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Musical Mondaze

Vodi

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Some artists grow on you, building on the repetitive play of their songs until you can’t help but fall in love with their music. Other artists hook you instantly, capturing you with their sound so that upon first listen, you say to yourself, “Where has this music been all of my life?”

Texas-based Vodi falls into the latter category.

Spearheaded by the beautifully calming vocals of Tom Lynch, the indie rock band’s debut album “Talk” is both a nostalgic throwback and a modern revelation. What you’re hearing streaming from your speakers isn’t just a collection of songs, but a gourmet dinner prepared with only the finest ingredients. “Talk” takes you on a 1970s-style singer/songwriter journey – a time in the history of music when song placement was just as important as the songs themselves and each track was considered for its transition into the next.

We recently sat down with Lynch to discuss Vodi’s evolution, how he worked to make his vocals a part of the instrumentation, and where he gets the most enjoyment out of being in the band.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the Vodi sound, what has that evolution looked like? The band is so unique, a sort of musical mix of both the past and present, and we’re curious how that marriage came to be?
Lynch: I’m not really sure. We basically try to write music that we like, obviously, like everybody does. We all love the old 80s, 70s sounds and I think it just comes through. I don’t know if it’s the songwriting that lends itself to the sound or the sound that lends itself to the songwriting. I think when we get in the room, it just naturally comes through.

TrunkSpace: Had we been in the room with you guys when you first started down the Vodi path, would what we hear then match what we hear now on “Talk?”
Lynch: No, man. When we first started, it was actually just the drummer and I… a then his brother was playing bass. We would go into a studio and write a song on the spot. I had done projects before and hadn’t done one in a while and I was bored. I wanted to start something new that was less Americana or rootsy, and more something I would enjoy playing live and loud and have a lot of fun doing it. We got into a room and started writing the songs and they looked completely different. As we developed a sound, the songwriting changed with it. Of course, my wife, Haley, who’s in the band too, came in.

We had some really crappy demos. (Laughter) We didn’t really know each other at the time, so I was like, “I really want to have this girl come sing on my stuff.” I thought, “Well, it’s pretty crappy but it’s worth a shot.” She came in and she ended up loving it. Honestly, that’s when the band really started, when we got me, the drummer, and Haley together and then moved on from there.

TrunkSpace: Was it one of those things where it just clicked and it all made sense?
Lynch: Totally. We had different players coming in and out of the band. When we first started, we were just kind of a hodgepodge of stuff going on. The songs sounded like I was still writing for an Americana group. It was very out of order. But then, the more we played, the better the writing got, the better the vibe got. And then people fell into place. It wasn’t like a super, well-orchestrated plan. It was more like, this is what worked best and it just kind of clicked.

TrunkSpace: As you were working to steer yourself away from an Americana sound, did you find that you had to rediscover your own singing voice?
Lynch: Yeah. Totally. Man, that was actually one of the harder transitions for me. The stuff I wrote before, I sang soft and light. I wanted to sing heavier, or at least sing in a different way than I had before. It took a little while to get used to singing in a band where I played an electric and did the lead lines, as opposed to playing an acoustic and just signing along, or signing background harmonies.

TrunkSpace: How do you view yourself as a vocalist now?
Lynch: I don’t really know how to explain it. With Americana, I always felt like I was singing a story. With this, I feel like I’m singing a feeling. Does that make sense?

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. When we first heard the album, it felt like your voice was one of the instruments.
Lynch: Man, I’m glad you said that, because one of the first things I talked about with our engineer, our producer Steve Christensen, was that I wanted to make the vocals part of the instrumentation.

TrunkSpace: Then your mission was a success. Everything is very tight and flows together.
Lynch: That has a lot to do with how good the guys around me are. Those guys are really, really good. There are a lot of times where I feel like, instrumentally, I’m the weak link in the band.

I don’t know if you’ve listened to Hayley’s stuff, but she’s got an amazing voice. She’s got her own band, Dollie Barnes. They put a record out earlier this year. They finished it up just as we were meeting. I was blown away with how good she is.

TrunkSpace: Your songwriting stretches back beyond your time with Vodi. Did you try to capture anything you wrote before the band came together and turn it into material for this album?
Lynch: We tried that, because I’ve got 15 to 20 songs sitting, that I’ve never used. I was going to do another solo record and once I started this I abandoned it. Then we went back and tried to figure out if any of them worked. Again, it was more storytelling songs as opposed to the feeling we were going for with Vodi. It just didn’t work.

We’re already writing for the next record. Some of those songs, I’m still going back to rehash. Some of them are great, but it’s really difficult to turn what I was into then into what we are now.

TrunkSpace: So from a lyrical standpoint, you must have had to take a different perspective as well to distance yourself from that storyteller’s point of view. Did that force you to change up your songwriting process at all?
Lynch: A little bit, but it was more fun. I had been songwriting for so long, it was something that I’d grown accustomed to. I think the hardest part was breaking out of the cycle of that type of songwriting, because I would usually approach it from an acoustic guitar. When I first started writing for this, I told myself I could never touch an acoustic guitar to write. I’d either use a piano, or a bass, or even sit down at the drums, or whatever. It lent itself better to me coming up with melodies, and feelings, and beats that would fit what we were doing. Sometimes, when you strum the acoustic guitar, for me at least, I can’t imagine too much else going on.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that the band is already writing material for the next album. As you look towards the future, creatively, what are your goals with Vodi?
Lynch: We want to put out music for people to hear, but for me, personally, my favorite thing to do is to get into a studio. I absolutely love getting in, getting the bones of a song down and building a song out, sifting through all of the sprinkles that you put on top of stuff. It’s probably my favorite process in the entire music thing.

Talk” is available now here.

Check out Vodi’s new Christmas single, “This Is The Best Christmas,” below.

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Musical Mondaze

Safeguard

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With their latest EP “I’m a Stranger to Myself” just released to the masses, UK-based Safeguard, a pop-punk quintet who played their first show only a little more than a year go, is quickly creating buzz amongst fans of their catchy, angst-ridden sound. While their single “November” is continuing to build steam, the band is looking to the future, hoping recent successes are just a precursor to a new year filled with new opportunities.

We recently sat down with bass player Zak Lonsdale to discuss the band’s growth, their plan of attack, and why he’d like to hear lots of shouting on the next record.

TrunkSpace: The band’s new EP “I’m a Stranger to Myself” landed a few days ago through Wilhelm Records. Your previous EP was self released, did having a label change the process or experience at all for you guys?
Lonsdale: I think to an extent it did, yeah. Obviously with the first EP, as soon as we recorded we were like, “Right, that’s ready to go, let’s put everything out there.” All the buildups were done by ourselves. Then with this one, we were able to take a step back and just be more concise with things, and think about how we advertise and how we release things.

I think Dylan (Frederick) has definitely helped to realize our potential and has helped us with decisions that we probably might not have made, had we not had him.

TrunkSpace: Does a part of that just mean that you’re able to focus on the creative and not have to worry about all of the stuff that stretches beyond that?
Lonsdale: Definitely, yeah. It was just us five recording the first EP, then when it came to releasing, our guitarist stepped out because he was going to do personal things in his life. We had to worry about finding a new guitarist, teaching him everything, and then doing all the promotion and booking shows, and all that. Now Dylan’s able to come in and just book stuff for us and get in touch with people. I personally feel a lot more relaxed and I can just sit back sometimes and watch it all unfold in front of me.

TrunkSpace: The band is from the UK. The label is here in the States. How did the connection originally come about?
Lonsdale: When we recorded this EP, we wanted to make something of ourselves, and we definitely thought the best way to do that would be to sign to a label. We started doing a lot of research, spent a lot of time looking at different record labels, from the huge ones like Hopeless Records and Fearless Records, to the newly established ones. Then when we came across Wilhelm, we realized that although they’ve had a massive impact on the music scene since they’ve been established, we also noticed that they haven’t signed every band they possibly could, and that they only signed the bands that they think have potential. We were like, “That’s the kind of label we want, one that will push us to be our absolute best all the time.”

Dylan is absolutely amazing. He’s just done so much for us already, and the past two months have been an absolute whirlwind. It feels like it’s absolutely flown by. I just know that it’s gonna get so much better for us the next year also.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when every band or musician wanted to break out here in the United States. With the way that the consumption of music has changed, is it still important for artists outside of the States to find their footing here?
Lonsdale: I think as much as we like to think we’ve broken the UK, in a sense, we’re definitely steps away from selling out every show we play, and being able to go wherever we want and having fans. But now that we’ve got those connections in America, and we’re able to put our music out to the people over there, it’s definitely a bigger chance for us to say, “Hey, the music’s out over there if you like it,” and then if people are interested in us going over there, then it’s something we consider doing. I know a lot of us have always wanted to go to America and play shows, and it seems like the genre of music that we play, it’s a lot more prominent in the US – people care about it a lot more. In the UK it’s quite the opposite, so it’s very hard to break out over here.

TrunkSpace: As a band who writes and performs music that would fall into the Warped Tour stable of artists, how did you guys take the news of its retiring?
Lonsdale: It was absolutely devastating. When we read about that… it was something that we had on our bucket list that we thought was very realistic, and to read something like that, it was really sad. Obviously the bucket list that we already have, we’ve ticked off so many in the past two months, and to know that there’s one that we might not be able to tick off, it’s quite sad. It’s depressing.

