Monday, December 31, 2007

Free Rocketship Music

I haven't been this excited in years! Rocketship (my favorite group ever) has released their 2 latest albums absolutely free on their website. Go and download these puppies right now! They're amazing, and even more amazingly impossible to find.

Here Comes...Rocketship (2006 Nonstop Co-operative)

Garden Of Delights (1998 Drive In Records)


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

American Spring - Spring...Plus!

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Belle and Sebastian - Tigermilk

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Bikeride - Morning Macumba

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Bikeride - Summer Winners, Summer Losers

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Bikeride - 37 Secrets I Only Told America

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Brittle Stars - Brittle Stars

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The Carpenters - The Singles (1974 - 1978)

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The High Llamas - Can Cladders

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La Casa Azul - Como Un Fan EP

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La Casa Azul - La RevoluciĆ³n Sexual (Preview)

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La Casa Azul - Tan Simple Como El Amor

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The Radio Dept - Lesser Matters

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Rocketship - Singles (1993 - 1996)

***This is my second favorite album of all time***

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Rocketship - A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness (Japanese Version)

***This is my favorite album of all time***

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Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life

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Stevie Wonder - Talking Book

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The Explorers Club EP

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The Radio Dept - The Worst Taste In Music EP

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Sweet Diss and the Comebacks

Coming from Ellensburg, Washington, Sweet Diss and the Comebacks are one of the best pop punk bands in the, forget that. Sweet Diss and the Comebacks are one of the best bands in the world. Heavily influenced by bands like Green Day and the Travoltas but mixed with just the right amount of influence from Brian Wilson and Queen as well, Nate Reinauer, the band's front man and song writer has been creating perfect pop songs for years.

Sweet Diss and the Comebacks have already released a full length album and an EP, and are releasing their first "official" album soon. I absolutely love Sweet Diss and I'm glad I was recently able to ask Nate all about Sweet Diss, his music, and the new album, I hope you enjoy reading it and downloading the songs below.

Eric: Could you explain a little how Sweet Diss and the Comebacks got started? When and where you formed?

Nate: I started the band with some friends of mine almost three years ago in Connell, WA. We needed a drummer, so we searched around myspace until we found Lori. About a year later it was down to just me and Lori, and we eventually found Nick and Bryan to play bass and lead guitar. We've been going strong ever since!

Eric: Most people probably notice your power pop influences, but Sweet Diss also has a few acoustic and piano songs, what kind of thing do you go for when you're writing a song?

Nate: I usually just try to write a really catchy pop song. The easiest way for me to do that is to put a power-popish skin over it, but sometimes a song will just sound better if you strip it down to piano or acoustic guitar. Most of the time I don't try to write piano songs or acoustic songs... it's just whatever I think might sound best with the melody and chords.

Eric: Sweet Diss and the Comebacks released their first full length album "Coulda Been Worse" in 2005 and sold it at shows, and is also available for free online. And you've also said "Screw Itunes", so does Sweet Diss ever have any intentions of selling their music, either through distributors or online?

Nate: That is an awesome question. I have to think for a minute...

Eric: Haha, Thanks.

Nate: When we finally release our "official" debut album that we're recording right now, we're probably going to start out just selling it at shows, and possibly through iTunes. I can see how that conflicts with the 'screw iTunes' thing on our myspace page, but that was mostly a response to all the Office fans wanting us to put "Pam Pong" on iTunes. I thought it would be lame to make people pay for only one or two songs and not a whole album, so that was my response.

All the recording I do I basically do at my house for free, so I also don't think it's right to make people pay for that when it didn't cost me anything to produce it. The new album coming out was done in a real studio and was actually kind of expensive though, and we'll need a way to support ourselves when we go on tour after releasing it. If a small label comes along and wants to release it for us someday, we'd definitely consider that too!

Eric: That is a good answer!

Nate: Thanks! It was a really good question, and I had to think about it for a while.

Eric: I'd like to ask a little bit about that first album, its an extremely polished first release and from what I understand it's completely independently recorded and mixed by yourself, what was it like to record your own album and mix it? And could you explain how you did it?

Nate: I think one of the main things that makes that one sound really good is the drums... they are actually fake drums that I programmed with my computer in FL Studio. Drums are one of the hardest things to make sound good, so when you start off with fake drums that are sampled to sound like extremely polished real drums, you are off to a good start, sound-wise! That may seem like cheating, and it probably is, but it's just a lot easier to record that way, and much cheaper. In our defense though I usually consider the songs with fake drums "demos" and never sell them (which kind of goes along with the last question). Also, the new album will definitely have Lori playing real drums, which is why I consider it our real "official" debut album.

For the guitars and bass I ran them through a BR-8 zip disk recorder from BOSS to get the distortion and other effects, which then runs directly into the computer. For vocals I used a dynamic mic, which I now know are actually used mostly for live performances. Nowadays I use a condensor microphone, which sounds a hundred times better for recording.

I mixed everything with Adobe Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro), which is basically a way cheaper, way easier-to-use version of ProTools. I'd never mixed anything before, so I definitely learned a lot. I spent a lot of time listening to my favorite CDs, trying to match how the levels sounded on those albums. To this day I think I mix vocals way too quiet, but oh well.

