Edward Burnett talks with Zach AKA Simulated Youth about his new single ‘Money In My Tummy’, the EDM scene and his interests outside of music, namely travelling. An insightful musician from a different genre to the rock scene, Zach offers a refreshingly different view on modern musical production.
RNRR: Hi Simulated Youth, how are you doing? Welcome to Spotlight, it’s great to have you here! Would you introduce yourself and your style of music to our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?
SY: Thanks very much for welcoming me and for asking to do this interview! My real name is Zach, and I make what I would call “dark dance music.” When I first got into music almost a year ago, I knew I wanted to do something different while still building on my influences. Some of my favorite bands are Crystal Castles and Die Antwoord. Neither of them are dance genre at all, but I like the tones, originality, and message of their music. I wanted to add a similar style into the EDM genre which is extremely generic these days.
RNRR: Well first of all Zach, I have to ask, why EDM? What is it about that genre that ticks for you more than other types of music? As a musician could you ever see yourself crossing genres in the future or is it the dream to always pursue dance music such as this?
SY: It will help explain if I crack open that acronym haha. In the “electronic” side, all my music is created with virtual instruments that I either play on my keyboard or “paint” the notes on my laptop. And with “dance,” of course I do want my music to be energetic and make people want to move. So I kind of use “EDM” as the overall genre in a sense, although of nowadays that is heavily mainstream/commercial. That is why I want to provide a unique offering, because it is an absolutely massive market in terms of the number of potential listeners. I keep listening to more and more EDM, from both professional and indie acts, but, respectfully, it all kind of sounds the same to me. Most EDM these days has a happy/optimistic tone, which I see the appeal and sometimes enjoy myself. But I think offering a more dark aesthetic to this genre both allows me to express my creative side, and gives me a more competitive edge to provide a unique offering compared to what everybody else is producing these days. Aside from my darker aesthetic, I also like to mix in alternative vocals, such as rap style vocals as well, so in a sense I am already blending some different genres together.
RNRR: So with all that process in mind, how long does it usually take you to create a song? As you say there are many layers to manufacturing that perfectly unique sound that’s unmistakably yours so one would assume it’s no easy or straightforward task each time?
SY: I definitely have a process, which starts with the instrumental side first before considering lyrics. I’m just not able to think about songs in a lyrical sense until I have enough of a skeleton built out in the instrumental arrangement. So during that very initial stage, I have an idea for a melody in my mind but I do not know what instrument or what octave will sound the best for it. So there are many, many hours of improvising different notes on my keyboard while testing out potentially hundreds of different virtual instruments. I’ll play several notes across a range of octaves, and then at some point I will hear a sound that I really like. I will then build around that note with similar notes that it agrees with it (in music theory this means working within the same key/scale I guess, although I don’t really know much theory but I can still hear if different notes don’t sound good with each other). Once I have all of the main melodies for the song laid out in the arrangement, after that it becomes a lot easier just to fill in the rest of the skeleton with some percussion, bass, some simple countermelodies etc. Once I think the instrumental is like 80% done, I’ll export and then I’ll start listening to it over and over again while driving or walking around etc. to see what lyrics come to mind naturally. Then after I have some lyrics, it’s a big decision of whether I will try to do the vocals myself, or feature another vocalist (if not both). I say “try,” because more than once I have actually recorded the entire song with just my vocals, and then I decided that it just felt like something was missing. One issue is perhaps that I have a very deep voice which is difficult to mix into music with a lot of bass without artificially increasing the pitch. Another issue is that I guess I just feel a little weird listening to my own voice and it is harder for me to make both objective and subjective decisions. Of course lyrics are important, but with my style of music that is meant to be played very loudly in loud venues like a club/festival, I think it is a little less sensitive to lyrics then perhaps a more traditional pop song or country music for example. So I guess the wrap up my long answer, there is a ton of improvising in my music and although I start with an idea before each song, that idea can change if not be replaced entirely by the time I am done. And I guess also not following any traditional rules of music theory helps somewhat for me to have a unique sound.
RNRR: Is the enjoyment of others, as you mention at the end there, a key reason for why you make the music itself? What goals drive you to create songs and go the extra mile as a musician? Is there a fine balance between artist gratification and listener enjoyment or is it all more about sending out a message?
SY: It’s easy for me to make a bunch of different songs that I find fun creating and listening to, but definitely I want to make sure that at least a decent amount of other people will enjoy my music as well. It’s very hard to define art, but I personally feel that art means creating something original that makes other people think. Not necessarily that the other people like it or agree with it, but at least they stop for a moment to think about it. Most of my songs I suppose I am trying to send a message, especially with my latest release ‘Money In My Tummy’ which is meant to be a somewhat over-the-top expression of how I feel consumerism and greed is totally dominating and in many ways destroying the planet (and destroying culture / originality as many feel they need to dress a certain way or act a certain way to match what media and pop culture dictates is “cool,” instead of expressing themselves openly).
RNRR: So in a way, your music breaks with convention but not just in the genre and stylistic sense but also at its very core with a message such as that. It’s good to be different and break with the trend is the firm message from your latest release. With that point on the brain, I’d like to add a little fun into the questioning by asking what mainstream things do you get up to in your spare time that you know many people like or do? Equally, what are some hobbies of yours, aside from the music side of things, that you feel are truly unique to your day to day life?
SY: This will probably be my least interesting answer yet haha. Unfortunately I fell victim to the whole “work work work” mentality for almost the last 8 years since I got out of college. I did a lot of travel around the world while working which was great, but I really did not have any passion that entire time. Then when I finally got back into music late last year, it has now become by far my main passion/obsession in a sense. So really in my free time, if I’m not doing music these days, I would either be playing with my dog, relaxing outside or maybe traveling a little bit although travel has been reduced due to Covid. Oh yeah, I guess one new hobby of mine would be chopping wood / working outside, as random as that may sound. I recently moved from Arizona to Michigan and have been cleaning up around the house here. Tons of old dead trees covering the ground so I’ve been working at least a few hours every day outside cleaning everything up. It’s nice working in the sun, plus it’s exercise and I can see the progress happening every day.
RNRR: Some great hobbies there and of course staying in shape via anything including wood cutting has been very important with the numerous lockdowns and lack of outside contact due to Covid. Travelling is a key staple in a lot of musicians lifestyles with “life on the road” being the chosen path. Where in the world have you not traveled to but severely wish to and where in the globe, as a musician, would you love to play your music?
SY: As far as playing music, there’s a big dark electronic music in Berlin and all over eastern Europe, and Russia too. So it would be cool to do a bunch of shows over there. More on the leisure side, I would love to return to Cambodia and Thailand again again because I made many friends there during my previous travels.
RNRR: Keeping it on the leisure side but combing that with music itself, who are some musicians you’ve seen live that you’ve loved? Are there any that you’re desperate to see live? How important is live music to you?
SY: I think live music can be an incredible experience, but music in other places such as films or even just listening in certain circumstances can also be quite impactful. It would be really cool to see Aphex twin live, especially as I missed the chance when he was in Houston a couple years ago. Back in my high school rapping days I saw The Roots live which was my very first concert and definitely a special night!
RNRR: The Roots must have been a great first gig for sure! Are you a big watcher of ‘The Tonight Show’ where they of course currently serve as the house band? What else do you like to unwind from the music with on the TV?
SY: Recently I’ve been into watching random documentaries and docu-series on Netflix and Amazon. They have everything from a playbook for being a tyrant, murder mysteries, alien/area 51 stuff etc. Easy just to pick a random one, and unwind while learning something interesting.
RNRR: There’s all sorts on there in the way of documentaries, I ended up watching one about an art theft over in Boston back in 1990! So finally bringing us full circle and back to the music, what are your aspirations for the rest of the year? When December hits, what are you as Simulated Youth hoping to to have achieved?
SY: Well, a big decision I’ve made recently is that I am not going to invest as much into traditional promotion. The biggest make-or-break for musicians these days seems to either be getting onto a Spotify editorial playlist, or getting a movie sync deal. So I’m going to just start releasing more songs faster, as often as 1 new song every 3 weeks because that will give me more chances to get onto a Spotify editorial playlist. I’m not going to worry as much about fancy digital artwork or digital videos. So definitely expect more live recordings or more “indie-budget” stuff. That current effort could be better spent releasing more songs [laughs]. So I guess to answer your question, by December hopefully I’ve gotten onto some Spotify editorial playlists. Aside from that what promotion I do will focus more on my local area, to hopefully grow enough fan base here to do some performances starting this winter or early next year at the latest!
RNRR: Finally, you know I can’t let you go without asking the all important question. Every guest has to tell me at the end of the Spotlight, what is your desert island disc? What album, only one, are you taking to a remote desert island and why?
SY: Mobb Deep’s ‘The Infamous’. Such a good album, pure traditional rap. I have every song memorized. Enjoyable to listen to, fun to rap along, and it also gives me a strong sense of nostalgia from my high school days.
RNRR: Great choice but even better reasoning there from you! Thanks for being such an insightful guest on this time’s Spotlight. All that remains for me to say is that all of us at RNRR wish you the very best of luck for the rest of the professional year and we look forward to hearing what you produce next!
If you would like to find out more about Zach or Simulated Youth and keep up to date with his latest releases, the links to all his socials can be found below via the icons:
Edward Burnett sat down with DIY Punk outfit The Camel City Blackouts from Winston Salem, NC to talk all things band. From the dying art of music videos to the guys’ favourite ever live gigs, no rock (n roll) is left unturned.
RNRR: Hello and welcome to Spotlight. On this edition I’m joined with The Camel City Blackouts from Winston Salem, NC. Hey guys, how y’all doing? Would you be so kind to introduce each member and what you play to readers unfamiliar with your work?
TCCB: Hello Rock N Roll Reports! We are doing great and excited about the reaction our new EP ‘Wild Card’ has received thus far. Our current lineup consists of myself, Ryan Sizemore, and Derek Gilreath. Derek plays bass and sometime sings and I play guitar and sing. As for our flavour of music, I would describe it as punk/pop-punk/rock.
RNRR: Nice to meet you all! So how did you guys all meet then? What’s the official backstory of The Camel City Blackouts?
TCCB: Nice to meet you too! Derek and I (Ryan) went to the same high school and met there. However, our band didn't start until after Derek attended a Dropkick Murphy's show. We had been estranged for years by this time but Derek was so energized by the show he sent me a facebook meassage. Basically, he asked me if I was still playing punk music and if I wanted to start something and the rest was history.
RNRR: Now this isn’t something I ask a lot to bands but I really should as it is probably why readers who are not in groups would most likely want to know. What’s THE best thing about being in a band. What single aspect makes all the hard work completely worth it in your opinion?
TCCB: Its the botherhood. Derek and I have been doing this for a while now and we have a great band relationship. We know eachother's weaknesses and strengths and allow the other to step in when we can't tackle an issue. We have really become family over the years. He is the peanut butter to my jelly.
RNRR: What a great way to describe your relationship there right at the end [laughs]! So it’s only natural I ask next, how did you guys come up with the name for the band? Does it come from deep meanings?
