Galore – Roller (Q&A)

“Fronted by Haligonian Barry Walsh—of the late, great Cool Blue Halo—Galore is a ballsy trip to ’70s glam and power-pop.”, The Coast wrote in 2007. There’s nothing wrong with that characterization. Although Roller also reminds me of the first Fastball record.

The recordings were completed some time ago but Roller was only recently released. Walsh explains how that came to be.

And, oh yes, he also mentions the possibility of a second Cool Blue Halo record!

Many artists have used the pandemic to get creative and crank out new albums in a few months while others have used the time to revisit projects they previously abandoned. What’s the story?

In my case I was lucky enough to do both. With my close friends, Laurence Currie and James Parker, I was able to record an EP under the moniker Mammoth Gardens (“Remote”) which is a little more electronic and experimental, and with Galore, the band I’ve been a part of/ the founding member of for 20+ years, I was able to revisit a “lost” album that was recorded over a decade ago. In both cases it’s been great to get the stuff out into the wider world and hear from folks who are enjoying it. And admittedly with the Galore album there’s a feeling of, “Finally! What took us so long?”

How did this record come together?

Galore has been around in various versions since the turn of the 2000s, but this version (myself, Kevin Hilliard on bass and vocals, Stephen Krecklo on guitar and Tim Timleck on drums) started demoing these songs at a friend’s house back in 2008 or so. From there we fiddled about in various home studios and then did significant tracking at Sloan’s rehearsal space (both Kevin and Stephen worked with Sloan’s crew and everybody’s friendly, and Kevin and I also hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia).

From there, Stephen took it home to mix and we heard the final results and … sat on them for years. Life got busy in myriad ways for all of us and as we started playing less and getting involved with other things, putting the record out wasn’t a huge priority.

But over the years we would kick around the idea of releasing it and we would have various people asking about it. Eventually, this year, I just asked myself, “What am I waiting for?” The ability to release things digitally certainly makes things easier and while I know many people love physical products (I do too) we don’t necessarily love having boxes of unsold CDs on hand. That said, we might do a small CD or vinyl run in the near future.

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

I’m lucky in that I’m able to support myself and my family to some extent through work in another field that I’ve wanted to be in since I was a kid — as a magazine editor — so commercial considerations or pressures don’t really exist with my music now. In my 20s and 30s I admit that there was always this moving goalpost of “making it” as a musician but that is all consigned to the past for me.

Success lies in having people hear it and enjoy it. And this might sound cheesy but here goes: I’m not exaggerating when I say that music has saved my life on more than one occasion. So to be able to give back or contribute to this incredible magical force by writing and recording a song that someone somewhere in the world will receive a few minutes of joy from — that is success beyond anything I could’ve hoped for. But if millions of folks want to download the album I won’t argue!

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

The urge is always great but the challenge is in finding the time. I have four wonderful kids, and with the full time job, there are long stretches where I don’t touch a guitar. But I’m usually always typing a lyric into my phone or humming a melody into a voice memo so when the stars align (and they will) I’ll be able to sift through the fragments and stitch things together.

But admittedly, if I don’t engage in something creatively for a long period of time, I feel terribly off balance.

Getting compliments can be so nice. What were the best?

In the early 2000s, an iteration of Galore (myself, Tim Timleck on drums and Edward Pond on bass) went to New York City to record an EP with Richard Lloyd (Television, Matthew Sweet) producing. We had one song, “Amy Airplane”, that I’d intentionally left the guitar solo unwritten for… I was having a hard time figuring out an approach and so we asked Richard if he might want to try something.

And so he went through running the song about three times or so, soloing throughout so that when he got to the solo bit he’d be inspired. And he’s such a unique player that you can tell it’s him from the first note. I eventually released the song on the first Mammoth Gardens EP, New Moon Variety, and maybe some other stuff from those sessions will see the light of day soon. So while it wasn’t a compliment in the strict sense of the word, to have one of my musical heroes contribute to a song I wrote was pretty wonderful and a real blessing.

About a year or so later that same iteration of the band, along with guitarist Michael McKenzie, had a residency at this funky club in Toronto called Stone’s Place, run by someone who was a pal of the Rolling Stones, or various members. And at that time, the Stones were in town rehearsing for a tour. So Bernard Fowler, who has been one of their backing vocalists for years and is such a powerful, amazing singer, came to the club to hang out and eventually joined us to play. Initially he didn’t want to play any Stones songs so we played some AC/DC but he relented and we did a Stones tune or two. At the end he jabbed his forefinger into my bony chest and said, “You got the fire!”

And that moment made everything in my haphazard musical “career” up to that point worthwhile.

Oh, and David Bash, in a capsule review of one of Galore’s International Pop Overthrow sets, said my voice was “Robin Zanderesque” which was very, very generous of him.

The record is done, the music is out. Is the best fun now or is it just beginning?