TrunkSpace: You played your first show in October of 2016. Has it felt like a whirlwind since that show?
Lonsdale: Definitely! That first show in October 2016, I can only speak for myself, but I was absolutely dreadful. (Laughter) I’m a self taught musician, so my bass skills aren’t exactly like Geddy Lee – more like Mark Hoppus, the early days. I do backing vocals for the band as well when I can, and my singing has taken a big step up. And yeah, we just seem to be a much tighter unit while writing more complex songs. We’re not finishing a product and going, “Yeah, that’s absolutely perfect, let’s just put it out,” we’re taking a step back and saying, “What can we improve here?”

And we’re trying to write songs that wouldn’t seem out of place on a band like Neck Deep’s discography. We’re trying to write music that you could listen to it and say, “Oh, this could be Safeguard, but it also sounds like State Champs might put it out,” or something like that.

TrunkSpace: When you listen to something like “Harbour” off of the latest EP, it sounds very polished and tight… as if you guys have been performing together for 10 years.
Lonsdale: The first EP, we recorded with our friend in his living room, and it was not professionally mastered. It was mastered by him and it was mixed by him. When we got that, we were like, “Yeah, we’re happy with that, let’s just put it out.” For what we paid for it and how much time we spent doing it, we were more than happy with the result. Then for this EP, we went to Steel City Studio and worked with Drew Lawson, who mixed and recorded Backbone by ROAM – and the quality difference, it’s absolutely amazing. It sounds like we’ve been around a lot longer than we have. I listen back to the EP every single day, just to get my head around it still and make sure I know all the lyrics for shows. (Laughter) Yeah, it’s just mental.

TrunkSpace: Have you guys creatively already moved on from “I’m a Stranger to Myself?” Are you working on material for a new EP or album?
Lonsdale: I think the next step for us might be an album, depending on how well this EP goes down, which in itself is a massive leap. Personally we all don’t really listen to pop-punk that much. I know Declan (Gough) does, who sings – he very much likes pop-punk and that’s his go-to genre. I listen to a lot of hardcore music, like Knocked Loose and Higher Power, the heavier side, and Connor (Dale) and Denholm (Horn), who play drums and guitar, listen to a lot of prog-rock and metal, and stuff like that. I think there’s gonna be an evolution in our sound for sure, but obviously I can’t put a finger on where it’s gonna go.

I’d like to have a record that’s full of shouting and breakdowns, but I just don’t see that happening, to the extent that some bands can. (Laughter)

I’m a Stranger to Myself” is available now on Wilhelm Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Tom Keifer

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Tom Keifer has been bringing the rock ‘n’ roll thunder to music lovers for over three decades. As the frontman for the bluesy metal band Cinderella, the Pennsylvania native has sold more than 15 million records worldwide and has amassed a loyal fandom that has followed him throughout the ever-changing music industry landscape, from vinyl consumption to cassette tapes, CDs to digital, and back to the nostalgic allure of vinyl once again. As he sang with Cinderella, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Currently Keifer is out on the road in support of his recently re-released debut solo album, “The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition,” which includes bonus tracks and an exclusive DVD featuring music videos, tour clips, and a 30-minute documentary called “The Way Life’s Goin.”

We recently sat down with Keifer to discuss the album’s journey, traversing the music industry landscape, and how experiencing music has changed from when he started writing and recording to where things are today.

TrunkSpace: Crowds at your shows participate in a continuous singalong. They know your material inside and out. The level of passion for the music is very unique, especially considering how long you have been doing it and how many of them have been on that journey with you the entire time.
Keifer: Playing live has always been my favorite part of what I do. I love writing the songs and creating in the studio, but there’s nothing really like that moment where you set foot on stage and it’s live. It’s no do-overs and you’re in the moment, and it’s just rock ‘n’ roll. What you mentioned about as long as I’ve been doing this, I just feel really fortunate every night when I walk up there to look out and see all those people still singing the songs, not only the Cinderella stuff but the stuff on “The Way Life Goes” too now, which is… I feel like a lucky dude.

TrunkSpace: Is it particularly gratifying that fans have been connecting with the solo stuff?
Keifer: Yeah, that’s amazing. When the record was first released and we started touring with the new band, it was a little bit of an eye opener because you’re really starting over, and I think anyone who leaves a very successful band and goes out on their own probably doesn’t realize that until they step foot into that territory. And then you go, “Oh wow. This is starting over.” (Laughter) But the record did so well on radio, the first single, and the reviews on it were really great, and the fans just really received it well. So that was a great feeling. The touring took a little bit of time to build. We started with very, very small clubs the first year, and we were lucky if we were filling them halfway. But that grew the more we were out there because the band has an amazing chemistry and energy live, so word started to spread. My social media started to grow, which I didn’t have before the record was released. I didn’t even know what social media was. The label set me up with it and said, “Here’s the keys. Go have a good time.” (Laughter)

So you know, a lot of word of mouth happened, and the band really became popular and still is growing on the tour circuit to the point where we went from those small, half-full clubs to now we’re headlining or direct support on all the major festivals. We’re still playing the smaller rooms but selling them out now – we’re filling them up. Like you said, it’s gratifying to be able to watch that grow with something new and particularly with a band where I really, really love, everyone in the band, and our chemistry’s great on and off stage. They’ve been incredibly dedicated to this journey, and it’s been really cool.

TrunkSpace: It seems a lot of fans are sharing your music with their kids as well, which in turn, is making an entirely new generation of rock lovers discover your sound and what you’re all about.
Keifer: I think that the ’80s bands really started to transcend into the next generation even before I released the solo record. We started seeing that on the last handful of tours I did with Cinderella, where there were younger people showing up, and they weren’t necessarily with their parents. Some were, but the older teenagers were just coming on their own. I think YouTube was a huge discovery mechanism. YouTube, and now probably with streaming and all too, it really got people going back and they’re seeing the Moscow Music Peace Festival, or they’re seeing this or that. I think a lot of people got turned on to it through that way and seeing current live performances on there. Also, people put up the music too, just links of the music, so I think the internet has helped spread that, and you see that now with the solo band and the new record too. Same thing.

Photo By: Tammy Vega

TrunkSpace: When you first decided to put “The Way Life Goes” together, what made it the right time for you in terms of pursuing solo material and why do you think it took you that long to get there creatively?
Keifer: I started writing stuff for a solo record really in the mid-’90s. I moved to Nashville because I was writing with people here, like in ’97, with the idea of recording a solo record because the whole music scene had changed with the grunge movement coming in and all. I was working on my own stuff, and when I got to Nashville, Cinderella was offered a record deal on Portrait. So the solo project went on the back burner, and we started touring again and writing for a record, and that went on for a couple years and A&R people wearing us out saying, “More songs, do this, stay on the road, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then eventually, the record never got made and the label went out of business. It was not pretty.

I was on the heels of a bad record deal, one that had gone south, and I was kind of fed up with the industry. At the same time, my wife, Savannah, who’s a singer-songwriter and was actually in Nashville a few years before me even, she had been through some similar stuff with her deals here on Music Row, and we were both in the same place and fed up with dealing with record companies and business stuff. We just started making music just for the fun of it, writing songs and recording songs with musician friends of ours here and session players that Savannah had done a lot of work with. So, we started this journey of work in progress, labor of love, over a course of about nine or 10 years off and on, recording songs and taking long breaks from them and coming back to it. I was still touring with Cinderella at the time and woke up one day and realized that we had a record and very quickly found a label that was over the moon to release it. So that’s the journey of it and how it came about and maybe why it took so long, because I did get sidetracked with that Cinderella deal in ’98, which turned out to be a big bunch of heartache more than anything.

TrunkSpace: Those kinds of heartaches must take their toll on the creative mindset, especially when you put so much into something?
Keifer: The story of that doesn’t end there because the record (“The Way Life Goes”) was released in 2013 and was received really well. The first single did killer, “Solid Ground,” at rock radio, and “The Flower Song” was getting played on Triple A and some alternative stations, and even got a little top 40 action on satellite. And it’s like, “Wow, this thing has taken off and is getting great reviews.” I don’t think I’ve seen a bad review on the record. And the fans loved it. We’re out playing the songs alongside the Cinderella classics live, and they’re going down just as big. But then we had a bit of another business or legal issue after the record was released, where for lack of a better word, we’ll just call it a corporate shake-up or some business dealings that the record got caught in the middle of, and eventually ended up getting pulled from the shelves. It hasn’t been available for the last two years.

TrunkSpace: Right, which is crazy considering how much time and energy you spent on it.
Keifer: We’re out touring with the band, and we’re seeing comments on social media like, “Love the new stuff, but where do you get the record? I can’t find it.” Or even worse, “I bought this record in 2013, and it just disappeared from my iTunes.” So imagine reading that after you spend nine or 10 years on a record. It gets released, it’s starting to blow up, and then boom, this happens. To put it gently, we lawyered up and we got our masters back. We got them back last year, and we decided to do a deluxe or an extended edition of the record before we put it back up on the shelves, which is something that we talked about before this legal mess happened. So that’s what we did. We went in last year and we recorded the bonus tracks that are on the deluxe. While we were in there, Tammy Vega filmed the documentary that’s on the bonus DVD. We had David Calcano redo all the artwork and the art package is amazing. We spent the better part of last year editing and mixing and all that stuff to make it really special. We finally got it released just about a month ago.

