Running in the BIG STIR family … KAI DANZBERG, TRIP WIRE & IN DEED



KAI DANZBERG (Hanover, Germany) who has just released his new album Not Only Sunshine on Big Stir Records:


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


When Iʼm working on an album I always set the goal to at least have 15 songs to choose from. For Not Only Sunshine I had 17 songs finished but was actually working on about 35 tracks, all of which had very different final forms. Some of them were only one minute long… some of them were complete instrumental tracks with no vocals. Itʼs different with any song Iʼm working on. A lot of my 2018 works ended up in the bin. But there was a lot of stuff which was just not ready for release. Those, I will probably release as singles or I will keep them for my fourth album.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter? 


Definitely. Within the last 2 years, I especially caught myself paying more attention to details. Sometimes I re-record vocals because I feel like there is one word which isnʼt the right one. Same goes for the instrumentation, especially when it comes to the mixing process. When I wrote the title track “Not Only Sunshine”, I had it all recorded. It was nearly finished. But then I realized that I had imagined that song completely differently in my head before I recorded it. That first version I did had the same tempo, the same vocals, and rhythm. But it was way louder with distorted guitars and different (and also louder) drums. If it had been 5 years ago I would probably have released it like that. But I ended up recording it all again. The final song has more of an acoustic feel to it. Even the drums are played with brushes, though those are virtual drums.


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


There was a time when I refused to write sad songs. Thatʼs because when I started to do music I was a teenager who had a lot of depression. Back then a lot of people told me that my songs were too sad. People were asking me why I didn’t try to write some happy songs. So for a long time, I refused to write sad stuff. But I don’t believe it’s right to think like that. When I became older I learned that it doesn’t matter if your songs are sad, happy, aggressive or whatever. To me, itʼs only important to be honest. I donʼt feel uncomfortable with that at all. Of course… sometimes you write stuff which seems mo than it actually is. But in the end, I decide what to release and what not. Just be yourself.




Playing music in front of a crowd. Whatʼs all the fun about? 


I used to have a lot of fun on stage, long ago. Since the age of 15, I’ve suffered from a panic disorder which causes massive stage fright for me. The last time I gave a show as a solo artist was at the age of 17. I have to admit, it was not fun. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole show. I definitely want to go back on stage – that’s a dream of mine. Unfortunately, I cannot guess when I’ll be ready for that.


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


Sure, get a sweet teen boy (he should be able to dance), listen to the popular music and create a similar song with a standard 4-chord progression, make sure he can sing falsetto. Now get him on a poster from the next big Teen Magazine. Done. He will be successful until he turns 21 😉 Okay, let me be serious now. Of course, there are ways to produce songs which have a bigger chance to turn into a Number One hit. If you listen to radio nowadays theyʼll probably play 5 songs in a row which all sound nearly the same. The reason for that is that the masses like melodies they are familiar with. So if I take that mainstream music as an example, I can for sure get more attention. But for me, the highest priority is that I LIKE MY MUSIC. If I one day choose to write a trashy German punk album, Iʼll probably do it. I have a book where I write down all my ideas and lyrics. The first thing I wrote in that book is “As long as you’re being authentic, people will see you”. I think that explains it all.




TRIP WIRE (San Francisco, CA) has just released their fourth album Once & Always on Big Stir Records. The band’s MARTY SCHNEIDER answers this round of questions!


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


In thinking it over, none!  I do start on songs and hit dead ends but I just put them aside for a while and all of a sudden I have another song that’s hit a dead end and I realize that it would work well with the other one and I sew them together.  It can take years for that to occur but it almost always has.  Some of the songs on this record came about that way.  Bottle Rocket, for instance, the chorus and bridge were sewn into the verses which had been laying around for a decade.




Listen HERE

With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?

Yes, absolutely.  One of the things I’ve done to get better is either join other bands with people whose songs I admire or ask them to join mine and in learning their writing style I grab the best ideas and incorporate them into my writing.  For example, I joined Ari Vais’ The Campbell Apartment to learn from him and I asked Jeff Shelton from The Well Wishers to join us and have learned things from him.  I get song arrangement ideas that way but lately, I have been working with a local poet named Julie Kramer who has allowed me to incorporate her poems into my songs.  The imagery she creates is something I would have never landed on myself so I am learning to get better that way too.


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


God no, that’s the main reason it took a while to get good and why I’m still doing it, I got a late start.  When I first learned to play I drove my car to a remote location and sang and played in the back seat so there was no chance anyone would hear!  I also have been in bands with fairly critical guys who took every opportunity to let you know you just wrote something lame.  You just have to power through the criticism, it helps to develop a thick skin and drive you to do better.



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


Get younger and prettier really quickly.

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


Well-timed question, we just played it.  We participated in a benefit show to raise money for an old friend who had major surgery last year.  He’s a music lifer who plays guitar with The Bye Bye Blackbirds and teaches guitar, bass, and drums for a living.  I’ve played in bands with him in the past as well.  We played the Bottom of the Hill here in San Francisco, which has one of the best sound systems and sound engineers anywhere, the crowd was large and enthusiastic and we played well.  It was a good gig all around.  I also opened a show for YouAmI, a band I very much admire, so that was pretty great too.

