JAMES A.M. DOWNES – PRISON FONT


Bait My Soul is my new favorite song. James  A.M. Downes just released Prison Font. Read all about it.



When did you realize you could really, I mean REALLY, sing?

I didn’t like the way I sang until about 5 years ago. I’ve been singing for about 20 years, and three quarters of that time was spent cringing at my own recordings.

I’m not sure the shift to being able to tolerate (and eventually like) my voice was associated with an increase in skill. I think it had more to do with the fact that I was entering a time in my life where I placed more value in the motive of music than it’s perfection.

Bait My Soul, what a great great song! That one wasn’t written in a day, was it?

It was written in one day. The lyrics came spilling out while I was looking through a buddy’s illustration sketch book. There was an unfinished drawing of a beautiful woman wearing a knit hat that has “Satan” written on it. I was reading Dante’s Inferno that week, so the concept of Satan was on my mind. Of special interest was the fanaticism that Dante wrote about right and wrong, good and evil. It was all pretty comical to me. I started to think about a satyrical approach to my own version of the Robert Johnson story (selling your soul to the devil in exchange for your desires to come to fruition). The musical part followed suit. 

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

In one way, it already is a success for me. When the project started, my goal was to create an album where the creativity and inspiration was able to flow quickly, without getting bogged down by endless revisions. I was lucky to collaborate with three of my good friends (Greg Seltzer, Andrew Seltzer, Matt Cascella) in the writing and orchestration of this release- they helped insure that the momentum never slowed. It was a highly rewarding process. 

In another way, I’ll consider this record a success when I know that anyone who would appreciate it has the chance to hear it. I think that comes with wide distribution. I’d love for millions of music lovers to get a chance to decide whether they like my offering or not. I’m proud of what my friends and I created and I want the world to hear it.

She will decide on a 5 song mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

“Every Man Needs a Companion” Father John Misty

“Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” The Beatles

“N.I.B.” Black Sabbath

“Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” Crosby Stills Nash

“Only In Dreams” Weezer

How will you promote Prison Font?

In addition to spreading the word via social media and blogs (like you!), I’ll be pushing the album through video content. I love live/takeaway videos. Playing stripped down versions of the songs in unique settings is very inspiring to me. I recently released a video of a performance in a subway hallway (“Rolling Stoned” ). Today, I filmed a performance in a overpass tunnel. The acoustics were incredible, people were walking by… it was all very real. I hope the uniqueness of these videos will capture the imagination of the people who see them and they’ll be curious to learn more about the project. 
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MOD HIPPIE – Big Wow

Discussions Magazine writes:
BIG WOW is like a time-travel album – it is very much of the here-and-now but it manages to incorporate bits of pieces of Alternative Rock’s history in ways that are inspiring. From Psych and Garage Rock through New Wave, Mod and Ska with some tinkly indie bits from the ‘90s, 

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Doug McGuire.

Big Wow has that larger than life sound. How did that came together?


I’m assuming you mean the song Big Wow, not the album as a whole. A little while back, a friends teenage daughter stricken with cancer asked if I would start writing songs again. It had been quite some time. 

When I agreed, she asked me if I could write a song like Madness would do. Big Wow was the first song I wrote in more than a decade. The “Big Wow” call, of course, mimics the opening of Madness’ “One Step Beyond.” 

After that came all the psychedelic nonsense “I am the Walrus” parts over lyrics that try to play with the word “economy.” 

This one became quite the popular number with friends and family.

Glam, Pop, Reggae, Psych, Rock … you are not afraid to use it all, are you?

Hmmm. I really don’t use the reggae thing that much, “Big Wow was kind of an aberration. 

We certainly play rock and psyche and producer/keyboard player/percussionist Adam Marsland has a very keen pop sensibility. 

Plus, you don’t want all the songs to sound the same, do you?

Glam? Me? Hahahaha

What makes a good Mod Hippie song?

Anything could make a good Mod Hippie song. My favorite part of it all is when the fabulous musicians I get to play with start tinkering with my skeleton of a song and I get to sit back and listen to them do their thing and make sound better than I really should. 

Tip of the hat and heartfelt thanks to Adam Marsland, Mike Schnee (Chissum Worthington), Teresa Cowles, DJ Bonebrake, David Marks, Jason Berk, Matt Zook, Connor Claxton

How will you promote the new record?



