Releases under the ‘interview’ Category:
as heard on radiospin on May 21st, 2013
under album, dance, download, electronic, interview, pop, preview, video
Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories was one of the most anticipated albums of not only the year, but maybe even ever. This of course begged the question: does it live up to the hype? The best saying for this is the good old “aim low and you’ll never be disappointed,” which, albeit somewhat demotivational, does allow for a “better than expected” result. The French duo were being very ambitious by creating such a buzz, but can we expect any less from Daft Punk? Maybe not. For everywhere Random Access Memories lacks, there is an equally smooth and velvety groove to combat it. Unfortunately, this creates a very inconsistent album that has too many lull moments for it to be an overall winner in disco music history. The whole album is layered with 70′s funk, reminiscent of those fuzzy guitar solos and sweet licks we all grew up on and this makes it an extremely fun and upbeat type of record that has been filled to the brink with A-list cameos (please see Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas, Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder and so on). So, in the end, Daft Punk have delivered an exceptionally well marketed album, which unfortunately has an overall lacklustre feel. It is definitely worth a spin, but worth two spins? It’s up to you.
01. Give Life Back to Music [04:34]
02. The Game of Love [05:22]
03. Giorgio by Moroder [09:05]
04. Within [03:49]
05. Instant Crush [05:38]
06. Lose Yourself to Dance [05:54]
07. Touch [08:19]
08. Get Lucky [06:10]
09. Beyond [04:50]
10. Motherboard [05:42]
11. Fragments of Time [04:40]
12. Doin’ It Right [04:11]
13. Contact [06:21]
get it here.
as heard on radiospin on August 25th, 2012
under indie, interview, preview, rock, submitted
First the music video, then the album review, we’re going to complete the Sounds of Venus full-pack with a band’s interview. So let’s get into it and start discovering something new about this Boston-based five-piece and their brand new EP Star Dust, Baby.
ARTIST: Sounds of Venus
LATEST ALBUM: Star Dust, Baby
MEMBERS: Mario Borgatta, Paige Califano, Josh Canevari, Logan Coats, Nick Susi
RADIOSPIN - First of all, let’s start with some bio-info: tell us the story. Where / when did you meet? How the band was born? Is it a long-time-friends thing or is it an idea that came from one of you that went searching for other members to start a band?
PAIGE – Nick and I met our first day of attending Berklee College of Music, actually. I guess we just hit it off right away. Nick and I would share songs we had written with each other, constantly swapping. It was very inspiring for me. He pushed me a little more, he’s very talented. The idea of us forming a band together was there. I had met Logan, our guitarist, that year as well. We walked around the city one day after a snowstorm. The ice was melting, making a chilly mess of the streets, but he refused to wear anything but his chucks. “Real men don’t shiver”, he had said. I heard him play guitar before and was really impressed with his style, but even more so with his stage presence. Mario, our bass player, came along with Logan. They were very close. Nick and I decided to meet up with the two, to talk of starting a band. And so we did. They were close friends with our drummer, Josh, and we wanted him in the project as well. A few days after we all got together to play some music. Nick and I had just written the initial ideas of our single, Time, and we jammed on it with the guys. It took on a life of its own and we began to develop our sound.
RADIOSPIN - How can you describe your musical path? Why did you start playing? When / where did you learn to do it? Are you self-taught or did you studied somewhere?
LOGAN – My dad is a really solid bass player, and my brother is a classical pianist. I grew up learning from them and some other teachers. I studied jazz trumpet for a while before I went to Berklee to focus on guitar performance.
NICK - Both of my parents are music teachers and gig frequently, so life has been one cumulative music lesson. Growing up, the house was filled with instruments and equipment to just pick up and play. I took piano lessons, trombone lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, theory lessons. The works. I have actually been playing trombone the longest. A little peculiar that both the guitarists in this band initially played brass instruments. To speak on everyone’s behalf though, we all met while attending Berklee, so we have all had somewhat of a structured musical upbringing, in one way or another.
