Mike Bankhead – Anxious Inventions & Fictions (Q&A)

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

I was writing songs again right after finishing recording my first album.  I remember thinking that one of them, which I wrote in spring 2017, was the best thing I had ever written.  I’m not sure if I feel that way about that specific song now, because I kept writing, right on through the end of that year, and right on through 2018.  It was near the end of 2018 when the thoughts of what an album might look like began to come together.  

How did this record come together? 

I went to Reel Love Recording Company for a pre-production session with engineer Patrick Himes in February 2019.  I brought 25 songs with me, the best of the ones I had written over the previous two years.  We talked about how to approach recording them… tempo, instrumentation, how each song should feel.  I had the arrangements and ideas mostly thought out already, but the possibilities really began to take shape on that particular day.  As 2019 progressed, I released 5 of the songs that fit together very well on a split album with The Paint Splats called Defacing the Moon. Many of the others are on Anxious Inventions & Fictions.

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

Sometimes that happens immediately after writing.  There are a couple of people who I’ll send my low-quality home demos to shortly after they are done.  It’s easier for me to ask for opinions once I get something professionally recorded, though.

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

It is not. It would probably be better for my mental health to talk these things out with a therapist, but as one of my favorite songwriters here in Dayton says, songwriting is “cheaper than therapy”.  (Your readers from outside of the United States might not have the cultural frame-of-reference for that statement, so I’ll just briefly explain that health care is very very expensive here.)

Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller? 

As wonderful as that would be, I don’t think that’s possible.  I don’t write the kind of songs that are currently popular, and the instrumentation and arrangements I choose aren’t currently popular, either.  I like real instruments, not music put together “in the box”.  This is not to disparage that art form, if that’s the genre that someone wants to write for, that’s fine.   There are good pop songs and there are good pop songwriters. It’s just not what I want to do, it’s not how I want to express myself.  Making music with real instruments, recording vocals without using Auto Tune or a ton of other pitch correcting software… those aren’t the “in” things right now.  That said, I know that somewhere on this large planet of billions of people, there is some unknown number of people who would be very much into what I do.  The challenge is to find those specific people, and get their ears on my music.  

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

You didn’t specify if these folks have to be alive.  If I’m allowed to select people who have died, it’s Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley, and Prince.  For the why, those are all great songwriters, and they all had their own unique styles, and didn’t write in the same genre.  That said, they wrote such great songs that you could play them with only an acoustic guitar or only a piano, and the brilliance of the song still shines through.

If I have to limit my selection to only people who are currently living, I’d start with John Legend.  He’s from a town very near me in Ohio, and is a brilliant writer and musician.  Next, Dan Wilson.  He is one of my favorite songwriters, really knows his way around a hook, and has a feel for memorable lyrics.  Third, Carrie Brownstein.  I know she would bring some awesome riffs to the table, and since I am not a guitar player, I don’t often think of writing songs structured around a riff… sometimes I do, but not often.  I’d like to learn from her process.

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

The release show for my first album.  First, since I don’t have a band, I don’t play gigs nearly as often as I would like.  If I am going to play a show, I have to recruit musicians from the area, and while people are generally willing, it is somewhat of a challenge when everyone has different schedules due to being in other bands.  That was my first gig backed by a band playing my own music.  It was frightening and cathartic, and it was also the night of the first significant snowfall of winter that year, which will make it impossible to forget.

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

There aren’t really “hits” anymore in rock music, but there should be.  The last song I had that feeling about was “Promise”.  Strangely enough, that’s the first single I’m releasing from the album.  When I was done with it, I kind of stood back a little bit and tried to imagine it after it was professionally recorded, with all of the layers of guitar that would end up on it.  I remember going back to do a re-write, and making one or two very minor changes, but I thought it was good immediately upon finishing.  That’s not a feeling I have very often.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays? 