Oh I am so terrible at promotion. I really want to jump right back in the studio. Ok, I really have jumped back into the studio. DJ put down drums on Easter Sunday for 6 new songs. 

Anyway, back to promotion. We made videos for “Night Rally” and “Psycho Romeo” and they’ll go out in as many places as we can think of. 

I don’t play live much, but we are doing a release party gig with Karma Frog label mates Rob Martinez and Pacific Soul Limited –plus Adam is reviving a different era Cockeyed Ghost to round out the evening!

A completely different cover. Were there many changes since Tomorrow Then?


There were some big changes. When Connor stopped playing, I began to feel that this is more of a solo record than a band record. 

Enlisting pros like Marks and Bonebrake really lifted the bar. There are big similarities between “Big Wow” and “Tomorrow Then” as well. The main vocal sound is still Teresa and Me. Teresa still holds down the bass notes. Songs are by Mike Schnee and me etc. 

Overall, I think Big Wow is more poppy and accessible. Tomorrow then has more of a fun with lunatics feel. Leastaways, that’s how I see it.

WATCH/LISTEN

COLMAN GOTA – Fear the Summer

Fear_the_summer
Fear the Summer will be one of the big surprises this year. Colman Gota’s new record was produced by John Pfiffner. And Mitch Easter plays a mighty solo. Sweet Sweet Music talked to Gota about fuzz guitar arrangements, raising the game, The Replacements and a soul-searching kind of thing.
Let’s make the first seconds count! What about the Fear the Summer intro? Wake-up call or anxiety attack !?

That is the genius of John Pfiffner and his love for fuzz pedals (Mastodon style). If it was up to John Pfiffner there would be only fuzz guitar arrangements. I´d say it´s more of an anxiety attack than a wake up call.
If Mitch Easter is involved everybody always seems to hear exactly what het brought to table. What did he bring to your table?
This time Mitch Easter was less involved than on other occasions, but the mighty solo on “Already Dead” can only be played by him (Don´t try it at home). Another North Carolinian, by the name of John Pfiffner, took care of the guitar solos department and Alvaro Escribano contributed some.
 
Somewhere between The Replacements and Tom Petty. Would you take that as compliment?
 
Absolutely, The Replacements are an all-time favorite and I love Tom Petty too.

For A Reason, what a song! Is the sound a little different compared to the other songs or am I hearing things that aren’t there?

 
“For a Reason” is the kind of song that you don´t know where it comes from. It´s good that sometimes you surprise yourself. I started with a guitar riff, but I soon realized that It made much more sense with the piano. It took sometime to figure out the bass line and the rhythm pattern but once we did, all the pieces seemed to fall in place. It has some original arrangements and a melódica, which is an odd instrument for my trade.

3 records in 3 years. Your bio says you are ‘at the peak of powers’. Is there an explanation? Did you write all those songs in one emotional outburst or do new ones keep coming at you as well?
I started writing as soon as I got back home from the “Tape” sessions. I had a good bunch of songs and I toyed around with the idea of recording on December 2016, but I had only four songs that I really liked. Suddenly I wrote “Already Dead”, “Fear the Summer” and “Someday I´ll Get it Right” in one go, and then I had 7 songs and an album seemed more likely to happen.


Now I´ve raised my game, so the new stuff has to be at least as good as the songs on “Fear the Summer”. The songs keep coming but it seems I´ll have to write a good bunch of them to have quality material. When it comes to songwriting you can´t take anything for granted. I have developed my own craft, but anything could happen, from writer´s block to even better songs. Let´s hope for the better, it´s a soul-searching kind of thing.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When would Fear the Summer be a success to you?

It definitely has. For me success sums up in the concept of “something happens”, meaning that you don´t have to push everything, that things start happening by themselves. Shows start to get packed, people beyond your radar start to become interested in your work, girls tattoo your name…

She will decide on a 5-song mix-tape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

 


You mean from “Fear the Summer” or generally speaking? If it´s from “Fear the Summer”: “Never lie”, “What goes on in my head”, “For a Reason”, “Fear the Summer” and “Make a Stand”.

 


How will you promote Fear of Summer? Will you do some touring as well?

