Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Explorers Club Music

Let's face it folks, the Beach Boys are never coming back, but at least we have the Explorers Club!

Last week I interviewed one of my musical heroes, Jason Brewer, from the band The Explorers Club. If you like The Beach Boys, The Beatles or America you need to go to amazon.com right now and download three brand new songs by The Explorers Club! The best part? They're all free.

This is the link:


These three songs are being presented as a suite of music called "The Californian Suite". The three songs on the disc are "Walk On By" (a Burt Bacharach and Hal David standard covered by Dionne Warwick, Isaac Hayes, The Beach Boys and many other greats), Weight Of The World (a brand new original song) and Summer Days and Summer Nights (an original song that references the Beach Boys album of the same name).

This suite of music is fantastic, both as a marketing tool and as a release. All 3 songs are better than anything The Explorers Club have done before. These 3 songs represent a band more unified, educated, confident and artistic than ever before. Their version of Walk On By is different than any you may have ever heard before. The vocals are sung in a powerful and agonizing way that stands out in my mind much more than Dionne Warwick's version and their version also doesn't have the same backing vocals that the Beach Boys version had, so it is impossible to declare them "copycats", considering this version is completely unique. It even has a nasty organ solo at the end!

When I first heard the Beach Boys cover of Walk On By, I ADORED it. I must have listened to their version 20,000 times. I've learned the song and even thought about recording a cover myself. I am kind of glad I didn't get around to recording my version, because it would never have been as good as the Explorers Club version.

The 2 original songs on the suite, Weight of the World and Summer Days and Summer Nights are sort of spiritual sisters. They belong together. Weight of the World has this great flamenco guitar riff in it and amazing Spanish castanets acting as the rhythm. The song also has a great horn riff in the middle of it that makes the song sound like a Bacharach standard (Raindrops anyone?). This song is beautifully crafted and is so gorgeous that I'm afraid some people won't give it a chance, just for being so gorgeous.

Summer Days and Summer Nights is slightly slower than Weight of the World, but probably will have a greater appeal to the general public because it doesn't feature any castanets or flamenco guitar playing, but instead focuses on singing and vocal harmonies. The vocal track on this song is really gorgeous and so are the vocal harmonies dispersed throughout the entire song. Another awesome thing about this song is the ending, which picks up in speed and has a nice keyboard solo with some excellent acoustic guitar riffs and flute lines as well. It's really groovy and reminds me of The Free Design and Harpers Bizarre.

I really love this 3 song EP and I can't encourage you enough to download it immediately from amazon for FREE here -


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interview: Jason Brewer of the Explorers Club

The Explorers Club is one of my favorite bands. I have wanted to interview them for years and I finally had the chance!

The Explorers Club are a pop band that sound a lot like the Beach Boys with perfectly in pitch vocal harmonies and unbelievably catchy hooks in all of their songs. They released their debut album "Freedom Wind" on the Dead Oceans label in 2008 and since then I have been so incredibly anxious for new music from the guys. Thankfully NEXT WEEK the Explorers Club will be returning with new music in the form of three exclusive "suites" of music that will be available through Amazon.com beginning next TUESDAY, October 25th when the "California Suite" will become available. Keep checking explorersclubmusic.com for more information!

I am so excited for these suites! I watched the promotional video below and it will feature a cover of the Burt Bacharach song "Walk On By" (also covered by the Beach Boys in 1968), the song Hitchin' A Ride as well as two "under construction" mixes of songs from their soon to-be-released new album "Grand Hotel" that will be available on Rock Ridge Music.

Jason Brewer is the principle song writer for the Explorers Club. He is the Brian Wilson of the band. I admire him a heck of a lot. He reminds me of Brian Wilson in a lot of ways; teaching his band members the vocal harmonies and meticulously rehearsing each part over and over again, giving suggestions to make the sound just the way he hears it in his head. I imagine him coming into band rehearsals and recording sessions with brand new songs in his hands anxious to show them off to the guys.

I have probably listened to the Explorers Club's 6 song EP and their debut full-length "Freedom Wind" a million times. I seriously spin the Explorers Club as often as the Beach Boys (and that is saying a lot). I don't think the Explorers Club are copy cats, I think they are pop fanatics, just like me and I think to label them as anything but fantastic is a poor judgment call.

I love the Explorers Club and I am absolutely giddy to share this interview with Jason Brewer!


1. When and where did the Explorers Club form?

Jason: We formed in 2005 in Charleston, SC in Dave Ellis' (one of the band's singers and multi-instrumentalists) backyard.

2. Are you [Jason] the only song writer in the band?

Jason: I am the only songwriter in the band, but I collaborate with Troy Stains and Mike Williamson - two songwriter friends of mine.

