The Anderson Council – The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon (Q&A)

The Anderson Council’s ‘The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon‘ will be released 19 May 2023. The fantastic first single ‘Alone With You’ already saw the light of day last week.

Peter Horvath talks about the making of the new album.

How did this record come together?

I started writing with my friend Michael Temkin in late 2019, and by mid-2020, we had a bunch of new songs. Oh, and I had to find replacements for half of the band… Oh, and covid… In any case, the new lineup was learning the new songs by the autumn of 2020, and we started recording in March of 2021… 

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

When we wrote what became the title track of the record (Tarot Toronto), I knew it was all coming together. I think every song I write sounds like a song that The Anderson Council would/should/could play, but that song really sounded like US.

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

I don’t really ask for opinions on the new songs. I ask if the band likes the songs, and I may stop rehearsing them if the band doesn’t really care for them, but usually, we know by the second or third time we play a song if it’s going to work.

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

If people watch the videos, come to the shows, and put us on year-end lists, that would be great.
Of course, I’d love to sell records too, but I know the reality of that… I hope we get a million streams.
That seems more attainable…

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

For a person who really doesn’t talk to people very easily, I somehow chose to be a front person and songwriter in a rock band… What was I thinking??? I always find out what my songs are about from other people’s impressions of what they think they’re about. I don’t know if there are other emotions at work there as well, but maybe? Maybe I don’t have to show my emotions in that case!

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

We have never written a song as a band, so I will choose the other guys in the band for that answer. I wonder what we’d come up with?

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

Opening for The Zombies was pretty darn cool. Playing on a big stage is nice, and it appears we are suited to it!

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

We tend to develop the song even after it’s recorded, so on the way in to the studio, as long as our parts are solid, that’s good enough for me!

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

I feel like all of our songs have hooks galore, so there’s your commercial appeal. I feel like all of our songs have some quirky bit in them that could be considered “experimental”, because I have to feed my personal need to do fun things within the framework of a pop song.

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

Most times I/we write something! With enough promo, most songs could be hits!

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

I tend to listen to full albums…

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

I think when folks say, “damn, they were loud, but damn, it was a good loud,” then they get it. Few people dance at our shows, but they tend to pay attention!

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

Any band that would want us to open for them would be great. I’m not cool enough to pick them! That said, I’d enjoy a JEM Records package tour immensely!

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

Don Coffey Jr. from Superdrag told me, “Your songs have more hooks than a tackle box…”

Those magical moments when you’re working in the studio.  Which moment was the most magical?

I feel like when we hit upon a really cool overdub, that’s a fun and potentially magical thing. I also feel like when I write a song at the last minute, and we record it, that’s a good feeling. This happened to be the case with Magical…

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

A lowly one, but still we go on…

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

One must promote! Of course, we’re over 20 songs in toward the next record, so we must also rehearse!

What’s up for the next couple of months?

Shows, press, making videos, lather, rinse, repeat…

‘Alone With You’ has been added to the Best Power Pop of 2023 Spotify playlist.

The Successful Failures – Wrong Together

Solid, energetic, varied, powerful and beautiful are all words that can be used to describe ‘Wrong Together’, the 10th album from The Successful Failures.

Mick Chorba explains.

Every time I listen to a new record of yours I think ‘they know exactly what they want and what kind of band they want to be’. Is that true?

We fooled you! Haha. Just kidding. We know that we want to be a band that is true to their craft. We respect the craft. We try to avoid pretension. We try to be honest with what we are saying and we try to keep it simple! We work hard and we play hard!

What’s the nicest compliment you’ve received so far about Wrong Together?

My mom texted me that she “loves the CD”. She said my voice sounds “really good”. She also said that “the songs are all great” and that she likes “Blue October” best. My mom knows music and it’s cool because “Blue October” is my favorite song too. A friend of ours who has a radio show in North Carolina commented on how much he likes the closing track, “Flying Cowboys” and how he thought it was a good move to close with a rocker rather than the folky “Learning What It Is To Be Free”. I agree and credit Ron Bechamps, bass/mandolin, on the track sequencing which I think is really key with this album.

On Wrong Together I hear Power Pop, Country, Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, Pop/Rock… Is it complicated that people care about the amount of styles you play?

