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Welcome back to the continuing saga that is Some Kind Of Muffin’s interview with The Deafening Colors.


They really do exist.

They really do exist.

What are your hopes and dreams for this album and for The Deafening Colors?

John: My hopes for this album are that people cherish it, listen to it, and love it the way that I do my favorite albums. My hope for The Deafening Colors is that we spend the rest of our lives making music as best as we can. If we focus on that—the making of the best music we can make—all the rest will take care of itself.

Cris: Everything John said, and really: I just want more people to hear it. Sure, it’s nice to get recognition or make money or something, but what I REALLY want more than anything is something I’ve gotten a little bit already with Carousel Season. For the first time, people have “gotten it.” They’ll say, “Oh man, this made me think of that time I….” and it’s not the same thing I thought of when we made it, but it’s similar. It’s an aesthetic that people latched onto in the same way we did making it. It gives you this electric feeling of true and literal connection: like this thing that you can capture sonically can make someone feel the same way you’ve felt, even if you’ve never met this person. It’s what keeps me waking up and doing this stuff every day. Trying to get an answer to the question: “Maybe you’ve felt this way, too?”

Listening to Carousel Season I was immediately hit with a wall of emotion. I know that the album is a nostalgic look back, but it also feels immediate. It doesn’t feel wistful or regretful, as so many nostalgic pieces do. Where does that emotion come from and how are you able to convey it so effectively?

John: First, this is a wonderful reaction and I’m overjoyed that you felt this way when listening to the album. I think a lot of the creation of art comes from a mysterious place lurking somewhere between what might be called our conscious and sub-conscious. So answering this question is tough—but my guess is that the emotion comes from the realization that life is fleeting and that looking back on our experiences with anything other than some combination of joy and wonder would be useless.

Cris: YES!!!! That’s so cool! That’s the kind of thing I was talking about above. This is a roundabout answer, but it’s true so bear with me.

Here’s a secret: I’m deeply afraid of localism. This works on a few levels. For one, as a surfer, there is the constant question of local authenticity. Being a guy who grew up near the beach and now living across the river from Manhattan, every time I come home to paddle out, I wonder if someone is eyeing me up because I have a shirt tan or something stupid like that. Or even the way I surf. Or that I’m on a longboard instead of my shortboard because I’m out of practice or whatever.

Also, this is the same thing with where I live. I’ve been living and working in North Jersey for about a decade now. I’ve been home for extended stays in there, but my permanent residence has been in Morristown, Hoboken, Weehawken, and more for years now. For those are not from the area, it may sound stupid (and it probably, truly, is. But…) those places are decidedly more “New York” in accent, attitude, clothes, pace, and more. So even though some of this might be in my head, when I come back for a holiday or something, it’s as though I’m now the “other.” The difference. But where I live and work now, I’m always the other. You know what I mean? And people don’t move around between North and South Jersey often. The cliche is that they ought to be different states, but it’s actually a little more than cliche. It’s not animosity really. It’s, at least in some cases, a different way of life. It’s Philly vs. NYC. Slow vs. Fast. The beach vs. the city. I’m a diehard Philly sports fan but I live three blocks from the Hudson River and drive by MetLife Stadium and Red Bull Arena on the way to work every day. Go figure. John is much the same way I think. We live in this strange in-between world of New Jersey. We have probably lived in 10-15 cities and worked double that number in jobs between the two of us, so I think we have a firm grip on what it means to live in the Garden State.

So now, here’s the conclusion: when we wrote this thing, we were in a cool spot. Since we grew up here, since we have our families and our friends and our high school and our experiences and memories and childhoods here, we’ve been away long enough to write objectively about it. We can criticize and not feel like some jackass outsider or vacationing tourist (as a lot of recent AC-based songs can certainly feel) or some critical voyeuristic journalist looking to say “look at what a disaster this place is!” We can objectively say (and sleep okay at night saying) “this is our home. This is what it feels like for us. It’s messed up. It’s beautiful. We grew up operating carnival rides on the boardwalk and surfing at sunrise, but we also grew up knowing too many kids who died of heroin/opiate overdoses before we were of legal drinking age. We also saw good, hard-working people lose good jobs because of mismanagement and bureaucracy. We saw two island beach resorts with ludicrous socioeconomic disparity. We saw long summers, but we saw longer and more desolate winters. It’s flat here. It’s featureless. Pine trees and sand and pine trees and sand and cattails and bay grass and low tide and the same bar for the same happy hour with the same people…and we (or they?) like it that way. It’s not cool because it’s different from everyone’s experience. It’s cool because it’s our experience and it’s probably yours. It’s 100% not special. That’s why it’s special. We love where we grew up.” It’s everyone’s story of localism and the conflict in your heart when it comes to going away or coming home. In a weird way, I hope there’s something sort of American about it! Do we owe it to those who stayed or to our conscience to dwell where we please? It’s nostalgic, sure. But it’s OBJECTIVE. Or at least we tried to be that way. It’s good and bad like anywhere else is.  Yikes. That was a lot longer than I wanted it to be.

What are the greatest challenges as songwriters?

John: To avoid cliché, and to say something universal as concisely and simply as possible.

Cris: To explain a feeling people have been trying to explain their whole lives, though they didn’t even know they were trying to explain it.

What haven’t you done yet that you want to either with your music or in life?

John: I want The Deafening Colors to make a masterpiece so undeniably great that it holds its own with the greatest albums, or works of art in general, of all time. To aim any lower seems a waste of time.

Cris: I 100% agree with John. I think his answer is perfect. As audacious and naive as it sounds, grandiosity doesn’t happen without foolishness if you ask me. If the worst thing that happens is someone thinks we’re talking out of turn, well, good.

What has been your darkest moment as The Deafening Colors and what has been your brightest?

John: The darkest moment was probably somewhere between our first full-length album, Upstairs, and Carousel Season, when we only practiced sporadically and recorded even less. The brightest was the whole recording process for Carousel Season. Those were some of the most fun days I’ve ever had.

