Spotlight returns with Laura Mills asking the questions for the first time. In the hot-seat is lostboy, the Sheffield indie four-piece.
RNRR: In three words, how would you describe ‘Lover’?
LB: Ballsy, groovy and heart-felt.
RNRR: So, what’s ‘Lover’ really about?
LB: It’s written in a way that’s sort of a difficult relationship and you feel like you’re building towards like this big breakdown in communication, a big fall out. The track aims to build tensions throughout, that feeling of uneased, it’s not right and you can’t figure out what’s gone wrong. Then it all kicks off in the middle when the lads join me and that’s kinda like the big fall out moment when everything kicks off, it puts things in perspective.
RNRR: With ‘Lover’, how long did the song process take? Comparing with other tracks, too.
LB: So, the track started out with that sort of peddling one note guitar part that fall throughout all the verses, and then the main riff section just come about. I knew I wanted to do a breakdown there and make this moment, but the lead guitar wasn’t in there. I sat down and we wanted to make something hooky and repetitive. The main sort of line came about in the studio really, the track we had to play around with. We’d always really liked it but didn’t know how to make it a tune, I think that’s why the structure is a bit weird on it, but I kinda love it for it. It’s short but not too short, short enough in a way that’s like when people listen to it they go “f**k” and wish it had been longer.
RNRR: What would you rate ‘Lover’ out of ten?
RNRR: Definitely a ten?
LB: Yep. I’d like to say 11 or 12, but I hate people that do that. So, ten.
RNRR: Comparing ‘Lover’ to your other tracks, how does it stand up? Would you say it’s better?
LB: I don’t like to pick amongst my children because I love them all, they’ve all got different feels. The next track we’ve got dropping, which is gunna be pretty soon, is called ‘Maple’. That’s a lot more kinda heart-felt and it’s got more of a feel of our older stuff, like 'Luna', which I know a lot of people love. We wanted to give them something like that. I dunno, the whole EP is like this natural progression from start to finish. The first track is how I used to write music when I was listening to rock bands when I was a kid, the tracks in the middle are what we’ve been doing as lostboy but a bit more advanced, sounds a bit better and a bit fresher. Then the last track on the EP is the way we are heading. We spent last weekend in Liverpool and other than going out with the guys from Bandit – we went out with them to this little Irish bar and got smashed and there was guy with a kiss mark on his bum cheek and apparently the pub was called "Kiss My Ass" in Irish – we weren’t just dossing about, we were writing new music and the new stuff we’ve written that weekend makes sense to the EP and when people hear it, we might play it on tour, it will make sense.
RNRR: If ‘Lover’ was the first lostboy song someone heard, what do you hope they would think?
LB: Hopefully, that this would sound better live and then they go to our website and buy tickets to the shows and merch. Then I’d check my bank account and wouldn’t be having a Pot Noodle for tea.
RNRR: I know the last time we chatted was after your show in Sheffield, and from the sounds of it the approach to lostboy’s music has changed. Has it changed since then?
LB: I think what happened was that we did the vast majority of writing for lostboy in Lockdown without that live element with the band. I think now we’re writing it for the stage, when I write a tune or going over a guitar set, I go “Who’s gunna kick off to this? Can I see it?”
RNRR: I know so many upcoming bands, like lostboy, used Lockdown as tool to really work on their music and song writing. Do you worry now with life seeming to be returning to normal that you’ll have the time to put into lostboy?
LB: When we were in Lockdown I was on furlough, but before that I was working a lot, and I saw that, I wanted to make sure I had the time to actually put work into the thing I love. So, I’ve actually just changed my job so I balance things outside and still do it. I’m working at home so I’ve got that time and I’m proactive with making sure I set time aside at night, even like two hours in the evening just playing guitar and see what happens. It’s not ever something I wouldn’t let myself have time for, it’s a challenge but it’s something all musicians at this level face.
RNRR: I think your dedication shines through and with you setting that time aside, it’s definitely going to pay off.
LB: Yeah, Lostboy is not going anywhere.
RNRR: As we’re still quite early in 2022, is there anything as a band that you’re hell-bent on achieving this year? Any goals you have to tick off?
