Seventh Seal: Ghost

Maryland-based Seventh Seal's The Ghosts of What We Are (2014) represents experimention in metallurgy involving the re-formulation of musical style including progressive elements. While some heavier metallicity remains as a vestige of their traditional sound.

The album's first minute features a hollow spacey guitar effect; setting the stage of an empty haunted house. Suddenly silence is busted up by percussive bursts of violent flashbacks. The A-side, Ghost, becomes a visceral metaphor for introspection. Our former selves never leave; they nobly transform, as tribulation's destructive bricks become character's building blocks. Flesh submits to its curse, but the essences of men—their ghosts—develop perseverance to overcome.

The shadows of what I used to be follow me
The ghost inside of my heart and mind still believes1



The metaphorical ghosts are the shadows of our former selves that still resonate within us, even as we continue to grow. Deeds, feelings and memories that follow us through our path in life, both haunting and encouraging us along the way.2

There is a indiosyncratic relationship between formulaic songwriting and the subconscious minds of its listeners. Sound which deviates too far from its recognizable pattern becomes an unknown, but if it feels too commercial, again, listeners mentally tune out. So songwriting evolution always involves bending genre structures to maintain a balance between entertainment, and that deep resonation listeners feel when a song drops into the right groove. If bands continue to finesse their sonic transformations, existing fans keep tuning in.

Write down the rules of formulaic commercial songwriting as you know them...then break them—BLAM!—one by one.3

When hearts are activated and musical code is depositied like fertile metal seeds, a song can grow on listeners with each replay. Songs fans collect in the future relate to songs they liked in the past. Because of the listener's subconscious recollection of the motifs and pattern of earlier themes, to which he refers the new theme as he hears it.4 New favorites refer back to the first songs he heard.


  1. Seventh Seal (band). Ghost. 2014. Album: The Ghosts of What We Are. Recording. Track #1
  2. Seventh Seal (band). The Official Seventh Seal Website. 2014. Web. www.seventhsealband.com
  3. Aschmann, Lisa. 1000 Songwriting Ideas. 2008. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corp. Print. p.44
  4. Cook, Nicholas. A Guide to Musical Analysis. 1994. Oxford, UK: Oxford University. Print. p.113

The Ghosts Of What We Are

1. Ghost 05:01
2. On This Day 04:40
3. Awaken 05:05
4. Consecrate 05:47
5. Interlude 01:55
6. Black Skies 04:55
7. A Life Apart 04:55
8. Hollow 02:08
9. Change 04:16
10. Pariah 07:36
11. War 04:54
12. Save / Breath / Shine 07:15

The Steakhouse Demos: Raytheon Hymn

The Steakhouse Demos (2012) is down-to-earth until ears reach the fourth track which literally takes off on a fiery fountain. Raytheon Hymn becomes a vertical departure from the band's cowboy-styled alternative rock; inspired by the progressive sci-fi space rock of Planet P Project and the aeronautics of Space Center Houston. Considering another Steakhouse offering titled Western Skies, it seems as if their songwriter often lifts his eyes to the stars for inspiration. Another source was David Bowie: Ground Control to Major Tom—the most well-known fictional astronaut.

Awake all night I drive out to the launch pad
I'll be 50 miles downrange of base by the time you rise
My back to earth I ride that fiery fountain into endless night1


Blasting off involves an anti-Earth attitude by default; an anti type of attitude with altitude, let's say. If this globe was so great, why do our best and brightest keep shooting men into orbit? To the moon; maybe Mars. While scientists keep searching for habitable planets, as if mankind has planet-hopping planned. Another line from Raytheon mentions Ernie Kovacs, who might be considered an anti-television personality by virtue of his black-and-white departure from the norm.

The fan mail preserved in the Kovacs Papers suggests that Kovacs fans saw themselves as a minority audience of what we might call anti-TV TV watchers—people who watched only certain shows that they felt were entirely different from the rest of TV.2

  1. Sullivan, M.; Black, R.; Schultzberg, R.; Albright, O. Raytheon Hymn. Steakhouse. Steakhouse, 2012. Raytheon Hymn | Steakhouse. Web. 29 Aug. 2015. (http://steakhouse.bandcamp.com/track/raytheon-hymn).
  2. TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago. Print. p.200

The Steakhouse Demos

1. Western Stars
2. Las Cruces Days
3. Laughter
4. Raytheon Hymn
5. Hands

Rue Royale

Groningen House Show (Ham Radio Communications)
photo by: Roland Kok
[indiessance]
the first Rue Royale song I ever listened to was the eponymous Guide to an Escape, which is clearly a grower—I like it more and more with each replay. and the background echo loop, which at first almost seemed out of place, instead merged into the mix like an essential ingredient—through out the song it carries a subtle sense of urgency. an escape. while the rich haunting piano chords then became a backbone of apprehension. Guide reaches deep.


I thought about how you both covered tens of thousands of miles touring Europe, and how you must depend on one another. also, in a sense I suppose, touring itself can be considered as an escape, as a songwriting duo pursues a creative dream. with that in mind, do you each serve as a guide to the other in a sense? but that question comes from a new fan's impression. could you please describe to me the real meaning of Guide to an Escape, how the inspiration for the song came about, and really, what it means to your hearts, because it sounds like a song that poured out of a heart.

[brookln]
Guide to an Escape (the song) is about stealing away from the journey we so often otherwise sing about. The journey to do the right thing, find peace or truth if it exists, reconcile the way we were raised with the way we now see the world, etc.. I am consumed by insecurity and questioning and am not one to settle easily. To the degree that it's exhausting, difficult and gets in the way of finding the peace I so desire. Guide to an Escape was written in a season where the fatigue was winning, peace was far and I was longing to not care about any of this journey but to rest.

