Colman Gota – And The Losers Choir Sings (Q&A)



“Smart lyrics, catchy melodies, and a sparkling guitar, for a good song you do not need much more. On his new record ‘… ‘ Colman Gota takes it one step further.  He does not add any new elements, but his lyrics are just a bit more challenging than just exciting, his melodies are more pleasant than just easy on the ear and his guitar sounds crispier than crackling candy tastes.


What about that?






For every song on the record, how many ended up in the bin? Do you write a lot to make a selection of eleven?


A lot of them ended up in the bin. I wrote around 50-60 songs this time around, and I kept at it till the very last moment. I was lucky to hit a winning streak, with “Catholic school”, “Practice room” and “Do you really want to know”, at the very end of the process. These songs raised the bar!


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Absolutely, I´ve written a lot of songs, and with the best ones, I always have the feeling that I´m getting nearer but  I still quite never get there. The more you practice, the better you get at it that´s for sure, I´m still growing as a songwriter, so expect great albums in the future!


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


I try to avoid cliches and the well-trodden path. I´m a very private person, and I´m not fond of extremes, but I´m also honest with what I write, and you definitely have to follow your instincts wherever they may you. I´m not very good with breakup songs, I must say, but It would be very cool to write a love-ridden luminous album, but I doubt it will happen.




Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


Hahaha, that´s what I ask the few industry people that I know. I haven´t got a clue and I´m pretty hopeless at selling myself, that I know. I ´m also pretty naive, in the sense that I think that the word is going to be spread, regardless of any other facts, just because I have some great songs. Well, I´m afraid it doesn´t work that way. ”




Gretchen’s Wheel – Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf (Q&A)






What’s the story with you and Nada Surf?

I first heard Nada Surf in 2013, which was relatively late considering their first album was released in 1996. I would’ve loved to have discovered their music earlier, but in a way, I found it at exactly the right time in my life.

At the time I first heard them, it had been about ten years since I’d written or recorded any of my own music, and I barely considered myself a musician anymore. I hadn’t even been seeking out any new music to listen to for years. I’d had some health problems that reduced my energy and motivation, plus I stayed busy with my graphic design job.

In mid 2013, after my health started to improve, I felt more energetic and interested in things, and it was around that time that I started listening to iTunes Radio which had just been launched. Right away I was introduced to a ton of great music that would inspire me to get back into playing and recording again. “Inside of Love” was the first Nada Surf song I heard – I immediately had to find out more about the band and listen to all of their albums. Pretty soon I found myself wanting to play and record again, and the first thing I did was a cover of “Jules and Jim” from The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy. The result was honestly quite awful, but it was my first baby step in the direction of becoming pretty decent (I hope!) at home recording.

The other band I first heard around this time that made a huge impact on me was the Posies. They’re a big part of the story too, not only because of contributing to that initial burst of inspiration but also because Ken Stringfellow (of the Posies) would produce my first album the following year. And Ken knew Ira Elliot (Nada Surf’s drummer), which was how Ira came to play drums on that album as well as my second. It still amazes me that members of the two primary bands that influenced me to return to music would end up appearing on my own albums.

Other than that, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet the band a couple of times after their shows in Nashville, and I’m beyond thrilled that Matthew Caws (Nada Surf singer/guitarist) was supportive of my music even before the tribute album came to be.



Deciding on what songs to cover was never easy, I guess? What were the criteria?

The idea that I’d do an entire album was somewhat borne of frustration – I definitely wanted to cover a Nada Surf song but could not decide which one or in what context to release it: standalone single or included on my next regular album. I was aware of some recent single-artist tribute albums (like Juliana Hatfield’s tribute to Olivia Newton-John and Ben Gibbard’s cover of the Teenage Fanclub album Bandwagonesque), and suddenly one day last year it occurred to me that I could do that, too. I first made a list of songs that was unreasonably long but made myself narrow it down to a number I felt I could manage in a relatively short time.

I eliminated songs I’d already “informally” recorded over the past few years and didn’t allow more than 2 songs from any one album. I tried to choose songs that I would be able to play without making compromises, since I wanted to be pretty faithful to the originals, and I had to be able to make it work in a key that fit my vocal range if the original key didn’t. I also wanted the album to have a good variety of tempos and styles. Here’s a reason for one specific song choice: I’d read that “Rushing” was originally written (by Matthew and Dan Wilson) not necessarily for Nada Surf but possibly for a female singer. So I’d been keeping that in the back of my mind, thinking one day I might try it, especially since the lyrics were so meaningful to me. I don’t know if I’m anything like the female singer they envisioned for this song, but I hope they’re pleased with the result!





