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Musical Mondaze

Driftwood

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With their new album “Tree Of Shade” set to be released on April 5, we’re catching up with TrunkSpace alumni Driftwood to discuss the various changes that have taken place within the band since we first chatted back in 2017.

Their latest single, “Lay Like You Do” is available now.

We recently sat down with Joe Kollar (banjo/guitar) to discuss marching to the beat of a different drummer, finding creative freedom in expanding their team, and what recording “Tree Of Shade” taught him about tinkering.

TrunkSpace: We first profiled the band back in 2017. Where do you think Driftwood has changed the most since then?
Kollar: Well, leaps and bounds. Sonically there’s been a big shift. I think having a management team now has sort of shifted things. I think the writing has developed. I think the performance… me not being the primary drummer, now we have a drummer… that alone is a big change. But, beyond that, because we have a drummer it allows other songs to be available to us that we used to sort of shy away from in the live scenario. I’m able to play instruments that I actually play, like not the drums. (Laughter) I actually play guitars and stuff, which is what I grew up playing. I could get by on the drums, but I certainly don’t call myself a drummer.

But, overall? Everything.

TrunkSpace: Bringing in a drummer and allowing you to focus on those other instruments, does that impact the songwriting directly as well?
Kollar: Yeah, it has. I don’t know that it showed up on this last record, because I did all the drum work on there, and we wrote songs with the band in mind. But, now there’s a handful of new tunes that are coming out, that we’re playing on the stage, that’s definitely… it’s crazy. It’s wild how much it changes and shifts what I do. I don’t even have to play, really, which is just wild. It used to be me standing on one leg beating this kick, singing and playing banjo, and being this rhythmic component – this heartbeat element. But now, sometimes I just stand there and dance. I don’t do anything. And I’m like, “This is crazy.” But, it’s entered my mind now, and I’ve been writing a little differently, and playing parts that are more conducive to having somebody else sort of driving the bus where I’m free to decorate, or paint in a different way sonically.

So, yeah, it’s started. We’re just now embracing the drums as the heartbeat, and writing around that. At least in my mind… I can’t speak for everyone. But, yeah, there’s a handful of new tunes that I’m really proud of, that I think are really fun. We probably should be playing stuff off of “Tree Of Shade,” but we’re already beyond that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: That must be tough creatively, as songwriters, because you never stop writing, and yet, here you are having to nurture a particular batch of songs that, while are the listeners present, are actually a part of your past.
Kollar: Definitely. That’s the hardest thing for me on anything. They’re old to me. They’re new to everybody else, but I’m past it. Everyone in the band is always like, “Come on, Joe. We’ve got to do this song.” It’s like, “Oh, man. That was so last year, man.” (Laughter) But it’s okay. It’s good. It’s a healthy balance.

Photo By: Jacklyn Dyer

TrunkSpace: When you finish a song, can it sometimes be difficult to let go and relinquish control over it by way of releasing it out into the world?
Kollar: It is in the business sense of the idea. I’m sort of shifting in my own mentality to where there is all the ducks in a row – you have to get the publicist on board, and you have to get the artwork – there’s all these steps to putting out a record. You have to build buzz, and you get all this stuff happening on your socials, and blah, blah, blah. And I’m just sort of distancing myself from that, which is kind of nice because we have the management team, and we have some people in place that are sort of taking that role. It’s nice, because I’m caring less and less about it, basically. In other words, I just want to write, and put music out, and the faster that can happen – the more efficiently that can happen – I think the deeper the music is, and the better it is, really.

We haven’t gotten there yet. This one’s been taking a long time, but there’s a lot of new things to this record. It was the first time with a producer. It was the first time that we demoed songs. We’ve never done that. It’s always been just, “Bring the song to the table, let’s record it and that’s going on the record.” This time it was like, “Let’s each of us demo 15 songs and then we’ll have somebody else pick the best, or whatever they think fits together.” So, that whole process has changed for sure, and I think we’re still adjusting to management, and adjusting to the hoops and things you have to do to put music out. But, I’m trying to come to terms more and more with just having something that’s really close to me, recording it, and just putting it out without really too much. You know, I think it’s so acceptable now, and it’s so easy to do, that it’s kind of like, “Why make it more difficult?” But, I understand. I get that you’ve got to build the buzz, and momentum, and get people talking about you… try to make the biggest impact you can. I understand all that, but it’s not as conducive for creativity in my mind. And this is where I’m living.

TrunkSpace: There does seem to be a turn in the industry where it’s almost starting to feel like the 1950s in that artists are more likely to release singles now rather than full records.
Kollar: Right. Yeah, I love that. I think that’s so advantageous to the creative world. The more you spend time doing that in that space, the more proficient, and the better it gets. I’m all about that. We haven’t gotten there yet, though. This album, I mean, it’s been recorded for a year. It’s just now happening, but for good reason.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Tree Of Shade” now that it’s finally making its way out into the world?
Kollar: Well, primarily just the course of recording it. Like I said, we demoed things out, so that was a first. And that was a fun process, and a really useful one for me. I just really got into recording, and some of my demos ended up being on the record, and we just sort of fleshed them out. Actually a handful of them. And then the efficiency in which we did it. We recorded the whole thing in 10 days, sort of the bones and the guts of the thing, and then just added a couple little things here and there. So, I’d say, it’s about a 12 day record, and that is unheard of. In Driftwood world it’s usually like a year process. That’s just how long it seems to take. We have a really rigorous tour schedule, so it’s not like we’re on and off, and when we’re home, we’re sort of nested and in the studio for a certain amount of time. So, I’m really proud that it only took that long for us to do. And with the help of the producer and engineer, I mean, that was certainly a big part of that, I think. That’s really been the biggest difference for this record.

TrunkSpace: Was it creatively inspiring to block those 10 days away and just say, “Let’s focus on the album and nothing else?”
Kollar: Definitely. It was kind of scary, honestly, just because of our track record. I was like, “There’s no way!” It usually takes us a year, and we’re condensing it into 10 days. It was more nerve wracking than anything. But there’s something that comes out of that, too – being a little nervous. And then, about half way through I think we found our rhythm, and sort of got an idea with how… because there was a lot of new things being introduced with the producer and stuff. It was kind of scary. It’s a really intimate thing to lay out in front of someone like that, and put these songs out, and try to sing and play with other people’s ears in the room. It’s just a different experience altogether. But, creatively it was amazing. And I’ve learned so much from that ever since. I’ve been a lot more fruitful in my writing, and my making of music, just because I’m realizing the closer you can get to that original inspiration the faster you can get it out, the more connected it is with that original seed of an idea. And for me, as an artist, that seems to be the most potent version of things.

I used to like to tinker with things, but the issue with that is I have songs that are 10 years old that nobody’s ever heard, that I’m still tinkering with. And it’s not really conducive to producing music. So, that’s what this experience has definitely taught me is just kind of to get in that zone – a couple of takes of something, and that’s it. And that’s hugely changed my course.

Tree Of Shade” drops April 5.

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Musical Mondaze

zebrahead

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Just a week before dropping their creative baker’s dozen “Brain Invaders” on fans, Orange County’s zebrahead is also prepping for a spring tour that will take them to Australia, and while they’ve seen and experienced more than most of us could ever imagine in their over 20 years together, they are still finding new things to enjoy while out on the road.

Anytime you think you have seen it all something new comes along and blows your mind,” says bass player Ben “Ozz” Osmundson.

Brain Invaders,” their 13th album, will be released March 8 on MFZB Records.

We recently sat down with Ozz to discuss the band’s longevity, their mishmosh sound, and why they’re saying more lyrically with “Brain Invaders” than they have in previous albums.

TrunkSpace: You guys have been writing and performing together since the late ‘90s. Do you find yourselves still experiencing firsts as zebrahead, or do you think you have seen and experienced it all at this stage in your musical journey?
Ozz: Super happy to say we are experiencing new things every day on tour. Anytime you think you have seen it all something new comes along and blows your mind. The trick for us is to never just sit backstage and look at the walls – we always go outside, make some friends, see the sights and experience life.