RADIOSPIN - And what about the name? Why “Sounds of Venus”? When you were choosing it, did you get involved into the over-abused discussion “to ‘the’ or not to ‘the’”? Nowadays it seems that every indie-band should have a ‘the’ before the name to be really cool: so why not “The Sounds of Venus”? Was it a choice to go against the tide or simply you didn’t care about the question?)
LOGAN – We are loosely named after the Velvet Underground‘s song Venus in Furs. I never thought about the ‘the’. I guess The Sounds of Venus kind of sounds ridiculous. Maybe we like it. Maybe we don’t.
RADIOSPIN – Tell us something about the Boston music scene: is simple / difficult making music / playing live round there? Some noteworthy local bands / labels / clubs?
LOGAN - It’s a hell of a lot friendlier to us than New York City has been. Seriously. Bands in Boston are a bit more keen to cooperate and whatnot. There are some crazy good bands here. I think Bear Language and Endangered Speeches are bands everyone should check out.
NICK - I agree with Logan. Although I might add, as much as we like Boston, it’s a bit of a quandary. Boston lacks a “music industry” in a traditional sense. It’s a bit chaotic and disorganized. There aren’t any underlying threads that tie all the pieces of the puzzle together.
RADIOSPIN - We hope we’re wrong, but we guess you aren’t able to live with what you earn with music by now: if this is true, what’s your secondary occupation?
LOGAN - I don’t have a job. I keep emailing Barack Obama about it, but he just asks me for money. Go figure.
NICK - [laughs] Outside of the band, everyone still has a strong focus in a slightly different area under the umbrella of the music industry. Mario and Josh are quite focused on engineering and production, and had an influential hand in how the album sounds I might add. Logan is a soundsmith, through and through. Nobody plays guitar like Logan Coats, mainly because he’s playing the pedal board with his feet more than he’s playing the guitar with his hands. Paige is active in writing and performing. She has another project called The Dwells. They’re a cute little folk number. For me, I am really into meticulous business elements. Artist management, music marketing, all things to exercise the mind. As much as I am quite proud of Sounds of Venus and this record, the public is only seeing a sliver of the immense talent that these wonderful people around me are capable of.
RADIOSPIN – We think you know you couldn’t escape a question like this: what are your musical influences? Choose three albums you love and three band/artists you’d say your favourite.
PAIGE - Pink Floyd’s Animals, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, and Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds are big ones for me. I love anything by Elliot Smith, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
LOGAN - For me, my influences are pretty much anything with really awesome sounding guitars. The bigger the better. Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins has some awesome meaty chuggy guitar stuff. Fever To Tell by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs is awesome too, Nick Zinner is a really creative guitarist. Also Radiohead‘s In Rainbows is probably one of my favorite records. And just for the record, Swing Low Magellan by Dirty Projectors is freaking hip. Check it out.
NICK - This is always such a loaded question. I mostly find myself listening to classical music, jazz, and music written by close friends. Like supporting the locals. But as far as music that changed me? I have a strong emotional attachment to The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus, Church Mouth by Portugal. The Man, and Jon Brion’s soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I feel as though those are weird answers. But music is weird. Oh, and as Logan said, In Rainbows by Radiohead is always an all-time favorite.
RADIOSPIN - Attaching to the previuous question: the word “derivative” has still some meaning in the new millennium? We’re asking (to ourselves first of all, now to you) if nowadays (when almost everything has been composed, recorded and played) is more important writing good songs or searching for the “new” whatever the cost?
LOGAN - I like to improvise. It’s great. At shows, I don’t always play things exactly like the record. The sound of the room or the crowd’s energy sometimes pulls me somewhere else. It’s great to go way out sometimes and just play something from left field. I don’t stray too far out or else I’ll piss of the crowd. After all, we’re playing a show for the audience, not ourselves. We can always improvise in the rehearsal space.
NICK - So, I think the answer to your question is: we don’t know. We’re just making the music we want to make.