LB: Yeah yeah, sell out as many dates of the tour as possible. People seem mad for gigs, especially after the few we did last year. Obviously getting the vinyls out too, getting as many people as possible listening to the EP. Breaking it with some of the gate keepers like Jack Saunders from Radio 1, he’s not touched base with us yet but yeah some of the day time stuff of Radio 1 would be great. Definitely play as many as possible in festival season too.
If you would like to find out more about lostboy, you can find the links to all their social medias below via the icons:
Spotlight returns for March with Sunday Crisp! Edward Burnett sat down last week to talk with the Quebec outfit. A lovely bunch with a cool backstory, the band pulls no punches in this deeper look into their music and performances.
RNRR: Hi Sunday Crisp! How are you all doing? Would you mind introducing yourselves and your style of music to those reading who may be unfamiliar with your work?
SC: Wassup Rock N Roll Reports! We're feeling very good and we hope you do too. We're Sunday Crisp, a band from Sherbrooke QC. Eddy Lava sings the tunes and strums the rythm guitar, Edwin "Duke" Morino plays sick licks on the lead guitar, Henry Magma rocks the bass and Denis Plasma mauls the drums and writes poetry. We also invite Dwig Domimos on the keys quite often, he's an okay guy! We'd describe our music as a mix between surf rock/indie rock and garage pop. It's always accompanied by lyrics that outline our urge to live life to the fullest.
RNRR: Now I see garage rock and indie all mentioned there which always makes me think of The Strokes. Who would you say your own musical inspirations are and how have they affected the band?
SC: Our biggest inspiration assuredly is Kiss. You just gotta admire the stage presence and the fact that you bang your head on simplistic tunes and lyrics. They just really understood and exploited the mechanics of rock music and business to the maximum. We often find ourselves wondering what Kiss would do in a given situation. Apart from that, we're big fans of Nickelback, Backstreet Boys and Destiny's Child. Our band really shines during live performances and we always strive to make shows that are as great and memorable as the ones from these bands.
RNRR: A lot of great bands there for sure. How did you all guys meet then and decide on becoming a band? A slow or fast process? Did you just instinctively know as soon as you jammed out together?
SC: Me (Denis), Eddy and Henri were in the Sherbrooke Cegep's music program. While most folks were playing jazz or classical music, we were really into rock and roll. We quickly found each other in the crowd and decided to jam a bit. I think the first song we played was Highway Star by Deep Purple, or maybe Warpigs by Black Sabbath. Anyhow, midway through the first song it was very clear to us that there was an undeniable chemistry that was worth exploring. We became a band after the first jam, the energy was just too strong to leave it there. Eventually, Edwin came in the music program and we decided to give him a shot. Honestly he really sucked on the guitar at first (he never played in a band before, he was mostly jamming Neil Young songs on his own), but boy did he have a strong persona and some very tight shorts. The guy was (and still is) freakin awesome and motivated so we were happy to give him a shot. Eddy was a terrible singer when he started too and now he's at a point where his vocals are the essence of the band, so we figured that we could take a bad guitarist and turn him into a sensation.
RNRR: How did you guys decide on the band name then? What’s the meaning behind it? Was there a few different options or were you always going to be Sunday Crisp?
SC: Well, in Québec there's a game we call Sonne Décriss. I guess it's the equivalent of ding dong ditch. An old coworker of Eddy jokingly suggested that we call our band Sonne Décriss. Eddy laughed it off and didnt think much of it, but by repeating it over and over he landed on Sunday Crisp, which means nothing but sounds kinda cool and has a certain edge. So all in all, there isn't much meaning behind the name. We however find it fitting because we associate our sound to a weekend vibe and because "Crisp" reminds us of the sound a beer can makes when you open it. That's the first name we landed on and we stuck with it, so no other options really came to mind.
RNRR: That’s a great story behind the name there! What is your favourite beer or drink incidentally?
SC: We always go for Pabst Blue Ribbon® or beers from Avant-Garde in Mtl!