How did you make these songs your own?

My intention was to stay mostly faithful to the original versions – with the exception of “Rushing,” which was still not a radical departure but more bare-bones than the original. One of the things I like to try when covering a song is changing the instrument that plays a certain part so that the part isn’t lost but takes on a different character. So I used a keyboard for one of the parts in “Rushing” that was originally guitar. On “No Quick Fix” I added a keyboard part that wasn’t there in the original, and on a few songs, I added a backing vocal part that wasn’t in the original (like the descending “aah” part in “Amateur”). I’m sure I’m forgetting some!

My goal was to keep the original “feel” of the song intact… I wanted to be able to recreate the magic that made me love the songs in the first place – without making an exact copy, or else there’s no reason for my versions to exist in the world. I certainly struggled with worry that the album was very self-indulgent and presumptuous – who am I to think I’m worthy to be the one who tackles this project?? But I hope my deep respect for the songs and the band is evident and that people will enjoy the result!

I saw Nada Surf playing live for the first time last year. Besides those great songs, they have so much class. But it’s hard to describe what ‘class’ is. Can you help?

I totally agree! They are a fantastic live band, and I hope I have the opportunity to see them play many more times. They’re such genuinely nice people, generously spending time talking to fans after the show. I think a big part of their class is their positivity and sincerity.

How ‘popular’ were you ?

Well, in high school, not at all! But then again, I didn’t hear about “The Teenage Guide to Popularity” until I was in my 30s.

Eytan Mirsky – If Not Now … Later (Q&A)






PowerPopNews writes: With Eytan Mirsky’s Funny Money having made the top 4 on this website’s best powerpop albums of 2016 list, the anticipation has been building for his new one. Here’s the good news. If Not Now….Later is every bit as catchy, clever and engaging as its predecessor.



Sweet Sweet Music talked to Eytan about the new record, playing in front of a crowd, and how to sell a million copies.


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin?


I really haven’t recorded many songs that haven’t been released one way or another. There are songs that I have written and sung an acoustic version of on Youtube that I never recorded a full band version of. But once I record a full band version I almost always release it — if not on my own albums then on a compilation.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Yes, and no. In a way, I think I have developed more skill at songwriting. But at the same time, every song is its own challenge, and you’re only as good as your last song! The fact that the last song you wrote was great is no guarantee that the next one will also be one. You still have to do the work.


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?



I don’t consider myself a “confessional” writer, so I don’t really have this problem. My songs aren’t strictly autobiographical and they are not deeply emotional in the way you describe. Sometimes I envy people who do write that way, though, but I approach it more in the way of making an idea come to life.





Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


Yes: Step 1: Win the lottery.


Step 2: Buy a million copies.



When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


In my dreams the other night.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


The fun for me in recording is having an idea and then trying to make it a reality. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you envisioned them; good surprises can happen that can make things better than you imagined. I also have fun singing my songs. It’s always interesting to develop the vocal interpretation of a song.


Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?



The fun part of performing live for me is when the crowd is really into the songs. It’s fun when you can tell people are really listening. For instance, I have a song called “My Dog Likes Your Dog,” and there’s a surprise in the lyrics about halfway through. When people start laughing at that point of the song, I can tell that they were really paying attention. I also enjoy between-song banter and being as funny and as entertaining as possible. I don’t like acts that just play one song after the other without any interaction with the audience.


You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?



I would definitely say that people have tended to enjoy my lyrics, and I do try to make them as good as I can. Now, it’s true that a lot of people don’t really listen to lyrics, but I think good lyrics make you focus more.

Running in the BIG STIR family … KAI DANZBERG, TRIP WIRE & IN DEED



KAI DANZBERG (Hanover, Germany) who has just released his new album Not Only Sunshine on Big Stir Records:


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


When Iʼm working on an album I always set the goal to at least have 15 songs to choose from. For Not Only Sunshine I had 17 songs finished but was actually working on about 35 tracks, all of which had very different final forms. Some of them were only one minute long… some of them were complete instrumental tracks with no vocals. Itʼs different with any song Iʼm working on. A lot of my 2018 works ended up in the bin. But there was a lot of stuff which was just not ready for release. Those, I will probably release as singles or I will keep them for my fourth album.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter? 


