The Junior League – Adventureland (Q&A)

THE JUNIOR LEAGUE is the name under which singer/songwriter/ performer Joe Adragna works.

Adventureland is a rock album with great songs. Such a record that makes you move differently, that makes your day better … !



‘The influence of an assortment of bands ranging from the Sonics to the Troggs to Ram Jam to the Knack to the Fleshtones aren’t difficult to detect on Adventureland. But by breathing fresh air into the songs, the Junior League makes vintage genres new again. Here’s an album all good rockers should add to their collections.’, writes Something Else

‘Overall the songs are short and sweet, but most of all they are meant to be played loud.’, says PowerPopaholic.





How did this record come together?’, 

Over me. No sorry, that was a cheesy Beatle joke.

I had a bunch of songs I was working on, but it seemed a bit all over the place. Many of the songs were more in the vein of “Eventually Is Now”, the last record I put out. However, I had just as many short rock songs. I thought it would be good to take all the short rock songs and put them together. I had this picture I had taken of a Zipper ride, and I thought it would be cool to make a pop-rock lp that was the aural equivalent of a ride. Hence, “Adventureland”.

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

I send them to three people, usually. These three friends are people whose opinion I really trust and I know they will give me feedback. If they think it’s cool, it gives me a lot of confidence. Now generally, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do–but I do enjoy having these three particular people who I respect and like a ton check it out.

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

A few for sure. I’d say there are always five or six per record that never get finished because I realize they are absolute crap.

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

Yeah, I’d say so. I think I’m becoming better at doing what I want to do. When I started with Catchy, I was riding a wave of excitement and made choices that, if I could rerecord some of the songs, might not have made. But it’s all part of the process. I think everyone wants to get better as they go along, and I think I have….

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

Well, sometimes. The songs aren’t usually about me, and in fact, a lot of them are about other people or situations that I sort of imagine myself in. I tend to write using first person a lot so it seems like it’s about me. I know which ones are and aren’t! But I do suppose that all of them because they have my take on those situations, expose my emotions to a degree. If they are about me, they tend to be about things that happened ages and ages ago, back when I was younger. I’m still working all that out, hahaha.

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

Sharing this interview with as many people as I can on social media

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

I have had many memorable gigs I have attended and played, but I have to say that playing with The Minus 5 this last summer was one of the best times I ever had on stage. Perhaps the gig I will most remember is playing with Scott McCaughey as a duo opening for Jeff Tweedy back in 2007 or 8. He asked me to play with him and I remember I just rehearsed my ass off for weeks to make sure I had everything right because as it was a duo, I really had to have my stuff together and I didn’t want to let him down. That was really amazing, those two shows. We sounded really good and I was happy I did a good job. I was very proud, actually! I always enjoy playing with Scott because he is the greatest personally and musically, and I was (and remain) terribly proud and privileged to do so. As far as JL shows? Probably opening for the Lemonheads, because I think Evan Dando is a top songwriter and singer.

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

A month ago. But my idea of “hits” is so far out of reality that it’s comical. I think Adventureland has loads of “hits” on it, waiting to be hits! Hahahaha.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Absolutely. I record all the time. I have another record about halfway done right now! But does anyone care? And I think you have to resign yourself to that if you are in my position. I do this because I have to. It is who I am, and I do it regardless of whether people will listen or not. I will say that things like this blog and other people who spread the word via reviews and such help out such a great deal, and I am grateful for that. I think that there is so much music out there, and everyone has the technology to record…I mean, you can make a record on your iPhone if you want. Think about how much music is thrown out there all the time…who can wade through all that? A lot of things get lost in the shuffle. I think the people who are really good self-promoters do well. I see that sort of thing all the time, and I wish I had that skill. I just don’t. I’m not too good about saying, “Hey! I’m great! Listen to me!” I just sort of quietly sit in the corner and whisper, “I have a new record out if you’d maybe like to hear it” hahahaha.

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 don’t know. I know when I listen to, let’s say, Sloan, I hear great playing, great arrangements and production, great singing, and great lyrics. Consistently. All the time. I also feel like I’m hearing all of my favorite bands and music in one convenient package. I’d settle for ONE of those things when people listened to my records, hahahaha. I just hope the people who buy it enjoy it. I can’t ask for more than that.


