Joe Giddings – Better From Here (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Joe Giddings about his new record, Better From Here. All in all, it took 6 years to finish. But it turned out to be a great record! A GREAT RECORD!

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

I would never be ashamed of saying I was a musician. As a musician, I was able to get jobs outside of a band, including movie promos, TV show soundtracks, and radio commercials. Do I do those things all the time? No, but it’s always a joy for me to get in the studio and create whenever the opportunity arises. I teach guitar at School of Rock and another school in LA so, even though I can’t play shows now I’m still able to learn, create, and work and proudly say “I’m a musician.”

How did this record come together?

It was a long time coming. In 2000 my band from Atlanta, Star Collector, had broken up and I wasn’t keen on being in another band. I started working solo on what would become “All The People Some of The Time” (under the name The JTG Implosion), for Notlame Records. That came out in 2003. I was in a number of bands including The Pinx, King Friday, Gonzalez, The Seventh Ring Of Saturn, and a few others from 2004-2011.

In 2011 I moved to Ohio. I recorded almost all the songs on the new album “Better From Here” in my basement studio in GarageBand in 2014. I recorded all the guitars through a Pod 2.0 and all the drums were played live with my fingers on a keyboard while I listened to the guitar tracks I laid down with a click track. Bass went direct using whatever preset sounds were available in GarageBand. Vocals were recorded through an Audio Technica 441 mic. I recorded my backup vocals sometimes using 9 tracks: three tracks for each harmony. That’s the tech side of the story.

I had been disenfranchised with the music business and was feeling like I needed to say something so I wrote “Irrelevant” and then wanting to add a dash of hopefulness I wrote “Better From Here” and then all except 4 songs on the album, as it is now, were written and recorded over the next 4 months. I had a couple of songs on that version of the record that didn’t end up on the most recent release. I released it, unmastered, and after a week I pulled it from Bandcamp. I wasn’t happy with it. I tweaked it a bunch and a few years later released it again on Bandcamp only to pull it down again. Even though it sold a few copies I knew it sounded like demos.

Finally, after moving to LA in 2014 and during the last 6 years I continued to record new songs and tweak the older ones. I talked to Ray Gianchetti from Kool Kat Musik about releasing it on CD when I did the second released version but I decided against it. Once I had the new songs added to the older ones and got it mastered correctly I then got ahold of Ray and he was super excited about finally getting to release it! So, the whole process took 6 years and two moves from recording, mixing, remixing, and mastering to its release on Kool Kat this September. Phew.

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would definitely make your first mixtape?

Good one… I made many mixtapes and discs over the years. Thinking back to my “go-to” songs for many of them:

“Joining A Fanclub” by Jellyfish

“Now I’m Here” by Queen

“Love Her All I Can” by KI77

“Voices“ by Cheap Trick

“Worst Band In The World” by 10cc

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

This is one of my favorite things to do. Even more than performing. It’s the excitement of knowing that you just laid down the drum track(via my keyboard), for a song I can hear fully formed in my head. All the parts are just waiting for my hands to figure out how to play what I hear internally. When that happens and it all comes together it’s like the feeling folks have when their child is born, or their child graduates or their hard work pays off…its rewarding to the soul to record and mix and finally release the creation to the world.

The Yum Yums – For Those About To Pop (Q&A)

The Yum Yums are back. And how! Did Morten Henriksen write the ultimate Power Pop anthem? It could just be. ‘For Those About to Pop’ is a song that we will still sing along in 20 years.

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

I don’t know if we ever thought we were ‘on to something’. The songs were written over a 6 years period, so the album feeling came gradually. It wasn’t until the COVID lockdown in March 2020, I found time to figure out which songs to put on the album, and to finally finish them. I basically chose the ones I felt was closest to the finishing line. To my big surprise, the rest of the band agreed with my choices, so I finished them and shipped the songs to our magnificent mixer and co-producer Christian Jacobsen, who also (because of COVID) had time to mix the album. Luckily Perry Travolta also had time to master the album, so we made the deadline for releasing the album on the 1st of July. We got deals with Screaming Apple (LP) in Germany, Waterslide Records (CD) in Japan, and Rum Bar Records (CD) in the US. I also pressed CDs on my own House Of Rock label, here in Norway. When the album was done, I sent it to blogs, podcasts, and journalists, everywhere. The album got really good reviews, and the songs were played on radio shows and Podcasts everywhere. So, everything turned out perfectly! The only trouble now, again… because of COVID… is to get out there touring again, and sell the album to our fans, which we miss dearly!

