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musical mondaze

Musical Mondaze

Deeper

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If you’re anything like us, sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a playlist rut. When it comes to music, many times we take an “If it’s not broke…” approach, but we don’t need to fix our horizons to expand upon them. New artists worth discovering are out there, and as is the case with this particular needle in a haystack, sometimes you just have to look DEEPER.

Hailing from Chicago, the rifftastic quartet with a bit of ‘80s flair is set to release their self-titled debut May 25 on Fire Talk Records. We recently sat down with the band to discuss the pressures of recording their first album, how they’ve changed sonically since forming in 2014, and why they hope their legacy includes… Creed?

TrunkSpace: Your self-titled debut drops on May 25. What emotions are you juggling with as you gear up to release it to the world, especially considering that in many ways, the album will be the band’s introduction to new and future listeners?
Deeper: It’s excitement more than anything else. If you had asked us when we finished the record, we would’ve probably just said we are relieved to be done. It’s been done long enough now that we are able to get excited again. The record was recorded through five sessions over the course of a year and a half, so it was consuming a lot of our time for longer than we imagined.

TrunkSpace: Obviously it’s difficult to say because this is your first release, but do you think there is more pressure on a band in the studio with a debut than there is with a second or third offering? Is it just as much about establishing who Deeper is as it is about putting quality songs out into the universe?
Deeper: Definitely more pressure on the first release – that sort of sets the foundation for the rest of our records. If a listener doesn’t dig what we’re doing initially, they probably won’t check out what we’re doing next time. We have been pretty meticulous with this record specifically because of how a first release can frame the identity of a band. Whereas when a second record comes out, there’s already at least some audience who enjoyed the first release.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the album says about who Deeper is as a band? Does it fully accomplish what you set out to do with it, both creatively and commercially?
Deeper: As a band we think it shows a variety of different sounds we’re able to realize and how we’re able to play together. Creatively, it accomplishes what we set out to do – we’re really happy with the finished product. Commercially is yet to be seen.

TrunkSpace: The band has faced roadblocks in the past, one of which saw you choosing to scrap all of your existing songs after a previous member had left. Did that creative clean slate serve to put the band on stronger songwriting ground? Are you a better unit for it?
Deeper: The old version of Deeper focused on a sound that we were excited about at the time, but ultimately led to creative roadblocks as we progressed. The creative clean slate allowed us to experiment in ways we weren’t able to with the old version.

TrunkSpace: Did your overall sound change at all between who the band was then and who the band is now? Did bringing in Drew McBride add a new point of view to the mix that directly impacted the musical output of Deeper?
Deeper: We’re better fit together organically and threw out fewer ideas because of how we collaborate on songwriting. We were more apt to throw out ideas and Drew was really good about figuring out how to incorporate those into songs. The band feels more confident as a unit based on the current lineup for sure. Drew also loves driving which makes touring easier.

TrunkSpace: Is there something creatively inspiring about working within a band atmosphere? Does creativity inspire creativity?
Deeper: Writing in a band creates many more compromises and that can be a good and bad influence in bands. For us, it’s been really positive and has helped us define our sound better.

TrunkSpace: As you embark on this new and exciting chapter of your life that kicks off with your self-titled debut, what are you most looking forward to in the months ahead?
Deeper: Hitting the road, seeing friends in other cities, and letting people hear more of our music.

Photo By: Alexa Viscius

TrunkSpace: What does the songwriting process within Deeper look like? How does a new track go from inception to completion?
Deeper: Everyone comes to the table with different ideas and we throw a lot of things at the wall to see what sticks. Even when we think a song is done, it’s really not final until we’ve recorded it. We’re always making changes until the last possible moment.

TrunkSpace: Lyrically, are your songs written from personal experience or do they take a more storyteller’s approach to the narrative?
Deeper: Nic (Gohl) was writing more experience-focused songs until our guitarist Mike (Clawson) joked with him that his love songs were too obvious. That challenged Nic to vary his lyrical choice more.

TrunkSpace: When all is said and done and you hang up your instruments for the last time, what do you hope Deeper is remembered for? What do you want your legacy to be?
Deeper: We hope our legacy is summarized by covering Creed at our album release.

Deeper’s self-titled debut drops Friday on Fire Talk Records.

For tour date, click here.

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Musical Mondaze

Matt Costa

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Photo By: Jen Rosenstein

Being such a visual person, singer/songwriter Matt Costa felt at home turning his latest album “Santa Rosa Fangs” into a sort of musical film, a cinematic soundtrack to three fictional characters who are coming of age while discovering that life is equal parts triumph and tragedy. Much of what is playing out in Costa’s captivating lyrics involve aspects of his own personal experiences, which he gifted to his trio of made-up muses and shaped into their shared story. The result is a record that, as a listener, feels timeless in its collective narrative and delivers on artistic layers that stretch deep beneath the surface.

We recently sat down with Costa to discuss the work that goes into an album after it’s finished, where he’s grown as an artist since his last full length release five years ago, and which “Santa Rosa Fangs” character he feels closest to.

TrunkSpace: “Santa Rosa Fangs” drops tomorrow. As you gear up to release new material to the world, what emotions do you juggle with, especially in a case like this where it’s been five years since your last full length album.
Costa: Well, there’s a lot of that goes into the feelings around releasing something, especially when it’s been a long time since I’ve done a proper full length release. I think that over the years though, I’ve gotten better at sort of managing my creative time and creative emotions with it. I finished the record in… it takes time for stuff to be put out. It takes about a year when you finish recording it, going through all the processes and everything for it to get put out, so it’s been awhile since I’ve recorded it. But since then, there’s been a lot put into sort of living in the songs – bringing them to life and getting ready to bring them to the road – which is a different thing than being creative in the writing time. Ideally, the song is a vehicle to kind of channel the ether. So it’s just kind of getting into that and then be able to go on the road and be able to really live inside the songs and bring people into them as well, rather then just having them live in their recorded form.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to manage the expectations associated with a release once it is out of your hands – basically, how it will be accepted and perceived once out in the world?
Costa: No, I don’t think so. Obviously you get – being in the music business or industry – those people who are invested in it just on the business end of it. My main goal has always been doing something creative that I think has depth to it. And sometimes it hits immediately, sometimes it takes a while to sink in. I’m just really happy to have the opportunity this time, or anytime, that I’m able to put a record out with support, in order to have it reach more people. So I think that, in itself, is a luxury.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, it’s been five years since your last full length album. Is the artist you are now dramatically different than the artist you were at the time of that self-titled release?
Costa: Yeah, I think it is. When I did that record I recorded it in Scotland and I recorded it in Glasgow specifically. I recorded it with some of the members… a lot of members of the band Belle and Sebastian. Throughout the years I’ve gotten to play with a lot of musicians who I admire and have looked at and with administration from a distance. I flew home and came home from that experience with a lot of growth, but then I also realized that there was a lot of… every time I do something I realize where I need to grow in other areas. You do something, put a big piece of work out and it’s sort of like Sisyphus. You have to climb, the rock falls back down, and you have to push it back up. For me, I like to think that during this time I did a lot studying of different genres and styles and things, which I’ve always done throughout my career. I explored that during the “Orange Sunshine” documentary, that I was able to spread out some of the songs. Instead of just writing a sort of pop-structured song, I was able to spread sounds out, go to different genres and explore that, and I think that has given more depth. And even sonically too, working in my home studio here, being able to explore more recording techniques on my own, as well, has helped to make the sound and evolution from what I’ve done. My voice is still there, but I think that I’m just able to get some different sounds and some different rhythms and things. I think with the “Orange Sunshine” record I was starting to focus more on just like, a specific groove – groove things – and stuff like that. And I think that I’m sort of locking into a nice pocket on these songs.