RNRR: So back to the music now, what would be the songs of yours that you recommend for new listeners and why? Which songs would you say really capture your essence as a band?
SC: We really recommend to come and see us in a live performance because that's where we really shine. For the tracks available on Spotify and whatnot, ‘Why'd You Go Away’ and 'Go Figure' are the ones that encapsulate what we represent as a band the most. The former lets you see a more delicate and nuanced side of the band whereas the latter is full of energy and angst for a better future. We're a nostalgic yet optimistic band, so those two songs are good at showing that. Be on the lookout for Bateau Ride tho, an awesome single that will be released this summer!
RNRR: ‘Go Figure’ is especially a great one that I’d personally recommend. So where are you playing live this year? What tour and gig dates can you share with readers living nearer to the band?
SC: Thank you! For the near future, we'll hit the Murdoch in Sherbrooke on March 25th and the Marché d'à Côté in Montreal on March 28th. We're currently planning a double tour with Rinas, a great band from Texas. We'll host them for two weeks in Canada and then we'll go in the US for two more weeks of gigs. We'll definitely release the schedule on our social medias when it's ready!
RNRR: Talking of playing live, what is it that makes live shows so great for you as the performers? Do you prefer it to the studio?
SC: Playing live is such a blast. Where to start? Our shows are packed with energy, we always play like there is no tommorrow. Eddy, the singer, is a hell of a performer. This guy was clearly born to sing in front of a crowd and you can always feel it during a gig. It's impossible not to be energized by that guy. In a live performance, our chemistry as a band and as friends also really shines. We're all so thrilled to be sharing the stage that we just give the crowd enough electricity to dance for days. So we do really prefer live performances. Especially since we rehearsed the songs a trillion times. Going into the studio is something fun too, but it's really different. It requires focus and it's not the same as playing live since you have the record the tracks separately rather than as a band.
RNRR: A final note on live performances: who is the best act you guys have seen live? A gig that truly stands out to all of you or each of you and why?
SC: We've haven't all been to a show together, so it gotta be separate answers. For me, it was Violett Pi. For Eddy, it was Skeggs. For Edwin, it was Mac Demarco and for Henry, it was Muse. The common factor in all those shows were stage presence and energy. None of these artists are virtuosos, but they have a contagious energy and they make sure to make your night memorable. So essentially, they ensure that you get out of the show with awesome. Memories. none of us are looking for super displays of technical abilities, we're really just in for a good time.
RNRR: Amazing choices there and especially with Skeggs, there’s bundles of energy on the stage. So what is next this year for Sunday Crisp? New music on the way or just a solid focus on the touring that you’ve mentioned?
SC: We're working super hard and we're really dedicated, so we're planning to do a lot this year. We'll hit the studio to record 2 singles in march, we'll shoot a video for one of them, we actively write new songs, we schedule photo shoots, we work with awesome artists to bring cool merch, we try to play live shows as much as possible. We're thinking about recording the full LP too, but touring is the focus for the summer. We always keep ourselves as busy as can be!
RNRR: A very busy schedule indeed! As for your photo shoots, would that include potential cover art for the upcoming singles and full LP? What makes a good piece of cover art for you guys? What do you like to see in other artist’s covers?
SC: Yeah, we're very likely gonna use the shoot for the cover art of a single! And that's a tough question, there's no recipe for a good cover. Sometimes the art totally matches the music and that creates a complete experience where you feel like you're in the artist's world for a brief moment. I'm thinking about the moment where I first spinned Klo Pelgag's ‘Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs’; the sorta depressed clown vibe from the art puts your mind in the right spot to receive the wave of raw emotions and dispair/hope you're about to hear. Other times, the art is completely unrelated to the music and it's awesome too because it creates a big contrast, like eating lemon pie and being served a beer made with ginger. All in all tho, we think a good cover art leans more towards teleporting the listener to a world that fits the music and the vibe of a band.
RNRR: What are some of your favourite pieces of album artwork of other artists? I’ll just add for the readers that I’m literally wearing a tee with a photo of Kurt Cobain diving into the pool by pure chance as I ask this questions [laughs]!