I think that might be getting a bit overplayed, but I could be wrong. We do cover a wide range but to me it still sounds like us. Maybe it does complicate things since people don’t know what box to put us in, but I’m thinking I’d rather not be in a box, know what I mean? This is a calculated decision and I take it from The Replacements – specifically their “Let It Be” album which is mostly punky indie-rock but there is a piano ballad, a KISS cover, and an almost-instrumental in which the only words are “See Your Video!”, then 2 heartbreaking guitar almost-ballads in “Unsatisfied” and “Sixteen Blue”. And of course the album opens with a great powerpop song with “I Will Dare”. Anyway back to Wrong Together–for this album we did bring in a different producer, Travis Harrison, who works with Guided By Voices and I think he gave it a little different sound that unifies the songs. We gave up a little control there and I think it paid off.

Wrong Together has been out for a few weeks now. Perhaps enough to be able to take some distance to answer the question of how important this record is to you?

This ranks high on my importance scale. I’m thinking it will play well live. And I’m hoping we build our following a bit, meet some new people, play some new places. It’s encouraging that Sirius XM radio shows on the Underground Garage have been playing “Millions of People”. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. But I just feel lucky to be in the situation to continue to be able to make new music. I’m writing songs for our next project now!

How does it work, being a member of The Successful Failures?

It’s fun. Pretty much a lot of fun. I recommend it! I’m lucky that Ron, Rob, and Pete are pretty much on board and enthusiastic about whatever I throw their way. We all do our homework and take the band seriously. When you ask “how does it work” not sure if you mean the song-creation-process but if so here it is in a nutshell… I write the songs on a guitar or piano. I record some rough demos and send them to the guys. At rehearsal we hash out the songs. Each person comes up with their own parts. Some songs instantly sound right while others take time and go through significant changes. We all enjoy the creative process. Not sure if you saw that Beatles documentary on the “Get Back” sessions….but our system isn’t too far off from the way those songs were presented and worked on, though we haven’t played our songs on a rooftop in London. Yet!

Get Lost in the Dreamy Indie Pop Sounds of Sam Wrangle’s Latest Album, ‘Smokey Shady’

Smokey Shady‘ is the new self-released album by Brisbane-based Sam Wrangle. He has made it a varied album, with sweet jangle, dreamy indie pop and Bunnymen-like new wave. It’s a beauty!

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

When I released ‘A Word for Toxic’ in 2021. Felt like the first thing I’d done without putting pressure on myself.

How did this record come together?

Quickly. I decided to stick to processes I knew instinctively and avoid second guessing myself.

How do you maintain your energy and enthusiasm for making power pop music?

Playing everyday. Routine. Listening to your favorite pop music. Greeting as many people as you can. Knowing that you have no choice but to create.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating this record?

Work-life balance. The innate separation of having a job and a hobby.

How did the pandemic and social climate impact the creation or release of the record?

I was really happy to be able to go out as see bands, and not feel like I was gonna catch something. I mean, meeting people in general. The niceties that we took for granted like shaking hands, hugs etc. I missed this a lot.

How do you typically come up with new song ideas?

When something affects me so deeply, and I can’t communicate it – I’ll write a song. Then I’ll try out some new chords. Words come last.

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

When I built up a sort of resilience to feedback/opinions. When I told myself you’ve got something good here that’s worth listening to. Also to be selective about who you listen to.

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

It existing. I’m grateful to be able to produce music in my spare time. It’s a luxury many cannot afford.

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

Very necessary. Very great. Though not the kind of urge that makes you miserable. More like the kind of urge you need to moderate and nurture. Like the way Nick Cave talks about his muse. Gotta nurture it – or it’ll turn on you.

How do you see the power pop genre evolving in the future?

I see it growing organically. I’m a fan of the classics. Love a good melody. Love a nice bassline. Love a bit of jingle-jangle.

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

Yes. But that’s only a recent thing.

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

Weyes Blood, Kevin Parker, and Steve Kilbey. Weyes Blood = amazing voice and harmonies;

Kevin Parker = drums and production;

Steve Kilbey = songwriting.

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

One I’ve played: most recent with the band. It was fun.

One I’ve seen: The Church at Princess Theature, Brisbane, Australia. It was transcendent. Tear-jerkingly good.

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

When you’re sure introducing a new element probably won’t improve what’s there already.

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

Take everything on-board. Don’t get too upset. Most of the time it’s because people want to help you.

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

Letting go of things. Feeling a connection with people. It’s exciting.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

When I met Steve Kilbey at show in London, and he told me to start performing under the name of ‘Sam Wrangle’ and proceeded to compare my name to David Bowie and Billy Idol. Someone rated my hair 8/10 recently.

