The Cudas – Alien Vacation (Q&A, and more)

Alien Vacation is the new EP from The Cudas and features four brand new songs. Power Pop in its purest form. Add The Cudas to the list that also includes Radio Days, The Reflectors, and The Speedways

Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Reinhard van Biljon about the all-time hall of fame fantasy camp, the Boss BR-600 digital recorder, and Tommy Lee.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Wow, that’s a big ask. I’ll go ahead and cheat here. Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, Ric Ocasek from The Cars (RIP), Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish, Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne (RIP), Mike Viola, and throw Brian Wilson in there as well since we’re dreaming. Those would be my all-time hall of fame fantasy camp. But there are so many guys I would love to brain milk in the independent scene at the moment. Guys like Kurt Baker, Dario Persi from Radio Days…okay this is getting ridiculous, but can I get Tom-Lord Alge to mix the thing?

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Fountains of Wayne – Maureen

Redd Kross – Get Out of Myself

Teen Machine – Bitchin’ Camaro

Mike Viola – It Does A Number On My Brain

Weezer – Since You Came Around

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

I’ve been writing little snippets of music for the longest time, but they never went beyond a little melody over a guitar part until quite recently. I always put it off, but then one day about two years ago I just got a little Boss BR-600 digital recorder and finally finished one little demo. That was “Kids Want Hits.” I might have posted it in a group somewhere, but when a few people started playing it on podcasts and a couple of radio shows, I thought I might be able to do something here.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s huge. I have way more little ideas for songs than I have time to actually finish them. I tend to come up with loads of little 20 second songs, usually just a hummed melody over guitar strumming, and then I move on to something else. I’ll come back to it at some point to turn it into a song, but sometimes I browse my files and I have no memory of the little tune.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

Might sound like a strange choice, but Steel Panther in Los Angeles. I went to the States to visit my brother and we flew to California so I could see the holy land for all things skateboarding-related from my teen days. We’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for 80s hair bands, so we went to see them on the Sunset Strip. The guy at the door was so happy with how far we came that he handed us these armbands for an after-show party at the top of the venue.

While watching them play, my brother and I stood right next to Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke, which was kind of hilarious. But really the highlight of the memory for me was when we went to the little party thing they had with band members later on and I saw Rivers Cuomo there…I couldn’t muster up the courage to say anything, but hey. If I did, maybe some butterfly effect would have sent him on a collision course and we would have Raditude III now.

The James Clark Institute – The Colour Of Happy

Moe Berg (The Pursuit Of Happiness) says “James takes the power pop traditions of The Beatles, Jellyfish and Split Enz and combines them with the high IQ lyrics of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The result makes him one of Canada’s greatest unsung songwriters”. 

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to James about how The Colour Of Happy came about.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Looking back, I think that every time I’ve started a new project, I have felt like I’m onto something. But with this new album, “The Colour Of Happy” I ‘m definitely onto something! This is the one! No, really, REALLY this time!

How did this record come together?

Due to life’s other plans, it was a slow process to say the least. In October 2017 Moe Berg and I began talking about working together again on a new JCI album (he had produced most of the last album, “Yesterday’s Misadventures”). I eventually began sending Moe demos of songs and by the end of 2018 we had picked the songs to record. We didn’t actually get into the studio until May 0f 2019 for various reasons. We spent the rest of that year recording off and on, whenever schedules would allow, and it looked like tracking would finally be finished by March 2020. But as I mentioned earlier, life had other plans. We had one last session booked when the first Covid lock down struck. So, we ended up having to wait until September 2020 to finish the tracking. Mixing took place through the fall and was wrapped up by December. Mastering was completed in the early new year and… Ta Da! Just like that, here we are!

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

I don’t usually like to ask for a lot of opinions. Too many cooks can spoil the souffle. However, half of the songs on the album were worked up by the band and performed live to test drive them. The other half were originally demoed as simple guitar and voice recordings and sent to Moe. He and I arranged those songs together and were never performed until we got into the studio.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

As I understand it, success these days for an artist is to get your music on as many Spotify playlists as you possibly can. As much as that would be a real high to have happen and I hope it does find an audience in that regard, I already feel a great sense of reward knowing that this group of amazing musicians, singers and engineers have created a “hit album.” The only missing component is the opportunity to tour the album. Hopefully we’ll have the chance to do that at some point.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

Frustratingly great! Because the making of the new album was such a long process, I can’t help but look at those songs as being quite old to me although I know they are brand new to the world. But there has always been a big part of me that just wants to keep moving forward. With not a lot of anything going on this past year, I’ve spent a large part of it writing. I’m already thinking of the next album and what it might sound like. If I’m not creating, then I’m not “The Colour Of Happy.”