Eric: I also wanted to ask about my favorite song off the first album, Something New, in a lot of ways that song represents a lot of the best things about Sweet Diss, the catchy melodies, the hooks, the harmonies and a cappella parts. Could you explain a bit about that song and what it's about and how you wrote it.

Nate: That song basically came from just trying to write a super catchy song. I had been toying around with the lead riff for a while and just kind of built the song around that. Also, I wrote that song when I was first trying to figure out how to fit lots of harmonies into pop-punk songs, so one of the first things I wrote was the 2nd verse a capella thing, and I made the rest of the verse around that. I remember having trouble coming up with a harmony part for the last chorus, but I think it turned out okay. One of Lori's favorite drummers is Travis from Blink 182, so I tried to make the drum part in that style (with the off beat cymbal hits and stuff during the verses). Because of all that stuff with the harmonies and everything, I was a little too eager to record it and kind of rushed through the lyrics without thinking, so the lyrics are pretty terrible (case in point: I basically wrote the lyrics around the phrase "something new" because that's what I called the notepad file when I first started writing the song). It's one of the most fun songs to play live though and we used to start every show with that song. I'm glad you like it!

Eric: After recording your first album you released an EP, "...And Don't Forget To Tip Your Waitress". To me it seemed like a much less optimistic release than the previous, could you explain a little about when these songs were recorded and what it meant for you?

Nate: As with almost everything else in life, it basically came down to girls. From the time I first started seriously writing songs (mid-high school) until right after "Coulda Been Worse" (early college) I had been with the same girl, so pretty much every song I wrote was a happy song. All good things must come to an end, however, and when it did, I think the mood of the songs unintentionally changed too. So when I wrote the songs for "Waitress" I guess they came out a little darker and more bitter than what I was used to writing. I have a strange fear of being emo though so I try not to get too bleak!

Eric: I wanted to ask more about your song writing process, how do you usually go about recording a song? Is it lyrics first, or music? Do you write songs on a guitar or piano? Elaborate a little on how you write songs?

Nate: I actually write songs on napkins and my cell phone, mostly. I usually don't try to sit down and write a song... most times I'll just suddenly get a melody in my head at random times during the day. A lot of the time this happens when I'm busy doing something else, like working, so it's pretty annoying. I have a terrible memory so I have to immediately write it down on something or sing it into my cell phone's voice recorder before it goes away. Then later I'll get a guitar or piano, whichever is closer, and play it over and over, coming up with chords and new melodies. I usually also store these in my phone. (Seriously, you should see my phone... it has like almost 200 ten-second song ideas in it). I usually dread writing lyrics, cause I'm not very good at them and the music is way more fun, but eventually I'll open up a notepad file and come up with words. Once I have all the melodies, chords, and lyrics, I'll try to figure out the order of the song. Usually I go with Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Verse-PreChorus-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus, but that gets old so sometimes I do something different. I almost always come up with the bass guitar part and vocal harmonies while I'm recording.

Eric: Well when you do write lyrics, how do you decide what topic to write about? Does it depend on the mood of the song or just how you feel at that time?

Nate: A little of both. If the music comes out a little darker and more aggressive, I usually won't write about cotton candy flavored puppy dogs, and if it's happier I probably won't write about genocide or anything. Seriously though, mood has a lot to do with it too. If I'm feeling lonely, or elated, or just happy that it's finally summer time, those things are easier to write about. Lately I've been trying to put a little bit more effort into lyrics, but I guess I won't know how well that's going until people hear the album!

Eric: And one more question about writing, you make heavy use of vocal harmonies and a cappella segments in a lot of songs, how do you go about writing harmonies and recording these different vocal parts?

Nate: I used to hate doing vocal harmonies when I started writing songs, cause they rarely ever sounded good. Through trial and error I gradually started learning "rules" for making them sound better... and listening to Queen and the Beach Boys helps a huge amount too. I studied music for two years in college and some of my "rules" were validated there, and I learned cool ways to break the rules and have it sound even better. The most important rule I learned along the way is that you should never forget what chord the music is playing underneath the vocals when writing harmonies. For instance, if the music is on a C chord, you shouldn't let the vocal harmonies stray too far from the notes C, E, and G. That might seem obvious, but it took me a really long time to figure that out, and my harmonies suffered. Another thing is that I spent a really long time trying to figure out what made Queen harmonies have that signature Queen sound, and what made Beach Boys harmonies have that signature Beach Boys sound. Basically, Queen achieved their sound by overdubbing a ridiculous amount of voices, all singing only 3 or 4 parts, to make it sound like a giant choir of one person. I think I read somewhere that the opening to Bohemian Rhapsody is something like 100 tracks of Freddie Mercury singing the same 4 parts. I try to do that sometimes with like 20 or 30 voices... it's really fun. Beach Boys get their sound by forming really jazzy chords with their voices, and making use of 5 part harmonies, which is really hard to do. I'm still trying to figure out how to make 5 part harmonies sound good. Brian Wilson is insanely brilliant.

Eric: So you went to college for music for 2 years, how was that, and did it have any impact on Sweet Diss and the Comebacks or your song writing?

Nate: It definitely had an impact. Lori and I both went to the same school, and that's also where we found Nick and Bryan, so it was nice having us all in one place. It's really hard to schedule shows though, when everyone has different classes at different times. The music theory classes I took had a huge impact on my songwriting, for sure. I'd learn a cool new chord or unusual chord progression and I'd have to run back to my dorm room and try to work it into a song somehow. Also, people have told me that taking choir helped my singing. I used to be really nasally and bad. Like, really really bad.

