Tamar Berk – The Restless Dreams of Youth (Q&A, and more …)

The Restless Dreams of Youth is Tamar Berk’s first solo record. Her music has been compared to that of Liz Phair and Juliana Hatfield. You could also compare her sound to that of Gretchen’s Wheel.

Beautiful, thoughtful Indie Pop that sometimes jumps up to dance.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Tamar about how The Restless Dreams of Youth came about.

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

I was in my little basement home studio in Chicago and I sat down and wrote and recorded a demo of Shadow Clues. I liked the song and felt that it had some cool imagery and was different from many of the songs I tend to write. I felt that it tapped into something very honest and that’s when I thought that maybe I could put together a solo album.

How did this record come together?

Once I decided that at some point I would be putting something out, it was a matter of writing the other songs, finding the demos that I wanted to rework, and starting recording them by myself in my studio. After I felt like I had a collection of songs that told the story I wanted, I found some incredible musicians in San Diego and we started rehearsing the songs to be ready to record in the studio.

But then Covid happened and I had to rethink the whole thing.

So I went back to my demos and reworked them so they had click-tracks and called my friend Matt Walker to play drums on the album. Matt has played with Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, and many more and he’s also a composer himself so I knew he would breathe some new life into the songs. He was living in Chicago so we worked over the wire.  

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

I don’t know if the meaning of success has changed for everyone, but for me it has. I will always want people to love my music, play my music and share my music, and today, I can find my audience and my audience will find me.  That feels like success to me. 

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I’ve been writing songs since I was a teen so that urge never goes away. And I think for many when you put something out that you’re proud of, you end up inspiring yourself and feeling more confident in your abilities. 

Teen Creeps – Forever (Q&A, and more …)

Teen Creeps is from Belgium and Forever is the new record. You hear fuzzy guitars contrasting with pop melodies, in the same way Hüsker Dü did, or Sloan on the first record.

A wonderful Saturday night record.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Bert about how Forever came about.

How did this record come together?

We wrote most of the songs for “Forever” while touring with our debut album “Birthmarks”, so most of the material was already being played live during those shows.

Once we knew we had a good collection of songs, we set out for Audioworkx, a recording studio in Hoogeloon, The Netherlands, and recorded all the songs live over the course of 5 days. Because we’ve been playing them on the road already, it was an organic, smooth recording session. We always track everything live in the same room, so it’s all about capturing our performance, and I think we succeeded at doing that rather well!

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

We hope that the record can offer a well-needed distraction in these weird times. So we just hope that as many people as possible will hear it! And to be out on the road playing these songs in some form in the near future off course. Just playing a regular show would feel like a victory!

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

Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”

Bill Withers – “Use Me”

Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata”

Hüsker Dü – “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely”

Neil Young – “Harvest Moon”

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

You can create an entire universe with just sound! Capturing the energy of people playing together, making up songs, endlessly tweaking all the details, … What’s not to like?

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

Presenting what you’ve worked so hard on can be very rewarding. Songs only seem to become ‘real’ once they’re out there, making a connection with the audience. We sure miss playing live a lot…Teen Creeps is all about going out there, playing loud, and screaming your heart out. I think we all crave for some live music!

Seeing Shapes can be found on Sweet Sweet Music’s favorite Power Pop songs of 2021 playlist.

Timmy Sean – A Tale From The Other Side (Q&A, and more …)

I’m not a big fan of Jeff Lynne’s productions and I’m not a fan of Elvis Costello. Timmy Sean’s new record sounds like a Jeff Lynne-produced Elvis Costello record and yet I just think it’s AMAZING!

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Timmy about his Power Pop Rock Opera!

How did this record come together?

To make a short story long, I started the pandemic with a large pile of song ideas, most of them essentially without lyrics, which almost always is the last step for me. The music usually comes to me with much more ease than words, and to be honest, it often tends to feel a bit like homework to get the lyrics knocked out. That being said, 2020 gave me plenty to write about.

I live in Los Angeles, and I kept saying it felt like we were living in a strange supernatural horror movie. The songs that I did have lyrics for felt to me like the beginning of a story. So jumping off of that first chapter, inspired by everything happening in the world, and with some extra time on my hands, thanks to the lockdown, I decided to give a shot at stitching together something that I always wanted to attempt: a rock opera.

To write about everything without being too literal, the virus became a monster attack, the politics in the US became a cult called the “Red Eyed Army,” and at least at the beginning of the tale, the lead character was kind of an alternate universe version of myself at 18 when I dropped out of college to play music full time.