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

A quiet place. Just that raw undiscovered gem buried deep in the earth.

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

Fun is only just beginning. Thank you for all of the questions – really nice of you to reach out.

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

  1. Dead Text
  2. Stay Cool
  3. Downtime

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

  1. Steven Wilson
  2. David Gilmour
  3. Natalie Mering

Ed Ryan – A Big Life (Q&A)

A Big Life” is a big rock album that packs a punch of energy and excitement right from the get-go. Ed Ryan has created a collection of 12 new songs that are bound to keep you hooked from start to finish. But don’t be fooled by the happy-sounding music – the lyrics are anything but. Ryan’s ability to contrast upbeat melodies with deep, thoughtful lyrics makes for an inspiring whole that is both delicious and honest. The guitar solos in this album are particularly noteworthy, adding an extra layer of excitement to an already impressive collection of songs.

Buy cd at Kool Kat Musik

Did you know from the start that you wanted to make a ‘big, fun record’ or did it come about during recording?

My original intent was to make something that included my more roots-oriented material…using Tom Petty as a sort of template soundwise. To that end, I performed and recorded drums instead of programming them and I added quite a bit of keyboards. As recording progressed, I noticed I was really leaning into the uptempo, rockier songs. A roundabout way of saying it became what it is during recording.

Take Way Everything is now my favorite song. I find the text compelling. In general, the lyrics on A Big Life seem not so ‘big and fun’ to me?

Ha…Very observant! Outside of a few songs, like Settle Down, I tend to see and express things in a more complicated fashion. So happy sounding music doesn’t necessarily mean happy lyrical content. Hopefully, as you get older you learn a few things about yourself and share some of that experience.

I think I can hear how much you enjoy making the guitar solos. Also now again. Do you have a whole collection of solos ready or do they arise while writing the songs?

I love guitar solos (big surprise) and I’m really not a fan of what I call placeholder solos…ie just playing the melody or thoughtlessly whiddling around to kill time! Once I’ve recorded my tracks I improvise and record a few solos to see where they take me. I base everything on the emotion I’m trying to get across while keeping in mind the melody and chord structure. It’s another opportunity to express yourself musically and should be it’s own thing while also not being separate from the whole.

The album has been out for a few weeks now and you may have already been able to take some distance. If so, can you already indicate what this album means to you?

I think sonically it’s my best sounding album and I also think the material is pretty consistently strong. The album means another step forward for me in terms of hearing what’s in my head!

A Big Life gets great reviews. Reading all the praise, what stands out to you the most?

What stands out the to me the most is that I’m not shouting into the void lol! This is my fifth solo album and I was wondering if anyone would bother to review it. I think it’s my best work thus far…so it’s gratifying to have such an overwhelmingly positive response. I’m a grateful guy and this encourages me to keep going!

Creating a Unique Sound: How Joshua Boon’s Diverse Influences Shaped ‘The Forces’

There’s something truly remarkable about musicians who can combine their diverse influences to create an entirely new sound. Joshua Boon, a producer of soul, dub, and hip-hop music, does exactly that with his latest project, The Forces. While he may have a deep love for The Beatles and The Beach Boys, he’s not content to simply cover their music. Instead, he honors their legacy by infusing their recognizable melodies with his own studio expertise to create a sound that’s entirely his own. The result is a collection of five quirky, beautifully pop songs that are sure to delight fans of both the classic and the more experimental side of pop music.

Of these tracks, “Anne” stands out as a personal favorite, with The Forces channeling the sunny, upbeat energy of Ben Folds on a beautiful day.

How did this record come together?

It was a long but logical journey for me to arrive at this point. My mother played The Beatles’ music when I was a child, and I grew up listening to it. I also love old Beach Boys music, but I’ve always been drawn to hip-hop, funk, and soul. Over the past decade, I’ve mostly produced music in those styles. However, in 2020, I released an experimental funk soul record that might have been too experimental for some listeners and reviewers. Although I needed to get that out of my system, after that I felt a strong desire to create catchy, pure songs that could stand on their own, like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. This desire was my starting point for this record, but I also allowed room for my hip-hop influences to emerge. I believe that original things can come to life when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and simply follow your intuition. The Beatles mixed genres and created something unique by doing just that, and I hope that this attitude comes through in The Forces!