TrunkSpace: We’re only about a week away from the release of your latest album, “Brain Invaders,” which happens to be number 13. Are you guys the superstitious sorts, and could you have ever imagined that you’d drop a baker’s dozen worth of albums on the world when you first started out?
Ozz: I think most of us are not superstitious at all. So, the number 13 just kind of makes me smile. And to be honest, I never thought we would last past two albums. We all quit our jobs 20 years ago and said “let’s go for it” and we haven’t looked back. I just wanted to get to see the world and couldn’t believe it was happening. Now all these years later I still want to get to see the world and really can’t believe how lucky we are. It’s all amazing and humbling.

TrunkSpace: No one is closer to the music than you. When you listen back to those early records to where you guys are now with “Brain Invaders,” where do you hear the biggest difference in the music, and were those changes part of a plan or a natural progression?
Ozz: The biggest change I hear is the change in the speed of the songs. We recorded our first couple albums way, way, way too slow. We adjust them live to the speed we wish we recorded them, but I think it scares people sometimes. Also, the newer albums I would say are less funk influenced and more skate punk? But, at the end of the day were a mishmosh of different influences.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Ozz: Super happy we are now in the position where we can record the album, mix it, master it and distribute it completely on our own. We still have a record label in Japan, but outside Japan we do everything ourselves. We have been pushing in this direction for the past 10 years by taking more and more control of our own situation.

TrunkSpace: Are there things that you enjoyed 20 years ago with the band that you don’t necessarily have the same love for today? For example, is touring a different experience now? Does life alter your in-band POV?
Ozz: For me personally the touring thing is still amazing. You can drop me in the middle of Tokyo or Berlin or Paris and I know my way around. I am beyond lucky. Traveling gets exhausting and rough sometimes, but every travel day ends with a show, and the show always makes you forget all the crap it took to get there.

TrunkSpace: What do you get working in a band atmosphere that you wouldn’t be able to achieve as a solo artist? Does effort inspire effort in the process, and by that we mean, does one person’s eureka moment inspire the others?
Ozz: I don’t think I would ever want to do the solo thing. I really enjoy the collaboration when it comes to any art form. Looking at things from another person’s point of view is pretty valuable. When you stop listening to others and think you know it all is the day you realize you knew absolutely nothing.

TrunkSpace: You guys have been writing together for a long time now. Is there a creative kinship among the group where the process of creating new material is more of a well-oiled machine than it was 20 years ago?
Ozz: It’s always a mess. We email each other idea, jam out new ideas and sit around cracking jokes instead of working. I think if it was a perfect polished experience it wouldn’t work out the same. I personally like writing together the best. When someone plays something amazing you can see the reaction immediately on everybody’s face and that to me is the best.

TrunkSpace: In the writing itself – the lyrics – are you guys touching on topics that your younger selves would have never even thought to write about with earlier albums like “Waste of Mine” and “Playmate of the Year?” Have the albums become a bit like chapters of your lives where you see the music reflecting what is going on outside of the music itself?
Ozz: With the newest album I think we finally reached the point that we couldn’t ignore what was happening around us as much. We have always been the happy party band that wants to make you smile and forget the world, but the world has reached new limits these days and even your beer drinking buddies are getting fed up.

TrunkSpace: For you personally, what’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Ozz: By far the highlight for me was getting nominated for a Grammy. We did a song with Lemmy from Motörhead and it got nominated for best metal performance years ago. At that moment I knew that we would never even come close to that moment. Hell, a Grammy nomination and sitting next to Lemmy, who we worked on the song with, it will never get better than that!

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Ozz: I don’t think I would. The future scares the crap out of me.

Wait, I take that back! I would go look. Like I said earlier, every day I realize how dumb I was yesterday and it sure would be great to avoid and learn from all my ridiculous mistakes before the rest of the world sees them.

Brain Invaders” drops March 9 on MFZB Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Vandoliers

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According to lead singer and guitarist Joshua Fleming, the Vandoliers’ latest album “Forever,” out Friday on Bloodshot Records, is more stripped down and raw than their previous studio offerings, a testament to producer Adam Hill’s desire to better translate who they are on stage to how they sound on a record.

The sonics aren’t the only place to feel that rawness either, as the frontman admits that many of the songs are extremely personal from a lyrical standpoint. “Fallen Again,” for example, speaks to his battles with situational depression and anxiety, and he calls seeing it come together – and ultimately make the album – “my rock bottom to my triumph.”

We recently sat down with Fleming to discuss creating a cohesive sound all their own, growing songs through respect and trust for their fellow bandmates, and why he considers himself more of a storyteller than a musician.

TrunkSpace: You guys are gearing up for the release of your Bloodshot Records debut, “Forever.” What emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to drop new music on the world?
Fleming: It’s nerve-racking, honestly. I can’t say I have ever worked harder on a project than this one, and the anxiety of releasing it is setting in. There are so many things you have to do to prepare for before the album drops, and in the eleventh hour it all seems to pile on at once. But once we are on the road, performing everything gets a little easier.

TrunkSpace: The band has been together since 2015 with its members traversing the music industry individually for many years before that. What felt different about bringing this album together that didn’t exist for you through other past experiences? What will stick with you about the process for the rest of your life?
Fleming: This recording experience was a change for us and it shows. We had time to write as much as we could to find the right songs. We took time on a mountain tour to compose the fiddles and horn parts. We went away from the distractions of home and went to Memphis for a week to record. The biggest difference was recording in the same room as a band. I hope we will be lucky enough to repeat this process for our next album.

TrunkSpace: We love what your producer Adam Hill has done with bands like Deer Tick in the past. As someone who is closer to the music than anyone else, where do hear his input/impact the most in the final mix of the album?
Fleming: Adam has a great ear, and he wanted this album to be stripped down and raw just like we perform on stage. It was all about getting the best take without relying on comps, whether it was the first go or the fifteenth. He pulled the best performances from us and it shows. We walked out of American Recording Studios a better band and it’s because Adam demanded greatness. I can’t thank him enough for that.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Fleming: Every song has its place, but I was vulnerable this past year. I have battled situational depression and high functioning anxiety during that time and, thankfully, I had an outlet to speak about it. “Fallen Again” is my most vulnerable and frustrated song to date, and my friend Rhett Miller helped me shape it and define it. I’m proud that this song blossomed instead of being put aside for another song. It meant so much to have the support of my band and my hero – together they transformed this song from my rock bottom to my triumph.

TrunkSpace: The band consists of six members, which is a lot of different creative brains all working under one roof. What is the process like in terms of songs coming together and implementing the input of the individual members?
Fleming: Individually each member brings experience and knowledge to the table. I trust these people, and I trust what they hear. Every song is different, but this album I co-wrote more than I ever have. After all of the songs were demo’d, we each took time to make a list of 10 songs we felt defined the moment we were in as a band, and we all decided which of the 50 songs made the cut. I work with the best musicians I know, and by allowing each member to have input we create a cohesive sound all are own. I couldn’t think of a better way to be a band.

Photo By: Mike Brooks

TrunkSpace: What do you get working in a band atmosphere that you wouldn’t be able to achieve as a solo artist? Does effort inspire effort in the process, and by that we mean, does one person’s eureka moment inspire the others?
Fleming: It might start with a riff like “Shoshone Rose,” or a time signature change from 4/4 to 6/8 like “Fallen Again.” Everyone has ideas and when you respect and trust each other the songs benefit. Our bassist, Mark, also plays fiddle and helped write the intro to the album on “Miles and Miles.” Our guitarist Dustin wrote out and helped arrange the trumpet and fiddle parts. We all have a place in the creative process and that’s what attracts me to being in a band versus being a solo artist. I’m not alone, I am supported by people I trust and I’m better off in that environment.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Fleming: No. I don’t have a choice anyway.