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

It would be a two-way tie for different reasons. We played an outdoor festival show in June of 2017. My mother was very ill at the time, but she had decided that she wanted to attend. It was a lovely moment to look out from the stage and see her smiling and obviously having a good time. She passed a couple of months later and so that memory of her really enjoying herself for probably the last time in her life remains very vivid with me. A few months later we were at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto opening up a sold-out show for The Pursuit Of Happiness. There’s no better feeling than having a sold-out room of people who are there to see the other band, digging your songs and your sound.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

Every time I release an album the little braggart inside of me thinks he’s written at least one hit. But on this new album he thinks he’s written a few! Once the album was mixed and mastered, Moe stated that if this was a different time, we’d have a smash hit on our hands. I would definitely agree. So yes, this time the little braggart might be right but he’s a few decades off.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Absolutely! But I may say that because I love recording. There’s that old saying that says once the record is finished that that’s when the real work begins. That’s when it’s time to do my promo cap and my promo cap isn’t the most comfortable fit. Let’s face it, there is a whole lot of music out there these days competing for everyone’s short attention span.

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

The last 5 songs I listened to today. 1. Too Many people – Paul McCartney 2. History Never Repeats – Split Enz 3. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Frank Sinatra 4. Fat Pop – Paul Weller 5. The Only Living Boy In New York – Simon & Garfunkel.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?


I’ve been told that the lyrics are my strongest point, and they are certainly what I spend the most time on. Maybe a little too much time but I won’t release anything until I’m satisfied that I’ve not overused the word “baby”. On a side note, because The Colour Of Happy has been released on vinyl, it gave me the opportunity to include a lyric sheet this time around.

LMNOP – whatNOP dONW7

LMNOP’s new record, whatNOP dONW7, will be released on July 16th and is fantastic. Raw, pure, and poetic.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Stephen Fievet about the fear of digital recording technology, the urge to create, and his new $ 15 guitar amp.

How did this record come together?

A cheap dusty amplifier was the initial stimulus.  A cool guy at a yard sale sold me his guitar amp for $15.  I figured it would sound like crap.  But it has a real kickass sound.  That amp helped me overcame my fear of digital recording technology.  Now I don’t give a damn if I understand it or not.  And I also don’t care if things get dusty or broken during the process.  Things work best when I randomly hit buttons and twist knobs without really knowing what I’m doing.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

You are right about that.  People once considered success to be specific things like money and fame (some are still in this limiting mindset).  But I don’t think that’s the case as much now.  Success is your mind.  If you feel good about something you’ve created, in my opinion, you have achieved success.  So the new one’s already a success in that respect.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I don’t understand the urge to create but it apparently is compulsive.  Melodies and arrangements randomly appear in my head and for some reason, I feel compelled to capture them.  I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of song ideas stored away for future reference.  There’s no way I could ever use them all.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

It feels very comfortable.  I rarely share very private thoughts with people I know.  It’s much easier to share those thoughts in songs.  When I was very young it meant a great deal to me when songwriters really spoke to me through their lyrics.  So I attempt to do the same.  Some songwriters helped me get through some very rough times with their honesty.  I agree with you, lyrics are often taken for granted.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

That would probably be this year when I was working on “Things.”  The damn thing got stuck in my head like glue.  It seemed like it would make a good lead track.  But it almost did not make it onto the album because the first mix was horrible.  But when I asked Jason NeSmith (mastering engineer) to delete the song he said it really stuck with him too.  So that caused me to remix and keep it.

Bang! The Sails Best of 2006 – 2020

If you don’t know Michael Gagliano’s music and ‘Bang! The Sails Best of 2006 – 2020‘ is your first encounter with The Sails, then you get the surprise of a lifetime. I speak from experience.

It is not without reason that Mojo speaks about the best Power Pop band in the UK. This anthology contains sixteen songs and all sixteen are very good. Very, very good, I mean.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Michael, who also plays John Lennon in the Let It Be musical, about catchy memorable songs, timeless pop songs, and songs about love.

