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Musical Mondaze

New Politics

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With four studio albums under their belts, including last year’s “Lost In Translation,” New Politics has amassed a passionate international fanbase through extensive touring and by dropping catchy singles like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Currently the chart-topping trio is in the final stretch of a US tour, partnering with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors.

We recently sat down with drummer Louis Vecchio to discuss revisiting the band’s sweaty basement roots, being a collective voice for positivity, and why he’d have a difficult time imagining his musical career without his fellow New Politics bandmates.

TrunkSpace: You guys are currently on a tour that has (and will) take you to about two dozen cities. Do you enjoy hitting the highways and byways as much today as you did when you first started out? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Vecchio: The magic of touring and performing for our fans is something that the three of us enjoy tremendously and never gets old. The ultra magical thing about this current tour is we are going to parts of the country we haven’t played in years. We decided to book exclusively clubs and small theaters in these markets, to re-create the sweaty basement show vibe our fans enjoyed when we first started.

TrunkSpace: As part of the tour, the band has partnered with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors. Why was it important for you guys to make the tour about more than just the music?
Vecchio: Yeah, we’re super excited to be working with them again! They are a wonderful organization and have helped so many people in need – it’s incredible, really. Honestly, the music is a vessel and we consider ourselves three lucky passengers. If nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to do good and bring awareness to a great cause.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel it is important for artists to use their platforms as a way to connect fans to causes and ways of thinking that are perhaps outside of their social/community circles? As a band with a large following, do you have a megaphone that plays more than just New Politics music?
Vecchio: Yes, we think it’s very important – any positive and informative voice is great. Having that platform comes with a huge responsibility and we are always up for it, and we are grateful to be in a position to do so.

TrunkSpace: You guys have experienced a lot together as New Politics. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a differently purpose in 2018 than it did in 2009?
Vecchio: That’s a great question, and the resounding answer is YES. Ultimately, as a band, as artists, and an entity, New Politics to us will always serve the same purpose – to make great music, connect with people and hopefully pay off our mortgages. Of course, as we’ve gotten older, life becomes more complicated, more challenging, but ultimately, exponentially more rewarding, in so many ways… but the core of New Politics, the music and the fans, will never change.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Vecchio: Every single day we get to do this for a living is a highlight. Certainly there have been select moments in our career where we all had to pinch ourselves. Our performance on Jimmy Fallon was a huge milestone. Touring Japan and Russia where big moments too. Again, being able to do what we truly love for a living is something I still think we haven’t gotten over and probably never will.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Vecchio: David, Søren and I are basically a family, complete with its share of peaks and valleys. That familial vibe plays heavily in the writing, recording and touring process equally – maybe even a bit more when it comes to touring since we have to share what is really a two bedroom apartment on wheels. But it would be hard to imagine most aspects of our career without one another, and that makes it all that much more inspiring.

TrunkSpace: As the band has become more popular and the music has continued to spread to new ears, has that impacted the songwriting process at all? Does it become more difficult writing and tracking new material when you know there are people who will gobble it up instantly? As humans, we’re all capable of second-guessing ourselves, and does that ever creep into the creative?
Vecchio: Not so much in terms of songwriting, since as individuals with our own experiences and perspectives, we will always continue to write what is meaningful to us based on our place in the world in which we live. However, there will always be that element second guessing ourselves. That’s just part of the process, the challenge of writing and knowing people are going to grab onto what we do, so we try and harness that emotional juxtaposition and change it into inspiration.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life? If the band and the fans all went away tomorrow, would you still be working on new material for yourself alone?
Vecchio: Unimaginable. Music is the universal language that binds all of our greatest gifts as humans together. We’ll ride until we die.

TrunkSpace: Outside of another artist, was there someone in your life who inspired or supported your creative endeavors that you feel was important to you getting where you are today with your music?
Vecchio: I speak for all of us when I say our families and everyone who has every supported us as people and as a band.

TrunkSpace: The band released “Lost In Translation” about a year ago. Do New Politics albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost In Translation’ years and those were my ‘A Bad Girl in Harlem’ years”?
Vecchio: Definitely, our influences change as our lives change. Harlem was written when all we had was a dream and each other. David and Søren being from Denmark, lots of the early records were significantly influenced by the “cultural shock” the two of them experienced by moving not only to the United States, but to New York City. Thousands of miles, shows, fans and hours and four albums into it, we are fond of where we came from but also very excited about where we are going.

The remaining New Politics tour dates can be found here.

Their latest album, “Lost in Translation” is available now.

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Musical Mondaze

We Were Sharks

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Like certain shark breeds and their inability to remain still even while sleeping, Canadian pop/punk rockers We Were Sharks are constantly swimming, touring relentlessly in support of their infectious music. Their latest album, “Lost Touch,” was released earlier this year on Victory Records to both critical and fan praise.

We recently sat down with guitarist Jason Mooney to discuss the comfort of life on the road, how “Lost Touch” is directly influencing what they write next, and why they always try to make themselves as accessible to fans as possible.

TrunkSpace: Some bands hit the road out of necessity, but we get the sense that you guys still love it as much today as you did when you first got together. Do you find you’re still experiencing “firsts” out there on the highways and byways as you tour? Does it still feel fresh?
Mooney: That’s a really great question! Touring is definitely a necessity, but we definitely still love it. We still have firsts! Even if that means stopping into a different WaWa/Sheetz for the first time. For me, personally, I actually love coming back to the towns and venues that we’ve played before. There is this strange feeling of comfort and appreciation for this lifestyle that I get when I can navigate my way around a place that is so far from home.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people use writing music as a form of personal therapy – a way to work out whatever demons they have. Does performing have therapeutic benefits as well? Can you get in front of a crowd and come off the stage a different person than as you went on?
Mooney: I find performing to be absolutely therapeutic. I hit the strings a little harder, shout into the crowd a little louder, but that just describes aggression. There’s also the moments while performing when I look across the stage and share a laugh with one of the guys in the band. I can definitely say that there have been times where it feels like a “bad day,” then I look forward to the show because chances are I’ll get it all out within 30 minutes and come off feeling a little lighter and in a better headspace.

TrunkSpace: Is there a song that you dig playing live that maybe you weren’t as happy with on the record? Can a tune have a different personality on the stage than it does in the studio?
Mooney: I love all of the songs but there definitely are songs that take on a different personality when played live. For me, one song in particular is “Never Looked Better.” It’s a track that I love listening to, but I didn’t think it was going to make it into the live catalog. We began playing it live and it has had an awesome reaction. We’ve had show-goers tell us that it’s their favorite song, or they come up before the set and tell us that they hope we play it.

Instead of writing set lists, maybe we should just take requests live.

TrunkSpace: Your latest album, “Lost Touch” was released earlier this year, your first on Victory Records. Did having a label change give the experience, both in the studio and post release, that fresh car scent?
Mooney: It was definitely a different experience. What made it all the more different was having a team working on making sure that we have a successful release, as well as a team making sure the songs were the best they can be.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost Touch’ years and those were my ‘Not a Chance’ years”?
Mooney: I think that they show chapters of our experience of being songwriters. The experience we had writing and recording “Lost Touch” and seeing what works live has definitely influenced us in what we need to do next.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Mooney: From a solo mindset, my voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard. So, solo for me is impossible. (Laughter)

But it’s the feeling of sharing your passion and drive with like-minded individuals. Nothing comes easy and being able to work together with a group to overcome challenges and then share those wins together — that’s what I have always loved about being in a band.

