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Striking a Balance: A Conversation with Ketan Bahirat

3 May

As we previously mentioned, we were very impressed with electronica/ambient/post-rock band Until We Last’s recent performance at Counter Culture. New writer Anindita Nayak recently got a chance to speak to Ketan Bahirat, founder of Until We Last, about the band, his early start in music and challenges.

Until We Last

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

Let’s talk a little about their music first. Until We Last songs transport your mind to different level with their unusual mix of melodies, making them sound a little like God is an Astronaut or Explosions in the Sky (though the band does dislike the comparisons sometimes). One of our favorite songs of theirs is “Water”, which sounds even better live than it does on the album. Unfortunately, their SoundCloud channel doesn’t have all of the songs they had performed at CounterCulture, but maybe we’ll find them on their upcoming EP, which is launching in a month’s time. Now, let’s move on to Until We Last’s journey.

Currently in his penultimate year of college, Ketan Bahirat took formal Hindustani lessons back in 6th grade. He picked up guitar skills from YouTube videos and played with two metal bands before forming Until We Last in 2011. Until We Last has been performing live since late 2012, culminating in the launch of an album, copies of which they were more than happy to give away free at Counter Culture. When quizzed about his personal favorite gig so far, Ketan speedily answers with Magnetic Fields, an impressive festival in the middle of the Rajasthani desert.

The name of the band stems from a philosophical note that revolves around travel, our home planet, nature and the quest to strike the perfect balance between sustainability and development. When it comes to song names, it’s usually based on circumstances. Their most popular song, “Rain”, was so named because it was raining when they were composing it! And there is, of course, a conscious decision of keeping a close reference to nature or travel.

 

The initial few compositions were recorded in Ketan’s bedroom. When looking for potential band members, he remained close to the local music artists and often jammed with them. It hasn’t been an easy ride for Until We Last, considering that the lineup has had over ten changes so far. The longest time without a lineup change was for a year, ending when the bassist, Anjan Bhojaraj, left for higher studies and was replaced by Paul Dharamraj, a former member of the Bicycle Days. This aspect is probably one of the major challenges for any band, especially when the band members are so young and other aspects will tend to take higher priorities.

However, working with so many artists has also helped Until We Last’s music evolve. One of their former band members, Bhargav, continues to send across pieces of compositions from Singapore and they are continuing to reach out to other artists who could collaborate with them to produce more music.

Photo courtesy Until We Last’s Facebook page.

One good thing that struck us about Until We Last is that they don’t seem very concerned about the prevalent culture of piracy, especially in a country like ours. Admittedly, the growing number of music festivals and venues is changing that culture in India, but the fact remains that platforms for indie artists to sell music are uncommon and finding people who are willing to buy music is even less common. Until We Last has also seen a good amount of traction from countries like Germany and Russia, where listeners are willing to pay for their music.

But in the end it’s all about sustainability: fans need to buy music to support good artists. On that note, please do listen to Until We Last’s music and maybe buy it too. And be sure to follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter too. We wish them all the success with their upcoming album!

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Naturally Scattered: An Interview with Raxit Tewari

26 Feb

Scatter Nature

Raxit Tewari’s main band Sky Rabbit is something of an Indian indie legend. It started off as a metal band called Medusa that dropped six-track album way back in 2005, before transforming itself into the current electro-pop/indie avatar which won big at the JD Rock Awards this year.

Tewari’s solo side project Your Chin seems to have been born from the same ethos that caused Medusa’s alchemic transformation into Sky Rabbit. It may seem like effortless mood-music, but there is a solid groundwork of talent and aesthetic sense that supports it all.

Tewari describes his second EP, Scatter Nature, as soundtrack music for a solitary walk through a busy city, possibly his hometown of Mumbai. It’s pretty much a perfect summation: Scatter Nature made us think of strangers colliding and interacting like independent particles in this harried world.

“Run Along Now Little One” is the stand-out track on the EP. Tewari’s signature, peculiarly flat vocals describe arcane prophecies (“Laughing gas will burn us while we’re dodging tragedies”) over music that introspects, sighs and flows along with the pace of life. The accompanying video, directed by Misha Ghose and Naman Saraiya, is perhaps the perfect accompaniment. It syncs Raxit’s music with grungy tableaus of Mumbai life – a red telephone, a rusty lock, smoggy skylines – showcasing editor Sourya Sen’s skills as much as the directors’ or the artist’s.