You get it.

What are you most proud of when you listen to Bang! The Sails Best of 2006 – 2020?

I’m proud of every song on this album. It’s a great collection of really good catchy memorable songs. In these modern days, great songs are rare, but on Bang!, every song is a winner. It’s a collection of timeless pop songs everyone will dig, regardless of genre niches.

You’ll read a lot of compliments that say things like “if Oasis covered Peter Shilton, then …” or “In a better world, Best Day was the biggest hit of the last 20 years.” Bittersweet?

To be honest, I can’t imagine a band like Oasis covering my music. They were a juggernaut of a band, traveling at 1000 miles an hour, crushing everything in its path. The Sails is more like a zippy sports car going down the back streets, going places a huge monster truck couldn’t go.

It’s not important to me if I’m overlooked or overshadowed by giants. I’ve only ever made music for me, not for accolades.

The Sails is you. Do you write and record on your own?

The Sails is my solo project. I write and record everything on my own but sometimes I have hired 2 drummer friends to play on the albums and playing live I will take one of the 2 guys on the road with some other session players to perform the songs live.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I’m just grateful to be alive and to be able to make music. Everything else is just a bonus. I don’t think about success in monetary form or fame. Currently, people from all over the world are listening to my music. In Stockholm and Venezuela, people buy my music. To me, that is a success.

I get letters and messages of gratitude saying how much they love what I do. That is worth more to me than cars or houses.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

There is no urge to stay creative, it’s a natural process, it’s what I was born to do, it’s what I have always done, I don’t question it. It’s just always been there and it hopefully will always stay with me.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

One show that sticks in my mind was the Isle of Wight festival in 2007, and being on the same stage as The Bees and Eddie Piller, two of my favorite acts. The audience was great that day.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted. What is the line of text or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember? And why?

Lyrics are just a part of the magic. I’m no Bob Dylan and I think it’s the whole wash of a song that touches people, not just the sentiment. Words are the most powerful weapon a human being has but I use mine for love and peace, like The Fabs did, as most of my songs are about love…man!

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

What is a hit now? You can have millions of listeners streaming your music and only get peanuts. I don’t think in those terms. A hit to me is ‘do I like the song?’, not how many listens it gets or how many likes it receives online.

I’m not a fan of the internet, it’s made human beings far more insecure, especially sensitive and creative artists who are not getting fairly treated.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Making music is a natural thing to do for me. It’s been harder in lockdown as I only had a mic and a mac and a guitar.

Trying to make songs sound the best they can is tough with just headphones to use but that is how I recorded The Sails new album ‘Brighter Futures’ (out on cd July 2021on Kool Kat Musik but available to stream now here.)

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

6. Anything from The Small Faces

5. Anything from The Who

4. Anything from Marvin Gaye

3 Any track by The Kinks

2. Every single song by The Jam

1. Any song of The Beatles’ amazing catalog.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I’m very lucky as I have been able to record at some of the best studios in the UK, like Rockfield in Wales and Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, with great engineers but it’s always been me producing. I would like to work with a producer soon so I can just be the guy making the music and not have to worry about every other aspect.

I would like to produce for other artists too one day, so anyone interested in me producing them should shout me out.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

It’s what being a musician is all about, playing and connecting, in the moment, with other humans.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

Song is king, nothing else matters. Most modern acts look good and sell to a predetermined demographic, but the songs aren’t there. We should return to a time where it is all about the song.

The new album Brighter Futures was written in lockdown with only me and limited gear. It’s about living with vast changes in the world caused by covid. The cover is me using lights and mirrors on a blank white wall to create the image of pushing thru tough times to brighter futures for us all. It’s a darker sounding, less 60s, record, more unique to me. I didn’t want it sounding like The Beatles etc, so I kept it very honest, stripped, and simple.

All Over The Shop (Q&A)

Even when Todd Wicks is Poppin’, he Rocks! All Over The Shop is the name of his new band (and the self titled debut EP).

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to him about The Set That Never Was, listening to your own music and a hard-rock guy like Nikki Sixx.

How did this record come together?

The idea behind this project was to write some songs that we could perform as a stripped-down rock trio, similar to the first Ex Hex record. We spent a few months sort of trading instruments but when Brandon moved from drums to guitar and my brother Joel came out to play drums it all clicked. Then, when shows went away in 2020, we decided we could afford to record the 5 best songs from The Set That Never Was. 