TrunkSpace: We often like to ask musicians if their roots – those places they grew up and live now – can directly influence their music identity, but we don’t feel like we have to do that here. “Forever” feels very Texas in terms of where it’s come from and where it’s going. The album seems to mix perfectly the vibe of the changing Texas landscape. Is that influence something that you guys consciously are aware of, or does the vibe of your surroundings just kind of seep into what you’re doing musically?
Fleming: We are a product of our region, we couldn’t help it if we tried. That being said it’s our responsibility to respect the traditions of the music we are inspired by, it’s also our obligation to push them to their limits. My hope is that our love for our regional music can be felt by the people who take a chance by listening to us.

TrunkSpace: We also love that your songs tell a story. Do you consider yourself a storyteller, and if so, what is the greatest story you’ve ever told in song form?
Fleming: I do consider myself a storyteller, more so than a musician, and memories are the breeding ground for inspiration. I don’t know if it’s my greatest story, but “Sixteen Years” means so much to me, because I was able to talk about my journey performing music for most of my life. I played my first show at a roller rink and I mark New Year’s of 2000 day one of my adventure. Within the lyrics I reference songs from past bands, trials and victories. At the root of the song, it’s my promise to never give up, and when the pressures of self-doubt piles on to me, the outward affirmation of chorus reminds me that I am alive, I am blessed and that it’s going to be OK.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could just ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fleming: I have already seen it, and all I have to do now is give it time.

Forever” is available Friday from Bloodshot Records.

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Musical Mondaze

Slow Coming Day

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While Slow Coming Day went their separate ways over a decade ago, its members never turned their backs on music. Lead singer and guitarist Orion Walsh has enjoyed a successful solo career in the interim, releasing seven albums under his own name, while the rest of the band have all kept music in their lives in one form or another.

Following a reunion performance at last year’s Joshua Fest in California, Walsh and his bandmates decided to come together to create new music. The result is the album “1000 Years (Like a Day),” which they wrote and recorded separately while tele-creating from different locations around the country.

We recently sat down with Walsh to discuss creative expectations, the future of band assembly, and why overthinking a song can hurt the end result.

TrunkSpace: Your upcoming album “1000 Years (Like a Day)” is your first recorded music in over a decade. As you gear up to release it to the world, what kind of emotions are you juggling with?
Walsh: It is Slow Coming Day’s first recorded music in over a decade, it’s true, but I’ve actually been releasing solo records since the band broke up. I’ve released seven solo albums now to date in the 10 years or so since the band disband. Writing this style of music again definitely brought me back in time in a way. Whenever you release new music to the world there is always several emotions going through ones mind. For this release, we did it for fun, for the old fans, and to reminisce.

TrunkSpace: With such a large gap between “1000 Years (Like a Day)” and your previous album, is it hard not to put personal expectations on it? Is there a bit of a creative build-up that you feel is ready to burst on people?
Walsh: My personal expectations for this release are as simple as, “I expect people to hear the new music if they choose.” Hopefully it gives joy to others, to old fans and maybe some new ones. I personally enjoy this album much more than “Farewell to the Familiar” as it was done totally DIY ourselves and not with a producer, changing the music or telling us what to do.

TrunkSpace: The album came together thanks in large part to technology. You would record something and then send it along to the rest of the band through email where they would then add their own creative two cents. How do you think the process itself directly impacted the songs? Do you think the end result would have been different if you were all in the same room together throughout the entire process?
Walsh: Sending the songs through email back and forth was a pretty painless process which allowed each person in the band to add their own parts on their own time. It all came together really well this way. Writing in this way is totally different than being all in the same room together, which, for us, is not really possible at the moment. Something totally different could have come out that way.

TrunkSpace: Each member of the band lives in different states and yet “1000 Years (Like a Day)” was finished. Do you think music is headed in the same direction as business with telecommuting? Is tele-songwriting the way of the future?
Walsh: Yes, absolutely.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Walsh: I am glad we were able to put this together with the constraints of living all in different states. I really enjoy “All Things New,” “First Sight,” and “Shoes, Ships, & Sealing Wax” as far as the songs go.

TrunkSpace: We read that this album was Slow Coming Day “coming out of retirement.” Did everyone continue to pursue music independently or was it a literal retirement from music as a whole for some of you? And, does this signal a new chapter in your musical journey?
Walsh: It’s true that this album is a “coming out of retirement” for the band, which was spawned out of a reunion show we did last year in California at Joshua Fest. We’ve stayed friends over the years. None of us “retired” from music. I don’t think that’s possible. I’ve been doing my solo career as a singer/songwriter for 10 years now. Matt (Bailey), the drummer plays music at his local church. Dave (Stoots) has played bass with several different groups over the years. Kevin (Michael) and Brandon (Queen), who contributed some songs for the album and live in LA, both have been active in different music projects over the past decade.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Walsh: No.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to overthink a song? Can a songwriter tinker so much that the breath of the song gets choked out of it?
Walsh: Absolutely. In fact, I think that songwriters and producers alike can “choke” the life out of a song quite easily by overthinking the process, especially when recording it. I think the important thing to remember when writing is, “What do I want to say in this song?” Keep it simple!

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular feeling or vibe that you get when you know a song is officially finished? How do you know to step back and say, “I’ve done all that I can do here?”
Walsh: Yeah, usually there is a point in recording a song where you just “Let it be.” Finding that place is essential. We have a saying, which is, “next song.” Basically, don’t spend time overthinking a song. Record it to the best of your ability and move forward. So many bands and music projects break up or never finish the recording process because of overthinking or being too picky.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could just ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Walsh: Yes, I would! That sounds intriguing! I’ve always been interested in time travel.

1000 Years (Like a Day)” drops February 14 on Indie Vision Music.

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Musical Mondaze

Tiny Ruins

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The latest Tiny Ruins album, “Olympic Girls” (set to drop this Friday from Ba Da Bing), is bigger and bolder according to Hollie Fullbrook, pack leader of the New Zealand-based quartet. Originally intended as a solo project, much of the critical praise following their previous recordings, including 2014’s “Brightly Painted One,” was deservedly heaped on the singer/songwriter, though she is quick to point out the band’s creative and personal significance.

The band motivates me, encourages me, cajoles me, teaches me, keeps me sane, keeps me active, makes me laugh, gives me a sense of camaraderie,” she told TrunkSpace in a recent interview. “My bandmates are hugely important to me, and they really made the record what it is.”

In other words, they are all Tiny Ruins.

We recently sat down with Fullbrook to discuss the roller coaster ride in bringing “Olympic Girls” to life, wrangling herself in and out of songs, and why she aspires to tell stories with her songwriting.

TrunkSpace: Were just a few days away from the release of your latest album “Olympic Girls.” As you gear up to share new music with the masses, what emotions do you juggle with? Does it vary album to album?
Fullbrook: Mainly a sense of lightness, like a weight is lifting from my shoulders. Release is definitely the right word. Weve been holding on to these songs for a while now. I feel some apprehension, nervous energy toofocusing on what we need to do to tour this thing over the coming months.

It’s an understatement to say this one’s been a roller coaster ride. With this one, I’m acutely aware of all the things that have aligned and all the people who have helped myself and the band get to this point. It feels great to be finally sharing it.

TrunkSpace: This is the third album by Tiny Ruins. No one is closer to the music than you. As you listen back to the earliest creative iterations of the band and compare it to what is on “Olympic Girls,” where do you hear the biggest differences? Were those changes by design or a natural progression?
Fullbrook: The band fully came into its own on this album. In that all our personalities are expressed more in the music. It has a more extreme palette of sonics, is bigger and bolder… both a natural progression and conscious decision. We discussed using broader strokes, more electric guitars, heavier drums – the songs really called out for those things, and I wrote with the full band in mind. But I also wanted to stay true to where we’d come from. I didn’t want it to be a departure into something we’re not. It was about being more ourselves than about a reinvention.

