Today’s Feature – Decemeber 3-4: Chuck Wicks

December 5, 2008 at 11:59 am (Today's Feature)

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You look at a guy like Chuck Wicks, and may think to yourself, “Damn. That guy was born to sing a song under a spotlight. He’s got it all! It musta been easy!” If this is you, then you’re going to be surprised by his story. The opening sounds kind of nice – Wicks began honing his craft in Nashville by spending years writing and playing alongside Music Row writers such as Monty Powell, George Teren, Rivers Rutherford, Neil Thrasher and Wendell Mobley, seven days a week. Sounds pretty fancy, right?

While this sounds like a bells and whistles start to a successful career, Wicks found himself working with these songwriters at night as well… just in a slightly different format. He says, “I parked cars seven days a week at Fleming’s Steak House. I was writing during the day and working at night. Some of those songwriters that I was writing with, I would actually park their car at night when they’d go out to dinner.”

Humble beginnings have led to huge things today, as Wicks releases his RCA Records debut titled “Starting Now.” You may have already heard his first single off of it, the beautifully written “Stealing Cinderella.” As you might expect, all of those songwriters on Music Row rubbed off on this fresh country artist; Wicks demonstrates some attention grabbing talent on this debut, from his thoughtful song lyrics to the melodies behind them. It’s the kind of music people of all ages can appreciate, and that’s likely the reason he’s been opening for superstar Brad Paisley on tour. Check out Wicks schedule, and look into “Starting Now.” You’ll be glad you did. There’s a lot more to learn in the XXQ’s, so dive in below.

XXQs: Chuck Wicks

PensEyeView.com (Richie): Hey Chuck, thanks for taking time out with me today. Where did I catch you?

Chuck Wicks (CW): I’m on tour right now getting ready for the show… Trying to get all situated.

Richie: How is life on the road for you, speaking of being on the road?

CW: It’s fun. Looking back you know, towards the end of the year, being on road for so many months with Brad Paisley, it has become more home than home is. It’s one of those things where I grew up listening to Brad and there is nothing better than getting off stage and having him pat you on the back, saying ‘Good job’.

Richie: Your hit song “Stealing Cinderella” has really taken off. What is the story behind that song? Is there really a Cinderella?

CW: Well, I went to college in Florida and I started dating a girl who actually played Cinderella at an amusement park. So that’s where the song all started. You know since then, five years later, I eventually made the song to what it is today. That’s what I like to do when I write a song is relating it to something that I know. I like to write about things that you can relate to and things that have really happened. When you have to make stuff up, that is when it gets bad. That’s why I like country music so much.

Richie: From the first time you stepped on stage to where you are today, how has your stage presence and performance changed?

CW: Well, I mean playing with Brad is just amazing. I mean I am now playing at arenas. I go out now and get the chance to play in front of 15,000 people. Now you know, I’ve just become a better performer. It’s just a learning process and trying to figure things out.

Richie: What can people expect from a live Chuck Wicks show?

CW:  I think people will feel like they are a part of the show. I like tell people why I wrote the song… that feeling. That’s what I try to bring to every show, is creating a setting where whether it’s a loud rock song or Stealing Cinderella, I want to make people feel like they are a part of the music.

Richie: What can fans expect from your latest album, “Starting Now”?

CW: Every song on there I’ve written except one, so you can get a good feeling of who I am as a person. Each song comes from the right places and what I’ve experienced. When you sit down and actually speak those words and sing the lyrics it’s just…(laughs) it’s one of those things I’m just really proud of man.

Richie: How have all your friends reacted to your success?

CW: Well, I’m getting ready for a trip back home to play, since all this started. I’m playing on the 25th of January and I’m really excited. It’s a bit of a homecoming for me and I don’t know… It’s great to see everyone and have them come out. I’m really looking forward to it.

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

CW: About me?

Richie: Yeah. You know, what’s like the one thing most fans don’t know.

CW: You know… I think it’s that I’m just such a normal guy. I mean I worry about the same things and stuff. I was getting ready for the CMAs and I remember looking at Juilan (Huff) and saying, ‘Do I look ok? Does this look right?’ (laughs). You know, it’s just like normal things, you know. I mean I grew up in Smyrna, Delaware on a potato farm. I played baseball, chased girls, got C’s in school (laughs). I was never this prodigy that studied music their whole life. I went to college, played baseball there and dreamed of being a baseball player – you know all the things you think about as a kid. It is really just such a normal life.  I mean, I get to go on stage in front of 15,000 people with Brad Paisley and play music. I’m just like everyone else and I get to do what I love to do.

Richie:  You mentioned Julian Huff (From ABC’s Dancing With The Stars) and everyone knows that you are now a couple in the public eye. What do you like to do together for fun when you get to relax?

CW: We are such the normal couple. I mean we like to do the same things – sit around the house, watch movies and eat popcorn.  We talk about what everyone else talks about. We listen to music together and started writing music together. We just like to chill out. We got a dog and love her and it’s just great being together.

Richie: I would imagine dating a professional dancer like Julian would be quite intimidating if you are not a good dancer. Are you a good dancer?

CW: Oh, well… (laughs).

Richie: I mean I would imagine there is a lot of pressure there! (laughs)

CW: No pressure really. You know, I go to watch her show and I go out on the dance floor during rehearsals and just act like a fool (laughs).

Richie:  Has there been a favorite city for you to play so far?

CW: You know, this tour, I’m seeing all the big cities for the first time. So for now, I’m just taking it all in. Every time you get to see all these different things is fun. I love traveling. I love every thing about it.

Richie: So, what’s next for you?

CW: Well, still touring under this record. Started writing some more songs. Just trying to be consistent and keep playing great music.

Richie: Well thank you for the time and tell Brad we say hi.

CW: Thank you. Take care.

For more information on Chuck check out: www.chuckwicks.com

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Today’s Feature – December 1-2: Matt York

December 2, 2008 at 2:06 am (Today's Feature)

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Many of us can all relate to Matt York, the soulful folk singer from the north. The Canadian, like many of us, is a workaholic. We here at PensEyeView feel York’s pain when he says there is “a constant feeling of being behind a little bit.” While we’re still trying to catch up, it seems York is already there. He says, “With this album, I think the fact that the music has matured so much and that there’s a lot more road experience has helped a lot. I’ve learned that I can’t do everything and you just have to let certain things happen for themselves. I’m just enjoying the journey now.”

That album Matt speaks of is a collection called “Mine,” a record that displays influences from the likes of Ben Harper, James Taylor, Jamiroquai, Amos Lee and Ray LaMontagne. Following up on his debut record, “Under the Streetlights,” York has upped his game in every aspect, and not just from a musical and songwriting standpoint. The production itself is even improved, something York hopes his listeners notice and appreciate. Matt talks about the collection, “The album is called ‘Mine’ and basically that refers to taking back some of the things in your life that might have slipped away a little bit… Sometimes things float way from us whether it’s our work, our loved ones, our dreams, whatever. This album is a big push to get those things back.”

If you haven’t seen Matt York, there’s no doubt you’ll have your chance soon. He’s played nearly 500 shows over the last few years with the acts like G. Love & Special Sauce, Stephen Kellogg, Ryan Montbleau and State Radio. His show is something different – the man is going to give you something more than what you already have on the album. Check out that record (available now on iTunes), his DVD titled “Midnight Maddness,” and the XXQ’s listed below.

XXQs: Matt York

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Was there a certain point in your life when you realized the music was going to be career for you?

Matt York (MY): Definitely, I was in my 2nd year of University and started to really get into the Open Mic scene which led to a bunch of club shows around Toronto. I remember being on stage at my first show at a little spot called C’est What? And hearing someone gasp when I first started to sing. That moment affirmed for me that I was doing the right thing and I’ve never looked back.

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

MY: Man, when I was growing up I listened to everything but once I hit high school I found my tastes in music really went away from what my buddies were listening to. While they were all digging Nirvana I was into Boyz II Men, Rare Earth and Stevie Wonder. I had a period where I was REALLY into Our Lady Peace but it’ mostly been funk and soul all the way.

The first concert I ever attended was an Ani DiFranco concert at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. My cousin Andy was her drummer for a while so we got to check out the show which was amazing. I’d say it was a sweet first concert experience for sure.

