Liquid Mike – s/t (Q&A)

Eleven songs that are barely 18 minutes in total, but I guarantee that’s all you need today.

Liquid Mike makes POWER Pop, which is infectious, energetic, catchy, solid, and, most of all, very, very good.

Mike himself explains.

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

As long as Monica, Cody, and Zack like the album and like the parts they play I don’t have to worry about people liking it or not. I trust their instincts and tastes, so as long as we’re all on the same page, I’ll know we made something good. That’s our only goal as a band is to make something we’re proud of and to write songs that are fun to play live. So far, we’re a huge success.

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

Virginia – Clipse,

If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself) – Pete Droge,

Same Old Life – The Flashing Lights,

Milk Man – Deerhoof,

Sittin’ Sideways – Paul Wall.

Haven’t figured out what order I’d put these in, but these are the best songs ever recorded, to my knowledge.

How do you decide when a song is finished and ready to be recorded?

I like to record them as I go, so as soon as I have at least a verse and a chorus, I record it. As a band, we don’t like having a bunch of songs sitting around waiting to be recorded because the process gets overwhelming. We like having one song to think about when we record. I don’t like revisiting the recording after the initial takes are laid down; I usually get attached to the demo and decide to just go with that one haha. The new record is filled with metronome bleed, crackles, talking, and feedback. I think that’s a more honest reflection of the music and how we do it ourselves. Plus, nothing’s worse than a crystal-clean record.

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

I’m gonna go ahead and use dead or alive people. So Harry Nilsson, Elvis, and my Dad. Might as well get some crazy voices on the album! My dad’s not dead, but I think that would be fun haha. 

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

I find the recording process to be the most exciting. I think that’s why our songs are so short, so we can record more of them. So I try to write at least something every day. Sometimes (rarely), it’s a complete song; most of the time, it’s a riff or a lyric or two. but those add up pretty quickly, and you can pump out a lot of songs that way! I have a fear sitting in the back of my head that if you don’t use it, you lose it, so I try to treat it like exercise and do a little something every day. 

It’s Karma It’s Cool – Thrift Store Troubadours (Q&A)

On Friday, June 2nd, Futureman Records will release Thrift Store Troubadours, the new record from It’s Karma It’s Cool. On the same day, the band celebrates the release at the International Pop Overthrow festival in Liverpool.

James Styring tells the story.

A new record coming up, what can we expect? 

Yes, a brand new album, ‘Thrift Store Troubadours’ will be released on Friday 2nd June. We’ve been hard at work in the studio on a real strong set of songs, some of the band’s best. There’s some rockier songs, some pop kind of things, some acoustic folky stuff. Folks who have followed us this far won’t be disappointed, but there’s certainly some surprises on there. We also have the legendary Peter Holsapple (The dB’s, REM, Hootie & the Blowfish) guesting on a bunch of the songs. We can’t wait for you to hear this record.

The band has become a fixture in the Power Pop community. Does that create obligations or freedom? 

We’re very grateful that the Power Pop community seem to enjoy what we do, though we’ve never labelled ourselves as a power pop band; I guess there’s elements of power pop in some of what we do, but you’ll hear a whole load of other influences in there too. We listen to rock, alternative, indie, folk, it’s all thrown into the pot. We’ve always left it up to other people to label us, as long as they’re listening and enjoying what we do, we don’t mind how they catorgorise us. We try not to pay too much attention. 

I think your lyrics don’t get enough attention. Is it always easy to find the right words? 

Thank you. It’s always good to know people are listening to them. I always keep the words open to interpretation, and not too obvious. I’ve said it many times, but it’s far more important what the listener thinks they’re about, than what I was thinking when I wrote them. Everyone can hear something different in them and that way the song becomes more personel, it belongs to everyone, in their own way. 

What makes you happier: finding a great melody or finding the right words for a certain emotion or thought? 

I would say both go hand in hand. The mood of the music will often dictate to me where the words are going to go. I’m always looking for an unexpected melody, or a curve ball, to catch the listener out and keep it interesting. We write big emotional stuff, so my melodies and lyrics have to reflect that.

How did you end up with Futureman Records? 

They have a great reputation and put out some cool music. We’ve been on the Kool Kat Musik label up to now, but just felt it was time for a change; there’s no bad feeling between us and Kool Kat, it’s an amicable parting of ways. Ray is one of the good guys and has always been supportive of the band, but we just thought it was maybe time to move on. 