Keifer in 1989.

TrunkSpace: After going through those business headaches with both your solo project and with Cinderella, do you approach things differently now? Are you looking to steer clear of partnering with labels in the future?
Keifer: It’s just life, and it’s business. It happens. I like having a distributor and a label involved because you can get much more of a reach than just putting it up on your website. I still think it’s an asset if you can get one who believes in it. Honestly, the label who released it the first time, I don’t have any complaints. They did a great job marketing it right out of the box. Business happens, and sometimes the music gets caught in the middle of it. They were big believers and really inspired us and did a great job on the record until that happened. Same thing with Mercury Records with Cinderella. They were responsible for really pushing the band out there and selling millions of records, and then when they were done, they wash their hands of you, and it’s usually not pretty. It’s business, right? What are you going to do? Are you going to cry or bum out? You just move on. That’s what I’ve done every time. I’ve been through it.

We just did a deal with Cleopatra Records for the deluxe. They’re a great label. I’ve actually done some things with them in the past. You go into any business dealing hoping for the best.

TrunkSpace: It just seems like the nature of the music business nowadays is so volatile that the labels don’t necessarily know what the future holds, so they’re hedging their bets as much as possible.
Keifer: That’s true. The kind of things that I’ve been through, it’s not unique to me. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Tom Petty documentary “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” but he talks about going through the same thing. That part where he’s telling the stories about them hiding the masters every night when they were done because of the label… it’s just business. (Laughter) You try not to let it interfere with your creative process. You use the business to get your music heard and out there any way you can, but just know eventually that probably something is going to come down on you. It’s just part of it, man. What you’ve got to do is not give up. We had put so much into “The Way Life Goes” in the initial release. We got a taste of how people reacted to it, so when it did go away, and we did have that problem, we had a choice. We could have just said, “Okay, let it slip between the cracks” or “Let’s fight for it and get the masters back and get it back up there.” We believe in the record, so that’s what we did.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when a tour was meant to support an album, but nowadays, it seems like things have flipped a bit and an album supports a tour. As far as the business side of music is concerned, are tours more important today than they were 20 or 30 years ago?
Keifer: Touring has always been important, number one, because it’s just fun. Playing live is my favorite part of what I do. I think one has always fed the other. It feeds it a little bit differently today than it did back then, but touring was very important to promoting the record back in the ’80s. But the record also promoted the tour back then too. It’s a circle. It’s the same thing now. It’s harder to actually sell records now, so the amount of money that can be generated by a label on album sales, that kind of doesn’t happen the way it used to. If you blow something up the top 40, you still can sell millions of records, but that’s a long shot there, especially these days. I think they both feed each other and they have in both time frames or time periods that you mentioned, just in different ways.

TrunkSpace: Does the return of vinyl, at least for enthusiasts and collectors, help generate more interest in back catalog material? Is that a viable revenue stream?
Keifer: Yeah. People who like physical products still buy physical product. And there’s people who are very dedicated to that, and they want to hold that in their hand, which is one of the reasons we went to great lengths on the deluxe edition to make it really special so when you pick it up and hold it, it has new artwork and a booklet and two discs and the whole nine yards. I think that there are people who, definitely, that’s what they want. Particularly lately, it seems to be vinyl is really making a comeback. So yeah, I think that there’s people who still really like that. I do. It’s cool. I miss the days of when I got the “Physical Graffiti” album and it was the gatefold and all the artwork.

TrunkSpace: There’s something nice about being invested in an album as well and having to physically be a part of it by getting up and flipping the record. You become a part of the experience.
Keifer: And having to get up and go out and get it, like leave your house to get it!

The digital thing, it’s so easy and it’s so convenient to get music now that, and I’m guilty of it, I’m sure you are and I’m sure everyone on the planet is now, but you hear a song or two and it takes a lot longer now to get you to buy the record. You’ve got to hear the record. You keep hearing the same song. I know I keep hearing the same song, and I say, “Oh, I’ve got to get that record.” It might be a year and then I finally get the record. It’s so easy to buy and it just goes into your phone. You almost forget that you have it. It just seems more disposable now. There’s records that I’ve downloaded, and I’m sure you’ve done this too, and then you haven’t even listened to them yet.

TrunkSpace: Guilty as charged.
Keifer: It’s because it’s so easy. It used to be if you wanted the Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” when it came out, you had to wait until the release date and you had to get up, you had to go to the store, and you had to buy it. It was this big physical thing that you brought home. You couldn’t listen to it anywhere you wanted to. You had to listen, had to make the time to put it on your turntable. It’s just a different experience, you know? There’s no right or wrong. Every generation and every time period has its way of taking in music. It’s just different. I think there’s advantages and pitfalls to both, the old way or the new. I really do.

The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition” is available now via Cleopatra Records.

The remaining Tom Keifer tour dates can be viewed here.

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Musical Mondaze

Jon Langford

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When terrible things happen in the world, particularly those that impact so many people, it’s difficult to proceed forward as if that something never happened. In the case of TrunkSpace, interviews can sometimes become conversations – discussions about the topics that, by chance and circumstance, have the power to connect absolute strangers and remind us that we’re all human.

A day after the tragic events in Las Vegas and the passing of musical icon Tom Petty, we were scheduled to sit down with Welsh-born musician Jon Langford, founding member of the Mekons and the Waco Brothers. Langford, who is currently in Los Angeles working on new material with the Mekons, recently released the solo album “Four Lost Souls,” but it was the souls lost and the ramifications of a particularly difficult news cycle that brought our discussion in an unintended direction.

TrunkSpace: We’re speaking a day after the passing of Tom Petty. Did he have any impact or influence on your career or music?
Langford: I loved Tom Petty. I thought he was fantastic. I just loved the economy of his music, how uniquely American it was. And I love the fact that, the only music my 15 year old and I kind of share, was Tom Petty. He loves Tom Petty as well, and that’s really strange because most of the stuff he listens to, I don’t know what it is. He was playing Tom Petty off his phone onto the aux in my car. I was going, “You like Tom Petty?” I was talking to him about Tom Petty, and his involvement with George Harrison and people like that. It just felt like he was someone everyone could kind of like, in a way. It was great pop-rock music, that was just done so right. He understood the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll so much.

TrunkSpace: And even those people who didn’t connect with his Heartbreakers work, they tend to reference his time in The Traveling Wilburys as a way his influence still touched them.
Langford: Yeah, I loved the Wilburys when they come out. I thought it was fantastic. I thought, what a great idea to have all those people in a band together. Who wouldn’t want to be in a band with Roy Orbison? Kind of amazing.

It’s very sad. Yesterday was just a terrible day. It was a day to stay off social networking, because it’s sort of idiocy that goes on with the social platforms. “Tom Petty’s dead. No he’s not dead. I’m gonna kill you because you said he’s dead.”

Then there’s ISIS, claiming responsibility for an old white guy going to Vegas with automatic weapons. Like ISIS is targeting old white guys who live on golf courses now, and radicalizing them? It’s just a fucking load of nonsense that people are using all these disasters to profit, and sow confusion, and promote really crazy political agendas.

TrunkSpace: It feels like we’re in a very divide-and-conquer time.
Langford: Everything. Everything that comes up. There’s guys like, “Oh no, he’s not ISIS, he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter, and he did it because he doesn’t like Trump.” Like Bernie Sanders supporters are all toting automatic weapons. It’s a fantasy world, and it’s the complete death of consensus. It was a day yesterday when people should have shut up and thought about what happened. It’s an opportunity. That’s the way after 9/11 was. That was a huge opportunity that people like Cheney and Rumsfeld saw landing in their lap – to change America into what they wanted it to be, and they ran with it straight away.

Something like this that happened yesterday, it kind of screams out to me. Maybe there’s too many guns around if the guy’s got a hotel room and a house totally packed with weapons that can cause so much mayhem.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned 9/11. After that day, there was a sort of unified response from the population. We all came together. Now a tragedy happens and we instantly take sides.
Langford: Absolutely. I think the isolation of social media, and the power it gives people to be keyboard warriors, has given people the right to say whatever shit they feel like. Racists and idiots who didn’t want to open their mouths because there was a stigma to being a racist before, are being completely liberated. It’s a disgusting situation, and it’s not gonna get any better.

TrunkSpace: Maybe that makes music more important than ever now? A group of people can get together at a Jon Langford show and find a unified focus. It can be the community that we seem to be losing within our own communities.
Langford: Well, I hope so. That’s the point for me, is to be part of a conversation. That’s what this album is about.