How did this record come together?

The idea of the title came pretty early. I wanted it to be a tribute to our loyal fans who had stuck with us for 25 years. The plan for the album was originally to be our 25-year anniversary-album. We missed the deadline of course but stuck to the idea anyway, so now it’s a 27-anniversary album, haha… It’s still a tribute to our fans and hi-energy pop music fans everywhere!

The songs of the album were written over 6 years. Our last album, The Yum Yums …Play Good Music was a break-up album, with pretty dark and bitter lyrics. On For Those About To Pop I wanted to bring back the positive and happy side of The Yum Yums, where we belong, with songs about girls and pop music!

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

I always send out song demos to the band, to our mixing guy, and to people I know, I can trust.
Some of the songs were over 6 years old, and others were written pretty close to the deadline.
Writing songs is an ongoing never-ending process.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

Getting good reviews, being played on radio/podcasts, and hopefully getting people to buy the album, wherever they can get it. The most flattering kind of success is when people are dancing and singing along to our songs when we play shows. That may take a while before we will get that experience again, though…

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

Well, my lyrics are not really that deep, even though I do put in a few secrets and personal lines here and there.

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

Not really. I’m really not a business person. If anybody has any good ideas, I’d love to hear about them! I wouldn’t mind making a living out of playing music!

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

I prefer to write songs on my own, actually, but I can namedrop a few of my favorite songwriters.
Adam Schlesinger (too late now, of course, RIP)
ChinChap (Nicky Chinn / Mike Chapman)
Travis Ramin

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

The Devil Dogs – 1990 in Norway, The Big Beef Bonanza-lineup
The Fleshtones – Madrid, ca 2008
The’s – Oslo, ca 2004
Tina & The Total Babes – Radio Heartbeat festival (their ONLY show)

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


Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Absolutely! We are pretty lucky, though. We get our songs played on the radio and Podcasts.
Spotify helps, too

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

Cassettes are back?? I make my own playlists though and listen to them all the time.
I guess I’ll list my favorite songs right now:

1234 Dee Dee Ramone – Helen Love
Game Over – Not Ur Girlfrienz
Number Seven – The Speedways
I Like Your Band – The Let’s Go’s
My Lambretta – Gallows Birds

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

The good feeling when everything falls into place and the song(s) comes out even better then what you had in your mind.

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

Playing live is just the best feeling! The communication with the crowd, seeing them dancing and singing along to our songs!

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


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?

Our songs are meant to be very spontaneous, so if you don’t like them, The Yum Yums are not your thing.

Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years?

If Coldplay stops anything… much better!

Michael Faherty – Clark Gable (Q&A)

“Clark Gable” contains 6 songs and they are all good. Great! Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Michael Faherty about recording, playing CBGBs at 16, and the nice feeling of getting a bit nervous before a gig.

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I enjoy the mixing and editing process the most. It feels like a game – I fix things that bother me until I eventually like how it sounds.

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

Playing at CBGBs for one of my first gigs at 16, due mostly to a savvy drummer. I knew that a lot of my favorite bands had played there.

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

I enjoy getting a bit nervous.

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

Jimi Hendrix – Axis Bold as Love

Lou Reed – New York

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

Urge Overkill – Saturation

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Might as well go big and say Brian Wilson, Dylan, and McCartney.

Michael Faherty is a Brooklyn-born and L.A.-based singer, writer and multi-instrumentalist. His music ranges from power pop to blues, with a common thread of distinctive R&B-inflected vocals. He has performed as an opener for Buzzcocks, Ween, Goo Goo Dolls, The Posies, Monster Magnet, The Lemonheads, Juliana Hatfield, and many more. Michael’s songs have been used in television and film including the 2016 documentary Riot On The Dance Floor, featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is currently performing and recording in L.A., both as a solo artist and as a bassist, guitarist, and vocalist for a variety of studio and live projects.  

