The Resonars, Freezing Hands, The Exbats, …

The finest Garage Pop is made at the Midtown Island Studios in Tucson. Matt Rendon owns the studio and is also a member of some great bands who, of course, record their songs there.

In 2019 you told ‘Lenguas Largas, Freezing Hands, Free Machines, Sea Wren, Anchor baby, The Resonars, Harsh Mistress – they’re all made up among the same 10-12 people. How does the Midtown Island circle work? Do you see each other daily or weekly? And is there always a reason to get together, or are you always searching for songs together?

That quote from 2019 was undoubtedly true at the time. However, since covid, that’s all changed. I only see the bands I’m an active participant in – Exbats, Freezing Hands, Groovy Movies, and The Resonars. Freezing Hands are here to record/rehearse every Wednesday at 7 pm like clockwork, and it’s been that way for ten years.

The Exbats I see pretty regularly as I now play guitar in the band. Sea Wren and Harsh Mistress are no more. Free Machines are going to record here soon, probably in late winter. The Lenguas/Anchorbaby guys I don’t see very often anymore.

Travis from the Freezing Hands and Kenny/Inez from The Exbats are the most prolific songwriters I know. There’s always a song in their pockets, and the quality is always high. Kenny lives 90 minutes away, so he will often call just to say that he wrote another hit and talk me through it. Travis has a new song nearly every Wednesday night. So yeah, the songs are always discussed, and production/arrangement ideas are in place by the time we start rolling tape.

I can endlessly enjoy the way the harmony vocals sound on your records. Is that your specialty or ‘just’ the most fun part of it all?

I would have to say that harmonies are my specialty and, for me, is the most fun part of recording. It’s always a laugh riot. These days most harmonies on Freezing Hands, The Exbats, or The Resonars records tend to be 3 to 6 parts. A lot of call and response or three-part backup vocals behind a lead vocal. It’s a source of wonder and exploration. Always chasing the overtones, always trying to create beauty with human voices no matter the tone of the song. The look on the singers’ faces when a perfect harmonic blend is played back on the monitors is priceless.

So yeah, the most challenging, the most fun, the most work, and ultimately the most rewarding part of recording.

2021 was about re-releasing past releases and putting out music that seemed lost?

As far as 2021 goes, I fully intended to have a new The Resonars LP out and a reissue of the first LP from 1998. I kind of ran out of steam in early 2021 though a new 45EP was released on Hypnotic Bridge. The songs weren’t coming, so I concentrated on other things, mainly gardening, baseball, and practicing mixing. However, we did record and release the new The Exbats LP that came out in October, as well as a Freezing Hands record due out next year, and The Groovy Movies LP coming out in January/February.

Never a dull moment.

Releasing on vinyl, cassette, and on Spotify. Is that a good or a bad thing, all those different formats? Or do you enjoy it?

As far as formats are concerned, I prefer vinyl. It’s the biggest challenge creatively and financially, and if you’re going to commit to it, it has to be the best you can do. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Spotify. I finally relented when I realized that’s how most friends and family were listening to music.

Different formats are good, I believe. I’m asked if any of The Resonars’ releases are out on CD at least once a week.

Bandcamp is the best, though. It’s direct and artist-friendly and can really help a band out of a jam.

Are there already plans for 2022?

Plans for 2022 are a new The Resonars LP, that’s about 75% done right now, a reissue of Bright and Dark with extra tracks. New albums by The Exbats (they’ve already written a clutch of fantastic songs, and we start recording next month), Freezing Hands (in the post-production stage), Groovy Movies (album coming in a few weeks), and our friends from Phoenix, the Rebel Set, are coming to record a new set of tunes in December.

Also, the reissue of the first LP goes to press in three weeks and should be out late December/early January.

Peter Hall – Light The Stars (Q&A)

Light The Stars, Peter Hall’s new record, will be released on November 26. His Bandcamp page features a short review in which his music is described as intimate, carefully crafted, and richly melodic indie pop. That is a very accurate description, and I would like to add one word to that description, namely ‘beautiful’.

