Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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Blog Tour Stop – Military Brats: After Burn by Sherry Ficklin

***One lucky commenter will win a goodie bag – see below for details***

Reece Barnet and her father have just relocated to sunny North Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to be exact. It’s another new town and another new school. But just as Reece is starting to fit in, a rash of bomb threats rocks her father’s experimental aircraft squadron. When the authorities track the threats to Reece’s school, she decides to do some investigating of her own. Unfortunately, the more she digs, the more it looks like her new boyfriend is the culprit.

When the unthinkable happens and her father is rushed to the hospital, it becomes a race against time as Reece fights to protect her father, clear her boyfriend, and discover the surprising truth of the person behind it all!

To find out more about Sherry and her books, visit: http://www.sherryficklin.com/

Thoughts on the book

I’m always up for a good mystery, especially one set in the real world and solved through good ol’ fashioned sleuthing and not supernatural powers.

Reece’s observations cracked me up, especially this one about her soon-to-be-friends Kayla and Derek

“who reminded me of an Emo Barbie and Ken”

And the one she has while at a barbeque:

“If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch a group of teenage football players devour grilled meat, it’s kind of like watching a school of piranhas take down an antelope.”

I also liked Reece’s relationship with her dad – a father who actually exists in a YA book AND engages with his kid!

Interview

On Reece’s first day of school, she has a Twinkie and some green Gatorade, aka “the breakfast of champions.”  What are your favorite foods/drinks to consume while you’re writing?  Have you discovered any combos of food that sounded better in theory than in reality?

Never mix whole dill pickles with milk under any circumstances! LOL. I like to munch on Wasabi Peas, Gushers, and Twizzlers. I also like Monster energy drinks mixed with blueberry juice. Strange but delish!

Stealing a question from Greg – what’s your least favorite movie and why?  How about your favorite movie?

My least favorite movie of all time is (insert any Kevin Costner movie here). Yeah. Waterworld? I’d like that two hours of my life back, please.

My all time favorite is probably a tie between Clerks and To Serve Man which is this amazing B&W horror flick. Very cool.

Reece gets lost a few times while trying to figure out which hallway leads to her dad’s office – are you one of those people born with an internal compass or could you get lost in a cul-de-sac?  Do you have any memorable road-trip stories?

I have no natural sense of direction but that’s alright because I stop like every 60 miles or so when I’m road tripping. I LOVE stopping at little road side shops, gas stations, and restaurants. You find the coolest stuff and meet the funniest people. One time on a road trip, my roommate and I stopped at every rest area and stole one of those giant industrial size rolls of toilet paper from the bathroom, and then we used them to TP our destination (a friend’s house). Those things are seriously heavy, BTW.

Reece takes a ride on the Ferris wheel and in a rolling laundry basket at the laundry mat – which one is more fun?  Are you a fan of the big rides, like roller coasters, or do you prefer to stick with something closer to the ground, like bumper cars? 

I love roller coasters. In high school my friends and I took a trip to Kings Dominion and I rode the Hurler like twelve times in a row, then barfed up my chili dog. Best. Day. Ever. However, if you’ve never been pushed around in a laundry/grocery cart, I highly recommend it.

After a few games of pool, I got the feeling Reece was a bit of a shark – do you have any hidden talents?

I’m really good at baking, making pottery, and driving my husband to the brink of sanity. I’m especially proud of that last one.

Would you say your style is closer to Reece (casual, vintage), Kayla (emo, off-the-wall), or Georgia (soft and fem)?

Probably Reece. I keep it pretty toned down since I’m an old lady, but I do like off the wall jewelry and accessories.

Greg finds a pic of Reece from her days on the Pom Squad – what extra-curriculars were you a part of in high school? 

Wow. I was in the drama club, but I think that’s about it. I was never very into school or the extras it came with. I had an after school job for most of high school which didn’t help. It’s one thing I’m very strict about with my own high schooler. No working. I want him to focus on school and band and choir and all that fun afterschool stuff I missed out on. The extra cash isn’t worth it. Trust me.

The questions wouldn’t be complete without this one – who is your favorite fictional detective?

Wow, this is going to sound REALLY trite, but I’m writing a new adult mystery series and I’m SO in love with my main character, Sophie. She’s that perfect balance of ‘kick butt and take names’ and ‘oh my god I just lit my kitchen on fire making popcorn’. She’s so fun, I literally laugh out loud when I write her.

Thanks for having me! Don’t forget I have a Military Brats goodie bag going out to one lucky commenter!

Contest

Leave a comment on this post by February 20th, 11:59pm EST.  Winner announced February 21st.

Earn extra entries by:

Blogging about contest = +1

Linking to contest on your blog’s sidebar = +1

Tweeting about contest = +1

Any questions – just ask!

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Interview with James Houlahan of Dogs on Television

Some questions about the band, then a few about James:

My first question was going to be “Where did the band name come from” because I’ve been curious since I first saw it.  But…I see that you’ve already answered that question for Boston Band Crush, so I’ll tweak my question a bit:

     1. The inspiration for the band name came from some funny headings – have any songs or lines from songs also been inspired in a similar manner?

No, I don’t think so…song lyrics tend to occur pretty spontaneously.  They sorta pop like fireworks in my head.  I rarely am consciously thinking of a phrase or group of words I saw elsewhere.  I’m sure that stuff goes on unconsciously, but I am not at liberty to comment on the workings of my unconscious mind!  Seriously though, sometimes I notice things after the fact.  Like, there might be a lyric or a picture that seems somewhat familiar in retrospect.  But I also don’t dwell on stuff like that.  I’d rather focus on the next song I am writing.

     2. (2-parter) Tell me how the band came to be.  And, each of you had different musical backgrounds/tastes, so how did you go about finding a sound that meshed well with all the band members? 

The band came to be because I really needed an outlet for crazy loud electric energy, and also because I had a couple of songs (Start a Fire, The Jailer) left over from my old band.  And I knew I needed to record these with a band.  I needed to have a kind of interpersonal energy going on, to capture the potential of those tunes.  So I Craigslisted for a drummer first, and met Brian Arnold.  We jammed for awhile and even considered just being a duo.  But I found that kind of limiting so Brian brought his friend, Sam Sanders, in on bass.  Sam brought a great, funky energy to the project.  Plus he’s not afraid to play dirty, distorted bass sounds too, so he’s very versatile.  Unfortunately, Brian had to leave the band shortly after the record came out.  But, fortunately, very fortunately, we were able, a few months ago, to recruit Andrew Allen on drums.  He brings an inventive, expansive energy to our sound.  I am very excited of where the sound of the band can now go.