TrunkSpace: You guys have no doubt experienced a lot together over the years. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a different purpose in 2018 than it did at the outset?
Mooney: I don’t think the point of view has ever changed. We accomplish goals and set new ones. Being in a band is a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill. When it comes down to the fundamentals, I think from the beginning it’s always been about writing music that we enjoy that can create a great live experience for those who come and see us.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Mooney: There are dozens of highlights and we are always creating amazing new memories. I think the release day of “Lost Touch” is something that my memory always returns to. We worked so unbelievably hard to create a full album that we are so proud of, and on that day, it was made available for everyone to hear.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the status of the music industry as a whole in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future in terms of the torch being carried by the next generation of kids coming up in the musical ranks?
Mooney: I do feel optimistic. Popular music genres, styles and musical tastes will always change. Technology will always evolve. Music is the one thing that will always bring people together and no matter where a person is, or the state of the world, music will continue to be made, and someone will always want to share it. I never think that a torch is passed down, or passed along. I think we all carry the torch together, and every year, there’s new determined artists who want to join in carrying that torch.

TrunkSpace: Fan feedback can often be the fuel that powers the creative brain because its evidence that the art is hitting its mark. What’s the most powerful fan feedback or interaction you have received that has made it all worth the journey?
Mooney: Someone at a show in Long Island, NY once told me how much they appreciated how we interact with everyone when we’re off stage.

As an artist, we try to meet and thank as many show-goers as possible. We do our best to take time and speak to as many people as we can at shows. When someone comes to the merch table, we focus on the experience. Even for the band member who grabs a beer at the bar, you may have an opportunity to talk to someone hanging out nearby. We’re all human, I believe we all try to be good people. Meeting someone and taking the time to talk to them can do wonders. You never know what life experiences a person has gone through or the steps they took prior to getting to your show. We always have the opportunity to be the shining light in somebody’s day.

Lost Touch” is available now on Victory Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Axis: Sova

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When Axis: Sova first began its journey, it consisted of only founding member Brett Sova. Since that time, both the sound and internal creative mechanics of the project have gone through a musical metamorphosis with the addition of Tim Kaiser (guitar) and Jeremy Freeze (bass). Their latest album “Shampoo You,” out November 16 on God? Records, is their most collaborative to date and it shows in the trio’s superb songwriting synergy.

We recently sat down with Sova to discuss the communal atmosphere that spawned the album, creating dense jams that everyone can enjoy, and why three heads are better than one.

TrunkSpace: “Shampoo You” is due to drop November 16 on God? Records. Do you experience the same level of excitement releasing an album at this stage in your careers as you did when you were just starting out with your music?
Sova: Hell yeah – this time in particular, even. “Shampoo You” is significantly advanced beyond anything we’ve done before, it’s very collaborative and it was a blast to make. If we weren’t excited to share it we’d have kept it in the basement.

TrunkSpace: Did you actively set out to make a different kind of record than your previous offerings, particularly “Motor Earth,” which was released in 2016? Creatively, what were your goals with “Shampoo You” and did you feel like you accomplished those things when you wrapped production?
Sova: We did. We wanted to make music that was sharper, sleeker and more immediate than ever before. We wanted to push tempos and push vocals, and push ourselves. “Shampoo You” is really communal, it’s very much a band record, and we each reached beyond ourselves to places we’d never been while writing and arranging it together. There was no winging it, or Frankensteining parts into songs in the studio, as was the case with “Motor Earth.” We didn’t let any song out of the rehearsal bunker until we felt confident it would be of the highest possible impact and we were ready to record it. We wanted to make a dense batch of jams that would be visceral enough for those that wanted to feel it deep yet playful enough for the surface dwellers who just want to party.

TrunkSpace: Focusing on the songwriting itself, is there an overall theme to this album, a particular headspace that is reflected in the tone and messaging of the songs themselves?
Sova: Collectively, the songs are a swirling amalgam of today’s shit, coming through in stories about identity, relationships, vices and consumerism, among other things. “Shampoo You” has a real up-front vibe, its songs are meant to be relatable on the surface as much as they are felt down in the depths. And part of the fun of making music is knowing that once it’s out of your hands and into someone else’s, the listener gets to come up with their own version of what a song might be about, or what it means to them. I don’t wanna spoil that for anybody.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Sova: One thing for sure is the collaborative execution. “Shampoo You” could not have been made without full-blown contributions from each of us: Tim (Kaiser), Jeremy (Freeze), and Cooper (Crain), who engineered, and me. I’m also pleased with the fact that we made perhaps the finest examples of prototypical Axis: Sova songs alongside songs that step far outside the realm of what we’ve done previously. We proudly expanded our sonic territory.

TrunkSpace: “Dodger” was the first single off of the album. How do you approach choosing that first track from a new record? Was “Dodger” the obvious choice or did you have other tracks in vying for the first slot?
Sova: We chose “Dodger” because it’s a good bridge vibe-wise from the previous album (wah-wah; a lot of guitar action), and because it demonstrates the attention to detail in songwriting and vocal harmonies we emphasize on “Shampoo You.” We wanted to show off a song that has a pre-chorus, in 3/4 time. All the songs on the record were viable candidates. They’re all good.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Sova: If left to my own devices it’s easy for me to default to places where I’m comfortable and stay there. Working with Tim and Jeremy, who have strong ideas and opinions, and great melodic and harmonic intuition, enabled these songs to be better than they could’ve been coming from just one person. Three heads are better than one!

Photo By: Grant Engstorm

TrunkSpace: There are people who believe in love at first sight and true love. Is there such a thing as creatives at first sight? Can people connect over art in a way that has no real explanation and has Axis: Sova been that for you?
Sova: Absolutely.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line from “Shampoo, You” and why?
Sova: I particularly like the line, “My head’s a tray for ashing, a pool of electric thrashing” from “Dodger,” because I felt wildly electric and kinda like a trash receptacle while I wrote it. Feelings aren’t always so easy to articulate.

Also, “Never be the same person twice.”

TrunkSpace: The cover art for “Shampoo You” is mesmerizing. We find ourselves staring at it, but we’ll have to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what we’re looking at. What is it and where did the idea for the image come from?
Sova: We wanted the cover to be bold and vivid, like pop art, and also tactile. It’s very analog. If it’s mesmerizing and appealing to you, then we must’ve gotten something right.

TrunkSpace: Do you enjoy the other aspects of working in the music industry that stretch beyond the music itself… choosing album art, shooting videos, booking tours, etc.?
Sova: That stuff is fun, but I prefer working on the music and playing it, in terms of pure enjoyment.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the release, what’s next for the band and its members as we finish out 2018 and look forward to the new year?
Sova: More touring, probably a pallet-cleansing noise/jam tape or something… and keeping “Shampoo You” bubbling throughout 2019, too.

Shampoo You” is available November 16 on God? Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Rich Jones

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Photo By: Katie Levine

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Rich Jones, a prolific creative figure in the Chicago hip-hop scene, turned a series of personal hardships into the artistic fuel he needed to get his music career back on track. Setting a plan in motion, Jones left no stoned unturned, reconnecting with producer Ryan Lofty and exploring a more pop-infused aspect of his music. That eventually lead him on the path towards his latest album, “The Shoulder You Lean On,” which he is self-releasing tomorrow.

We recently sat down with Jones to discuss silver linings, creative rediscoveries snatched from the jaws of defeat, and how he has learned to trust in his abilities and not give into his fears.