Fuzzysurf – Sweet Tooth (Q&A)

Fuzzysurf is a surf pop indie band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Citing The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Blur, Weezer, and Talking Heads as early musical influences, the group goal has always been the creation of a catchy song.

Sweet Sweet Music blog spoke to Sean, Corey, and Mike about their Sweet Tooth, playing in a Weezer cover band, competing with a soccer game, recording and performing, and trusting the younger generations will take control again.

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

Sean: For me, not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I can be very sociable and have no problem expressing, sharing ideas, or being intimate with those close to me. However, when you are creating, let’s say, snippets or pieces of art or music or whatever and finally decide to take the steps to say, “Hey, look over here everyone, I made something!”, you do open yourself up to criticism or different takes about yourself that you would have otherwise never had to worry about. A song is only a small piece of something that is much larger to someone. A person’s impression of a song can define that person’s impression of the artist massively. So yeah there is a lot of pressure to make something good and I’m not always comfortable but that is also part of the process. To gain the courage to put yourself out there is the reward. 

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

Sean: I think Corey or Ben can tell this story better but I’ll try. We were booked to play a show at a soccer bar in Milwaukee. We had been rehearsing before the show in our old practice space which was in the basement of our drummer, MIke’s house.  He had been doing some major home remodeling since he knows how to do things like that, and sometime during our rehearsal, he stepped on an exposed nail through his bass drum foot. Mike couldn’t play the pedal and he had to go to the doctor. So last minute the other three of us decide we will try to do our first acoustic show ever instead since the show was that night and we always keep our commitments. At the show, we wing it with a “stripped” down set, and halfway through, the owner of the venue stops us and shouts out that the soccer game which was previously delayed due to rain is now starting and he wants to play the game and shut us down. We were in disbelief and the owner could tell so he decided to hold a “loudness wins” cheering competition between those who wanted to watch the game vs those who want to watch our band. We were totally in shock at this point. Our drummer is in the ER with a rusted nail in the foot and now we may be totally humiliated and kicked off stage for a soccer game. Luckily, we won without a question and finished our set. What also made it extra crazy was that one of the musical directors from a local radio station and a writer for a music blog were there to catch our show for the first time. It could’ve turned out really bad, haha!

Corey: I was outside unloading some gear when Mike stepped on that nail but I don’t think I can ever get the image of Ben having to stand on the board to pry it out of Mike’s foot.  He managed to tough it out for the full rehearsal, grimacing through all of our songs but I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to make it to the gig afterward.  One additional layer of disappointment came when Sean’s guitar battery died 10 minutes into the set and he had to run out to the car to grab a replacement.  Ben saved the moment by continuing to play the same baseline the entire time he was gone.

Mike: I played in a Weezer cover band for a Halloween gig in Philly circa 2006 or 2007?  It was for a one-off show Halloween show at World Cafe Live.  We got done with our set and someone in the crowd begged us to go to their house to do another late-night set in their basement.  That snowballed into something like 10 shows in 6 days, culminating with one last basement show.  All I remember is looking up from my drums on “My Name is Jonas” and seeing a crowd of people falling into the band, pulling down the drop ceiling, and screaming at the top of their lungs.  That moment changed everything for me and my love for playing.

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

Sean: I’ll let you know when.

Mike: Every song we write. Not in an egotistical way but what I love is after every song we complete we sit there and think “damn, how are we going to top that?” Well, I don’t know about the other guys but I get nervous like did we just hit our peak with that one? But then a few months later Sean will send a group text with some jam he’s working on and we’re blown away.  At the end of the day, we love these songs because they’re hits to us.  We’re just so lucky that other people sometimes feel the same way about them.  

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Sean: For sure. The price of admission to recording music is incredibly affordable now. Anyone can get a free app or cheap equipment and have access to multitrack recording capabilities and instant plug-in effects. I think it was David Byrne who I remember saying something along these lines about it. You’ve now got all these people that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to record and put out music who now, suddenly in the last decade, can do so and are doing so at an incredible rate. The music being made is more varied and diverse in styles than it’s ever been. However, the downside of reduced barriers to recording is more music is being made, and therefore, more bad music is also being made which makes it difficult as an artist to rise above the noise. 