SC: Sick shirt man! [Edwin]: ‘The Madcap Laughs’ by Syd Barrett. It justs sets the stage super well to get you into this DIY and weird thing that turns out to be endearing when it finally clicks. It's probably one of my favorite records ever. [Denis]: ‘This is Happening’ by LCD Soundsystem. Everything about it is just so classy. The font is super neat, the lights arrangement is perfect and the sideways dancing James Murphy is just an instant classic. You're ready to dance before the record even starts! [Eddy]: ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’ by Shai. It's a pensive and soothing cover that brings you to self-reflection. Who are the real Shai dudes and who are the ones from the reflection? The ones above or the ones beneath? I mean, just that single question would take years to figure out, so don't get me started on the blue sky! [Henry]: ‘Mr. Wonderful’ by Action Bronson. Henry is a man of few words, so I'll leave it at that.
RNRR: So that brings us onto our final question which is the iconic Spotlight classic. You guys are on a desert island, you can only ever play one more album for the rest of your days. What album are you guys picking and why? Individual takes on the question are welcomed too from each of you!
SC: [Duke]: ‘Music From Big Pink’ by The Band. It reminds me of my first musical discoveries and it inspired me to become an artist. The universe surrounding this record is surreal due to its sometimes joyful and sometimes sad moods and because of its vibe and story about boys getting together to do what they love with what they have. [Denis]: ‘In Rainbows’ by Radiohead. I can't get enough of it. I listened to it hundreds of times in my car, on the bus or while taking a walk and everytime it just gets better. You've got beautiful falsettos in there, thunderous hits like Bodysnatcher, awesome feel good tracks like Reckoner and some downers like Videotape. This record can accompany you through good, bad and boring times. And like, there's a disk 2 that's some sort of a b-side and I wouldn't even bring it with me; the original record is a perfect 10 as is. [Eddy]: I was really torn between ‘Breakfast in America’ by Supertramp and ‘Kiss’ by Kiss. But honestly if I was stuck on a desert island, while I'd rather listen to ‘Breakfast in America’, my choice still lands on Kiss. This record makes me want to yell and reminds me why I'm alive because it's the reason why I became the musician I am today. [Henry]: Weird Al Yankovic because he’s funny [laughs]!
RNRR: Amazing choices guys, I’d have to side with Eddy on that one as ‘Breakfast in America’ is one of my all time favourites! Thank you so much for being great guests on Spotlight and we at RNRR wish you the very best for the rest of 2022!
If you would like to find out more about Sunday Crisp and keep up to date with their newest releases, you can find the links to all their socials below via the icons:
Spotlight returns with a bang and a familiar face to readers! A year after Edward Burnett’s last chat with Irish-Canadian singer 0Stella and two years since the first interview, the two catch-up and reflect on a another year gone by. Talking everything from new songs, year plans and New Year’s drinks.
RNRR: Hi 0Stella! How are you doing? Another year’s gone by since our last chat! I make this the third New Year’s interview we’ve done? Lovely to have you back!
0Stella: Hi Ed! Happy new year! Thanks for having me back. So glad I'm still standing after the years we've had!
RNRR: So first of all, how was your Christmas? Did you do anything special and more importantly, how sober did you keep it?
0Stella: [Laughs] I kept it mostly sober! It was lovely and quiet, gathering-wise, but in my intimate wisdom, I had decided to release my first new song in almost a year on New Years' Eve, so I've been flat out throughout the holidays!
RNRR: Of course you did and it is brilliant to have you back releasing music! Why don’t you talk us through the process of making ‘Glitter On The Dancefloor’ and on why you left it a year before releasing?
0Stella: I wrote ‘Glitter On The Dancefloor’ with my producer from 'Little Yes, Little Know', Juno nominated Brad Simons. I was experimenting with a new sound on 'Glitter on The Dancefloor’ as well as two others, 'Weightless' and 'Spark'.
RNRR: What pushed you to try a new sound and experiment? As an artist, do you find it more fulfilling with trying different sounds and genres?