About 10 months later of sitting alone in my studio, I had A Tale From The Other Side.

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

I’ve spent the last year essentially just with my girlfriend, and I am constantly pitching new song ideas to her. She grew up in a musical family, and I always tell her she has the best set of ears of any flavor chemist around. To quote the great David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap, “she is very honest, she is brutally frank,” but it’s a great sounding board to have. If I can win her over on a song, I usually have a good feeling of whether it’s working or not. With the pandemic, she ended up being about the only person who heard these songs before I had something close to a finished mix.

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

I’d be happy to move a few physical copies, get some streams, and maybe some nice reviews. I would consider that a success, especially because it has been a decade since I released my last full-length solo album (Songs From & Inspired By Noisewater, which was also my first.) That being said, I’d love for the album to be received well enough (and get a sufficient number of people vaccinated) that there would be an audience for a live version of it in some sort of hybrid concert/movie/musical form.

I’ve been privileged to play music for a living since I was a teenager, and it might be kind of sacrilege to say, but I get more enjoyment out of putting on a big production than the act of playing an instrument live (ducks for cover). So there’s nothing I’d love more than turning this into kind of a KISS concert meets big “popcorn movie” meets Off-Broadway musical. So, if there are any investors out there…

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I’m constantly coming up with song ideas – whether it’s sitting at the piano, driving in my car, or waking up in the middle of the night to reach for my phone and hum a melody I dreamt into the voice memos app. I recently checked, and I have about 3,000 song ideas (though plenty of lousy ones) sitting in my phone, so it usually just comes down to giving myself deadlines to get things over the finish line.

After a bit of a record label and management debacle in the early 10’s, by 2014 I had a huge backlog of recorded material that I finally just decided to put out on my own. In the next few years, I self-released two EP’s from my synth-pop project Sir Video that I recorded with multi-platinum producer (and all-around swell guy) Kenny Gioia, several covers, and 53 fresh recordings for a “Songs Of The Week” project that I released to subscribers on Bandcamp in 2015.

I later compiled the covers and subscription tunes into a two-disc collection called Weeks, but even before the pandemic, I was ready to force myself to finish another proper solo album in 2020. Though it’s been a devastating year for so many, fortunately, all of my close friends and immediate family have been taking every precaution, and so far, no one has been hit seriously by the virus.

For me, the time has just been a gift to be single-mindedly creative and able to work through all of these half-finished recordings I’ve had piling up again.  

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

Number 1 will always be Paul McCartney for me. My father and uncles have performed in the world’s longest-running Beatles tribute show in the world since before I was born, so The Beatles will always be inextricably tied to pretty much every part of my life.

I played along with their version of Twist & Shout on drums in a school talent show in kindergarten, and I haven’t looked back since. To meet Paul would be enough, but to write together would be the ultimate “I’m good here on this earth” moment. If I did come back down to earth in that situation, I’d try to push him towards some of his earlier works’ melodic choices.

Number 2 would be Butch Walker. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager staying up late to watch 120 Minutes on MTV and caught the Marvelous 3 “Freak Of The Week” video, but he’s mapped out such an amazing career of making great solo material, producing records for some of my favorite rock bands, and writing hits for pop stars.

He’s someone I would love to model my career after, and his American Love Story album that he released last year was also a big inspiration for the direction of A Tale From The Other Side. I’m someone who usually can find something to like in all kinds of music, so to pick his brain on his approach to “writing hits” vs. “writing for himself” as a producer multi-instrumentalist who can do it all, would be an invaluable experience. Plus, he just seems like a cool dude to grab a beer with.

Number 3 is a close call between some guys who can all write a great melody: Rivers Cuomo, Dave Grohl, Ben Folds, Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne, and Jon Brion. (I’m kind of cheating at this by naming so many.) They’re all musical heroes of mine – Dave Grohl as a drummer turned one-man-band, Ben Folds as a lyricist, Brian Wilson as a composer, Jeff Lynne as a producer, Jon Brion as just an overall genius – but I’d probably give the edge to Rivers.

I very closely associate my journey to adulthood with Weezer’s first three albums. The Blue Album came out when I was in elementary school, Pinkerton in middle school, and Green Album my senior year of high school.