3. Besides the Beach Boys and the Beatles, who are some other big influences for the Explorers Club?

Jason: Herb Alpert, Neil Diamond, The Bee Gees, Burt Bacharach, CSNY, Andy Williams, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, The Zombies, Dan Penn, Joe South, ABBA, Frankie Valli, Bob Crewe, Roger Nichols, Paul Williams, Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell, Booker T and the MGs... too many to name!

4. Your self titled, 6 song demo cd, where was it recorded and who mixed and mastered it?

Jason: It was recorded in too many places to name - a lot of it was done with my friend Troy Stains in Atlanta, GA. We mixed it ourselves. It was most likely mastered by Kevin Crothers in Charleston. That was WAY TOO LONG AGO.

5. What was the process like of getting signed to Dead Oceans and recording Freedom Wind?

Jason: They saw us play at SXSW in 2007 and signed us on the spot. We spent that summer making our record with Matt Goldman in Atlanta, GA. We really explored vocal harmonies and sound combinations to get that classic sound down just right.

6. What praise have you received that meant the very most to you so far (for example, if Brian Wilson told me he liked my music, I would cry)?

Jason: I think Brian [Wilson] calling me was real special. I also felt like our review in UNCUT magazine by Bud Scoppa was a career highlight so far. Singing with Darian and Nelson from Brian's band at the Troubadour in LA was very special.

7. What makes your new CD "Grand Hotel" that is about to be released different from "Freedom Wind"?

Jason: It is the REAL Explorers Club. It is our own sound. It is harmonies, classic pop sounds, lighthearted spirit and most remarkably - it's own VERY unique sound that is new and classic all at once. It is a musical vacation.

8. Are you going to buy the Smile Sessions by the Beach Boys when it released in November?

Jason: I plan to camp by my mailbox from now until it is delivered.

9. What are you planning to do after your next album is out? Tour? Record more? Take a break?

Jason: We will play shows and hopefully make a new record REALLY fast to follow it up. I already have two concepts half written for two more albums... get ready!

Listen to this tasty groove:
Do You Love Me? by expclub

and visit their website explorersclubmusic.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Paul Starling

When someone becomes a song writer, it is almost criminal not to use your god given abilities to attract women by writing great love songs. Sunshine pop enthusiasts Paul "The Darling" Starling (they are a band, not a person) have released 3 albums in quick succession the past few years and are catching the attention of my heart. All of their albums are filled with incredible pop songs and their latest single "All Of My Heart" is just so great that I had to write about it as soon as I knew the right words to say.

I'm just going to quote the chorus of the song "We'll be happy like Brian Wilson said/and I would give her all of my heart/and i would make her see we'll never part/and i would give her all of my heart yes i would/and i would make her see shes the only one for me/and i would show her now that ill never leave/and i would give her all of my heart yes i would". Fantastic. I wish I had wrote it.

The song writer and singer for the band, Brian Bringelson, has a great voice and a smooth vibrato and spends a lot of time doing backing vocals on this track. The 60s style classy reverb and shaking tambourine are evocative of 70s soft rock - in a good way. All the stars have aligned and I am happy to discover another great song writer and pop band from Southern California. Big congratulations to Paul Starling for having their single released on Side B Music, which is owned by my pal Jerry Boyd. Jerry has great taste and I really respect him for doing things the old fashioned way (releasing music that is actually good). I adore this song and give huge credit to Brian Bringelson and the rest of Paul Starling for creating such a gem.

You can download the song on Itunes! =]

All Of My Heart - Paul Starling by SideBMusic

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Micro Song Construction

One of the goals of this blog is for me to interview musicians that I love. My heroes. One of them is Nate Reinauer, song writer and singer for the band Sweet Diss and the Comebacks. This is the second time I've written about Nate and his band.

He recently told me about a new song writing technique that we have deemed "Micro Song Construction". You can read a transcript of Nate talking about it below.

[Nathan Reinauer]
For the past 3 or so years I have been recording song ideas into my voice recorder on my phone, whenever I get one. So by now I have like thousands and thousands of little song ideas. Well, about two months ago I dumped ALL of them onto my computer and listened to every single one, deleting the stupid ones, and renamed them with their tempo at the beginning of the name. It took like two weeks to finish.

So now whenever I am recording, I just pick a tempo, and there are usually like 40 song ideas around that same tempo, and it makes it way easier to combine song ideas into one full song; like three years worth of different ideas all coming together. so for the last few songs I've been recording, I've been using my favorite song ideas and just using ones that have the same tempo and it makes it way easier to get lots of great melodies in one song, but it's a lot of work to go through and catalog them all like that..

