What was the biggest fun during the making of the last album?
Making “Heart String Soul” was a pretty laid back affair. I made the record in my parent’s basement at my childhood home, and my dad engineered and co-produced the album with me. Needless to say, it was a pretty special experience making a record with my dad, and since the subject matter of the songs are so personal, it made perfect sense to do the record with him. We did the album in fits and spurts, whenever it worked out for our schedules, and the sessions usually resulted in some late nights, accompanied by some beers, with friends stopping by to play stuff on the record (guests include Sean Sommer on drums, my brother Scott Allen on keys, my bud Zach Curd on more keys, Nick Piunti on guest guitar on one track, and my dad playing some bass and a little guitar here and there). Once we finished up, we sent it off to Andy Reed and he mixed and mastered it (and also added a few harmonies and guitar stuff). Again, the process was pretty chill, with Andy sending me mixes over the Internet, me approving them or offering tweaks, and in basically no time it was done. All in all, it was awesome to make this record with so many good friends and family members supporting me along the way.
If we want to know you, which song do we have to listen to? And why?
Since the whole record is pretty autobiographical, lots of the songs on “Heart String Soul” would work as an “introduction” to my music. However, if forced to pick just one, I’d have to go with “Angela ‘97”. In terms of sound, it’s the kind of super charged power-pop that I guess I’m known for – down-stroked guitars, caffeinated tempos, harmonies galore… it’s basically what I do best distilled down to 2 ½ minutes of pure melodic adrenaline. Lyrically, the song is a clever – in my opinion, anyway – retelling of the love story between my wife and I. It’s self referential, and name drops bands and places that were important to us when we were younger. It’s hyper specific and auto biographical, but also relatable enough that people who weren’t there and didn’t live the story like I did can still connect with it. Everybody has a journey that leads him or her from one place to another, with specific events that happen along the way that become the building blocks towards pinnacle moments in your life. This song does a pretty good job of capturing that feeling.
The music industry has changed a lot (or so they say). What did it bring you? And what not?
I’m not sure exactly how to address the “industry” part (though I have been in bands signed to labels) but if we’re just talking about music in general, it’s ultimately brought me great joy. I was just talking about this with my band mates in Destroy This Place the other day, and as much fun as it is to write songs and make records, music really is all about relationships. It’s given me the chance to meet amazing people and go to amazing places. It’s given me a chance to reconnect with people that I don’t get to see very often. It’s offered me the opportunity to connect with total strangers who may have found my music one way or another, and who have kind things to say and help keep me going. The Internet has of course helped with all this. It’s easier to book shows now, to stay in touch with people, to connect with fans, and to get your music out there to people on your own terms. Despite the fact that maybe music is less of a commodity as it once was, it’s still a great time to be playing, making, and putting out music.
Who is the best musician in the world nobody has heard of yet? And why will this change very soon?
Man, this is a tough one for me to answer, because I listen to so much music and so many different varieties. I could easily name some obscure hardcore band from Flint, MI as I could somebody like my friend Nick Piunti – an amazing songwriter, singer and guitar player that has helped me a ton the last few years. I feel like a lot of people in the power pop world know him, though, and despite the fact that his records aren’t blowing up at Taylor Swift levels of popularity, he’s found a great niche in that world and has received a lot of well deserved praise for his last few albums.
One person that I feel like the whole world should really be more connected with is John Davis of Superdrag (and more recently the Less of Memory). It might seem like an odd choice, as lots of people still remember “Sucked Out” and Superdrag’s Buzz Bin success, but the records Superdrag made after “Regretfully Yours” are some of my favorite records ever. “Head Trip in Every Key” and “In The Valley of Dying Stars” are two of the best pop/rock/power-pop whatever-you –wanna-call-it records of the late 90s/early 2000s. His solo albums are also fantastic, and his work with the Lees of Memory so far has been outstanding. I loved “Sisyphus Says” and still listen to it all the time. He’s also been putting up demos, b-sides, one-off singles, and other stuff – all recorded at home on his four-track cassette player – on his Bandcamp page that is really worth checking out . He’s a huge inspiration to me and I wish everybody knew how amazing he is.
She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixed tape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?
Another impossible question for me to answer, so here’s a few jams off the top of my head.
1. “Same Old Flame” – Sloan
2. “September Gurls” – Big Star
3. “Dyslexic Heart” – Paul Westerberg
4. “Baby’s Waiting” – Superdrag
5. “The Concept” – Teenage Fanclub
What’s up for the next couple of months?
I just released an album with my other band Destroy This Place (called “Animal Rites”).
We played a bunch of really fun album release shows, and I’m sure we’ll be playing some more gigs into the new year. I’m also in the midst of demoing about 13 songs for another solo record that I hope to record sometime in early 2016. I’m really psyched on the songs, so I’m hoping to take the rest of the winter to hunker down and get something going on them.