Interview with: Donald Cummings, The Virgins

Donald Cumming, The Virgins: Hi, Jessica. How is Philadelphia?
Jessica, PopWreckoning: Philadelphia is lovely. I’m actually in the suburbs right now, I just got off work so I have to drive home. Where are you at tonight?
DC: I’m in Atlanta. The back of a venue. We’re watching this bus trying to pull in and we’re trying to get the trailer as close to the back of the venue as possible so they can start loading the gear.
PW: What venue is the show at tonight?
DC: Oh, I see what it said in front [laughs]
PW: [laughs] That’s fine.
[lots of background noise]
DC: Hold on one second. I’m gonna move away from the bus.

Donald Cummings, The Virgins

Donald Cummings, The Virgins

PW: Speaking of being in Atlanta to play a show tonight, how is the tour with Black Kids been going?
DC: It’s been really fun so far. We’ve played three shows and we’re having a blast. They’re really, really fun and really sweet. They’re really fun to watch live. We’ve just been having a good time.
PW: Excellent. I’m going to be at the show Monday in Philadelphia. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys.
DC: Awesome!

PW
:  It’s a great line-up you’re on, and you guys have toured a lot.
DC: This is our fifth national tour. It’s the fourth or fifth.
PW: What cities have you found are really receptive to you guys and where do you like playing the most?
DC: I love playing everywhere. I probably like playing New York. I love playing San Francisco. I love playing L.A. and I love playing in Columbus, Ohio. We don’t pick the places based on whether we’ve had a good show or not, we just kind of go everywhere. It’s just fun to play so we try to go everywhere.
PW: Yeah, totally. What does the live show entail for you guys? Is it a big party or what?
DC: We definitely dance and sweat a lot. We try to play as loud as we can. I like to get up there and do some cardio.

PW: Speaking of which, the video for “Private Affair,” there’s a lot of …cardio going on.
DC: [laughs]
PW: What inspired you to shoot the video that way?
DC: Growing up in the New York, we had these public access shows and one of my favorite shows when I was a little kid was called “The Robin Byrd Show.” It was a late night sex program that would have strippers from the tri-state area.
Every kid that grows up in New York, basically, knows about channel 35 and knows about “The Robin Byrd Show” because that’s your first exposure to explicit sexual material when you’re a kid in the city. We just want to pay tribute to that show.
PW: I’ve heard of it because, I guess, back in the late 90s, Cheri Oteri used to do a skit of “The Robin Byrd Show” on “Saturday Night Live.”
DC: Oh! That is so true! She really did. I haven’t thought about that in… Holy shit, you’re the first person to say that. She totally did.
PW: It was pretty hilarious. I don’t know how true to the real Robin Byrd it was…
DC: I don’t remember…I just remember that there was a “Saturday Night Live” Robin Byrd. I have no other memory of it than that. I haven’t thought about it in years.
PW: I kind of remember that she would just phase out at points and stare into space and then jump back into it.
DC: Naw! Yeah! That was her! Robin Byrd was definitely hip.

PW: The video for the first single “Rich Girls” is also very sexy, where you get that hot chick to give you guys a table and a lap dance. What was it like filming that?
DC: It was a blast! We actually filmed those two videos in the same 48 hours. It was just hectic. The filming of the video, especially the “Rich Girls” video, was really, really fun because what we wanted to do was just go to a place where we all hang out all of the time and make something that felt natural and really represented us visually, maybe.
We got together at Lit, which is a bar that we’ve been going to for 6 years or something like that, maybe longer. We invited all of our friends down and basically just had a party there like any normal night, except the catch was the Victoria Secret model. She was really gracious and came down. She’s lovely and she’s so sweet and so cool. She just really made the video. We just knew there was going to have to be something to offset all the testosterone and drunken dudes. That wouldn’t be so interesting for everybody.
So she definitely made the video. Made some contrast to the drunken idiots that we sometimes can be.
PW: It definitely looked like a good time. It’s a very cool video.
DC: It was a blast. I really did have fun. And Bahati [Prinsloo] was really, really, cool. She is a super awesome girl. She’s from South Africa.