TrunkSpace: Are you somebody who, after finishing an album or creative endeavor, needs to then step away to refuel the tank?
Costa: Well, we’ll see. (Laughter) I don’t know. I think that this time around, it’s easy for me to, once I finish working on a piece of music to… the reason I’ve been able to sustain it for so long is because I just move onto the next day and just keep going and going and going. Recently, for this one, I’ve been channeling that energy and putting it into a lot more of the visual aspects of it. And so, instead of saying, “Okay, I’m gonna sit down and write a song today,” I think that my working on the film and several films over the last couple years – I’ve always been a very visual person the way I see music – so now I realize I can take that energy that I put creatively into songs and really shape the album packaging, which I did with a close friend of mine who I’ve known since I was a kid. I did the art direction for it and laid that out. And also, a lot of the video work that’s been going along with this as well. So instead of, “On to the next thing, on to the next record,” which I have done a little bit – I can’t help but write songs and having those ideas come – but I’ve been trying to channel them into creating how the visuals that go along with the record accompany it. And I think it’s been really fun. And also that stuff is necessary for the way that people perceive music nowadays. It’s been that way for a long time. Think about a film without a score or something, or maybe it has a very minimal one but it really, definitely shapes the mood. So I’ve been enjoying that process.

Photo By: Pamela Littky

TrunkSpace: Did being a visual person help to shape the storytelling elements of “Santa Rosa Fangs?”
Costa: Yeah, it definitely did. I think when I start writing a song, I don’t solidify or I don’t commit to an idea until my mind’s eye sees the image that correlates to the music. And when it does, then I start going down that path. Over the last five years when I wasn’t putting out my own records, I put out some EPs that were hyper-focused into smaller conceptual ideas where the sound was focused. And I think that my idea with that, in the long run, was to make a larger, more conceptual piece that I could have themes and characters and I could weave in and out of them to tell my own story, but also tell their story. Like a vine that goes through it.

Also too, I feel like from when I first started writing songs, just being young and also having only minimal experience as a musician or a writer, by my own experience, limitations were made. And as you grow – grow as a musician – obviously your palate gets wider and you get all these other tools, but I think that narrowing the focus with a setting and these characters helped drive the direction of the record to be something that was more contained conceptually.

TrunkSpace: With that focused storytelling, did you find yourself relating to one of the characters more than another?
Costa: It’s sort of all of them in a way. Some of it is family experience too. Like the song “Ritchie” was based upon two family tragedies that happened early on when I was young. Those two cousins who passed away, within a year of each other, both by a motorcycle and a car accident, their father, his name is Tony. He was my uncle and he was the most influential person in my musical growth. He’d always give me records and things. And all the music I’ve done has been inspired by him and so, I guess the character of Tony, who’s kind of the spokesperson for the group and has the wisdom between all of them, he’s the one who I relate to the most.

TrunkSpace: Obviously all music is personal, but because the record ties back to your own experiences and family, does it feel more personal?
Costa: It does feel more personal, yeah. I think it does feel more personal but it’s also easier when there are these archetype characters that you can channel and – channeling, I’ve been using that a lot – to focus the story into, I feel like I can get out of my own way, in that sense. A lot of times I feel it can become too self-indulgent or something like that, and a lot of it too is that songwriting or writing in general is looking at people I have relationships with or that are in my life whether it be romantic or friends or business or however it may be, and obviously you can only bounce your own experience off of them. But that’s how you gain a perspective and I think that same way within these songs I was able to get more perspective on the songs and the record and the story when I was able to bounce ideas and themes off of the character.

TrunkSpace: Billboard called it one of the most ambitious projects you’ve taken on. Did it feel that way to you? Did it become an undertaking that you didn’t anticipate at the outset?
Costa: I think so, yeah. I definitely had it in mind. I knew that I wanted to take on some larger themes in the years leading up to it. I knew that was something. I kind of sat back started to visualize what it was specifically and really putting into it my own family history, and all that, really feels important and somewhat vulnerable too. And so I think that makes it an ambitious thing. I guess I try to be as ambitious as I can with it and hopefully, as I go along, each one is relative to the time and event in my life. I feel like this one definitely is. And I don’t think I could have written this record or even done these songs in the beginning of my career because I think certain sonic textures that the tunes are made up of, actually I had to learn how to develop a sonic texture in order to write a song that could work with inside of it. I don’t think it would have been the same, for a song like “Sharon” or something like that. I could have written it when I was younger, but I don’t think I could deliver it as impactful.

Santa Rosa Fangs” is available Friday on Dangerbird Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Michael Rault

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Photo By: Mat Dunlap

Crafting one of our favorite albums of 2018 thus far, Michael Rault has created a modern-day classic with “It’s A New Day Tonight,” a 10-song masterpiece of vintage rock sounds and lyrical narratives reminiscent of breezy summer days. The Montreal-based singer/songwriter set out to construct a record that could be spun on a turntable and absorbed front to back in a single sitting. He has done just that, and in the process, has left a musical longing within the listener for more.

We recently sat down with Rault to discuss music’s therapeutic qualities, how “It’s A New Day Tonight” is an album about the subconscious, and why he needs to start sleeping with a dream journal.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, “It’s a New Day Tonight,” drops in just a few days. What emotions do you juggle with in your head as you gear up to release new material to the world?
Rault: Oh, a lot of different feelings come to the surface. There’s a little bit of anxiety, a little regret, but mainly, I’m just really excited. It is intense finally letting go of something you worked on for so long, though.

TrunkSpace: We read that the album sprung from a period of creative dissatisfaction. Are you someone who tends to hit walls creatively and then needs to refuel the tank? Do you find yourself taking breaks from music?
Rault: I don’t take very long breaks from music. I tend to take breaks from writing. Sometimes, it can be too much to keep squeezing the toothpaste tube once it has given all its got. I find that practicing instruments and learning songs keeps me in a state of expansion so I can avoid getting stuck in my writing.

TrunkSpace: The album as a whole feels like more than just a collection of songs. There is a cohesive vibe to it – a sense that it was crafted like an album from the ‘70s where each track to track transition was important to the journey of the listener. Did you set out to create more than just a package to wrap your songs in and how much thought was put into the order of the songs themselves?
Rault: At the beginning of the whole thing, I was just writing and trying to come up with enough material to fill a new album. At some point, I noticed there was a theme emerging, and I definitely pulled a handful of songs out of the pile and thought “these ones go together.” A bunch of tunes that might have been pretty good on their own just couldn’t get included, because they didn’t mesh well with what had become the core of the record. We fully tracked eleven songs, and had one other partially done, and once we had finished tracking and got into mixing, we eliminated one of the tracked tunes and opted for one of the other songs that seemed to fit the vibe better. After everything was mixed, Wayne Gordon (my engineer and co-producer) and I definitely put a bunch of work into sequencing the record. It was important for it to sound good when somebody put it on their turntable and listened to each side all the way through.