Definitely. Within the last 2 years, I especially caught myself paying more attention to details. Sometimes I re-record vocals because I feel like there is one word which isnʼt the right one. Same goes for the instrumentation, especially when it comes to the mixing process. When I wrote the title track “Not Only Sunshine”, I had it all recorded. It was nearly finished. But then I realized that I had imagined that song completely differently in my head before I recorded it. That first version I did had the same tempo, the same vocals, and rhythm. But it was way louder with distorted guitars and different (and also louder) drums. If it had been 5 years ago I would probably have released it like that. But I ended up recording it all again. The final song has more of an acoustic feel to it. Even the drums are played with brushes, though those are virtual drums.


As an artist, you choose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so? 


There was a time when I refused to write sad songs. Thatʼs because when I started to do music I was a teenager who had a lot of depression. Back then a lot of people told me that my songs were too sad. People were asking me why I didn’t try to write some happy songs. So for a long time, I refused to write sad stuff. But I don’t believe it’s right to think like that. When I became older I learned that it doesn’t matter if your songs are sad, happy, aggressive or whatever. To me, itʼs only important to be honest. I donʼt feel uncomfortable with that at all. Of course… sometimes you write stuff which seems mo than it actually is. But in the end, I decide what to release and what not. Just be yourself.




Playing music in front of a crowd. Whatʼs all the fun about? 


I used to have a lot of fun on stage, long ago. Since the age of 15, I’ve suffered from a panic disorder which causes massive stage fright for me. The last time I gave a show as a solo artist was at the age of 17. I have to admit, it was not fun. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole show. I definitely want to go back on stage – that’s a dream of mine. Unfortunately, I cannot guess when I’ll be ready for that.


Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller? 


Sure, get a sweet teen boy (he should be able to dance), listen to the popular music and create a similar song with a standard 4-chord progression, make sure he can sing falsetto. Now get him on a poster from the next big Teen Magazine. Done. He will be successful until he turns 21 😉 Okay, let me be serious now. Of course, there are ways to produce songs which have a bigger chance to turn into a Number One hit. If you listen to radio nowadays theyʼll probably play 5 songs in a row which all sound nearly the same. The reason for that is that the masses like melodies they are familiar with. So if I take that mainstream music as an example, I can for sure get more attention. But for me, the highest priority is that I LIKE MY MUSIC. If I one day choose to write a trashy German punk album, Iʼll probably do it. I have a book where I write down all my ideas and lyrics. The first thing I wrote in that book is “As long as you’re being authentic, people will see you”. I think that explains it all.




TRIP WIRE (San Francisco, CA) has just released their fourth album Once & Always on Big Stir Records. The band’s MARTY SCHNEIDER answers this round of questions!


For every song you record, how many end up in the bin? 


In thinking it over, none!  I do start on songs and hit dead ends but I just put them aside for a while and all of a sudden I have another song that’s hit a dead end and I realize that it would work well with the other one and I sew them together.  It can take years for that to occur but it almost always has.  Some of the songs on this record came about that way.  Bottle Rocket, for instance, the chorus and bridge were sewn into the verses which had been laying around for a decade.




Listen HERE

With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?

Yes, absolutely.  One of the things I’ve done to get better is either join other bands with people whose songs I admire or ask them to join mine and in learning their writing style I grab the best ideas and incorporate them into my writing.  For example, I joined Ari Vais’ The Campbell Apartment to learn from him and I asked Jeff Shelton from The Well Wishers to join us and have learned things from him.  I get song arrangement ideas that way but lately, I have been working with a local poet named Julie Kramer who has allowed me to incorporate her poems into my songs.  The imagery she creates is something I would have never landed on myself so I am learning to get better that way too.


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


God no, that’s the main reason it took a while to get good and why I’m still doing it, I got a late start.  When I first learned to play I drove my car to a remote location and sang and played in the back seat so there was no chance anyone would hear!  I also have been in bands with fairly critical guys who took every opportunity to let you know you just wrote something lame.  You just have to power through the criticism, it helps to develop a thick skin and drive you to do better.



Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


Get younger and prettier really quickly.

What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


Well-timed question, we just played it.  We participated in a benefit show to raise money for an old friend who had major surgery last year.  He’s a music lifer who plays guitar with The Bye Bye Blackbirds and teaches guitar, bass, and drums for a living.  I’ve played in bands with him in the past as well.  We played the Bottom of the Hill here in San Francisco, which has one of the best sound systems and sound engineers anywhere, the crowd was large and enthusiastic and we played well.  It was a good gig all around.  I also opened a show for YouAmI, a band I very much admire, so that was pretty great too.