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

When I wrote the title track – Light The Stars, it was maybe the third song I’d written that I was really happy with since releasing my EP, There’s Something Wrong With Everyone. It fired me up, and I thought, yeah, I’m writing an album, not an ep or just a single. It’s the album’s keystone, I guess.

How did this record come together?

Slowly! It started at the beginning of the pandemic, and the whole situation for me was not conducive to anything creative at all. The outlook was so strange and scary that I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I abandoned any attempt to make anything brand new. I needed to do something though, or I’d have gone mad, so I picked on an older song and recorded a new take on that. That got me moving. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll do that, or maybe record a cover, and that gets me in the right frame of mind to do something more creative.

After that, I was out of the blocks, and I didn’t stop writing and recording for around nine months. I work alone – both writing and recording – and tend to record as soon as it’s written, sometimes before I’ve got all the parts or words. I recorded around 16 songs and narrowed it down to 11 for the final tracklisting.  

The only exception to the working alone thing was that I was lucky to have Ben Gordelier (The Moons … & Paul Weller Band) play on a couple of tracks. He’s an amazing musician and was available due to not being able to play live. Lucky for me. That really helped and made me up my game.

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

God no! Have you seen that clip of Eliott Smith where he gets heckled by a guy saying, “grow a backbone!” Poor guy. He responds by saying he’s up there baring his soul; what more does he want? It makes you feel very vulnerable sometimes. My songs are intensely personal – even when they seem to be a story about someone else, they’re usually not! So yeah, it’s not easy because it’s all heart on your sleeve stuff. But that’s what connects with people, I guess, and I wouldn’t want to write anything that dodged a line because I was worried about what someone might think.

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

Everything Is Fading Fast from There’s Something Wrong With Everyone EP

Two Twenty Two

Light The Stars

I could have picked any, I guess, cos I haven’t put out a song I don’t like, but I chose these three because, to me, there’s an uplift in them, musically and lyrically. I think there’s positivity in them – even amongst the melancholy of Everything Is Fading Fast. I don’t like talking about what songs mean because I always like to come to my own conclusions when I listen to music. It can spoil it when a meaning is imposed on you by a mouthy songwriter or singer, but just to say, I think I said what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it with these songs. I like the arrangements, as well. Yeah, these three will do!

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

I’m picking dead people, ok, because then they have to come back and do it or risk a breach of contract, and I don’t think they want to get into all of that legal messiness. And once they’re here, they may as well stay. Them’s the rules. The only problem with these three is that I’m not sure I would dare to sing in their company. 

John Lennon

Etta James

Nick Drake

Come back, folks. It’s been too long.

the black watch – Here & There

Here & There is Los Angeles dreampop/indie pop band the black watch’s twentieth LP since its formation in Santa Barbara, California in 1987.

John Andrew Fredrick spoke to Sweet Sweet Music about the joys of being the best kept secret for over thirty years.

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

The moment I knew I was “on” to something emanated, I think from a failure (the penultimate LP we did, out in 2020, was called Brilliant Failures–hence it’s a topic I know quite some bit about!). Anyway, after I finished grad school I tried to write a novel about a year-long trip to London; and 500 pages into it, I realized “There’s no plot here!” So I shelved it and reckoned I’d have to start over. That being WAY too much to contemplate, I decided to finish a few songs I’d been working on. I’d written songs since I was ten years old or something, but never figured I’d pursue songwriting in earnest, you know?