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I’m usually so time/budget-conscious that it’s difficult for me to let go and enjoy the recording experience. The most fun is bringing a song to practice and hearing what Brandon and Joel do with it. They’re so good and funny and bring so much to the table. I also hope we get to play a show at some point. 

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

I’m proud of “Tongue-Tied” because we wanted to pay tribute to a friend of ours named Eric Damore who passed away. I was struggling to come up with anything that didn’t feel cheesy or hadn’t already been said in 100 other songs. Finally, I decided to write about the last night I saw him and the unusual setting it was in and that felt good. I like that while most songs tell you “It’s all right” or “It’s gonna be alright” this song clearly says “It ISN’T alright” because losing someone young never sits right, even years later. 

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I would normally make fun of the idea of “self care” but during the past year I realized that’s what writing songs is for me: it’s 100% to help me feel good about myself. My family catches me listening to our own music all the time and I used to get embarrassed, but now I’m completely unashamed; as Brandon says, “If we don’t enjoy listening to it, why bother?” 

Plus, if you stop writing songs then you don’t get to go to practice and have a night off from your regular routine. That’s very important. 

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Jim Vallance (R.I.P.)becauseSteven Tyler spoke so glowingly about him in the “Making of Pump” videocassette, plus Bryan Adams’s “Reckless” was a big influence on our EP. I think we could have made some hits together in the ‘80s. 

Andrew Farriss from INXS because he’s underrated as a songwriter and seems like an easy-going collaborator. I feel like I could embarrass myself in front of him trying different things and he would be encouraging. 

I would also love to write with a hard-rock guy like Nikki Sixx or Stephen Pearcy because I sincerely love stuff like early Crue, Ratt, Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns yet it’s the hardest thing in the world for a guy from the Michigan suburbs to write in that L.A., shoot-from-the-hip style with mega attitude. I would probably be horrified by their approach toward life but could learn a lot creatively. 


All Over The Shop is Todd Wicks, Brandon Malik and Joel Wicks

Caper Clowns – Abdicate the Throne

Caper Clowns has a great new record out. Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Rick Kingo about the creation of Abdicate the Throne, Danish National Radio, The Cavern Club, and being present in the moment.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

I have always felt like I was on to something. Since I wrote my first song at 15. Looking back now I know that I was not, and I’m very happy we didn’t start releasing music till much later, but at the time I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

How did this record come together?

I think we started working on it in late 2018, right after releasing A Salty Taste To The Lake. The five of us all write songs, so we just did a lot of songs, and then we picked which ones seemed to fit together. Originally, we intended to release the album in May 2020, but the pandemic made us decide to postpone it, redo some stuff, add two new songs to it (CAPS LOCK ON and I’d Be Me), and change the order of the songs, which I think made the album quite a lot more complete.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I think we would be happy to get some airplay, and some positive reviews, which luckily, we already have. Three of the singles have been on Danish National Radio, as well as multiple international indie stations, and so far, all reviews have been very positive. Our next goal is to get more and bigger gigs, and hopefully the positive reception of the new album can help us get there. It’s certainly starting to look that way, even though we’re of course still slowed down by the pandemic.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I think that’s inevitable for me at this point. Even if I had absolutely no audience whatsoever, I would still write. I would probably not spend years working on recording the songs, but the basic song writing, me and my guitar or a piano, that is just what I do.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

No, not at all. Letting people, especially people close to me, hear the more personal songs is definitely very uncomfortable and even scary. But there isn’t really any way around it, and after three albums now it is getting slightly easier to deal with, but I doubt I will ever feel comfortable doing it.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

Our first time at The Cavern Club, as part of the International Pop Overthrow Festival. I had wanted to play there for years, but I never actually thought we would. So, it was huge to get invited, and to finally stand on that stage. The weird thing is I have no memory of playing that night, but I remember other little things, like repeatedly bumping my head into the ceiling, and being taught a new cool way to do a high five by a Scottish guy we met backstage. 