RADIOSPIN – Now it’s time to speak about your latest EP “Star Dust, Baby”. What is the meaning of that title and what is the story behind it? Why “Star Dust” and not “Stardust”? Why the choice (quite unusual) to have a comma inside the name of the album? Who is the “baby”?
PAIGE - Well, when we were on our tour through the Northeast last spring, we were spending every minute together. Some of us were getting less sleep than others, some drinking more than others, and it sort of became our little saying. Logan actually started saying it first. Someone would say something or do something and in reply he would just be like, “Star Dust, Baby”. It was like our catch phrase, and now it’s our album title.
RADIOSPIN - It has been entirely produced by you, right? Why this choice? It was only a money-saving one or there are some other reasons? Tell us something more about this experience. Was it difficult? Are you satisfied with what you’ve done?
PAIGE – Yes, we are very satisfied. We all worked as a band to produce and create this record together. We’re very fortunate to have members with many different talents. Mario is an amazing engineer and mixer. He has the ear for it, so we utilized this. We also have an amazing tightly knit group of friends who are a support system for us too. Our friend Roger also put some incredible work into this album. We are lucky we didn’t have to search elsewhere for help. It’s our creation, our baby, so we wanted to bring it up our own way. It was a long process, but extremely rewarding. All the hard work pays off, there is no rushing art.
RADIOSPIN – Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
LOGAN - Nick and Paige bring us the skeleton of a new song. We usually play the song for a whole rehearsal, and then some. Sometimes we just repeat, sometimes we discuss stuff, sometimes we argue. Whatever it takes to get the song to have a nice dynamic range with lots of textures. Mario and Josh generally hash out the feel. When were finished, sometimes a song sounds nothing like what it started as, and that’s really cool. You can hear each of our personalities in the songs thanks to the freedom we give each other. Also, we’re usually up for trying anyone’s ideas at least once. Some of our best moments have been accidents or random ideas.
RADIOSPIN – Let’s quickly jump to “Time” music video. From where / whom came the idea? Where did you shoot it (is there some funny episode that occurred during the shooting you can tell us)? Who is the little girl that appears in the video (she looks like a baby-Paige)?
PAIGE - Our director Doug Porter came up with the storyboard and the band threw in some ideas. Not sure exactly where we were, somewhere in Newton, MA I think. Some scenes were shot in fields down there, but most was done at Doug’s house. We took over. It was all filmed last August, so it was extremely hot. The fields were very humid and buggy, but the house was even hotter because of all the crewmembers and bright lights. It’s hard to remain composed and be filmed in such heat, and I’m not the best when it comes to drinking water to stay hydrated. But it was an interesting creative process. The girl was a cute little actress, who was Doug’s cousin I think. She was actually the second girl we worked with, we had a different actress initially. I liked her, I’m happy she was the one we worked with.
get it here.
as heard on radiospin on March 13th, 2011
under experimental, folk, indie, info, interview, preview, submitted
So it’s time to talk with Nash Smith & Ganges: this mid-west trio recently released its debut self-titled EP, getting positive reviews from various blogs, such as Music That Matters, Dead As Digital, Neon Waves, and Everything Is Chemical, as well as radioSpin, of course. It’s a really interesting collection of songs: that’s why we want to know them better and now we’re happy they accepted to answer a couple of questions.
ARTIST: Nash Smith & Ganges
LABEL: Pretty All Right
LATEST ALBUM: Nash Smith & Ganges
MEMBERS: Mark Arciaga, Rob Kenagy, Melissa Smith
RADIOSPIN - A very classic and over-abused question to break the ice: why the name Nash Smith and Ganges? You are a three-piece band, right? Maybe each words has something to do with each one of you, or there is another reason?
ROB – I’ve been performing as Ganges for a while now. It’s the name of a small town in Michigan, and obviously a river in India. My friend Steve came up with the name and it stuck. Both places are interesting, holy pieces of the globe.
MELISSA – I was Nash Smith as a solo artist: I guess it imparts some gender ambiguity, and ambiguity is always good. The Nash part comes by way of a town which was my email address, which a friend started calling me, and it stuck, much like in the Ganges case.