Cromm Fallon – Electric Bloom (Q&A)


‘While it’s certainly a varied album, garage is the overriding vibe throughout and is offered up with asserted confidence by Fallon’s casually delivered snarl. Tracks such as ‘East Bay’, and the leading single from the album, ‘Scars from You’, present the familiar tones of that low-slung classic American garage sound, reminiscent of some Iggy Pop, maybe with touches of Velvet Underground which regularly pop up throughout the record.’, writes RPM Online.


Sweet Sweet Music spoke with Cromm about his GREAT new record.





How did this record come together?


This record came together after I released my first single on Rum Bar Records. After playing in various bands, my former bandmate and friend of mine, Aly (RIP), suggested I go solo. With the positive reception I received from the single from various sites and magazines, I had to focus on releasing what I would want for a perfect debut album. With my drummer, Aaron Archer, I was able to hit the studio and lay down some songs I already had written while writing new ones in the process. The songs you hear on the record span years of my songwriting from when I was 19 to a month before the album was finished.I didn’t go into the album wanting to be genre-specific so that’s why you hear elements of lots of types of rock n roll.




Playing music in front of a crowd, what’s the fun about?


Playing music live is honestly one of the greatest feelings ever. I can forget about any sort of bullshit going on in life for those 30-40 minutes I’m onstage. Plus while I’m up there, I’m going to put on a show and go all out. Our live shows are more intense, louder, and noisier than the recordings for sure. I always look forward to touring, so book me and I’ll play your town.


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


Oh yes, for sure. There’s always room to try new things out. I already have new ideas for my next album that will include even more powerpop elements as well as some post-punk and soul in there. The more I write, the more I can expand these ideas.



Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Oh definitely. Anyone has the ability to record an album and release it on all streaming sites. There’s so much music out there, and I’m always trying to seek it, but sometimes hard to find due to so many types of podcasts, blogs, streaming sites, etc. I feel like I’ve only listened to a fraction of some of the great new music that’s been put out even this year.


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


I’d be satisfied even 1,000 people gave the entire album a full listen. If you’re reading this, check the album out and see if you dig it!



Bryan Estepa – Sometimes I just don’t know (Q&A)




How did this record come together?


My current band of Russell Crawford (Drums), Brian Crouch (Keys), Dave Hatt (Guitars) and Dave Keys (Bass) reunited back in April 2018 after 2 years of me playing as Bryan Estepa & The Tempe Two. Though we have been playing as a band since 2013, we have actually never recorded as this lineup before. I was stunned at this so wanted to fix it asap. We jammed on a few of my new tunes and the chemistry was still there. We laid down a few of them, not so much to start a new album but just so we can have a permanent reminder of this great band’s sound. From there the album started to take shape.




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


It’s never completely comfortable for me but most songwriters draw on personal experiences and what is happening around them so its part of the process. Good or bad.




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


I’ll never forget watching You Am I play a blinder of a show at Selenas (Sydney) in 1998 and being completely in awe and reaffirmed how much I wanted to be a musician. Life-changing. Also can’t go past the 2 back to back shows of McCartney here in Sydney a few years back. Was a real dream come true to finally watch my hero play.


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


Funnily enough, that wasn’t too long ago. I wrote a song for a good friend of mine and after I heard her do it with her band, I started thinking that this could be a country radio hit! One can only dream, right?


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


I’m not sure if these records have been completely forgotten but I’ll flip this question a bit and give you 5 of the zillion albums that have defined ‘my’ time on earth (Note – this list changes on a daily basis!):

Revolver – The Beatles

Hi-Fi Way – You Am I

AM – Wilco

Greatest Hits – Wings

Either/Or – Elliott Smith


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?


My songs don’t really break new grounds, but I like to think of myself as someone who respects the art and process of songwriting. So my aim is to write honest and melodic songs that hopefully strike a nerve with someone somewhere in this world.

The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club – End Over End (Q&A)


Power Popaholic writes: Wow – if you like Cheap Trick, The Cars, Sloan or Matthew Sweet then you NEED to hear The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club. Power Pop Bliss!

And this is really not the only rave review. End To End is a great record.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke with William Giricz, lead singer / guitarist / producer for the album.


How did this record come together?