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

I think it must have been when I wrote the music to Kissing Daylight, from our second album, A Salty Taste To The Lake. It did get a bit of airplay, but it was by no means the most successful song on that album. By contrast The Way I Dream from the same album got a lot of airplay (still does), on national radio in Denmark, but I would probably not even have continued working on it, if my dad hadn’t heard me playing it through the wall, and walked in to inform me it was good, and I had to finish it. I ended up not really finishing it, but luckily, he and our bass player were able to do that.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

I think both are quite difficult. Getting it heard takes hard work and a great deal of luck. Recording it takes less luck, but even more work, especially if you’re producing it yourselves, like we do.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

For me it’s the creative process. I just enjoy creating music.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

It’s just being present in the moment, with a bunch of people all focused on the same thing. It’s brilliant.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

I think at this point, I’m looking for anything big and loud with proper music. After over a year of mostly just seeing the same ten people, it felt good to see a lot more people at our release party last week.

Richie Mayer – The Inn of Temporary Happiness

Richie Mayer’s new record, The Inn of Temporary Happiness, sounds like an ode to the music Mayer feels connected to. He uses many different styles without the record becoming a hotchpotch. You can hear the influences of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Cars, and Glenn Campbell, just so you are aware there is a country song included as well :). Mayer takes you on a musical journey but you may have expected that when you saw the album cover.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Richie about songs that were waiting to be sung, health insurance and, his former Power Pop band, Loose Lips.

How did this record come together?

The album came together of its own free will really; I was just dragged into it….

Actually, the Covid lockdown restrictions became a kind of freedom as I retreated to my home studio, and to my surprise, songs were waiting to be sung where I thought there were none. I wrote thirteen of the new songs on the album in six weeks, a world record for me. Then the hard work began as I was, essentially, “the band.” I sang all the vocals, played all the instruments, recorded and produced the tracks. I mixed remotely using Audiomovers software with studios in Chicago, Austin, and Omaha, another new experience.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

Truth be told, when I saw how varied the final selection of songs would be I thought it best to just put it out there and let it tell its own story.

 The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

Health insurance?

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

For some of us, it’s not even a choice; it’s the air we breathe, really. The mystery of songwriting for me is that you never know where or when or how inspiration will manifest itself, but you damm well better be there to open the door when The Muse knocks.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?

My Power Pop group at the time, Loose Lips, was playing the Chicagofest/Rock Around The Dock concert at Navy Pier, and at the last minute, our band was switched from the pop stage to the heavy metal stage. Throughout the set people were giving us the finger, throwing objects at us with one guy spitting on me. Our fans found us and a melee broke out.

At the end of the show, I was on full boil and was going to jump from the barge to the dock and clock the spitting f**ker with my guitar. Our road manager was looking at me with wild eyes shaking his head no so I turned, unplugged my guitar, and with a running start hurled my ’66 Fender Stratocaster into Lake Michigan.

Almost instantly, some young kid dove into the lake to get it and security people had to throw a rope at him to pull him and the guitar back in. The events’ Chicago city manager threatened to sue me as they pulled the kid out of the drink with water pouring out of the input jack. He tried to give it back to me but I let him keep it after he, of course, asked me to sign the guitar.

But it wasn’t all for naught though; the next day we had a front-page Chicago Tribune entertainment section headline – “Headliner Cheap Trick Heats Up Crowd; Crowd Heats Up Loose Lips” with the writer giving us one of our better reviews.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Yes, but it’s harder to get someone to actually buy it as opposed to ”Like” it.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, what would they be?

That each song on my album is a short story. And that the backing vocals and instrumental tracks on that song all color the story, create the mood, give you a key to another room at The Inn of Temporary Happiness. 

Ruby Bones – Laser Tooth Tiger

Indie Rock, Classic Rock, Power Pop. Musical genres with different characteristics, but if you take the right elements and put them together, you get something beautiful. Ruby Bones has delivered a beautiful record with Laser Tooth Tiger.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Chris Fox about the cornucopia, Julian Casablancas, and new spins on timeless things.

How did this record come together?

Laser Tooth Tiger was born from the idea that our first record was a bit dark and we wanted to do something brighter and sunnier. Once the first few songs came together, the theme of being nostalgic about the past came shining through in the lyrics. So while there ended up being a light story of one relationship ending and another starting, it’s more about finding yourself in your early 20s and navigating how to take the world in stride. 

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

We would love a small devoted group of people who know all the words to the songs and come to all of our shows, that would be the purest success in my eyes. Past that, we always want to reach more people, but we want them to be invested in the songs. So many acts come and go, but Ruby Bones would like to be in it for the long run making sweet records that people get behind, even if we change sounds and genres a bit across them.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Oh, this is a fun one! I’d say the first is Julian Casablancas because of the way his mind works (The Voidz are next level in terms of songwriting and music theory). 