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country?

MY: Starting out was a lot of fun. Lots of excitement, lots of new fans. I think as I started touring and getting regular gigs was when it got tougher. Once that initial phase of excitement and introducing everyone to your music plateaued it was a lot of work to maintain that level of interest. It’s a constant feeling of being behind a little bit and admittedly I’m a bit of a workaholic so that doesn’t help. With this album, I think the fact that the music has matured so much and that there’s a lot more road experience has helped a lot. I’ve learned that I can’t do everything and you just have to let certain things happen for themselves. I’m just enjoying the journey now (laughs).

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Matt York show?

MY: Pyro! Kidding. Lots of fun, and loads of musical experiences that you can’t get from the record. Some bands go up and play their records note-for-note. We sound like the record, but we don’t play the record if you know what I mean. Each member of the band is so good at what they do that it leads to some pretty magical moments even for us. We have a lot of fun and we think that translates to everyone who comes to see us.

PEV: What’s the first thing that comes to my mind when you step on stage?

MY: Shit. Where did I put my guitar pick? After the initial panic, I like to look into the crowd and be assured that these people are going to go home happy. I get excited.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

MY: Aside from being full-band shows now (when I started it was all solo) there’s a lot more musical freedom on stage. When I was starting I was so worried about getting through the songs and not screwing up that it really hindered the “performance”. Now the band and I are so in tune with each other that it gives us a great opportunity to let loose and challenge ourselves to put on a better show than the night before. Aside from that, there’s obviously some physical differences like bigger clubs, bigger tour van, bigger merch setups. We have a guy who does our merch now which is a HUGE load off of my mind.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? Don’t hesitate…

MY: Well, being Canadian sometimes I run into people making fun of my apparent accent or the way I say “about” (laughs). One time I’m in Philly and I ask the bouncer at the club where the washroom is. He quickly replied “HUH?”. So I asked him again where the washroom was. Again, nothing but a big burly blank stare. I finally clued in and asked him where the “bathroom” was and he said “up the stairs and to the right”. I thought that was hilarious and decided to mention it on stage. BAD IDEA. What I thought was pretty funny apparently wasn’t so much and that whole conversation turned into a shit show. I quickly shut up and finished my set.  I’ve also broken a billion strings and I’m notorious for losing guitar picks on stage.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

MY: There’s a few. I’m a big Jose Gonzalez fan, same with Andrew Bird. Not the answer some people would expect I don’t think but I really dig what they’re doing and I think we could really create something cool. Same with Brett Dennen. Big fan. I think that pairing would be loads of fun.

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

MY: There’s a few local guys from the Toronto area who are amazing. One of them is Brian Macmillan. Think James Taylor but with a little more dirtiness. He’s an incredible songwriter and awesome performer. You’ll see him out there soon enough.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your upcoming release “Mine”? How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

MY: Well, for those people who bought the last record (thanks!) they’ll be pleasantly surprised I think. The album is much more diverse than the last record. Where Under the Streetlights left off, Mine takes it to a whole new level. The writing is much more mature, the band is tighter, the production has evolved and the overall energy of the record is worlds different than the last one. I think this record will make people think a lot more which is awesome. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for this album? Did you find yourself going back to one feeling or emotion more than others?

MY: The album is called “Mine” and basically that refers to taking back some of the things in your life that might have slipped away a little bit. I’m a big believer in taking control of your own life and on the album cover you’ll see a balloon with the word “mine” on it. Sometimes things float way from us whether it’s our work, our loved ones, and our dreams, whatever. This album is a big push to get those things back.

PEV: When you sit down to write an album like “Mine” what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

MY: I had a little writing space in Toronto for a while. It was an awesome place full of vibe where I could sit down, have a beer and work on some music. Sometimes I’d just hang out with friends and not play a note and sometimes I’d go in for 8 or 9 hours and bang out a song. “Those Days” was written in about 5 hours in that little candle-lit room. It’s all about feeling comfortable.

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

MY: I’m a designer. Everything you see that’s designed for the band I do myself. All the merch, posters, album art, etc. I’ve done myself. I’m a big fan of art and design and it really helps to have those skills when working in this industry. Saves you a lot of money!

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

MY: Everyone is so proud of what I’ve accomplished. It’s funny, sometimes you’ll see people from high school you haven’t seen in a while and immediately when they hear you’re in a band people expect mediocrity but when they come to the show they’re genuinely impressed. Then they want to get on the guest list for the next one (laughs).

My family has been amazing. They’re all huge fans and super supportive. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for all of their encouragement.

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

MY: Writing, hanging out with my fiancé, working on design stuff for the band and for other musicians, eating (I’m a big fan), hanging out in Toronto. I also work at a design studio in Toronto (www.filamentlab.com) doing some pretty cool stuff. I like to stay busy.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

MY: Good parts…. Fun. Lots of fun. Going on the road with your buddies to play music is an amazing thing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love going to new cities everyday and being able to play music for people every day. There’s lots of amazing experiences that I’ve had on the road and I’m grateful for the opportunity. The bad…. Sometimes it’s hard to travel for an extended period of time especially if you’re flying quite a bit. It also gets very expensive especially with a band. Being away from home for a long time can suck so we try and keep a good balance. I’ve had some experiences where club owners wouldn’t pay, where no one showed up, where we lost money, lost gear… all that shit. But you pick up and move on because at the end of the day you’re doing what you love.

PEV:  In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

MY: Well, I haven’t been to all of them yet but from my experience Japan was pretty awesome. People in Tokyo were totally into their music. They still had that fire in the belly for new music which you don’t find everywhere anymore. There’s a few cities in the US that I get that feeling in too. I love playing in New York. It’s been a great city for me and the people are awesome. I’m looking forward to hitting Austin and Nashville soon. I’ve heard great things. Also really want to hit Germany, France and Belgium. I’ve got some amazing fan response out there and I can’t wait to go and play – I’ve heard it’s magical.

PEV: Ten years from now, where do you see your career?

MY: Probably in writing. I honestly can’t see me touring for the next ten years unless we hit DMB status where touring is our thing. Ideally I’ll tour for a bunch of years and then I’ll settle down into production or my own label. I’ll always be in the industry, I just think after while touring might be a lot to handle especially since I’d like to have a family.

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

MY: Europe. Anywhere in Germany, Holland, France, Belgium… I have friends who have gone over there and especially for the style of music I play there’s a huge appreciation for music in general. I find sometimes in North America we see music as disposable or we’re too cool for music. Out there, from what I’ve heard, music is still treasured and I’m excited to experience that one day.

PEV: So, what’s next for Matt York?

MY: Touring for now. We just released “Mine” on iTunes and it’ll be in stores in January across the US. Lots of promo, lots of shows and lots of fun. We’re on the road in the US for a couple weeks starting November 21st. From there I’d really like to start looking at getting the music into film/television. That’ll be the next challenge (laughs).

For more information on Matt York, check out: www.mattyork.com

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Today’s Feature – November 29-30: Passenger

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

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I like this little one-liner that our latest band feature, Passenger, uses to explain their music (more than any string of lines I can come up with). Their sound is simply described as: “Tongue in check sinister pop.” At first the five words didn’t make sense to me – the first song I heard from the band was a cover of “Umbrella,” and their sweet, angelic take on the hit didn’t sound like anything sinister to me. But once you dive into a few other tunes… ones like “Night Vision Binoculars;” then you start to get that sinister part.

Lead singer Mike Rosenberg dives into a deep and passionate tale all about stalking on this track, and not the way the Police did it in the 80’s with “Every Breath You Take.” This song has details – lots of details. While songs like this exist on the “Night Vision Binoculars” EP as well as on the debut album, “Wicked Man’s Rest,” Rosenberg says “Even my darkest songs have a sense of humor. The worst crime you can commit in pop is taking yourself too seriously… In the end it’s about storytelling – creating characters and sending them off on a journey.”

Overall the record and the EP explore bits of every day life – the kind of stuff all of us see every day. Most of us are too lazy to dive a little deeper into these things, past any superficial exterior. That’s where Passenger excels. They’ve been touring all over, playing with the likes of Kate Nash, Scouting for Girls, Seth Lakeman and The Hold Steady. Check them out for yourself when you get the chance (which may not be for a while – they’re starting work on the second album shortly). So take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself! Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Passenger

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Was there a certain point in your life when you realized the music was going to be career for you?