End Over End was blood sweat and tears figuratively speaking. A long and tortuous process in some ways, there were some songs in development even prior to finishing the previous album. Everything seemed to have to go through some evolution or other.

When there were 10 strong songs, it was time to hunker down and bring them to completion. From writing to production, there is a slurry transition, but there comes a time when the producer hat gets securely strapped on, and that’s when a lot of decisions are finalized.

When we finally put the album up on our Bandcamp page, Spotify, iTunes, etc. we had the collective sentiment ‘yeah; we’re really happy with this album’. But one of the most rewarding ways to listen has been dropping the needle on the vinyl version, pressed by Chicago’s very own, Smashed Plastic (and…shameless plug…available on our Bandcamp page).




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


We felt we had a good batch of strong songs as End Over End started to come together, so most of the feedback we sought was after the fact. We requested the opinion of our label, Big Blast Records, and a couple of close musical friends, as to which songs sounded the strongest.

We had various responses, but it seemed that “Christine You’re Mean” and “Starpower” drew the most immediate reaction. We’ve also had great feedback from some talented individuals who appreciated the more musically complex but equally hook-driven “Delusional In Love”.


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


There were about 10 tracks that were just about complete (and still may be seen in some other capacity at some point, perhaps a B-sides or something) that ended up falling just short. Other than that, there were tons of ideas ranging from little tidbits and riffs to bigger more formed concepts…I can’t tell you how many ideas of various kinds start as and often die as a crappy phone recording.




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


Liverpool…The Cavern Club! For us it was an adventure to a rock mecca with so much history, it really was incredible to be around these places where The Beatles cut their teeth as a young band. And, as we happily witnessed, Liverpudlians still have a love affair with rock and roll and powerpop in particular. By the end of what was referred to afterword as a “blistering set”, we felt we had connected in a real and meaningful way with these knowledgeable rock n rollers. What a blast that was!


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


The track “Get Up Get Up” fits the bill. There are some easily relatable themes lyrically, and the guitar in the verses became this central big Beatles-y hook. Put this together with a really positive message, and I think you have something that most people can get into.

I feel that “Here Is Today” fits here as well, a mountain of a song with some powerful lyrics and a dynamic middle eight, harmonies that rise and dive in majestic fashion. The catch is that it is deeper into the album, so it will require a little spotlight to guide listeners in that direction. We hope to somehow light the way.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


I am a studio rat. The others in the band love it as well, but I can and do routinely geek out in the studio. I love the entire process of writing, recording/engineering, mixing, and production. For me, and I’d say for The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club collectively, all of these aspects of the song are really integral and interrelated. Mastering, however, is the magic we leave for the extremely skilled witch-doctors who practice such voodoo.


The Vapour Trails – See You in the Next World (Q&A)

The Vapour Trails are an Aberdeen based band influenced by their love of 60’s
stalwarts like the Beatles, the Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield, the Who and the
Kinks. You’ll also hear a healthy dose of later bands like the La’s, Stone Roses,
Rain Parade and the Smiths.
The Trails were formed in 2017 by father and son songwriters Kevin and Scott
Robertson. Kevin taught young Scott some guitar basics, who quickly surpassed
his dad’s meager guitar skills and set into his record collection for inspiration.
Before too long the two started writing songs, and the Vapour Trails were born.
The VT’s became complete with the addition of the indispensable Nicholas
Mackie on guitar and co-vocals, old friend Kenny Munro on drums, and the
newest Trail Chuck Milne adding his groovy bass to the mix.

BUY (FutureManRecords)




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

My son Scott and I write the songs for The Vapour Trails. Initially we record them as demos and store them on SoundCloud.  I can honestly say we waste nothing. Songs can always be improved or altered as time goes by. Sometimes a song sounds great from day one but in some cases, you need to go back to the recorded demo and enhance it. An example of this in our band is the title track from our new album ‘See You in the Next World’. Two separate unfinished ideas, one from me and one from Scott, were merged together to create one cool track. Nothing’s wasted!

When was the last time you thought “I just wrote a hit”?

Songs should always live up to a bands or songwriter’s own personal standards that will differ band to band or songwriter to songwriter. Our standards are set based on melody. We don’t strive to write hits but we believe all our songs are melodic and tuneful. All our songs are potential hits in our own minds haha. Maybe some other people would think they are good enough to be hits, who knows!

