Nick Frater – Earworms (Q&A)

Nick Frater is very productive, and that raises the quality of his songs even further. He explains to Sweet Sweet Music how he does it.

Earworms is an ode to 70s AM rock and will be released by Big Stir Records on November 19, 2021.

The love for 70s AM rock, or even Soft Rock, is increasingly cited as an inspiration. What do you find attractive about that music, and what bands do inspire you the most?

There’s no denying that I have a massive love of music from before I was born, particularly from around 1965-1975 (give or take). But within that time, there is a noticeable shift in melodic, harmonic, and songwriting techniques that tell your ear that you hear a song from either the 60s or the 70s.

The last album, Fast & Loose, lent a bit more towards the 60s garage/The Band vibe – or at least that was where my head was at when writing. The songs on Earworms all seemed to lend themselves firmly into the 70s feel, so I chose to embrace it and try and make an album that would feel right if you put it on in between albums of that era.

The most audible influences on this record are probably Cheap Trick, Steely Dan, and Todd Rundgren. However, there are a few deliberate musical quotes buried in there too. It’s All Rumours was written with a sample from Jellyfish’s All Is Forgiven, which I’d pitch-shifted into the right key. I make music on the tiniest of shoestring budgets, so I didn’t have the means to clear samples from Virgin Records, so I wondered if Roger Joseph Manning might be up for recreating it, and he was, and worked up some incredible harmony parts for the rest of the track too!

But for fans of ludicrous musical references, Not Born Again features a bass drum quote from ELP’s Trilogy. If you’re not familiar, I thoroughly recommend checking out the Endless Enigma opening suite on that album, absolutely excellent! Hopefully, you’ll recognize the drum quote and think, “how did they do that!?” probably followed by “why did they do that!?” – the answer is that music is fun and should be enjoyed! Even if writing and recording is a pretty downbeat ballad, which I love to do often, there is still a huge emotional surge in making that kind of music, similar to making upbeat tunes. 

It seems that the songs came about in a fit of creativity, or do I hear something that isn’t there and was it just hard work?

You’re absolutely right; I seem to be going through an unexpected purple patch! It’s kind of weird to have written so much material over the last few years – it’s probably too soon to talk about it, but since finishing Earworms, I’ve got about three albums in the can already. The CDs are already printed for one of them. If anyone out there is looking for songs, give me a call!

Songwriting is quite a strange thing to do. It feels easier the more I do it, that sometimes, particularly when writing a first or second album, that everything needs to be the greatest song ever made;  slaving over every note and word. However, I’ve found the opposite to be most enjoyed by other people. My phone is filled with little doodle melodies and lyrics that pop into my head when doing all the mundane things of life – and when worked up into songs quickly, and lyrics committed to early on, going with that first idea, they somehow turn out the best.

I’ve lost count, but I think there are well over 100 tracks under my name currently on Spotify, and at least the same where I’ve contributed to other peoples’ songs too. I’m not sure practice makes songwriting perfect, but it does make it more natural and enjoyable. There’s a kind of half-hearing, a bit like when you see things in your peripheral vision, that is the ideal state to be in to capture songs from the ether. Don’t focus on them because they’ll drift off, but allow them to land in your voice and fingers, probably similar to how dreams form, and they arrive….but a bit of more focused thinking once they have obviously helps turn that little idea into something you’d ever consider pressing to vinyl!

When did you decide the record would be called Earworms?

When you sell as few records as I do, I think a little bit of misplaced confidence goes a long way!

But in seriousness, there was a different approach to songwriting on this album, with pretty much everything written from the voice and starting from the melodic line, rather than how some of my earlier songs, which were worked up at the piano from complex and dense chord structures. 

This change feels like it’s given these songs, and the ones on the three albums a bit more melodic immediacy, and hopefully capture your ear and your heart. I can’t recall exactly when the album title was chosen, but it was pretty early on. That strive for classic pop/rock melodies and sounds was there from the start of this album.

The guitar solos of Lucky Strike and Star-Crossed will make me smile for the rest of the day. Do you recognize that feeling?

I’m so glad to hear you enjoy the guitar solos! As a pianist/bassist, my guitar playing tends to be very ‘un-guitaristy’. Thankfully I know some great guitar players, such as Mike Randle, who can do the flashy playing, while I do the weird ‘piano player doing strange shapes on the guitar’ routine. 

However, both Lucky Strike and Star-Crossed solos were played by me, again coming from singing melodic phrases and finding those notes on the guitar. Lucky Strike is a tune from one of my old bands, and Tom Shotton (drums on some of the album) helped to write that solo, but Star-Crossed was me going all out to make the most 70s thing I possibly could. I love how that one turned out, particularly the high synth/organ sounds that sparkle like a satellite towards the end of the track over the top of the solo. 