TrunkSpace: We know the title comes from a hockey pre-game interview, but we found something very music-focused in it, at least from our perspective. Music has the power to impact people in profound ways. Someone can be having a rough go of things and then put on their favorite record and then WHAM, they’re viewing things differently. Essentially, a bad day can become a new night. Yes, we took a long way to get here, but have you experienced a moment where a fan shared how your music impacted them directly and do moments like that help fuel your desire to continue forward with your career?
Rault: Yeah, definitely! Occasionally, someone will message me and say that my music has made them feel better in a hard time, and that’s encouraging to me. I have been helped throughout my whole life by my favorite music, making life more bearable and giving it all some meaning. I also find that working on my own music can give me insight into my own emotional life, and connect me with my inner life in a way that can have a positive impact on my day-to-day experience. I think you are right, that is the more true meaning of the album title. Although it did come from a hockey player’s awkward pre-game interview, the title itself meant something different to me, which is why I wrote the song.

TrunkSpace: What does “It’s A New Day Tonight” say about who you were as an artist at the time of its inception and have you already moved on creatively and found a new headspace to approach your writing from?
Rault: I am moving on. It is interesting to finish a huge project like this and see how certain ideas or concepts that have been in central positions in your mind for so long start to fade away. I find myself being attracted to different bands and genres and songs after drawing inspiration from other areas for so long when I was gathering ideas for this record. I’d say that “New Day” is a record about the subconscious, and maybe was my way of dealing with some things that I was unaware of. It seems to me like it was a more intimate album than anything I had done before, but also simultaneously was this sort of impersonal fantasy about being a rock and roll star in the sense that the sounds were so heavily based in this classic rock aesthetic. So, it seemed like it was both unglamorously personal, and fantastic at the same time.

TrunkSpace: Do you write primarily from experience or do you take a more storyteller’s approach to your lyrics?
Rault: The most recent thing I’ve been doing is writing subconsciously, and I guess that is something I’ve done since I started writing in my teen years. I try to just let things run their course and sometimes a song just comes out lyrically well-formed. Other times, you need to edit it and do more work on it to bring it together. I guess that makes the songs pretty personal, but in a way they also don’t seem like they are necessarily direct representations of what is going on in my life. It’s more like a reflection of my personal experience, but maybe through a fun house mirror or something. It comes out different on the other side, if it is working right.

Photo By: Meg Remy

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lines, the kind that make us curse the universe for not having come up with them ourselves. What is a favorite line of yours that you have written and why are you proud of that particular snippet?
Rault: That’s hard to say. I feel like some of my older material had some better one liners that I could just pull out and quote here. As far as this album goes, one of my favorite little lyrical snippets was from “Sleeping & Smiling,” when it goes “all the days run together like colours in my mind, leaving me looking through a blur, til it’s so hard to see through as dark as night and I wish that things could be just as they were…”, I liked the imagery in that line.

TrunkSpace: Sleeping and dreaming were two themes you focused on while writing “It’s A New Day Tonight.” Are you someone who can shut off the creative brain or are the gears always turning? Do you wake up with a need to jot down lyrics or concepts for songs?
Rault: I sometimes do wake up with ideas, and I often times decide that it isn’t good enough to get out of bed and find a pen for. I think I need to start sleeping with a dream journal / notebook type thing on hand. I wouldn’t say that there are just always great ideas pouring out of my skull, though. Only occasionally something comes up unprompted.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Rault: Everywhere. (Laughter) I need to be better about that.

TrunkSpace: Finally Michael, if you could sit down and have a conversation with 16-year-old you, would he be happy with the artist you have become today?
Rault: I think so! I’m guessing 16-year-old me would have a pretty good perspective on the amount of work present day me has done to improve and expand my skills and such. I also think I still share a lot of core interests with 16-year-old me, but I bet there would be some musical tastes that I have developed that I wouldn’t have liked at all at that age. It would definitely be a trippy encounter.

It’s A New Day Tonight” is available May 18 on Wick Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Sarah Shook

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Photo By: Anthony Nguyen

Sarah Shook doesn’t write music for fame or adulation, she writes because she has to. An outlet for emotional purging, the songs she creates – gritty and authentic – are part of her own internal healing process. And while her latest album “Years” may have aided in exorcising the personal demons of the North Carolina native, it is also helping listeners of her brand of twangy AmericHONESTa search for answers to their own questions about the confusing world circulating around them.

We recently sat down with Shook to discuss songwriting catharsis, going boots on the ground, and why it’s necessary for artists to be transparent in what they’re creating.

TrunkSpace: What emotions do you juggle with internally as you gear up to release new material to the masses and is it important to tamper expectations given that once its released to the world, so much of how it is perceived is then out of your hands?
Shook: I don’t make music to please anyone. I make music to exorcise my demons and heal. The people who listen to my songs and feel connected to me, this music is for them, too. Their pain and suffering, their failures and victories, are every bit as valid as my own. My band and I worked incredibly hard to make an excellent record with “Years,” not because we want accolades, but because we challenge ourselves personally and collectively to be the best we possibly can. That’s its own reward in many ways.

TrunkSpace: Is there ever a moment when you finish an album and you feel a sense of loss or sadness because the experience is over and those songs no longer require your attention? Is it difficult to let go of the creative in the process?
Shook: Hell no. These songs are my catharsis, I don’t get tired of howling out the same words night after night because this shit is real and at this point this is bigger than just me, this is about bringing some relief and catharsis to the people who show up for it. Shared experience is powerful.

TrunkSpace: “Years” has been out for about a month now. Creatively are you a different person than you were when you first started writing the material for that album?
Shook: Creatively, no. Same old me. For better or worse. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: From our perspective, there seems to be a revolution happening in country music with singers/songwriters pushing back against the polished, packaged country that has dominated the genre for the last decade or so. Is that an accurate reading, and if so, why are artists hoping to redefine the country sound and vibe once again?
Shook: There’s a mighty thirst to find something real in a sea of glittery bubblegum superstardom. People are looking for something that speaks to them because it’s authentic and from the heart. Pop country artists might be selling out stadiums, but the little people like us are out here, boots on the ground, working hard AF, connecting with people. Pretty sure you won’t find Brad Paisley doin’ shots at the bar with his fans. We make ourselves available as much as possible.

TrunkSpace: You describe yourself as shy. How does someone who is shy ultimately settle on a career where being in front of people, both physically and emotionally, is part of the job description?
Shook: I’ve come a very long way in a very short amount of time. As an introvert, after a shit ton of socializing, yes, I’m definitely gonna need some alone time to recoup. But I totally enjoy meeting new people and the chaos of touring life. Being incessantly thrown into new and unfamiliar territory with so many unknown factors, this way of life requires fast and lasting change in one’s way of thinking. You just gotta roll with the punches, keep your head on straight, and keep moving forward.

Photo By: John Gessner

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, if you could spend the remainder of your career making a living writing and recording exclusively, could you walk away from performing in front of people or is there still a draw there?
Shook: I love touring, I love performing, and most of all, I love my bandmates. We’ve worked so fucking hard to get to where we are, I would totally be letting them down if I quit touring. I could never do that. They’re my family when I’m not home.

TrunkSpace: You seem to put so much of yourself into your music. On the lyrics side, do you ever feel like you’re saying too much about yourself and your experiences, and in the process, opening yourself up to third party dissection… especially in this social media age?
Shook: No. Artists need to be more honest and transparent in their art. I make mistakes, I’m not perfect, and when I fuck up I’m not afraid to talk about it.

