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Q&A With Tonic

The past few years have witnessed a resurgence of bands who defined their sound in the ’90s alt/pop rock aesthetic. Bands like Third Eye Blind and The Gin Blossoms, for instance, are still playing today and gaining new fans. Tonic, one of the quintessential 90s pop/rock bands is experiencing their own reemergence of sorts. This year’s release of their self-titled album marks the band’s first full-length in almost 8 years. However, it seems as if the band never stopped working. The record oozes with radio-friendly melodies, impeccable drama and colorful riffsall aspects that Tonic fans have come to love. Emerson Hart took us through the anatomy of a Tonic song as well as their reasoning for getting back into the swing of playing as a band.

OS: Being such catchy songs, how does Tonic go about arranging some of the heavier, distorted riffs?

EH: It really depends. I’ll write a song and sometimes it will contain a riff and sometimes it won’t. Usually the general melody structure and the intention is there. What I want to say and how I want to say it. I’ll play it for the band and we’ll all sit down and decide it could be tighter is some places or better in others. In some cases, like in the case of “You Wanted More” off the second record, Dan brought me the riff. I thought it was awesome and inspiring, so I wrote an entire song around that riff.There’re no real ingredients to baking that cake, but it usually starts with melody  for me—what I want to say. Then it goes from there.

OS: The band has always had a strong licensing presence (film in particular). Why do you think your songs fit so well in these settings?

EH: I don’t know. If I knew that exactly, I’d probably be making 3 times the amount of money in film licensing than I do. I think it’s because it’s melodic and there’s some drama involved with the music. It’s not just a catchy melody. There’s something else underneath it. I think a lot of directors and music supervisors are attracted to that.

OS: A platinum album, several charting singles and even two GRAMMY nominations. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

EH: The thing that I’m most proud of is being a father to my two-year-old daughter. In terms of my career, second to that, would probably be our GRAMMY nominations. I’m pretty proud of that. We’ve worked very hard to always create and put good music out there.

OS: Having been on “hiatus,” do you guys think of your reunion as a “comeback” or do you feel as if you never stopped?

EH: I didn’t have anything to say within the band anymore. I wasn’t speaking that “band” language. I didn’t want to creatively try to force something for money. That’s a bunch of shit. I think everybody gets hurt when you make moves like that. It feels forced, and bands know it. Most of all, I would know it.

We had been on the road for nearly 10 years and everybody was really tired. As an artist, I had nothing else to say in the band. It was just going to hurt everybody. I think it worked out great. We needed that break, for the band’s wellbeing. We’ve moved past it now. We’re trying to keep as much honest songwriting rock and roll out there as possible in the world of Ke$ha and all that crap.We don’t really treat it like a comeback.

OS: What was the fan reception like on your recent tour?

EH: It’s really been fantastic. It’s been interesting because a lot of our fans are parents now. They have children and they bring their kids to shows. It’s a walk down memory lane, being able to spend time with people. Even though in the grand scheme of things it’s only been like 10 years, there’s some of that that happens. I really get off on talking to people about their perspective on what happened in their lives, or what was going on when they listened to this song or that song.I can’t thank them enough that we’re still able to do this, and people still care about it.

OS: Moving on to the new self-titled release, how do you feel the new album relates to other releases?

EH: Records are always recordings in time for us. For me, as a writer, it’s definitely a reflection of where I was when I wrote the record. It was hard for me, because I didn’t want to overdo the record. I think you can get caught up if you aren’t careful in being like “this is what it should sound like.” You overshoot the honesty of what you should be writing about. Some of the songs touch on all of the records in a way. There are little bits and pieces. That helped us kind of make an eclectic record. The next one will probably feel more in the direction we’re moving. But this was kind of has one foot in the path and one foot in the future.

OS: “I Want It To Be” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. What was the inspiration for this song, and can we expect it to be the second single off the new album?

EH: Yes, it will be the next single. A lot of times I write songs, it can be about many different things within the song. Initially it was talking about what music is me. I want it to always be something that’s bigger than me. Looking at it from a songwriting perspective—“If I told you all my secrets, if I was that honest, would you teach me how to not burn them down and not destroy them?” A lot of people will immediately assume it’s relationships, but a lot of it was just about the process of a songwriter and getting older. If you’re bigger than your songs then you are no longer doing a service to your fans or anybody who listens to music. It’s about people so it should belong to people.

OS: What does the band have in store moving into 2011?

EH: To make another record. I haven’t decided yet whether it will be an Emerson Hart record or another Tonic record. It’ll most likely be another Tonic record. Because we’ve been having success, I think we’ve been reminded that it’s important that we do our job the best we possibly can. We’ll probably finish out touring Australia in the wintertime and maybe do a full winter tour in the US. Then we’ll start recording the record. We are in full swing, no doubt about it, whether people like it or not.

Listen to the new release yourself and see what Tonic’s reunion is really all about. Stay tuned for their Australian tour this winter.

Q&A With Counting Crows

Sometimes it’s tough to gauge a band’s success. You can count GRAMMY nominations, charting singles or perhaps the size of venue that a band performs at during their tours. In the case of Counting Crows, the most striking statistics are their album sales and RIAA certifications. The band’s debut full-length, August and Everything After sold over 7 million copies. Almost every album the band has released has been certified at least Gold, and in most cases Platinum. However, if you asked lead singer Adam Duritz, if he thought August was their best effort, he would probably say “no.” That’s exactly what we did. Read on to find out why, what his favorite album really is, and why the band chose to perform alongside Augustana and rapper NOTAR, rather than the headline their own tour, during this past summer’s Traveling Circus Tour.

OS: You guys have a really big lineup, obviously…how do you make sure that everyone contributes effectively to a song when you go in to put it together?

