Sunday, October 30, 2005

Anna Wolfe

What is success? A definition could be "good fortune." In the music industry, one could summise that success is equated with a hit record and/or, simply, a hit song. But for Anna Wolfe, hits are not the bottom line.

"Music is Spirit and it makes me feel sick and angry these days when all people think is worthwhile about music is a hit song or being a mega star. It seems most people think anyone who doesn't reach these heights is a failure. That means they didn't 'make it.' 'Make it' to where? To the moon? What about making it back home to themselves?! What ever happened to the joy of simply learning to be a better musician?"

One listen to Wolfe's newest CD, My Treasure, and the proof is self-evident. Anna Wolfe loves making music, and, as her bio aptly put it, "Anna Wolfe is unforgetable." Furthermore, hits are not the ultimate goal for her. "There are a lot of people here who are obsessed with getting a hit song," explains Wolfe. "I have been pursuing my own writing and performing, which is safely out of the main stream."

TGB recently spoke to this charismatic singer/songwriter about her most recent release. We delved into the various relationships and friendships that are dearest to her. Finally, Ms. Wolfe breaks down the music and lyrics on My Treasure.

Tell us about your relationship with Wendy Waldman. What do you think Wendy saw in you?

Well, here is a quote: "Anna Wolfe is a gifted poet and singer whose work has tremendous courage and insight. Her songs are completely fresh and unique. She is without a doubt one of the most original artists I have met in many years." WW

Wendy and I grew to be good friends through the production of My Treasure. Our experience working together was wonderful and supportive. Her studio is in her home in California and it is very cozy and comfortable. We used to knit while listening back to tracks. This helped relax my mind so I could hear the music without anxiety warping my ears. Wendy taught me how to crochet. I think Wendy is a very old world, old soul. I could see her living in a stone cabin by the sea with her weaving and her spinning. I think maybe we came from the same village in Heaven and she is my sister. We tended our sheep together and wore peasant clothes.

With regards to "My Treasure," what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the string arrangements. Wendy, a composer named Seth Osborn and I, arranged the strings together. I have yet to be able to master writing down the notes to music. Seth did that part. I played what I heard in my head on the piano and he wrote the parts on the staff. Wendy helped with her ideas as well. Seth added some of his complexities. But it was the first time I was able to get the classical arrangements out of my head and on to paper. And the best part was, Wendy had a quartet come out from the LA Symphony and they recorded the tracks. I couldn't be more pleased with how the strings turned out. I must say, I am very proud of the strings on this record.

Your lyrics have a sense of spirituality to them. Is that am important of your life?

Everything is some form of Spirit. Music is the vibration of Spirit that can move through you completely and has the power to heal or harm. I always want my music to come from a place of Spirit. The Spirit in all reality. I try to write only from my heart, so that about covers it, as the heart is the doorway to God. Through my heart, God plays me as an instrument. I am trying my best to fulfill my purpose on this planet, which I believe is to be a healing musician. But I hope an atheist could listen to my songs and still enjoy them and receive benefit.

Who was "Close Call" written for? Please explain that story, if you will.

"Close Call" was written for a friend of mine who was in two near fatal car wrecks as a result of driving under the influence. Occasionally, I will ask the audience during my show if anyone has an idea for a song. One night I asked this question. This friend, who happened to be in the audience, came up to me afterwards and told me to write a song about the feeling of waking up in a hospital bed for the second time after another car crash. That's how the song came to be.

I sense there are some stories from childhood weaved into the lyrics of this album. Correct?

Yep. I am a product of my childhood and of my struggles to get through it. My past gave me the invaluable box of paints I get to use today. Now I can paint as richly and deeply as I want, because I've got materials rooted in rich soil.

What went into your decision to move to Nashville?

Anywhere I go, I follow my heart. I was pulled to Albuquerque. Then after 7 wonderful years, I felt pulled to Virginia, then pulled to Nashville. All of these places have felt right at the time, and there has been a reason for me to live there. But my husband and I just bought our first house here in Nashville, so, I feel like I'm finally putting my roots down.

You write about wanting to be a mother. Describe that feeling. You also spoke of a psychic's prediction. Do you think the prediction will come true?

I do long to be a mother. But I really don't think that now is the time. Unless God has a big surprise for me and Philip! I would be ecstatic but it would mean a lot of change.