I do hear some difference in my vocal delivery. I pushed outwards in my singing and guitar playing on this album, tried to get better at both, and in many ways both the lyrics and delivery are the most ‘me’ they’ve ever been. Im older, my voice feels deeper, stronger – all that stuff. And maybe I’ve dropped my guard down a bit further.

TrunkSpace: The album was recorded over the course of a year. Did that allow for time to
tinker and perfect the tracks in ways that you didnt have the luxury of doing with your previous studio recordings?
Fullbrook: We recorded it in the same space as last time… in our practice space, actually, at (electric guitar player) Tom Healy’s studio at The Lab – an underground warren of small independent recording rooms. Tom’s a music producer by trade; he recorded and mixed this one and the last album too. With “Brightly Painted One” we blocked out two weeks and tracked everything quickly. We used a big studio room at The Lab for some songs, so there was more of a feeling of time pressure. We were greener – Tom’s kit set room was newly put together. I was in the throes of heartbreak, absolute heartbreak, so recording those songs was painful, but compounded in time.

Tom has since joined the band. This time ‘round, and with all of us juggling other jobs, touring, life’s ups and downs, these recording sessions were spaced out weeks apart. I was writing songs throughout. We didnt start out with the full track list ready and waiting – it was a sort of gradual workshopping process that felt very relaxed and methodical. For me personally, the recording sessions were little islands of joy, with my friends, when I got to make music and pour all this energy out. The sessions weren’t painful, they were the thing I looked forward to most.

We’d record in these beautiful little capsules of time, perhaps on a weekend or a public holiday, or a day that everyone was free… and things took a while for us to build. And it was like sole dedication to each song over the course of maybe two or three days, recording every part, and then we’d leave it and move on to the next song two or three weeks later. We didn’t listen to what we’d done until fairly far along – maybe five songs deep. I didn’t get weighed down with the details of it all. It felt like we worked very seamlessly, easily, on this record. It just took time to get there.

TrunkSpace: We found that you cant just listen to “Olympic Girls” you feel it as well, which is not something that many artists can achieve. The emotions weaved into the various tracks are multilayered, which makes each song a journey. Was that something you set out to achieve in the studio to prompt empathetic response from the listener?
Fullbrook: I wouldn’t say that’s something we were thinking about. You have to be careful about manipulating emotion for an audience’s sake, both with recording or performing, as it can really backfire.

When I’m recording I’m not thinking about how a listener might respond. I’m just responding, and choosing. Thousands of decisions based on our immediate responses. We always choose the take that personally makes us feel something. There might be imperfections in a take, but something about it just has the feeling. It’s strange that you can sing the same song a bunch of times, but one of those times, it clinches it. It affects you differently. Cass’s bass line goes somewhere weird which she just can’t replicate or make any better. Or Alex’s drum fill that makes you surge with adrenaline. You’re always chasing this magic phantom sound. And when you do find it – holy shit it’s the greatest feeling! So it’s just our own gut instincts we’re always checking in with. And then hopefully, that translates somehow, to the listeners, in the end.

Photo By: Si Moore

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Olympic Girls” as you prepare to share it with listeners?
Fullbrook: Some of my favorite songs on the album are ones that have not been released as singles. A track called “Sparklers” is one that I’m pretty proud of. And the second half of the album is kind of wild. Tom went next level on the mixing, getting all these big expansive soundscapes to really open up, and I think for listeners who’ve been waiting for the next Tiny Ruins, it’s going to be really exciting for them, listening in the dark with headphones or whatever. I love imagining that. Of them hearing the songs they don’t know yet.

TrunkSpace: As a songwriter someone who is expressing themselves through their art in various ways do you ever second-guess yourself as to if youre putting too much of yourself into a lyric or overall performance, and in the process, leaving yourself too exposed?
Fullbrook: Hmm, maybe yes, occasionally. Some writing is too raw, and it doesn’t actually get across what you want to say in a coherent way. Not that everything always needs to be coherent. (Laughter) But…I guess you can splurge a whole lot of writing when you’re in a distressed or exuberant state, and when you come back to it a day or so later, it feels overwrought, or full of pretense, or it’s just way too general. So it’s about channeling the truth of that experience or emotion in a way that still feels like you’re honoring it, but honing it into something that has more a life of its own, more specificity. I feel exposed with every song I’ve ever written – when I play one to the band, for instance, for the first time, it’s excruciating. I feel so nervous giving songs their live debut… it’s always going to feel intensely personal – that’s the nature of the beast. But in terms of the craft of writing, yes, I do try and wrangle myself in and out of songs sometimes.

TrunkSpace: A novelist will take thousands of words hundreds of pages in an attempt to perfect a beginning, middle and end of a story. Meanwhile, a songwriter does the same thing in just a few lines. When done right, its magic. Do you see yourself as a storyteller, and if so, what is the greatest story youve ever told?
Fullbrook: I have always loved being read to, and I love reading stories aloud. I have worked as a nanny at certain points of my life, and I enjoy kids, because they drink up stories. For me, there aren’t many songs that can really compete with a powerful story told to an enraptured audience. I was a lucky kid that got told many stories by various adults in my life. Stories are so important to us humans that they were made into songs, to make them even more memorable.

I think I do aspire to tell stories; certainly it’s an important part of how I make sense of a song to myself.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you cant access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Fullbrook: This is such a good question and doesn’t get asked enough. My band mean everything to me. They’ve basically been there with me from the beginning – we could just never afford to tour as a full band in the early days. We are all old friends now, and have been playing music together for eight or so years.

I’m the leader of the pack, but it’s a pack. My writing is a solo activity and something I do alone, but getting those songs to their best version – that’s as a group, and we all listen to each other, it’s pretty democratic. I trust them. They are all incredible musicians. They all come up with their own parts. The band motivates me, encourages me, cajoles me, teaches me, keeps me sane, keeps me active, makes me laugh, gives me a sense of camaraderie. Music would not be nearly as fun without Cass, Alex and Tom. It’s not easy making a band sustainable, especially when you’re based in New Zealand. So we’ve had to be flexible. I’ve toured a lot solo. I’ve collaborated with others. We manage ourselves. We tour manage ourselves. My bandmates are hugely important to me, and they really made the record what it is.

Photo By: Georgie Craw

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Fullbrook: No.

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?
Fullbrook: Early on it was a couple of friends who encouraged me to do an open mic night and record some demos. Aaron Curnow at Spunk Records really believed in me and got my career going. Then my band came along. Simon Raymonde at Bella Union also instilled a lot of confidence in me. And now the great people at Milk! Records, Ba Da Bing Records and Marathon Artists. A solid team is really vital.

I owe a lot of my tenacity and strength to my parents. They raised us with humor, openness, emotions all out there, quite chaotic. Our childhoods were pretty free and idyllic. They’ve always really had my back, always listened and given support. They’re pretty amazing.

My partner of several years. He’s not musical, and knows me completely separately to my ‘career’. From the sidelines he’s the voice of reason and of love I often need to hear. He goes to every show he can, has tour managed us in the past across the US, and often sells our merch. He’s an absolute champion, not of my career, necessarily, but of me. He refuses to offer feedback on songs or a performance. Which can be frustrating. But in the long run I appreciate that. He doesn’t prop me up in any way. He has made me a much stronger person. It means I only listen to myself and my band, I don’t go seeking approval from anyone.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your musical journey looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Fullbrook: No… that idea just doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Olympic Girls” is available Friday from Ba Da Bing.

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Musical Mondaze

The Bottle Rockets

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Sonically, The Bottle Rockets are a different band than they were when they first began writing and performing together in 1992, though lead singer and guitarist Brian Henneman admits that the musical metamorphoses that they’ve gone through are never as profound to the listeners as they are to themselves.