Cris: We’ve had 20 or so people play in our group over the years and not all of them have been the kind of nice, kind, friendly folks you like to have around the family. With that said, many of them have been, too. Also, John has had some remarkable stability with his wife, and I…well…haven’t sometimes? I don’t recall having even a mild disagreement with John really ever, so the dark moments that have influenced a lack of output or less-than-stellar stuff have really been a symptom of personal stuff rather than TDC.

How do you play live? Is it just the two of you? Do you have additional musicians live or prerecorded tracks?

John: We have played many shows with a full band–usually three guitarists, one bassist, and a drummer. Lately we’ve been doing an acoustic duo/trio depending on who is around, and we’ve also been practicing with a full band. We have never used prerecorded tracks live. We’ve also played with dozens of musicians in our various incarnations over the years.

Do you plan to tour? Because I can’t make it to New Jersey, but it’d be great if you made it to Portland.

John: We do. Do we know when? Not necessarily. Part of it depends on finances, and our work/life circumstances. If circumstances and finances allow, I’d like us to tour anywhere that would have us!

Cris: Agree with John here too. I think that the two of us struggle inherently with a simple concept: we spend so much time getting the right sound on our recordings, and that is a discovery process. So there’s a lot of “trial and error, listen, take time, listen some more, try something else” going on that you can’t really have in a live show. So ultimately, we (unfairly, and maybe inaccurately) feel as though our live show seems like it doesn’t measure up to our records. Also, the real rush of it all at least for me (but I think for John too) is that we get to actually make something NEW when we are recording. We’re not treading over something we have worked to perfect, we are making something. We like that.

I know John is married. Do you both have full-time jobs in addition to the band? How do you manage your time?

John: Yes, I am married, and yes, we have full-time jobs. I am a librarian. I manage my time by filling it with all the things I care about–I love my job, and when I am not working I am playing guitar, or writing to bloggers about The Deafening Colors, or driving to Cris’s place to record music. We record late at night, or very early in the morning, or all day on weekends, or all day on holidays, or whenever we get a chance, really. Cris has been doing all of the instruments himself–which means that whenever I get over there he has a track for me to sing over. It’s been a great arrangement and we don’t plan to stop.

Cris: I am not married, but I have a wonderful girlfriend who is infinitely patient and compassionate in addition to being a gorgeous and strong person. I am a full time 10th/11th grade English teacher at a public high school in northern New Jersey. I have been doing that for five years. I absolutely adore my job, my school, and everyone I work with…not to mention the students who are unquestionably awesome. I also coach girls soccer at the high school, play semipro soccer with a local club, cook at The Little Grocery Uptown in Hoboken during the summertime (the owners are lovely people and the food is incredibly good. I know, because I make it!), I surf as often as possible, and I try to see my family, see my friends, read, and write as often as humanly possible. I’m pretty obsessed with recording and listening to music though. I sort of strangely look at it as studying as much as I look at it as doing something for strictly entertainment purposes. The management of all of this time is a bit of an insane juggling act, but it never seems that way. It’s just what we’ve been doing as long as I can remember. It’s strange: since I’m fourteen or so, I always think that whenever I have free time, in my head, it’s always “I should be recording… I should be recording… I should be recording…

Thank you both so much for taking the time to share about your new album, your process, and a bit about your personal lives!

John: Thank you for taking the time to interview us!


Find The Deafening Colors at these fine locations:

http://www.thedeafeningcolors.com/

https://www.facebook.com/deafeningcolors

https://twitter.com/deafeningcolors

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Today I am very pleased to feature part one of a two part interview with John and Cris of The Deafening Colors. The second I heard their music I was immediately transported out of my living room and into the minds and worlds of these amazing song writers. You can find their new album here. Be sure to crank it on a good sound system or put your headphones on, there’s a lot to take in.


Carousel SeasonWhat is your name?

John: My name is John Arthur. I am in The Deafening Colors.

Cris: My name is Cristofer Slotoroff. Everyone calls me Cris, though. Even my mom. I am in The Deafening Colors.

What is your quest?

John: My quest is, to quote Tolstoy, to add my light to the sum of light.

Cris: I took a career quiz in the eighth grade. In a moment of preteen sincerity, I wrote “to paint my masterpiece.” Not sure of the medium, but I’m still working on it.
Tell me about your journey to Carousel Season. How does it differ from previous efforts?
John: It started with Cris’s early versions of “Diving Horse’s Ghost” and “Carousel Season.” It differs from previous efforts because it is so focused. This was probably the album that we’ve been trying to write during the dozen or more years since Cris and I first started playing music together in our parents’ basements in high school.

Cris: It differs, as John mentioned, in the realm of focus. Like, I can passably (and poorly) string vocals together, but they won’t be very good. John can play a bunch of instruments too, but this time, it just sort of turned out that John (who is an uncommonly good singer, and I’m not even just saying that) did all of the vocals and I did all of the instruments. It wasn’t a stated aim or goal or whatever. It just sort of started turning out that way. That’s more of an explanation of the process though rather than the journey.

To more accurately answer your question, I think the journey is, at least personally speaking here, borne out of necessity: I had a rough 2014 and I hadn’t made anything (musically, financially, personally, artistically) in a long time. I didn’t feel like myself. Wrong girl, wrong town, wrong people to surround myself with. Blah blah blah. Finally, something clicked and it seemed as if I had to look backward to go forward if that makes any sense. Looking back here, this all seems a little pretentious. Whatever. It’s true.

Reading the “About” section on your site makes it sound as if a minor fender bender may have started all this?