Eric: Also, recently you've recorded a couple songs about the show, The Office, that a lot of people really like, what has it been like to record those songs and have other fans really appreciate them?

Nate: Writing the two Office songs was a lot of fun! Since they were just for fun I felt like I had a little more freedom to experiment and try new things. "Pam Pong" is the first 'piano ballad' type song I've ever recorded, and I tried some different things in the vocal harmonies on "Dunder", among other things. The fans seemed to enjoy the songs, and Jenna Fischer (Pam) even had "Pam Pong" on her myspace profile for about a month, which was amazing.

Eric: I wanted to ask about your upcoming CD, fans have been waiting a while for it, so what kind of thing can we expect from your upcoming release, and when will it be ready for release?

Nate: A lot of the songs on the new album will be updated versions of songs people have already heard, but there will be some new songs in their as well. The sound will range from Sexy to Awesome, with a dash of Heroin (for good measure). Recording it has been a very long and bumpy road, but I think the end is in sight. It should be finished before the end of the year, and fans of catchy power-pop should be pleased! Unless it turns out awful. Hopefully it won't!

Eric: I have heard a bit of the new album, and it really is an amazing release and I'm extremely excited for it, but it's also a little bit of a departure from your earlier releases, it's a lot more adventurous musically and a lot more emotional. I wanted to ask about the song She Could Call Me Tonight, which is up on your myspace, it's one of my favorite songs, period. Could you explain what that one is about, and how it was to write it?

Nate: Thanks, I'm glad you like it! That song is about someone who has just gone through a breakup and then meeting someone new, and finding that he can't stop thinking about the girl he broke up with. At the beginning he's saying the new girl he met could call him tonight, but by the last chorus, he's just waiting for the girl he broke up with to call him instead. Not really based on any real experiences, I just thought it might be fun to actually make a small story. It was a lot of fun writing the music, cause it's basically just a pure pop song. The new version of that which will be on the final album is a little bit different; I added some piano and more acoustic guitar, and changed some of the parts a little. Also, Lori will be singing on some of it, which should be sweet!

Eric: And I wanted to ask the same thing about The Terminal. It's the closer to the new album, and a really expressive song. It really feels like you're singing about something that happened between you and a girl, I've noticed that your whole discography seems to be following a relationship, starting with the optimism of "All That's Green" to the sheer emptiness of loss in "The Terminal". Could you explain what that song is really about, and if I'm just being a raving lunatic?

Nate: You are correct! and The Raving Lunatix would be an awesome band name. If it's not already one. I would change my name to Lenny Lunatic. Anyway... The Terminal probably has the most honest and personal lyrics I have ever written, which is why I tried to cover them up with airplane metaphors. I usually tell people that my songs are on average, 50% true and 50% made-up, but this one is 100% true. Which means one of our songs is probably completely made-up, to even it out and make the average work. Seriously though, the song is basically relating a relationship to an airplane trip, starting with a bumpy lift-off and ending with the main character being alone in the terminal again. I realize that sounds really emo, but sometimes life can get pretty emo on you. By the way, "Life Gets Emo On You" should be The Raving Lunatix first album.

Eric: So after the new album is released, what do you plan to do with the band, and what are your plans for the future with Sweet Diss and the Comebacks?

Nate: As soon as we're done with the album, we'll probably put it up on iTunes or something like that, and send copies of it to all of our favorite record labels. We're definitely planning on doing a gigantic tour across the US in support of it also (hopefully next Spring), regardless of whether or not we are lucky enough to get signed or get a distribution deal of some kind. It's taken over a year so far from the start of the album to the finish, so I've already got a bunch of new songs in various stages of completion for a second album.

Eric: That's really awesome...and thats about it!! So thanks a ton!

Nate: Thank you dude!

* * *

Listen and download some tracks from Sweet Diss and the Comebacks

visit their myspace
download their first album free
buy some music

p.s. Sweet Diss' latest EP, ...and don't forget to tip your waitress can also be purchased at the Itunes Music store!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fred Rogers

One of the most amazing people to ever live was Fred Rogers, host of the television series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood". As a kid I watched Fred Rogers, and today I watched his show again and was brought to tears. Aside from being a brilliant composer and pianist, Mr. Rogers cared deeply for children and reminded us every day that we are special and unique and there will never be anyone like us ever again. And he liked us just the way we are now.

I found this tribute to him on youtube, I thought I would share it.

i can't resist this one either =]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review: The Wrong Button - Stephen Newcombe

Back in 2005 Stephen Newcombe had finished the album The Wrong Button, the 3rd in a trilogy of albums that nearly scored him a recording contract (although the details of that story are a tad bit vague).

I just recently found Stephen's album, as it was emailed to me, but sometimes first impressions can mean everything. And such was the case with The Wrong Button. The album is a pure salute to analog recording and Indie production. Right from the first song, the highly symbolic and ambient song "If it's not broken", Stephen Newcombe foreshadows dark and wonderful things to come. The album begins with peculiar laughing over a music box, until the character of the album is suddenly awakened from what seems to be a dream. A radio turns on and plays a strange organ song as thunder and rain quickly dawn on him. He begins to walk away as a telephone is heard in the distance. He walks toward it as the thunder and rain begin to pour heavier on the man. He opens a door and enters, locking out the rain. He answers the phone to hear the other end quickly hang up.