0Stella: I wanted to write something fun like ‘Heads Will Roll’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So many of my formative years were spent going to see concerts in The Point theatre (now 02 Arena) in Dublin and Carling Academy in Brixton as well as lots of dancing in my favourite gay clubs. This song is a tribute to those sweaty nights where your only concern was how long your feet could keep holding you up. I can't wait for those days to come back.
RNRR: I love that song so much personally. So the song reflects a lot of personal memories for you then. Is this something you think should always be present in an artist’s music or do you think it’s also important to write about topic which you as the songwriter don’t have personal connections to?
0Stella: I find it really difficult to write about anything I don't have a personal connection to. If I write something that touches on social commentary it's always coming from a personal experience pertaining to that issue. There's a fine line of writing what you know, trying to do some good through that and soap boxing. Last thing the world needs is another Irish singer doing that!
RNRR: So let’s talk New Year, we’ve just entered 2022, how did you celebrate the New Year coming in? More booze than Christmas I’d imagine! Plenty of streams for the new song already?
0Stella: Yes a little more booze than Christmas! I actually spent it with some friends on a zero waste acreage in the middle of the Albertan countryside. Yes! The new song has blown all my other songs out of the water for streams in it's first few days. My fans were amazing. I'd played the full album for members of the 0Stella fanclub just a few weeks before so they were stoked to jump on it when it came out. This album definitely took longer than the 3 months I'd anticipated so it's brilliant to see the songs finally see the light of day!
RNRR: So what’s the plan from here on in? What does 2022 hold for you and your music? I ask you each this year and you always deliver on your promises and aims where possible so what’s the mantra for this new year?
0Stella: Well the new mantra is 'There Is No Other'. That's the name of my tour. As you know, I'm a big believer in leaving as small a carbon footprint on the planet as possible. So I'm embarking on a Canada-wide solo cycling album tour, starting in March. I'll cycle from the west coast to the east. Me and a guitar and a bike. So there will be no other (person) to get me up and over the Canadian Rocky Mountains and across the plains that me and my two legs. I'm playing almost exclusively house concerts and so so excited to hit the road. I just finished recording a concept album. 16 songs that break into 2 mini albums, the first of which is coming out this November. ‘Glitter On The Dancefloor’ was the first single to drop from that album. It's going to be a busy year!
RNRR: That sounds amazing, I never new you were that keen of a cyclist! I take it you’ll be releasing a few more singles then before that November album release date. Can you reveal roughly when the next one is dropping?
0Stella: Yeah I come from a family of cyclists. I never owned a car until I moved to Canada. Despite about a 15 year break from cycling in a serious way, I got some great mileage on my legs this summer despite the limitations of forest fire smoke for much of the season. I do have lots more music coming this year, but you'll have to wait and see. I can tell you it won't be long so until then, make sure ‘Glitter On The Dancefloor’ gets a good spin!
RNRR: Talking of music which is coming out this month, has anything else already caught your ear in 2022? I’ve been listening to The Wombats’ new album a lot this week, how about yourself?
0Stella: Oh yeah! Skye Wallace just dropped ‘Truth Be Told’ and it's been lodged in my head ever since. Megan Nash has been bringing out some killer tracks the last couple of months like ‘Chew Quietly / Clean Slate’. One new artist that has been on constant rotation for me is Sleepy Jean and her album, 'Idle Hands'. It's a stunningly romantic and melancholic album that's perfect for Sunday breakfast.
RNRR: Some brilliant new music evidently already being produced this year! Before I let you go, you know as a seasoned guest on the page that I have to ask you the big question at the end of the interview. Now the first time I asked you our famous desert island disc question, you chose Jeff Buckley with picking ‘Grace’ as your solitary album. Last year you added Megan Nash’s ‘Seeker’ and the self titled album by Sky Wallace. I’m going to push you today to pick something other than these three to mix it up and of course, tell us why you’ve gone for it! So 0Stella, what album are you going for this time?
0Stella: I would bring St. Vincent's self titled album. If I could find a bonus 7" vinyl of 'Paris Is Burning' too it would be perfect. To complement that, I'd bring ‘Blackstar’ by David Bowie. St. Vincent's self titled is all the nervous energy of a genius that I love. Tracks like 'Birth In Reverse' and 'Bring Me Your Loves' are so jagged and distorted. I love her perspective in her lyrics, everything is so visual. It's served as a big inspiration for my own record.