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

It’s always a battle to strike a balance between experimentation and commercial appeal. For me, it starts with creating a really catchy song, so I approach it with a bit of a commercial mindset. However, during the production process, I allow my experimental side to come out, as I aim to create something interesting and surprising. I try to have a strong foundation in the melody and lyrics, but the producer in me always has the final say since they are the ones behind the mixing board!

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

The easy and impossible answer would be The Beatles and The Beach Boys. But if I had to choose contemporary artists, it’s not an easy decision. I find Malachai interesting because they blend old and new UK music styles in their work. I’m also drawn to something really experimental like Chinatown Slalom or a 60s psychedelic power pop vibe like Benji Hughes.

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

There is so much good music out there these days, and a lot of it goes unnoticed. I’m grateful for every listener who discovers and enjoys my music. Success for me would mean more exposure for the album, positive reviews, and hopefully, the vinyl record finding its way into people’s homes.

What’s next for the next couple of months?

In September, I will release the full album “Voyages” on limited edition vinyl/digital on Bandcamp ( The instrumental versions of the album will also be available on Bandcamp. The album will feature a special guest artist, and we’ve secured a global distribution partner for the record. Before the album’s release, we’ll drop some tracks to generate interest. Please follow all our updates on and! You’re the first to know about this exciting news!

Rocking to the Beat of the Dutch Guitar Pop Renaissance: Discover the 10 (well, 12) Best Albums You Can’t Miss!

If you’re a fan of indie rock or guitar pop, you might not have heard of the Dutch Guitar Pop scene. But let me tell you, it’s been thriving for over 25 years now, thanks in large part to Excelsior Recordings. This independent label, based in Amsterdam, has been at the forefront of the Dutch indie scene since the mid-90s. And they’ve been responsible for some truly great albums.

In fact, I’d say that the Dutch Guitar Pop Renaissance is one of the best-kept secrets in indie music. These bands have a sound that’s uniquely their own, blending jangly guitars with catchy hooks and a healthy dose of nostalgia. And while the scene might not be as well-known as some of its counterparts in the UK or the US, it’s produced some truly fantastic albums over the years.

So if you’re looking for some new music to explore, I highly recommend checking out the Dutch Guitar Pop scene. And to get you started, here’s a rundown of the ten (well, 12) best albums from the scene’s renaissance era. From Moss to Johan to The Maureens, these albums are sure to delight any fan of indie rock or guitar pop. Get ready to discover your new favorite band!

Here is the Spotify Playlist with all the 12 albums.
And, yes, you want more.

1 Johan – Pergola (2001)

Johan has captured the hearts of music lovers worldwide since their formation in the late 1990s. Their sound is characterized by melodic, guitar-driven pop with introspective lyrics that speak to the soul. But there’s something truly special about their second album, Pergola, released in 2001. The 12 songs on this album are simply breathtaking. Each track is a masterpiece in its own right, showcasing the band’s incredible talent and musical prowess. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Pergola, I highly recommend that you do so. It’s a true gem in the world of indie pop music that will leave you feeling moved and inspired.

2 Daryll-Ann – Weeps (1996)

When it comes to musical comparisons, being mentioned in the same breath as Neil Young, The Byrds, R.E.M., and The Beach Boys is no small feat. And yet, that’s exactly what the press did when they reviewed Daryll-Ann’s Weeps. However, it’s not just the similarities to these iconic bands that make Daryll-Ann stand out. Anne Soldaat’s guitar playing is truly one-of-a-kind, with a peerless skill and creativity that adds an extra layer of depth and emotion to the music. And then there are the songs themselves – with an unprecedented quality that is hard to match, Daryll-Ann has truly carved out their own unique sound that is both familiar and fresh at the same time. It’s no wonder that they’ve garnered such high praise from critics and fans alike.

3 Alamo Race Track – Black Cat John Brown (2006)

“Intelligent pop with endless imagination, as rich and adventurous as pop music can be”, wrote De Volkskrant about Alamo Race Track. The German press compared the band to Fleet Foxes and Mercury Rev.

Black Cat John Brown is extremely beautiful and the title track is second to none.

4 Moss – Strike (2017)

Moss made some wonderful albums before Strike. Never To Be Scared/Don’t Be a Hero (2009) will be considered their masterpiece by many connoisseurs, but Strike is simply better. Gone is all the bravado that often comes at the expense of the songs. Here all thirteen songs are heavenly good. The chorus of Bored to Death is the most beautiful chorus.