AD: The first thing about our band that we drill into everyone is that it’s far more important to listen as musicians than it is to play. I think that playing comes naturally, if you’re good enough. You need to hear what’s going on around you. When we were making our first record, we’d stand around and just play for hours. None of us really come particularly from this background at all, but it’s kind of like jazz, you know, you need to interact with the other guys.  And so then we’ll stop and break everything down and we’ll work on the songs with just acoustic guitars or just the three guitars and we’ll sing together. My vocals are almost always done before we practice them. And on stage, it’s kind of the same thing, you just really have to listen to everybody else. Especially now, with the Traveling Circus Tour, there are 17, 18 guys on stage. It can be a mess.
OS: Your breakout album August and Everything After was a really early release for the band, and you’ve said that it was recorded before the band really had a feel for each other. Was there a point where you felt that the band really did come into its own?
AD: I think we kind of come into our own over and over again. With the first record, we really hadn’t been together very long. As a result, it was brutal to make, but we did spend that time making it…We stripped everybody’s effects off the guitars. We took half the drums off our drummer. Everybody was forced to play much simpler, and we stood around in circles, playing quietly until we got things. And the next album, Ben had joined the band on drums and Dan had started electric guitar right after we finished August, so we had a year to be on the road all together. Ben came much more from like a punk, sort of indie background, which is where the rest of us came from, our drummer didn’t. So by that time, we could play the kind of songs I really wanted to play that we couldn’t do on August and Everything After—like “Catapult” and “Angels of the Silences” and “Have You Seen Me Lately?” That was also a big part of my background, that sort of came from college radio, it came from my band The Himalayans—a much more guitar band, I’d grown up on late ’70s punk music and could play a lot more of that stuff, like those loud songs on Recovering the Satellites. I thought we came into our own a different way there, it was a much more raw, emotional record. In the third album, we really wanted to experiment with what it’s like to just be in the studio and do all the quirky things you can do with drum loops and messing around in a recording studio. Right now we’re learning how to play with 17 guys for the last couple years.
OS: So it’s kind of like an evolutionre-defining yourself with each release?
AD:  With each show. It’s just a constant thing you go through. I think the releases are a better way to market because they’re how everyone sees it, but within the band, it’s a daily thing. It’s almost that Dylan line, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”
OS: Do you put more weight or more stock into your live show then, than a release? Or are they just different things?
AD: I think the simplest way to put it is that there are really three parts to being a musician. I think you have to write songs—and that’s very difficult and requires this whole willingness to open your soul up to things. Then you have to make records and crystallize those songs into something. And then you’ve got to play them live, which is where you take your daily life and you filter your songs through it. I think they’re all equally important, equally satisfying, equally horrible, and equally wonderful. Especially to a band like us, I wouldn’t put one part over the other. You can’t. Without any of the three parts, the whole thing falls apart.
OS: Do you have a release that you feel was most successful?
AD: We were trying to do so many different things on each record…and I felt like we completely succeeded in every way on them except the first one, maybe? People don’t understand what I mean when I say I’m not trying to badmouth that first album, because people mistake it because they think I just played it a lot. I could play “Mr. Jones” every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of playing it. That song is a fucking great song. “Round Here” is an even better song. The only failure on that album is me. It’s just that I wasn’t a good enough singer yet. To me, singing is all about baring yourself, opening up your inside and letting someone see it…with a beat. Two of the songs—”Rain King” and “Mr. Jones”—I know I did sixty-plus takes on those two songs. I could not sing them.  Those songs just kind of jog, they’re not mid-tempo songs but they kind of have to rock and roll at a kind of relaxed pace. But it’s really hard to find that middle ground between rocking out and relaxing. That’s why soul singing is so hard. People think it’s this big, overdone thing, but it’s a lot about restraint. I look back on some of the songs now that I thought I had at the time and go, “shit.” I fucked up three songs, I think. On those songs, I feel like I just wrote it better than I sang it. But I was such a new singer then. I wasn’t quite good enough.
I think, in a way,  the one that satisfies me the most is the second album, Recovering The Satellites, because that’s an album where we made a huge leap towards something we weren’t able to do on the first album. We played songs like “Goodnight Elisabeth,” this really beautiful, long, sort of country rock song. We had “Long December,” which was written and recorded in under 24 hours—we had single takes, there are no overdubs on it at all. Then we had songs like “Catapult,” “Angels of the Silences,” “Have You Seen Me Lately?” “I’m Not Sleeping,” where they’re like, either vicious punk songs or they’re huge departures with strings and all kinds of other weird stuff. We really strove to do things that were outside our comfort zone. It’s an album of a really great breadth. I got cut a lot of slack. I did have a nervous breakdown on the road, I did lose my fucking mind, and I had a really fucking hard time dealing with what happened to us. So I decided to write about it, and we played it with as much passion and conviction as we’ve ever done anything. I’m proud of all of our records, they’re exactly how I wanted them to be, but Satellites really went out there. I love the way the band plays with just, utter abandon on it. I think I love that record the most. Also because we could have completely fallen apart with that first album and not have been able to make that record. Also, not just us, but for the record company, because when you make August and Everything After and sell so many copies, they do not want you to go find The Pixies’ producer to make your second album.
OS: Let’s talk about the Traveling Circus you did this year. Why did you go with a more collaborative effort rather than opener/headliner?
AD: I’ve always thought that format sucks.There was a concert a long time ago at the Fillmore: It was Miles Davis, The Stones and The Dead, I think. It must have been quite the trio of bands, and they’re all very different. People would see them too, because they were really cool bands. Now-a-days there are sometimes outrageously good bands onstage and no one is there. And even co-headliners, all the fans might not be interested. It all seems very unsatisfying to me, especially because all the bands are goods.  I had done the collaborative thing with Augustana before. At first it was the first three hours with all three bands. We started playing with Augustana, flowing in and out of each other. Audiences were listened to all different kinds of music. So, you didn’t miss the great opening bands, because they were all in the middle of the show. This year, we got Augustana again and now the rapper NOTAR. NOTAR can spit too man…I watched a Counting Crows crowd fall in love with hip hop. I can’t tell you what it’s like to tilt your head back and sing in 12 part harmony with 19 other guys. It’s about just loving music. I think it’s a real groundbreaking show. We tried something new. We sold out some places, but not others. It’s sad, but I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do it again.
Coming up, we’ll have the Underwater Sunshine Web site dedicated to indie bands. The indie web is really where new rock is. If we can sell music at a price that music buyers won’t feel like they’re getting ripped off, then hopefully they’ll want to buy it. We’ll put it right up there with the Counting Crows. I want this Web site to be just like a home entertainment center—read magazines and find stuff. There are less ways to find music now, but there isn’t less music.  No one is talking about indie music anymore, except for Web sites like yours of course. You guys are definitely doing the type of thing I want to support with Underwater Sunshine. I’m still fascinated with what we’re doing. It still matters the world to me.
If you missed the Traveling Circus, keep an eye out for the new indie Web site that Counting Crows are developing, and check out which indie bands they think you should know about.

Q&A With Guster

In today’s age, it’s trendy to be green and environmentally-conscious. The band Guster, however, pursued a career with the environment in mind long before it was “trendy.” In the beginning, two of the band’s original members studied environmental science at Tuft’s University. Years later, guitarist/vocalist Adam Gardner and his wife began a charity called Reverb to focus on how bands can tour and perform without such an adverse effect on the world around them. Activism aside, the band has also acquired a great deal of industry respect with their optimistic, emotionally-driven music and down-to-earth stage presence.

Lead singer/guitarist Ryan Miller took the time to answer some questions about the band’s songwriting, activism and their upcoming album Easy Wonderful. Check out what he had to say!

OS: Being multi-instrumentalists, how do you guys decide what instruments you each play in a given song?

RM: Well, we always kind of joke that we pick the hardest thing to play and just give it to Joe. It’s not necessarily true, but there is something to that. We all write on different instruments. On records, we all play different things, but it’s not necessarily the same instrument we play live. Some people are better at bass, and sometimes I have to sing and it’s hard for me to play that part at the same time. It’s really a trial and error kind of thing.

OS: When you go to record an album then, what is the studio/writing process like?

RM: Songs have genesis in many different ways. Sometimes it’s on guitar, sometimes on a jam and sometimes on a computer. Usually if it starts on guitar, we’ll start there. Sometimes the guitar won’t even be in the final version. It’s pretty open. We don’t really have any rules, except maybe that the best idea wins. That’s the M.O. in the studio. It’s easy to keep the ego out if we just say “best idea wins”.

OS: Guster has always had an interesting “sales rep” program. What does this entail?

RM: We don’t really do it anymore. It kind of started before the Internet was really around. Now that you can kind of get music instantly, it defeats the purpose a little. I’m not sure if we still have any rep’s officially. When we started, we did it because we didn’t have a record deal. We had friends that wanted to support the band, so we would just empower them to do so. I don’t think it really works the same way—we don’t send kids records anymore. There are still people that “spread the gospel” so to speak, but it’s not an officially sanctioned program.

OS: How do your exclusive EP’s (Pasty Tapes) tie in?

RM: That just came as a way to pay back the fans who had been out there “banging on walls” for us. We’re still sort of doing it, but I don’t think it’s a “reward system” as much. It’s just that if you’re a fan of the band, it’s free. Everything is aimed towards “free”. We would put different versions, or songs we hadn’t released anywhere else on the EP’s. They were sort of fan-only B-side compilations.

OS: Please describe the Reverb charity organization and what Guster’s role is in it.

RM: Adam and his wife Lauren started that a few years. Guster were sort of guinea pigs for a lot of its early ideas before they went to Maroon 5, John Legend, The Roots, Willie Nelson, etc. The idea came from the fact that we were touring all the time, and we were leaving this “wake” of garbage. We felt like it was a pretty wasteful enterprise. Adam’s wife had studied environmental programs in college, and they put their heads together to see how we could tour less impactfully. This was years ago, before the whole “green thing” caught on and was trendy. They established themselves as a pretty solid not-for-profit organization that was out to help musicians shrink their footprint a little bit.

They do a tour every summer—The Campus Consciousness Tour. It has a lot of tabling and environmental things involved. It’s like a travelling road show of bands, sponsors and lectures on how to do things more sustainably on campus. We’ve done that a few times as well.

OS: You guys are being selective with your tour dates for the rest of the summer. Why did you choose to play the Life is Good Festival?

RM: We had a very small window. The record is coming out in October. We were just trying to fit everything in—we have four kids and counting between the three original members. There’s a real balance between family and touring. We’re trying to satisfy everybody’s adult needs. That was just sort of our Boston play before the record and then we’ll do bigger shows as the record rolls out. We’re planning a big winter tour, some college dates in the spring, and then a big summer tour. So we’ll be on the road for a good year.

There’s some overlap too with the environmental stuff and the Life Is Good Festival. I know a lot of the proceeds go to a good cause. We like playing festivals where we can play in front of other audiences, there’s a lot of cool bands and the whole “kid” component seems kind of funny.

OS: Easy Wonderful is set to drop in October, and you’ve released a couple of tracks from the album. Why are you giving “Bad Bad World” away to your fans for free?

RM: Things are kind of moving towards “free” at this point, like I mentioned. The best thing to do to promote a good record is to just let people “have at it”. We’re slowly doing that. We’re going to leak a bunch of tracks as we go, and hopefully people will get into it and get excited for the record. It took us a really long time to make it, so we’re trying to get everybody back into the spirit of it.

OS: How do you guys actually choose the tracks you give away for free?

RM: I don’t know. It’s sort of a democratic process—what was really representative of the album, and what doesn’t feel like a subtle outlier or anything. If it were up to me, we would just give away all of our records. I think people mostly steal our music anyway. But, we have a record company, and I don’t think they’d be too psyched about that. We’re trying to figure out a way to make a living playing music (like all the bands out there). We’re trying to find that sweet spot between giving stuff away and giving people a lot of value for their money when they do actually buy stuff.

We’re basically planning toward the end of 2011. So, there’s nothing but plans for the next year and a half to support the record. We had an option to not sign another major label deal, but we decided to do it because we were really proud of the record that we made. We really wanted a lot of people to hear it. We’re really amped up to go promote it in every way—on the road, through video, Internet stuff and TV. We’re excited to do it. “Do You Love Me” will probably end up being the first video.

Catch Guster on tour now!

9/28 – Troubadour, Hollywood, CA

10/1- War Memorial Auditorium, Nashville, TN

10/2 – The Fillmore Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

10/8- Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH

10/9 – The Pageant, Saint Louis, MO

10/10- Egyption Room at Murat Center, Indianapolis, IN

10/12 – Slowdown, Omaha, NE

10/13 – Beaumont Club, Kansas City, MO

10/15 – Overture Center for the Arts: Capitol Theatre, Madison, WI

10/16- Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI

Q&A With Switchfoot

“Switchfoot” may be a surfing term, but it’s also the name of a band that screams California pop/rock. Hailing from San Diego, the guys from Switchfoot have been releasing albums since 1996. While their lyrics are definitely influenced by their Christian roots, they’ve worked to define themselves outside of the Christian genre. Rather, the band has caught the ear of fans, critics and even music supervisorsSwitchfoot wrote music specifically for use in a Chronicles of Narnia movie in 2008. We got a chance to speak with keyboardist/guitarist Jerome Fontamillas about the Chronicles experience and reflect on this past summer’s shows.

OS: Lyrically, why do your songs seem to gravitate toward deeper and often literary references?

JF: John, our lead singer, writes most of the lyrics. He reads a lot of books. John and I actually kind of have this “book club”. We give each other books and suggestions to read, but he reads a lot more than I do. From being with him for over 10 years, a lot of the stuff that he writes is taken from personal experiences and what he’s going through. He writes a lot about stuff he doesn’t understand—whether it’s politics, God or relationships. It’s kind of like a journal of his life.

OS: Specifically, you’ve mentioned that “Meant to Live” is inspired by Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men”. How does the poem relate to the lyrics?

JF: I wouldn’t know particularly, but what I know is that the basic premise of that song is that life is short. You should live it and make sure it counts. He’s talked about the correlation with me before, and it seems like it’s a little more of an abstract connection.

OS: In 2008, the band wrote a song for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. How was this process different for you as opposed to writing more standard Switchfoot songs?

JF: When you get offered the chance to write for a movie, they usually look at your back catalog of music to see if it will fit in. This is a special case, though because they approached us. They said, “Hey, would you want to write a song specifically for this movie?” That was a really great opportunity for us.

OS: Yeah. How did you guys actually approach writing process for this?

JF: All of us have read C.S. Lewis, especially the Chronicles of Narnia. When we got to the drawing board to piece that song together, the general theme of the whole Chronicles was what it derived from—the longing for a home. We kept that in the song. We didn’t write it to make it specific, but rather wanted to make it more general to encompass the theme of all the Chronicles. It was really a great experience for us. C.S. Lewis has been a big influence in our lives. It was an honor to even dive into something like that.

OS: The band performed at the US Open of Surfing . Are you guys big surfers yourselves?

JF: Well, three of the guys grew up surfing. I picked it up a few years back and so did Drew. The term Switchfoot is actually a surfing term. It’s a big part of our lives. Doing the US Open is going to be a great experience, because you get to watch surfing and then you get to play.We’re kind of bummed, because we won’t be around to see Weezer play it. We’re excited, especially because it’s in California so we’ll kind of get to go home.

OS: Can you talk to us about the background of the Switchfoot Bro-Am and what’s it’s become?

JF: You’re right, it’s kind of like the Open. It’s our annual charity event where we try to raise money and awareness for a local charity in San Diego called “Stand Up For Kids”. It’s probably our favorite time of year, because you mix surfing, and music and you bring these kids from this shelter and have them hang out. It’s a great day for those kids, and we feel very honored to be a part of it. We’d have Tim Curran, Rob Machado, etc. You’ve got some pretty great surfers coming and helping out to support. So it’s an awesome experience.

OS: Switchfoot have a lot of associations outside of the music scene (the surf contests, your own MacBeth shoe, etc). How do these partnerships come about?

JF: You forge a partnership by going out there, playing and building relationships with the people you meet. MacBeth’s office is actually a couple doors down from our recording studio. So, it was really cool to build a great relationship with them.

OS: The upcoming album Vice Verses contains material from your sessions for Hello Hurricane. Can listeners expect a similar album?

JF: We’re hoping to push further, creatively and musically. Whether it’s a natural progression from Hello Hurricane or not, you never know.  We’re still planning how we’re going to go about recording the album. We have an abundance of songs (like 90), and John is a writing machine. So we have new songs, and you’re adding 20 or 30 into the mix. So it will be interesting.

OS: So are you guys planning on releasing that other material from the Hello Hurricane sessions?

JF: We’re hoping to. There are a lot of songs. I’m not saying all of them are good, but we just have to dwindle it down to a regular amount of songs. We are diving into the idea of a double album or something. That’s the greatest thing—that we’re able to release these songs and other people will hear them. We’re just trying to figure out a way to get these songs out there so people can hear them. A CD is one format, but there are other ways too.

OS: Can we expect to hear them live?

JF: We’re not prepared yet to play the songs that haven’t been on albums yet. I know John has been doing these “after shows” where he will go out after the show with his guitar into some corner somewhere and start playing our new songs. It’s pretty awesome, because we’re really excited about the new songs. We’re getting geared up to go record them.

The release date for Vice Verses isn’t set yet, but is expected early next year. Keep an eye out for an acoustic “after show” the next time you catch Switchfoot live!

Q&A With Thrice

When you think of a band’s career, it’s important to consider the evolution of their sound. Thrice is a great example of a band that effectively experiments and evolves with each new release. They’ve put out punk records, pop/rock records, records with hardcore influences and even concept albums. Their latest release Beggars is their most mature effort yet. Despite being leaked before being released, the album has been a success, particularly in the eyes of their fans. Drummer Riley Breckenridge was able to give us the inside scoop on their writing process, how the felt about this summer’s touring cycle, and their upcoming plans. Check it out:

OS: What has made the band stick to charitable donations with every album release?

RB: I think we just feel really fortunate to be able to do what we do for a living. I think we want to share some of that good fortune with people that need it. Hopefully, by us doing it, we can raise awareness amongst the people who listen to our music and appreciate what we do. We want to show them that making charitable donations, whether monetary or sharing your skills, doesn’t require you to be a movie star, a huge band like U2 or Oprah Winfrey. Hopefully it will encourage people to get involved. As a result, a lot of small donations can build up to something big and life-changing for people that need it.

In terms of choosing the charity, we get a few ideas together and decide what feels right. On this last record, Beggars, instead of having a percentage of the sales go to a charity, we decided to work with Invisible Children. They’re such a dedicated group of people, and they’re working really hard for change. On some of our tours, we had them come out and set up a table, just so they can educate people  and it’s there. People can then get involved and make a human contact, instead of just buying a record where x amount of dollars go to a cause. By having Invisible Children out with a  table on tour, with literature and t-shirts and DVDs, people can talk to them, learn about the situation and find out ways they can get involved beyond buying something.

OS: The Alchemy Index was a really interesting concept. How did you come up with this?

RB: It was actually an idea that Dustin had. He presented it as a way that we could experiment more than we had in the past. We could take ideas and push them in a certain direction. All the EP’s in this release were themed to an element, and we assigned certain sonic qualities to each element. On a normal record, we’d try to push the songs into sounding more like “Thrice”. For The Alchemy Index, we’d just let, say, an acoustic song be an acoustic song. For the Water disc, if somebody had something they had written on synth, Rhodes or with a lot of delay, we’d just let it stay like that. It was a huge challenge, and a huge learning experience, but I think it’s something that helped us grow as musicians and songwriters.

OS: You recorded your most recent release Beggars on your own. Why did you guys choose to move in a DIY direction?

RB: We took some of the recording budget for Vheissu back in 2005 and decided to turn the detached garage at Teppei’s house into a little studio/rehearsal space. It’s like a room built within a room in a two-car garage. It’s really cramped, but that became a place where we could rehearse for tour. We then bought studio equipment and we were able to do demo’s. When it came time to do The Alchemy Index and Beggars, because we felt comfortable with Teppei’s engineering skills and our decision-making, we figured from a cost standpoint it would be a lot wiser for us to record for ourselves. Even though it’s cramped, it’s nice to have something we can call our own, rather than buying studio time and feeling like “renting” a place. It’s ours for however long we need it.

OS: Why did the band opt for a more energetic record this time around?

RB: I think part of it was because of what we had done on The Alchemy Index, because we were pushing all these ideas in different directions, and because the writing/recording process kind of felt fractured. When it came to Beggars, we were really excited to just get back to having the four of us being in the same room together, jamming ideas out and letting things happen.

OS: Other than that, you did the festival circuit in Europe this past summer. Do these festivals differ from your US shows?

RB: I think so. The festivals are kind of overwhelming in a sense because there are so many people, so many bands, and the people there are fans of so many types of music. If you look at a festival like Leads/Reading, we’re playing with Blink, Paramore, Limp Bizkit, The Drums, Local Natives and Holy Fuck. There are all these bands from a bunch of genres, so you have a chance to play for people that wouldn’t come to see you normally.

The club shows over there have a level of enthusiasm that is sometimes lacking in the States, because we don’t make it over there that much. People are really excited and they know that this is going to be the last time that we’ll be in the UK/Europe for a while. So they’ll be excited to come out to the shows. It’s really cool, and I’m glad we’re finishing up this touring cycle by heading over there again. We’ll get a chance to play for a ton of people.

OS: You did a date with Blink 182 while you were over there. What’s your relationship with these guys?

RB: Yeah, we did main support in an open-air arena in Germany. We met Mark in Australia when we were playing a festival. He was over there with Plus 44, so we met him real briefly. MacBeth has been super supportive of us, and we know Tom through that. For me, Blink is one of the reasons that I’m in a band. Back in ’92 or ’93, I remember going to The Whiskey in LA, or San Diego, or Ventura. That was before I was into music or anything. Seeing them up there playing music, inspired me top pick up an instrument and play. To have a chance to play with them now is awesome. I’d mentioned it to my friends, but 1994 “me” is absolutely shitting his pants right now.

OS: When can we expect the next release?

RB: We’re hoping to get something out for next summer. We were kind of holding out to see what was going to happen in the fall. We were thinking about trying to do some kind of support tour, like last time supporting Rise Against. It would be a cool way to end the cycle. Nothing came up though, so I think we’re all in the headspace of kind of being ready to start writing and work on a new record. There’s been a little bit of a discussion of doing something a little bit heavier than Beggars. How we’re going to make that happen hasn’t been decided. We’re going to try and get into stuff that’s a little more riff-based or heavier. We always talk about direction, but when we start putting songs together, they kind of take on their own life. So we’ll see what happens.

After deciding to opt out of a fall/winter tour, the band is currently working on their next studio effort. Keep an eye out for it’s release down the pipes.

Q&A With Zac Brown Band

Last year’s “Best New Artist” GRAMMY winner, Zac Brown Band has earned three Number 1 country singles and a double platinum album in addition to their award milestone. While the band seems new, they’ve actually been performing and touring since 2002. It seems that “instant stardom” isn’t exactly that instant. This may explain why the band remains a humble group of guys that are really doing everything for the fans. Don’t take our word for it, though. Read on to see what violinist Jimmy DeMartini had to say about all of their success.

OS: The band always seems to try and promote family values along with your music. Why has this been so important for you?

JD: It might be a Georgia thing or a southern thing. When we go home, we want to get together with our families and hang out. We’re not the band out on the road doing drugs, hooking up with girls and stuff like that. Maybe it’s just that we’re a little older. That’s just the kind of lifestyle we live. We don’t necessarily promote it and say that’s how you should live, but that’s just who we are.

OS: Yeah, you guys actually have a family bus that comes out with you sometimes, right?

JD: Sure. My wife and my kid and our tour manager and our bass player—their wives and kids just came out for three days. They just went home. Every once and a while they get to come out too. It’s a good break for them from being at home and taking care of the kids and everything.

OS: Being the violin player—such a classic part of a traditional country band, how do you work your parts into ZBB songs?

JD: I don’t have a lot of country influence, because I actually didn’t listen to a lot of country music growing up. I listened to a lot of rock music. I’m more influenced by guitar players. I’ve been learning how to play bluegrass and country, but you can definitely tell the difference between me and a Nashville fiddle player. I’m more of a classical-style player. When I hear a song, I’ll just try and compliment the song. Sometimes, I’ll do a harmony with the guitar player. Sometimes, I’ll pluck the violin, so on the beach-y tunes it almost has a steel drum kind of sound. Whatever accent the song needs, I’ll try and put it in.

OS: It’s really been in the last few years that the band blew up. How did you guys respond to all of the success?

JD: We’ve always been a touring band. So we’re used to leaving home and going to play shows on the road. We used to travel around in a little airport shuttle bus. It used to be just 6 of us. Now we’ve got 47 or so people on the road, with 4 semi’s and 6 buses. You’re doing the same thing, but it’s just on a larger scale as far as touring. That’s something that you notice more than anything, because that’s basically our job. Everything else, like the interviews and the awards show—it’s all very new to us. We felt a little awkward walking down the red carpet and posing and stuff. I think it’s still weird for us to do that. We try to just stay true to the fans. We do certain things before each show—like sometimes we’ll eat dinner with 100 or so fans. We try to stay close to them. At the end of the night we try to sign for as many people as we can. It’s a little harder these days because there are a lot more people who want a picture or a signature. We’re dealing with it though. It’s not a bad problem to have.

OS: We have to talk about the GRAMMY award. What was it like being named the Best New Artist?

JD: That was pretty crazy. We were not expecting that. We were up against some good people. We thought for sure that a hip hop artist or something would win it. So we were completely surprised when we won it. We went up on stage and were like “Oh my god, this is crazy. We’re on TV winning Best New Artist”. It was pretty intense, but after everything settled we were just back to the same people we were. We just have a GRAMMY at home. Sometimes you have a title. People say the “GRAMMY Award-wining Zac Brown Band”. That’s pretty cool. We grew up watching the GRAMMY’s. You’re voted on by all of your musical peers. So, it did mean a lot to us in the respect that they like our music.

OS: How did the idea for the Sailing Southern Ground cruise come about?

JD: We’d been on a cruise before called “The Rock Boat”. It’s kind of a floating music festival. You get on the cruise ship and there are something like 15-20 bands, and there’s always music going on. There are like 6 stages, whether you’re up top, underneath the deck or in the club or something. We thought it would be a really great idea that, once we had enough fans where we could do our own boat, we would to do it.We’re the headlining, but we got to pick the other bands.We’re going to be doing different things. Some people in the band are doing guitar workshops. I’m actually doing an exercise boot camp, where fans get to exercise with me. It’s going to be cool. We’ll play all night long. We’ll set up in the middle of the bar, and play until 3AM sometimes. It’s just going to be fun.

OS: What are some of the other band members’ activities?

JD: Our drummer is doing a radio show over the speaker every morning, maybe a comedy act. Zac’s doing a cooking demonstration because he’s a big cook. Some guys are doing a “songwriter thing,” maybe karaoke. And I’m doing my workout thing. I’m big into stuff like that. While people are there, they’re going to hear plenty of music, but this way they can learn other aspects of the people in the band.

OS: The new album release date is next week. First of all, why the unique preorder bundle including a spice rub?

JD: It’s called the “Georgia Clay Rub”. It’s the spice rub that Zac came up with, and he’s also got a sauce that he bottles. He has some recipes that he’s taken from family recipes. He’s been cooking for a long time. He cooks for the band a lot. Anytime he has a big Thanksgiving dinner when he’s at home, and sometimes even on the road, he’ll cook it up for us. We do these things called “Eat and Greets” before every show where Zac and another chef cook up some of their family recipes as well. It’s another way for fans to see what else we do. You can order a CD and get a spice rub. The two things he loves are music and cooking and the band loves to eat. So it works out.

OS: Musically, how do you think this album will live up to the success that you had with The Foundation?

JD: Yeah, I think so. We didn’t necessarily have a direction. We just had a bunch of songs that we’d written over the past few years, and kind of chose from those what we think would sound the best. Everyone in the band has different influences between rock and jam bands and jazz and all different styles of country. So, the songs tend to have a different flavor than just country, even though we’re pegged as a “country band” because we’re always on country radio stations. Some of the songs have a “beach-y” feel, and some are more jam band. There are definitely some country radio singles on there. We put everything on this record—there are 14 studio tracks. So, it’s a big one.

All these songs just start on a bus, sitting around writing them. We take them onstage and try them out in front of 10,000 people. Then it becomes part of our setlist. So, by the time we get in the studio, we all know how to play our parts. This is the first album that we’ve ever had people anticipating. When the first record came out, no one knew who we were. It will be interesting to see everybody’s take on it. We have a lot of faith that everyone will enjoy it, especially the fans. So I’m excited to see their response.