Is recording a record easier than getting heard these days?

Making music is at musician’s fingertips more than ever these days. Computer-based daws and plugins are easy to find and are pretty affordable. Talent is still required though to make good songs and most people need help with mixing, mastering, artwork, etc in order to make a full record. There are those who do the whole thing themselves but most need help. As for being heard, it’s hard without backers. Record labels, promoters, radio stations, etc are attracted to good tunes. I think the answer is to get good at the song making and along with a little luck, it will become easier to get heard.


Playing music in front of a crowd, what’s all the fun about?

Because Scott and I are songwriters who play in a band who play to crowds often, from the first note of every song written you’re wondering how it will sound live. Creating little symphonies in your head and imagine what it will sound like within a full band setting is part of the fun. The buzz comes the very first time you play a new song to a crowd. Gauging the response, feeling the tune click in a live setting and just getting the tune ‘out there’ is the final chapter in the whole process. The other buzz we get from playing to a crowd is that often crowd members dance to our music. We are like a 60’s dance band living in the 21st century haha!

With every song you write are you still learning to become a better songwriter?

The answer is a huge YES. Scott and I are always striving to get better at playing and writing songs. The day you think you know it all is the day you should look in the mirror and draw a letter ‘P’ on your forehead, ‘P’ for pretentious. I have so many heroes in music and to write one song anywhere near their standard would be the ultimate musical achievement.





released August 2, 2019

The Vapour Trails is:

Scott Robertson – 12 string guitar, 6 string guitar, vocals, bass, keys
Kevin Robertson – Vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, keys
Nicholas Mackie – Vocals, rhythm Guitar
Andrew Crossan – Bass
Kenny Munro – Drums

Like an upside-down version of the honky-tonk thing where the fiddle plays a higher harmony with the dark twangy Telecaster


THE ARMOIRES return with their keenly-awaited second album ZIBALDONE.  Sweet Sweet Music talked to the Burbank, CA band’s co-leaders Christina Bulbenko (vocals, keys) and Rex Broome (vocals, guitar).






Things change. What’s happened since the recording of the last record and how did it influence the new one?


Absolutely everything changed. That’s true in so many ways, but to limit it to where The Armoires are as a band in this world… we released our first album in 2016 almost into a vacuum. We were totally unknown. It seems odd, because outside of the band we (Christina and Rex) have since then become fairly well known within the guitar pop community for all of the various things we’ve done as Big Stir, and while the band has played live a lot, there weren’t many recordings going out… we were working on what would become Zibaldone and Side Three but definitely wanted them to arrive as singular works that summed up the band as it is now.


The biggest influence of everything that changed over that time was becoming part of that community and having adventures within it. That’s apparent both in the large list of guests on the album and the lyrics which are often celebrations of our journey and our fellow travelers. The album is awash in the talent and wisdom of people we hadn’t even met when we did the first one but now seem like lifelong friends. That goes from Steven Wilson (Plasticsoul) who produced it with as much love and care as if it were his own record to the total heroes of ours who sing and play on it and give it so much texture. But we’ve also got the experience of having the same live band and doing a lot of live shows, so that maybe paradoxically it sounds so much more like “us” than anything we’d done before.


Your sound is different. You use the instruments a bit different than others in the genre? Is that what sets you apart?


Right, we aren’t a two-guitar four-piece! So many of our favorite bands are, but as a collective, we sort of feel a calling to do something a little different that plays to our strengths as individual musicians – consider The New Pornographers and The Go-Betweens as very key influences there. The guitar is prominent but there’s less of it than you might think and a lot of our new songs follow our live sound in that there’s only one guitar track or at most an overdubbed solo… the keys and vocals fill in a lot of the space.


The two cornerstones of our sound are both happy accidents. Christina and Rex’s individual voices are very different and oddly in similar ranges, so they blend in some pretty unique ways and discovering that is what got us started. The other accident is that early on, Larysa, Christina’s daughter, jumped into the band on viola, which aside from John Cale in the Velvet Underground is an uncommon instrument for rock bands – it’s lower and richer than a violin – and Rex plays almost exclusively electric 12-string, which is higher and brighter than most guitars. We really worked on the chemistry between the two and sort of invented a sound that is, at least formalistically, like an upside-down version of the honky-tonk thing where the fiddle plays a higher harmony with the dark twangy Telecaster. Which would have been a brilliant idea if we’d actually done it on purpose… but we think we’ve refined it into a secondary sonic signature that we really like.