Second would be John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. Just to take a glimpse at how he crafts his stories and characters would probably be eye-opening. Plus he writes a lot of songs that he puts together thematically, Beat the Champ being my favorite record. I even run a Facebook group about it!

Third I’d pick all of the Walkmen (cheating, I know) to help flesh out the sound of a record. At the end of the day, there are only so many chord progressions in a writer’s book, but the way they were able to create such lush songs that conjured and captured emotion is legendary, at least to me.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

The urge is great, my newest friend. Lots of songwriters go through phases of writing and not writing, but most seem to stick with it their whole lives. I can see it getting more challenging as time goes on, what with all songs being about life, love, and death, but for right now I feel the cornucopia is plentiful. Over the last few years, I’ve found pulling a few songs along a similar theme and crafting a full record around said theme can yield great results. I’d recommend that to anyone stuck in a rut. You have to have an idea of what you want to say before you can say it, then edit it, then say it better.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What are some lyrics on Laser Tooth Tiger that you hope listeners will remember and why?

I personally love putting wordplay into songs; just interesting turns of phrase and new spins on saying old, timeless things. But this record is all about living life to the fullest, so those are the sentiments I hope will stick with people.

you were more than drunk, you were wasted

always waiting for your luck to come around

well it all comes around

Just pushing a positive message in a way that’s not nauseatingly cheesy pop music. Sure, pop music has a time and place, but we wanted to make anthems for the boys in the song “The Boys are Back in Town.”

well talk is cheap when you’re talking to me

oh opportunity, it’s always knocking

back on the beat, you better believe

that your only enemy is doing nothing

Lest we linger on the loss of alliteration, I definitely had fun playing around with internal rhyme schemes and phrasings. I view songwriting as little puzzles waiting to be solved, but you also have to make all the pieces interesting. It’s easy to accidentally make something boring if you aren’t careful.

but don’t it just feel like

turning black and white

wasting time all on

finer wines

hold it closer now

let me figure out

how to make it right

turn back time

and press rewind

For me, the last lyric of the last song sums up the whole experience Laser Tooth Tiger is trying to convey. It’s easy to waste your energy chasing luxurious and grand dreams, but just finding moments to keep dear to you is good enough. There’s a lot to be said for crystallized memories, and they can go a long way in defining who you are to yourself, but it’s also important to not dwell so often in the past that you aren’t living in the future. There’s life to live, so live it.

Smile – The Name Of This Band Is Smile

Italian Jangle Pop with hints of Post Punk and Power Pop.

Meet ‘Smile’.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Hamilton Santià about everyday life alienation, ‘less is more’, arpeggio, and, looking the ones willing to listen straight in the eye.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

It all happened in those two concerts we were able to play before the whole pandemic shit overthrew everything. After the first one, the moment we stepped out of the stage, some folks run into us telling «Hey, you really are a band!». After the second one, a famous musician from our hometown (Turin, Italy) put us aside and told us «You already have a sound and a stage presence!».

It was really something to be perceived as credible and meaningful, that is not as easy as it might seem.

Unfortunately, the live power momentum has been brutally interrupted by the pandemic! But the awareness, we were building something, drove us in these long months allowing us to work on the record, on new songs, with a new focus.

How did this record come together?

The Name Of This Band Is Smile” is a collection of songs tied together by the sound pattern of jangle-pop meets post-punk, and the lyrics about everyday life alienation and a sense of disarmament. We are not that young anymore and we are not interested in writing about imaginary things, nostalgia, or “our own private Eden”. We want to be as real and urgent as we can be as a band with guitars.

The record was written starting from a lot of guitar ideas: little fragments we built on shaping the sound. One of our key concepts is “less is more”: once the structure is done, we start removing everything that is not necessary. We want to suggest our nervous feelings through these frantic melodies. Once we hit the eight songs format we looked at ourselves and stated the record was done. Nothing more than necessary. No fillers. Ready and go.