John: That was Cris’s fender bender. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

Cris: Sort of. I was home visiting my family. I had already intended on recording a ton of stuff, so it wasn’t as though the idea wasn’t in my head. I didn’t mean for it to sound so dramatic, because it wasn’t. Let me set that straight for future reference. What happened is that I was driving to get a cheesesteak for lunch at Rose’s Garden Grille in Northfield, NJ, where John is from (and where he used to work in high school). John’s town is adjacent to my town. Anyhow, on my way there, I see this fender bender on the side of the road. It looked like the cops hadn’t gotten there yet. Nothing serious, but everyone looked a little uneasy. So I pulled over and then I realize it was actually someone I knew really well. I hadn’t spoken to her in so long, and we had a bit of a relationship when we were kids. She was there with her mother, and I’m really good friends with her older brother, so I run over and ask if everyone’s all right. They were, but they both didn’t recognize me until later in the day after I got in touch again, and then we kind of spent the whole rest of the winter break talking to one another while I was recording all of this stuff. I had forgotten or maybe misplaced in my memory all of these experiences. Also, I’ve been out of high school ten years as of 2015. So as we were talking it was kind of like rediscovering myself in some strange way. It was really cool to make something and rekindle an old friendship. I think the two had a lot of bearing on one another.

What do you think would have happened if Cris hadn’t had that experience?

John: We would have kept on recording and making music. Both of us constantly have recording, and the creation of art in general, on our minds.

Cris: I agree with John. We have been making stuff for years and we won’t stop. Like John sort of insinuated, we have been trying unconsciously, I think, to make this album for a very long time.

I need to know who Mary-Anne and Jerry Ryan are.

John: Mary-Anne is the girl you wish you had asked to the movies in 11th grade. Jerry Ryan is a philanthropist, music enthusiast, festival organizer, father, humorist, and all around good dude from Atlantic City, NJ.

Cris: Mary-Anne is the best kind of disaster, but you can only feel that way in retrospect – a person genuinely awful to the core, but nonetheless essential to helping you figure something out about yourself. I had one of those in my life at one point. I think it’s important to be optimistic, so that’s the way I choose to see that whole thing. Her name wasn’t Mary-Anne, but Mary-Anne has this classy old ring to it, so it kind of had to be “Mary-Anne.” “Maggie Anne” was considered too, because my roommate’s dog is named Maggie and she’s fantastic, but it wasn’t to be.

As John said: Jerry Ryan is a philanthropist, music enthusiast, festival organizer, father, humorist, and all around good dude from Atlantic City, NJ.

I’d like to add, he was pretty instrumental in our developing an early audience. Though John and I had been making music for years and playing the occasional show here and there around NYC, Philly, NJ/AC, etc. we were inherently not so good at promoting ourselves. We’re not very “band-y,” if you know what I mean? But we take the creating music part of things very seriously and Jerry was one of the first people to sort of say “hey, you guys NEED to play at my new festival and you NEED more people to hear this album.” Also, the lyrics of that song are almost 100% literal truth.

I absolutely hear a Beach Boys influence in your harmonies and even some of the production choices? Is that something that is conscious or instinctive?

John: I think it started out as instinctive but we picked up on it quickly and then it became conscious.

Cris: Hm. One of the things I like about the way that John and I record is that it’s not very “serious.” I don’t mean that in a way that contradicts what I’ve written previous to this. What I mean is that we are very serious about the music we make and extremely dedicated, but the process of doing it is entirely one of exploration. I imagine it’s probably a lot like telling some kid at an amusement park, “okay, we want you to make the greatest roller coaster of all time. So here’s all the tickets you want. Ride them all as many times as you’d like, see how much you can handle. Then, draw up the best roller coaster possible, it doesn’t matter if it’s crazy and doesn’t make any sense. We will try to build it!” We didn’t really model it on anyone else’s work. John did a lot of those harmonies first take. Like it’s almost all improvised, which is sort of crazy good, if you really think about it. Like, I’m still outrageously impressed with all of that and I was sitting there and clicking the  buttons and all.

John and I were just having this conversation the other day: “Why do people keep saying beach boys?” or “why surf rock?”  Neither one of us thinks of music in terms of genre, you know? We have a hard time categorizing other people’s stuff, so it’s nearly impossible for us to accurately describe our sound. I mean certainly we love Pet Sounds and the like, and I’m sure it played the role of a conscious influence along the way, but I think I was listening to more Run The Jewels and RTJ2 than I was Pet Sounds! In terms of Surf Rock, we have been listing that as a genre where applicable because it’s what other people seem to say about us. I think that’s because of the guitar tone I kind of prefer, which is actually really simple – just a few pedals and amps and all. Lots of spring Reverb. But actually, as much as I like equipment, my stuff sort of pales in comparison to what I want. We have made the most out of our gear. Believe me. I did some weird stuff to my guitars, I guess, but it’s nothing revolutionary or whatever. We keep things (cheap and) simple on the whole. We become restless easily too, so what happens next may be entirely different. Who knows?

In terms of production, I like being surrounded by music. I like bathing in it. I want it to sound, literally, like waves of sound are picking you up and tossing you around comfortably and maybe not so comfortably. So, more so than Brian Wilson, I think Loveless (My Bloody Valentine), You Forgot It in People (Broken Social Scene), and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot were influential production touchstones. Oh, also a lot of Dave Friedmann’s stuff with The Flaming Lips. In particular, Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi. Finally, (sorry for rambling here,) I think that it sounds a little Beach Boys or surfy or whatever because it’s about where we grew up, and well… I surf. I love surfing. I’m going surfing in a few minutes actually! There is a lot of kitschy BS associated with surfing and music around here, so I think I kind of wanted it to be as cool as I think it can be. Jersey Surf Rock, maybe? Like dirty water, crowded lineup, dodging jetties and shoobies and drainage pipes and all. That’s what the album sounds like to me.

The Beach Boys connection is maybe (…and somewhat ironically, given what people have said about it,) more Van Dyke Parks than Brian Wilson in that the subject matter is cyclical and reflective of a hometown aesthetic (if I can be so presumptuous). I can see where it comes from though, because of the harmonies and the guitars…but like, there was Carl, Dennis, Bruce, Al, Brian, and Mike. And probably others. John did literally every vocal on that album. I didn’t work with any session people. I don’t say that to brag, because I’m not exactly Mr. Proficiency on my instruments. I mention this because the line between vision and creation is not even remotely obscured when it comes to the two of us. We don’t have to relinquish anything to the creative or commercial whims of anyone else. I’ve heard of a certain Hoboken native who liked to remind the world just whose way he did things, and I think it’s admirable when anyone blazes his or her own trail in the arts. I think that someone more important than me once said “if you’re going to fail, it should be spectacularly…” or something like that.