This is not to say that the other three songs on Scatter Nature aren’t worth mentioning. “Fingerprints & Mugshots” is a deal less dreamy than but in a way more wholesome in sound. The phrasing of words and sentences on “Who Would Have Thought” is a character on its own. And the plaintive stretch of the titular words on “For Love”, layered over an electro-pop version of almost-dance music, is just pure magic. It’s also the closest to Sky Rabbit, in our opinion.

All in all, Scatter Nature is a great EP. It got us really excited about what we might hear from Your Chin in the future.

So excited, in fact, that we decided to hear from him now. To round off our review, here’s a short interview with none other than Raxit Tewari himself!

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Top Five Records: Let’s start with something that we’re quite curious about. Why the chin, of all body parts?

Your Chin: It sucks when it walks out on you. Chewing is almost impossible. You’re left to ingesting with plastic pipes going straight into your esophagus. And that’s just one of the many things. It’s important to acknowledge and address it if you want to prevent all of this.

TFR: Artists often create solo projects to express ideas that might not fit in with other, non-solo acts. How does your musical process with Your Chin differ from how you go about making and publicizing music as a part of Sky Rabbit?

YC: Your Chin’s mostly about sitting in a room and writing/producing music with a computer. I have been tinkering with software for a while now and wanted to see if I could produce some worthwhile music like this.

TFR: Where does your music take inspiration from? Was there a particular artist or even a set of experiences that really guided you here?

YC: A lot of things really. All of them get sewn in. It keeps happening over time.

TFR: You’ve previously described your first EP as the sound of the city, presumably a seethingly busy one like Mumbai, moving along with you. What’s the right frame of mind for this one?

YC: This one’s more of a put-it-on-your-phones-and-go-for-a-walk-EP.

TFR: There’s a lot going on in your music – in terms of technique, texture and style. Tell us a little bit about your working process.

YC: I usually put down smaller ideas on impulse and then build on them at a later stage.

TFR: You recently opened for Gotye at the Oz Fest in Delhi. What was that experience like?

YC: Gotye has a terrific live act. Was an honour to open for someone who is so on top of his game.

TFR: Your style of music is not the most common type out there in India. What has the response been like, in gigs and festivals around the country?

YC: It’s been wonderful. Not underwhelming in anyway. It’s been very consistently progressive over the last few years.

TFR: We loved the music video for “Run Along Little One”, especially the beautiful, grungy montage of urban life. Tell us a little bit about the creative process that went into making this video.

YC: Thank you! Glad you loved it. We went out for a day and shot a whole lot of this place not far from home. Literally rediscovered it in so many ways. Found new nooks and corners. It was extremely impulsive and a lot of fun.

TFR: The last question we have for you is a pretty standard one. Who is the one artist, alive or dead, that you’d most like to work with?

YC: Brian Eno?

So there you have it. Listen to Scatter Nature below!

Happy Birthday to Us!

25 Jun

Top Five.

Last year, on a particularly idyllic summer day, a couple of us decided to start a music review website that heeded neither genre nor country. We wanted to talk about hip hop as well as psychedelic rock. We wanted to talk about Chennai as well as Massachusetts. We wanted to make lists; lots of them, about lots of topics.

Now, a year later, some of those things have been done; yet many others still remain on the list that we’ve created for ourselves. It has been a great ride so far, and there is much more to come.

Keep your eyes on Top Five. As usual, we promise to give you the one-oh-one on the world of indie, India and beyond. Thanks for reading!

Raindrops and Lullabies: A Chat with Tajdar Junaid

28 Apr

Continuing with our love affair with the Kolkata music scene, one of our favorite musicians right now is the very talented Tajdar Junaid. Taj has been around for quite a while; he’s toured with Blackstratblues, provided music for Bengali art films, and was a member of the now-defunct Cal alt rock band Cognac. He’s just finished recording his outstanding debut album What Color is Your Raindrop, and plans to release it very soon. Tajdar’s songs have a certain wide-eyed beauty that reminds us of the smell of rain on grassy grounds, and we promise you’re going to like his music, too. Read on for a short interview with this gifted singer-songwriter.

Tajdar Junaid

Top Five Records: Tell us a little bit about the musical journey that paved the path for your debut album, What Colour is Your Raindrop. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician? 

