that makes any sense at all.

PEV: “Chop Chop” has been earning comparisons to Elliott Smith and Coldplay. Do you feel that is an adequate comparison? Albeit, I’m sure a very flattering one.

SL: Probably not at all! I think in some respects there are similarities. “Chop chop” has a low-fi sound at times and it’s pretty easy to spot Elliott Smith’s influence. To be honest, I think “Just a Thought” is a lot easier to compare to Coldplay. They’re both great so I’ll take it!

PEV: Is there an artist today that you would like to collaborate with and why?

SL: Hmmm. There are so many out there. I think writing a song with Guster would be a blast. They just seem like fun people. In my experience, if you’re having a good time, good songs will follow. If you’re on edge, no matter how talented the people are, it’s a lot harder.

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

SL: Tad Dreis. One of the most talented guys I know. I love his song “Give it Away If I Can.”

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

SL: At the moment Apples in Stereo. Been listening to Athlete’s new one too.

PEV: Having played and traveled throughout the US and overseas, which city do you think offers the best scene for music?

SL: I guess it all really depends on where you’re at. There are countless great shows going on every night in New York and you never know who you’ll see. I’ve been going to Rockwood Music Hall late night and there’s definitely a strong “scene” there even if the city feels like it lacks one at other times.

For a band starting out, I think DC has one of the strongest scenes in the country. I really mean that. It was really nurturing for us and there’s a good open mic every night. I’m always impressed with Philadelphia too. The local radio stations and venues seem devoted to finding new talent.

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

SL: Not really at all. I’ll scribble ideas on paper. Some of my best songs come to me while I’m walking and I just record the melody into my phone’s voice recorder.

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

SL: I’m color-blind and afraid of clowns.

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

SL: they’ve all been immensely supportive, especially my parents. I think they wanted me to go to grad school at first but after they saw my CD in shrink-wrap, they became my biggest fans. I think they’ve sold more CDs than anyone else!

PEV: Your senior year at American University (AU), you won the AU 72-Hour Film Festival award as well as the stand-up comedy challenge. Was acting and film making something you always aspired to do and still would like to along with music?

SL: Totally. Musicians turned actors seem to get more respect than actors turned musicians though.

PEV: What has been the most memorable part of your career so far?

SL: For whatever success I’ve had, I still think the excitement of my first shows in Rome back when I was in college were the most memorable. It’s a pretty big rush when people sing the words to your songs back to you.

PEV: In one word, describe Shwa Losben?

SL: Diva

PEV: So, what is next for Shwa Losben?

SL: 2008’s tour of Doom. I’ll be on the road a bunch this year. I hope to record another record with the DC band next summer too. We have the songs so it’s just a question of finding the time. It’s gonna be a busy year.

For more information on Shwa Losben, check out www.ShwaMusic.com

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Today’s Feature – February 9-10: Robert Feldman

February 10, 2008 at 12:09 am (Today's Feature)

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So you walk into the studio of the animator and creator of some of the most popular horror cartoons in the world, and what do you find? Probably something like a creepy clown coin bank made out cast iron or something at least as ominous as that. Well if you wandered into Robert Feldman’s studio, the guy behind terror cartoons, “Dr. Shroud” and “The Hyrde,” you’d find exactly that. Then you’d turn around to see…of all things… a lot of bright lights and some relaxing scenery. Eh, well, not so scary. While his office isn’t exactly frightening, that doesn’t mean he can’t send a few cold shots down your spine with his gore-intensive work.

Feldman’s creations, Dr. Shroud (a plastic surgeon and reformed vampire trying to save his daughter) and The Hyrde (Inspector Spectre, Ghoul Gal and Zombor, supernatural beings sworn to protect a lone trap-door to the Netherworld) are quite different in their approach, but there are some characteristics they share. It’s something a part of each and every one of us can identify with; “the tortured soul aspect… they all want something they can’t have.” Both of these cartoons also come out of Feldman’s own EarWorm Media, a company focused on producing animated content for mobile devices and the web for markets around the world. The episodes have been catching such significant attention that you’ll soon notice them popping off the web and rolling out on VCast around the country and on other services in the UK and Asia.

The big screen could be the next stop for Dr. Shroud and the Hyrde. In fact, in the words of Mr. Feldman, “right now the script is being read by a pretty big studio, so… we’ll see what happens.” Either way, the potential for the horror cartoon genre can only expand with creators like Robert Feldman around. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Robert Feldman

PensEyeView.com (PEV): As the animator and creator for both Dr. Shoud and The Hyrde, how did that start?

Robert Feldman (RF): They started really as a comic book, way back in 1998. I guess the idea itself is about ten years old. I heard this thing “Flash” going around… everyone was talking about “Flash”. I’ve been working in HTML at the time, and friends of mine were telling me how they were doing all this work in Flash and I should check it out. This was about 2000, and right after that the dot-com era crashed. I thought, ‘again, I’m a little bit late.’ But I started to full around with it and taught myself enough about it. Then I launched Dr.Shroud and started putting up episodes. It came pretty easy to me, in that I was just so desperate to get something out there. I realized after the dot-com crash it really provided an opportunity for a guy like me to do it out of their homes and gain a following. The reach of small press comics, wasn’t getting distributed the way it should and I thought I could reach millions of people on the internet.

PEV: Were you always interested in animation and comics?

RF: In comics, yeah… But not so much animating. I always thought it was out of my reach. I was doing more cell animation, which is much more labor intensive. It was really just really out of people, not only mine, but out of a lot of our reach. Then Flash came along it became possible and I got into the animation portion. There are the traditionalists that will discount Flash but if you can produce something that is good animation wise, and you may not have training.