Passenger: I don’t know if there was a certain point. I think it was more of a gradual thing. Becoming less and less interested in school work and spending more time writing and playing. Eventually I left school because it was the only thing I wanted to do.

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

Passenger: Well my Dad is originally from the states so growing up I heard a lot of things like Neil Young, the beach boys and James Taylor and when I got to my teens started getting in to people like the Kinks. The first big gig I remember going to was The Stones when I was about 15. It blew my little mind !

PEV: Was music always, constantly around you or was it something that you discovered outside of your home, on your own?

Passenger: Yeah, music’s always been about, as I said my Dad is a big music fan and they were always really supportive about things like lessons and equipment. I was really lucky to have that.

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country?

Passenger: Hard, as it is for most people I think. I had dropped out of school and moved out of home when I was 17 and was working as a chef whilst trying to write and perform on the side. It’s just so difficult to find the energy to put in to music when you’ve been working for hours in a sweaty kitchen.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Passenger show?

Passenger: I think lots of energy. We really go for it live.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out? Is there a certain time that you started to get more comfortable on stage?

Passenger: Its something that has slowly been getting better as I’ve gone along. Getting up in front of people and performing is a really fine line to tread and you make a lot of mistakes on the way. I think it just gets easier the more you do it.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories?

Passenger: I can remember one of my first gigs that I played; it was in a bar in Brighton on a Saturday night. The P.A system wasn’t loud enough and I snapped a string after strumming too hard, someone laughed at me and I just completely lost it, saying things like … ‘you think this is f**king funny?!’ over the mic. It makes me cringe thinking about it.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

Passenger: It’s a really tough call but after listening to in rainbows by Radiohead, I think it’s got to be them. I have so much respect for the way they’re constantly challenging themselves with every album. Going in a totally different direction and not only making it work but making it brilliant, music, lyrics, production all outstanding! So Tom if you’re reading….

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

Passenger: Yeah a Scottish guy called Alan McKim . He’s a real diamond in the rough and a top bloke!

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your latest release? How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

Passenger: This is actually our first record and I think you can expect a mix of catchy pop tunes with a dark side to them and some quite depressing (in a good way) slower songs that are hopefully an honest set of stories about everyday people

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for this album? Did you find yourself going back to one feeling or emotion more than others?

Passenger: I think there are a few themes that run through the album. One seems to be about people growing older and possibly regretting what they have or haven’t done. I think as I said I’ve just tried to write all the songs with honesty as I think that’s the most important thing in music.

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

Passenger: All sorts. I do a lot of writing at night as I seem to get a lot of ideas then and it’s quiet. But songs can pop up anywhere to be honest. I’ve started writing quite a lot on the road.

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

Passenger: That none of us have any teeth.

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

Passenger: They keep my feet firmly on the ground, so firmly sometimes that I think you could consider it to be bullying.

PEV: When you are not touring and performing, what can we find the members of the band doing in their spare time?

Passenger: Well, I can’t speak for the others and to be honest you probably wouldn’t be aloud to print most of it. I like walking, drinking, reading and watching wildlife documentaries …ROCK AND ROLL!

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

Passenger: Good parts: being able to meet knew people everyday. It really makes you feel like your doing something amazing. Bad parts: coming home is always really hard, you go from being really busy to nothing and always takes a few days to feel normal again.

PEV:  In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

Passenger: I really don’t know about music scenes to much, but as far as cities go, I love New York, obvious I know, but it is such an exciting place.

PEV: Ten years from now, where do you see the band’s career?

Passenger: Playing holiday camps and cruise ships to old people.

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

Passenger: Well, we’ve played quite a few American cities but not Seattle and I’ve always wanted to go there.

PEV: So, what’s next for Passenger?

Passenger: A cup of tea I should think, but long term we are starting on the second album in the next few weeks and once that’s done hopefully coming out to see you lovely people again.

For more information on Passenger, check out: www.myspace.com/passengerofficial

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Today’s Feature – November 27-28: Zona Jones

November 27, 2008 at 10:59 am (Today's Feature)

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It’s kinda funny to me that the bio of country singer Zona Jones opens with the line, “While George Jones was the first to put Beaumont on the country music map…” Sure, George Jones has quite the history, but honestly, Zona Jones is blazing a path unique and captivating on its own – he doesn’t need to follow in anyone’s footsteps. Here’s the abbreviated version of the background:

“After working as a kid after school and during the summers on the ranch for his dad, Zona decided education was the ticket to getting a job somewhere there was air-conditioning. Zona received his undergraduate degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He went on to earn a law degree which, in turn, landed him a job at a prestigious firm in Beaumont, Texas. It was there, much to his surprise, Zona found a booming musical community. After forming the band SwingWest, Zona began hitting the Texas club and dance hall circuit.”


Today, Zona is riding solo and has signed with Rocky Comfort Records to continue his already successful musical career… all the while still practicing friggin’ law! How impressive is that? Somehow he’s found time to release an album titled, “Harleys & Horses,” which has been all over the Texas Music Charts, including the a hit with plenty of radio play called “Two Hearts.” Jones talks about the collection, “Well, this record was really neat because it has a lot of flavor to it; it had a lot of texture to it and a wide variety of music that speaks to people from top to bottom.” Definitely check it out, and keep an eye out for the future album called “Prove Me Right.” You can already buy one single off it on iTunes; the attention grabbing “You Should’ve Seen Her This Morning.” There’s still much to learn, so get into the XXQ’s for a lot more.

XXQs: Zona Jones

PensEyeView.com (Richie): Hey Zona, where’d I catch you right now?

Zona Jones (ZJ): I’m actually on the road right now. We have a show outside Houston.

Richie: Speaking of being on the road how is life on the road for you?

ZJ: You know, it’s great! We enjoy playing music and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. To play and to be out on the road is great… it’s the stress of being away from home that isn’t always the best. It’s all worth it to be out on stage though (laughs).

Richie: Where is home for you?

ZJ: I live in Beaumont, Texas.

Richie: What kind of music were you listening to growing up?

ZJ: All man, everything. Everything from Journey, Elvis, Beatles, country of course. All kinds of music.

Richie: I have to ask you about your name… Zona is an interesting name.

ZJ: Well yeah, it’s pretty rare. But actually now that I’ve been out more, I’ve had some people say they know a Zona as well. But the “Reader’s Digest story”, goes like this, my dad was on the rodeo circuit and when my mom was pregnant with me, about to go into labor, he missed a big rodeo that was in Phoenix, Arizona. So since he couldn’t be there he and my mom decided to name me Zona, short for Arizona.

Richie: What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

ZJ: Well, let’s see… I just have to have no interference – no phone calls… where it’s quite and then a pencil and paper.

Richie: How has your performance changed since your first time on stage to where you are now?

ZJ:  My first all time performance was in Jasper, Texas. And I’d say from where I am now from them, there are a lot more people watching (laughs).

Richie:  Well, I’d say you come quite a long way since then (laughs).

ZJ:  We did it ok then but now we just do it a lot better (laughs).

Richie: Tell us what can people expect from your latest release, “Harleys & Horses”?

ZJ: Well, this record was really neat because it has a lot of flavor to it; it had a lot of texture to it and a wide variety of music that speaks to people from top to bottom. So when we have the new record that will be out next year, I think we have an even better record on our hands.

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

ZJ: Well, most people are surprised that I’m a lawyer and I have my own practice.

Richie: That is pretty interesting! I didn’t know that. What was it like when you made the switch from lawyer to musician? I would think that a lawyer is a much steadier career path.

ZJ: Well, I still practice. It wasn’t a real transition for me. I started playing music years ago with my band. When I started my practice it became successful and being the boss I could allow myself to go and play some shows… I mean no one was going to tell me I couldn’t (laughs). But I am still very involved in the practice.

Richie: And when you’re not playing, practicing law or touring, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

ZJ: Hunting and fishing. It something I really enjoy doing and try to whenever I get a chance. It feels good to get out there and go hunting and fishing.

Richie: So, what’s next for Zona Jones?