[ruth]
In response to your comment about us touring so many miles and serving as each others guide: I feel like touring is an emotional journey full of highs and lows and with a lot of stressful and stretching times. We rely on each other for support constantly and yes in some ways guiding each other through great times and hard times as one can often be in a very different place to the other and needing a voice of reason and balance in the midst of this. Brookln is definitely the driving, visionary force for the band and I tend to rely on him for this as I can be a very slow mover who dwells on things for far too long.



[indiessance]
I liked the music video you did with Amsterdam Acoustics; how the neighborhood background activity blended with your performance of the song Blame, which can also be found on your latest LP, Guide to an Escape.

in one of your press releases, I found the statement: It’s all about the journey, not the destination. There the duo was in the Netherlands, next you were in Germany. how has touring, which has taken you all over the world, helped you advance as musicians, and also as people? what have become your favorite places to perform? can you talk more about this musical journey, which has taken place on both sides of the pond?

[brookln]
Touring has changed so much about us. Everything from our vocabulary and our taste buds to our preference of music have been informed by all of this globe trotting. Musically we've been inspired by the rooms we've played in, the weather and geography we've driven through and picnic-ed in and the bands we've met and listened to along the way.

[ruth]
I feel we have had our eyes opened wide and our minds too as we have travelled so much and met so many people with such different stories and history. This has been life changing in the most extreme way and to be honest I feel we are still processing these past few years.. it will take a while to get through all we have experienced.. maybe even our whole lives! We love performing in many places and in many different venues. We love house concerts still but also enjoy playing the festivals. Wherever it is we really appreciate being with people who take the time to listen to our music and support us on this journey. We have met many musicians too who have also played a part in our story, with inspiring tales of touring and with their own musical journeys. There seems to be a sense of community with some of these musicians and people and this plays a huge part in our story as they provide us with support and friendship on the road..

[indiessance]
thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, and may you be blessed over and over—over the road.




Guide to an Escape

1. Guide to an Escape 04:07
2. Halfway Blind 03:36
3. Flightline 03:11
4. Get me Standing 03:58
5. Blame 04:06
6. Knocked Back to the Start 03:20
7. Crater 03:37
8. Meant to Roam 04:31
9. We'll Go on Alright 03:57
10. Foreign Night 04:10
11. The Search and Little Else 03:00

CLAPS


[indiessance]
The new CLAPS EP is slated for January; this will be your first release through the Guilt Ridden Pop label. I have been listening to the A-side track Fold – which carries on the minimal wave, electronic music movement. You must be excited about the new synthpop track – what kind of response have you been getting from fans? And could you give us some background on Fold? Also, could you tell us more about the whole EP? You informed me that additional mixes will be included for fans like me – more bang for our bucks. :)


[Jed]
We've been sitting on a lot of our songs and are excited to finally have them recorded. We've gotten a pretty good response, most people seem pretty excited about it.


[Patrick]
Fold was one of the first songs we wrote, its changed a lot over the last six months and I'm happy to see where it finally ended up. It was one of the songs we always had liked and had fun playing but we never felt it was where it was meant to be. When we were recording it, it finally came together and clicked. The EP is called New Science. It has three tracks, Fold, Fireworks and Gruzzles. We think all three have their own characteristics that represent us, to some extent. We also are including a couple of remixes. At this point, we are still working out them out, but we have a couple of talented people who have said they are interested.


[Sara]
It's also cool that a lot of fans are people who really don't listen to this type of music, and some fans are like major minimal synth lovers. We get compared to a large kinda weird variety of bands because of this..


[indiessance]
I just learned about Veronica Vasicka, the founder of the Minimal Wave label, and the work she has been doing for the genre since she started the label in 2005. Being based in New York, I imagine she cultivates some interest in order to draw more fans. Are there any radio stations, record stores, fan clubs, etc. in the band's home city of Minneapolis that are devoted to, or supportive of, minimal wave? How did you get involved with the genre? Did you basically get hooked on New Order and such, to then take that enthusiasm a step further – because just being a fan was not enough? :)


[Jed]
In Minneapolis, there isn't a direct club or store for minimal wave. There are only a handful of people who are interested in the genre, that we know of. I guess, our band got into the genre with more popular bands like New Order, early Depeche Mode, early OMD, and John Foxx. From there, I don't know, speaking for myself, I got into more obscure minimal synth stuff. I found the minimal synth site and I listen to a lot of the bands on there and from other sources.


[Sara]
I probably got hooked on synth pop from living with you two...


[Patrick]
We do have more influences beyond that, but minimal synth is a huge one. In a lot of ways, growing up we were into punk music to an extent, which years ago lead me to post-punk music and I suppose I've always seen synth music as a sibling of post-punk.


[Jed]
People can say its happier stuff, but its still inspired by the same ideas and still comes from punk rock.


[indiessance]
On your MySpace profile, you cite Joy Division/New Order as a musical influence. The hit Love Will Tear Us Apart makes it evident that punk rock influenced and energized the post-punk genre. Along with the jangly guitar and punkish drums, the listener can hear the texture of the emergence of synthpop. Can you talk about bands that have helped shape CLAPS' sound? I also see OMD, John Foxx and Suicide on the list. Can you talk about your favorite songs and/or band members of your musical influences – who else might you add to that list? What other people in the scene have been a help – any particular producers, etc.?


[Jed]
For me, I pull a lot of influence form obscure minimal synth bands. Most I've found online. That and synth music from the late 70's until 1983. Other than that, I've listened to punk rock since I was kid. And well, maybe some video game stuff, like Megaman.


[Sara]
If I'm thinking about anything when writing its probably OMD and newer stuff like Grizzly Bear, Lil Wayne and Beach House. Its a mix of older and newer stuff.