All three seemed to perfectly encapsulate what I was going through at those times and they all left a life-long impression on me. Just like Butch, Rivers also has a knack for writing for both modern pop and rock, and I’d love to just sit in a room seeing how his brain works writing a song. I feel like his mind is on a completely different level than mine. The guy’s truly just unique, and that seems like a really exciting writing session.  

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Absolutely. Especially as someone who can jump between multiple instruments and at least marginally knows how to lay some tracks down to sound close to what’s in my head, the recording comes fairly easy for me at this point on my own.

The hardest thing is getting people to give a listen to something when they’re inundated with content 24/7 from every angle. Also, as someone who doesn’t like to be pushy or a nuisance, “I don’t want to bother you” can sometimes be a failing strategy to get someone to take notice. The squeaky wheel gets the grease…but squeaking is obnoxious!

Recording music. What’s all the fun about?

For me, there’s usually a point during the recording of a song where it clicks into place. Sometimes it’s pretty early on and the basic tracks just “gel.” Other times, it’ll be a guitar part, or a synth line, or a harmony, and suddenly the song finally comes alive and grabs your ears. I live for that moment. I also just love to be able to get the sound from my head out for other people to hear.

When I come up with a song idea, I’m usually hearing drum parts, bass lines, and guitar parts in my head instantly. Then it’s just a race to try to get those ideas down before I lose whatever spark there is right out of the gate. I’ve found it’s a hard thing to recapture if I lose it, but it’s so much fun when it works.

They expect ‘the roaring 20s v2.0’. What kind of party are you looking for?

I wasn’t ever a huge partygoer, but I would head to a movie theater just about every week before the pandemic hit, and am a big basketball fan. If I can sit in a theater watching a Marvel movie or catch a 76ers game with some friends, mask-less drinking a soda and munching on some popcorn without any fear of catching a deadly virus…man, that sounds like a party!

THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY (Q&A, and more …)

THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY will be released on February 20 (Big Stir Records).

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Dolph Chaney about the clear production and arrangements Nick Bertling brought to the songs, trying to communicate emotionally and about being more of a sumo wrestler.

The cover of your previous record was a picture of a dilapidated house, the cover of your new record is a picture of you, proud as a peacock, it seems.  A change happened?  Or am I looking for meanings that are not there?

Well, it’s a coincidence, but it certainly reflects all that happened in the past year to build my confidence and resilience.  Both pictures were taken in my backyard: REBUILDING PERMIT’s cover shows my small studio shed (Studio Dolphty), and my wife took my portrait on THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY less than 100 feet from it.  We wanted to match the directness of the title and of the clear production and arrangements Nick Bertling brought to the songs.

You sound very vulnerable at times.  That seems to me to be a conscious choice.  Isn’t that very difficult?  I can also imagine that it will be a challenge when you need multiple vocal takes?

The #1 most important thing for me in a vocal (mine or anyone else’s) is whether the singer is committed enough that I believe what they’re trying to communicate emotionally.  So if it’s a choice between a take that is mistake-free or one with flaws that gets closer to the meaning between the lines, I’ll take the flawed one every time.  Several times for the album I would tell Nick I needed to do a vocal over because “it’s fine… but I just don’t buy the vocal, let me try again.” 

How did that big guitar sound happen?

I need to give credit here to Nick — both as a producer and as my fellow guitarist on the album. From an engineering & mixing standpoint, he layers a lot of guitar tracks (usually around 8) to make that big sound.  For my contribution, a lot of it comes from me having a very heavy-handed attack and from using medium/heavy strings and heavy picks.  Some players are like gymnasts; I’m more of a sumo wrestler!

How did this record come together?

This is the second time (after LOUDNESS 2 11) that I’ve released an album of new and improved versions of my old songs.  This time, it came from Nick & I enjoying each other’s 2020 albums (REBUILDING PERMIT and GREEN MEADOWS SKETCHBOOK).  Then, he saw me play a live stream show (at the Woody Radio Facebook page) and said to me that he loved my songs but felt that my previous albums hadn’t done them justice and that he had ideas of how to fix that!  Hearing his work, I knew Nick had all of the skills as a player and producer to get the job done.  We did two songs first as a trial – the single “Now I Am A Man,” and the epic middle of the album “Meaningless” – and it went so well that we went on to make the full album.  

How great is the urge to stay creative?  To keep writing songs and lyrics?