I´ll try to get to as many places as I can, but I can´t afford to put more money out of my pocket, so we´ll see. Being a solo artist is quite a trip, you get all the credit (and deservedly so) but you have to pay all the bills.

WATCH/LISTEN first

DOLLY SPARTENS – Time Sides With No One

Losing a band member can easily mean the end of a band. Not so for Dolly Spartans. They return with Time Sides With No One. Five Garage Pop gems. Michael Eliran tells about challanges and dedication.


You can feel the pain listening to It’s Not Easy. Difficult song to write?


“It’s Not Easy” was definitely a challenge, but the evolution of the song came pretty naturally. The process was definitely driven by emotion first and foremost. I came up with the beginning part in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep so I brought my guitar into the bathroom (not to use the bathroom but because the acoustics were different and it was an isolated space) and that’s where the first part of the song was written. In the weeks after that the song came together bit by bit. It took a lot because I had an idea where I wanted the song to go, so in that sense it was difficult, but it was a natural process.

Losing a band member can easily mean the end of a band?

It definitely can, and for a while we had no idea what we were going to do. Losing Chris was really hard, and for the following months we were basically inactive. All we could do was continue to work on the EP as a dedication to him. The momentum to keep going came from us wanting to honor him.

Garage Pop. That’s exactly what it is, isn’t it? And New York all over?

Yeah I guess you could say that. It’s not really my place to categorize my music, but it seems like that label’s stuck. New York’s not really one thing at this point; there’s so much going on that although there are definitely those kinds of bands here, it’s not the predominant sound by a long shot.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

Success is entirely subjective. To me, this EP is “successful” as long as people get something out of the songs or can relate to them. Also, we’ve been donating our EP proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union so if our contributions help them in any way, that’s another form of “success” for us.

She will decide on a 5 song mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?



Oh man. I couldn’t possibly pick five… we’ll get back to you on that.

How will 2017 look like?



It’s gonna be a busy year. We’re playing a bunch of shows these coming months and touring, as well as working on videos, so stay tuned.
Watch And Listen

CORIN ASHLEY – Broken Biscuits

Corin Ashley lost the ability to do the thing he is clearly meant to do. He fought his way back and he just released Broken Biscuits, a wonderful WONDERFUL collection of pop songs inspired by his recovery from a pretty major health crisis.

But there was much more to talk about. Find out about Delia Derbyshire, Graham Gouldman, XTC, Jellyfish, friends, playing with Jody Stephens, the wish to tour Japan and 60s or early 70s pastiche.

 Corin Ashley (courtesy photo)

 

If I wonder if 10CC was a big influence on you while making Broken Biscuits, would you take that as a compliment? Or were there others that inspired you?

I would definitely take that as a compliment, but I would saw that Grahm Gouldman is more of an influence specifically. There’s a song on my last album, “Marianne” that is an absolute celebration of Graham Gouldman’s writing.

I have a recording of him, Neil Finn and Roddy Frame doing a songwriting circle where they sing on each other’s songs and I have listened to that a million times.

The biggest influence on this album was that I had a pretty major health crisis halfway through making it. I had a stroke due to “a series of unfortunate events”, as they say. It completely wiped out the use of my left hand and paralyzed one of my vocal cords, and really messed up my ability to speak, let alone sing. I did about 9 months of therapy to get back to being able too really play and sing again.

It was a rare opportunity to reconsider music on every level after having played for 30 years. I had to go back to my building blocks as a musician, which are Wings, Badfinger, Supertramp- things I grew up listening to – and then, purely from a learning-to-play-the-bass again perspective, the Police.

That whole period of being a bit of a frazzled blank space mentally was a big re-set button on my music, too. When I couldn’t even really comprehend notes for a while there, the sound of the MRI machine sounded like music to me (which I actually took as a hopeful sign) and I got really into Terry Riley’s music for a while, and Brian Eno suddenly started to make more sense to me. Bowie’s “Black Star” album was the soundtrack to my whole hospital stay.

Now, as a matter of music that maybe influenced this album, I would mention the Eels, certainly Jellyfish, XTC (always)- but these are things that are more in terms of arrangement or production ideas. I’d be inclined to think “OK, I want to do a compressed Nashville tuning electric part like the Eels on this section”. Or, on the last song, the Dean Martin cover, with the strings and woodwinds arrangement, I added some strange bits like a pedal steel app on my iPad and a music box, and that track is labelled “Jon Brion nonsense”, so that’s where direct influences come into play.

brokenbiscuits

 

What about Broken Biscuits? It’s more than just a record title, like a theme?