When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


Every time, Patrick. C’mon!

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


I think both are equally easy.  However, if you add the caveat getting heard “by a lot of people” that’s a different story.  Recording has gotten much more accessible but writing and recording a good song is still pretty difficult.

Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I better not try to define our time, most of my friends are pretty passionate about music and I don’t want to argue with them later but I know what defined my time…The Beatles Revolver, The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes, Guided by Voices Alien Lanes and R.E.M. Life’s Rich Pageant.  Son Volt Straightaways and Wilco A.M. are runners up. (See what I did there?  You can’t pin a music lover down to just 5 records)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


It’s how band members interpret their parts on my songs so that it changes them from what I would do to what we would do.  That being said, every song I bring to the band I write all the parts in a demo and fight with myself over which part I think I can’t live without.  In the end, and about 9 times out of 10, what the others guys do makes the song better.

Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?


We recently played one of our best shows to 4 people who were having a conversation about something unrelated to our performance and it was fun because I was with my friends in the band, we played absolutely perfectly because there was nothing left to lose and it was fun.  The other side of the coin is that show where the crowd is large and they’re paying attention and responding.  In other words, I love it all!

Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


Yes, but at our age (don’t ask) the response and body language can be interesting.  It goes from slight shock to confusion to judgy in about 15 seconds.

You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?


Harmony vocals without a doubt.  Not just any band can do it, we’ve got good harmony singers and everything I do or have done for the last 5 years has been focusing on harmony.  I love the way it sounds and I can’t do it, so it being out of reach makes me admire those who can.  On Jeff’s and Bill’s songs I always feel bad that I can’t contribute in that way in the live setting, especially since they do it for me live.  I’m lucky that way I guess.




IN DEED (Uppsala, Sweden) is poised to release a brand new CD edition of their album Everest on Big Stir Records. RICHARD (guitar, vocals) and LINDA (lead vocals) of the band chime in for the interview!


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


Richard Öhrn: I don’t think it is. There are some lyrics that we decided not to write because of that. It is good, to be honest, but if that also might result in someone being hurt, there is a reason to think twice. And just because you are a so-called artist, it isn’t necessary to show your emotions. It’s about good music, good songs. Not that showing emotions is wrong, though!



What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


Linda Karlsberg: Sometimes you remember the situations before and after the gig the best. In the early days of In Deed we had a Hammond organ when playing live. It was heavy – very heavy! — and every gig night ended with us carrying this Hammond organ down narrow stairs into a cellar. Wouldn’t think of doing that today!


When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


Richard Öhrn: Not very long ago, I found an old demo of an unfinished song I’d forgotten about, but when I heard it, I felt ”wow, that is actually really good…even hit-good.” But even though you have that feeling, that’s just the beginning of the long road: to make up an arrangement that will bring out the best in the song, and to perform as well as possible while recording it, and then…the whole process of promoting and making it available to a wider audience. There must be so many unheard hits on this planet just because of errors somewhere along that line.





Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Richard Öhrn: Definitely, yes. Recording can be done anywhere/anyhow and still generate a really professional result thanks to the good-enough equipment available at low cost these days. Getting it heard is another matter. You need a lot of knowledge, a great base of contacts (and the right ones), and timing…and you’ll even need coincidences totally out of your control to be fortunate, I believe.


Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


Richard Öhrn: I don’t really say that I am (a musician) since my main profession is something else. But sometimes I realize that other people define you as a musician above all else, and that makes me really proud. If that’s how people see me, I’m ok with it, it’s quite cool.







Since last year, a lot has happened. You will probably have enjoyed the whole ride but can you share some highlights?


It’s quite difficult to nail down just a few highlights because there have been so many!  Aside from building the website, being granted the Big Stir trademark and launching the legitimate Big Stir Records business in May of 2018, we’ve had the honor of booking, playing gigs with and releasing the LPs, CDs, and singles of a myriad of brilliantly talented all original artists and bands – all worth listening to and collecting their catalog. Here is just a partial list:


Recent and upcoming releases: Kai Danzberg (Germany), Trip Wire, In Deed (Sweden), Amoeba Teen (UK), The Armoires, Anton Barbeau, Plasticsoul, The Condors, Spygenius (UK), Blake Jones & The Trike Shop, Addison Love, Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes.


