Bob Burger – The Domino Effect (Q&A)

Bob Burger, who is also a member of The Weeklings as a solo artist, has made a great Power Pop record.

Power Pop like Tom Petty, Willie Nile, Elvis Costello, and Marshall Crenshaw make Power Pop.

Again, Burger proves not only to be a great songsmith but also a great singer, a GREAT singer.

I’ll still be playing The Domino Effect three years from now. I know. It’s that good.

How did this record come together?

I wrote some of the songs, and started rudimentary recording soon after I completed my previous album, “The Day After”,  in 2012.  But then I joined The Weeklings and shifted my priorities totally toward that project.  In 2020, the pandemic slowed everything down and I found that I had time to reboot and complete “The Domino Effect.”  With an aim toward keeping my solo work separate from The Weeklings, I enlisted the help of Jimmy Leahey on lead guitars, Jerry Gaskill on drums, Lisa Sherman on background vocals, and Arne Wendt on keyboards. 

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

I think I achieved my goal of coming up with something distinct from The Weeklings, but still very much in the pop/R&R vein.  With that and a lot of positive reviews, I feel the album is artistically successful.  Commercial success these days is more elusive than ever!  Even if you create something that is very popular, the monetary rewards are minimal.  But having lots of people hear and like your music, is great for boosting live performances.  So success for me will simply be measured by how many sets of ears I can reach.

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

I never stop writing songs and have never experienced writer’s block.  So I guess the urge is pretty strong.  I have a number of songs in the backlog for both The Weeklings and for my next solo project.

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

Yes, because I only expose what I choose to!  There are some songs I will never release for that reason.  The other trick as a writer is to make minor changes to mask personal thoughts.  I have read that Elvis Costello does that by changing gender, timeframes and other techniques.  Makes a lot of sense to me.

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

The party I played for Jon Bonjovi at his house in the Hamptons, where I got to meet and play with Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Roger Waters and Jimmy Buffet (and of course Jon).  Other standout gigs include a number of private events I played with Bruce Springsteen, and the Max Weinberg show at City Field (Shea Stadium) in 15-degree weather!

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

There is nothing like it.  It is a form of communication that is unique and totally rewarding.  Assuming of course that the crowd is with you!  Playing in front of a dead crowd is not all that great, right?

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 hope my songs bear repeated listening.  I think people will find some deeper layers if they listen a few times.  I hope the musical production and lyrics both hold up to set the songs apart.

Those magical moments when you’re working in the studio. Which moment was the most magical?

For this record, some of the sessions with Jimmy Leahey were magical.  Jimmy is a fountain of ideas and we work together pretty effortlessly.  His guitar parts are a huge part of the sound of the album.  I also love the mixing process in general and it’s always magical for me.  Plink Giglio is fantastic at helping me to achieve the sounds I hear in my head.

The record is done, the music is out. Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning?

I love making records.  The promotion and business aspects after the record is done are less fun.  I think most artists feel that way.  Of course, it will be great fun to play the songs live.  But the real fun that is just beginning, is the work on the next record!

Night Court – Nervous Birds Too (Q&A)

‘… there’s a strong current of 90’s Halifax scene pop running through this album, the combination of Sonic-Youth-ey noise guitar and Beatlesque pop reminding me keenly of Peppermint EP era Sloan, but there’s also a vibe reminiscent of old-school 70’s East Coast bands, particularly the Mass Ave power pop of Boston groups such as The Neighborhoods (“Shitty Confidential”), as well as some of the low-fi sensibilities of early Guided By Voices (“Titanic” especially feels like it could have been pulled from Vampire on Titus) and shades of the early 2000’s garage rock revival. So, basically all kinds of good shit for people that like no frills, catchy tunes full of great guitar hooks wrapped in a scrappy, lo-fi aesthetic.’, writes Cups & Cakes.

I don’t have much to add to that but DAVE, Jiffy and Emily have.

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

DAVE: The very first song I sent to Jiffy was the music for Shitty Confidential – and as soon as I heard him sing, “I wanted to be a poet…”, I knew something very cool was going on.

Jiffy: Ya, I’m not sure why this one is different from the other five bands Dave and I have been in together but it is for some reason. Maybe maturity mixed with a kick-ass drummer?

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

DAVE: Success is a difficult thing to define – not only is it subjective, but we work in an industry where a major form of payment comes in the form of cultural capital. That said, we’ve been fortunate enough to have had some great reviews – and, truly, there are few better feelings than hearing someone tell you that they sincerely love the songs you poured yourself into – so, continuing in that direction would suit me fine. But I don’t think any of us would complain if ‘success’ included a little bit of regular capital, as well 😉

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

Jiffy: Definitely an uncontrollable urge!