RADIOSPIN - Your bio is quite unusual (“[...] combine one part of honey with three part of whiskey, add a borderline Vaudevillian temptress, a backwoods noise junkie, a musical bibliofreak, and a dash of lemon [...]“) and radioSpin really appreciated to read something different form a list of people/places/musical genres: it sounds at the same time ironic and poetical. Who did write it down? Melissa? And why did you decide to take this solution? Is it only a way to try not to be ordinary or these are the only exact words to describe Nash Smith & Ganges?
ROB – A friend of ours, poet Megan Moriarty wrote that. She just has a good ear for sound, I reckon. It’s not really an attempt to seem ironic, but the band its self is a collaborative process, so why not get other artists involved, too?
MELISSA - We wanted a bio that, in fact, was somewhat unusual. We have a friend, a fantastic up and coming poet called Megan Moriarty, who writes poetry that is expressive, charming, funny, and evocative in surprising ways. We thought she would be perfect for writing our bio since she knows us and we knew she’d come up with something very unique. I added a bit of prose after the EP was released.
RADIOSPIN - Tell us something about the mid-west indie music scene: is simple/difficult making music round there? Some noteworthy bands/labels/clubs?
ROB – It’s simple in that there’s no lack of imagination in the mid-west and folks for the most part are interested in live music regardless of what you’re playing: so that’s cool. I’m mostly familiar with the Chicago scene, and there’s an abundance of cool, interesting music coming out of there.
MELISSA – The mid-west indie music scene is really, really different depending on where you live. Some places, like Milwaukee, are very insular, with only a handful of artists breaking through. I think, in part, this has to do with the presence of so many “homegrown” artists. In the case of Chicago and Minneapolis, people actually move there to pursue music or other artistic endeavors, but I think it’s pretty difficult to stand out in larger cities like those because there are so many talented musicians and, frankly, there’s just lots to do! Milwaukee has, surprisingly, lots of experimentation with music, lots of weird jazz. There’s a DIY venue there called Borg Ward that’s really great. Chicago has so much to do: the Hideout is such an amazing place because of its diverse offerings. I’m also a fan of the Numero label (and wish I had enough money to buy everything they have on vinyl). Permanent Records is a super record store around the corner from where I used to live and recently a small, cool label. Right now we’re in the South which has a different feeling altogether.
RADIOSPIN - Let’s start speaking about your debut EP. It has been recorded inside a former general store turned into restaurant in Eggleston, Virginia, right? Why this choice? Tell us something more about these recording sessions.
ROB - That place is haunted in the best way imaginable.
MELISSA - We also really wanted to get away from our own places. There are too many distractions if we try to work at home, I’ve learned, and we have roommates/dogs/etc. The Palisades is really in the middle of nowhere and a regular haunt for us. You have to drive up a winding road up a mountain and across the New River (which, by the way, flows northward) and into Eggleston to find it. Blink, and you’ve missed it. We spent two weekends recording (one for recording the music, one for the vocals and miscellaneous overdubs). Basically, we set up in different locations in this huge room and ran through several takes of a song and moved on. It was a lot of work. I was very, very sick and couldn’t speak for two-three weeks, so that comical at best and taxing at worst. Occasionally a train would go by while we were playing. We wanted to keep it really minimal. We had a mic set up across the room to pick up the amazing reverb in the room: I think it comes through best in Dress.
MARK - Melissa had played solo piano there and loved the acoustics of the room, so when we were trying to think of an interesting place to record, she suggested the restaurant. We all agreed that it would be both fun and different. The recordings were done primarily in the morning, while the restaurant was closed, although kitchen staff were working and occasionally a train would roll by! The recordings were done live and it took a while to position ourselves in such as way as to maximize the sonic potential of the room. Ultimately, we’re really pleased with the end result!
RADIOSPIN - The cover art of “Nash Smith & Ganges” reminds of the good old cassette-case. Who did have this idea? And why? Only a nostalgic/vintage solution or there is something more behind it?
