Friday, September 18, 2020

New Music Interviews, News and Reviews

Mid-September 2020 has this site rolling out a number of compelling new releases that receive detailed reviews here, along with an exclusive in-depth interview. With live shows still on hold for hopefully only the next few months, recorded works become even more important these days in the audio artists creative life. The opportunity to conduct direct one-on-one interviews via phone and email is still a formidable option for the music writer to gain insight into an artists latest project.

 There is a whole lot more to Jody Porter than the notoriety he's achieved with the chart topping rock group Fountains Of Wayne. While that Grammy-nominated attention is most-certainly deserved, Porter has also maintained a solo career in the spaces surrounding his essential contributions with that band. In the early 90's he fronted his own dreamy-gaze group The Belltower, which made a significant impression as part of that emerging scene in the UK. Two solo albums, 2008's "Close To The Sun" and 2014's "Month Of Mondays" showcased the artists talent for songwriting and self-production skills. All of that is now on full display with his brand new album “Waterways.” Co-produced with his fellow Fountains Of Wayne band-mate Brian Young (who also adds drums on a number of songs) two tracks have been released in advance of the full album's imminent arrival. Jody was kind enough to answer some questions about this record, as well as his entire career so far.

Q: It's been a few years since your last solo release “Month Of Mondays,” but you've released two songs now from an impending album titled “Waterways.” Why now for this record? Had these songs been knocking around in your head or in partial completion for a while? 

 A: Everything is partial until it’s realized but a few of these riffs go back to Y2K and were too good to forget and but I didn’t polish them off at the time. Maybe they didn’t fit but a few were too good to forget. This was back when a home studio consisted of a few ADATs so they got as far as demos. They had to age like a fine wine (laughs).

Q: Conflicting reports say the album was recorded in either London, England or close to your home near Asheville, North Carolina. Can you clear that up? Did you do some work on it in both places? 

 A: It was written and started in England but finished in the good ol' US of A

 Q: Research indicates that you come from a nautical background and were once a sailing instructor where you grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. That background appears to provide inspiration for the new album title “Waterways” and one of the early released songs “Moonbeam Reach.” That impressively produced track appears to skillfully employ subtle backward looping along with layered guitars (both acoustic and electric) with a vocal style falling somewhere between David Bowie (early years) and John Lennon (solo). Lyrics referencing “ships lost at sea” further solidify an overall thematic approach. Was this one of the first songs completed for the record? 

 A: I grew up on the coast and am landlocked in Asheville at this point in my career. I suppose the theme is being lost at sea rather than lost in a mountain. I’d prefer to be lost at sea. Since the record is in the can I’m vacationing on a beach at the moment. I think that song was channeled half way through.

Q: It's would be an understatement to say 2020 has been a rough year for most everyone. You in particular had to deal with the loss of your long-time band-mate, friend and essentially a brother with Adam Schlesinger's death. How did you handle the grieving process? 

A: Still trying to process it really. Shockwave part 2 I’m presently on. We hung out at his karaoke place in Chelsea a few months ago and he was super keen to hear what I had done on this new record. I told him not until it gets mastered. Apparently Brian told him it was great. So there is a bit of regret regarding being Fort Knox about that. 

Q: It's been reported that you initially hired Adam (who answered a bass player wanted ad) back in the early 90's to play bass in your band. Was that with your first noteworthy band The Belltower

A: Yeah. The Belltower was my first band that made records. We were an indie success in the U.K.and that was enough for me. Adam joined when I moved back to the States but we only did one tour. Our Agent at the time was coming up with some shit bands to package us with and I kept saying no to everything. Adam never turned anything down and I think that’s what brought him success outside of our band. I didn’t want to be on a major but was nudged into lining people’s pockets which eventually destroyed the thing. I guess we owed some studio bills. 

Q: Did The Belltower break up because of your marriage to Britta Philips coming to an end?  Had Dean Wareham already entered the picture with her? 

A: Nah. A nine year marriage is enough. If anything I dismantled it to team up with Chris and Adam. I have to say the US 3 piece version with Britta on bass was the pinnacle. Unfortunately we were not putting out records at the time so it all went into the ether. I don’t know Dean or when he entered a picture but I like some of his music. 

Q: Once Adam and college-buddy Chris Collingwood started Fountains Of Wayne, they brought you and Posies (and current Jesus and Mary Chain) drummer Brian Young in to complete the band. Did you have to audition, or were you hired right away due to your previous relationship with Adam? 

A: No audition. Just had to make up my mind. Brian did though and it was informal as fuck. We played a bunch of Steve Miller songs and after 5 minutes it was like there he is.