I doubt the psychic's prediction will come true. But I've already got some twins names picked out just in case. It is fun to think of names for twins! Ever tried it? Like Amos and Andy or Bert and Ernie!

You credit your husband with "Overall Support." How much has he meant to your success?

Good grief! What a question! I can't say. It's just too deep and too much to express. But to the bottom of the ocean runs my gratitude for him and all he has done for me.

What brings you the most satisfaction: writing a song or hearing the completed version for the first time?

The process of writing the song and singing it for the first time as I write it. This brings me so much joy.

Tell us what the next few months has in store?

The next few months I plan on staying at home except for this trip out to Albuquerque and a trip out to Seattle for the RockRGirl Convention. I'm going to get to listen to one of my all time favorite artists, Patti Smith, speak and perform at the conference. I have some performances here in Nashville. I imagine I'll be unpacking the rest of the boxes from moving and hanging up some artwork on the walls. As usual, I'll be playing frisbee with my dog Artemis. I am also working on being much more disciplined in many areas of my life, such as, rehearsing and working in my office. And of course, the holidays are fast approaching. Christmas being my favorite!

Anna Wolfe:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

SFTS: Love of Diagrams

Allow me to show my ignorance. When I think of Australia and the music emanating from down under, bands such as INXS, Midnight Oil, AC/DC, the Little River Band, and (ready for this one!) Olivia Newton-John come to mind. Very limited I would say.

"There's a lot happening in Australia these days!" says bassist Antonia Sellbach of Love of Diagrams. "But I don’t know how much the rest of the world knows about it."

The threesome of Sellbach, Monika Fikerle (drums) and Luke Horton (guitar) came together in 2001. After playing house parties, the band decided that with such positive crowd response they should consider making the act a serious venture. In 2003, The Target is You was released and followed by international touring. Still, building an audience in their native Australia did not come without a plethora of elbow grease.

"I think that the difference between Australia and, for instance, the UK or America is that down here you have to be really mainstream to become famous. With a few exclusions, the small indie rock bands don’t get enough support and there aren’t enough independent labels to give that either. But in a way that makes the music scene down here very interesting."

Sellbach sees the Australian market as DIY. "You have all these great bands that pretty much have to do everything for themselves instead of relying on corporations or bigger record labels. It’s very pro active, and it means we have a healthy underground. Bands don’t just get big and sell out. It's not that easy to do."

When asked which bands deserve attention, Sellbach named Architecture in Helsinki, Bird Blobs, The Drones, Fabulous Diamonds and Witch Hats. Of course, Love of Diagrams gets added to this list.

TGB recently received communiques from Antonia Sellbach of Love of Diagrams. Check it out.

Tell me about those house parties you first played together at. Can you remember when you began to know that playing together professionally was worth pursuing?

When we started playing together, as in jamming together I should say, it was more about getting together and playing music. Finding that we could do it and enjoying working together, enjoying the physicality, the rush of improvising together made it something we started to do a lot. We played a few house parties at first because it was ‘informal’ and I think that was all we felt like doing at the time. Following that, we got asked to play some gigs and we were all extremely nervous at first. Getting up on stage in front of an audience was confronting and we all faced that fear early on. It was probably a combination of the response we got from the audience (which was very favourable), and the fact that playing live shows started to become addictive that propelled us to keep going. I think we are really lucky in that respect.

From what I read, it sounds like you had a great time playing the USA. Are there any noticeable differences between audiences in the states and those from other countries?

Well one great thing about the states was that everywhere we went there seemed to be really healthy band scenes. So many more places to travel too. You can REALLY tour in the states, and there are lots of young bands playing interesting music, cooperative D.I.Y venues, and we found that everywhere we went. Audiences seemed to really like us over there and it felt like we fit in. In Australia, if you do a tour, there are only seven main cities, if that.

Audiences in the states were very similar to audiences back home in Australia. It was, though, a stark contrast to some of the other shows we have played in the past. When we toured Europe we played a lot throughout the Baltic States, Eastern Europe etc., and the crowds there went ballistic! It was a big deal for them that a band had traveled all the way from Australia to play to them. The crowds over there went wild and I think that is because not that many bands bother to travel through there. One thing that kind of surprised me at first was how many people there were that were into our kind of music, and also who were interested in D.I.Y culture, zines, etc. We played lots of shows in squats but they were some of the best shows for us. The energy in the crowd was absolutely palpable!