In terms of the overall sound, it’s a pretty loose affair, technically speaking.  I really dig bands where the goal is to play your heart out, to really shoot for the moon with every song.  Sure, there’s a mistake now and again.  But as long as we all focus, and listen to each other, and put every ounce of our heart into each song, we can’t really go wrong.

     3. Is it really true that DoTV played its first live show without ever having practiced together? 

Totally false.  But that makes for a great story.  I hope people continue to believe it!  Ha ha!

       4. I’ve been reading reviews of the CD and of your lives shows – I’m pretty sure every single one mentions a “blues” sound.  Had you thought of the band as being bluesy before or was this a description that surprised you all?  How would you define your sound? 

Before you answer, I’ll throw down my two cents: My first thought was that whole crunchy guitar, wailing vocals, rockin’ out sound from the 1960’s – very pure and about the music.  Even with the slower songs, there’s a definite “fullness” to the sound, sorta Bruce Springsteen + E-Street band-ish, where it’s about playing awesome live shows.  I could listen to “I’ll See You” over and over again.  Well, I am listening to it over and over again…     

Well, blues is everywhere.  Blues is behind almost all American music.  It’s the great river of sound from which flows the ocean of all jazz, R&B, soul, and rock music.  It’s a sound I am comfortable playing, but DoTV is very far from being a blues band.  We definitely incorporate bluesy sounds and styles, like the Black Keys for example, but we are playing rock music.  I understand why a critic would call us out as “bluesy,” because they need to classify our sound.  We’re definitely not “jazzy,” as a counterpoint.  But if I had to describe us, I would say we are a garage rock band.  In that sound, there’s blues, but there’s also some sonic novelty and more experimental kind of stuff going on.

I like your two cents…we are definitely shooting for a full sound.  And we do try to bring a live energy to any recording we make!

      5. While doing research, I came across “Notes on a Record,” which documents an album from the very beginning, all the way up to the release party.  What made you decide to blog about the behind-the-scenes aspect of making the album?

That’s something I started when recording my solo record, “Seven Years Now.”  There were just all these amazing details about the process.  I thought people should know.  It’s incredible how sounds can just be captured in the air, stirred together, and frozen on plastic.  I needed to write about how that happens.

      6. You CD release party was in June – did it feel like just another show or was there an added energy?  I know you all play at a lot of Boston-area venues and I’ve never been to Boston (or even Massachusetts), so I’ve gotta ask – how are the music fans up there?

Boston is a great music town.  It’s small, for a city, but there is a ton of stuff going on relative to its size.  There are a million bands and people do go out to shows.  Everybody’s got their favorite band or club.  There’s always buzz and chatter about who’s hot, etc.  And it’s always great to see a full room!

Our release show was amazing.  We had some great bands on the bill, like Blackbutton, Jaxon Boom, and Mikey P, to help us out.  And we had a great set, I thought.  We were joined by Stephen Konrads of Sleepy Very Sleepy on keys during our set.  We made some crazy sounds!  It was a sweaty, blissful, high-energy evening.  Definitely a very special show.  And we were so grateful that so many people came out!

      7. Your original drummer moved shortly after the release of the record, but you’ve found a replacement.  I was reading the answer you gave to Boston Band Crush (before you’d found Andrew) and you mentioned that you were looking at the situation as an opportunity to change the sound of the band.  I know you didn’t mean overall, but what types of musical changes have you made as you adjust to your new drummer and he adjusts to the band?

Well, drums are pretty much the most important part of any band, I think, in terms of the sound.  They totally set the pace, not only in terms of rhythm but in terms of feel and the sort of wider aesthetic vibe that begins to coalesce around any given band.  How they hit, what they hit, when they hit.  It’s a lot of information for the ear!  We’ve only had one gig together so far, but I think Andrew’s style opens up a number of doors for us, musically.  He’s already voiced his preference for a song where we change the time signature, at least once.  Dogs go Prog.  Ha ha!  I guess I am willing to try anything once.

     8. What’s next for DoTV?

Other than multiple time signatures?  Ha ha, just kidding.  Well, we’d like to try playing in some rooms where we’ve not played yet, with some bands we are into…  For example last weekend, I did a solo set, sharing the bill with The New Highway Hymnal.  Their set totally blew me away!  They are amazing.  So I’d like to do a show with them plus DoTV.

I’m plugging away with the record.  We just got a great review in The Noise for it, and I am hopeful some more will come our way.

Musically, I hope to be able to get more comfortable developing the electronics in our sound.  In other words, using loops and other such sonic weirdness to add texture, layers.  Sorta like sonic alchemy.  There is a lot of room to grow in that direction, as long as the songs are strong and the band is tight.  Which I am confident both will be.  And there is a possibility, if we found the right player, we could add a keyboard player or some kind of multi-instrumentalist.  So I guess the future is wide open.  It’s also bright.  So bright, I have to wear shades.  Ha ha!

A few questions about James:

     9. You work in publishing and you’re a songwriter so I’m gonna take a guess and say that you love the written word.  I know that you became serious about song-writing in college – how do those earlier songs differ from the songs that you’re writing now?

I guess the main difference is nowadays I am much more convinced of who the narrator is in the song.  I should say right away it’s never been me, really.  The narrator, that is.  Back when I started I was just never very sure where the song was coming from.  I could never really describe the figurative “voice” behind the words.  Now when I write I get much clearer pictures in my head.  It’s like characters are beginning to develop, and more of their lives are becoming clearer to me.  I still write an occasional song in a more unconscious manner, where I am pulling a lot of linguistic hi-jinx.  But messing with language for its own sake is no longer as important to me as beginning to hint at stories, faces, experiences that I see in my imagination.  I want to stress again that I don’t write confessional songs.  So this is all fiction for me.  But I think fiction can be just as true as reality, true in the sense of having undeniable meaning and expression.  For me anyway.  I guess that might sound a bit crazy…  Perhaps I live in my head too much.

     10. You’ve performed solo and with a band – how do solo performances compare to full-band “face-melting?”  I’ve had acoustic musicians tell me that there’s a certain vulnerability when it’s just you and your guitar up on stage.  Does having the band up there with you make you more likely to stray off a set-list or to try out a new song? 

No, actually I am more likely to try something on my own, playing solo…  With the band the idea is for all of us to come together, and to use what we make together to connect with the people listening.  When I am solo, there’s nobody else to listen to.  And that can be a little unnerving.  You could call it vulnerability.  You’re just out there, alone, dangling over a sea of chaos.  It’s important to focus, dig deep, and try to connect directly to the people in the room. So you no longer have the buffer that you have with the band.  You can’t hide behind the drum set.  You can’t yell (approvingly, of course) at the bass player.  It’s just you and a microphone.  So it’s an entirely different kind of focus, and strangely enough, it ultimately can be just as intense as rocking out with a band!

Check out more about James and the band:

Dogs on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/dogsontelevision

Dogs on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dogs-On-Television/116094025227

Buy the Dogs on Television CD here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/DogsonTelevision

James Houlahan: http://www.jameshoulahan.com/


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Guest Post with Sherry Ficklin + Giveaway

I’m happy to welcome Sherry Ficklin, the author of the Gods of Fate trilogy.  One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Foresight, the first book in the series, and a second lucky winner will get a book tote with some very cool swag inside.

**See bottom of post for how to enter**

Attacked at her graduation by a mysterious woman and her gruesome henchmen, Grace was lucky to escape with her life. Rescued by her Aunt Phoenix and a Fae warrior named Chris, Grace is confronted by the startling truth about her heritage. Her mother was the Greek Goddess Pandora. Now it has fallen to Grace to protect her mother’s box from the crazed Demi-Goddess Lilith, who is determined to use it to unleash hell on Earth. As if her bizarre blood legacy wasn’t enough, Grace has begun developing frightening new powers that threaten to destroy her from the inside out. In a world where nothing is what she thought it would be, can Grace find the strength to defeat Lilith and learn to control her powers before she loses her mind?

My fav character in the book was Phoenix and wouldn’t you know it, I snagged an interview. 

Read on:

Hi Phoenix, I’m very excited that I have this opportunity to interview you…although I’m a tad intimidated because you could kick my butt without much effort.  So I’ve gotta ask:

     1. Do you work out regularly or were you born much stronger than weak, human me?

I try to keep fit, though my stamina, speed, and strength are naturally better than humans. Because our metabolisms run so slowly, we train constantly to keep in top form.  I will say that Grace dragged me to a cardio-kickboxing class once and I wanted to pummel the instructor. I HATE it when they take a perfectly good sport like kickboxing and water it down for ‘ladies’.

     2. Speaking of being born…I know it’s not polite to ask a lady her age, but I did kinda hear you were almost 2,000 years old.  How long is your life expectancy?  And what happens when you get really, really old?  Your wings don’t fall off or anything, do they?

Ha, ha! No.  The Fae are nearly immortal. However, after a while, there are ways to end your existence, if one desires to do so.  (and not all Fae have wings, a bit of a sensitive subject actually.) I have decided though that the more time I spend with Grace, the faster my life expectancy plummets. I love that girl, but she is a MAGNET for trouble.

     3. At the risk of sounding like a shrink, tell me about your childhood, including the origins of your name.  You were named after the bird, right?  

The details of my life are quite inconsequential… very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.

Sorry. Slipped into my Dr. Evil speech there for a minute. Where was I? Oh, my name. Well, the symbol of the Phoenix represents the balance of all things, life and death. I was actually born on a battlefield during the First Great War. My father said my birth was “life rising from the ashes of destruction”, hence the name.  My parents were fierce warriors and were killed when I was very young. As it is for any noble born Fae, I was raised at the Palace, studied with tutors, trained with guards, and grew up at the knees of some of our greatest rulers.  I was just over 50 when I took my first journey to the mortal world.

     4. You’ve been living among regular ol’ people for awhile now and no one’s noticed that you’re not quite the same.  How do you keep your fighting/weaponry skills in check?  When you’re at the grocery store and someone cuts you off with their cart, are you ever tempted to shove them into a canned foods display or to use a bag of potatoes as a weapon?

Humans tend to see only what they want to see, which is both a gift and a handicap. I’ve never used a bag of potatoes as a weapon, but I’ve REALLY wanted to on occasion. And, I teach fencing and mixed martial arts. (gotta pay the bills somehow, right?)

     5. While we’re on the subject of weapons…do you have a favorite weapon?  You don’t have any weapons with you at the moment, do you?

I AM the weapon. (laughs) No, at the moment I am quite weaponless. Of course, in my current position- oh, but you don’t know about any of that yet, do you? *grins* My favorite weapons are the Halberd and, when dealing with Grace, a Nerf crossbow.

     6. Grace thinks of you as one of those rare people that truly don’t care what other people think about you.  Is this true and how do you do it?

I suppose there are a few people I respect enough to care what they think of me, but not many. I believe that how one sees oneself is what’s important. How you see yourself is what determines your actions and thus, is what makes you who you are.

     7. You’re so calm under pressure – what sorts of relaxation techniques do you use and what do you do for fun in your spare time?

I do focused meditation and deep breathing exercises. To really relax I like to swim laps, chop wood, and hike. Anything that gets me focused on something outside myself. Oh, and I may have a very minor WoW addiction. Though Hermes just turned me on to HALO, which I’m loving right now too.

     8. (sorry, this really has nothing to do with you, Phoenix, but I have to know): Is Hermes as awesome as I think he is?  Is he seeing anyone?  I’m asking for a friend, not me!

Hermes is one of the few Olympians who is both entertaining and totally trustworthy.  I will say that if you ever receive an invitation to one of his famous “Vegas trips”, go. Just go. It’s the most fun you can have and not end up in prison (hopefully).

And he’s a chronic bachelor, though he does have the random fling (usually with Nymphs). He’s just a really good guy.  Think George Clooney, only HOT, and on a surfboard. That’s Hermes.

     9. Finally, what’s up with you and Lynx?  Those wistful, stolen glances were not lost on me.  Is it something tragic   that’s gonna make me cry?  Am I asking too much?  If you can’t tell me now, will you tell me later????

Lynx is, well was, my first love. There were…issues… that kept us apart. But I’m optimistic. (grins) All good things come to those who wait, right?

Learn more about Sherry and her books at: http://www.sherryficklin.com/

And if you have any questions for Phoenix, leave them below!

**Contest rules**

(sorry, U.S. only for this one)

+1 for commenting

+1 for following the blog (RSS feed is fine)

+1 for blogging/Tweeting about the contest (you don’t have to post the links, I trust ya!)

(So you can get a total of three entries, tally up the total in your comment)

Contest ends Thursday, October 7 at 11:59pm and I’ll announce the winners the next day.

Any questions, just ask!

P.S. I am going to a book fest this weekend, so I may have some more books to give away in the next few weeks!


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Interview with Suolon Hu

 Q&A with Suolon Hu, a photographer who lives in Toronto.  His website, Silver Horizon, shows off his talent behind the lens – here’s a direct link to one of my favorite photos (the subject is captured so well) and to a photo I kept on my desk when I worked at an outside office (used to pretend like I was there instead of where I actually was).

Let’s start at the beginning.  When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a professional photographer?  And how did you get your start as a professional?

I first started in Photography when I was in high school and was on the Year Book committee.  At the time I spent some time in the Dark Room and was quickly drawn into that world.  I didn’t have my own camera so I had to use the school’ camera.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from University (in 1996) that I finally had the money to buy my own camera and took it on my first vacation (1997) in my life.  Ever since, I never looked back.

Three years later, I enrolled myself in getting a Certificate in Photography, and in 2004 I got my first paying assignment as a Travel Photographer, and a year later I got into Wedding photography.

You used to be a wedding photographer, but now you seem to focus mainly on travel photography.  What prompted the change?

I’ve always loved traveling and landscape photography, since it was natural for me.  It was actually wedding photography that was more steady in terms of getting paid and which funded my photography equipment.

You started Silver Horizon Group in 2004 – can you tell me a little bit about the company?

I initially started the Silver Horizon Group Ltd with the intention to start my own business.  At the time I knew that I wanted the option of either going into IT Consulting and/or Photography business.  During the company’s first year, I did IT Consulting and Photography in tangent.  In the second year and years after, the company is focused more on Photography.

I see you’re currently using Canon cameras – how much research goes into picking out a piece of equipment and what sites/sources do you use when doing your research?  How easy/difficult did you find the switchover from film to digital?

My first film SLR camera was in fact a Nikon. In 2004, I wanted to get a digital SLR camera and at the time Canon was the company that was the leader in this technology.  Ever since then I stuck with Canon.  I’ve used a lot of websites when researching on Canon’s equipment.  Some of the links are:

http://www.dpreview.com/

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/

http://www.photo.net/

http://photography-on-the.net/

http://www.photoprice.ca/

The switch from film to digital was really easy for me, since I get instant result when I take a photo, versus having to wait for the film to develop in order to see the result.  This way, I can quickly experiment and learn from an artistic stand point.

Do you prefer to shoot in color or b&w?  Does it depend on the situation?

For the most part I shoot in colour with the option to later make it into B&W if I want.  It really depends on the subject and the mood I want to portray.

I know that artists and writers find inspiration in everyday things and I imagine it’s the same for photographers – do you ever look at something and see “photo-op?”  Do you always have your camera with you, “just in case?” 

Unfortunately I have a desk job at the moment and do not have my camera by my side “just in case”.  I do find myself more aware of my surrounding and try to see if something would catch my eye to photograph.

This is something that pertains more to photojournalists, but I’d like to get your take on photo ethics.  Is it always a strict no-no, or are there times when it’s okay to manipulate a photo in a graphics program?

When I first started off in Photography, I was a strong believer in composing and trying to get my shot done the right way without having to manipulate in post production (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc).  In that aspect, I’m sort of “old school” that way.

But now I see using a graphics program is like a digital dark room, and that photography is an art.  Thus, I now do not see manipulating photos as “unethical”.  However, having said that, I still try to get my shots done correctly on the camera and try to do very little post production.  If I think a photo has the potential to be interesting and capturing with post-production manipulation, then I would do it – and at times I would experiment with this route.

Multi-questions: You have traveled all over the world, taking photos – what is it about travelling that appeals to you?  Do you have a favorite vacation spot?  What was your favorite place to photograph and why?  How many languages do you speak? 

  1. What appeals to me about travelling is the fact that God has created so much beauty in just on Earth alone, that I just have to try and see as much as I can in my own lifetime.  Being able to see and experience other cultures is another reason why I find travelling so appealing.  I find that from my travels, I have enriched my life and have changed the way I view some things differently – including my tolerance towards people and culture, and how I view my own life and my personal goals as well.
  2. I don’t have just one particular favorite vacation spot, since each vacation destination has a special place in my heart.  I do find myself more drawn towards tropical climates and do often this about: Tahiti/Moorea/Bora Bora, Hawaii, Cambodia and Thailand.
  3. Again, I really don’t have a favorite place to photography since they all have great opportunities.  Each place is very unique, be it landscape or culture.  It all depends on what I am photographing.  If it were ruins, then I would say Cambodia (Angkor Wat, and the surrounding temples and ruins).  If it were underwater and snorkeling, then it would be the crystal water of Bora Bora.  If it is architecture, then I say the Hong Kong for its old and modern architecture.  If it is wildlife, then definitely Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.  If it is landscape, then it would the beautiful island of Hawaii and her islands (Kauai, Maui, and Oahu).  The one place I would love to go back to spend more time photographing is Santorini, Greece…. I was there for my Mediterranean cruise and didn’t have much time there.
  4. I only speak two languages: English primarily, and Mandarin (but not as fluent as I would like).

 You’re a big fan of the show The Amazing Race – do you ever secretly pretend to be on the show while you’re traveling?

I definitely pretend and wish that I were on the show!  In fact, some of the locations featured on show I have been to!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Hmmm…  I just know that I can passionately talk for long hours when it comes to sharing my travel experiences and where I have gone thus far in my life.  I find myself constantly giving friends advice as to where to go and what to do when they get there.  To be able to travel with my camera to capture people, places and things is what I enjoy the most about life.   It would be a dream come true if I can do this for ever as a career.


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Interview with Dennis Wymer

Q&A with Virginia artist Dennis Wymer.  Dennis answered my email questions and then we sat down earlier today to talk some more.  I even snapped photos!

I don’t have much to add from our conversation because Dennis was wonderfully thorough in his answers.  We were mostly just chatting about art (which I know very little about) and the area (we both grew up in the Valley). 

So without further ado…the interview!

While doing background research, I came across some interesting quotes about your artistic philosophy and I was hoping you’d expand on them and add any additional thoughts you have.  The first was that you like your paintings todisplay sincerity, honesty and pure human feeling.”  And the second is that you see what you can “do with disembodied figures, with life that does not yet have form to it.”

It’s been a large wish of mine for years that when someone looks at a painting, they would just leave whatever they have at home and just look at the painting and take it for what it is. If the honesty and sincerity is evident in a work, it will elicit a natural reaction within a viewer. A reaction to a piece of art is where a viewer shows exactly who they are and what they’re about.

I just find too much in art that the artist will dictate their own terms of what art is about to them and what you get in the end is pretentious, preachy, where it doesn’t become about the art anymore but about the artist showing how clever he or she or they are. I’m certain that’s not their intention but that’s what a larger number of art viewers come away with.

There’s avant garde work out there that’s very successful with its message or conveyance but is ignored by the elite and there’s a large amount of avant garde work that’s bad but people leave believing this is what’s supposed to be happening in art today. This way, a social and philosophical gap is widening between the tastemakers of today telling everyone what art is supposed to be versus what the average art lover and the artist are making. It’s why people don’t really pay attention to art today except when a Hirst sells for 100 million or a piece greatly offends religious groups.