MELISSA - We didn’t want to do a CD and we’re all analog junkies in one way or another, but we couldn’t afford vinyl, so a cassette became an interesting option. As a touring band, we also needed to have something to sell at concerts, so a digital only format seemed wrong for us. The cover art is meant to evoke the old 4AD covers of the 80s. I played with loads of ideas for the cover art, but the one that stuck was the warmth and nostalgia of this one.
MARK - The cover art IS a cassette! The physical release of our EP is on cassette. Since the EP was self-released (i.e. funded by ourselves) we had to be creative about a physical product (we would love to have released it on 12″ vinyl, but the cost was too high). None of us were really interested in releasing a CD and the audio on tapes has a warmth and unique hiss in the background that sort of adds to the overall listening experience (much in the same way that vinyl has its own unique pops and hiss).
RADIOSPIN - What about your musical path? Why did you start playing? When/where did you learn playing? Are you self-taught or did you studied somewhere?
ROB - I’ve been messing around on instruments for a long time, just trying to make noise. I had a fantastic guitar teacher in high school: I learned all the Nirvana songs, and needed someone to show me something else to do.
MELISSA - I’ve been piano since I was 3 and it’s just laziness that I didn’t study music in college. I’m a Suzuki kid. I also play guitar and flute (I taught myself guitar when I was 15 by listening to PJ Harvey and the Beatles).
MARK - I started playing drums at 14 in a punk band (I’d started on guitar, but no one needed a guitarist). The people I played with basically put me behind a drum kit and I learned by listening to lots of Minor Threat and Black Flag and copied what their drummers did. As my musical influences expanded, I began incorporating them in my drumming also. I’ve played with several different bands and I wouldn’t say I have any particular style: I just listen to the song at hand and come up with something tasteful that fits its style.
RADIOSPIN – And what about musical influences? Choose three albums you love and three band/artists you’d say your favourite.
ROB - Right now, here are my albums:
1) Spacemen 3, “The Perfect Prescription”.
2) Van Dyke Parks, “Discover America”.
3) John Fahey, “The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death”.
and my three bands (artists):
1) Chuck Berry.
2) Jim O’Rourke.
3) Neil Young.
MELISSA - Right now, I love:
1) Peter Gabriel, “3″.
2) Peter Gabriel, “4″.
3) Siouxie and the Banshees, “Hyaena”.
2) Kate Bush.
3) Randy Newman (especially after that awesome Oscars speech).
MARK - Great albums that just popped into my head:
1) Stereolab, “Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements”.
2) Spiritualized, “Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space”.
3) Cocteau Twins, “Heaven or Las Vegas”.
three all time favorites:
1) The Smiths.
2) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
3) Tom Waits.
RADIOSPIN - Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
ROB - Melissa comes in with completed songs. I come in with little fragments of songs and make Mark and Melissa suffer through intense, often incomprehensible changes until it feels right.
MELISSA - Ha, Right. I often try to finish a song in an afternoon, arrangements and all. Sometimes I have a notion of what Rob/Mark will do with them, but I end up being completely surprised. The songs often end up morphing after several months of playing due to new ideas in sound. It’s all very deliberate for me, in the beginning, though.
MARK - Some of the songs already existed in solo incarnations: we all contributed to new (sometimes radical) rearrangements of those. For the newer/new songs, we talk a bit about how we envision the song and how we can attain the particular qualities we imagine. Sometimes, Melissa will have a drum beat in mind or I might have some structural ideas, or Rob will improvise an amazing guitar part: it all comes together somehow. We’re all very close and have a good intuition about what each other wants, sonically: sometimes, we just start making a lot of noise/guitar loops/synth drones and see where that takes us.
RADIOSPIN – I hope I’m wrong, but I guess you aren’t able to live with what you earn with music by now, what’s your secondary occupation?
ROB - Right now I teach English composition to college freshmen.
MELISSA - I used to teach English composition, but most recently I worked in a library.
MARK - Not yet, anyways! I work as an assistant cataloger at a university library.
