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Verdugo ParkToday we visit some new material by SKOM favorite Brandon Schott. Brandon’s new EP “Verdugo Park” is just three songs. The opener, the titular “Verdugo Park”, is an amalgam of Schott’s influences and is catchy as hell. Seriously, I’ve had it stuck in my head since I first listened to it. I want to go to Verduga Park. I want to get on the merry-go-round and sing this song. You will too. Then we head into the psychedelia wonderland that is the instrumental “Lapiz Lazuli”. This song is 2 minutes of pure 1960’s freakout. Talk about atmosphere, these two minutes have it. The instrumentation on “Lapiz Lazuli” and “Verdugo Park” is lush and complex. I kept hearing something new with each listen. And trust me, you will want to keep listening.

The third song, a cover of the Sherman Brothers’ “Castaway” from the movie ‘In Search Of The Castaways‘, stands in stark contrast to the other two songs. It is a simple and straight forward arrangement. It is just as atmospheric as the other two songs, but on the other side of the scale.

And then you are done. That’s it. And you are sitting there wondering “Where’s the rest?” “Why don’t I have a WHOLE ALBUM full of this?” And then you go to pre-order the EP here and you read

“VERDUGO PARK” is the 2nd single (following last winter’s “HENRY”) from Brandon’s upcoming 5th full length album, “Crayons & Angels”

And you breathe a sigh of relief. And you realize “life can’t be that hard in Verdugo Park.” Some day you will have a WHOLE ALBUM! In the meantime pre-order the EP at the link above and then watch the video for “Verdugo Park” below.

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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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Today we return to Los Angeles to speak with Steven Eric Wilson of Plasticsoul. We’re going deep, kids. Hang on tight.


Tell me a little about your background. How you got into music. 

Steven Eric Wilson: I had 5 older brothers and sisters who filled my head with all sorts of music from as early as I can remember.  It was probably Kiss who made me want to be a musician.  They were like super heroes with guitars.

How did Plasticsoul come together?

SEW: When I was 15 I joined my first band – a really horrible punk band – playing bass guitar.  Our guitar player had a $15 pawn shop guitar that was made from particle board.  Our drummer played Synsonics drums (no, seriously).  I played with a couple more bands after that before I got disillusioned with the whole “band” thing and decided to do things on my own.   I liked the idea of being a solo artist while using a band moniker like Matt Johnson/The The.  Originally I wanted to call the band The Sal Mineos but my friend told me that I might have problems with the estate of Sal Mineo so I changed it to Plasticsoul. During the recording of our first album, Pictures From The Long Ago, Marc Bernal became a permanent fixture in the group.  We did as much of the production, recording, and playing as we could do on our own, and got help from our friends when we couldn’t.  During the recording of our second album, Peacock Swagger, we made the decision to add members to the group in order to better recreate live what we were doing in the studio.

Is your band’s name “Plasticsoul” a reference to the term black musicians in the 60s used to describe Mick Jagger (a white musician singing soul music)?

SEW: Yes.  After that Paul McCartney said “plastic soul man, plastic soul” in the fade out of The Beatles track “I’m Down”.  Then they mutated the phrase into their album title Rubber Soul.  I wanted something that reminded people of vintage music.  All of our amps and guitars are pre 1970 and we are heavily influenced by classic rock, so it seemed appropriate.

 I hear some Beatles influence, but mostly in the vocals. Is that intentional?

SEW: The Beatles are a huge influence on me.  They were innovators and they wrote amazing songs.  I don’t intentionally try to sing like any member of The Beatles and I don’t really hear it myself.  It’s strange how many people hear different things in my voice.  I’ve gotten Michael Penn, George Michael (??) and Billy Corgan (?!?!?!) and others.

Tell me about the song “Over & Over.”

SEW: Over & Over is about trying to ignore emotional pain by burying it deep within you and trying to forget it.  I grew up trying to do this and it doesn’t work.  Eventually all of that poison will bubble back up to the surface and really mess you up mentally and physically.  That song was a big exorcism for me.  I’m really proud of that one.

What inspires you musically and lyrically?