Zac Brown Band’s latest album You Get What You Give will drop next Tuesday. They just finished up the Sailing Southern Ground cruise last week so check out some of their “mainland” dates:

9/16- OKC Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, OK

9/17- City Bank Coliseum, Lubbock, TX

9/18- Hard Rock Casino Presents The Pavilion, Albuquerque, NM

9/19- Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver, CO

9/23- Lawlor Events Center, Ren, NV

9/24- Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA

9/25- Cricket Wireless Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

9/26- Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine, CA

Q&A With Ozomatli

The US State Department has been sending musicians overseas as musical ambassadors of culture, peace and acceptance for decades. Over the years, the ranks have included famous jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. In this spirit, they’ve selected a new artist to represent this cause over the past couple of years. Our current ambassadors are none other than Ozomatli. This diverse and enthusiastic group covers such a wide variety of genres that it’s no surprise that they’ve been selected to represent our country. Their music encompasses Latin, Salsa, hip hop, rock, funk, blues and even jazz. Having begun in Los Angeles, it seems only fitting that their genres are as far-reaching as each member’s background. They’ve palyed in orchestra’s, hip hop groups, Latin fusion acts, and their current drummer Mario Calirewas even the previous drummer for the Wallflowers. OurStage wanted to dig a little deeper. So, we sat down with saxophone/clarinet/keys player Ulises Bella, who gave us the inside scoop about their touring and their music.
OS: You all come from diverse backgrounds (Latin, hip hop, salsa, funk and rock). How did you meet and how did the current lineup come about?
UB: The genesis of the band was in a community culture space in Downtown LA called the Peace and Justice Center. It was at this center that we all started playing parties to help raise money for any and all costs for the building. There are 6 of us who were there from the beginning and continue to be in Ozo.
OS: You guys played a bunch of shows with the Boston Pops earlier this year. How difficult was it to to incorporate orchestral instrumentation into your song arrangements?
UB: Thankfully we had an amazing arranger to help us with writing out the parts for the orchestra. Also being that a couple of us played in orchestras, we realize the caliber of musicianship involved.
OS: What was it like to look out and see a Symphony Hall audience out of their seats and dancing?
UB: It was amazing…being that we’re not the usual standard fair for an orchestra setting and for it to get the reaction the way we did was out this world!
OS: How did you guys end up being chosen as US Peace Ambassadors?
UB: After a NPR interview, we were contacted to see if we’d be interested in being cultural ambassadors. After much debate internally we decided that the opportunity was extremely valuable.
OS: What is it like representing your country and promoting peace through your music on government funded tours?
UB: Even though we are representing, we don’t go to these places as apologists to anything involving the foreign policy. We’re there to create a human connection through art that goes beyond the walls of division society creates.
OS: You’ve made such a mark on society that you’ve even had a holiday created in your name in Los Angeles. What was this like and how should we celebrate “Ozomatli Day”?
UB: It was crazy…we got kids and schools involved by having them all come up with there own unique interpretation of an Ozomatli song. Then at the end of the show, we had a super jam with everbody!!!! Even the mayor came through to say a few words! How you celebrate Ozomatli Day…give love and dance all day!
OS: The upbeat “Malagasy Shock” off your new album Fire Away is about an accident on tour concerning your guitarist/singer Raul Pacheco. Can you tell us more about what happened and the message you’d like the listener to take away from the song?
UB: Basically in the first minute of the first song playing in the capital of Madagascar, Raul’s guitar and microphone connected the loop of electricity for the whole stage. Being that the stage was not properly grounded, over 240 volts seared through his body making it seem that he was dancing wildly. He collapsed and was sent to the hospital. This life threatening experience gave cause for “Malagasy Shock” to carpe diem and “move your feet or you will die”!!!
OS: Having such an eclectic set of festival dates this summer, was there one in particular that the band enjoyed the most?
UB: We just got back recently from doing the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. For sure one of the Top 5 music festivals of the world!!! The band had two amazing gigs there and got to see MGMT, Massive Attack, Atoms for Peace, Buffalo Daughter and a crazy funk band from Japan called Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro that could school fools back in the States.

Check out the rest of the band’s festival/touring schedule into this fall!

9/17 – CSU Chico,  Chico, CA

9/19 - KCRW World Festival- Viva Mexico!, Hollywood, CA

9/26 – San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival, San Jose, CA

10/1 - Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill, NC

10/9 – Austin City Limits, Austin, TX

Q&A With Tegan & Sara

The whole realm of musical duos is gaining more and more popularity in the music industry. She & Him, Matt & Kim, Meg & Dia and—of course—Tegan & Sara. The thing that sets the latter apart is sheer versatility. You’ll find these Canadian twins relaxing you with acoustic performances immediately followed by dance numbers to get you moving. They even mix a substantial amount of indie and punk rock into their sets. Needless to say, they’ve got something for everyone. We caught up with Sara Quin to talk about their collaborative songwriting, their view on music awards and their overall musical goals.

OS: Lately, you’ve attempted to write songs together, rather than separately. Any sibling drama when working together directly, as opposed to your normal “remote” collaboration?

SQ: You know, not just with music, but with every aspect of our career, there’s an element of debate and conversation about a lot things that we do—making decisions for art and video and that sort of thing. So, certainly when we’re face-to-face and we’re dealing with stuff, it can sometimes turn into arguments or animated debates. But, for the most part we’ve sort of found a way to work through those issues. Certainly doing the songwriting long distance and generally giving each other space to make art without immediate critique or feedback has been really helpful. Writing in person sort of eliminates that buffer zone, but we made it through without too much friction. I think, because we were so excited by the results, it was helping to smooth over some of the difficulties. We were really establishing, “Wow, okay so this is how you write a song. That’s so interesting. That’s not how I would do it.” I think we were able to get past some of those bumps because we were both really excited about what was coming out.

OS: Only one of these co-writes made the final cut of Sainthood. What happened here and are we ever going to hear the other songs?

SQ: Yeah! We would eventually love to release the material, and who knows, some of them might get spiraled into something else. I think, ultimately, it was really late in the writing process, and a lot of the music just sounded so different than what we had already written for the record, that the songs just ended up feeling a little bit like they wouldn’t work. So, we sort of set them aside for a later date. It was less about whether or not the songs were good, because it was such a new thing, they really had such a different feel it didn’t make sense.

OS: You’ve been nominated for a bunch of Juno awards, but have never taken one home. Your latest album was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. Do you think winning this award would put you on a different level as Canadian artists?

SQ: I don’t know. I personally never have put a ton of energy, or assigned any sort of value to those types of things. When you’re in the music industry, you see that there’re a lot of politics behind them, and often it’s not necessarily representative of everything that is out there, or what I would deem as “good” or the “best of”. You’re always weighing that with the natural desire to be acknowledged and recognized within the industry and in the public eye. Certainly when you’re winning these awards, or being nominated for them, it makes you feel good, and it sort of elevates you to a different status, and your parents are happy—that sort of thing.  So, I definitely don’t want to speak too negatively about them, but it’s important to balance being interested and excited and also knowing that they don’t totally matter, whether you win them or not. I would still feel like we had made a really fantastic record whether it had been nominated for the prize or not. If we don’t win, that’s okay too.

OS: It seems that the band has an interesting presence in the punk scene as well as the indie rock scene (Tegan’s collaborations with Against Me! and Alkaline Trio and yours with The Reason). Are you simply rock stars at heart?