What juicy tidbits can you give us about your new material? When can we expect a new disc?

We are about to go to Chicago to record with Bob Weston (Mission of Burma, Shellac). So our next album should be out early next year. It is an exciting time for us. We have all these new songs which we are on the brink of recording! With the new material, we have tried to achieve a balance between the instrumental parts and those parts with vocals. When we started out as a band we were instrumental, and with our last EP we started singing. I think there are some instrumental purists out there who would have preferred us to stay instrumental, but we have all found it really exciting and challenging to try and incorporate vocals into our music. With this new material the aim has been, at times, to treat the vocals more like another instrument, not let them take over too much, or overly explain the music. We wanted them to be playful and experimental, and, to some extent, for the listener to be able to come to their own conclusions as to what the songs may be about. We also have a couple more ‘laid back’ songs which will be on the album. A change for us as we are usually quite frenetic, but I think they will work well in the context of all the other songs we have written for it.

Tell me how Bob Weston became involved in the forthcoming project?

We had heard a lot about Bob’s studio (Electrical Audio), which he shares with Steve Albini in Chicago. Electrelane, a band we have recently toured with, had recorded their last two albums there. The Breeders have also recorded there recently, I think. We emailed the studios and were lucky enough to get a reply within 15 minutes! Bob listened to our stuff and said he like it and wanted to work with us. It was a bit of a dream come true for us actually, and it just so happened that we had some money saved that meant we could cover most of the costs as well.

What goes into the decision of choosing a producer?

We had a bit of a shortlist, I suppose. Guy Picciotto from Fugazi was another producer we wanted to work with, but it also came down to who was available at the time we had planned to go over and record.. We listened to A LOT of albums by different producers and we had lengthy conversations over the pros and cons of it all! In the end it wasn’t really a hard choice to make.

Your sound has gone through quite an evolution. Should we expect that continue with your new music?

Yes, I think that will continue to happen. We have never been a band that likes to change ourselves for anyone else. We are dedicated to playing but we are also dedicated to creating music which excites us and that we feel is unique. Whenever something starts to feel too easy its because you haven’t taken the next step, and I think we are all pretty keen on maintaining that feeling of being constantly challenged.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Silver Sunshine

There is no denying that the music business is all about cycles. What was hot and en vogue yesterday is sure to return to tomorrow. Simply give it time and watch. The current trend seems to indicate the 60's have made a full fledged return. Many musicians have begun to incorporate that sounds and ideals of the 60's and incorporate them into their music.

One such outfit is San Diego, CA's, Silver Sunshine. Spin Magazine astutely commented, "In the spirit of peace, love and la la la-ing, this San Diego quartet mines the pop (and poppies) of the psychedelic-rock 60's and 70's, uncovering wonderfully bright, singsong John and Paul melodies."

Silver Sunshine is comprised of Richard Vaughan (guitar, vocals), Conor Riley (guitar, vocals), and Stuart Sclater (bass). Former Dwarves' drummer Chris Fields had all but signed on the dotted line to join the band, but decided against the idea several days after accepting the gig. Still, Silver Sunshine continues to roll on; scheduling several west coast dates in support of Winter Flowers.

Silver Sunshine is currently working on new material for areleasee that should see the light of day in early 2006. In the meantime, the band has released a CD EP entitled A Small Pocket of Pure Spirit. The logic behind this EP, according to Richard Vaughan, "...was to use it as a transition into our next album. A sort of bridge. Also, we wanted to give our fans some new material that had evolved since the first album."

TGBrecentlyy exchanged emails with Richard Vaughan.

Three main songwriters is quite a luxury, but I would also guess that it can be difficult weaving three distinct personalities. Therefore, how does your band mold three songwriters, three personalities, and come out with Silver Sunshine's sound?

Musically, there is a broad spectrum of inspiration that we all share. We're all on the same page and each of us know in which direction we want our sound to go. I think we're fortunate in that way. When someone writes something new, we can all feel the songwriter's vision and we end up adding little pieces of our own ideas. The end result always comes out sounding like Silver Sunshine because we all contribute in some way.

What (or Who) fuels your love of the 60's?

Analog, progressive & creative songwriting, good hooks, cryptic lyrics, live/studio effect wizardry, organic sounds. This is what fuels our love for music in general, not just the 60's. It just so happens that many late 60's and early 70's groups captured all of these elements so perfectly.