TCCB: We were originally the blackouts when we first started because we enjoyed drinking quite a bit back in the day. A couple of years after we started it was suggested to us to change or alter our name as there was already a band called the blackouts. So we decided to incorporate the nickname of Winston Salem (North Carolina), Camel City, into the name. Winston Salem is nicknamed that because camel cigarettes are produced there. Also, Winston Salem is the city where Derek lived and where we first started playing together.
RNRR: Now let’s talk about your music itself and what gives it that edge. For new listeners, what songs do you recommend of yours that really sum the band’s energy up? Personally I love your recent track ‘Swing or Sway’ as I feel it does a bit of everything. It has a beautiful softness that’s prominently there at the opening and manages to remain throughout alongside the obviously heavier tones which are a key feature of your work.
TCCB: Really good question and thank you for the kind words! The songs I would choose are ‘Another Night’, ‘Angels’, ‘Memory’, ‘La Diabla’, ‘Bastard's Boy’, ‘Rooftops’, and ‘Swing or Sway’. These songs are great places to start in our discography to get a taste of what we sound like and shows a progression of where our sound was and where it is going.
RNRR: Just a quick word on the album art too as many artists pride themselves on having a great cover to complete the package of their music. Yours predominantly feature pop-art with vibrant colours against a basis duotone of black and white. What was the thinking behind this now iconic stylistic route and would you ever stray from it in future releases?
TCCB: I actually asked my tattoo artist to design the album art for our new EP ‘Wild Card’. When she sent it us we really loved it. We are just into dark imagery. We could move off the pop-art style in the future as long as our new art is dark and looks fetching.
RNRR: What a brilliant backstory on the cover front! Along that same sort of chance discovery route, do you feel others can affect your music in other ways? Do you guys feel that your day-to-day encounters can and do lead to alterations in your lyrics when music making? To put it another way, what extent does the outside world affect your musical produce?
TCCB: For sure. The otherside world is where I draw a lot of my inspiration when I'm writing a song. Whether its a relationship, my views on religion, living in the bible belt, my past, the outside world has gives me a lot of material.
RNRR: Why don’t we put you on the otherside now and instead of performer, you guys now have the perspective of gig-goers. What are the best live shows you’ve seen and what do you look for in a band when you as musicians are listening? Has this changed since you turned professional yourselves?
TCCB: The best concert I ever attended was The Adicts. Their concert was a huge party, they played a ton of songs, and everyone went home with a souvenir. Monkey (the lead singer) threw so many props into the audience and the whole band made it such a wonderful experience. Not only that but I was given their setlist and I got to meet them after the show. They are very cool gentlemen and they put on a hell of a show! At a concert I look for a band to have stage presence. If you don't have that then why even play at all. People pay money to come see you, you have to give them something in return. When I am just listening to a band I really fall for the mood, melody, and lyrics. I've always been that way so that hasn't really changed since we started our band.
RNRR: While talking about concerts, what’s your dream gig to play? A particular venue or festival which indicates progress for you? Where do you aspire to be at as a group in a few years in the way of shows?
TCCB: We would love to play the punk in drublic shows. There is a lot of bands playing we love and it would be great to see the up and comers, who are still carrying the tourch for the genre. I think if we were able to be on that bill it would prove our work had paid off. In a couple of years I hope we can be the main attraction in our hometown when we play shows here. And maybe be the opening touring act with Rancid, Alakline Trio, or Blink 182. Those bands influenced me so much and that would be validation that we "made it”. We may still be broke but it’s proof we reached out from our small town and got someones attention.
RNRR: I assume that in this line of work especially, it’s always a key aspiration to make it to the “made it” feeling. So what’s next for The Camel City Blackouts in the immediate future? Do you guys have any exciting exclusive news to give to the RNRR readers?
TCCB: We love making music and currently we have almost 7 songs written and ready to go. We are hoping to drop a new ep late 2021 early 2022. We are also working on music video ideas for our first single ‘Swing or Sway’. I suspect we will be releasing a music video for it sometime in August.
RNRR: Where does the band stand on the use of a music video? Some artists believe they’re a dying art form whereas others don’t see a release as complete without one? What makes a music video vital or disposable to you guys?
TCCB: We still believe in the power of the music video! In our experience we found more people are willing to listen to your song if there is some eye candy to go with it. In addition, how could you go wrong with adding another way for people to witness your music. We strongly disagree with anyone who says music videos are a dying art.
RNRR: So on that path, what has to feature in the music video for you guys? Is it about always reproducing themes that match the band’s aesthetic and vibe or does the video instead have to reflect the particular song release in question?
TCCB: With each new music video I've noticed Derek, our bass player and videographer, has involved more story telling. Prior to shooting our videos he will ask me what the lyrics are about. Then we'll discuss themes and bounce ideas off of eachother until we can find something that fits. Live preformance is also a big part of our videos as well.
RNRR: Finally I have a question that we like to ask every guest on Spotlight at the end of the interview. Some regard it as the toughest question of all time so be warned, this isn’t for the faint-hearted. The Camel City Blackouts are stranded on a desert island for the rest of their days and are only allowed ONE album to listen to ever again. What are you taking and why?
TCCB: Me personally, I'm taking the album ‘Patent Pending’ by The Heavens. Its my favorite album of all time and I love Matt Skiba. As a band if we only had one album to choose I'd say ‘...and Out Comes the Wolves’ by Rancid. Derek and I are both huge Rancid fans and their a band that we connected on in the early days of CCB. You can't go wrong with a classic like that.
RNRR: Interesting choice there and good reasoning why. Well it’s been a pleasure to have you on and I, on behalf of RNRR, wish you and the band the very best of luck with the rest of the year!
If you would like to find out more about The Camel City Blackouts or keep up to date with their latest releases, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons:
Edward Burnett had the pleasure of chatting to friends of the show and three-piece girl group BAXTR on their new single ‘In Pop We Trust’! Floss (vocals), Keiko (drums) and Bash (guitar) talk about the single, what inspired it as well as what they’ve been up to this past year and why they continue to remain faceless on press releases! A bumper interview packed with behind the scenes content and more
RNRR: Hey BAXTR! Long time no see girls! Great to have you back on Spotlight almost a year onwards! How are all three of you doing?
BAXTR: [Floss]: Thanks for having us back! It has been a ride since we last spoke and we're holding on in disbelief, soiled briefs, with white knuckles and nervous chuckles! We're doing good though... I think!? It feels great to birth our 4th musical child, so we're all surfing on the euphoria of that right now. [Keiko]: I’m really good thank you! It has been so amazing actually being in the same room together and we are so excited for the year ahead. [Bash]: Hey Ed! [Laughs] Oh boy, where to start!? First and foremost, thank you so much for your continued support and for inviting us back. I'm super pumped to be part of the Spotlight fun this time ‘round! This year has just been something else! We are literally putting our all into every aspect of BAXTR, 24/7! As a result it has made for one heck of a ride! It’s been wild, exciting, both emotionally and physically demanding but oh so rewarding. There’s something unexplainable that happens when the three of us get together in the same room. So as lockdowns have been easing and we’ve been seeing each other more, things are just naturally and organically evolving and growing from strength to strength. there’s a lot of pinching ourselves, just to check we aren't just dreaming.
RNRR: There you mention about being back together and since we last spoke, all three of you have been able to meet up and rehearse in the same space! How great does it truly feel to all be in the same room again, making music?
BAXTR: [Floss]: Being in the same room basically gives us superpowers. We've done everything a bit back-to-front. We formed, then we recorded and released remotely, then we made a video, then we finally rehearsed together and it felt like the shaken champagne bottle that was able to pop at last. [Keiko]: It feels amazing! The first moment we saw each other it was very out of body and magical. It felt so affirming and we can’t wait for more! [Bash]: It feels like something just takes over, a kind of spiritual or magical feeling. You can just feel the love, respect, adoration and complete support for one another. It feels like the safest space, where any and all ideas are welcomed. Literally within seconds of the 3 of us being together, (and this applies for any place we are together) all real words and vocabulary go out the window. They no longer exist, and we somehow just end up communicating with nothing but syllables and sounds, through tears of laughter. We pretty much sound like a travelling zoo!
RNRR: [Laughs] Sounds quite the creative experience! On the subject of music, you have some very exciting news don’t you as your newest single release, ‘In Pop We Trust’ has been released this week. Tell me a little more about the track and what inspired it’s theme and overall concept?
BAXTR: [Floss]: Honestly? A trip to Specsavers has a lot to answer for. I was on my way back from buying my new pair of goggles and thanks to the new specs I was able to read a sign that said “In *something* we trust”. I can’t remember exactly what it was advertising, as I filled in my own blank immediately. I thought to myself, what is it I trust in? What has never let me down? One of the top answers was ‘pop music’. Pop has brought me free joy in my darkest moments and is a time machine to some of the best days of my life. I really leaned in on nostalgic music and old pop throughout quarantine. So I saw the sign and thought "In POP we trust". And that was pretty much the birth of the chorus. I sang to myself all the way home from Specsavers and by the time I'd reached the door, the song felt very real in my head. BAXTR all love rock, metal, jazz… you name it but Pop music is where our band’s friendships started, and it ended up being the thing that really pulled us three towards each other, through the pandemic and out the other side. It felt only right to honour that in song; tipping our hats to the music we love, with a little tongue in cheek subversion. We wanted our 4th single to feel like our statement piece; something that represented the core of what BAXTR is; just 3 nerdy mates who like to goof about and make loud noises. To me, it feels as if this song is our theme tune. After the year we’ve all had, now more than ever I think we should all be revelling in the things that truly bring us bliss. If pop music does that for you then crank up this song! [Keiko]: It really is a celebration of pop music and how it can get you through anything. It’s helped all of us and we wanted to release a song to show that and to promote listening to what you want, when you want, no limits! [Bash]: I feel like it’s exactly as advertised. It’s all in the title. For some reason ‘Pop’ seems to have become a taboo or uncool word these days, especially amongst live music bands/musicians. And a lot of people tend to refer to any pop song that they like as "a guilty pleasure”! I absolutely LOVE pop music! In fact it was one of my first musical loves. It was my safe place, my happy place, my dancy place. But then I got heavily into rock and blues. Jimmy Page and Angus Young were the reasons I first started playing guitar. As I started becoming a more established player, people would ask about influences and I'd find myself shying away from mentioning anything pop. Yet when I finally embraced it and fused all my loves together unashamedly, I started to play in a whole new way, creating a style that was just completely true and unique to me. So when Flossy came with this concept, and sent over a rough demo, I was so excited, I made sounds I didn't even know I was capable of, and I pulled every muscle in my body from dancing to it on repeat. Keik’s sent drum ideas literally the same day and that was it. I could hear everything I was going to play before I even picked up my guitar. I feel like it was such a milestone for us, finding and establishing a part of ourselves, by just simply letting go, and giving into something we love and letting it steer the way.