[Patrick]
I got really into pop music in the last year. The CD player in my car broke and half of the time all I have is mainstream radio. I'd love to say that doesn't really influence me. But it made me rethink a lot of what I was writing. It made me appreciate hooks. So much pop music today is not focused and not very substantive, where good pop has some merit to it. I love songs that stick with you for more than one reason. More than just a concept or a catchy line, but some instrumentally or something more than that sticks in your head. I can't necessarily name that thing...it's hard to explain. But on top of that, I love synth pop and post punk music.


[Jed]
When we were looking for someone to record with we decided to work with Ryan Olcott. He's produced some other electronic acts and has done other electronic music himself. Working with him has been really helpful in directing our sound and has been a good asset for bouncing ideas off of. That and Guilt Ridden Pop has been good for us.



CLAPS Links:
Myspace
Facebook
Guilt Ridden Pop
Fold on YouTube

Eleonora Cutaia


Eleonora Cutaia founded AheadPR - a digital music promotion service.

[indiessance]
In a djsounds.com interview, you talked about how you keep your ears open for artists who do not necessarily fit into a specific genre, and are not afraid to experiment with new sounds. Considering how dynamic the many subgenres of electronic music have been, how does your business philosophy reflect the dynamic nature of digital music?


[eleonora cutaia]
At AheadPR indeed we receive the most diverse submissions and it is important to be 'objective' when evaluating the products. Even if I have a personal taste in music, thankfully I am able to go beyond the taste or genre factor, and rate music for the way it's produced, and for the potential it can have with the media and public.

[indiessance]
As it is essential for AheadPR to remain on top of current music trends, what are a few of the main media sources that you have come to rely upon in order to keep informed? What are other ways that you keep informed?


[eleonora cutaia]
When it comes to new music trends, I do not make it an obsession but I definitely try to allow myself to be exposed to different channels and outlets. Most of the times it's the music that finds me!

AheadPR helps a great deal as it allows me to regularly discover some extremely talented artists via the site submissions.

Running the label is another great asset as again, some great artists come to me through recommendation or word of mouth.

There is just so much music out there that it's literally impossible not to miss out. I guess this is one of the reasons why AheadPR is becoming increasingly popular: journalists and DJs can be a bit more lazy and rely on a trusted source to filter up quality content for them!

[indiessance]
Recording artists have emailed me MP3s that they produced with home recording equipment. They have their own web pages, blogs, MySpace profiles, etc. But few artists get the kind exposure that would take their sound to the next level. How can AheadPR help such independent recording artists and labels?


[eleonora cutaia]
The most important thing is the music to be produced to good standards. These days thanks to some great software, it has become so easy to reach professional standards even from the comfort of your home. You are right saying there are tons of artists who are trying to do everything themselves, but only a few ones get solid exposure.

With so much choice out there it is becoming even more difficult, so it definitely requires some budget to actually make some waves.

I am happy to have created AheadPR with these types of artists in mind, and it's great seeing the difference the campaigns make to them.

From magazine reviews, international radio airplay, licensing to labels, bookings: I have seen it all happen and I really do share in the artists' achievement.

I have seen some of my American clients coming to the UK for gigs, and they were over the moon, thinking it would have never happened so fast. It is unbelievable what an email to the right person can do!

kgmr


k, singer/songwriter for her band kgmr, gives us some background on her latest project This Happened.

This Happened is something of a variety show. Songs were written by Bob, David, or myself, or we co-wrote songs. Jon Mendez is playing drums to our guitars and Rhodes piano. It is also something of a clearinghouse of songs that were on the recorder that didn't fit the themes of Migrate to Carnivora or the Half Ass Family Band's self-titled album. There are instrumental songs and songs with words, songs with samples of other random things like tapes of vintage film strip narration, heavy guitars and noise sometimes and sometimes a very clean sparse sound. It just kind of happened and was big fun in the making.

Mall Song started out as a song with words, and it was very catchy to jump around to. I decided the words got in the way of that and took them out. But the lyrics were about hating the mall, essentially, and had lines like
they like the lipstick Ripe Cherry Pinprick.



[indiessance]
According to Wikipedia, slowcore is a subgenre of "alternative rock that developed from the downbeat melodies and slower tempos of late 1980s indie rock." The subgenre can also be referred to as sadcore, which is known particularly for songs with melancholy lyrics that are based on minor keys. In a review of the album Long Division by the band Low, the reviewer referred to slowcore music when stating that each sound reminds you of the silence it replaces. For example, that statement could refer to the extra space between notes in the melody, which could also be a function of the tempo, I suppose.

Your album Migrate to Carnivora could be categorized as slowcore music by the presence of negative sonic space. As a classically trained pianist, you have gained a composer's sense of sonic space. Considering how musically dense classical music compositions can become, did you go through a process of musical deconstruction for the development of kgmr's minimalized compositions? What steps led to the development of your current sound?


[kgmr]
When I was a young kid I wrote soundtracks for imaginary horror movies on my portable Magnus organ and Casio keyboard. I was into minor keys and dissonance even then. I also had a lot of strict, intense Classical training. More recently, in the late nineties, I acquired a Fender Rhodes piano. It basically presented itself to me, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it. The Rhodes, because it's a mechanical instrument, naturally deconstructed things. Playing the Rhodes opened up a whole new sound and new techniques, which I explored on my previous album, instant confidante. That album is mostly instrumental, except for two songs, creepy and strange and monsters and robots. Those were the first two songs I ever sang in my life, and Migrate to Carnivora evolved out of those songs, basically. Because of the lyrical content and singing on this album, I wanted it to sound washed out, spaced out, and somewhat surreal. So this album is not nearly as minimalist as instant confidante.