If people were to be honest about their art, I believe the world would care more about modern art today and realize that there are some amazing things going on that no one is currently paying any attention to.

And as to the second question, it goes back my own process of working to where my art has a Promethean quality. I shut my head off and the painting tells me where to go. There’s life everywhere you see but it doesn’t necessarily have a form to it. Life is in oxygen but you don’t see that. But it sustains life forms.

And as far as the disembodied figures, it takes a little bit of a bleaker outlook on things. A lot of people these days seem to be disembodied today by thinking so one-dimensionally and forgoing the other parts that leads a greater richness of life. Whether they’re so focused on success and getting ahead at work, having tight abs, working for the weekend, what have you. People are capable of so much, that if I could comment on anything with my work it would be let the world know of our potential that goes largely unused anymore.

How about the actual physical process of creating?  I know that you’ve worked with acrylic, chalk, powdered charcoal and spray paint – what other materials have you used and what is the importance of color in your work? 

I prefer oils mostly but that mostly depends on what I have to work with and/or a look I want to end up with. I get the most success with oils however because, to me, paintings with oils look more alive to me. But I am aware that’s merely a personal bias for me. The materials I’ve worked with – the mark making materials that is- are pretty much are all I’ve wanted to work with.

What I want to work upon is a completely different story however. My dream is one day be able to get into large Plexiglas or masonite installations and the like. The search for surfaces to work on will be fun because I’ll know it when I see it. I like the possibility of walking around and finding some great surface that just screams “work on me” – a thing that will feel like I’ve just accidentally rediscovered penicillin.

I’ve studied color theory for so long – the physical values, mood and symbolism of color and how they react to each other- that it’s pretty much academic what colors I use over, through and around each other and to work on instinct.

Now the creative process – how do you work?  Shut up in the dark or out in the open?  Does creativity just “strike” you or do you plan?  Do you paint multiple pieces at once or take long breaks between series?  I think you know where I’m going…you don’t have to answer these specific questions, they’re just sorta a guideline.

When I work, I keep a rather base idea or concept in my head of what it is and from then on it’s action/reaction with the painting- a communicative variable. I talk then the painting talks and I talk back and so forth. And when it’s done, it’s done. There’s never been a time line. It could be 2 hours, could be 2 years, who knows. Pretty simplistic but then again there’s no reason to have a set series of things that NEED to be done. I plan drawings and illustrations and do studies for such things. But the paintings get very little planning.

I work like that because of all the wonderful things you can find while working. It’s akin to working on a crossword puzzle. There’s no plan to completing, you just go and do it. But I really can only try to work on one piece at a time. More than three is monumentally exhausting.

As for creativity, it kind of either has to strike or you can just work until some glorious event happens while you work. Mostly I just write down concepts, words, stuff like that and go back to it and work from there with an image of a concept seeped into my consciousness.

Who are some of your favorite artists and are there any artists that inspire you?  What, in general, inspires your artwork and/or motivates you?

A huge influence on me is Jasper Johns and, I hate to use a clichéd influence, Pollock mostly because of how they approached their work, like I said, earlier, shutting their head off and letting work go where it wants. It’s a practice that always appealed to me.

I’ve always enjoyed Egon Schiele because of the psychological bent of his figures. Currently I’m real big on Ian Francis and Tara McPherson because of how they portray their figures and the narrative aspect of their work. Plus their work is real pretty and retinally attractive to me.

Duchamp is another influence on me because of how he talks and addresses his art and art in general, but he always scored merely retinal work whereas I don’t see an issue with it one bit.

The aspects that draw to me to a painting or art in general, is not whether really it’s pretty or not really, or even whether it’s good or bad art either, but if it has some linguistic, structural or deep hue depth to it, you’ll grab my attention. Really I just possess a fetish for any kind of image, good or bad.

You’ve been an artist for a number of years now.  How has your work evolved over the years and what has contributed to this evolution (education, life experiences, etc)?

It’s evolved mostly in depth and being able to communicate more efficiently I feel. My main philosophy in art, my dealings with people or life itself comes direct from a Duchamp quote where he says to “look into the essence of thing.”

That isn’t always an easy thing to do but one must always try anyway. Sometimes I’m able to. Sometimes the way isn’t always clear. The main contributions are very simply maturation and putting occurrences in life into their proper context and this is something that we as people will never fully succeed at because information is constantly streaming into our brains. But of course, people never stop learning, do they?

Do you have any pieces that have special meaning to you, ones that you’d never sell?

Have quite a few that have special meaning, yes. But I have no problem sending them off into the world. I’m not here saying that I can be bought, not at all. I’m alluding to the fact that you can’t keep your kids in their room for the rest of their lives. That would be cruel.

You recently joined King Street Art Gallery in Strasburg and I’ve seen your name associated with “ArtSee Boxes.”  Can you tell me a little bit more about this campaign?

The ArtSee Box is a fun little thing we do there to introduce people around to public art and to make ourselves known, an advertisement of sorts for the gallery. Two artists once a month work together on a newspaper kiosk to make it exciting and to grab attention, as what art is supposed to do. I’m rather proud of the fact the box me and local artist Cary Sober did for last month has been asked to be displayed in Edinburg. So who knows, the box could travel down all the way down Interstate 81 before it’s all said and done.

You lived and worked as an artist in Richmond and now you’re back in the Valley – how does the art scene (or creative scene, in general) differ between the two areas and what sort of scene would you like to see develop in the Valley?

Very easy. Two VASTLY different mindsets. In Richmond, there’s more of a current modern slant on art and it really a small, marvelous scene that’s growing but we’re definitely way behind the bigger markets. I love Richmond to death but I always felt that there was a glass ceiling there that you can only go high if you work in that city.

And this area, I feel like I’m something like an oddity to many. People here like to see it, digest it and onto the next thing. It seems like a lot of professed art lovers in the area do not want to be bothered with deeper questions, to see something and say “oh isn’t that pretty.” They really would simply rather enjoy themselves and the friends and not have anyone ruin their buzz, which is a very southern attitude.

I assure you, it’s not a knock at on this area or the people at all. I just know my work is primarily appreciated here by other artists, younger folks that enjoy color and a minority that enjoys thinking beyond the surface. I’m fine with that. I’m more interested in being able to make work anyway. I’m always appreciative of commentary on my work, whether they love it or hate it. But any indifference to it is something I have trouble with sometimes.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Really, I’m just here to paint and enjoy it to the fullest. I try to keep the work as simple as possible. I’d rather let everyone else make it complicated. In truth, it’s way more fun and interesting for me that way.