With a cleaner, crisper vibe, their latest album “Bit Logic” (available now from Bloodshot Records) may be their biggest leap yet, but at the same time, it’s a sound that they feel closer to than the distorted “fist fight” that had come to define them over their nearly 30-year career.

We recently sat down with Henneman to discuss fan families, the far off drunken days of their youth, and why you’ll be hard-pressed to make present day ZZ Top comparisons.

TrunkSpace: The band has been at this a long time. Are there still firsts for you out there in terms of experiences for the band? Does it still feel fresh when you hit the road?
Henneman: No. Not after 25 years. We’ve pretty much have seen everything that you can see. It’s just always fun to get out of town for a while, but no, there’s really nothing fresh anymore. I don’t think so. I think we’ve done it all.

TrunkSpace: Your personal time in music stretched before The Bottle Rockets. Has your artistic point of view changed as you’ve grown older and experienced more of life?
Henneman: Oh yeah. Sure. It’s just… you see things different when you’re older than you do when you’re younger, that’s a fact. The view from here is different than the view from 25 years ago, that’s for sure.

TrunkSpace: Taking into account that view from here, does present day Brian still relate to the songs you were writing 25 years ago?
Henneman: Amazingly, yes. That was just sort of a lucky break on my part 25 years ago, I guess. I wasn’t planning to be doing it. I wasn’t even thinking about that maybe I would still be singing those songs 25 years later. That was just something within, I guess – some self-protecting circuit.

TrunkSpace: When you play songs live that were written 25 years ago, do perform them for you, or is it for the fans? Are the fans growing with you or are you seeing new generations discovering The Bottle Rockets?
Henneman: Both. You know what we see a lot of is these kids of the original fans, so it’s like a family affair. You get these younger people coming, but they know everything because their parents were playing it. That’s interesting.

TrunkSpace: That is interesting. For the listener, you build a memory around a song or an album and it’s got to be cool to be able to see now that there is this connective tissue between various generations and that younger kids are forming their own ties.
Henneman: Absolutely, yeah. I know. That is interesting. It’s interesting to see the younger people have different songs attached to their memories. It’s funny. We’ll go to some town, I can’t really name them but you get into certain places where you realize that maybe this whole audience hasn’t heard anything that we’ve made since 1997. It’s kind of like they just want to hear all the old stuff. It’s weird. It does happen, and just kind of randomly. You can tell when it’s going on. You’ll play new stuff but they’ll just keep wanting the old stuff.

TrunkSpace: We’re certainly guilty of that. You put on your favorite record and you listen over and over again… trapped in a musical loop.
Henneman: Me too. I lost touch with Graham Parker after “Squeezing Out Sparks.” I’m the same way. It’s just how people do it.

TrunkSpace: Have The Bottle Rockets albums become chapters of your life?
Henneman: Yeah, for sure. It’s funny though because now, it’s like this version of the band with the current members has been together longer than any other version of the band. It’s like the old stuff, the really old stuff, was the other variations of the band and sort of just assimilated to memories of the new band now. “I have a new band, which is the oldest band that’s been running.” It’s like those really far off memories from the old wild drunken days and whatever. If you force yourself to remember them, you can remember them but everything just seems that this has been the only band. It’s been that long.

Photo By: Cary Horton

TrunkSpace: As you look over the catalog of music that you’ve created, where do you hear the biggest changes over the years?
Henneman: I think the biggest changes have come in recent times. Like the last two albums were both pretty big changes compared to the old days. There was a period of time where no matter what we did, I mean, even if we would made an effort to do something different, people would still hear it the same way. We wouldn’t hear it that way, but there was a period of years where no matter what we’d try to do, they’d still always put out ZZ Top references. And then you go back and hear it and go, “Oh, okay, I can see that.” It never is as different as we think it is, but I think the biggest differences have really come in the last two albums and it’s in motion. Like with this newest one, “Bit Logic,” it’s like that’s the direction things are going… cleaner. That big, loud, dirty guitar sound, I don’t do that anymore. I mean, I never say never of course, but I don’t see it coming back because it’s just… it’s changed. But still, it’s the same band. You’ve got landmarks. You know who it is.

Probably one of the biggest changes was when we first started doing those living room shows… just acoustic guitars, no microphones. We’ve been doing that for years now, but when we first started doing it, it was like all of a sudden we realized that people were maybe getting the songs for the first time. It was like all of a sudden people were like, “Oh, wow.” It was like they were talking about lyrics. And then we realized that all those years and all those loud guitars, that people weren’t even really hearing what the songs were about. That started steering the ship a little bit.

TrunkSpace: So going back a bit to the start of our conversation, what would Brian of 25 years ago think of “Bit Logic?” Would it seem like a stretch to him?
Henneman: Good question. Here’s a funny thing about this band is, 25 years ago, I didn’t even really think about stuff like that. It was just like everything was of the moment. It was like this is what we do, this is how we’re doing it and then somebody is going to capture this on a recording and it’s going to go out there and we’re going to go out and drive around and eat cheeseburgers and get drunk. It was just the simple, “Woo hoo, we’re out of the house!” I didn’t even really think about it. I think that the me now relates to the old thing better because the old me wouldn’t even think about the new thing, but if we had just done what we’re doing now way back then, I that would have worked too.

In those days, it was like, “Turn up the guitars, go man go!” The Neil Young influence was way heavier back then. It was like, okay, we wanted to sound like that, but it wasn’t like something that was, “We’re going to sound like Neil Young dammit!” That’s just kind of how it naturally was. We were loud and guitars sound that way loud and this is just how it goes. But you know, I liked cleaner guitar sound stuff back then too. In fact, I probably liked it better than the stuff we were doing as far as listening goes. I don’t know, I think maybe now we’re just living out actually closer to the stuff we used to listen to.

TrunkSpace: As artists, you always have to go back to doing what inspires you and makes you happy, because at the end of the day, why do it if it doesn’t?
Henneman: Right. Right! And that big loud thing, it was kind of a burden after a while. In the early days it didn’t matter because it was exciting and blah, blah, blah, blah, but it became sort of like a drag that was kind of like we’d go see other bands or whatever who didn’t do that and be kind of jealous of it. They don’t have to do that. Playing real tight together and everything sounds great and you can hear everything. And then we always knew that it would be like a fist fight when we’d get on stage. The sound of a frigging riot going on. And it took a long time to come around to changing that. In fact, we’re still working on it. We’re still perfecting that.

Bit Logic” is available now from Bloodshot Records.

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Musical Mondaze

You Me At Six

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As one of the few rock bands to top the various “Top” charts in recent years, You Me At Six has been relentlessly writing, recording and touring since first forming in Surrey, England back in 2004. For bassist Matt Barnes, the hard work that is required to maintain a career in the music industry feels a lot less like a job and more of a chance to share incredible, life-changing experiences with his best mates.

Touring is holiday and studio is just a hang out, so do what you love and never work a day in your life.”

We recently sat down with Barnes to discuss the health of the genre, how their albums were directly impacted by outside musical influences, and the factors that forced the band to consider walking away from it all.

TrunkSpace: You guys are out touring in support of your latest album, “VI,” with stops in the States starting on February 21 in Boston. Do you find you’re still experiencing “firsts” out there on the highways and byways? Does it still feel fresh?
Barnes: I think this is our 14th time touring the U.S. now, so I wouldn’t say it feels fresh. (Laughter) However, now that we know all the good spots and have friends all over the country it is even better, as we know where to go and what to do.

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?
Barnes: I would say sometimes if you are having a bit of a bad day it can completely change your mood into a positive mindset. However, sometimes it can be tricky if you are not in the right mindset right before you play to try and get into the vibe. If the show is going really well and the crowd is loving it, there is no better feeling.