RADIOSPIN - The EP has been released on a small Chicago label (Pretty All Right). Why this one in particular?
NASH SMITH & GANGES – Our friend Tom runs the label: Rob and Tom have been working together on various projects for the past few years, so we wanted him to be involved. He was gracious enough to say yes.
RADIOSPIN – Are you interested in some other form of art besides music (painting, poetry/literature, film/video etc.)?
ROB - I’m studying towards a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Virginia Tech.
MELISSA - I’m particularly interested in film and applied arts. I often write with a vision, more or less, in the back of my head. I actually just wrote a song that was specifically inspired by the film Metropolis: not simply the words, but the ambiance and feeling (cold, mechanical, urban alienation and so forth). I also studied literature, so I sometimes approach songwriting under the influence of a particular writer/setting/theme.
RADIOSPIN – Do you have the shooting of a music video on your to-do-list? Some idea about it? Which of your songs are you planning to choose?
ROB - Nope. But now that you mention it…
MELISSA - Our friend, Natalie Gibbs, who took some photographs for us also has a stop-start video in the works.
RADIOSPIN – radioSpin is a music-blog, so let’s talk about web and music: do you think that free music sharing on the internet is a bad or a good chance of promotion for new bands? Are there more pros or more contros?
ROB - The cons are that people have stopped absorbing music: I’ve listened to that new Radiohead album at least 5 times now, and all I can remember is that it was interesting. I was too busy e-mailing my sister and trying to identify a bird online, I never actually listened to the complexities of the album. I guess if you take the tracks offline it’s different, but streaming music online (while I do it daily) never feels like a full experience. Maybe I’m alone on that, though.
The pros are that more people get to hear your music, and its easier to find more obscure bands than it used to be.
MELISSA - I agree. I remember waiting in line to buy both Kid A and Amnesiac at midnight of their release and then went home and listened to them twice: no distractions, laying down, headphones. A con is that there is a deluge of bands/artists, making it difficult to sift through them. That’s where blogs come in, as arbiters. I really love that there are blogs out there specifically aimed to find new music, not simply the music everyone else is writing about; but, good blogs like that are difficult to find. Ideally, in our case, putting our music online would encourage people to see our shows, not necessarily to get signed/be famous. The ultimate goal for a band is longevity, which isn’t possible without sustainability. Unfortunately, we live in a place which is so small that we don’t have a chance to see bands: in this case, music sharing is especially valuable for us. We also buy music in its finished, product form, which is important, especially if it’s released on LP or cassette.
MARK - I’m a big fan of music sharing and always have been since the days of dual cassette decks, so naturally, perhaps, I’m a huge supporter of music sharing on the internet. We are a new band and we’ve been really lucky to have some blogs (yourself included) support us by showing us to their readers. I can say that it’s an incredibly effective means of getting your music out to a lot of people very quickly: in the 80s, DIY band promotion was primarily via word-of-mouth and ‘zines, which, although wonderful and revolutionary (not to mention truly independent) were structurally limited in their scope; with the internet, a band can get an unbelievable amount of exposure with a computer, email address, and internet connection! The debate over music sharing is certainly complex and subtle: I can appreciate both viewpoints, but for us, with the band’s nascency, it’s hard to find any cons.
RADIOSPIN – What social networks are you using to promote your work?
MARK - Our primary online presence is a Tumblr page which links to most all of our social networking sites, including, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, BandCamp. The Tumblr page also has review, a link to buy the EP, photos/artwork, upcoming tour dates, etc.
RADIOSPIN – So, in the end, give us three links we should click on absolutely.
MELISSA - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON8lVgJxMQA (Peter Gabriel plays with a Fairlight: amazing) and http://www.gb.nrao.edu/nrqz/ (this is not far from us, and I just learned of its existence: it is the only place in this country like this)
MARK - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKPGzX5kZd0 (amazing BBC documentary on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop).
get it here.
as heard on radiospin on October 5th, 2010
under indie, interview, preview, rock, submitted, video
Sure you heard something about Vanguard Villains: this rock-band based in NYC recently released its debut album, getting positive reviews from various blogs, such as Wild Honey Pie, Brill Dream, Moxie And Mayhem, and Knocks From The Underground, as well as radioSpin, of course. They’re making a great deal of progress and they’re now being considered for signing by RethinkPopMusic. That’s why we want to know them better and we decided to make the most of their kindness when they accepted to answer a couple of questions.