Langford and his band. Photo By: Nate Urbansky

TrunkSpace: Most people make the conscious effort to decide if and when they’re going to make an album, but for you, the universe sort of got the wheels in motion on “Four Lost Souls,” right?
Langford: Yeah, it was a suggestion by Norbert Putnam, of all people. We ended up playing some Johnny Cash songs at the opening of the exhibit of the Country Music Hall of Fame. People thought that would be a funny idea, to have an old Welsh punk rocker singing Johnny Cash songs with basically the entire cast and crew of the Nashville Cats from 1960s. (Laughter) It was great, lovely. I had Lloyd Green, Mac Gayden, Wayne Moss, David Briggs, Norbert Putnam, and Charlie McCoy as my backing band. We all had a great time. I always find music to be very inclusive like that. If you play music with people, a lot of things melt away.

I had a few glasses of wine with Norbert Putnam and he told me I sang like a pirate, and maybe I’d like to come to Muscle Shoals and record an album, because he’d moved back down there. It was a strange thing. I didn’t really take it very seriously at first. Then he asked me again, and he seemed to be really keen on the idea, and he told me how it would work and how we’d have David Hood playing the bass. And I got to go, I got to go and do this thing, but why would I go to Muscle Shoals and what would it be about? Then the songs just started popping out.

It was like a great suggestion that an old Welsh punk rocker would address his relationship with a fairly alien part of the world, that affected his life so much. It’s a double-edged thing, this incredible blossoming of creativity in the 20th century, that gave the world so much. It’s what I think is great about the American way. I was attracted to America’s rock ‘n’ roll and through rock ‘n’ roll came jazz, blues, country, Cajun and all these other forms. Then this kind of terrible legacy of the Civil War, slavery, Jim Crow, the things that were done during the civil rights years – there’s that legacy, which I was writing those songs not thinking that was all about to burst out of the ground again, like it did when Trump got elected.

The songs were kind of concerned with that, but it’s kind of a bit alarming that I wrote a song, “In Oxford Mississippi,” about how the Civil War never really ended for some people and how the memorials, Daughters of the Confederacy, put these memorials up and they’re bigger than the memorials to great Americans who struggled during the Civil Rights Movement. To those people, the Civil War is more real and important, or the Old South is more real and important, than the advances this country has made. I thought that was kind of frightening and worth pointing out.

And then within a few months of writing that song, we’ve got this whole issue of Charlottesville, and the Confederate statues coming down, and a president who compares Robert E. Lee to George Washington. He thinks they’re like cool historical figures, beautiful guys. It’s a fucking mess you’ve found yourselves in, I’m afraid.

Mekons photo by: Derrick Santini

TrunkSpace: With all of the social and political divide going on, it does seem like songwriters are using their platform to say more. The things that they’re concerned with now, on a larger scale that impacts us all, they’re more willing to talk about that now and use their platform.
Langford: I suppose that’s a positive thing. When you’re in the middle of a culture war, it’s kind of inevitable, unless you’re a complete moron. I don’t think I’ve ever done an album that wasn’t somehow trying to deal with, explain, or be part of a conversation. Yeah, I mean if other people are doing that as well, we’re kind of burrowing on the fringes of it already. It’s not like the Mekons or the Wacos or myself are in any way popular culture. We’re kind of unpopular culture. But you do what you can do, and when I write songs, that’s the stuff that comes out.

TrunkSpace: Do you use your writing as a way to work through the stuff that you’re seeing and absorbing?
Langford: Yeah, I guess so. You try to find something that’s universal, something that someone else might pick up on. You try not to make them too obvious that they’re just banal. It’s a tricky thing. I think songs are fantastic. I’ve spent a lot of my time listening to, and being moved and inspired by other people’s songs. And sometimes I don’t know whether what I’m getting out of them is what they intended, but that’s part of the beauty of it.

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. And when multiple people are connecting to a song in a different way, there’s something special about that.
Langford: With this album I could write a paragraph about what each song’s about, and it would be kind of pointless because I feel like the songs, they would be failures as songs if people needed to be walked through them.

TrunkSpace: And we’ve all experienced that – finding something to connect with in a song and then hearing, possibly years later, the meaning of the song itself and thinking, “Wow, I was completely off base.”
Langford: Well, there’s a great story about Picasso when he was describing the symbolism of Guernica in the 1930s. He said, “This is this, and this is that, and the horse is something, then the bull is fascism.” And then in the 1970s he was talking about it and he went, “This is this, this is that, and the bull is Spain.” It’s an incredibly powerful picture. You look at it, it’s an absolutely very, very powerful, angry, amazing picture, which I get a lot out of, and even he couldn’t really know what he meant. He made it, but he can’t dictate what it means to the point where he contradicts himself.

“Four Lost Souls” is available now from Bloodshot Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Local H

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What goes around comes around in the world of music. What’s old is new. What’s dated is retro chic. What’s gone is back.

For the rock duo Local H, none of that means squat. They’re not interested in drawing attention to themselves for anything other than the music they create and they aren’t big on nostalgia. Instead, the Illinois natives who hit it big in 1996 with the “alternative” single “Bound for the Floor” have been facing forward for the last two decades, cranking out new material and looking to improve upon each album they record.

The one constant in the band’s ongoing story since it first formed in 1997? Guitarist, bassist, and lead vocalist Scott Lucas.

 

We recently sat down with Lucas to discuss being the loudest band on a bill, preaching to different choirs, and why he doesn’t worry that another album is coming.

TrunkSpace: You guys seem to have an obscene amount of tour dates in front of you.
Lucas: Yeah, it’s been a pretty busy year.

TrunkSpace: We’re dating ourselves, but a couple of us here at TrunkSpace saw Local H at a radio show in Providence, RI back in 1998. You were easily the loudest band on the bill, which is something that people always associate with you, right?
Lucas: Yeah. I’m sure there’s some sort of inferiority complex involved there with that.

TrunkSpace: That show was a WBRU radio show, a very well-known modern rock radio station that unfortunately, just stop transmitting a few weeks ago.
Lucas: Oh, no. That sucks.

TrunkSpace: Has the disappearance of rock radio stations affected the band at all?
Lucas: No, I don’t think so. I mean, we still have a pretty good relationship with stations that we’ve always had, but I think a lot of that stuff is basically classic rock at this point, and so that kind of music has always been pretty conservative in the first place. The kinds of things that they would play have always been… there’s not a whole fuck of a lot that you could say was alternative, even though they used those words. You can’t look at a lot of the bands that they would play and think that those were crazy alternative bands. I wouldn’t expect them to change, and the kind of stuff that does get played now, it’s not music that’s made for me, so I don’t really feel that I have a place to comment on it. It’s purely music for teenagers, and that’s the way it should be. The way people listen to music has changed, and I don’t think it really has hurt us, and I don’t think it’s hurt a lot of bands out there.

TrunkSpace: What has been more difficult for the band, finding your fanbase when you first started or has it been maintaining a fanbase over the years?
Lucas: I wouldn’t say it’s that difficult. I mean, we just kind of haven’t really changed our plan of attack for quite some time now, and I think we’ve figured out what we feel comfortable doing. The main thing that we’ve been looking for over the years, and it is kind of working out for us now, is just finding like-minded bands to go out with. It kind of changes things up for us, and that’s something that’s good to do – it just changes the people that you play in front of sometimes, and you’re not always preaching to the choir.

TrunkSpace: Does that help to keep the experience fresh for you?
Lucas: Yeah. It’s nice to get the chance to, for lack of a better term, turn on new people.

TrunkSpace: As you sort of look over your career as a whole, and you look at the library of music that you created, is there one period or era of the band that holds the most charm? Is there any nostalgia value with any of it?
Lucas: No. I’m not too big on nostalgia, and I kinda think it’s a waste of time. The thing you should always be doing is trying to get better, and keep trying to maintain a standard by which you think you should be working from, and just falling back on old bullshit is not really that interesting to me.

TrunkSpace: Where do you feel like you’ve improved the most as a musician – as a lyricist, as a songwriter, etc. – over the course of your career?
Lucas: Sometimes I like the sound of my voice better, maybe, and sometimes I listen to those old records and I’m like, “That sounds like a child.” I don’t know. That’s another thing that I’m not too interested in analyzing. I can’t really work that way. It’s not my job to say. I just have to try to do good work without thinking, without overthinking it, as well. Sometimes people make moves that call attention to themselves, and that doesn’t always work. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it’s just not a good move.

TrunkSpace: Does that put you in position, as a creative person, to always be moving forward? Are you of the mindset that when something’s done, a new album, you’re already moving onto the next one?
Lucas: Well, not really. I feel like what I have to do is, once you make a record, I need time to charge my batteries. I need time to just go out and do things, and just consume, take things in, and then hopefully something comes out. We don’t really leave a lot when we makes records. We don’t leave a lot for next time, so there’s always that feeling of, “Well, that’s it. I don’t know where the next record’s gonna come from,” so I think that’s a good way to be. But then you do have to give yourself time to come up with something that you feel interested in, and you want to chase.

TrunkSpace: You say you might not know where the next album is going to come from. If we were to read into that, would that mean that maybe there’s a chance that there is a last album? Is there a time where you could see yourself walking away from music?
Lucas: I don’t know about that. I don’t know if anybody knows of that. You’ve got people saying it’s going to be the last record, and then within two years they’re back with a new record, and that kind of LCD Soundsystem, crying wolf type of thing seems to be happening a lot more lately, and I certainly don’t want to add to that. Even after the first or second record I was kind of like, “I don’t know where the next one’s going to come from,” so having that feeling over and over, I’m pretty comfortable with knowing that there will be another one, and something will come. It doesn’t really worry me.