And that's the way this album starts!

We're off to a very strange, vivid beginning. Moving into the first song "Automata", Stephen makes a very dense production with backing vocals, varied percussion, bells, flutes, and an arsenal of other instruments. Throughout the album Stephen uses such a wide variety of instruments that could surprise Brian Wilson himself.

The album truly is an eccentric piece of work. Complex musical arrangements, complex production, and a very developed story line. The album has strange, yet beautiful interludes between nearly every song, and between nearly every interlude! And while it may seem like this large amount of story building could take away from the songs, The Wrong Button manages something that almost no one can do. It immerses you inside it.

This album is meant to be listened to from start to finish, with no breaks in between. It really is a trip. The interludes between the songs truly drag you in and keep you waiting patiently for the next song. And when the songs do come on the album shines even more. Dark sections of scary organ are alleviated by jazz piano and loads of doo doo doo's. The album can really bring you full circle from fear to tears to comical laughs.

But the true power of Stephen's song writing hit me at track 5. The track "Sing For Us" scares the living hell out of me. The track is almost a funeral hymn played with guitar, bells, organ and several other instruments. But the truly eerie part are the babies he recorded and looped over the song. Stephen Newcombe practically forces you to think about the frailty of birth, life and death. But if that song is too scary, he loosens up with the Edward Scissorhands-esque "Rolling Away". The backing vocals of ladies in this song work perfectly with the bongos and bass that drive this song.

Around the middle part of the album things continue smoothly, even introducing some laughs on the track "Careful, You'll Fall". But as with most things in this album, the smiles quickly fade as one of the albums strongest tracks "Talking To Myself" appears. This song, which went to #5 on a while back is much more pop than most of the songs, and even feels a bit jazzy to me, but Stephen really explores on this track and flexes all of his musical muscles to deliver nearly a full 6 minutes of music.

From this point on the album focuses a lot more on the story telling aspect of the album, picking up on concepts earlier in the album (the caller on the phone who hung up?). And while I would love to write about it, it's much more fun to figure it out alone.

The album ends with the goofiest track of the album, Space Rocket. The song screams child hood, but remains as sophisticated as the rest of his songs. He creatively crafts a middle section of this song to suddenly turn to a dark a cappella section, then suddenly return to the former anthem for children. The song continues to change to simple talking with altered voices before moving to another section with keyboard and accordian. As the final words "nothing ever ends, it's all just unresolved..." the album fades out and it does feel more than a bit unresolved.

I was completely mesmerized by this album, and to say that I couldn't figure it out sort of bugs me. The album is so complex, and so deep, that I'm not sure I will ever be able to fully relate to it. I really don't know what the heck he is talking about a lot of times. But should that stop you from trying? Absolutely not! Stephen Newcombe's latest album is outstanding! It is absolutely beautiful and moving, and I hope he finds the ambition (or whatever it may be that he needs) to make some more music A.S.A.P.

Fortunately, Stephen has made his whole album available for free on his blog.

Download the album now!

Preview some tracks here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brittle Stars

Hey everyone!

I haven't had anytime to upload this blog recently and for that I am sorry. I have moved from Western Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island. I went to college here and its really great to be back in time for Thanksgiving to be around my friends. I have my own place and I've got to get a job soon as well!

So despite all this I've decided to spend more time updating this blog. I'm also happy to announce I am dropping my third server, Mediafire, in place of the new You'll notice it's much better, and you can now listen to songs even before downloading them! I'm also hoping my files won't disappear!

Anyway, I'm writing this time about a band I've gotten into called Brittle Stars. Coming from Gainesville, FL, Brittle Stars' name alone sheds light onto their sound and the musicians behind it; something terribly beautiful but incredibly delicate. The songs Brittle Stars make are often filled with feelings of hurt, disappointment and bitter sweet romance, yet never come off as being too wrapped up in its own sentimentality.

In 1999 the band released their self titled album on Shelflife records. The music is purely indie pop, with jangling guitars, synth riffs that never feel out of place and beautiful singing by keyboardist Estelle. The band has since broken up and singer Estelle has hence moved to Israel then to New York City where she is one half of the band Elephant Parade.

There is also a rumor floating around that Brittle Stars could be getting together for a reunion in May of 2008!

p.s. I found this photo of Estelle in New York! Isn't it nice? See ya soon.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Adam Deibert

Meet Adam Deibert.

Adam has been one of my favorite musicians for years, much of that time without me even realizing it. As a member of both The Aquabats and Bikeride, Adam has worked with these groups to help define their sound that I've been enjoying for years.

I first heard the Aquabats in the 7th or 8th grade. The album "The Aquabats Vs. The Floating Eye Of Death" had just been released and one of my friends shared it with me. With most great albums it took a few listens to truly understand and enjoy, it took me even longer to realize that much of that great music had been written by Adam Deibert.

It wasn't until 2001 when Adam was recognized as a solo artist when he created his own act, Digital Unicorn, to open for the Aquabats as a replacement for an opening band that dropped out from the tour. Adam released an album that year as Digital Unicorn titled "Theirs Travel Began and Loaded the Dream".