TrunkSpace: You’re based in Chicago, which is a city rich in musical history. Does a city – a musical scene – directly influence an artist and how has Chicago influenced you?
Jones: From my experience, very much so. From the age of 14 on, I was very gung-ho about supporting what was happening locally, particularly in Chicago’s underground hip-hop community. I was enamored by not just the music but also the idea that the talent from my city merited the attention and accolades that a larger audience could provide even if the spotlight seemed to more often then not fall just short of us. The silver lining that comes from an environment like this is it puts the onus on rolling up your sleeves and doing things for yourself. I feel like pre-internet it manifested itself in a more dog eat dog sort of way, but I’m thrilled to say that this has changed immensely in recent years. People have begun to see the strength in collaborating and supporting one another, so it’s a very exciting time for us.

TrunkSpace: When you first set out to give life to “The Shoulder You Lean On,” what were your overall goals, and when you called wrap on the production, did you achieve those things you set out to do?
Jones: Initially, whether I was in LA with J. Kelr or was receiving production via email from him, I was mainly focused on creating a reservoir of records. Eventually, I realized that we actually had a project on our hands! From a creative/writing perspective, I wanted to earnestly address some of the changes that have happened the last few years – I’m older, slightly “wiser”, I’m a bit more settled then I was even a year ago, and most importantly, I’ve made great strides as a lyricist. I would say I achieved that with this album.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Jones: I’m proud of the fact that I feel like we crafted something that’s eclectic and truly reflective of where we are not only as artists but also as fans of music. Both of us have catalogs that initially were primarily rooted in hip-hop but we’ve branched out considerably over the years. This project tips its cap to our previous work while also acknowledging who we are now!

TrunkSpace: The album talks about the various paths that life can take, often heading in directions that we’ve never expected. Where has your life and career zigged when you intended it to zag?
Jones: I was seriously considering moving from Chicago four years ago to see how I might be received elsewhere. I’d spent some time in New York and was also looking into what living overseas might look like. That all ended when some unexpected financial hardships befell me out of the blue. I was pretty devastated. I’d been feeling a little stuck but now I felt I’d hit a very serious wall. After living in a daze for what felt like an eternity, it was time to make a plan and get things back on track. I did the only thing I knew how to do and threw myself into making records, calling in favors as I went. I also made a call to my friend Ryan Lofty, a producer who has had great success in sync/licensing, to see if he was open to bringing me in to work on music that we could pitch for placement. He enthusiastically said yes, thus beginning what would be the first of several sessions that would see us explore a more pop-oriented side to my music. This would eventually become the “VEGAS” EP, a project that would in many ways set me up for where I’m at today. From the jaws of defeat, I truly snagged the W.

TrunkSpace: When discussing topics through music, particularly those heavy life subjects, does that become a way for you yourself to process the many questions we (as humans) have on a day to day basis?
Jones: 100 percent. I’m very lucky that I’ve found a meaningful way to at the very least try to work through my shit so I don’t just feel totally lost all the time. And catharsis doesn’t just come from the act of making the song; it can also be from the dialogue the music generates, whether it challenges or supports the message at the heart of it all.

TrunkSpace: What aspect of songwriting do you enjoy the most and what do you struggle with? Where are you hardest on yourself in a creative capacity?
Jones: I love the moments where I know I’ve finally articulated something integral to my experience as a human and get even more excited by the prospect of other people being moved similarly. On a more light-hearted tip, I heavily appreciate people having fun with words. (A big reason I was so attracted to hip-hop in the 1st place.) My biggest struggle and the thing I’m hardest on myself is trying to find words that are unique without being overly complicated. I hate the idea of dumbing something I’m writing down too much, but I also don’t want to confuse people if I can avoid it.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line from “The Shoulder You Lean On” and why?
Jones: Off of “Drone Kids,” I say, “I’m fighting hard to not feel paralyzed by the weight that I put in my stride/You see I’m fighting hard, for a piece of paradise and bad news don’t go down nice.” I’ve worked very hard over the years to earn my place in a highly competitive environment. Part of that was learning how to trust in my abilities as an artist and as a person and not play scared or give into my fears even in the face of adversity.

TrunkSpace: We started our chat by talking about Chicago and local music scenes. As a career progresses and a fan base grows, does it become difficult for a single city to support the music? Does it become a juggling act to nurture a career within a scene but not to over saturate?
Jones: It depends on where you are and what your goals are. I feel like in Chicago, there’s a higher level of diversity in our artistic communities then a lot of places. This means there are more groups of people to do your thing for and lessens the chance of over saturation since you have options! Where over saturation occurs is when you’re trying to appeal to the exact same group of people every time. Sure you might develop a die hard following, but unless you’re really mixing it up, enthusiasm can wain. For me, I’ve always felt inclined to explore what’s out there and to do my best to put myself in new spaces whenever possible. Even so, I have felt more pressure to be selective with the events I agree to perform at. If I’m on a bill, I want to be respectful of the opportunity and make sure I carry my weight on the promotional end.

TrunkSpace: You are very involved in the community and politics. Given how divided we are right now as a country, is one of the benefits of this period of social uncertainty that it is inspiring musicians and artists to say more? Are there more voices speaking up today than there were even five years ago?
Jones: Artists have been vocal about the issues plaguing this country long before what faces us now. If them speaking on the causes they’re passionate about inspires more people to challenge the status quo and push for a real transformation of this country and world, I’m all for it. It may be that more people are indeed sharing their opinions, but I do know that the platforms available to artists now allow for their opinions to be far more widely disseminated then five years ago.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the release, what’s next for you as we finish out 2018 and look forward to the new year?
Jones: I’m looking forward to hitting the road a little bit and getting back in the studio to make some more records/finish up some things I’ve put on hold while I’ve been getting “The Shoulder You Lean On” ready.

The Shoulder You Lean On” is available tomorrow.

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Musical Mondaze

98°

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Throughout their career, 98° has been labeled and marketed as a “boy band,” but their creative roots stretch much deeper than that. Inspired by R&B acts like Boyz II Men, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder, the vocally-driven quartet began their musical journey as an a capella group before becoming international pop stars thanks to hits like “Because of You” and “I Do.”

Currently returning to their vocal influences, 98° is kicking off a 36-date tour of holiday music on Thursday November 1, highlighting songs from their 2017 Christmas album, “Let It Snow.”

We recently sat down with Jeff Timmons to discuss how life on the road has changed for the group, why an 11-year hiatus was necessary to refuel the creative tank, and how performing the Christmas classics has opened them up to an entirely new audience.

TrunkSpace: You’re kicking off a 36-date tour in just a couple of days. Do you enjoy touring as much today as you did when you guys first broke and everything still had that new car scent?
Timmons: That’s a really great question. I think that when we were younger, the tour was 98°. That’s all we had. We were young guys who didn’t have families. It was a lot of traveling, certainly – we toured for about five years straight, consecutively on the road, worldwide, and we never had a break and it became arduous and certainly stressful. We were blessed and fortunate and had exciting, great times and got to share experiences that not a lot of people get to go through in their lives, but it was really hard being a young person and sort of thrown into the fire… into that mix.

I think as we get older, all we do is have fun. We all have different areas in our careers that we pursue outside of this. We all have great, wonderful families and wives… except for Justin, he’s still single. (Laugh) But you know, we’re enjoying it more than ever. I think the fans, they’re still turning out for us and they’re having more fun than ever. A lot of them, they’re not young, little kids anymore. They’re adults. They go out and party and have a good time with us and we live as a sort of nostalgic part of their lives and it just makes us feel better. We’re having a lot more fun with each other as well. It’s sort of a renaissance for us.