Q: You've been quoted as admitting to a “Keith Moon level” of rock and roll hotel wrecking debauchery on prime-era Fountains Of Wayne tours, where Adam was there to “bail you out of jail,” “at least two or three times.” These kinds of stories are always entertaining, so if there is any more there you can elaborate on, I'm sure people would love to read about it. 

A: You’ll have to wait for the book (laughs) I’m not naming names but I didn’t act alone. I may have done a little art on the walls of a hotel a few times. Never threw a TV out the window. 

Q: By 2007, Chris stepped back somewhat from the band and reports indicate that you and Adam made the Fountains Of Wayne album “Traffic and Weather” pretty much all by yourselves. Any additional insight on what those sessions were like? 

A: Yeah. It was more guitar heavy and it was a collaborative effort. Bri had done his bits and was back in LA. Chris came down with one and a half songs but pretty much did vocal tracks in a few days. Because Adam and I were based in NYC the two of us were able to work daily.

Q: On October 5, 2013 I was fortunate to catch one of your final live performances with Fountains Of Wayne at Webster Hall in New York City. You guys were in prime form that night, performing on bill with the band Soul Asylum as well. Was that in-fact the band's last live performance? I had heard there might have been another show or two after that. 

A: That was sort of the middle of the tour I think.  The last show was a Prince's venue in Minneapolis.

Q: In June of 2017 I then caught an early incarnation of your Jody Porter and The Berlin Waltz live show during The Northside Festival in Brooklyn. It was great to catch you with such a tight band in that more intimate setting. Do you have fond memories of that show? Were you doing additional touring and live shows during that time period? 

A: I think we did something in DC the night before.

Q: The All Music website has you listed as playing guitar on a number of The Monkees recordings. 2018's “Christmas Party,” 2016's “The Monkees 50” and “Good Times!” How did you become connected with that iconic pop legacy? 

A: Adam produced both of those albums and I was living in LA at the time, so he brought me in. Good Times came out in 2016 and the Christmas one was after that.

Q: Newer released track “Sunsick Moon” (continuing a “moon” theme as well) comes on a bit harder, with riff-heavy aggressive guitars this time, yet still stradling a hazey-gazey feel. Lyrically expressing a chastising look-back, “no flowers bloom under your sunsick moon” is the exiting send-off. What were the inspirations for this track, and how quickly did it come together? 

 A: It’s another one that’s been lurking around. I just thought it fit with the others. Not sure why I pulled it out. Brian plays some good skins on it.


Q: You recently posted on social media about a dream you had where you were on tour and got locked out of your room. It seems like the dreams we recall often come in that hour right before you wake up. The back-in-a-work-related scenario with some kind of odd difficulty is a frequent one for me. Do you remember your dreams most of the time? Write them down for future reference? 

A: Yeah I sleep a lot. Borderline narcoleptic. Sometimes a melody will wake me up if it’s good and I’ll whistle it into my phone or something. 

Q: How much of this new record was done at home versus in the studio? 

A: I recorded it at home mainly. I think 2 songs were recorded in a “real”studio but my permanently loaned mobile has everything I need. Just had to learn to use it, I was a little spoiled being able to call stratosphere and do a graveyard shift if no one was in. Lure an engineer in with promises of bringing in a keg. The mix and mastering sessions were done in more elegant studios. 

Q: What favorite pieces of equipment (other than your guitars) do you favor when recording at home?

A: I’m on Logic but apart from the lack of a 2” tape machine everything is fairly analog. I don’t normally use plug ins so my early 60s coppertop AC30 and a couple of black face Fenders. There are more pedals employed on this album and I made good use of the tremolo/pan which I’ve had since 1990. I’d always run tape at our old studio as well but everyone is mac’d out now so I joined the party, albeit late in the game. A couple of years ago I heard that David Byrne and Annie made a file share album which kind of gave credibility to sending out for drums and mixes. I miss being in a room with some guys and banging it out. That Monkees thing we did with Peter Buck was 3 takes and there’s the record. Adam and I agreed that we would like to do another record old school like that rather than playing the instrument known as the computer. I’m ok in this era sharing files but there were some high fives after that session.

Q: At it's peak, how many total guitars did you own? 

A: Sort of embarrassing but maybe forty or so. I get restless and move around a lot. Could probably pair it down. Pain in the ass to lug around.

Q: I understand you self-produced this record. Since you are quite knowledgeable about the whole recording process, would you ever be inclined to work with an outside producer again? 

A: Oh yeah there are some like Albini or Brian Eno depending on the songs. People like that. I’ve gotten used to letting other people’s ideas in. Brian co produced with me this time. There are some songs he didn’t do but the ones he did he did drums and often mixes. 

Q: Is there a person other than yourself that's been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?  
A: Mix engineers. I know my limitations and don’t enjoy using a lot of technological stuff I don’t understand. Don’t have the patience. I can tell you the final mixes that came back from those guys were hella better than my ruff references. They really brought something to the table. 