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


Every time, Patrick. C’mon!

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


I think both are equally easy.  However, if you add the caveat getting heard “by a lot of people” that’s a different story.  Recording has gotten much more accessible but writing and recording a good song is still pretty difficult.

Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I better not try to define our time, most of my friends are pretty passionate about music and I don’t want to argue with them later but I know what defined my time…The Beatles Revolver, The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes, Guided by Voices Alien Lanes and R.E.M. Life’s Rich Pageant.  Son Volt Straightaways and Wilco A.M. are runners up. (See what I did there?  You can’t pin a music lover down to just 5 records)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


It’s how band members interpret their parts on my songs so that it changes them from what I would do to what we would do.  That being said, every song I bring to the band I write all the parts in a demo and fight with myself over which part I think I can’t live without.  In the end, and about 9 times out of 10, what the others guys do makes the song better.

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


We recently played one of our best shows to 4 people who were having a conversation about something unrelated to our performance and it was fun because I was with my friends in the band, we played absolutely perfectly because there was nothing left to lose and it was fun.  The other side of the coin is that show where the crowd is large and they’re paying attention and responding.  In other words, I love it all!

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


Yes, but at our age (don’t ask) the response and body language can be interesting.  It goes from slight shock to confusion to judgy in about 15 seconds.

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?


Harmony vocals without a doubt.  Not just any band can do it, we’ve got good harmony singers and everything I do or have done for the last 5 years has been focusing on harmony.  I love the way it sounds and I can’t do it, so it being out of reach makes me admire those who can.  On Jeff’s and Bill’s songs I always feel bad that I can’t contribute in that way in the live setting, especially since they do it for me live.  I’m lucky that way I guess.




IN DEED (Uppsala, Sweden) is poised to release a brand new CD edition of their album Everest on Big Stir Records. RICHARD (guitar, vocals) and LINDA (lead vocals) of the band chime in for the interview!


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


Richard Öhrn: I don’t think it is. There are some lyrics that we decided not to write because of that. It is good, to be honest, but if that also might result in someone being hurt, there is a reason to think twice. And just because you are a so-called artist, it isn’t necessary to show your emotions. It’s about good music, good songs. Not that showing emotions is wrong, though!



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


Linda Karlsberg: Sometimes you remember the situations before and after the gig the best. In the early days of In Deed we had a Hammond organ when playing live. It was heavy – very heavy! — and every gig night ended with us carrying this Hammond organ down narrow stairs into a cellar. Wouldn’t think of doing that today!


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


Richard Öhrn: Not very long ago, I found an old demo of an unfinished song I’d forgotten about, but when I heard it, I felt ”wow, that is actually really good…even hit-good.” But even though you have that feeling, that’s just the beginning of the long road: to make up an arrangement that will bring out the best in the song, and to perform as well as possible while recording it, and then…the whole process of promoting and making it available to a wider audience. There must be so many unheard hits on this planet just because of errors somewhere along that line.





Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Richard Öhrn: Definitely, yes. Recording can be done anywhere/anyhow and still generate a really professional result thanks to the good-enough equipment available at low cost these days. Getting it heard is another matter. You need a lot of knowledge, a great base of contacts (and the right ones), and timing…and you’ll even need coincidences totally out of your control to be fortunate, I believe.


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


Richard Öhrn: I don’t really say that I am (a musician) since my main profession is something else. But sometimes I realize that other people define you as a musician above all else, and that makes me really proud. If that’s how people see me, I’m ok with it, it’s quite cool.







Since last year, a lot has happened. You will probably have enjoyed the whole ride but can you share some highlights?


It’s quite difficult to nail down just a few highlights because there have been so many!  Aside from building the website, being granted the Big Stir trademark and launching the legitimate Big Stir Records business in May of 2018, we’ve had the honor of booking, playing gigs with and releasing the LPs, CDs, and singles of a myriad of brilliantly talented all original artists and bands – all worth listening to and collecting their catalog. Here is just a partial list:


Recent and upcoming releases: Kai Danzberg (Germany), Trip Wire, In Deed (Sweden), Amoeba Teen (UK), The Armoires, Anton Barbeau, Plasticsoul, The Condors, Spygenius (UK), Blake Jones & The Trike Shop, Addison Love, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes.


Bands who’ve played the Big Stir Live series along with all the bands listed above: The Records (such an honor!), Arthur Alexander Band, The Kariannes, The Walker Brigade, The Ex Teens, The Fast Camels (Scotland), The Stanleys (Australia), Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg, the breakups, The Living Dolls, Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs, Brandon Schott, EZ Tiger, The Bobbleheads, The Forty Nineteens, Rockford, Ballzy Tomorrow, Modaferri, Walter Clevinger, Manual Scan, Lannie Flowers, Danny Wilkerson, Popdudes, Michael Simmons, The Korner Laughers, Rebecca Schiffman, Sitcom Neighbor, Mod Hippie, Jason Berk, Jeremy Morris Band, The World Record, Maple Mars, Nick Frater (UK), Picturebox (UK), Merit Badge, Anton Barbeau, Charms Against the Evil Eye (UK), Shplang, Doctors & Engineers, 13 Frightened Girls, Hux & The Hitmen, Toxic Melons, Russ Tolman, Trotsky Icepick, Rob Bonfiglio, Chris Price, and more…  Every one of those listed deserves to have at least one “million-seller” and we hope anyone reading this dives into their music and finds their new favorite band!