PEV: Do you have an art background?

RF: Yeah I do. For the most part I self taught but always took classes in high school and college. I have a degree in graphic design. It was always there, no matter how many times I tried to ignore it. It didn’t really fit into my life in at certain points but now I completely embrace all aspects of it.

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

RF: Um, you know, I guess it was more 80’s comics. I grew up with the whole Marvel thing. Captain America, X-Men. But moving into the 80s when I really got into it, I was reading a lot of X-Men. I mean at that time, everything was about X-Men, all about Wolverine. He was so cool! Now he’s kind of cliche. Then Alpha Flight. Later on I started reading some Hellboy. But really it was a lot of independant stuff… the one shot ones. The kind of stuff that isn’t really published any longer. I like what is new and different.

PEV: How has the web affected how people reach out to the comic world? More attention to comics?

RF: There is still a division, I think. You have these fans who really love the online animation but may or may not be comic fans. I don’t neccessarily buy comics if they see something online. I do think that we are already collectiong and oppositly gravitating to the web since they already like comics. I think Flash cartoons tend to be pretty funny one shots.

PEV: Who, in your opinion, is the best comic book character of all time?

RF: Of all time?… In the comic book world, I would say Batman. It seems to have the most longevity and fan-base. The animated series, again that is pretty seperate. I mean, I know mine kind of has both worlds, but that is pretty rare. But, I would say online would be Homestar Runner that it relies solely on the attention it gets from its fans. It is pretty self sustaining.

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

RF: Lots of music… and really, hmm… well, it’s actually the opposite of what you see (laughs). The music I listen to is very upbeat. It’s fast, and pretty brightly lit. A lot of the time, I was doing the work at night, usually one in the morning, I have four year old and a one year old, so it gets quite hectic in the house. I would be up at night working to one to two in the morning. Once you hit two in the morning, things get pretty weird (laughs). The environment was pretty much in my living room, working to all hours of the night, trying to get these things done. Now in my office I have a pretty cool setup. It’s not dark and dismal.

PEV: What kind of music are you into now? Who are you listening to?

RF: I’m going through my iPod right now… Some 80’s stuff. Jason Mraz, some old Counting Crows. It’s pretty all over the place. I have some… I’m pretty embarrassed to admit, some Neil Diamond (laughs). Some Tears For Fears, the newer album. Depech Mode.

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

RF: You know, that’s a good question! Kind of odd. I don’t think they know what to think of it. That’s a really good question!… I’m glad you asked that. I was recently thinking about that. I opened an animation studio, called EarWorm Media. They don’t really get it, they don’t know what it is or where it is distributed. Unless it is on TV, they don’t really know what to make of it. I don’t mean just my family, my friends as well. They are all very supportive though!

PEV: Would you like to see the animations in a movie or on the big screen?

RF: Oh yeah, of course. I would rather see live action, whatever it has to be. In fact right now the script is being read by a pretty big, studio, so… They’re not big-big, but big enough. We’ll see what happens. It’s an 80-90 page script, a lot action and CGI.

PEV: You also have shows with VCast, correct?

RF: The episodes, are being rolled out to all the carriers world wide. It is a very slow and painful process. By painful I mean it is frustrating because you never know where it is at the moment. As the year progresses it will be rolled out to 30 carriers and I’ll be creating new episodes. It is a rolling effect.

PEV: How are the characters in Dr. Shroud and The Hyrde different?

RF: Um, they’re very much the same in that they all share the tortured sole aspect. They all want something that they can’t have. They are very much alike in that aspect and the look. The Hyrde is different in that there is a little bit more comedic relief and they have different personalities in how they handle things. Dr. Shroud is a very serious, tongue and cheek vibe to it. But at the same time, it intentionally eery and sundered. The Hyrde is a lot of action and things happening all at once.

PEV: When you are not working on the sites, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

RF: Chasing my kids around (laughs). And stopping them from putting things on the floor in their mouths (laughs). It’s very frantic.

PEV: Where do you see both works in ten years?

RF: I’d like to see it everywhere; cereal boxes, toothbrushes… But realistically I do see definitely a feature film and some licensing coming out of it. Especially from the mobile side; you build a brand from the mobile device and then it spills outward. The horror genre in general is a hard sell. It is becoming more widely acceptable but the horror cartoon genre doesn’t seem to be well received at times. That does seem to work against me. But on the other side you get films like, “The Corpse Bride” and other darker things that have an following and I see potential for my property to expand. I do see a greater potential as we move forward.

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

RF: Someone refereed to me as meek. And I don’t think they know the meaning of the word (laughs). I mean, I may be a little mild at times but far from meek. You think of the meek mouse and I am the complete opposite.

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

RF: You would find a creepy clown bank, I got off eBay. It’s this cast iron clown bank and when you put a coin in the hand and push a lever in the back and then it eats the coin. Also a good cup of coffee.

PEV: What one word best describes you?

RF: Honest.

PEV: In regards to series, is there an up and coming series or artist that we should all be looking out for?

RF: You got to give it up for James Farr who does the Zombie series. He is really a talented dude. Also, Adam Phillips is pretty good. You know what, between those guys they get a lot of notoriety, so they are not really up and coming. I would say Mark Parker, from College University and Clock Suckers. He is really talented.

PEV: I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

RF: No, no problem, I really appreciate it. I’m sorry I didn’t have a very good answer for the shocking thing about me question. That was a very good question!

PEV: Don’t worry about it (laughs). Thanks again.

RF: Talk to you soon.

For more information on Dr. Shroud or The Hyrde, check out www.DrShroud.com and www.TheHyrde.com

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