TrunkSpace: Not knowing where it’s going to come from sort of means that it’s probably going to come from a different place, which means creatively you’re moving on, you’re moving forward, and in the end, isn’t that always the idea?
Lucas: Sure, and when you look back you hope that you can see some progress, but I don’t really go looking for it. At this point, I just want to make records that don’t suck.

TrunkSpace: As you continue to make records, and continue to put out more songs, is it interesting to look at the body of work as a whole and go, “That library, that’s me, I created that?” Is there ever a legacy look at what you’ve done?
Lucas: I mean, it’s nice to know that if anybody wanted to know what I thought, and what was on my mind, and how I looked at the world, they could look at those songs. It’s pretty much there. My whole worldview is pretty much laid out in those songs, and that’s kind of nice. Not saying anybody would want to know, but if they did want to know, there’s certainly a blueprint there.

TrunkSpace: It’s almost like an unintended journal.
Lucas: Yes, it is, and like all journals, they can be pretty fucking painful to read through. Embarrassing.

Local H is currently on tour with The Toadies. Dates are available here.

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Musical Mondaze

Lydia Loveless

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Photo By: Cowtown Chad

Most songwriters hope to take you on a journey through their music. Some want to tell an observational story, one that isn’t personal, yet remains relatable. Others look within, melding experiences and life lessons into lyrics that allow a glimpse through the windows of their minds.

When it comes to alternative country starlet Lydia Loveless, she closes the drapes but unlocks the door, allowing you full access to what’s inside. Some fans may feel like they’re sitting on the stoop, listening to a tale from the perspective of an outsider, while others may open the door and pass through the threshold, living the moment with Loveless firsthand. And that’s the power that the Ohio native wields – an uncanny ability to be in two creative places at once, converging into a single songwriting experience that feels unique in the way of modern music.

We recently sat down with Loveless to discuss how a love for reading helped shape her storytelling, an artist’s personal evolution, and why she’s never been afraid to put all of herself into a song.

TrunkSpace: You have described yourself as a bookworm. Does life on the road, touring from city to city, allow for some quality book time?
Loveless: Yeah, if I’m not being totally lazy. I’ve had a pretty easy go of it. I actually got Audible recently, the audiobook thing, which is harder for me to do than just read. I thought it would be helpful, but it’s just weird.

TrunkSpace: It’s got to be tough to be a touring musician who is susceptible to car sickness. At that point, Audible is your only choice.
Loveless: Yeah, some of us are. I guess audiobooks would definitely be helpful for that.

TrunkSpace: Do you think being drawn to the written word and reading as much as you have helped shape your own storytelling through your music?
Loveless: Yeah, definitely. I was always obsessed with the work ethic of writers and how they had a routine. I just don’t follow a strict routine very easily. It’s something that I’ve been working on my entire life – the differences between songwriting and flying by the seat of my pants, and actually getting up every day and trying to build an actual strict routine for myself and noticing the differences between the two and how much I get done.

TrunkSpace: Putting the creative brain into a box with rules sometimes doesn’t always work in its favor though.
Loveless: Yeah, and that’s hard for me. A lot of people find comfort in that, but I’ve always been like, “No. I don’t want to be the man. Just take away all my passion and creativity.” (Laughter) I just have to occasionally tell my inner hippie to shut up.

TrunkSpace: And with so many distractions at the palm of our hands nowadays, creative time is getting even more difficult to carve out.
Loveless: It’s really important to be bored and not have a lot going on in order to be creative. At least I think so.

TrunkSpace: There are so many sub-genres that people assign to music now. It’s hard to even keep track of what is what anymore. Have you found that people assign labels to you that you feel don’t necessarily represent you or your music?
Loveless: Yeah. There’s how would you describe your music to the lady at the hotel desk, and then to someone who actually plays music and knows all the stupid genres. It’s always difficult. I was listening to music with my friend recently. I was listening to a band that, I don’t know what I would call them – Americana, but rock. I don’t know. You start getting lost. Then she was like, “This is just country.” She doesn’t play music so I was like, “Oh.” I guess that’s why people are always hammering that realm about my music. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe.

TrunkSpace: One of the toughest things for an artist is that once you have established yourself, people want you to maintain your sound, but at the same time, if you venture too closely to what you have already done or said, they say, “Well, she hasn’t moved forward.”
Loveless: That I never really did anything, yeah.

TrunkSpace: It must be difficult to want to continue to grow and evolve with your art, applying new influences and points of view, but knowing that expectations always are in place waiting for you on the other side.
Loveless: Right. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because for so long the focus was about how much I’ve changed in interviews. I guess that’s working with my band on some new material for a few days. I have these musicians that have this really broad musical taste and ability. I’m certainly getting older and changing. It’s not really like I went totally off the rails and got plastic surgery to change my face and now I’m a totally different person. It’s just a little more evolved I guess.

TrunkSpace: So what you’re saying is, there’s not a ska album in your future? (Laughter)
Loveless: Oh, god. No.

TrunkSpace: What about expectations on the social media side of things? Everyone has an opinion these days that is amplified by a digital megaphone. Is it difficult having to hear all of that praise and criticism sort of instantaneously, especially as a songwriter where so much of you is represented through your music?
Loveless: It can be weird I guess. I’ve been trying to shy away from social media. I certainly go through my phases where it’s like, “Oh, this is such a great way to communicate with fans.” But it’s like, “What am I really doing here? Was this necessary for all of life before? Am I just wasting my time and justifying it with what a great way it is to connect with fans?” Because it ends up being a really shitty way to connect with people. It brings this sense of entitlement that you can’t really fight against. Then you’re Ryan Adams screaming at everyone. It just doesn’t really end well for anyone.

TrunkSpace: The honesty in your music is something you have become known for. When you’re writing about such personal subjects, do you ever stop yourself and say, “Okay, if I move forward with what I’m saying in this particular song and it takes off, I could revisiting it nightly for the next 20 years?”
Loveless: It’s never really occurred to me. I know a lot of people talk about that, but I just let songs develop over time anyway. Their meaning can change a lot to me over the years. It’s not exhausting to me. I come from a really emotionally-exhausting, dramatic family anyway. (Laughter) I’m used to focusing on my raw emotions. I guess music is a lot more enjoyable way to deal with them than yelling.

TrunkSpace: Are you hard on yourself as a writer? Is there an area where you feel like you’re constantly riding yourself to improve and be better?
Loveless: Yeah, I’m definitely a perfectionist. I’m a pretty slow writer. I would just prefer things to be exactly the way I want them before they’re out there. Instead of, “Well, that was a boring song, but I needed four more songs for the record.” That doesn’t help.

TrunkSpace: You also described yourself in a previous interview as a “super nerd.” What do you geek out about? What is your thing?
Loveless: I geek out about books a lot. I get pretty obsessed with them. I’m a Jane Eyre nerd, though I’m not sure if that’s a thing. I’m not cosplaying it or anything, but I’m definitely a big fan of that.

TrunkSpace: Does the future hold a Lydia Loveless book? Is writing a novel in your cards?
Loveless: Yeah, I would definitely have to be a lot more motivated as a person, which I’ve been working on. I know I sound like an idiot, but I focused on just the band for so long and also, just having occasional bouts of depression and not really looking at the world in a good way.

TrunkSpace: And being a perfectionist, a novel can be a daunting task.
Loveless: I fear it might give me the most massive panic attack of my life. I don’t know, maybe not.

TrunkSpace: What do you want your legacy to be when all is said and done?
Loveless: I guess I just want to be able to keep doing it and not really burn out, which is something I’ve seen a lot because it doesn’t always last forever for everybody. I’ve never really thought about anything else, or made any other career decisions. I’m slowly trying to figure out what else I would even want to do anyway. I guess it’s just the whole getting older thing, and not feeling like a super well-rounded person, which makes me work even slower.

I guess we’ll see what happens there.

“Boy Crazy and Single(s)” is available October 13 on Bloodshot Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Andrew W.K.

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Photo By: Nina Ottolino

When he’s not focusing on his music, Andrew W.K. works with the spoken word as a motivational speaker. This may be a bit of a surprise to people who only know him as the metal madman synonymous with partying hard, but the Michigan-raised musician is a living example of a book not to be judged by its cover.

The TrunkSpace chat with Andrew W.K. is a perfect example of this. We could have talked the entire time about his new tour and forthcoming album, but instead we pressed forward, beyond the surface subjects to delve deeper – so deep that we were no longer conducting an interview, but having a conversation. Two people existing in the same space, embracing the time of our individual overlap.

We spoke about life. We spoke of humanity’s collective journey. We spoke about the “joy zone,” a place we could all serve to visit more often. And through it all, Andrew’s vivacity and passion for the topics discussed became as breathable as the air itself, entering our lungs and exhaling back into the universe as positive energy hell bent on partying.

Consider us motivated!