DAVE: Since starting the band, it’s not so much an urge as trying to control the beast! I hadn’t really written any songs for years and once the floodgates opened, I couldn’t stop them from coming out – they were waking me up in the middle of the night! Now we have almost too many songs and not enough time to refine and record them…not a bad problem to have, really, but sometimes you have to get IN creativity’s way in order to clear the backlog of previous creativity!

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

Emily: One of the biggest compliments for me is when someone tells me I’m believable on stage. On two different occasions I have found out a friend passed away within an hour or two before a gig and have had no choice but to mourn publically. I am comfortable with the spectacle of emotion, I find it compelling and one of the things that enriches the human experience. 

Jiffy: Too old to give a fuck! We’re emo, deal with it.

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

Jiffy: Three is too many, let’s just go with John Reis. Why? Because he’s Speedo, nuff said, but we did just recently learn/realize he produced Superchunk’s On the Mouth which seems like a sign? Like if we were to ever work with an outside producer that puts him at the top of the list, maybe the only person on the list!?

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

DAVE: Our first gig at Leeside skate park last summer was amazing. It was the first time any of us had been at a show since the OG covid lockdowns, and Emily had only been in the band for like a month, and she fucking destroyed it! At that moment it was clear that we were meant to make beautiful rock together.

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?

DAVE: I’m more a student of the Mutt Lange/Max Martin school of thought that is more concerned with the way the words sound over a melody than the words themselves, so you won’t hear me gushing over anything I wrote. But Jiffy’s a different story – writing clever lyrics for Fractions, about his wife being too clever, was very clever, indeed! I would also highlight Johnnny Rocket – it’s a true stroy about a coworker Jiffy and I had at a (locally) famous car wash in Calgary and Jiffy’s lyrics capture the scene perfectly.

Jiffy: Only a deep Night Court fan will get this reference but we laughed pretty long and hard about “megalomanic narcissistic doctors”!

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

DAVE: What’s the last song we wrote? Just kidding/good joke!!! Sometimes people (generously) tell us ‘Song X is a hit!’ but Song X is always different…so maybe we’re doing a good job of covering the spread? I remember thinking Brighten the Corner might sound TOO radio hit-y but then we recorded it and now it sounds nicely shitty!

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

Emily: Sweat. It’s about embracing sweat.   

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?

DAVE: One of our axioms for writing and recording is to not be “too precious” with the songs – we try to get out of their way and let them speak for themselves in as few takes as possible. That said, we do sometimes spend a lot of time on specific details that we believe are important to the song’s final form…it could be a single snare hit or the repetition (or non-repetition) of a hook.

Obviously, all bands do this in some way or another, but Night Court, in my experience, has the weirdest (in a cool way) disparity between “good enough” and “let’s get it right” of any bands I’ve been in. 

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

Emily: Gibby Haynes after a few too many screwdrivers telling me I rocked after a show in Victoria years ago. 

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

Emily: A waiting area by the elevators. 

Jiffy: Oh, that’s pretty good! I was gonna say we’re the people who collect other people’s empties.

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

Emily: Neko Case  

The record is done, the music is out.  Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning? 

DAVE: Fun is both the fuel and the finished product for this band so plenty more to come!

Emily: I’m a total road dog. I love being on tour. Playing live has always been my motivator. Needless to say, I’m hungry after the last few years! 

The 31 best Power Pop records of 2022’s first half!

What an excellent Power Pop year 2022 is already.

This is the story so far.

01 Dave Scarbrough – Happy Ever After

There are 12 songs on Happy Ever After, which are all equally amazing. Dave sounds like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe back when those two wrote their best songs. You won’t believe that, yet it’s true.

02 Young Guv – Guv III

You wanted the best; you got the best, the hottest band in the world!
They really should have Young Guv tour with Weezer. Who would sell the most t-shirts then?

03 Extra Arms – What is Even Happening Right Now?

And with every record Ryan Allen and his friends make, we write that it’s their best, and it’s true every time. What is Even Happening Right Now? is chock full of pointed, flawless, sharp Power Pop of the finest kind.