TrunkSpace: In terms of experiences, are there still firsts for you guys out there on the highways and byways?
Timmons: Look, you’ve been through so many things, but you’re never surprised by anything, if that makes any sense. We’ve been through it all. We’ve been though the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You’re in entertainment yourself, a journalist, so you understand how competitive it is and how hard and how cyclical everything is and how technology is always changing. It’s stressful. We’ve experienced huge crowds and great turn outs and we’ve experienced no crowd and low turn outs and everything in between, but for us, it does still feel fresh.

It was new coming back after being on an 11-year hiatus and immediately going on a major arena tour with New Kids and Boyz II Men for 20,000 fans a night. That felt new and fresh, although we had experienced that before. And then us headlining our own summer tour was like, “Okay, can we still do this? Are they gonna come out?” They came out. And now with this Christmas tour and us doing a more intimate thing, a more specialized theatrical side in a more family-friendly kind of show, that’s fresh and new for us.

TrunkSpace: Do you think that it was necessary to have that 11-year hiatus in order to keep it feeling fresh and new? Did you need the time to refuel the creative tank?
Timmons: Yes, I think we were just burned out. When you’re a young guy in college you’re thinking, “Oh, I wanna be a rock star.” And most guys think that for various reasons, and not necessarily business reasons. You want to start a group so you can get the girls or be famous or get rich. You don’t necessarily think, “Oh, this is a business. This is a business and we’ve got to put our business man hats on as young men and put the right team around us and write current tracks and make sure we don’t find this and make sure we do this sort of promotion…” And so all of those things can be really, really stressful and I think that when you’re able to do this business and you kind of get an idea of what it is and it becomes fresh and exciting for you and more of an experiential kind of thing rather than a business, it’s always more fun in that respect.

TrunkSpace: We know that your passion is being behind the scenes in the studio. Does being out on the road take away from that part of your life?
Timmons: That’s a good question. I’m glad you know that because a lot of people don’t know that, so I appreciate you knowing.

That’s my favorite thing to do. I’d rather be in the studio. I love performing and all that, but I feel… it doesn’t matter, I can get in front of 12 people or 1 million people on TV and I get nervous every time. It’s something that happens to me. It’s a process I go through. I feel like a fight or flight kind of thing and then once I get on stage it’s cool. But I love being in the studio. I love cultivating other artists. I love creating and tweaking knobs and pressing keys and playing music and putting samples together.

Fortunately now, you can do that with a laptop. I used to lug around a big suitcase worth of equipment, set it up in my room and it would take me 15 minutes to put all of the hardware together in my hotel or in the bunk. I’ve always been able to bring that with me, but nowadays technology affords you the ability to bring a small laptop, a small keyboard, and a small interface and you can create records in your bunk on a tour bus or in a hotel room, so I always make sure that I have that outlet with me whether people hear it or not. It’s something that I have to do. Whether it’s 3 in the morning on a tour bus or in a hotel, or in between shows, I always bring that with me. It’s something that’s part of my being and again, fortunately now, you have the technology that it’s not that imposing and it doesn’t take up too much space and you’re able to be more creative than ever.

TrunkSpace: Has that love for tweaking knobs and pressing buttons changed the way you approach your own role in 98°?
Timmons: Yeah, I think so. You just learn more. I love the internet and I love YouTube. I used to have to sit in the studio with these amazing producers… and 98° was very fortunate to work with some of the best, so I used to just study them and watch what they did and take mental notes in my mind or write things down. Now you have the ability to go on the internet and watch tutorials of some of the best people and what they do and their tricks of the trade and I think it just makes you better. And certainly nowadays the resolution of the sound is better and the sonics are better. You become faster at what you do and you don’t have to spend time literally cutting tape. You can edit in certain ways. I think all of those things have helped me in a way to develop our sound or work in conjunction with the producers in the studio. We all do that. We all just use our ear to arrange and put our two cents in or go tweak a knob. You learn in the studio just by watching great talents – and sometimes emerging young guys that are just brilliant. I think all of those help to get you a little bit better – hone your craft a bit.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the holiday songs, from a production standpoint, does holiday music lend itself to what you guys do best, which is the four part harmonies, or did the songs themselves take some tweaking and massaging to get right for your particular sound?
Timmons: Well, I think it’s both. You answered your own question. We modeled ourselves after the R&B groups like Boyz II Men, which had sometimes eight part harmonies in their music. Certainly music has become a lot more simple. And I’m not downplaying it – I love current pop music, so I’m not saying it’s not as good, I’m just saying it’s not as complicated. They’ve made the songs a lot less complicated – a lot more music-driven than vocal-driven. It’s a lot less complicated in regards to harmony, so modern day music and mainstream music today, in regards to pop and crossover, it doesn’t stimulate us as much as some of the older R&B with saturated harmonies, thick vocal production and stacking vocals… and Christmas music does just that. It’s more choral and it’s more complicated with the progressions and the changes, and lyrically sometimes it’s cool, and not necessarily for the religious aspects but just the overall design of the songs. I think that’s one of the main reasons we decided to do another Christmas album.

TrunkSpace: As an artist, there’s got to be something exciting about doing a take on a song that so many other iconic artists have worked on over the years – Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra. The list goes on and on.
Timmons: Oh yeah, and for us, we were always influenced by all of those guys. I know we ended up being considered a boy band, but we loved the vocal groups. We loved the Four Tops. We started off a capella doing ’50s and ’60s doo wop stuff. And Stevie Wonder was a huge influence. And then we did the Beach Boys stuff. And then you have the classics like you said, renditions that have been done by Johnny Mathis, who is just an amazing vocalist. It’s given us a chance… not to show off, but to show off how much we were influenced by all of these people. It’s hard to match legendary productions of those songs but you can certainly pay tribute and homage by putting your own twist and spin on it with your own talents and resources that you have creatively and with your skill set.

TrunkSpace: Has this recent Christmas album and these tours, which you also did last year, opened you up to a new audience?
Timmons: I think it has and I think it’s for a variety of reasons. One, a lot of folks don’t know that we have a much younger fan base than is expected. We’re all in our 40s, but our fan base… we were doing so many things with Nickelodeon and Disney, sometimes playing for really young kids in the audience. We had one with the Nickelodeon tour where sometimes there would be 7 or 8 year old kids in the audience. And we were like, “Wow! This is cool, but what are we doing here?” Well, now those fans are in their late 20s and 30s. Also, by doing performing arts centers, we have exposed ourselves to an older audience, people who are seasoned ticket holders for some of these places that might not be familiar with 98° because they were in their 20s and 30s and they liked older music like I did like the Guns N’ Roses of the world or The Bangals and all of these ’80s acts that were out. It was the generation before us. So I think that holiday music gives you that flexibility and that most people enjoy holiday music, can relate to it, regardless of their religion. It’s a time of year when a lot of people come together, celebrate their lives together, families, and sort of relate to that music. I definitely think that we’ve grown the fan base with this tour.

TrunkSpace: Do you see the holiday tour becoming an annual tradition?
Timmons: Well, it’s our second year. Last year we were like, “Okay, let’s see if it works. If it works, we’ll do it again next year.” And it did work, so we’re doing it again this year. We all have kids – except for Justin – and we like to be with our families quite a bit. The tours before, when we were younger, took us away from our families for a long time and so we care so much about our families. Christmas, that holiday, it’s tough to be away, but again, we’ve had success with it, we’ve had fun with it, it’s something different, so I can see it happening again, but I can also see us, maybe next year, foregoing the Christmas tour and maybe doing another summer tour, a national tour. Maybe a more mainstream event that allows us to bring our families with us like when we got back together and did the package tour with New Kids and Boyz II Men.