TrunkSpace: You Me At Six is one of the few rock bands who performs well on the charts, and yet, outside of the mainstream, rock and all of its sub-genres seem to have very thriving scenes. As one of the few rock bands cracking the mainstream in 2019, what’s it going to take to see the genre as a whole find its footing again?
Barnes: We have always been lucky to cross over into a few different genres. We have always written and played music that we want to play and have been lucky to be acknowledged as a crossover rock band. I also think the genre ‘rock’ never lost its footing, so to speak. Yes, the radio is full of songs that sound the same – (laughter) – but there have and will always be rock fans coming to gigs and loving the scene. Especially in the UK, there are some amazing new rock bands coming up, which is so good to see.

TrunkSpace: Six albums is no easy feat for any artist in this industry. What has been the magic recipe to the longevity of You Me At Six? What has kept you engaged both creatively and personally in the band?
Barnes: We are all still best mates so hanging out and writing music has always been so much fun – it has never felt like a job. Touring is holiday and studio is just a hang out, so do what you love and never work a day in your life.

TrunkSpace: What do you get from writing and performing in You Me At Six 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?
Barnes: Well, you have your best mates to your left and right that you trust with your life!

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Like: “These were my ‘VI’ years and those were my ‘Cavalier Youth’ years?”
Barnes: You can hear that we are listening to specific genres at certain points of records, which I find quite interesting. We loved pop punk for our first two albums, then strayed a bit heavier for “Sinners Never Sleep,” then went a bit more pop for “Cavalier Youth.” Then we were listening to a lot of rock and hip hop for “Night People,” and on our latest album “VI,” we listened to so many genres it is an amalgamation of everything we have ever done.

Photo By: Jordan Curtis Hughes

TrunkSpace: You Me At Six has 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 for you in 2019 than it did when you came together in 2004?
Barnes: Nope, we still just turn up, play gigs and get pissed. Just these days the gigs are bigger.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far; what is the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Barnes: We have played the Reading and Leeds festivals quite a few times, but last time we played, it was on the Main Stage and we must have played to 80,000 people. It was a life-changing moment.

TrunkSpace: How have your own experiences – the journey that made you who you are as a person – shaped your musical POV?
Barnes: Over the years we have all been through a lot personally that changed us. There have been points where some of us haven’t wanted to do this anymore for many reasons, be it the label trying to mess with us and screw us out of deals, or family issues – but we have always gotten through it.

TrunkSpace: What do you personally get out of music through writing and performing that you couldn’t get through being a listener alone?
Barnes: Well, you can project thoughts and feelings that can only be expressed in creative ways. It’s a magical thing to have an outlet where people are listening to and feeling what you are writing about and we feel blessed to have the outlet.

VI” is available now.

You Me At Six tour dates are available here.

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Musical Mondaze

Sister Sparrow

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Photo By: Shervin Lainez

For singer/songwriter Arleigh Kincheloe, music is a personal journey, one that she was guided on from a very early age by her musical parents, and that she too is now paving for her own son. Learning to read by scanning Emmylou Harris liner notes, the Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds frontwoman has evolved her sonic identity with her latest album, “Gold,” which is available now from Thirty Tigers.

We recently sat down with Kincheloe to discuss finding her confidence, embracing change, and why you should always listen to that little voice in your head telling you to take a chance.

TrunkSpace: Your video for the single “Gold” dropped last week. What emotions do you juggle with as you release new material into the world?
Kincheloe: It’s always a little bit scary just that first initial, “Okay, everyone can see this.” (Laughter) But I really like this video. I think it’s very different from any one we’ve ever done before and I think it kind of shows a little bit more of a true side of me that is… a little bit more vulnerable and a little bit more exposed. The videographer is a very close friend of mine, Mel Barlow. She’s actually my brother’s girlfriend, so I’m super, super comfortable with her and she’s an amazing artist. It was cool to work with her on that, because it was just the two of us in a room.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the stuff beyond the music itself… the videos, choosing album artwork, and everything else that goes into maintaining a career as a professional artist… do you enjoy that aspect of what you do?
Kincheloe: I’d say it kind of comes and goes in terms of enjoying it. (Laughter) Sometimes it feels like, “How am I ever going to come up with something cool?” Or, “Does this really fit?” Or, “Is this really me?” You go through a range of emotions when it comes to that stuff because unlike the music, which to me comes a little bit more naturally, I think the visual stuff is definitely not my department so I always find it… I always kind of lean on other people. But I will say that with this record, I had way more to do with the visual aspect of it and I got a lot more hands-on in terms of picking the direction and picking the photos and picking this and that. So I definitely feel pretty proud of this go round and it’s a really good feeling to be like, “Oh, I actually did have some input here, and I don’t feel embarrassed by it.” (Laughter) So that’s good.

TrunkSpace: In terms of our overall life experiences on this journey we call life, they always have a way of seeping into creative output. For you, where have you seen your songwriting change throughout the years by way of those personal experiences? What big moments in your life altered your creative POV?
Kincheloe: I think that that’s a great question and there have been very strong changes that have come in my writing from my life. I started writing songs when I was still living in the Catskills and I was 18 years old. The first record that we ever put out is a lot of those songs and even the second record has some of those songs as well. But once we moved to New York City, I think I started to kind of… life got a little harder and I was really struggling to kind of make ends meet and struggling to try to make the dream a reality, so my writing got a little bit, I don’t know, harder or something edgier.

But then it always comes full circle, and with this record, with “Gold,” I was working on it while I was pregnant and then I was working on it after I became a mom, so it was the biggest shift in my life so far, as you can imagine. But I think with that shift came a lot of courage and confidence that I didn’t really have as much of before, and so I was able to kind of go in different directions and try new things that really were exciting. It felt really good to do that, so I’m really proud of it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned courage and confidence. It seems one of the benefits of getting older is that you become more comfortable with yourself, and that is often reflected in the writing of songwriters as they progress in their careers.
Kincheloe: One would hope that. (Laughter) I think it’s always hard. Even though I can talk about having more confidence, I think back on some of these moments and I’m like, “Did I really, though?” Because I can remember being just as scared in some of the sessions that we did, and not being sure of myself. But then when it came down to making decisions about the product or the music and the project, I felt more confident. So it’s interesting. I think being creative is always super vulnerable, and I don’t think anyone could be 100 percent confident in creativity because that’s what it’s all about. You have to be a little bit vulnerable and scared of some things.

TrunkSpace: Would that younger version of you, writing in the Catskills, be surprised by the artist you are today?
Kincheloe: No, I don’t think so. I honestly think that I’m just coming more and more to where I wanted to be when I started out. Is that weird?

TrunkSpace: Not at all!
Kincheloe: I think that I’m getting closer to the essence of who I have always been, especially creatively. I think that some of this stuff is like, “Yeah, yeah yeah, this is what I was thinking when I was 18,” but I didn’t know my ass from my elbow enough to say what I was thinking. It feels so good because I can say that this is actually closer to what I was setting out to do.

Photo By: Shervin Lainez

TrunkSpace: Is there a side of growth as an artist that can be a double-edged sword? And by that we mean, you establish yourself as an artist with a specific sound, and then if you venture too far away from that sound, people say, “This is not what I know.” But then if you stay too close to what they already know, they say, “She didn’t show any growth here.” Is it sometimes a balancing act?
Kincheloe: Yes, 100 percent. You’re never going to please everybody, and you have to be okay with that. I think, in previous years, we’ve all been kind of afraid and we felt this sort of die hard loyalty to our fans to keep it in one place or keep it where we thought that they wanted it. But the thing is, we are the musicians. We have to make the choices. And you have to be brave enough to do what feels right to you because otherwise that’s not really art. If you’re just copying yourself over and over again, to please somebody, eventually that’s going to burn out. And again, you can’t please everybody so why not please yourself? And hopefully some people will still like it.