Well, I met a drummer while I was teaching at UCSB, and he turned me on to The Smiths and REM and The Cure and Cocteau Twins. Once I played him some stuff, he kept calling ME, asking me to rehearse–very keen he was. So I thought, “Well, if this kid who seems to know ALL about indie music likes my songs, then perhaps we should see what we can do. I bought an electric guitar soon after that (much to my then-wife’s chagrin if not horror!), and we, the drummer and I, would rehearse in empty university classrooms on Saturdays. And the rest is history… from around 32 years ago! Life is very odd.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

The most unforgettable compliment I think I ever got was from an A & R guy at Warner Brothers who was very, very much a music person–not just a suit. And he said that he couldn’t sign us (of course not!) but that there was beyond a shadow of a doubt a real purpose for J’Anna Jacoby (bandmate at the time–now Rod Stewart’s violinist) and me to have a band.

Not every band has any sort of meaning, is what I’m driving at. That thought stuck with me.

Another one came from a psychiatrist friend who came to our first gig–which was with Toad the Wet Sprocket. He said: “That band [Toad] is going to be very popular; but YOU, John, are going to be an artist.”

Unimaginably touching, that was. And prophetic as well.

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

Success is such a nebulous concept, isn’t it? the black watch has had such good press over the years that I’m not particularly fazed by it: not that I’m not grateful. It’s just… we keep hearing, “Oh, your stuff should be in the movies… where the money is…” And it’s been a LONG time since we had anything in a film.

Furthermore, I try to please ONE person when I write and record: myself. Megalomaniacal as that sounds, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I make records that I want to hear–and that I DON’T hear anywhere else? Quixotic? Perhaps–but that’s the cross as it were I have to wave around!

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

We would love to tour with My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. We’d wipe the floor with both. Haha. Kidding. Never happen.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

The place we occupy in the record industry might be best summarized with a quotation from venerable Trouser Press: “Amphetamines [our third LP] was the band’s failed bid for indie stardom.”

We’ve been this SECRET for so long that it simply makes us laugh. Yet I think there’s a philosophical element to it all: some bands (i.e. mine) are just MEANT not to be a big as well-wishers believe they deserve to be.

I think it was David Sylvian who said, after Japan broke up, that he’d quite like to be a MINOR pop star. I love that he said that. I second it!

A series of videos will be released over the new few months for songs from the album done by filmmaker  C.K. Sumner who has recently done work for Kristin Hershand The Bevis Frond.

Here & There is Los Angeles dreampop/indie pop band the black watch’s twentieth LP since its formation in Santa Barbara, California in 1987.  The new album was produced and engineered by Scott Campbell (Stevie Nicks, Shelby Lynne, Acetone) at his home studio in Woodland Hills, CA, and it features strings arrangements by two-time Emmy Award-winner Ben Eshbach, as well as the backing vocals of Gretchens Wheel frontwoman Lindsay Murray.

Fredrick, who is also a writer of fiction and an abstract painter and a self-proclaimed tennis bum, has a new novel–a Nabokovian thriller–coming out in 2022 from an up-and-coming UK publisher.

Sterbus – Let Your Garden Sleep In (Q&A)

Emanuele Sterbini and Dominique D’Avanzo together form Sterbus. Let Your Garden Sleep In, their new record, contains nine songs that are as accessible as they are eccentric.

Emanuele explains how his musical influences, XTC, Zappa, The Beatles, Talk Talk, and, above all, Cardiacs, have shaped the sound of this Power Popera.

You call Let Your Garden Sleep In a Power popera. Did you have a particular concept in mind when you started writing?

Our last album, 2018, “Real Estate / Fake Inverno”, was a double album, had 17 songs, and featured Cardiacs drummer Bob Leith. It was an extensive blend of different styles, from proggy cavalcades to folk-acoustic tunes, from power-punk with odd rhythms to mariner songs and everything in between! It was hard to decide the tracklist because we wanted a change of scenery for every song, a bit like the White Album, that has George Harrison’s quiet “Long long long” right after “Helter Skelter”.

This new album was born during the lockdown, and while we were writing the songs, we saw a pattern linking all of them. This time it was their research for joy, simplicity, nice chords with nice melodies, and we already imagined what kind of arrangements would have suited the song best. For sure, they all needed loud guitars, which gave them the power-pop flavor.