ZJ:  Well, we’re going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been fortunate enough to play regularly now. And we are getting ready for the release of the new album.

Richie: Well thanks for taking the time out with me Zona and best of luck on tour.

ZJ: Thank you very much, I appreciate the time brother.

For more information on Zona, check out: www.ZonaJones.com

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Today’s Feature – November 25-26: White Lies

November 27, 2008 at 10:57 am (Today's Feature)

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Don’t be fooled – while UK-based band White Lies has formed a clearly advanced sound, they’re not some band who burst onto the scene just this year. They were known as Fear of Flying from 2005 until earlier this year, and put out some great stuff including two double A-side vinyl singles: “Routemaster/Round Three” and “Three’s a Crowd/Forget-Me-Nots.” However members Harry McVeigh, Charles Cave and Jack Lawrence-Brown soon realized their music was taking them to a level they’d never been before; a place that a band like Fear of Flying couldn’t exist. Thus the introduction of White Lies, complete with a compelling, darker sound, something they feel is best described as “Cathedral Pop… cinematic and yet tender at times.”

In preparation for their new record, “To Lose My Life” (available January 12th), White Lies has released an EP called “Death,” a sort of appetizer for what is to come. Harry, Charles and Jack have a unique approach to their music; an approach that also operates as sound advice to any emerging artist. They say “if you start with bells and whistles, there is going to be a hollow belly underneath which will eventually be exposed. With us, lyrics come first and then we try different things to establish the mood we want to take the song in. We layer and layer and strip way until we are happy with how the arrangement sits.” Admittedly, “Death” and “To Lose My Life” has its definite influences, but Charles says it is still “uncompromising and comes very naturally to us. I also think that our sound is very bold compared to a lot of other bands at the moment.”

As the date for the new record approaches, White Lies continues to tour forcefully. They know their stuff, and they know exactly how to bring it to the people. So check the schedule as they start their UK tour with Glasvegas, work their way to the NME tour in the UK before returning to the states. There’s a lot more to learn in the XXQ’s, so jump in.

XXQs: White Lies – Charles

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us about how you first jumped into becoming White Lies? Was it an instant connection for the band?

Charles: As with everything to do with White Lies. The creation of the band came from the creation of songs. We wrote unfinished Business and Death very close together and knew in our hearts that we were finally proud of ourselves musically. It was a moment in time for us that needed to be named so White Lies for us, represents not only a future of writing important music but a very definite time for us personally where we were finally happy with our creativity.

PEV: Hailing from Chiswick in West London, England., what kind of music where each of the members listening to growing up?  Do you guys argue on different kinds of music? What was the first concert you attended?

Charles: Yes we argue about music and always have. i always hope to. I find there’s three things you can talk about to get someone heated up, religion, politics and music. We all grew up on different things. Harry was classically trained from an early age, although that doesn’t come into the work of White Lies much. I was brought up on Paul Simon and Brazilian music my Dad listened to a lot. But we’ve all agreed on a few bands over the years that will always be important to us like Talking Heads, Echo and The Bunnymen more recently.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

Charles: We have to be somewhere where we can sit down and relax. Harry and I always come up with the basic ideas for songs on a keyboard and then it gets handed over to the gang as a whole and we rip it to shreds. David Bowie reportedly wrote Life On Mars with two fingers on an out of tune piano (apparently he wasn’t a good player at all) but which ever producer working with him at the time, heard it in that simplistic and crude form and knew it was an exceptional song. We have adopted that technique in some ways. if you start with bells and whistles, there is going to be a hollow belly underneath which will eventually be exposed. With us, lyrics come first and then we try different things to establish the mood we want to take the song in. We layer and layer and strip way until we are happy with how the arrangement sits.

PEV: Having performed together for quite some time, what can fans expect from a live show?

Charles: We have got to the stage where we know the songs and can play them well. So for us, the excitement and fun starts now with our live show. We can now totally engage with each other and people watching in a non vocal way. We dont like to say much on stage. Everything we have to say that is worth saying is already being sung in the different songs. We love to be very involved in our lighting and we view our shows as a performance but not an act.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

Charles: We will never forget our first show. It was the most pressure I think any of us have ever felt. Knowing we were basically going into the lions den. Family, friends, record labels, producers, you name it, we all there willing to listen but as is the way in London, ready to go “it’s all hype” after two songs. At the end of the set, there were actual tears coming from some men and our families and friends were speechless. It sealed the deal for us in our confidence in our music and also proved a lot to those who had always believed in us. It also impressed a lot of record people.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest EP, “Death”? What was the collaborative process for this album?

Charles: The Death EP is a small taster of what is to come next year. It features the song Death which is the first track off our forthcoming album and a big moment in our live show. it also features one B-side track and two remixes. One of those remixes was done by Crystal Castles which we were and are still flattered to have had that done. It wasn’t a collaboration in that we didn’t Ethan (CC) any rules or guidelines. The collaboration came from his ideas and a song we had written. We are very pleased with how it turned out. he has really put his fingerprint on that.

PEV: How is “Death” different from others out right now?

Charles: Our music is not un-influenced. It is not even unfamiliar. But it is uncompromising and comes very naturally to us. We dont worry about what other people will think too much, but rather hat we will think of a song three months later. I dont think too many bands can say that these days. I also think that our sound is very bold compared to a lot of other bands at the moment. Its very emotive and powerful.

PEV: How would you describe the sound of White Lies? How do you plan to stand out above the other musicians in your genre?

Charles: The best description of us has been “Cathedral Pop”. We like that term. Our sound is cinematic and yet tender at times. However we have no qualms about rocking out in some moments. We do what is right for each song. We plan to stand out by maintaining our integrity, by exploring things that we find interesting whether it be string arrangements

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

Charles: Perhaps something about all of us is that none of us can drive…

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

Charles: I think we are still hoping that will be true but we’re not even a year down the line of doing it properly yet.

PEV: What one word best describes White Lies?

Charles: Sincere.
PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts? Any fun stories?

Charles: Life on the road is very lonely at times. We all miss home and it is hard to stay sane. However playing the music we love every night makes it very worth while. Not really any funny stories. We like to go Go-Karting when we can though and that usually gets pretty competitive.

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

Charles: I would say Reykjavik in Iceland. The people are lovely and the atmosphere is amazing because of their culture. The scenery is breathtaking and really suits our sound.

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

Charles: Everyone is happy for us but it does mean that we dont get to see people as much as we would like. At the end of the day, everyone is so thrilled that our hard work seems to be paying off.

PEV: What can we find the members of the band doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

Charles: Watching films. Writing, going Go-Karting, listen to more music. Normal stuff.

PEV: Which artist would be your dream collaboration? Why?

Charles: Scott Walker. He is always pushing any country in sight and it would be really interesting to see what he might see in us.

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

Charles: Yes, Violens.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music, what would the members of the band most likely be doing for a career?

Charles: Id like to study film. We would all be involved in something creative. That’s just who we are. There never felt like we made a choice to do what we do.

PEV: So, what is next for White Lies?

Charles: We are currently feeling like dragons sitting on a pile of gold. Our debut album is ready and we are so proud of it. We can’t wait for people to hear it when it comes out early next year. We are doing a UK tour with Glasvegas. Early next year we are going to play on the NME tour in the UK before returning to the USA and Europe/Japan etc to play the album to everyone.

For more information on White Lies, check out: www.myspace.com/whitelies

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Today’s Feature – November 23-24: Mitch Roth

November 25, 2008 at 2:34 am (Today's Feature)

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When you read through the interview with out latest feature, Mitch Roth, you may ask yourself the same question I did: “This guy is hilarious… but would I want him as my lawyer??” Not to discredit the skills of Mr. Roth – the guy drives a Mercedes for a reason. But as far as lawyers are concerned, Mitch is one I’d definitely have a drink with at my corner bar.