Yes, it’s so funny how these little matters of happenstance can take on more profound meanings. I stumbled across this term “broken biscuits counter” in a rock bio of Ron Wood and just liked the sound of it. I tucked it away as lyrical idea and then I encountered it again in a collection of synth piece done by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the early 60s- the very early days of music synthesis.

This artist with the best name in all of music history: Delia Derbyshire- c’mon, you gotta love someone named Delia Derbyshire, right? The name alone conjures up sexy 60s intrigue.

So I wrote this first song on the album as kind of pastiche of 60s or early 70s spy caper with lots of travel. It doesn’t particularly mean anything, but it could also mean anything the listener imagines, right? So, then, when all this happened with my brain, I really felt just shattered inside.

With a stroke, your brain is still trying to fire off signals to burnt out synapses constantly, it just feels like there are burnt wires inside your head that are sparking and fusing constantly.

I came back to the idea of broken biscuits- do you have the saying “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” in the Netherlands? It kind of means “that’s just your bad luck” when something happens. Anyway, all of this was tied together in my head and then I told my friends Aaron and Liz, who are designers. They went to Liz’ photo studio and actually cut biscuits with an exacto knife to make the letters and did this album cover for me.

MInd you, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to finish this album at all, but they gave it to me a surprise, as encouragement and motivation. They spent hours on their knees, cutting the biscuits up and making the cover, so I really felt like I owed it to them as friends to get better.

 

Magpie over Citadel. What a beautiful BEAUTIFUL song! And what a Prog Rock song title it is?

Thank you. That’s possibly my favorite on the album because it’s quite a simple song. That’s another example of how my friends lifted me up when I was down. Rob Anastasi, a songwriter I know, asked me to go to Memphis to play bass on a few of his songs.

Perhaps it would have been more practical for him to hire a bass player who hadn’t had a stroke, but he really gave me some confidence- honestly, once I found that Jody Stephens would be playing drums, I would have played bass on his sessions one way or another no matter what. But I was able to book the next day, after Rob’s session, and leave the drum mics up since we already had sounds.

I had this song kind of half written and it was still very fresh and exciting when I recorded it with Jody. I didn’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas about what I wanted to do with it. I just told him “On this one, If you could just play like Jody Stephens from Big Star, it would be wonderful” and he did exactly that.

It felt like I had played with him before after listening to his drumming for so many years.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When would you consider Broken Biscuits to be successful?

It doesn’t have much to do with money, I can tell you that.

The fact that you said you were driving around in the Netherlands singing one of my songs with your son is special to me.

These songs, you write them and then send them out into the world to make friends.

For it to be really successful, someone would put the album out in Japan and I would have a reasons to go play shows in Japan. That has always been a dream of mine. I don’t know, I suppose with this album in particular, I’d like to leave some breadcrumbs behind as encouragement for other musicians who might have an injury like mine in the future. Not just musicians, but anybody who loses their ability to do the thing they are clearly meant to do and has to fight their way back.

Buy Broken Biscuits here

DERRICK ANDERSON – A World Of My Own

A World Of My Own is getting great reviews. Sweet Sweet Music talked to Derrick Anderson about ‘his all star cast’ , the meaning of success, domestic bliss and Otis Redding.

Derrick-Anderson

A World of my Own had an all star (power) pop cast. How did this came together?

Shortly after my band The Andersons! (yeah, the exclamation point’s a part of the name) broke up in ’04, people began asking “when are you gonna make a record?” As the years went on, I would hear that more and more but since I no longer had a band, I had to consider how I’d go about making a record, once I finally decided to do it…years later.

By that time, I’d been playing with The Bangles for a few years and I’d subbed on bass with The Smithereens for several years as well. I’d also been playing with Steve Barton of Translator for years and through all of that, I’d amassed a lot of great, talented friends orbiting in my musical universe, including The Cowsills, having played with them as well. I’d played with Matthew Sweet through his connection with The Bangles and I knew Tommy Keene from my years in The Andersons!. So, it seemed the best way to go would be to choose folks I thought would be rightfully suited for each song and to see if whoever I had in mind would be up for it. Thankfully, they were all up for it and I think everyone involved had a blast doing this little project!  It literally took years to do it this way, but the end result was well worth it. Some of the songs had been around awhile, but never had a “proper birthing” until now. I just had to wait for the stars to align, as it were.