What do you call this technique?

[Nathan Reinauer]
Um... I don't know! I never thought about naming it.

Micro song construction?

[Nathan Reinauer]
that works!

Give me some more details. What was the first song you wrote using the micro song construction technique?

[Nathan Reinauer]
Mia Moore! that opening ukulele riff was one song idea I've had for like a year and the verses were something I'd written in Seattle, while the chorus was from like 2 years ago. They were all sitting next to each other in the folder because they had the same tempo so I just stuck 'em together!

Obviously it takes a little more thought than that... I have to sort of audition lots of different ideas that have the same tempo, and change keys and stuff, but it's not too hard!

what about the other 3 song you just released? Were they all written in one batch, or were they multiple ideas put together?

[Nathan Reinauer]
All four of the songs were made up of different song ideas I've had for the last 3 or 4 years. I tend to use ones that are more recent more often, because for some reason I like those better, but there's always a big selection

Do you think you are going to keep writing songs this way for a while?

[Nathan Reinauer]
I think so! Before, it used to pain me to record my song ideas in my phone because I knew they'd just sit there forever and be forgotten, lost in the shuffle, but if you name them and order them by tempo it gives them all an equal shot to be used
and you rediscover them.

that's a sampling of what I'm talking about

Sweet Diss and the Comebacks just recently released 4 new fantastic songs on their facebook page.

Maybe Someday by Sweet Diss

Cherry Park by Sweet Diss

Never Stop Wooing You by Sweet Diss

Mia Moore by Sweet Diss

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Electric Orchestra - Out Of The Blue

I want to take a minute to write about how much I appreciate Electric Light Orchestra and Jeff Lynne. This post is specifically about their 1977 double album Out Of The Blue. By the time this record came out ELO were already superstars all over the world. They had had a string of hits that quickly had them playing on radio stations everywhere; hits like "Evil Woman", "Can't Get It Out Of My Head", "Fire On High" and so many others raised the anticipation level for Out Of The Blue practically through the roof.

By this point Jeff Lynne was so adored that the individual members of the Beatles were all calling him to ask him to produce their records, even going as far as to say that "If the Beatles had not broken up they would have gone on to sound just like ELO". That's some crazy stuff. Fortunately Jeff Lynne delivered the goods in a huge way.

According to wikipedia, "The album had 4,000,000 pre-ordered copies and quickly went multi-Platinum upon release. Out of the Blue spawned five hit singles in different countries, and was ELO's most commercially successful studio album."

Every song on this album is a masterpiece. The production is incredible, the lyrics are brilliant, the harmony vocals are impressive, the string parts are all great and the effects on songs like Standin' In The Rain, Turn To Stone, Night In The City and Sweet Talkin' Woman were all state of the art at the time of this album's release. Basically, this album was the hottest thing on the shelves when it was released and anyone who owns this record can still be proud to display it at the very front of their collection - for quick reaching.

My favorite moments on this record are: The bass vocals on the song It's Over (try singing them!), the "she's gone so long, what can I do?" section in Sweet Talkin' Woman, the "24/7 just left funk gate 11" section in Night In The City, The tap dancing break in Jungle, the build up of Standin' In The Rain (this song is way too intense! it needs some slamming power chords), the long, dramatic, dragged out outro of Mr. Blue Sky and Wild West Hero's A Cappella section! (I know some pretty serious guys who can weep at this song).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

FOUND: Rocketship show from 1996

Someone uploaded a classic live concert of one of my favorite bands ever.

Rocketship are legends in the Southern California indie pop scene and have inspired bands all over the world since the release of their first EP in 1994. Rocketship is also one of the most difficult bands to get a hold of if you want to interview them or book them for a show. Rocketship's lead singer and song writer, Dustin Reske, is slow when answering emails, (I asked him to do an interview in 2008 and haven't heard from him since he said yes all those years ago) but, I found him again recently and asked him to do another interview with me and this time he agreed, FOR REAL! So expect an interview with pop genius Dustin Reske in the coming weeks.

Here is video of Rocketship performing live in 1996 in Detroit, MI.

Naomi & Me

Rocketship with Rose Melburg performing The Love We Could Have Had

Hey Hey Girl

I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do

Bonus: Rocketship performing Kisses Are Promises at a different show

A double bonus cover of I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do by the asian band Caucus

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Glasses - Love Is Queer Reivew

The Glasses new album, Love Is Queer, is probably the most comforting album I have heard this year. It feels like a security blanket. There is not one tone or hint of malice or anger in this recording, which is really uplifting to the spirit. The Glasses are right where we left them in 2009 when they released "Story Problems" (and played an awesome show with my band in New Hampshire!) with boy and girl vocals by singers Will Wagler and Becky (who i believe is some sort of superintendant) accompanied by jangly guitars and fast drums. That is pretty much this band's trademark and they do it better than anyone else.