Since then Adam has left the Aquabats, but continued to stay busy releasing albums with Bikeride and for the last year or so has started another solo project "Call Sound Call Noise". Adam has released another solo album in 2007, the self titled Call Sound Call Noise album. While the sound of the 2 albums differ, Adam Deibert is a musical genius capable of creating any type of music he chooses and continues to be a valuable player in the Southern California indie scene.

Adam also does the voice for the character Muno The Cyclops on the Nick Jr. series Yo Gabba Gabba. And even though Adam is so busy, he was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions I sent him. I'm a little bit embarrassed because I thought he was born in Lithuania! Turns out he made up a story behind Digital Unicorn that you can read here. Keep reading for my interview with Adam Deibert.

Eric: Adam, I wanted to know a little bit more about you. You mention in your manifesto for Digital Unicorn that you are originally from the country of Lithuania. What was it like growing up there?

Adam: Ah, the myth and the man. I created a back story for “Mann” of Digital Unicorn because it sounded like fun. He’s a late-Soviet era artist age 23-40 who has moved to various places around the world in his quest to create. This was in 1999 and Lithuania seemed like a nice place for him to be from.

Eric: In 1990 you moved from Lithuania to Montreal, Canada. Why Montreal?

Adam: So Mann moves to Montreal after the fall of the USSR. This was a period of time when Montreal was hurting due to a major financial recession. Seemed like a good time for Mann to go there and make music. Around 1998-1999 I wanted to move there in real life but never made it happen. Now it’s very much on everyone's radar and it went from ridiculously cheap for Americans to visit, to expensive with the whole 1 to 1 US dollar to CA dollar ratio.

Eric: After living in Montreal you moved to New Orleans for a while and then you ended up in Southern California. What was happening at this time that caused all this moving, and what sorts of music were you working on at this time?

Adam: New Orleans seemed like the next place for Mann to go due to its French-Creole heritage. The just-pre-Digital Unicorn band I was in named “Dig Bunny” had a song called New Orleans. The only time we played that song we had the sax player solo while he sat on the bar, then a drum machine played a drum solo while the band took a break. I have it on video, it needs to be digitized and thrown into youtube.

Eric: I know you studied at UCSB as a music major. When did you start studying there, and did you ever receive your degree?

Adam: I started to think about majoring in music the first time I went there in 1995-97, but thought a B.S. in Geography was more my bag. Then I took 3 years off to play in The Aquabats and realized, yeah, I’d like to major in music, if I don’t, I’ll regret it. So I went back in 2000 and finished in 2003.

Eric: You are very well known for being "Prince Adam" of the Aquabats from 1994 - 2005. How did you meet the other members of the Aquabats and form the group?

Adam: I met them at a party in 1994 and asked them if I could play accordion. They said “Nah, but you can play trumpet right? Come play trumpet” So I came and played trumpet and from there we made magic.

Eric: Could you explain what your responsibilities were in the band? I know you wrote many of the Aquabats songs, so, what were some of your favorite songs with the Aquabats?

Adam: My responsibilities started as "guy who will hopefully show up and play horn lines" to "guy who writes some songs and fills in the gaps on a few instruments". My favorite Aquabats songs are: Playdough, Cat with 2 Heads, the Floating Eye of Death album, Sandy Face, Tiger Rider vs the Time Sprinkler, and Look at me I’m a Winner.

Eric: You left the Aquabats in 2005 to start your own career, but you have continued to stay close to the other members of the band, even occasionally performing on stage since your departure. How has your relationship changed with the band members since leaving?

Adam: We’re buddies. I don’t see some of them as much as I’d like. Some I see often and it’s great. I even talk to most of the guys who left the band before I left on a semi-regular basis.

Eric: One thing I wanted to ask you about was something you wrote in your departure letter to the fans of the Aquabats. You mentioned you would be writing songs for commercials. Have you composed any songs for commercials yet?

Adam: At the time I had just been “hired” on to do overflow work as a freelance composer for a company that does music for commercials. About 2 weeks later they completely restructured the way they operated. The freelance guys were structured out of the picture. So, in conclusion no music was ever written for a commercial by me.

Eric: You are in another very popular indie band, Bikeride. Why did you choose to stay with Bikeride? And what is it like being a part of an actual band, as opposed to being a solo artist?

Adam: Bikeride has a workload of about .75 compared to the Aquabats which varies from 5 to 10. It's very low key and consists of 4 guys who really enjoy playing together rehearsing a few times a year and recording an album over an average of 3 years. There's a lot less pressure applied by yourself as one of the cogs of a band. You give input on band decisions and play your part, as opposed to solo projects where every last, minute detail is up to you.

Eric: You are the genius behind 2 solo projects, Digital Unicorn and Call Sound Call Noise. DU released its album "Theirs Travel Began and Loaded the Dream" in 2001. What was going on at that period in your life that inspired this release, and why has DU not released anything in 6 years?

Adam: The DU thing happened spontaneously really. It was the summer of 2001 and I planned to work on stuff similar to what became CSCN, plus Aquabats demos, but turned upside down and wrote the last few DU songs. Most were written in 1999. Christian helped me a lot putting the record out and, to misquote, said "hey, you finished a Digital Unicorn album, let's put it out!" Parker Jacobs then helped with the art and out it came. Since then I've been meaning to do another album, but it takes a certain amount of magic that has yet to be accumulated.