Q: What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why? 

A: Pretty much have everything I need but could always do with another Neumann. Really apart from Logic I stay as old school as possible. Basically put the 47 on vocals and mic the amp. I like the Daking pre. Omnipresent on the guitars.

Q: Your wiki states you have “used an arsenal of vintage guitars over the years, most notably a three pick-up Les Paul Custom, several early '60s Fender Jazzmasters, Fender Telecaster various vintage Gretsch models, and more recently a '57 Les Paul Junior that belonged to your father and a new signature guitar. That signature guitar is a SchoolHoused BeachBlaster which consists of a surf green finish and 3-Seymour Duncan Whole Lotta humbuckers, and you've generally favored Vox amps. Is all that still accurate? Any subtractions or new additions? 

A: Using a lot of Rickenbackers lately. There are more acoustics on this as than the last one as well. Everything is in my studio so I can grab something out of the rack. Usually I’m able to find something that works tonally after auditioning 3 or so. Props to my techs for taking good care of them over the last 2 decades. All I have to do myself these days is occasionally change the strings (laughs).

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The new full-length album "Waterways" from Jody Porter and The Berlin Waltz is expected very soon.

A previous feature on Jody can be found on this site HERE.

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With limited live show opportunities in these pandemic times, musicians have taken for the most part to recording studios as a means of working on new material. New York City's The Carvels approached it from another angle by recording a new full-length album live in one of the better equipped music venues. “Live At The Cutting Room” serves at the band's debut long player, released on Die Laughing Records. Recorded back in May 2020 on The Cutting Room's legendary NYC stage, production work was handled by Freddie Katz, with mixing and mastering by Jim Diamond (who's work with The White Stripes and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is well known).

Originally set to be recorded in front of a live audience during a show back in March, those plans came to a halt due to lockdown closures of the city's music venues. Creatively regrouping with a revised approach, the band got the album recorded two months later at this legendary (now empty) venue. Nine tracks in all, choosing to open the record with a classic Ramones cover “I Wanna Be Well” pays homage to an influence, and a nod to the current cautious times. As the core unit of drums, bass and guitars commence to chug-out this punky-power-pop groove, Lynne Von Pang's richly resonant voice shines above it all. Once again adding R n' B saxophone to the mix expands sonic reference points out of 70's punk, pointing back to the 60's and 50's.

Follow up (and first original) track “My Little Troll” is a rollicking and lyrically amusing expose of those internet people who seem to have endless amounts of time to fixate on someone. Humorous lines like “letting me know I'm not alone,” and “I thought nobody was paying attention” is smile inducing stuff. It's a special relationship indeed, where anonymous internet obsession is the only way to connect. 

An even more maniacal rock and roll rave-up comes by way of the equally lyrically clever “Lonely Fantasy.” Delivered at a frantic pace, one more example of the inability to connect in a mutually healthy manner is cleverly spelled out. “I looked at you, looked at me, looked and then you looked away. You went off on your own, thought about me later when you were alone. You made mental maps, from the front and oh baby from the back. I don’t want to be -Your lonely fantasy.”

First single “New Normal” takes full aim at our present-day social-distancing caution via a mid-tempo, western-sky rocker. Although serious enough about this real world problem, a quarantine and have sex with your loved one scenario is suggested with lyrics “now we finally got the time,” “we will make our own vaccine,” “let me be your COVID queen” and “come on baby, let’s make a new normal together.” 

 Thematically paired flipside to the single is the hyper-speed punk rocker “Stay The Fuck Home.” Clocking in at just over a minute and a half (in true punk rock brevity) a litany of inconsiderate sins are noted for germ containment failures. Crushed out with punk rock sincerity, there's still room for bassist/backing vocalist R.B. Korbet's spoken lead-it “make me sick, Brian!” right before the named lead guitarist rips into some incendiary licks.

Those two songs are available now via this link (where you can hear clips of each track). 

Darling Where Are You?” begins with a deceptively slow intro, before charging into another high speed two minute raveup. Depicting an “I can't remember last night” scenario, Steve Pang's double-time drumming sets the requisite pace. Vocal interplay between Lynne and backing vocalist (and bassist) RB Korbet on the chorus adds an impressive touch. The final half-minute features another blistering riff burst from guitarist Brian Morgan, leading into trade offs with the sax.