Corey: I wish I could say that being in a band involved as much recording and performing as it did hustle but the fact of the matter is 90% of our time is devoted to the business and exposure side of things.  Being a musician in 2020 feels more like working in marketing and social media sometimes.  As Sean says, with so many people making music these days, you’ve got to do what you can to set yourself apart.  Everybody’s passionate about what they do and it takes a special effort to demonstrate why you’ve got something that’s worth any attention when everyone is being so inundated with other music.

Mike: I grew up in the East Coast punk/rock scene.  Getting a 4-track together and laying shit down with your friends, I mean it doesn’t get easier than that. Today you have so many options if you want to track in a studio, at home, all together, separate, in different studios, mixing, mastering, pre-production, etc.  It’s just endless.  On one hand, I feel like it’s harder than just getting a 4-track in a basement but on the other hand, I enjoy the accessibility and flexibility of recording so to me that’s a lot easier as you scale your production. 

Getting heard is a timeless endeavor. I’ve been in bands for 20 years and it doesn’t feel any harder or easier, it’s just part of the gig. We just focus on writing our songs, making them the best they can be, and constantly challenging ourselves. When we release them to the world we hope there are a few more people who enjoy it and that those people want to share it with their friends.   

Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years?

Sean: On the smaller scale, it’ll be like craft beers. The floodgates are open right now but being a successful independent artist will be more and more like running a small business which takes a ton of work. Music will continue to become more niche-oriented and develop new styles but artists will need to adapt and find what works and what doesn’t for their intended market. “Pop” music coming from the big labels will continue to homogenize if trends from the last few years keep up.

Corey: And that’s to say nothing about what this pandemic is doing to live music.  I hope that people are doing what they can to support their local venues these days and I hope that everyone is continuing to be creative about the ways in which they can make things work while things are the way that they are.  That said, I feel like all of these live-streamed events that we’ve been seeing have reminded me of the value of an actual live music experience.  Watching a great band play on a computer screen just can’t stand-in for the experience of being there in person.  It’s reassuring to me that as society becomes so much more focused on streaming media, social media, and digital formats, that we can also still agree on the value of sharing in a live musical moment.

Mike: There’s a deep emotional connection between artist and fan that’s impossible to replicate outside a live show.  You can’t make it happen in a recording, you can’t do it in a live YouTube setting, you can’t do it on a big stage. My faith is in the younger generations rebelling against the trends being shoved down their throats.  I hope 5 years from now you see kids taking control of their local scenes, putting on shows at their local VFW halls, in their basements, wherever they can share 30 minutes singing with their friends.  They will bring music back to its core because they will want to experience something that’s real.  

Mike Bankhead – Anxious Inventions & Fictions (Q&A)

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

I was writing songs again right after finishing recording my first album.  I remember thinking that one of them, which I wrote in spring 2017, was the best thing I had ever written.  I’m not sure if I feel that way about that specific song now, because I kept writing, right on through the end of that year, and right on through 2018.  It was near the end of 2018 when the thoughts of what an album might look like began to come together.  

How did this record come together? 

I went to Reel Love Recording Company for a pre-production session with engineer Patrick Himes in February 2019.  I brought 25 songs with me, the best of the ones I had written over the previous two years.  We talked about how to approach recording them… tempo, instrumentation, how each song should feel.  I had the arrangements and ideas mostly thought out already, but the possibilities really began to take shape on that particular day.  As 2019 progressed, I released 5 of the songs that fit together very well on a split album with The Paint Splats called Defacing the Moon. Many of the others are on Anxious Inventions & Fictions.

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

Sometimes that happens immediately after writing.  There are a couple of people who I’ll send my low-quality home demos to shortly after they are done.  It’s easier for me to ask for opinions once I get something professionally recorded, though.

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

It is not. It would probably be better for my mental health to talk these things out with a therapist, but as one of my favorite songwriters here in Dayton says, songwriting is “cheaper than therapy”.  (Your readers from outside of the United States might not have the cultural frame-of-reference for that statement, so I’ll just briefly explain that health care is very very expensive here.)

