Dolour – The Royal We (Q&A)

It is very hot outside when I listen to The Royal We, Dolour’s new record, for the first time. That does not seem a coincidence. The record seems to be the soundtrack for a hot day.

10 timeless, well-crafted melodies, in different styles.

On Wake Up The Sun and Chasing The Sun, Shane Tutmarc sounds like Burt Bacharach or (even) Gilberto Gil and I Am Over It could be a song by Christopher Cross. The Snake Eye reminds me of a Gilbert O’Sullivan song.

‘Yes and No’ and ‘Drunk Dial’ are pure (Indie) Pop and are, as far as I’m concerned, the highlights of The Royal We and I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Yes and No’ finishes very high in my list of the best songs of 2020.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Shane Tutmarc.

How did this record come together?

“The Royal We” was a very unusual record for me in a lot of ways. This is my 11th studio album and my first Dolour album in nearly 15 years. So that alone made it unique.

Dolour was my first band that I started when I was 16 years old. By the time I was about 24, after 4 albums, I took a big stylistic turn and started digging more into my musical roots in country, gospel, and blues which took me on a decade long journey and a bunch more albums. Ultimately, that journey led me right back around to how I originally made albums – writing, playing, and producing myself, and combining all my various loves of music into a potpourri of sounds. The first record in this full circle approach was “Pink Noise” which I put out under the band name Solar Twin in late 2017.

After making that album, I suddenly felt the notion of returning to the world of Dolour for the first time in a decade. But it still took me a while to figure out what that meant, and how best to go about it. I started by digging through my Dolour archives for the first time. When I ended Dolour I left behind hundreds of song ideas and hadn’t looked back since. For my first few post-Dolour years, I felt super strongly about closing that door and never looking back. But over the years that had waned, to the point where now I was super interested to see what ideas were left behind, that might interest me now.

So after digging through old CD-Rs and hard-drives full of these ideas, I found so many things that excited me, and I felt that with everything I’ve learned songwriting and production-wise over the last decade this could end up being a better album than any of the original Dolour albums. But in my nearly 20 years of putting out music, I had never reached back into previous eras of mine before, so it took some mental gymnastics to work out how I could make this a step forward and not a step backward. After going over the idea for months, I came up with a concept to help me approach returning to Dolour while moving forward. I’ve done a lot of producing and co-writing with other artists over the years (most recently with The Explorers Club, and Sean Nelson), and so I thought I’d approach the album as if it was a collaboration with someone else – my younger self. As if 24-year-old Shane came to me with these songs, and asked me to produce an album for him. That process really worked. I was able to take what I liked from my old song sketches, and freely adapt them any way I wanted, without being overly precious about anything. To let the songs be what they want to be today, and not give in to any personal nostalgia.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

Given the nature of the project, and how I basically had to create this elaborate fantasy scenario in my mind to even move forward with it – I kept my mouth shut. And being that I was recording, playing, and mixing everything myself – there was no one else involved to bounce ideas off. Other than my girlfriend and my brother, who heard bits and pieces of it throughout the process, It wasn’t really until I got to my first round of “final mixes” that I started sharing it with a few close friends.

But, honestly, I wasn’t too interested in opinions. I am my own worst critic, so I’m rarely in need of more critique, and by that stage, there isn’t much an outside opinion can do to change my course. But sharing songs with friends gives me a chance to imagine the listening experience through their ears, and that alone helps me listen more objectively. The opinion that surprised me the most were from my mastering engineer, who I’ve worked with on tons of albums – of mine or other artists’ albums I’ve produced – over the last decade and this was the first time I really heard him get super enthusiastic. He’s always very kind, and a pleasure to work with, but this time there were more personal comments about how much he loved the record. That meant a lot, coz he masters albums for a living, and he’s on music overload 24-7.

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

When I’m writing a song, it’s a very quiet, personal thing. I’m not thinking about the world. Once I get into the production side of it, the thought of other people eventually hearing it starts to creeps in. But my process is so insular, being that I write, record, and play everything myself, it’s really not till very late in the game that I start thinking about other people hearing my “emotions.” I will say, lately this thought has come up more than usual though, with all the social and political unrest in this country, I’ve written several songs addressing that, but for the most part those aren’t topics I want to be working through – emotionally – in front of an audience. Political songs are something I occasionally do for myself, for my sanity, but that’s usually enough for me.

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

Honestly, every song on this album gave me that feeling at one point or another during the process. That was kind of a prerequisite for what songs made the cut. Several songs got left behind during the making of this album if they didn’t quite give me that feeling, but every one of the songs that made the album gave me that special feeling.

Which 5 records would you bring with you for your stay on Mars?

I suppose a stay on Mars would involve a long trek out there, and probably a long stay there? So albums that I never get tired of, and always make me feel good:

1. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless: The lush textures and melodies, and the almost indecipherable lyrics make this a record that I always hear something new with every listen.

2. Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information: This is another one that the lyrics are mostly secondary to the melodies and the overall sound. Brilliant and it never ages.

3. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On: This album is often on the top of my ever-changing “favorite albums” list. It always delivers and always inspires.

4. The Beatles – Abbey Road: I would have to bring some Beatles with me, and over the last few years this album has become my favorite. All four of the Beatles and George Martin were working at 100% on this album. And there are enough little curiosities throughout the 17 tracks to keep me coming back and appreciating it more with each listen.

