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Bringing Out the Big Guns: A Conversation with Sriram TT of Skrat

13 Feb

Chennai-based three-piece Skrat is one of the most original bands in India. Their brand of lager-laden rock ‘n roll riffs have captured the imaginations of thousands of fans across the country. Recently, they debuted their third full-length independent album, The Queen. Singer/guitarist Sriram TT sat down with Top Five Records to talk about formative musical influences, the Skrat crew, a comic book-style universe of Skrat characters, and much more. Read on for an excerpt of the conversation.

Picture courtesy Skrat's Facebook page.

Picture courtesy Skrat’s Facebook page.

Top Five Records: Let’s start from the basics. I’ve seen some interviews and things you’ve done, and I understand that your band name is from Ice Age. But beyond the name, how did you guys meet?

Sriram: The band formed around the time we were all getting into college. Tapass and I have been friends since kindergarten. I’d met Satish through school cultural fests and common friends, so I’d already known him for a few years. It all came together.

TFR: There’s a lot of varied influences I can see in your music. What did you grow up listening to?

S: Actually, my house was always filled with country music and old swing jazz, the Rat Pack and Davis and stuff like that. My dad’s a big audiophile, so all the music I’d listened to at that time was predominantly from my dad. So it was a lot of country, a little bit of blues, and a lot of the Rat Pack kind of music. There was some older R&B as well. My dad really likes to explore and find new music.

TFR: So your parents are cool with you guys having the band and everything?

S: Of course! They love it. My father’s a big fan of music, and my mum likes music as well. In fact, my dad always wanted to be in something like this but never got around to doing it. I wouldn’t say they are the incredibly forward-thinking kind of support that you may expect, but not forbidding [the music] is a big support for me.

TFR: I was at Weekender for the past few years, and your stage presence is just amazing! This time at the NH7 Weekender in Bangalore, Skrat played back-to-back with TAAQ, which I found really interesting because both of you were debuting new albums. Everyone loves your popular songs like “Tin Can Man” and “Samurai Badass”, but how do you get people to move away from that and listen to your newer material?

S: The biggest challenge for most musicians is, once you’ve created something that people like, how can you create something new that people are going to gravitate towards. A while ago, we had a band meeting to decide whether we should make music more like “Tin Can Man”, because people like that sort of thing. At one point, we realized that we’re not trying to make music, we’re trying to engineer it. So we dropped everything and decided to whatever we wanted to do. If people like it, they like it.

And it’s actually been a positive response. All of the reviews say that this album was a lot better. And I do feel that The Queen has caught on a lot faster than the older albums caught on at that time. In fact, we actually get people singing along to and shouting out for newer songs like “Machete” and “Stomp”.

TFR: Yeah, we really loved your album. It’s funny that you mentioned “Machete” and “Stomp”. I wanted to ask you about these two songs (since they don’t even have words in the chorus), and how they relate to your song-writing process in general. Does the riff come first, or do the words come first?

S: “Machete” is based on a big problem we have in Tamil Nadu, and everywhere really: about politicians and goons being the same thing, basically. We’ve always been subjected to torture by these guys, with their white cars and plastic flags – whether it’s something small like creating ruckus on the road, or something big like not letting a business deal go through because they didn’t get their cut. So on “Machete”, the two verses are kind of like a rant against all that, and the chorus is about how there’s nothing to lose when they have nothing to black-mail you with. And that’s why the chorus has no words. (Laughs)

Stomp” is a similar thing, but more about a person being subjected to this kind of stuff. On this song, the words and riff kind of came to me simultaneously. I had originally made the song on an acoustic guitar. In fact, the reason we called it “Stomp” was because the whole song was supposed to be me on an acoustic guitar and a board; very Delta blues kind of thing. And then we tried it on electric and the whole thing became heavy and fun, so we decided to go with that.

TFR: A song that we mentioned before was “Samurai Badass”, which is probably your most well-known song. I think you guys are into manga and anime, so is it related to that?

S: (Laughs) Yeah, we’re big comic fans. More into cartoons and comic books than anime, but yeah. “Samurai Badass” is basically an alter ego of what we were feeling at the time. It boils down to the same thing that Skrat’s been talking about: the only way one person can be not pushed around is if he has nothing to lose.

I find my writing to be a lot more authentic if I am able to create a character having the qualities I want to sing about, rather than singing about the qualities themselves. Suppose I wanted to say, “A person who has nothing to lose can’t be pushed around”. I could have said these lines in a song, but I thought, why not create a character who has nothing to lose and can’t be pushed around? That was my original intent, when I wrote the song on acoustic guitar. But then Tapass came in and said, “Dude, let’s try this on electric!” and that’s how that happened.

TFR: You seem to have so many acoustic versions of Skrat songs. You should actually do an acoustic show!

S: Actually, all of the Skrat songs, whether you believe it or not, are made on an acoustic guitar! (Laughs) And “Samurai” was supposed to be like an Irish pub song, where you get together with friends and drink beer. It kind of became this heavy punk rock song with the electric.