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

As wonderful as that would be, I don’t think that’s possible.  I don’t write the kind of songs that are currently popular, and the instrumentation and arrangements I choose aren’t currently popular, either.  I like real instruments, not music put together “in the box”.  This is not to disparage that art form, if that’s the genre that someone wants to write for, that’s fine.   There are good pop songs and there are good pop songwriters. It’s just not what I want to do, it’s not how I want to express myself.  Making music with real instruments, recording vocals without using Auto Tune or a ton of other pitch correcting software… those aren’t the “in” things right now.  That said, I know that somewhere on this large planet of billions of people, there is some unknown number of people who would be very much into what I do.  The challenge is to find those specific people, and get their ears on my music.  

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?  

You didn’t specify if these folks have to be alive.  If I’m allowed to select people who have died, it’s Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley, and Prince.  For the why, those are all great songwriters, and they all had their own unique styles, and didn’t write in the same genre.  That said, they wrote such great songs that you could play them with only an acoustic guitar or only a piano, and the brilliance of the song still shines through.

If I have to limit my selection to only people who are currently living, I’d start with John Legend.  He’s from a town very near me in Ohio, and is a brilliant writer and musician.  Next, Dan Wilson.  He is one of my favorite songwriters, really knows his way around a hook, and has a feel for memorable lyrics.  Third, Carrie Brownstein.  I know she would bring some awesome riffs to the table, and since I am not a guitar player, I don’t often think of writing songs structured around a riff… sometimes I do, but not often.  I’d like to learn from her process.

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

The release show for my first album.  First, since I don’t have a band, I don’t play gigs nearly as often as I would like.  If I am going to play a show, I have to recruit musicians from the area, and while people are generally willing, it is somewhat of a challenge when everyone has different schedules due to being in other bands.  That was my first gig backed by a band playing my own music.  It was frightening and cathartic, and it was also the night of the first significant snowfall of winter that year, which will make it impossible to forget.

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

There aren’t really “hits” anymore in rock music, but there should be.  The last song I had that feeling about was “Promise”.  Strangely enough, that’s the first single I’m releasing from the album.  When I was done with it, I kind of stood back a little bit and tried to imagine it after it was professionally recorded, with all of the layers of guitar that would end up on it.  I remember going back to do a re-write, and making one or two very minor changes, but I thought it was good immediately upon finishing.  That’s not a feeling I have very often.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays? 

That is a fantastic question.  My answer is that it depends on your genre.  As you probably know, with the advances of technology, plenty of musicians record at home.  You can make an entire album on a laptop.  When you can do that, the recording part is surely easier than getting people to listen.  Speaking personally however, I don’t have the gear or knowledge to be able to record at home in the genre that I write in.  That being the case, I hire a professional recording engineer to record and mix my music.  That’s a high level of effort.  Despite all that effort, it’s still hard to get ears on the music.  Part of the drawback to there being SO much music available is it’s harder to get heard.  Also, because of recording techniques being more widely available, and because there are plenty of people who can make music in their rooms on a laptop, music is generally devalued by the public.  Many people don’t realize that writing and arranging and recording music is work.  It’s often enjoyable, sure, but it’s work.  What we produce is a work of art,  but we produce a work of art that too many people want to have for free. 

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

If you ask me this same question next week, you’ll get a different answer.  Today’s answer is: OK Computer (Radiohead), Your Body Above Me (Black Lab), Euphoria Mourning (Chris Cornell), Fountains Of Wayne (Fountains Of Wayne), Ohio (Over the Rhine).

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?  

Experiencing an idea becoming reality.  Making something that used to only exist in my head into something that I can share with other people.   

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

Sharing feelings. Sharing art. Connecting with people. Being heard.

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

Definitely.  That’s probably not always the first answer I think of, but maybe it should be.

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 do an interview series over on my blog, and that question is so good that I am going to use it.  I hope that’s ok.  I enjoy wordplay.  There are often plays on words in my lyrics.  Sometimes they are subtle.  Sometimes they are not.  As a bass player, I would hope that people listen to the bass in the song first, as I probably give that part of the song more conscious thought than most other songwriters.  This doesn’t mean that the bass line is always brilliant or overwhelming… at the end of the day, you have to serve the song, and if the song is a quiet piano ballad, then the bass shouldn’t be too obtrusive… but since that’s my main instrument, it gets a great deal of focus when I think about arrangements, and I’m always asking the engineer to turn it up in the mix.

Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years? 

That’s another fantastic question.  I think about this… if someone asked that question in, say, 1987, would anyone have known that compact discs would be the way most music was consumed in 1992?  If I had a way to know if there was going to be a technological breakthrough, I would say that music will move to that particular platform, but I don’t know that.  I’ll say three general things… it will still be very difficult for someone to make their primary living as a musician, artists are going to move their tours to the digital realm and perform online concerts where attendees have to be from a specific region to attend, more songwriters will attempt to make a living by writing custom songs specifically for individuals or organizations upon demand.

This is the story so far …

The Sweet Sweet Music blog has been around for five years this week.

This is the story so far …

There are now a total of 228 posts on the blog.

Over the years I have removed some reviews and posted a single interview twice.

A Q&A is usually viewed between 150 and 350 times.

There are 4 real outliers.

The interview in which Paul Collins announced his new record (Out of My Head) has been viewed more than 500 times.

The end-of-year lists are also viewed a lot every year. The 2018 overview was especially popular (more than 700 views). I think because 2018 was a good year for Power Pop. Have a look.

At the end of last year I asked a lot of Power Pop artists what the plans were for 20/20 and that post has been viewed over 1,000 times.

If we only knew then what year 2020 would be.

By far the most read post is The Best 100 Power Pop Songs of this Century (2000-2020).
That list has now been viewed more than 7,000 times.
And the Spotify playlist on which most songs can be found has 175 followers.

Although I often write ‘we’, I do this blog on my own. The head office is located on the couch in my living room.

My name is Patrick Donders, I am 50 years old and I live in Utrecht. That’s in The Netherlands. And The Netherlands is next to Germany. I never listen to The Beatles or The Kinks, I think Jellyfish is awful but not as awful as E.L.O..

I grew up with Talk Talk, The Blue Nile and Nena, was formed by Marillion, Journey, Bruce and Herbert Gronemeyer and got ‘old and wise’ with Cheap Trick, The Beat, Slobberbone, The Jayhawks and Fred Eaglesmith.

I love a lot of Power Pop songs but only have a few favorite records.
The Beat’s first two records are two of them. 12 by Sloan is also one. But of course there are many more :-).

This is a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from the heyday of Power Pop.
This is a playlist of my 90s favorites.
We will never remember 20/20 as a good Power Pop year but it is, listen up.

Thanks to all the artists and all other lovely people who have been willing to answer my questions. Even when I asked them for the third time.
Thanks to the more than 10,000 unique visitors!

The ‘corporate identity’ was designed by Sabeth Elberse.

Keep supporting your favorite artists. Buy their music if you can.

The Junior League with Scott The Hoople – Summer Of Lies (Q&A)

Two beautiful new self-written songs and two covers, including a sensationally beautiful version of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Didn’t Want To Have To Do It’. ‘Summer of Lies’, The Junior League’s new EP is fantastic.

Sweet Sweet Musicblog spoke to Joe Adragna because we wanted to know where all that beauty came from.

4 new songs, 4 times a different sound. Was that an objective in itself or did it just happen?

Honestly, it just happened that way. I had the basic track for Summer of Flies–it wasn’t called that yet. I had some lyrics and a vocal melody, but they weren’t particularly good.  I sent it to my friend Scott (McCaughey) ,and he offered to write some lyrics for it. He wound up writing lyrics, singing, and adding keyboards and that fuzz guitar riff, all of which were so great!

I love his singing and lyrics–he really made it so much better, but he always does! I had Make Up Your Mind, which I wrote about a month ago. That came together really quickly. I sent Scott the two covers just to listen to, as I know he likes those songs as much as I do. I did them for fun, really–I wasn’t planning to do anything with them. Once Scott had started work on what became known as “Summer Of Flies”, he suggested taking those four songs and making an EP.

He then added additional keys, guitars and vocals to all the songs and mixed them as well. It was his encouragement that made the EP happen–and I really appreciated that encouragement. I always do. So the whole thing came together relatively quickly, and was a very pleasant surprise. 

‘Didn’t Want To Have To Do it’ is my favorite. It sounds so delicate. How did it come together?