SEW: I’m inspired by whatever I’m feeling at the time.  I’m not usually very direct in my lyric writing.  My lyrics tend to be more about imagery than about saying something specific.  I like leaving things open to interpretation.

I’m inspired musically by real instruments.  Music that is made without digital correction.  I love hearing mistakes.  Some of my favorite parts of songs are mistakes or things that shouldn’t be there.  The squeaky kick drum pedal in James Brown’s Sex Machine makes me smile every time.

Yes! Exactly. Jimi Hendrix is someone who has inspired so many guitarists to be extremely proficient and yet he has mistakes on his albums and also never played his songs the same way twice. Is Plasticsoul similarly fluid live?

SEW: Oh god yes!  Our bass player Marc often complains because we sound so different live than we do on record.  To me, that’s a good thing.  There was a band in the 80’s that I really loved called Lions & Ghosts.  On their first album they had all of these lush string arrangements, piano, etc, and when you saw them live it was just 2 guitars, bass, drums, and vocals.  And they were AWESOME live!  That was what I wanted with Plasticsoul.  Our guitar player Daniel is always changing up his pedals so his sound is often different, and he rarely plays the exact same thing twice.   My guitar solos tend to be more scripted but that is just because I’m not as good a guitar player as Daniel.  Overall, I think we still sound like Plasticsoul when we perform live.

What do you want people to get from your music?

SEW: The beauty of imperfection.

What do you get from your music?

SEW:  Catharsis

What are your highest aspirations for Plasticsoul?

SEW: I would be very happy if I could make enough money from my music to support myself, my wife, and our cats.  That doesn’t mean I would be upset if suddenly we were as big as Queen and playing stadiums.  If we can continue to make music that I can be proud of, make a living, and take the show on the road so we can meet the people outside the US that bought our records, I would be very happy

What is your assessment of the LA music scene and music in general right now?

SEW: There are some amazing musicians in Los Angeles making fabulous records.  Brandon Schott (who is a casual member of Plasticsoul), the breakups, John Hoskinson, Everyday Ghost, The Condors, Brian Whelan…tons of great artists!  Unfortunately, the club scene isn’t very supportive.  If we could inject the passion of our LA musicians into our LA club owners we might be able to achieve something.

Chicken, pork, beef, or tofu?

SEW: Back in August I cut all animal protein out of my diet with the exception of chicken and fish.  One of the things I thought I was going to miss the most was chorizo.  Then I found SOYrizo and its delicious – so I will have to go with tofu.


 

Plasticsoul’s latest CD Peacock Swagger voted

#1 on Absolute Powerpop’s Top 100 CDs of 2009 List!

#1 on PowerPopAholic’s Top CD’s of 2009 List!

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Twice now I have gone to see specific headlining bands and wound up being blown away by the opening acts. Before I get to the who and how let me make one point. You’ve spent the money, it’s for both bands, why not go? I understand if you know the opening act and think they suck. Sure, don’t go then. But if you’ve never heard of them, go check ’em out.

Now the who etc.

First, we went to see They Might Be Giants. They are all that and a book on math. So good. The opening band was Oppenheimer. They are from Ireland. It’s just two guys, Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly. They use a prerecorded, preprogrammed portions of songs when performing live. Shaun sings and plays drums while Rocky plays guitar, provides vocoder vocals, and plays the mighty Moog. Oppenheimer has a synth-pop sensibility and et completely rock. From the slow jam of Breakfast in NY to the upbeat and catchy Saturday Looks Bad To Me Oppenheimer has it all.

Second, we wet to see The Go! Team. Best show ever! If you have the means I highly recommend checking them out. The opening band for that concert was Bodies Of Water. Bodies Of Water hail from some part of L.A. They have a decidedly retro feel. Bodies Of Water have clearly done their homework and sound authentic and yet new. They have an infectious energy. Especially from Meredith Metcalf, and especially at the end of These are The Eyes. Bodies Of Water also having a brilliant vocal approach that is both four part harmony and call and response.

Check out the above bands and see if they appeal to you. They both have something different to offer. But most of all go see the opening act. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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