04 Tom Curless – Person of Interest

Almost Ready for the Future was one of my favorite records of 2020. Its follow-up, Person of Interest, released early 2022, is even better. The songs Tom Curless writes gain in strength, power, and expressiveness with every release. Take “Something for Nothing”, Bob Mould or Rick Springfield would be king if such a melody came to them. But it didn’t. It blew to Tom Curless and, trust me, that’s no coincidence.

05 The Summer Holiday – Acqua

The Summer Holiday is a great band, and Acqua is a masterpiece. If fun. (the band) would have been a Power Pop band; their records would have been half as good as the ones Michael Collins releases.

06 Cheap Star – Wish I Could See

Rémi Vaissiere and his star cast. Wish I Could See offers a master class in writing sophisticated Power Pop songs but is perhaps even more of a master class in how to perform those sophisticated songs. Impeccable!

07 Freezing Hands – It Was A Good Run

Fourteen of the greatest (Garage/Power) pop songs!

08 Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – Backhand Deals

If this is what Britpop sounds like these days, then I like contemporary Britpop.

09 Seth Swirsky – Songs from the Green Couch

Seth Swirsky writes sophisticated pop songs, and he sings them in a soft, pleasant voice. Delicate but very strong.

10 Trevor Blendour – Falling In Love

On Falling In Love, Trevor Treiber sounds like Buddy Holly backed by a surf-punk band. How catchy do you want pop music to be?

11 Ex Norwegian – Spook de Jour

With every Ex Norwegian release, and Spook du Jour is already the 13th, there are two certainties, namely that (1) you as a listener will hear something different than you expect and (2) that all songs are rock (or: pop) solid. What a gem!

12 Jeremy & The Harlequins – ABRA CaDaBRA

Buddy Holly is often credited as the origin of the Power Pop. Jeremy & The Harlequins have a direct line with this origin. Cool as freak.

13 Nick Piunti – Heart Inside Your Head

Don’t take the fact that Nick Piunti always delivers quality for granted. It’s an incredible achievement to make so many classy songs. There are ten more on Heart Inside Your Head. Incredibly good.

14 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Endless Rooms

I am a fan of Albert Hammond Jr.’s solo records. And that’s why I’m also a fan of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever because they have the same sound. At least it kinda looks like it.

15 Lannie Flowers – Flavor of the Month

FLAVOR OF THE MONTH is both a completely new collection and the long-awaited physical media debut for the songs that made up Lannie Flowers’ celebrated March To Home Singles Series in 2019 all newly remixed by Lannie, the King of Southern Spiced Quality Pop, himself.

16 Lund Bros – Across State Lines

Chris and Sean Lund have released another excellent record with Across State Lines. Immaculate Heavy Power Pop.

17 Goodman – How Close Are You to the Ground

He should be the talk of Power Pop Town but he isn’t and I don’t get that. Like all his others, this record showcases what our beloved genre sounds like when a new generation takes a spin on it. Beautiful, challenging, critical and with both feet in the present tense.

18 Afterpartees – Familiy Names

No-Nonsense Power Pop from the lowlands.

19 The Toms – Stereo

Tommy Marolda sounds like a young god on Stereo. He continues to surprise with a fresh sound and a cartload of good songs. You Move Like Sex should be banned, by the way; Bon Jovi-esque kitsch, but the other eleven songs are great.

20 Tamar Berk – Start at the End

Tamar Berk delivered a very personal record on which she sings about how she copes with the loss of her father. ‘Honor’ your father by writing thirteen overwhelmingly beautiful songs. That is beautiful.

21 Chris Church – Darling Please

Darling Please didn’t seem good enough when Chris Church recorded the songs over a decade ago. Fortunately, last year he took the time to polish and refine the ten songs, and the new result, released early 2022 by Big Stir records, is great. GREAT!

22 Speedfossil – No Anesthesia

Sit down and listen attentively. This record gets better if you pay attention. Thoughtful, delicate, but also joyful and fun.

23 The Bye Bye Blackbirds – August Lightning Complex

Bradley Skaught, frontman of The Bye Bye Blackbirds, wrote the songs for August Lightning Complex during some of the darkest and most anxious times of the past couple of years. Gloomy lyrics and rich, full, beautifully developed pop melodies.

24 Deadlights – Eleven Step Intervention

Deadlights is Jeff Shelton’s non-Power Pop band. Eleven Step Intervention is an excellent Power Pop record. BAM!

25 Emperor Penguin – Sunday Carvery

EMPEROR PENGUIN comes out of the lockdown with their best record. SUNDAY CARVERY is British through and through, like The Kinks, Elvis Costello, or XTC, but don’t expect a retro sound; the band is firmly rooted in the present tense.