TrunkSpace: Over the years, your promo images project you to be an intense, intimidating guy, and yet every interview we’ve read or watched with you, you are the absolute opposite of that. Do you feel like people perceive you in a way that you are not?
Andrew W.K.: I don’t know. You’d have to as them, I guess. Sometimes I meet people who say I’m taller than they thought I was or that they thought I would be more rough. I like contrast. That’s probably the main aesthetic that surrounds my personal approach to this. Contrast.

TrunkSpace: You have always seemed to have a strong awareness of personal brand and how you present yourself to the masses. How important has that been to your music and your career in general?
Andrew W.K.: Well, I feel like I’m a representative. I feel like I’m on a mission. I have a quest. I’ve been fortunate enough to be entrusted, in a very small but nonetheless significant or meaningful way, with the opportunity that I’ve been given. That opportunity is meant to achieve joy for myself, but more importantly, others as well. My joy is in creating their joy. If no one else was there, I would still enjoy it, but it’s more rewarding and the end goal is to try to conjure up, amplify, and hit this joy zone point. I have a set of tools and resources to work with to get to that place and since I’m a representative of that joy feeling, ultimately I feel like it’s important that if someone is out there looking for that joy feeling, that they are as aware as possible that they could potentially find access to that joy zone through me, through my humble offerings.

I’ve thought of it a lot of different ways, but it seems like the best way to describe it is like a casino in Las Vegas. Each casino is trying to draw people in and one of them uses really, really extravagant neon lights and another one uses a giant, waving cowboy, and another one uses an Egyptian theme with a giant black glass pyramid and a recreation of the Sphinx. They all have something to offer but at the end of the day, it’s a similar experience, which I guess is to win money. That’s not how it goes most of the time as we are well aware. Talk about contrast and ups and downs! That’s why I like Las Vegas so much, it’s really a land of contrast. This complete void, abyss, desert, then all of a sudden this oasis of extremely dense intensity. Extreme darkness and then extreme light all concentrated in this one electrical blowout. This idea of winning money or severe loss. It’s pain and joy, up and down.

Anyway, each one is saying, “Hey, come in here, you can get what you’re looking for in here!” Again, there’s a subversive, slightly sinister quality when it involves that kind of money but they still have something to offer and they’re trying to get you there. Well, I have something to offer, which actually does still involve some of the same things. There’s commerce involved in what I’m doing. I’m trying to make a living and all that, but really, I’m trying to say, “Hey, I’m working on an access point to that joy zone too.” Some people might get it through pizza, some people might get it through going to the movies, so there’s all these ways to try to get to that joy zone to try to validate the human experience as being a worthwhile experience, that being alive is a good thing. “Here is what I have to offer that’s meant to confirm that.” As a representative of that, I am trying to be, not necessarily the loudest or most extravagant or flamboyant or even ostentatious, but I am trying to be able to be located.

TrunkSpace: If the joy zone was a television, Andrew W.K. would be one channel on that television?
Andrew W.K.: Yes. Definitely. Channel 13.

TrunkSpace: It seems like as a country, as a world, we are in a very weird place politically and socially. Do you think people are looking for escapism, looking for that joy zone, more now than even 10 years ago?
Andrew W.K.: I could see why someone might think that. Perhaps it would be correct. But I imagine that 10 years earlier and 10 years from now, the same thing would still apply. We’re always looking for the joy zone. This is the human experience. There’s always going to be strife and struggle. There will always be what seemed like better times in the past and a better time in the future just out of reach. The point is to let the challenges that face us not pull us down, but bring the best out of us and sometimes, yeah, like you’re saying, tapping into that joy zone isn’t the escape, it’s the fuel that helps us rise to a higher level and not succumb to our worst potentials. We always need that. Humanity is always on the precipice, it’s part of its defining characteristic. I don’t know why. It seems inescapable. Maybe it’s our cross to bear, our punishment. Maybe it’s the test we have to pass, or maybe that’s just the nature of reality is that it’s always going to take everything we have, it’s always going to be extraordinarily intense, and just accepting that is the only way to temper that intensity. But, wishing or pining or lamenting the challenges is certainly not going to solve them, it’s only going to make it seem more overwhelming. We are worthy of rising to face these problems on a global scale, on a national scale, on a communal scale, or a community scale, and most of all, on a personal scale. If all of us, and myself first and foremost as I’m speaking for myself, if we did the best we could about us, about your own self, turn inward and not in a head-in-the-sand way. It’s very overwhelming to try to imagine saving the world. “What’s the one thing that I could do better about me? Could I be more patient? Could I be more thoughtful? Could I be quicker to correct my own shortcomings than to point my finger at someone else’s shortcomings? What am I messing up?”

If we did that, that would go a long way to addressing a lot of these very vast and overwhelming expansive global problems, I think.

Photo By: Nina Ottolino

TrunkSpace: We spoke to Henry Rollins some years ago and we were discussing a similar subject and he said, “If everybody just put in a thimble of water, eventually we’d get an ocean.”
Andrew W.K.: There you go.

TrunkSpace: Sometimes people take on too much responsibility as opposed to just taking on what they’re capable of.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, and that’s why it can feel so overwhelming and maybe it’s meant to. It is crushing, but when it gets so crushing, then you have no choice but just focus on, “Okay, I’m going to take a breath. Now I’m going to let that breath out. Now I’m going to put one foot forward. Now I’m going to put the other foot forward.”

You can break life down into a very manageable sense of being and realize that’s all you can do anyway.

TrunkSpace: What’s so fascinating about music, particularly in a live setting, is that you get all of these people under one roof who perhaps in any other circumstance wouldn’t find common ground, but here they all are entering the joy zone with Andrew W.K. together. That’s powerful.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, it’s beautiful, it really is. I know exactly what you’re talking about and that’s probably one of the absolute greatest things about getting to do this. And it’s not just to be part of creating that, but just to be in the presence of it. It’s where all the other stuff is just let go. It’s like when all the other stuff is just stripped away or dropped for a moment, all that’s left is the truth, which is that we’re all human beings and we’re here.

TrunkSpace: And in this day and age, we’re losing our sense of community, but in a club or venue, all seeing the same band or artist, that really is a community, even if it is for a short period of time.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, sure. I agree. It’s very uplifting, it’s very fulfilling, and as a younger person, I was really excited for my own concert experiences or seeing shows specifically by the fact that I was seeing people around me, kids in school, that I knew didn’t like me, that were kind of mean to me for very, in my opinion, very superficial reasons. It was about how my hair was or what clothes I wore or what music I listened to or didn’t listen to… sorta that I wasn’t doing things right. But that moment, none of that existed and when I realized that there were moments when all that fell away and that whatever was left, that’s who those people really were and that’s who I really was. It wasn’t all this decoration on top of this true self, it was what was there when all the decoration, when all that was stripped away, that there was something that couldn’t even really be defined, it could only be experienced and that that was in every person. Even the people who weren’t in that venue at that time. I got so excited about that idea of specifically being able to have a good experience even with your enemy and that they counted too, they were a human too whether they liked it or not.

TrunkSpace: In terms of just the music side of what you do, there’s so much passion in your voice talking about it both from the live performance perspective and in the creation of it. What kept you away from the full band experience for so long and what brought you back?
Andrew W.K.: Well, partying. Partying took me away and partying brought me back. I guess that’s sort of like what Homer Simpson said about beer, but it also works for just partying in general. I mean, life in general. Life took me away, life brought me back. It wasn’t a lot of decision making formally, for better or worse. There wasn’t a choice. Also, it should be said out of respect for my band members that we never stopped playing. We were playing festivals, we were playing one offs, we were very active. I was touring in all different kinds of capacities as well, so there was no shortage of activity. But I guess for me or for this operation, there does have to be at some point, some kind of formal declarative effort that we’re going to do this or we’ll just continue on doing whatever. I’m very fortunate and very lucky, and don’t take it for granted at all, there were so many opportunities that I didn’t need to plan out anything, something would just happen. Oftentimes, the things that would happen or the opportunities that would be offered to me, were more exciting or interesting than an opportunity I would even dream up to pursue.

The last time I tried, for example, to record a new album, which I’ve been trying to do, really. It wasn’t for lack of trying, I’ve been trying to record a new album for the last, well, for this whole time, the last 10 years. It takes a very long time for me to record primarily just because I record alone and it’s more of assembling… building a house by yourself or something. It takes months versus a couple weeks or so. This last one actually took a year and the last time we tried to plan it out, it was in 2013 and that had been after many other attempts at clearing out the time and each time, something really exciting came up that I didn’t feel like I could miss. In 2013, I remember being on tour, specifically, I was on a solo tour, and I said, “Okay, when this tour is done, that’s it, I’m going to carve out the next three months. Even if we can’t get the whole album done, at least it’ll be underway, it’ll officially be happening.”

I have had these songs and parts floating around and in various stages of completion for years, since 2005 or 2006. I remember this moment, it was in San Antonio, Texas I believe, and I got a call from my manager. He said, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to record the album for those three months.” I said, “Why? What are you talking about? We made an agreement, a promise to ourselves that we were going to turn down any offer.” He said, “Well, you just got offered an opening heavy metal DJ slot for the Black Sabbath North American tour.”