Setlist: The Promise, My Decision, Bored To Death

5 Personal Trainer – Big Love Blanket (2022)

Willem Smit has tried his hand at various bands, but he has never hit the mark like with Personal Trainer. Amsterdam bluff and rambunctious indie pop have often proved to be a winning combination, but rarely have you heard so much fun as here. Big Love Blanket is new, refreshing, cheeky and wild.

6 El Pino and the Volunteers – s/t (2016)

The Americana sound that El Pino and the Volunteers had been wielding since 2006 was over in 2016. The self-titled farewell is the kind of catchy, rootsy pop that Ryan Adams makes on a good day.

7 Lewsberg – In Your Hands (2021)


8 Simmer – Mothertongue (1997)

Simmer’s Mothertongue is a forgotten album. It’s a personal favorite, though, and I’ve only recently found out why that is. Well? Because the choruses of the up-tempo songs are so similar to the choruses of the songs on Sloan’s early albums. So that’s why.

9 Caesar – No Rest for the Alonely (1998)

My kids know Pavement but they don’t know Caesar. Someday they will know.

10 Elephant – Big Thing (2022)

Laurel Canyon on the River Maas. West Coast Pop perfected.

11 Do-the-Undo (Anne Soldaat) (2007)

After the break-up of Daryll-Ann, Anne Soldaat’s solo career began. Before he started making albums under his own name, he debuted with Do-the-Undo, one of those records that pop heroes make when they are in top form.

12 The Maureens – Something in the Air (2019)

The best Dutch Power Pop band.

Behind the Vinyl: S.W. Lauden reveals the untold story of Popsicko’s Off to a Bad Start reissue.

Are you a fan of Power Pop/Punk Rock music and the iconic bands that dominated the airwaves in the ’90s? If so, you won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to discover and celebrate the legacy of POPSICKO. This much-missed Santa Barbara band possessed all the elements that made Power Pop/Punk Rock so popular in the ’90s: jagged guitars, rocket-fueled rhythms, and sweet hooks. And let’s not forget about Keith Brown, the electrifying frontman, who passed away far too young, crafted indelible and often heartbreakingly beautiful tunes.

POPSICKO shared stages with the likes of Weezer and Green Day, and were seemingly destined to join them on the charts. Now, Big Stir Records is reissuing the band’s lost classic, OFF TO A BAD START, for the first time on vinyl. This is a chance to experience the music of POPSICKO like never before, and to appreciate their enduring legacy in the world of Power Pop/Punk Rock.

Release date: April 28, 2023

Behind the Vinyl: S.W. Lauden reveals the untold story of Popsicko’s Off to a Bad start reissue.

What makes the Popsicko album so important to you?

Popsicko’s Off to a Bad Start is important to me for a lot of personal reasons, even though I wasn’t in the band. Their lead singer, Keith Brown, and I were close friends and played in some of our first bands together in high school and college. Meeting Keith really changed the trajectory of my life in many ways that are hard to articulate, but teaming up with him to play music was a big turning point for me in my teens and 20s. He introduced me to a lot of great music and we saw some incredible shows together (Ramones, Replacements, The Gun Club, Johnny Thunders, Alex Chilton, Hüsker Dü, etc.).

We’d obviously stopped playing together by the time he was in Popsicko, but watching their rise in Santa Barbara and around California was pretty awe-inspiring. Keith took music more seriously as a career than I did at that time (I was still mostly playing for fun and free beer), so watching Popsicko go for the brass ring with everything they had really opened my eyes.

It was actually Popsicko’s bassist, Marko DeSantis, who got me into the Hollywood band Ridel High. Keith produced some of our first demos in his Santa Barbara apartment. A couple of those songs ended up on a 7-inch that led to us making an album for My Records/A&M Records. A few years later (after Keith was sadly no longer with us), I joined the band Tsar which featured Dan Kern on lead guitar; Dan was the original bass player for the band Keith and I started in high school.

Full circle, twisted roots, tangled webs, etc.

The music will find a new audience now; what will they hear?

I am so close to this reissue project that it’s hard for me to say.

When I first started working with the surviving members of Popsicko and Big Stir Records to create the oral history book and vinyl re-release of Off to a Bad Start, my main goal was to keep Keith’s memory and the band’s music alive. So I didn’t put a lot of thought into how the album would be received by modern music fans, but the reaction has been amazing.