ARTIST: Vanguard Villains
CITY: New York
LABEL: Rethink Pop Music
LATEST ALBUM: Vanguard Villains
MEMBERS: Neil S. Matharoo, Steve Faller
RADIOSPIN - Let’s start with a very dull question, but radioSpin really curious about it: why the name Vanguard Villains? And, above all, why did you cut the article “the”? Today the indie-trend is to put the article in front of every band name, even when it’s not necessary (or even when it sounds terribly bad): is this a choice expressly against this trend or there is another reason?
NEIL – Steve and I met through a mutual friend (a bassist), and we played a few shows under various crappy names. A short while later, that bassist departed, and that’s the point where Steve and I really became a solid duo. And so, we needed a new name. Steve had brought up the idea of using alliteration, and while watching the news one night, I heard the word “Vanguard.” The name “Vanguard Villains” popped into my head, and we were set. As for eliminating “The”, it’s a recent move. There are still some websites which include “The”, but we’re ok with it either way. We’ve definitely noticed the indie trend to include “The”, whether it’s needed or not, and it leads to some confusing results!
RADIOSPIN - What about your musical path? Why did you start playing? When/Where did you learn playing? Are you self-taught or did you studied somewhere?
NEIL – My foundation goes back to playing the violin as a kid. In hindsight, it was a good way to start, because I learned the basics of playing music. That lasted only a few years, and then I heard Nirvana’s “Nevermind”; that’s what really got me into guitar. I coerced my parents into buying me a crappy $70 electric guitar, and I quickly moved from the 90′s alt-rock bands and into 80′s hard rock (especially Guns n’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”). When I got serious about songwriting, I studied Mountain Goats, Whiskeytown, and Ween (seriously).
STEVE - I started playing because I always wanted to communicate musically. I was one of those annoying kids that was always tapping on something, so I figured drums would be for me. I’ve studied drums with a lot of great players and continue to do so. With the amount of amazing musicians living in New York it’s almost criminal not to. My main drumming teachers/mentors have been Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright), Mark Greenburg (Dicky Betts, Dave Matthews), Dennis Leeflang (Lita Ford, Bumblefoot), Pete Lewis (Ricky Martin, Arturo O’Farill), and Guy Licata (Santogold, Bill Laswell).
RADIOSPIN - Let’s talk about musical influences: choose three albums you love and three band/artist you’d say your favourite.
NEIL – These 3 albums are among my favorites:
1) Weezer, “Blue Album”: amazing songwriting and guitar playing.
2) Ween, “The Mollusk”: great diversity here.
3) Whiskeytown, “Stranger’s Almanac”: very dark and brooding music.
Three favorite artists (I’m gonna list musicians and not bands):
1) Freddie Mercury: this is how you’re supposed to work a crowd.
2) John Darnielle: my favorite songwriter.
3) Slash: the epitome of rock guitar.
STEVE – Choosing a favorite artist or record is subjective thing. My “favorite” switches a lot upon my mood and what is going on in my life. However, three incredible records are definitely Jeff Buckley’s “Grace”, Steve Wonder’s “Innervisions” and Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”.
RADIOSPIN - Even if it’s a blog radioSpin doesn’t like tags and labels speaking about music. Anyway they’re somehow useful to quickly describe something: I’ve read some perplexing descriptions of what you are around the web. Would you rather you weren’t labelled and tinned, or do you recognise the need for it? And in the end, make and effort and tell me what kind of music Vanguard Villains play.