That is a fantastic question.  My answer is that it depends on your genre.  As you probably know, with the advances of technology, plenty of musicians record at home.  You can make an entire album on a laptop.  When you can do that, the recording part is surely easier than getting people to listen.  Speaking personally however, I don’t have the gear or knowledge to be able to record at home in the genre that I write in.  That being the case, I hire a professional recording engineer to record and mix my music.  That’s a high level of effort.  Despite all that effort, it’s still hard to get ears on the music.  Part of the drawback to there being SO much music available is it’s harder to get heard.  Also, because of recording techniques being more widely available, and because there are plenty of people who can make music in their rooms on a laptop, music is generally devalued by the public.  Many people don’t realize that writing and arranging and recording music is work.  It’s often enjoyable, sure, but it’s work.  What we produce is a work of art,  but we produce a work of art that too many people want to have for free. 

Which 5 records would you bring with you for your stay on Mars? 

If you ask me this same question next week, you’ll get a different answer.  Today’s answer is: OK Computer (Radiohead), Your Body Above Me (Black Lab), Euphoria Mourning (Chris Cornell), Fountains Of Wayne (Fountains Of Wayne), Ohio (Over the Rhine).

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?  

Experiencing an idea becoming reality.  Making something that used to only exist in my head into something that I can share with other people.   

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

Sharing feelings. Sharing art. Connecting with people. Being heard.

Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?  

Definitely.  That’s probably not always the first answer I think of, but maybe it should be.

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 do an interview series over on my blog, and that question is so good that I am going to use it.  I hope that’s ok.  I enjoy wordplay.  There are often plays on words in my lyrics.  Sometimes they are subtle.  Sometimes they are not.  As a bass player, I would hope that people listen to the bass in the song first, as I probably give that part of the song more conscious thought than most other songwriters.  This doesn’t mean that the bass line is always brilliant or overwhelming… at the end of the day, you have to serve the song, and if the song is a quiet piano ballad, then the bass shouldn’t be too obtrusive… but since that’s my main instrument, it gets a great deal of focus when I think about arrangements, and I’m always asking the engineer to turn it up in the mix.

Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years? 

That’s another fantastic question.  I think about this… if someone asked that question in, say, 1987, would anyone have known that compact discs would be the way most music was consumed in 1992?  If I had a way to know if there was going to be a technological breakthrough, I would say that music will move to that particular platform, but I don’t know that.  I’ll say three general things… it will still be very difficult for someone to make their primary living as a musician, artists are going to move their tours to the digital realm and perform online concerts where attendees have to be from a specific region to attend, more songwriters will attempt to make a living by writing custom songs specifically for individuals or organizations upon demand.

This is the story so far …

The Sweet Sweet Music blog has been around for five years this week.

This is the story so far …

There are now a total of 228 posts on the blog.

Over the years I have removed some reviews and posted a single interview twice.

A Q&A is usually viewed between 150 and 350 times.

There are 4 real outliers.

The interview in which Paul Collins announced his new record (Out of My Head) has been viewed more than 500 times.

The end-of-year lists are also viewed a lot every year. The 2018 overview was especially popular (more than 700 views). I think because 2018 was a good year for Power Pop. Have a look.

At the end of last year I asked a lot of Power Pop artists what the plans were for 20/20 and that post has been viewed over 1,000 times.

If we only knew then what year 2020 would be.

By far the most read post is The Best 100 Power Pop Songs of this Century (2000-2020).
That list has now been viewed more than 7,000 times.
And the Spotify playlist on which most songs can be found has 175 followers.

Although I often write ‘we’, I do this blog on my own. The head office is located on the couch in my living room.

My name is Patrick Donders, I am 50 years old and I live in Utrecht. That’s in The Netherlands. And The Netherlands is next to Germany. I never listen to The Beatles or The Kinks, I think Jellyfish is awful but not as awful as E.L.O..

I grew up with Talk Talk, The Blue Nile and Nena, was formed by Marillion, Journey, Bruce and Herbert Gronemeyer and got ‘old and wise’ with Cheap Trick, The Beat, Slobberbone, The Jayhawks and Fred Eaglesmith.

I love a lot of Power Pop songs but only have a few favorite records.
The Beat’s first two records are two of them. 12 by Sloan is also one. But of course there are many more :-).

This is a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from the heyday of Power Pop.
This is a playlist of my 90s favorites.
We will never remember 20/20 as a good Power Pop year but it is, listen up.

Thanks to all the artists and all other lovely people who have been willing to answer my questions. Even when I asked them for the third time.
Thanks to the more than 10,000 unique visitors!

The ‘corporate identity’ was designed by Sabeth Elberse.

Keep supporting your favorite artists. Buy their music if you can.

The Junior League with Scott The Hoople – Summer Of Lies (Q&A)

Two beautiful new self-written songs and two covers, including a sensationally beautiful version of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Didn’t Want To Have To Do It’. ‘Summer of Lies’, The Junior League’s new EP is fantastic.

Sweet Sweet Musicblog spoke to Joe Adragna because we wanted to know where all that beauty came from.

4 new songs, 4 times a different sound. Was that an objective in itself or did it just happen?

Honestly, it just happened that way. I had the basic track for Summer of Flies–it wasn’t called that yet. I had some lyrics and a vocal melody, but they weren’t particularly good.  I sent it to my friend Scott (McCaughey) ,and he offered to write some lyrics for it. He wound up writing lyrics, singing, and adding keyboards and that fuzz guitar riff, all of which were so great!

I love his singing and lyrics–he really made it so much better, but he always does! I had Make Up Your Mind, which I wrote about a month ago. That came together really quickly. I sent Scott the two covers just to listen to, as I know he likes those songs as much as I do. I did them for fun, really–I wasn’t planning to do anything with them. Once Scott had started work on what became known as “Summer Of Flies”, he suggested taking those four songs and making an EP.

He then added additional keys, guitars and vocals to all the songs and mixed them as well. It was his encouragement that made the EP happen–and I really appreciated that encouragement. I always do. So the whole thing came together relatively quickly, and was a very pleasant surprise. 

‘Didn’t Want To Have To Do it’ is my favorite. It sounds so delicate. How did it come together?

“Didn’t Want to Have To Do it” is such a great song. One of my favorites, and I know Scott really likes it as well. I had recorded the song at my studio and sent it to Scott. He added keyboard parts at his studio that really make it–but that is one of his gifts.

He knows exactly what is needed for a song and fits it in and makes the whole thing complete. T

hose keyboard parts make the song for me. I think the sound is really good because he mixed it so well, and we played what was necessary for the song. 

Did you have to use a different way of working this time because of the COVID situation?

We generally work together this way, so the COVID situation really didn’t change that. I think we have only recorded, like, two or three songs together being in the same room! 

We live far away from one another, so everything we’ve done together has been at our own studios and sent via the internet to one another! 

The Well Wishers – Shelf Life (Q&A)

“Shelf Life”, the brand new full-length LP from the WELL WISHERS is set to hit stores on September 25th!

The album was written and produced in the short span of just five months, shortly after nationwide lockdowns began in response to the growing Covid crisis.

Buy here.

Jeff Shelton explains.

You make songwriting seem so easy? Do those catchy melodies and fantastic guitar solos just keep on coming or is it hard work and a lot of puzzles?

I don’t know if I’d say songwriting is “easy”…but it’s certainly natural and organic to an extent. The best stuff comes out when you’re in a fully creative mindset…and nothing is forced. It usually starts with a general idea of what kind of song I want to write…(aggressive/driving…..or mid-tempo and jangly….or slow & building…anthemic, etc.)

Did this lockdown period also require a different approach? Did this record come about differently than the previous one?

The process was not really any different this go around…as I’ve been recording fully at my home studio for about 4 or 5 years now. The only thing COVID quarantine facilitated was free time ….and more time to just focus and be creative and productive. I wrote and recorded all these 11 tracks in less than 5 months!

How do you get inspiration from this sometimes so desolate time or was this time itself the inspiration?

I certainly drew inspiration from the pandemic. The whole world vibe seemed to change after mid-March….from day to day life to what we value and what’s truly important. The lyrics on this record reflect that…sort of implicitly. Themes of frustration, isolation…but also hope, love, and aspiration are all in there.

Isn’t it strange that so much music is being listened to now and that so many artists are in financial trouble at the same time?

If there’s an upside to any of this it’s that creative output is certainly speeding up. Lots of great music coming out right now…and the stuff that reflects the pandemic and political strife (especially in America) is particularly poignant. The greatest tragedy though…is the basic death of live music. If it ever comes back at all….live loud music in an indoor environment is still a long way off. Rock n roll will never die…but I have to tell you, I’m going through serious concert withdrawal right now!

The Campbell Apartment – Curmudgeon (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Musicblog spoke with Ari Vais about producing a cohesive record, Fountains of Wayne, playing for a small crowd, personal lyrics, and recording after a lunch break.

How did this record come together?

Over many years, and many sessions, in San Francisco and then, upon getting the album a home with Mint 400 Records, it spent another couple years back east getting mixed down to rock perfection. It was recorded as a series of “singles” rather than a cohesive album because at the time it felt like people would just as happily consume individual tracks via streaming services as embrace the concept of a record. Luckily in the end, with help from a lot of talented people, it is a cohesive record, our 4th. (Buy here)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I never said it was fun. There are fun elements to it, just loading in and setting up, it’s like the start of a film shoot or something, you know you’ll be entrenched in this space that smells like electricity for a very long time, with a ton of downtime with rough mixes are attempted and bandmates lay down their parts.

There are long discussion breaks and, for me, a ton of vocal takes as I don’t think I was born with a God-given set of pipes, it takes a lot of work. It’s very process oriented.

There are lunch breaks – but it’s fun because, on one day, you know that after the lunch break the afternoon is dedicated to guitar solos. Or the following morning will be all about piano, so you mic up the piano the night before. It’s a very workmanlike process, like cooking or gardening, you get on with it, but there are still flashes of magic, like that killer vocal take that comes out of nowhere when you thought your pipes were shot or that bassline that propels the song, that’s written right there in live time, and without the studio takes and retakes, would never have been written.

Or those happy accidents, like when a piece of equipment falls at just the right second and sounds intentional, or a dog starts barking during a lonesome and stark organ part.

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

Now that I find very fun. There’s always the element of surprise unless you’re the Pixies every show will be different in some way. Each one is unique. It’s a mix, impossible to replicate show to show, of how you are as a band, how you are as individuals, how the crowd is, how the lights are, whether the soundman is a dick or awesome, what the setlist is, what the vibe is, what my singing is like, if for who knows what reason one of the songs in the set just sounds sublime and never will be that money shot quite ever again.

It’s everything I like in life: the unexpected, randomness, “feel”, connection, energy, catharsis – it’s all those things you cannot replicate in the studio. Even some studio albums like “Third/Sister Lovers” by Big Star have elements of what it was like to be there then, they kept the sounds of things accidentally falling and they kept all the mistakes, but live there’s that electricity, that danger, it’s sexy.

I remember once in Manhattan at the Mercury Lounge we went on right after Tegan and Sarah, a duo with a huge draw. We did not fit the demographic and as they finished their crowd exited en masse, just emptied out the room completely, deflating TCA. We played anyway but stopped the show short rather disgustedly. There were only one or two people in the fairly large room, it was ridiculous. Well, one of those people was a girl from Reims, France, who told me she was loving it, and when I griped that everybody had left, she said “this would never happen if you come in France” (I know, hot). Epiphany – I royally fucked up when I pulled the plug on that set. One person loving the concert is the same as 10,000 people loving the concert, the energy is the same, you can’t pull the plug on that, it’s a sin.

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

Sure. I’ve tried to write about other people’s lives, like Ray Davies and Paul McCartney so effortlessly do, like so many great writers do (and pretty much all novelists do, because if it’s “confessional” then it’s an autobiography innit), but I’m in my “happy place” when I write about EXACTLY what’s happening with me on an emotional level, even naming names, certainly referencing real places and turns of phrase and inside jokes – the more the better – then the song smacks of “realness” which – that honesty – is all I really want in a song myself as a listener, besides a killer hook of course. Whether I’m comfortable or uncomfortable doing so is beside the point because at that stage the art is bigger than the artist.

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

Chris Collingwood from Fountains Of Wayne, because I’ve loved the band since the mid-late nineties when I first became aware of them, when Chris and Jody from FOW moved up to Northampton Massachusetts where I was living at the time. We all became great friends but during those few years in western Mass. Chris and I were very tight, and then once I moved to San Francisco in ’09, Jody and I became very tight.

But as much as I loved and respected the band, we were more close friends than anything so I never realized how much I liked them, loved them, until their ending this horrible spring with Adam’s tragic death from Covid19. Chris and I would bounce demos and ideas off each other during those years in the “Pioneer Valley” but we never tried writing anything together, even though we’re both very literary writers but with emotional depth and melodic yen, but we never even considered trying to write a song together. We’re mutual fans though so – but I’ve never really written a song with anybody, not actively or intentionally.

Once when I was living in a big house with my wife at the time in San Francisco, FOW were playing in town and I invited them round to our firepit party in the back garden. I was surprised and happy when they showed up and let them in through the downstairs garage, which led right through to the back garden and firepit party where we already had half a dozen friends sitting around the fire drinking and talking and laughing. I pull up the garage door, which was automatic and slowly rolled up to reveal, hilariously, from shoes to face, all four Fountains of Wayne boys.

I’m not sure they did a ton of stuff together as a band, outside of music – I know my band doesn’t – most bands don’t. So it was like something out of a comic book, and we all had the nicest time sitting around the fire out back drinking and laughing and talking (Chris had stopped drinking by then so we had some tasty alcohol free beer on hand). They were playing in town somewhere great like the Fillmore the next evening.

But I never told my other guests who the four guys were, I didn’t want to embarrass them by saying “These four are Fountains of Wayne” or anything uncool like that so I kept mum. Later Chris asked if I told them about the show the next night and I said I hadn’t coz I didn’t wanna be uncool, but Chris looked really sad for a second when I said that, and so I realized I had overthought everything and everybody wants people to know more about you, not less.

I’d also love to write something with Stephen Merritt from Magnetic Fields and with Liz Phair.

Canine 10 – Nonsense!

Philadelphia based punky power pop band Canine 10 released Nonsense! last April. There is little reason to jump around happily this year but on Nonsense! you will find 12.

SweetSweetMusicblog spoke to Dale Ensane.

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

First of all, we’re not positive we ARE on to something, but it was when we put our current lineup together & recorded the “Truth is Wrong” EP.

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?

It seems that some people maybe don’t realize that our songs are actually HILARIOUS!

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

I don’t think I really care… unless the subject happens to be in the room… then, I claim one of the others wrote it.

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

Well, most of the time, they’re really fun, but it seems the couple of bad ones are what we always talk about because they wind up just being weird experiences. -like a promoter who is a weird jerk or the time, the entire (small) audience left & we played to just the sound guy. :-(.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

The fun in recording is when you’re done & you get to show Mrs. horrible the final product.

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

It’s been a while…. can’t remember

Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?

At this point, we’d simply buy 999,935 copies ourselves!

Nick Frater – Fast & Loose (Q&A)

FAST & LOOSE will be releases on September 19, on Big Stir Records.

Apropos to its title, it’s a full throttle collection brimming with the hooks, harmonies and sophisticated arrangements his fans have come to expect, and bubbling with a freshness and energy that’ll captivate new listeners immediately as one of the UK’s best-kept secrets steps onto a wider international stage.

You released a lot of new music in the last couple of months/years. Inspiration keeps on coming?

There’s been quite a bit a material out lately, and plenty more still to come! I’m blessed/cursed with more ideas than time to realize them! 

Fast & Loose is my fifth ‘proper’ album and my first with Big Stir Records. Alongside this are several side projects, and music I produce/create with other bands too.

I guess I benefit from being fairly self-sufficient with writing, performing, recording, mixing, etc myself – but the real thrill is that moment when you catch the first glimpse of a hook or melody, and then it grows into a song. Perhaps by having written quite a few things over the last couple of years, I feel more relaxed about writing than I did when pulling together my first album. Not every song has to be God Only Knows, indulging in the occasional Wild Honey Pie can be good for the soul.

How did Fast & Loose come together?

It came together quite literally fast & loose! Last summer I became a dad for the first time, and in the weeks running up to the birth, several songs emerged. It was in the weeks after my daughter was born though that the bulk was written and recorded. Maybe it was the endless sleepless nights, the hormones, who knows…but it was, and remains a very creative time in my head!

It has also triggered a huge and I think positive change in my writing technique. In the olden days (pre lockdown, pre-baby) I would spend hours and days tinkering with ideas at the piano. Instead, that time is spent being a dad. Which seems to involve a lot of bouncing and rocking a baby to sleep; but also loads and loads of singing. The majority of this album started from a vocal melodic idea and worked out top-down, rather than from a fiendishly elaborate piano part as before. 

You are part of the Big Stir family now. What will the biggest change be?

I’m not usually someone to think about fate, but it seems very fortuitous that LA’s favorite record label started to put on events in my favorite pub in Croydon.

A few years back I caught their first Big Stir Britannia shows, about five minutes from my house, and now have a record out with them, as well as write in their zine, and do some mastering for the digital singles CDs!

Alongside the music I put out, for many years I’ve been recording and producing many bands here in London. This has always been a labor of love, and getting the records made that I think need to be made. This is very similar to the ethos at Big Stir and I’m sure lovers of adventurous pop music will enjoy whatever the future holds!

There are some fantastic records out on Big Stir this year – the Spygenius double vinyl is a particular favorite of mine!

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?

There’s only one correct way to listen to records, and that is with the listener’s head in an equilateral triangle with the speakers. That said, a large chunk of this album was mixed on headphones in the Barbican library while on my lunch break!

The things my ears are drawn to in the music are some tasty chords ’That Ship Has Sailed’ in particular has my favorite harmony on this album. On a technical level, much of this record draws its harmonic tension from resolving augmenting fourth, within the context of a major chord. It seems to have wormed its way into lots of songs I write lately! However, I hope that listeners feel the energy and enjoyment I felt when making it. There are some sad songs on this too, but making them is always cathartic, a bit like the blues. 

2020, what a year?

Indeed! I hope readers have found a way to keep on keeping on. We’re a long way off this thing being over, and inevitably we all have ups and downs, and the lockdown has brought out the best and worst in human behavior. We all know what is going well and what isn’t, so instead of saying how terrible <insert whoever> and their government has been, maybe it’s more useful to look to real leadership; Bill and Ted summed it up best with “be excellent to each other”. So yes, let’s try and be excellent, and wash our hands.

The Brother Kite – Make It Real (Q&A)

‘Make It Real’ is overwhelmingly good. Nine songs that you could immediately categorize as Alternative Rock after a single listen, but if you listen carefully you will hear beautiful pop melodies, jangly guitars and sparkling harmony vocals.

This is a candidate for the best record of 2020.

Sweet Sweet Music Blog in conversation with the members of The Brother Kite.

What was the moment you knew you were onto something?

Patrick Boutwell, vocals/guitar: It’s hard to think of a definitive moment that I thought “you need to keep going”, but it was most certainly in late 1999/early 2000; I’d written several songs before then, but around that time my writing had begun to change and find a little bit of focus, and I enjoyed it more than other stuff that was around, so I kept my head down and plowed through songs as best I could until it was obvious that they needed to be played by a band.

Jon Downs, vocals/guitar: It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I felt like we were onto something immediately. Pat sent me a cassette of demo songs with “brother kite” written on it, and it was obvious to me that if we formed a band, it would be good.

How did this record come together?

Patrick: We’d been working on this album on and off for years. Momentum is a tough thing to keep up when you have kids, so it had a lot of stops and starts.

Mark Howard, guitar/vocals/keyboards: We chipped away at recording the songs a little at a time, and then at the beginning of the quarantine, when it seemed like we had an almost-completed record on our hands and not much else to do with ourselves, we decided to finish it up and put it together. Turns out we had a pretty cohesive batch of songs!

Matt Rozzero, drums and percussion: It came together differently in that it wasn’t a big concept from the get-go… it was almost a compilation that works really well together.

Jon: When the pandemic hit, we decided to just release what we had. It wasn’t particularly well thought out…it was just clear that these songs needed to be released because if they sat around much longer, we might lose them.

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

Patrick: We have a tendency to be a little tight with letting people hear things before they are finished. It is pretty rare for even close friends to hear what we’re up to unless they are in the room with us while we are working, so I guess the answer is when we knew it was done and going to be released.

Crawling Back To Me sounds like the hit Robert Pollard forgot to write. Would you take that as a compliment?

Jon: Of course. I love Robert Pollard. I’d love to hear him cover it. Bob?

Andrea Downs, Bass guitar: I think that’s an association we’d all be happy with!

Patrick: It is a compliment, though one to be taken with a grain of salt when you know that “Glad Girls” exists.

Matt: The best compliment! See photo of Pollard stack hahaha. One of my heroes.

You can’t control the way people “hear” your music, but if you could make them aware of certain aspects that you think sets them apart, what would they be?

Matt: Pat’s way with melody will always set us apart. I feel like he’s more linear than modular and not a lot of writers construct that way.

Patrick: Hmmm… well, one thing that is an interesting tidbit is probably the extent of the DIY-ness of what we do. Jon does 98% of the engineering, and he also made nearly all of the microphone preamps we use himself, while he, Mark, and I like to make guitar effects pedals (and, in my case, guitar amplifiers). Pretty much all of “Don’t Ask Why” was played through amps I built, and it makes me happy to be able to point that out. It is gone now, but years ago, pre-Waiting For The Time To Be Right, we (with endless help and support from Bill Downs, Jon’s dad) built a studio in New Hampshire to be able to have as proper a space we could make to record our own music. We recorded all of WFTTTBR and Isolation there, and Jon recorded a few other bands there, as well.

How did you stay sane in the last couple of months?

Andrea: Working as a Nurse in an ER during this pandemic has been one of the most stressful times in my life, so relaxing at home on my days off has been vital. I’ve been doing a lot of normal stuff like swimming and LEGO building with our 4-year-old. And so much sewing!

Mark: A lot of running, a lot of movies, and a lot of records.

Patrick: As dumb as it sounds, focusing on my diet and lifting weights has kept me from going totally off the rails. The pandemic has certainly thrown me a few times. I take changes in routine kind of hard; it takes me a long time to settle into new general life rhythms, and it has changed so much over the last 6 months that it has been really difficult at times. That said, given that I had some terrible mental health issues in the years leading up to the release of the record, I’m doing okay.

Jon: Oh, I have no shortage of hobbies. And like many out there, I no longer have a job. So no stress there. My mental game is tight.

Matt: Listening to music and Utz Crab Chips.

WarwickOnline writes: “For over 15 years, The Brother Kite have been an alternative rock staple in Providence’s music scene. The songwriting partnership between guitarists and co-vocalists Patrick Boutwell and Jon Downs has produced fantastic music over the span of five LPs and three EPs.

They haven’t been alone in this artistic endeavor, with Down’s wife Andrea on bass, Matt Rozzero on drums and Mark Howard on guitar, keys and percussion rounding out the lineup.

Their fifth and latest full-length release is “Make It Real,” which came out Aug. 14 via the band’s own label Light Fighter Records.”.

Yeah Is What We Have – through the window (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Music Blog spoke to Tom Werring about trying to write a cohesive record, thinking about the state of life and trying to be optimistic about the future.

It’s hard to believe ‘Through The Window’ is a debut record. How did it come together?

I too can’t believe it exists!  It came together through sheer force of will, to be honest.  I’ve wanted to write an LP for a long time, and I just kept trying to write some simple pop songs until I had enough that I thought were halfway decent.  I was having a big moment of inspiration getting really into pop music, and tried to channel a certain sound and make it my own.  I’m also really fortunate to be friends with Billy Mannino, a super talented recording engineer and collaborator who let me work out ideas in his basement on weekends for a whole year.  But yeah, really just focused hard on trying to write a cohesive record, thinking a lot about the state of my life and trying to be optimistic about the future.

I almost ‘find out about new pop music’ for a living :-). But I only found out about your record recently. Is it hard to get your music heard?  On the other hand, you have a lot more streams on Spotify than ‘related’ bands so I probably have been looking in the wrong direction.

Well grateful you heard it!  That’s definitely another thing where I’m fortunate to have friends that were willing to put the record out and even listen to my music at all.  My friend Jake is always so down to help me release my stuff, which I’m really very grateful for.  It’s definitely really hard to get music heard with Spotify playlists and all that and to be honest, I’m not really too concerned about having a bunch of people knows my music.  Really just want to use this project as an opportunity to stay creative, keep busy, and stay sane.  Hard to come by these days.  

When you first heard the final version of ‘Loner Sky’ you must have recognized you created something special? Or did you already knew that earlier on?

Appreciate that perspective – I don’t know if I ever thought it was “special” per se.  My measurement of whether or not I think any of my songs are any good is if I would listen to it if I didn’t write it.  Striking a balance between emulating the bands I love and making something personal.  The only thing I ever thought was “special” was the way Billy can make my songs sound in the studio.  He’s a true wizard! 

What other artists do you consider as an inspiration? And why?

Definitely find a ton of inspiration at every moment.  Personally, I’m lucky to have so many friends who are insanely talented songwriters.  My best friend Jade from Oso Oso is probably the biggest source of songwriting inspiration having played music with him since I was 16.  My friends in bands like Macseal, Just Friends, and Prince Daddy and the Hyena are just constantly staying active and creative, and it keeps me energized to keep writing myself.  But on a non-personal level, bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, and Fountains of Wayne were experts at writing solid pop songs and I’m always getting inspiration from them.  Recently really loving HAIM as well. 

How did you ‘stay sane’ the last couple of months?

Another thing I’m incredibly grateful to have right now is a job that lets me work from home, so have just been so distracted with work that it keeps me busy.  My wonderful girlfriend also keeps me sane, and we just adopted our dog Benny who is a perfect angel that I love dearly.  All solid distractions from the catastrophic failure that is the US government, so I’ve been trying to use that privilege to stay engaged with my community, support my neighbors, and volunteer and donate where I can.  

Ex Norwegian – Hue Spotting/Spotting Hues (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Roger Houdaille  about releasing 2 new records, structured psychedelia, hour-long live streams, and the upcoming tour.

And, YES, he covers Gruppo Sportivo‘s ‘Happily Unemployed’!

Nowadays mainly singles and EPs are released. You come up with 2 new records?

Funny you mention that…there’s a non-LP 7” single coming out in a couple of months! I love all formats, and indeed this year we released a lot of singles up until the release of the album.

What’s the story? How did the records come together?

It started as one record, honestly. But as I was working on Hue Spotting, I was recording lots of covers and for a time they were being released once a week as singles as I mentioned. I had plenty of pop-psych tunes that matched the direction I went with the new album, Hue Spotting. As a last-minute decision, I decided to create Spotting Hues as a companion covers album to the main disc. Around last summer, the other Ex Norwegian mainstay Michelle Grand said she wasn’t interested in working together on the upcoming album so that gave me a little more freedom to do something a little different and more psychedelic than usual. That’s my favorite genre, structured psychedelia, so I had a lot of fun putting it together. It took the longest of any Ex Norwegian record I think. Also, because of the uncertainty of who was going to be on the album at first. It ended up just being me and my old high school friend Fernando Perdomo jamming out the songs, separately in our respected home studios.

You have been very active on social media in the last couple of months. Easy?

I hope I make it look easy! But, no, for me it’s rather difficult. I’m not naturally a social media person, so it’s a bit of a task heavy endeavor in the sense that I need to pre-plan and schedule even the most basic of posts. And it doesn’t help that I set unrealistic content goals, like hour-long live streams every week of songs I’ve never performed before!

It’s so hard to predict the future but what are your goals for the rest of the year?

Yes indeed it is very difficult to plan certain things right now although there’s still lots to do or that can be done. I’ve been playing a lot of catch up, organizing and improving the business side of things as well as finishing up some ideas and projects I’ve had. One of which includes attempting something never done before – an Ex Norwegian record with guest artists on each track! As I alluded to earlier, a single “And I, Lover” will come out around October. Also in the works is a mega box set of the first 10 years of Ex Norwegian. This would be for release sometime 2021. And a proper follow-up album to Hue Spotting will probably come out sometime 2021 too. Also pending for next year is resuming our European tour! So, I look at the rest of the year as prepping time to ensure next year goes smoothly.