People are discovering this music for the first time and falling in love with it, which is a beautiful thing. That’s a real testament to the timeless songwriting and the talented musicians in the band—Keith Brown (guitar/vocals), Tim Cullen (guitar/vocals), Marko DeSantis (bass) and Mick Flowers (drums).

A lot of Power Pop music made around the same time Off to a Bad Start didn’t age. How about this one? The energy is still alive, isn’t it?

We’re in an interesting moment right now when ’90s alternative rock is a big influence on excellent modern power pop/power pop-adjacent musicians like Ryan Allen/Extra Arms, Dazy, Liquid Mike, among many others. When you listen to Off to a Bad Start in that context—like, if it just popped up on an algorithmic playlist—it would be hard to tell (see what I did there?) which song was released six months ago and which song was released in the early ’90s. At least to my ears.

It’s cliché to say that a band was “ahead of its time,” but I do think that Popsicko really anticipated where music was headed when they wrote and self-released Off to a Bad Start in 1994. People always said their sound was “The Replacements meets Cheap Trick,” which I think is accurate—but there are also elements of pop punk as well, and tons of hooks.

I think fans of ’90s alternative rock, pop punk and power pop will definitely find something to love about this album. If you’re new to Popsicko, start with “Nastassja” or “Same Old Me.”

Popsicko were part of the Santa Barbara music scene in the ’90s. With so many bands around back then, why did Popsicko stand out?

As I mentioned, they were a really talented band—but on top of that, I think they were also really focused. The early ’90s was the height of the alternative/grunge/pop punk/Brit pop explosion, so there were countless guitar bands starting up all around the world. At the same time, there was a punk rock hangover about “selling out,” so it wasn’t always cool to be ambitious (see Soul Asylum, Jawbreaker, etc.).

Popsicko was definitely ambitious, but they had an interesting mix of punk roots (Keith was the original lead singer in Pennywise), a pronounced indie/DIY approach (self-releasing their debut album, doing DIY tours around California), and a drive to succeed on their own terms. They were one of the hardest-working bands around back then which helped them grow an organic fanbase; that made the music press and the music industry pay attention.

I really think you can hear all of that on Off to a Bad Start. It’s an incredible album that really captures the band they were. I’m just really happy that more people are getting the chance to discover it 30 years later. Thanks so much for helping us spread the word.

What’s next for you?

I’m really close to announcing an exciting new writing project involving some cool, talented people. Just need to tie up a few loose ends before I share it with the world. I definitely think it’s something that fans of Sweet Sweet Music Blog will love. More info soon on my social handles (@swlauden).

Ryan Allen – The Last Rock Band

The Last Rock Band is A Rock & Roll Concept Album by Ryan Allen, an incredibly good Rock & Roll Concept album.


My two sons are starting their first bands. How would you advise them to listen to this album?

That’s awesome! I’m always encouraged when young people want to pick up guitars as opposed to, well, anything else. In terms of how I would “advise” them to listen to the album…that’s a tough one to answer. I guess I would say listen to it with an open mind, pay close attention to the lyrics, and follow the story as it goes through its peaks and valleys.

My experience playing music has been chock full of peaks and valleys, and it’s the travels I’ve had between them that has kept me pushing forward as a musician. Pursuing a creative endeavor can be super rewarding, but also super frustrating, and there are many times that I’ve asked myself “Why am I doing this again?”

But then I write a new song that I’m excited about, or open for a band that I love, or get nice people reacting positively to my music, and it gives me the juice to just keep going. So I would tell them to push through the tough moments and enjoy the exciting ones, and just go with the flow as much as you can.

Ryan, it’s such an incredibly good record. When did you become aware?

I appreciate you saying that. I don’t know if I have the hutzpah to call it “incredible” but I’m proud of it for sure. I knew I was on to something when I wrote the first three songs – which happen to be the first 3 tunes on the record – “The Last Rock Band”, “Discovery” and “Start A Band”. Once I had those three locked in, I knew I had a concept brewing, and started to map out the timeline. The lyrical themes and songs kept coming, and I kept following the muse until I felt like the story was complete.