I wish I were more prolific than I am.  In the ’90s, when I was in my 20s, I used to write around 30 songs a year, half of which would be worthy of release. Now, I go months with no new songs, and then I’ll get 3-5 in a burst of a couple of weeks.  I only wrote 2 in all of 2020, plus a bridge for the new album’s version of “Cuddle Party.” But immediately as soon as I sent Nick my approval of final mixes for THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY, a new song came right to me — and more ideas are starting to bubble to the surface gradually.  Staying musically active is crucial to my mental health, so I try to play every day and coax the ideas to come.  I would say that my very happiest and most fulfilled feeling in life is whenever I’ve just written a song that I’m certain is good.  And all the support I’ve gotten from Big Stir, fans, radio, and writers like you has (as my song puts it) “helped me believe that I can.”

Dave Caruso – Radiophonic Supersonic (Q&A, and more …)

I Don’t Hear A Single writes: For all this variety, the home runs are when the catchy Pop rings out. A Piece Of The Action is great US Pop Rock and the outstanding Little Miss Sunshine is a beauty of a song. It is very California Harmonic Pop with little hints of Toytown. All in all Radiophonic Supersonic is a more than great listen.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Dave about his latest record ‘Radiophonic Supersonic’, Brad Jones, carrying another one over the finish line.

How did this record come together?

Once I have nine or ten songs that I think are viable, I try to tackle the few tracks that aren’t simple guitar/bass/drum arrangements, to get a handle on the instrumentation and production.  Once I feel I’m putting those songs across successfully in the recording environment, then I know that tracking for the rest of the album will go smoothly.  At the same time, I have to find the money to cover expenses, because none of my solo albums have been bankrolled by anyone else.

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

For this album, the two songs that seemed the most daunting to record were “Indelible” and “The Boy Wonders.”  As the arrangements started coming together, I could tell that the hardest part of making the album was over.  Next, I sent them to Brad Jones to ask him if they sounded like something he’d enjoy mixing, and luckily for me, he did.  After we chatted about my vision for the album, his ideas about the songs, and the cost, we were off to the races.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

Recording is easier than ever, and there’s so much support available for learning more.  If your record’s good and accessible, there are plenty of places to be heard.  I guess that answer depends on what your goals are and who you’d like to hear it.

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

The top of the list would have to include Elvis Costello, Neil Finn, and Glenn Tilbrook, because they’d be a pleasure to write and hang with and strong collaborators who would not only up my game on a particular song, but improve my songwriting game in general — as they have just by studying their music.

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

Ain’t it the truth?  I think it starts with admitting to yourself, “I carried another one over the finish line and I’m proud of the work.”  And if other people like it, that’s a bonus.



That is the way Local Drags likes to be characterized.

It’s more than just a fun slogan.

The Sweet Sweet Music blog editors search all day for new Power Pop pearls but ‘Shit’s Looking Up’, the previous record, from 2019, by the band around Lanny Durbin, was only recently discovered.

And listening to that record is still a ‘Sensation’. It really is.

Catchy, trashy, swagger. I would use these three words if I had to describe the sound of Local Drags in, well, three words.

On March 12, 2021 ‘KEEP ME GLUED’ will be released, which will be released on Stardumb Records.

Be prepared.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Lanny Durbin.

How did this record come together? 

Same way as always – just worked on songs until I had enough good ones/okay ones. Realized after a while they all had a similar vibe, and I liked that vibe, so I went with it. Hummed them for a while in my head at work, made some demos, showed Carter and Fred, recorded them at Luke’s house, sent them to Stefan, he liked them, he put them out, you hear them now!

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

People hearing it and vibing with it, get something out of the tunes, maybe see where I’m coming from. That’s it really. Friends saying they like it and actually MEAN it is a big one. You can tell when they’re just being nice and when they’re actually surprised their dumb friend made a cool song. Other musicians I respect throwing it a like on Instagram. I’m very easy to please. All I wanted when I was a kid was to be able to say, man, this is my record. That’ll do!

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays? 

It’s so easy to record. Getting it heard is simple now too, but getting it heard by the amount of people you’d like/your ego thinks you deserve is the hard part.

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

Oh man. I’m doin’ five for each side, sue me.

Side A 
Gin Blossoms – “Till I Hear it from You”
Tom Petty – “Change of Heart”
Dinosaur Jr – “Knocked Around”
Lost Balloons – “Paint”
SiR – “John Redcorn”

Side B
Rolling Stones – “Rocks Off”
The National – “Don’t Swallow the Cap”
Jesus and Mary Chain – “Head On”
Uncle Tupelo – “Steal the Crumbs”
Dire Straits – “Walk of Life” 

Recording music. What’s all the fun about? 

It’s my favorite part of this whole thing. Seeing an idea through to the end product is so much fun, especially when it turns out to be about as good as you expected. Messing around with guitar effects, adding samples for fun, ironing kinks out. Really has made me a better singer and player, hearing the take back and hearing what sucked about it. Hurts your feelings the first time but it’s worth it.

Shows can be fun but the dud shows I do not miss, and I’m not liked enough to consistently play good ones, so I’m cool without them. Honestly, second to recording, I just enjoy practicing the most. Few beers with the boys in the garage like when we were kids, bashing out a tune. Should just start a cover band, I guess.

From Springfield, Illinois, Local Drags on this outing consists of songwriter Lanny Durbin plus Carter Bibb and Fred Malcom. Being three quarters of their other band Starter Jackets, Local Drags shares some DNA, though what was born is a more laid back and stripped out thing.

Following up their 2019 debut ‘Shit’s Lookin’ Up’, ‘Keep Me Glued’ is the band’s sophomore outing.
Sonically, the record moves like Whatever Pop – loud and quick but still very chill. The songs share an overarching theme of finding something good to hang onto in a real drag of a time, keeping it together however you gotta do it. Like the energy of the hours after blasting out of work on Friday and before the exhaustion takes you over. The sound brings to mind garage-esque indie rock in the Replacements, Gin Blossoms, or Teenage Fanclub veins filtered through Dirtnap-style American power pop/punk.
The album got recorded and produced by Luke McNeill (The Copyrights, Starter Jackets, Hospital Job) at his Capitol City Recording studio.

Nova Waves – Going The Distance (Q&A, and more …)

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Frank about the BMG deal, 100,000 streams on Spotify, and about how to produce a record when bandmembers live across the globe.

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

Probably around last year when we started receiving very positive feedback on our new singles from influencers and a wider audience. The climax for sure was BMG offering us an editing and a licensing contract end of last year. We are really honored and very excited for what lies ahead, bringing us to a whole new world. We’ve since released our new album “Going The Distance” on 15 January on all platforms and are super stoked by how well it is doing so far. 

How did this record come together?

“Going The Distance” is our second album and most likely the most accomplished. We took our time to perfect all the songs focusing on vocals / instrumental arrangements and structures to make them as catchy as possible. The songwriting and recording process was the same as the first record because everything was recorded from each other’s homes (apart from the acoustic drums which require studio recording) with Fred living in France, Cris and Higinio living in Spain, and myself (Frank) living in Australia. All tracks are shared through a cloud and the songs are perfected until we are ready to enter a studio for final mixing and mastering, which was done last year in Cadiz with Indie Guru Paco Loco.

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

Last year was the year when we’ve decided to share our music with the entire world! We had the feeling it was time to give it a go. So we’ve started to reach out to music influencers, playlist curators, blogs. The feedback was very positive and encouraging. The general feedback we did receive and did not expect was about Nova Waves’ unique set up, with each musician living thousands of kilometers apart, still able to write and record together as if we were all living in the same city. 

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

Very relevant question especially with this pandemic which hit the whole world last year. Also with Nova Waves specific set up, we are not able to jump in a tour van and hit the road, something that we would love to do one day though!! So we measure success from people listening to and enjoying our music, expressing their feelings towards the songs, and sharing the tunes around. The music influencers’ feedback is also crucial to gauge the potential of our music. We also produce music videos, providing another dimension to the songs.

The album has done well on Spotify so far, with more than 100,000 streams in just 2 weeks with high numbers in unexpected countries such as Italy, Russia, Sweden, or Chile!! With music online streaming, there is huge potential to reach out to a worldwide audience in no time which would have taken years of touring in the past.

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

Yes, this is something quite special to do and can be intimidating at the start, but it is rewarding to see our audience’s emotions connect with our music. It is truly the greatest feeling on earth. Music, as an art, has this unique way of connecting people through various senses and carry them to this other dimension, unconsciously and peacefully.

Music videos can be more intimidating as you are directly sharing your life.

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

I would pick the following ones which I truly admire and respect (sure the other Nova Waves members would have different ones as we have quite eclectic influences!):

John Gourley (from Portugal The Man): He has produced the finest and original music lately, with crazy song structures and lyrics and the most incredible voice.

Stefan Malkmus (from Pavement): His laid-back and sarcastic attitude transpires through his lyrics and music, he probably makes the coolest indie tunes ever produced.

Kurt Cobain (from Nirvana): In just 5 years he took the world by storm with his raw and hypersensitive songwriting, backed by the finest drum and bass section any songwriter could hope for. Simple songs but so powerful.

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

Pavement in Marseille back in 1996 touring on Wowee Zowee album. It was such a fun and wild gig. The band had 2 drummers and some crazy stuff happening on stage!

Green Day and Arctic Monkeys in Nimes’ Roman amphitheater, wild and sweaty crowd, I lost my voice and was super stoked by how they connected so well with their public. 

Separated by distance but united by a love of sunny harmonies and fuzzy guitars, NOVA WAVES is a band of long-time friends using modern technology to spread their classic sound around the world. They draw from the songcraft of the British invasion and the golden age of Indie pop to create an irresistible sound laden with rich group harmonies.

Each member of the group had their distinctive musical career and it was a joined concert that encouraged them to form NOVA WAVES before life spread them around the globe.  Residing in Australia, France, and Spain, they have recorded their albums of surf-inspired psych-pop remotely, allowing the songs to grow organically as each member added their unique creative input.

What initially started as a studio project between friends quickly turned into a series of songs and albums rich in meetings and collaboration: from « «Dreamworld » released in 2016 to « Going the Distance » made with Paco Loco in 2020, NOVA WAVES shake up the limits of musical collaboration for the pleasure of our ears!

NOVA WAVES are Cris (guitars, bass, keys, vocals), Fred (bass, guitars, keys, vocals), Frank (guitars, ukulele, keys, vocals), and Higinio (drums, vocals).

Caddy – Detours and Dead Ends Vol. 1 (Q&A and more …)

Caddy is a one-man band since 2004! Tom Dahl has released some wonderful records over the years.

He is currently working on ‘Detours and Dead Ends Vol. 1 ‘, a record where he performs songs written by others.

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Tom about the making of this record.

How did you decide to do a cover album?

Back in late 2019, I decided to go into the studio and record a couple of covers. The idea was to release a 4-track EP, just to have something to do before I started working on a full album in 2020. As we went into 2020 with the virus and various lockdowns, I wasn’t motivated to get into writing mode for a full album anymore. So I didn’t do any music for 4 months before I decided to go back into the studio during the summer and record some more covers. Then I thought, ‘hey, if I record another 4 cover songs I have enough to release an album’.

It was a really fun project searching for hidden gems and see what I could do with them, and I found the inspiration I needed to keep going. I kinda found out that I can release a cover album in between my albums, which is perfect because I enjoy having these big long projects happening.

So many great songs, so many. Almost impossible to chose 10 to cover, I can imagine. How did you decide? What were you looking for in the songs?

I’ve spent many many MANY hours digging and searching. I loved it. It became a big part of the project. How can I find even more underground and unknown songs? I had a list of about 25 songs that’s been in and out of the list. But once I decided on a song I discovered a new one. My mission is to dig out good songs that not necessarily too many people have heard of. Bring them back to life and hopefully make a decent cover of them. Most of these songs are from the late 70s, early 80s. Some of them are basic power pop, some are more new wave and I also did a more acoustic singer/songwriter track from 1971. But all will get the Caddy sound on them and eventually it will sound like my songs. It was so much fun finding these songs.

Was recording different this time, because of the situation the world is in?

No, not really. I’m a one-man band anyways so I’m used to being alone in the studio. But I lost the motivation when the world went into lockdown. I know a lot of people here in Oslo playing in bands and working in the nightlife industry. For them not knowing if they could get back to their jobs, playing gigs, etc. has been an eerie feeling.

Can you already share the title?

Detours and Dead Ends Vol. 1

When will it be released?

Hopefully, it will be out digitally on Vestkyst Records in late March. Maybe early April. CD will be released in April I guess on Kool Kat Musik.

Is it already possible to pre-order?

No haha, I still need to finish the last track where I’m using a guest on vocals. Oslo is still in lockdown right now but hopefully, there will be a possibility to get into the studio and finish it. Fingers crossed.

Joe Benoit – What Kind of World (Q&A, and more …)

Sweet Sweet Music spoke to Joe Benoit (formerly of the band The Regulars) about his new record ‘What Kind of World’.

The Power Pop year 2021 has a wonderful start and ‘What Kind of World’ is one of the reasons for this.

How did this record come together?

This new record is absolutely the product of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m sure plenty of other artists have similar stories about the way 2020 unfolded for them. I can tell you that I wan’t initially planning to write or record a full album of material. I wrote the song “The Longest Weekend” early last spring when NYC (which is where I live) was the epicenter of the pandemic.

I recruited my friends Dan Miller, Kieran Kelly, and Sam K. Shaw to contribute their bass, drum, and mixing talents respectively. We did all of this remotely with everyone working out of their houses and home studios. Once the track was done I decided to release it as a single on my website. I wanted to do something for the frontline workers who were so bravely risking their lives for the sake of everyone else.

So after about two weeks of the song being available on my website, I donated the $500 I had earned in downloads to a charity called Frontline Foods. I decided to keep writing and recording after receiving such a positive response to the single. It basically just became a snowball effect, with one song giving rise to the next.

On some songs I played all of the parts, but I had friends who sent me their tracks for some others. In addition to the friends I mentioned earlier, a few guitar parts were played by fellow NYC musician Jeff Litman and my former bandmate Brian Clark. I even coaxed my wife Rebecca Banchik into singing some harmony vocals on a couple of tracks, and they turned out great.

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

I just want people to hear it! I still find it strange that rock music has sort of receded into the background in terms of popularity. I don’t expect tens of millions of people to discover me or to love what I do. I mean that would be nice, but it’s totally unrealistic given the way things have shifted in the industry and in pop culture. That being said, the recorded versions of these songs are more important now than ever because live music is still on pause. I am incredibly thankful for each person who downloads the album, shares it with a friend, follows me on social media/streaming services, or adds me to their playlists!

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

I’m suspending reality here, but the three songwriters I would choose to work with are Tom Petty, Paul Westerberg, and Rick Nielsen. These guys are all major influences on me for different reasons. Tom Petty was one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived. His word economy and ability to draw the listener into the world of his songs are pretty much unrivaled as far as I’m concerned.

Similarly, I think that Paul Westerberg (both as the chief songwriter in The Replacements and as a solo artist) has that uncanny ability to cut through the bullshit and express himself honestly and succinctly. There are songs that he has written that in my mind summarize the entire human condition.

Lastly, I chose Rick Nielsen because I’m a huge Cheap Trick fan. He also seems like he would be a lot of fun to hang out with. And honestly, is there anyone who’s written more badass riffs and songs over the course of their career? I mean we’re talking about the guy who wrote “Surrender” here!

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

I think it was when I completed the chorus on “The Longest Weekend.” I had the verses in place, and I had a progression and melody for the chorus. But I was struggling with how to end the chorus. It made sense for there to be some sort of tag line at the end of it. I just wasn’t sure what it should be. I wanted to rhyme with the lyrics “We’re living in the longest weekend / You’d think it would be fun.” The bolt of lightning moment came when I landed on the line, “I never thought I’d say that I want Monday to come.” Solid gold, baby. Solid gold haha.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

I think that is definitely true. It’s not easy to make a great record. But anyone can dip a toe in the recording process these days to mixed success. And because peoples’ tastes have changed to be more accepting of tracks that have been edited and auto-tuned a thousand times over, even people who have no business seriously releasing music can do exactly that. And while technology makes it possible to record, release, and share music from the comfort of one’s bedroom, the simple truth is the internet is completely oversaturated with music. So it can be incredibly hard to get people to hear what you’ve created.

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?

On one hand, I think my music sounds like a blend of all of my favorite genres and styles: power pop, 70s hard rock, 60s pop, arena rock, and 90s alternative. However, I do think my songs offer up little sonic surprises that the listener may not see coming. It could be a melodic alteration or a harmony that only appears at a specific time or a seamless key change or a percussive element.

I think that’s one of my favorite things to do: take a relatively simple three or four-minute rock tune and sprinkle in a few little bits of ear candy that set the song apart. I often get compared to power pop artists like Matthew Sweet, Raspberries, Big Star, or The Gin Blossoms. And that totally makes sense because I draw a ton of influence from those bands. But then a moment later, you might hear something super crunchy that would fit right in on an AC/DC track or a harmonized guitar part that sounds reminiscent of Queen or a forlorn sounding acoustic ballad that would be right at home on a Nick Drake or Wilco album.

What can I say? I like to keep the listeners on their toes.