In terms of the idea of sonic space, for me, a single chord can go a long way. I tend to play chords that I have to later figure out what kind of chords they are, because they're not your straight up C or G chord. Although I do play simple chords too. But the more muddy chords can sound very dense and complex, which makes their sound go a long way and forces space to follow. Just like in a conversation, if you're not saying much, you can babble on indefinitely, but if you really have something to say, something that's going to hang there, it takes sonic space.

[indiessance]
Slowcore is well represented by bands such as Low, Codeine and Red House Painters. Are there any particular slowcore artists who may have influenced your sound? Are there any such bands that you like?


[kgmr]
Oh no! I have to admit now that I've never listened to any of those bands. I probably need to now, right? Lyrically I've been influenced by Ed Vedder. Getting back to chord structure and space in the melody, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk have been influential. I can't think of any particular rock bands that I've been influenced by. Some things in rotation at my house these days are Mum, Deerhoof, Cleo Brown, Trans Am, The Sea and Cake, and one of my all-time favorite albums called, Moorish Music of Mauritania.

[indiessance]
Has any particular classical music influenced your sound? Who is your favorite classical period composer?


[kgmr]
I like the 20th century composers, particularly Bartok, Satie, Debussy. I would say a lot of Chopin[mp3: Prelude No.4] is Classical sadcore! He wrote a lot of his music while he was sick, and that definitely comes through in his sound.

[indiessance]
The musical style of Migrate to Carnivora could also be categorized as minimalist - a category that can extend beyond music, to art in general. Current minimalist music clearly breaks down the complexity of today's popular music by default. Did you decide to develop a minimalist style of composition as a statement against popular music complexity?


[kgmr]
My style is what it is, for better or worse. Most popular music is boring to me, and actually hurts my ears the way noise and dissonance hurt some people's ears. I love noise and dissonance. I don't really think much about what my music will sound like, or what it should sound like. But if I succeed at making some music that isn't boring, I will have reacted to popular music in a way that I would like to.

[indiessance]
In the lyrics to the song titled Joy, on your latest album, the chorus repeats the line "deep disturbing joy". In a sense, there is a dissonance between the connotations of "joy" and what might be considered "deeply disturbing". As a result, that line feels like a stronger hook. Was that the effect you originally intended to achieve? Could you explain the general meaning of the song, and the chorus? What does Migrate to Carnivora mean?


[kgmr]
The chorus from Joy comes from a poem by Colorado poet/environmentalist/eccentricist Rita Clagett. The poem goes like this:
Subtle Things

Some such subtle things
 can't be captured
Anything on sagebrush -
 drops of melted snow before they drop to snow,
 morning shadow of a cat, grey on silver green,
  purring, chin rolling in my shadow hand
And others -
 mountains making clouds,
 the deep disturbing joy of owning all my troubles.
"Deep disturbing joy" is definitely dissonant for me, but like most dissonance, it sounds good and true to me. Most of my songs are amalgamations of many things, and they usually also come together musically in pieces, too. But the song is basically about knowing and accepting yourself, "owning your troubles", and realizing that you may be the only person in your lifetime who truly understands you. Depending on how deep your troubles run, finding joy in that can seem disturbing to some.

As for the album's title, at first I was going to name the album Carnivora, but then I found out a metal band from Norway has an album with that name. Migrate is the first song and Carnivora is that last song, so the album is that journey from beginning to end. Carnivora is a scientific term referring to a certain grouping of animals that eat meat, like lions and bears. The song Carnivora has a lot of meat references and analogies. But I first came across the word in Out of Africa, where Isak Dinesen used it to glowingly refer to the young native women at a dance on her farm. I can't do justice to Dinesen's words, but she's expressing a lot of power, freedom, and beauty. And I mean the word in that way, too. For an album about love and loss, Carnivora in Dinesen's usage is especially meaningful to me.

[indiessance]
Regarding its history, and how it mechanically produces sound, The Rhodes piano is interesting - certainly a different breed of piano. Along with your Rhodes piano, what other musical instruments do you use to flesh out your sound? Are there any particular electronic effects that you like to use? guitar pedals?


[kgmr]
Most of the songs on this album started at the acoustic piano. I start some things on the Fender Rhodes, and I also have a Kurzweil keyboard. I'd like to write some songs in the future starting on my bass. I'm definitely not scared to use effects, both on the piano sounds and on the vocals. Especially for this album, when I wanted the whole thing to feel thick, dreamy, and foggy. The guitar was a huge part of accomplishing that. I can't say enough about Bob Read's guitar style and how intuitive and multi-talented he is at helping to achieve the sounds I want. This is what he has to say about his guitar effects:
All the guitar effects were recorded real time, and were created by a Gretsch Super Axe run through a RAT pedal, crybaby, volume and DOD dual delay that after twenty years has begun to give up the ghost. The amp is a Fender Quad Reverb.


At some point, the singer-songwriter decided to replace her band name with an anagram based on the four initials of her full name - kgmr. You may also refer to her as k. She impressed the brevity of her band name.
All four names are important to me, but to use all of them would be way too long.
I also asked k if the existing URI hyperlink referenced the correct Cleo Brown.
Yes, that's her. I used to live in Colorado and I wish I had known of Cleo Brown then. I would have figured out what church she played organ for and sat in the back of the church to listen to her. I doubt she's around anymore.


Nick Howard

In an exclusive interview, singer/songwriter Nick Howard talks about New York City, songwriting and success.



[indiessance]
You are definitely having a successful run in recent years, starting with your freshman EP 6-pack Contradicted which received kudos from critics. I read your bio; what a big year 2008 became, being featured on "MTV, Fox, Comcast, TLC, CBS, ABC, the BBC, Vogue Magazine, Bloomingdale's and Lifetime"! Did this all hit like a ton of bricks - leaving you a bit mesmerized? Even early on, I imagine the world got bigger and brighter after you hopped from Brighton to New York City. A long leap across the pond can affect an artist's mode of living in a big way, where everyday habits, overall attitude - even their tastes in music, food, etc. can be affected. Can you share how your lifestyle has changed after taking a bite of the Big Apple? Are there any food and entertainment discoveries you've made that you really liked?