I'm going to guess that one or all of the band members are avid readers. What are you currently sinking your teeth into? What was it that attracted you to this (these) book(s)?

To be honest, between commuting to and from my day job and writing and rehearsing, I haven't had much time for reading as of late. I did just pick up a couple of books from the swap meet - mostly for the illustrations: Aubrey Beardsly - Selected Drawings and Faust by Goethe, illustrated by Harry Clarke. Beardsley and Clarke produced some of the most beautiful, disturbing, surreal and psychedelic drawings I've ever seen.

Describe these darker and heavier territories that you find yourselves being pulled into?

Since our last album was released, we've been digging on heavier freak rock, progressive and wyrd folk sounds and it's definitely coming out in our current songwriting, both instrumentally and lyrically. That and with the approaching winter months, it was inevitable.

Your bio quoted a magazine that proclaimed SS as something akin to the voice of a new generation. What sort of pressures does a statement like that place on you as a band and as musicians? Consequently, what pressures do you place on yourselves?

We don't feel any pressure at all by that statement. That was just something positive and complimentary that a music reviewer said about our album. It was flattering but we don'tnecessarilyy feel that we're the voice of a new generation. We're just writing music that we love.

Congratulations on your SDMA nomination. What does that type of recognition mean to you personally, and as a band?

Thanks. Of course it was nice to be nominated and it did help us to get our name more recognized locally, which turned on some new people to our music - that's all that mattered to me. I'm not surprised that we didn't win though. I think we're a bit too underground compared to our competition.

What can you divulge about your new material and/or forthcoming album?

Our new material is getting more progressive. Our next album will reflect that along with more organic, woodsy sounds. We feel it's the best stuff we've ever written and we're all really excited about it. New inspiration. Change is good.
Empyrean Records:

Friday, October 14, 2005

SFTS: Hi-Fi Sky/Alexandra Scott

Hi-Fi Sky's Alexandra Scott has her priorities straight. "Find an apartment. Get my dog up to New York. Go to New Orleans and pack. Play a gig here in New York this Thursday. Make my life a bit more regular so I can start writing every day again, and cooking, and eating green vegetables. Get a winter coat. Emerge from the seemingly inevitable self-absorption of sadness and take care of the people in my life again, and do some volunteer work. Read Proust. Catch up on sleep."

Scott and her Hi-Fi partner, Tim Sommer, survived the tragedy and devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Fortunately, they have found the reserve to continue. That includes a solo effort entitled Spring, touring, and simply living life.
Back in the 70s, Batman aired as a television series starring Adam West. Joan Collins played a villain known as The Siren. She could put men under her spell simply with her voice, not to mention her sheer beauty. Consider Alexandra Scott a siren for our times, except that she doesn't lure listeners to their destruction, but to splendor. Her ability to sing in French suggests the lure Morticia had on Gomez Adams. I wonder if she has ever had men kiss her up and down her arm?

Hi-Fi Sky's recent effort is entitled Music For Synchronized Swimming in Space. Neufutur magazine recently wrote: "Simply put, Hi-Fi Sky has put out a disc that brings the listeners into swaddling and warm chests; nothing is lacking as each string plucked provides a vital step to the disc’s inevitable end." While Kyndmusic summed up the effect of listening to the music by saying, "All the while a reviewer slips silently off of his chair and disintegrates into the carpet, leaving only a headphone which sprouts magnolia blossoms and melts into white noise."

TGB recently exchanged emails with Alexandra Scott and asked questions about both HI-FI SKY and her solo career, as well as her literary endeavors.

First, and foremost, how are the members of the band personally getting along after the destruction?

I guess we're all okay. Everyone I know right now is measuring themselves against the people who are worse off - so my friend who lost his whole house, all his instruments, and so on, still feels guilty because his family is okay and they're not in a shelter. Tim, Sam and I are okay, but, speaking purely for myself, that doesn't mean there isn't a level of shock and pain and fear in our lives that is really staggering. It's interesting to see what animals we humans truly are; there's a terror that comes simply from having been driven out of your den, with winter coming - or at least there was for me, and I had options the whole time. We're not going to live in the same place anymore, and that's really hard to contemplate. Tim and his wife have moved to North Carolina. Sam and his whole family are in Tennessee, and I think they want to go back to New Orleans when they can, but for now Sam and his brother are in college, and his little sisters are in school. I'm in New York City, playing lots of gigs, writing songs, starting some new musical projects, writing my book and working. As much as we can say that we'll continue the band remotely, that's pretty hard to do unless you're already quite rich and successful. A lot of things that we all loved are just gone. Some of them are just farther away than they used to be, and some of them are truly gone. Our little musical community in New Orleans, which was pretty tight and worked together well, has been blasted apart, and even though maybe it'll be better for everyone individually in the long run, it's still a sad fact. But the fact that we are all alive and healthy and can even talk about how we might go about making music means that we are, indeed, okay. I hate it when people dwell on their sufferings. We'll be fine. We're all pretty tough people. Which is not to say I personally don't still feel really sad, on a level I'd never touched before.

You hear bands constantly talk about music first. Several performer have said things akin to "Music first, sanity second." Where do ones priorities go after an event such as a hurricane? How does one recover?

Um, well, I actually think that only a person who's never dealt with any kind of serious mental disorder -depression or bipolarity or schizophrenia - either firsthand or secondhand, would make such a jackass comment. All you have to do is look at Syd Barrett to see that losing your sanity doesn't help you make music. However, to get off my high horse and answer your question, music can be first when you have a place to sleep and food to eat and clothes to wear, but when you're busy trying to arrange for all those matters for yourself and the ones you love, I think it takes a backseat. That said, whenever there's been a moment of peace, I've written. I've gotten great comfort from singing and playing my guitar, or from getting to play someone's piano, because that to me is a home-like state - it's familiar, it's beloved, and so no matter where I am and how lost I'm feeling, playing makes me feel better. I have noticed one strange change in myself. I'm normally frightfully shy and self-conscious about playing, and won't ever play for my friends because it's almost painful for me, but a lot of people have asked me to sing or play for them since the storm, and every time, I've found that I've actually really enjoyed it, and found it rather uplifting. And I think that's really what music should be - a gift from the singer or the instrumentalists to the listener.

And the truth is that every single person with music in their blood will start thinking about how and when and where he or she is going to make music again, just as soon as it's possible to think those thoughts. If music weren't a compulsion, people would stop making it once they realized what a hard life being a musician really is.

Considering the traditions of New Orleans music, where does Hi-Fi Sky fit in?

Well, in many ways it doesn't, but obviously we draw on a lot of Cajun music, melodically, and in some cases with whole songs. And if you've ever lived in New Orleans, I think you can hear it in the music in an abstract way that I'm not sure I can articulate, but it feels like, it sounds like, New Orleans. (At least Tim and I think so, and that's what people have told us.) And Hi-fi Sky is linked to a lot of great bands from New Orleans that nobody's ever heard of, because nobody ever thinks that there's music in New Orleans besides brass bands and jazz and funk. But there are bands like Chef Menteur - a brilliant and almost unknown band - and Mexico 1910, that we share influences andfavoritess with; and that community of abstract musicians is a real part of New Orleans, in the same way that the huge Vietnamese settlement -which nobody but New Orleanians knew about, really - was a part of New Orleans. One of the downsides of the tourist industry is that it simplifies the image of the city into a parody of itself. We live in New Orleans - or did - and we love it - and always will -and therefore this is New Orleans music. It was made there, it was written there, it was recorded there, our last show was the day before we allevacuatedd, on a beautiful hot day by Bayou St. John - oh, it was so hot, I almost fainted - so Hi-fi Sky is super-saturated with New Orleans. We grew out of the soil of New Orleans and became what we are, and what will be next. It was New Orleans' gift to us.

If you were teaching a cooking class, and Hi-FiSky _________ (fill in the blank) was on the menu, what ingredients would it contain?

Oh, god. I want to say we'd be Key Lime Pie. Or something sweet & sour. Maybe a good coconut green curry with kaffir lime leaves. Since I'm writing this, I'll say for sure that it's a vegetarian dish. It would be something that you could eat a lot of without feeling really sleepy and sick. One review once said we were like red beans and rice eaten with a Tylenol P.M. Does that work for you?

It sure does. Define your fan base. Who are the people who listen to your music?