RNRR: Why the David Bowie album?
0Stella: Bowie's 'Blackstar' is just the darkest walk through an existential musing. My Dad shared the video for 'Blackstar' with me along with the news of his passing, so this record always makes me think of the glitter dusted fresh snow I walked through to music college the morning after. It was a surreal, silent 45-min walk. It felt like something had shifted in the universe. I was genuinely spooked and deeply saddened. At the same time could feel his energy had fragmented and spanned out across the world. I think St. Vincent surely absorbed a little of it.
RNRR: Great choices and great reasoning. It’s been a pleasure having you back on Spotlight for a third year running. We at Rock N Roll Reports can only wish you the best of luck for the rest of the professional year, until next time!
(Photo: Glen Freeman)
If you would like to find out more about 0Stella and her upcoming music, you can find the links to all her socials below via the icons:
Edward Burnett talks with singer-songwriter Trish Discord from New York City about marketing, possible Christmas covers and where she wants to travel.
RNRR: Hi and welcome to Spotlight, this time I’m joined with indie rock singer Trish Discord from Queens, NYC! How are you doing Trish? How’s this year treating you?
TRISH: I am good thanks for having me! It’s been good musically so far! I have been releasing a few singles, a bunch of covers on my YouTube, and plan to release a full album before the year ends! The last single I released was called ‘Desire’ and was a mix of alternative rock and Indietronica. The single released before that ‘Strife’ also had a lot of Electronic indie rock sounds while covering political themes. These singles are meant to be part of the full album ‘The Aftermath of 2016’ soon to be released!
RNRR: What is your personal favourite of the songs you have released? Why does this particular song hold a special place in your heart?
TRISH: My favorite so far is ‘Desire’ as I think it shows my progress musically and is personally one of my favorites with its rawness and message throughout.
RNRR: You raise an important issue there with your answer. As a musical artist, what do you find more important to achieve in your songs- developing musically or rather promoting a particular message thematically?
TRISH: I think I would say the second though I do try to develop musically with each project I do. Each album so far has been a concept around a theme. The first album I put out last may ‘Is This My Mental Breakdown?’ has each song dedicated to a different mental health disorder. The album that I am currently working on will be called ‘The Aftermath of 2016’ and will be about how things changed personally for me as well as politically for the word from 2016 onward.
RNRR: On the topic of developing musically, do you feel constrained to the genre you perform or do you feel in the future your career could be fluid in a genre sense and you may find yourself trying out varying styles and sounds?
TRISH: I think I can see myself being fluid in terms of sound and genre and evolving. Even between my last album and the upcoming album you can hear a genre change as the electronic elements are added that weren’t there on the last album.
RNRR: There you bring us nicely round to your upcoming album. Can you reveal anything exclusively about it to RNRR? How many songs are you planning to have on it? Give us all the deets!
TRISH: Sure! I plan to have 10 songs on it and bring a lot more electronic elements into it than I had in my first album but also keeping the alternative rock sound as well. My new producer does EDM herself so that is also why ‘Strife’ and ‘Desire’, both singles off this upcoming album, sound so different than my first album. The content will be a lot about how my life was in 2016 with the political changes we all know that happened in the US and UK, to living in London and traveling in Europe during that time, to the personal issues I was dealing. This album will be a lot more raw than the last as it naturally flowed out of me while the last I had to push myself to think of some of the concepts since I had to research each mental disorder. There will be a few mental health elements in this album too but it won’t be the focus as it was in the last one!
RNRR: Sounds like a refreshing mix of styles and content then which surely is what all artists strive to achieve. I for one am looking forward to listening to the collection of music. On that topic of variety, what favourite album of yours would you hurl forward as a great example of a collection of varying songs? Wolf Alice may be a good example but I know our readers are always on the lookout for artists with a dynamic sound that can alter throughout their work?