It’s definitely fun to hear from people who are enjoying the record, especially given the long period involved in getting it out. To a degree there’s a sense of closure for this album, so the fun is in figuring out what to do next.

Cool Blue Halo, the band I’ve been part of since the Nineties, has been threatening to make a second record (what would be our 2nd in 25 years!) so maybe that will come to pass in 2022.

And perhaps Galore will play the odd show, as might Mammoth Gardens.

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

Ooh, that’s a tough one and it probably varies weekly. But today I’ll go with what might be a cliche choice in Paul McCartney, simply because of what I’d learn from him. I’m on a Bee Gees kick lately so my second choice could be Barry Gibb. We could start a baroque pop band and call it The Barries, And for my third choice I’d resurrect Chris Bell.

Andrew Stonehome – S/T

Andrew Stonehome has an ear for natural hooks nestled in a truly original but warm, familiar sound. And the guy does it all on this album. Stonehome is a serious talent.”, writes a fan on Andrew Stonehome’s Bandcamp page.

Stonehome tells Sweet Sweet Music that he spent years polishing and tinkering with the songs and the sound before he wanted to share them with the rest of the world. The self-titled debut is out now!

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

The honest answer is that I’m still trying to figure out if I am or not because I’m mostly starting out when it comes to releasing music. As I was writing and recording the songs that are on the album, there were lots of things that I thought were strong. But because this is my first real release, it’s hard for me to know what others will think. Since I do everything myself, I don’t generally get much feedback from others throughout the process, so I don’t have a great sense of how they’ll be received.

One moment that helped me feel like I was on to something was when I released my first song, “I Am King”, in 2019 and didn’t do anything in terms of marketing or sharing it. It was somehow discovered by a couple of blogs that included it in their recommended singles, and I was then contacted by a few people who said they’d heard the song and liked it.

This was my first experience getting this kind of feedback from people who didn’t know me and had no reason to tell me they liked something I’d done. That meant a lot to me because I generally assume that positive feedback from people who already know you tend to be obligatory. After all, they want to support you.

How did this record come together?

The ideas for these songs came a few years ago during a transitional time in my life. I’d wanted to create and share music since I was younger but hadn’t taken the leap to do it. I’m still in the stage of discovering my voice and exploring different musical styles to see what resonates with me, so this album reflects that in its eclectic mix of styles.

My goal was to do everything myself, so I wrote, played, recorded, and mixed everything in my 103-year-old house. When writing, I often come up with a melodic line first, generally accompanied by semi-gibberish lyrics. I then record the initial idea (usually a verse and chorus part) and try adding other instruments and parts, which is my favorite part of the process. 

Coming up with final lyrics is generally time intensive and laborious. I recently heard another artist say that 70% of the song usually comes quickly, and then the other 30% can take months or even years to finish. That seems to be generally true for me too.

It was important that the final recorded versions of the songs sound professional, so the majority of time spent making the album (3.5 years) was spent on recording and mixing. I have a background in recording and production, but it had been a long time since I’d done much, so there was a lot of trial and error, watching videos, and getting feedback and advice from professional engineers. In the end, I was satisfied that I’d recorded something that sounded like it was competitive with something created in a studio.

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

Definitely not, and not just as a musician, but as a person. I generally operate as a logical thinker more than a feeler, so I actually don’t even show emotion to myself, let alone others. 

In some ways, this album mirrors my tendency not to reveal too much emotion, even when doing so would be healthy and necessary. A few of the songs are about things that are personally painful or challenging, but they’re wrapped up in music that is pretty upbeat and simple, which can be an interesting juxtaposition. 

One of the things I’m looking forward to in the future is revealing more, if even just to myself.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

“When You’re Leaving”



It depends on who the new listeners are and what style they like. The reason is that the music I make is somewhat eclectic stylistically, and these three songs are examples of some of the styles that I touch on. 

For example, if I’m talking to a power-pop audience, “Heartbreaker” is the song that I’d share first because it’s an example of playful, driving power-pop. On the other hand, “When You’re Leaving” is a folk-pop acoustic song, so I’d share that one first with people who prefer that style.

I also include the song “Stay”, which may not have as much of a broad musical appeal as the other two because it’s probably the best example of me expressing things in a way that’s more unique to who I am. Similarly, there’s another song that I’ll be releasing in the future that will be the most honest and personal song I’ve written, and it will likely become the song that I’ll share first with new listeners.

Going back to the previous question, this song will be a way to reveal a side of me that most people don’t see.

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

I’ve now realized that if I’m not being creative in some way, I’m not being me. Being creative is something that I’m constantly driven to do rather than something nice to do occasionally. I’ve gone through some stretches in my adult life where I wasn’t engaging myself creatively and felt like a shell of myself, a robot with no soul. As a person who doesn’t express their emotions naturally, music provides a great vehicle to be able to do that in a way that’s creative and uniquely mine.