Aside from the ones I know, I think we might have the world's weirdest fan base. There are regular oddball music kids who come to our shows, and then there are grown-up families who bring their little kids to dance to the music. A lot of massage therapists I know play the cd all the time. Modern dancers. My mom. A friend of my mom's stole it while she was recovering from surgery because it made her feel better. Our friend Peter puts his two-year old and his twelve-year old to sleep with it. Another friend calls it his get-some-nookie music, which is nice for everyone, though I kind of wish he'd left the details out when he told me that. I really hope that we can always be a band that is excited to see at our shows both indie-record-nerds and also the kind of people who love music but feel like they could never come to a 'show' - shy people, people over fifty, and so on. As Tim says, "It's a drone. Drones are good. Everyone loves a drone."

Describe the book you are writing?

Well, the Hi-fi Sky book, alas, got shelved. A woman who really likes Tim (but really dislikes me) offered to introduce him to her book agent but only if he would submit something I wasn't involved in, so after some pretty heated discussion, we just threw the HFS book away. So he's working on a novel that he's been writing for about five years, which I won't describe,as that's his prerogative, but it's quite good (I can say that much because I think I've read more of it than anyone), and I am writing a novel also (What a pair of eggheads we are, really!). Mine is a ghost story, and it's set in New Orleans - by which I mean my New Orleans, the way I lived in it until the day I left for the storm - I haven't been back and seen it otherwise yet - and though I've just written and deleted three sentences describing it further, it would appear that that is as much as I can say until the work is ready to speak for itself.

What crime are you currently working toward solving? Where are you in the investigation?

The only crime that I care about right now is the criminal neglect of the black citizens of New Orleans by the government that sought election in order to take oath to protect all citizens, of every colour, of this country.

Your solo is (obviously) a departure from Hi-Fi Sky. Was it important that the two be as distinct as possible?

I suppose it is important, but we didn't set out to make them distinct projects. They just are. My solo work, with Tim producing, came first; that's how we got to know each other; that's how I found Sam. I can't say how it is for the others, but for me, it's all music, it's all my music, it's all dear to my heart, so I don't draw lines between it or even let myself think much about whether other people do so. I think of all things in the world, music, especially, shouldn't have boundaries and distinctions, and, while obviously not many people agree with that, in terms of my own thinking about my own music, I just don't allow it. They're certainly different, in every way, and for sure in my own experience of them. Hi-Fi Sky is a kind of rapturous experience for me, and I think also for Tim and Sam, and because of our own delight in it, I feel pretty hopeful that we'll find a way to keep doing it.
What are your plans for near future?

Remember to be grateful and to be happy that I have my life, even if it seems unrecognizable or daunting nowadays, at times.

Hi-Fi Sky:
Alexandra Scott:

Sunday, October 09, 2005

SFTS: The A-Sides

"I feel like we're getting closer to a time where actualpopular music can be brilliant again," explains Jon Barthmus of Philadelphia's The A-Sides, "and that's really exciting." But will "pop music" ever be clearly defined?

"Fairly early in the pop life cycle something got lost. Now it doesn't have the same currency that it used to. For me it implies an invisible force. Something that just connects with people on some kind of bizarre level and on a massive scale."

Barthmus goes on to say that while his interpretation may have nothing to do with the actual definition, he strongy believes it comes down to one thing. "People are crafting melodies all the time but for some reason some just hit you more than others. Its all just combinations of notes and words."

While there may be no clear definition for pop music, the A-Sides seem to have hit on a formula that works for them. Regarding their latest release, Hello,Hello, the Philadelphia Weekly wrote, "Jangly and crisp, the album recalls a Shins record in its mining of familiar '60s influences for a lush, bright-hued sound that feels brand-new. It's stronger and sweeter than nearly every record that came during the "Psychedelphia" phase of Philadelphia's indie rock scene."

TGB spoke to Jon Barthmus of The A-Sides, a band who consider themselves the quintessential free pizza.

Your lyrics are very optimistic. Are you a "glass is half-full" person? band?

I would say that we are a glass half-full type band. I don't know if some of the lyrics are really all that optimistic. A lot of them are more indifferent than anything. The newer material has a much wider range of emotion. Less about love, more about death, and life.

Magnet Magazine wrote that you were wanting "to escape from this dazzling hall of mirrors..." Where would like to escape to?

First off, the hall of mirrors bit was the Magnet writer's deal, not ours. For us, it's not really escapism, just progression. If you follow the life of our band from demo, to 7" record, to this full length, it's been quite a transformation already. Most of it was just testing the waters, trying to write great pop music. We were studying the people that have done it best and those influences were huge. It seems like now we're ready to really do it in our own way. The future for us will take these melodies, and harmonies and put them in a different context. It won't sound 60s, although the remnants will be there. So if we're trying to escape anything, it's our own preconceptions about music and sound.