It was also exciting to launch our own Big Stir Digital Singles series, which includes many of the above-mentioned artists! The first 12 singles will be released on a compilation CD on April 19th, as Big Stir Singles; The First Wave. We’re proud of the series because it catches some of the terrific of-the-moment online releases, which are too often lost in the blink-and-you-miss-it pace of social media, and it features artists well beyond our own roster who are part of the wider pop community… and they’ve all brought their very best to the series. We’re delighted to have an online “event” every Friday and give these songs a proper, permanent home on CD!


In working with the amazingly talented artist Joseph Champniss of London, UK on publishing our Big Stir Magazine, we’ve discovered that people all over the world enjoy the creative and playful nature of what we like to put forth, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! We’re in the process of compiling articles and artwork for Issue 4. Past issues include interviews with Robyn Hitchcock, Martin Newell, and Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher), as well as the artwork, writings, and ramblings from many of us within the Big Stir realm and beyond. Author of Shake Some Action 2.0, John Borack, has an ongoing column, as well as does David Bash of International Pop Overthrow Festival fame. Bloggers, Radio DJs, and Record Shop owners also contribute stories and musings. It’s a labor of love and a whole lot of fun!


And lastly, a major highlight for The Armoires as a band has been collaborating with many great musicians in contributing bits and bobs on our upcoming album. Even Matthew Seligman of The Soft Boys played bass on one of our songs! We got to view our own record as a party with all of our friends invited and they brought so much to it… we’re really eager to share it.


The music industry is redefining itself or has been for a while now. Is Big Stir part of that redefinition?


Because the music industry had become so fragmented and the works and performances of so many talented and hard-working bands were going virtually unnoticed for various reasons, “Big Stir Live” was born out of a desperate need for community and solidarity, giving like-minded musicians a forum in which they could perform together… an event, rather than a half-hour gig, sandwiched between the rapster and the metal band. The Big Stir brand eventually took on a life of its own, evolving into a record label and magazine publisher, continuing to stitch the global community together.


In terms of the redefinition of the music industry, we’ve tended to defy conventional wisdom and follow our heart and soul instincts regarding community and the idea that the artists within it are stronger together rather than working in a vacuum. Everyone needs the support they deserve and we try to offer as much of it as we can to all of the people we believe in.


You are all over social media and you really found your tone of voice. Happy?


That’s interesting because “tone” is really subjective, and it’s often hard to know how you’re coming across, especially to an international audience! We strive to always be positive and boost the artists we love and to also be supportive of the many wonderful DJs and bloggers (such as yourself) who keep this music alive. And it’s important for there to be a bit of whimsy and inclusive clowning around between the musicians on the scene, too. It’s a delicate line and jokes can be misinterpreted, but we aim to be welcoming and make it feel like fans are listening in on, and able to join, a party where their favorite bands are talking shop about songwriting and recording and gigging… maybe we’re comparing who has the best paisley shirt, or what our favorite influential records are. For our genre and our “demographic” there’s no point in artists striking an aloof or “badass” pose, but equally you don’t want to see someone with the attitude of “well, here’s some song I made, probably nobody cares”… in between there’s a place where the creators can be joyful, even exuberant about the work they’re creating and really engage with each other’s songs and recordings. We like to keep the discourse right in that sweet spot.


We’ve got a bit of visual flair courtesy of Champniss and one of our favorite things is, after each Big Stir live show, being able to post a “yearbook photo” where you’ll be able to see bands you know from California, Texas, Scotland, Australia, or wherever else this music is made, all hanging out together looking like they’re friends having a great time, because guess what? They are! And we want our fans to feel like they’re a part of it. For all the negatives that social media can often exhibit, that’s a really positive picture to put out there that’s truly “social”, and it warms our hearts.




What does it mean when you ‘sign’ a band?


At the onset of forming the label, the core artists who made up our initial roster were already a sort of collective via the live scene and we just banded together organically. We were all putting our releases out on Big Stir Records to consolidate promotion and sales, but also to support each other under a single umbrella. It took on a life of its own and to be honest, no two artists have come to us the same way. Take Addison Love: we knew him as a member of Yorktown Lads and Popdudes and he quite casually mentioned that he had finished an album, and we asked him if there was any reason NOT to release it with us, and he said “great, send me the logo and catalog number”, and off we went! We’ve never met In Deed from Sweden in person, but they happened to get in touch with us after David Bash of IPO mentioned us to them – we are usually a little reserved about bands we haven’t seen live because that’s how we usually connect. But right when they got in touch we were driving from LA to San Francisco for a gig as The Armoires so we popped the IPO compilation into the CD player and their track happened to be the first song we heard, and we were in love instantly. Great friends from the live scene like Leslie Pereira & the Lazy Heroes, they’ll just casually mention that they’re getting ready to do a record and we’ll say “yes!” before they even get to ask.