PW: At the end of last month, you guys were on “Conan” and next week you’ll be on “Letterman.”
DC: Yeah, I keep forgetting about that. That’s coming up.
PW: [laughs] How do you forget you’re going to play on “Letterman?”
DC: I dunno. Just ’cause we have a show tonight and I just think about the next show.

PW: Since you’ve already been on “Conan,” how different is it to play before a studio audience as opposed to a concert audience?
DC: It’s not really different…or, well… When you’re playing for a studio audience, you’re playing a little more to a camera than you would in a venue when you’re playing to a crowd and people are standing right in front of you. When you play in front of a studio audience, they’re like 30 feet away from you at the closest. It’s like a completely different feeling. Even the atmosphere and the electricity in the room because there’s these cameras between you and the crowd and it’s very formal. It’s very professional.
When we play live, we really try to be present and you can speed a song up or slow it down, the kind of things you wouldn’t necessarily do on television. It really is a pretty different experience. I wasn’t expecting to experience the contrast so dramatically.
PW: Do you think it will make “Letterman” easier now that you’ve done “Conan” and you know what to expect.
DC: Yeah, I mean, now I have a little bit more of an idea about what we’re in for. Yeah, I think it’ll be a little easier.
PW: Will it be the same song?
DC: They’re spaced so close together and we’re still on our first single, so yeah, it’s gonna be “Rich Girls.”

PW: You have a song on the upcoming “Gossip Girl” soundtrack. That’s really cool because they have a lot of great music on the show. Have you ever [laughs] watched it?
DC: Yeah, yeah, I have. I watched the episode that we were in and I watched another one, too. It was awesome. I liked it, I really enjoyed. The girls are hot on that show. I dig it, to be quite honest.
PW: It’d be sweet if they let you guys go on and perform. Then maybe you can hang out with the cast. How did you get involved with the soundtrack?
DC: One of the music directors from “Gossip Girl” contacted us on MySpace and asked if they could use some of the songs on the show. We were really, really flattered and we obviously we were excited. It’s just awesome.

PW: MySpace, the internet in general, is just doing so much for bands to get their music out there.
DC: Oh yeah, absolutely.
PW: Not so much anymore, especially with people downloading music, this is more of a way of promoting yourselves, but even 10 years ago, if a band had put music in a TV show or commercial, it would’ve been considered “selling out.”
DC: You think so? I think it always depends on the band, you know. Putting songs in movies like when Guns ‘N Roses put their songs in Terminator 2, I was not upset. I was fucking thrilled because I love Guns ‘N Roses and I love Terminator 2. When they came together, it was a glorious day for me.
That kind of thing is always, I just don’t think about that.
PW: That’s fair. It works out for me ’cause I like you guys and I like “Gossip Girl.”
DC: There you go! Thank you.

PW: Back to touring with the Black Kids. Are Magic Wands opening on every date of the tour?
DC: Yeah, I think so.
PW: How has it been hanging out with all those kids?
DC: Everybody on the tour has been really sweet and is really, really cool. It’s been super mellow and both Black Kids and Magic Wands are putting on amazing shows every night.

PW: Despite the fact that it’s an awesome tour and you’re having a good time, if you could put together a dream tour where you got to play with anyone you wanted, who would you want to share a stage with?
DC: I can’t think about the past, but I would like to tor with the Rolling Stones, I think. Like now, you know. That would be awesome.

The Virgins: website | myspace

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Beck To Play Hollywood Bowl with Father

Autumn DeWilde

Photo: Autumn DeWilde

Beck‘s sold out September 20th show at the Hollywood Bowl will mark yet another milestone in the multi-platinum Grammy winner’s long and storied career. In addition to being Beck’s biggest ever hometown headline engagement, the show will now commemorate the first time he and his father arranger-conductor David Campbell have performed on stage together, when Campbell conducts the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Strings as they accompany Beck’s performance.

David Campbell’s work appears on more than 400 gold and platinum albums. Over the course of his career, his work has received no less than 50 Grammys and two Oscars. As a performer, he has played on historic sessions with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Carole King, while his arrangements can be heard on music by everyone from Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and the Rolling Stones to Cat Power, The Mars Volta and of course on several of Beck’s albums.