Eric: Your newest project Call Sound Call Noise is absolutely amazing. I adore your new 10 track album. The sound is a very radical departure from Digital Unicorn. Why did you feel the need to have 2 solo projects? And which project do you like better?

Adam: Thank you. Digital Unicorn is more the comedy/faux-performance art experience. It was meant to be an "is that guy serious" affair, and that cat has been let out of its proverbial bag. Most people know it's not for real now which makes it slightly less fun. Still up there on the fun scale though. I knew that for more "serious" music I needed a separate entity. CSCN is more "Hi, my name is Adam and here is some music." I'm not sure which one I like better yet. I like them differently...

Eric: Some of my personal favorites from the Call Sound Call Noise album are Tear Down The Glass Walls, Rancor Aweigh, Minute King, and Hi_1999. What was your inspiration for the album, and how do you go about recording your songs?

Adam: Most of the inspiration was anxiety, then the passing of time, stucco walls. Maybe a little unrequited love sneaks in very veiled. Musically I wanted to do something different, and I almost did it, but it didn't come across quite like I wanted. A little too safe. I'll keep working at that. There were things I knew I didn't want to do on the album like use the words "I" and "she" and strum a guitar. Also putting words in superfluously to make things rhyme or be hamfistedly catchy. I finally strummed a guitar on the last song I wrote for the album, Waits and Measures. I couldn't help it, so I just let it happen. I also used the word "I" in that one... Minute King and Hi_1999 were actually written in 1999 and added at the very last second. I woke up one night and realized they needed to be on the album. The next day I called the place where it was getting mastered and mailed a CD with those 2 songs and I think 2 others.

As for writing/recording the songs, I'm not sure. Usually I start writing on a guitar or piano, then if I started on guitar I switch to piano and vice versa to take out any cliche overly obvious guitar-y or piano-y stuff. Then the computer comes in and I use it to make sounds and rearrange things. Like most people these days I recorded it all at home.

Eric: You are also doing the voice of Muno the Cyclops on the Nick Jr. Series Yo Gabba Gabba. The show is largely based on a television series that you and the other members of the Aquabats were trying to get on tv for years. How does it feel to finally be a part of an on-air television series?

Adam: It still doesn't seem real. I see it on TV and say out loud "really?" The whole production definitely had a DIY vibe that made it feel like it was being made outside the normal studio system. Which I guess it was for the most part.

Eric: You also compose and remix songs for the show as well, in addition to voice acting. How much time does that leave you for making other music and performing live?

Adam: Um, since last November zero. The music part of the show, every aspect of the show really, took a lot of time and hard work for all involved. Much was learned. I somehow put out the CSCN album myself last spring in the middle of everything. But right now I have a little time off so I'm preparing for more recording as well as some live CSCN shows.

Eric: Lastly, what plans do you have for the future as far as television, music and your career? And what about your personal life? Are you getting married any time soon?

Adam: Well, I'll keep doing Yo Gabba Gabba as long as I can. Hopefully other kids TV stuff too. Some people find it annoying but it is really rewarding writing positive songs that kids can grow up with. I think it's probably more rewarding than scoring reality shows. However, I would ultimately like to do some non-kids TV/film so I'm not deeply burrowed into the pigeon hole. I am definitely doing another CSCN album and if I can gather enough mystical poultices I'll do another DU album. Of course, putting out albums yourself=losing money, so I'd like to start playing live more. I'm coming off a 10 month Yo Gabba Gabba whirlwind of non-stop work so my social life needs rekindling. Marriage? Not very soon.

* * *

Adam's last show with the Aquabats, showing off his hand farting skills to the Star Wars Theme.

Adam also teaches you not to bite your friends on Yo Gabba Gabba.

Check out the Digital Unicorn Myspace here.
Also check out the official site here.
And buy the CD here!

Check out the Call Sound Call Noise Myspace here.
Also check out the official site here.
And buy the CD here!

Also go check out Bikeride if you have the time!

See you next time!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Carpenters

Most people on Earth have heard of the Carpenters. Maybe they don't specifically know any of their songs off hand, but all anyone needs to hear are just a few seconds of any of their big hits (Close To You, We've Only Just Begun, Sing, Hurting Each Other, etc.) before saying "Ah! I've heard this!"

And that's just the kind of band the Carpenters were. Either absolutely loved or completely overlooked. At the time of the Carpenters biggest success the main stream was rejecting the Carpenters wholesome image and pure pop productions. America was being swept up in the post-hippie, anti-Vietnam rock scene. So while The Carpenters were being seen as completely uncool (especially after accepting to perform for President Nixon in 1973) they were unmoved by the music scene around them and continued to make the same beautiful music they had started making. By today's standards, that's pretty cool.

I've never really been one for using big words, so I will try to say this as simply as possible. The Carpenters are beautiful. Everything about their music represents pop music at it's best.

The Carpenters were brothers Richard and Karen Carpenter. Richard had taken lessons for piano as a child and by his teenage years was extremely talented at his instrument. Karen had started learning Jazz drums in her teen years as well. And the two had made a jazz trio in the mid 60s called The Richard Carpenter Trio. However, by 1968 The Carpenters had dropped the Jazz trio and formed the pop group we all know.