How do you and Dominique work together? How does a Sterbus song come about, or is there no fixed formula?

I start the songs on my own most of the time, finding a first structure with just guitar and a melody. I tend to write melodies singing in a fake/gibberish English cause my priority is the sound of the words. Then Dominique can take my fake words and translate them to actual lines.

Sometimes, like in the song “Polygone Bye” sung by Dominique, the melody comes together while we’re jamming and finding the right chords together. Sometimes during this process, I begin to “visualize” the best form to give to the songs, how many verses, intros, chorus, middle-eights, and then we demo the song, with midi drums, electric guitars, bass, and all the stuff that will be in the final version. I always loved middle-eights, that section that usually comes after the second chorus and brings you to the song coda! Andy Partridge is a master of that. Boring songwriters usually put solos over the verse chords or a useless pause on that part before repeating the last chorus. I hate it!

Let Your Garden Sleep In has a vibrant sound. Did it take you a while to find it, or did you know exactly what you wanted when you started recording?

When we went to the studio, the Jungle Music Factory in Tivoli, near Rome, run by our friend Francesco Grammatico that de facto technically produced the record, we only knew that we wanted a warmer sound than the past record, a little less “glossy” and a bit more earthy, if that makes sense.

So we started tracking drums with Pablo Tarli – who also plays drums in my other band, ZAC – and then we built from there. Riccardo Piergiovanni, our keyboard player, also played a significant role because he wrote the strings arrangement for our first single and album opener, “Nothing of concern”. I’m thrilled cause we had the chance to use real instruments and no midi, so we had a real piano, strings, clarinets, flutes, trumpets, trombones; I played bass and all guitars. Dom played clarinets, flutes and wrote all the lyrics, leaving the song titles to me.

A special mention should go to Al Strachan, the trumpet player in the beautiful Crayola Lectern that gave the last song and album closer “Murmurations,” that late Talk Talk feeling we were trying to achieve. Having real instruments, it’s essential to us; It’s what we heard on our fave records, after all!

“Real Estate / Fake Inverno” also was full of this kind of instrumentation… we even had Celtic harps on that.

Sterbus’ music is influenced by, among others, The Lemon Twigs and XTC. Bands that sound both accessible and eccentric. Are you also looking for that mix with Sterbus, or do I hear things that aren’t there?

Absolutely! But here I need to mention my fave band ever, Cardiacs. I discovered them only in 2006, after years of searching for the perfect band. I grew up listening to Frank Zappa and The Beatles, and then in the early nineties, all the guitar bands that exploded after Nirvana. Cardiacs can be complex and fun, tuneful and abrasive, all simultaneously, sometimes in the same song. Their 1996 album “Sing to God” is a masterpiece, and having their drummer playing on our album in 2018 has been a dream come true. Tim Smith is a genius.

And now all the hard work is done, the record you worked so hard on has been released. Scary and exciting?

You’re right, scared and excited. At the moment we are very happy because the limited edition of 100 hand-numbered copies sold-out out in less than two days and that’s a lot for an independent band like us. We hope our music reaches many people, and we wish to donate a jolly good time to all that will listen to it.

Power-pop to the people!

The digipack “standard” version of the album is available on our Bandcamp page.

David Brookings – Mania at the Talent Show (Q&A)

Mania At the Talent Show, David Brookings’ new record, his 9th, will be released on November 12. Like so many other musicians this year, he seems to have raised the bar for himself again by emerging from the lockdown with twelve of his best songs.

It looks like you used a slightly different sound and broader palette on Mania at the Talent Show. I hear pure Power Pop and more subdued Singer-Songwriter songs brotherly after each other. Or has it always been there, and are my ears opening now?

I think it has always been there, but I agree the palette is broader here. Mania at the Talent Show is my 9th album, so I want to branch out and try new things, not make the same record every time. I’m trying to expand, and my co-producer and engineer Josh Scolaro and I were very conscious of that on this record. I like how you say the songs are paired ‘brotherly’

How did Mania at the Talent Show come about?