The new songs are always the best ones. What’s the best example of that? And why?


The Armoires had a lot of songs from the beginning, basically like 40 tunes that Rex and Christina had worked up to greater or lesser degrees, and only 12 made it onto our first album. The idea for the second record was to very quickly bash out the remainder of our live set in the studio for maximum immediacy, in the manner of some of our very favorite sophomore albums. But obviously, we took three years to finish it instead! And in that time naturally, new things took shape.


So the new recordings are a mixture of songs of wildly varying vintages that seemed to fit together sonically and thematically, although some are over a decade old (“Pushing Forty” shows its age as we’re both well past that mark!) and things that weren’t even written when we started recording, like the “travelogue” songs that bookend the record (“Appalachukraina” and “When We Were In England (And You Were Dead)”. We decided as we went along that songs, like wines, cheese, and people, mature at different rates and these were the ones that made sense together… some others still needed a little time to decide what they wanted to be when they grew up. They’ll show up on the next record, along with even fresher stuff, and we imagine that’s how we shall proceed from here on out… it’s just nice to imagine a future where we get to do that and have the panic of “what if we only ever get to do one album?” behind us!


What’s up for the second part of 2019?


Touring, although perhaps less than we originally envisioned… that may wait until next Spring if our current plans come together. Waiting to see how this baby is received by an audience we didn’t have last time around. And the promotional push that we’ve given to the other artists on Big Stir Records while crafting Zibaldone and waiting for our own turn. In every way 2019 will wind up being a watershed for the band and the label and we’re in the thick of it right now… we won’t really understand what’s going on now until the end of the year, and then we’ll have to sit down and figure out what just happened to us!


How easy is it to stay focused on your own music when Big Stir is growing and growing?


It’s both challenging and beneficial, really. Challenging in that, although we’re always together working on the community and business side of things, it’s easy to just think “we need to work on our own stuff but that can wait until tomorrow after we mail this bunch of records out and finish our pieces for Big Stir Magazine or do the press release for the next band in the Singles Series or”… it’s a long list. But at the same time being at the center of a community of great bands and writers and performers is VERY good for us… there’s a high standard to meet and when you’re on a label with Amoeba Teen or In Deed, you don’t want to come up short and look like the only reason your band is getting a release is because the singers own the business!


Inspiration is therefore always close at hand… we get very involved in the material we’re presenting from other bands and we can romanticize it being like a small-scale version of the great and productive friendly musical rivalries of the past, McCartney and Brian Wilson spurring each other to higher heights. Nothing that earthshaking, but the Big Stir bands listen to and steal from each other’s songs all the time, and our record certainly wouldn’t be as good as it is without us feeling a part of a living, breathing continuum of artists at the top of their game. Can we build something based on a Plasticsoul drum part, shoot for Michael Simmons-level harmonies, attempt to capture the way a turn of phrase from Blake Jones gets you right there, try to shape a 12-string riff up to Peter Watts’ level of elegance? Those are good targets to have close at hand!



The unique harmonies of Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome combine with jangling guitars, sparkling keyboards, soaring viola, and a singular sense of songcraft to create the essence of THE ARMOIRES. It’s sunshine pop with a kick, tapping the rich Southern California pop rock heritage from The Byrds to X and back to hits-era Fleetwood Mac, and melding it with a twist of English psychedelia and postpunk drive. The sweet and sour vocal sound gives life to Broome and Bulbenko‘s sophisticated lyrics – sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, always a bit mysterious. It’s a dreamlike combination of the warm and the unsettling that’s captured ears and hearts wherever The Armoires travel, and is as instantly recognizable as the pair’s visual profile: matching paisley attire, spectacles and platinum blonde hair. 