Spygenius from the UK had become dear friends of ours but were probably a year or more from their next release. However, their previous album ‘Pacephale’ hadn’t really been released in the US, we loved it, and we figured out a way to make it a “Big Stir” release without even re-pressing it. It was as simple as that, and we’re glad we did because they’re such a cornerstone artist, part of the family from almost the start. From then to now where we have actual contracts with artists and facilitate pressing, even on vinyl, it seems like such a long road… in reality it’s barely been two years! The short story is, just as every artist is different, so are the stories of how they join our family.





If dreams come true, what is the dream you would like to dream?


The dream we would like to dream is the one where we gain enough exposure and sell enough music for all of our artists to be able to quit their day jobs and just live the life that fuels them creatively. They deserve that. The dream also includes a Big Stir live series happening every month all over the world… a touring circuit of sorts, where bands can play a gig, knowing they’ll be welcomed, supported, and on a bill with similar bands. We’re working on that!


We’ve been on an incredible learning-curve journey since we formed Big Stir Records and we hope it leads us to more airplay, more exposure, inventive marketing campaigns, getting our artists’ songs placed in film and television, booking college radio-circuit tours and well-paid international tours, and so much more.


After this year we think we will have taken our place among the great labels that serve up this music to those who already follow it – SpyderPop, Futureman, Kool Kat, Karma Frog, The Beautiful Music, and quite a few more – but we know this stuff can reach beyond this community. We’ve dropped a lot of names above, and every single one has tunes that could’ve been hits in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, and people still listen to those classics… they’re just trained to think that “nobody makes that kind of music anymore” so they’re out seeing tribute bands or subsisting on streaming oldies playlists. If we can catapult just one of these amazing artists into the mainstream consciousness, only good things can follow!






Unfortunately, it looks like La Panther Happens will not be doing anything soon. Jhohn Arlie is on his own now and he just released ‘Wonder’, a 5-song ep.

You won’t hear a better Indie Folk Pop song this year than “Chain of Sparks.”





For every song, you record, how many end up in the bin?


I would say at least 5 or 6 songs are thrown away. Sometimes I use their stronger parts to form a new song. My song Chain of Sparks was in the bin for a while, but I resurrected it and dusted it off. So far I have been receiving some positive feedback about That particular song.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Yes. I love to challenge myself as a songwriter. I will rewrite a song a few times before it is complete. Part of being a great songwriter is to have the courage to dismantle a song. Sometimes that is the only way to find a song’s true potential. I am always searching for that special chord or certain lyric to push a song further into uncharted territory.




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


Yes. Music is my savior. I can’t imagine where I would be without it. It has helped me in so many ways. Some of my lyrics are autobiographical and others are inspired by people I know. The most rewarding part of sharing my emotions through music is when someone tells me that a certain lyric or song has helped them through a difficult time. That is what it is all about.


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


That is a mystery to me. I have no idea how to reach a million listeners. Let alone 100. I feel like I might be one of those artists whose albums you might pick up a thrift store decades later and perhaps the music will resonate. I’ll just keep my head down and keep writing and performing songs. Hopefully, independent listeners like yourself will spread the word.


Recording music. What is the fun about?


There is something rewarding about building a song from start to finish and then recording it. It’s like documenting a magic trick. Who knows? The recordings might change someone’s life in the future.



As Kennedy himself says, “The ACID record is a culmination of all of my influences over the years and I think it’s the best work I’ve done to date. Jesus and Mary Chain meets Love and Rockets meets Cheap Trick, the Ramones and T. Rex is what I was going for. I’m very proud of this record and its different, yet familiar influential sound.” 




Sweet Sweet Music talked to Bobby Kennedy.



For every song you record, how many end up in the bin?


I would say about 5.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


I think I am better and faster at recognizing a bad song and move on to the next one more easily.


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


I’m comfortable with it because there are no emotions that haven’t already been expressed in other songs in the past.


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


I don’t have a master plan with Crawling but I hope this video will at least get it some exposure.



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


Acid’s first gig in 2012 because everything that could possibly go wrong, did. We got a sarcastic ovation when we finally managed to get through the first song.


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


I don’t know if I thought it was a “hit song” but there have been a few times when I’ve thought “wow, that’s pretty good” and I can see so and so covering this song.


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


I think it’s harder to rise above the pack with Everyone promoting themselves on the internet. It’s more of an even playing field now so I guess it’s about who wants it more.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Some people hate recording. I love it. You can do anything at home now so I’m my opinion, the key is to set limits of when a song is done and when to move on.


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



Live is fun when you play well and the crowd reacts positively. Not so fun when you suck.


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


No not proud to answer that. I always feel people think I’m a loser when I say I’m a musician. I usually mention that last.


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 my songs are short, catchy and are heavy enough to appeal to rockers yet fun enough for the pop crowd. But what do I know?



Read Don Valentine’s take on this, here.






DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS will be touring the UK, Japan and Korea the coming months.

Go see them, they are ‘The World’s Best Looking Heavy Melody Power Pop Punk Band’.




For every song you record, how many end up in the bin?


It’s getting less and less! For the first album, Little Big Head, I had 5 songs left over. I listened to them recently and they are brilliant so we are re-releasing the album with 3 bonus tracks and putting the other 2 on the b side of a limited release vinyl EP.


I discovered a song I rejected for the Difficult 2nd Album and another for Bombs Away which are also superb. We are recording both again as part of 16 songs in contention to be on the next (4th) record. We’ll see if they make it this time.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Is that possible! 😉 I think the 4th album will be our best yet. The songs are incredible! Are they better than before? I can’t tell. I love them all. After this album, I’ll have a think about how to go forward. Is there another way to do it?




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


Yes. I’m a show-off. I don’t care what people know. The thing all of us know the most about is ourselves. Dig deep in there. There’s a lot to say!


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


No bloody idea at all. We are so far outside the mainstream. I mean, ‘The 1975’ recently won best album at the BRITS and how shit are they?



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


There have been so many mad ones. Of last year the one which I remember most was the Bule Bule Toga fest in Tarragona, Spain:

  1. It was packed and the crowd loved us, and
  2. All the audience wore Togas.


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


Just now. But I was wrong.


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Much. It’s easy to get our fans to hear it. Much harder to get it in front of Ed Sheeran’s fans.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I’ve forgotten.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Mixing. The moment when it all comes together and you really hear the recording for the first time, with all the effects and everything at the right levels. It’s so exciting I can’t sleep for days.


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


Pure adulation. It’s such fun knowing, before we go on, that even the people who don’t like us are going to love us. Then we play and they do love us. Such a buzz.


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


Definitely not. Have you seen most musicians?


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 just want them to hear them and read the lyrics. If they do that, even if they don’t like them, I’m happy.

The High Strung – Quiet Riots (Q&A)



California Rocker about ‘Quite Riots’: ‘The songs are enlightening and tackle compelling subjects. The variety of music the album puts out there is refreshing. The tracks range in style from folk anthems like “Hope Explodes” to the Flaming Lips-y opener “Riots Of The Mind,” to groovy warning rocker “Eavesdropped Upon Again” — and a lot in between.’.



Sweet Sweet Music talked to Mark Owen, one of the singer-songwriter-guitarists in The High Strung.





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

We think this all the time! But, of course, we may have a different definition of what a hit is than most people. When we write or record a good one, we say “That’s a hit,” you know, or “That’s a masterpiece!” I think that what we mean is that this is a really good one that we’re proud of and that we wish those that would get it would have a chance to hear it. When you hear a band that isn’t necessarily a huge band and they play a song that is so good that it should be up there with the great ones and known and played out of car speakers and requested by fans to DJs years from now, then we say that’s a hit. Who cares if only a handful of people (or fewer) also think it’s a hit?


I think that sometimes we may write a song that we think is potentially more accessible to a larger audience than others, but that’s no more a hit to us than some good one that’s kind of weird or small or prickly or niche or whatever.


At some point in the writing or fleshing out of the songs on our new album, we thought “This is a hit!” or “This is a killer one” about every single one. Also, you may not know what to think of a song when you write it, but the parts that the band brings to it, the rehearsing of it, or recording of it makes it a hit. There all hits in my mind.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?

Yes. I learn from Josh every time we write together, or when he sends a voicemail or plays for me something he came up with, or when I hear a great change or melody or lyric or whatever in the world. Songwriting is something that you can keep getting better at. You can write a song today that you couldn’t write yesterday because you’re learning constantly— if you keep doing it. It is always trial and error, and you have to get comfortable with sour chords and corny ideas, with dead ends and missed paths on the way to something good.


I want to get better at all facets of my songwriting, and the next song gives me the opportunity to do this.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Well, in some ways it’s very fun, and in other ways, it’s not so much fun and can be frustrating. Our band has recently had two different types of recording experiences. The first is recording songs at a “real” recording studio with a big mixing board and good mics and rooms meant to be recorded in. We did this recently with Jim Diamond (who also recorded four other THS albums, the first in 2002) at Tempermill Studios in Ferndale, Michigan. We went in with the songs that are on Quiet Riots more or less written. And we had lots of fun getting them onto tape, focusing on the different sounds, and effects, and parts, and how they come together, but there’s also some pressure because of the time and money concerns—you’re paying for studio time, etc.—and it can be wearing on nerves to try to get something down that you really won’t be able to change or try once more once you are done in the studio.

The second type of recording experience is the one we are engaged in now.

We’re recording our next one (which has the working title of Southfield) not in an official studio with hourly costs for expensive mics and machines and all that, but in a basement with a few old mics and a laptop, and writing the song, working out the parts, a few seconds before you hit record. As of today, we don’t have lyrics for 80% of the songs, but they have spirit and spontaneity in the form they’re in now. We go in the basement and put down (at least the basic tracks) of a song that did not exist yesterday. This is a different kind of fun and a different kind of challenge.



As a band, we like both experiences, and it feels right to go from one to the other and back again, from a studio with songs prepared and an engineer and all that to the DIY basement with just the desire to make something and the bare essentials to do it.




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


No, it’s not always comfortable. I’m able to do it by tricking myself a bit. I try to get it down and out of me before I am able to suppress it or stifle it, and, of course, there are ways of relaxing inhibitions. Even if it’s just a bit that’s real, that is sparked by real feeling, that’s enough to provide the roux for the song. I try to only go there briefly and not dwell there. Finishing it (whether alone or with Josh) is kind of like enhancing or filling out that initial, emotional bit, but in a more tactical or architecturally-minded way. Then singing on it is like covering it in a way. You trust in the truth of the emotions that went into the writing of it, and you try to find a way towards that source, but since you can never really return to it, you end up expressing something else altogether, something akin to it, similar but not identical.

Showing your emotions to the word is a necessary by-product of writing something good and real and performing it in a genuine and powerful way.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth? 

I don’t necessarily know about ones “that everybody forgot about” or that “define ‘our time,’” but here are five songs (in no particular order) that define my time (which, I guess, at this moment, is the mid-60s to mid-70s!):


Ted Lucas, “It’s So Easy”​(Ted Lucas)​​

The Grateful Dead, “Viola Lee Blues” (Noah Lewis)

James and Bobby Purifoy, “I’m Your Puppet”(Penn/Oldham)

Neil Young, “Don’t Be Denied” (Neil Young)

The Stone Poneys, “Different Drum” (Mike Nesmith)



Check out the LA Weekly interview with Josh Malerman.



Tullycraft – The Railway Prince Hotel (Q&A)




If you read the stories about ‘The Railway Prince Hotel’, it becomes clear quite quickly that reviewers find it difficult to interpret the music of Tullycraft.

When You Motor Away writes: ‘… His sweet spot is uptempo, melodic songs with large doses of wry humor delivered with punk energy.  His lyrics paint concise scenes that often prompt us to think “hey, I’ve been in that situation”, but we never tell the story as well as Sean.’.

Dagger Zine says: ‘The lyrics are clever, the melodies are sneaky and let’s be honest, the only band that sounds like Tullycraft is Tullycraft.’.

Here Comes The Flood tries: ‘Their 7th album The Railway Prince Hotel is filled with upbeat, rambling garage tunes that will get many a listener spin the wrong foot. Is there something wrong with the rhythm? Well, no actually, but it’s a kind of free-flowing music, jagged and lo-fi while they take the piss at pretty much anything. Think a mix of XTC, The Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman, and the Decemberists.’.

Maybe it’s easier to describe what it certainly is not.

‘Tullycraft’ is most probably the answer to the question ‘which band produces music that does not sound like ‘Meatloaf’ at all?’

And somehow they have been able to incorporate a small piece of ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ into ‘Goldie and the Gingerbreads’.

The Railway Prince Hotel is Tullycraft’s seventh album, their first since 2013’s Lost in Light Rotation. This new batch of songs sees Sean Tollefson and Jenny Mears continue to share most of the vocal duties, while longtime musical stalwarts Chris Munford and Corianton Hale create most of the music.

Buy here.

Sean Tollefson explains.




For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


Most of the songs we record get used, but not all of them. On this most recent album, we recorded 16 songs and 12 of them appeared on the record. On the last album, we recorded 13 songs and 11 of them made the album. So there’s usually not many songs that end up “in the bin” so to speak. Even then, the songs that don’t make it on the album usually see the light of day at some point. Although, a few years ago we recorded an exclusive song for a network television show, and it was cut from the show before in aired. For legal reasons almost no one has heard that song, which is too bad cause I think it’s pretty good.



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


Well, Tullycraft has never actually had “a hit” in the conventional sense. We have had a couple songs that a few people seemed to notice (i.e. “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About” and “Twee”). The last time I was convinced I had written one of those songs was the day I wrote: “The Punks Are Writing Love Songs” (which appeared on the album Every Scene Needs a Center). I was sitting on the couch playing it on bass and I remember saying to my then girlfriend (now wife) Liz, “If Tullycraft every releases any sort of greatest hits record this song will most certainly be on there.” And that’s probably still true.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


That’s a tough one, because ‘our time’ on earth (collectively) is probably best defined by the albums that we haven’t forgotten about (i.e. Purple Rain, London Calling, Power, Corruption & Lies…), but I can try and give you five ‘forgotten’ albums that best define my time on earth.


  1. New Bad Things – Freewheel! (1995)


  1. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Rockin’ and Romance (1985)


  1. Beat Happening – Jamboree (1988)


  1. Billy Bragg – Talking with the Taxman About Poetry (1986)


  1. The Lucksmiths – A Good Kind of Nervous (1997)



Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


I love the recording process! It’s my favorite part of being in a band. Playing music in front of people is great too, but after a while, it all started to feel the same to me. Shows and cities began to blur together. The routine of it all became a little tiresome. This might be why Tullycraft hasn’t performed in public since 2009. I love recording because the process allows you to create something that literally didn’t exist before you started. Creating something out of nothing is amazing! I love trying different recording techniques and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. We recorded the new album, The Railway Prince Hotel entirely different than we recorded past records. Much of it was improvised, which is something we hadn’t tried before. Sometimes the tracks we recorded were terrible, and we’d have to start over, while other times magic would occur, seemingly out of nowhere, and we’d track something great. It was an exciting experience in the studio for this album.




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?


Frequently reviewers refer to our music as cute or funny which I’ve never quite understood. If another band that wasn’t already pre-labeled as “twee” recorded our same songs, I’m certain their music wouldn’t be called cute. Lyrically, sometimes our songs are sort of bleak, but since I have a tendency to drop in obscure music or pop culture references they are often called funny. Personally, I would prefer being called clever over funny but I can’t control how people perceive us. As far as the “twee” label goes, I gave up rejecting it years ago. At some point, I said to the band “if people want to call us twee, that’s fine, we will be the Kings of Twee!” In fact, one might argue that Tullycraft has sort of redefined what it means to be a twee band. Much of our music certainly doesn’t have what is thought of as a “traditionally twee” sound. The best compliment I ever heard said about our band was “Tullycraft sounds like Tullycraft.” Does that set our songs apart? I don’t know, maybe? But probably not.

The March Divide – Anticipation Pop (Q&A)

Baby Sue writes: ‘Yet another album from The March Divide featuring cool, smart, credible pop. Jared Putnam‘s the main man in this band, and he never lets his listeners down. This talented fellow’s music just keeps getting better. Anticipation Pops is one solid spin. The album features ten smart guitar-driven pop tracks with a heavy emphasis on vocal melodies and lyrics. Over time, most artists tend to begin overproducing their music which in many ways detracts from their original sound. Putnam avoids this trap, opting instead to present his songs using only the basics. The stripped down approach works when there’s substance present. And you’ll hear plenty of substance here. The chord progressions are interesting and unpredictable. The arrangements for each track are precise and exacting. And once again the vocals are just perfect. Pops is yet another exceedingly entertaining spin. Cool reflective cuts include “I Don’t Care,” “Spinning,” “The One On,” and “Lucky.” Top pick.’. 










Sweet Sweet Music talked to Jared.


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


I actually keep every song I record. The songs I don’t like, I typically give up on, long before I get to the recording phase. Recording is just too much work, to force a song you don’t like.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


I really try to get better, with every song. I’m not sure how much better I’m getting, but I’m always trying new ideas & directions, to hopefully improve on where I am.


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


It’s not at all comfortable, a lot of the time. But that being said, it’s usually very therapeutic, the more uncomfortable the topic.



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


Around twenty years ago, my band at the time opened for Modern English. It was the first really big show I had ever played. We were well rehearsed & did really well.  I’m never going to forget that feeling.


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


While I have yet to write a huge hit, I usually get the feeling that I have, ever so often… Most recently, when I wrote “I Don’t Care” for the new album ‘Anticipation Pops.’ I’m still very proud of that song, more than anything because I feel like it fits the mold of a perfect pop song. Short, sweet, & to the point. I have songs that I’ve written that I like more than that one, but for whatever reason, that song makes me feel very accomplished. I’m still chasing that big hit, though.



Crocodiles – Love Is Here (Q&A)

‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ is one of the big songs of the year so far. Post Punkers, Garage Rockers, and Power Pop lovers, Crocodiles just released ‘Love Is Here’.

… And this one has a particularly nice blend of sweet and noisy.




Brandon Welchez & Charles Rowell talk.







For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


I don’t usually finish a song if it’s not sounding like it’s going to be a good one. I guess for every idea that ends up becoming a good song I probably abandon five ideas.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Yes, definitely. I think it’s important to never think you’ve “figured it out” or else you won’t continue to grow. I think it’s good to collaborate with other writers as well because everyone has a different perspective and process and it also helps you grow to see you this.


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


If I had any ideas about that I wouldn’t be so fucking poor haha! Really I think it’s just luck and being part of the zeitgeist. It doesn’t do an artist any favors to worry about becoming rich or famous; just do your best work and be true to yourself because there is really no control over what happens.



Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Definitely. This new album took us a year to get out. We could probably do two albums a year if we had the financial backing to make it happen.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I don’t know if you mean our time like 2019 or like the past one hundred years so I’ll just answer by telling you five power pop records I love since this is a power pop blog:


Howard Werth – Obsolete

NRBQ – Want You Bad

Incredible Kidda Band – You Belong To Me

Paul Collins Beat – Rock N Roll Girl

The Records – Starry Eyes








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


Hmmm. I would say that playing in Tangier Morocco was the most memorable. We had never set foot in Africa before let alone to perform. The crowd matched our enthusiasm, much to our surprise. They danced and even made a conga line. Some of them were wearing traditional head scarves also. It was a completely new and heartwarming experience.


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


Haha! There isn’t much that passes through my head besides are the lyrics good and does it flow well. I doubt that even if we had a big label and millions of fans that we would think in terms of hits. As a songwriter you are constantly chasing something deep within you; to match or beat that old familiar feeling. Perhaps it was the feeling you got when you first heard Television or The Modern Lovers. After it’s all written and organized with Brandon I always forget how the damn song was written anyways. It’s a curse. I can recall the bad ideas but not how the good ones came to be.


Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


These are some records that I feel are not celebrated as widely as they should be 🙂


  1. Grant Hart – You’re The Reflection of The Moon On The Water (single)
  2. Greg Sage – Sacrifice (for love) CD
  3. Angel City – Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again (single)
  4. White Sport – Learner Dancer (single)
  5. Lou Miami – Ghosts (single)


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Perhaps a psychologist would suggest that artists have a fear of death or of not being remembered and that’s why we create as we do. I do enjoy making albums because I know that they will last forever. They’re a window into the thoughts, ideas, and inspirations of a specific time; a specific artist(s). These eternal messages are passed along from person to person and quickly become apart of the listener’s memories too. It’s remarkable how much music plays an overlooked influence on our lives. For Brandon and I, we can look back at almost twenty years of musical collaboration through our albums. For us, it’s an ocean of memories.


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


I really enjoy your questions! Under the best conditions, you can share a very cool experience with the crowd. It’s different than making an album and sitting at home listening to your studio chops on the hifi. In concert, everyone contributes. It’s a chance to create an ambiance and inject a visceral element into your songs.



The Ego Ritual (Q&A)


Enter The Ego Ritual and this 5-track eponymous EP. It has everything one might expect from psych-rock revivalist over the years. The songs here groove and rock out, with the appropriate riffs and sounds that approximate the psych-rock agenda but more importantly the songs are well-crafted in their own right and do not simply function as mere pastiches.” – Kevin Mathews/ 

“Opener ‘Chakra Maraka’, is a sonic joy ride.  The sitar-esque intro lures one in until the thundering guitars land a sucker punch… and off we go on a melodic, guitar fueled roller coaster, moving at a pace that demands you hold on for dear life.  ‘Serenade the Ley Line’ is straight up power pop through paisley glasses, bouncing along into a catchy chorus that’s easy to remember even after a single listen.  ‘Days of Set’ shares a commonality with both of the aforementioned tracks – a bit more conventional, it’s melodic and carries a similar punch.  Catchy melodies and terrific songwriting carry the day, born from a decidedly paisley perspective.  And, it’s a guitar enthusiast’s dream. They’re gorgeous throughout the entirety of the record. This EP is a great way to start off 2019.  You’ll want to start writing 1968 on all your checks…. except the one to Internal Revenue! Not a good idea.” – Rich Rossi/  GREAT!!


Lots of praise! Let’s talk to James Styring and find out more!







With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Yes, you’re always learning, always striving for that one special song. You’ll never get there, of course, but it’s that drive that keeps you writing, keeps you pushing. I’m sure most songwriters will say their best work is yet to come.


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


It’s not always comfortable, but I believe the song benefits if you do. You have to be honest. Even if the lyrics don’t make immediate sense, you can feel when the writer is writing from the heart. It’s quite often the only place a songwriter does show emotion and open up. There’s a kind of safety net in a song. If you feel it, the listener will feel it. It’s a shared experience. A connection.



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


We don’t set out to write hits, as such. There is no blueprint, the songs just go where they need to. It’s up to the listener to decide if they enjoy and get something from them. We’re always grateful if they do, but it certainly isn’t the priority when William and myself sit down to write. And our songs can always be taken on different levels, the deeper you dig, the more you may find resonates with you. I guess our definition of a hit song would be very different from mainstream media and pop radio, though pop music and hit songs have a valid place in the scheme of things, they always have.



Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Being creative. Your ideas finally coming to life. You work tirelessly on these things, you get to breathe life into them. It’s not always an easy journey, but you stick with it and see it through. You made something happen from nothing. Sonic magic.


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’ve always said, it’s far more important what the listener thinks than what the writer had in mind. Our songs are open to interpretation on every level, make of them what you will. When I write the lyrics, I know exactly what I’m saying, but once the songs are ‘out there’ for people to hear, it’s up to the individual. No one’s right, no one’s wrong. We do our thing, firstly for ourselves, secondly, for anyone who wants to listen. Again, it’s totally out of our hands, once the song is released. If people find we have a unique sound, or whatever it may be, then great. We don’t set out to be anyone but ourselves.


Buy it at Kool Kat Musik

David Mead – Cobra Pumps (Q&A)




Music City Mike writes: Not totally silent, David has released two records since then with Elle Macho, his rocking trio with Butterfly Boucher and Lindsay Jameison. This somewhat tongue-in-cheek,  leather-clad combo has also managed to play the occasional local gig which kept up our hopes of someday seeing another David Mead record.

The new one is entitled “Cobra Pumps.” This marks his seventh record since his solo debut in 1999 after serving time as a member of local pop band Joe Marcs Brother. 


Sweet Sweet Music talked to David about this new release.



Buy vinyl or cd


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


I am very proud to tell people that I am a musician. I think of it the way that some people think of a religion. It’s a world view, it’s a daily practice, it frames the way that I think of nearly everything. Most of my mentors are musicians. Music has been in my head for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine functioning without it.



For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


Good question. I don’t know if anything ever completely goes unused- they usually find their place somewhere else in parts or entirety, sooner or later. For COBRA PUMPS I wrote and demoed 17 songs and put 10 on the album. That seems like a fairly consistent average.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Absolutely. And occasionally I seem to get worse!


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


It’s ok writing and recording because I am usually working in a small environment with people I trust. Once I begin playing the songs live it is less comfortable but that makes things more exciting as well.


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


No. I think of myself as a boutique shop that serves a small and loyal clientele that demands a high quality product.


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




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 like that question. The older I get, the less interested I am in trying to influence how people hear my music at all. I am trying to make music that invites people into it so they can have their own experience with it. Neil Young said something like “Writing a good song is like building a house- You build a good house, but you shouldn’t decorate it, shouldn’t furnish it- let people come into it and do that themselves.”