How will you promote the new record? 

You’ll be reading about it nearer the time, I guess, and we’ll be out playing shows to support it; we’ll have a load of new songs to play for people! There’s also a series of digital singles currently being released from the record, so look out for those. 

Any gigs planned?

Yes, we have a very special album launch. We play Liverpool International Pop Overthrow festival on release day, Friday 2nd June, at the Cavern Club and Cavern Pub. The IPO Liverpool is always a great time, and we get to see some great bands too. 

the black watch – future strangers (Q&A)

future strangers is the 21st release of the black watch, but quantity means nothing to creator John Andrew Fredrick. The quality of the music generates new followers every week and the urge to make music that no one else makes is indestructible.

future strangers is the 21st full-length release from the black watch, an incredible number. Eat, drink, sleep, write and record songs, repeat?

There is another one coming in the UK very soon called The Morning Papers Have Given Us the Vapours.  Yes, we put out a lot of music. It might bother me that listeners sometimes focus too much on how prolific we’ve been if I let it. And I kind of used to, but when you think about it, you wouldn’t level that accusation (it sort of IS when that’s what the reviewer or punter zeroes in on rather than the quality) at a Kandinsky or a Shakespeare.  As in, “what?  ANOTHER painting? or what?  another PLAY?”).

“Songs pour out of you,” a producer called Misha Bulluck (who drummed on Here & There) said to me recently. He’s not wrong, and I’ve always said that I make the music I want to hear–the stuff that no one else is making, so I ‘will bloody’ do it. Hahaha.

I think Wish I Had Something is beautiful. It initially reminded me of Echo & the Bunnymen. Do you see that as a compliment, or do you find these comparisons superfluous?

I don’t mind it at all, especially the Bunnymen whom I adored for the first five LPs and then shook my head in total dismay at how they waned. I think that Wish I Had Something really has its provenance in the Beatles, and when they went to India. As a kid, hearing George’s India-influenced songs, I freaked and started making my mom and dad buy me Ravi Shankar records. Never been there myself, but I am a total fanboy for Indian fiction and film. I doubt if I’m tough enough to travel there ever–save on youtube! Hahaha.

future strangers, the title track, immediately grabs you through the beautiful intro. I notice that the sadness that emanates from the title alone touches me. How did the number come about?

The phrase “future strangers” just kinda came from contemplating how we’ll be estranged (by death, by events, by chance) from everyone we’ve ever known. But the song itself is about someone I was in love with but who turned out to be a very confused and self-and-other deceiving woman. Not a new story by any stretch!  It’s always a risk to give oneself to someone, but it’s one I think that would be tragic if one indeed stopped taking it. Nevertheless, I rather believe that things DO work out for the best. There’s that sanguine side of me coming out!

There is a statement by a Dutch writer, Connie Palmen, who says that the writer is in complete control, but I think when a book or record is finished, the reader or listener provides further interpretation. How do you see this? And would it bother you if something other than what you were trying to convey was heard?

So many friends who’ve come back and gone into a closet for a month or lose or gain their faith in God.  Of course, as I don’t believe in what Eliot called the Intentional Fallacy, anybody’s game/welcome to interpret songs how they wish.  I am not the Ur interpreter at all, nor is any artist. It’s nice to be asked, “what does this song mean?” but of course, the auteur or composer is just another wonderer, if you will.  So much of what I do comes from the unconscious anyway.  The world?  Well, I’ve tried my damnedest NOT to pay attention to politics (other than Plato’s or Aristotle’s! How pretentious does that sound?  Ahhaa. So I will throw in Hobbes as well….), but they’ve parasited into all facets of life and society, so they’re ever-harder to ignore. 

I do indeed think the world’s gone mad, and as an overeducated person, I will say that Identity Politics and the way a certain Party has emphasized them has been nothing less than revolting.  At heart of course, I am deeply cynical about almost everything, save the sacredness of music and literature, but one must acknowledge the notion that deep-down every cynic is HOPEFUL, through-and-through that good will prevail–in both people and artifacts. One more thing for now: I’d be most bothered if people DIDN’T bother interpreting my records and books. And we are gaining more fans all the time. It’s been funny to hear or get an email from music fans weekly who say, “I can’t believe I have not heard you guys.”. That NEVER gets me down.  I’m just glad that they’re embarrassed about it. Kahaha. Kidding. Happy to have them on our side, so to speak.

Paul McCann – Alter Ego (Q&A)

Alter Ego is a beautifully varied pop album. Pure Power Pop alternates totally natural with Rufus Wainwright/John Grant-esque wizardry.

Paul McCann, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Cavan, Ireland, explains how that came about.

How did this record come together?

A lot of the stuff I write, and record happens quite organically. After I put out my first record, ‘Here Comes the Rapture’, it was very much a blank canvas, but I knew I didn’t want to make Rapture 2. The idea was always to go bigger and bolder. I played most of the instrumentation on the first record, so from quite early on, I wanted as many great musicians on this one as possible. It was amazing having Sylvie Lewis, Jason Falkner, Gary Luca,s and so many other people whose music I love involved this time. It was always important to me that the songs be good enough for these guys to play on too. If anything, that made me raise my game a little too, with regards to the songwriting.

When you’re that close to creating something, it’s hard to tell if it really is any good. A number of times when I thought I was failing in creating something better, Martin Quinn (Producer and Engineer) would always reassure me that we were creating something special. I brought in a lot of friends to record parts on these songs too, as well as having the amazing Avoca String Quartet involved. It is a wonderful feeling to hear a song you wrote in your kitchen being played in the most elegant manner by a string section.

How do you decide when a song is finished and ready to be recorded?

This can vary, song-to-song. Some songs can arrive fully formed, and within a half hour or an hour it’s there…it’s done, and ready. Other songs can take much longer, months or years to have a final format that I’m happy to take into the studio. In some cases, I might still be scribbling or re-writing a lyric or part of a lyric in the vocal booth as it’s happening, but that is rare. For example, the chorus and main guitar run of ‘Lost in this Moment’ was part of a completely different song that I was working on with my band ‘The Plan’ about 6 years earlier. Whereas ‘Where has the Music Gone’ was pretty much written in one sitting and something I started working on in the studio with Martin the very same week.

How do you balance experimentation with commercial appeal in your music?

I’m in a very lucky position that these songs are 100% written without any influence or ambition to appeal to anyone. I have never written anything that I thought might be catchy or might be a hook. It’s been a really enjoyable experience arranging these songs with a live band and hear their reactions to certain songs, as in what songs they are enjoying or what earworms they’re finding hard to shake off.

It feels like a much purer approach to write the music I want to write and not what type of music I think people want to hear. This possibly explains why and how my music can make drastic jumps in genre, from folk to rock, to funk, etc, but this certainly isn’t pre-planned. Each album, or EP just happens to be a collection of whatever songs I’ve been working on at that time, that I think don’t suck too much.

How do you incorporate feedback and criticism into your creative process?

I think you do need a thick skin to survive the world of reviews and criticism. We’re a sensitive bunch, ha ha ha…  Over the years, I’ve had to remove myself from criticisms and just tell myself that it’s just one person’s opinion, and hey, maybe this just wasn’t for them. A couple of people have commented on my choice of words or rhyming choices, but in truth, in most cases I strive not to go with a “cat” and “hat” type rhyming structure when I’m writing lyrics. It’s much more about the musicality of words, than simple rhyming for me. It’s more Lennon than McCartney if that makes sense.

To me art is supposed to be about pushing boundaries and not just doing the same thing time and again. I must be sincere and honest with what I want to create, and not what people think I should create. If what I do doesn’t work for you, then “move along please”.

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

This record was kind of like that to be honest. Before this record, if I had to answer that, I would probably have included Sylvie Lewis and Charlotte Hatherley. They are two incredible vocalists and I’m genuinely honored to have them involved in ‘Alter Ego’. For the next album, I’m going to reach for the stars and say Paul McCartney, PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke.  Macca, because I think he’s the greatest living songwriter and performer (and I think alphabetically I’m listed next to him on most streaming sites); Polly Jean, because I love how she can continuously reinvent herself with every album and nail it every time; and Thom, because he is amazing. Similarly, he and his bands have evolved album to album and always delivered something innovative.  He has crafted his own sound and appears to not have had to conform to label influence. 

If any or all of those three are reading this and are open to collaborate, hit me up! Ha ha ha…


Chris Church has been releasing one great record after another over the years. And the new one, RADIO TRANSIENT, to be released March 24th by Big Stir Records, is fantastic again; more pop than rock this time. Incredibly infectious pop, that is.