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s the spark underneath it all. It was part of our everyday life before the pandemic happened. Since then it slowed a little but we’re getting back on track by the minute. It’s a hunger, a second language that comes in handy when all the others fail: there’s something in an arpeggio/melody/rhythm that words just can’t contain, and at the end of the day your fingers reach naturally for the guitar/bass/sticks, your voice needs to come out after being silenced for too long.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

We think songs are ever-changing organisms. They bend and twist and choose different shapes every time you play them. The fun part is racing along with them until you can say “this is your final form”. Then you enter the studio and try to finally capture them, just to find out they will change once more. It’s an endless, exhilarating struggle we can’t get enough of. One of our goals in the studio is to capture the “live” essence of our music, we believe the studio is a space of freedom and experiment. We play three minutes songs, but we won’t limit ourselves to the possibilities those three minutes open.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?

The stage is probably our natural element: the place where our frantic music can sparkle out. There’s nothing like receiving the energy you’re throwing out from the people you’re connecting with. You could apply these words to various aspects of our existence, but for us none of them can compare to the thrill of saying what we want to say, the way we want to say it, looking the ones willing to listen straight in the eye. We think there is a pact between the performer and the audience, something electric and deeply mysterious. Moreover, the stage is the place where we celebrate the rebirth of each song: everything is new again when you play it live.

SANDY MCKNIGHT w/FERNANDO PERDOMO – SAN FERNANDO BLITZ

Sandy McKnight explains how he and Fernando Perdomo made ‘San Fernando Blitz’, an EP with 6 wonderful new songs and the follow-up to ‘San Fernando Beat’.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Am I?

How did this record come together?

San Fernando Blitz‘ is the follow-up to Fernando Perdomo and my earlier EP ‘San Fernando Beat’. We met at a session in 2019 and decided to see what would happen if we put our heads together.  It clicked right off, and during the pandemic we had fun recording long-distance, he in L.A., me in Massachusetts. I send him my song demos. He does the guitars, drums, and keys, and I add the bass and vocals and oversee the mixing and mastering. It works well!

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

I like to record first, ask questions later. It’s one of the perks of having been writing and recording for a long time. I hear the record in my head when I write the song. Of course, once the record is completed I care what people think, though I try not to take criticism too hard.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I make a few bucks from licensing songs to TV and films. Haven’t had a song in an advert yet…that’d be fun! Success at this point is just making recordings I can be proud of.

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

It’s actually gotten a bit annoying. I write songs involuntarily now. A song idea pops into my head and haunts me until I can get it on my phone’s voice app. ‘Living on the West Side’ was floating around in my head a few years before I could get around to recording it. Melodies follow me around. My brain is tired. Help.

As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?

The world doesn’t care. When they listen, it becomes their emotions, not mine. My job is to tap into feelings and situations that are universal and find new ways to convey them.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Easy. Paul McCartney, because of Paul. Pete Townshend, because he was an early inspiration and invented Power Pop. Third is hard…maybe Burt Bacharach, because I love his melodies.

Whats the gig you will always remember? And why?

I think it would be playing CBGBs in 1979. What amazing energy!

Lyrics are too often taken for granted.  What is the line of text or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember?  And why?

I love the wordplay aspect of lyric writing. Everyone has their own favorite lines, although sometimes I’m surprised at what people think is good. I don’t have too many ‘message’ songs. I just put it out there, take your pick.

When was the last time you thought I just wrote a hit!?

Almost every song, at first. No one knows for sure. And how does one define a hit at this point in the music world?

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Always. I love writing and recording. I hate networking, schmoozing, promoting, and all that stuff. That’s my secret to remaining unknown!

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Only 5? OK, how about ‘So Sad About Us’, ‘King Midas in Reverse’, ‘It’s Different for Girls’, Tim Moore’s ‘Second Avenue’, and ‘Let’s Pretend’. So many others, but those were the ones I thought of first.

Recording music. Whats all the fun about?

As I said earlier, I hear the record in my head when I write the song. Working with someone like Fernando is great because we’re on the same wavelength. The real fun is building the track and adding the little touches that make people want to hear it over and over again.

Playing music in front of a crowd. Whats all the fun about?

Not my fave thing, but it can be fun when you have a ‘listening’, appreciative audience.

You cant control the way people hearyour music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?

I try to keep the chord changes surprising and original, the melodies singable and clever, and the lyrics unlike any other songs. I hope people hear that stuff in my work.

They expect the roaring 20s v2.0. What kind of party are you looking for?

The 1920s and the 1960s have a lot in common. Stretching the limitations of society, creating new visions for the future, and of course, the abolition of fear, hunger, and war is my idea of a party.