RNRR: Now that is an unexpected backstory but an amazingly unique one for sure. Bash spoke then about the image of the band with the mention of music videos but interestingly, one of the most notable features of your band is that your faces remain anonymous on all releases. This I feel adds a very intriguing element to your act as a whole. Will this continue once you’re able to play shows again? Why did you initially go down this route?
BAXTR: [Floss]: There are many reasons behind the decision to not fully show our faces. A big part of why is because, well, it's just FUN isn't it!? We're living in a world where, in a heartbeat, you can find out what someone ate for breakfast, what pants they're wearing etc. Real life can be mundane and depressing and as much as BAXTR strive to be authentic, we also want to create a space for escapism, for play and mystery. We're big believers in the allure of curiosity, leaving something to the imagination. We're probably going to carry the mystique through to live shows, but you'll have to come along to one to see how that works! [Keiko]: Yes! We are wanting to keep up the mystery going and make our shows immersive and magical somehow. We’ve got lots of ideas so come to a show and you’ll see! [Bash]: It was a mixture of so many things. Personally, I think I really wanted the music to do the talking. It was during the first wave of the pandemic, so there were no gigs, meaning we could really go with this idea and experiment. It’s so easy to allow an image of someone's facial appearance to cloud genuine judgments of songs. You can already decide something about a track you haven't even heard just from seeing a face first so I definitely wanted to break that barrier. We also wanted to create an air of mystery to allow for an element of magic/something unearthly because that's how it feels to us. We want to broaden people's imaginations and encourage the acceptance of being experimental. [Laughs] We didn't expect it to become such a big thing. We didn't even really expect to be releasing music. So this has all just built up naturally but the curiosity really seems to be becoming a lot bigger than we’d anticipated. We are just taking it all in our stride though.
RNRR: That all leads straight onto my next question as I’d like to shift our focus to live performances. On the topic of gigs, have you got anything in the pipeline and are you looking forward to being able to play shows throughout the UK and beyond after lockdown fully lifts?
BAXTR: [Floss]: There are some potentially very magic things in the pipeline but yeah, we can't say too much, teehee! [Keiko]: We have a couple of gigs pencilled in but nothing set in stone yet. We will definitely keep you posted! [Bash]: It’s hard right now for even the biggest acts in the world to guarantee gigs. There are definitely exciting potentials bubbling up behind the scenes for BAXTR. As soon as it’s safe we will 100% be itching to get out there. Aside from the studio, gigging is my escapism. Playing my first gig with BAXTR will for sure be the most magical gigging experience of my life.
RNRR: So moving away from the audio side of things, how have you been spending your downtime this summer? Have you all gone football crazy for the Euros or do you instead have some TV and film recommendations for the readers?
BAXTR: [Floss]: A movie that blew me away recently was the ‘Muscle Shoals’ which is a documentary about a little village on the Alabama border with recording studios (and apparently inherent magic) which were responsible for churning out a unique sound and countless hit records. I watched this awe inspiring rock doc with our producer Tristan Ivemy whilst in the studio doing vocals for ‘Grace on Fire’ and it was so inspiring! [Keiko]: I’m not a football fan but I’ve got into a bit of Netflix! I love ‘The Staircase’, ‘The Method’ and my big guilty pleasure ‘Virgin River’. [Bash]: [Laughs] I am very patriotic about anything Wales is involved in. So Euros and Rugby always. I like to play football too and go rollerblading during the summer. I’ve become a little obsessed with alien documentaries over the lockdowns and I did a little work for Marvel so I became (even more) obsessed with the MCU too. So maybe a few trips to Stonehenge, Lochness and the new Marvel Hotel at Disneyland Paris this summer. Between recordings of course!
RNRR: As you say there Bash, we have had many lockdowns in the U.K. in the past year and a half. Said lockdown restrictions here in the UK are coming to a complete end supposedly on the 19th of July. What have the three of you learnt during this pandemic time? Have there been life lessons or have you taken it all in your stride?
BAXTR: [Floss]: The challenges that lockdown presented really drove home to me the lesson behind the phrase "know your outcome, change your approach". The last year or more has been a real education in creative thinking, problem solving and adapting to circumstance. We knew what we wanted our "outcome" to be: independently release great music with a strong visual whilst spreading a little joy. We just continued to change our "approach" to accommodate the evolving situation, and that outlook seems to have served us pretty well. We've had to be flexible, patient and trusting of the process, which is not always easy when you want to fight hard to realise a clear vision, firmly held. [Keiko]: I feel like we have all pulled together and know that there is nothing we can’t do if we work as a team. We’ve learnt to lean on our friendship and trust the process and like a lot of things such as if it was easy, everyone would do it. So the past year has shown us that things can be hard and stressful etc but we will get through it one step at a time. Keep going is the message I always come to. [Bash]: I think for me it really put things into perspective, that this unforgiving disease knows no bounds. It doesnt care who it affects. It's up to all of us collectively to take care of each other and work together to keep eachother safe. We also have to be forgiving and learn how to be patient and understand and accept other people's struggles. It has really brought to light the different things people are dealing with, yes they may be different but all valid and demand the same respect. I feel like people are understanding and helping each other a lot more now for the most part.
RNRR: Some great pearls of wisdom there girls but I have one final question for the three of you. Last time you were on, I asked you the all important desert island discs question. If I remember correctly, Keiko went for Micheal Jackson’s ‘History’ and Floss sided with ‘Jagged Little Phil’ by Alanis Morrisette. What I want to know is have these opinions changed and what is Bash picking!
BAXTR: [Floss]: Sorry Alanis, I'm switching it up. My new pick is ‘Whatever and Ever Amen’ by Ben Folds Five. Ben Folds can do no wrong. His early stuff is such a rollercoaster of piano driven rage, nerdy self-aware idiosyncrasies and whimsy. That album is raw, charming and genius. I just love it and so does my inner child. [Keiko]: Oooh great one! I might change my answer to Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes from a Memory’.
Ask me next year and I’m sure I’ll have a different answer again [laughs]! [Bash]: Oh no! How do I choose just one? Can it be a mix CD? [Laughs] Urm! Right now it'd have to be Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’. or ‘The River’ or ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’! Oh I don’t know! I would pick one out of a hat [laughs].
RNRR: Brilliant picks there from each of you and interesting to see some changes from last time, poor Alanis! Well, what a pleasure it’s been having you back on the page and with a bang too thanks to the wonderful ‘In Pop We Trust’. Best of luck for the rest of the year girls and hope to see you at a BAXTR gig before the year is out!
If you would like to find out more about BAXTR and keep up to date with their latest releases including 'In Pop We Trust', the links to all they socials can be found below via the icons:
Edward Burnett sat down to talk to English singer Tally Spear to talk all things from the creative process to Taylor Swift comparisons. A fun conversation which gives a real insight into what Tally is all about.
RNRR: Hello and welcome to Spotlight! This week I’m joined with singer and songwriter Tally Spear. Hi Tally nice to meet you! Would you mind introducing your act and musical style to those who are unfamiliar with your work?
TS: What’s up! I write genre-bending pop songs that are inspired mainly by rock and punk music!
RNRR: So how did you get into music professionally then Tally? Has it always been a dream that finally got realised? Was there a process of realising what exactly it was you wanted from your career?
TS: I grew up in a very musical and theatrical family and was always surrounded by instruments and inspiration! I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid-being a performer was definitely always been a big dream of mine.
RNRR: So who were your early music inspirations which pushed you to going pro yourself? Have they changed as you’ve got older or do you always hold the same music icons in high regard?
TS: I can’t lie about it, my early icons were without a doubt Avril Lavinge, Hilary Duff, Tay Swift, Miley Cyrus because who doesn’t want to be those women?! I still look at all these women and their careers with such admiration today. Other inspirations to me are Sheryl Crow, Blondie, Grimes…the list is a long one.
RNRR: I notice a couple of those were actresses as well as being singers. Do you feel that you can be inspired by those in different parts of the media industry like film and television stars when trying to forge a career in the music world? Does it have to be music centric or was it just as inspiring growing up as a younger girl watching these women kill it across all entertainment mediums?
TS: Definitely. I think inspiration comes from all areas and in all different forms... I feel like I’m inspired by seeing and observing other people’s talent, and talent is so diverse, it doesn’t have to just be other singers and songwriters. Artists are anyone who is doing their own thing and doing it well.
RNRR: That’s really great to hear that and what a resounding message to send to our younger readers too. So let’s bring it all the way up to the present now. You released your EP ‘Tally’ recently. On it resides ‘Already Gone’, a song that I’ve been obsessed with since it first aired. Talk me through what went into that song in particular and the EP as a whole. What was the feeling behind this and what message did you want to send out with this fabulous collection of songs?
TS: Ah thank you so much man! ‘Already Gone’ is the anti-love song of the EP. In fact, no, they’re pretty much all anti love songs. It’s about beginning a new relationship but already feeling like you’re not fully there... your mind is elsewhere. The song is almost a metaphor for never being fully present, always ‘moving on’ to the next thing. The EP really explores insecurities of never being in the moment, and admits all the thoughts I have ‘beneath the surface.’
RNRR: That’s an incredibly interesting topic to focus an EP around and the message really shines through when listening to the collection of songs as a whole which is truly a credit to you. Do you feel that you’ll always create an EP/album based around how you’re feeling at the time and let those emotions determine the theme or do you think you could distance yourself from the topics in the future? So go into the creative process with a subject in mind that doesn’t necessarily reflect your mood?
TS: I do find it more of a challenge to write songs about things I haven’t experienced myself or in moods I don’t relate to at the time but I think it’s important to try and branch out of comfort zones as a writer and always experiment with new sounds and styles. That’s what my new single ‘When Nobody’s Around’ is all about - leaving the comfort zone and seeing what happens when you do.
RNRR: So we’ve addressed your use of topics in your songs but something very unique to your act and branding is your use of colour, specifically red. Why is this particular colour the emblem of Tally Spear? What does it represent for you?
TS: I always feel differently depending on the colours I’m wearing. Red makes me feel confident and empowered... it represents passion, also anger, and also love. It’s definitely the most powerful colour on the spectrum... It intrigues me! Taylor Swift agrees.
RNRR: It’s funny how you mention Taylor Swift as not only do your initials match perfectly but your vocal styles are very similar showing you to be a real asset to the music industry. Do you find Taylor Swift to be in line with what you aspire your music to be both thematically and audibly? Or do you find such comparisons tiresome as you wish to be your own entity entirely?
TS: Taylor is a FORCE! She inspires me in countless ways, she’s just such a brilliant songwriter which is always the baseline for being a successful, legit and long lasting artist. I could go on about Taylor for days so I’ll stop there. But I can’t ever compare myself to other artists, every writer and singer is completely unique... comparisons can be sometimes damaging in this industry, although of course, artists I particular admire inspire my own development and creativity.
RNRR: Going the complete opposite way to a comparison, what’s one musical genre that you have a lot of time and respect for that others wouldn’t necessarily relate you to? Say a genre which you have never and will never perform yourself but is one that you can appreciate for what it is?
TS: Great question! Punk and metal. My older brother is a speed punk drummer and I’ve always been in awe of the talent and the energy in that genre.