SQ: I’m not. I think we always sort of felt awkward. I don’t think we ever felt comfortable with the idea that this would be our career, or that we would be professional for years. There was always this idea that it was just a hobby or it was something that was really fun. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself really addicted to the lifestyle. So much of what the public sees is you on tour and onstage, and I think that’s where this idea of the “rockstar” sort of comes from, but so much of our lives is behind the scenes—songwriting and working on projects. It’s very isolated, and there’s a solitary, introverted element to a tremendous amount of what we do.

Behind the scenes, you’re interested in working on stuff. Mostly it’s alone, but then every once in a while an artist or someone will come along and ask you to contribute something. It’s just naturally reaching out, branching out and having a community. When people are working on albums and they’re looking for other people to throw their personality or their style into the project, you jump at the chance to do it. Like, for us, obviously we’re not a dance project, but it’s really fun to work with dance artists, because you get to sort of see yourself in a different light.

OS: Along the same lines, you perform along side artists of many different genres, like this year’s Civic Tour with Paramore and New Found Glory. What’s it like keeping up with acts like this?

SQ: I think what we do is adaptable. We’re versatile and we can tailor our set, energy level and the dynamic of our set to meet a lot of different venues and support gigs and festivals. Maybe we’ll stand out. I don’t know that we’ll necessarily fit in in the sense that we’ll be interchangeable with those bands. But, I definitely think that there will be people in the audience that appreciate hearing something different, or seeing a different approach to the music that we’re making. I feel really excited about it. There’s always an element of fear or danger when you’re opening for a band that isn’t exactly doing what you do, because you don’t want the audience to hate you. But, I really believe Paramore in particular have a fantastic audience. Hayley is so wonderful, and I think even though they have a very big audience, there’s a parallel in the way that we connect with our audience. It seems very personal, and they’re rooting for her, and I’m hoping that will extend to our band.

OS: You’ve both had mixed responses to the media’s portrayal of you as “twin, lesbian, female musicians”. This year, you had one date at the Lilith tour which celebrates women in music and their sexuality. How does the whole Lilith thing fit in with you guys?

SQ: Well, we are doing one show with Lilith. You know, it’s like a festival. For example, we were over in Europe doing rock festivals in Germany, and we did Glastonbury in the UK. You take into consideration who the audience is and what might get their attention, and you sort of write a set list that will make sense at that venue. With Lilith, obviously with the focus on women musicians, you’re going to see a lot of women in the audience. I think that it means that Tegan and I can do what we do best. We have a really dynamic catalog of music, and I think I’ll feel more comfortable doing a set that’s a little more representative of what our entire catalog is representative of.

Whereas when we’re playing a rock festival at midnight in Germany, we’ll probably play more heavy music, or we’ll play most of our rock songs. We won’t be trying to do the acoustic sing-a-long’s. I think Lilith is great. I don’t worry as much about being pigeonholed because of our gender or sexuality the way we did when we were younger. I think we now have the history in the industry. That helps us get out of the category of “women making music for women,” which used to sort of drive us crazy. Based on the artists that we’ve supported and the festivals that we’ve done, and how mainstream/wide of a spectrum our audience is now, I think we’re not worrying that there’s limitations because of our gender or sexuality.

Check out Tegan & Sara’s upcoming tour dates:

9/7- Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, LA

9/8- Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Houston, TX

9/10-Nokia Theatre, Dallas, TX

9/11-Cains Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

9/13-Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

9/15-Dodge Theater, Phoenix, AZ

9/17-Theater at HP Pavillion, San Jose, CA

9/18-Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA

9/19-Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

9/24-Malkin Bowl,Vancouver, BC

Q&A With Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

In the true spirit of indie music, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are winning fans over one show at a time with their organic sound,  full of improvisation and unique surprises at every turn. Unlike the typical indie pop band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ 10 official members all crowd the stage with whatever instrument, drum or object they can play or beat on. The result is music brimming with emotion, so it’s no surprise the band is staying busy on the summer festival circuit as well as earning placements in TV commercials and film trailers (such for the Ford Fiesta as well as the trailer for the movie Cyrus). Guitarist and vocalist Christian Letts got in touch with OurStage to offer his own take on the band’s many projects.

OS: So, who is Edward Sharpe?

CL: Edward Sharpe is everybody. Originally he was a character in a novel Alex was writing. In the book, he was a character that was sent from heaven to save the world, but he keeps getting distracted and falling in love with girls along the way. He doesn’t ever get around to doing it. I don’t think the novel’s even finished. It’s something that Alex has been working on for years and years.

OS: When performing “Home” live, there’s almost always a different monologue toward the end of the song. Do you determine these topics before you go onstage, or is it strictly improv?

CL: Definitely not. It’s not just even “Home”. Every song we play is different every night. We rarely play anything the same twice. It makes it really fun to play, you don’t ever really get bored of playing songs. Sometimes people ask us about that. “Does it get monotonous playing the same song over and over again?” It actually really doesn’t because of that. It’s really free flowing, you know? We really never know what’s going to happen in that breakdown. We just kind of follow along, and we ride it out, you know?

OS: Yeah it definitely seems like you’re all usually just going with the flow and having fun. Was there a specific time onstage that you really noticed was set apart from the rest?

CL: There are moments all the time that feel different, and like we’re growing as a band. We’re getting better and better at playing with each other. It’s always been really good, and it’s cool that it keeps going. We’re always pushing each other to become a better unit. It’s not even really pushing. It just naturally happens with us. Even at acoustic radio shows we do, it’s really cool to see an acoustic version of things grow. It’s really beautiful. I’ll be like “Holy shit man, this is great tonight, and I thought it was great before.” It happens a lot, but it’s hard to pinpoint one time though because there’s been a bunch of them.

OS: So, it’s tough to pick out just one because you guys just keep getting better and better?

CL: Definitely, it’s great man. It just keeps growing. Sometimes there are these happy accidents that happen, where the whole band will cut out. Well, there was one point I remember in Williamsburg. On one song, the band dropped out and it was just us singing one part. It was so hypnotic even when I was singing, I just really felt like I was meditating. We all talk about how special that felt. We’ve added that to how we play the song, and it’s even changed more since then. So that’s one moment I really remember.

OS: You released some vinyl’s surrounding Up From Below last year, which had limited pressings. What was the purpose of these releases?

CL: People like collecting vinyl. We’ve actually had to keep ordering more. I really like listening to the album on vinyl, because there’s something really special about the way it sounds. Also, we recorded the takes in analog and everything. It’s just a different experience than on the CD.

OS: Last year you released a couple of music videos from a “12-part musical,” right?

CL: Yeah, we’re trying to eventually finish a video, or short film basically, for each song on the album, and they’ll all go together and make sense in the end. Another one should be coming up pretty soon, but I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. But, eventually it will all be done.

OS: Was there any sort of inspiration for the plot or the visuals in these short films?

CL: Alex had this idea, and we’re all just like “Wow, that’s fucking great.” We were all at his friend’s house and just started brainstorming and kicking around things. We’re really fortunate to have a bunch of very talented friends around us that are great at whatever it is they do. It all kind of stayed within the family of  buddies getting together and shooting stuff. You don’t know how everything is going to be when it’s done. You’re there when it’s being shot, but when it was finished, we all got together and watched the first video. We were like “Holy shit, this looks so good!”