Although Campbell has written string arrangements on most of Beck’s albums, Septmeber 20th will be the first time father and song will have performed together.

Beck: Beck: website | myspace | Modern Guilt review
David Campbell website

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Interview With: Tad Moore of Low vs. Diamond

Tad Moore, keyboardist for quickly rising rock group Low vs. Diamond took some time out of their busy schedule to talk a little about their group and new self-titled, debut album.

Bethany, Popwreckoning: Can I get you to state your name and instrument in the band?
Low vs. Diamond, Tad Moore: My name is Tad Moore and I play piano and guitar.
PW: So you met Lucas and Howie while you guys were at the University of Colorado. Is that right?
TM: Yeah, we did and we started jamming out there.
PW: So you started as a jam band. How did you develop from that into your current indie rock style?
TM: I think we were jamming, but we weren’t necessarily bro-ing and beer and all that, so I think that got us a lot more into song structure, which led to where we didn’t need those kinds of songs anymore.

Photo by Autumn De Wilde

Photo by Autumn De Wilde

PW: What were you guys doing before you started playing as a band?
TM: We were students. I mean, we all played instruments before, our respective instruments. But yeah, we were all students at the university. I think Luke was in Journalism, Howie was in Business and I was in Humanities.
PW: Then you guys moved to LA and you met up with Anthony and Jonny?
TM: Yep. We met them through our producer of some time. Howie, Lucas and I played in two other bands in LA before we knew Anthony and Jon through our producer and then that was Low vs. Diamond.
PW: How did you guys come up with the name Low vs. Diamond?
TM: Well, our second band, another friend of ours from Colorado came down with us, he had a girlfriend named Leila — I shouldn’t use her name — that sounded like Low and she would always fight with Howie Diamond and she was sort of like a Yoko persona. So she sort of took him out of the band and he was doing his own thing with her. So yeah, we just sort of said Low vs. Diamond. We wanted a name that sounded like there was a war on and show what our band came out of.
PW: What were some of the other names you guys were toying with? You went through a few others, didn’t you?
TM: In our previous bands? One was called Shadows, that’s the hardest band, but we were playing as 1984. We used to be the band written out as 1984 and I was never fond of that one.
PW: Not really a fan of George Orwell?
TM: No, I’m not really an avid reader. I’ve only read Animal Farm and 1984 in the third grade, but not much more. Our former guitar player came up with the name. It wasn’t really Orwellian. He just thought that it sounded cool.
PW: I’ve read that you guys are really into the “big moment” of a song. How do you guys keep those diverse enough so that the moments stay big and they don’t get repetitive?
TM: I think it’s mainly strong structure. Laying back and not just blowing up. Not just climaxing all the time and giving some in between time so it is a “big moment” and not just heavy rock the whole time, I guess.
PW: So kind of like what you did on “Actions Are Actions?” You kind of started off with piano, then it built up and then you cooled down so it was just piano and vocals.
TM: Yeah, exactly like that with the piano and vocals.
PW: Dominic Hardesty of the UK imprint Marrakesh originally signed you all?
TM: Yep, he was the first to talk to us. We met through a lawyer who also did stuff for the Killers and mentioned us to him. Dom showed up in England and we did a showcase for him and he was like, “You guys got a deal.”
PW: Now, you guys have actually been compared to the Killers. How do you feel about that comparison? Do you feel like there’s any pressure to prove you’re different because the guy who signed the Killers also signed you?
TM: I understand why people would compare the Killers with us. I think they’re a great band. I wouldn’t necessarily say we were influenced by them, but if people say we are, it doesn’t really bother me that much. We don’t need to shy away and show that our style is different from them really. I mean it’s music, people can decide that for themselves.
PW: Who would win between like a battle of the synthesizers? You or Brandon Flowers?
TM: Who would win? I’m just going to be nice and say Brandon would. He’s more experienced than me.
PW: Maybe in a few years you can take him on?
TM: He’s older than me. He’s got a year on me, I think. Or he’s a few years older. I don’t know.
PW: Are there any other bands that you would have preferred to be compared to than the Killers?