So, it’s something we’re trying to take day by day and just kind of see if we want to do it. As long as the fans want us to do it, I think we’ll do it, but we want to keep all of our options open. We’re fortunate enough to have options.

For a full list of tour dates, click here.

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Musical Mondaze

Write Home

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With their five-song EP “Overgrown” set to enter the world tomorrow, Ottawa’s Write Home has crafted a compelling debut meant to spread a message of perseverance that is reflected through the lyrical processing of their own struggles.

We recently sat down with guitarist and vocalist Billy Melsness to discuss the band’s growing fanbase, the Write Home song that means a lot to him, and why they wanted to make it clear that they were more than a one-genre band.

TrunkSpace: You guys are set to release your debut EP “Overgrown” tomorrow. What emotions do you juggle with as you’re preparing to release new music to the masses, especially when for a lot of people, this will be their first introduction to who you are as a band?
Melsness: It’s a little stressful because we definitely experimented with new sounds to create something that we truly love and think is unique, but I think ultimately we’re just feeling very proud and excited of the product we’ve created. Hopefully everyone enjoys it just as much as we enjoyed creating it.

TrunkSpace: For a first-time listener, what do you hope they take from listening to the new EP? What does it say about Write Home and the band’s overall sound, both currently and in terms of what the future holds?
Melsness: I think with this record we want to showcase that we listen to a vast array of music, and we want to blend everything that we enjoy together to make something that’s fresh, unique, and ever-changing. We’re not into just playing one genre and we wanted to make that clear from the debut release.

TrunkSpace: Did you guys accomplish everything you set out to do with “Overgrown” when you decided to head into the studio?
Melsness: I definitely think so. We came out with five tracks that we’re overwhelmingly proud of that summarize exactly what Write Home’s sound is at this stage. I think we’ve created something that is unique and our own, and that was ultimately our biggest goal.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the EP as a whole?
Melsness: I’m really proud of how far the three of us have come as performers and creators. I think our musicianship and chemistry together has really flourished throughout the creation and recording of this album, and is only going to improve with every release.

TrunkSpace: Where is the band currently when it comes to songwriting? Creatively, have you already moved on from the songs that are on “Overgrown?”
Melsness: We still very much love the songs, but we’ve definitely begun writing and conceptualizing the next project. I wouldn’t say that we’ve moved on from the sound of the “Overgrown” EP necessarily, but we’re very excited to build upon the sound we’ve created and push it to new heights.

TrunkSpace: What does the Write Home writing process look like? How does a new song come together from inception to completion?
Melsness: I typically will compose and record the instrumental in my bedroom. Carter (Peak) and I will then sit down and rework the drums so he can add his touch to them, and then we move into Robin’s (Parsons) room – we all live together – and we’ll brainstorm vocal melody ideas and lyrics together. Typically myself or Carter will already have something in mind for where we want the song to go lyrically. A big part of the finished product comes with the help of our producer Nick Scott as well. He’s a great songwriter and always adds super cool electronic embellishments to the songs that really bring them to life.

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line from “Overgrown” and why?
Melsness: I think my personal favorite is a repeated line from the songs “Sow” and “Reap.”

“I’ll leave this pain I sought, recollect my thoughts and start anew. Waiting for the break of dawn, holding on ‘til sunrise, I will bloom.”

That line (as well as all of “Reap”) mean a lot to me personally. I wrote the lyrics to that song when I was going through a period of some of the worst anxiety and depression I’ve ever had to deal with. “Reap” is a hopeful song about pushing through those feelings and putting everything you’re feeling into a creative outlet. The lyric repeated at the beginning of the album as well as the end to reiterate one of the main themes of the record: perseverance. Reminding the listener that whatever they’re going through, they can make it out. Find something that sets your heart on fire and pushes you to live another day. That’s what music is to the three of us.

TrunkSpace: Is there something creatively inspiring about working within a band atmosphere? Does creativity inspire creativity and put you all in a position to be better in the room?
Melsness: Absolutely, being able to collaborate always allows you to see things from new perspectives. Once we get going we’ll often work on a song for hours and just finish the whole thing that day. We definitely aren’t short of ideas. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What’s been the highlight of your “Overgrown” journey thus far?
Melsness: I think the ongoing highlight is seeing how interactive and interested the fans are with us on our social medias. We’ve never really had this kind of a fanbase that was this dedicated with previous bands. They treat us like literal pop stars and we adore them.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we’re on the back nine of 2018 now, but what’s on tap for the rest of year and what should fans be on the lookout for heading into 2019?
Melsness: Number one priority right now is to get on the road and start playing as many shows in as many places as we can. We miss being on tour more than anything, so we’re going to make sure that’s what we’re really focusing on going into the new year.

Overgrown” is available Friday October 26.

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Musical Mondaze

Zjál

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Photo By: Jiro Schneider

Singer/songwriter Zjál is not afraid to put everything she has into her music, both emotionally and financially. In fact, she feels it’s necessary in order to turn a dream into a reality. After an exploration of creative self-discovery, the Australian-born R&B artist released her debut EP “Home” into the universe, and while putting herself out there induced its share of fluttering butterflies, she’s ecstatic by the response her music has received thus far.

We recently sat down with Zjál to discuss the meaning of success, reinvesting in herself, and why she went through a personal rebirth.

TrunkSpace: Your single “Home” was just released. The title could mean a lot of things, but what did it mean to you and why did you feel it deserved to mark your debut?
Zjál: Well, as the sayings go, “Home is where the heart is,” “There is no place like home.” Home for me represents both the safety and protection I feel in the arms of someone I love, and also my inner sanctuary and place of comfort and stability – a place where I can release all inhibitions and love fearlessly. I wanted to debut with “Home” because it allowed me to showcase a part of myself which is honest and truthful. I wanted to lead with something real. I wanted people to know me as openly as I could show them… and vulnerability is something I’ve always struggled to share, but with vulnerability comes bravery. So leading my debut with “Home” is an accomplishment for me not only musically, but personally also.

TrunkSpace: So much of an artist goes into creating an album – creatively, emotionally and physically. How much did completing the album, calling it a wrap, mean to you and your journey in music thus far?
Zjál: It was a huge relief actually. Emotionally the whole process threw me around a bit. As an independent artist you go into something like this with EVERYTHING on the line. This isn’t just a game. It’s literally risking everything for a dream no one can see but you. And you just hope that the people you are working with understand that fact and don’t treat you like just another client, or just another song. There are no guarantees that you’ll even have a quality track when you’re creating. It’s literally a process of expression with no boundaries and no guarantees. Then you’re faced with the choice of either staying true to your art or doing whatever just to make a dollar. It’s really scary. This is my whole life, I have nothing else to my name right now except my career. All my money goes straight back into investing in my music. It’s all about letting go and trusting yourself, so once this project was wrapped it was a huge accomplishment for me.