26 SPINN – Outside of the Blue

Sweet Sweet Jangle Pop from Liverpool.
Again.
Sweet Sweet Jangle Pop from Liverpool.
That’s all you can ask for, can’t you?

27 Hoodoo Gurus – Chariot of the Gods

And that in the ‘end’ you suddenly come up with an outstanding record again. How is that possible? And why don’t more old heroes do that?

28 Anton Barbeau – Power Pop!!!

Power Pop songs are often made with the same template; deviating from it hurts many enthusiasts. Anton is not such a fan of such a straitjacket. He fights against it in the only possible way, namely by making beautiful songs that have nothing to do with Power Pop but are very popular with the fans who don’t always feel like listening to the same song.

29 Eytan Mirsky – Lord, Have Mirsky!

Eytan Mirsky chooses on Lord, Have Mirsky! deliberately for a richer, more extensive sound palette. As a result, his music starts to show more and more similarities with the songs of Nick Lowe.

30 Romero – Turn It On!

Gosh, I’d like to see Romero opening for Blondie. I wonder who will sell the most t-shirts afterwards.

31 Night Court – Nervous Birds! Too

What a lovely energy. Night Courts consists of three musicians, and you can hear them having fun. If you want to call it Punk, you call it Punk, and if you want to call it Power Pop, you call it Power Pop. Do not confuse the pleasure you hear with superficiality. It’s not Punk Pop.


And there is much more.

Check the Sweet Sweet Music Blog Best Power Pop Songs of 2022 Spotify Playlist!

Image by Sabeth Elberse Studio

Power on Pilot

Mike Kinane and his band, Power on Pilot, have released some outstanding singles over the past few months. Time for a closer acquaintance.

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

I had been writing songs for years and recording them first on GarageBand, then on Logic Pro, just little demos that were full of mistakes.  I’d send some to family and friends to get feedback; everyone was super supportive and encouraging. In late 2021, I finally decided to start putting out some of these songs under the Power on Pilot banner, beginning with Rocketship. I was blown away by the response.

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

I find it amazing that I can record a little song in my bedroom, and one week later, someone in France, Spain, or Japan is listening to it.  

It’s truly incredible and my definition of success.

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

I’m not a great lyricist, but on ‘Spinning On’, I tried to write a love song to my wife, Lisa, using as many power pop references as I could stuff into the tune. I kind of dig this verse, calling out the Buzzcocks, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Squeeze:

You’re number one with a bullet baby

Racing up my charts

You got my singles going steady now

A long-player in my heart

Will you be my critic’s darling?

My little Labour of Lust?

Another East Side Story? This Year’s Model or Trust?

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

I never think my songs are good enough to be a ‘hit’!  The last song we released – Look to the Sky – was something that was just a Beatle-y piano chord progression I’d been monkeying with for over a year.  

I never write on piano, so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.  I finally decided to finish it with a melody in April. The lyrics are very non-sensical because I was trying to channel Noel Gallagher.  You know – ‘slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball’ type lyrics that make zero sense but sound pretty damn good.  So I didn’t so much write as steal from the professionals. John Giard came in with a great bass line, and Kevin Killen nailed the drums/guitars/production/mixing/mastering.

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

It isn’t for me. I don’t like playing live. It’s terrifying.  Power on Pilot is taking the XTC approach – just record, don’t tour.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

I’m not sure if it’s a compliment, but I received a message from someone to whom I was pitching a Power on Pilot release, and the response was ‘we’ve heard of you’. I guess that can be construed as a compliment?  

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

Is there something lower than the bottom rung?  If not, then the bottom rung.

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

Kate/Cindy from the B-52s – I mean, come on, they are phenomenal.

All the guys from the Lickerish Quartet/Jellyfish – soooo good.

I guess that’s 5 singers – sorry.

The record is done, the music is out.  Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning?

It’s all fun or we wouldn’t be doing it, right?

Ex Norwegian – Spook Du Jour (Q&A)

With every Ex Norwegian release, and Spook du Jour is already the 13th, there are two certainties, namely that (1) you as a listener will hear something different than you expect and (2) that all songs are rock (or: pop) solid.

The person responsible for all this, Roger Houdaille, explains how this is possible.

It seems like you manage to reinvent Ex Norwegian on every record. Or do you think that’s a bit exaggerated?