TrunkSpace: If the work isn’t inspiring you, how can it inspire someone else? Not only will the project burn out, but eventually so will your passion for it.
Kincheloe: 100 percent. I think that’s a really good point and that’s one of the factors that I think was leading me in this direction, because we’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That’s a lot of years of a lot of similar stuff. And I love that stuff, don’t get me wrong. I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done, but at a certain point, if there’s a little voice inside of you telling you to do something different or take a chance, I think that you should always go with that.

TrunkSpace: Your parents were in bands. You hear all of the time about how we become the kind of spouses or significant others that we saw our parents be. Does that apply to music in any way? Are you the kind of bandmate that you are today because of how you saw your parents interact with their fellow creatives?
Kincheloe: Hmm, that’s an interesting thought that I have never thought about. I love that question. I think that you may be onto something. My brother and I are… I think we try to be really copacetic and congenial. My dad was always that way. He’s kind of like a go-with-the-flow, happy to be there, kind of drummer.

I think you learn from watching what your parents do in every way, so I think that I definitely picked up on that. I think that watching my mom be able to sing in front of people is the reason why I thought it was okay and not scary when I was nine years old.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a more personal connection to music as a whole because it was a part of your upbringing in a way?
Kincheloe: Yes, absolutely. I actually learned how to read by listening to Emmylou Harris records and Bonnie Raitt records and reading along with the lyrics on the liner notes. I would come up to a word and be like, “I don’t know what that is, but I hear her saying it but I don’t understand.” My mom would be like, “Yeah, there’s a silent g in that one.” And that was little Arleigh sitting on the floor while mom was making dinner and I’m like six or whatever. So it’s a super, super personal and lifelong thing for me that’s been connected to my learning to be a person and, let alone be a musician, but absolutely becoming a human being.

TrunkSpace: It must be so interesting now that you’re doing music professionally to be able to say that there’s somebody else out there sort of having that personal connection to your music the same way that you did with Emmylou Harris?
Kincheloe: Totally, and I hear a lot of people tell me that their kids listen and love it and it just really feels full-circle, and especially now that I’m a mom. When my son hears music in general he freaks out, but when my voice comes over the speakers he knows it and he has a certain reaction. It’s a really crazy thing to watch.

Tour dates are available here.

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Musical Mondaze

Buke & Gase

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While the majority of their upcoming album “Scholars” was finished about a year ago, the songs that make up the record tell a story that they are eager to share, though they admit the individual interpretations are in the ears of the beholder. And therein lies the beauty of music. Like all art, what we see, hear and feel from any piece is our own unique experience. How we absorb songs and carry those interpretations with us throughout our lives is a sonic “Choose Your Own Adventure.” We’ll go left, you go right, but in the end, an album like “Scholars” can move us all in different ways.

We recently sat down with Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez to discuss first impressions, how they’re constantly pulling each other in different creative directions, and why professional and personal goals don’t always see eye to eye in music.

TrunkSpace: “Scholars” drops on January 18. What emotions do you juggle with as you
prepare to release new material into the world?
Sanchez: I can feel a bit nervous about it but at the same time the album is work that we mostly completed a year ago and we’ve been performing these songs for awhile now – they’ve had a life of their own. They represent an emotional story that we are familiar with now. What will be different is that more people will hear this music within the confines of their own earbuds, in a critical setting or what have you, hopefully our audience will own this music and interpret it in ways that suits them. It’s exciting to see what happens next. It’s also exciting to just get it out into the world finally, and move forward with whatever new music is ahead of us.

TrunkSpace: As we understand it, the vast majority of the music that you two create as Buke & Gase comes out of the two of you sitting down in one room and clanging your minds together. Do you believe in creative kinship at first sight, and if so, did you experience that with each other when you first met?
Dyer: I think we had a particularly intense first meeting, confusing creative kinship with intimate kinship. We generally don’t talk about this (out of embarrassment or fear of judgment?), but I’ve been seeing the importance of discussing the subject more recently. I can only speak from my perspective, but I find artists tend to be quick to fall in love. Not that we feel more than a non-artist, but we pay closer attention to our feelings, giving them more weight and autonomy over our lives. So oftentimes artists who might be better off as working partners end up coupling together, and in a fit of fiery passion, completely destroy their true calling of creative companionship. What many people consider to be celebrity drama might merely be an artists’ misinterpretation of attraction. We fell into what we thought was love, while continuing to make music together, and through time the intimate relationship died for both of us. In truth, for the past seven years or so, the creation of music has become the only thing that brings us together.

TrunkSpace: Is there something artistically inspiring about working together as a duo that you have been unable to achieve in a solo capacity? How does being in that room with your creative counterpart make you a stronger songwriter?
Sanchez: It’s a completely different experience working together versus creating music in a solo setting. When we improvise together it’s like a roller coaster ride – when it’s going well, we hop on the train and go. Sometimes it’s familiar territory and sometimes we end up places we’ve never been. The process of creating music we use requires us to rely on each other in ways that relinquishes our ego or specific sonic desires to a degree. We’re constantly pulling each other in different directions and you either follow or it falls apart. This is inspiring because we wind up creating music that neither of us could make on our own.

TrunkSpace: When choosing the tracks that would make up the album, you had over 60 songs to choose from. Was the process of whittling it down a difficult one, and how did you approach deciding what would ultimately become a part of “Scholars” and what would be best left for future releases?
Dyer: Many of the pieces were easy to set aside as lyrics were less concise or the energy wasn’t overwhelming. But of the songs that were complete and energetically enticing, it became a coin toss. Some we wanted to have on the album but there just wasn’t enough time for them. Hence B, C, D and Z sides.

Photo By: Buke & Gase

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Sanchez: I think we were able to get over our creative slump. We actually completed another record in 2014 but were unhappy with it and decided to not release it at the last minute. What followed was a long period of reinvention and trying to figure out what we had done wrong and not repeat it. It took a lot of trial and error of process, but ultimately we figured out the problem. Creatively we were getting in our own way, too critical and having too much control of the finished product and we had to find ways to get ourselves out of the room and let the music take control. I think we succeeded with “Scholars.”

TrunkSpace: Aron, you invent instruments, and in the process, create sounds that ears have never heard before. How much of that musical maiden voyage is part of Buke & Gase in terms of its sonic identity? Could you envision a day where there’s a Buke & Gase album that did not utilize your instrumental inventions?
Sanchez: Well, for some of this album we relied a lot less on the Buke and the Gase already – we tried some other processes to create and perform, using software and midi controllers. We’re doing this because we didn’t want to be tied down to the sonic limitations of our previous work. All of the instrumental creations for this project were solutions to a problem: how do we create interesting music that we can perform live and just be a duo? At first we tried expanding the sonic capabilities of electric stringed instruments and minimal percussion that we could perform simultaneously. That has now expanded to using computers and electronics to help us do more with what we have. This expansion has also mirrored our interests in other forms of music.

TrunkSpace: Does that make touring difficult? Does it take experimentation to carry over every sound that you’ve created in the studio and transfer it to the stage?
Sanchez: I’m always thinking about how our gear setup can be compact and easily tourable – our equipment has always been an integral and influential part of our music creation. The gear and music creation are always in conversation to some extent and are requiring different things of each other, thus we have to experiment and there’s lots of trial and error to get things right. Using more electronics and software has helped that a lot, and we now have a lot of sonic control over our live performances.

Photo By: Buke & Gase

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life?
Dyer: I have pictured it, but I want to do everything in my power to avoid that possibility. I don’t feel either of us are limited to this particular project, which makes room for future musical opportunities. The question of having music in my life versus not is so much more existential than you might have wanted to hear: it’s the main reason I haven’t started a family. It’s hard to imagine having children AND being a musician (with limited means, I mean, for crying out loud, I have soooooo many side jobs to maintain MY life month-to-month, how could I conscientiously do that with another human to care for?! And then go on tour??!). The only models I have of that are already successful female artists and… men (who generally don’t have to have a child on their tit/hip for the formative years). Having a child would mean musical suicide, for all I know. So I guess when I’ve pictured my life without music, it’s because a fresh, new human needs my attention and love. What would you say to this?