TrunkSpace: Did you have butterflies releasing the single into the world? Was a part of you hesitant to let go of it and allow the universe to take control over it?
Zjál: When you release new music it’s like exposing yourself to EVERYONE and EVERYTHING and that has always given me butterflies. It takes strength to be vulnerable and to give yourself over to the world. But I think it’s taken so long for me to get to this point that I had to make myself completely detached from the release process. It sounds strange, but I had to completely surrender and allow the process to happen without putting any expectation or fear into it. On a level I guess I was kind of numb. Everyone was asking, “Oh my gosh, how do you feel? Are you excited?” And as much as I was excited and happy, I couldn’t allow myself to think too much. I had to trust that the release would take on a life of it’s own and I was just a bystander in the whole process. As long as I love what I’m doing and I’ve stayed true to myself then whatever else happens I can deal with. It also feels natural like I’m on my path and taking it all in from a different level. I’m so grateful for all the love that “Home” has received I still do not think it has even hit me yet, to be honest.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Home” and everything that went into making it a reality?
Zjál: Knowing I had creative control over everything is the thing I’m most proud of. My manager and I discuss everything in detail before I’m comfortable to release anything, we workshop it all openly before making any major decisions. I’m so grateful to have someone who puts my well-being before anything else. The fact that I have the last say in everything I do means everything to me. Another thing I am proud of is seeing my song being received with so much love. As an independent artist it is really satisfying to release a project and have it reach people so positively. Because I went through a complete overhaul and operated in the past as Yasmine Amari, some of my loyal fan base stuck with me, yet I’m mostly rebuilding myself as an artist from scratch. Through operating as my new title, Zjál, I’ve needed to work extra hard to rebuild my career from the ground up, which takes time. I feel as though to even get to this point is a blessing and I am grateful I have had the support and wisdom from people who truly care about me to keep me focused on my path.

TrunkSpace: As you just mentioned, you recently went through a personal rebirth and discovered your voice. What prompted that creative change of gears?
Zjál: Two reasons motivated the change. One, I was going through a lot in my personal life and needed to cut out everything and anyone that wasn’t serving my highest good. I needed to completely start again. Becoming Zjál was my new beginning. Two, creatively, in my past, I felt like nothing was coming out like I wanted it to. A lot of the time I felt like no one really ever understood my vision, or couldn’t grasp what I was yearning for. I believe you become your surroundings and the genres I was surrounded by never felt right for me. It was hard to find producers who could satisfy my craving and produce the sound I wanted. I didn’t feel as though my intention was being understood by the environment I started in, I had a different vision compared to the prominent musical styles of Australia, that’s when I decided to take my chances and booked my ticket to LA, literally risking everything to seek people who I felt could help me generate the product I’d always been hoping for. People are so lucky if their upbringing and environments compliment their artistry, but I feel like I was always like a fish out of water. That’s what prompted me to truly discover my own voice. It is something that is still always evolving and developing though. It’s a process. I finally feel as though I’m on my path. This is only the beginning.

TrunkSpace: Life is all things… all emotions. “Home” strikes us as that kind of emotional melting pot where the ups and downs are reflected throughout the listening journey. Was that something you set out to do in creating the EP?
Zjál: Yes, I always make sure to put my heart into everything I do and hope it resonates with others. The overall EP focuses more on the ups rather than the downs. There are a variety of emotions incorporated throughout. Love, playfulness, empowerment and strength. I wanted to completely build a new foundation based on positive vibes. I feel like my mind is constantly exploding with concepts and my heart is overflowing with emotions, but this EP is a perfect blend of how I wanted to enter the industry. Everything I write is inclusive of personal experiences and feelings, I can’t work any other way. I usually write every lyric on my own, but for this project I collaborated with some great songwriters, but even then, I always make sure every single line I sing aligns with how I feel and who I am as an artist. If something doesn’t sit right, it doesn’t get used. This is something I am fierce about. (Laughter) And personally, I only really listen to music with meaning. I love songs that resonate with me on a deeper level, so in my own music I love to give back that same energy, in the hopes of connecting with like-minded people.

TrunkSpace: With that said, lyrics are clearly an aspect of songwriting that you have a great connection to personally. What does your writing process look like and are you someone who is constantly creating? Do you have a hard time shutting off your brain?
Zjál: I have a very hard time shutting off my brain. Unfortunately, I’m an expert at overthinking… something that I am overcoming day by day. My mind never sleeps. If I hurt, I write it. If I love, I write it. Everything provokes me to put my thoughts into lyrics and poetry. That’s where meditation kicks in. Or sometimes when I cant stop thinking, I have to distract myself with a movie or completely turn everything off, like literally be in silence. I go through everything completely sober, so music forces me to express myself as a healthy outlet for everything I feel. Yet another thing that comes with sobriety is you can never numb your emotions, you must feel every single aspect of everything you go through. This is how I choose to live and I’m proud of it but it definitely takes super human strength in mastering ones mind, which is why I choose to infuse everything through my creativity. Poetry is my healing. Music is literally my therapy.

Photo By: Ryan Postas

TrunkSpace: What is your favorite lyrical snippet off of “Home” and why?
Zjál: My favorite line of home is the opening line. “I just wanna get up out the day, and into YOU.” The literal meaning being, I’m so done with all the noise, all the distractions, fakery, small talk and drama of everyday life. I need to jump into the sanctuary of your arms where all my pain goes away. I need to listen to your heartbeat, get into a place where I feel safe and content. Where my energy feels balanced, where my heart is most at peace and I feel is the safest place in the whole world. Nothing means anything without this love.

This is literally how I feel every single day…

TrunkSpace: Outside of the music itself and the concept of creating, what is the most important skill an artist needs to be successful in today’s busy world?
Zjál: If we are talking on success in the music industry per se, I would say ‘business skills’ are the most important thing to master aside from your creativity. Even though an artist should always focus on the art, I feel it is necessary to be aware of how the business side of things work and what you could potentially be dealing with when building your career. I would always say learn as much as you can about the industry your stepping into regardless of how much of the business you’ll be involved in or not. In order to protect yourself and your art it’s always best to be aware. On a deeper level though, I suppose the term ‘successful’ will differ based on how one defines success. For me, I feel like I am successful when I’m living unapologetically and fearlessly in my truth no matter what it is. So in my case, some traits I try to live by, are authenticity, bravery and vulnerability. A lot of obstacles can come up and throw us off our paths, so I feel like being honest with ourselves through creativity and in our personal lives is necessary to survive in such a turbulent society. If you define clearly what ‘success’ means to you, and work every day to master yourself and your skills, you will always succeed.

TrunkSpace: Creative people tend to be hard on themselves and their art. Where are you hardest on yourself and how do you overcome creative self-doubt?
Zjál: (Laughter) Great question. I haven’t overcome self-doubt, it haunts me every step I take. I am an absolute perfectionist and am honestly way too hard on myself, but I manage to find a way to act in spite of it through working on self-love and self-acceptance. Again, meditation helps with that and gets me to refocus on my higher purpose. Writing also helps release any self-judgment or criticisms. I get sooooo self-conscious over the dumbest things, like facial expressions when I sing, to overthinking what I say in videos, to even filming myself singing to post online then deleting it because I never feel like it’s good enough. That’s the reality of what most artists go through if their art means a lot to them. I love the quote, “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” (Robert Hughes)

I think the doubt comes from fear… and fear is there because we love what we do so much it terrifies us. But that’s a good thing. It helps us know how strong we are and what we do means something. So I’m still working on overcoming self-doubt every single day…

TrunkSpace: Beyond the single, what’s next for you as we finish out 2018 and look forward to the new year?
Zjál: I’m really looking forward to traveling and continuing to promote my debut single, “Home.” Soon I’ll be in rehearsals in preparation for my live performances, which I’m really excited about. I’m eager to get back on stage and connect with everyone who has been showing me all this love! It always means a lot to me to be out and about meeting people. Then I’ll be dropping my next single off my EP in the new year so I can’t wait to share that! I’m continuously writing, so getting back in the studio is something I’m really excited about, too. But I’m literally just going with the flow and enjoying riding this wave and feeling blessed to be able to live my dream!