There would never have been a part of my mind that would dare to dream up that kind of opportunity and say, “Hey, go tell Black Sabbath that I want to be their DJ.” When something like that came up, I couldn’t resist. I felt like I had to do that kind of thing. Anyway but there’s always been a destiny feeling to this work that I’ve tried to embrace where you just follow the omens or you follow that deepest instinct and it would be nice to say we planned it all out this way but it sort of feels like it’s planning us. That’s how I feel.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times people want to define a musician’s legacy by his or her songs, their hits, their mainstream success. What do you want your legacy to be when all is said and done?
Andrew W.K.: Just party. My main goal beyond the feeling I’m trying to give someone, if there’s a way that I’m going to be marked down in the index of life or music, I just want my name and partying to be synonymous. That’s my goal. Party hard, whatever, the bloody nosed guy. To exist at all is almost impossible. If I can pull that off in some kind of a blurry outline of a filthy guy in white clothes with stringy hair and a bloody nose singing about partying, that’s more than enough. That would be a tremendous achievement, if I could actually bring that into a long lasting standing. That’s the goal.

Andrew W.K.’s “The Party Never Dies” tour kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, GA.

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Musical Mondaze

Toadies

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Even though it’s a throwback without a purposeful throw, you don’t need to be riding the wave of 90s nostalgia to enjoy “The Lower Side of Uptown,” the latest album from the Toadies. Finding mainstream success amid the golden age of alternative rock, the Texas-quartet exploded onto the scene in 1994 with the hit album “Rubberneck,” and although the band dispersed in 2001, they reunited with a different lineup five years later and have been writing and performing ever since.

We recently sat down with guitarist Clark Vogeler to discuss the creative conception of the new album, how the band continues to pull in a young audience, and why performing “Possum Kingdom” never gets old.

TrunkSpace: The new album is due out on Friday. Where do you rank it in terms of your overall career, and not even necessarily from the viewpoint of the music but as the experience itself?
Vogeler: I would say that the experience of this album was interesting because if you put it in the context of all the other albums, basically coming off the last album, which was pretty much an acoustic album, it was a much quieter album for us. What happened was, when we got together, we basically just had a pile of riffs that we’d written on the road, in soundcheck, on the bus, or at home. They were just a bunch of little pieces and then it came together. It became a real loud, heavy album… kind of much different than I think we all expected it to be going into it.

What we have been doing for our albums is going in and not really knowing what is going to happen. Going back to the 90s, by the time we got to the studio, we knew exactly what happened in every song because we’d been working them to death. We’re kind of having a better time these days not knowing everything and making decisions on the fly. This album was the most productive recording session I think we ever had because we went in with a pile of riffs and all we needed was like 10 or 11 songs to finish the album, but we got 16 or 17 songs kind of fleshed out.

So, if you put it in the context of our whole career, I think we’re just getting better at being the Toadies, or we can trust ourselves more to be the Toadies and do what the Toadies do without second-guessing ourselves. I think that in the end, it makes for a better music.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you guys go into the studio not necessarily knowing what will happen when you do. Does that help to not put expectations on things and allow the creativity to just be creative?
Vogeler: Exactly, yeah. You kind of have to get out of your own way too. If I go back to 1998… we spent all year in the rehearsal space, going over and over and over and over again on these songs we just kind of beat to death. In the end, those songs, I think they suffered for that. They got too much attention. If you think about a song like “Tyler” from the Toadies’ first record, which is a big fan favorite, that song came together in like five minutes.

When you’re in the studio and the clock is running and we’ve only got X number of days left, the pressure is on a little bit, but what that did was just allow us to run with it. There’s a couple moments on the record, which if we had spent a month in the rehearsal space, they probably wouldn’t have turned up on the record like that. It requires you getting the band to be able to move fast. We kind of trust ourselves. It goes back to trusting ourselves to do what we could do and really getting out of our own way and not thinking, “That sounds dumb,” or, “That’s too catchy,” or, “Too metal,” or whatever. Whatever voice would pop up in your head, you kind secondguess it. You kind of have to flush all that away and trust yourself. That’s basically what that session was like.

TrunkSpace: But that’s what’s beautiful about music… the imperfections. If you listen to some of the great records of the 60s and 70s, you can always pick out the things that would never exist on a record today, but they are so perfect for being imperfect.
Vogeler: I think you’re right. I think early on, when I was younger, I spent a lot of time in the studio trying to get it exactly right. I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do in the studio. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, really what you’re supposed to capture is a feeling in the studio. You’re not supposed to capture perfection unless that’s the feeling you’re going for, but the Toadies is not about perfection. It’s more loose and kind of ragtag where none of us are like super amazing players. Our bass player’s really good. Our drummer’s good. Of course, our vocalist can sing, but it’s kind of like a sum of the parts thing. None of us with the exception of our singer are going to fill a room full of people who want to hear us play, but when we can get together, we know our limitations and we kind of stretch out within that realm.

TrunkSpace: A lot has changed within the industry over the years. Has the way the band interacts with fans changed? Have the fans themselves changed?
Vogeler: We stopped playing together for five or six years. When we came back together and started touring, we found that there’s actually a lot of young Toadies fans out there. Certainly, there’s the people our age out there and some of them are bringing their kids, but there are also these 18-year-old kids with long hair and Nirvana shirts that never got to see Nirvana, but they’re stoked to see the Toadies play. That was a real surprise, that basically our audience these days is very mixed. I think that speaks to the… well, I’m not sure how to frame this, but when we were 20, you listened to this kind of music that, to a larger extent, represented you. The kids these days, they don’t have that. They’re not loyal to any genre. They just mix it up. They’ll like hip-hop. They’ll like some pop. They’ll like some black metal. I think that benefits us as an older band to have some young fans like that.

We are really lucky to have had some radio success in the 90s that has somehow managed to stay. Our music still finds a lot of radio time and that translates into still having an audience and still having a career. I think without the radio support, it would be a little different. So, we’re in a really lucky position to have that 90s radio still happening.

TrunkSpace: If you guys were starting out today, how different would the journey have been?
Vogeler: Gosh. That’s a tricky question. I’m not sure I know how to answer that one. Let me think…

It would be an entirely different path as far I can tell. The industry is 100 percent, wholly different than it was in 1995 when “Rubberneck” was selling lots of records. That came off the back of huge support at radio and support at MTV. Now, both of those things are… I can’t even imagine what struggle it would be if we were just starting out. Not to mention the fact that in a bigger picture, rock and roll is not really everybody’s favorite these days. It’s really slinked to the background if you look at the charts in mainstream media, but when you go to rock shows, you can see there’s obviously still a lot of people that love rock and roll. It’s just not selling records like it used to. I think it’ll eventually come around, but we need some young band with a fresh sound that can catch you with their songs to do it up again.

TrunkSpace: After all of these years in the industry, what still excites you most about having a career in music?
Vogeler: Well, I’ll tell you what… the best part of being in a band for me is playing the live show. That never gets old. There are nights when you’re on tour for six and a half weeks and then you have a Tuesday night show in wherever, and maybe you’re not feeling it that night, but 99 times out of 100, that is the best part of going on tour… just being a musician. People ask us if we get tired of playing “Possum Kingdom.” When we start that song and you see 500 or 2,000 or 10,000 people shout and stand up and start getting into it and smiling and singing along… there is no better feeling as a musician than to see a room full of people do that.

“The Lower Side of Uptown” is available September 8 on Kirtland Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Ellington Ratliff

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Photo By: Valentina Socci

As the talented drummer and vocalist for the pop rock band R5, Ellington Ratliff has experienced more than most people twice his age. Having toured the world numerous times over and amassed millions of fans across the globe, the California native began acting at a very young age before turning his passion for music into an unexpected career.

We recently sat down with Ratliff to discuss transitioning from the R5 tour bust to his home, how LA people are the chillest, and why he doesn’t geek out about certain drum kits.

TrunkSpace: You just finished up a tour with R5 and now you’re back in Los Angeles for a short break. Does it take you a bit of time to get readjusted to home after a stretch on the road?
Ratliff: It definitely takes a second. When I’m home I don’t want to leave and go on tour, but then when I’m on tour I’m like, “Oh man, now I’ve gotta work, but I don’t have to worry about cleaning my room.”

It’s nice to be on the bus and worry about one thing every day. I love being home but at the same time, it’s a totally different mindset.

TrunkSpace: And if you have the type of brain that works well within margins, life on the road is so structured that it becomes easy to get used to the schedule aspect of it.
Ratliff: Definitely! Everything we have on tour is on a schedule… on an app that we can look at and be like, “Okay, 8 o’clock is an interview, 9 o’clock is this, 10 o’clock is sound check.” When I get home and I don’t have that manager setting up what I’m doing all the time, it’s like, “What do I do with my day?” Self-motivating is a whole thing you have to keep getting better at… just time management on my own.

When we’re in LA and we’re writing, which is what we’re doing right now, we can kind of lose the structure. It’s easy to lose the structure because there’s so much to do in LA. We’re going to award shows, we have press things, and sometimes we want to stay home and watch Netflix. It’s on us to be in the studio and to be writing.