It is the first album I’ve ever recorded that was done remotely. I’m in LA, and I file shared back and forth with Josh (producer/engineer) in Virginia. We last worked together back in 2000 when my first record came out. We’ve stayed close all these years, and it was great working with him again. It was also easier than I thought it would be, and we brought in a few other music friends from past bands I’ve played in to fill out some of the drum and bass sections. But it is mostly Josh and I playing on all the tracks.

What a great title the record has been given. Can you tell me something about that?

I thought it was a cool title for the record. Then I wrote a song around that title, which is intended to be an over-the-top satirical look back at the first time I ever played live at the 6th grade talent show (I was 11) when I played the first song I ever wrote. But I assure you no dads were starting mosh pits and 7th-grade girls passing out, as the song suggests

Your lyrics are meaningful. How do you find inspiration for telling new stories?

Thanks for saying that. I use my life, and whatever is going on at the time, and mix that in with lines that I’ve either heard someone say, remember from a movie, think are funny, etc. Sometimes I don’t know how the songs come together. It’s a strange magic you’re trying to capture, writing songs 

How will Mania at the Talent Show be released, and from when can orders be made?

It’ll be everywhere on November 12, which is also my birthday. All of the streaming sites will have it, but I do recommend Apple Music. And I’m also selling physical CDs at You can pre-order now, and please do 🙂 

The Well Wishers – Spare Parts (Q&A)

‘Eventually every band or artist reaches that point in their careers where they have an album’s worth of spare parts, scraps and orphaned tracks that never seemed to have a proper home. It took 17 years, but we finally got there!. The 11 tracks herein are assorted of outtakes, demos, and previously unreleased songs that finally found their way off the cutting room floor.”, writes Jeff Shelton on The Well Wishers’ Bandcamp page.

Spare Parts is the umpteenth proof we get this year that there are hidden treasures in many attics. Fortunately, treasure hunting turned out to be an essential new activity for many in 2021.

2021 is the year where many lost songs have been found, dusted, and released. Do you see Spare Parts as part of that ‘trend,’ or is the story different?

I didn’t think I was jumping on a trend necessarily….although I did feel I needed to release some new material this year since it had been over a year since the last Well Wishers album (2020’s “Shelf Life” LP). I began to realize I had all these assorted songs laying around. They were all mostly finished, so I felt they needed some kind of release.

I wonder how it is possible that Call It A Day never got a spot on any of your records before; what a lovely song! What’s the story?

Haha! Thank you! Yes, it’s a very bouncy and catchy little tune. I think the subversive lyrics just kept me from putting it on any proper record. It seemed so tongue & cheek and out of place for some reason. “You bring the wine….I’ll bring the strychnine.” Weird stuff. However, I do like the interplay between sweet pop and morose lyrics. Undoubtedly inspired by The Smiths, I think!

On, for example, Growing Old and Let’s Drive (All Better Now), the guitar sounds a bit more ragged and rough. I like that a lot, but maybe I hear things that aren’t there?

All the songs are finished … at least to my satisfaction; I almost always have more ragged songs and “rock” sounding than others. It’s part of that power pop spectrum I enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the Beach Boys as much as Black Sabbath.

Did you have to do a lot of fine-tuning to make a whole from all the separate parts? It does sound like a whole, but maybe that wasn’t a goal in itself?

Not a lot of fine-tuning at all; as I mentioned, most of these songs were essentially finished, although with “Call it a Day,” I did add some solo and textural guitar shortly before this release. If the whole thing sounds at all cohesive, it’s purely coincidental. The beauty of a random compilation like this is just throwing it out there for people to enjoy. There’s no real theme or desired cohesion whatsoever, hence “Spare Parts.”

I can imagine Love and Science is not a left-over; more you wanted to play around with new ideas and a different sound?

Love and Science was indeed part of a 3-song experiment from 2010 … where I made strictly electronic music. It was the best of the bunch, but you can check out two other songs here.