TM: I don’t really know. It’s hard for me to do that. I used to better at it. Lucas writes the songs and he looks at a lot of Serge Gainsbourg and stuff like that. There’s not a lot of bands that we necessarily sound like, but there’s definitely a lot of bands that use keyboard and guitar. Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any. There’s a lot of new bands I like.
I don’t think there’s necessarily any that we’d want to say we’re one in the same. I’d like to say Radiohead, but I don’t think we’re anything like them.
PW: Yeah, Radiohead’s kind of in their own category.
TM: Exactly. There’s only one Radiohead.
PW: Even though you guys are from the US, you signed in the UK first. Why did you decide to go after the UK first? How was the UK’s reception?
TM: The UK went after us first. At the time we loved the Strokes and we knew that the UK was a good place to start off as a band, at least it was in the early 2000s. So, yeah, it happened. Dom presented a great deal for us, so it was exciting. We signed and Dom’s a great guy. We trusted him. We just went for it and a few months later we were signed just like that.
PW: Has the UK’s reception of you all been different than the US’s?
TM: We went over there about a year and a half ago. They kind of have more of a teen-oriented thing. Bands like the Horrors and stuff like that. So, our reception was kind of lukewarm.
I mean, fans that actually did hear about us, it was great. We had trouble with the “NME” and getting in the “NME” and stuff like. It was more of a tastemaker. We didn’t have our album done yet and we just had an EP, a limited release EP. So, we still have some work to do over there, but we’ll be back there at the end of the year.
PW: How has being labeled by iTunes and a couple other things as the “Next Big Thing” affected your outlook on the band and your whole process of touring and writing?
TM: I’m really excited for it. The “Next Big Thing” on iTunes is a program that I think is really great and exciting.
PW: This was your debut album and it just came out like a week and a half ago.
TM: Yeah, on the 22nd (of July) it came out.
PW: What songs are you most proud of and really excited to have people hear finally?
TM: I wrote some of the lyrics to “Cinema Tonight” and a few others here and there, but my favorite song on the album is “Don’t Forget Sister.” Brandon Murphy was a friend of ours and he wrote the lyrics. I think it has some of the best imagery and is just really good.
We’re excited to get “Sister” out on the radio. I think it’s just a great rock song. I mean, it’s also one of the ones I’m most excited to play.
PW: Yeah, “Sister.” I really liked that song on the album. I really enjoyed what happened lyrically. So that was written by somebody not in the band?
TM: It’s Lucas’ best friend and they wrote it together. They’ll help each other out on the lyrics.
PW: A lot of the songs tell a little story. Were they inspired by any real-life things? Is “Annie” a real person?
TM: Annie is Lucas’ fiancé. There’s about a month before the wedding. Annie had this really tough year and that was written two years ago. It was just him sort of wanting to be there for Annie with the support of 26 year old band.
PW: On “I’ll Be,” I’ve listened to that a couple of times and I get a different feel each time I listen to it for the emotion being expressed. What were you guys going for on that song?
TM: That’s a good point, I think. Lucas wrote that one. It’s just about being really inspired by some one. I think that and there’s big bursts in it and we just wanted to go cosmic. “I’ll Be,” Luke wrote it so I think he can probably explain it better. I think he was really excited to get it in and it was one of the first songs he wrote as Low vs. Diamond. So yeah, he was very emotionally inspired by a lot of things going on at the time and I think “I’ll Be” just sort of came out of that.
PW: Can you name one song that your band didn’t write, but you wish you could say you had?
TM: There’s a million. Off the top of my head, “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James.
PW: I don’t know if I’ve heard that one. I’ll have to look it up.
TM: Or “Tops” by the Rolling Stones. That’s one I wish we had written.
PW: Just for fun, what’s the song that you’re most embarrassed to admit is on your mp3 player?
TM: The song I’m most embarrassed to own? Oh, there’s a lot of those, too. There’s a lot stuff by U2 that I shouldn’t really love. The old U2, the hipper U2, I’m into a lot of that stuff, but the newer U2 songs I actually love as well. I just don’t admit it so much. Let’s say “Walk On.”
PW: That’s alright. There’s a lot of U2 fans out there. That’s not that embarrassing.
TM: Yeah, it gets worse.
PW: Well that’s all I have. Thanks for talking with me.

Band Info: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review

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