TrunkSpace: You have a great rock star aura about you, but really, the first “rock stars” with swagger were the classic country artists. What are your thoughts on persona and attitude when it comes to an artist’s point of view? Is it all part of the necessary equation?
Shook: I don’t give a single fuck what anybody thinks about me. I know who I am. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I work really hard to better myself. It’s impossible to intimidate someone who has lived through the shit I’ve lived through and clawed their way kicking and screaming towards freedom and independence. Nobody is ever gonna keep me down again and there is no more liberating feeling.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but within great music we are particularly drawn to great lyrics, the kind that make us curse the universe for not coming up with ourselves. What is a favorite line of yours that you have written and why?
Shook: “I didn’t come here to be seen, but I can feel your eyes burning holes in me.” Because I’ll never forget that feeling with that person in that moment at the bar. Ain’t desire a hell of a thing.

Years” by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers is available now from Bloodshot Records.

Featured image by: Jillian Clark.

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Musical Mondaze

Domenico Lancellotti

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Photo By: Caroline Bittencour

Hauntingly delicate instrumentation combined with a gentle vocal delivery that makes you feel instantly at home in the sonic domicile that he has built are two of the key components that draw you to Domenico Lancellotti’s latest album, “The Good is a Big God.” The Brazilian multi-instrumentalist first began work on the project six years ago, though at the time he had no idea it would become a future samda soundscape to add to his discography.

We recently sat down with Lancellotti to discuss bringing colors to songs, declaring the album ready, and why a collaborative band atmosphere is so inspiring.

TrunkSpace: Work began on “The Good is a Big God” six year ago, though by the sounds of it, the music was never consciously meant to become an album. Like in life, is it important in music to be flexible and willing to go with the flow, so to speak?
Lancellotti: At first I was working on an art film as the final part to an artistic residence that I did in London. At the same time I was working also on a variety of soundtracks to accompany theater performances. I thought about this album on a regular basis. I thought about it as a composition, where each piece is a complete body of work – but also the ensemble of compositions as all one piece.

The record became part of my routine and began to take shape progressively. I’m always alert so I don‘t miss anything.

TrunkSpace: At what point did you decide that those songs you first began working on in 2012 would become an album? When did the collective picture of the music become clear?
Lancellotti: When I left Occupation London, I had a set of nine songs, beautifully arranged and finished, but I needed to add other colors. I reached out to my usual partners and we recorded sounds freely in the studio. Also, new songs emerged and I wanted to record them. I used the six tracks that I did in London and the rest was written later in order to give more contrast to the record.

TrunkSpace: With such a wide range of time represented in the songwriting on “The Good is a Big God,” does the album still say something – make a statement – about who you are as an artist specifically in 2018?
Lancellotti: Time goes by and we change – in my case, the financial struggle to raise money for a project like this made things go slower. The record becomes a film, placed in my everyday life. We could continue building it, repairing and adding new things endlessly, but at some point we have to say it’s ready.

At the moment, I’m working on a soundtrack for an art piece by Lucia Koch, a Brazilian artist, that will be on display at the Kansas City Biennial in August. The themes present will probably end up on a new record.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the work you did on the album? What are you most excited for people to hear or experience?
Lancellotti: I was thrilled to work with Sean (O’Hagan). I had worked on a soundtrack to a play that took place in the end of the 19th Century, and built that piece with a string quartet. I had never worked in this format as I always have been connected more to popular music. For me, it was like the sound was coming from the ground. The volume, the many ways the strings relate to each other in creating harmony, the textures, the countless resources and possibilities this format gives to you made me beyond excited. I started to compose on the guitar so Sean could transpose it, always thinking about the quartet without wanting it to sound like something bigger. At the live performances, I’ve been playing with a trio: bass, drums, guitar, along with a string quartet.

TrunkSpace: You have some incredible contributors lending their talents to the songs on the album. Are you someone who finds creative inspiration in the creativity of others?
Lancellotti: Yes! I understand music as a place of encounter. I think a collaborative band system is quite inspiring. Music is pure connection.

TrunkSpace: Staying with the subject of inspiration, so often we hear about who has inspired artists, but on the opposite side of that coin, we’d like to know how you hope your music impacts others. For those who seek inspiration in “The Good is a Big God,” what do you hope they discover?
Lancellotti: I don’t have any idea how far my work can reach. My generation in Brazil cannot count on the mainstream vehicles of communication, but this also gives us freedom.

I have a record player and some vinyl, the majority of it came from my father’s collection. The things I listen to, most of the time, are the same things I listened to when I was younger. The music I make begins with this urgency to materialize things that are flooding into my mind and keep me awake. It’s also a pleasure to play with my “sound brotherhood” and to share music with them.

TrunkSpace: What do you personally get out of music through writing that you couldn’t achieve as a listener alone?
Lancellotti: I’m not sure if I understand the question because my English is in bad shape and I cannot trust Google. But I have some ways to compose – sometimes I have a melodic idea in my head, sometimes a sequence of guitar chords leads me to an idea of a melody and lyric, sometimes a song comes complete, sometimes we get together to play and we make music collectively. In each case there are elements that cannot be decontextualized.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re a multi-instrumentalist, but are there additional instruments you’d like to take up in the present, and if so, what instruments and why?
Lancellotti: Though I’m a drummer and also play a little bit of percussion, and I use the guitar as a tool to compose. Other instruments I usually play with are – keyboards, bass, synths, electronics, mpc’s – all of which I consider to be percussion.

TrunkSpace: Does instrument diversity enable you to approach songwriting from a different perspective depending on what you’re writing with in any given moment?
Lancellotti: I compose with the guitar, but when I’m in a recording session I use other sounds.

TrunkSpace: When all is said and done and you hang up your instruments for the last time, what do you hope you’re remembered for? What do you want your legacy to be?
Lancellotti: I will always be creating music, as long as I am alive and able to work. I’m just following the steps of the ones that came before me and others who will continue to do so after. We are all a part of a giant mosaic.

The Good as a Big God” is available today from Luaka Bop.

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Musical Mondaze

Kassin

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Photo By: Fabio Audi

Finding truth within the old adage of music being a universal language is often an exercise that we as listeners don’t take the time to test. Humans are creatures of habit, and as such, we are drawn to what we know. In the case of songs, that tends to be genres that we’re familiar with and lyrics sung in our own native tongue. Branching out beyond what’s comfortable can often lead to beautiful results, such is the case with the new album “Relax” from Brazilian producer and songwriter Alexandre Kassin (performing under Kassin), which has opened our eyes (and ears) to an an entirely new style of pop – a soulful Latin vibe mixed with a trippy dreamscape of sounds – and has proven that having a surface understanding of what you’re listening to is not nearly as important as grasping the artistic expressions of the creator who brought it to life.

We recently sat down with Kassin to discuss his personal relationship with his music, the reason he writes about truth, and the moment he hears a song outside of his head for the first time.

TrunkSpace: “Relax” seems deeply personal at times. Do you think it’s possible for an artist to put too much of him or herself into a song or is that honesty an ingredient in what makes great music great?
Kassin: It’s a personal album for sure, but more in terms of having a particular point of view over certain themes. Very few songs are autobiographical. Some songs I wrote about stories I heard, some songs I had for a long time and somehow they fit well on this album. “Stricnina,” for example, is an old song but it reflects the logic behind the lyrics on the rest of the record.