What is Dennis up to? (Revamped the original question so it would make more sense to the reader)

A new series is upcoming, in the halfway stages of completion. I’ve been talking with a few galleries in Baltimore and Philly for the possibility of show there in the next 12 months. I’m currently working on also showing in DC before year’s end.

Recently, I’ve just been published in a literary book of poems and short stories called “Convergence Review” where I illustrated a few poems by John Guzlowski, a Pulitzer nominated poet and was given the cover design for the book.

I’m also currently at work on album art for a band that’s gaining a following in North Carolina. I’ve also have DC mural and commission painting work for a business opening there that I’m doing studies for.

And I’ve got a fantastic concept for a YouTube channel centered around my work and the general weirdness that accompanies my life and my art.

But the body of my work of upcoming series is going to deal primarily in figures which is something I greatly enjoy doing. Plus I’ve said all I’ve wanted to say in abstraction for the time being. Late last year, I got some great feedback from some NYC galleries that told me I was onto something special that I’ve taken to heart, that I just need to keep working and my world will blow up soon. I just feel that in the new series, there are stories, concepts, advice, allegories, what have you, which need to be told. It’s really, right now, about making my statements a lot solid and cohesive.

Check out Dennis’ work:

http://www.denniswymer.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dennis-Wymer/67685939776

http://www.myspace.com/dennismustpaint


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Interview with Jacob Matz / The Dreadful Horoscope

Congratulations on the new self-titled album and the CD release party last month in Morgantown.  I’ve been listening to the album and I think “The Forest” is fast becoming my favorite track. 

I have a few questions about the album and then a few other things I’m curious about.

Your sound is described by Big Bullet Records (your label) as mixing “lofty folk sensibilities with stark political commentary.”  Most musicians are usually given a “tag line,” so I always like to ask – how do you describe your sound? (Use as few or as many words as you’d like)

I would describe my sound as experimental folk music.

Branching off from the “political commentary” comment, I definitely picked up on that, especially in “Hands of Greed,” which is about the mining industry.  What other issues have you addressed in your music and why?  

I try not to think of these songs as being ‘political’. This is only due to the fact that I have never written a song specifically about politics. There are certain aspects of our lives that are rarely thought about or questioned, yet affect each of us on a daily basis (such as mountaintop removal). If you don’t see or hear a mountain getting decimated outside your home everyday, you probably don’t think about it often. There are days when we forget the violence that is keeping us alive. Music is a good way to remind people about things. I want to remind people about certain situations that are not necessarily pleasant, but need to be discussed.   

I checked out “the disgusting breath” e.p. and some of the songs have a folksy leaning, but there are several tracks that I guess would be labeled as more “experimental” or “noise.”  What inspired you to move more toward the singer/songwriter route?  Did you write all of the songs for the new album?

I enjoy singing as I play guitar just because it is a very simple and accessible way of expression. It is a nice feeling to get things I’m thinking about out with music. I want to be able to do that as much as possible, and I think songwriting for one person is the quickest way to get there. I watched some amazing songwriters growing up too. In high school, I was in awe of some folks’ ability to tell stories and create emotion. Mainly local song writers like John Miller and Matt Kline. A world of talent exists between the two.

I did write all the songs on this album between early 2006 and 2009.

I may be reading too much into the CD cover, but none of the faces seem to have working mouths (they look sewn shut).  What was the inspiration for the drawing?  Or am I really just reading too much into it?

Well, I am not quite sure what inspired the drawing. My brother Alex drew the faces and the “metal” logo. I enjoy the faces because they remind me of concerned spirits judging you. Their mouths seem more distorted than sewn to me, like they are speaking static rather than any language. The distorted words in the center remind me of the same basic thing. But I wanted to have a pseudo-metal logo on the album, no matter what. I want metal logos to take hold across all genres of music.

And while we’re on the subject of ‘I’ve gotta know’ – what’s the story behind the name, The Dreadful Horoscope?

The name was a lyric in the first song that I wrote for the acoustic guitar called ‘Paralyzed by the Moon’. It was in probably either 2003 or 2004 when I was a freshman in high school. The line was, “hanging by a thinning rope with a dreadful horoscope”. I just liked the sound of those words, and I was probably going to just name the song ‘the dreadful horoscope’, but it sounded like a good band name. Nice and grim.

I was checking out Big Bullet Records’ page and they started in 2008 with the goal to “motivate and unify local musicians in the Shepherdstown, W.Va area.”  Since then it looks like they’ve expanded to reach out to West Virginia musicians, in general.  How did you get involved with Big Bullet Records? 

Well I was contacted by Tucker Riggleman who started Big Bullet. I was going to Shepherd at the time, and had played at some open mics on campus, and he asked me if I wanted to be part of the label. I really appreciated the do it yourself attitude he wanted to center the label around. I obviously wanted to be a part of the group of musicians who were active in the area, so I said that I would be on the label. I can get pretty unmotivated, so it is good to see highly motivated individuals around you working hard. These folks are dedicated to creating great art time and time again. It’s very flattering to be associated with all the artists on Big Bullet Records. I have met great people and I have gotten to play shows with some really awesome bands.

You say on your MySpace page that the band “expands and contracts.”  I could hear mandolin and sax (and a few other instruments) on the album, so I’m curious how this works – does the whole band perform at shows or are the sets determined by which instruments are available that night?  And does this “looseness” add less pressure or more pressure to playing?  (To me, it seems like it would be kinda fun to play with a bunch of different people, but it could also be frustrating at times to not know what to expect)

This is another reason I enjoy the singer/songwriter thing. The songs are written to stand alone as  just guitar and vocals, or to be built upon by various instruments. There is not really a set band because different people build on the songs at different points in time. It’s not so loose to the point where I am showing up to concerts with people who I haven’t played with before, that happen to know how to play the bass or keyboards. There is always a pattern of practicing and playing as a unit that goes on in some form. I don’t want to tie anyone down to this music. If some one feels they can add to the songs I welcome it, but they don’t have to obligate themselves.          

I enjoy the less structured aspect. I like the fact that people can jump in on the songs fairly easily if they have heard them once or twice. Right now I have been playing mainly with John Morgan,Jon Blanton, Jacob Smith, and Miles Craft. John, Jon, and Jacob are all on the album. I have always played music in some capacity with Jon, and Jacob and Miles were both in a band with us in high school called Mr. Potter and the Truth Squad. All three are  amazing musicians, who I enjoy to listen to. I met John Morgan last year in Morgantown. He said he liked the songs and asked if I wanted to record some stuff at his apartment. Eventually, as the recording process progressed he began to add some instrumentation with guitar and keyboard. John is another amazing musician and songwriter in Morgantown. He is in a band called Juna, and I was very welcoming to the idea of him playing on the songs after hearing his music.