Bands who’ve played the Big Stir Live series along with all the bands listed above: The Records (such an honor!), Arthur Alexander Band, The Kariannes, The Walker Brigade, The Ex Teens, The Fast Camels (Scotland), The Stanleys (Australia), Anny Celsi & Nelson Bragg, the breakups, The Living Dolls, Joe Normal & The Anytown’rs, Brandon Schott, EZ Tiger, The Bobbleheads, The Forty Nineteens, Rockford, Ballzy Tomorrow, Modaferri, Walter Clevinger, Manual Scan, Lannie Flowers, Danny Wilkerson, Popdudes, Michael Simmons, The Korner Laughers, Rebecca Schiffman, Sitcom Neighbor, Mod Hippie, Jason Berk, Jeremy Morris Band, The World Record, Maple Mars, Nick Frater (UK), Picturebox (UK), Merit Badge, Anton Barbeau, Charms Against the Evil Eye (UK), Shplang, Doctors & Engineers, 13 Frightened Girls, Hux & The Hitmen, Toxic Melons, Russ Tolman, Trotsky Icepick, Rob Bonfiglio, Chris Price, and more…  Every one of those listed deserves to have at least one “million-seller” and we hope anyone reading this dives into their music and finds their new favorite band!


It was also exciting to launch our own Big Stir Digital Singles series, which includes many of the above-mentioned artists! The first 12 singles will be released on a compilation CD on April 19th, as Big Stir Singles; The First Wave. We’re proud of the series because it catches some of the terrific of-the-moment online releases, which are too often lost in the blink-and-you-miss-it pace of social media, and it features artists well beyond our own roster who are part of the wider pop community… and they’ve all brought their very best to the series. We’re delighted to have an online “event” every Friday and give these songs a proper, permanent home on CD!


In working with the amazingly talented artist Joseph Champniss of London, UK on publishing our Big Stir Magazine, we’ve discovered that people all over the world enjoy the creative and playful nature of what we like to put forth, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! We’re in the process of compiling articles and artwork for Issue 4. Past issues include interviews with Robyn Hitchcock, Martin Newell, and Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher), as well as the artwork, writings, and ramblings from many of us within the Big Stir realm and beyond. Author of Shake Some Action 2.0, John Borack, has an ongoing column, as well as does David Bash of International Pop Overthrow Festival fame. Bloggers, Radio DJs, and Record Shop owners also contribute stories and musings. It’s a labor of love and a whole lot of fun!


And lastly, a major highlight for The Armoires as a band has been collaborating with many great musicians in contributing bits and bobs on our upcoming album. Even Matthew Seligman of The Soft Boys played bass on one of our songs! We got to view our own record as a party with all of our friends invited and they brought so much to it… we’re really eager to share it.


The music industry is redefining itself or has been for a while now. Is Big Stir part of that redefinition?


Because the music industry had become so fragmented and the works and performances of so many talented and hard-working bands were going virtually unnoticed for various reasons, “Big Stir Live” was born out of a desperate need for community and solidarity, giving like-minded musicians a forum in which they could perform together… an event, rather than a half-hour gig, sandwiched between the rapster and the metal band. The Big Stir brand eventually took on a life of its own, evolving into a record label and magazine publisher, continuing to stitch the global community together.


In terms of the redefinition of the music industry, we’ve tended to defy conventional wisdom and follow our heart and soul instincts regarding community and the idea that the artists within it are stronger together rather than working in a vacuum. Everyone needs the support they deserve and we try to offer as much of it as we can to all of the people we believe in.


You are all over social media and you really found your tone of voice. Happy?


That’s interesting because “tone” is really subjective, and it’s often hard to know how you’re coming across, especially to an international audience! We strive to always be positive and boost the artists we love and to also be supportive of the many wonderful DJs and bloggers (such as yourself) who keep this music alive. And it’s important for there to be a bit of whimsy and inclusive clowning around between the musicians on the scene, too. It’s a delicate line and jokes can be misinterpreted, but we aim to be welcoming and make it feel like fans are listening in on, and able to join, a party where their favorite bands are talking shop about songwriting and recording and gigging… maybe we’re comparing who has the best paisley shirt, or what our favorite influential records are. For our genre and our “demographic” there’s no point in artists striking an aloof or “badass” pose, but equally you don’t want to see someone with the attitude of “well, here’s some song I made, probably nobody cares”… in between there’s a place where the creators can be joyful, even exuberant about the work they’re creating and really engage with each other’s songs and recordings. We like to keep the discourse right in that sweet spot.