What has the reaction to Carousel Season been?

John: It has been overwhelmingly positive—I’m thankful every day that we have people listening to and sharing our music. The best thing, for me, is that some of the songs are taking on a life of their own—”Jerry Ryan” was recently performed by a bunch of students for an Elephants For Autism charity music camp—watching the video of those kids performing a song we wrote probably made me happier than anything else has in my life (except of course my family and my wife)…hi, Khush. Hi, mom.

Cris: More positive than I could have ever imagined. It’s sort of surreal. Like, I remember just sort of mic’ing everything up and then playing the instruments, recording John, mixing it, mastering it, buying gear, restringing guitars or whatever, blah blah blah, and there was no audience for that, you know? Like, no one was expecting anything from us except for those really close to us. And then again, we’ve been recording music a long time so when we would tell our friends “no really, this is pretty good…” I think a lot of them were sort of skeptical. It’s funny – we used to tell people that if they didn’t want to listen to our 7” or our CD-R EPs, they made great drink coasters. We never took ourselves seriously and I think that kind of rubbed off on the music we made and the way people interpreted it. Also, I think that we may have been a little afraid to say something genuine… sort of like “who are we to say _____ ?” A lot of things clicked, though, this time around in a way they haven’t and I think we’re onto something even bigger.


Be sure to join us next week for the exciting conclusion of our interview with John and Cris of The Deafening Colors.

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Hello! Today we are joined by Brandon Schott, who has been featured on SKOM before and Andrew Curry of Curry Cuts fame. They are collaborating on the release of Brandon’s new album Crayons & Angels and were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts on the process with us here at Some Kind Of Muffin. The Kickstarter ends July 28th so hop on over there when you’re all done here. Thanks! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/444321026/brandon-schotts-crayons-and-angels


Crayons & Angels

OK, first thing’s first. How did you two get together for the first Curry’s Cuts?

Brandon: Andrew and I first connected when he was putting together his compilation Drink A Toast To Innocence. I contributed an Andrew Gold song called Thank You For Being A Friend.

When did you start thinking about collaborating on Crayons & Angels?

Brandon: When Andrew started working on the Kickstarter for that record (Drink A Toast To Innocence) we kept in contact and I worked with him on the music video for my cut, offered some promotional energy toward the project, etc. But at the core of it, he and I just hit it off – shared similar interests / music tastes and just became friends in the years since..

Andrew, what made you want to work on an all original album?

Andrew:I loved doing the two multi-artist compilations that I did. Not only did I get to work with several dozen great artists, but I got a real crash course in putting projects like those together. But I always knew that working on an album by a single musician and comprised of original material was what I wanted to do next. It doesn’t mean I won’t return to the multi-artist format. (I’m kicking around ideas for my next compilation as we speak.) But I want Curry Cuts to do more than just that.

Why go with Kickstarter?

Andrew: My previous records were both funded in part by Kickstarter, so I was familiar with the ins and outs of how to put a campaign together. It’s a fun way to get your fans involved in the process. And while there’s lots of cool stuff available to people who pledge, I’ve mostly used it as an easy way to pre-order a record.

What do you each get from this partnership?

Andrew: As for what I get from our partnership, I feel like this more of a real collaboration than my compilations were. When I was working with 27 musicians at a time, I couldn’t really afford to bounce ideas off of all of them. I had to be more unilateral in my decision making. But on Crayons & Angels, it’s been a real opportunity to bounce ideas of a single person. And my ideas are all in service of Brandon’s vision of the record. That’s been great for me and for Curry Cuts.

Brandon: This is the first time I’ve had label support on a record, and it’s been a true blessing working with Andrew. I told everyone on the team from day one that this was a no stress project – and I gotta say, working with Curry Cuts in that regard has been perfect. We’re very much in sync with the energy we want to put out there, our taste in music and references – I can bounce ideas off him, choices for singles, how to build momentum. It’s been really rewarding. Plus, like I said – we just like each other, and have a friendship rolls on through it all

Where does the title “Crayons & Angels” come from?

Brandon: Crayons & Angels comes from a line in Every Little Song, which was written about the amazing artist Judee Sill. She has a song called Crayon Angel which I reference in mine, and it seemed to fit the tone of the record – a little playful, a little spiritual.

Who did the album art? Is the alien an angel? Is Brandon the alien?

Brandon:

The album art was compiled by my wife Michelle, who’s done almost all of my visuals since the first record but the illustration on the front cover – that’s from a print I’ve had hanging in my house for almost 10 years by an artist name Alexander Scott Hughes. One day, as I was deep into the making record I walked by the framed picture and it just seemed to hit. Here’s a guy, a little out of place – not quite fitting into his surroundings but doing his best to make it work. There’s a humor to the way he’s drawn, with his candy offering and rumpled suit – but there’s also a melancholy to him – like he doesn’t quite believe that he belongs.

There’s a lot of that on this record, the balance between light and dark – the longing and the celebration – this image just seemed to tie it all together. I was speaking with my buddy Ben Eisen not too long ago about how many of the songs from the 60s have this pop varnish to them, yet there’s a sadness that lurks underneath. There’s an innocent quality on the surface, but a real struggle underneath. Brian Wilson was a master of that, Warmth Of The Sun-Please Let Me Wonder… I feel like this record plays into that spirit a lot.

What were the challenges that arose for both of you during this project?

Brandon: The biggest challenge for me is a product of our time – getting our voice heard within a choir of talented projects. There are so many amazing records coming out constantly, the trick is always to find a way to differentiate yours from the rest. That’s the trick – marketing and navigation, but then I’m at my best when I’m making music in my basement or on stage…but being a songwriter these days is so much more than that, and that’s my struggle. Still, I try to have fun with it and I hope that the energy I put out there in this part of the process reflects that.