TrunkSpace: You write a song like “A Paisagem Morta” or “As Coisas Que Nós Não Fizems” and then, we assume, have to revisit the feelings that spawned those tracks every time you perform them live. Is it difficult to shed the emotional connection to a song or do they eventually become less about your own personal ties and more about the songs themselves?
Kassin: “A Paisagem Morta” I wrote for a very dear friend of mine who suddenly found himself in love with another woman, even though he was married. He was in a moment of doubt between choosing his marriage or a new love. He chose his marriage and I wrote the song as my thoughts on this situation.

On “As Coisas Que Nós Não Fizemo,” I took a more personal view on the end of my first marriage and tried to put it in a positive way. Even though the song is a bit melancholic, the lyrics have a light feeling on a complicated matter…

I realize people normally don’t write about divorce, I wanted to write these songs about it because I think it’s really beautiful to spend your life with somebody else; sharing moments, happiness, sadness, food; and after it ends, nobody wants to touch the subject. I wanted to talk about it because I think it’s part of life.

TrunkSpace: Many songwriters use songwriting as a form of personal reflection or as a type of therapy. Is it that way for you as well?
Kassin: For me, I like singing something that I feel is true. I like the truth, not in a therapeutic way, but in an artistic sense. I feel that, musically, my albums are very diverse so the lyrics need to be truthful to make the connection as a whole. Even if some irony is added.

TrunkSpace: “Relax” drops today. What emotions do you wrestle with as you gear up to release new material? Is it difficult to let go of something when you put so much of yourself into it?
Kassin: It’s always a challenge. I feel very happy with this album. I think my last album, “Sonhando Devagar,” was a huge step forward from “Futurismo” (my album with the +2’s). I wanted “Relax” to be a new step forward, a totally new direction from my previous albums. They are all connected by the songwriting, but you can quickly point to which song is on which album. I feel I achieved that with “Relax.”

TrunkSpace: There are so many different styles and techniques present on the album. What do you think “Relax” would say about who you are as an artist to someone who ONLY had this particular album to go by?
Kassin: I think my records are for people who love music. Listeners hear that in my albums. I know when you hear them that you are listening to a lot of different genres, not just one.

TrunkSpace: Of course, a single record is not all that defines you. Not only have you released numerous albums of your own, but you’ve produced about 100 records for other artists as well. As you look back over your career in music, what are you most proud of thus far?
Kassin: I am proud of all of it. I really love music. You need to love it to make all this stuff and sometimes I feel people think it’s not cool to say that. I think out of my records, I’m very proud of some albums I did for my idols: like Bebeto Castilho (“Amendoeira”), the Los Hermanos’ records, Vanessa Da Mata, Zé Manoel (“Canção do Silencio” is a masterpiece), Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Erasmo Carlos, Totonho e os Cabra, Me and the Plant (“Journeys Thought…” I did this record with Roy Cicala). I don’t know, I’ve done so many records it’s really hard to point to a few. I like all of them. I only regret sometimes not having the time to finish something as I had wanted.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be happy with the artist you’ve become? Would he be surprised?
Kassin: I started working when I was 12. I think about it daily that what I do in life didn’t change, just the scope of it changed. I never expected I would actually become what I became, but it was already there. I was buying records and listening to them all day when I was 8. And I still do it, so nothing has changed. It’s kind of boring you could say but that’s how it is…

I’m surprised for sure, making a living from music is a gift.

TrunkSpace: Is your songwriting process different now than when you first started writing? Do you approach it from a different perspective in your present day form?
Kassin: It’s changed a lot during the years. Nowadays, I can think of a melody and know the chord I want on it. So when I write, I think melody, lyrics and arrangements together. The idea is in my head until I start recording. I don’t play it on an instrument beforehand. When I record the song, it’s usually the first time I hear it outside my head. It’s odd, but it’s how it is.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a songwriter?
Kassin: It’s still a process for me. I think I’m getting better at it. I think about songs everyday. It’s an addiction, it’s a muscle as well. I never thought of myself as a singer, but I had so many personal songs that at a certain point, if I didn’t sing them, nobody would. I needed to give a voice to them. After that, they were covered by other people. It’s beautiful to hear Bebel Gilberto singing “Tranquilo” or Caetano Veloso singing “Agua,” it means a lot to me that they heard it and made it their own.

TrunkSpace: Is there anything you would give up music for or to experience?
Kassin: I don’t think so. I love music. That’s my thing.

Relax” is available today from Luaka Bop.

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Musical Mondaze

MGT

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In recent years, the ‘80s have become trendy again as the decade enjoys another resurgence in pop culture, appearing in everything from television shows (“Stranger Things”) to games (“Tales from the Loop”). While some people are just now getting on the nostalgic bandwagon, MGT has been delving deep into goth rock for years, a genre originally made popular by bands like The Cure. MGT takes that classic sound that is so intriguing and haunting, and then they put their own modern and artistic synth spin on it to create something that is new and refreshing, and yet somehow familiar.

We recently sat down for a chat with Mark Gemini Thwaite and Ashton Nyte, two halves of the group, to discuss their latest collaborative album, “Gemini Nyte,” available now from Cleopatra Records. The duo shares what it’s like to work with The Cure founding member Lol Tolhurst, their process in bringing an album to life, and why their cover of the Stone Temple Pilots’ original “Atlanta” was the perfect exclamation point to round out the record.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times albums organically come together after a gestational period. Other times they can manifest manically and quickly. How did “Gemini Nyte” come together for you? And how did the creation of the album compare to “Volumes?”
Thwaite: Ashton and I first started collaborating on my first album “Volumes,” which featured a number of different guest vocalists. Ashton and I really clicked musically… once we had quickly written “The Reaping” and “Jesamine” for that first MGT album, I kept sending Ashton more demos to sing on and he kept sending back these fantastic completed vocals and melodies. It was obvious within two or three months that we would quickly have a whole album’s worth of material to put out so we left “Reaping” and “Jesamine” on the “Volumes” album and started stockpiling songs for a brand new album, “Gemini Nyte.”
Nyte: Yes, it was all rather fluid and organic experience. We had the bulk of “Gemini Nyte” written before “Volumes” was even released.

TrunkSpace: For us, listening to “Gemini Nyte” felt like a journey with a beginning, middle and end, much like a good book or movie. Was that something you set out to do? What sort of process do you use to select your song arrangement with a new album?
Thwaite: With “Gemini Nyte” we had two thirds of the new album demoed by the end of 2015 – this was still six months before the “Volumes” album was even released. We slowed down a bit then as the label advised us they would be promoting the “Volumes” CD first, so we realized we would have to sit on the new material for a while. So we kept writing and slowly added more songs, and this allowed us a luxury of time to determine the sequence of the album, but also what the album may benefit from sonically and dynamically. It was great to finally hear the whole body of work all sequenced and mastered. It has some quality songwriting that we’re very proud of. We wanted the album to be a journey and listening experience.
Nyte: I think the songs pretty much dictate the arrangements. Some started as fully fledged instrumentals, that I would write lyrics and vocal melodies for. As is, some took a little re-arranging to fully realize the vocal or lyrical direction the song was taking and others evolved out of simple acoustic demos. We just keep chipping away until it feels right.