Truth be told though, Mitch Roth isn’t on PensEyeView.com because of his talents in the court room. He’s also an artist and writer of two comics – “Assholes” and “Law School is Fun School.” Roth talks about how he got into the trade – “So I partially got into comics simply because they are an easier delivery system for my jokes, even though I can’t draw at all, which Law School is Fun School (LSFS) will demonstrate. Shortly after that, my friend Josh Eiserike, who I have known all my life and who has won the Ignatz Award for comics, approached me to do a joint book – so it made sense to do a full graphic novel.”
How LSFS is put together each week is funny in itself – Roth simply uses two saved stick figure characters he made in photoshop and moves them around from week to week. Pretty sweet. And as far as “Assholes” is concerned… well the name just makes sense. It’s all about the stuff you want to say… but probably don’t (for good reason). So when you read some of his work, “expect to be offended. But to laugh A LOT.” Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Mitch Roth

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Lawyer, artist, short stories, writer… where should I start? Well, we know how most people pursue a law degree but tell us how you got involved in art, comics and writing?

Mitch Roth (MR): I’ve always been involved with creative writing – and have been writing short stories since high school. However, it’s really difficult to get someone to sit down and read a whole short story. You’re like – here’s this thing, and its great – but it’s 20 typed pages and will take 30 minutes of your life. Unless people already like your stuff, or love reading, that can be a hard sell.

But a comic strip or a comic book – that’s something that people can look and instantly get the joke. It’s much easier to digest and much more low effort for the reader. So I partially got into comics simply because they are an easier delivery system for my jokes, even though I can’t draw at all, which Law School is Fun School (LSFS) will demonstrate. Shortly after that, my friend Josh Eiserike, who I have known all my life and who has won the Ignatz Award for comics, approached me to do a joint book – so it made sense to do a full graphic novel.

Also, I have no attention span, so writing text for about 24 pages of a comic at a time is perfect.

PEV: Now calling Baltimore, Maryland home, what kind of writing were you listening to growing up?  Any writers that made you want to pursue a career in writing and in comic strips?

MR: A.M. Holmes and Brett Easton Ellis were definitely huge inspirations on my life, as they are extremely edgier writers who push the envelope and then keep pushing it and pushing it, until the reader is somewhere they never expected to be.  The other interesting thing about A.M. Holmes is that is the adopted daughter of my high school guidance counselor. I was having a session with her, and she said, you look writing, my daughter is a writer – you should read her stuff. And she turned out to be one of my favorite authors. I used to read a few comics when I was a kid, and I like some indie artists like Alex Robinson, but there really aren’t any other comics out there like Assholes – which is why I wanted to write the book that I did.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write?

MR: I am naturally a very social person, so sitting down and writing is actually very hard for me. I literally have to turn off my cell phone and lock myself in my room with a bottle of bourbon for the night – or I write during weekend mornings – early, before any of my friends are up yet.

PEV: Tell us about your comic strips, “Assholes” and “Law School Is Fun School”?

MR:  LSFS is funnier if you’ve ever gone to law school, and is just a ridiculous 2 person talking-head strip with stick figures. And I was too lazy to redraw the stick figures each week, so I just saved them to photoshop and moved them around. There are some pretty good one liners though – the most controversial one was published when Hillary
Clinton was gaining popularity, and one character says: “Do you think a woman will ever be president” and the other character says “No.” Then the first character says: “You’re right, she’ll probably bleed all over the constitution.”

Assholes is the story of two friends going on a binge-drinking/trying to get laid adventure, across  the US, Mexico and Canada; very much in the vein of Tucker Max and Wedding Crashers. Although, I like to think that I’m not as more good natured than Tucker Max, and push the envelope way more than Hollywood ever does.

PEV: What can readers expect from these strips?

MR: To be offended. But to laugh A LOT.

PEV: How are they different from other out right now?

MR: I don’t think anyone else’s stuff, aside from Tucker Max, is as far over the line as my stuff is right now. And I don’t think there’s ever been a comic book like this before – a Rated R comedy, that is meant for people who have never read comic books before, and is mostly about sex and drinking. I want to do for comics what the Simpsons and South Park did for cartoons.

PEV: Tell us about your first stories and works of writing. How have you changed since that first pieces to where you are now?

MR: Oh wow, I think back in high school I thought I could write a short story that could change the world and really inspire peoples’ emotions. Now, I just want to make people laugh and write stuff that is entertaining.

PEV: You pursued a career in law as a result of comics and short story
writing not being the most guaranteed of careers. So tell us, what it is like trying to get a strip launched or a story published?

MR: I think it is nearly impossible to get a strip launched or a story published in any reputable place. Newspapers want strips like Marmaduke, and like 3 national magazines publish short stories and they only want well known authors. That’s why we put the entire first issue of Assholes online for free; we just want people to read it.

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

MR: I really love Romantic Comedies.

PEV: You said your life as a lawyer is pretty dull. What’s the best and worse part about being a lawyer?

MR: That I have to sit and read the fine print of contracts that no one else in our society wants to read. The best part is that I drive a Mercedes and get to drink expensive coffee.

PEV: What one word best describes your comic strips?

MR: Inappropriate.

PEV: Give us an average day in the life of a lawyer.

MR: It’s mostly dealing with clients and seeing what’s on your plate that day. Drafting various legal documents like corporate articles or minutes, reading contracts, doing legal research, learning about new areas of law, making sure that contracts are drafted right, drafting memos. Sometimes, there’s an emergency and I’ll have to research something really fast. That’s about as exciting as it gets.

PEV: PensEyeView.com is a arts and music magazine, so what kind of music are you into?

MR: I love indie rock – I listen to Left of Center on Sirius religiously.

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

MR: My family hates them, they can’t understand why I can’t just be a nice Jewish Lawyer and do PG rated comedy on the side. My friends all have the same sense of humor that I do.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from writing and practicing law?

MR: I have a motorcycle – that I’m really good at falling off of. I also play a lot of social sports, but mainly because I like going to the bar afterwards with a bunch of people that are all wearing the same color t-shirt as me.

PEV: If you could sit down to dinner with one writer, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

MR: Hemmingway maybe? Just because it’s fucking Hemmingway.

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

MR: For local music, I love Caleb Stine. Oh, and I’m still waiting for Cat Empire to blow up, even though I’ve been listening to them for years.

PEV: If you weren’t a lawyer and writing wasn’t in the picture, what would you most likely be doing for a career?

MR: Something in the advertising field.

PEV: Where do you see your career – both in law and in comics – ten years from now?

MR: I would love to be have a more creative day job – not sure if that will involve law at all or not. As for comics, I’m hoping that Assholes and my writing will have built a loyal following by then. I’m probably not going to famous, but I totally want to be.

PEV: So, what is next for Mitch Roth?

MR: Another sad day at the office.

For more information on Mitch, check out: www.mitchroth.net, www.assholescomic.com, www.josheiserike.com

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Today’s Feature – November 21-22: Rise Against

November 25, 2008 at 2:32 am (Today's Feature)

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Not since the days of Bad Religion and NOFX, have I been this excited about a band on the punk-rock scene – and while Chicago-based Rise Against categorically doesn’t define itself with the type of music bands like Bad Religion produced, they are indeed putting some muscle behind the scene. They have all of the key ingredients; a powerful vocal leader that’s impossible to ignore and drums and hooks that punch you in the stomach, but keep you coming back.

What makes this all even better – is how several of my buddies first discovered Rise Against. Madden. Remember when “Drones” appeared on that soundtrack? Without a doubt the best single on it! Tim McIlrath (vocals, guitar), Joe Principe (bass guitar), Brandon Barnes (drums) and Zach Blair (guitar) are the men behind it, and while they may seem relatively new to stardom to some of you, the fact remains these guys have released five albums, a rare material EP, even a DVD.

You’ve heard of “Siren Song of the Counter Culture” and “The Sufferer & the Witness” with some of my favorite hits such as “Swing Life Away” and “Ready to Fall,” but right now the talk is all about “Appeal to Reason.” And it’s for good reason to boot. The latest record opened at #3 on the Billboard 200, so if you had any question before – the band is no doubt sticking around for years to come. Have you seen the passion these guys play with? It’s unreal! They have the gusto and will to make sure everyone understands that their music has cause, and that they mean everything they put out there. Check out a performance for yourself and pick up “Appeal to Reason.” There’s a lot more to learn, so get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Rise Against

PensEyeView.com (Richie): Hey Joe. So where did I catch you?

Joe Principe: We are in San Diego. Just got done eating dinner and we’re just hanging out.