This is a fair assessment, but it has never been planned that way. Inspirations and musicians come and go. That’s just part of keeping things running despite whatever happens. It was the unprecedented lockdown that led to the collaborative tribute album for unsung Liverpool singer-songwriter Jimmy Campbell. The record we did with singer Lucia Perez called “Wasted Lines” really altered our sound, but it was also unintentional. Ultimately, there is something that makes an Ex Norwegian record an Ex Norwegian record. In one case, I was unable to release a finished album under the name because it just didn’t pass the test. 

Did you have to record Spook du Jour differently due to the lockdown situation?

Not 100%. Sure, I would have liked more people to be on Spook Du Jour, but lockdown did make that complicated. But all the recent albums were recorded at home, even before lockdown. It’s mostly a budget issue. Additionally, here in Florida, things were pretty open when the work on this one began. Then there is Fernando Perdomo who helps me out with drumming on it and he’s out in Cali. We’ve been working remotely like that for a long time actually.

The visual aspect also seems important with Ex Norwegian. The cover art is quite different from previous records. What’s the story behind that?

Yes, I agree, it’s very different approach to our other covers. On the previous few albums, illustrators worked on them, and I thought they came out pretty well, but I didn’t see it happening for Spook Du Jour. At the same time, I didn’t have an exact idea, except that I wanted something abstract. I ended up creating the composite cover myself, layering a couple of personal vacation photos. Among them is a spliced up picture of me riding a camel!

There are quite a few style differences between, for example, the opening track Teen Bakery and the album’s closing track Center Mario. Was making an album with an evolving sound a goal in itself or did it just happen?

Originally, the goal was to make an album that was cohesive and accessible, but Spook Du Jour failed to meet this objective! The album took a long time to come together, at least by Ex Norwegian standards. Working on several different ideas at once, I eventually ran out of time, money and patience. The odd songs recorded were originally intended for a deluxe edition or maybe even a totally different project. But soon they outnumbered the poppier material. Then I had a bunch of covers, some intended for a collaborative record. Putting the breaks on, I created a tracklisting from the music that was mixed and ready for use. This resulted in that evolving sound, with one side being more accessible and the other side being more of the tracks I considered the “odd tunes”. 

You’ve released quite a few records in the meantime. Is it still important for you to know what people think about it?

Of course. But I’m still very shy about it. When I find out that people are listening to my records it makes me happy. But I don’t really make records with the idea in my head that they’ll actually be listened to. And while I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I still think the band should have a wider audience. But so far, Ex Norwegian has remained an underground thing. Not a lot of people know about it. When it comes to reading reviews and comments, it’s helpful because, most of the time, it lets me understand the music. I usually work too fast to realize what I’m doing. Until the album is out there in the world, I haven’t listened to it properly. Generally, I am pleased with the results. However, you can imagine how nerve wracking it is putting on the final retail ready record. I usually don’t remember half of what I did!

Dave Scarbrough – Happy Ever After (Q&A)

“Do I look for another stressful job right now or should I relax, meditate, and think about where my head and my soul really want to go?”, Dave Scarbrough asked himself in early 2021. The answer became Happy Ever After, which is by far the most played record of the past month here at Sweet Sweet Music headquarters.

If you like the latest Elvis Costello record, you’ll love this one!

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

A long time ago. I’ve been writing and recording since I was in middle school. But this project was/is the first to really go the distance and incorporate the best musicians I could find – not just in my native Sioux Falls, but worldwide – to make this album truly magical and something I felt was worthy to throw into the giant hat of thousands upon thousands of other artists who have put the same amount of effort into their releases.

How did this record come together?

I was laid off from a Systems Administration job back in February of 2021, where I was paid handsomely. I also accrued some savings, so the question was, “Do I look for another stressful job right now or should I relax, meditate, and think about where my head and my soul really want to go?” I decided to take a year off and make this record. It was time.

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

Throughout the entire process from day one I was getting advice from people in the industry, professional musicians from all different worlds like classical, punk, power-pop and country. Initially I recorded scratch demos of about 30 songs. Everything was pared down from there, per the recommendations of these professionals that I respect very highly.

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

If I break even – money wise – I will have done something I can be proud of and not have to be in debt because of the attempt. Success for me is the result of some great people with good taste purchasing the record and telling me that they really like it. Good enough for me.

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

It is always there. It’s in my dreams, it’s in my everyday living – when things are quiet and all of the sudden a great melody comes into my head and I have to pause and pull out my iPhone and record the thing that just popped into my brain onto “Voice Memos.” I still have around 40 of these memos that I have not done anything with yet. Will I do something with them at some time? I don’t know. But they keep coming.