So I have done shows that sound extremely folky with acoustic instruments, and I have played with electric guitar and keyboards sounding more experimental and psychedelic, depending on who I have been playing with at the time. Recently I have preferred to play with another person or two just to fill out the sound and to create more atmosphere at shows, but I can also do it myself if need be. Usually for shows I try to round up musicians in advance, but it doesn’t always work out so I try to keep the songs singer/songwriter ready.

Clubs can contact you to book – any place too far for you to go?  And what kind of show can they expect (how long do you play, do you involve the audience, etc.)

Well at this point I can play anywhere in the WV, MD, VA area. But I could play elsewhere if possible. I could probably play for at most maybe an hour and a half, but even I would get sick of me by then. Usually sets are 20 – 45 minutes. Sometimes the shows could also involve some noisy interludes between songs.

I know you sing and play guitar, but I don’t know too much else about your musical background – so give me the history – how’d you get started?

The history is pretty generic. I played bass in a really terrible pop punk band when I was a freshman in high school called ‘The Annexed’. I was writing ‘songs’ for the band, and this was the first time I experimented with singing and writing songs. From there I just began playing music at a few different levels. I learned a few chords on guitar and started writing songs specifically for acoustic guitar. I also began to learn about the recording process which sparked my interest of layering sounds. This is what really began The Dreadful Horoscope, and the idea of building upon simple songs with lots of random instrumentation and layering. I wanted the recordings to sound like there were 7+ people in the band (which is still my fantasy).

And all the while I was learning about other ways of playing music. I was in a doom metal band called ‘Saget Squad’, playing drums. I think this helped me to associate music with the expenditure of massive amounts of energy. I enjoyed playing as loud as possible, and the music was appropriately slow and dark.

So, all that ended at some point in high school, besides the fact that I was still writing dreadful songs, and I joined ‘Mr.Potter and the Truth Squad’. Working with Will Dennis, I learned a great deal about songwriting. He has always been one of my biggest influences. He writes music that consistently pushes boundaries of what songwriting should be. So both he and I were writing songs for Mr. Potter, and I got a better sense of how to play folk songs and sing with a group of people.

I learned about the hardships of keeping a bands together, through all of this, which kept The Dreadful Horoscope alive as a solo project. So now that the bands are no more, I have chosen to put all of my focus into The Dreadful Horoscope.

Anything else you’d like to add?

May 8th at the Blue Moon in Shepherdstown, WV I’ll be playing with a band from Tennessee called Big Kitty. This is pretty much the Shepherdstown release of the album.  I would also like to thank you very much for conducting the interview. The album can be purchased at shows or online at bandcamp.thedreadfulhoroscope.com

[show starts at 9pm]


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Interview with Ben Deily

First of all, I want to mention Varsity Drag’s new album, “night owls,” that was released in November.  I’ve been listening to it and I particularly like your musical interpretation of Joseph Lease’s poem, “Hammer.” 

Thanks very much. Apparently, Joseph likes it, too, so we got that going for us. 🙂 That tune had an interesting path to the record, in that although we recorded a full-band version of it with Tom [Hamilton], we were never happy with it—even multiple-mixes in to the process. We ended up using the original demo I had done alone in our basement, with me playing all the instruments and recording on the laptop. Ha!

The music and the band:

You had a record release party on January 15, 2010 in Boston for “night owls.”  How did the party go?

Loads of fun. We had people coming in from all over, including one friend who flew all the way from San Francisco, so that was awesome. We also got a write-up in the Boston Globe the day of the show, which was a piece of good PR karma. (They called “night owls” “…a nervy, brisk bolt through a set of tunes whose crisp sound and bittersweet temperament pre-dates the alternative rock that would morph into ‘grunge’–but thankfully post-dates it, too.”)

We really tried to pull out all the stops—we made a bunch of gift bags that we gave away from stage, had cool little envelopes with cards and download codes and little owl stickers and the like. We even got the girl at the door to use an owl stamp when people came into the club. We also had a t-shirt giveaway to benefit a dog rescue organization, and some guy just walked up and wrote us a donation check for them. Nice crowd.

Varsity Drag recently finished up a U.K. tour – any plans for a U.S. tour?

Unfortunately, nothing concrete. Fact is, our label doesn’t even have US distribution at the moment, as far as I know, since Lumberjack Mordam went bust…I know in the internet age it shouldn’t make a difference, but it kinda does. Also, we’ve never done any real—OK, any at all—press or radio promotion anywhere outside of Boston. So we’d kinda have to get that rolling before we’d have any way of realistically trying to go cross country.

Also, of course, our dear Josh [Pickering, drummer] has told us that post-UK, he doesn’t plan on ever touring again. “I had a great time, and now I’m done.” Hrmph. So Lisa and I would have to either recruit fresh blood or rig up a machine, or something.

I dunno, I certainly wouldn’t rule out that last one.

I did a little digging to try to find the meaning behind the name “Varsity Drag,” but I didn’t have much luck.  Any chance it has anything to do with the dance from the 1920’s? 

Yeah, it’s a number from a musical called “Good News” from 1927…one of a bunch of collegiate “dance crazes” from the 20s. Let’s all get up and dance to a song that was a hit before your mother was born!

Actually, its origin as a band name candidate was that at the time some of us were wracking our brains for a name—always a fun parlor game, as I’m sure you know…I was looking through a vintage black & white stock photography book that showed a dancing couple in 20s garb with the caption “Varsity Drag.” Two simple words. I took one look at it and, and thought, damn, that would make an awesome band name. Hope no one’s taken it yet!

It seemed to sum up both facility at/dedication to something, while acknowledging it as a pain-in-the-ass. Not just a drag: a varsity drag. Rock and roll is such a hassle, after all.

Mainly, though, I just thought it sounded like it would look cool on a t-shirt. Or announced during a segue on college radio: “Um…so…that was…Varsity Drag, with…a tune off their latest EP…”

(My grandma Natalie, of course, does know “the varsity drag.” We’ve sung it together a few times.)

You started out in the music industry in the mid 1980’s (as co-founder of The Lemonheads), but left to complete your college degree (at Harvard, no less).  You’ve had a successful, award-winning career in advertising.  When you started in the music business, you were essentially just a kid.  Now you are a self-proclaimed, “regular ol’ grown-up type, professional person.”  How has adulthood changed the way you view music – do you view it as a second career, hobby, calling…?

If anything, I guess, growing up has taught me the value of music. It’s a precious thing to have the opportunity to write and play songs that you enjoy, that feel like they really capture something that you couldn’t express any other way. And when they mean something to other people, well, that’s just gravy. It’s really incredibly fulfilling.