It’s Karma It’s Cool –  Homesick for our Future Destinations (Q&A)

Homesick for our Future Destinations is the third release of It’s Karma It’s Cool and sounds slightly different from the two predecessors. James Styring explains, ‘it was time to show our faces,’ and that’s what they do, not just on the cover. Nice!

It seems that, on the new record, you are so much more comfortable with the chosen It’s Karma It’s Cool sound. It sounds so natural, played so confidently. Is that so, or am I hearing something that isn’t there? 

No, you’re right, Patrick. I guess writing and playing together over a period of time brings you closer as a band and more focused with where you want to go. That’s not to say we won’t write any 3-minute pop songs again, but this album just seemed to have a little more purpose and drive behind it. 

And then suddenly, you are depicted as a band on the cover instead of a drawn image. That also says something, or do I see things that aren’t there? 

We thought it was time to show our faces; we’d hidden behind the artwork long enough. Our friend, Mick Dillingham, did a great job with the artwork for our first two records (Hipsters and Aeroplanes and Woke Up In Hollywood), but we just wanted to shake it up and surprise people. We were fortunate to get the great Steve Stanley on board for this one.

How did Homesick for Our Future Destinations come about? 

It was just the natural follow-up to our previous album, ‘Woke Up In Hollywood’. The writing process never stops, so it was kind of ongoing, really. We didn’t change the way we do things; we write the songs, demo them, then record the final versions. However, early on, we knew that these new songs were perhaps a little darker or deeper than previous material. It’s not a concept album, but there are definite themes running through the album. We went with it and allowed the ideas and sounds to develop.

 When in your career did you realize that you can really sing and that your voice is very distinctive? 

I just do what I do and hope that people enjoy it. I always think of myself as one-quarter of the band, not the frontman, or most important, we’re a team, and each has a role and a job to do. Having said that, I’m always very grateful if someone says they like my voice; I don’t try to sound like anyone else or copy any particular style; I just sing and lose myself to the music. 

Scott Gagner – BloodMoon

Scott Gagner blends power-pop, synth-pop, psychedelia, alt-country, rock, and heartfelt balladry into a cohesive whole.

Sweet Sweet Music talked to him about the Talking Heads, an African Tongue Drum, moving back to live in Minnesota, the yearly wildfires, and the complicated world we live in. And about how he made BloodMoon, his fourth, and most personal, release.

You use many different musical styles. “Twice in a Lifetime” even made me think of Yello. Does the song dictate the style, or do you consciously work in a particular style when you start a song?

I’m not too familiar with Yello, but you’re in the right decade! “Twice in a Lifetime” has a slight tip of the hat to Talking Heads, one of my all-time favorites. But I digress. I’d say that the song dictates the style as it evolves organically.

Using that song as an example, it all started because I spotted an African Tongue Drum at my friend Haris’ house. I picked up the accompanying mallets and immediately played the pattern that you hear on the recording. It grew from there, adding drums, bass, Organelle pocket synthesizer, kitchen knives, etcetera.

It sat as a polished demo for a long time, as I struggled to find ways to sing over the odd 11/4 time signature dictated by the layout of the Tongue Drum. Frustrated, and with the album mix deadline only one week away, I tried the “spoken word” approach, having never done it before. We were in the middle of trying to buy a house in Minnesota (see below), so I tried reciting a “wish list” of everything I wanted in our new location. I called it “Twice in a Lifetime” for two reasons: in honor of the Talking Heads classic “Once in a Lifetime,” and because the song is about moving back to live in Minnesota for the second time in my life.

Orion is a tour de force. How did you find the suitable form here (textually and musically) to convey your message?

Thank you. Well, given that the song has three distinct sections, I’m not sure that I succeeded in finding a suitable form. But I did narrow it down to three! And if you count “Orion (Reprise),” then there are actually five sections (ahem).