Richie: How’s the tour going?

Joe: Really well. It’s one of my favorite tours we’ve done in a long time. We’ve worked with bands on tour before but when you work with bands that you are fans of, it makes it all worth while.

Richie: How is road life treat you?

Joe: It’s good. It’s kind of all we know – we’ve toured so much. The only downside is when you get sick, you can’t shake it. It’s not the healthiest life style.

Richie: I mean, it sounds things are going well. The album “Appeal To Reason” opened at #3.

Joe: Yeah, it’s great. We’re all just in shock with everything.

Richie: With the album doing so well, when you first came into the music industry did you automatically click? With an album this well, it seems like you must have?

Joe: You know, I don’t think we realized it or saw the success that we’ve had. We started and that’s what you do – I mean we grew up in the punk scene and wanted to play music, so we joined a band. You would get together with some people and it’s like, ‘Ok, let’s play a few songs’. And let’s record a demo now, send it out to labels and see what happens. Then we sign with Geffen – it was all very grassroots.

Richie: Was there a certain point when you realized music was going to be a full time career?

Joe: I don’t know. When a song came out and it was doing better and better as a band. We started thinking that we can do this for a long time.

Richie: What can fans expect from Appeal To Reason?

Joe: It’s a representation of us being a band for so many years – how we’ve evolved and stuff we’ve experienced and dedication.

Richie: What can fans expect from a live Rise Against show?

Joe: Very energetic. We like our fans to sing along with us. The show is a release in your own life.

Richie: Well, the fans are definitely reacting. I’ve seen the site and fans are getting tattoos with the logo on them.

Joe: Yeah, it’s awesome.

Richie: Has there been any crazy tattoos you’ve seen.

Joe: Um, well, some girl had a tattoo of Tim (laughs). That’s pretty crazy. I mean it will be on her body forever. But people are that dedicated. It’s fun to meet them and talk to them.

Richie: The band is very outspoken about war and politics. What is your view on the upcoming election? (NOTE: This interview was done prior to the recent Presidential election).

Joe: Well, I already voted for Obama on an absentee ballot. I think they need to focus on is that Obama is raising a family now. He knows what it’s like to live in a world like this now. McCain has already lived his life. Obama knows what is flawed and what needs to be done.

Richie: Being so outspoken, has anyone in the music business tried to quiet you on being outspoken?

Joe: Um, no. We’ve been pretty lucky. They tend to leave us alone. They let us do what we need to do. It’s pretty obvious what we do as a band.

Richie: What can we find you doing when you are not touring?

Joe: Well, we have families, so anything with my family and wives is the best. We are not home very often, so we like to make good use of our time.

Richie: What do you think you’d be doing for a career if it wasn’t music?

Joe:  You know, I have no idea. I went to college to be an accountant and it was miserable.

Richie: Where did you go to college?

Joe: I just went to a community college by my house. If I liked it, I figured I would go to a university. But I never got that far. I dropped everything to play music. Luckily it worked out (laughs).

Richie: Has there been a favorite city for the band on tour?

Joe: Southern California is great. And our hometown of Chicago is always fun. And for some reason we have a big following in Canada. Huge crowds, everyone singing along with us.

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

Joe: I think there is a misconception that we are like real serious people because of the content of our music. But we are all real quirky kind of people and just like to have fun together.

Richie: Where do you think you’ll be in ten years?

Joe: Hopefully we’ll have the same kind of relevance as Bad Religion. Hopefully people are still taking interest in our music. As long as we are still relevant and having fun, we’ll still be a band.

Richie: What kind of environment do you have to be in to write?

Joe: I like to write without distraction, late at night when my wife is sleeping. Sometimes I like to drive. For this record, I stayed in this cabin in the woods a couple times. That is very peaceful. It’s a great environment to write music in. That’s what I did (laughs).

Richie: Is there a band we should all be looking into now?

Joe: If you haven’t heard of them yet, try Gas Fire Anthem.

Richie: So, what’s next for the band?

Joe: Just touring. We are going to Canada in December, Australia in March, then back to the states. Just touring.

Richie: Well best of luck on tour and thanks again for talking with me.

Joe: Cool man, thanks a lot.

For more information on Rise Against, check out: www.riseagainst.com

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Today’s Feature – November 19-20: Our 300th consecutive feature, Third Eye Blind

November 20, 2008 at 10:30 pm (Today's Feature)

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It’s hard to describe what it’s like writing day in and day out about new artists – work that needs to be completed at least once every 48 hours (300 times over as of today). I have friends who wonder why I get so much out of writing – they wonder what exactly it’s doing for me. I’ve said it before: I’ve learned more about the world’s talent in the past year and a half than I have about anything else; seen and heard genres of artistic expressions I’ve never thought possible. Now, that’s not to say at times it can be difficult – I’m not going to climb onto some high and mighty mount and tell you I have loads of experience with every artist we feature prior to writing about them. Truth be told, I sometimes know nothing about the band/writer/painter/etc. until we actually select them to be interviewed. So it’s not always easy to write… but today is a different story.

I sat across from my father out at dinner a few nights ago, talking to him about PensEyeView.com, where it’s at and who we’ve had on recently. My father is no music head, and when I rattled off a good eight names, he had no idea what I was referencing. But when I got to today’s feature – he knew exactly what I was talking about. So while this is our 300th feature… that’s not the story here.

Love em’ or loathe em’ – you know about 3eb. You know the music, you know the stories, you know about Stephan Jenkins partying and screaming his ass off. It sounds insane to me now, but I first heard “Semi-Charmed Life” when I was in friggin’ middle school. Middle school. Now that I’m an old man, I have the experience to tell you that these guys haven’t lost any of that edge they earned playing the clubs of San Francisco. But we’ll get to the latest that Third Eye Blind has to offer in a moment; right now, I wanna reminisce.

When I first heard “Semi-Charmed Life,” I called it that happy go-lucky “do, do, do, do, do, do, do” song. All I knew was that it put me in a great mood. I was barely a teenager – I had no idea what the hell Jenkins was telling us. But the song ended up being something I revisited again and again – from high school to college to the so-called “real world.” The song simply kept transforming for me, taking on new meanings, new significance, new ways to define that time in my life. Yea, yea; this all sounds a bit overdramatic. Maybe “Semi-Charmed Life” didn’t keep coming back to you, but I know something did. That’s’ what kicks so much ridiculous ass about music.

I could go on about the obvious places songs like “Jumper” and “Graduate” had in my life, but I’ll spare you… for now. The facts are that Third Eye Blind has sold a trillion records, played a billion sold out shows, and now they’re finally releasing a fresh batch of new music via the digital EP, “Red Star.” Drummer Brad Hargreaves says of it, “Third Eye Blind music has often dealt with common emotional themes; SJ just has a masterful way of building narratives around those themes that tend to hit you in the gut. Those themes will continue to be explored in our music but there are also some ironic comments being made about American culture, which is new to 3eb music.” I don’t need to tell you to check this thing out. And you know all about the live show. If not – see what you’re missing out on. Finally, after “Red Star,” keep an eye out for their next full-length album, “Ursa Major.” Dive into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Third Eye Blind – Brad Hargreaves

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Having been together as Third Eye Blind for quite some time, was it an instant connection for the band when you first came together? Do you remember the first time you met to practice?

Brad Hargreaves (BH): I met the band when I came in for an audition underneath the bass players house on East 14th street in Oakland, CA.  I had their demo and really liked some of the songs.  It felt very natural playing with them even though auditions are generally strange.

PEV: Hailing from San Francisco, what kind of music where each of the members listening to growing up?  Do you guys argue on different kinds of music? What was the first concert you attended?

BH: San Francisco had an eclectic music scene and even  a couple radio stations I liked would play a diverse catalog of music. We were all into rock but hip hop and beat based music had a big impact on us.

I think my first concert was Van Halen.  It sounded horrible and DLR was wasted.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to make music?

BH: We generally work on music as a band at sound checks now. An interesting thing about Third Eye Blind is how little we actually discuss any music including our own.  We will mention some music we like or production we think is good but creatively, very little is said.