Wow, you seem to have reinvented yourself musically, or am I exaggerating? I hear a lightness I’m not sure I heard before.

I was interested in trying to combine the sound of The Fixx and the solo stuff by Lindsey Buckingham, for whatever reason. That’s how I got started on this album. I used my Danelectro 12 string electric guitar almost exclusively, and got that thin “silvery” sound. In the past I have only used that approach to my guitar sounds sparingly, but I have begun to realize that I work well with self imposed limitations, so I stuck with it. That pretty much forced a lighter sound. I insisted on making the vast majority of the songs on Radio Transient a faster, more kinetic tempo, and I think that is also a factor.

I dance to your new record just like I dance to the old Rick Springfield and Danny Wilde/The Rembrandts songs? Do you consider that a compliment?

Absolutely! Rick Springfield is criminally underrated as a songwriter. I absolutely love “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, “Love Somebody”, and several others. Both he and The Rembrandts have written some really sophisticated pop rock. “Rolling Down The Hill” is a masterpiece. I definitely take that as a compliment, and I appreciate it!

Your voice and Lindsay’s match very well. How did you find out?

I reached out to Lindsay to tell her how much I loved the excellent Gretchen’s Wheel album she made several years back called “Black Box Theory”, and we immediately hit it off musically. We’ve since become friends. She’s an amazing artist, and I think anyone would sound great if she was singing along with them!

Did Radio Transient come about differently than usual?

Not really. I just get the vibe that starts me on a new project and carve it out from there until it’s finished. Same as it ever was, but different every time!

Actually, all your records are well received. That will also be the case with this one, I write in all my wisdom 🙂. What do you actually think of that?

Your wisdom knows no bounds!

Going ‘Til We Go can also be found on The Best Power Pop of 2023 Spotify playlist.

Think Like A Key Music – DIY series

The ‘TLAK GOES DIY series‘ is a wonderful invitation to get acquainted with the idiosyncrasy of artists such as LMNOP,
R. Stevie Moore, Hawk Percival, Fran Ashcroft, and Brian Bordello.

Record boss Roger Houdaille (Ex Norwegian) talks about the creation of this series.

What prompted you to start the series?

As with many things I do, it just sort of manifested itself. Brian Bordello got in touch with his album at the same time I heard from Fran Ashcroft. Both are very different, but still kind of this DIY thing. Then, I was working with Alex Wroten and his Gatekeepers project, which R. Stevie Moore is on. Through that, I requested putting something of his out. Then I thought about LMNOP, who I’ve been in touch with the artist forever via his Babysue review site. Finally, an LA-based artist Hawk Percival surprised me with her songs, and we quickly made plans to put an album together. These were atypical releases, so I knew I had to tie them together somehow so it could be marketed better, and the DIY series was born.

The offer seems inexhaustible to me.  How did you make choices;  (first) which artists and (second) which records of those artists?

It’s true; it’s a vast and mostly unchartered world when it comes to DIY artists. However, since I didn’t start with the idea, the choices really made themselves. For R. Stevie Moore, I asked Alex which is his best album that hasn’t had a proper reissue, and “Games & Groceries” was high on that list. The “LMNO3” album hadn’t been available on CD, and it made sense to put that out.

Did everyone immediately think it was okay that you were going to polish up the sound?

Well, I didn’t try to truly polish the sound up. For example, “Songs For Cilla To Sing” wouldn’t work without its characteristic tape hiss. The same with RSM’s album, which had minimal polishing done. More cutting out bits that really shouldn’t be there, like tape drop outs at end of tracks, some sound balancing, basic EQ, etc. Overall, we do want a professional final product, but stayed faithful, taking into consideration that some releases are lo-fi. “LMNO3” probably received the most cleaning up, using the most up-to-date methods, and I think it helped in that case.

Will you continue the series after these releases?

I hope so. Of course, depends a lot on the reaction to this first batch. I definitely would like to keep releasing some more RSM and LMNOP records. As far as brand new efforts – I’m not sure. I won’t be looking for it. I don’t have time to look for any music, to be honest. But I’m sure some cool things will come around my desk. I have some of my own early DIY things that I may like to put out too.

How do you feel the series fits within the overall catalog of TLAK Music?

It adds a lot of character. I’m happy to have TLAK celebrate such an eclectic mix of artists that are not cookie-cutter, yet still accessible. I hope fans can tune in and get turned on to other artists who may not be on their radar otherwise, thanks to the diverse roster.