You knew you had a lead-off track when you recorded It’s All Rumors?

It’s All Rumours definitely had a’ side a, track 1’ feel to it when I wrote it at the piano. Hopefully, there are many music moments to enjoy on Earworms, but this song kicks off with some filthly double-stop guitar notes over a fun piano riff. On the face of it, the chords are just G/C/D – however, every single time they happen, everything is in a different inversion, with different bass notes and a different rhythm. So, on the one hand, totally meat & potatoes rock music, but also surprisingly complex!

For fans of musical moments, there’s a cheeky bar of 7/8 as it leads into the bridge too. We were talking about musical references earlier; the cheeky bar of 7/8 before the bridge is a nod to Roy Wood, who liked to do that in his big Christmas tune!

The Lunar Laugh – Nighthawks! (Q&A)

NIGHTHAWKS! is an an exciting collection of never-before-released live recordings spanning the group’s full career, along with a pair of exclusive studio tracks. Released on Big Stir Records.

The Lunar Laugh is a great live band; it turns out. I like a lot of their songs, but I think the live performances of those songs are all even better, mainly because the singing and the instrumentation are so beautiful. Jared and Connor talk about Nighthawks!.

How did this record come together?

Jared: Since we had started playing live, we had several shows that we had recorded for posterity because we wanted to be able to have a listen to them at some later date. We planned on doing some sort of live album whenever we felt like we had the time to devote to it. As it turned out, the pandemic hit in 2020, and we had to cancel several gigs and, somewhat ironically, that’s what really freed up the time we needed to devote to listening to the shows that we had recorded and then figuring out what we would use and polishing it off.

Connor: We had all of these past live recordings and some extra time on our hands in 2020.

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

Jared: The urge arrives more easily some days than others. I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed with some of my material that has yet to see the light of day because there’s so much, and I want to get it all out there. Every time I write, I have that little thought in the back of my mind that says, “you’re just adding to the pile”. But you have to follow the muse when it arrives. Creating music is what keeps me grounded and satisfied.

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

Jared: I’m lucky enough to have two excellent co-writers alongside me for the ride already. But I would love to sit and write with Carole King because I feel like her gift for melody would make coming up with lyrics easy and challenging. Also, she’s Carole King, and she’s awesome.

Connor: Tom DeLonge, because who doesn’t want to write about aliens?! Brandon Flowers and Kacey Musgraves because they write some of the sweetest melodies. It’d be fun to bounce around ideas with them.

Cassettes are back. Which 3 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Jared: They never went away for me. Since I’ve been alive, I don’t think I’ve ever not owned a cassette player. But if the 3 of us made a joint mixtape, I’d be tempted to put on something a little obscure that I thought was beautiful or moving and something really funny. So I’d choose “It’s Cookie Time” from the movie Troop Beverly Hills and “What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana” by Merle Haggard.

Connor: I’d probably throw in the Space Jam theme song for the collective mixtape.

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

Jared: The interaction with the audience makes it spontaneous. It’s like walking a tightrope without a net. There’s that kind of a thrill-seeking aspect to playing live. You feed off of the crowd, and they are feeding off of you.

Kai Danzberg Talks About His New Single TURN IT UP!

What is the story behind the creation of the new single?

The song has a long history. In early 2019 I wrote the first version, which I also recorded back then. That was right after I released “Not Only Sunshine”.

Turn It Up was initially titled “Turn Up The Music”, and it should be, and will be, the opening song of my next record. The title of that record is in the lyrics. Can you spot it? 

While recording Turn It Up, I listened to ELO a lot, and I think you can hear that. The song itself has over 160 layers of stuff happening. How about that, Jeff Lynne?

It was not a very easy song to record; I kept making adjustments because the result was always not what I wanted. I didn’t make it easy for myself either because I really wanted to incorporate samples of classical music into the song; if you listen carefully, you can hear Bach. Finding the right balance between pop/rock and classical music was a nerve-wracking process, and I only got it right after the 20th mix.

At first, I played all instruments on my own. Then I decided to get help from a few of my friend-musicians such as JK Harrison and Marcos De La Cruz.

The lyrics are very self-explaining, I think. It’s me telling the people to turn up their radio 😊!

Due to Covid-19, the new record wasn’t released in 2020. Anyway, I still hope to finish the new album sometime in 2022.  


And then you asked Roger to sing on your song. How came that about?

That is a very unspectacular story. Well, since I discovered Jellyfish and Roger’s solo stuff, I always loved his vocals. When I wrote Turn It Up in 2019, I already felt like, “Damn, I wanna have Roger on it “. 