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artists?
Dyer: Internally. Personally. In the worst ways.
Sanchez: I can be too much of a perfectionist sometimes.

TrunkSpace: We’re jumping headfirst into 2019. Any New Year’s resolutions that you’re hoping to hold onto as you travel through the months ahead?
Dyer: My 2019 mantra is: FUTURE POSITIVE
Sanchez: Stay Real. Everything is OK.

Scholars” is available January 18 from Brassland.

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Musical Mondaze

The Verve Pipe

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Photo By: Jamie Geysbeek

As The Verve Pipe prepares to embark on a winter tour, frontman Brian Vander Ark teases that the band will be pulling double duty, not just entertaining their longtime fans at stops from Richmond to Boston, but writing new material as well.

This is the year that we’re back in the studio and working on new material,” he says. “We had to take a nice little break in 2018, and actually most of 2017, just to play live and get to know each other again live. We’ve got plenty of ideas now.”

The Michigan-born band best known for their 1997 hit “The Freshmen” has experienced the highs and lows of the music industry, but have proven that perseverance is the best defense against a machine that is so well adept at chewing up and spitting out those whose chase their musical dreams.

We recently sat down with Vander Ark to discuss how he keeps The Verve Pipe fresh after over two decades, navigating the digital age, and what he values as an artist now that his younger self never would have appreciated.

TrunkSpace: You’ve toured the world and have experienced the ins and outs of the industry. When you hit the road now are there still firsts out there?
Brian Vander Ark: I love this question. Good start. It’s never been asked and it’s a good one.

I’d like to think that I’ve seen it all and that, pardon the pun, I knew everything, but I’m always surprised by the people that come out now. The crowds have become more and more diverse age wise. It’s not just the alternative folks that are coming out. We’ve got young people coming out as well. I think that might be reflective of the kids albums we’ve put out and now those kids have grown, so I think that actually helped us exponentially, although it was a happy accident. No one ever planned on that.

Really for me, it’s about cultivating those connections and when you cultivate the new connections, you learn about the fans. We always try to hang out with the fans a little bit after the show or even pre-show. You learn their stories. It’s always fresh.

What’s the same usually are the back rooms and the camaraderie with the band. We’ve got eight guys out and we all know what gets on each others’ nerves and what not to do. (Laughter) Also, we know what pleases each other and know what to do.

I think what keeps it fresh are the fans. They’re ever-changing and ever-growing and that’s a terrific thing. Also what we like to do is we have people request songs. You put your request in through social media and then we’ll play those requests. We have to sometimes go through our old catalog and relearn songs, so every soundcheck we’ll say, “What’s requested tonight? Let’s work on that,” and we’ll work on the songs through soundcheck. So, we try to keep it as fresh as possible.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned cultivating the connection with the fans. It seems like nowadays, especially with many of the younger bands, they rely so heavily on social media to do that and the personal connection of it is lost. It sounds like you guys are making sure to put yourselves in front of the fans as well.
Brian Vander Ark: Yeah. I’m probably one of the few out there that will say that social media, I think, is way overrated. Maybe I’m not the only one that says that – maybe there are other people that say it – but I’ve felt that way over the course of the last three or four years. I’m very resistant to expectations that come with posting on social media. A good example is in your Twitter feed. If they don’t see it, they don’t see it. No one is going to find out what The Verve Pipe or Brian Vander Ark has to say by going to the feed and looking at it, you know? It just comes up. And that’s the way that Facebook is as well. You have to go to the page. So, I rely heavily on our mailing list and I rely on meeting people at the shows. I think that’s how you cultivate connections. I don’t know how you cultivate it through social media. I haven’t figured that out yet and I don’t know that I ever will. I just think there’s something that gets lost in the digital age and I’m just not seeing any fruitful results. Where it was fruitful was when we released “Parachute.” We released every song individually every two weeks and that was very successful for us. But as far as cultivating any connections, I’m not sure that really works.

TrunkSpace: Most people would never say, “Wow, I really remember that time Brian posted that thing on Twitter,” but they’d say, “I remember that time Brian took a few minutes to talk to me after the show and it made the show more memorable.”
Brian Vander Ark: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what the important thing is, I think… dropping that barrier between the fan and the musician, or the performer, the actor, anything, and just letting the curtain down. It really ingratiates you with fans, I think.

TrunkSpace: Are albums a bit like chapters in your life and do you associate them with memories even more so than just the years themselves? Do they become pieces of your own personal calendar?
Brian Vander Ark: That’s exactly what they are. I couldn’t have said it better. They’re memory albums – our own scrapbook. It’s probably every five years or so I’ll listen to an early album and just get a great laugh out of it and chuckle out of it just because some of the songs on the first couple of albums are just terrible – the production and knowing what we went through and stuff, but I get a good kick out of it now.

There was so much good and so much bad that happened once we got signed with RCA within such a short period of time. We’re talking, in 1998 I think, we were on top of the world and by the end of 1999, we barely sold 7,000 or 8,000 records of our follow up record to “Villains,” which sold almost two million. So there’s top and bottom right there, you know? I think the trends had changed with Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. It just goes to show that those changes happen and to enjoy that moment. When I listen to the albums now or listen to those songs now and we play those songs I go, “Oh man, I had such high expectations for this song and for this album.” Though it’s disappointing, it’s nice to be able to play them and be able to say, “Wow, this is a really great song that really was lost in the masses.” Which if it’s lost in the masses, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not valid. A good song is a good song and people have discovered, years later, some of our material and they were like, “I had no idea that you guys even did this song.” “Colorful” is a great example. To this day, I still have people come up and say, “I had no idea that was you guys.”

Photo By: Jamie Geysbeek

TrunkSpace: You mentioned looking back over your music. If you could sit down with young Brian when he was first picking up a guitar, would he be surprised by how your career played out and the musical journey you’ve put yourself on?
Brian Vander Ark: Yeah. First of all, he would be surprised that I’m not coloring my hair anymore probably. (Laughter) I think he would be disgusted with the way my head looks right now. (Laughter) “This is ridiculous!”

That’s another great question. I got to say, I think yes. I think we always expected once we got signed to a major label that that was our ticket for the rest of our lives. You don’t realize that if you don’t get the priority of the label, you’re dead in the water. You just assume, “Well, we got signed now, here we go. We’re gonna go out and do this.” And then when it’s confirmed with your first single… “Photograph” did pretty well for us. We made a video and then made a second video, and then “The Freshmen” came out and was huge for us. Then you’re like, “Okay, this is never gonna end.” And even though I had seen every episode then of “Behind the Music” and I watched every warning sign come at me, we followed every cliché and wrong turn possible. That’s the one thing that would surprise me. “Wow, I really fell for all that.” That’s what my young person would say.

What I would like to say to that person though is, “You take it way too seriously.” This is a great life. I get to make music for a living, I get to travel with my kids on occasion, I have a beautiful family, and at the end of the day, I just got to play a fun show with people that I really love. That’s something that I wouldn’t have valued 25 years ago. There’s no way I would’ve valued that then.

TrunkSpace: And what’s really amazing is that some of those people that you’re playing to have been with you, supporting your music, for decades.
Brian Vander Ark: Oh, absolutely. I travel the country and do speaking tours as well, and I have a lot of people that say, “Oh my God, I totally know that song!” I go into financial industries and talk to their people about refocusing, rebranding, reinvention, and cultivating connections – that kind of thing – and at least three quarters of the room has already heard of the band, no matter where I am in the US. I still marvel at that. “It’s really pretty amazing that 75 percent of the people here know who The Verve Pipe is.”

Unless they’re confusing us with The Verve, but I never asked. (Laughter)

Tour dates are available here.

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