Musically, I knew that I wanted the song to be built upon the descending piano motif (I was playing lots of piano during the writing of this record). Acoustic pianos are naturally very grounded and earthy, so I needed something to keep us aloft in space to fit the concept; hence the buzzing, growling vintage synthesizers that add a generous dose of “Bladerunner” retro-futurism to the mix. The violins — played beautifully by Alisa Rose — seemed to glue the two extremes together.

As for the lyrics, the concept came to me during the darkest days of the Trump administration. I was standing on my back deck one night, gazing at the stars, and I began fantasizing about Orion descending down to Earth and, well, drawing his sword on all the craven, oil-thirsty, pig-men who were busy tearing the world apart. Perhaps writing a seven-minute Celestial-Greek-Mythology-Revenge-Fantasy is not the healthiest human impulse I’ve ever had? But hey, I was feeling desperate.

BloodMoon has become a highly personal work. Was your creativity driven by personal circumstances or by your view of earthly matters? Reading back on the question, I can also imagine that many of us couldn’t separate the two in the past year.

Excellent question. For my family and me, the “earthly matters” became highly personal. Our specific location in California was close enough to the yearly wildfires that we knew we needed to make a significant change. The breaking point came on September 9, 2020, when most of us Californians woke to an ominous pink-orange sky, choked with smoke, completely blotting out the sun.

I started evaluating our options in much more primal, caveman-like terms. “Fire bad. Get family away from fire.” We sold our house in California and bought one in my native Minnesota without being able to see it in person (thanks, COVID!). Now, even though we miss our California friends terribly, we are close to my immediate family, and our lives are much less stressful overall. I’ve even stopped grunting like a caveman and carrying a femur bone as a makeshift weapon. Evolution!

And then the release is there, and people are going to like it, or not. That doesn’t seem very easy to me. How do you hope this record can be an inspiration to others?

Once you release a record, you have to be prepared for people to love it, hate it, be indifferent, or, most likely, never hear it. Aside from doing your best to get the word out, it’s largely out of your control, and therefore, not worth stressing about too much.

I write songs and make records for myself, first and foremost. I am compelled to do so whether anyone is listening or not. I do it because A) I’m in love with all aspects of the process, B) I want to grow as an artist and as a human being, and C) connecting with people through music is extremely gratifying.

As for inspiration, my goals are more modest — I just want people to hear the songs. If someone is inspired in any way after listening, that would just be icing on the cake.

We live in a complicated world. Trying to make sense of it, for ourselves and the ones we love, that, to me, is what your new record is about. Would you agree?

Complicated feels like the perfect word. Our ancestors have obviously lived through more difficult chapters in history, but those chapters may not have been more complicated. BloodMoon was only written to reflect my personal journey over these past few years. Which, though highly complicated on a personal level, was never intended as a way to untangle the “ball of snakes” that is this moment in history. It is likely true, however, that I write songs to make sense of my world. I think most artists do that to some degree.

Even – Reverse Light Years (Q&A)

“The Melbourne band’s eighth album is their best yet – a musical cornucopia of glam stompers, magnificent power-pop and epics”, headlines The Guardian.

Reviewer Andrew Stafford writes, “Well, if it turns out, more is more. Reverse Light Years sounds imposing: 17 songs in 80 minutes. EVEN have always been consistent, but this is by far their most impressive album, a cornucopia of musical delights where everything singer-guitarist Ashley Naylor, bass player Wally Kempton, and drummer Matt Cotter try comes off.”.

You won’t hear a better guitar record this year than Reverse Light Years. That’s my opinion.

Ashley Naylor explains how the new records came about.

When did you realize you were making something exceptional?

It’s hard to know how songs are turning out until you live with them for a while. I’d never be so smug to assume we were making something special, but the quest is to create an album you hope to be proud of. 

How did Reverse Light Years come about?

Looking back to 2019, when I started writing songs for the album, I made a pledge to have an album out within a few years of 

‘Satin Returns’ as the gap between that LP and ‘In Another Time’ was seven years. The most complete track from 2019 was ‘Mark The Day’s which we recorded one afternoon in Brisbane before a show in May 2019.