Andrew: I find that the challenges for me are to expand the audience for my projects beyond the circle of very loyal and supportive friends I’ve made here on social media. It’s undeniably rewarding to have been able to make connections with people on Facebook. But how, then, do I build on that? It’s not necessarily a question I have the answer for just yet.

What was the recording process like?

Brandon: The recording process was truly an international affair, maybe one of my most collaborative efforts. Most of the record was recorded and arranged at my home in California, but we had various tracks flown in from Nashville, Bay City (MI), and even the UK where Nick Heyward threw down his background vocals on BETTER VERSION OF ME. But the bulk of the sculpting, arranging and tightening was finished off here in California. At the end of the record, my buddy Andy Reed mixed whatever I hadn’t and mastered the record to tape at Reed Recording in Michigan.

Any chance of Brandon appearing on future Curry Cuts compilations?

Andrew: As for working again with Brandon, I’d be delighted. As I said earlier, I have ideas for future projects, and Brandon is welcome to participate in whatever capacity he’d like!

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Today we have an interview with Jason Hay who has been working on a documentary for a number of years. I want to go back to how SKOM became what it is now before we jump into this interview. This blog was something I created to have a music focus that was just sharing things I found and liked. A few years ago I had the idea that I could interview all of these people I knew in real life or via the internet who were really talented people and maybe help them get their music out there. While today’s interview isn’t music related it is in that same spirit. I work with Jason and he and I have had opportunity to talk a lot about creativity and inspiration. He is a very creative person and is striving to do more, be more, and share more. Please enjoy this interview and then click the Kickstarter link at the end to get more info about the documentary and contribute.

 


 

What was it like the first time you saw Grey Gardens?

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I didn’t want to watch Grey Gardens at first, all I thought I knew about it was it was a story about two “crazy” women who sing to each other. I did, however, know about the Maysels brothers who had done the film Gimme Shelter and I had really enjoyed that.
So I agreed to watch it. From the first shot in the film I was entranced by the house and the ladies who lived in it.
I am the type of person that gets obsessed  with a subject. I think I watched the film over a dozen times in a period of a few months, trying to absorb it.

Grey Gardens has inspired a musical and a docudrama. Why do you think it has endured? 

I think the relationship between mother and daughter living with and for only each other that was captured in the documentary is an amazingly complex one. Both familiar and totally foreign at the same time. That, and I feel this more on the east coast maybe, but almost anything related to JFK is going to make for a great story. (The Beales where aunt and cousin to Jackie Kennedy, the relationship being via the Bouiver side.) I also feel the house itself is a character that draws people into the story.

How did The Marble Faun Of Grey Gardens come about? 

Jerry Torre

Jerry Torre 1975

In Nov 2009 I was working as a chef in Boston and really ready for a change in my life. After researching the remaining cast of Grey Gardens I found Jerry to be a very interesting part of the story,an outsider and a runaway who found the most remarkable women and setting to run away to.

I reached out to Jerry via email with, at that time, a proposal for a book about his life, because I had only made films for myself and didn’t really think it was possible for me. Jerry agreed to meet with me and at the same time I re-established a friendship from high school, Steven Pelizza, who was also living in NYC at the time. Shortly after we decided to make a documentary because we had such a huge and very visual story to tell. It is also true I was very attracted to learning about and exploring New York City where a vast bit of the filming takes place.
We were, and continue to be, extremely lucky to be working with Albert Maysels and the Maysels institute in Harlem. That’s part of the experience that will always be amazing to me. I was a chef during the week and taking a bus on my weekends to meet and work with Jerry and Steve was filming pretty much on a weekly basis for over a year. It was the most energetic and exciting time for me; the act of making the movie.

How is Jerry doing?

Jerry is doing amazing. He is an artist on many levels. His most preferred medium is stone. He is and has been for several years now carving at the Arts Students League. He has been working on completing a book and continues to correspond with people on his website themarblefaun.com He is an amazingly humble and gentle person and his recollections of his time at Grey Gardens is beautiful. But really he has had an amazingly rich life on top of that. He stays very grounded and it’s funny he still sounds a lot like the very young Jerry most people know from the documentary. He has been portrayed on and off Broadway in Grey Gardens by something like 80 different actors from North Carolina to Japan. It’s crazy.

What was the process like?

It’s been a friendship, so ups and downs, but having never done this before we have all stayed together really well. Learning about people has been the most interesting part of the whole thing.

What do you want people to walk away with after watching Marble Faun?

We try to surprise people I think a bit, there is a lot about Jerry that goes beyond just his art and time at Grey Gardens. There are some fairly serious social issues that we touch on that are very important to both Jerry and the whole team. I feel we do a good job of balancing lighter and heavier topics without preaching or imposing judgement.

What did you learn in making this film?

Without sounding to corny, I hope, I learned you really can make large change in your life when you are ready to. I wanted a change from being a chef, I wanted an adventure and I knew I wanted to go back to making art in some form and I did. That kind of confidence opened up a lot of doors for me at the time. Amazing things were happening to me at the time. It’s when I reconnected with my junior high crush who became my wife during that year of filming. It was just a really incredible time I’ll never forget.

Jerry carving at the Arts Students League

Jerry carving at the Arts Students League

Where are you in the process and what can people do to help?

Well, it’s an excellent time to be asked that. The film has been screened twice, in NYC and on the west coast. We are pleased with the film and have heard positive reviews. We are planning on self disturbing our film, but have run up on the acquisition of rights for some material we used to visually enrich the telling of our story. We are currently running a campaign to raise money for the rights. I like to look at it like people being able to pre-order the film for themselves. I hope it’s a way for people who believe in the project can help out.

When are you hoping to release Marble Faun?

We are ready to release the film now via digital download and DVD. It’s very exciting  BUT very frustrating. Because we don’t have the money for the rights yet.
But we indeed have a film we are very proud of and have worked on now for four years.