Roger is a very busy man. He is very involved in working with Beck and his new project called “The Lickerish Quartet “.

I was very lucky to be able to hire him. The vocals he recorded blew my mind. He nailed the “Bach” harmonies at the end. And those harmonies have given me sleepless nights because I couldn’t manage to sing them.

He said “Love it!” when the work was done, which made me very happy and proud.

LOLAS – ALL RISE (Q&A)

All Rise is Lolas’ new record, which will be released on CD by Kool Kat Musik in early 2022. Until then, you can listen to the thirteen great new songs on Bandcamp.

Tim Boykin talks to Sweet Sweet Music about Hegel, the Negation of the Negation, and the raw emotion and sadness behind the new songs.

In previous interviews, we already talked about the stories behind Me and Barbara Stanwyck (from Doctor Apache) and Louise Michel, which is on All Rise. There are particular stories behind these songs. Do you always need such a story or inspiration to write, or do you also succeed if you start without an idea with a blank sheet in front of you?

It’s very common for me to just have a few sung notes, and then I’ll develop chords and lyrics around the melody. Also, the lyrical outcome can sometimes be determined by whether a word “sings” or not, often with unintended but favorable results.

In the song General Assembly, I wanted the lyric in the second verse to say “Cumberland County” which is a place I lived in North Carolina, which I was very fond of, but that just did not sing well at all. It wasn’t going to work, so I sort of grudgingly changed it to “Walker County,” which is truthfully not a place I care to travel to, but it sang perfectly, and it’s honest enough; I have a lot of family and history there, in Walker and Winston County AL.

So that drove that song quickly to a satisfying completion. Walker County became the Negation of the Negation, so to speak.

To borrow directly from Hegel – the static (or habitual) (or favored idea, in my case) becomes discarded or dissolved, made fluid and adaptable, and recovers its eagerness to push on towards “the whole”.

How did you make All Rise?

All Rise was recorded and mixed in North Birmingham, Alabama, Fall 2020 – Fall 2021.

Tim Boykin – Vocals, Guitars, Keys

Valis Procházka – Bass, Vocals

Jabari Henderson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Basic tracks were recorded onto a Zoom R16 in a shut down Mexican restaurant and then flown into my DAW at my home (Bushido Sound), where I was able to spend quite a bit of time tinkering and experimenting with different sounds and approaches to mixing, particularly during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.

Many of the tracks, particularly guitars and vocals were recorded and then re-recorded, in some cases quite a number of times, until I was happy enough with them. All my vocals were done with a $50 used MXL condenser mic, and most of the guitar tracks are a G&L Doheny through a Vox AC15. Keys are mostly an Akai MPK Mini MKII and an EMU Vintage Keys.

All Rise is ready, and then you want as many people as possible to enjoy your songs. How much effort do you put into reaching the largest possible audience? And can you give an impression of what is involved?

Myself, I do not have much in the way of resources to promote a new Lolas album. I try to use social media. But I get a lot of push from Ray Gianchetti at the Kool Kat label. He’s absolutely great. He distributes and promotes, and the rest is support from the fans and good people like yourself.

You also play other styles of music. When you write for Lolas, do you put on your Power Pop cap? Or do you write songs, and the song ultimately determines the style in which it is performed? I also ask because I can well imagine a metal version of Dirtbag on the Run.

I think the thing about All Rise is that there is probably more raw emotion and sadness behind those songs. On Bulletproof, I felt very optimistic. I think that’s reflected in a lot of the songs. There’s a bit of humor and snark, but mostly sincere optimism. That was in 2019.

I knew there would be a struggle and challenging times ahead, but you know, I HAD NO IDEA how tough things were about to get. In 2020 and 2021, we had a global catastrophe. I experienced some major stuff, personal loss, like so many of us. My father died, I lost friends, lost work. I experienced crippling depression, something I struggle with anyway. But these were rough times. I feel like that’s reflected in a lot of the songs on All Rise. But that usually makes for good power pop, right?

In 2016, a guy in Okayama, Japan, asked me, “what are Lolas songs about?” I told him, “well, most of them are about heartbreak.” He was absolutely flummoxed. He couldn’t fathom it, which amused me.

He liked Britpop like Oasis, who I’ll admit I don’t know much about, but I mean, Champagne Supernova? That’s just kind of about being awesome, isn’t it? Not exactly Badfinger or Bram Tchaikovsky or Wreckless Eric. Lol.

The funny thing about Dirtbag, and to some extent Messages From Home, is that at the time, I was listening to a lot of No Wave, that kind of 1978 era NYC noise rock, like Von LMO, which can be fast and aggro, and can have elements of speed metal, bet really has a very different aesthetic from someone like Michael Schenker, who I of course love.