The album really took shape when all my touring commitments in 2020 were canceled. This led me to record at home again, something I had not done much of in recent years.

The Covid lockdown has destroyed a lot, but fantastic records are being released this year. Is that the ultimate confirmation that creativity is a force of nature?

As many musicians can attest to, creativity can be very fleeting. One might say that the work and domestic circumstances created by the pandemic gave me more time to entertain creative thought and refine guitar parts at home as I was not bound to the normal itinerant lifestyle of a touring, working musician.

So in effect, yes, creativity can be considered a force of nature if we also refer to creativity as a by-product of circumstance. 

The fern on the album cover is a reminder to me that nature was also a big part of maintaining mental balance in the last eighteen months.

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

At the risk of sounding disingenuous, the idea of success for me now is very different from what success may have meant to me in 1995. Success for me now is primarily based on how I feel about an album I have made, not about how many physical copies we sell or streams we accumulate. Of course, there is a logistic consideration as we operate independently and manufacture our own CDs and vinyl albums. Still, on a creative level, if the songs resonate with the band first and subsequently our audience, then that is success.

The guitar solos make me very happy.  It will probably never be like in the 60s/70s and 80s, but I have hope that more songs will be cut in half by a howling solo in the coming years.  Or is that not necessary?

It’s very rewarding to hear the guitar solos make you happy. Quite honestly, it is my favorite part of the recording process, the icing on the cake.

I am a strong advocate for as many guitar solos in a song as humanly possible! That said, not all the songs I write require one.

I understand it is not to every listener’s taste to have a long guitar solo in a track. Still, I felt inspired to let loose on this album as I was often working in solitude with no clock on the wall and no record executive bankrolling the album. 

Listening to lots of Hendrix also inspired me to open up and not hold back. One must feel free to make good music, and his music encourages that feeling of freedom. 

Also, being a double album, there is space for myself, Matthew, and Wally to stretch out certain tracks and not be constricted by any commercial expectations.

Just – Deep Cycles (Q&A)

Deep Cycles is beautiful and melancholic.

Music that makes the leaves turn red.

Just debuts with eight very personal songs and a sound that has been compared to that of David Sylvian, Power Of Dreams, Tears For Fears, The Sound, Simple Minds, Red House Painters, and Talk Talk.

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

It is very uncomfortable. But I have learned that that’s a good thing. It’s like a compass. When I’m starting to feel nervous and uncomfortable, it means I’m onto something meaningful and true. Something I would preferably keep to myself because it’s embarrassing or painful. But the whole reason why I make music is to confess my insecurities to you as a listener. Honesty is the only thing I’m interested in. And that has to start by me being honest first.

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

Mark Hollis
Ben Howard
Shawn Colvin

These three songwriters would challenge me to cut away all the unnecessary bells and whistles and get to the core of what I’m trying to say. It would be brutal and terrifying, but I would totally subject myself to their regime because they are totally transparent and honest about their own flaws as humans.

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

Desperate Play
Eye Of The Storm
Dark Days

These three songs tell the tale of my experience with anxiety.

Desperate Play is a dialogue between me and my inner demon, who is always trying to scare me into thinking something really bad will happen.

Eye of The Storm is my bumpy journey from the dark to the light. From being pretty depressed to finding a new way of dealing with sadness and loss. With all the setbacks that came with it.

Dark Days is me confessing that I used to be somebody who pushed away all the bad experiences and acted as if nothing was wrong. Every day needed a silver lining. Now I’ve learned that you have to sit with your fears, doubts, and sadness. To let them run through you. Only then will they eventually subside.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

That my music comforts people.

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

It’s is just the beginning. I’ve found my voice. I love to connect with people that look at the world in the same way as I do. It took 50 years to get me started; I’m not stopping now 🙂

Buy at Bandcamp or here