Assuming this project gets funded and all goes well what is next?

I will continue to work on many different types of art projects with my beautiful wife Heather. We have plans on starting a farm-based artist retreat in Oregon where we live. I would also like to host a fundraiser with Jerry and our film at the center with the money going to various charities. That has always been a large thing for Jerry and the team that the film could give back.

Please visit The Marble Faun Of Grey Gardens‘ Kickstarter page and contribute today: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aggregatepictures/the-marble-faun-of-grey-gardens

Also like the movie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marblefaungreygardens

 

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Today I am pleased to bring you the very talented and very thoughtful Anna Horvitz. The way Anna and I got connected is actually a Facebook success story. It turns out Anna was friends with my late niece, Selene, when they were young. Anna saw my sister’s name and then mine and then she reached out to me. I am so glad she did. It has been great to get to know someone who was a friend of Selene. Additionally, she has a great voice and a beautiful mind (she’s not imaginary, really).


Copy of pelicangirlE compressedWhen did you first start singing?

It was somewhere between the time I was born and the time I learned how to speak. I grew up with a very musical family, and I have some great memories of singing old ballads and children’s songs with my dad around the piano when I was barely tall enough to see the keys. I was a very sensitive kid, too. I used to cry at the sad songs. I think I remember at one point we decided we weren’t going to do “On Top of Old Smokey” anymore because it was too sad.

What made you feel like you wanted to pursue music as more than a hobby?

It’s kind of weird how it happened. I guess you could say music pursued me. When I was a kid my mom signed me up for sax lessons. I was really good at it, but it was hell trying to get me to practice. I did the whole middle school band thing, but playing sax didn’t seem as cool as wearing dark eyeliner and dressing up and getting busted for smoking cigarettes outside of high school, so I stopped for a bit. In my early 20s I picked up the sax again and almost instantly landed myself in a Latin rock band called Cabeza de Vaca. I wasn’t even looking for a band at the time. But it was my first experience actually jamming out in a group, and the connection, the musical telepathic experience, was incredible. When that project ended, it was a big loss in my life. I didn’t have the leadership skills at the time to form my own band, so I wound up writing songs to the guitar with my self-taught finger-picking skills. It was like it took over. I would stay up so late with the music some nights and go in to work the next day totally exhausted and sometimes a little hung over. But I just couldn’t be responsible about it. It was just too important a part of my life to ignore. And it was about then that I came to the realization that music was going to be a part of my life forever.

Who or what inspires you most, music or otherwise?

Pain. When it comes to creativity, I mean. Good pain and bad pain, like love and loss. That sharp and amazing gasping pain when you realize you’re alive and the sun is bouncing off the leaves as they rustle in the wind. The magical aching pain of falling in love, and the end-of-the-world pain when you fall out. The pain-in-the-ass pain of being alive and trying to feed yourself and pay your bills and still have enough money left over to drown your miseries and successes at the bar. The immense emotional pain of being a living animal in the controlled environment often referred to as civilization. Music and the other arts are a very therapeutic way of dealing with all of this pain. I’m not a masochist or even a pessimist, in fact, I love life dearly, which may be why I make an effort to turn its intensities into beauty.

Tell me about Mojave Wild. 

Mojave Wild was born out of the songs that kept me up late and made me function poorly at work the next day. Once I had enough songs I began to perform at open mics at a local dive in La Mesa, California, a seedy bar called Joe ‘N’ Andy’s that no longer exists. From there I began to gather interested musicians to form a band, but it took a long time to build up a solid group of core members. A couple of years, in fact. Took a long time to figure out a name, too. The project started as Milk Duck and finally made its way over to Mojave Wild as we outgrew the ten thousand other names I had come up with. Once we were solid we started playing out. We got good responses from the crowd, but it’s really hard to build a following, especially in San Diego, what with the way the venues book local bands. But I had a great time nonetheless. I loved performing, and it was an empowering feeling to have such great musicians backing me in the music I had written. A couple of the members were really good with odd time signatures, too, which I love, and which allowed us to explore different styles and step outside the traditional singer/songwriter-turned-rock genre.

What is the future of Mojave Wild?

Mojave Wild is currently on sabbatical in the Mojave Desert for the next year or so while I do my best to straighten out my new life up here in Portland. Back in San Diego, the bass player had left the group, and it was around this time that the drummer (Salvatore, who was/is also my boyfriend) and I decided we were ready to move up north. I have been involved with some other wonderful projects since I got here, and I’m still writing songs, but MW requires a big investment of time that I just don’t have right now, and I wouldn’t want to scrimp on something that means so much to me. I’m working on that time thing, though, and by June of 2015 I’ll be out scrounging around for new members again. Sure wish my old guitar player would move up here!

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What do you hope to do next?

I’m currently singing in an eccentric group that we have temporarily dubbed “The Monday Night Band,” for lack of an official name. We’re just getting it started, but it feels promising. It’s a variety of musical styles that work around the West African djembe and dunun drums. Lots of deep and sensual vocals. When we’re ready to take on more members and start playing out, we can also promise belly dancers at our performances. It’s gonna be a pretty showy affair. I’m really excited about it, because it’s my first project that will incorporate some theatrics into my stage presence. Sal’s in it, too. And our keyboardist, Mike, is also a San Diego refugee, ironically.

I’m also considering getting back into the solo performances, but that might be a tough one, since I’m currently going to school and working. But I miss it. I love that damn stage.

Hmmmm, what else? Maybe get some of my artwork up in a local gallery in the next year.

What has been your favorite performance of yours?

I gotta say, singing live with Gerald Collier on Seattle’s KEXP was pretty fucking magical. It’s really something, to be performing in a little sparkly room with just a few people around, and knowing your voices are being carried out to thousands of ears. I feel very blessed that I got a chance to work with Gerald. That there is one talented, good-hearted guy.

 

What has been your experience in the San Diego music scene compared to the Portland scene?