TrunkSpace: We’d be toast. “Oh, the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ is premiering this weekend? Cancel all writing!” (Laughter)
Ratliff: (Laughter) Yeah! It’s weird having to choose when to go to Hollywood and actually go to a party. But then, you know, you suck it up and go out and see all your friends and it ends up being all good. But it’s weird. It’s definitely not the ’80s anymore.

TrunkSpace: So you’re not ruling the Sunset Strip Mötley Crüe style?
Ratliff: (Laughter) No. None of that.

TrunkSpace: One of the benefits of being based in LA is that you’re surrounded by so many other creative people, which in a lot of ways, must feed your own creative endeavors?
Ratliff: I’m glad you said that because we do have a lot of friends that are in the business. I feel like since LA is so spread out, there’s a lack of community. We have our friends that are in the music business and can meet every once in a while, but I kind of want to create that vibe you see in movies where people meet at this underground coffee shop/speakeasy club and they do slam poetry in the basement and everyone’s intermingling.

I feel like New York is easier. You just hop on a train. You’re at wherever you need to be. You can drink or whatever you want to do. In LA its like, “Should I get the Uber? It’s a 30 minute drive to Hollywood. I know there’s a jam thing happening, but I don’t really know anyone there.”

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) And you actually grew up in LA, right?
Ratliff: I did.

TrunkSpace: That always seems rare because so many people who live there are originally from other places.
Ratliff: Yeah, and you know there’s a weird misconception about people that come from LA… they think that people from LA are weird. I think on the contrary. The people who are the strangest, in my experience, are the people who come to LA from out of town for the wrong reasons. And you can just smell it when you meet them. You can vibe out someone in like two seconds. And if they come for the wrong reasons, just to make it or they’re not actually passionate or they’re just star f’ers, you can feel that. And there are people that come from out of town who are great, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like people who are from LA are the chillest. They know what’s going on. They know how everything works.

TrunkSpace: You were named after Duke Ellington. Was music an acquired passion or do you think it was somewhat a fate written in the cards for you?
Ratliff: That’s actually a good question because I had no intentions of being a musician as a child. I grew up in the acting scene. I had one of my first auditions when I was like two years old. My parents do it, so they had me do it and they just shuffled me in there. And then high school came around and I started messing around with bands.

My mom does joke around that Duke Ellington was smiling upon me and pushing me to music. It’s just a coincidence. I wasn’t trying to be a musician, but just because I didn’t know I could be. I just didn’t even think about it. I was just doing it. So the fact that it became a career, I’m stoked about it and hopefully I can keep doing it as long as possible.

TrunkSpace: Did your parents nurture your musical side when it took hold?
Ratliff: Yeah, they were definitely supportive. For sure. I mean, being a drummer, you’ve got to be a supportive family because there’s no escaping. Electronic drum sets are like a couple grand and that was a little beyond what we could afford, so you gotta live with just constant drum noise, which is loud. You gotta really be on the team.

TrunkSpace: Do you geek out about certain drum kits?
Ratliff: On the contrary, I could give a crap about that. Jack White is one of my favorite artists of all time. I just love everything he creates. He said in an interview once that he loves to play with old vintage guitars and things that don’t work right and fall out of tune because it’s a constant struggle to get something to sound good. And it’s a whole other part of the show.

I don’t care what I play. I’m not going to be like, “Oh, my snare is at the wrong angle!” I’m just going to make it sound good and play the shit out of the drum set and make it be awesome. If something is a little off on the set, if I have a riser that’s shaking, I enjoy that because it changes the show. That’s the beauty of a show… every show is different.

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Musical Mondaze

Jack Cooper

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Photo By: Tsouni Cooper

Jack Cooper of Ultimate Painting may have embarked on the journey to create his debut solo album “Sandgrown” for himself, but the end result is for the listener. Written as a low-fi libation to his hometown of Blackpool, England’s “Las Vegas of the North,” the record is a collection of songs about a singular community, but make no mistake, the message speaks to anybody who has ever called a small town their home. Perspective is everything in music, and when listening to “Sandgrown,” you can’t help but be reminded that we’re all from the same larger community known as humanity.

We recently sat down with Cooper to discuss his creative goals, the freedom of producing an album without expectations, and how being a self-taught musician helped shape his songwriting approach.

TrunkSpace: Music is meant to elicit feeling and emotion. Your album “Sandgrown” does that better than most. What were the artistic goals when you decided to put the album together?
Cooper: That’s nice of you to say. I started amassing some songs that really didn’t fit in with Ultimate Painting. Because there’s two of us who write for that band, I… well, they were much slower songs and I don’t really pursue those as a band because there’s a certain style of song we write and sometimes I do things that don’t fit in with that. So over the last couple of years I’ve been amassing songs. I have this thing where pretty much every album I’ve done, there’s usually one song that’s kind of… not necessarily about my home town or growing up, but it fits in with those themes. I wanted to do something around that, that was almost like a frame for me to work within… the frame being my hometown. I like working with limitation and I figured that writing about Blackpool was an interesting springboard for me to work within.

TrunkSpace: Was part of the idea to focus on a theme to sort of help give your creative brain a specific focus?
Cooper: Yeah, I guess so. I was thinking about how albums work and how they became very popular in the 60s. An album in pop music or rock music, a lot of the time is like nothing else in art, whether it’s cinema or literature. It’s very rare to see a movie that is made of short stories that doesn’t tie together. I was thinking about that and how albums do that.

People keep talking about how albums are going out of fashion with playlists and things like that. There are themes and there are sounds that run through Ultimate Painting records and records I’ve done before those, but I felt that to do something on my own and to have complete control over it, I wanted to do something that was very focused.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned playlists are making albums sort of obsolete, but in a way, “Sandgrown” is kind of a playlist of Blackpool, right?
Cooper: Yeah, I suppose so. I guess it’s pretentious and it’s kind of an intangible thing to even think about, but the sounds used on the record and the guitar tones and frequencies, I tried to make it sound like the feeling of being in my hometown or being a kid there. It’s hard to even… I guess it’s hard to…

Explaining music is a very difficult thing.

TrunkSpace: Yes and no. Sometimes the music is the only explanation needed, which is the case with “Sandgrown.”
Cooper: Doing something on my own allowed me to do something completely without having any expectations… even with having anyone put it out. I made it, it was really for me, but when I finished it and I played it for people without talking too much about the concept of it, initially no one really seemed to pick up on the fact that it was very focused on this one thing.

TrunkSpace: The beauty of music is that it can be interpreted differently by different people. That’s what makes it so special.
Cooper: Yeah. I’m always kind of reluctant to talk about what the songs are about too much because it should be whatever you want it to be about. But, when you release a record, people want a story or they want an angle on it. This obviously had a very specific one. Now that I’ve actually got it coming out, I hope no one would go, “Well, I don’t know where that is.” Or, “Why would I be interested in listening to a record about that?” But that logic doesn’t really scan because you would watch a movie about Blackpool or a seaside town, so I’m probably just second-guessing myself.

TrunkSpace: Is that the only place that you second-guess yourself or are you hard on yourself in other areas as well?
Cooper: Well, I think sometimes in the past I’ve been a little bit lazy as far as writing lyrics is concerned, because it’s not something I’m particularly interested in. There have been songs of mine where I’ve been pleased with the lyrics and then sometimes I’ve been guilty of throwing them away. Writing lyrics is way more exposed than playing guitar. I think the continuation of that is singing. This record was fun for me, because I was just doing it on my own in my flat. I could sing really quiet and sing how I would sing if I was around the house or something. I guess I’m kind of hard on myself with that.

TrunkSpace: You’re a self-taught musician. Do you think that has benefited you because you have approached songwriting without any set thoughts or having to stay within any margins?
Cooper: Yeah, I guess so. I got as far as I think I could on my own and I was confronted with limitations as far as how fast I could play guitar. This is a while ago. I think I’ve gotten better as a guitarist over the last five or six years, but I have all these weird habits. There’s boring stuff that I do that… no one I’ve ever seen plays some chords the way I play chords. It’s not in a good way like, “Oh, this has a certain individual style to it.” It’s very limiting.

I’ve never really thought about it too much. James (Hoare) in Ultimate Painting, I think he had lessons and he knows how to do things right. I think I add a weird element to the guitar. You know, the way that we play together works very well. Every couple of years I’ll be like, “I should try and learn more things.” I just can’t do it. I’m dyslexic as well, and I just find it very hard to learn things in that way.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned not having any expectations in making the album, but now with it set for release, do you have expectations of how “Sandgrown” will be received?
Cooper: I kind of hope that people are open to an album like this, because there’s no top single on it. It is quite low-fi, even compared to stuff I’ve done before. I don’t really have any expectations for it. I’m really pleased with it. It’s very satisfying to set yourself a goal and have a very strict framework to work within and then to achieve what you wanted to do. I feel like this album came out exactly how I wanted it to and nothing I’ve ever done before has come out like that.

I really want people to buy it and I’m looking forward to playing shows. More than anything I’ve done before, I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve before it came out, or before it was played to anyone. Whereas with Ultimate Painting, I think we release an album and we think about what people want from us or where it lies and what might get played on the radio and stuff. There’s probably a bit more of thought that goes into it like that, whereas this was really just for me.

“Sandgrown” is available August 25 from Trouble In Mind.

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