They were signed to A&M Records by 1969 and released their first album "Offerings". The single from the album was a ballad cover of The Beatles hit "Ticket To Ride". Check out the video for it below (the video was shot on Karen's 20th Birthday).

However, the album did not sell well, but their next album 1970's Close To You proved to be a huge success. (Read a brief article about the Carpenters from a magazine in 1970) The album reached #2 on the US charts. After the success of their second album The Carpenters had been forced into a lifestyle of constant pressure to perform and to record new material, with the majority of this pressure being placed onto Richard, the group's main composer.

During the next decade The Carpenters enjoyed massive success, but also had their share of problems. Richard had become addicted to quaaludes, which he recovered from. However Karen, who had been struggling with anorexia for years, died from the illness in 1983.

The diversity and the impact of The Carpenters music make them still popular today. Whether you're smiling ear to ear or crying from lost love (and yes, they have made me cry) you need The Carpenters if you care about anything at all in the world.

Go buy some albums here!
Check out Richard Carpenter's website as well!

and lastly, this is so cute! The Carpenters play Sing in Japan in 1974 with a little kids choir in Japanese! =D

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paul Steel

*you can listen and download music with this widget below*
(p.s. I have permission to host and share these files)

Meet Paul Steel.

Coming from Brighton, England, Paul Steel is a 20 year old multi instrumentalist who writes his own blend of neo-psychadelic pop and rock that has awarded him not only a major record deal, but accolades from the likes of Van Dyke Parks and Sean O'Hagan (of the High Llamas).

I first found Paul's music by accident in the smiley smile forums. As Paul and I are both Beach Boys fans Paul had posted a video of him performing the Brian Wilson classic Surfs Up on a British television show (which you can watch here). I posted my horrible cover as well to much embarrassment. Since then I've been in love with Paul Steel and have been able to follow him as his career has taken off.

Last May Paul released his debut album, April and I, a concept album about a boy and his imaginary friend as they struggle to grow up. In actuality, April and I is one long 27 minute song, a ridiculously ambitious and genius first release. Check out the video for Paul's Honkin'(On My Crackpipe).

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to talk to Paul through MSN and ask him a few questions about his first album, and his upcoming album, Moon Rock.

Eric: So the band name is Paul Steel. But it is an actual band, who are the members of the band, and what do they do?

Paul: It's Rachael Wood on lead guitar and backing vocals... she's a rock goddess from outer space. Makoto Kano on bass… our Japanese low frequency master. Andy Nixon on drums and backing vocals... the band "dad". And Alani Gibbon and Gemma Carre on backing vocals and percussion... the "Steelettes" maybe?!

Eric: Haha. When did you start playing music, and what made you want to become an artist?

Paul: After reluctantly learning piano pretty young I decided I wanted to be Jonny Greenwood and started learning guitar when I was about 14. I was in a few school bands and started getting into the Brighton live scene, then when I was about 17/18 I saw Brian Wilson do smile at RFH and it blew my mind. So after reassembling my head I decided I wanted to be an artist/producer.

Eric: Could you explain what RFH is for our American friends, and maybe a little about the show, I'm sure a lot of readers are terribly interested in that little detail.

Paul: Oh sure. It's the Royal Festival Hall in London where Brian Wilson premiered Smile which is his 37 year overdue masterpiece. I went to the show being a casual fan of the Beach Boys but hearing Smile as a complete piece after hearing all the bootlegs was a very religious experience and gave me a kick up the arse in terms of what kind of artist I wanted to be.

Eric: That’s amazing. And you're currently signed to Polydor and Fascination Records, how did you manage that?

Paul: I was always interested in recording and production and I'd had a crack at demoing my own songs at home on my family computer. I gave them to everyone I thought would like it and it ended up in the hands of a few labels. So then I spent a while talking to different labels and recruited my band from the future to perform the songs live.

Eric: So now its no secret how much you admire Brian Wilson and his Smile album, how did it feel to get praise from the likes of the Wondermints and Van Dyke Parks?

Paul: I'm very honoured that they even listened to it. I'm a fan of both the Wondermints and Van Dyke Parks in their own right. Song Cycle by VDP is like a sort of Dickensian masterpiece and has been extremely overlooked and the Wondermints Bali album soundtracked a lot of my trips to college, so having them write back to me after hearing my stuff was very special.

Eric: You've also been able to play all over, and I've seen your video podcast from Japan (check it out, part 1, 2, 3), what's it like touring and what are some of your favorite places so far?

Paul: Touring is a very unique experience because you get to perform your music to people that you would otherwise never ever meet. It's definitely the most labourious part of my job but also the most unpredictable. I have very, very fond memories of playing in Japan. It was overwhelming going to a country that is so far removed from what I'm used to. And we managed to pull one of the best crowds we've ever had.

Eric: That’s pretty outstanding, and I personally loved April and I, your first album, I think its insanely complex musically, and very emotionally moving for a first release, what inspired you to make that album?

Paul: I was a little bit bored of writing 3/4 minute pop songs at the time and wanted to do something radical and self-indulgent to keep me sane. I was listening to lots of symphonic music like Rhapsody in Blue and Song Cycle by Van Dyke Parks and was really interested in the idea of recurring melodic themes and stuff like that. I wanted to see how it would work in a sort of lo-fi bedroom pop format.