I feel like the Portland audience is much more receptive to its local bands. But I’ve noticed that the general plight of the local band is pretty much the same everywhere. Venues don’t book bands to entertain, anymore. They book bands that bring their friends. It’s not quite the pay-to-play situation, but your friends are paying for you to play. So there’s no opportunity for exposure from a few gigs, especially when they book you on a Monday night, late.

Aside from my complaining, though, this city has some awesome musicians in it. I’ve seen some amazing bands for just ten bucks at Goodfoot, and a couple for FREE at Laurelthirst happy hour. I’m also impressed just by the people I meet randomly who say they are musicians, primarily because they actually ARE, not like the half-assed guitar players I met so many of in San Diego. Sal and I have surmised that it’s because during the winter there’s not much else to do but get drunk and practice. And there are no winters in San Diego.

Who, dead or alive, would you love to perform with most and why?

Eddie Vedder, but I’d rather he was alive and not dead when I sang with him. I’ve been singing harmonies with him since my teenage days, but he doesn’t know it. Ever since he started his solo career I’ve heard so many possibilities for collaboration in his songs. It’s actually a goal of mine, to one day sing with him, as far-fetched and dreamy as it may sound. But I don’t think it’s an impossible dream. I know I’ve got the pipes, so it’s just a matter of getting him to know I exist.

Favorite TV show ever?

It’s either Frasier or Deep Space Nine. During one season of Frasier a bunch of cast members from DS9 kept randomly appearing on the show. I felt like a five-year-old with a brand new Tonka truck.

God I’m so 90s.

 

Enjoy Anna at these fine locations:

 

 

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Like Randy Newman, I love L.A. Or at least a few of its musicians. Today I am pleased to present Brady Harris, currently of Brady Harris Band. In the interest of full disclosure he did send me a koozie, but that was after I sent off the questions. 🙂


You just released NoHo Confidential. Give me a little background on this project. What lead to it? What does NoHo Confidential mean to you?

Photo by  Joyce Elsroad

Photo by Joyce Elsroad

Brady Harris: Well, the band is from North Hollywood (NoHo) and title comes from a distant memory I had of a Jerry Lee Lewis song called “High School Confidential” which was apparently from a movie of the same title. I’d never heard the song before, let alone seen the movie, but reading that title somewhere, it intrigued me and (obviously) stuck with me. Of course, as soon as I start telling people the title of our record, they’re like “Ha, cool. Like ‘LA Confidential’, but North Hollywood instead!”. I don’t even bother to try to explain. It does makes sense if I would’ve gotten it from the latter movie. But it’s from Jerry Lee…

As for where the project came from, after the band had several months of gigging under our belts it kind of naturally came up in discussion. Also, one of the benefactors who has funded my recordings said I should consider recording my next project with the band, thus the record was conceived.

As for what it means to me, I’d say we’re happily plying our trade, gigging, recording, etc far under the radar here in North Hollywood.

Who (or what) is the song “You I Know” about?

BH: I think it’s just about a close personal connection or some spiritual intimacy you might have with someone or some thing (inner self, “god”, nature, belief, what have you) that transcends locale or situation. It’s there, everywhere with you and you connect with it and you draw strength, resolve and acceptance from it. Geez, this is sounding a bit new agey for me! ha…

There’s a lot of cuteness, and empty cleverness that passes for good songwriting sometimes, but I’m not buying it.

 Talking about it in those terms, do you find that sometimes the song writing process is more about conveying a concept than an actual story?

BH: Yeah, I definitely think the songwriting process (lyrically) is sometimes more about conveying a concept than an actual story.  For me, it’s often about trying to capture a mood, paint a scene or document some moment in time.  There may be no beginning, middle or end, you’re just catching a glimpse.  Like eavesdropping while the noise, the din dips.

Photo by Joyce Elsroad

Photo by Joyce Elsroad

What is your song writing process like for your solo work and for BHB?

BH: The songwriting process for me is the same for most.  There’s no set formula.  Lyrics first. Music second. Lyrics second. Melody first. Sometimes I sit down to write. Other times I’m randomly inspired by something non-musical.  Other times I’m not trying to write, but stumble upon some progression on the piano or guitar that intrigues me.  I think writing good songs in the traditional sense is tough task.  It’s not something everyone can do.  Writing songs, however, is pretty easy.  I’m never impressed by how many songs someone has written, only by how many good ones they have written.  There’s a lot of cuteness, and empty cleverness that passes for good songwriting sometimes, but I’m not buying it.

Including an instrumental on a more pop oriented album seems risky. What lead to the creation and inclusion of Night at La Carafe?

BH: “La Carafe” is an amazing, ancient bar in Houston, the city I grew up in. I believe it’s the oldest in the city limits. Needless to say, I had some good times there. It’s dark, candle-lit and the first place I ever heard Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit” on a scratchy 45, I’ll never forget the moment). Hearing her transfixed me. She was also my first experience with the power of understated singing, an art that can sometimes seem rare these days.

As for why to include it on a Pop album, I’d just say that my records generally jump around genre-wise. Also, I have a tendency to close them all with an instrumental. I like the idea of instrumentals when it’s a vocal band. Also, I figure after listening to a whole album of me singing and prattling on about this and that, song after song, the good listener deserves a break. Right?

What does pop mean to you? For a current younger crowd it may mean Justin Bieber, but the Beatles were a pop band though people look more at their classic rock or experimental side now.

BH: Pop and Rock – the uneasy classification!
Although “Pop” stands for “popular”, to me it’s loosely defined as the more melodic, light of touch side of songwriting. Rock would be the edgier, grittier bits. But labels are mostly meaningless, I suppose. It’s interesting how labels stay the same, but what they represent keep changing. Like “Country Music” for one. Willie Nelson wouldn’t even get played on a “Country Music” station.

Photo by Joyce Elsroad

Photo by Joyce Elsroad

Who or what inspires you most?