RNRR: That’s a really interesting pick! You mention your brother being involved with music, is your whole family into their music more than most or is it very much a sibling connection you have for the audio arts?
TS: The audio arts [laughs], I love the technical terms. My whole family is into music. My dad works in the music biz and definitely is held accountable for my brother and I getting into it all. My ma’s an actor and a singer as well so it was a creative house for sure!
RNRR: What can I say, the music industry term is overrated! An extremely creative house. Aside from all of this singing and stardom, how does Tally Spear like to relax away from it all? What hobbies do you have and have you developed any new ones in the several lockdowns we’ve had here in the UK?
TS: Yes I have actually got a new hobby since the lockdowns.... houseplants. So predictable right? I had never been interested in plants before Covid and now I’m the proud owner of over 40… [laughs].
RNRR: Aspirations of opening a garden centre on the side while simultaneously rocking the world? Does this mean we could see a tonal shift from your iconic red to green in the future then haha?
TS: [Laughs] I do love green, so never say never.
RNRR: So what are your plans for the rest of the year? Have you got any post-lockdown gigs booked? Are you working on new music, perhaps even a full album yet?
TS: No plans for an album yet, but lots of new music getting cooked as we speak and in the release line up! I’m excited to experiment with new sounds, work in the same rooms as other humans again, and really develop my live show. My Instagram will be the first place to announce gigs so stay tooned on there!
RNRR: That’s brilliant to hear and I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone reading this that I’m very excited to hear what comes next! Well that almost wraps us up but as keen readers of Spotlight know, I can’t let you go without asking you the all important final question. You’re on a desert island for the rest of your days Tally and you can only take one album with you. What are you picking and more importantly, why?
TS: Thank you so much for such an awesome chat. I’d bring ‘Tapestry’ by Carole King! If I can have a second, I’d have ‘By The Way’ by RHCP. I used to listen to ‘By The Way’ growing up in college, and it was all I listened to for a solid year I swear! It’ll always bring back a lot of memories. Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ aside from being some of the best songwriting ever, reminds me of the ‘Beautiful: Carole King Musical’ that my mum was in during the U.K. and Ireland tour a couple of years ago - she’s an actress, it was such an awesome show.
RNRR: Wow two very varied choices there but both great in their own way and well backed up too! Well it’s been a pleasure Tally, can’t wait to see (and hear) what you’ve got in store for us throughout the rest of the year!
If you would like to find out more about Tally or keep up to date with her latest releases, you can find the links to all her socials below via the icons:
Edward Burnett sat down to talk to premier NYC band The Dives. Mikey, Jimmy and Sergio talk through their first gigs, favourite films as well as the music scene over in New York City and how the pandemic has affected its vibe and schedule.
RNRR: Welcome to Spotlight, I’m joined today with rock band, The Dives! Hi guys, how are you all doing? Would you mind introducing yourselves and where you’re from to readers unfamiliar with your music?
DIVES: Hey! Thanks so much for having us! We’re Mike, Jimmy, and Sergio and we’re based in Sayreville, New Jersey.
RNRR: Hi guys! How would you best describe your music to new listeners? What genres do you delve into? Any other bands’ style you’d liken yours to?
DIVES: We consider ourselves Alt-Pop. In line with bands like The Wombats, The 1975, The Academic. You know, a plethora of “THE” bands [laughs].
RNRR: I don’t know about the readers but I can’t get enough of The Wombats! ‘Moving to New York’ is just an all time classic, hate to deviate from the course of questions for a moment but what are your favourite Wombat songs?
DIVES: Aren’t they just fantastic?! Jimmy is the only one of us who’s seen them live but we’re all big fans. You can’t really go wrong with any of their tracks, but some of our faves are ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’, ‘Kill the Director’, ‘Greek Tragedy’, ‘Shock Goodbyes and P45s’, ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’, and so on and so on. Their videos are so rad as well. We especially love the singles ‘Bee-Sting’ and ‘Turn’.
RNRR: Great choices there! So back on track I do apologise [laughs], how did the band meet? Did you know each other before the music started flowing or was this a purely professional start?
DIVES: [laughs] All good! So easy to get off track when it comes to bands you love. We were originally a 4-piece band before we ultimately ended up as a trio. Myself (Mike) and Jimmy knew each other from the Jersey music scene. Bob, who has been our Producer since the beginning, knew Sergio from working together on previous projects in NYC and introduced him to the rest of us. The rest is history.
RNRR: Just briefly before we move onto your actual music and releases to date, can you tell the readers a little more about the NYC and wider New Jersey music scene? Do you find yourselves in an interlinked wider network of bands and artists in the surrounding area? Would you say the talent is growing year on year?
DIVES: The scene in NYC and NJ is unfortunately a bit fractured. Somewhere along the line, bands started thinking it was impossible to move up together. Bands promote their set but then leave once they finish playing, taking their fans with them. Instead of just booking a set for ourselves, we try to secure the whole night and book bands that are similar to us on the bill when possible. We only put the shows start time and end time on the flyer to encourage people to stay to see all of the bands. This helps the bands fanbases cross-pollinate and it keeps the venue full and the bar selling drinks. I think if more bands and venues adopted this philosophy, the scene would come back stronger than ever.
RNRR: That’s a very good policy to hold and well done for doing your bit in trying to keep up the lower level music scene alive! So let’s zoom right up to the present and talk about your brand spanking new release, ‘Never Enough’. You describe it as a “deep, breakup anthem” which is cleverly disguised as a “danceable pop track”. I’d definitely agree with that rundown but what else does it mean to you? Are the song’s lyrics personal or did you try target a relatable subject that most people can sympathise with while listening?
DIVES: Yes! This song was definitely inspired by true events. It came about during a writing session I (Jimmy) had with our friend, and amazing singer/songwriter, Zach Matari. Zach recorded the initial conversation we had upon meeting up on his voice memo app without me knowing and it captured some candid thoughts that made their way into the song. There are lots of personal little Easter eggs in the lyrics that pertain to my story, but lots that are open ended for listeners to attach to their own stories. I think that’s the perfect ingredient for a popular song.
RNRR: So on that topic, do you always go about the same way while writing a song? Are their certain elements like relatability and little references that you feel need to be present always or do you believe that you can go fully off charter and do your own style without such noticeable features?
DIVES: We tend to work with what feels or sounds good in the moment whether it be a riff, an idea/topic, a lyric, or an experience. All 3 of us are songwriters with our own styles, so the hardest part is to write within the sound of the band. With time, that’s beginning to come more and more naturally.
RNRR: So every process has to have a start and although we’ve chatted about how you all met, I think I’d like to take the readers even further back through The Dives’ history. So what is each member’s earliest music memory and similarly, what was each of your first gigs attended?
DIVES: [Jimmy]: The first memories of music that I can remember are of my dad blasting Shania Twain in his pick up truck while we drove around. My first concert was on the complete opposite side of the musical spectrum, tagging along to an N’Sync show with my sister and her friends. My musical shmorgishborg has only gotten fuller since then, but I think it’s good to expose yourself to lots of different genres and to learn what you like and don’t like about all of them. [Mikey]: I would say my earliest musical memory was actually getting to see my dad play bass with a band for the first time. I must have been 3 or 4 years old and he hasn’t played in many years so this was my introduction and his reintroduction to music! My first concert (besides that one lol) was Ringo Starr and his All Star Band at age 9. What could be cooler than seeing a Beatle as your first concert?! [Sergio]: My earliest musical memories have to be of my Mom playing Motown tracks in the house and in the car. I come from a Mexican household but my Mom was the only one of all her siblings that was born and raised in America. Specifically Gary, Indiana and that's all she listened to growing up. Though I do have this hilarious memory when I was a wee lad of my Uncle, who rarely drinks, getting good and drunk with my Dad and blasting Mexican ranchera music and singing (horribly). That was my first experience of memory Mexican music. First concert was actually a musical also thanks to my Mom. She took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Chicago Theatre and was one of the coolest experiences. David Bedella, who’s from my hometown, was in that cast and my Mom was friends with his sister. So he was kind enough to show us around backstage and meet some of the other cast members. Sort of life changing as I think that experience is what made me want to do music.
RNRR: Wow, some immense ones there especially seeing Ringo Starr! While we are on the theme of gigs, we are of course waiting across the world until we can return to attending them thanks to the COVID pandemic. What gig is each of your dream shows that you have yet to attend? What act are you desperate to see and what venue/festival would it just have to be at?
DIVES: [Mikey]: I’ve seen almost everyone I want to that’s still alive lol, but I have tickets for Billy Joel that keep getting postponed because of Covid. So when I finally get to go to MSG that will be a dream come true! [Jimmy]: Any concert. Any venue. I’m just so excited to be able to see live music after not seeing it for so long. [Sergio]: Had tickets for Rage Against the Machine but I’ll sadly have to wait another year for that one. Aside from that, I’m with Jimmy on this one. I’m pumped to see live music again in any venue.
RNRR: So aside from the music, what do you guys like to do in your free time? Do you hang out as a group or is it very much a music only type of bond?
DIVES: Not only are we bandmates but we're also friends and love to hang out outside of band related things. Whether that’s movie nights, dinners, horror movie and comic cons. The pandemic had made our hangs super limited for the better part of a year, but we've all been fully vaccinated and are so ready to hang and play live more actively again!
RNRR: You mention movies there and I wanted to know, do you think the film scene is as vital as the music scene in the entertainment industry? How much importance do you place on films in relation to that you place on music?
DIVES: That’s a fascinating question, and being film buffs, we definitely place as much importance on films as we do music. In many ways they are very similar mediums, it’s just that music evokes pictures and films are actually pictures. The stories we see on film are both a reflection of our world and can also help guide us in our lives. Much like music, an audience can view a film as purely entertainment, and that’s fine. But when music and film become art, then we place a huge importance on them in the stories they tell, the statements they make and what we can learn from them.
RNRR: Great answer, really maps out how much you value the entertainment industry as a whole. Obviously with us all being self proclaimed film buffs, I can’t let you get the next question until each of you all tell me your favourite film and why it’s got the top spot on your personal lists!
DIVES: [Mikey]: ‘Jaws’! The perfect blend of suspense, thrills, and comedy. An iconic score, the first summer blockbuster, an amazing cast and groundbreaking effects. What more could you want? [Jimmy]: ‘Frequency’. I was younger the first time I saw it, and the weaving in and out from past and present blew my mind. Always the first film that enters my mind when I’m asked my favourite. [Sergio]: ‘Big Trouble in Little China’. A brilliant John Carpenter film and highly under-appreciated IMO. As Mr. Carpenter puts it “an action adventure comedy Kungfu ghost story monster movie”. It is so absurd and so glorious. The score is rad and unique, crazy fun special effects that were ahead of its time, and I can’t get enough of the Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) monologues and one-liners.
RNRR: Some amazing picks there, all true classics with their own individual merits. So quickly swinging it back round to music for the last few questions now. What does the rest of 2021 hold for The Dives? In the way of releases planned and live shows, what are you thinking or even hoping to get out of this year from now?