OS: You guys are a big festival band during the summers, but there’s a big difference between club and festival dates. So, how does the connection with the crowd differ between these?

CL: Well, it changes from festival to festival too. It’s not something you force. However the experience is, you just sort of let it happen. Whenever you try to force anything, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’ve had festivals where I’ve been like “God, this whole crowd, I feel like we’re all in this one unit right now.”  I remember early on, when I was in other bands, we’d try to force a connection. For this one, it’s not something I ever feel like I’m trying to force. It feels like I’m in the ocean rolling with it. Sometimes there’re really calm shows, even at venues. At clubs there will be mellow shows. There are other ones where it’s just so hyped, and the sweatiest shit and walls are dripping with water because everyone is sweating. I really like the sweaty nights man, they’re a lot of fun. Nothing is really predetermined before going onstage, other than to just have fun. One thing we agree on is to just enjoy ourselves.

OS: So, do you find yourselves anywhere in particular after shows when you’re just kind of hanging out?

CL: We’ll go out to a bar afterward and have a couple drinks maybe. Sometimes, we’ll just go back to the bus and chill and jam. There are so many people. It’s funny. We’ll all wander off in different directions and somehow usually end up at the same place. Everybody just sort of trickles in. It’s really interesting actually. “How did they know we were here?” With 10 people, if you want to do something, sometimes you can’t wait for everyone to rally. Otherwise you’re going to miss out.

End your summer with a Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as they close of their festival circuit/ fall tour!

9/1- Wow Hall, Eugene, OR

9/2- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/3- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/4- Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle, WA

9/25- Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Columbia, MD

10/7- Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ

10/9- Warehouse Live, Houston, TX

10/10- Austin City Limites Festival, Austin, TX

10/11- The Collective, Shreveport, LA

10/12- The Lyric Oxford, Oxford, MS

Folkin’ Around: Q&A With Matthew Perryman Jones

We’ve brought you a lot of album reviews, OurStage artist features and playlists here on the Folkin’ Around series. If you recall our feature on Pocket Satellite, you may remember that the use of harmonies is a common and current folk practice. We showed you Matthew Perryman Jones’ and Katie Herzig’s performance of “Where the Road Meets the Sun” as an example of girl-boy harmonies (P.S., have you caught Katie Herzig with OurStage artist Andrew Belle in the new video for “Static Waves”?).  Well, we’ve now reached the end of our road here on Folkin’ Around and we’ve decided to bring you a Q&A with Matthew Perryman Jones himself.

Jones is an accomplished singer/songwriter from Nashville, TN, and he has the track record to support that resume. He’s been featured on countless TV shows and has toured the globe. Check out what he had to say about songwriting, television licensing and his current projects.

OS: Your style seems to combine folk songwriting with electric arrangements. At what point in the writing process do these extra layers come in, and do you work with producers to achieve them?

That’s the stuff that goes back to when I was younger—REM, the old-school U2. So I’ve always lived that, and I really wanted to make some records that incorporated more of an environment for the song; I wanted to create with different instruments. I did a record in 2000 which is definitely more of a folk-based thing. But during the last couple of records, I’ve been working with a producer that I really like—how he arranges the songs and the sounds he’s been able to get. I just didn’t want to be the “guy with the guitar.” I was personally getting tired of that—I spent most of the nineties just me and my guitar. So I really wanted to explore creating a musical environment for the song. It’s funny because the next record I do is probably going to be more stripped down. You kind of tend to swing one way or the other, because you get tired of one thing and you’ve got to just go to the next thing. So the next record might be completely different than the last two.

OS: Some of your most striking accomplishments are effective song placements (probably Grey’s Anatomy is the most notable). Do these placements change your outlook on the songs?

MPJ: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know if I’ve really thought about that too much. Every time it’s been really cool—I don’t see every one that airs. I’ve noticed on most of them, they’ve been really cool. I felt they were really appropriate; they want to hear a certain kind of emotion. Even thematically, the song may be a different thing, but there’s an emotion that they’re going for. The folks that work in film and TV that are placing the songs are really tasteful. So it doesn’t really change my outlook on the song.

There was a song called “Swallow the Sea” off my last record that was on Royal Pains. They played it during a time where there was this guy who was a drug addict and he was going through withdrawal. That was one where I was like “Man, they really got the feeling of the song.” It’s a song about futility, and it was kind of like the culmination of this guy’s story, coming up to his withdrawal. The film/TV thing that’s going on today, what I really appreciate is that the people really do listen to the music. They’re not looking for a hook or how short the song is. They’re like “what does this song mean and what does it feel like?” They’re putting it up against real life drama, so they want it to be real. Which is the refreshing part about it. They want something that’s human, that’s real, that’s emotive. It’s really what music should be.

OS: ”Where the Road Meets the Sun” is a very interesting collaboration with Katie Herzig. How did you two work together as far as writing this song?

MPJ: There’s actually a pretty cool story to this song. We write together quite a bit. It was probably about two or three years ago; we just got together and wrote the song in my kitchen. We came up with it and really liked it. It was originally about a scene in Central Park. “Angel wings spread over water, one wishes.” It’s that famous fountain in Central Park that everyone goes to with the angels over it. It’s just a story about two people. So we wrote it, and it just kind of sat around. We put the lyrics and GarageBand recordings on both of our computers. And it happened that both of our computers at different times had crashed and we lost all of it.

We were actually asked to have a song in a movie that I think was called Dear John. They had asked us to write a song together for the movie. I was like, “What was that song we wrote a while ago . . . ?” Katie was like, “Well, I lost it when my computer crashed.” We thought it would be awesome if we could remember but we were really having trouble. Then I got a text from Katie at like 2 in the morning saying that she remembered it. She apparently was just going to sleep and the song just came to her. So she got up, went to her computer and recorded everything she could remember. So we got together and finished the song. And that’s how it came about. The Dear John people decided it just didn’t fit for the scene. We had recorded it and everything, and like two weeks later it ended up going onto the season finale of Grey’s. I’m glad we rediscovered it, because I really like it.

OS: You’ve got a show coming up with Herzig. When was the last time you played with her?

MPJ: I’ve done some shows and she’ll come up and sing with me. If she’s around, we’ll try and do that song together. We’ve done a couple tours together, but that’s been a few years. There was this one time where she was playing in Atlanta and I was at home in Nashville, and people were requesting “Where the Road Meets the Sun.” So she called me on the phone and I basically sang the song on speakerphone into the microphone live in Atlanta. I don’t think it really turned out that well, but it was probably pretty entertaining for the people there.

OS: It’s been a while since you’ve done an official release. When can we expect a new one?

Currently, I’m actually working on a new full-length. I’m just in the thick of writing for it. The goal is to maybe have it out by the first of the year, but I’m not sure if that will happen. I have a lot of stuff that’s different, so I’m trying to take the time to make something special.

Stay tuned for Jones’ new album and, if you missed him with Herzig, stay tuned for more fall dates. Here are a couple already announced:

9/15 Vienna, VA — Jammin’ Java

9/30 Birmingham, AL — Samford Univeristy


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