I sense that your sound is akin to picking fruit from a variety of trees in a single grove. If another band were to go through the A-Sides grove of trees, what would they be picking?

If another band were picking from our grove I would hope that they would dig a little bit and pick the seeds. So far I think the essence of our music has been more interesting than the superficial product. The sound quality and the melodies, the ideas and the fascination. It's a pretty good blueprint I think.

How has Hello, Hello surpassed your expectations? Where has it fallen short?

When we went in to record the album we had never put in any significant studio time. Especially not in such a great studio with such amazing people. Brian McTear had a huge influence on the sound of that record because of his knowledge regarding the recording process and his understanding of sound. It sounded exponentially better than any of us could have imagined and that's the most important part.

We would have liked to have seen better distribution but working with such a small label (Prison Jazz, who are amazing!) has its limitations. The record does seem to be continuing making its way around. New things keep popping up so it still has some life in it. It has been over a year since we recorded it though so more than anything we're ready for another round. Hello, Hello will always have a place for us, but we're too excited about our newer songs to dwell on it.

Label: Prison Jazz -
Also available: Seeing Suzy/Going Gone (7")

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Celebration Time!!!

The Great Beyond Marks Its First Anniversary

It was one year ago that The Great Beyond made its debut. This endeavor started as a labor of love, and it continues to be so. My love of music dates back many years (my first album was Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic), but the expansion of musical tastes has taken place over the last ten years. Working on The Great Beyond has given me the good fortune of discovering new sounds from around the world.

There are many people to thank. First, my family. To my beautiful wife, Debbie, for providing me unconditional love and for having the patience so that I may have the opportunity to pursue this creative outlet. You are a treasure. To my daughter, Calle, who I'm hoping is learning to appreciate the immense musical talent that exists on our planet. Your love has meant so much to me, and I cannot begin to thank you enough.

To all the musicians, labels, and publicists who have shared their talents, gifts, and words. Without you having the courage and faith to sit down and write a few words, this blog would be a mere shell of itself. I am honored to be able to help, and appreciate the talents that you bring to the musical spectrum of our world.

In year two, I hope to take The Great Beyond to new heights. My goal is to have a radio show, and, possibly, a syndicated column. In the meantime, I hope you find this blog insightful, and are able to expand your knowledge of music.


Sal Treppiedi

Here are a few congratulatory messages:

Sal - Congratulations on the anniversary of the first year of the existence of The Great Beyond. Your intelligence and sincerity, and the zine's relevance to modern music as art and literature, makes it unique, as well as sorely needed in the world of independent music. Your own efforts as an English teacher, a carrier of the continued vitality of the language, has even greater relevance to we members of DJ Monkey, who base our art on a very intricate marriage between poetry and music. As you know, though our music is quite involved, it is our poetry, lyrics and raps which make up the purpose of our existence, therefore we could not ask for a better vehicle for us to have been spotlighted in this past year than The Great Beyond.

It is our prayer that in the years to come, The Great Beyond survive and receive the attention it deserves.

Joey Alkes - DJ Monkey

Congrats on your 1st Anniversary! I would like to thank you for taking the time to write about 3 Kisses on The Great Beyond. I've used your review in our newsletter and in press kits. It is very important for new artists to have people like you out there who are willing to take the time to listen to our music and jot a few lines about it. 3 Kisses greatly appreciates your support and we wish you many more successful years!

All the Best,
Tish Meeks
3 Kisses

Thursday, October 06, 2005

SFTS: Innaway

It takes more than luck to get noticed. Being in a band is like being single and trying to get notice through the hundreds of profiles. That could not be more true than for bands in Southern California. Yet, according to Innaway keyboardist Reid Black, all it took was fundamentals.

"Our approach is to play the best music we can. That way might not get us noticed as fast as we like but it is an honest approach and when people do notice, they notice for the right reasons. Silly stage antics and ironic posturing are not our thing."

Beginning in November, Innaway head out on the road with the legendary Echo & The Bunnymen. Before taking off, TGB had a chance to exchange pleasantries with Reid Black.

Tell me how this tour with Echo & The Bunnymen came about.

The tour came about through our booking agent. Unless the headliner hand picks the opening act, a booking agent will have to submit a band for a tour. So we were submitted and Echo & the Bunnymen's management thought we could bring something different to the tour.