Music in Third Eye Blind is written in a lot of different ways with different members collaborating in different combinations. There is not really one specific way our music is created. Sometimes SJ brings in pretty well completed songs, sometimes the band jams and comes up with music, and sometimes Tony brings in demos that he has made and songs are built up from there.

PEV: Known for fantastic live performances, what can fans expect from a live Third Eye Blind show?

BH: We always strive to make a real, genuine connection with our fans during the course of our live show.  Community is not something that is easily manufactured so we attempt to create an environment where people can relax and live in the moment for a couple hours.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

BH: I am not sure I remember our first live show.  There were some memorable shows early on like opening for Oasis at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium and some shows at the Fillmore. I like to believe our band’s performances have evolved a great deal over time, and they have.  But I recently watched some YouTube footage of us playing the 1997 Fuji Rock Fest in Japan during a monsoon, literally, and I was impressed with our genuine, unabashed delivery of the songs.

PEV: Getting ready to release your first batch of new songs in five years via a digital EP, entitled “Red Star”, on November 18th, 2008. What can fans expect from this?

BH: Living up to fan expectations is not always easy.  We have set a bar with our previous albums and I have realized that people expect to feel a certain way when they listen to our music.  Third Eye Blind music has often dealt with common emotional themes, SJ just has a masterful way of building  narratives around those themes that tend to hit you in the gut.  Those themes will continue to be explored in our music but there are also some ironic comments being made about American culture, which is new to 3eb music.

PEV: How is “Red Star” different from other albums out right now? As well, now is it different from your past albums?

BH: I can’t really compare it to others band’s records because everybody is so different.  Lyrically, Ursa Major is somewhat of a departure from past Third Eye Blind records and the performances are a bit more spontaneous. Because we were able to play this new material live over the last couple years, it was easier to just go into the recording session and nail the songs on the first or second take.

PEV: How would you describe the sound of Third Eye Blind? And what do you think it is about the band that has made you so successful for so long?

BH: Lyrically people have really related to the thoughts and emotions being conveyed. I mentioned that SF had a diverse music scene.  I think 3eb was inspired and really benefited from all that different music.  We have all been into rock music but beat based music, hip-hop, electronic music, has always been a part of our influences as well.  Consequently we are a combination singer song writer/rock band with diverse rhythmic influences.

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

BH: I never even considered doing anything else and I don’t think the rest of the band did either.  We are often asked if we can give any advice to aspiring musicians and bands.  Our advice is to do something else.  It is incredibly hard to accomplish anything in music.  But, if you absolutely can’t consider doing anything else, then you will figure out a way to make music work.  It takes an amazing level of commitment.

PEV: What one word best describes Third Eye Blind?

BH: Brilliant…hahaha.

PEV: As musicians, you live a lot of your life on the road. How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

BH: Life on the road has its ups and downs.  It is a pleasure to play music every night and I feel lucky to have seen much of the world in a very intimate way. The cost of those experiences is not having a very normal home life and not always being where you want to be on any given day.  I will say it is most definitely worth the sacrifice and I would not change anything about how my career has unfolded.

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

BH: I love playing all over the world.  I really like playing in Chicago but then a place like Poughkeepsie, NY or a small Spanish city will just go crazy when we show.  We like to play wherever an audience is really willing to engage the moment.  Playing in Japan is really fun because the fans are so attentive.  Playing in Holland and Belgium is great because people are so into music.

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

BH: They are pretty used to it.  My family thought it was cool until my brother and sister each had children of their own and now I am pretty low on the totem pole.

My career is just a part of who I am so my friends are slightly intrigued by it but really don’t give a f@#% at the end of the day.

PEV: What can we find the members of the band doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

BH: Tony lives in San Diego, SJ is in San Francisco and I live in Los Angeles so I don’t really know what they do in their down time. I have another band called Year Long Disaster signed to Volcom Entertainment so I am often touring with them when not working with 3EB.  I am kind of a homebody when I get off the road.  People don’t realize that I am basically at a club or concert every night of my life when I am on the road so that does not hold much appeal for me when I come home.

PEV: Having played with and worked with some of the greatest acts in music is there still one artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

BH: Creatively I am pretty satisfied by Third Eye Blind and Year Long Disaster. Stevie Wonder sat in with Third Eye Blind and that was a major highlight of my career. I would love to collaborate with a really creative DJ just to doing something very different from what I do now and maybe produce a band that I really like.

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

BH: Year Long Disaster.  Ha! Seriously, I have played with a few bands recently that I really like.  Let me just say, if a band is not great live, I don’t care how good your demo sounds. The first band I really like is Wallace Vanborn from Belgium.  They are a new band but have strong songs, interesting production, and good musicianship. I don’t like where heavy metal has gone over the last 20 years but I really like The Sword who are a great live band a really cool people from Austin.  I also like the Suede Brothers from Cleveland.  They play some old school rock and are 17 and 18 years old.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music, what would the members of the band most likely be doing for a career?

BH: I think SJ wants to go into politics, I would be in the covert intelligence business, and Tony should be a comedian although he never would.

PEV: Tell us what an average day is like for the life of Brad Hargreaves?

BH: I am generally on the road. I either wake up in a hotel room or on a tour bus and immediately seek out a large cup of tea.  From there, my life is a blank canvas that gets painted differently depending on the city.  The goal on the road is to make the two hours you perform at night to be the best two hours you have to offer.  I find that seeing something interesting during the day, maybe some art, or something that is unique to the city, helps to inspire me at night.

PEV: So, what is next for Third Eye Blind?

BH: We are going to release some music.  The Red Star EP is coming our Nov 18 and that will be followed by the full-length album Ursa Major early next year. We will continue to play shows and do more extensive touring as the music is released.  I am looking forward to it.

For more information on Third Eye Blind, and their new EP, The Red Star, check out www.3eb.com

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Today’s Feature – November 17-18: Lovedrug

November 19, 2008 at 1:50 am (Today's Feature)

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Cleveland, Ohio natives Lovedrug are doing something that some bands dream about their entire careers… but never realize the following feat: a musical genre of their own design. But Michael Shepard, Jeremy Michael Gifford, Thomas Bragg and James Childress are on a “mission to start the new and mildly erotic genre known as ‘Cloud Rock.’” And to be honest, “Cloud Rock” sounds exactly as it sounds – a free-flowing style of music and lyrics flowing together beautifully as one unique strain of melody.

Shepard, Gifford, Bragg and Childress call themselves “an arrangement of soothsayers, psychics and soul searchers;” a group of guys (no matter what you want to call them) that are completely insane about music. Completely dedicated, passionate and devoted to music. You can hear their honest output on the new album, “The Sucker Punch Show.” The record is “chalk-full of sex and dirty thoughts, confessions, revenge and such things that one needs to get off of ones’ chest.” In other words, “Cloud Rock” is fairly informative.

Lovedrug prides themselves on bringing a true rock edge to their live shows; a gritty performance that true fans will more than appreciate. And you gotta see them. Otherwise, they see themselves “in the worst filth ridden gutter you can possibly imagine” in the next 10 years. And we wouldn’t want that. The band will be supporting “The Sucker Punch Show” in Europe soon, and then focusing on another record. Get into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Lovedrug

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us about how you first jumped into becoming The Sucker Punch Show – the new album and Lovedrug? Was it an instant connection for the band?

Lovedrug: Well… we didn’t become it. We’re just a part of it. Living in it and this is our view on all the what not that happens.

PEV: Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio what kind of music where each of the members listening to growing up?  Do you guys argue on different kinds of music? What was the first concert you attended?

Lovedrug: Our musical tastes are fairly consistent in the fact that it’s all good music so to speak. We all like different styles. It’s like this; in ANY genre you can find an artist who does it exceptionally, whether it’s rock, hip pop, blues, country… whatever. We like all that stuff, as long as it moves us we dig it and pull inspiration from it.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

Lovedrug: Usually I need to be alone, at least for a while during the process. I am the most creative when I’m standing outside with a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, thinking about what I want to say… in apposed to jamming or something like that.

PEV: Having performed together for quite some time, what can fans expect from a live show?