BH: The Beatles, for so many reasons. But so many other artists and songs other than just them. But the Beatles story paints the classic picture of against-all-odds, and not only succeeding, but changing the rules along the way, like few others could. As for other sources of inspiration, photographs of rock & roll can be very inspirational, just like film clips, videos, etc. Sometimes you get the feeling that Rock & Roll is a self-fulfilling, self feeding beast. It feeds on its young! I like how Ronnie Wood once said, “That’s the great thing about Rock & Roll, it’s always dying, yet no one can ever kill it off”. Or words to that effect.

Have you actually sailed away to Ensenada Bay? (re: the song Mexico) 

BH: Never!

You were primarily a solo artist recently. What made you switch from Brady Harris to Brady Harris band?

BH: I still do solo gigs, duo gigs, etc. but the BHB just fell together out of seemingly thin air, thanks in part to my friend (and fellow musician) Scott Woeckel, after an invitation to do a “band” gig.

How did this band get put together for the album and who will be playing with you live?

The BHB band is the same as the recording band. My esteemed colleagues and co-conspirators are:
John Adair: Lead Guitar, Vocals, and lots of other stuff
Marc Bernal: Bass Guitar, Vocals and baked goods.
Steve Markowitz: Drums, Vocals and transit authority

What’s on the Horizon for Brady Harris band?

BH: We’re invading the Central Coast wine country.

Cotton candy or saltwater taffy?

BH: Sorry, was never into candy-sweet treats. Only dark chocolate for me. 72% is good!


Purchase NoHo Confidential and Brady’s previous albums at http://bradyharris.bandcamp.com/

And be sure to check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bradyharrismusic

 

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After an extended holiday break SKOM is back with a new interview. This week we are joined by Julie Gibbs. Julie is a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist who is multi-awesome!


JulieBlonde2You took piano at a very young age. What prompted that?

Julie Gibbs: That was my mom’s idea.  She started my lessons in kindergarten, but they only lasted through first grade, then again in fourth.  Now I realize how valuable those lessons were.  They helped me learn how to read both bass and treble clef at a young age, which saved some trouble later in life when picking up the saxophone and bass!

How did you get interested in sax? 

JG: In 3rd grade, we had the option of learning a string instrument.  I learned the cello, but wanted to try something new.  When we had the option to play a woodwind or brass instrument in 4th grade, I tried the saxophone, and it felt right.  To this day I go into mini depressions if I go long periods of time without playing it.

Was learning klezmer music influenced by your family background?

JG: Yes, definitely.  I actually never heard of the genre prior to the klezmer ensemble at Berklee College of Music (my alum).  Once I found out that it was music of the Eastern European Jews, I had to give it a listen.  The sound was instantly appealing.

Tell me about Cats on Mars. How did that start?

JG: The singer and songwriter of the band, Tommy Pedrini, is a friend of mine from Berklee.  We were both in the Film Scoring major, so we had many classes together.  When I moved to L.A. (from N.Y.), he asked me if I wanted to play with him.  He is a very talented songwriter and downright awesome person, so I couldn’t say no.  We are in the process of finishing up a few tracks for an EP.

You also play bass in Haskala. How did you get hooked up with that and what has that been like? 

JG: Believe it or not, half of Haskala responded to a craigslist ad.  When I moved to L.A., I wanted to find a klezmer band to play with.  I typed the word “klezmer” into a search, and the ad for Haskala popped right up. I met the singer Steve at his place, played a few songs, and it was Haskamagic from then on!

It’s been a blast playing with HaSkaLa.  What I love most about playing with them is that we’re all talented musicians without the ego.  They’re just a great group of people to play with and I’m thankful to be part of the whole experience.

You also have an interesting double album you have been working on for sometime. What inspired that? 

JG: Oh goodness, haha.  Well, it started over 3 years ago when I was still in New York.  I had spent a lot of time listening to The Barry Sisters Greatest Hits CD, and thought that some of their tracks, specifically “Chiribim Chiribom”, could be updated into a really cool, funky tune.  I lack the computer and editing skills but have a forte in arranging, so it all started from there.  At the time, I recorded a few Barry Sisters remakes.  After moving to Los Angeles, I had this burst of creativity, and started writing lyrics.  The songs collected over time, and it eventually got to the point when I realized that they all needed to be recorded.  Since the recording process has been dragged out for so long, I currently have 24 tracks to record.

How is that coming along? Is there an end in sight? 

JG: I’m happy to report that as of now, the drums and bass are completely finished!  I’m taking it step by step, layering the guitar, keys, horns, and vocals one after the other.   Hopefully the album will be in its final stages by June.  Stay tuned!

What do you hope to accomplish/get out of that project?

JG: At this point, I just want to get my music into the world.  One of the greatest feelings in the world is hearing people say that they enjoy my originals.  Therefore, I release music, and people are happy.  It’s a win-win! 🙂

What has been your favorite live show you have played so far?

JG: Well, I was very fortunate to share the stage with Denis Leary and some friends for a show at the Nokia Theater in Times Square back in 2006, playing sax.  I got to hang out backstage with Breckin Meyer, Tom Morello, and Slash.  It was a trip.  This gig occurred one month after I got laid off from a job, so it was a fantastic pick-me-up, to say the least.  And what a rush playing in front of thousands of people!

Where can people see you next?

JG: Cats On Mars is MIA at the moment due to recording, and Haskala has a gig at Molly Malone’s on Wednesday February 13th, 9:30pm sharp. Also, be on the lookout for Felix Goldstein (my stage name) at an open mic night near you in Los Angeles!

What is your favorite dessert and why? 

JG: This may be a bit predictable, but most certainly cupcakes.  Since I’m lactose intolerant, I have to search for vegan or dairy-free versions, or make my own.  Thankfully vegan cupcakes are prevalent in Los Angeles, and thankfully the vegan versions are moist and delicious!  Thank you for asking.

JulieCupcake


I can’t thank Julie enough for the interview. You can keep up with her at all these fine locations:

Demos at Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/julie-gibbs-1

Cats On Mars https://www.facebook.com/catsonmarsmusic?fref=ts

HaSkaLa https://www.facebook.com/HaSkaLA?fref=ts

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