DIVES: We have plans for more releases and videos throughout the rest of 2021. We're also super excited that we'll be able play live shows more actively again as venues open up more and more. We had missed playing live so much and were super pumped to have finally been able to do so last month in NYC. Really emotional and fun for us and for the people who were able to attend. Proved how much people NEED live music and human interaction. There's nothing else like it.
RNRR: There truly isn’t. Well guys that just about wraps her up, it’s been a pleasure having you on. However, as you know from previous Spotlights, I can’t end this until I ask a very special question that every guest gets asked right at the end. Desert. Island. Discs. One album you’re allowed for the rest of your days on the island and one album only. What are you all picking and equally importantly, why?
DIVES: [Mikey]: One album is simply impossible to choose. There are far too many to pick from. However, the one that still means the most to me in my growth as a musician is ‘Rubber Soul’ by The Beatles. It was the first time I had ever really conceived that an album could be more than just a collection of songs, but actually have a deeper meaning to it. It’s the perfect combination of folk, rock and pop all in one album. So while it pains me to omit so many other favourites, I would have to choose that one. [Jimmy]: I’m not the only one of us to pick a Beatles record but I think I’ll be the only one to choose ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. My uncle burnt me a copy of it and I think I listened to it non stop for MONTHS. Little did I know then the significance this album had on popular music and how it would affect me as a musician, recording engineer, and producer later in my career. I probably still have the CD with his handwriting on it somewhere. [Sergio]: Peter Gabriel is one of my favourite artists, performers, and songwriters of all time. So if there was one album I had to choose, it would be ‘So’ by Peter Gabriel. To me, it is a perfect record front to back. Brilliant songwriting and so beautiful sonically. It had a huge impact on me growing up even before I ever entertained the idea of becoming a musician. Not to mention, it’s responsible for probably one of the greatest music videos of all time in ‘Sledgehammer’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that video. So it’s unique in that I always have an awesome visual to go with the song every time I listen to it. Rare that any artist can pull off something like that.
RNRR: Expert choices all round guys! Well that just about wraps things up, thank you for coming on Spotlight, it’s been a pleasure chatting. Everyone at RNRR wishes The Dives all the very best for the rest of the musical year.
If you would like to find out more about The Dives or keep up to date with the band's latest releases, their social medias are all below via the icons:
Emma Furrier chatted to the one and only Briston Maroney in anticipation of his debut album release, ‘Sunflower’, which is out now. A very special interview with a huge rising star, this one is not a Spotlight to be missed!
RNRR: Hi Briston, welcome to Spotlight! Let's start off with introductions for those who are unfamiliar with you and your music.
BM: Hi my name is Briston Maroney! I am a musician from Knoxville, Tennessee, but I live in Nashville now. Right now I don't do a lot, but I am waiting to put out our debut record next week (April 9th). It's insane... but yeah, I'm Briston [laughs].
RNRR: Wonderful! It's lovely to meet you.
BM: You too, thank you.
RNRR: How are you feeling about your debut album coming out? How would you describe the sound? Is there any sonic shift from what you've put out in your EPs so far, and the singles, which are amazing, by the way.
BM: Ah, thank you! That's so sweet, thanks so much. I feel like the singles are a good representation of what the whole record is kind of gonna sound like. There's a couple more stripped back tracks that weren't singles that are some of the more special ones to me on the record, and more personal. It's pretty wide ranged between all the stuff we've released so far between some of the heavier, "rock stuff" and some more acoustic driven, "songwriter-y" songs too, which is kind of where my roots are based musically. But yeah, we try to do a little bit of everything and I think it came out in this kind of funky, pretty weird combination of things. But it feels really true to kind of the period of time that we are making the record.
RNRR: How long have you been working on it for? Has it been just during the pandemic?
BM: Dude, it's insane [laughs]. This has been the longest process ever. I don't mean to sound ungrateful about it at all, but it is so long, it's insane. Some of these songs were some of the first songs that I sent the label that we work with when we started working together like 3 years ago. So some of these songs are so old. I have written so many songs since. I have written more songs since the record was done than there are total on the album. We actually got the first batch of masters like done this time last year. I've had this record in a stupid little Soundcloud link for a year. You can safely assume that I lost my mind listening to it over and over just being like "It has to come out!" [laughs].
RNRR: Right, well it's your baby, it's your debut!
BM: Yeah totally. Everyone is being so sweet about it so I haven't felt a ton of pressure. But just like, self wise, it does feel like... it's scary, man. With how much time has passed in the time that we worked on it, it just feels like man, that was like two years of life essentially, that I hope can impact people in way, like it was worth that time and effort. When you pour yourself into something, you obviously want it to do well. We definitely did, for like two years straight.
RNRR: There's probably pros and cons to that too. Having to sit on it for a while before you're able to release it.
BM: Totally. Yeah, that's a really good point. I definitely feel like my relationship with it has changed a lot. I really was so scared when we started getting stuff back and seeing it completed. I was like oh man, there is so much more I should've done, or I should've done things differently, I wish I would have sang this differently, or gotten out of my head the day we tracked this part and this part. But with that much time to sit on it, I've really come to terms with just like, man it couldn't have been any different than it was. You know what I mean? It happened exactly how it was gonna happen. So like, just coming to peace like yeah, this is what I was capable of at that time. I wouldn't want it to be any more or less.
RNRR: Right, and then it'll sound true to you as well. It's not pretending to be anything more than it is.
BM: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Which is scary, because I battle a lot with "okay, if this sounds like me, what if me is not enough?" You know what I mean? So like, it's weird. You constantly have to be working on that, I guess, in that mindset. I'm sure you have similar feelings with writing, like I'm sure just hearing your own voice and seeing your own thoughts on paper, it's just like, this is totally what I want to feel and want to say, but that's a scary thing to do.
RNRR: Yes, absolutely. How did you come up with the title, 'Sunflower'? I was really excited to see you named it that. I love sunflowers, they just make me so happy.
BM: Oh thank you so much. Yeah, that is literally what it came down to for me. I didn't want to complicate that super heavily, I didn't want to make it anything crazy. I felt like this album is pretty straightforward and pretty simple. It's kind of my attempt at talking about what I think is beautiful or impactful in my life, and sunflowers are that. You can't really knock a sunflower. I don't know anyone that looks at a sunflower and is just like, "this is not good" [laughs]. If you are criticizing a sunflower, you're probably a tool and not cool [laughs]. So yeah, I just wanted something that was universally beautiful. They're really awesome. They also do this crazy thing, I don't know if you knew this or if this is even really true. But I read somewhere that they grow towards the sun and at times if they need sunlight, if two of them aren't getting enough light, they'll turn towards each other and combine whatever sunlight they're getting. I don't know if that's true, but it seemed very romantic and awesome, so I liked that.
RNRR: I love that. You could probably make a lot of metaphors out of that.
BM: For sure. Yeah, it's like, fake smart [laughs]. I'll let the smarter people decide.
RNRR: How has making the album, or just making music in general, how has that relationship evolved throughout the pandemic for you?
BM: Man, that's a great question. It is definitely really different just because we are not getting to try new songs live. That's a huge part of when something feels good or bad for me. We got to play a socially distanced show a week or two ago and we played some of the new songs from the record, and it was like, a huge moment for me. Some of the songs I was like, man I am really scared of how this is gonna be received. Then getting to play them for people and seeing that they were making people happy, it totally helped me come to terms with what these songs are and what they mean to me. I have written a lot in the past year, but a lot of these songs, it's like, I don't know how I feel about them and I won't until we get to play them for people. The Internet is an awesome way obviously to share that stuff, but it's like a comment of saying "I'm enjoying this" is so different than seeing someone actively having a good time. So yeah, that's been a huge impact.
RNRR: This summer you are hitting the road with Mt. Joy for some outdoor shows.
BM: Yes! We feel really good about doing the outdoor stuff. And we're booking for next year and stuff, which is so long away, but if that's what it takes, then that's what we'll do. We'll hope for the best and we'll get back out there.
RNRR: Right, and you're playing some online shows. You're doing Bands In Town.
BM: Yes! Dude, I am so excited about that, I can't wait. A bunch of my friends have done them and said that they were really really fun. We get to do it in Nashville, too, at a place that we really love. I'm stoked about that.
RNRR: I collect vinyl, so I am so excited to get your album. I ordered the autographed, translucent orange pressing you put out.
BM: Ah no way! That's so nice, thank you. That's so cool. I had a really solid little vinyl collection going and then I moved, and it's just been at this house that I lived at like three years ago, this big box of records has been there.
RNRR: It's hard to move vinyl!
BM: It is, yeah! Because you can like mess them up really bad too, right?
RNRR: Yeah, you have to be really careful. There is a lot of care and maintenance that goes into it, more than people probably imagine.
BM: Yes, it's crazy. Hopefully they make it back to me soon.
RNRR: Over the pandemic especially, I've seen that social activism is something that you've been pretty vocal about, with No Kid Hungry. That is a really cool thing to use your platform for. How has that influenced you, or has it influenced your music at all?
BM: Yeah, thanks for saying that. That organization specifically is so awesome and was so helpful. It's definitely an area that was heavily impacted by COVID. So many kids were relying on public schools to be fed. Especially in big cities like New York or something, kids that were getting 3 meals at school were suddenly not having access to food. That organization is awesome and a little bit of money goes a long way with them. But yeah, obviously everywhere you looked in 2020 there were different groups of people expressing need because of the impact of the pandemic and everything that happened socially. I certainly considered that with making music. It's an interesting thing, because I don't ever want to tell someone else's story, and I have a pretty limited view perspective wise. I'm incredibly lucky to have lived a privileged and blessed life, so I more so try to talk about themes of inclusivity, love, and kindness, in a way that I just want people to know that my music can be a place that they can turn, despite whatever story they have experienced. I want it to feel like a safe place. So yeah, I've definitely kept that in mind more than ever in writing in the past year. But you know, it's something that you can constantly get better at doing. It's tough too, to not be able to meet new people and hearing new stories in person, to be able to try to help the best you can. I'm definitely trying [laughs].
RNRR: That's really so great. And like you said, a little bit goes a long way. Would you say that there are any exclusive, predominant themes in your music? Or is whatever you are feeling and experiencing in the moment?
BM: I think with the record, stumbling into maturity was a really big part of that. Looking back, a lot of times I am like "dude, shut up. You were fine, you're okay" [laughs]. A lot of those songs were from pretty angsty places when I was nineteen and twenty, trying to figure out my place and if I really wanted this life that I thought that I wanted. This kind of rock and roll, sort of chaotic thing. So a lot of those songs are about the journey with that. Now, a lot of the songs I've been writing are about love. I started a relationship at the very beginning of the pandemic, like right before things shut down, I met a partner. That relationship has been amazing and I've learned so much from that. She has inspired me a lot, writing wise, to just like be honest and reflect back on things that have happened throughout my life and start to give those some light. All sorts of things. I have been writing a lot though, more than ever.