Tajdar Junaid: It’s all got to do with the Led Zep cassette that my cousin played when I was 13. I distinctly remember the song was “No Quarter” and then followed “Whole Lotta Love”. By then, I was sucked and swirling inside the speakers of my tape recorder. For two years, I kept persisting to get myself a drumkit but unfortunately we didn’t have enough space to accommodate one in the house. Those two years, I played drums on the school table and irritated my classmates by playing with pens on their back. My elder brother used to play guitars and there was a chord book around. When I turned 15, it dawned on me that my dreams of becoming John Bonham will never see the day, so I might as well learn the guitar to express myself. I started off with the chord book and the first song that I learnt was the riff to Nirvana’s version of “The Man Who Sold the World”. I used to save up my “lunch money” and go and buy cassettes. Of course I’d be hungry at school but man, when you hold that Led Zep or Metallica black album in your hands, you are so satisfied!

While in high school, I started looking around for a good guitar teacher and I was glad to meet Amyt Datta. He totally opened up avenues in my head I didn’t know existed. I started practicing more and more, and music slowly became a love affair. So the decision to become a musician was not a conscious one. It has been more about sticking to and holding onto what you love because it’s a peaceful feeling.

TFR: Your album has a rather peculiar and intriguing name.  What’s the story behind it?

TJ: It’s named after a song which was written on a rainy day. It’s me asking you…”so what’s your story?”

Guess who the cute kid is?

Guess who the cute kid is?

TFR: We understand that there are eighteen different collaborators on your album – from all over the world and of all genres. How did that happen?

TJ: I feel very fortunate to have some very talented musician friends from all across the globe. Thanks to the internet, these songs travelled all across to be recorded. I heard Greg Johnson, who is a fantastic singer songwriter from NZ on a CD when I was in high school and had barely begun to play the guitar then. I wrote an email to him appreciating his music and he wrote back surprised to know he had listeners in India. We lost touch until about two years ago, when we exchanged some music again. He liked what he heard and he asked me to play guitars on one of his song. And when I started recording my album, I knew a song of mine “Mockingbird” suited his voice perfectly. I met Fred White (from the thrice Grammy Nominated UK band Acoustic Alchemy) over Soundcloud.com. We heard each other’s music and got excited about the idea of collaborating and mixing my album. Vishal Nayak , who is an old friend from Calcutta, went to study music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He played drums on a song of mine from his home studio in New York. Anusheh Anadil who is a fabulous singer from Bangladesh sang on a song too. Vache, who is from Armenia, played the traditional Armenian flute Duduk. Nitzan Sagie is a brilliant composer from Israel and I met him over Soundcloud.com. He contributed on a song of mine called “The First Year”. It’s a beautiful surprise when the universe opens up its avenues to you and you end up collaborating and making music with people who you have never met in your entire life.

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TFR: You went from guitarist of an alt rock band [Kolkata’s Cognac] to a solo singer-songwriter with a seemingly endless array of instruments and influences. Did that happen organically?

TJ: At one point of time I just got bored of playing the guitar and chanced upon Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s music which completely changed my life and made me question my existence and role as a musician. I became curious and started listening to all the music I hadn’t heard before and learning new instruments with the help of the internet, such as the Ukulele, Mandolin and Charango. I realized my way to happiness is to remain curious and keep discovering my love for music in newer ways, similar to a kid in a candy store.

TFR: You have toured as a guitarist for Blackstratblues in the past. How did that situation materialize? Have you played for Blackstratblues after that?

TJ: Warren is a good friend and we have mutual respect for another’s music. Our common ground is our love for blues. He was preparing his first Blackstratblues tour in 2010 and I was visiting Bombay for a recording so it worked out well. I did play with him again recently and it was great fun.

TFR: Some Bengali friends of ours – ardent enthusiasts of the region’s cinema, of course – informed us of your role as music director/composer in noted films such as Iti, Mrinalini (about a suicidal once-famous actress) and Dui Dhuranir Golpo (about two young transgenders from Kolkata). Very impressive! Do you find that there are differences in the composition process between Taj, the music director and Taj, the solo musician?

TJ: If a scene from a film needs a simple melody, I should put aside my intellect and play a simple melody. And if a song on my album needs me to play a blues slide line,I should practice hard and learn to play that line because the song needs it. When I say “needs” I mean to say songs or any work of art has a life of its own and will tell you exactly how to shape it, only if one shuts his ego and intellect and listens quietly to the song or painting unfolding itself. It’s actually quite simple, we just love making things complex. But the bottomline of everything I do is to have fun and like what I do or else don’t get into it.

Tajdar

TFR: Our favorite song from your upcoming album is the mellow “Though I Know” [download from NH7 here], which reminds us a bit of Eddie Vedder (and occasionally Beirut). However, we think that the title-track “What Colour is Your Raindrop” has a strain of melancholic beauty that can often be found in Hindustani classical music. Tell us a bit about your undoubtedly wide spectrum of influences.

TJ: I’m in love with music and with everything it does to me. It makes me happy, brings me calmness, it excites me, makes me travel in my head. Over the years I’ve understood that all forms of music have something good to offer so absorb the good and the bad will filter itself out. I love the serenity and etherealness of Indian classical, I love Chopin and his melodies, I absolutely dig Albert Collins and all the blues greats, simply because it is very moving, And Thank you Lord for the Beatles. It’s silly not to enjoy so much goodness around you.

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TFR: “Aamna” [another track from his album] is the kind of ethereal, delicate lullaby that parents should play to their young children. Tell us a few special things about this song.

TJ: Aamna is my pride and joy. She is my little niece who is one year , four months right now. When she was born I used to keep her on my lap and play music to her and put her to sleep. I am a musician and the truest part of myself that I can offer is my music. I wanted to gift her something that could put her to sleep even when I wasn’t around.

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TFR: We’re very intrigued by the instrument that you play on “Dastaan”. What is it? How many instruments do you play on this album?

TJ: It’s a 10 string folk guitar from South America called the Charango. I first heard it in the Ost for Motorcycle diaries and fell in love with the sound. I have played the guitar,charango,mandolin,ukulele,glockenspiel and sang on the album. I would like to learn the piano. It’s a beautiful instrument !

TFR: Finally, on a lighter note. Who is that cute kid on the cover of What Colour is your Raindrop? [see above]

TJ: It’s me when I was 4 years old . Calcutta used to have a lot of strikes then and the roads would go completely empty. I used to be amazed by the traffic police and delighted to see huge cars and trucks stop with simply one wave of their cane. So I was filled with pride holding that cane and posing on the empty road. Perhaps I was grinning and thinking I brought the entire road on a standstill.

You can listen to Tajdar’s amazing work on his SoundCloud or visit his website here.

Oceans Apart: A Chat with Nischay Parekh

25 Mar
A man and his guitar

A man and his guitar

Nischay Parekh, 19, hails from Calcutta, a functioning chaos of a city famous (or infamous) for its poets and prose; a city that seems to have certainly rubbed off on the young singer-songwriter. We recently had the chance to listen to “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll”, the spectacular first single from his debut Ocean. It’s a mix of 50s nostalgia and the breeze that causes the leaves to sway on a summer’s day, that hasn’t been heard since this side of an uncharacteristically mature John Mayer. Nischay’s better than Mayer, though, in our honest opinion.

A classic pop voice, burred with just a hint of heartbreak, is not the only thing in Nischay’s arsenal. The man seems to be a pro at the kind of graceful strumming that engender pretty pop ditties, and he has got quite the handy quill, too. If that wasn’t enough of a fix, you can check out more of his stuff on his SoundCloud, which features more than a dozen and a half brilliant, sometimes-glitchy-mostly-pop songs – including a pensive, stripped-down cover of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley that would put The Weeknd to shame.

A talent like this does not go unnoticed. Nischay played at the Bangalore edition of the Weekender last year, and shared stage space with none other than Norah Jones at the recent A Summer’s Day festival in Mumbai. India is rather inundated with its share of music festivals at the moment: there’s a new one mushrooming in every cognizant pocket of the country. It’s a world of ‘hear and be heard’ like never before out there, depending on whether you’re the audience or the artist.  The following is our humble attempt to connect these two sides of the spectrum. Top Five readers, meet Nischay Parekh.

Top Five Records: Hello, Nischay! We’re very honored to have you here with us today. Let’s start from the basics. Why music? How did this whole thing begin?

Nischay Parekh: Music started for me when I was 16 years old. I was taking ‘’recreational’ guitar lessons for a few years before that.  It was around that time that I started writing songs, and I really began to enjoy the process of building a song from scratch. It was like Lego, except the blocks were pieces of my own imagination. Once I began writing and playing more seriously I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

TFR: What did you grow up listening to?

NP: My mother had a very interesting collection of cassettes and CDs. There was a lot of cheesy stuff like Rod Stewart, Geri Halliwell (ex spice girl), but then there was also some great stuff that had a bigger impact on me like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Nat King Cole. The sound that came out of our old “deck” (yes that’s what they were called, CD and Cassette player!) has probably left a bigger impression than I care to admit. A lot of it is subconscious, of course.  I was lucky enough to have grown up with a lot of the ‘good stuff’.

TFR: Tell us about your first few bands. We understand your naming patterns for bands have an affinity for Kingdom Animalia.

NP: I have band in Kolkata called “The MonkeyinMe”. There are four of us. It basically consists of very close friends of mine that I started playing music with in school.  All of us are a little spread out geographically at the moment so it’s hard to put out material frequently. However, we are in it for the long run. A future MonkeyinMe album is definitely on the cards.

Then there was this group I was a part of in Boston called “Orange, the Panda”. I do have a fascination of animals and the general element of mysticism. Maybe it’s because I never had a pet?

Cover for Nischay's album

Cover for Nischay’s album

TFR: So we hear your upcoming debut album Ocean is being produced by someone who has done similar honors for the likes of Madonna and Radiohead [London-based Miti Adhikari]. Not bad for a debut! Has having Miti around changed your song-writing or music-making process in any way?

NP: Miti has been great. I am really fortunate that he was interested in working with me. Having him around has brought a lot of clarity and coherence to my music. I had all these songs and Ideas, which were flying around like loose pages. Miti has definitely helped me bind those pages into a book of sorts. He’s been a real collaborator on this album. Added to all this he’s really on top of his game as an engineer. So it’s been a great experience.

TFR: If you had to be sorted into a record collection based on similarity, which two albums would Ocean be slotted between?

NP: The Reminder by Feist and Plans by Death cab for Cutie. I’m probably giving myself more credit than I deserve, those two are great albums and I love them!

TFR: What kind of themes can we expected to be touched upon in your debut? Do you intend it to be a musical culmination of your nineteen years of life, or is the time frame shorter?

NP: Ocean is a collection of dreams I’ve had. I write exclusively about animals and relationships. It is definitely a culmination of my entire life. It’s full of mysticism. I enjoy the paradox between very ‘real’ human emotions and these stories that I tell with animals as central characters.

TFR: It’s always very interesting to know the kind of things that inspire each individual musician. What’s your trade secret(s)?

NP: I’m attracted most to design. The music I love most always has its own specific aesthetic.  I love creating a vibe and designing music that can live well in that world.

TFR: Congratulations on your success at A Summer’s Day! Word is that your performance gained you a legion of fans that day – quite a few of them being female, of course. What was it like to share the bill with Norah Jones? 

NP: It was a great concert. The audience was great. You can always tell when they’re really listening, and they were! The atmosphere was so relaxed yet charged with infectious positive energy.

TFR: What’s it like to be at Berklee? [Nischay is a current student at the prestigious music school.] Is Ocean different from how you imagined it before you got into Berklee?

NP: Berklee is a temple for music. Everyone and everything there inspires you. I’ve really learned the mechanics of music after spending time there. This has helped my music immensely, a lot of songs on Ocean were written in Boston during my first (and only) semester there.

TFR: Who’s one artist (Indian or international) that you’d give your right hand to work with right now?

NP: Leslie Feist and all her wonderful friends from Canada!

TFR: Give our readers one reason why they absolutely must listen to Ocean.

NP: It’s a happy album and it’s about love. Best reason in the world.

So there you have it. We are waiting with bated breath for Nischay’s debut album, and with this article we hope you are, too. 

Making Us Wonder: Interviewing Lily Holbrook

3 Mar

A couple of months ago, I checked out a show by the alternative rock musician Lily Holbrook. She killed it there, absoulutely blowing away every other act of that day. After the show, she agreed to be interviewed by Top Five Records, and the result is below.

Top 5 Records: Thank you for such a great show. That was a lot of fun. Did you enjoy it?

I did yeah

T5: Do you feel there is a large difference between a concert setting and busking?

Well that was a really cool experience because that was a great venue and I don’t play venues that nice all the time, so that was really fun. Busking has its advantages too. It is really connected to the people, very intimate, there’s a lot of interaction because people, especially when I do it right around here in the Castro there’s a lot of really unique people, and they’ll say funny things and they get very emotional sometimes because there are a lot of music fans in this neighborhood and people who connect with things that happened in their lives, so there’s some really interesting experiences that happened around here, just people get very involved with it and they’re walking right by you and they can stop and talk to you, and so it is really interactive. So that part is really cool. It is sometimes overwhelming, but it is really cool and a really unique experience.

Concerts are fun because of almost the opposite reason. Sometimes you want to just not have to interact as much. Even though actually I love interacting, sometimes there are times when I want to just perform and they be able to go backstage and just decompress. So it is kind of interesting because they are very different and I like both for their differences.

T5: You still busk, don’t you?

I do, I do. I probably will tonight, right around there.

T5: So, how does it feel performing with a band. That’s a newer thing for you.

It is. I have had bands in the past, usually for various reasons, it didn’t last very long. In this one, we seem to have a great connection so I’m hoping we last a long time and I love playing with them. There’s a lot of awesome things that come with playing with a band, but we are still working through technical stuff, because it’s harder for me to hear myself and so it’s a little harder for me to sing, because we get pretty loud and it’s different having to keep in time with them because I’m playing alone I really vary my timing which sometimes work really well because my vocals can then get really slow at times and speed up at times and I can do whatever I want. So with them, I can’t do that as much so there’s just some compromises that have to be made.

T5: Do you feel it’s less improvisational?

It is less improvisational, Yeah that’s true. I think that the more we practice, because we are a pretty new band, I think over time that we will be able to capture that improvisational feel, but right now we are still getting to know each other musically and figuring it all out but ultimately I enjoy it more, playing with a band.

T5: What about the name though? The Shivering Lilies, do you want to talk about that?

*Laughs a little* Sure, we had trouble coming up with a name no one could really agree on anything. I’m not sure why, but they really wanted to keep Lily in the name and I really didn’t care about it. It was really them, that wanted to and we kept just coming up with name and somebody said The Shivers, but there was a band already called that, and then I forget who, but one of the other band members said The Shivering Lilies, and we all really liked it, we thought it had a good ring, so we said Hey, we’ll go with that.

T5: Speaking of that, how does it feel to lead a band rather than just being yourself? Is there a difference?

There’s a big difference. It’s really cool to have a group of people to share things with. It takes a little bit of the pressure off, because it’s not just you. If you make a mistake, it’s all of you and not just me, but at the same time, it does take effort and working through differences and I really wanted to be like a band, and more than a backing band I like to think of us as equals, so at the same time, I have a strong personality when it comes to my music, I have strong opinions, so it takes a little letting go on my part and on their’s too. It’s just a lot of compromise. I think for any band, there’s a lot of compromise, so getting used to that is challenging, but it’s good.

T5: Do you view this as an evolution of your musical style. When I compare your first album to your later two, there’s a large difference over there. Is this part of that evolution, or is this it’s own separate offshoot?

This is. I always wanted to play with a band, but for various reasons I could never keep one together. I moved around a lot and I had record deals that fell through and all these crazy things were happening that made all of the bands that I was with dissolve quickly, but when I write music, most of the time I’m envisioning it with other instrumentation like on those later two albums. I never really wanted to be an acoustic artist although I still love acoustic music and I still want to do that to a degree, but I think that this was always a part of wanted to do.

T5: Coming back to your first album, I’ve read that you created that album after your brother died. Would you like to talk about that a little bit?

I can, yeah sure. It was a few years after my brother died. Some of the songs were written not long after he died, but it wasn’t recorded until four or five years later, but that was a very impactful event in my life, so five years wasn’t much time at all, even now it is the most critical event in my life really. Those songs really came from an interesting place, I don’t think I could ever recapture that. There was a lot of pain, but also a lot of beauty and kind of fairy-tale imagery that is somewhat connected to him because he had a big influence on me in that I have loved mythology and fantasy and he did as well, he was seven years older than me, so I got a lot of my appreciation for that from him. So, I connected those into the songs and used those as metaphors for how I was feeling and most of the album is about his passing and also the pains of letting go of childhood.

T5: Was it cathartic?

Yeah, definitely it was.

T5: You must have heard of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, did you know that he doesn’t perform that song anymore? He sang that about his son dying and feels that he has come to terms with his son’s passing and so he can’t summon the emotions needed to sing that anymore. Do you see a parallel?

Wow, that’s interesting. Well, some of those songs I don’t do anymore but actually, that’s more because they don’t translate as well without the strings and some of the other stuff that goes on. I still do some of the stuff though, but honestly I don’t know that I will ever fully come to terms. I have improved over time, but I don’t know if I ever see a time in my life when I couldn’t summon the emotion because it’s always going to be just something very painful. A lot of learning came out of it, I can live with it, but I think the emotion will always be there. But I understand that, and I think that’s good. I mean, closure is good.

T5: And to be fair, he’s had a lot more time to come to terms. But this brings us to an interesting point, you said that both your brother and you really enjoy mythology, and of course much of your music has a dark fantasy element running through it. Would you like to that about that?

It started when I was very young and I don’t really know why. It’s very common in little girls to like fairies and mermaids, so that’s pretty standard, I think I just took it to a higher level. I had a really vivid imagination, I was a really shy child and I wasn’t good at sports and things like that and that was very important in my school and sports were a big thing, so I kind of became very introverted and turned to art and music and my imagination. So, in my imagination, I was always creating these fantasies with dragons and princesses and castles and then I would also read literature and also my brother would play D&D, and so I would read the manuals and I was really fascinated by all the creatures. So, it just stuck with me, I never lost it and as I got older, I just continued my interest. I always loved the lighter side, but I also got interested in the darker side, like vampires and pretty much everything in fantasy I have an appreciation for. I think a lot of it just has to do with having that strong imagination and just being shy, so turning to that for some sort of comfort.

T5: So which is your favorite? Creature, setting or whatever.

I have a lot. I definitely really love the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table, and I love kind of that British huge castles and Celtic kind of feel, so that is one of my favorites.

T5: On that topic, did you like The Holy Grail?

Yeah, it’s really funny.

T5: It’s a very light-hearted take though and when I hear your music, it all seems much darker than you do in person. Do you feel that there is a separate part of you that is the creator?

Well, I do kind of have dual personalities going on and it’s a little bit sad. Before my brother died, I was always a dramatic person, who felt things very deeply but I also did have a very light-hearted, very silly side, which I still have, but it became somewhat diminished after that. Before he died, I used to listen to a lot of music that was dark, but I also listened to a lot of music that was more silly and playful, but it changed after that. For some reason my connection to music became a more serious, darker thing. So, I guess that event just changed a lot, but I still have that lighter side to me and I guess that I just project that to people. And also I don’t want to be all dark and brooding and bringing people down. I try not to. *laughs*

T5: So, what are you listening to these days?

Well, I listen to a whole bunch of different stuff and I listen to a lot of the stuff I’ve always loved like classic rock. Some of my favorites are the cure and Tori Amos, but some of the stuff that I’ve been listening to more recently . Over the past few years, I’ve started really liking this band called the Birthday Massacre. They’re kind of like a dark fairy tale kind of band. They’re a lot heavier than my music, but they still have some quite pretty, beautiful parts and the words are really kind of like a dark fairy tale. I love that and I really like a singer that a lot of people hate, Lana Del Ray.

T5: I think people love to hate her. I think the reason a lot of people hate her,is that they feel she is manufactured. I think people don’t complain as much about the music as about the fear that they’re being taken in.

I think if you listen to her body of music, it becomes really obvious that it couldn’t be manufactured. But you really have to listen to a lot of it. I think that if you just listen to one song here or there, some of the songs are not as good as others. I think that it’s just something you need to invest a little more time in to get what she’s trying to say Once you listen to a lot of her songs, you hear these similar things happening over and over that you can tell could only come from her, they couldn’t come from some guy in a suit somewhere in a record label. I think she really is an artist, but people don’t want to believe that for some reason. I know she can’t sing live very well, but I do think she is a great writer and writes great lyrics and melodies, Some people are just really great at one or two facets, and just don’t have the whole thing and I think that’s okay.

T5: I enjoy her music very much, but I can understand why people feel that she is manufactured because she is one image, and a very stereotypical image, one which has been done before and which has been known to sell. Do you feel that there is any image you embody? Because your music always seems to be very personal, but when you create is there someone you visualize saying these things.

I do just try to be very real and authentic and just say whatever is trying to come out. I think some people would say that is a strength and other people would say that it’s a weakness, because I really don’t have that instinct to brand myself and think “Oh, I’m going to dress like this and be this” because I really like a whole bunch of different fashions and imagery and different types of music and I’ve had problems with people on the business side of music because they do want you to kind of narrow yourself to one thing and that really leaves a bad taste in my mouth because that’s not me. So, I don’t really, I just kind of let it come out whoever it comes out, or I try to.

T5: So, as an extension of all of this, what are the next steps for you as an artist. We all love seeing you in these small halls, but everyone expects more from you because you have the talent to be on the same stage as say Tori Amos or Fiona Apple. Especially considering how weak Fiona Apple’s last album felt. So, this is still a small area, and we would like to see more and more people grow, so what are your plans over the next five or ten years.

So, I’m really hoping that the band’s going to get stronger and I’m hoping that we’re going to stay together for a long time and start creating new music together. We’re starting with that a little bit, but I’m hoping we’re going to start doing that a lot. I’m really hoping to put out a new album this year. My plan is that we’re going to do a Kickstarter because I wouldn’t be able to finance it on my own and also I never really actively pursued record deals, I kind of fell into then, but at this point, I think that I’d like to keep a record company out of it because I don’t really feel they help all that much. Especially my experience, because both my record deals ended because the companies went out of business and they didn’t treat me that decently.

So, to do the Kickstarter and could do well independently, I think that could be really awesome. That would be my first album since my first album that would be completely without any interference from record label people. So, it would be interesting to see what would happen with that.

T5: Do you have a name for that album?

I don’t have a name yet, but I do want to get it done before the year is over. We’ll see what the name ends up being.

T5: Can’t blame a guy for trying

And I’d love playing bigger venues like Great American and developing a bigger audience. My problem has always been that I’m kind of shy and I’m not a very aggressive person when it comes to the business side of things. I like to think I’m a friendly, nice person and I like to connect with the fans but I’m not really someone who aggressively pursues things maybe the way I should, but it doesn’t quite come natural to me and I think it’s kind of something about me that’s actually a good thing, but it’s kind of also a bad thing at the same time. Maybe with my band I can balance that out somehow.

T5: That’s where Kickstarter works very well for you, right? Because it gives you direct contact with your fans.

Definitely, yeah. So hopefully, maybe by Spring we’d like to start going through Kickstarter.

T5: Musically, are you aiming anywhere new with this album?

The band, all the members are going to bring their own feel to it. That will definitely color some of it. I want to bring some more electronic elements, but I still want it to be rooted in rock and roll and keep the organicness about it, but I would definitely like to add some more electronic influence on some of the tracks. Probably not all of it, but I’m not sure of a specific direction or theme. I think it would be leaning towards the same direction as Wicked Ways but maybe just a little bit more dynamic with some really big rocking parts and some really quiet pretty parts and maybe some more electronic mixed into it.

T5: Do you have any covers planned? You’ve had some really fun covers in the past, like It’s A Sin and interestingly Mama I’m Coming Home. How does it feel performing a cover as compared to your own song?

I love doing covers, I always have really loved doing covers. I think I’m a lot more relaxed with covers because I guess I have some deep-rooted insecurities, so with a cover I have all the faith that it’s a great song because someone else wrote it. So that frees me up a little maybe in the performance when it’s someone else’s song and I’m 100% sure it’s awesome.

T5: Over the past couple of days I’ve been addicted to a Freelance Whales cover of the Devo song Girl U Love. So, when Devo does it, it’s got a very inhuman feel, sort of as if it were robots laughing at human emotions and when The Freelance Whales do it, it’s very soppy and emotional. Do you feel when you take a song and cover it, do you feel that you add a lot of your own flavor to it?

A lot of times, yeah. I try to do that with most of my covers. Some of them are not that different from the original, but some of them, yeah. It’s A Sin, which is on Wicked Ways is an 80s dance song and its very uptempo and my version is very slow and dark. So, yeah I do like to do that, especially if I’m actually going to record it. I like to make it as different as possible and maybe bring out different qualities which are there, but not as obvious to the listener.

T5: Is there anything you would like to tell your audience here?

Well, my audience has kept me going. I’ve had a rough road and there have been times when I was really discouraged and felt really beaten up and didn’t think I could keep doing music, at least not as a full-time profession, because it is so hard. Even though I don’t have the biggest audience, they are very loyal and have given me constant positive feedback and kind, kind comments and really personal things that are amazing, things that I still can’t believe, “This song changed my life” or “This song helped me through my mother’s death”. Things like that. Those kinds of comments keep me going.

T5: Do you have a story like that that you would like to share?

Well, just the other day someone told me that the song Mermaids, their mom passed away and they said that song helped me get through her death and every time I hear it I think of her flying with the fairies and dancing with the mermaids. So, that really touched me, especially since that album is about my own brother’s death.

T5: I’m sure that felt very satisfying. That’s awesome.

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