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

Yes. In the past it has made me look like a fool sometimes – “wearing my heart on my sleeve,” but I have never been uncomfortable sharing my deepest and darkest emotions and feelings with the general public.

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

Declan Patrick Aloysious McManus (Elvis Costello), Glenn Tillbrook (Squeeze), Dave Grohl. My rocking stuff I can totally see Grohl going nuts on it and getting excited, and Tilbrook and Costello just – well – they have been a giant inspiration for me over the years – both from their amazing chord structures and changes and delightful surprises, and their exceptional wordsmith skills.

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

I was in a band called The Harvesters back in 1996. We were the first band from South Dakota to ever play South By SouthWest (SXSW)in Austin, TX. During our second song, Iggy Pop and his entourage walked by the front stage and Iggy looked up at me and gave me a giant thumbs-up. Best rock and roll moment ever. At least for me.

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?

“You and your theology and me and my bad poetry – we both want a better world for all.” Lost a great girlfriend to a divinity school in Boston. But I think we were – and are – looking for the same thing – peace, meaning, and joy in the human condition.

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

A song called “Isabella Mae” I wrote some 25 years ago – It was like, “HOLY SMOKES! This is power-pop-perfect!”

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

A mixtape of fave songs that are not mine? Hmmm.  Billy Bragg “Sexuality” (Manchester Mix), Simple Minds “Brass Band in African Chimes” (12″ extended version), The Church “Ripple,” Jesus and Mary Chain “Never Understand,” and maybe “Pieds-en-l’air,” from “Capriol Suite” by Peter Warlock.

(Here you can listen to Dave’s mixtape.)

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

E N E R G Y . There is nothing greater than playing for an audience that took the trouble to come out and see you, and they are excited, and there is so much love and good karma flowing, so many smiles, and you get to turn your amps up a little hotter than you usually do – that’s key for me.  😉

If you could tour the world with two other bands, who would you ask, and why?

Costello and/or Foo Fighters

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

My old college roommate in Budapest called me a Mensch.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

Rebel.

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

Alison Krause, Elvis Costello, Glenn Tilbrook

The record is done, the music is out.  Is the best fun done now or is it just beginning?

Just the beginning.

The Jerrys – Ready or Not

The Jerrys play British-influenced guitar pop written by Jerry Schwartz, who also plays, sings, and produces their music.

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Jerry about a wild stop-start ending, The Shadows, and a raga and a country song.

Love Me Now and Leave Me Never is such a classy song.  That must have become clear to you somewhere during the writing process or does it not work that way?

Thank you for that! I wish I could take more credit, but after deciding to write a Bond theme song, it nearly wrote itself. I wanted large crashes of sound, a sitar reminiscent of the (Beatles’) Help! soundtrack, a guitar solo that sounded like Johnny Rivers, and a wild stop-start ending. There are also certain musical elements that make a song a Bond song, and those needed to be there as well. It was like putting a large puzzle together after first creating all the pieces.

U.S. 41 Groove is an instrumental, so nice, you will compared to The Shadows, I suppose. What’s the story behind that song?

Thanks again–I love The Shadows! There’s a section of U.S. 41 between Chicago IL and Evansville IN that I’ve driven hundreds of times, and that’s after my parents used to drive us on the same route when I was a kid. That stretch of several hundred miles gives you a lot of time to think, and I wanted to write a song that shared that feeling of cruising along thinking about life. There are no words to describe that feeling, so I didn’t write any.

Does that ‘60 ‘fuzzy/psych Pop- sound come naturally when you start writing and recording?

I don’t think about it much when I’m writing, as I’m focused on the music and maybe the words at that point. I get more into actual sound when I start recording. I try to create music that I’d like to hear on the radio, and by default those sounds are influenced by the bands I grew up with. On a related note, I wrote a raga and a country song for Ready or Not, and neither of those songs came naturally!

How did Ready or Not come about?

A couple of months before the pandemic, I gave up my career and started recording another album. I’d barely started when I had to put my studio in storage between moves. My wife and I had sold our house but hadn’t found another yet, so we lived with my father-in-law for a few months. By the time we found a place of our own and settled in, I joked the album would have to be released “ready or not,” which is where the title came from.

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

Success for the new album would be finding more people who dig what we do. I love the feeling I get when I hear a new sound I like, and I hope there are people out there who get that feeling from listening to a song by The Jerrys. Future success involves bringing Robert Porche’ (drummer) back into the mix with me and Jim (Jim Losby plays all the bass guitar on Ready or Not). Robert does not appear on the new album, but he’ll be rejoining us shortly. 