TrunkSpace: Where do you find the inspiration and material for your songs? Is it more introspective and internalized? Or is it something you draw more from outside sources?
Thwaite: Usually I demo some riffs and chord changes, often full arrangements with drums, bass, guitars, synths etc. – verses, choruses etc. I then send those demos to Ashton and he formulates some vocal melodies and ideas. Ashton lives in Missouri, myself in California – 2,000 miles apart – so we pretty much work long distance with file sharing. Usually it starts with the music demo. As for influences, they are vast and varies. Usually from a musical point of view, I come up with a riff or chord change on an acoustic guitar and take it from there. Often the end result will be vastly different from the original acoustic idea. For example, “Everything Undone” started life as an almost Mission-style strumming riff which I then added drums and synth lines to, and then a bridge and then a heavy chorus, and it now has more in common with Nine Inch Nails than the Mission, but Nine Inch Nails were also an influence so it all goes into the melting pot!
Nyte: On this album I tend to respond lyrically to an atmosphere Mark has created instrumentally. There is a dystopian theme of sorts running through much of the album. It is difficult to not write about the state we find the world in these days.

TrunkSpace: Lol Tolhurst, founding member of The Cure, provided a special remix of your song, “All The Broken Things.” What is the remix experience like? Did you work directly with Tolhurst? Or is it more like, you give him the song, and you get the remix back to be unwrapped and listened to like a present?
Thwaite: Lol and I actually live quite near each other in Los Angeles, so we could have collaborated on the Broken Things remix, but as is often the case with remixes, I left Lol to it and he worked with his studio engineer to come up with his unique take on the mix, adding his distinct keyboard synth melodies and beats. I didn’t want to influence it in any way – just see what he brought to the song. What we did collaborate on was his keyboard additions to “The Assembly Line” on the special edition single release. I went around to Lol’s place and we discussed the best approach, but left him a blank canvas for both Lol and Pearl (Porl) Thompson to work with.

TrunkSpace: You put so much of yourself into the creation of an album. Are you holding your breath once the album is released? Or is it a huge relief, and you’re just ready to get on the road and share the music at live venues?
Thwaite: Personally I find it a relief once the album is completed, sequenced and mastered. I enjoy the writing and recording process, but once you commit to releasing something, it usually involves a deadline and release date, and in our case a record label, so then the pressure is on. Once we can sit back and listen to the body of work as a whole, it’s definitely a relief and a fantastic experience to hear it all together. And then to get to perform the songs live to an audience is also a wonderful thing.
Nyte: Yes, especially considering that this album was essentially written and recorded some time ago, it is liberating to have it out in the world.

TrunkSpace: Do you prefer playing live to the nuts and bolts of creating an album? Do you find one more enjoyable than the other?
Thwaite: I enjoy both studio work and live work in equal measure. The studio recording process is great, particularly as we both have our own studios to work in. We can be very creative and take our time to get it right, no studio clock ticking. But on the flip side, I also love performing live and when you get the synergy of a great band and that connection with a receptive audience, it’s amazing. I start to miss touring and performing live if I’m stuck in the studio too long.
Nyte: I agree. I’ve always seen them as two halves of the same puzzle. I’m seldom satisfied with one without the other. The engagement and interaction of the live environment certainly completes the circle. This is also an album best enjoyed at a rather high volume, so concerts check that box and provide the cathartic release.

TrunkSpace: As fellow STP and Scott Weiland fans, we were really excited to see the “Atlanta” track on “Gemini Nyte.” Art often inspires art. Can you tell us a bit about how STP and Weiland have impacted your work and why you specifically chose “Atlanta” to cover?
Nyte: We were both moved by Scott Weiland’s passing and I reached out to Mark to do a version of my favorite STP song, “Atlanta.” I had originally intended to put it out as a solo single, paying homage to Scott. Once Mark started adding various bits and pieces, I knew it had to be a Gemini Nyte song. I can only hope that our love for Scott and STP’s work comes through on our rendition of this exquisite song.
Thwaite: I’ve been a fan of STP for many years, and their material has stood the test of time in our opinion. The guitar work of Dean DeLeo is always inventive and inspiring – I hear a lot of Jimmy Page in his writing and playing, and I’m a huge Zeppelin fan. The whole band are masters at their craft and in Weiland they had the perfect chameleon frontman, incredible singer. It was an honor to pay our own little tribute to the band and the man.

TrunkSpace: “Atlanta” was also the last track on the STP album “No. 4,” and you chose to end your album with the song as well. What was it about the song that felt like the perfect way to end “Gemini Nyte?”
Thwaite: As soon as I finished mixing the track, I said to Ashton, “That has to be the album closer.” Pretty hard to beat, very sober and introspective. I wasn’t that familiar with the original version on “No. 4” when Ashton suggested it, but yeah, that song also closes their album. I guess great minds think alike!
Nyte: It is a beautiful song and deserves to be savored. It had to be the album closer.

Gemini Nyte” is available now from Cleopatra Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Luke Winslow-King

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Photo By: Victor Alonso

Spending more than a decade in New Orleans, a city known for being a rich musical melting pop of genres and styles, gave singer/songwriter Luke Winslow-King a new perspective on his relationship with his audience. The Big Easy’s communal creative scene scene instilled in him the responsibility of an artist to be entertaining, authenticate and original, three qualities that are instantly apparent when listening to his latest album, “Blue Mesa,” due May 11 from Bloodshot Records.

We recently sat down with Winslow-King to discuss the importance of artistic exploration, why he feels more confident in his craft than ever before, and the reason he hopes others will find a meaningful message in the songs that have impacted his own life.

 

TrunkSpace: You recently moved back to Cadillac, MI after spending more than a decade in New Orleans. New Orleans is the kind of city than can leave its mark on people. Where has the city influenced your music and creative POV the most?
Winslow-King: I would say New Orleans has influenced my music a lot with the style, flair, and swagger that the culture there has to offer. I was really fortunate to learn from and play with some of the greats there including: John Boutte, Little Freddy King, Washboard Chaz, and Roberto Luti. You do gather an interesting artist’s perspective performing in New Orleans. Music becomes something that is shared within the community. Something that’s free, that’s in the air. I feel living in New Orleans gave me a sense of responsibility towards my audience. To be entertaining, authentic, and original.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Blue Mesa” is a really beautiful blend of so many various genres. So often we hear about actors not wanting to get pigeonholed into any one genre of film or television, but can the same be said for a songwriter? Is it important for you to be able to write from a space of creative diversity?
Winslow-King: Yes, for me personally it’s very important to have the freedom to explore different genres, sounds, and traditions. Over my career I’ve been careful to not get pigeonholed as any one kind of artist, but also not to be known for being a “mixed bag” artist who doesn’t know the depths of any one tradition. I feel like all of the sounds explored on the album are ones that I’ve lived with. I feel justified in my abilities to perform within them.

TrunkSpace: What do you think “Blue Mesa” says about you as an artist and do you believe that it’s reflective of a continuous journey of discovering your voice as a songwriter?
Winslow-King: It’s definitely a stop along the way in my journey as an artist. I am continually exploring and discovering my voice as a singer and songwriter. I feel that “Blue Mesa” is definitely an arrival at a new height. I feel more confident in my writing and singing than I ever have before. I feel like my band is hitting on all cylinders and supporting the songs better than ever as well. I’m proud of it and am looking forward to seeing how audiences respond to the entire album.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be happy with the artist you have become today? Would he be surprised?
Winslow-King: I think so. The music I’m playing now is surprisingly similar to the music I was making when I was 16. I’ve gone on different tangents in my musical life exploring jazz, folk, dixieland and songwriting. Now I have come full circle in away. I was performing at clubs, festivals, and talent shows with the Winslow-King Blues Band in the mid to late ’90s playing blues rock covers. The only difference is that now I’m performing all original songs and have a lot more experience behind me. At that age, I just was excited about performing. I didn’t have aspirations of being a career musician. I think if 16-year-old me could see me now, he would be pleasantly surprised and excited. In the same way, I’m looking forward and encouraging 50-year-old me down the path.