“Didn’t Want to Have To Do it” is such a great song. One of my favorites, and I know Scott really likes it as well. I had recorded the song at my studio and sent it to Scott. He added keyboard parts at his studio that really make it–but that is one of his gifts.

He knows exactly what is needed for a song and fits it in and makes the whole thing complete. T

hose keyboard parts make the song for me. I think the sound is really good because he mixed it so well, and we played what was necessary for the song. 

Did you have to use a different way of working this time because of the COVID situation?

We generally work together this way, so the COVID situation really didn’t change that. I think we have only recorded, like, two or three songs together being in the same room! 

We live far away from one another, so everything we’ve done together has been at our own studios and sent via the internet to one another! 

The Well Wishers – Shelf Life (Q&A)

“Shelf Life”, the brand new full-length LP from the WELL WISHERS is set to hit stores on September 25th!

The album was written and produced in the short span of just five months, shortly after nationwide lockdowns began in response to the growing Covid crisis.

Buy here.

Jeff Shelton explains.

You make songwriting seem so easy? Do those catchy melodies and fantastic guitar solos just keep on coming or is it hard work and a lot of puzzles?

I don’t know if I’d say songwriting is “easy”…but it’s certainly natural and organic to an extent. The best stuff comes out when you’re in a fully creative mindset…and nothing is forced. It usually starts with a general idea of what kind of song I want to write…(aggressive/driving…..or mid-tempo and jangly….or slow & building…anthemic, etc.)

Did this lockdown period also require a different approach? Did this record come about differently than the previous one?

The process was not really any different this go around…as I’ve been recording fully at my home studio for about 4 or 5 years now. The only thing COVID quarantine facilitated was free time ….and more time to just focus and be creative and productive. I wrote and recorded all these 11 tracks in less than 5 months!

How do you get inspiration from this sometimes so desolate time or was this time itself the inspiration?

I certainly drew inspiration from the pandemic. The whole world vibe seemed to change after mid-March….from day to day life to what we value and what’s truly important. The lyrics on this record reflect that…sort of implicitly. Themes of frustration, isolation…but also hope, love, and aspiration are all in there.

Isn’t it strange that so much music is being listened to now and that so many artists are in financial trouble at the same time?

If there’s an upside to any of this it’s that creative output is certainly speeding up. Lots of great music coming out right now…and the stuff that reflects the pandemic and political strife (especially in America) is particularly poignant. The greatest tragedy though…is the basic death of live music. If it ever comes back at all….live loud music in an indoor environment is still a long way off. Rock n roll will never die…but I have to tell you, I’m going through serious concert withdrawal right now!

The Campbell Apartment – Curmudgeon (Q&A)

Sweet Sweet Musicblog spoke with Ari Vais about producing a cohesive record, Fountains of Wayne, playing for a small crowd, personal lyrics, and recording after a lunch break.

How did this record come together?

Over many years, and many sessions, in San Francisco and then, upon getting the album a home with Mint 400 Records, it spent another couple years back east getting mixed down to rock perfection. It was recorded as a series of “singles” rather than a cohesive album because at the time it felt like people would just as happily consume individual tracks via streaming services as embrace the concept of a record. Luckily in the end, with help from a lot of talented people, it is a cohesive record, our 4th. (Buy here)

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

I never said it was fun. There are fun elements to it, just loading in and setting up, it’s like the start of a film shoot or something, you know you’ll be entrenched in this space that smells like electricity for a very long time, with a ton of downtime with rough mixes are attempted and bandmates lay down their parts.

There are long discussion breaks and, for me, a ton of vocal takes as I don’t think I was born with a God-given set of pipes, it takes a lot of work. It’s very process oriented.

There are lunch breaks – but it’s fun because, on one day, you know that after the lunch break the afternoon is dedicated to guitar solos. Or the following morning will be all about piano, so you mic up the piano the night before. It’s a very workmanlike process, like cooking or gardening, you get on with it, but there are still flashes of magic, like that killer vocal take that comes out of nowhere when you thought your pipes were shot or that bassline that propels the song, that’s written right there in live time, and without the studio takes and retakes, would never have been written.