Lovedrug: An honest rock show. We can’t afford lights or fire or spaceships so the fans just get us on stage getting into what we do… it’s fairly simple right now. That’s not to say that we don’t want a spaceship though

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

Lovedrug: Well naturally it was an exhilarating nightmare. I’m sure we sounded horrible, but that doesn’t matter when you have that rush of being in front a live audience for the first time. It’s not much different now except we have less technical problems and we probably look a bit more confident.. or at least we’ve learned how to be comfortable faking  some sort of confidence. I have a clinical fear of crowds… so for me it’s harder. Ha. Fuck.

PEV: What can fans expect from your new album, “The Sucker Punch Show”? What was the collaborative process for this album?

Lovedrug: It’s chalked full of sex and dirty thoughts, confessions, revenge and such things that one needs to get off of ones’ chest. The collaborative process was amazing.

PEV: How is “The Sucker Punch Show” album different from others out right now?

Lovedrug: It’s more confessional and honest. The music is more direct too.

PEV: How would you describe the sound of Lovedrug? How do you plan to stand out above the other musicians in your genre?

Lovedrug: There’s no real way for me to answer that. I feel like we’re still honing in on our sound and we’re three records in! I suppose that’s a bad thing to confess.

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

Lovedrug: We’re all really nerdy about almost everything we do.

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

Lovedrug: Yes, I was 12 and I saw my friend’s brother grinding on his axe and butchering an Anthrax song. I was hooked and I knew that guitar and music were going to be a part of my life from there on out.

PEV: What one word best describes Lovedrug?

Lovedrug: Eclectic

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

Lovedrug: It’s a love/hate thing. Love playing for the fans. I hate the other shit that we have to endure; the sleeping on dirty floors, eating bad food, getting sick, getting no sleep on a nightly basis, losing weight(in a bad way), etc… you get the idea.

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

Lovedrug: Tokyo.

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

Lovedrug: They are proud. Honestly we’re not that successful. I just think they’re more proud of our endurance and unwillingness to give up on our dream.

PEV: What can we find the members of the band doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

Lovedrug: Painting houses, fixing cars, writing, whoring day jobs, ect.

PEV: Which artist would be your dream collaboration? Why?

Lovedrug: Tom Waits. Because he’s the most brilliant lyricist I’ve ever heard.

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

Lovedrug: Yes, Lovedrug.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music, what would the members of the band most likely be doing for a career?

Lovedrug: Binge drinking, because we wouldn’t have a purpose.

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will the band be?

Lovedrug: Either on top of the world or in the worst filth ridden gutter you can possibly imagine.

PEV: So, what is next for Lovedrug?

Lovedrug: A headlining tour, Europe, and then another record.

For more information on Lovedrug, check out: www.myspace.com/lovedrug

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Today’s Feature – November 15-16: Pointe Claire

November 16, 2008 at 6:20 pm (Today's Feature)

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It’s comes up all of the time, but yet remains a topic we here at PEV rarely touch on – the greatness that is CraigsList. Seriously, I have friends that owe half of what they own to the web site. And like other past PEV alum, Pointe Claire, a group out of West Hollywood, came together on CraigsList when Jonathan Fessenden found vocalist Kate Zenna and DJ Paul Laski to “create a collection of electro-pop songs that have since been described as soothing, soulful and sultry.”

That collection has a name; it’s called “I Asked For You… First.” They call it “good, clean, honest and toe-tapping tales of the heart… certifiably organic electro-pop with zero sodium and absolutely no artificial coloring.” We call it progressive; a sound that accents all of the strengths that Pointe Claire commands – from irresistible beats to angelic vocals that will easily retain your attention. They’re not building on someone else’s idea – this is new music, plain and simple.

While the group did once try a traditional approach to their live show, they eventually had to give in to their undeniable style, again utilizing their strengths with “laptops, synth key guitar and of course vocals.” Expect big things from Pointe Claire in the future – they’re a new band just beginning. Pick up “I Asked For You… First” right now, check their schedule and learn a whole lot more in the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Pointe Claire

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us about how you first jumped into becoming Pointe Claire? Was it an instant connection for the band?

Jonathan: We met on Craigs list in L.A. I was looking for a vocalist to sing on a song and after that song we decided to do more, and BAM we become a band. I also found Paul on Craigs…

PEV: Calling West Hollywood home now, what kind of music where each of the members listening to growing up? Do you guys argue on different kinds of music? What was the first concert you attended?

Kate Zenna: I grew up on 80’s UK pop. We never argue. Depeche mode concert.

Jonathan: Haha well I share a lot of the same interests with Kate and Paul musically, but I probably listen to a lot of other different things. I grew up on rock , classical, and started to later love jazz, world and of course electronic music of the 80’s 90’s and current electro. My first concert was Chicago, my parents took me. I don’t remember much but it was loud.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

Kate: Write lyrics anywhere, often while driving in la. The songs arrive in the studio, preferably a studio with at least three cats strutting around.

Jonathan: I write the music whenever there is a certain feeling around me, could be a great movie that inspired it or a memory or someone stepped on my heart…Usually the last is most frequent.

PEV: Having performed together for quite some time, what can fans expect from a live show?

Kate: A meltdown if there’s a power surge. In that case, I will read poems.

Jonathan: We have changed our live show to laptops, synths keys guitar and of course vocals. We used to have more of a traditional band approach, but felt this change…

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

Kate: We are slimmer and more compact.

Jonathan: Hmmm I am having a hard time remembering the first show.

PEV: What can fans expect from your debut album, “I Asked For You… First”? What was the collaborative process for this album?

Really I think people will always relate to things Kate is saying lyrically. Also the music just sounds cool and different. I wrote most of the music at my apartment and Kate would come over and lay down a part that would just be great. Of course sometimes it was not easy and we would have to work on some songs a lot harder and longer than others…. Kate also came with songs she had done on guitar.

PEV: How is “I Asked For You… First” different from others out right now?

Jonathan: I’ll leave this one for Kate.

Kate: Good, clean, honest, and toe-tapping tales of the heart.

PEV: How would you describe the sound of Pointe Claire? How do you plan to stand out above the other musicians in your genre?

Kate: We are certifiably organic electro-pop with zero sodium an absolutely no artificial coloring.

Jonathan: I think we have great songwriting going on and I feel these songs will sound good in the years to come.

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

Kate: Kate doesn’t burp, Jonathon doesn’t argue with Kate, and Paul doesn’t believe peanuts aren’t good for you.

Jonathan: Kate never stresses out!

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

Kate: Is it our career?

Jonathan: I wanted it to be a career in High school, and I really worked and continue to make that happen constantly.

PEV: What one word best describes Pointe Claire?

Kate: Here.

Jonathan: Emotion.

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

Kate: Let’s hope it’s in the air, on private jet.

Jonathan: We really have not traveled outside of L.A. at this point. We plan on doing that in 2009… Soooo, if your reading this request us to your town.

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

Jonathan: I loved playing in Ohio, they are wild there.

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

Jonathan: My family usually sees success as how much money I am making so this band does not seem that important to them at the moment.

PEV: What can we find the members of the band doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

Jonathan: Cooking for my wife… Paul and I hang out a lot going to clubs in L.A. seeing bands, and or playing Rock Band.

PEV: Which artist would be your dream collaboration? Why?

Kate: Matt Johnson/Lloyd Cole/Morrissey/Depeche mode for me.

Jonathan: Well I would love to collaborate with Vernon Reid (guitarist), Brian Eno, and Vienna Philharmonic… Brian Eno I feel could take our band to another level. Vernon Reid was my guitar idol growing up, and I always thought a guitar/ orchestra duo would be great with him. My dream is to conduct an orchestra of music I have written, rather fond of Vienna.

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

Kate: Uh… Yeah…

Jonathan: Pointe Claire for sure

PEV: If you weren’t playing music, what would the members of the band most likely be doing for a career?

Kate: The wiser choice would be ski instructor or hoteliers perhaps.

Jonathan: I have tried to do other things but songs run through my head at night and it is hard to sleep. So music is it for now hmm maybe a career change might bring me sleep.

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will the band be?

Kate: I will be running a dog rescue foundation from home in Bali.

Jonathan: I have to live only in the moment.

PEV: So, what is next for Pointe Claire?

Jonathan: More music is coming and of course reaching more great fans. Paul our third partner has started to write with us on the new stuff.

For more information on Pointe Claire, check out www.myspace.com/pointeclaire

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