Lyrics are too often taken for granted. What is the line of text, or are the lines of text that you hope listeners will remember? And why?

I’ll admit to being one who takes lyrics for granted because I’m a music-first person who is obsessed with the individual musical parts and the production. In any case, from this album, this lyrical line from the song “Stay” would be one I’d hope would resonate with people:

“All the scars left on my face from the things I can’t erase”

Another line that comes to mind is from a song that I will be releasing later:

“Painful memories of the future, they won’t leave me alone”

These lines come to mind first because they express some things that I have a hard time otherwise telling. There are other lyrical lines in other songs that I’m proud of for different reasons that are less personal and more playful. Still, the personal ones would be particularly meaningful to me if they resonated with people.

Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?

That’s a tough question, and I could go either way. Because I’m now at the stage where I’m trying to get my record heard and because I’m essentially starting from scratch when it comes to listeners, my first instinct is to say a resounding “Yes!”. 

At the same time, I worked on writing, recording, and mixing it for over three years, but I can instantly share it with anyone in the world once it’s done. The challenge is getting it to the people who might like it, and then them having the time to listen to it. We’re inundated with things competing for our attention these days, so getting even a small amount of people’s time and attention is a challenge.

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

Hawkley Workman: Great writer and multi-instrumentalist, and his writing and production style would be a contrast to mine. I’m slow and methodical – he seems to work more quickly and instinctively, and it would be interesting to be pushed to work in a more instinctive and raw way.

Sting: I love his constant evolution, ability to mix styles, and always giving things a unique twist.

Ben Folds: Just seems like it would be a lot of fun.

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

“You, Me and the Weather” by Hawksley Workman

“Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel

“I Hung My Head” by Sting

“Bird with a Broken Wing” by Weezer

“Eugene” by Sufjan Stevens

Who would you ask if you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record?

Good question and I’m going to give my answer based on the idea that it be more about featuring them as an individual singer rather than just providing harmonies that would blend in with my voice.

I would love to work with a great female vocalist, particularly a soul-style solid singer. One that comes to mind that I saw live was Joy Rose, who sang backup for Sting for a while. She brought the house down with the kind of goosebump moments that make music so powerful and intoxicating. It would be fun to be a part of that.

Two other women whose voices I’m enamored with are Norah Jones and Emmylou Harris. Their voices are so wonderfully expressive, nuanced, and personal. For my taste, there aren’t many better albums than “Wrecking Ball,” and I feel like her voice can be expressive and unique in various musical contexts.

The Resonars, Freezing Hands, The Exbats, …

The finest Garage Pop is made at the Midtown Island Studios in Tucson. Matt Rendon owns the studio and is also a member of some great bands who, of course, record their songs there.

In 2019 you told ‘Lenguas Largas, Freezing Hands, Free Machines, Sea Wren, Anchor baby, The Resonars, Harsh Mistress – they’re all made up among the same 10-12 people. How does the Midtown Island circle work? Do you see each other daily or weekly? And is there always a reason to get together, or are you always searching for songs together?

That quote from 2019 was undoubtedly true at the time. However, since covid, that’s all changed. I only see the bands I’m an active participant in – Exbats, Freezing Hands, Groovy Movies, and The Resonars. Freezing Hands are here to record/rehearse every Wednesday at 7 pm like clockwork, and it’s been that way for ten years.

The Exbats I see pretty regularly as I now play guitar in the band. Sea Wren and Harsh Mistress are no more. Free Machines are going to record here soon, probably in late winter. The Lenguas/Anchorbaby guys I don’t see very often anymore.

Travis from the Freezing Hands and Kenny/Inez from The Exbats are the most prolific songwriters I know. There’s always a song in their pockets, and the quality is always high. Kenny lives 90 minutes away, so he will often call just to say that he wrote another hit and talk me through it. Travis has a new song nearly every Wednesday night. So yeah, the songs are always discussed, and production/arrangement ideas are in place by the time we start rolling tape.

I can endlessly enjoy the way the harmony vocals sound on your records. Is that your specialty or ‘just’ the most fun part of it all?

I would have to say that harmonies are my specialty and, for me, is the most fun part of recording. It’s always a laugh riot. These days most harmonies on Freezing Hands, The Exbats, or The Resonars records tend to be 3 to 6 parts. A lot of call and response or three-part backup vocals behind a lead vocal. It’s a source of wonder and exploration. Always chasing the overtones, always trying to create beauty with human voices no matter the tone of the song. The look on the singers’ faces when a perfect harmonic blend is played back on the monitors is priceless.

So yeah, the most challenging, the most fun, the most work, and ultimately the most rewarding part of recording.

2021 was about re-releasing past releases and putting out music that seemed lost?

As far as 2021 goes, I fully intended to have a new The Resonars LP out and a reissue of the first LP from 1998. I kind of ran out of steam in early 2021 though a new 45EP was released on Hypnotic Bridge. The songs weren’t coming, so I concentrated on other things, mainly gardening, baseball, and practicing mixing. However, we did record and release the new The Exbats LP that came out in October, as well as a Freezing Hands record due out next year, and The Groovy Movies LP coming out in January/February.

Never a dull moment.

Releasing on vinyl, cassette, and on Spotify. Is that a good or a bad thing, all those different formats? Or do you enjoy it?

As far as formats are concerned, I prefer vinyl. It’s the biggest challenge creatively and financially, and if you’re going to commit to it, it has to be the best you can do. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Spotify. I finally relented when I realized that’s how most friends and family were listening to music.

Different formats are good, I believe. I’m asked if any of The Resonars’ releases are out on CD at least once a week.

Bandcamp is the best, though. It’s direct and artist-friendly and can really help a band out of a jam.

Are there already plans for 2022?

Plans for 2022 are a new The Resonars LP, that’s about 75% done right now, a reissue of Bright and Dark with extra tracks. New albums by The Exbats (they’ve already written a clutch of fantastic songs, and we start recording next month), Freezing Hands (in the post-production stage), Groovy Movies (album coming in a few weeks), and our friends from Phoenix, the Rebel Set, are coming to record a new set of tunes in December.

Also, the reissue of the first LP goes to press in three weeks and should be out late December/early January.

Peter Hall – Light The Stars (Q&A)

Light The Stars, Peter Hall’s new record, will be released on November 26. His Bandcamp page features a short review in which his music is described as intimate, carefully crafted, and richly melodic indie pop. That is a very accurate description, and I would like to add one word to that description, namely ‘beautiful’.

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

When I wrote the title track – Light The Stars, it was maybe the third song I’d written that I was really happy with since releasing my EP, There’s Something Wrong With Everyone. It fired me up, and I thought, yeah, I’m writing an album, not an ep or just a single. It’s the album’s keystone, I guess.

How did this record come together?

Slowly! It started at the beginning of the pandemic, and the whole situation for me was not conducive to anything creative at all. The outlook was so strange and scary that I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I abandoned any attempt to make anything brand new. I needed to do something though, or I’d have gone mad, so I picked on an older song and recorded a new take on that. That got me moving. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll do that, or maybe record a cover, and that gets me in the right frame of mind to do something more creative.

After that, I was out of the blocks, and I didn’t stop writing and recording for around nine months. I work alone – both writing and recording – and tend to record as soon as it’s written, sometimes before I’ve got all the parts or words. I recorded around 16 songs and narrowed it down to 11 for the final tracklisting.  

The only exception to the working alone thing was that I was lucky to have Ben Gordelier (The Moons … & Paul Weller Band) play on a couple of tracks. He’s an amazing musician and was available due to not being able to play live. Lucky for me. That really helped and made me up my game.

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

God no! Have you seen that clip of Eliott Smith where he gets heckled by a guy saying, “grow a backbone!” Poor guy. He responds by saying he’s up there baring his soul; what more does he want? It makes you feel very vulnerable sometimes. My songs are intensely personal – even when they seem to be a story about someone else, they’re usually not! So yeah, it’s not easy because it’s all heart on your sleeve stuff. But that’s what connects with people, I guess, and I wouldn’t want to write anything that dodged a line because I was worried about what someone might think.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

Everything Is Fading Fast from There’s Something Wrong With Everyone EP

Two Twenty Two

Light The Stars

I could have picked any, I guess, cos I haven’t put out a song I don’t like, but I chose these three because, to me, there’s an uplift in them, musically and lyrically. I think there’s positivity in them – even amongst the melancholy of Everything Is Fading Fast. I don’t like talking about what songs mean because I always like to come to my own conclusions when I listen to music. It can spoil it when a meaning is imposed on you by a mouthy songwriter or singer, but just to say, I think I said what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it with these songs. I like the arrangements, as well. Yeah, these three will do!

If you could pick three singers to sing harmony vocals on your next record, who would you ask?

I’m picking dead people, ok, because then they have to come back and do it or risk a breach of contract, and I don’t think they want to get into all of that legal messiness. And once they’re here, they may as well stay. Them’s the rules. The only problem with these three is that I’m not sure I would dare to sing in their company. 

John Lennon

Etta James

Nick Drake

Come back, folks. It’s been too long.

the black watch – Here & There

Here & There is Los Angeles dreampop/indie pop band the black watch’s twentieth LP since its formation in Santa Barbara, California in 1987.

John Andrew Fredrick spoke to Sweet Sweet Music about the joys of being the best kept secret for over thirty years.

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

The moment I knew I was “on” to something emanated, I think from a failure (the penultimate LP we did, out in 2020, was called Brilliant Failures–hence it’s a topic I know quite some bit about!). Anyway, after I finished grad school I tried to write a novel about a year-long trip to London; and 500 pages into it, I realized “There’s no plot here!” So I shelved it and reckoned I’d have to start over. That being WAY too much to contemplate, I decided to finish a few songs I’d been working on. I’d written songs since I was ten years old or something, but never figured I’d pursue songwriting in earnest, you know?

Well, I met a drummer while I was teaching at UCSB, and he turned me on to The Smiths and REM and The Cure and Cocteau Twins. Once I played him some stuff, he kept calling ME, asking me to rehearse–very keen he was. So I thought, “Well, if this kid who seems to know ALL about indie music likes my songs, then perhaps we should see what we can do. I bought an electric guitar soon after that (much to my then-wife’s chagrin if not horror!), and we, the drummer and I, would rehearse in empty university classrooms on Saturdays. And the rest is history… from around 32 years ago! Life is very odd.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

The most unforgettable compliment I think I ever got was from an A & R guy at Warner Brothers who was very, very much a music person–not just a suit. And he said that he couldn’t sign us (of course not!) but that there was beyond a shadow of a doubt a real purpose for J’Anna Jacoby (bandmate at the time–now Rod Stewart’s violinist) and me to have a band.

Not every band has any sort of meaning, is what I’m driving at. That thought stuck with me.

Another one came from a psychiatrist friend who came to our first gig–which was with Toad the Wet Sprocket. He said: “That band [Toad] is going to be very popular; but YOU, John, are going to be an artist.”

Unimaginably touching, that was. And prophetic as well.

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

Success is such a nebulous concept, isn’t it? the black watch has had such good press over the years that I’m not particularly fazed by it: not that I’m not grateful. It’s just… we keep hearing, “Oh, your stuff should be in the movies… where the money is…” And it’s been a LONG time since we had anything in a film.

Furthermore, I try to please ONE person when I write and record: myself. Megalomaniacal as that sounds, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I make records that I want to hear–and that I DON’T hear anywhere else? Quixotic? Perhaps–but that’s the cross as it were I have to wave around!

If you could tour the world with two other bands, who would you ask, and why?

We would love to tour with My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. We’d wipe the floor with both. Haha. Kidding. Never happen.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

The place we occupy in the record industry might be best summarized with a quotation from venerable Trouser Press: “Amphetamines [our third LP] was the band’s failed bid for indie stardom.”

We’ve been this SECRET for so long that it simply makes us laugh. Yet I think there’s a philosophical element to it all: some bands (i.e. mine) are just MEANT not to be a big as well-wishers believe they deserve to be.

I think it was David Sylvian who said, after Japan broke up, that he’d quite like to be a MINOR pop star. I love that he said that. I second it!

A series of videos will be released over the new few months for songs from the album done by filmmaker  C.K. Sumner who has recently done work for Kristin Hershand The Bevis Frond.

Here & There is Los Angeles dreampop/indie pop band the black watch’s twentieth LP since its formation in Santa Barbara, California in 1987.  The new album was produced and engineered by Scott Campbell (Stevie Nicks, Shelby Lynne, Acetone) at his home studio in Woodland Hills, CA, and it features strings arrangements by two-time Emmy Award-winner Ben Eshbach, as well as the backing vocals of Gretchens Wheel frontwoman Lindsay Murray.

Fredrick, who is also a writer of fiction and an abstract painter and a self-proclaimed tennis bum, has a new novel–a Nabokovian thriller–coming out in 2022 from an up-and-coming UK publisher.

Sterbus – Let Your Garden Sleep In (Q&A)

Emanuele Sterbini and Dominique D’Avanzo together form Sterbus. Let Your Garden Sleep In, their new record, contains nine songs that are as accessible as they are eccentric.

Emanuele explains how his musical influences, XTC, Zappa, The Beatles, Talk Talk, and, above all, Cardiacs, have shaped the sound of this Power Popera.

You call Let Your Garden Sleep In a Power popera. Did you have a particular concept in mind when you started writing?

Our last album, 2018, “Real Estate / Fake Inverno”, was a double album, had 17 songs, and featured Cardiacs drummer Bob Leith. It was an extensive blend of different styles, from proggy cavalcades to folk-acoustic tunes, from power-punk with odd rhythms to mariner songs and everything in between! It was hard to decide the tracklist because we wanted a change of scenery for every song, a bit like the White Album, that has George Harrison’s quiet “Long long long” right after “Helter Skelter”.

This new album was born during the lockdown, and while we were writing the songs, we saw a pattern linking all of them. This time it was their research for joy, simplicity, nice chords with nice melodies, and we already imagined what kind of arrangements would have suited the song best. For sure, they all needed loud guitars, which gave them the power-pop flavor.

How do you and Dominique work together? How does a Sterbus song come about, or is there no fixed formula?

I start the songs on my own most of the time, finding a first structure with just guitar and a melody. I tend to write melodies singing in a fake/gibberish English cause my priority is the sound of the words. Then Dominique can take my fake words and translate them to actual lines.

Sometimes, like in the song “Polygone Bye” sung by Dominique, the melody comes together while we’re jamming and finding the right chords together. Sometimes during this process, I begin to “visualize” the best form to give to the songs, how many verses, intros, chorus, middle-eights, and then we demo the song, with midi drums, electric guitars, bass, and all the stuff that will be in the final version. I always loved middle-eights, that section that usually comes after the second chorus and brings you to the song coda! Andy Partridge is a master of that. Boring songwriters usually put solos over the verse chords or a useless pause on that part before repeating the last chorus. I hate it!

Let Your Garden Sleep In has a vibrant sound. Did it take you a while to find it, or did you know exactly what you wanted when you started recording?

When we went to the studio, the Jungle Music Factory in Tivoli, near Rome, run by our friend Francesco Grammatico that de facto technically produced the record, we only knew that we wanted a warmer sound than the past record, a little less “glossy” and a bit more earthy, if that makes sense.

So we started tracking drums with Pablo Tarli – who also plays drums in my other band, ZAC – and then we built from there. Riccardo Piergiovanni, our keyboard player, also played a significant role because he wrote the strings arrangement for our first single and album opener, “Nothing of concern”. I’m thrilled cause we had the chance to use real instruments and no midi, so we had a real piano, strings, clarinets, flutes, trumpets, trombones; I played bass and all guitars. Dom played clarinets, flutes and wrote all the lyrics, leaving the song titles to me.

A special mention should go to Al Strachan, the trumpet player in the beautiful Crayola Lectern that gave the last song and album closer “Murmurations,” that late Talk Talk feeling we were trying to achieve. Having real instruments, it’s essential to us; It’s what we heard on our fave records, after all!

“Real Estate / Fake Inverno” also was full of this kind of instrumentation… we even had Celtic harps on that.

Sterbus’ music is influenced by, among others, The Lemon Twigs and XTC. Bands that sound both accessible and eccentric. Are you also looking for that mix with Sterbus, or do I hear things that aren’t there?

Absolutely! But here I need to mention my fave band ever, Cardiacs. I discovered them only in 2006, after years of searching for the perfect band. I grew up listening to Frank Zappa and The Beatles, and then in the early nineties, all the guitar bands that exploded after Nirvana. Cardiacs can be complex and fun, tuneful and abrasive, all simultaneously, sometimes in the same song. Their 1996 album “Sing to God” is a masterpiece, and having their drummer playing on our album in 2018 has been a dream come true. Tim Smith is a genius.

And now all the hard work is done, the record you worked so hard on has been released. Scary and exciting?

You’re right, scared and excited. At the moment we are very happy because the limited edition of 100 hand-numbered copies sold-out out in less than two days and that’s a lot for an independent band like us. We hope our music reaches many people, and we wish to donate a jolly good time to all that will listen to it.

Power-pop to the people!

The digipack “standard” version of the album is available on our Bandcamp page.

David Brookings – Mania at the Talent Show (Q&A)

Mania At the Talent Show, David Brookings’ new record, his 9th, will be released on November 12. Like so many other musicians this year, he seems to have raised the bar for himself again by emerging from the lockdown with twelve of his best songs.

It looks like you used a slightly different sound and broader palette on Mania at the Talent Show. I hear pure Power Pop and more subdued Singer-Songwriter songs brotherly after each other. Or has it always been there, and are my ears opening now?

I think it has always been there, but I agree the palette is broader here. Mania at the Talent Show is my 9th album, so I want to branch out and try new things, not make the same record every time. I’m trying to expand, and my co-producer and engineer Josh Scolaro and I were very conscious of that on this record. I like how you say the songs are paired ‘brotherly’

How did Mania at the Talent Show come about?

It is the first album I’ve ever recorded that was done remotely. I’m in LA, and I file shared back and forth with Josh (producer/engineer) in Virginia. We last worked together back in 2000 when my first record came out. We’ve stayed close all these years, and it was great working with him again. It was also easier than I thought it would be, and we brought in a few other music friends from past bands I’ve played in to fill out some of the drum and bass sections. But it is mostly Josh and I playing on all the tracks.

What a great title the record has been given. Can you tell me something about that?

I thought it was a cool title for the record. Then I wrote a song around that title, which is intended to be an over-the-top satirical look back at the first time I ever played live at the 6th grade talent show (I was 11) when I played the first song I ever wrote. But I assure you no dads were starting mosh pits and 7th-grade girls passing out, as the song suggests

Your lyrics are meaningful. How do you find inspiration for telling new stories?

Thanks for saying that. I use my life, and whatever is going on at the time, and mix that in with lines that I’ve either heard someone say, remember from a movie, think are funny, etc. Sometimes I don’t know how the songs come together. It’s a strange magic you’re trying to capture, writing songs 

How will Mania at the Talent Show be released, and from when can orders be made?

It’ll be everywhere on November 12, which is also my birthday. All of the streaming sites will have it, but I do recommend Apple Music. And I’m also selling physical CDs at You can pre-order now, and please do 🙂 

The Well Wishers – Spare Parts (Q&A)

‘Eventually every band or artist reaches that point in their careers where they have an album’s worth of spare parts, scraps and orphaned tracks that never seemed to have a proper home. It took 17 years, but we finally got there!. The 11 tracks herein are assorted of outtakes, demos, and previously unreleased songs that finally found their way off the cutting room floor.”, writes Jeff Shelton on The Well Wishers’ Bandcamp page.

Spare Parts is the umpteenth proof we get this year that there are hidden treasures in many attics. Fortunately, treasure hunting turned out to be an essential new activity for many in 2021.

2021 is the year where many lost songs have been found, dusted, and released. Do you see Spare Parts as part of that ‘trend,’ or is the story different?

I didn’t think I was jumping on a trend necessarily….although I did feel I needed to release some new material this year since it had been over a year since the last Well Wishers album (2020’s “Shelf Life” LP). I began to realize I had all these assorted songs laying around. They were all mostly finished, so I felt they needed some kind of release.

I wonder how it is possible that Call It A Day never got a spot on any of your records before; what a lovely song! What’s the story?

Haha! Thank you! Yes, it’s a very bouncy and catchy little tune. I think the subversive lyrics just kept me from putting it on any proper record. It seemed so tongue & cheek and out of place for some reason. “You bring the wine….I’ll bring the strychnine.” Weird stuff. However, I do like the interplay between sweet pop and morose lyrics. Undoubtedly inspired by The Smiths, I think!

On, for example, Growing Old and Let’s Drive (All Better Now), the guitar sounds a bit more ragged and rough. I like that a lot, but maybe I hear things that aren’t there?

All the songs are finished … at least to my satisfaction; I almost always have more ragged songs and “rock” sounding than others. It’s part of that power pop spectrum I enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the Beach Boys as much as Black Sabbath.

Did you have to do a lot of fine-tuning to make a whole from all the separate parts? It does sound like a whole, but maybe that wasn’t a goal in itself?

Not a lot of fine-tuning at all; as I mentioned, most of these songs were essentially finished, although with “Call it a Day,” I did add some solo and textural guitar shortly before this release. If the whole thing sounds at all cohesive, it’s purely coincidental. The beauty of a random compilation like this is just throwing it out there for people to enjoy. There’s no real theme or desired cohesion whatsoever, hence “Spare Parts.”

I can imagine Love and Science is not a left-over; more you wanted to play around with new ideas and a different sound?

Love and Science was indeed part of a 3-song experiment from 2010 … where I made strictly electronic music. It was the best of the bunch, but you can check out two other songs here.

It’s Karma It’s Cool –  Homesick for our Future Destinations (Q&A)

Homesick for our Future Destinations is the third release of It’s Karma It’s Cool and sounds slightly different from the two predecessors. James Styring explains, ‘it was time to show our faces,’ and that’s what they do, not just on the cover. Nice!

It seems that, on the new record, you are so much more comfortable with the chosen It’s Karma It’s Cool sound. It sounds so natural, played so confidently. Is that so, or am I hearing something that isn’t there? 

No, you’re right, Patrick. I guess writing and playing together over a period of time brings you closer as a band and more focused with where you want to go. That’s not to say we won’t write any 3-minute pop songs again, but this album just seemed to have a little more purpose and drive behind it. 

And then suddenly, you are depicted as a band on the cover instead of a drawn image. That also says something, or do I see things that aren’t there? 

We thought it was time to show our faces; we’d hidden behind the artwork long enough. Our friend, Mick Dillingham, did a great job with the artwork for our first two records (Hipsters and Aeroplanes and Woke Up In Hollywood), but we just wanted to shake it up and surprise people. We were fortunate to get the great Steve Stanley on board for this one.

How did Homesick for Our Future Destinations come about? 

It was just the natural follow-up to our previous album, ‘Woke Up In Hollywood’. The writing process never stops, so it was kind of ongoing, really. We didn’t change the way we do things; we write the songs, demo them, then record the final versions. However, early on, we knew that these new songs were perhaps a little darker or deeper than previous material. It’s not a concept album, but there are definite themes running through the album. We went with it and allowed the ideas and sounds to develop.

 When in your career did you realize that you can really sing and that your voice is very distinctive? 

I just do what I do and hope that people enjoy it. I always think of myself as one-quarter of the band, not the frontman, or most important, we’re a team, and each has a role and a job to do. Having said that, I’m always very grateful if someone says they like my voice; I don’t try to sound like anyone else or copy any particular style; I just sing and lose myself to the music. 

Scott Gagner – BloodMoon

Scott Gagner blends power-pop, synth-pop, psychedelia, alt-country, rock, and heartfelt balladry into a cohesive whole.

Sweet Sweet Music talked to him about the Talking Heads, an African Tongue Drum, moving back to live in Minnesota, the yearly wildfires, and the complicated world we live in. And about how he made BloodMoon, his fourth, and most personal, release.

You use many different musical styles. “Twice in a Lifetime” even made me think of Yello. Does the song dictate the style, or do you consciously work in a particular style when you start a song?

I’m not too familiar with Yello, but you’re in the right decade! “Twice in a Lifetime” has a slight tip of the hat to Talking Heads, one of my all-time favorites. But I digress. I’d say that the song dictates the style as it evolves organically.

Using that song as an example, it all started because I spotted an African Tongue Drum at my friend Haris’ house. I picked up the accompanying mallets and immediately played the pattern that you hear on the recording. It grew from there, adding drums, bass, Organelle pocket synthesizer, kitchen knives, etcetera.

It sat as a polished demo for a long time, as I struggled to find ways to sing over the odd 11/4 time signature dictated by the layout of the Tongue Drum. Frustrated, and with the album mix deadline only one week away, I tried the “spoken word” approach, having never done it before. We were in the middle of trying to buy a house in Minnesota (see below), so I tried reciting a “wish list” of everything I wanted in our new location. I called it “Twice in a Lifetime” for two reasons: in honor of the Talking Heads classic “Once in a Lifetime,” and because the song is about moving back to live in Minnesota for the second time in my life.

Orion is a tour de force. How did you find the suitable form here (textually and musically) to convey your message?

Thank you. Well, given that the song has three distinct sections, I’m not sure that I succeeded in finding a suitable form. But I did narrow it down to three! And if you count “Orion (Reprise),” then there are actually five sections (ahem).

Musically, I knew that I wanted the song to be built upon the descending piano motif (I was playing lots of piano during the writing of this record). Acoustic pianos are naturally very grounded and earthy, so I needed something to keep us aloft in space to fit the concept; hence the buzzing, growling vintage synthesizers that add a generous dose of “Bladerunner” retro-futurism to the mix. The violins — played beautifully by Alisa Rose — seemed to glue the two extremes together.

As for the lyrics, the concept came to me during the darkest days of the Trump administration. I was standing on my back deck one night, gazing at the stars, and I began fantasizing about Orion descending down to Earth and, well, drawing his sword on all the craven, oil-thirsty, pig-men who were busy tearing the world apart. Perhaps writing a seven-minute Celestial-Greek-Mythology-Revenge-Fantasy is not the healthiest human impulse I’ve ever had? But hey, I was feeling desperate.

BloodMoon has become a highly personal work. Was your creativity driven by personal circumstances or by your view of earthly matters? Reading back on the question, I can also imagine that many of us couldn’t separate the two in the past year.

Excellent question. For my family and me, the “earthly matters” became highly personal. Our specific location in California was close enough to the yearly wildfires that we knew we needed to make a significant change. The breaking point came on September 9, 2020, when most of us Californians woke to an ominous pink-orange sky, choked with smoke, completely blotting out the sun.

I started evaluating our options in much more primal, caveman-like terms. “Fire bad. Get family away from fire.” We sold our house in California and bought one in my native Minnesota without being able to see it in person (thanks, COVID!). Now, even though we miss our California friends terribly, we are close to my immediate family, and our lives are much less stressful overall. I’ve even stopped grunting like a caveman and carrying a femur bone as a makeshift weapon. Evolution!

And then the release is there, and people are going to like it, or not. That doesn’t seem very easy to me. How do you hope this record can be an inspiration to others?

Once you release a record, you have to be prepared for people to love it, hate it, be indifferent, or, most likely, never hear it. Aside from doing your best to get the word out, it’s largely out of your control, and therefore, not worth stressing about too much.

I write songs and make records for myself, first and foremost. I am compelled to do so whether anyone is listening or not. I do it because A) I’m in love with all aspects of the process, B) I want to grow as an artist and as a human being, and C) connecting with people through music is extremely gratifying.

As for inspiration, my goals are more modest — I just want people to hear the songs. If someone is inspired in any way after listening, that would just be icing on the cake.

We live in a complicated world. Trying to make sense of it, for ourselves and the ones we love, that, to me, is what your new record is about. Would you agree?

Complicated feels like the perfect word. Our ancestors have obviously lived through more difficult chapters in history, but those chapters may not have been more complicated. BloodMoon was only written to reflect my personal journey over these past few years. Which, though highly complicated on a personal level, was never intended as a way to untangle the “ball of snakes” that is this moment in history. It is likely true, however, that I write songs to make sense of my world. I think most artists do that to some degree.