When I was younger—and waaaaaaaaay, way more (OK, too) serious—I used to think it was just sort of a silly thing. “Songs, music, punk rock—big deal.” People don’t always understand what I’m talking about, when I try to explain this…I guess because it had seemed relatively effortless to write and make music—compared to, say, writing a sonnet—and because I didn’t really come from a background that valued something ephemeral like pop music.

Becoming a poet, or a literary critic, or a scholar—now THAT was something worthy of a grown man’s time and attention. [Rolls his eyes at younger self.] Even a respectable and creatively fulfilling job like an advertising guy, or a journalist—that would be almost as good. (What can I say? I was young. Anyone who’s ever been around ‘em knows how teenage boys can be: sooooo earnest and humorless!)

But to be (or aspire to be) a “rock star”? How—what’s the word I want—embarrassing? 🙂

(This is typically the point at which I lose people. Sigh. All I can say is, I guess you’d have to have grown up as me, in my family, in my corner of the world, to know what I’m talking about.)

It just seemed so…I dunno…self-indulgent, also, like when people declare themselves an “artist,” start smoking cloves, and stop washing their hair. What, just ‘cause you slapped some paint on something and started wearing black, you’re an “ah-tist” now? Those kinda people always pissed me off—probably because I was jealous, frankly, of how free and un-selfconscious they seemed…and music as something pursued seriously (or, god forbid, professionally) had seemed like the same kinda deal to me.

Anyway, much of my life later, now I realize what a gift it has been—and continues to be—to write music at all. And what a genuine source of self-expression it truly is. Not only that, but I have come to understand in the last 20 years that even if I haven’t always valued my music, other people have. That matters to me, too.

It means so much to have had the opportunity—even just a few times, or just once, in a human lifetime—to actually touch people with something you created: something that didn’t exist before.  And these days I’m profoundly grateful for that.

I’ve been checking out the reviews of “night owls” and it’s been called a “significant sonic step forward for Deily” (Clicky Clicky Music Blog) and “pop punk for grown ups.” (Collective Zine).  Did you set out with the intention of producing a more “grown-up” sound or was this just a natural evolution?

Hmph, yes—I’d say it was a natural progression since “for crying out loud.” At a certain point, I assembled the material that I figured would be the next album, saw that it had a certain unifying tone and theme—and said, “Holy crap: we’re making Creator all over again!” 🙂

That is, like the Lemonheads’ second record, which was dark and moody and musically more experimental—and obviously, like most second albums, all the more overlooked for it—it follows an album that was upbeat, poppy, totally accessible. Creator was also conceptually coherent…at least I always thought so. Man, we sweated the selection and the order of songs, and that sorta thing.

Oh well. Maybe this is the nature of the first record-second record relationship for me. Of course, it’s inevitably a letdown to the fans—bless ‘em—who say, “we want a new record….y’know, just like the old record.”

And of course meeting our neighbor Aliah (across the back fence) was just a serendipitous bit of music fate. Here we are, about to work up the new record, and it turns out the guy living in the house behind us is a conservatory-trained cellist—and an awesome musician—not to mention a fun, zany, neurotic and thoroughly loveable fella. We’re lucky to have him on board.

But anyway, the chance to incorporate strings on the record provided me with the chance for all kinds of arrangements I could never get with only guitar, bass and drums.

On a slightly personal note:

Your wife, Lisa, is the bass player (self-taught, awesome!) for Varsity Drag and also part of Radio Sandwich, the creative services consulting agency that you started with your brother, Jonno, who was a member of PODS (you all played during the early to mid-nineties, if my timeline is correct).  I am guessing family is very important to you? 

Well, heaven knows they’re hard to get rid of. 🙂 But seriously, one reason I moved back east was to be able to be physically closer to, and spend more time with, my various family members, siblings and multiple parents. I’m lucky in having an amazing family, full of talented, kind people…the sort you’d wanna be friends with even if you weren’t related. I know that’s rare.

(Fact is that while I try, but I still don’t see everyone in person as often as I’d like to—especially Jonno. The four kids and his travelling for music kinda takes him out of circulation a great deal of the time.)

You said in a 2006 Luna Kafe interview that you go on “obsessive kicks of listening.”  Any bands/songs have your attention right now?

Aimee Mann. The American Analog Set. Morrissey. They Might Be Giants. And Ipanema (labelmates of ours, featuring the late and very much lamented Wiz, one of whose songs we’re covering for the Boss Tuneage 20th Anniversary comp).

Ask me again in a few weeks, it’ll probably have changed!

You’re known as a songwriter, musician, copywriter…how about a poet?  I see from your website that you’re a fan of Yeats.  Any plans for a volume of your own? 

Funny you should ask. 🙂 As I mentioned, reminiscing about my overly-serious youth, I used to take pretty seriously the idea that I would pursue poetry as, I dunno, a vocation. Y’know: I pictured teaching myself English by day in an Ivy-covered boarding school and by night, slaving over my slim volumes of poems….

In a way, I kinda pushed myself into a place in my 20s where I became creatively gridlocked and/or seized-up as regards writing poetry: nothing was ever quite good enough, I was obsessed with formal rigor to the exclusion of almost every other consideration (everything else was “lazy,” of course, oi vey), and I felt my instincts chafing at the need to find expression that was somehow more…organic. More authentic. Whatever that means.

Maybe that’s why—lo and behold, hah—I always return to writing songs…words and music…and much more rarely to poems as such. I guess since it always seemed—again, seemed to my younger self—that there was less “at stake” in writing songs…after all, hey, it’s only rock & roll, right? And so I look back on 25 years or so, and I have a body of songwriting that I’m pretty pleased with, and only a very, very few poems that I still enjoy.

That having been said, I do still write bits and pieces of what passes for poetry here and there. Given the time and space, I do plan to return to it. I mean, Yeats didn’t really hit his finest stride until he was in his 60s, for crying out loud!  🙂

Gives a man hope for the future.

Finally…anything else you’d like to add?

Just to say thanks—your questions were truly kind. And to plug varsitydrag.org, where you can stream anything we’ve ever done, and download a fair amount of exclusive web-type stuff for free!

We’re gonna take a quick trip back to Tom’s studio soon to finish up 4 bonus tracks from the night owls sessions, as well as recording a tune for our label’s 20th anniversary compilation—so hopefully all that will yield a 5-song EP, which we hope to get up on the site as a free download sometime in the next month or two. Stay tuned!

P.S.: Oh, and as you may or may not have heard, Evan and I just did a little mini-set of Lemonheads oldies at SXSW last week…hoping to do that again sometime before too long. Plus ça change!