Interview with: Rachael Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata

With her recent album drop and run on the “Hotel Cafe” tour, Rachael Yamagata is quite busy, our very own Joshua had a chance to catch up with her and find out first hand what Yamagata is all about. Check out his interview where they discuss kittens, albums and life:

Rachael Yamagata: Hello Joshua.
Joshua, Popwreckoning: Hey! How are you?
RY: Great! And You?
PW: Things are great here. I feel I need to preemptively apologize for the potential meowing you might hear in the background. I’m interviewing at home today, and I have locked the kittens out of the living room. They’re not pleased.
RY: Aw! I love kittens. Are you kidding?! I actually have to go get mine from my mom’s house tomorrow. I’m all for cats. Aw. How many do you have?
PW: I have two. Patchikins and a five week old kitten named Chubb-a-saurus.
RY: Oh my God. That’s totally cute.
PW: I think they are, yet I’m sure our readers don’t care as much as you and I do.
RY: (Laughs)

PW: So, I guess if it is okay, I’ll go ahead and start with the real questions.
RY: It’s a plan.
PW: Let’s start in chronological order. You wrote your first song at age 12. Do you remember the inspiration for said song?
RY: No. Um.. it was either about teeth or a boyfriend. I remember that I wrote one about losing my front teeth, but I was really young. It must have been a crush song. I don’t remember exactly who, but it must have been a little love song.

PW: That’s really cute. Your early life of teeth-inspired songwriting lead you to a band called Bumpus. How much of a role did Bumpus prepare you for your outing as a solo artist?
RY: Basically, we just played and played and played. We were a three person fronted band, so we had to be strategic about the way that we designed the set lists, to make it dynamic and interesting, and so it would flow. So I kind of credit them with a great education on how to play a live show, but musically we’re different in terms of what I am doing now but they introduced me to stuff that I think would later interest me like Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughn and John Coltrane. It’s kinda opened my world to different music.
PW: I could definitely see that. I can see how those artists would have influenced your sound.
RY: Definitely.

PW: Following that, you’ve recently released Elephant…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, which is your first album since you released Happenstance a very long time ago. How does it feel to have something on the shelves again after a four year wait?
RY: Oh, just a big kinda giant and quiet relief. It was a long, long road to try to get this record out so it’s very very welcome on my part. I’m really really pleased that it’s out and available because I’ve been living with the songs and the mixes and the recordings myself for so long that it’s been frustrating that no one else has gotten to hear them.

PW: How do you feel that your writing and musical abilities have changed from the age of 27 to 31? Like what themes and topics have surfaced in your music and which have softened or vanished?
RY: I think just a more, like a more enriched take on relationships. With writing I feel like I’ve stretched and have been more poetic; using characters to an integer that I haven’t before. I feel very, very fascinated with the dynamics of relationships as a theme. And I’ve certainly have kinda grown in the “It’s Hard Driven Rain”, touching on kinda Pulp Fiction first guitar rock element as well, which I hadn’t done before.

PW: OK. I did notice that in the new album there was more guitar than there had been before and I found that pretty intriguing. On the new album, you recently worked with Ray[LaMontagne] I will botch his last name if I even try….
RY:
Ha ha!
PW: …on the beautiful track, “Duet” and you’ve also worked with Rhett Miller, Ryan Adams, Jason Mraz and Conor Oberst in the past. However in the future if you could work with any person, just hand pick a handful of people to work with on your future albums, who would you choose and why?
RY: I think I’m going to, and this is a stretch, but Bruce Springsteen is an amazing writer and he’s got these quiet kinda intimate songs as well as these iconic rock anthems. I feel like in some way it would just be huge and magical to collaborate with him. You know there’s definitely a long list but he’s one of the top people.
PW: I can definitely see that meshing together well, too. I never would’ve thought of it until you mentioned it, but stepping back and looking at the two projects and putting them together, I can see where it would fit.
RY: Yeah, someone gave me his record Tom Goad a couple of years back and everything changed because I had only known him from his radio hit songs and it’s just very fabulous, very cool.
PW:
There’s an album that’s he’s released that I think a lot of people overlook, but it’s one of my favorite albums ever. It’s called Nebraska and it gets overshadowed by Born in the USA so much, but I think it’s one of the greatest albums released during that time period by far.
RY: That’s excellent.

PW: You were recently joined on tour by one of PopWreckoning‘s favorite artists, Kevin Devine, and how was it touring with him and having him as a member of your backing band?
RY: I love him! He’s just an amazing writer. He’s so electric when he performs. He can hush a room in any way, with a soft song or whatever.
He’s just an awesome guitar player so whether he’s rocking out or doing something real hushed, it’s just great watching a crowd respond to him. He was just so instinctively perfect for my stuff that whatever he would pick to play was just seamless when he would play with us so I loved it. We’re looking and figuring out more ways to get him playing with us.
PW: That would be amazing. We keep looking for him to just take over the world and it keeps getting pushed back and not happening. I mean, he keeps progressively getting bigger but we just think that there should be so many more people who love him, we just don’t understand.
RY: Absolutely.

PW: Very soon you are leaving for the “Hotel Cafe” tour. I recently spoke with Joshua Radin on the subject, just yesterday actually, regarding how tight knit you “Hotel Cafe” kids really are. So I guess what I’m going to ask is, what is it like traveling with such a family style environment and how does it differ from a simple regular tour?
RY: Well when you’re on tour you pretty much become a family with anyone you’re on the road with, you know, especially if you’re out for a while. But something that is so… I want to say sweet but that is such a lame word… haha… there’s something so familiar with a bunch of artists getting together because everyone’s bringing their own music to the table and kinda broadening the prospective.
The unique thing about it is that I’ve done them a couple of times, and there’s never any egos. There’s just these great great artists, in their own rights, completely jazzed about playing together. So you get these really rare moments where four or five artists you’re fans of individually and they’re all playing together on stage and singing with each other. It’s really a kind of magical experience.
These other artists have also gone through the same great highs or lows of road life of putting records out, so they understand you in a way that is perhaps different than musicians who are in your band. They kinda know where you’re coming from which is a really satisfying experience, being able to bond with someone on that level and share it. You just get close to them very quickly.

PW: That was a great answer. That was very in depth and I think it will highlight the heart of and idea behind the “Hotel Cafe” tour very well. We’ve been trying to promote it as much possible because we completely believe in what you guys are doing with that. We think that it’s great that you take it to other cities so it’s not just in that cafe. Like we look forward to it coming every year because Kansas City lacks everything that the “Hotel Cafe” is so it’s great to have it for one night.
RY: Excellent.

PW: Following that, I’m going to hit on a question that I ask a lot of people lately and I didn’t realize until yesterday how much I’d been asking this, but your songs have been featured on television shows; I have a whole big list that I won’t list for you because you already know them. In your opinion, how has visual media altered music and do you think that television is becoming like the new radio?
RY: It’s gone backwards, yeah I do think that television has become the new radio. You can see it happening with the amount of attention that artists get, unknown artists will get a song on a show and it can blow up overnight. And there’s definitely a huge response that can come from having your song mixed in on a show, I’ve seen it happen with friends of mine.
I guess in this world, there’s something beautiful about creating like an amazing visual scene and collaborating that with a lyric, you know, it makes it very cinematic. I mean finding the perfect piece of music to something that’s great writing on screen can be really, really special.You know it works the other way, too. Like sometimes, you know I’ve run into a problem where people seem to know me as the soundtrack for television shows which is like you want your own experiences and them listened to with headphones and like closed eyes and I think that can be really intense.
So I think it can go both ways. I think it can get you lots of attention, absolutely and that’s a positive thing. But for me, in particular on this record, if I had my wish of how I wanted people to listen to it as well, I’d certainly include something very unique to a very solo experience like listening to it in headphones, taking a walk or the first half is so sort of internal and intimate, I feel like getting lost in your own world, letting only the music and lyric really speak to you, I think that would be really intense.

PW: I totally agree with you. The first half of your new album, I feel is definitely way more intimate than anything I’ve heard released with the exception of maybe, “Wore Me Down”. But it was just, I was just impressed. When I reviewed it I went from the angle that the four years waiting for the album was rough but once you hear the opening set of lyrics to “Elephant” you understand why it took so long to be constructed.
RY: [giggles]
PW: It was being constructed as it should be. You were taking the time to put your emotion into an album rather than just putting something out.
RY: Exactly.
PW: And I had a lot of respect for that.
RY: Thank you.

PW: It’s no problem. Thank you for putting it out. I’ve got two questions left for you. This next one is semi personal, I don’t know if it crosses the line. If it does just don’t answer. Your songs sport lyrics on highly personal subjects, such as “Wore Me Down,” “Reason Why,” and “Elephants.” When first taking these songs on the road, are they ever hard to relive emotionally, due to the magnitude of the fingerprint that their content left on your life?
RY: It’s kinda simple because I feel like, I’m not so special that I’ve experienced something that others haven’t as well. So it’s almost like a shared… um what’s the word? Like expulsion, is that a word? Ha ha.
That’s not really the word I’m looking for. I’m like the grammar, not grammar, like vocabulary challenged. It’s kinda, well it can be, healing in a way to let them out in front of other people who are willing to go there with you. Does that make any sense?
PW: It does make sense.
RY: I’m not always thinking of the particular experience that I wrote it about because over time, things do change for me. I don’t weather it so harshly. But I always plug in my sort of present day view of the world into those songs and then when I can’t talk to a friend about it or make sense of it to myself then I kinda channel into a fitting song, that sort of lyrically embodies that same thing just in my present day. Because for me, it’s very kinda therapeutic.

PW:
I did not look at it in that way. That would make sense. You’re being able to get it out of your system in another way. Yeah that makes sense, that makes perfect sense. My last question is very very generic. What can we expect in the future of your career?
RY: Well for the immediate future, life wise, we’re going to do some more dates in the States before the end of the year and then we’re going to do some international stuff and then circle back around in the US.
I’m excited to get writing again, and to release another album, hopefully no later than by the end of next year, or at least get started on it. It’s interesting because I felt really stunted in a way just until this album came out and now that it’s out things are starting to flow again and I’m just kinda excited to get back to writing.

PW: Sounds great. I am actually highly disappointed because I’m not going to get to see you in Lawrence. This will be the third time that you’ve come through that I’ve missed you.
RY: Oh no!
PW: I’ve never gotten to see you live and it’s heartbreaking every time. I have to cover Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin the weekend that you’re here. I mean we’re going to have staff there, someone’s going to cover it but I’ve been really stingy. Like up till this point, I’ve been like, “No one can cover Yamagata! I’m covering it.”
RY: Ha ha. You’re so great.
PW: Yeah, and then I’m not even in town when you’re here.
RY: Aw, well I’ll come back next year.
PW: Seriously, if you would do that, I would be there and would bring everyone I know.
RY: Aw, thanks.
PW: No problem. But I’m going to let you get back to your life but I will send someone from our publication to say “Hey!” in Lawrence.
RY: Alright, thank you and kiss your kitties for me!
PW: I absolutely will. Have a great day!
RY: Thanks, you too!

Rachael Yamagata: website | myspace | Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart review

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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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Interview with: Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara, Pt. II

Tegan Quin @ Terminal 5, NYC, 10/6/08

Tegan Quin @ Terminal 5, NYC, 10/6/08

Without further ado, here is the long-awaited second, and final, part of my interview with Tegan Quin:

Dese’Rae Stage, PopWreck(oning): Are there any other artistic mediums you use to express yourself?
Tegan Quin: Yeah, definitely. I mean, obviously, with the videos. We’re putting together a book. We’re definitely trying out different things and, you know, trying to be creative in different ways.
I think that, eventually, we’ll get to a point in our lives where we’ll wanna do something outside of that, like using the other side of our brains, as well. For now, we’re basically involved in every aspect of what we do, from the business side of things to the artistic side of things. We’re all over the map. I’m definitely not smoking pot in my bedroom writing music all day long expecting someone to get me out there. We’re working really hard to make this happen.
PW: That’s awesome. It’s totally what you need to do. It’s amazing to see the change. I’ve been listening to you guys since I was a kid—since my freshman year of college seven years ago.
TQ: It’s really important. I mean, just like everyone’s life, you don’t wanna get stuck. I think, oftentimes, you know, unlike our own lives, when we get into an artist, we want them to stay the same because we want them to remind us constantly of that place we were in when when we first attached to them. I think Sara and I have navigated that change in ourselves and our music with our audience pretty well.
There are obviously people that grow out of music and have grown out of us, but it seems, progressively, throughout the ten years that we’ve been making music professionally, we’ve continued to cultivate a really great relationship with our audience that, as we change, they change too. We grow with them and they’re able to accept our changes.
There are still enough key ingredients in our performance, in our ability to connect with our audience, that stay the same that, as our music grows and changes and the evolution of Tegan and Sara continues, we’re still recognizable to the audience we had ten years ago.

PW: Who have your musical influences been historically and who are they now? Have they changed much?
TQ: When we started making music, it was like the mid-nineties to late-nineties, so we were into that whole grunge movement and Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco and Hayden. We were listening to a lot of that kind of music. As the years have gone by, I’ve gone further back into my past and music that I grew up with, like Cyndi Lauper and Sinead O’Connor and U2 and Dire Straits and Pink Floyd and all the stuff that I was listening to as a little kid. We were freakishly involved with music as kids, too. So, I think I went through that stage through the If It Was You/So Jealous era.
I think, nowadays, I’m influenced like everybody else. I’m obviously listening to a lot of indie rock and pop music and, you know, very into electronic music. When I was a teenager, we were really big into the electronic kind of bands, that kind of music scene and stuff. So, the last few years I’ve definitely gotten more interested in involving those elements in our music and listening to that kind of music. We’re contributing some songs to Tiesto’s new record and we’ve performed with him and I really think he’s great. You know, it’s an example of a type of music that isn’t necessarily obvious that we might listen to, but it’s definitely influential. The melodies and the harmonies and the structure of the songs and stuff—it’s all definitely very much something that we employ when we’re writing our own music.

PW: You have a lot of tattoos. I wanted know if you get the same question I do and how do you respond to it, and that question is: do you ever think about what you’ll look like when you’re 80?
TQ: [laughs] I figure that things are moving along so quickly and laser removal will advance so much that, if it’s really that terrible when I’m fifty, sixty, seventy or whatever, I’ll remove them. But I’ll tell you right now that the last thing I’m probably gonna be thinking about when I’m eighty is what my arms look like.
PW: Fuckin’ right. Thank you.
TQ: I’m not worried about it. Like I said, I figure by that point in time, things will have changed so much and advanced so much that it’ll probably be pretty easy to figure it out. I mean, there’s always sweaters.
PW: Yeah, I just think that’s gonna be the least of my worries.
TQ: Totally. It is absolutely gonna be the least of your worries. I mean, I would never tattoo my face, my hands, my feet—anything I couldn’t cover up.

PW: Before you were able to make ends meet by playing music—I do assume there was a time—what sort of jobs did you guys have?
TQ: When I was in high school, both my dad and step-dad owned home building companies, so I worked on job sites a lot. My last year of high school, I worked in a coffee shop. When I graduated, the first six months that I was out of high school, we were making music, and I worked at a coffee shop again. I got a different job at a different coffee shop, but that’s it; that’s my employment history.
Sara did mostly the same. She worked at a music store for awhile and she worked in a cafeteria at the Calgary Zoo. We both, by the time we were basically three or four months out of high school, were making music, so we didn’t have to get real jobs.

PW: I think successful artists are intense by definition. I wanted to know if you found that people in your life have been scared away or spooked by that intensity.
TQ: You know, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m definitely more aware of the energy that I have. Like, my ability to walk into a room—and I’m a people pleaser, but I’m also extremely gregarious and loud and extroverted and I know that I oftentimes can monopolize and take a lot of space and I have an ability to get a lot of attention on me.
I mean, I know how to stand in front of 2,000 people and keep their attention on me, so it’s not hard to do in a party atmosphere. So, I’ve learned how to contain that and not be so much.
I’ve also learned to be a little more comfortable with the idea that, just ’cause I’m not talking and I’m not entertaining, it doesn’t mean that anyone’s judging me or thinking, “What’s wrong with Tegan? What’s happening? Why isn’t she talking?” But I’m used to that.
I’m used to being quiet and people being like, “What’s wrong?” And me being like, “No, nothing’s wrong, I’m just trying to let it happen.” I definitely feel like that can be uncomfortable and, as an artist, I’m quite aware. I mean, I remember this one time I asked this girl who I’d been chasing for quite awhile why it was so hard. What was the problem? Wasn’t I great? Wasn’t I perfect? She sent me my schedule from my tour page on my MySpace and I was just like, “Okay, I get it.”
It’s difficult and I think I make up for that by being so intense. I put a lot into the relationships I have when I’m at home and, you know, it’s a lot. I’m aware of how big I can be sometimes. I was hanging out with some girls the other night who I’d just met and we had this whole big meeting and we got up from the table and we were walking outside and this one girl was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe how small you are!”
I was like, “Oh!”
She was like, “I mean, I would have sworn you were the same size as me at the table.” I think that’s just an energy thing. So, I’m definitely cautious and careful about it, but I like my intensity. People who have no energy—I couldn’t be bothered to deal with them.
PW: Totally. Cool. I had to ask that question because people do that to me and I’m like, “Ah! I’m sorry I’m intense!”
TQ: No. Fuck it. Don’t be apologetic. It’s fine.

PW: Holla! Okay, last one. I feel like a lot of people who are in the public eye have trouble carrying on a normal life and I wanted to know how you make new friends or meet a new romantic interest when everyone knows who you are. Do you have to keep your guard up?
TQ: Yeah, of course. It’s not easy. I don’t mean that in a sob story way, kind of like, “Oh, it’s so hard,” but it is. You know, I meet people and I’ve been out of a serious relationship for two and a half years and dating the whole time, and it’s hard. You meet people and they do know who you are and you have to kinda just accept that, or you meet people and they’ve slept with half the people you know and you’re like, “Oh God, really?”
You’re not eighteen anymore, you’re not meeting somebody who’s never been with a girl, you’re not meeting someone who’s just out of high school and doesn’t know who you are. It’s really hard. With my age group and the people I’m interested in and the scene I hang out in, I mean, oftentimes I do feel a bit like a zebra being pranced around in a dance club. I don’t feel like people are able to come up and talk to me and be themselves with me because they either think that I’m going to be a certain way or they’re terrified of me and so they’re nervous and creepy and weird and then I’m like, “Ugh, get away from me.”
When it comes to making friends, it’s a little bit easier because I’m pretty good at being straightforward and being like, “Okay, you met me. Now it’s time to stop talking about me. Let’s talk about life.” So it’s a little bit easier, but yeah, I’ve been really lucky and blessed to have a lot of really great friends since high school. I meet a lot of really great people through other people I know, so it’s pretty great.
I think Sara and I—the one thing that has stayed consistent over the last ten years is that we’re still the same people we were then. We’re very charismatic and we’re very humble, good friends and we try to take as much time as we can for our friends and family. I think it’s pretty easy to attract good people when you’re putting that energy out there.

Photos by Dese’Rae Stage. More at flickr.

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Interview with: Tobias Fröberg

Jessica, PopWreckoning: From the very beginning, you’ve been quite successful with your musical career. Winning a Swedish indie Grammy for your debut album to releasing your sophomore album in 25 countries and receiving amazing press. Now, with your third album Turn Heads, you’ve produced it yourself and have slew of great musical guests from your own father to Peter Morén, Teitur and Theresa Andersson. How do you do it?
Tobias Fröberg:  Well, if you mean how I get these musicians to be a part of my record, the only thing I can say is that they are my friends. We have a small community, almost. We help each other, we’re always some kind of part in the other ones project. After all, it’s music and we all work with music because we love it. That’s it, I guess.

PW: You’ve produced records for a lot of great artists, too, including yourself, just about everyone making a cameo on your own record and more. What’s the difference between producing your own record and the record of another musician?
TF: When you´’re producing someone else, you don’t tend to freak out that much. As a producer, you have your eyes on the big picture, not so much if the bass is too loud, or the vocal reverb is too deep.
As an artist, on the other hand, it’s easy to lose yourself in small things like that. It’s sometimes easier to have a vision, when you’re not the artist yourself. I find that, anyway.
PW: So it’s much more intense of a process creating a record when you’re also producing it yourself, as you did with Turn Heads.
TF: It’s sometimes very hard to produce your own stuff because you tend to focus on the wrong things.

PW: The back story of how you ended up pursuing music is great (wanting to meet/interview Ingmar Bergman and Neil Young before making the switch), but where are your musical roots — when did you first become involved with it and later realize you wanted to pursue it professionally?
TF: I grew up with a father who’s a musician. Music has always been around me, it’s a natural thing. I’ve had it as a profession for five years.

PW: As a former writer, if you read reviews about your musical endeavors, do you want to critique the reviewer back on his/her writing?
TF: No, I cant be bothered. I don’t care.

PW: You are looking quite pugnacious in the latest promo photos for the new album — where did the concept for the black eye and mussed suit come form?
TF: The black eye is a proper black eye, not make up or an Photo Shop-thing. I got it during a foggy night in Stockholm, after a wet party. Rock n roll.

PW: Back in April you toured with Peter Morén, who undoubtedly brought along a lot of the Peter Bjorn and John fan base. Your fall tour with Ane Brun and Theresa Andersson starts later this month. What are you expecting from this tour?
TF: To have a good time. Theresa and Ane are both close friends, I really look forward to work with these talents.

PW: The video for “Just Behind A Brickwall” features yourself and Peter playing chess in black and white in a dark room lit by a bare bulb. The musical interlude sees a change to Technicolor then back to black and white when the camera focuses on your face. Who came up with the concept of the video? Would you please explain the signifigance of the chess game and series of events in the video relating to the song?
TF: My wife Sandra is a video director and she helped me making this. We had two hours to do it… it is supposed to look like a swedish, heavy tv play from the seventies about family matters.

PW: So I’ll be at the October 23rd show you’re playing in Philadelphia. I’m really excited about it and while I love the line-up, if you could put together a dream tour where you could be on the same bill as any artist/band ever (living, not living, etc), who would you want to share a stage with?
TF: Why not have a all star band with Dennis Wilson on drums and vocal, John Lennon and Lou Reed on electric guitars, Paul McCartney on bass and Alan Wilder on keyboards?

PW: Last but not least, what are you currently listening to? Or reading? Or both.
TF: Listening to Beach Boys, reading Alice in Wonderland. Classic quality.

**Philadelphia, enter to win tickets to see Tobias perform alongside Ane Brun and Theresa Andersson at Tin Angel on Thursday, October 23rd!**

Tobias Fröberg: website | myspace

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Interview with Billy Lunn of the Subways

Pseudonyms, break ups, surgery and pictures of Steve McQueen: lead singer of British rock group The Subways, Billy Lunn, shares all this and more with PopWreckoning‘s Bethany in the interview below:

PopWreckoning, Bethany: Can you tell me a little bit about your band history? Obviously, you and your brother [Josh Morgan] have known each other all your lives, but how did you guys meet up with Charlotte [Cooper]?
Billy Lunn, The Subways: Well basically, me and my brother, when we were still in school and when we would get bored at lunchtime, we used to go off and just jam out. I had just started learning to play the guitar and he wanted to learn to play the drums, so we’d jam out together at school and whenever we’d get home from school. Once we’d bought a drum kit and a guitar, we’d jam out there.
I met Charlotte when we used to go swimming together. So we started going out and then Charlotte would be hanging out at the house with us, and Josh and I would start jamming. So one day we asked Charlotte if she wanted to play along with us. We had a spare bass guitar and she said yes and started.
We were really young and felt we had nothing better to do because we were three kids from suburbia. Then we started writing our own songs after doing too many Nirvana covers and Green Day covers. We started playing some shows. We played our first show at a venue called the Harlow Square and after that we started thinking about playing in London. So we recorded a few demos in our parent’s front room, so we’d make like thirty demos and send that out to as many as possible and we started booking gigs. Eventually, after a couple of years of doing that, we started getting noticed by a couple of people in London. Crowds started coming out to the shows and we got some label interest that came out to the venues. I started a website forum so our friends could come and join, that kind of thing. Then we managed to get the Glastonbury competition in 2004.
I used to record local bands in our parent’s front room when they couldn’t afford the 2000 pound fee for the local recording studio and I used to bring some bands around and say, “I’ll record you guys.” And one band when we started recording them, we asked what they were going to do with that CD, with that mix. And they said, “Oh Michael Eavis is running this competition to play this festival, Glastonbury Festival, and if he really likes your demo, he’ll let you play in the festival.” So we thought, we should do that because we have lots of stuff in demos and that’s enough to find one song, so we put all the demos on one CD and sent them off and didn’t really think much more of it.
Then one we day we got a call from Michael Eavis saying we’d really like you to play at Glastonbury Festival. It was one of our first big breaks, basically. We went from playing for 250 people to about 10,000 people at that one show. After that we organized our first tour of the UK and it was also funded. It basically just kicked off. In 2004, in November, we signed a record deal with Warner to record our first album Young For Eternity and released it in 2005.

PW: So how did the other band react when they found out you had won the same contest they were entering?
BL: I think they kind of forgot about it. I don’t think they ended up sending that CD in. Which is really strange because they were the ones who notified us about it. I still see the guys a lot and we don’t talk about it. So I think it was completely forgotten, which is ok.
PW: So, there’s no tension from it?
BL: Oh no, we’re best friends. We’ve been friends for like eight years now. They don’t mind.

PW: Ok. Now, why do you and your brother have different last names?
BL: Our parents divorced about 10 years ago and they never really told us about it until a couple of years ago when the band first started. So after I found that out, I took my mom’s maiden name. It’s actually for my mother’s father, my granddad, who really got me into writing short stories and got me into storytelling and being creative. When he died, it was probably one of the worst things that ever happened to me in my life. I thought it would almost be true to take his name. It also adds to the mystery and the confusion of being in a rock band.

PW: Did he get to hear any of your guys’ songs before he died?
BL: No, our band started a few years after he actually died, so when we formed the band I just thought it would be a good idea. I’ve always liked it when fiction novelists take on different names, pseudonyms. I’ve found that really sort of fascinating. It would be cool, like Freddie Mercury, to have a sort of a stage name.

PW: Yeah, definitely. On your latest album you guys have a harder sound than your first record. Did that happen naturally or did you make a decision to progress the music that way?
BL: For us, it was really an organic thing. After we released our first album, Young For Eternity in 2005-that was in the UK, we released it in the US in 2006-we toured for about two and a half years after that. And when we were on tour we got to tour with bands like Oasis and we did an American tour with bands like Taking Back Sunday, and we played to these audiences, these really huge audiences.
When you think of how we wrote Young For Eternity before that, we were just playing these tiny little London venues. So when it came time for All of Nothing, we were on tour, these two and a half years of touring when we were just consistently writing. We were finding time in sound check in these different venues and when we got to play these amazing venues.
When the venues got bigger and the audiences got bigger and they got crazier, I eventually got quite theatrical on stage and started diving off speakers and balconies and I guess that’s when I started getting huge with the songwriting process. All of the songs that we were writing from then on just got heavier and heavier and more raucous and rambunctious. I think that played a big part in making the rock sound really, really huge.
I remember the first time I went to America and I listened to the radio, it was shortly after we had finished Young For Eternity, the first record, I can remember saying to my brother, “God, this music sounds huge compared to British music.” I just turned to him and said, “You know, next time we make a record, we should really get an American producer because I want our next record to sound like this.” And we did this with Butch Vig, who did Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth. Butch Vig produced our next record and we knew we had the right guy. The album was as big as we had always imagined it to be.

PW: Is America radio really that different than British radio? What artists do you hear over there that you aren’t hearing here and the other way around?
BL: Well actually, they aren’t really that different, but the heavy American rock sound is really different to the more subdued English rock sound. There’s a particular style of being understated and we wanted to be really loud and brash and sort of in your face. I think the American style of wide screen production is more suited to our style and our tastes, I guess.

PW: What other differences have you noticed between America and the UK? Like with touring is it harder to get American audiences’ attention than say the at home crowd?
BL: I think in terms of touring, that the distances between each city and each venue in the UK is so minuscule compared to America. One thing that really amazed us about touring in America is that you’d get on the bus in Arizona where it is really hot and widespread and the landscape is huge and it was just desert. But then you’d get off the bus and you’d be in the Rockies and it would be a really cold, snowy sort of condition. That sort of freaked us out, but it made for a more interesting tour, I guess.
I think one thing that really, really, really sort of surprised us when we got to America is that the audiences were just so rambunctious and energetic. Heckling, yelling and whooping and it was awesome! We played this one show in North Carolina, in Chapel Hill and it was awesome. There were like twenty, thirty people in the audience and each and every person was throwing their hands in the air and screaming along to the songs. It was fantastic.
That sort of thing happens now in the UK, now that we play bigger gigs at 2,000 capacity venues and 3,000 capacity venues. There’s not a massively huge difference, I guess. But America is so huge that each state is basically like a new country. The reactions are different. The weather and I guess their conditions, so that makes their reactions different like people in different countries are different. And we love that.

PW: Do you guys have plans to tour in America soon?
BL: Yeah, well we recently finished a really short-a whistle stop tour, I think that’s what they call it. We did New York, Boston, San Francisco and then Los Angeles and then finished up in San Diego. That was amazing. That was actually one of the hardest tours we’ve done. It was a really short tour, but the whole reason was that before we even left the country, our tour manager and our sound engineer, they just didn’t come through in time, so we just left them behind.
It was just a hard tour. We took a plane to New York and then with three hours of sleep hopped a train to Boston and got no sleep. But it was awesome. So, sometime next year after we finish the European dates we’ve got planned, we’d like to come back to America. We’re just looking for a big support slot. That would be amazing for us.

PW: You recently under went voice surgery. Has that been hard to get back into the touring schedule? Does that still give you problems or are you all-recovered? Have you had to change your lifestyle because of that?
BL: Everything is totally fine now. I sing and I scream ten times better than I ever did before. I look back on it and it was a really, really tough time. The doctor said that I might never sing again if the recovery process goes awry. But it was totally cool.
I guess, at the time, I was sort of psyched out and sort of stressed out. I couldn’t speak for three weeks and I couldn’t sing for two months. Singing, and talking especially, is my favorite thing ever. I couldn’t imagine living without it. We stayed positive and went into a local rehearsal studio and just jammed out for six hours a day perfecting all the songs that we had written on tour.
I guess that’s sort of why we came out with the album that we did that we’re really, really proud of. We got this opportunity to sort of sit back after this whirlwind tour and really look at these songs and concentrate on them. We got to figure out what sort of record we really wanted to make with All or Nothing. I got to say I feel like I was reborn. I feel like that process was a rebirth, I’m a completely new purpose. I got this edge, since I’m not finished.

PW: Is there something you do now to protect your throat so this doesn’t happen again?
BL: Yeah, warming up. Before every show anyway, I always sit down with an acoustic guitar and warm up. But other warm ups too that Charlotte and I do. I think because we have more harmonies on the new record and we really need to go and rehearse them before we do them on stage. I guess just sitting down and sounding things out before the show really, really helps out.
I hardly drink before any of the shows. Well, I don’t drink before any of the shows and I hardly drink on tour at all. Maybe one or two beers if there is a day off. I really try to look after my voice. When I’m on stage, I relish the opportunity to be up there and play for the audience and get them going by singing about all the things that matter the most to me in the world. I don’t want to risk that ever again with my voice leaving me.

PW: That is very impressive. Especially that you don’t drink on tour. It seems like so many rock stars are through six beers before the show even starts.
BL: Yeah, there are so many rock and rollers out there who love to drink. I’m one of these people who wants to look back in 10, 15 or 20 years, if I’m still alive, and remember all the amazing things that we get to experience. This is like an adventure. I’ve been given this opportunity to go out on this adventure and explore the world.
Not only that, but explore myself and learn new things about myself. I feel like if I just drink all the time when the band’s out, it would all be rather pointless unless I’m aware, completely aware. I find that the buzz is a thousand-fold when I’m on stage in front of the audience of the audience, when it’s me playing to my fans. It is a real organic, natural feeling that you get.

PW: Now, you recently did a show in Germany where it was just you because Charlotte was sick and you played an acoustic set. How was that received and was it hard to quickly adapt all your songs into acoustic numbers? Did you have that prepared beforehand?
BL: I write all my songs on acoustic guitar anyways. That’s where the ideas sort of spring from. I’m always traveling with an acoustic guitar and I’m always sitting down and jamming out with an acoustic guitar. When I found out Charlotte was ill, I phoned my manager and said, “We’re not canceling a show are we?” and said, “Yeah, we’re going to have to because Charlotte can’t play.”
So I said, “Well, I feel really terrible letting the fans down because they’ve been looking forward to this for such a long time. I mean, we’ve all been looking forward to this for such a long time. You know, book me a ticket over there to Hamburg and I’ll play the show on acoustic.”
So, before I boarded the plane, I was rehearsing the songs. It’s pretty easy to break some of our songs down into acoustic anyway, since that’s how they’re written initially. I’ll write an idea on the acoustic guitar and take it to Charlotte if I think it needs working on melodically or I’ll take it to Josh if I think it needs working on rhythmically. I don’t really want to miss out on a chance to get on the stage and play if for people.
It was great. I think they were really surprised that I turned up. They were really happy about it. Halfway through the show I ended up phoning Charlotte and I got the audience to wish Charlotte, wish her a get well soon in German.

PW: So how do you say that in German?
BL: I have no idea. I think I just spoke it really slowly in English.

PW: Now you and Charlotte used to date, but how do you keep such a good friendship, while being in a band and having all that time together?
BL: I think mainly we realized that music is the most important thing to us and nothing was ever going to get in the way of us playing together on the stage. When we broke up and were working on the record, being able to go through that while making the record was a totally incredible thing because it did actually teach us what we really, really, really love and that’s playing music together.
It sort of helped make the record. We wrote “Obsession” about it and we really honestly put our feelings into the songs. I guess it was pretty therapeutic making the record at that particular time. It sort of got all the issues out of the way.
When couples usually break up, they spend time apart from each other, don’t they? But Charlotte and I were sort of forced into this environment where we were sort of forced to overcome any issues that we had and just get on with it. We were sort of lucky to be able to do that you know?
We realized that life is sort of full of hard times and good times. We still have fun together and we still really appreciate what we’ve done for each other in this life. Whenever we’re on stage and we’re playing these songs together, there’s never really any awkwardness like people might think. We really consider it a celebration of all that we’ve been through.

PW: Do you have any tips or advice for people going through break ups so that they can get to the point that you and Charlotte are at?
BL: Yeah, just talk through it. Charlotte and I played through it, but that’s how we sort of communicate with the world: by playing our instruments and singing melodies. I guess that’s probably the most important thing. Not only do you get closure, but you learn about yourself and you learn about relationships and how we should treat people. You learn about your mistakes and how to become a better person because of it. That’s one of the main things, becoming a better person and realizing when it’s time to move on and learn a lot.

PW: I know Charlotte DJs in her off time. Do you and Josh have anything you do during the band’s off time?
BL: Well, Charlotte DJs and I DJ whenever I can. We love DJing. It is so much fun. You basically get to play all your favorite records and pretend that it is you performing them. It is easy and you get free drinks and everybody loves it. It’s just a great time. I don’t know.
I guess when we’re not playing music, we’re still playing music. When we’re not touring, we’re writing. When we’re not writing, we’re rehearsing new ideas. I don’t think there’s anything, there’s no other sort of hobbies that will mean as much to us as music in our lives.

PW: My last question: what is the most surprising or strangest thing that you guys put on your rider?
BL: A framed picture of Steve McQueen. We asked for that at every show that we ever did on our first ever UK tour. Everyday the promoter would say that was the strangest request to have on a rider. That’s it really. I’ve actually still got a bunch of them out my house up on the walls. I love Steve McQueen. I think he’s amazing.

PW: So you just have a collection of McQueen photos? Now did anybody refuse to give that to you?
BL: No. We just had it on the first tour, that first ever tour, and every venue did it for me. It was great. It was very hospitable.

PW: Well, that’s awesome. Thank you.
BL: Thanks.

The Subways: website | myspace

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Interview with: Mugison

Jessica, PopWreckoning: Quite a number of musicians from Iceland such as yourself, Björk and Sigur Rós have found great success in the United States. You broke through here quite some time ago, but what were — and what may still be — some of the challenges reaching an American audience?

Jonas Val

Photos: Jonas Val

Mugison: I think the main challenge for me is money. It’s very expensive to come over and do shows for free or next to nothing. I need to do big support shows or get a spot on a late night TV show, be caught with a prostitute on camera, have a baby with Whitney Houston, be in a Jack Black movie, split my penis in half live on MySpace.
I don’t know, If somebody out there has money to give to me, then I suggest this, give me 30,000 dollars for a radio campaign, 40,000 dollars for a TV campaign, 30,000 dollars for online campaign and while your at it give me 60,000 dollars so I can take my family to Hawaii over Christmas.

PW: Your father is a professional karaoke singer, did that have any influence on your initial musical endeavors? Does he sing your songs for karaoke?
M: Yes, when I saw him sing for the first time I realized all dreams can come true, if you just follow your heart, it’ll give you and others joy. My dad hasn’t sung my songs yet, not that I know of, but sometimes he performs with me.

PW: What are your musical influences? You have quite a unique sound — where did a lot of that come from?
M: It’s just a mix of all my influences. I don’t try that much, it´s just the mix I get when I do music. I believe in music like people believe in God. I also love it like a girl and it makes me horny.

PW: It’s my understanding that you’re self-taught with everything you’re doing —
M: Pretty much, yeah. I’m a good example of no talent getting things done.

PW: A lot of your photos shot by Jonas Val are pretty bloody and feature your right leg turning into an instrument. Where did the concept for this shoot come from?
Was there any difficulty in shooting it or is most of it Photoshop effects?

Jonas Val

M: Jonas is a great artist, people should check his website out or Google him. It’s an old fantasy of mine to see myself mutated into that animal. Just love the idea of my leg being a double bass, and my arm a microphone, jacks sticking out of my belly. I was also feeling like I was on the edge of something mentally when I finished the album and we did those photos. I love ’em.

PW: The latest album Mugiboogie is a lot edgier and more rock and roll than your previous releases — what brought about the evolution in your sound?
How have you found the responses to the change?
M: I felt like rock and roll and had to do the best rock’n roll album ever made. I think it’s the best album in the world, but obviously the world doesn’t agree with me. Maybe in times to come you’ll all turn around…or maybe I’m just ill.

PW: In terms of making and performing Mugiboogie, what was it like working with a full band instead of just a laptop?
M: The band is more like a normal stuff, it’s just sex and power. The laptop stuff was more like wearing your shirt inside out and asking people to spit at you for a dollar.

PW: Which do you prefer?
M: I like both, the laptop stuff was more nerve racking, and sometimes more rewarding. The band is better for traveling and smelling.

PW: You just finished up a tour in the US — how did it go?
M: I loved the driving and meeting people. Very few people knew about the shows, so I was often just playing for 5 people. Totally fell in love with Tucson, Arizona, I might move there some time. I feel at home over there, really do. I miss it like a friend.

PW: What are the differences between touring in the US and Europe?
M: The normal people in the US, the people serving on the highways and in bars, in diners, hotels.. the people that I met were all so helpful, funny and interesting. In some places in Europe you don’t get that.
In some places, if you talk to someone you feel like they’d like to get paid to talk back at you, paid by the word — especially France, there I always feel like I’m wasting people’s time when I talk to them, like they’d scheduled some quality time, maybe their all just about to meet their lover and I’m in the way, who knows. Don’t get me wrong I also love the particular mood of France…aaaahh it’s all so different. Love it.

Jonas Val

PW: If you could put together your ultimate dream tour, who would you want to share the stage with — any band/musician living/dead, whatever?
M: I’d like to tour with U2, I love them. I’d like to tour with Will Oldham, Robbie Williams, Pixies, Dolly Parton, Matthew Herbert, Björk, Four Tet, Beck, Primus and Tom Waits, Celine Dion in Las Vegas – I’d love to do that (not joking). Sade .. I´d kill for a Sade support.

PW: Thanks so much!
M: All the best.

Mugison: website | myspace

All Photos: Jonas Val

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Interview with: Todd Fink of the Faint

If electro indie pop group The Faint gets you swooning, then this is one interview you don’t want to miss. Lead singer Todd Fink took the time to talk to Bethany about the band and how to live the good life when not on the road. Check it out:

PopWreckoning, Bethany: So Fasciination was the first time you guys did everything in your album making process. What sort of new challenges did you face with that? Was it similar to remixing?
Todd Fink, The Faint: Yeah, we’ve done remixes as a band and it’s not that different from making your own tracks, at least the way we do it where you just take a lot of tracks from the artists and do the vocals on its own track, usually.
We had done one of those just right before we recorded this record. It was one for Nine Inch Nails. We did that in another studio, but in seeing how that went, we felt pretty good about doing our own record. We knew that we could do our own record without any trouble because we had been doing more and more of it as we recorded each record. It was good to get that little boost of confidence before actually recording our record. So yeah, it was easy, I guess.
It is nice to have the freedom to do whatever you want to do without having anybody take advantage of anybody or having to explain why you want to do one thing or another. If a mic is pointing at a guitar and you feel like a mic could be moved to a better spot or if you want to use a different mic, you might as well try it. You can stay up there all night. It’s your place. It was nice.

PW: So are you guys going to do a remix album for Fasciination like you’ve done for some albums in the past.
TF: I don’t know. At one point we were going to do them for every record, but we didn’t do it on the last one and I don’t think that we’re going to do it on this one. We’re going to just release songs on the record as singles, 12 inches, that kind of stuff. We have one out so far that has a couple remixes on it and another remix that’s been circulating on-line and maybe compilations and stuff like that. So we’ll see.

PW: Does blank.wav have any plans to release albums for any other artists or are you guys just using it for your own records?
TF: We talk about. We’d like to, but it just isn’t really a money making project. To put out other people’s records and maybe make money on it, you’d have to have an artist blow up. Maybe that would happen, maybe it wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t really be putting it out for that reason. We would put out things that we like and think the world should hear. If lots of people want to hear it, that would be great. We’re not ready to be risky about it yet and we’re not really in the financial situation to do that. I think with the Faint and other things, we’re pretty busy.

PW: Yeah, I imagine you guys stay pretty busy being on the road. So the new album, Fasciination, deals a lot with thoughts of the future and on songs like “Machine in the Ghost,” it deals with know-it-all leaders and people who think they are the boss of everything, and I know that for a lot of Omaha artists that politics are pretty important. How has this election year been figuring into your lives and your music?
TF: We follow the election and took election day off on tour. How’s it figuring in beyond that? I don’t know. I mean we’re rooting for Obama as a band and hoping that we get some kind of change in the way things are going. I know that we’ve been pretty discouraged in the last couple of elections and we’re hoping that it can’t go that way forever.

PW: Do you guys get a chance to watch the debates on the road?
TF: If at all possible, we’ll watch that kind of stuff. We did just miss the first presidential debate because we were flying from Australia to Japan, I believe, so it wasn’t possible. We watched the VPs the other night and it was interesting. We know who we’re rooting for.

PW: Do you guys refer to Omaha as Obamaha?
TF: I have friends that own a gourmet, soul-food fusion type restaurant that did say Obamaha on the window after it was announced that he would be the Democratic representative.

PW: What restaurant?
TF:
(temporary memory lapse) Dixie Quicks! It’s called Dixie Quicks and I recommend it to people who come to Omaha. It is easy to miss.
PW:
For sure, is it in the Old Market area.
TF: It is down towards the Old Market. It is on like 17th or 18th Street and Jackson. The Old Market starts on 13th, so it’s up a little ways from it.

PW: Outside of political issues with our own country, I know you’ve been involved in a lot of other issues, like, you went to Haiti several times. Recently you had an art project that you did with Orenda [Fink]. What was that exactly and how did you get the idea to set something like that up?
TF: It just kind of happened naturally between our friend in Haiti. There’s a guy that we’ve known for quite some time named Chris Lawson, who is an artist in the Birmingham area, Alabama. He went to Haiti with us, working there and kind of teaching art and working with aspiring Haitian artists. We did a project with them. That’s what we originally did.
We went with them and collected field recordings-sounds of the city, sounds of Haiti in general-and sowed them into a sort of sound collage for the art show that sort of fit within vibe of the whole thing. His was turning garbage and found objects into assemblages, sculptures and different types of collages. So, it made sense.
We did that in Haiti and brought that show more recently back to Omaha. It was great. We didn’t really know what to expect in Omaha, but it was a complete success. We’re actually doing something today, with my friend Ben [Brodin], we are doing a live soundtrack or score to the movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It is one the first horror movie, silent films. It is classic. So that’s what we’re doing today. We’ll see how it goes.
(For those unfamiliar with silent film tradition, orchestras or a small music group used to sit in the theater and play the soundtrack and sound effects for the film live. As part of a horror series at Film Streams, Todd Fink, Orenda Fink and Ben Brodin composed the soundtrack and performed it live for the opening night of the series. So when he says live, he means live.)

by Chris Knight

by Chris Knight

PW: It seems like a lot of Omaha artists start off in one band and then has like eight other projects. Do you guys do a similar thing? Would you work on a solo album or is pretty much the Faint and the occasional art project?
TF:
I work on things for different projects all the time and a lot of times they end up as the Faint. It is a way that I like to think about music that it can be inspiring. Some times they end up as the Faint songs and others, I just have little bits of things to do here and there. Or if something comes up like the Haitian sound collage or the soundtrack that we’re doing today, I may use parts for this or that. I’m making a lot of things.
I have a side project that I’ve been doing recently called Vicious Kicks with a guy in Miami. I don’t know. I don’t know what the future of that is. The other guys do, of course, like Joel [Petersen] has Broken Spindles. Vverevvolf Grehv is Dapose‘s project of heavy death metal and he just put on album out on that not too long ago. And a couple of us play with a guy named Fathr^ here in town who does drone, ambiance kind of wall sounds, experimental type sounds. It’s called Fathr^, no “e”s in it. They’re actually performing tonight as well. I’m hoping to make it over after the film that I’m doing. I know Dapose is playing with him tonight and I’m not sure if anybody else is. Maybe Clark [Baechle].
PW:
Where at?
TF:I think at the Bemis.
I checked the show out and it was solid. Just Dapose played with Fathr^. It was quite the event, there was an art exhibit opening upstairs and the show was set up downstairs. Complimentary wine and beer were offered. Fink was at the show, as were Saddle Creek employees and most of the members of Tilly and the Wall.

PW: What other Omaha artists do you recommend?
TF: Box Elders is my current favorite. Maybe Box Elder. I can’t remember if it is plural (It is plural) , but go listen to some tracks on MySpace. We just played with them in Omaha recently. Baby Walrus, Capgun Coup, Son Ambulance, Orenda Fink. My wife’s always got a bunch of projects.

PW: What is one thing you wish people knew or understood about the Faint that they don’t already know. A stereotype or rumor you’d like to dispel?
TF: I’m not very schooled about what people think about the Faint to be honest. I don’t read that stuff much and nobody would come up to me and tell me one thing or the other about what they think. People will just say I like this song or the album or I hate this or that. Why don’t you do this more, but I don’t really get a feel for what the Faint means to people or what they think of when they think of the band. I’m too close to it to kind of understand it, so I don’t know. It is hard to dispel or affirm any of them now.

PW: Well, how about your Omaha association? There’s nothing associated with that?
TF: It is fairly interesting that there’s a electronic pop band from Nebraska that doesn’t sound like music of the heartland exactly. What do people think about Nebraska from an outside perspective, I get that. I like Omaha. I’ve spent my whole life here, so I’m not sure I want to stay here until I die.

PW: But you wouldn’t relocate the Faint to California or anything like that? (Cough, cough Cursive, cough cough 311)
TF: I don’t think we could all agree on a place to move with everybody we care about, which is probably why we’ve lived in Omaha as long as we have. It’s affordable and it’s easier not to move than to move. So if I move, I’d have to make trips back to do recordings and rehearsals.

by Shane Aspegren

by Shane Aspegren

PW: So, what do you think of the change that Omaha’s made in the past year with the venue regulations in places like the Slowdown and the Waiting Room? Has that affected you guys at all?
Basically, Omaha was having a hard time deciding if places that went back in forth between venue and bar should be allowed all ages shows. Eventually, the City Council decided all ages shows were acceptable, but minors would have to have a notarized parental permission form on file with the venues. Omaha also passed an indoor smoking ban. [Ed. note: Notarized parental permission? Intense.]
TF: It kind of affected Jacob [Thiele]and I with Derek [Presnall] of Tilly and the Wall. We had the party called GOO. It might have affected the longevity of that party, but we were about to end it anyway because we had to start touring. So not really.
I like being able to go to bars and not have smoke in them. I’m all for the freedom of anybody to get addicted to whatever they want, but I don’t want to have to share it with them necessarily. I like clean air. Although, the lights in the club don’t look quite the same unless you have a hazer in there and some places don’t allow people to smoke and put that on the smoke list.

PW: Yeah. Now, GOO kind of resurfaced as Gunk. I know you’re busy, but do you have any desire to get involved with Gunk and maybe guest DJ with that?
TF: I don’t know what that is?
PW:I think some people have brought back GOO, but renamed it as Gunk, but they’ve been having it at the Waiting Room. You still have DJsand a dance party theme, like what you were doing with GOO.
TF: Is is successful?
PW: Yeah, they’re getting the same turnout. It’s the 18 and over crowd. There’s a 3-D Gunk in like two weeks maybe. You’ve inspired somebody, I guess.
TF: Cool. More power to them. It’s not GOO, but the point of GOO was to have people have something to do in Omaha and have something that’s really like a night out where you can dance and sweat and dress ridiculously. Do those things that you need to be able to do and have an outlet for it.
Before that, I didn’t feel like there was much of an outlet for it. There are places, but I don’t know. It’s good to keep it going, although, I probably, I think we’ll probably do GOO again when we have a chunk of time at home.
PW: So, Gunk completely sprang up separately? You had no idea about it?
TF: No, I saw a flier recently. I thought it was like, “You remember GOO? Now, it’s hard and it’s called Gunk.” I was kind of like, well, I understand why they do it like that, but it’s kind of like, can’t they get it going on their own without having it seem like it’s part of GOO? Because we worked hard to get it going, you know? I did notice it, but it just didn’t…
PW: That’s interesting because I think a lot of people thought it was a development out of GOO.
TF: Right, that’s why I think I’m not really sure I like that it is intentionally referenced so it is confusing to people. In order to think that that’s what it is. On the other hand, I don’t know, it’s kind of like a tribute to our party, I guess. If you want to look at it like that like it is carrying it on. Referencing it makes it sound like it is cooler than it probably was than not referencing it or a different party.
PW: Yeah, well I know people really enjoyed GOO and blocked it off on their calendars.
TF: It was definitely a good party.

PW: Well, that’s all I have, so thank-you.
TF: Alright, it was good talking with you.

The Faint: website | myspace

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