So I was listening to a lot of Von LMO, Chrome, and in particular Jim Skafish, original punk and new wave progenitor from Chicago, who I’m a massive fan of. I LOVE Skafish. And his music is quite proficient and accurate and aggressive as often as it’s noisy and dissonant. Jim Skafish can flat out burn up a guitar fretboard when he’s not ruling on piano or singing amazingly. But there we come full circle because I found out about Skafish because of Rick Nielsen.

Somehow, it all makes sense!

James Sullivan – Light Years

MORE KICKS’ frontman JAMES SULLIVAN, first solo record, Light Years, is out November 5 on Stardumb Records.

On the lead single, Lea Bridge, he sings of life in north London as Lou Reed would have sung about New York had he now been in his mid-20s. The music on Light Years is more ragged but no less intense than the songs Sullivan makes with MORE KICKS. For fans of Guided by Voices, Bob Mould, and The Replacements. Aren’t we all?

LIGHT YEARS is a whistlestop tour of blitzed-out fuzz (‘Totally Bored’), paranoid drum machine twitches (‘Getaway’), stadium-sized reflections (‘In The End’) and lo-fi 60s pop nuggets (‘It Won’t Do You Harm’).

How did this record come together?

In 2020 I was supposed to be all over the place with my band More Kicks. We released our debut album at the end of 2019 and had lots of things being booked, festivals, tours etc. We managed to do a three-week tour in February 2020 then came home full of excitement for the next 12 months. Then the obvious happened and it was all gone. I was scrabbling around for work and generally just trying to keep my head above water.

By the autumn, I had set up a small recording space for myself which I called ‘Chewed Up Recordings’. It was a room opposite the warehouse where I lived with 25 other people, about 1.5m x 3m. I had a desk, an 8-track reel-to-reel which had been half-repaired, a farfisa organ I picked up off eBay, my guitars and a few bits of analog gear that I’d been buying for a couple of years. So I decided to keep myself entertained by writing one song every day for 10 days and recording it all myself in that room. An ‘album’.

Each day I would finish working in my room in the warehouse and then walk over to Chewed Up and write something. After 10 days I had 10 songs which were fairly schizophrenic in style. They definitely didn’t sound like More Kicks songs. It seemed like a good challenge. So for the next month or so I recorded them piece by piece. Two of the songs needed a proper drummer to play them so I asked Kris from More Kicks to help out and I recorded him in our practice space, Rockaway Studios. Paolo from More Kicks also played bass on one of them because he obviously plays bass far better than I do. A couple of friends also helped on a piano part that was beyond my capability, plus a violin part because I can’t play violin.

Then it was done. I recorded and mixed everything on 1/2″ tape in that little room and then wondered what to do next.

Chatting with Stefan from Stardumb Records one day I mentioned my little lockdown project and he got curious. I’d made a video for one song ‘Lea Bridge’ where I taped my phone to the front of my bike, pressed record and cycled around north London – around the same route that the song’s narrative takes place. Somehow, Stefan was intrigued and wanted to hear the whole thing. Fast forward a few months and it’s coming out as a full record on LP and CD on Stardumb and I’m coming to the Netherlands to play a couple of gigs – Cafe Koos in Zwolle and Left of the Dial Festival in Rotterdam. Basically, it’s just escalated from a slightly desperate idea to an actual tangible, physical thing. Proof that keeping busy is always a good plan, I suppose.  


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


No one heard a single note of it until it was 100% finished. It was my way of taking control of something in my life when everything else had spiralled completely around me. More Kicks remained as busy as we could be – we rehearsed when Covid restrictions would allow and I wrote the second album during this time too, which we’ve just finished. But the beauty of making ‘Light Years’ was the speed and total control I could have. When I started to rehearse for the gigs that I’m playing with a band I had to learn the songs from scratch because I had no idea how to play them. I’d written them and then immediately recorded them so I really had no clue what I’d played on the recording. 

I love the collaboration of being in a band but in that moment it wasn’t really possible. It’s a dangerous policy to ask for no feedback or opinions on anything but I had nothing to lose. If it was shit when it was finished, I just wouldn’t have played it to anyone and it still would have been a good project to learn more about recording and keep busy.

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


It’s less an urge and more a compulsion, I think. I can easily go months without writing anything. It’s much easier to not write. But the second I write something that I like, I feel 100% better in myself. That tells me everything I need to know. Of course I want people to hear the music and enjoy it, but actually I’ve learned that it’s just vital for my own happiness that I’m writing and making music as much as possible.

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

Yeah it’s absolutely fine. I’m not worried about that at all. There are songs on Light Years where the lyrics are literally taken word for word from a diary I was keeping while I was having some cognitive behavioural therapy. I’m not shy about it at all – I’m proud that I could take something so negative and make something out of it. I don’t know what other people do to release those feelings. Exercise, seeing friends, talking to family, reading, these things I suppose? I do all those things too but it’s not the same. Music just happens to be my way of dealing with my brain.

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


I went to go and see Guided by Voices when they played in London in 2019. They hadn’t played in London for about 15 years and I’d never seen them before. That was the closest I’ve been to feeling like I was in a cult. It felt like a total triumph of perseverance and compulsive productivity. They played for about three hours, about one million two-minute songs. Robert Pollard was chugging tequila, high kicking and somehow singing like an angel aged 60+. 

I love how they were just a band in their late 30s in Dayton, Ohio. They were teachers, guys just doing jobs and getting together at the weekend to watch basketball, drink beer and then play music in the basement, recording it on a cassette four-track after the basketball had finished and there was still beer left. Then after years of making records just to send to their friends, Matador somehow hear one of them and give them $100,000 to make a record. They go back to the basement, make the record ‘Alien Lanes’ for free on the cassette four-track and keep the $100,000. And of course it’s absolutely amazing.    


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 could tell you that answer with More Kicks stuff because I think about that more and take more time with it. With ‘Light Years’, I had one evening to write the song by the rules I’d imposed on myself. So by the time I had written the basic song and was writing some lyrics I was always quite tired and impatient to finish. But I had to write out all the lyrics for the LP artwork and I was pleased to see that I liked most of them.

I always quite like it when lyrics contradict one another. There’s a song on the record called ‘It Won’t Do You Harm’ where the lyrics of the verse directly contradict the chorus. The verses are quite romantic and dreamlike, the choruses suggest that it’s a cynical ploy of self-help on my part. But then in the middle section we finally get to what feels like the truth of the matter and I just speak directly. I don’t think songs have to tell a story or even have a coherent narrative. How often do we think in cohesive narratives? It’s more important to just get the mood of whatever you’re feeling across. 

We can barely see what’s coming in front if it’s coming at all 

But I hope you know my pride had the sense to fall

When you hardly speak then you’re hardly wrong, or so I thought

I left it for another day so it won’t do you harm  


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


I guess the correct answer is: ‘It depends who I’m making it for’. But I’ll just be selfish and try to reflect stuff I’ve been listening to for the last year or so.

The Replacements – Little Mascara. The best song title ever and I think that will be the title of the mixtape as well. Get ready to scream along to the outro: ‘CRYYYYYYYYYY… CRYYYYYYYYY’.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – I Won’t Hurt You. The creepiest, most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. At the height of the first lockdown I did a cover of ithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rK5UVy8x38 just for no reason and I think that probably was the seed that eventually grew into ‘Light Years’.


John Cale – Half Past France. If I make another record on my own I want it to sound like Paris 1919 by John Cale. I just need to fit the London Symphony Orchestra into Chewed Up Recordings somehow. The point where he sings ‘People always bored me anyway…’ and the drums kick in makes me want to cry with happiness. 

Woods – Strange to Explain. In another context, that chorus could be sung by every failed X Factor singer in the worst bars of every town. In this context with that fragile Neil Young-esque voice singing it, it makes me weirdly happy to realise that you should not be afraid to sing the cheesiest, poppiest melodies possible in anything you do. Through your own filter it will work, just don’t worry about it.

The Modern Lovers – She Cracked. Because I think the mixtape got a bit too mellow and this is a totally bulletproof, unstoppable monster from a twisted genius mind. My sometime band Suspect Parts used to cover it with Chris Brief, our drummer, singing it and it literally never fails. ‘EAT SHIT!’


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

After the 18 months we’ve all just had I really don’t care. I just want to be in a city I don’t live in, with a couple of friends and a lot more strangers, three or four gin & tonics, I’ve just played a gig and I stink, the promoter is now DJing Ramones and Dickies songs while people hang around half-dancing or going out to smoke cigarettes. My stuff is packed away and I have nothing else to do that day except finish my gin & tonics and walk exhaustedly to wherever we’re sleeping. I miss it all so much. 

The Reflectors – Faster Action

If you loved The Beat in the early ’80s, and your taste hasn’t changed dramatically, The Reflectors is one of your favorite new bands. Without a doubt. Pure Power Pop Heaven!

Frontman James Carman explains how Faster Action was created.

How did this record come together?

After our first release, we immediately got back on track and started writing more – and then a pandemic happened. In the middle of all of that, it gave us a lot of time to focus on our writing while also going through the troubles of the pandemic. Times were tough for all of us in the band. We endured emotion on so many levels, each of us in our own way. Playing music and writing was our outlet, so we worked hard and got back in the studio to track our music.