5. Amadeus Original Soundtrack – Neville Marriner: It was the movie Amadeus that really opened up my love of music as a youngster. I was already super into drawing and painting as a kid, but this movie (and soundtrack) made me want to be a musician and composer in whatever way I could. I still love Mozart’s music and listen to it all the time. I often take naps with Mozart in the headphones. I feel like it can’t hurt to have Mozart’s gorgeous melodies swimming in my head while I sleep. His music never fails to inspire and make me want to work harder.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

For me, being a songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer means that the “composing” and creativity never stops from the first note you write to the final mix of the song. So, the recording is part of the songwriting journey for me. I often start recording the song before it’s even finished being written, so it’s all intertwined for me. To be honest, one thing I’ve actually enjoyed about this quarantine period is that there is no pressure to play shows. I enjoy the occasional live show, but writing and recording is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

It’s Karma It’s Cool – Woke Up In Hollywood (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to James Styring about American culture, the quest for spirituality, and “the younger years”.

The wonderful Stephen SPAZ Schnee wrote the liner notes and included the discussion about what’s Power Pop or not. Is it important to you that a label can or can’t be attached to your music? 

No, not really. We don’t sit down and decide how we want to sound. There are elements of Power Pop to what we do for sure, but there are also many other influences. I think if you label yourself, you restrict your creativity and therefore your writing. We let the songs go where they need to go. We all share a love of melody and harmony, so chances are we would never release a thrash metal album, or sound like Motorhead, but who knows…?

American culture, the quest for spirituality, and “the younger years” were these important sources of inspiration this time? 

It’s quite often only when I listen back to a finished song, or album, that I realize a common connection or inspiration. A lot of the songs are reflective, looking back on life, almost longing for the past, I guess. Spirituality has always been a part of what I do, not in a religious sense, but the idea that there is something bigger than all of us and we’re all in this together. America has always fascinated me from childhood. It seemed such a cool place, all the best movies, comic books, etc came from there. I would love to visit one day.

 Battle of Burnt Out Bliss. Can imagine that was a tough one to write?

Yes, there was a bit of soul searching for that song. We all have to come to terms with loss at some point in our lives. It’s about the healing process that has to take place before you can move on in life. The acceptance of change and of letting go.

 No Spotify release for Woke Up In Hollywood?

There will be soon, Patrick, watch this space…

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Nite Sobs – Do the Sob! (Q&A)

Nite Sobs, like many a power pop band, are throwbacks to a golden age of rock and roll. They write two-to-three minute pop songs about the ups and downs of love – timeless stuff both musically and lyrically. But while the Beatles are often ground zero for this sort of band, Nite Sobs’ inspirations go back even further to doo wop, the Everly Brothers, and Buddy Holly.’, writes Faster and Louder.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Jittery Jeff about crafting clever rhymes, finding Ralphie and making art.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

When we were looking for a drummer and Ralphie, after hearing our demos, contacted me and said he lives an hour and a half away but he was willing to commute to band practice because he believed in what we were doing.

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

Well, one thing that’s nice about it is that you can say things that no one would ever want to listen to you whine about, but if you put it to a catchy melody, then it’s art.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Bands like us have to fund the recording of our own albums, and it’s expensive to make one that sounds good, and it’s hard to recoup that cost since people these days tend to stream music rather than buy it. But as far as getting it heard, the internet has leveled the playing field to a large extent for all bands. The fact that you live in the Netherlands and are interviewing me about it means that it can’t be that hard to get heard.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

When you first write a song, it’s partly a theoretical thing that exists only in your head. Then when you take that song and start to work it out with the band and it comes to life, that’s very exciting. And then when you go into the studio and record the song, you hear it in a way that you hadn’t before, and that’s a whole other stage. Sometimes that can give you fresh ideas to try out. If money was no object, I would love to spend all my time in the recording studio. Although, I really don’t have fun when I have to track my vocals.

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’m going to say the lyrics because I think I put a little more time than most people into crafting clever rhymes and such. But whatever level people enjoy it on is great with me.

Meet Juniper!

‘Juniper’s debut is precocious, but never precious. The Bubblegum crunch melodies are deftly balanced by her vocals, which are sunny, but never cloying. There’s a coltish grace to this album that hints at better things to come. This is just the beginning.’, writes CV Weekly.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Juniper. And we weren’t talking about her age, her dad or the incredible number of top musicians who helped her out.

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

It is definitely not always comfortable to put your emotions out there, but it’s very rewarding. One of the biggest challenges for me in making the record was learning how to transfer my own feelings into that of the “character” that I am playing. I wanted to make sure that the record came from an honest place, but I also wanted to accurately portray the girl represented in the song, which took a lot of thought about my own emotions.

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

It would certainly be amazing to have the record be a million-seller. One great way to do that would be to be featured on a tv show or movie. However, I really did make this record with my dad for fun, and in that way, I feel that I have already gotten what I wanted from this record. I had a blast making it, and I believe that shines through when you listen.

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

We have actually only done one gig pre- COVID. It truly was an amazing experience. The gig took place at Monty Hall, in Jersey City, and everyone was so kind. It was December, so the holiday spirit was already in the air and I remember feeling very excited and electric. It’s not often that you get to do something for the first time, and I will always remember standing on the stage for the first time.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Last summer we had a live recording session where we recorded a lot of the record. Something about playing the songs with a group of amazing people and collaborating with them really made the record click for me. The experience of playing with other people is so different from singing in the basement with my dad, and it really showed me what a good thing we had going.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

So much! For one thing, it’s fun to be able to work on something until you think it sounds right to you. When recording you have so many opportunities to try things and experiment which makes it very fun. Sometimes, recording is also a time to connect and play with other musicians, which is always fun.

Which 5 records would you bring with you for your stay on Mars?

This is such a good question! With the new age of Spotify I so rarely listen to full albums, so here are the five songs I would bring with me.

  • “She Makes Me Laugh” The Monkees
  • “Magic In The Hamptons” Social House
  • “Cury Your Favor” Green
  • “Tounge Tied” Grouplove
  • “December 1963” The Four Seasons

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