Man Behind Tree – 3 (Q&A)

The German band Man Behind Tree has four singers and no frontman. That has been going very well for three records now. Hans Forster explains how that works.

Pieces of Power Pop, Jangle, Dream Pop, and Shoegaze combined with beautiful harmony vocals. It’s all there. How did this sound originate, or does it just happen when the four of you get started? 

It all started back in the late ’90s in a small town in Northern Bavaria. Me and my friend Andi deciding that we were done with trying to be as innovative as possible but wanted to play the music we like the most, no matter if people might call it anachronistic: Noisepop, Janglepop, Powerpop, Manchester Rave – music from at least a decade ago, melodious and very guitarish. Our band Seaside Stars is still around. Greg of Man Behind Tree is in that band, and Sutti was for a while.

Later in Berlin, we were lucky to find like-minded people in our bass players. First Sylvain with strong roots in Shoegaze, then two guys that came here from Chicago: Sean and Graham. They had this amazing band, Mincer Ray, with multivocal harmonies and a DIY spirit the same as we had, so we started collaborating, and when Mincer Ray split, the guys ended up in Man Behind Tree.

How did ‘3’ come about?

Though maybe not officially, „3“ is our third album, as we regard our initial home recordings, published without a record label, as an album too. This first one is also on Bandcamp, so it’s a decent record release for us. And personally, I like numbers as album titles: the first two Van Halen, Beach Boys’ 20/20, Teenage Fanclub – 13 …

When I first listened to ‘3’ I didn’t expect to start dancing spontaneously the third time I heard Don’t Lose Grip. Would you take that as a compliment?

Definitely a compliment! I guess the guy described in the song would see it differently. Waking up, he realizes that his girlfriend has left him again to explore the world. He’s more the sleepy sort, whereas she’s always looking out for the new and exciting. He wishes her all the best in the end, just hoping nothing bad happens to her.

Still, the guy in the story’s a little sad. But why not dance to a melancholic song if the beat is alright?

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

I’m definitely not a success expert. Having not much of it over the years, we’ve learned to focus on the music and its joy. The market, product and sales, and fame take place entirely on a different planet.

It’s nice and cozy in our little musical world. Still, we’re amazed and happy when people we don’t know listen to our songs. Next to the music itself, this is what keeps us going. So, success with the new record is all about spreading the word.

That singing together must be a joy to do, right?

That’s absolutely true. Puts a smile on our faces mostly. Even more so when we’re doing it surrounded by overdriven guitar sound (you miss the flat notes in all that noise ;-).

Sometimes singing together seems to alter the mental state, like creating collectivity or like meditation, maybe which I’ve never really tried. Also, I’ve never played in a frontman-led band, and I guess I’ll keep it that way.


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Tamar Berk – Start at the End (Q&A)

‘Everything will now be measured by the me before my dad died and the me after. And even though his life and my life as it was ended, I need to start over.’, says Tamar Berk.

The new songs came about during a difficult period for Berk. Start at the End is therefore an emotional and very personal record.

It’s easy to imagine that all of her future music will be compared to this new milestone in her career. That’s because it so good!

Start at the End has a different, richer sound than its predecessor, or do I hear things that aren’t there?

“Restless Dreams of Youth” was a collection of older and newer songs. Some songs that I’ve had for years that I had lived with for a while,  I wanted to keep those as true to the original intent as possible. I also wanted a more light-hearted nostalgic vibe.

On my new album “Start at the End” most of the songs are new. I wanted to explore more instrumentation and layering to mirror how complex my feelings and emotions were in regards to dealing with the death of my father, Covid, my feelings towards life and death in genera,l and the emotional and existential crisis I was going through.

I was deliberately trying to capture that with more richness and complexity of the songs.

At what point did you know you were making your best record?

I did not at all. I was crying a lot during the making of this record. I changed the structure of the songs many times, asked for advice from many folks, almost cut songs and actually, had close to a complete breakdown a few times to the point where I almost put it on hold.

So yeah….I did not know.

But my family kept encouraging me. 

I have a feeling the record came about in a tsunami of creativity, and it wasn’t an endless puzzle to find what you were looking for?

Yes….I had some sketches for songs but after my father died in June….I was overflowing with emotions and confusion. I locked myself in my studio and just wrote and composed for hours. I was mourning through the songs.

How much fun was it writing and recording Real Bad Day?

AHHH! That is one song I’ve had in my pocket for several years. I always wanted to put it on an album and actually, almost didn’t put it on this album. But I was listening to it one night and thought about the fact that it was a song talking to my mom about having a bad day….and I realized that I only had my mom now, so I wanted it to be a dedication to her.

As far as recording it, I remember Matt Walker texting me and saying that he had SO much fun playing drums on that song and Allen Hunter who played bass sent me his tracks and mentioned that he sweated up a storm while playing that! There was a lot of good energy that went into the making of that song!

I was wondering what’s the story behind the photo you’re using as the cover?

The photo was taken on New Year’s Eve 2000 Y2K. The person sitting next to me was my boyfriend at the time but we were in the midst of breaking up. I knew it was the end of our relationship and yet, we decided to go to this party. I was pretty miserable in the photo, but I tried to act like I was in the spirit by blowing into that noisemaker. The thing is, I knew that though it was the end of our relationship, it was the beginning of a new chapter for me. I felt hopeful too and I suppose that’s what endings are…just new beginnings—starting at the end of something.

This also is the same way I needed to feel after my dad died. I will never be ‘Tamar’ the same way again. Everything will now be measured by the me before my dad died and the me after. And even though his life and my life as it was ended, I need to start over. I thought the photo was a perfect depiction of the bittersweetness of endings and new beginnings. Isn’t that what a new year is symbolically? 

EMPEROR PENGUIN – SUNDAY CARVERY

EMPEROR PENGUIN comes out of the lockdown with their best record.

SUNDAY CARVERY is British through and through, like The Kinks, Elvis Costello, or XTC, but don’t expect a retro sound; the band is firmly rooted in the present tense.

Neil Christie talks about Fran Lebowitz, rough home demos, strong melodies, and a quirky sensibility.

After seeing the conversations between Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz, our little house in Utrecht was filled with her typical wisdom for months. How did Fran Times a Million come about?

Fran Times a Zillion came about in a way not dissimilar to your own experience! Guitarist Nigel is a fan of the wit and wisdom of author, raconteur and native New Yorker Fran Lebowitz. He urged us all to watch the recent Scorsese series about her, Pretend It’s A City and converted us.

Nigel decided to write a song in praise of her and “Fran Times a Zillion’ is the result. The conceit of the chorus is that the world might benefit if we were to scientifically replace all the morons in the world with cloned duplicates of Ms Lebowitz, multiplied by a zillion – a numerical exaggeration she often employs. Nigel is attending one of the dates on Fran’s forthcoming tour of the UK and may well serenade her from the stalls.

The creation of the record was certainly different this time. Not being able to create together in one space has led to a beautiful result. When did you know it was going to be okay?

Thank you! The songs were written and recorded during the 2020/21 lockdown at home in London, Retford and Surrey. Getting together to rehearse was difficult at that time due to pandemic restrictions, so we made home demos and shared them with each other online. Usually when someone shares a rough home demo there’s a fairly quick consensus on whether something’s OK, or not OK.

Then each band member adds bits, removes bits and changes bits until the songs gradually takes shape. Once we had rough home demos of enough songs we got together as a band in a studio in London, with producer Jamie McEvoy. Jamie helped us to turn the rough demos into final tracks, overdubbing vocals and guitars and ending up with probably our most polished set of recordings yet.

More than usual, Sunday Carvery is compared to the music of XTC. When that comparison is made, what do you hope they heard?

It’s flattering to be compared to XTC as they are musical heroes of ours. If you can hear a resemblance, I think it’s because we’re in that same tradition of literate British guitar pop with witty lyrics, strong melodies and a quirky sensibility. Like XTC, we can’t help being influenced by bands like The Beatles, the Kinks and The Move, but we also love everything from Burt Bacharach to The Wombles.

Nigel actually loves Rush, but we have forbidden him to speak of this. XTC’s approach is eclectic and hard to categorize; I hope people can hear that we share a willingness to try different styles and sounds in our own way.

The last record is always the best. Especially so soon after the release. However, I think I know that in your case it really is. You too?

We think Sunday Carvery is our strongest album so far in terms of songwriting and production. It’s great to hear you agree!

What musical dream would you like to fulfill?

Musical dreams! We’d like to travel back in time and appear on the 1974 Christmas episode of Top of the Pops, please. And while we’ve got the use of the time machine, I’d also like to catch The Beatles at The Cavern, The Sex Pistols at The Screen on the Green and The Who at the Marquee Club.

For the future, the dream is just to get more people to hear our music and enjoy it.