The band is widely known as the founders and leading lights of the Big Stir collective, a global concert series and record label dedicated to the musical community based around power pop and similarly styled melodic guitar rock. But The Armoires are an artistic force of their own, with a pair of new releases for 2019: the Side Three EP (out now), and the Zibaldone LP due in August, with a number of tour dates to follow. Reflecting the spirit of community and family the band represents, the new records are produced by Steven Wilson of Big Stir Records mainstay Plasticsoul and feature not only Christina and Rex‘s daughters (regular violist Larysa Bulbenko and touring bassist Miranda Broome respectively) but also a slew of guest appearances from their fellow travelers on the worldwide pop scene, including SpygeniusThe CondorsBlake Jones, The Corner Laughers, The Bobbleheads, Michael Simmons and more. The stalwart rhythm section of bassist Clifford Ulrich and drummer Derek “Kenny’s Plumbing” Hanna, longtime veterans of prior collaborations with Broome, provide the synergistic chemistry that makes the new songs hum with energy as The Armoires prepare for the next step in their strangely compelling musical journey.

The Successful Failures – Saratoga


NJ Indie-Rock/Roots band the Successful Failures 7th full length LP, “Saratoga”, features 11 new Mick Chorba tunes all about ghosts, mothers, gold stars, and Knoxville. Songs about going back to learn you can never go back. Rock and roll. 

releases August 30, 2019 

Mick Chorba: lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, keyboards 
Ron Bechamps: bass guitar, backing vocals 
Rob Martin: drums 
Pete Smith: electric guitar 
Greg Potter: electric guitar, keyboards, backing vocals




In conversation with Mick Chorba.


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


I write about a song a week….so for every song that makes it onto an album I have 3 that go to the bin. I think we are all better off this way!


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


Why of course yes! I always think my newest song is the most interesting, best thing ever and then at some point I hate it with all my heart. The songs that somehow avoid falling into disdain sometimes survive my wrath. I like to try out different strategies for writing songs and stealing from new and surprising sources!




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


I am not sharing my emotions…I create characters… I’m sharing their emotions. At least that’s what I tell myself and everyone else!




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


No idea. Need help with that. Anyone?


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


Now that I’ve been at this for a long time I realize that every show is an amazing opportunity to play music with my friends. I’m so lucky and appreciate every show.


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

“No White Knight in Knoxville” and before that “Love You So”


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


We recorded this new album differently.


We booked time in a big studio and did most of it live. I think this factor contributes to what I think is a really good record. It was a joy to record.


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


The Band’s self-titled album would express loss and joy and hope and defeat as good as any. The Replacement’s albums “Don’t Tell a Soul” and “All Shook Down” pretty much do the same.



Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


You never know what you’re going to capture…I like the mistakes best. Our song “Meal Parade” from “Captains of Industry….” for example. I actually started overdubbing my acoustic guitar over the drum part a measure too late and it totally changed the feel of the song and arrangement. On that song drummer, Rob Martin also played one of the drum parts on a stool that was laying around the studio which we thought was pretty cool.


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


You can physically feel the energy from an enthusiastic crowd and it makes it so much more fun. It makes a connection that is hard to describe but we all can feel it.


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?


For this new album listen to the way the instruments interact with each other… Listen to the sequencing of the album, the way one song leads to the next and lastly, the vocal harmonies and Pete Smith’s guitar parts are a lot of fun. There are stories in these songs I hope people can identify with.

The Brothers Steve – #1


Tantaliciously delightful

Sweet Sweet Music talked to Jeff Whalen and Os Tyler about The Monkees, Springsteen, catchy melodies and singing harmonies.

BUY THE SINGLE HERE (Big Stir records)


Don Valentine writes:

Tsar stalwarts Jeff Whalen, Jeff Solomon and Steve Coulter are joined by Os Tyler and Dylan Champion in the Los Angeles five piece. In stating that the album is as good as that Tsar debut, it must be said that it’s not the same.

There is a much different tempo here. the band are in much less of a hurry to get to the licks. #1 has far more in common with The Monkees and great late 60’s Pop. The album is built on the wonderful vocal harmonies and singalong choruses.



Was that indeed the sound you were looking for or does that sound comes naturally to you?


Jeff Whalen:  Thank you for the Monkees comment!  (ed. Take that as a compliment Don) They’ve always been a top-five band for me.  I mean, it comes and goes, but I’ve had several periods in my life in which I was so absolutely obsessed with the Monkees that it caused concern among some loved ones.

Some friends and I got super-duper into the Monkees movie Head when we in high school.  The way only guys in high school can—you know, where you watch the same movie over and virtually everything you say to each other is in some way a line or reference to the movie.