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Musical Mondaze

Lonnie Holley

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Artist. Musician. Philosopher. Lonnie Holley is all of those things, and with his latest album “MITH,” the lyrical craftsman has created a visceral album that he had to make, not because the world demanded it but because the world inspired it. It is a free-flowing record reflective of the times filled with a haunting voice that has something very important to say, and we are listening.

We recently sat down with Holley to discuss seeking answers as an artist, finding them as a human, and why he has a PhD in material.

TrunkSpace: Could you have conceived “MITH” 10 or 20 years ago or is it uniquely influenced by the current social and political climate we’re living in?
Holley: I think it is definitely influenced by the times we are living in and I’ve changed so much as a musician in the last 10 to 20 years, but the ideas on “MITH” are not new to me and things haven’t just gotten bad for many people in America. We see more struggle now, but it’s not a new problem.

TrunkSpace: We read that the song “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America” sort of served as the springboard for the album as a whole. Since that concept first came to you, do you feel like you’re waking up with more clarity on the state of things or more confusion?
Holley: I feel like both. Sometimes I think I’ve started to understand things and think that it’s as bad as it can get and then I hear about my country locking up babies. I travel a lot and meet so many good people. The country and the neighborhood I wake up in is a good place, filled with good people. I was just at AfroPunk in Atlanta and I met some wonderful people. We have to live where we live and try to make those places better for all of us.

As an artist I’m always seeking answers but as a human I don’t always find them. So sometimes I have to create them for myself.

TrunkSpace: We live in very divided times. Does music – art – help bridge those divides?
Holley: Art and music have always been the salve for the times we’ve lived in. I’ve said it before, but my mother and father, and grandparents and their grandparents woke up in a fucked up America. Our idea has always been that we have a great idea about a country, but we haven’t always been able to achieve what we set out to build. Art helps us understand the whys and why nots. Sometimes it’s all we got.

TrunkSpace: Was “MITH” an album that you had to make? Was there a sense of personal contemplation and possibly even emotional healing in seeing it brought to life?
Holley: Yes, but I think that’s true for every piece of art and every piece of music I make. I had to make it. And it heals and soothes and comforts, but soon it’s time to get back to work. “MITH” has been a long time coming. It takes a long time to put out a record. And it lasts forever so you want to get it right. It may sound weird but I listen to it a lot. I wasn’t making something just for other people. Mostly that stuff is for myself first. And I listen and listen and even I learn things I didn’t hear at first.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you never do the same thing twice when it comes to a song. With that said, how do you view what we, the audience, hears on “MITH?” Is it a blueprint for a bigger Lonnie Holley journey that we can discover by digging deeper into the art and man himself?
Holley: My art and music is like a continuing story. A lot of the ideas on “MITH” are ideas that I return to. My friend Matt Arnett (who I’ve known since he was just about a boy, because his father collected my work and was really the first person to understand my art and what I was trying to say) has helped me share my music with the world. He encouraged me to share it. He produced the record with me. When I have an idea and we wrote it down, he always says, “Is that a big idea?” Which forces me to think about what I want to say. When I feel like the idea is big enough, it makes me want to keep exploring it.

And I’ve got a great band I play with a lot and we sometimes come back to some of the songs, but they’d never be the same. I don’t want them to be the same because I’m not the same man who sang that song last year or last month or even yesterday.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Holley: All of it. I’m most proud that Jagjaguwar really made the outside and the inside and all of the package look exactly like what’s on the record. It feels like it sounds. It was a lot of music. It took two albums to fit it all, and even then there were songs that didn’t fit. But they made it so beautiful that sometimes I just want to sit and hold it and I forget to actually listen. It takes a team to make something like “MITH” happen, and my name is on the side of it, but there are a lot of names inside of it. I’m most proud that I got to work with all those great people.

TrunkSpace: You’re 68. Is it a bit of a trip to think that the next generation of voices are listening to yours, absorbing what you’re saying and applying it to what they’ll be voicing 10 or 20 years from now?
Holley: I made a record that I needed to make. I hope those songs help people to better understand things. They helped me. I’m always surprised when people tell me they’ve heard my music. I never thought they would or even expected they would. I put my words into physical things like my art. My friend Thornton Dial said once that, “Art ain’t about paint. It ain’t about canvas. It’s about ideas. And I got ten thousand left.” I understand what he meant. And I ain’t ready to stop.

And if my words can help someone else find their words, then I’m pretty contented with that.

Holley’s art.

TrunkSpace: Is one of the benefits of difficult times – periods of national/international contemplation – that artists have more to say? That they become the voice for those who don’t have a platform?
Holley: In a word, yes. No one is born to be an artist. Our times make us that. I didn’t know what art was. I don’t remember ever hearing that word. So if you’d have told me when I was 10 that art would save my life, I’d have wanted to meet this Art guy.

TrunkSpace: Where do you feel most at home creating? Is it in a visual capacity? A musical capacity? Do the two intersect?
Holley: I think of my music and my art as being Siamese Twins. I go back and forth and do both together. I’m always making art and singing. If I sing and it isn’t recorded, there is no record of it. But if I make something, it exists and I can see it. And touch it. But I sing about the things I make art about and I make art about the things I sing about.

TrunkSpace: You make art out of things that others discard. People themselves often feel that way – pushed out from society. Outcasts. Do you have a connection to those things that you use in your work that goes beyond what your artistic eye sees in them?
Holley: I think all humans are like butterflies, in a way. I sang a song about the lifespan of a butterfly and I asked how much we could do in the lifespan of a butterfly? But I think I’m also like a bird making a nest. I pick up materials that other people think have lived their cycle and are finished. I then use that material to make something beautiful or ugly or whatever. Art isn’t always beautiful to look at. Sometimes it best not be beautiful if the message it needs to tell isn’t beautiful. My art is like a nest or a cocoon. It comforts and soothes me. And hopefully makes someone else think. The materials I use in my art have been great teachers throughout my life. When I didn’t always have a parent there or someone to teach me about the world, the material did that. I earned a PhD in material.

MITH” is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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Musical Mondaze

Like Pacific

LikePacificFeatured

Toronto-based Like Pacific crashed into the punk rock shores with their 2016 debut “Distant Like You Asked,” only to roll back in two years later with the impressive follow up, “In Spite Of Me,” available now on Pure Noise Records.

We recently sat down with guitarist Greg Hall to discuss the recording process, how inside influences continue to inspire them, and why they’re always surprised by what songs their fans gravitate towards.

TrunkSpace: “In Spite Of Me” is your second album. What did you guys take from bringing together your debut, “Distant Like You Asked,” that you applied to this one in hopes of improving the creative or the process itself?
Hall: The overall process between DLYA & ISOM were almost opposites. We really did “In Spite Of Me” the way we wanted to. We got to take our time and work with amazing individuals we have always wanted to work with, where DLYA was a rather rushed process.

TrunkSpace: “Distant Like You Asked” was released in 2016. No one is closer to the music than you guys, so we’re curious, where do you hear the biggest differences or growth between your first album and this most recent offering?
Hall: I feel like the overall maturity of ISOM is the biggest growth for us personally. We really weren’t trying to go for any specific style or sound. It’s a very accurate and honest representation of us as musicians.