TrunkSpace: The process of recording the album was a bit of a worldwide adventure. How important was that to you in making sure that the vibe and focus of the album supported the vision you had for it? Would the album have been the same had you recorded it at a single location here in the States?
Winslow-King: I don’t think the location of recording really makes that much difference. It’s more about the songs in the mental headspace of the performers. We have recorded some of my prior albums in Europe as well. “Blue Mesa” was recorded in the fortress village of Lari, nestled in the mountains of Tuscany. The setting was ideal and relaxing which had my band and I in a good headspace to relax and have fun with the songs. When you get to the studio, the songs and sounds have already been developed. I’ve found it’s best, once the red light is on, to sit back and enjoy the ride.

TrunkSpace: There are some amazing guest musicians on the album, including Roberto Luti and Chris Davis. Are you someone who finds creative inspiration in the creativity of others? Does being around those other musicians make you a better musician?
Winslow-King: Definitely, Roberto has been an inspiration, partner and maestro for more than a decade. He has greatly influenced my slide guitar playing and approach to music generally. Chris Davis, and bassist Christian Carpenter, really went the extra mile on this album to play simple and articulated parts. They really elevated the songs by playing selflessly and being dedicated to the greater sound.

Photo By: Victor Alonso

TrunkSpace: You have numerous records under your belt now. Has the songwriting process changed for you at all from those early days when you first began your career to where you are today with “Blue Mesa?”
Winslow-King: Yes, “Blue Mesa” is my sixth album. The biggest change since the early albums is that song craft has become more a part of my daily life. I used to assign myself homework and feel a nagging responsibility to sit down and produce more. These days song writing is a part of daily life. I just try to be ready when lightning strikes. To be a conduit. To pay attention to the sounds, phrases, emotions and ideas that are in the ether. I’m just trying to bring these down to solid ground and make songs that people can relate to and see themselves in, songs that people feel comfortable with. This approach has proved much more fruitful for me.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to overthink a song? Can a songwriter tinker so much that the creative spark that first made a song great ends up dimming a bit?
Winslow-King: Definitely. The same can be true with performance in production. I think that proves a true maturity in an artist. To be sensitive to that balance. You definitely have to have a certain technical proficiency whether it be instrumentation, production, or songwriting. That has to be balanced with the human visceral nature of music. Roberto is kind of our spirit guide in the band, helping find this balance.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Winslow-King: I would say in the department of authenticity. I have very little tolerance for anything less. I have to be true to myself on stage and when I’m writing, or else I just can’t do it. Not necessarily being authentic to a certain style, culture, or genre so much as being authentic to my own true self; my own likes and honest tendencies. I make music that I love first. If audiences like it, even better!

TrunkSpace: When all is said and done and you hang up your guitar for good, what do you hope you’re remembered for? What do you want your legacy as a songwriter to be?
Winslow-King: I guess I want to be remembered for songs that made a difference in peoples lives. Not necessarily that saved the world, but songs that were there for people in times of need. I’ve written a few songs that I feel an obligation to live up to. Those songs have made a difference in my own life and I hope others find them useful as well.

Blue Mesa” is available May 11 from Bloodshot Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Cut Worms

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Photo By: Joyce Lee

The latest album from Cut Worms, the brainchild of Brooklyn-based Max Clarke, has been finished for some time, so unleashing it into the world is a creative win for the singer/songwriter, one that formally signals that it’s time to move on to new 8-track endeavors. While Clarke says he has been actively writing quite a bit lately, for the listener it is important that we not get ahead of ourselves, or in this case, the music. Released today on Jagjaguwar, “Hollow Ground” is a sonic time traveler – influenced by the past, made in the present, and enjoyed in the future. (Check out our review here.)

We recently sat down with Clarke to discuss his songwriting process, guitar garage sale adoption, and why a strong desire to do something well trumps natural talent.

 

TrunkSpace: As you gear up to release new material to the world, what kind of emotions do you juggle with?
Clarke: This record’s been done for a while, so I just want it to be out there at this point. But yeah, sometimes with putting stuff out there, there’s some hesitancy as far as, “Are people going to like it?” or whatever, but… I don’t even really care that much anymore. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: A number of the songs off of the album have been with you for some time now. Do they feel like old friends or do you want to move beyond them at this point and make new friends?
Clarke: Yeah, I want to focus on writing new stuff. I’ve been writing a bunch lately, but I’m not totally sick of the songs on the record yet, which considering how many times I’ve played them in the past couple of years, I guess is probably a good thing.

TrunkSpace: Are they still reflective of who you are today, in 2018, as an artist?
Clarke: I think they still translate. I think about them differently now, probably, than when I wrote them, but it’s hard to… I don’t know. I guess, just time goes on. You write something in a certain moment, and then it just keeps going. I can still kind of go back to, I guess, especially the home demos that I’ve done, and remember more where I was at at that time by listening to it.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you have a desire to work on new material, but what does that process look like for you in terms of core inception to a finished track?
Clarke: It’s different every time. There’s not really any formula I’ve come up with that allows me to just put it all down and go from start to finish in a timely manner. It’s a lot of meandering around, seeing what works and what doesn’t, recording a version of something, and then seeing how it sits over a couple days – and if it doesn’t, then changing it.

TrunkSpace: Can a song live inside your head for a long time before you put your stamp of approval on it?
Clarke: I would say so, yeah.

TrunkSpace: We read that you picked up your first guitar from a garage sale and then you nursed it back to life. Did that process help you establish an appreciation for the instrument beyond just the desire to play it? It’s almost like that whole, you pay for your own car and you treat it better kind of thing.
Clarke: Yeah, kind of. At the time, I was 12 or something, I didn’t personally fix it up. My mom brought it to a local music store, and they put strings on it and fixed some of the other pieces – put a new bridge on it and stuff. But yeah, it definitely became something that I cared about and took care of, but I’ve never been that much of a gear head as far as guitars and stuff. I tend to not treat my instruments that well. They get banged around.

TrunkSpace: It’s just fascinating to think about an instrument’s journey in that regard. Like, what did that particular guitar experience before it found its way to you?
Clarke: For sure. When my mom got me the guitar from the garage sale, it had this embroidered, weird rainbow strap that looked like it was from some ‘70s church group or something, which, I wish I still had that strap. It’s gone now. It’s lost. But yeah, who knows who owned that thing, and how many times somebody played it and went through all kinds of emotional things with it, probably.

TrunkSpace: For you, what is it that you get from writing and performing music that you can’t get from being a listener alone? What does the process give you?
Clarke: I don’t know. I’ve just always had, ever since I was pretty young, an itch that I’ve felt like… I remember going to, any time there was a band or something, from the time I was 12 or 13, to see a live band. I remember once going to – I grew up in Cleveland – going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They had this high school Battle of the Bands thing, and seeing some of those people playing, and just feeling like I could do that, and do it better. But it took me a really long time to actually do that.

TrunkSpace: Did the instrumentation side of things come easy to you? Was it natural or was it something you had to work at?
Clarke: I worked at it a lot, but I wanted to work at it. Natural talent… I feel like it’s more of just whether or not you want to do it, or want to do the work, or if there’s something that drives that. It’s like working on a puzzle or something.