Was there a specific moment  you realized you were on to something special?

Once I heard what The Bangles laid down on “Something New” and heard Jim Babjak’s (Smithereens) tracks on “Waiting For You” I truly knew this was going to be an enchantingly great record!

And then …. you get all this great reviews. What about that?

My main goal with this record was to do something that I could be proud of. Just to please myself, and it was an all-around labor of love. The reviews have been fantastic and that’s just icing on the cake! I’m thrilled that people seem to enjoy it as much as I do.

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

The mere fact that it exists is a success. It doesn’t take much to make me happy!

She will decide on a 5 song mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

I’d almost have to disqualify myself from that one due to my 20 years of domestic bliss. It’s hard to put myself back in that headspace, but I’d say:

Pretty Word – Sergio Mendez & Brasil ’66
I Can’t Explain – The Who
Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys
Let Me Be The One – Carpenters
Give Away None of My Love – Otis Redding

How will 2017 look like?
Busy and  prosperous!

GREG IERONIMO – Never Leaving California

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Greg Ieronimo about Never Leaving California, tripled vocals, guitars being the lead, Redondo Beach, success and Slayer.

Never-Leaving-California-_-upcoming-album-cover

 

That ‘Weezer Wall of Sound’ suits your songs very well, does it?

Selfishly, this production style is my favorite: I love throwing on headphones and feeling completely enveloped by a rock song. My roots are mainly alternative/grunge but I also grew up on heavier stuff like Pantera and Slayer. There’s something about the wall of sound for Power Pop that I really like, because it accentuates the guitars being the lead role in the sound. Plus, I like my vocals better when they are doubled/tripled etc. And for my song style influences in general, you’re basically getting Beatles, Nirvana, and Pantera mixed into one – so wall of sound just feels right.

Never Leaving California. Why not?

You never know where tomorrow will take you, but if I have anything to say about it, I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. My fiancé and I have lived together here for almost a decade together on the beach in Redondo, and it may sound a little dramatic, but I feel like a fish out of water anywhere else. I grew up in Connecticut, and that is where my closest friends and family are: that will always be “home” too. Another way to answer this question is… have you ever been to LA/Redondo Beach?? ‘Nuff said… ☺

You don’t release records every day. How did Never Leaving California came together?

If I had the resources, I would love to put out records every few months (every day might be a stretch since I hate most songs I finish). NLC was recorded and mixed over two years, Fall-2014 to mid-2016, with another 8 months delay I could not help, regarding licensing. The songs usually come together when I am inspired and bust out a hook/melody, then I’ll sit down and complete the piece. After my 2014 EP, Bipolar Love, I really wanted to hone in on my sound, and put out a record I could be 100% proud of: no corners cut, no regrets, and my only motive was to write and produce a record I could say defines my musical style. That meant going through a lot of different mixes, masters, etc (took a lot of time). But I am proud of the end result. My mom said she really likes it too. ☺

The meaning of ‘success’ has changed over the years. When will the new record be a success?

Good question. I guess I just want it to reach the people that will enjoy it. I always hope a song will get picked up for a TV show or film, but that’s a bonus to me for this album, and would be beyond “success”. I think I’m already happy with releasing it and getting some good feedback thus far. And again, my mom is very proud already, so I have that going for me.

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She will decide on a 5 song mix-tape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?

If I have to use MY songs:

1) You Love Me
2) Lucky Day
3) Best Day of Our Life
4) Rewind
5) Act Two

How will 2017 look like?

A: In 2017 my goals are to market Never Leaving California as much as possible to radio and music supervisors, and also WRITE and RECORD as much as I can. I record with a musical dynamo, Kevin Fisher, who has his studio in San Pedro, so I hope to spend time there this year recording new songs. I am also privileged to have a brilliant graphic designer, Chris Nazzaro, to do my album art. I hope to work with him again this year, or early next year, for the next album. I want to put out another record (likely an EP) within 12-18 months. So if you like what you hear on Bipolar Love and Never Leaving California, get ready for more!