RNRR: That's great. And that sincerity of emotion really shines through. I think that's what makes your music relatable to people, especially the transition too, that's noticeable in your lyrics. In a way, it's like your fans are experiencing the same emotions and growing up with you through your music.
BM: That's so awesome.
RNRR: Have you picked up any new hobbies this past year?
BM: Kind of. I got super domestic at the beginning of it all. I moved into a new house, I got to buy my first house, it's crazy. When I first moved in it was all about doing little projects on the house and jogging and buying lotions and things I never would've bought. The last thing I ever thought that I would be doing [laughs]. We were on the road so much before, we didn't really get to live a normal, day to day life. I've definitely tried to just live life, which is cool.
RNRR: Are you embracing that quieter lifestyle, or are you itching to get back out on the road?
BM: For a while I was super zen about it, super like "I can be happy anywhere" and now I am like no, I don't wanna do that [laughs]. I miss the road so much. Our last show was November of 2019. We've all lived like ten years in that period of time.
RNRR: I heard you're a big fan of ‘Schitt's Creek’ and binged that in your downtime. What character would you say you are most like?
BM: Oh yes, big fan. God, that is such a hard question. This requires the most critical thinking. Probably a combination of Stevie and David. Are you a fan? What would you say?
RNRR: Yeah, I would be a combination as well. Probably... Alexis and Mutt.
BM: Woah! [laughs]. Okay, that's a really good combo. I wanna change my answer to that as well.
RNRR: Changing gears, another thing I wanted to touch on was way back when, you got your first taste of fame on American Idol. The bus went by in your town, and you stated then how you believed in "divine intervention" and you never would have auditioned if it weren't for that. Looking back on it now, and especially releasing an album during this time, do you still have that same belief that everything happens for a reason?
BM: Yeah, I pretty much still think that everything happens for a reason. I know that gets complicated. I think a lot of the time that missed opportunities are good things. I definitely still stand with that, and I am pretty thankful for how the American Idol stuff panned out. I'm glad...it was awesome and fun to do when I was a kid, and now I am glad that it didn't last any longer than it did [laughs]. I still love the show. Sam and I have been watching the new season. My drummer's wife's sister is on this season. Her name's Cassandra Coleman. She's so good and she's so sweet, so you should watch it 'cause she's crushing it.
RNRR: Awesome, we'll keep an eye out! So what are your plans for when your debut album comes out? What's in the works? You recently posted a clip in the studio with Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra.
BM: Yeah, we've definitely been making a lot of music and writing a good bit. It's kind of up in the air with who knows when record two will start. I'm pretty eager, but they keep telling me to breathe. Hopefully more time in the studio soon. Definitely been writing a lot, and yeah I got to do some stuff with Manchester. I don't know how much I'm allowed to disclose, but we've worked on some stuff together. Andy actually wrote one of the songs called Bottle Rocket on the album. He's been a huge mentor, friend, figure. We've been working on a bunch of stuff with a lot of different people. But focusing on getting back to touring properly is really, really big for us. There are some kind of one-off dates here and there, that are safe. We want to hit 2022 with no inhibitions, as far as how we want to present the show. Kind of just like, spreading the record online, doing more press for that, writing more, and gearing up for hopefully a great year for touring next year. Then, maybe a record somewhere around there. All subject to change. All of that could change at any day, so who knows.
RNRR: Do you have any artists that you would love to collaborate with? What would be the ultimate collab for you?
BM: Gosh, my answer is always changing. I'm a huge fan of the new Arlo Parks record that just came out. I would love to do something with Arlo Parks at some point, if the stars ever aligned that would be really cool. I've gotten to know Jake Luppen from the band Hippo Campus. I've gotten to do some stuff with Jake which was kind of a dream thing. I love that dude so much, that was really really cool. But I don't know, the list is infinite.
RNRR: That's great. I love how you mentioned both young, modern artists too who are kind of in the same boat as you. Those would be great collabs to see. Now you came from a musical family, right?
BM: Yeah, they all play music. My dad was definitely huge in helping me always have the resources to do this stuff.
RNRR: They must be so proud of you.
BM: I hope so [laughs]. They are very sweet. I'm proud of them. They're awesome.
RNRR: Okay to wrap things up, our signature Spotlight question is if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one album with you, what would that album be?
RNRR: Forever. Well, as long as you're on the island, I guess. I don't know if you're getting rescued or saved, that part can be up to you.
BM: Dammit. I always have to have my Spotify ready to go. Okay, the first thing that came to mind just 'cause there's so many different kinds of songs on this. ‘So Far’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It's a classic. There's upbeat ones for the good days on the island and some sad ones for those long nights. I'm proud of that answer, I feel good about that.
RNRR: Yes such a good one! That is an excellent answer. Just last night I actually watched the documentary 'Echo in the Canyon'. Have you seen that?
BM: Yeah, I watched that a couple years ago. I heard so much about it for so long. So good.
RNRR: Bonus question. Did a bug really crawl in your mouth once? (Per Briston’s Instagram bio).
BM: Oh yeah. I was in Joshua Tree staying with our friend who rents a house out in the desert. He hadn't been there in a really long time. So when we came in there were a lot of bugs and then I went to sleep not really thinking that the bugs wouldn't go away. Then in the nighttime a bug crawled into my mouth. It was the worst experience of my life. I was sleeping and I woke up to the feeling of like a big grasshopper in my mouth. I was pretty bummed [laughs].
RNRR: That's horrifying, I'm so sorry you experienced that [laughs]. Well, this was so great. Thank you so much, Briston, this has been awesome! We can't wait to hear ‘Sunflower’. We'll be listening and cheering you on.
BM: Thank you so much for your time, you rock.
If you would like to find out more about Briston and keep up to date with his latest releases, the links to all of his socials can be found below via the icons:
American rock band and friends of the page Cold Shoulder caught up with Edward Burnett this week to talk about their upcoming change in musical style, the importance of music videos and what films they’ve been watching to cure the lockdown blues!
RNRR: Hi Cold Shoulder! Nice to see you guys again! What a crazy year since we all last got together huh! How have you all been in the meantime?
CS: We've been well! We recorded our debut EP and did all of the planning to ensure we come out swinging in 2021. It was definitely an adjustment period to say the least. How have you all been?
RNRR: We’ve been great thanks, the whole team managed to get several interviews and articles out last year that raised our standards and the bar! So what changed for you guys in particular? What were the pros and cons of your new scenario?
CS: Mostly what changed for us is our writing and creative process. We have been doing a lot of our writing remotely, which has come with some challenges, but it has also forced us to take on new ways of being creative and working together while apart. It has been interesting, but ultimately has led to us improving as songwriters and we think it has resulted in our best material to date.
RNRR: So how does this new material compare with your old stuff, thematically? Have you gone with your usual style, or do you find yourself trying out little tweaks in your upcoming music, genre and lyric wise?
CS: We are really pushing ourselves to evolve creatively. Staying in the same spot musically can result in staying in the same spot with your fans and reach you know? We never want to get comfortable or stale. Our current stuff we are working out is taking lots of risks from what we already have established and we really think people will like what they hear. We are still Cold Shoulder, but be on the look out for material that is really playing with different influences, is more meaningful than most importantly, more fun.
RNRR: So talking about new influences, what have you guys been listening to while in lockdown? Has anything new and interesting caught your ears that has inspired your own music to move forward? Or perhaps just some tracks that you vibed to and got you through the worst of the pandemic?
CS: Oh absolutely, we really liked the newest from bring me the horizon. So daring, so much going on. The newest machine gun kelly album was fantastic. And in fact the violent put out a new song today that was great. We've been trying to diversify our listening to draw new inspiration. Despite to shut downs there has been great music over the past year!
RNRR: Now, crossing media mediums somewhat to film but staying on the topic of this year, what movies have got your attention this year? Oscar season is among us and with film and music being so closely linked, I think it’s always interesting to ask musicians their opinions on the film world too! Cold Shoulder, what have you enjoyed at the “home cinema” in 2020/2021?
CS: We've been light on movies in the past year. Mostly watching 80s classics. The soundtracka of those movies were all so amazing. Obviously anything John Williams related had incredible original pieces. ‘ET’, ‘Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc’, ‘Star Wars’, etc. As far as original music movies like ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, and more had original music that was used so effectively. For things post 2000? Gotta go ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Tenacious D’! Obviously 'School of Rock' had such amazing music that for everything so perfectly. What a great movie with a great concept. ‘Tenacious D’ was such a fun concept as the band's music was used to create the structure of the music as well. Such a great idea and great execution
RNRR: Some really great, classic picks in there guys! Continuing with the theme of film related to music, have you been filming any music videos during the pandemic for the new songs? Has it been a lot harder to get such videos filmed thanks to the current situation?
CS: We do have some stuff that was done right at the start that will be coming out soon here. We are going to be doing some things that have forced us to be creative. We've done some of these playthroughs remotely which has been very cool. Technology is so powerful and let's us still produce content, even when apart.
RNRR: How important are music videos to Cold Shoulder as a band and a brand? Do you feel like they are a necessity for every single released? What’s the thought process with the direction/story of what’s in the video?
CS: We definitely try to do a video for as many songs as possible. Might not be able to do every single one, but we like to have content surrounding each song. We want to make sure that we can give our audience several things to latch onto with our music. Different songs have different needs for videos. Sometimes it's based around themes, sometimes we just want to have something fun visually to keep people engaged. We are really proud of our most recent one for ‘Be Patient’ with the whole video in one take. Ironically you have to ‘Be Patient’ [laughs] in order to see everywhere it goes.
RNRR: Similar to the inclusion of a music video, a good song is nothing without some good artwork to accompany it, would you agree? What’s the creative process for you guys on deciding what the path is for album covers and what makes the cut and of course, what does not?
CS: Agreed. More now than ever the visual content is just as or more important than the song itself. The visuals have to convince someone to stop scrolling and that's not easy [laughs]. We usually come up with rough ideas for our artwork and get something we all like. From there we have a few artists we frequently use to turn our rough ideas into something more presentable!
RNRR: Do you feel that colour in an album cover can reflect the mood of the music? I ask this as your latest single ‘Be Patient’ predominantly featured red. Similarly each of your previous singles all featured a solid colour throughout including orange and blue in ‘Them Bones’ and ‘Faithless’ respectively. What can we expect from your upcoming releases in that matter?
CS: I don't know if we've put too much thought into the color of the album colors, but it's definitely something that reflects mood. We gravitate toward blues, orange and red, so there will probably be more of that! Our upcoming singles are songs from the upcoming EP, so you can expect a very familiar album cover.
RNRR: Familiarity is always a winner. So let’s briefly talk about the upcoming EP then guys. What can you reveal at this early date about it? Do you have a title or any details about the length of it as of yet? What’s the gossip?
CS: Ahh, yes that thing [laughs]. It's a self titles EP, so nothing too interesting going on there. The release date is June 11th. You're actually the first people to know that date! We have a new single coming out on April 23rd and another single will coincide with the release of our EP. The lengths about 30 minutes and we're excited to share it with you!