Photo By: Joyce Lee

TrunkSpace: Going back to that 12-year-old you that got that guitar for the first time. If you could sit down with him now, would he be surprised by the artist you have became?
Clarke: Maybe. I don’t know. There’s no way that I could have known how things would pan out, but I did want to eventually get to this point.

TrunkSpace: But were you listening to music in that time period that you would say directly influenced what your sound is today?
Clarke: I listened to, I guess, whatever was around at that time. I listened to all kinds of stuff when I was younger. I listened to boy bands, and Britney Spears, and all that stuff of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, which I think all that stuff is somewhere in the music that I’m still playing. It’s all pop music to me.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the next record will be far removed from “Hollow Ground,” or will it still feel close to what that album represents?
Clarke: I think it will be somewhat close. I’ve just been going after a certain sound, I guess, for a while now. That’s the closest I’ve gotten so far, but the next thing will probably just feel like another attempt at that, but maybe from a different angle.

Hollow Ground” is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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Musical Mondaze

Nap Eyes

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Photo By: Matthew Parri Thomas

After having a conversation with Nigel Chapman, singer/songwriter of the Nova Scotia-based Nap Eyes, it’s easy to see how such thought-provoking lyrics pour from such a philosophical mind. A fierce proponent of self-discovery, his journey is vast in its scope as he seeks to understand the world that we’re all cohabitants of. Much of this is conveyed through the band’s most recent offering, “I’m Bad Now,” though he’s quick to note that the underlining understanding of those songs is open to individual interpretation.

We recently sat down with Chapman to discuss why “I’m Bad Now” is a bit like a software patch, how his own mood cycle lends to the current connection he has with the music, and the reason creative encouragement is good for all of us.

TrunkSpace: We read that writing music is sort of a quest of self understanding for you. Has your creative POV changed at all throughout the years as you’ve grown and discovered more about the world?
Chapman: Oh, that’s a really great question. That subject area is such an encouraging and true one – that you would constantly be evolving and learning, and actually you would be becoming wiser. You can’t forget your older experiences. You can’t ignore what you’ve learned from your past experiences and relationships – the important events in your life. You actually have to, in some degree, probably integrate those. There may be unexplored aspects of those past experiences that you can learn even more from, but in a general way of speaking, definitely one is always learning. And I love learning, and I think it is like one of the most fulfilling things. So, yeah, in that way, I guess that realization has just clarified more for me in recent years, where when I was younger, school was more of an obligation.

TrunkSpace: Beyond life learning, we would also imagine just having two previous albums under your belt translates to how you approach album number three?
Chapman: Definitely. I’m giving this caveat all the time. It’s been almost two years since we recorded it, but that being said, I feel very happy. I’ve been using the analogy that it’s like a software patch. I mean, it’s not that it matters what people think is your current state, like artistically. It doesn’t really affect you, you know? But there is something a little bit more relaxing about feeling like people have an idea where you’re coming from, like at the present time, rather than the version of you from like four years ago or whatever.

TrunkSpace: If this album was recorded two years ago, some of those songs were probably written even before that. Are you personally able to still relate and connect to the things you were saying in the songs?
Chapman: Definitely. I have been in more positive and more negative moods about that particular question over the years, depending on the time of my life and my annual mood cycle, but at the moment anyway, especially spring time, I feel pretty positive about that and feel able to kind of relate to the things that… well, one thing that’s helped with that was while we were waiting on these this time, I was able to not focus on it as much. So, I could kind of conserve some of my mental interests in it without burning it out right after we recorded it. So, there is a really positive side to this sort of delay.

TrunkSpace: There’s something to be said about sort of stepping away from something and then seeing things from a different perspective. For example, some authors will write a draft and then step away from it for awhile to come at it with a fresh set of eyes.
Chapman: Yeah. That’s right. So, we’re learning. I feel not skilled at these sort of things yet, but it’s cool to see the process you’re working on unfolding.

TrunkSpace: What’s cool is that, even just hearing you talk about it, the joy of getting music out there is just as profound as creating it?
Chapman: That’s for sure. Yeah. That’s another great aspect to highlight because there’s something so gratifying and reassuring, to use the language of like weakness or sickness into health, and get reassured – to have all ducks in a row. There’s a real effect, I think, of when people are kind to you and say validating things, like, “Good job,” or, “I like this,” or, “This song meant a lot to me.” These are really gratifying and kind things to hear, you know? It makes you feel, unless you take it for granted, it makes you feel really warm and appreciated and, thereby, appreciative. You find a sense of gratitude. If you don’t find the gratitude, then you’re in trouble, or you’re being, at that time, you’re being somewhat egocentric, you know?

TrunkSpace: The great thing about music is that positive feedback may come from a place that you never even intended. Listeners may find something in the songs that you didn’t even see when you wrote it.
Chapman: That’s true as well. This is perhaps the most mysterious and enigmatic aspect of creating music and having it mirrored back to you by others in a social way. It’s a profoundly mysterious phenomenon to the creator, I must imagine, in almost every case. Unless you assume you know how they are experiencing it, which I suppose I’ve been guilty of various times – assuming that I know how people are interpreting my ways and songs and things and just social actions, but people are totally mysterious when it comes down to it. They’re their own entity, and that sort of gives me a sense of wonder, I guess, about the whole experience of relationship to other people or to an audience.

TrunkSpace: Is having a creative outlet, for you, a necessity? Do you think if you weren’t writing music, would you be expressing yourself in another way?
Chapman: I suppose so. Yeah. That’s another great question and topic of conversation to highlight. It’s such a beneficial, positive thing. The reason why I think that it’s encouraging is that it’s just good to make this statement or encouragement or just a mood of encouragement that we would want to foster universally among the people, feeling encouraged to be creative. And creativity is not a narrowly defined thing. Like, 100 percent every human is being creative in the sense of creating their world, and so the ways that people are creative have a huge influence on the experience they have in their lives. And it’s possible, I suppose, to be malignantly creative, you know, but when we speak of creativity in general, as a trade, it has a strong cognitive connotation. So many artists would say, and if they don’t say I think they haven’t realized or they probably haven’t affirmed this with their lives, is just that it’s good to create. It makes you feel better. If you have any mental health issues, it makes you feel better. It’s the same thing in a different spectrum with physical exercise and also emotional and social relationships. All of these things… just absolutely are necessary.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “I’m Bad Now,” and not necessarily with the music itself, but in the process of putting it together?
Chapman: Yeah. That’s a nice question, and the wide scope is appreciated. I think answering from that angle, the sense of the width of an endeavor, like the scope of an endeavor has increased for me through this work especially because of collaborating with Chris and Brendan at Paradise of Bachelors and collaborating with Howard at Hotel2Tango and also, of course, with Nap Eyes and with Mike. We had a familiar collaboration. But basically, widening the collaboration in a way that, as a shy person, sometimes you might want to keep things nuclear, as to sharing meaningful, emotional signifiers and symbols like you do in creating music, and you don’t really want to hear any critical feedback from the outside. Kind of like a fear of that, which because I didn’t go to art school, I lack the experience with being criticized, so I take it personally in a fearful way sometimes. But I’m getting better at that, and some of the things that helped with that are just dedicating your time in a deliberate way to the things you want to do, so studying or whatever things you value.

I’m Bad Now” is available now from Paradise of Bachelors.

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