We’ve got a bit of visual flair courtesy of Champniss and one of our favorite things is, after each Big Stir live show, being able to post a “yearbook photo” where you’ll be able to see bands you know from California, Texas, Scotland, Australia, or wherever else this music is made, all hanging out together looking like they’re friends having a great time, because guess what? They are! And we want our fans to feel like they’re a part of it. For all the negatives that social media can often exhibit, that’s a really positive picture to put out there that’s truly “social”, and it warms our hearts.




What does it mean when you ‘sign’ a band?


At the onset of forming the label, the core artists who made up our initial roster were already a sort of collective via the live scene and we just banded together organically. We were all putting our releases out on Big Stir Records to consolidate promotion and sales, but also to support each other under a single umbrella. It took on a life of its own and to be honest, no two artists have come to us the same way. Take Addison Love: we knew him as a member of Yorktown Lads and Popdudes and he quite casually mentioned that he had finished an album, and we asked him if there was any reason NOT to release it with us, and he said “great, send me the logo and catalog number”, and off we went! We’ve never met In Deed from Sweden in person, but they happened to get in touch with us after David Bash of IPO mentioned us to them – we are usually a little reserved about bands we haven’t seen live because that’s how we usually connect. But right when they got in touch we were driving from LA to San Francisco for a gig as The Armoires so we popped the IPO compilation into the CD player and their track happened to be the first song we heard, and we were in love instantly. Great friends from the live scene like Leslie Pereira & the Lazy Heroes, they’ll just casually mention that they’re getting ready to do a record and we’ll say “yes!” before they even get to ask.


Spygenius from the UK had become dear friends of ours but were probably a year or more from their next release. However, their previous album ‘Pacephale’ hadn’t really been released in the US, we loved it, and we figured out a way to make it a “Big Stir” release without even re-pressing it. It was as simple as that, and we’re glad we did because they’re such a cornerstone artist, part of the family from almost the start. From then to now where we have actual contracts with artists and facilitate pressing, even on vinyl, it seems like such a long road… in reality it’s barely been two years! The short story is, just as every artist is different, so are the stories of how they join our family.





If dreams come true, what is the dream you would like to dream?


The dream we would like to dream is the one where we gain enough exposure and sell enough music for all of our artists to be able to quit their day jobs and just live the life that fuels them creatively. They deserve that. The dream also includes a Big Stir live series happening every month all over the world… a touring circuit of sorts, where bands can play a gig, knowing they’ll be welcomed, supported, and on a bill with similar bands. We’re working on that!


We’ve been on an incredible learning-curve journey since we formed Big Stir Records and we hope it leads us to more airplay, more exposure, inventive marketing campaigns, getting our artists’ songs placed in film and television, booking college radio-circuit tours and well-paid international tours, and so much more.


After this year we think we will have taken our place among the great labels that serve up this music to those who already follow it – SpyderPop, Futureman, Kool Kat, Karma Frog, The Beautiful Music, and quite a few more – but we know this stuff can reach beyond this community. We’ve dropped a lot of names above, and every single one has tunes that could’ve been hits in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, and people still listen to those classics… they’re just trained to think that “nobody makes that kind of music anymore” so they’re out seeing tribute bands or subsisting on streaming oldies playlists. If we can catapult just one of these amazing artists into the mainstream consciousness, only good things can follow!





Unfortunately, it looks like La Panther Happens will not be doing anything soon. Jhohn Arlie is on his own now and he just released ‘Wonder’, a 5-song ep.

You won’t hear a better Indie Folk Pop song this year than “Chain of Sparks.”





For every song, you record, how many end up in the bin?


I would say at least 5 or 6 songs are thrown away. Sometimes I use their stronger parts to form a new song. My song Chain of Sparks was in the bin for a while, but I resurrected it and dusted it off. So far I have been receiving some positive feedback about That particular song.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Yes. I love to challenge myself as a songwriter. I will rewrite a song a few times before it is complete. Part of being a great songwriter is to have the courage to dismantle a song. Sometimes that is the only way to find a song’s true potential. I am always searching for that special chord or certain lyric to push a song further into uncharted territory.




As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


Yes. Music is my savior. I can’t imagine where I would be without it. It has helped me in so many ways. Some of my lyrics are autobiographical and others are inspired by people I know. The most rewarding part of sharing my emotions through music is when someone tells me that a certain lyric or song has helped them through a difficult time. That is what it is all about.


Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


That is a mystery to me. I have no idea how to reach a million listeners. Let alone 100. I feel like I might be one of those artists whose albums you might pick up a thrift store decades later and perhaps the music will resonate. I’ll just keep my head down and keep writing and performing songs. Hopefully, independent listeners like yourself will spread the word.


Recording music. What is the fun about?


There is something rewarding about building a song from start to finish and then recording it. It’s like documenting a magic trick. Who knows? The recordings might change someone’s life in the future.



As Kennedy himself says, “The ACID record is a culmination of all of my influences over the years and I think it’s the best work I’ve done to date. Jesus and Mary Chain meets Love and Rockets meets Cheap Trick, the Ramones and T. Rex is what I was going for. I’m very proud of this record and its different, yet familiar influential sound.” 




Sweet Sweet Music talked to Bobby Kennedy.



For every song you record, how many end up in the bin?


I would say about 5.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


I think I am better and faster at recognizing a bad song and move on to the next one more easily.


As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


I’m comfortable with it because there are no emotions that haven’t already been expressed in other songs in the past.


Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


I don’t have a master plan with Crawling but I hope this video will at least get it some exposure.



What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


Acid’s first gig in 2012 because everything that could possibly go wrong, did. We got a sarcastic ovation when we finally managed to get through the first song.


When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


I don’t know if I thought it was a “hit song” but there have been a few times when I’ve thought “wow, that’s pretty good” and I can see so and so covering this song.


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


I think it’s harder to rise above the pack with Everyone promoting themselves on the internet. It’s more of an even playing field now so I guess it’s about who wants it more.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Some people hate recording. I love it. You can do anything at home now so I’m my opinion, the key is to set limits of when a song is done and when to move on.


Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?



Live is fun when you play well and the crowd reacts positively. Not so fun when you suck.


Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


No not proud to answer that. I always feel people think I’m a loser when I say I’m a musician. I usually mention that last.


You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?


I think my songs are short, catchy and are heavy enough to appeal to rockers yet fun enough for the pop crowd. But what do I know?



Read Don Valentine’s take on this, here.






DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS will be touring the UK, Japan and Korea the coming months.

Go see them, they are ‘The World’s Best Looking Heavy Melody Power Pop Punk Band’.




For every song you record, how many end up in the bin?


It’s getting less and less! For the first album, Little Big Head, I had 5 songs left over. I listened to them recently and they are brilliant so we are re-releasing the album with 3 bonus tracks and putting the other 2 on the b side of a limited release vinyl EP.


I discovered a song I rejected for the Difficult 2nd Album and another for Bombs Away which are also superb. We are recording both again as part of 16 songs in contention to be on the next (4th) record. We’ll see if they make it this time.


With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?


Is that possible! 😉 I think the 4th album will be our best yet. The songs are incredible! Are they better than before? I can’t tell. I love them all. After this album, I’ll have a think about how to go forward. Is there another way to do it?




As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


Yes. I’m a show-off. I don’t care what people know. The thing all of us know the most about is ourselves. Dig deep in there. There’s a lot to say!


Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million seller?


No bloody idea at all. We are so far outside the mainstream. I mean, ‘The 1975’ recently won best album at the BRITS and how shit are they?



What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?


There have been so many mad ones. Of last year the one which I remember most was the Bule Bule Toga fest in Tarragona, Spain:

  1. It was packed and the crowd loved us, and
  2. All the audience wore Togas.


When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?


Just now. But I was wrong.


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?


Much. It’s easy to get our fans to hear it. Much harder to get it in front of Ed Sheeran’s fans.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth?


I’ve forgotten.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Mixing. The moment when it all comes together and you really hear the recording for the first time, with all the effects and everything at the right levels. It’s so exciting I can’t sleep for days.


Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?


Pure adulation. It’s such fun knowing, before we go on, that even the people who don’t like us are going to love us. Then we play and they do love us. Such a buzz.


Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?


Definitely not. Have you seen most musicians?


You can’t control the way people ‘hear’ your music. But if you could make them aware of certain aspects, you think, set your songs apart. What would they be?


I just want them to hear them and read the lyrics. If they do that, even if they don’t like them, I’m happy.

The High Strung – Quiet Riots (Q&A)



California Rocker about ‘Quite Riots’: ‘The songs are enlightening and tackle compelling subjects. The variety of music the album puts out there is refreshing. The tracks range in style from folk anthems like “Hope Explodes” to the Flaming Lips-y opener “Riots Of The Mind,” to groovy warning rocker “Eavesdropped Upon Again” — and a lot in between.’.