[nick howard]
Well it sounds very glamorous when you list it like that but between the lines there is so much work that has gone into landing these achievements that it definitely doesn't feel like a ton of bricks...more like one brick at a time :) Sometimes you work so hard to nail these things that you forget to take a minute and actually reflect on what you've done. When I read it in a sentence like that it is a bit mesmerizing so thank you for pointing them out...you've made my day :)

Moving to New York was definitely a massive change in pace, I had eased my way here by having smaller stints here and there leading up to 2004, so that helped a bit...but living this city is a lot different from visiting it. I can't stress how important this city has been and continues to be for me and this life/musical journey. It is an incredible place that picks you up when you are down and gives you a kick in the balls when you are lazy. There is nowhere else on earth like it, the huge mix of different people, cultures, music/arts, food etc etc has done nothing but educate me and cause me to look at life in a different way as well as to enjoy it more.

I was a complete wimp before I came here as far as food was concerned but soon learned that I wasn't going to have much of a social life if I didn't bite the bullet and try a few crazy dishes here and there...now you can find me eating sea urchin on a regular basis (well maybe not that extreme but definitely more raw fish than I'd consumed prior to moving here - which would be zero). As far as entertainment goes, there aren't many places that you could visit a transgender karaoke bar, a burlesque club, a singer/songwriter club, a jazz club, a rock club, several art galleries and then polish it off with a McDonalds within a two block radius :) To say this place hasn't opened my eyes to a lot of great art would be a lie. I'm blessed to be among a group of fantastic singer/songwriters currently doing the rounds in New York, its inspiring and I feel we're part of something really special.

[indiessance]
Some artists talk about the self-indulgent aspect of songwriting, whereas they are writing songs to entertain themselves as well. Are there any particular songs off your latest LP Something to Talk About that you really enjoyed writing, and also enjoy performing more than your other songs? A fan might guess - A Better Man. But sometimes an obscure, seemingly unassuming song can carry a special meaning for the songwriter himself - which the listener does not know anything about. Can you share a deeper - more detailed - look into one of your songs that might enhance its meaning for listeners?


[nick howard]
This is a very good reflection on the songwriting process. The largest part of the writing process is self-indulgent, I know for me its my way of dealing with life's emotions, experiences and observations as well as my own personal thought and feelings. That said, when you are writing a song, particularly a melody, you aren't going to come up with a good hook if it doesn't entertain you. A Better Man is a fun song to play, and I think that a large part of that is the melody however the lyrical aspect is important as well, especially given that I have found that the song has taken on a much larger meaning past its original context (which is about a relationship gone wrong and a guys desperation to make it right) and now just feels like a much bigger and more important statement about how I want to live my life...music is awesome like that.

Another interesting song is The Pressure. I got to a point half way through Something To Talk About where I was completely stuck, I had to re-record all of the track's I had recorded with another producer, was struggling financially to keep the process going and was really struggling to come up with the next song. The Pressure is basically my feelings and emotions through that time period put to music and lyrics and came out of a really low point for me...it ended up being the song that would end up on The Hills and open up so many doors for me...just another ironic notch on this crazy journey.

[indiessance]
When it comes to film and television, music plays such an important role when it helps carry the theme of the screenplay, and sets the mood for viewers. You have had tracks featured in the soundtracks for The Hills, Army Wives, [and] LA Ink. Most people seem to spend more time watching TV than they do listening specifically to music. What thoughts were going through your mind the first time you heard one of your tracks playing in a TV show you were watching? Imagining millions of people all watching/listening at the same time, that's a lot of ears! Do you set out to write songs to catch the ears of many listeners, or does your music simply have a natural appeal? What aspects of your music reveal its entertainment power?


[nick howard]
My thoughts surrounding that placement in The Hills was that there had been a mistake and that I was about to suffer a major embarrassment. I had blasted my mailing list and all of the other social networking outfits, told friends and family to tune in to the show, my sister even bought me a 'congratulations' cake but I was prepared for the worst. Fortunately for me, my career and my pride, about five minutes into the show there it was - my song, the background music to Lauren Conrad getting asked out by a model...soon to be ruined by a scene change and the introduction of Spencer whining 'Heiiiiidiiiii'...still, I'd had my moment of glory so was happy for him to ruin it :)

The response from that one placement was immediate, that's the great thing about the information age, I could track the increased mySpace hits (about 10,000 that night) and thousands more over the next few days. The placement was aided by an Entertainment Weekly blog which mentioned the song and drove more people to my website. I don't write songs to appeal to others, they have to appeal to me first. I will write a particular theme or genre, but I need to behind the music, otherwise it just won't sound right. I think you have a choice when it comes to production about the 'sound' you want to get. I want my songs to be produced in the best light, and that's what I did with this album...the fact that the songs are licensable is a bonus and I'm really fortunate to have had some success in that arena. I've had some odd licenses too - for instance two of my songs have appeared in the show LA Ink on TLC, a show about tattoo artists. It's pretty ironic that I don't have any tattoos and probably never will...it's also ironic that one of the two songs used is called My Mistake :)

[indiessance]
Songwriters can receive inspiration from a variety of sources. I know of one artist who gets her song ideas from news stories. Perhaps a movie inspires, or a novel. Do you typically come up with a catchy chorus hook first? Or maybe you write a set of lyrics first, and then put that to music. While you are writing songs, can you give us a view into the gears that are turning in your mind and heart? I understand how songwriting can be an esoteric activity, whereas an artist taps into their emotions and pours them out onto a page. And sometimes even the songwriter can be surprised by the creativity that flows off the tips of their fingers.