RNRR: Finally, as you know from being long term friends of the page, it’s customary of me to ask what your desert island album would be? Can you find one that you all agree on?
CS: HMMM, that's always a good question. Maybe Metallica’s self-titled black album. That's always a good listen!
RNRR: An undisputed classic that one! Well it’s been a pleasure to see you guys again and on behalf of everyone at RNRR, we wish you the very best for the rest of the musical year!
If you would like to learn more about Cold Shoulder or keep up to date with their latest EP release then the links to all their socials can be found via the icons below:
Swiss indie pop-rock band World’s& chat to Edward Burnett about their preferred type of music release and why as well as their plans for the rest of the year including their new EP ‘Vice’!
RNRR: Hi World’s&, welcome to Spotlight! Lovely to have you guys here, how are you all doing? How about you introduce yourselves to readers unfamiliar with your music?
WORLD’S&: Hi! First, thanks for everything you are doing! We're fine, a bit tired by the length of this situation but happy to progress with our music. We actually just released a new EP called ‘Vice’! To all those who don't know us, we ask them to imagine if Coldplay, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead had a baby, we would be the weird sibling.
RNRR: Well let’s go straight into the present and let’s talk ‘Vice’. What’s your favourite track that you’ve got on the EP and why?
WORLD'S&: We are three in the band, César Dyrberg (guitar), Natalie Anston (vocals) and Lucas Innocenti (drums), we also have a bassist that plays with us (Romain Corne). [César] My favourite track of the EP is Vice as to me it’s the one that stands out the most. It was quite an experience to compose and to rearrange with the band, we litterally found the chorus the day before heading in to the studio ! The steady beat of the intro, the melodic angelic pre-chorus before you get struck by the powerful chorus and finishing with the grande finale; this song takes you in all directions... ‘Vice’ may be destabilising to some listeners, but that’s what I love about it!
RNRR: So while on the topic of EPs, how important do you think they are? In relation to purely singles and full blown albums, what makes a 4 to 5 song EP so unique when getting your music out there in your opinion?
WORLD'S&: [Natalie] I think EPs are great bc you give people enough to really have an idea of where you are going musically but not that much that it's too much for someone to listen to if they have never heard of you. Singles are great too but less exciting to talk about unless you have a super loyal fanbase built already. We have actually already been working on the next EP!
RNRR: Do you plan to take the same direction as ‘Vice’ on the new EP, both thematically and genre wise or are you more of a fluid musical outfit which changes your sound from release to release?
WORLD'S&: [Lucas] We were planning at the beginning to have the same atmosphere in the next EP than in 'Vice', but now, as there are no gigs, we are especially focused on composing new music. Furthermore, recording ‘Vice’ with Yvan Bing has had a huge impact on us as we worked intensly with him on the arrangement before even entering the studio and afterwards on the production. Thus, we are now searching for new sounds, a more pronounced identity, and going a lot deeper than before ‘Vice’, things are gonna be different, for sure.
RNRR: So now that we’ve covered the current, let’s take a step back and get the story of how you guys formed as a band? What pushed you to start this venture and why with each other and not as solo artists or other bands?
WORLD'S&: [Natalie] I started the band in 2016 with another guitarist. I was studying opera and had always dreamed to write music so I decided to take a break from opera and form a band. In 2018 I met César after searching for a new guitarist and he brought along our drummer Lucas who I was hesitant to have join the band because he was so young but when I went to see him play I was so impressed.. I couldn't imagine anyone better. You could say we are kind of the "misfits" that found eachother. Each of us have totally different musical influences: opera, jazz, rock, metal, etc. I think what is cool is that we don't overthink what music we want to make or where we fit, we just do whatever we feel.
RNRR: You briefly mention your different influences there as individuals so my next question is quite simply what artists and bands were your individual musical influences as you were growing up?
WORLD'S&: [Lucas] Stanton Moore, Green Day, Supertramp. [Natalie] Renée Fleming, Maria Callas, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Elvis. [César] Slipknot, Radiohead, and Skallywags.
RNRR: Some quite varied picks there! How big of an impact does music have on your everyday lives? Has it grown significantly over the years or has it always been a major aspect?
WORLD'S&: [Lucas] It is continuously growing! [César] It has always been a major aspect of my life. [Natalie] My parents said I was singing before I could speak. I literally haven't gone a day in my life without singing. Music is the centre of my being.
RNRR: The past year has left many of us with far more free time on our hands due to unforeseen circumstances. What have you been up to in this pandemic stricken year? Have you seen lots of films? Developed any new talents besides the musical side of course?
WORLD'S&: [Natalie] We have all been mostly writing alot of music. I started teaching myself to play guitar, got better at my piano skills and tried to achieve my ultimate goal of doing the splits (laughs), I failed on that last one up to now but I will get it one day!
RNRR: What are World’s&’s plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any plans for future gigs and shows? How strict are the regulations where you’re based? What would you like to have achieved by the end of this year?
WORLD'S&: We plan to make a demo soon for our next EP and find some financial support from the state to help fund the project. So far we don't have any concerts planned.. Things in geneva Switzerland are pretty strict, there is not much going on. We might have to move underground (laughs). I think by the end of 2021 we would like our musicto be placed in some series and get some radio play. We also have a single coming out in June which is a cover of the song ‘Live in the Moment’ from Portugal the Man. It is the first cover we have ever done.
RNRR: At the end of every interview as I’m sure you’ll know, we ask the all important question on albums. You’re stranded on a desert island and you can only have one album with you to play for the rest of your days. What are you all picking and even more importantly, why?
WORLD'S&: [Natalie] Argh! Hard question haha for me ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ from Coldplay. It reminds me of when I lived in NYC. That was a very difficult time in my life but those struggles toughened me up and I grew stronger. Then I met the love of my life, we listened to ‘Green Eyes’ together and next thing you know I was living in Switzerland. [César] Etienne Machine ‘Off & Off’ their songs are very sentimental and would help me get through the isolation. [Lucas] ‘Paradis City’ by Jean Leloup because everytime I listen to it, I uncover things about myself, who I am as a person.
RNRR: Some really great obscure picks there from each of you. Well, what a pleasure it has been having you on Spotlight this week! Thanks for you time World’s& and good luck for the rest of the professional year!
If you would like to find out more about WORLD'S& and keep up to date with the release of their upcoming EP, the links to their socials can be find below via the icons:
Toronto based rock band The Spiral Theory chat to Edward Burnett about how they formed together, their plans for the rest of 2021 and their music’s subject matter and how overused concepts such as the theme of love are becoming outdated in modern music!
RNRR: Hi The Spiral Theory! How are you doing, would you mind introducing yourselves, who’s on what and what kind of music you play!
TST: Hey Ed, we are doing well thanks, how are you? We are The Spiral Theory, a Toronto-based rock band. We are super stoked to inform you that our debut album ‘Turn of the Tide’ is out now and is currently streaming on major streaming platforms. The Spiral Theory is an interesting DIY blend of multi-cultural artists. We have myself aka Sandeep Swaminathan on vocals, Joe Liranzo on guitars, Alan Dennis on drums, and Clarence Poirier on bass.
RNRR: I’m great thanks, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Before we get on to talking ‘Turn of the Tide’, let’s get the backstory on the band for our readers. How did you guys all get together to form the band? Were you friends before or did you meet musically?
TST: Sure! We formed the whole band in 2018 when I moved from India to Canada. Joe and Alan played together under a different name with their previous singer for several years until he decided to quit one day. Clarence joined the band sometime before I did. We were auditioning for that "right" singer and we had our share of fun doing it. I auditioned and then after I sang that first time, we definitely knew then it was a fit! From there we just booked a rehearsal space and started jamming our way through!
RNRR: An interesting background story for sure leaving my next question for just lead singer Sandeep. How did you find the music scene different upon arriving in Canada? Did you find more opportunities to go professional there?
TST: Thank you! Oh, it was great, right off the bat! I started exploring the city immediately after I landed here, pre-pandemic times of course, and did a ton of Open Mics! Everyone's so welcoming here in Toronto and people are always excited to hear your story! I received some fabulous feedback! People instantly connected with my singing and that's when I knew it that I should step up the game and take it professionally from then onwards.
RNRR: How has Covid affecting your own personal experience of Toronto having only been there for a short time before it hitting? To the rest of the band, how was Covid affected your recording and performing schedules?
TST: Oh! Coronavirus has ruined many things for many people including my plans and our roadmap as a band! Personally, I was cozying up with Toronto and had a great schedule going on with an unlimited-we-are-sorry-for-everything TTC annual pass to commute around to reach on-time (locals will get that one!). But, an amazing takeaway from a neighborhood joint would offset that misery [laughs]. Jokes apart, I really miss meeting people as I just started networking and making new friends. That to me is a major blow! From the band's perspective, we had almost 20 gigs lined up for 2020 in and around the GTA. We had to let go our monthly rehearsal space and our debut album release took a hit too as the last 3 to 4 sessions went over several months.
RNRR: So where does that all leave you now and what are the band currently working on right now? Of course you have just released your debut album so would you tell the readers more about what 'Turn of the Tide' sounds like? Have you had chance to regroup yet and proceed with recording?
TST: Oh yeah! Despite the tough times, we went ahead and released our debut album, ‘Turn of the Tide’, on all major streaming platforms! The songs of ‘Turn of the Tide’ sound like a cross between The Police and Gin Blossoms - classic in feel, modern in execution! Also, Joe and I (Sandeep) are currently remotely working on releasing the acoustic versions of a few songs from the album. Almost ready to hit the studios yet again whenever it's likely to do so!
RNRR: So aside from the music, what have you all been up to with the new found spare time due to lockdowns? Have you discovered any other hobbies or interests? Or has it been more of a film and television binge session?
TST: Interesting question! Our drummer, Alan, unfortunately had an incident that broke his arm at the beginning of the pandemic. He is alright now, in fact so much so that he won a virtual drumming contest! Also, he golfs...like a lot! Our guitarist, Joe, was really into playing Tennis at his neighbourhood club! I remember him boasting about how he has fans for his Tennis skills now [laughs]! As for me, I’m singing a lot at home these days, poor neighbours! Yeah, I’m into movies and television too with Disney Pixar’s ‘Soul’ and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ being my two new recent favourites!
RNRR: I also watched Disney’s ‘Soul’ over the winter break and really enjoyed it. I wonder what you make of the subject matter with it being a children’s film but with strong topics of death and afterlife? Do these topics ever offer themselves up to you as musicians to be used in your work rather than the more obvious subject of love which features more predominantly in music? How important is the song’s theme and overall message to you when making music?
TST: I like this question, thank you for asking! We love to write songs that inspire people! In fact, that's one of the main reasons why we wanted to write songs touching different subjects and not just the overly used and abused subject: love! To us, it is about taking what is in the past and evolving towards something better. It makes sense on two levels. It relates to bridging doing covers from the past with the original music we are making now. It also relates to our lyrics and videos often dealing with negative emotions but evolving to end on a positive note. The simple yet elusive idea that tomorrow will be better which is something that we all need right here right now!
RNRR: In the same way that we have just covered the substance of a song thematically, I’d like to ask the band the same question but regarding the sound this time instead. Do you ever feel like you’ll wish to deviate from your usual indie/rock style or are you quite rigid with what the music you release sounds like?
TST: There's one thing common - all band members love “rock” as a genre. Guitarist Joe is all about The Police, U2, and The Smiths. Fenders and clean vintage amps all the way. Drummer Alan is a disciple of Rush. Clarence’s influence of bass is mostly from Blue Rodeo. I grew up listening to the 90s and 00s music and I am always on the lookout for the current hits as well. So, to piece them together, the band definitely loves to stick to that indie/rock style and probably collab with other artists with some eclectic sounds as we are always fans of fresh production ideas!
RNRR: So what’s next for the band? What do you hope to have achieved by the time 2021 comes to a close and the pandemic is hopefully a distant memory? New releases and possible live shows on the menu?
TST: You betcha! New releases are definitely in the plan and can't wait to get back to those live gig days! I'm also recently hearing a lot about live music going hybrid aka both live and live-streaming going forward and that's also something to consider!
RNRR: Finally, we ask the same end question to all our guests and it’s undoubtedly the most important. If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your days with the choice of only one album to bring with you, what do you pick? One album per group member to keep it fair!
TST: [Laughs] Only one album, eh? I feel like I know the guys too well to answer on behalf of everyone! Easy pick for Joe. Give Joe the final and the fifth album, ‘Synchronicity’ by The Police, and he is set. Clarence might pick ‘Nowhere to Here’ by the Blue Rodeo and then make a witty remark about it - something like aren’t we already here and nowhere to go?! [Laughs] Alan would pick ‘Moving Pictures’ by Rush and then start jamming out with percussions made out of coconuts and sticks! As for me, I will take the ‘Greatest Hits’ album by Guns N’ Roses and I’ll happily strand myself with that for the rest of my days!
RNRR: Some very varied picks there which we always love to see! Well, The Spiral Theory, it’s been a pleasure having you on Spotlight this week and everyone at Rock N Roll Reports wishes you the best for the 2021 creative and professional year!
If you would like to find out more about The Spiral Theory and keep up to date with their latest releases, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons:
Hastings based indie-rock band TxtTalk chat to Edward Burnett about their origins, their plans for post-social distancing and their brand new rockin’ single: ‘Hollywood’!
RNRR: Hi TxtTalk! Would you mind introducing yourselves, where your from and your style of music for the RNRR readership that are unfamiliar with you?
TT: Hi Rock N Roll Reports, we are TxtTalk, an Alt/Indie/Pop band from Hastings, UK. We’ve just released our debut EP ‘Text Message Love Letters’ which hit 25k streams in one month on Spotify and it also gained us the spot of BBC Introducing’s featured artist of the week! On top of that our new single ‘Hollywood’ is out now! We have Marcus Swadling on vocals/guitar, Ed Stubbs on drums, Theo Prior on bass and Mark Yexley on the trumpet. Everything is completely self produced from recording to mastering between our home studios and the University of Brighton recording studios.
RNRR: Okay great, nice to meet you all. So let’s go back in time now and ask when and how did you all meet? Did you know instantly you’d be in a band together or were there friendships running long before that moment arose?
TT: We actually started the band in 2019 when our previous singer Callum Dalton (who you can hear on our debut EP) was in another band, a live drum and bass outfit, doing the festival circuit at the time. We had just got back from playing Glastonbury Festival and we had been writing some songs together with Marcus (our current singer). Marcus was playing bass at the time in the band, we jammed around in the studio for a while finding our sound and messing about with some riffs and ideas before we started to self record our debut EP. We knew we wanted to do somthing alternative-indie and we were listening to a lot of Australian indie bands at the time and were drawing a lot of influencers there from bands like Sticky Fingers, Ocean Alley, Lime Cordiale, the DMAs.
RNRR: So you’ve mentioned a few immediate inspirations that lead to the creation of your music but who were each member’s inspirations growing up? When did each of you realise you wanted to have a musical career as opposed to any other professional ambition you had?
TT: We all grew on a diverse mixture of musical influences which has probably made are sound the way it is now. Marcus grew up listening to bands like Foo Fighters, Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs, Blur and more aswell as listening to a lot of 60 and 70s psyche rock bands from his dad’s huge vinyl collection. Ed was quite into some heavier bands like Muse, Guns and Roses and Metallica aswell as having had a big influence from the electronic scene with bands like The Prodigy as well as drum and bass artists like Pendulum and Shy Fx. Mark listened to a lot of Miles Davis, James Brown, David Bowie, Fat Freddy’s Drop and more recently, John Grant. And out bass player Theo’s were Miles Davis, Chopin, John Mayer, Norah Jones.
RNRR: Live performances are always a key part of music despite them decreasing in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic raging on. My question to each of you is what was each of your first gigs you went to and which gig left the most lasting impression on you?
TT: [Marcus]: The first proper gig I went to was Angels and Airwaves at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. It was the first time I'd seen a band from the States with a huge following. This was around the time I started playing in my first band and it definitely gave me a lot of inspiration to start gigging back then. Seeing Green Day at the Emirates Stadium, supported by the Kaiser Chiefs was brilliant too though. Seeing a band of that status play for 3 hours and being in a stadium packed with over 70 thousand people chanting along, having a great time, felt unreal. The way the singer Billie Joe Armstrong interacted with a crowd that size and still managed to get them involved with the songs was really inspiring. [Ed]: When I first started going to gigs it was probably when I was turning 18 in Brighton. I was going to mates’ shows and local indie nights at different bars around the city. We were all young and probably underage so it was drinking a few beers on the street and using fake ids to get in [laughs] but obviously since then have seen some amazing bands. One of the biggest atmospheres I have experienced would be at Rage Against the Machine at Download Festival. The way frontman Zak de la Rocha worked the crowd was unreal and the energy was crazy. They had been broken up for years and it was their come back year so people were going mad, I think people were getting crushed at the front an they actually had to stop the gig, so yeah pretty intense stuff.
RNRR: Some amazing gigs and bands you’ve just name dropped there guys! So while staying on the topic of live performances, what plans do you have gig-wise after the pandemic eases? Is there any venue or festival you realistically want to play before the end of the year?
TT: We hope to be gigging again by the summer if all goes to plan! Nothing is concrete yet because of the current situation but we're hoping to get back into the swing of things by playing some local shows and festivals in our hometown Hastings as well as promoting a couple of the new singles we're planning to drop around that time. We also have a few dates in London pencilled in but as I said nothing is in concrete yet due to the pandemic.
RNRR: So guys, you recently released your great new single ‘Hollywood’. With such a catchy tune and interesting lyrics, the song is already a hit in my books. Talk us through the process of coming up with the theme of the song.
TT: You always hear people talking about the Hollywood dream and how great it would be to be in the shoes of those living it but you don't always hear their side of the story. The pressures, the lack of control over your own life or the image they construct of you to sell the brand. There was a few different news stories going on at the time and it just got me thinking about the realities of that lifestyle and the corruption Then the lyric 'Cause this is Hollywood, and I bet you never felt this good' just popped into my head and we went from there. We are proud to say the track ended up as a highlight on BBC Introducing, gaining the status of track of the day on BBC Music which was a real highlight for us.
RNRR: Congratulations are in order as BBC Introducing is no mean feat for sure! The ‘Hollywood’ single artwork is also truly immense, how did you settle on going for such a grand piece of design for the single’s cover?
TT: The artwork was created by our good friend Zak Comyns who is a very creative and talented illustrator. The artwork he created captures the lyrics and vision of the song perfectly and we love working with him. There's a lot of references in the artwork, from the Church of Scientology to Marilyn Monroe, it's really cool to take a closer look at.
RNRR: So moving away from the music side of things, what are your biggest other hobbies and interests as individuals?
TT: Marcus has always had an interest in video and photography. [Marcus]: When I was younger my school ran a video editing class which I did for a while. I started using programs like Photoshop when I was around 10 and I would just mess around creating digital art and converting old black and white photos into colour, things like that. This knowledge is pretty useful these days as we don't really have to rely on anyone outside of the band for creating things like Facebook/Spotify banners and promotional materials. On the video side of things, we've been filming and editing behind the scenes mini documentary's whilst in the studio, showing how we record and write songs which is just a really cool way to let our fans see how everything comes together. At the start of the lockdown, we decided that since we can't go out and play for people that we would start our Lockdown Live cover series and upload the videos online. We've done around 6 of them so far, covering some of our favourite bands and we've tried to be quite creative with the video side of things.
RNRR: So carrying on the topic of other hobbies, did you guys learn any new talents or gain any other interests while the United Kingdom was in its various lockdowns? Of course we are still in one so what do you each do to pass the time other than music related activities?
TT: Lockdown came as abit of a blessing in disguise. We have had so much time to finish tracks, edit parts down and really perfect what we have. We actually released our debut EP in the first lockdown! Our second EP ‘Hollywood’ is nearly finished and we have already made steps into our third EP! So it has really given us time to get our heads into it. We are so buzzing to get out of lockdown though and start gigging. Words can’t express how hungry we are for this! Besides from music we have been taking to the South Downs for long walks. It’s so important to get out and exercise during times like these to keep your head on and keep sharp. It also helps with inspiration to get out and take a break, getting the amazing views that the area we live in has to offer. We are very lucky in that respect to live here in Sussex.
RNRR: So looking towards the future, where would you like the band by the end of this year? What would you gage as a successful year?
TT: At this point, playing even a handful of shows this year will feel like a success! With the easing of restrictions starting to take place, it's looking like we can start rehearsing and gigging full time again within the next few months and we honestly can't wait! Our main aims this year are to play as many shows as we can and to promote the new EP 'Hollywood' that we're releasing next month. Then our focus will turn to our single release we've had planned for this summer. hopefully picking up some festival slots along the way. We actually have a lot of new material in the works at the moment so we should have something ready for the end of the year too! With all things considered, if everything goes to plan it will be a really productive and successful year for us.
RNRR: A lot of plans and we’re all hoping that the stars align for you so that you can make 2021 a successful year for sure. Finally, I have to ask you our signature Spotlight question. We always pose the problem of being stranded on a desert island to our guests with the option of only choosing one album to listen to for the rest of their lives. TxtTalk, what are you picking and more crucially, why?
TT: That is such a hard question for us as we all have such a varied music taste but as a band, we definitely share certain inspirations. I guess we'd have to go for the first Arctic Monkeys album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’. It’s still one of their best if not best albums as the lyrics are truthful, the riffs are loud and it's hard to get bored of. We all loved that album at the time and it’s an artist we are proud to say our sound is often compared to.
RNRR: That’s one of my all time favourite albums as the Monkeys are my personal favourite band so I’ve got to give you extra points for that one! Thanks for being such great and insightful guests and best of look with the release of your second EP, ‘Hollywood’!
If you'd like to find out more about TxtTalk and keep up to date with their latest EP releases then the links to all their social medias are below via the icons: