Cheap Star – Wish I Could See (Q&A)

Rémi Vaissiere and his star cast (Jon Auer, Brian Young, Gary Louris, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., Brendan Benson, Mitch Easter , Matthew Caws). Wish I Could See (Kool Kat Musik) offers a master class in writing sophisticated Power Pop songs but is perhaps even more of a master class in how to perform those sophisticated songs. Impeccable!

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

I am still waiting for that moment, but the driving force behind the album, was writing Flower Girl, a song dedicated to my ten-year-old daughter, Marguerite; the song benefits from the great vocal lines by the sweetest person ever, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.

How did this record come together?

Jon (Auer) and I started to record the basic tracks in Annecy in 2013. We did half-fit without any drums. I wanted to record a mixed bag of new and older songs, Move Away, for example, was written almost 20 years ago. My goal was to bring a lot of variety to the album and not have any filler (at least to me!).

At the time, my friend Thomas (ex Cheap Star bass player aka Captain Rock, as Jon Auer nicknamed him!) was living in Amsterdam, and the Posies were going to play there. I thought that would be the perfect match and the best occasion to record live with Brian Young!

We had lots of fun recording in the studio where Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks did record too. It was so relaxed, really smooth.

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

I never really do. 

My wife Isabelle and my two little girls are the ones who first listen to the songs, but they generally just let me do my thing. I typically bring many songs to the recordings and choose the ones we want to work on with Jon a couple of days before.

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

Well, that’s a tricky thing: recognition by people I was a fan of or admired was the only thing that meant success to me before.

Now I’d like to get more interest from the industry (record labels, tour manager) and TOUR that album (meaning that the pandemic did not really change our situation regarding that point as it takes so much time and energy to do those stuff only by myself.

I want the listeners to feel what I felt when I heard the complete result for the first time; a glorious production and a cast of choice backing me up, lifting the songs when I sing.

And, I want to go out and show that Cheap Star is a high-energy indie pop live band!

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

It’s vital. I am always searching for melodies. Then the lyrics come. Or I start with just a song title, and here it goes!

I always write but don’t demo the songs that much; I like to keep them as fresh as possible (so even the older ones feel new to me). I have the Bob Pollard syndrome: the more you write, the more you want to write!  

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

Certain songs, for sure, are more personal than others. I sometimes need to sing those with my eyes closed, but music is emotions, and I feel no shame to show them. It’s exhilarating!

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

Dan Wilson, he’s got a certain experience.

Jeff Tweedy, because he’s so creative but also can cowrite with lots of different people

Gary Louris

Evan Dando, because I tried before, and it almost worked. He’s the sweetest guy and always chooses great chords.  

What’s the gig you will never forget? And why?

Don Benito, a little town in Spain, near Portugal, in 2007.

We were doing a small tour with Varisty Drag, a band formed by Ben Deily, who co-founded The Lemonheads with Evan Dando.

Jije, the Spanish Bob Pollard (tall, playing basketball and a true character) organized two shows in a row. Both nights we had a great crowd.

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

Today! Kidding…or not… As a songwriter, you are never a good judge, I trust my wife for that, and she’s fond of Wish I Could See, which I do think is a hit!

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

Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Nada Surf – Under the Linden Tree

Tristen – Glass Jar

Gary Louris – Follow

Sparklehorse – Rainmaker

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

Giving the audience pleasure, watching them nod their heads, or jumping around is the best gift you could get.

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?

The sensitivity that a melody can carry.

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

Guided By Voices because it’s GBV, the best band on the planet with incredible songs, musicianship, and singing…plus they got the best secret weapon in the business: Doug Gillard!

Midnight Oil, because they are touring the world for the last time, and Jim Moginie has the greatest guitar sound I ever heard live, and things get huge when he’s dueling with Martin Rotsey!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s