[nick howard]
The ideas can come from any of those, but I think the catalyst that gels it altogether is the spark. It is an often elusive, never readily available and uncontrollable event that needs to happen at some point during the writing process in order to take music and lyrics and turn them into a song. I find that music sparks (chords, notes etc) come much more easily as they are usually the product of a mistake or accident than the lyrical melody spark, that is something that can take years to happen for a certain song, but can also come out of nowhere and you can end up with your best song in five minutes. I know some people have a better ability to control it and switch it on whenever they feel like it...I wish that were the case for me, that way I wouldn't constantly find myself rummaging for a pen and paper in the darkness at 3am :)

Thanks for having me :)

We Are They

we are they
In an exclusive interview, Andrew Heath of the Mesa-based band, We Are They, talks about performing in Tempe, fan appreciation, and collective pastimes.

[indiessance]
There must be venues in California that appreciate how We Are They delivers metal to the masses.


[andrew heath]
Well, I wouldn't say we deliver much metal, but a lot of places that are skeptical of us at first are won over by the end of the show.

[indiessance]
Do you think the touring buzz will ever wear off anytime soon?


[andrew heath]
Touring was definitely an experience with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We're a dysfunctional family, so we can take it. We can't wait to get out there again.

[indiessance]
Which venue gives you the biggest headrush?


[andrew heath]
As for the biggest headrush, that usually depends on crowd response. I'd say our favorite shows have to include The Real Bar in Tempe, Arizona in September of 2006 because we packed a bar meant for about 150 people with 200+. The crowd was louder than we were, it was insane. The venue gave us two encore songs, much to the dismay of the promoters due to time constraints, because the crowd wouldn't stop chanting our name. Another show would be The Ridglea Theater's main stage in Fort Worth, Texas from this last tour. We played an open mic there on our first run through Texas and they invited us back to the main stage on our way back. It was incredible. The crowd loved it and we put on a great show. Ryan was so excited he forgot to put shoes on before the show.

[indiessance]
Have you performed at any total dives?


[andrew heath]
As for dives, we've played in sushi restaurants and even an abandoned building. Anything for a gig.

[indiessance]
The musical style of We Are They is eclectic. Could you help clear up any confusion, by describing the specific sonic ingredients that are combined to make up your music? What special quality or contribution does each member make? What are the main genre additives?


[andrew heath]
Wow. This one's always hard. The band was brought together from tryouts, so no one knew each other before it formed. We've all evolved to love many, many different styles of music, so we just play with whatever sounds we like. Tyler will have a cool jam going on an organ and we'll build off of it, or Ryan will make a polka/jazz guitar riff and we'll go with it. Anything that sounds cool or fun to us is what we do. We don't have limitations or a specific kind of formula.

[indiessance]
In-between venues, the yellow line can get long. Traveling like sardines on road trips must get monotonous at times. What does the band do to break the monotony of a long distance? Any favorite DVDs? Do you have a favorite collective pastime?


[andrew heath]
We didn't have ANY luxuries on this last tour, so all we had was a deck of cards and Ipods. We played a lot of card games to pass time and whenever we found a place to stay, we'd watch a movie. The whole band is pretty big fans of the show Lost, so we have all of those on DVD, and we found a cheap movie theater in Florida during the tour to see The Dark Knight when it premiered. Andrew wouldn't let us miss it.

[indiessance]
Had read on the band blog that We Are They and the band's lead singer parted company; that was announced in September. But it takes more than that to make a band with a heavy concentration of talent to fall apart. Has this event actually caused the band to become more cohesive?


[andrew heath]
Yes, indeed. We're working hard to write new material and search for a singer. Andrew and Ryan are trying to see if they have what it takes to fill the slot if we can't find a replacement, but it's been a hard search so far.

[indiessance]
After checking out the We Are They MySpace profile, I get the impression that the band is not taking everything too seriously, and having fun.


[andrew heath]
Oh yeah. We love to convey our sense of humor and fun. We're not trying to be the next group of badasses to come into the music scene and destroy every other band. This is fun for us and we want everyone to know it and to come have fun with us. Even if you hate our music, we'll still hang out with you.

[indiessance]
Also noticed that you all seem to have an appreciative attitude toward your fans. Have your fans been reflecting that appreciation back?


[andrew heath]
Our fans have been great. We appreciate them so much. So many musicians will go out and sign autographs for hours and not look a single kid in the eye. I'd love to sit down and have lunch with every fan we have. I'd love to get to know them. We're here for them, and we'll respond to them as much as possible.

[indiessance]
What are some of the cools things fans have been saying?


[andrew heath]
We've gotten a lot of comments about how we're fun and unique and that's great. That's what we like to hear.

Another thing I'd like to point out is that our band is completely drug and alcohol free. We're not extremists who'll bash you for taking part in said substances, it's just not for us. We feel like it'd be a factor we don't want or need in our lives.



profile @ myspace.com
profile @ purevolume.com
profile @ imeem.com

video @ youtube.com (interviewed by purevolume)
video @ youtube.com (performing at red owl sports grill)
video @ youtube.com (performing at red owl sports grill)
video @ vids.myspace.com (vidblog 1)

The Let Up


Spokane-based band, The Let Up has continued to tour since the March 2008 release of their latest album Illustrate My Character. In an exclusive interview, singer/songwriter Cory Howard talks about songwriting, the latest album, and touring.

[indiessance]
The songs Shameless, Treasure Map and Serenade Surrender were each dedicated to women. Helen of Troy's face was said to launch a thousand ships. In the future, could a thousand songs be dedicated to a thousand women - written by you? These are not necessarily love songs, but, as with the song titled Still Here, a song that could lift a friend's spirits.