Is it ever intimidating opening for such a high profile act?

For me, it can be a little intimidating at first. We just finished a tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, which was great by the way, and by the end of that tour our playing had stepped up a couple notches in part to playing with them and playing to crowds that were bigger than we were used to at home. With the Bunnymen tour, I hope the same will happen. This is an even higher profile tour than before, so hopefully we can learn a thing or two from them and rise to the challenge. I guess it's kind of like playing tennis or something with someone who is a lot better than you. At first it is intimidating but after a while you learn more and get better by playing with someone who is above your skill level.

Two acts consistently mentioned when reading about Innaway are Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. What emotions did you experience seeing Roger Waters perform with Pink Floyd at the recent Live 8 concert?

I'm usually not one for reunions but I thought they sounded great that night and it was good to see him playing with the rest of Pink Floyd again after so many years of acrimony. I didn't know what to expect from them at all but I for sure wasn't disappointed by their set. However, Waters and Gilmour never once looked at each other onstage. It was kind of like they were in two different worlds and could put their bitterness aside for one night only.

It must take an incredible amount of self-confidence to self-produce a DEBUT. Where does that confidence come from?

I guess that confidence comes from all of us knowing what we like and being able to think things through using all of our ears as well as two members of the band being well versed in studio engineering. I think a downside to that approach was that we would take a long time and sit on ideas too long when an outside producer would have already gotten over that hump.

I found myself experiencing a gamut of thoughts and emotions as I listened to several tracks. What exactly do you want a listener to experience from your album? from your concert?

We tried to fit the songs together to create a musical flow that invites the listener to play the entire album. I know it's cliched but we want the listener to experience the changes and dynamics of the album in whatever setting is most comfortable to them. It sounds good during a late night drive.

As for the live show, the experience should be the album experience plus a little more. There's more energy in the live show since the songs are more raw and since we change the songs around a little here and there and jam out some parts. It's a bit more unpredictable.

What is most important to you: playing music or creating music?

Both are important. I like creating new music with myself and with the band. Rehearsing new material with the band is fun for me and so is playing guitar lazily while watching TV or something until a interesting sound perks up my ears. Playing live is also important in a different way. It's a good way to reach new people and the most fun way, especially if the band is playing good.

Innaway is singer Jim Schwartz, guitarist Barry Fader, drummer Gabe Palmer, bassist Darrick Rasmussen, and keyboardist Reid Black. Their latest release is a self-titled CD on Some Records. Also available is an EP entitled Rise.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Review: Angela Strehli

Blue Highway
M.C. Records -

Austin singer-songbird Angela Strehli has joined the stable of Long Island blues label MC Records with excellent Texas boogie-blues and ballads. Strehli was a vital part of the trio of "Austex" bluesmamas that included Louann Barton and Marcia Ball. They helped to create the scene that resulted in Stevie Ray Vaughn, Antones Records and Austin's fame as a music city. Those ladies had high octane, good timing, two timing and hard living deep in their souls.

Angela opens her new one with all 8 firing in a tribute to club owner, scene creator Clifford Antone that chronicles his ups and downs in "Austin's Home of the Blues." Shifting into low and blue, Ms. Ball and Maria Muldaur augment the vocals on "Blue Highway" with a slow shuffle dedicated to a lifetime of blues.

This CD is a joyous celebration of life's uncertainties and pains as well as of life, lust and good times. Angela's 60 years have given her a warm leather and whiskey vocal sound that is wrapped around the knowledge of how to deliver the emotion in a song. Blue Highway is augmented by a bucket of Austin session stars including John Lee Sander's piano, Paul Thorn's vocals and Tom Duarte's acoustic 6.

Most of the cuts were written by Angela, although she covers Ernie Ka-doe's "Hello My Lover" and Ann Peebles' "Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love." Strehli does a cooking gospel version of "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain," while "Headed South" makes you want to see the land where manzanillas grow and tequila flows. The disk rolls out with a cut that Strehli recorded during her appearance with SRV at Carnegie Hall in 1985, Albert King's "C.O.D.", which is delivered strong and fierce.

For a helping of Texas BBQ boogie and shuffle, Angela's keeping the smoker stoked, defending the Alamo and laying it down nice and hot. On TGB ratings scale, Blue Highway steers between Earth and Venus.

Review submitted by Dr. Blues.