Eric: You also have posted the album to listen to in it's entirety on myspace (which can be heard here), so having done that, how do you feel about your music being shared over the internet and all these threats from the RIAA, etc?

Paul: I don’t have a problem with it. I've discovered some of my favourite music on the internet. It's a very uncertain time for record companies at the moment and I think it's time for a new business model that can work around the inevitability of people downloading music illegally. As long as I can pay my bills and get that Curb Your Enthusiasm boxset I've got my eye on then I'll be happy.

Eric: I wanted to ask about one track in particular off of April and I, the title track April and I, I really love that one, the breakdown, and the woo woo woo section afterward, and the instrumental break, and it just seamlessly molds in to Worst day, every song just has so many parts, can you explain a little how you go about writing songs and arranging them?

Paul: I wrote April and i linearly (is that even a word?). I started with the intro which became the main theme of the piece and worked my way through each song to the end track. So the chord that one song would end on would dictate the first chord of the next one. I basically arrange in my head as I write them. Every melodic instrumental part is as important to me as the vocal melody is.

Eric: Haha, I suppose I'm not at that level yet musically, But now your new album just came out, Moon Rock, and it really is brilliant, how have things been since moon rock came out?

Paul: It's not actually out yet. It's been put back to early next year due to some complications. I'm very eager to see what people think of it. I think it's a marmite album. I think some people will like it and some people will pin it on their dartboard.

Eric: Ooh sorry about that! The SINGLE for Your Loss came out September 3rd, my mistake. But anyway I wanted to ask about your recent injury, how did that happen, and what has life been since then?

Paul: Me and the band were supporting Air Traffic at the Electric Ballroom in London. It was basically the start of our tour and in our last song Ray Gun we do an acid techno rave and jump around like hyperactive mentalists. I did a big jump and landed on the side of my foot and fractured my 5th metatarsal twice so we had to cancel the tour. I feel like a bit of an idiot to be honest. A crippled idiot.

Eric: That's a bit of a Wayne Rooney thing to have happen huh?

Paul: It is! That's the upside really. Only he's a national treasure who has been a victim to his own athletic bravery. I'm a local moron who did it cause I dance like a freak. I was hoping I'd bump into him at the fracture clinic. I'm sure he goes private though, haha.

Eric: Haha, I also wanted to ask about a couple more songs. In particular, Your Loss, it has a really intense driving organ in it, and an incredible breakdown around 1:45, can you explain a little bit about how that song was written and what it represents for you?

Paul: I wrote it when I was in one of my school bands. We used to play it about 5x faster cause we wanted to be Supergrass or something. Instead of the breakdown you hear now we used to have this ridiculously long psychedelic guitar solo like Dukes of Stratosphere used to do. Because I was getting into more electronic music at the time of rerecording it I decided to put a four on the floor 808 bass drum down and do a lush Steely Dan style vocal thingy.

Eric: …And my favorite song, The Way You Are, its just so deep and amazing, I feel like it really competes with some of the best ballads of all time. What were you thinking when you wrote that one, and could you explain a little bit more about it?

Paul: Ah! Thank you. Musically I was listening to lots of the great 20th century songwriters like Gershwin, Bacharach and more recently Rufus Wainwright so I think there's a lot of that in there. It's kind of about wanting to change the world but realizing that I have to change as an individual. The middle bit is a not so subtle reference to Rhapsody In Blue.

Eric: That’s really awesome, I love Burt Bacharach and Rufus Wainwright. And I guess lastly, what do you have planned for the future? Will there be a new album soon?

Paul: Whilst my foot is out of action I'm mainly planning on playing computer football and eating biscuits. I'm also doing some music for Telstar, the movie about Joe Meek who is a legendary 60s producer… the British Phil Spector. I'm hopefully going to reschedule our tour. There's talk of maybe doing an EP to be released after the Moon Rock campaign. I'm also working on songs for the next album... I'm planning on doing something with a similar format to April & I. But still trying to piece it all together. Oh, and I Will Make You Disappear is the next single to be released over here in January.

Eric: Could you tell me a little about it (the songs you‘re writing)?

Paul: Well I'm playing with basic ideas at the moment but it's going to be another weird psychedelic adventure. I've been reading a lot about Illuminati and weird alien mind control theories and stuff so I'm hoping for it to be quite a retro-futuristic science fiction kind of thing with more synths and electronics. The audio equivalent of the Jetsons maybe, haha. I dunno.

Eric: Haha. That sounds amazing. Well I'm wicked psyched for it, and for Moon Rock. And thanks a ton for answering all that for me.

Paul: No worries man it was fun. Hope you got what you needed.

* * *

Paul Steel's new video for the single Your Loss is finished as well. Check it out!

Check out to download the track Crossed The Line.
Also go add Paul's Myspace!

Monday, October 1, 2007

First post


I'm Eric Warncke. I used to run a blog on the Beach Boys. You can view it here.

I love to play piano, and sleep, and I have an adorable kitten as well. You'll often find me laughing about stupid things, or putting potato salad on french bread.

I've decided to start a blog that focuses on pop music. No, not top 40 music, but independent music that Pitchfork doesn't have the courage to cover.

Feel free to email me with your favorite artists so I can write about them and share them with everyone!

- Eric

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