But yeah, the Brothers Steve record to me is like a ‘60s meets ‘90s kind of record.  Most of the things I do—solo or in Tsar or whatever—have a 1970s glitter component, but this record doesn’t really have that.  I don’t think the ‘60s thing here was super-intentional.  It’s more like when Os and I get together to sing and write, especially with our crack guitar player Dylan singing with us, too—he’s got a super-cool voice— we very often end up in this early-Bee Gees/Association/Nilsson territory.  I mean there’s a million other things going on, too, but yeah, it’s a sound that comes very naturally to us when we’re making music together.


Os Tyler:  Singing harmonies is about the most fun you can have.  It’s tantalizingly delightful.


Jeff:  Tantaliciously delightful—possibly even cee- or even be-lightful.


Os:  Indeed-lightful!  If you haven’t sung harmony with someone recently, make it happen.  Or just sing a harmony along with whatever song you listen to next!  #1 is infused with our shared love of intertwining voices and I would say the sound you hear is primarily an organic one.



When they speak about the new Springsteen record ‘that great 60’s Pop’ is also mentioned. Same influences, different outcome? Or different influences?


Os:  The Boss is a magical force of nature, a musical genius masquerading as a majestic miner.  I hope we are dipping our toes in the same waters.


Jeff:  I haven’t heard the Springsteen album.  I assume we share some of the same influences—like, I bet he likes the Shangri-Las or the Dave Clark 5 or whatever—but how that inspiration gets processed is probably very different.  And then I bet we have some different influences, too.  Like, I’m not sure when Springy last cranked some Archies deep cuts, windows down, sunny day, cruising down Sunset Blvd.


Os:  Are we all influenced by transportational love, suffering, and desire?  Probably, but you’d be crazy to talk about it.  I would never bring it up in an interview.


You wrote so many great choruses, when do you decide it’s good enough to record?


Jeff:  Thanks!  I dunno!  Great question!  Os and I definitely have a tendency to keep working on songs to a controversial degree.  Years, sometimes.  But usually, it’s not in the writing stage that we have trouble deciding if it’s good enough yet—usually we have trouble calling it finished when were in the recording phase.  We just keep adding stuff.  I think it’s a combination of enjoying the process and a semi-neurotic reluctance to finish something.  If not for the firm, patient-yet-scary insistence of the other band members, I’m sure we’d be overdubbing even now.


Os:  Recording is such an evolution-in-the-process thing now.  The most critical element is deciding to do it and picking a start date.  Dive in and make it happen.  Anyway, that’s what I tell myself:  “Self, Dive in!”



How did The Brothers Steve start?


Jeff:  We met in college, at UC Santa Barbara.  We got together last year to play for fun at a party and decided to record an album.


And, in the end, how will they be remembered?


Os: Fondly.


Jeff:  With people’s brains.


Os:  There’s something inherently moving about music that is comprised entirely of amplified strings vibrating, drums reverberating and human voices intertwining.


Jeff:  Simple lines intertwining.


Os:  People are going to keep returning to that sound, and the Brothers Steve, #1, is a pretty good dose of it!


When is the last time you heard from Kathy Fong?


Jeff:  Ha!  I’m not talking to her at the moment.  She knows why.


Os: Listen, between you and me, I talked to Kathy recently, and she’s doing OK. But she can be a little private about her feelings, just give her time.




TBS Avatars

The Lunar Laugh – Goodnight Noises Everywhere

The Lunar Laugh is a pop band based in Oklahoma City. At the group’s core is the singer/songwriter trio of Connor Anderson, Jared Lekites, and Campbell Young backed by Jimmy Jackson’s powerful drumming. Their music draws inspiration from the classic pop masterworks of the 60’s and 70’s, with fully realized arrangements and lush harmonies in the foreground.  “Goodnight Noises Everywhere” is their third album (and Kool Kat Musik label debut).

Buy at Kool Kat Musik





Jared Lekites explains.

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


We tend to have a lot more written than we eventually record. On this particular album, we had about 25 contenders that we narrowed down to about 14 to record which we then had to narrow down to just 10.


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


I think we are always trying to better ourselves as writers but we also approach each song as something new. I mainly try to focus on creating something I am proud of and something that means a lot to me.