[cory howard]
During the writing process of this album I was focusing a lot on relationships, not necessarily romantic relationships, but relationships with people in general. Some songs are fantasy type songs about wondering what it would be like to be in love with a certain person and others are about losing love. Although I've been focusing a lot on worldly issues, politics, and different views on spirituality since the release of the album I think love will always be the main focus of my writing. A thousand songs dedicated to a thousand women is definitely a possibility.

[indiessance]
Could you give me some background on two of your songs? I am referring to the tracks Miss Vanity and Shameless. What are the songs about, and what imagery, emotions, etc. were behind your musical inspiration for writing each of these songs?


[cory howard]
Let me start with Shameless. In the years leading up to our album we saw a lot of trends come and go. We weren't one of those bands that could get popular based on how we look or the style of music we play. I specifically remember playing our first local shows in Washington and getting weird looks from fans of trendy bands while we were setting up our gear because we were just normal looking guys with regular hair. Sometimes people wouldn't even give us a chance. That song is basically speaking to that group of stuck up people who wouldn't even give us a shot based on how we looked. The song is basically saying to keep it real and be shameless about it. There's a little bit of sarcasm in the lyrics. You don't have to try to fit in.

Miss Vanity is very metaphorical. It's about a girl that hides behind her looks and sex to hide the fact that she's a complete mess. The guy in the song is basically using her for the same reason and they use eachother to feel better for one night.

[indiessance]
With the way fuel prices skyrocketed this year, I imagine that it takes a nice stack of dollar bills to fill your tour van's tank. And with the San Francisco area being over 800 miles south of Spokane - tack on another 380 miles for L.A. Many bands are just happy to scrape up enough change for gas, beer and food. So, how have you been coping with the gas expense? This increase in the price of fuel probably affects the band in different ways. Do you now tour more locally, or organize tours so that the venues are clumped closer together?


[cory howard]
We have been touring pretty solid since March of this year. On our first tour, we saw fuel prices getting up to $5.00 in certain parts of the west coast. Being our first tour it was definitely an eye opener to exactly how much it takes to make it as a completely DIY band with the economy falling apart. Not only is it hard for the bands but it's hard for the fans to decide if they can spend their last $10 on a CD rather than 2 or 3 gallons of gas. Since we started touring gas has actually dropped by $2.00 or more. We are definitely feeling relieved on this tour compared to the last. This has also been our most successful tour as far as the shows go. We're seeing a lot of familiar faces and we plan to just keep going.

[indiessance]
In one of the YouTube vids posted, you covered the Circa Survive track In Fear and Faith. Off of which other bands or albums would you like to do cover songs in the future? What other music do you listen to?


[cory howard]
I plan on doing a cover of Alive with the Glory of Love by Say Anything sometime soon. I also have a cover of an Emery song called Don't Bore Us, Get To The Chorus on YouTube as well as a cover of The Spill Canvas' The Tide. I listen to a very wide variety of music ranging from John Mayer, Maroon 5, and Matchbox 20 to Minus the Bear, Circa Survive, Emery, The Higher, and Flight 409. I grew up on classic rock and jazz when I first started learning how to play music so there will also be a spot on my playlist for some Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Louis Armstrong.

[indiessance]
The Let Up has performed with a long list of indie bands. Out of those bands, or even bands that you have come across in the scene, are there any particular up-and-coming bands that fans should know about? Or bands that stand out most prominently in your mind.


[cory howard]
We are on tour right now with a band called Flight 409 from Fresno, CA. They put on a kick ass live show and I love to watch them play every night. They are definitely coming up and need to be checked out by everyone.

We also had the chance to play with one of my favorite bands, The Higher from Las Vegas, NV.

I can remember every single show we've played this year on tour and the ones that have stood out the most have been made memorable by the crowds. We don't always get the chance to play big shows so if a small crowd can give us back the energy that we give them it makes every show worth it.

[indiessance]
The MySpace band profile for The Let Up states that you turned down a music scholarship at the University of Idaho. By this, I imagine you were confident that you could benefit more by focusing on touring with the band, rather than devoting energy and time to a music degree. Are you glad now that you made the decision to pursue songwriting and touring, rather than hitting the books?


[cory howard]
I honestly wasn't confident about turning down the scholarship offer at all. At the time I had no band, no album, no clue how to even go on tour, and huge dreams. All I knew was I loved playing music and I wanted to tour with my own album. It took me four years from that point to get to where I am now. I moved to Spokane and slowly found the right people to build our band. Now I have a family in The Let Up and Scottie and Jeremy are my best friends. We are having the time of our lives on the road and I wouldn't trade my decision to do this for anything. It's been a really hard road getting here and an even longer road ahead of us but I love life right now. I do still plan on going to school someday.

profile @ myspace
profile @ purevolume

video @ youtube (simple lies and neckties - the let up)
video @ youtube (winter's finally over tour blog - the let up)
video @ youtube (illustrate my character webisode 1 - the let up)
video @ youtube (illustrate my character webisode 2 - the let up)
video @ youtube (billie jean live michael jackson cover - the let up)

music marketing @ platform-1

The Heaven Seventies


[indiessance]
One of the strengths I hear in The Heaven Seventies is the range of styles in your music. My favorite track is "Devotion", while "Shawty Is a 10 (Remix)" sounds like a track that R&B fans could get hooked on. With that in mind, I can't decide which track might be considered the proverbial A-side, because there are a few strong tracks.


[loren]
We aren't album artists; albums are no longer the way people experience pop music, for the most part. We release songs a single at a time. When we write, every song is written as an A-side; there are no "B-sides" for us right now.


[indiessance]
When you work on a song, are you targeting various styles in order to widen commercial appeal? Wouldn't it be cool to see one track climb one chart, while another track climbs another? I think the band could engineer a couple of crossover hits.


[loren]
Our music covers a large range of styles because we're interested in a wide variety of music. When I had a rock band, I was always coming up with ideas in all the genres of music I was listening to at the time (soul, modern r&b, uk garage, chart pop, rap, experimental, etc.) and had to set those ideas aside because they didn't work in the context of the unified sound that the band was trying to achieve.

The Heaven Seventies was based on the idea that a group of musicians could be successful without having to tie itself to a specific genre of music. In this case, we're making music for the pop charts, so as long as we're expressing something people identify with and putting a catchy hook in their heads, it doesn't matter whether all of our songs fit on the same chart. I find the idea that we could be on several different charts at once rather exciting.


[nilay]
It's not that we target styles to widen commercial appeal, it's that we consciously try to make each track an "A-side." Since we're trying to write the best pop music we can, it's only natural that we look to crossover influences like hip-hop and R&B, since those artists have proven that today's audiences want a little ass-shakin' with their guitar playing.


[will]
I think it's entirely possible to have two Heaven Seventies songs on two different genre specific charts at the same time. Pop artists today are less and less restrained by genre or musical style, and audiences are responding positively. You could argue that genre boundaries are becoming less clear as well, but the boundaries that do remain are being violated more and more frequently. Crossing genre boundaries is a goal of the band, and something that we want to do more and more.


[indiessance]
The Heaven Seventies is an indie rock band fully loaded with talent. I count two lyricists, two vocalists, three keyboard players, four guitarists, etc. This concentration of talent is obviously another strength of the band.


[loren]
The Heaven Seventies are a trio in the studio right now, and there are 5 of us (or 6, perhaps) when we play live. There's sort of an "extended family", people who are members in the back of my mind even though we may not be working with them actively right now. The lineup has changed and it'll keep changing. This isn't the easiest band in the world to be in---we work incredibly hard.

I tend to like people who can "hold their own" in the studio. Of the four people who've worked on our studio output thus far, we all play guitar and keyboards, two of us have played drums for touring bands, and two of us have produced records for other artists, so we have a lot of performing and recording experience. I take the majority of the vocal duties, although occasionally you'll hear somebody else on a track. (My younger sister is a great singer, so we're trying to feature her a bit more.)


[indiessance]
During the songwriting process, can there be a barrage of ideas sparking off a few members at the same time?


[will]
Our songwriting process has been very collaborative. Often the kernel of a great idea will come from one member, and often that kernel will need to incubate with that one member for some time. As a band I think we're very good at nurturing and embellishing the creative kernels that individual members bring forward.


[nilay]
Songwriting is fundamentally a lonely process -- although we've done it in groups, sometimes the only way to get inspired is to whack away at a guitar alone for a while. Our collaborative strength is really production -- once we seize upon a core idea, we work well together in bringing new textures and layers into the mix. Will once told me he figured we use about 80% of what we come up with together as we work up a song's final mix, which is astounding to me, especially since the three of us all have very different (but overlapping) musical influences and backgrounds.


[loren]
Our songwriting and production process is a well-documented thing; we have written guidelines that we follow when we sit down to write a song. Ideas come from everywhere, and we make improvements and refinements until we have something that feels right and works on as many levels as possible. No idea is considered sacred and anything is fair game for improvement, so most of the time, the final product is unrecognizable from the original idea. The time it takes to make each song varies, but we always spend a lot of energy on the chorus.

I was stockpiling ideas for this band for years before we started it, and every time we sit down to write songs we come up with a bunch more. We have literally hundreds of song ideas sitting around waiting to be used. Some of them are really good, and I think the hope that they'll be heard helps drive us forward.


[indiessance]
Something interesting that is offered on the band's Web site are downloadable multitrack bundles of a few songs. Which could be used by fans to create mashups. Is The Heaven Seventies the first band to offer such bundles? Beyond predictable YouTube hosted mashups, what other trends do you think these bundles could lead to? Do you think the multitrack bundles could become a way for various bands to "collaborate" in the future?


[nilay]
I think we're already seeing this -- if Radiohead can make a mint selling "naked" tracks on iTunes, the future is basically here. We might be the first band to think of the bundles as being an integral part of the release, however -- traditionally consumers would get one version of the single and DJs would get another with acapellas and instrumentals. That's all changed now, though -- everyone's a DJ! People don't simply watch or listen to media anymore, they want to use it and interact in all kinds of ways, and there's no reason a band should sit back and pretend that they "own" their music -- as soon as you ask one person to listen to it and make an emotional connection to it, you owe just as much to them as they do it you.


[loren]
The only other band I can think of who've started giving out multitrack bundles of their music are Nine Inch Nails. I had the idea years ago before it was possible to actually do it, but it's not that original of an idea; any musician who falls in love with a track wishes they could get a hold of the original multitrack tapes and play with them. NIN have amassed quite a large community of online remixers around their multitrack bundles, and I believe they recently put at least one of the "unofficial remixes" on an actual album of theirs. I'm proud of them, because they're one of the very few artists to publically embrace the art form of unauthorized remixing. (Negativland are another, and the rap/r&b "mixtape" community is arguably another, although the arrest of DJ Cannon and DJ Drama is something I find quite unsettling to say the least.)



Coldest Day of the Year ADVANCE LEAK - The Heaven Seventies

profile @ myspace

downloads @ h70s.com (coldest day of the year - the heaven seventies)
downloads @ h70s.com (coldest day of the year reconstructed - the heaven seventies)
downloads @ h70s.com (devotion - the heaven seventies)
downloads @ h70s.com (shawty is a 10 [Remix] - the heaven seventies)
downloads @ h70s.com (in the morning light - the heaven seventies)