Or those happy accidents, like when a piece of equipment falls at just the right second and sounds intentional, or a dog starts barking during a lonesome and stark organ part.

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

Now that I find very fun. There’s always the element of surprise unless you’re the Pixies every show will be different in some way. Each one is unique. It’s a mix, impossible to replicate show to show, of how you are as a band, how you are as individuals, how the crowd is, how the lights are, whether the soundman is a dick or awesome, what the setlist is, what the vibe is, what my singing is like, if for who knows what reason one of the songs in the set just sounds sublime and never will be that money shot quite ever again.

It’s everything I like in life: the unexpected, randomness, “feel”, connection, energy, catharsis – it’s all those things you cannot replicate in the studio. Even some studio albums like “Third/Sister Lovers” by Big Star have elements of what it was like to be there then, they kept the sounds of things accidentally falling and they kept all the mistakes, but live there’s that electricity, that danger, it’s sexy.

I remember once in Manhattan at the Mercury Lounge we went on right after Tegan and Sarah, a duo with a huge draw. We did not fit the demographic and as they finished their crowd exited en masse, just emptied out the room completely, deflating TCA. We played anyway but stopped the show short rather disgustedly. There were only one or two people in the fairly large room, it was ridiculous. Well, one of those people was a girl from Reims, France, who told me she was loving it, and when I griped that everybody had left, she said “this would never happen if you come in France” (I know, hot). Epiphany – I royally fucked up when I pulled the plug on that set. One person loving the concert is the same as 10,000 people loving the concert, the energy is the same, you can’t pull the plug on that, it’s a sin.

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

Sure. I’ve tried to write about other people’s lives, like Ray Davies and Paul McCartney so effortlessly do, like so many great writers do (and pretty much all novelists do, because if it’s “confessional” then it’s an autobiography innit), but I’m in my “happy place” when I write about EXACTLY what’s happening with me on an emotional level, even naming names, certainly referencing real places and turns of phrase and inside jokes – the more the better – then the song smacks of “realness” which – that honesty – is all I really want in a song myself as a listener, besides a killer hook of course. Whether I’m comfortable or uncomfortable doing so is beside the point because at that stage the art is bigger than the artist.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

Chris Collingwood from Fountains Of Wayne, because I’ve loved the band since the mid-late nineties when I first became aware of them, when Chris and Jody from FOW moved up to Northampton Massachusetts where I was living at the time. We all became great friends but during those few years in western Mass. Chris and I were very tight, and then once I moved to San Francisco in ’09, Jody and I became very tight.

But as much as I loved and respected the band, we were more close friends than anything so I never realized how much I liked them, loved them, until their ending this horrible spring with Adam’s tragic death from Covid19. Chris and I would bounce demos and ideas off each other during those years in the “Pioneer Valley” but we never tried writing anything together, even though we’re both very literary writers but with emotional depth and melodic yen, but we never even considered trying to write a song together. We’re mutual fans though so – but I’ve never really written a song with anybody, not actively or intentionally.

Once when I was living in a big house with my wife at the time in San Francisco, FOW were playing in town and I invited them round to our firepit party in the back garden. I was surprised and happy when they showed up and let them in through the downstairs garage, which led right through to the back garden and firepit party where we already had half a dozen friends sitting around the fire drinking and talking and laughing. I pull up the garage door, which was automatic and slowly rolled up to reveal, hilariously, from shoes to face, all four Fountains of Wayne boys.

I’m not sure they did a ton of stuff together as a band, outside of music – I know my band doesn’t – most bands don’t. So it was like something out of a comic book, and we all had the nicest time sitting around the fire out back drinking and laughing and talking (Chris had stopped drinking by then so we had some tasty alcohol free beer on hand). They were playing in town somewhere great like the Fillmore the next evening.

But I never told my other guests who the four guys were, I didn’t want to embarrass them by saying “These four are Fountains of Wayne” or anything uncool like that so I kept mum. Later Chris asked if I told them about the show the next night and I said I hadn’t coz I didn’t wanna be uncool, but Chris looked really sad for a second when I said that, and so I realized I had overthought everything and everybody wants people to know more about you, not less.

I’d also love to write something with Stephen Merritt from Magnetic Fields and with Liz Phair.