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


I sometimes find some things a little embarrassing, especially if one of the other guys also has to sing or harmonize on a particular line that I feel is pretty personal and close to me. But the other guys are also pretty reassuring and they never object to anything I bring to them.


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


It can be a struggle to do either depending on what you’re going for and who you’re trying to please. You can spend a fortune on creating music that maybe only 5 people will ever know exists. Sometimes you just have to not think too much about that. We are making the music for ourselves mostly and it’s certainly rewarding if anyone else listens and enjoys it. But I try not to get too hung up on “getting heard”. Once the album is out there, it’s there.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


We had a ball making this album as a band. We would lay down simple foundations to start and then just see what we could find laying around the studio that might work. On “Another Casualty” for instance, we scavenged around trying to find some different percussion sounds. We tooled around hitting a cowbell with different types of mallets and sticks and using different microphone placements on shakers and maracas to get a combination of sounds we thought were cool. Then as we were looking around, we stumbled upon these roto-toms that were just shoved in a corner of the studio. The light bulb went off in our heads and we had our drummer Jimmy record this amazing sounding drum fills with them. Those fills absolutely take the song to a new level. So all the fun is really in trying new things and creating a world for the songs to live in.


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


The energy of the audience and the sort of ‘feeding frenzy’ feel you can get out of it. When you give your all from the stage, and they send it right back to you with their applause and their yells, it’s an amazing feeling. I’ve heard some musicians compare it to really intense sex which makes a lot of sense to me because a good show should have that kind of arc; passionate and a hell of a mutual climax at the end.


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


Most people are pretty impressed or at least intrigued with that answer. It’s more interesting than saying “I’m self-employed” or “I’m between jobs”.


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?


Well, I would always like to point out the things I always listen for in music which is things like chord changes, harmonies, and melodic structure. Those are typically what musician-types or songwriters like to listen for. On this new album, I’d like people to be able to hear the way Connor, Campbell and myself are layering our voices around each other and the way certain vocal lines are ping-ponging along. I think we carved out something with our vocal work that sets us apart, as you say.

Sofa City Sweetheart – Super​(​b) Exitos

The L.A.-based solo project Sofa City Sweetheart is the centerpiece around which (Juan Antonio) Lopez shapes his masterworks. Writing, arranging, recording, and engineering all the music himself, Lopez tangles together his spectrum of childhood influences into stories of acceptance. Over layers of gentle guitar sit toe-tapping melodies and intermingling harmonies that merge art and feeling, spinning stories that tie the persistent tragedies in his own life to the stuck-to-it-iveness that’s often required in any contemporary artist.

Buy/Listen here 





Sweet Sweet Music talked to Juan about his new release ‘Super​(​b) Exitos’.


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

WAY too many. But the bin is more of a “to do” bin instead of a trash bin (or do you guys say “rubbish” over there?) Most of them are just unfinished, or need better/completed lyrics and are waiting for their day to shine. There are literally hundreds!


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

It’s kind of funny, because I am a naturally shy and private person that doesn’t always like to reveal too much or be the center of attention. But this is essentially what I’m doing when I perform and release my music to the world. It’s a strange dynamic, but I think I feel most comfortable expressing myself through music. You can feel it more when the words and feelings are delivered with a soundtrack.



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

If I knew that, I’d be flying in my solid gold spaceship right now. Maybe legally changing my name to “Adele”?

Honestly, I think my music tends to be most popular with musicians and other music/songwriting nerds (of which I am proud of!) so I’m not sure if I will ever have a mega platinum hit. (But maybe if enough nerds come together and form a union I can start making payments on that spaceship!)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I always say that writing songs is the closest I’ll ever get to giving birth. And recording is where you get to see the song “grow up”. This is where the greatest magic happens. It’s important for me to not only write a great chord progression and melody, but to write all of the other parts that add to the song and make it more beautiful and powerful. Countermelodies, bass lines, guitar parts, harmonies, etc… That’s the fun stuff! Only when the song has grown up is it ready to go out into the world.

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?

Maybe just exactly how much work I put into every single aspect of my songs. From the writing, to recording, producing, and mixing… I spend a lot of time at every step. I’m basically a mad scientist in the studio and try everything I can to make the song come out just right. Then eventually, one day, lightning strikes and… IT’S ALIVE!