The cool thing now is these characters that we have been developing. Our first album Design had a character called Gunslinger who we brought back in The Queen. I’ve now started working on an entire character universe, and all the characters on all Skrat songs belong to this universe: Tin Can Man, Samurai Badass, Gunslinger, The Queen, Loverider. It’s basically how I grew up. Wild imagination, imaginary friends, single child, all of that stuff.

TFR: Tell us about the Skrat crew. Who are these people, and how do you get them to follow you around?

S: Anyone who helps Skrat, like photographers and sound engineers, are basically part of the Skrat crew. The concept has really caught on ever since we introduced it in 2013. The crew has taken complete ownership. Now we’re coming out with a short movie, revolving around how the entire Skrat crew rode on bikes for our 20-day tour last year.

TFR: Oh, is this the Loverider Experience?

S: Yes, it is. On tour, sometimes I’d wake up in the morning, and these guys would already be in a Skrat meeting. They told me that my job is to write songs, play and do interviews. So they really take ownership. And the Skrat crew has slowly been expanding. It’s 40 to 50 people now! It gives me a little fear because I’m not even paying them, and they are just coming along because they like the music or they’re my friends. On our fourth album, which we’ve already started writing, we’ve put in a song dedicated to the Skrat crew.

TFR: Something we’ve all wondered at Top Five Records is about how Chennai is able to produce so many unique, well-formed bands: Skrat, the Shakey Rays, the F16s, Adam and the Fish-Eyed Poets. Is there something in the water there?

S: I think it’s because we’re slightly remote from any scene. Bombay has its scene, Bangalore has its scene, and you’ve got the scene people. We’ve had no “right way” to do it. We could do whatever we wanted because it was music in the end. It’s not like that in a lot of scenes. You know all those arguments saying, if you don’t like Pink Floyd, then how can you like RATM? So I’m one of those guys who says, I’m a big fan of Limp Bizkit but I don’t really like David Bowie, and people just lose their shit! “How can you say that? You have no taste in art!” and all that.

Another reason is that we’ve all kind of grown up together in Chennai, musically and otherwise. And of course, the fact that it’s Chennai adds a little bit of mystery. So we don’t really have a scene, and we just go off to Bangalore or Bombay to do shows.

TFR: There’s not many venues in Chennai, either.

S: Nothing, absolutely nothing, which is why there’s no scene. But, there’s always a flip-side to it. Chennai has no scene but it has a lot of good bands coming up.

TFR: You mentioned that things in the industry are geared towards more established cities like Bombay and Bangalore. Was it tough to break into the music scene as a Chennai band?

S: Very. Everyone knows Skrat as a band from 2012, but we’ve been a band from 2006. The first six years were just hell. During 2009 to 2010, we had about 20 shows that were cancelled on us in a matter of about 8 months. They’d book us, and then they’d cancel. It was very demotivating, and we’d never get gigs, let alone paid gigs. Even free gigs would get cancelled. Because of all this, a lot of bands contemporary with us broke up.

But Tapass and I had this one thing we’d always say to each other: we’ll play. We’ll play for two people, three people, doesn’t matter. There was no crew or anything at that time, absolutely barebones. We did these things called “sell-outs” where we did RATM covers. Even then, it sucked. Our original guitarist and original vocalist had quit. We ended up as a three-piece, and it really sucked. It was like one of those dreams where you’re running and you can’t run fast enough. It was depressing.

Around that time, we were in a jam session and we were really frustrated. Tapass threw his toms and said, “Fuck it, I don’t want to do it.” I plugged out of my pedal board and went directly into the amp, and we said, “Fuck it, let’s just play something, just for fun.” And in about an hour, we made all of the songs on “In the Shed”. We just jammed, and it suddenly gave us the answer we were looking for.

TFR: Nice. Like true punk in a way.

S: Yeah, or whatever punk means in India, at least. Listen, everybody in India has decent parents and grandmothers. There’s no way you’re punk rock, please. If someone comes up to me and says they’re punk, I’d say, “Fuck you, go home and eat thaiyir sadam.” Punk rock was invented to fight people like Lady Gaga, but in India we don’t have a Lady Gaga, we have Bollywood. Abroad, people may listen to both Lady Gaga as well as punk rock, but here, the people who listen to Bollywood don’t even care about us! That’s why I never go out and diss Bollywood. I think what they’re doing is genius, and we should figure out a way to cash in on what they’re doing.

TFR: Very true. So for this last part, I have a few rapid fire questions to ask you. First one. Who’s one artist in India that you really click with?

S: I would have to say the F16s.

TFR: Favorite venue, and why?

S: High Spirits, Pune. Everyone’s there to have a good time. They’re going have a good time whether you’re good or not, and if they think you’re good, they have an even better time. It’s a great vibe, and I love the management there.

TFR: Favorite album of all time?

S: Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water by Limp Bizkit.

TFR: Very left-of-centre. I’m glad you didn’t say Revolver by The Beatles or something.

S: No chance. I’m a Beatles fan, but no, man.

TFR: Last one. What’s on your playlist right now?

S: Dinosaur Pile-up. Got introduced to them in NH7 Weekender. A country artist called Shovels & Rope. And Ty Segal.

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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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