There is a strong hint of 80s new wave in this album and its no wonder considering the band's principal song writer, Will Wagler, grew up during that crucial decade. This album, whether intentionally or not, is reminiscant of hits by bands like the Go Gos, Culture Club and Hall and Oates. I am not saying that is a bad thing, in fact, it makes me like the album a lot more.

There is a sense of urgency in the songs on this album with limited instrumentation and no studio tricks. You won't hear any auto tune or 80 piece orchestras on this record, just drums, guitar, bass, the occasional keyboard and boy girl vocal trade offs. I will always love DIY albums and this is one of the best I have ever heard.

Stand out tracks on this album include One Late Night, which is very nice, starting out with a keyboard synth sound holding one note like a church organ while Will and Becky sing a lullaby-like melody until a synthesized drum beat comes in to supply some extra energy to the song. Another great track is Things Left Behind In Dreams. Again the 80s influence is strong with the synthesizer, electronic drums and memorable lead guitar riff. The hook in this song is outrageous and the bass line is pretty adventurous too. One final song I can't stop spinning is Your Hate Is Adorable. It reminds me of one of my favorite classic indie pop bands called Rocketship.

"Confused Hair" from The Glasses on Vimeo.

The Glasses have released another album full of great pop songs and it is even better than their last album (which I didn't believe would be possible). They have experimented more on this record and the result is a more progressive and interesting album with the same catchyness that makes them great. I hope their next album continues in the same direction, but gets even more in touch with their (80s) musical inspirations.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Micah Kesselring

One of my Beach Boys buddies has created a fantastic song called "Lovely Little Things". It just came out and it is already an instant pop standard.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

John Davis Interview (Part 2)

I finished part 2 of my interview with disco legend John "The Monster" Davis today and I am so excited to post this! I want to thank John Davis again for being an all around great guy and for getting back to me so quickly!

5. How did you team up with guys like Bobby Eli, "Sugarbear" Foreman and Charles Collins and how did you meet the Sweethearts of Sigma, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Yvette Benton?

Being in Philadelphia, one could not exist without acknowledging these musical giants in my back yard. The first time I worked with the "rhythm section" (Bobby Eli, Sugarbear and Charles Collins) was on "Be Thankful For What You Got" and it was so successful that we became not only colleagues, but good friends as well! I always was, and will always be thankful for the years we spent together.

After that, I recorded "I Just Can't Say Goodbye" with the Philly Devotions, and "Midnight Love Affair" with Carol Douglas. I believe this is where Harry Chipetz, the general manager of Sigma Sound Studio started calling me "Monster". We never knew how much fun I would have with that name.

The first time I worked with the Sweethearts was on Night and Day with the Monster Orchestra. I'll never forget how beautiful they were and the sound was like cream in my coffee. It was truly an honor to work with them. I also have to credit Tom Moulton for giving me such new perspectives on mixing and just plain listening. It was always a pleasure working with Tom.

6. What was the experience of getting signed to Sam Records and Columbia Records like?

Sam Weiss (the owner of Sam Records) and I had a great relationship. I always felt like a son with Sam. When we went to Columbia, it seemed to change things between us. It felt more serious and frankly, some of the fun went out of it for me. The idea of having a little more control over my product meant more to me than being with a big label like Columbia. Unfortunately, this happened in 1978 when things were starting to slow down, and I was feeling a bit lost at the new label.I really thought I had a smash with Love Magic, but we never got enough radio support to get it through the clubs and onto radio. It was a big disappointment for me. But then, I would have to say we sold more records than ever with CBS so I guess it was a double edged sword.

7. You had a creative frenzy from 1976 - 1981 releasing 5 records; Night & Day, Up Jumped The Devil, Aint That Enough For You, The Monster Orchestra Strikes Again! and a split called Hangin' Out with a band called La Pregunta in 1981. What was the experience like of producing, writing and promoting these albums?

Those years, from 1974 - 1984 were the most fun years of my life. When I signed with Sam Weiss it opened a path for me to be in total control of my product. Writing, arranging, playing and producing with the best musicians and singers in the world - who could ask for more? I remember everyday, getting up and looking forward with joy to the day ahead. I knew I would be doing what I love with the people I loved and respected the most. After the Night and Day album, Sam and I felt we should do something original so we wouldn't become predictable. This is where I got my first opportunity to "go crazy". He basically said to go where you want and get him a hit. The first thought I had was "Up Jumped The Devil". It became a huge dance hit and opened the door for The Monster Orchestra to become more original and innovative. That was the really fun part!

8. What led you to stop making records after 1981's Hangin' Out and switch to making music for shows like Dynasty and Beverly Hills 90210?

I'm not sure whether I stopped making records, or people stopped calling, but in 1980, I decided to take a trip to LA and visit my pal Bob Reno from Midland records. He had just moved there and asked me if I would like to try my hand at writing for TV shows. I just had twin daughters and felt I better make this move now, because the future of the record biz seemed to be getting shaky. I got there and met with Mark Snow, a composer of countless TV shows. He got me started by working with him on Hart to Hart. After that, I continued to work for Aaron Spelling for 20 years. I did TV show like Beverly Hill, 90210, Melrose Place, Dynasty, T.J. Hooker, Walker, Texas Ranger, Hotel and many, many others.

9. Do you have any musical plans for the future like releasing a greatest hits package or a new album?

I have no current plans for future projects, but I'm available! (LOL) As far as a greatest hits album, you would have to talk to Mike Weiss at Nervous Records. He controls the master tapes. I'm sure if there was enough interest, he would release one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

John Davis Interview (Part 1)

A few months ago I posted an entry looking for John E. Davis of the disco group John Davis and the Monster Orchestra and I found him on facebook! He has agreed to do an interview with me and here is the first half of it!

Let me tell you a little bit more about John Davis! He started out writing music in college and then later went on to become a band leader and composer while he was in the Army. In the 1970s and 1980s he produced, arranged and worked with some of the biggest names in the music business including Bobby Eli (from MFSB), Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Yvette Benton (The Sweethearts of Sigma), William DeVaughn, Arthur Prysock, The Intruders, Ricky Nelson, Bootsy Collins (of Parliament), Rhonda Heath, The Salsoul Orchestra, Silver Convention, Carol Douglas, Charo, Donna Summer and more. He also released 5 of his own albums under the name John Davis and The Monster Orchestra between 1976 and 1981. In the 1980s and 90s John started working as a composer for television and made music for the shows Dynasty, The Colbys, MacGyver, TJ Hooker, Mission: Impossible the series and Beverly Hills 90210 (the new and old version).

Today John is living in Ohio with his wife and has 3 daughters and recently became a grandfather! Here is the first part of my interview with John Davis!

1. Where were you born and what were your parents names?

I was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1947. I was an identical twin to my brother, Joe Davis. He went on to become one of the best trumpet players in the business and enjoyed a great career as a studio musician and many tours and live shows. My parents, John and Luciene Davis, were just regular folks who worked in Philly - but nowhere near the music business. My Dad worked for the board of Education and my mother worked at our local bank.

2. Did you have a musical home when you were growing up and did you learn any instruments at an early age?

While growing up, my Dad, in particular, was a huge fan of the big band era and always had big band music playing in the house. When I was 9 years old I got a plastic clarinet for Christmas. I loved playing that silly thing until next year I got a real clarinet to play in the school band. Not having a lot of extra money, I studied with a teacher at school until I got to Junior High School where I began to show some talent on this instrument. I can still remember sitting on the floor and listening to Glen Millers band and thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to write stuff like that.

3. Did you have any high schools bands or projects before the Monster Orchestra? What was the first record you ever worked on?

When I got to high school, I had become pretty good on clarinet and had begun playing the sax in the jazz band at school. My "reputation" had grown to the point where I was invited to join the US Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, MD when I graduated from high school. It was here that I actually began to write for a band. I had access to a jazz band, concert band and a marching band. I was writing for everything because I could have them play it back and actually hear what certain instrumental combinations would sound like. After writing a few things for the band there, I submitted one song to a publisher, and it was published for high school bands. I remember it was called "Nightfall".

4. Who were your biggest influences, musically and otherwise when you first started writing music?

At that time I was pretty well influenced by the big band sound and classical music. Then, I remember hearing a record on the radio that just totally blew me away - it was MacArthur Park - the Richard Harris version. I had never thought about combining the pop sound with an orchestra. It was such an exciting time for me that I just began hearing and studying writers like Bacharach and Davis, Jimmy Webb, Ashford and Simpson and many more. After getting out of the service, I started work for a company in Philly. It was there that I was sent to the studio to produce an artist named William DeVaughn. I wasn't very experienced in the studio, but managed to come out with "Be Thankful For What You Got" which became a #1 million seller in 1974. Of course, this opened the doors for me to start getting other projects on my own.

Part 2 is coming soon!