TRISH: Hmm I would say I really like Falling in Reverse’s album ‘Coming Home’. I think listening to content from different albums would highlight their diversity in style but I recommend the singles ‘Drugs’ and ‘Losing My Mind’ to hear genre bending within the same song. Lately they have been a real source of inspiration to me since Ronnie Radke (the lead singer and main songwriter) writes very personal, gripping lyrics with catchy melodies while being able to blur different styles seamlessly. The album I mentioned has a lot of electronic rock in it which is what I am going for with my upcoming album.
RNRR: Some great picks there, what would you say is a guilty pleasure record of yours though? Something that wouldn’t be a genre we associate with you but an album that resonates regardless for you?
TRISH: Hmm that is hard since I mainly listen to songs within my own genre but I would say Mitski is a big inspiration to me but with the exception of a handful of songs, her music is much calmer than mine. Her stuff is more like a light-indie acoustic genre with some synth pop too.
RNRR: Indie acoustic has many talented acts doesn’t it, brilliant choice there. So let’s talk about music distribution. You’re very active on the internet side of things, putting out videos often of you playing guitar on Instagram. How important is the internet for both the spreading of your music but also the connectivity pros? Especially when being a 21st century musical artist?
TRISH: I would say being an artist now and marketing yourself is a completely different ball game then it was before the internet. It allows more diversity of the artist pool cause each artist can represent themselves online independently instead of waiting for someone big to sign them. I think it also has helped me connect with people who relate to my music all around US and other parts of the world simply because of how easy it is to find other people online. Those listeners might not have found me if it wasn’t for my social media accounts. I like that as an independent artist using the internet I have complete control over my own marketing as well which I know you might lose when you are signed. I think every artist nowadays should be leveraging their social media platforms to the fullest.
RNRR: Social media is definitely a resounding key tool in this modern age for sure especially with regards to promotion of the arts. On the subject of the wider arts, besides music what other entertainment mediums do you enjoy? Are you a big tv watcher or an avid cinephile? What’s Trish’s downtime consist of?
TRISH: I really love true crime documentaries, especially ones about serial killers. My favorite one is probably the Sons of Sam one on Netflix. I also love cooking and traveling. I visited over 15 countries in Europe when I studied in London and that was probably what made me love travel and learning about different cultures. One of my songs on the upcoming album will be about using traveling as a form of escapism actually!
RNRR: Where in the world would you most like to travel to? Is there anywhere you’re yet to go to but are particularly desperate to get to?
TRISH: I would say Japan. I had planned to go April of 2020 bit the pandemic prevented that. I really love learning about Japanese culture and love Mitski who is a Japanese/American artist so it would be interesting to see her background while traveling. I also think the minimalist culture of Japan is interesting and it would be great to somehow incorporate a visit there into my music
RNRR: With a similar sort of question, where would you most like to perform your music in the world? Is there a specific country you think would be immense to tour around or perhaps there’s a certain festival you’d like to gig at?
TRISH: I would say I would really LOVE to tour Europe somehow especially London since some of my songs were inspired by the city. I also love European culture so it would be cool to immerse myself in it once again while sharing my music.
RNRR: As well as your aspirations, what else do you aim to do in the near future? Where round you like to be with your music and it’s outreach by the end of the calendar year Trish?
TRISH: Well I am trying to record more cover videos and release another original video at the moment. Keep an eye out for a pop goes rock cover of Lil Naz and Justin Bieber. I’ll likely do a Christmas cover too!
RNRR: So finally, the all important question which we ask every guest on Spotlight! You’re going to a desert island for the rest of your days, you’re only allowed one album to play- what are you taking Trish and why?
TRISH: That is a tough question! I think I would pick ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ by Pale Waves cause it’s one of the few albums I can listen to the entire thing and not get sick of it!
RNRR: Very good choice! Well it’s been a pleasure having you on Spotlight. You’ve been insightful and individual- the most we could wish from a new guest! Best of luck with everything to come in 2021!
If you'd like to find out more about Trish or listen to her new two covers: 'I'm Not a Vampire' and 'Zombie' then the links to all her socials can be found below via the icons:
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: