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.