Sweet Sweet Music talked to Mark Owen, one of the singer-songwriter-guitarists in The High Strung.





When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?

We think this all the time! But, of course, we may have a different definition of what a hit is than most people. When we write or record a good one, we say “That’s a hit,” you know, or “That’s a masterpiece!” I think that what we mean is that this is a really good one that we’re proud of and that we wish those that would get it would have a chance to hear it. When you hear a band that isn’t necessarily a huge band and they play a song that is so good that it should be up there with the great ones and known and played out of car speakers and requested by fans to DJs years from now, then we say that’s a hit. Who cares if only a handful of people (or fewer) also think it’s a hit?


I think that sometimes we may write a song that we think is potentially more accessible to a larger audience than others, but that’s no more a hit to us than some good one that’s kind of weird or small or prickly or niche or whatever.


At some point in the writing or fleshing out of the songs on our new album, we thought “This is a hit!” or “This is a killer one” about every single one. Also, you may not know what to think of a song when you write it, but the parts that the band brings to it, the rehearsing of it, or recording of it makes it a hit. There all hits in my mind.




With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?

Yes. I learn from Josh every time we write together, or when he sends a voicemail or plays for me something he came up with, or when I hear a great change or melody or lyric or whatever in the world. Songwriting is something that you can keep getting better at. You can write a song today that you couldn’t write yesterday because you’re learning constantly— if you keep doing it. It is always trial and error, and you have to get comfortable with sour chords and corny ideas, with dead ends and missed paths on the way to something good.


I want to get better at all facets of my songwriting, and the next song gives me the opportunity to do this.


Recording music. What’s all the fun about?


Well, in some ways it’s very fun, and in other ways, it’s not so much fun and can be frustrating. Our band has recently had two different types of recording experiences. The first is recording songs at a “real” recording studio with a big mixing board and good mics and rooms meant to be recorded in. We did this recently with Jim Diamond (who also recorded four other THS albums, the first in 2002) at Tempermill Studios in Ferndale, Michigan. We went in with the songs that are on Quiet Riots more or less written. And we had lots of fun getting them onto tape, focusing on the different sounds, and effects, and parts, and how they come together, but there’s also some pressure because of the time and money concerns—you’re paying for studio time, etc.—and it can be wearing on nerves to try to get something down that you really won’t be able to change or try once more once you are done in the studio.

The second type of recording experience is the one we are engaged in now.

We’re recording our next one (which has the working title of Southfield) not in an official studio with hourly costs for expensive mics and machines and all that, but in a basement with a few old mics and a laptop, and writing the song, working out the parts, a few seconds before you hit record. As of today, we don’t have lyrics for 80% of the songs, but they have spirit and spontaneity in the form they’re in now. We go in the basement and put down (at least the basic tracks) of a song that did not exist yesterday. This is a different kind of fun and a different kind of challenge.



As a band, we like both experiences, and it feels right to go from one to the other and back again, from a studio with songs prepared and an engineer and all that to the DIY basement with just the desire to make something and the bare essentials to do it.




As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?


No, it’s not always comfortable. I’m able to do it by tricking myself a bit. I try to get it down and out of me before I am able to suppress it or stifle it, and, of course, there are ways of relaxing inhibitions. Even if it’s just a bit that’s real, that is sparked by real feeling, that’s enough to provide the roux for the song. I try to only go there briefly and not dwell there. Finishing it (whether alone or with Josh) is kind of like enhancing or filling out that initial, emotional bit, but in a more tactical or architecturally-minded way. Then singing on it is like covering it in a way. You trust in the truth of the emotions that went into the writing of it, and you try to find a way towards that source, but since you can never really return to it, you end up expressing something else altogether, something akin to it, similar but not identical.

Showing your emotions to the word is a necessary by-product of writing something good and real and performing it in a genuine and powerful way.



Which 5 records, that everybody forgot about, would define ‘our time’ on earth? 

I don’t necessarily know about ones “that everybody forgot about” or that “define ‘our time,’” but here are five songs (in no particular order) that define my time (which, I guess, at this moment, is the mid-60s to mid-70s!):


Ted Lucas, “It’s So Easy”​(Ted Lucas)​​

The Grateful Dead, “Viola Lee Blues” (Noah Lewis)

James and Bobby Purifoy, “I’m Your Puppet”(Penn/Oldham)

Neil Young, “Don’t Be Denied” (Neil Young)

The Stone Poneys, “Different Drum” (Mike Nesmith)



Check out the LA Weekly interview with Josh Malerman.