Dipping into another classic deep track to cover has Lynne and the band doing their own interpretation of The Velvet Underground song “Candy Says.” Written by Lou Reed, the track was originally sung by new (at the time) band member Doug Yule (replacing John Cale) on their 1969 self-titled third studio album. Inspired by that generations transgender superstar Candy Darling (who was also referenced again later in Lou's song “Walk On The Wild Side”) the issue of body dysphoria is explored. Reed has been quoted as saying it's also about more than simply that. It also speaks to "something more profound and universal, a universal feeling I think all of us have at some point. We look in the mirror and we don't like what we see...I don't know a person alive who doesn't feel that way." For their part, The CarvelsNYC deliver a louder, more fuller band version than the original track. Lynne shines when singing out in full on the joyous chorus lyric “I'm going to watch the blue birds fly.” The band brilliantly capture Lou's everlasting love of NYC street “do wop” with a gorgeous rendition of the songs “doo – doo wah!” coda.

Eighth track “I Don't Know How You Do What You Do” rumbles up through a tribal drum beat, chunky sawing back and forth guitar chords and bass-guitar/saxophone punctuation. Along with a distinct hook guitar melody comes the lyrical story of a journeyman's dilemma. Who's to say when it's time to finally “give up the ghost” (as that expression goes) or even if you ever should? An artist creates because they have to, it in their soul. Lynne ponders this existential state-of-mind while adding Buddy Holly inflections to the end of numerous “oooh oooh oooh” lines.

Fittingly the album closes with it's most energetic rock n' roll rave up in “Saving You For Later.” Bold guitar chords and searing sax lead the charge over rat-a-tat drumming and rubbery bass-lines. A song of appreciation for coming together with someone at the right time (later on), where an earlier meeting most-likely would not have clicked. It's an honest and heartfelt insight that strikes at a universal truth many can relate to.

The full album comes out September 25 on Die Laughing Records, with Pre-Order and Save options on all download and streaming platforms right now!

Previous Features on The Carvels NYC can be found on this site Here and Here.

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Shoredive Records is a label this site has become quite familiar with over the last year.  Always providing a steady stream of creative new music from around the globe, there have now been multiple DaveCromwellWrites features on their growing catalog of artists. The recent release by indie rock/dreampop band Just Like HoneyInto The Wild” is a gorgeous full-length album that deserves to be heard.

With the opening notes of percussion driven, under two minute “Intro” a sense of “light” and “heavy” is showcased, setting up how the album will unfold. “Slow Lane” bursts out with heart-tugging hooky melody before the sweet, angelic solo female vocals begin a wistful lyrical tale. The true strength of this band quickly emerges via their multi-voice harmonies. Lavish guitar layers become enhanced by overlaying a truly passionate guitar solo. “Peace Of An Evil Kind” moves at a more languid pace, combining a slight country-vibe within an indie rock structure. The pace quickens exponentially on “Heart Has No Place,” where jangly “C86” style guitars share space with soft whispered female vocals and an echo harmony chorus.

Goddess In A Cadillac” begins with a bass guitar “tribute”nod to The Pixies, as slow-build acoustic guitars lead in to an insightful lyrical contemplation on today's idolization of the feminine ideal. A high point is reached near this albums mid-point with the glorious “Dream On.” Over an impeccably recorded, crisp driving snare-drum pattern, dual female vocals create a beautiful tapestry of love, longing and hopeful desire. With everything dropping out at the two and a half minute mark, majestic guitar figures slowly bring the melody back in with the full force of the band (those drums!) and emotive Liz Frazer/Cocteau Twins-style chill inducing vocals.

Pauline” emerges out of the rhythmic style and bold chord progression pattern that served a band like The Cranberries so well. There's a sensation of Irish Country Folk mixed in with the Indie Rock here. “Shorelines” dips back a decade further with its Harriet Wheeler/Sundays inspired combined falsetto and harmonized vocal ode to nostalgia.  “Fragments” delve into a less structurally defined, slightly psychedelic combination of quieter moments and quick flash chaos that is often experienced while submerged in the dream state.  Chunky, chiming guitar chords provide the driving force for “Rain.”  Dipping once again into the Wheeler/Sundays sweet vocal stylings, busy tom-tom drumming add motion underneath steady held guitar textures.

Velvet Skies” straddles the line between emotive indie-rock ballad and it's country-tinged counterpart. Vocal harmonies stand out here,with deeper male voices adding depth to the female sweetness. There's a subtle time-signature change on “Only One” where a 1-2 rhythm supplants the more traditional 1-2-3-4, creating a heightened sense of urgency. Bonus points for the final :25 seconds of extended ambient fadeout.  “Do You Realize” initially slows things down considerably, creating additional space for the tandem harmony vocal storytelling. “No one said it would be easy, no one said it would be hard. Take me back to the start,” is how the key refrain goes.   Unique guitar textures are presented throughout the instrumental interludes, adding yet-another level of audio satisfaction.  Final entry “Outro” is a two minute and twenty second instrumental rumination combining Cure-style bass-notes, phased guitars, steady, forceful drumming up to it's lighter ambient conclusion.

Also visit the Shoredive Records Linktree for additional info.

Previous features on Shoredive Records artists on this site can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

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