NEIL - Yeah, it’s very hard to tag and label our music. I mean, compare our song “Admire” to our song “Unexecuted”. When people ask about our sound, we tell them that it’s rock music. We’re a diversely-influenced team, and those influences show. Ultimately, labels can be useful, but applying them so stringently leads only to isolation. We have fans who are into hip-hop, fans who are into guitar rock, and fans who listen to all sorts of other styles. But call us what you wish.
RADIOSPIN - You are a due, by now: what are the advantages/disadvantages about playing rock in two? Who’s playing the bass in some songs?
NEIL - We’ve done the bulk of our work as a duo up to this point, but we’re now auditioning bassists. Steve and I work so well together that we often don’t even need to discuss new dynamic inflections in our songs; we just hit them simultaneously. But playing live, bass is essential to fill out the sound and allow the guitar to branch out. I ended up playing bass on our album.
RADIOSPIN - Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
NEIL - Normally, I’ll write a song and then bring it into the studio, where Steve and I hone the dynamics to optimize the sound. We rehearse quite a bit, which makes all the difference.
RADIOSPIN – We hope we’re wrong, but i guess you aren’t able to live with what you earn with music by now: what’s your secondary occupation?
NEIL - I’m a scientist here in New York.
STEVE - My daytime occupation is twofold: commercial fisherman in the summertime and bartender throughout the rest of the year.
RADIOSPIN - You are now being considered for signing by RethinkPopMusic. Is this your first label? Why this one in particular?
NEIL – We’re very impressed with RethinkPopMusic’s business model: they book great shows for their artists and stay out of the recorded music aspect. This way, we can develop our fanbase and still maintain total control over our music. In searching for agencies, I was aghast at how poorly-run most of them were; RethinkPopMusic struck me as being run by intelligent, capable people.
RADIOSPIN – Are you interested in some other form of art besides music (painting, poetry/literature, film/video etc.)?
NEIL – I enjoy creating visual art, but I don’t do it often. Writing is something I’ve always been quite interested in, and hopefully one day I can do something with it. Music takes up most of my time right now, though.
STEVE - I’m also a martial artist (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai). I was an English Lit major in college and would like to delve deeper into writing later in my life. However, now is the time to help the Villains attain the success I know that we can achieve.
RADIOSPIN - radioSpin really liked “Admire” video: it is a nice stop-motion stuff. Who shot/directed it? Tell us something about it: where did you get the concept/inspiration? Did you shot it in one time or did you need to write all the stuff several times due to errors or bad timing?
NEIL – I shot that video while on vacation in Florida. Traditional music videos (with the band playing, and maybe some random shot of a pretty girl) don’t appeal to either of us. I really liked the notion of a drawing which sort of comes to life, and so I took a stack of printer paper and a few Sharpies and shot the video. It’s not properly stop motion: I had to play back the song at half speed while I recorded the video and then play back the video at twice speed; that’s why the end result looks like I’m writing really fast. The fun fact about it it’s that I had a sore back for two days after shooting the video, because of the weird angle I had to stand at!
RADIOSPIN - And now, let’s end playing a couple of games, now.
“FILL THE BLANKS”
- I wish I was [...]
STEVE – better than I am currently in all my endeavors.
- I wish I had [...]
STEVE – unlimited resources, so that I could help out all the marginalized people that greatly need it.
- I’d like to learn playing [...]
STEVE – piano well. I’m getting there, eventually!
- I’d like to play with [...]
STEVE – a drum duo with ?uestlove from The Roots.
“ONE OR ANOTHER”
- Beatles or Rolling Stones?
STEVE – Beatles. Though honestly, neither does it for me (blasphemy!)
- Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet?
STEVE – Duran Duran.
- Pavement or Sonic Youth?
STEVE – Sonic Youth.
- Nirvana or Pearl Jam?
STEVE – Pearl Jam.
- Prodigy or Chemical Brothers?
STEVE – Chemical Brothers.
- Apple or Microsoft?
STEVE – Apple (though they need to make iTunes available for android phones!).
- Pizza or Cheesburger?
STEVE – Pizza.
- Beer or Wine?
STEVE – Wine.