Man Behind Tree – 3 (Q&A)

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

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

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

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

How did ‘3’ come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tamar Berk – Start at the End (Q&A)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah….I did not know.

But my family kept encouraging me. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMPEROR PENGUIN – SUNDAY CARVERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What musical dream would you like to fulfill?

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

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

Amoeba Teen – s/t (Q&A)

Amoeba Teen’s first album in three years will be released on April 22 on Big Stir Records.

Mark Britton and Mike Turner spoke to Sweet Sweet Music about the beautiful harmony vocals, the pedal steel, and how this self-titled record, their best by far, came about.

What made you decide to record the new songs ‘live as a four-piece’ in the studio?

Mark Britton: Apart from Suit and Tie (which we recorded live) on our previous album, all the other tracks were recording one instrument at a time. We really liked how Suit and Tie came out and it made us realise how much energy there is when you capture a live recording – just like the way records used to be made years ago. So this time around we thought we’d capture the live sound and bottle some of that energy that you’d feel if you came to one our live shows.

Mike Turner: We had so much fun working with Sean Lloyd at Claptrap studios when we previously recorded Suit and Tie with him, he was able to capture the sound of the band better than any of our previous releases in my opinion.

Probably a lot of thought went into recording the vocals (because they sound beautiful)?

Mark: Thank you! We have to thank Sean Lloyd, our producer for that. Not only has Sean got a great recording studio, he pushed us to try new things. But rarely did we have more than 3 or 4 takes on a track as we wanted to capture the spontaneity of a live performance.

Mike: I had a joke whilst recording the vocals that “more is more”.  Just when we thought we’d hit the vocal lines and we’d got the end result, it was “let’s keep going and see where it takes us”.  

We had the basics of the harmony lines and backing vocals from the initial rehearsals, but approaching the layering of backing vocals, stretching out and experimenting into different directions when recording is something which I love to do.   Many of the final BVs were built up in the studio and thankfully we have voices that can blend quite nicely together. 

By spending the time working on the backing vocals and harmonies, we made an album that we love, that doesn’t feel like we missed something off.   So many great albums have layers of backing vocals and harmonies that you don’t even realise are there.   But if you took them away the songs would not have any where near the same impact. 

When (and how) did you find out you were recording your best record?

Mark: Going into this recording process we knew we had a strong bunch of new songs with lots of arrangement ideas. And bringing our producer, Sean, into the equation made sure that sonically they’d sound great too. All we had to do was focus on capturing a strong performance as the four of us; we’d done the preparation with rehearsals before we stepped into the studio.

Mike: I think we recognised that the songs stood up really well.  In rehearsals we tried out a bunch of other tracks, but you know when they’re not quite happening.  Myself and Mark have an unspoken understanding that if we’re having to try too hard to make an idea work, then it’s probably not right.  At least for now.  

And then of course the pandemic threw us a curve ball.  We originally started recording in November 2019, with the view of the album coming out in the summer of 2020.  But the delay in being able to record gave us plenty of time and space to live with the songs. To make sure we did them justice in the recording.  By the time we got to having most of the tracks coming together we realised that we really needed to keep going to make the songs the best they could possibly be, hence the horns; the pedal steel, the additional keys.  Not to mention the backing vocals.

With Sean doing such an amazing job at recording and mixing it all, we then wanted to give it the best possible finish, which is where we turned to George Shilling for mastering the album.

Somehow the first single, January, sounds a bit different from the rest. Is it just the pedal steel?

Mark: I think this is one of Mike’s best songs to date. I played 12-string on this which adds more jangle, but certainly the pedal steel gives it another dimension.

Mike: I do love the sound of a pedal steel!  I’ve wanted to record one onto our songs for so long.  January came from one of the early writing sessions, and when we first ran through it as a band it sounded so vibrant.  I probably had in mind a mix of The Lemonheads, The Jayhawks, and Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by The Byrds.

The core of the song is in a similar style to what you can normally expect from Amoeba Teen.  A few reviews have picked out particular songs from the album as having a certain musical style, but for me it all feels natural and comfortable.  There was no preconceived idea that we needed to write an Americana influenced song.  I guess it’s in the DNA of what we like to do. 

Putting the Kids Through College sounds so melancholic. How did the song come about?

Mike: I had the phrase “putting the kids through college” for a while.  I guess the song can be a bit melancholic, but that wasn’t the intention. It has a resignation about it, it’s a gentle sigh!

As parents you always want to do the best for your kids, and that sometimes the sacrifices now will only be fully realised many many years down the line.    We have lots of baggage that we hide from our kids, and petty opinions that we would rather they didn’t mirror or pick up on. 

The 15 best Power Pop records of 2022’s first quarter!

What an excellent Power Pop year 2022 is already.

Here are the fifteen best records so far.

01. Young Guv – Guv III

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

02. Tom Curless – Person of Interest

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

03. The Summer Holiday – Acqua

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

04. Cheap Star – Wish I Could See

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

05. Freezing Hands – It Was A Good Run

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

06. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – Backhand Deals

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

07. Chris Church – Darling Please

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

08. Trevor Blendour – Falling In Love

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

09. Lund Bros – Across State Lines

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

10. Goodman – How Close Are You to the Ground

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

11. Afterpartees – Familiy Names

No-Nonsense Power Pop from the lowlands.

12. SPINN – Outside of the Blue

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

13. Hoodoo Gurus – Chariot of the Gods

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

14. Lannie Flowers – Flavor of the Month

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

15. Eytan Mirsky – Lord, Have Mirsky!

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


And there is much more.

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

Image by Sabeth Elberse Studio

ANTON BARBEAU – POWER POP!!! (Q&A)

‘Anyway, I love contrasting energies in art. I don’t need things to be wrapped with a pretty bow… life isn’t like that. Contradiction – and its difficult twin, hypocrisy – is a basic part of human nature, and we’ve all got a thousand devils hiding behind our smiling features.’, says Anton Barbeau about Power Pop!!!, his unbelievably beautiful latest record, recently released by Big Stir Record.

Isn’t it complicated for a freethinker like you to be embraced by the Power Pop Community where the rules seem quite strict?

Well, I specifically titled my album such with the hope of poking the genre-purists in the eye with my unwashed, salty finger! It’s not to say I’ve had great luck defining my own music, partly because I play within and beyond stylistic norms all the time. If I do a concert with only an acoustic guitar and play only my saddest songs, then I’m a folk singer. If it’s me at the piano, then maybe I’m a “singer/songwriter.” If you hear “Little Daisy” or my cover of “I’m In Love With A Girl,” then, phew, I’m a power pop dude after all.

I’m grateful that Big Stir have been so keen in their support of my music, and I try to honour their energy by releasing albums that will ultimately (hopefully) appeal to their core audience as well as reaching the other worlds my music lives in. Thankfully, when I have a 10-minute krautrock drone in need of a home, I can turn to Fruits de Mer for that.

But wait… my last release on FdM was me singing “Pleasant Valley Sunday!” I’m confused! What’s my genre again?

The Drugs and Hillbilly Village are two completely different songs. Writing in different genres does that happen to you or are you consciously looking for new challenges?

Think about the Beatles’ Revolver album… from one song to the next there’s a stylistic and tonal shift. “Here, There and Everywhere” lives inside the same 35 minutes as “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That’s basically how I grew up thinking music worked.

I’ve done jazz gigs (definitely not my calling!) and I’ve played with more than my share of classical musicians. My favourite cafe in Berlin today was playing Can and Small Faces. I like reaching for the unknown, but I also love playing with tradition.

I’m a messy fellow who likes very structured pop songs. “Hillbilly Village” came to me very quickly as I drove home from coffee in the small Californian town I now live. There’s nothing to it beyond what you hear and the recording took no time at all. “The Drugs,” believe it or not, was written simultaneously with a song called “Death and Divorce.” Subject-wise, very different, but the latter song will be on my next record and you’ll hear it’s connection – musically and sonically – to “The Drugs.” I’m just saying, not everything is as far-apart as sometimes it might seem.

I have the feeling that you like to provoke reactions with the stories you sing about. As your lyrics sound ‘personal’, do you also get reactions that upset you? And how do you (Julian) cope with that?

With the Power Pop!!! album it’s true I’m being a bit provocative, popping the balloon from the inside. I’m no fan of fundamentalism in any form. I think so far, my new record has stunned some people into silence! My previous album, Oh The Joys We Live For, did get a few head-scratching reviews. A few people took “I Love It When She Does The Dishes” as a blissful testament to domestic life. If they’d made it all the way to the end of the song, when the handgun appears, they might’ve had to reconsider!

The only thing that actually upset me was having “It’s Alright Rosie” taken as a song of “barely contained anger” in a relationship. Uh, it’s a song about my cat. My lovely cat who came to us troubled but has made amazing progress in the years we’ve had her. Hurt my feelings to think people got that song so wrong – my sweet Rosie! But back to the new album… maybe there isn’t actually any conflict. Maybe listeners just think I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what to call the music he makes!

Lines like ‘Rolling in pig shit’ and ‘I smell her sweet perfume’ are on Power Pop!!! only a few seconds apart. I think that says everything about your music and maybe also how you look at the world but maybe I’m exaggerating too much?

True enough, but bear in mind those songs are also decades apart. The “perfume” line comes from a song, “Whisper In The Wind,” which I wrote as an un-requited teen. Perfectly “power pop,” no?

Anyway, I love contrasting energies in art. I don’t need things to be wrapped with a pretty bow… life isn’t like that. Contradiction – and its difficult twin, hypocrisy – is a basic part of human nature, and we’ve all got a thousand devils hiding behind our smiling features.

I’m more than happy to make music that travels the world and explores the stars, yet never comes to a conclusion about what the number 42 is all about.

What a cool cover?!

Thank you! I took that picture on tour in Spain. (Don’t worry – Julia was driving while I was snapping away!) One of the Spanish labels I’ve worked with wanted to use it as an album cover, but the record we were talking about making never happened, so I stored that photo away for a rainy day.

The Boxcar Suite – Every Side of the Abyss (Q&A)

“The Boxcar Suite excel at creating those magic moments. Moving from urgent punk to 60s, Byrds-esque harmonies with ease, The Boxcar Suite craft songs with the energy of a band that’s been jamming together for years. It just sounds so natural.”
-Glide Magazine

Every Side of the Abyss is The Boxcar Suite’s latest record. Tim Pritchard talks about the moment the band realized they were working on something special. And it has indeed become special, with just a bit more swagger than you hear on most other great Power Pop records, but above all with ten beautiful songs.

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

The whole process Every Side of the Abyss is hazy, but there was a relatively brief stretch of time in which we started rehearsing the rough ideas that would become Turndt Awn, Lit Hunk, and Post Up, the first three tracks on the record. There was definitely a night when we all realized that we were operating in a different mode than in the past, setting a new tone for the record.

How did this record come together?

After the release of Further in and Farther Out, Boxcar Suite began to change quite a bit. The pretense of trying to work on music for any other reason than creating what we wanted to hear was gone. A new type of Power Pop sound began to take form, and it was really exciting. The band had done two albums and an EP of mostly material written by me but was becoming more collaborative. Phil Caviness and Tony Moore both contributed songs that we fleshed out, and there was a lot more writing and arranging done together than ever before.

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

Amongst the band, pretty early on. It was a very collaborative process. As far as soliciting third-party opinion, we didn’t until the record was done. It needed to be an insular process, and we didn’t want anything to get in our heads.

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

People all over the world streaming the music, adding these songs to playlists, and taking the time to contact us is success in my book. It’s been so cool to watch people engage with it worldwide.

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

It’s something I’ve always done and always will. The intensity varies, and it’s healthy to focus on other pieces, such as the craft and technical aspects of playing and recording, but the most joy comes from the writing process.

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

I’m comfortable with it now but haven’t always been. Some of that is just having grown as a writer to the point where if I’m releasing the material, it’s because I back it 100%. If I was feeling cringe about my work, it wouldn’t see the light of day. But if I like where it’s landed, I’m going to share it. I write in a way that is not necessarily autobiographical and, therefore, can separate my own person from it enough to be objective.

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

Dan Sommers from Happy Little Trees because we’re gold friends for life and have been talking about collaborating again for a long time.

John Davis from Lees of Memory, Superdrag, Rectangle Shades, because he’s made so many of my favorite songs/albums and continues to be a versatile, creative force who I’ve admired for decades.

Meg Duffy from Hand Habits, as I’ve been pretty obsessed with their music the past couple of years and admire Meg’s playing and songcraft so much.

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

We played Detroit one time, and it was very surreal. I don’t even remember the name of the club, but it was this veteran’s bar turned music venue which is cool, and had a huge courtyard filled with bizarre gothic décor – gargoyles, wrought iron everywhere, crystal balls. We arrived way to early and hung out for a long time. This guy named Mario told us about all the hit songs he’d written for just about every classic rock band and sang us songs about dreaming.

Everyone tried to get free stuff from us all night. Smokes, beers, records, shirts, food. Mario stuck his tongue in Tony’s ear for no apparent reason. Our set was okay, but we were supporting a band called The Jet Rodriguez who were great.

It was just a really bizarre night that always comes up when reminiscing over pints.

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?

“Just remember that I’ve been wild and neglected, to come to the call, partake in the haul, or be but a child.” I’m choosing this one from Jim Mouse of Every Side of the Abyss, because it’s a sort of confessional and invitation for the listener to follow suite. There’s a sense of humility in that line I’d like to pass on.

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

I don’t know, but I recently sent a demo of a new song called Until We Disappear to Phil and he wrote back claiming just that. So watch out for that one!

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

My childhood and adolescence were soundtracked by actual cassette mixtapes and I just got my grandparents’ home stereo that has a dual cassette deck so I’m going to be making dubs again. Let’s see… I’m going to pick five songs I love that were originally released on cassette that definitely landed on some of my mixtapes.

1) Waiting for the Sun by The Jayhawks

2) The Act We Act by Sugar

3) Breathe Again by Toni Braxton

4) When You Sleep by My Bloody Valentine…oh and

5) Another Realm by The Boxcar Suite…which was originally a cassingle release.

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

There’s a kinetic energy that only exists there. That visceral interaction between and audience and a band is really tough to describe but all of us music fans know it. When you can feel it from the stage…there isn’t much better.

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 aim to have songs that work lyrically on 3 levels. There’s a purely aesthetic, shallow, drugs/sex/rocknroll cheekiness I want to impart just for fun. There’s the actual narrative or meaning I intend to get across. Then there’s an element of mystery that I probably don’t even understand myself that can allow the listener to define the song for themself. If everyone listening to my music had the patience to follow that, I’d be very pleased.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

This can always change, but right now I would say the first three tracks of Every Side of the Abyss – Turndt Awn, Lit Hunk, and Post Up. They landed there for a reason!

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

Superdrag and Nada Surf. These two bands changed my life in 1996 and continue to be two of my favorites ever. Superdrag have been on long-term hiatus but I hear they are at least recording some new music and Nada Surf has never stopped putting out amazing records. Obviously, if this ever happened, we’d be the ones getting asked to open and it would be incredible.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

“Man, yer like Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend, and The Devil all-in-one” – a rather soused gentleman at a rough bar in Dayton, OH.

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

For this record it was probably when we cut drums for Lit Hunk. Trevor just nailed it and it sort of set the bar for how I wanted the record to sound.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

I’m a lifer so to speak. I’m here to make the records I want to make for listeners like me. I think it’s an important role, because when folks like us make and share music, it’s about just that. We aren’t trying to tap into the latest trend, go viral, or commit to any bullshit, just create an honest expression that captures our own amalgamation of the music we love.

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

I got three great ones on this record! Phil Caviness, Tony Moore, and Trevor Bell.

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

It never stops! I run my own studio to record my projects and others, so I’m always in that space. Recording, mixing, mastering, working on production, etc. But as far as a single release goes, the process is the most enjoyable part. It is very rewarding to have people listening, but it just makes me want to go record more!


The Boxcar Suite is:

Tim Pritchard – vocals, electric, acoustic and 12-string guitars, synthesizer, organ, percussion
Phil Caviness – bass guitar, vocals, percussion
Trevor Bell – drums, percussion, vocals
Tony Moore – electric guitar, vocals

Freezing Hands – It Was A Good Run (Q&A)

It Was A Good Run is Freezing Hands’ fourth record, and it is the most consistent and best of the four.

And what does that mean?

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

That’s what it means!

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Travis Spillers.

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

Oh, it’s an urge, alright. Though it might be best described as more of a chronic brain condition that won’t go away. I think I’ll be writing songs until I’m dead. They happen in my head everywhere- the toilet, the car, the line at the grocery store. It’s great to follow up on and try to finish them when I can but there’s always another festering in there (points to back of dull skull).

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

Anytime I sing a new one and my family asks me (sometimes politely, sometimes no) to STOP singing it. I figure if it’s an earworm (gross term) and it’s annoying, that’s about most of the hits on the radio. I’ve got a number of them about chores, cooking and other shit around the house. Matt Rendon and I were going to make an album of all of those tunes called Travis Spillers “Around The House” but haven’t had the gumption to do so. They’d all be hits though, that’s for sure.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

Flipper- “Ha Ha Ha”, The Zombies “Indication”, and” Champagne and Reefer” by Muddy Waters. Then I would tell the listener to go chew on a piece of cardboard and that’s how our music would compare to those 3 gems!! But seriously, “Allergy”- cause it’s stupid, which is often how I feel writing songs AND it’s about allergies (a clever universal message). Next would be “Mobius Strip” off the new one, it’s my current favorite to play- about how folks are really into self-righteousness these days but, really, “they’re one too!” (a full circle play on the previous Flipper reference). “Pretty Ann” off the first one, it’s a true power popper but I don’t think it would have come together near as nice if it weren’t for the guys in the band adding their magic and help with arrangement and such. That’s how we work best and it is truly a pleasure to work with people who know how to make something out of nothin’!

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

Oh, Matt and I have had some good ones over the years- in the Knockout Pills and Freezing Hands- tears and chills and fever when the hair stands up on the back of yer neck. “Oh Bird” (first album) was a big one when the harmonies came together. Really though, it happens everytime that Scott, Kevin, Matt and I get together- I feel like we hit a high at least once a night when we are practicing. It happens when we record (which is a lot). When we sit out on the back porch and listen to something Matt has just mixed, it’s a nice feeling to feel cold beer down your throat and listen to the joyful noise you and your chums have just created.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

You know that spot behind the bottom rear part of the toilet that gets neglected cause it’s a bit hard to reach, has tiny bits of toilet paper and dust and god-knows-what-else and really, nobody gives a shit about it but it bugs you when, on occasion, you DO finally get down there to clean it and then you’re resentful that NO ONE ELSE ever bothers to clean it? On occasion, someone gives that spot a little love- hah! That’s the spot- that’s where we’re at.


Cheap Star – Wish I Could See (Q&A)

Rémi Vaissiere and his star cast (Jon Auer, Brian Young, Gary Louris, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., Brendan Benson, Mitch Easter , Matthew Caws). Wish I Could See (Kool Kat Musik) offers a master class in writing sophisticated Power Pop songs but is perhaps even more of a master class in how to perform those sophisticated songs. Impeccable!

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

I am still waiting for that moment, but the driving force behind the album, was writing Flower Girl, a song dedicated to my ten-year-old daughter, Marguerite; the song benefits from the great vocal lines by the sweetest person ever, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.

How did this record come together?

Jon (Auer) and I started to record the basic tracks in Annecy in 2013. We did half-fit without any drums. I wanted to record a mixed bag of new and older songs, Move Away, for example, was written almost 20 years ago. My goal was to bring a lot of variety to the album and not have any filler (at least to me!).

At the time, my friend Thomas (ex Cheap Star bass player aka Captain Rock, as Jon Auer nicknamed him!) was living in Amsterdam, and the Posies were going to play there. I thought that would be the perfect match and the best occasion to record live with Brian Young!

We had lots of fun recording in the studio where Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks did record too. It was so relaxed, really smooth.

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

I never really do. 

My wife Isabelle and my two little girls are the ones who first listen to the songs, but they generally just let me do my thing. I typically bring many songs to the recordings and choose the ones we want to work on with Jon a couple of days before.

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

Well, that’s a tricky thing: recognition by people I was a fan of or admired was the only thing that meant success to me before.

Now I’d like to get more interest from the industry (record labels, tour manager) and TOUR that album (meaning that the pandemic did not really change our situation regarding that point as it takes so much time and energy to do those stuff only by myself.

I want the listeners to feel what I felt when I heard the complete result for the first time; a glorious production and a cast of choice backing me up, lifting the songs when I sing.

And, I want to go out and show that Cheap Star is a high-energy indie pop live band!

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

It’s vital. I am always searching for melodies. Then the lyrics come. Or I start with just a song title, and here it goes!

I always write but don’t demo the songs that much; I like to keep them as fresh as possible (so even the older ones feel new to me). I have the Bob Pollard syndrome: the more you write, the more you want to write!  

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

Certain songs, for sure, are more personal than others. I sometimes need to sing those with my eyes closed, but music is emotions, and I feel no shame to show them. It’s exhilarating!

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

Dan Wilson, he’s got a certain experience.

Jeff Tweedy, because he’s so creative but also can cowrite with lots of different people

Gary Louris

Evan Dando, because I tried before, and it almost worked. He’s the sweetest guy and always chooses great chords.  

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

Don Benito, a little town in Spain, near Portugal, in 2007.

We were doing a small tour with Varisty Drag, a band formed by Ben Deily, who co-founded The Lemonheads with Evan Dando.

Jije, the Spanish Bob Pollard (tall, playing basketball and a true character) organized two shows in a row. Both nights we had a great crowd.

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

Today! Kidding…or not… As a songwriter, you are never a good judge, I trust my wife for that, and she’s fond of Wish I Could See, which I do think is a hit!

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

Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Nada Surf – Under the Linden Tree

Tristen – Glass Jar

Gary Louris – Follow

Sparklehorse – Rainmaker

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

Giving the audience pleasure, watching them nod their heads, or jumping around is the best gift you could get.

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?

The sensitivity that a melody can carry.

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

Guided By Voices because it’s GBV, the best band on the planet with incredible songs, musicianship, and singing…plus they got the best secret weapon in the business: Doug Gillard!

Midnight Oil, because they are touring the world for the last time, and Jim Moginie has the greatest guitar sound I ever heard live, and things get huge when he’s dueling with Martin Rotsey!

The Bye Bye Blackbirds – August Lightning Complex (Q&A)

Bradley Skaught, frontman of The Bye Bye Blackbirds, wrote the songs for August Lightning Complex during some of the darkest and most anxious times of the past couple of years. Gloomy lyrics and rich, full, beautifully developed pop melodies; nice when a band outdoes itself every time. The Bye Bye Blackbirds gets better with every release.

Things change. What happened with The Bye Bye Blackbirds since the release of Boxer at Rest?

Aside from making August Lightning Complex, very little has happened with us since Boxer! We’ve probably been a little more stubborn in waiting to get back to live performance than a lot of other bands. We’re getting there, hopefully in the not-too-distant future — it’s very odd to have two records out without a single show in support of either so far. Mostly we just rehearse and annoy each other on the group text.

How did August Lightning Complex come about? Did you need to record it differently because of Covid?

The recording wasn’t different, really, but the rehearsals for it were. We started working on it before vaccines were available, so we were being hyper-cautious and basically rehearsed the entire record without vocals. It ended up being really fun and a cool way to work the songs up, honestly — it gave us a different perspective, and it allowed everyone to have more of a say in the arrangements in general. Recording-wise, we did the whole thing in a week in a studio, very old-fashioned, and it was during that window after everyone was vaccinated, but before that big wave in 2021, so it was really a wonderful experience of being together and being creative collectively in a way that’s been so rare.

Would you call it a concept record?

It’s not a concept record in any kind of deliberate way. I don’t really plan what songs are about or even try to shape them thematically in a conscious way. All the songs were written during some of the darkest and most anxious times of the past couple of years, and that really shows for me, I think. There are certainly themes running through it, and all the songs feel connected in that regard, but I wasn’t necessarily in pursuit of an over-arching theme — I just trust the songs to be true to where they come from and do my best to facilitate that.