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

Inspiration fuels the urge to be creative, and finding inspiration is so important when you’re an artist. I used to write a bunch of poetry about things that inspired me. I think that has helped me lyrically, especially when it comes to writing and shaping my vocals. It’s essential to stay inspired, or you’ll lose that drive to be creative.

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

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Head On
Buzzcocks – Get On Our Own
Manic Street Preachers – Stay Beautiful
Cheap Trick – Come On, Come On
The Three O’Clock – I Go Wild

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

We’re thrilled as long as people are listening and enjoying our record. We hope the record can reach as many listeners as possible!

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 think we are very melodic and upbeat, so if I were to tell a listener what to pay attention to who has never heard my music before… I would say listen to the tempo and lyrics along with the melodic harmonies and riffs.

Andy Bopp – AB (Q&A)

When I’ve just heard a new incredible record, I usually try not to be tempted to say that I’ve just heard one of the best records of the year.

Well, Andy Bopp’s AB is one of the best records of 2021, a towering creative peak within his entire oeuvre, although Andy sees that slightly differently himself.

There are sixteen great songs on AB. Was there a moment when you were aware that you were at a creative peak?

I don’t feel that it’s a peak per se, it’s coming out of the covid, and it just happened. I felt it was strong, but sometimes you have to stop and look at the content and feel good about it.

A 6 track EP seems to be pretty much becoming the standard. You decided to make a double record. How did that come about?

It came about because I felt I didn’t release anything in 2020, and I wanted to return with a bang.

On the second record, so to speak, I sometimes seem to hear Love Nut influences, or am I only hearing what I want to hear?

You are correct. Blood 66, for instance, was slated for the second Love Nut record, but it was cut, and I always thought it was a good song.

If you finally decide to have sixteen songs on the record, have you thrown away a lot of song ideas too?

Not really, I have about four songs that I could have put on Disc 1, but they didn’t come together, so to speak.

Andy, how do we convince the rest of the world that AB is one of the best records of recent years?

Good question; promotion is complicated in a DIY setting; that being said, I’m doing what I can without a label, manager, or radio promotion. I’m a full-time musician, and I’d rather concentrate on content and quality, being that I don’t have any backing. Oddly enough, I had the support with Love Nut and Miracle Brah, and it was wonderful.

I’d just like to be able to tour in my car with my guitar.

Unless it’s over the pond- then I’d fly.

The Brothers Steve – Dose (Q&A)

Shh-boom, shh-bang, new york jimmy-willy, Do bop ba lamma, chapeau banana, and the pure joy of singing together.

DOSE, The Brothers Steve’s second record, will be released on October 15 by Big Stir Records.

Jeff Whalen and Os Tyler talked about that Covid thing, natural progression, telling Beth you just can’t find the sound and the beauty of harmony vocals.

The album has a different ‘vibe’ compared to the debut. It looks like the band dynamics changed a bit. Major shift or natural progression?   

Jeff Whalen:  Yeah, I dunno!  For our first record, #1, we had learned all the songs in a room all together with the idea of playing them live.  When it came time to record the album, we tried to track it as live and as quickly as possible to try to get that vibe of how we sound as a band.  

This time, for Dose, they had that Covid thing going around, so we had to record in a socially distanced manner instead of the emotionally distanced approach we take to most things.  We couldn’t develop the songs live, and we really couldn’t even rehearse in a normal way.  We had to learn our parts and record in shifts, with at most a couple of us there at one time.    

But more than all that, the way we recorded this album left Os and me alone in the studio for a lot of it, and when that happens, things get really overdubby really quick.  

Os Tyler: I like to think of Dose as a natural progression for us. Everything is constantly evolving; everything is always changing, which has to be reflected in any creative process, and Dose is just the sum of everything we put into it. Everything going on in the world and in our lives shaped it. There was no conscious effort to make a major shift. Just letting things evolve naturally! 

The harmony vocals make all the difference. BEAUTIFUL. I like to think you recorded them all in one room, but that probably is not true?   

JW:  Thank you so much!  Doing harmonies is really one of the funnest things about being in this band. Unless someone stops us, Os and I will keep adding vocal parts and harmonies well past the point of it being a good idea.  Then we have to go back and take out just hours of “Shh-boom” s and “shh-bang” s and “new york jimmy-willy” s and all manner of similar whatnots.  

OT: Yeah, super appreciate your appreciation of the harmonies we’re putting out there. Harmonies are magically uplifting. Even if we end up taking them out later, I think the song can still be informed by the “Do bop ba lamma, chapeau banana” that was in there for a little while and then went away. There’s a ghost of a reminiscence driving the song from the back of the theater. 

JW: And yes, but no, we recorded them all in the same room, but they weren’t done all at once.  There was a brief period in the spring/early summer in which Os, Dylan, and I all sang together in the vocal room a few times, but then it went back to masks-back-on, one-at-a-time in the vocal booth. 

OT: Dylan and Jeff, and I have spent a lot of time blending our voices together. It’s like diving into a velvet cotton candy cloud, and that’s true whether we’re singing live or together-but-separate in the vocal booth. 

How did the record come about?   

JW:  It had to be done!  There was no escaping it.  We had a grip of tunes and an overarching concept. Once you have those things, as a band, it’s hard to not record.  From there, it’s just a matter of getting coffee and cookies and pizza and candy and telling Beth that you hear her calling, but you can’t come home right now, cuz you and the boys are playing, and you just can’t find the sound.    

OT: It was a snowball that started as a tiny vibration. Every one of us in the band has a firm conviction that fundamentally, there’s only one thing people are here to do. Make art, make music, create a magic vehicle for love. It’s not easy to do with everything else going on in the world. So when you have a chance, when you sense that tiny vibration, you gotta roll up that snowball and push it along until it’s big enough to ride down the hill. 

Do you still dream about playing those songs for a HUGE audience?   

JW:  Yes.  

There is a Dutch family that lives in a small house in the center of beautiful Utrecht. Yesterday, while cleaning up after dinner, music by The Brothers Steve and Tsar was played in that house, and then the whole family sang or danced to the music. I just want you to know. 

OT: Such a beautiful scene; that’s exactly the dream, joyful hearts hearing and moving to this music is why it exists. 

JW:  That is the greatest thing I’ve heard today.  Thank you for that, Patrick!  

Songs by Jeff Whalen and Os Tyler
Recorded by Os Tyler and Jeff Whalen

The Brother Steve are:
OS: Singing, guitar
Jeff: Singing, guitar
Dylan: Singing, guitar
Jeff: Bass
Coulter: Drums

The Embryos – National Absurdatory (Q&A)

‘We all pushed for perfection on Morning Birds,’ says Finn Swingley, songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for The Embryos. The opening track of the record, National Absurdatory, is indeed an example of a perfectly beautiful song.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Swingley and songwriter, drummer and singer, Joe Daley about musical socialism and the creation of the new record, which will be released on Kool Kat Musik soon.

How did this record come together? 

FS: The first session for this album happened in February of 2020.  It was the first time we’d started recording the complete rhythm section at our new studio (Soapbox Music).  I think we were all excited to record as a band with total control over the outcome.  The songs from this session were Rattlesnakes, Someone to Hold Me, and The Funky Embryo.  

Then, of course, COVID lockdowns started in March. For a long time, we were not really getting together to make progress on the record.  Little by little, new songs were coming together. These were starting out more and more as individual contributions that we built up piece by piece.

A lot of painstaking work happened then, tracking and re-tracking parts.  That “social distance” period impacted the outcome, resulting in quite a few more acoustic-based and introspective songs.  

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

JD: We’ve ordered 25 CDs to sell online and at our shows. I would consider it a tremendous success if we sold all 25.

FS: We do it because we enjoy it and want to have a record of the music that we write.  We consider each incremental thing a success, a good review, a new fan, radio shows picking up our songs or an appreciative audience.  Unlike Zappa, we are not in it for the money.    

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

JD: At this point, the opportunity to be creative and to have fun are the driving forces. I think we find songwriting and creating music as natural as taking a breath. It’s part of who we are.

FS: I think we all have a bit of a drive to continue to create.  Even if there wasn’t a band, I do not doubt that each individual member would continue to write, record, or perform.  We’ve all been doing this for most of our lives, and we keep learning more.

Speaking for myself, I try to trust the music. Songs either come fully formed in one go or get worked out slowly over a long period of time.  For me, It’s rarely anything in between. I also seem to have streaks where a handful of new songs will come at once and then lulls where I don’t do anything new for quite a while.  

As long as new things continue to come, I’m happy. If I do hit a writing block, you can use techniques to kick start the creative process.  I certainly would be surprised if I don’t continue to write new music into old age.  

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

FS: We all pushed for perfection on Morning Birds, with everyone contributing to multiple rounds of the process.  Our bassist Brian wrote the tune. There was an initial tracking. Then, our guitarist George made some pretty significant changes to the arrangement and tempo. Joe came back and re-tracked the drums.  We brought in the string players, who did a fantastic job.  Then we went through numerous mixes and eventually re-tracked the vocals. We hired Brian Deck to do the final mix. We think it’s a hit anyway.

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

JD: Oh man! The list is endless.  

Ray Davies – genius lyricist and melody writer.  
Lee Hazelwood – unique and legendary.  
Harry Nilsson – among the greatest signers and melodicist of his generation. Why not work with the best? 

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

JD: Certainly…yes. Radio programmers, writers, and bloggers are being inundated with new music.  The advent of DAWs, Garage Band, and affordable recording gear have lowered the barrier for entry. Technology has thrown open flood gates of creative expression to anyone with a smartphone.

On one hand, it is an incredibly fertile period for musicians and artists at every skill level. On the other hand, quality control does not exist anymore. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. 

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?

JD: Hopefully, people will hear interesting lyrics, catchy hooks, and strong melodies. I think the element that set our songs apart is our collaborative spirit. Our uniqueness flows from our ability to work together on guitar parts, vocal arrangements, glockenspiel, or whatever, and make songs more original than they would have been if we acted independently—musical socialism.

The Embryos:
Brian Daley: Vocals, Guitar, Bass Guitar
Finn Swingley: Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Wulitzer Piano, Rhoads Piano, Percussion
George T. Drag: Vocals, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Harmonica
Joe Daley: Vocals, Drums, Percussion

On the Runway – All We Have Is Ourselves (Q&A)

Dave Norris and John “Boz” Boswell have been making music together for a long time. Around the turn of the century, they made some beautiful records with Crash Into June full of classy Indie Power Pop songs, and they are doing it again now, as On The Runway.

On All We Have Is Ourselves, the are five songs that are bursting with quality.

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

BOZ: When Dave played the demo for “This Charade.” The sound was there, and I knew it was going to be a great record. A continuation of a musical partnership that we’ve had for the last 23 years or so…

How did this record come together?

BOZ: I was talking with Dave about recording some new music together. He said he’d been working on some stuff, and he sent the ideas to me. We agreed that working with Neilson Hubbard as a producer again would be the way to go. We also wanted to go to Nashville and record.

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

BOZ: Obviously, we want as many people to hear it as possible and would love for a song or two to end up in a movie, tv-show, etc…but ultimately, it’s how it makes you (artist) feel. Because at the end of the day, we’re really just doing it for ourselves.

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

DAVE: Very great! I always have Voice Memos on my phone ready for any ideas that pop into my head; words, melodies, etc.… The process is ongoing and ever-present. Of course, ideas come in the car, taking the dog out, on the treadmill, etc., so I can’t ever be without the trusty smartphone. Of course, it sounds cliche, but writing songs can be very cathartic and a form of therapy, if you will.

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

DAVE:

Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub) – Such a keen sense of melody and masterful ability to turn a hook.

Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, etc.) – Gone way, way too soon. A true genius with words and melodies. Irreplaceable.

Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) – Such a vivid lyricist, creates atmosphere and mood on tunes so perfectly.

BOZ:

I love how each of these artists write. The lyrics mean a lot to me too. To be able to play or collaborate musically would be great.

Mark Hollis (Talk Talk)

Richard Ashcroft

Tommy O’ Dell (DMAs)

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why? 

DAVE:

Both of these bands and gigs speak for themselves – seminal artists in their prime. No substitutes!

Oasis – Definitely Maybe tour 1995 Memphis

REM – Life’s Rich Pageant tour 1986 Memphis

BOZ:

Oasis, February, 95 at The New Daisy, Memphis, TN. I’d been into them already and couldn’t believe I was going to see them in a small club in Memphis. They still felt like one of those bands that only a few of us knew about. Of course, they were huge in England.

The other is when our band Crash Into June had our record release party for our first album back in ‘99 at a club here called Newby’s. The place was packed, and I’d never played in front of that many people. It was electric and epic. I’ll never forget that.

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

DAVE: I always felt great about “This Charade” when working it out on the acoustic guitar many months back. And the touches Neilson and Will brought to it just elevated it even more. So after we put it all together in the session, I was highly pleased with how it came out. I felt the same way about the song “Breakthrough” from our band Crash Into June as well. 

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

DAVE: Absolutely, yes. Getting your stuff heard, especially promoting on your own, is a real challenge and requires hard work and a bit of luck.

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

DAVE:

Such a hard call, but I’ll go with these:

Sparky’s Dream – Teenage Fanclub

Bye Bye Badman – The Stone Roses

She Came On – Super Deluxe

The Big Lie – Gigolo Aunts

Slide Away – Oasis

Recording music. What’s all the fun about? 

DAVE: Of course, bringing the demos you have made to life is so satisfying. I think the best and most fun parts are the surprises, the parts you didn’t plan that really bring a song together. 

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

DAVE: Just the feeling and vibe you get hearing your tunes rocked out. The positive feedback from the audience and that validation can be a rush too, no doubt.