TrunkSpace: As a band are you constantly writing or was there some creative time off between “Distant Like You Asked” and “In Spite Of Me?”
Hall: I feel like there is always a little sigh of relief when a record is finished. There’s definitely a little off time once we finish a record as most of our time is spent rehearsing the new material.

TrunkSpace: Like your first album, this one feels very personal, as if you’re putting all of yourselves and then some into the lyrics. Are you band that has to write from that very personal space in order to feel connected to the music you’re creating?
Hall: I’ll have to answer this one for Jordan the best I can. Jordan always writes from a very personal space, and opens himself up in order to put the most genuine content forward. You could say it’s a cathartic process.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “In Spite Of Me?”
Hall: The entire thing.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like you were influenced from any outside sources or other artists/bands that you can hear reflected in the songwriting on “In Spite Of Me” that may not have existed in your brain at the time of “Distant Like You Asked?”
Hall: Not necessarily! However, as I mentioned previously, we had new individuals (Alan Day/Derek Hoffman) involved in the creative process of “In Spite Of Me.” So you could say that would be the biggest influence from an outside source, even though at the time they were technically inside sources.

TrunkSpace: Many people say that music is a form of therapy. Is it that way for you?
Hall: 100 percent.

TrunkSpace: Is there something creatively inspiring about working within a band atmosphere? Does creativity inspire creativity and put you all in a position to be better in the room?
Hall: Absolutely! We all get hyped on each other when we figure out something sick and/or work something out that we were having trouble with. We isolated ourselves in a cabin-in-the-woods type setting to finish writing ISOM, so creativity was just flowing the entire time.

TrunkSpace: There’s so much music out there – most of which is accessible in just a few clicks. Can that be an overwhelming thought when you consider your music is being released into a crowded landscape?
Hall: I feel like that would be an overwhelming feeling only if you let it worry you. You’re right, there’s so much music out there and the scene we’re in is constantly evolving, so all you can do is your best and what’s most genuine to you. That alone settles any worry for me.

TrunkSpace: We saw you ask fans on your socials what their favorite songs off of “In Spite Of Me” are. Are you constantly surprised what people connect to and what they don’t?
Hall: Definitely! Especially since we see the songs change drastically from start to finish. You always have a preconceived idea of what your fans will like the most, but we are always surprised by what they want to hear.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we’re on the back nine of 2018 now, but what’s on tap for the rest of year and what should fans be on the lookout for heading into 2019
Hall: We’re gonna be up to some fun stuff for everyone when we get home from The Hopeless Noise Tour. Keep your eyes peeled!

In Spite Of Me” is available now on Pure Noise Records.

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Musical Mondaze

GØGGS

GoggsFeatured

With “Pre Strike Sweep,” members of the Los Angeles-based GØGGS, which includes Chris Shaw (vocals), Ty Segall (guitars), Charles Moothart (drums, guitar) and Michael Anderson (bass), are leaving very little to the imagination. While there was plenty of sharp edge to cut your brain on with their 2016 self-titled debut, the follow up has gotten “nastier” according to the frontman, which he feels is reflective of how much the world has changed since the group first began writing together.

We recently sat down with Shaw to discuss the growth of GØGGS, why you shouldn’t buy the album if you’re “cool,” and the fan who helps bring it all full circle.

TrunkSpace: The members of GØGGS all stay pretty busy outside of the band. How do you guys prioritize time for this particular project and ultimately decide what aspects of your individual writings become GØGGS tracks?
Shaw: All the songs for “Pre Strike Sweep” were written together as a band, although Ty (Segall) probably had some riffs he was saving for this particular project. I also had started saving lyrics, but nothing really comes together until we all put our stamp on a song. It’s true we are all pretty busy, but in a way that makes it easier to get things done with this project. There’s no time to waste.

TrunkSpace: “Pre Strike Sweep” is your second album. Creatively what changed between the debut and where you were at when conceiving the tracks that are the follow up?
Shaw: We grew as a band. Played live shows, went and took our music to the East Coast. A band really doesn’t evolve until you play live. You also get more comfortable creatively the longer you work with someone. I’ve been working with Ty in the studio for the past six years now. We trust each other. The world got shittier, so our music got nastier. “Pre Strike Sweep” isn’t an album that leaves much for interpretation. It tells you what it wants from you.

TrunkSpace: Focusing on the songwriting itself, is there an overall theme to this album, a particular headspace that is reflected in the tone and messaging of the songs themselves?
Shaw: I suppose the theme would be GØGGS is back and they’re pissed. I don’t want to shroud the album in some cloak of dumbass philosophy to make me sound more intelligent. It’s a lean, mean, fucked up album. Don’t buy it if you’re “cool.”

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Shaw: I think this album has some of the best lyrics I’ve ever written, specifically the song “Burned Entrance.” The second verse is probably some of my finest work. I wanted to connect with the listener and tell them exactly how I feel about love, society, death and rebirth on this album and be direct as possible. I think I accomplished that.

TrunkSpace: Again, we know you all have different projects happening, so what is your personal journey like when you call wrap on a GØGGS album? Do you feel the need to step away from the band atmosphere and wrap your creative brain around a different focus?
Shaw: I am always on to the next thing, but I don’t really ever step away from music because it’s always around me. I also don’t do well without a schedule. I had to realize that about myself because sometimes I expect others to be that way and that approach doesn’t work for most people. It works for me. I’m not a method actor, so I don’t turn on my GØGGS brain, so to speak. All the shit I do creatively bleeds into each other. At the end of the day, I’m the same person no matter what I’m doing. That being said, I don’t define myself by anything I’ve done creatively. I feel like that would be an incredibly boring way to live.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Shaw: It’s personally rewarding for me to work with other people in creative relationships. I have always seen the importance of community and creating something with like-minded individuals. All of my most meaningful relationships have come from music. But then again, me “solo” would probably mean you reading a book or article I’ve written. Being in a band is fun, but self-actualization is also important.

TrunkSpace: There are number of songs on the album that clock in at under three minutes, and two that come in at under two. We hear filmmakers talk all of the time about how there is a different approach to storytelling with short form content in the digital age. Can it be the same with music? Is there a different approach in writing a song like “CTA,” which is just over a minute and a half?
Shaw: Punk songs are supposed to be short. “CTA” wouldn’t work if it was longer, and why should it have to be? If I can inflict as much aural damage in 30 seconds as someone else can in three minutes, why would I be the one who needs to change something?

Photo By: Denée Segall

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line from “Pre Strike Sweep” and why?
Shaw: “Young dumb writer burning out on the road, never knows which way his story goes, personality crisis for a home, chewing down his boredom to the bone, everywhere that he goes.”

Self-deprecation is a fun way to pass the time.

TrunkSpace: Are albums a bit like chapters in your life? Do periods of your life become defined by the music you were making at any given moment?
Shaw: Yeah, for sure. Not all chapters have happy endings either. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is the single greatest music-related moment of your career/life thus far and why?
Shaw: Henry Rollins being a fan of Ex-Cult and GØGGS is probably the coolest thing that’s happened to me. Black Flag changed my life. They will always be my favorite band.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the release, what’s next for the band and its members as we finish out 2018 and look forward to the new year?
Shaw: We will come back when it’s time, but don’t expect us to be on your schedule.

Pre Strike Sweep” is available now on In The Red.

Future tour dates can be found here.

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