Then I put it on the shelf during the pandemic and didn’t really come back to it until about a year ago. I had some time between jobs and booked some studio time at Big Sky in Ann Arbor, MI with my friend/producer Geoff Michael. Once we started tracking I realized again that I had something special on my hands, and it gave me the motivation to keep working on it through the rest of 2022 until I made the record I’d been hearing in my head for a few years. So it kind of happened in phases – first when I wrote it, and then again when I recorded it a few years later. I don’t normally have that experience – I typically write a batch of songs, record them, and then it comes out, kind of bang, bang, bang. But there was some space between that allowed me to almost yearn for better, more fleshed out, “big” sounding versions of the songs I already demoed. I guess that’s when I knew “Yeah, I gotta do this.” I’m glad I did.

By now I can recognize a Ryan Allen song from a mile. Will you take that as a compliment?

Yeah! I think any musician hopes that there is something distinct about what they do, even though the influences might be obvious or if the style changes from album to album. I always felt that way about a band like Spoon. They have put out a lot of records and their sound has morphed along the way – from a Pixies/angular/post-punk thing to a more classic rock sound, then taking a left turn and incorporating electronic elements into their repertoire. But no matter the direction they take, they still sound like Spoon. It could be Brit’s voice or Jim’s drumming or just their attention to detail in the production, but I could pick out a Spoon song in probably 5 seconds. I would love to think that a similar thing can be said for me and my songs. So yes, I’ll take it as a compliment for sure.

The album has been out for a few weeks now and you may have already been able to take some distance. If so, can you already indicate what this album means to you?

I tend to have a weird relationship with the things I make. I spend a lot of time putting them together and thinking about how I want to present the songs to the world – whether it’s solo or with the band – but once it’s out, it’s basically out of my hands and I’m already thinking about the next thing.

That said, this album means a lot to me. It’s the first studio-made album I’ve done where I’ve played all the instruments since “Basement Punk” and while it’s sort of a made up story, it’s also really personal to me. Music is a major part of my identity, and I’m proud to have made something that is truly a tribute to this thing that I love (and sometimes hate, haha).

Like The Ramones captures the essence for the whole album for me. Surely you weren’t thinking about that while writing that song?

Before I wrote the song I already had the title and chorus kind of jotted down – “I wanna leave home, I wanna be like the Ramones.” So naturally I had to write a song that sounded like the Ramones to accompany the lyrics and drive the story forward. I don’t know if I agree that it captures the essence of the whole album – since there are a lot of stylistic twists and turns happening the whole time – but it does exemplify what I was trying to do which, well, was take a lot of stylistic twist and turns to tell the story. So it’s just one stop along the “The Last Rock Band” highway, but it’s a fun one for sure.


Nashville-based rock/alternative band Lost Hearts is bringing pop sensibilities and glamor back to a new generation of rockers carrying the rock torch.

That’s the promise, and when you hear the first single, Hate Yourself, you know they mean it. Catchy and over the top, just like you need it. If you like The Struts or Starcrazy, you will like Lost Hearts.

Max Frye explains.

How do you typically come up with new song ideas?

I’m not sure if the way I come up with ideas is the same as everyone, but I usually sit down for at least an hour a day just noodling on my guitar with ideas. If I like something, I’ll record it in my voice memos, and if we like it, we’ll record a demo. Certain ideas definitely stand out from others, and surprisingly those are usually the ones that come to me the most naturally. I have over 1300 song ideas on my phone!

How do you see the power pop genre evolving in the future?

I could definitely see Power Pop evolving. People now more than ever want to listen to unique music. As musicians, if we can find something interesting to play and blend with a Pop chorus, it will definitely trip people’s ears.

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

Not at all. It can be very difficult to be vulnerable as an artist and songwriter, but it is also one of the things that can connect you as an artist to other people. Writing about an experience or emotion that someone else in the world can relate to is powerful and we hope people feel that connection from our songs.

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

I’ve never encountered a feeling better than playing music live! Feeling the energy of a crowd, and being able to do what you love and share it with other people in that setting is something uniquely special.

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

I think the main question we ask ourselves when recording is “does this add to the song or take away from it?” We love to experiment and try many different ideas and sounds, but we always like to keep it somewhat simple and raw at the same time!

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

The hardest part is not taking the criticism personally. When you share your music with people it puts you in a very vulnerable place, especially if the song is very personal to you. If someone tells you they don’t like it or don’t like a part of it, it doesn’t always feel good. But at the end of the day, the goal is to write great songs that our audience can connect to. So, you have to take
the personal feelings out of it sometimes and do what is best for the song.

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

Personal Jesus- Depeche Mode
I Would Die 4 U- Prince
Dance the Night Away- Van Halen
Don’t Change- INXS
Fascination Street- The Cure