Víctor Ramírez and Marc Jonson collaborate to create captivating pop music, thoroughly enjoying their joint creative process. We had the opportunity to interview Marc regarding the release of “Turning on the Century, Vol.1,” while Victor provided insights on “Vol. II.”

Victor elucidated on the origins of their collaboration and highlighted the reasons behind its remarkable success. Furthermore, he emphasized that during the creative process, it becomes apparent early on whether a song possesses exceptional quality.

Marc and you enjoy working together. How come?

In 2015, a friend heard Marc Jonson’s music on Spanish radio and told me about it … This song was ‘Suddenly Sunshine.’ Then I contacted Marc immediately. After that, Ken Stringfellow and I recorded a version of it. Marc thought it was very good! That’s how this big adventure started. His songs are uniquely constructed with lyrical twists and turns. Gorgeous melodies. He’s so good!

It’s funny because we are something like 40 years apart in age, yet we still relate musically.
It’s very satisfying to be a part of this partnership… there is no time or age structure to follow… It is like a family in that way. As he always says: It speaks of artistic freedom!

Did you write the songs for Vol 1 and 2 in a wave, or were both albums born separately?

Some of them were already conceived. Other songs were born slowly. We had tons of songs that finally weren’t included. It’s great when you have much stuff to choose from. I’m very productive, but not as much as Marc is. He probably wrote over 100 songs that haven’t seen the light yet!

Night Full of Dreams is such a great song. When did you realize it was going to be special?

From the first minute! The lyrics of that song are something exceptional. Marc is not only a great singer, but a great writter too. I love everything about it.

How is the division of roles between you and Marc?

Marc had songs already recorded that were sent to me as individual files … then I added my parts. He did the same … he put his musical ideas on my tracks … that’s the funniest part; hearing what the other has contributed.

Ken Stringfellow mixed the first volume. He did a great job! But for Volume 2, Marc wanted to do it himself because he had very specific ideas for every song. Volume 1 is a bit different from Vol.2 … but they complement each other wonderfully; they are needed.

You will learn a lot from each other in such a collaboration. What has Marc learned from you?

That is something that you’d have to ask him directly. But I tell you something: One great thing about this unique association is that there always was a lack of ego during the whole process. I love that.

What makes you proud when you listen to the new albums?

Both are full of sounds that remind of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson but with our twist. I’m proud of it because it sounds totally like us.

The Get Arounds – I Wanna Live

The Get Arounds is a Vancouver-based Power Pop band, comprised of talented individuals such as Lana Ryma on vocals, Carman Lethbridge on guitar, Paul Albert on bass, and Eric Lowe on drums. The band came into existence during the COVID-19 lockdown when Carman and Lana found themselves confined to their house, utilizing this time to write songs and create demos. Lana, who has a background as a drummer, had long harbored a desire to explore singing and finally had the opportunity to learn a new instrument. It quickly became evident that she possessed a natural talent for leading the band’s vocals, and she undeniably embodies the signature sound of The Get Arounds.

Carman Lethbridge and Lana Ryma explain how I Wanna Live came about.

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

Carman Lethbridge: I’ve always been a songwriter and I’m always demoing songs. I think the “a ha moment” for me was when I was trying to sing a harmony on a chorus and couldn’t get it so I asked Lana to sing backup on it. She started singing and instantly the chorus appeared and sounded better than I ever could have sung it. Up until then she was a drummer who wanted to sing, I think at that moment she became the singer. She made the song better. That was when we decided to try this idea of her being the singer. That’s how The Get Arounds really started.

The meaning of success for this record?

Carman Lethbridge: Of course success means something different to everybody and I love money as much as the next guy, but let’s get serious, there ain’t no money playing rock and roll! We all do it because we love it. I can’t quit, I tried a few times. I’ve surrendered to the fact I’m a lifer. What I want from this record is to be heard. To get some attention. Open a few doors for us, a bit of online presence. Have some people hear us and remember the name and remember the songs. Set us up for the next record. This record was self produced and recorded (with a little help from some friends) and I was surprised how well it turned out! We know we can do it now and make something that sounds pretty good, and the goal is always to get better. I guess in some ways I feel the record is already a success, now I just want the rest of the world to feel the same way about it.

What was the best song you ever wrote?

Carman Lethbridge: It’s always the new one! My favorite on I Wanna Live is probably Good Times. It came about really fast and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of harmony and the sound is a bit of the spirit of 76 punk like Ramones with a Beatles chord in it. It’s hard to pick the best song. All the ones I really like no one else seems to care about!

We’ve been working on the next record and there are a couple gems on it. Black Corvette is one of the best I’ve written. For now.

What compliment have you received that you never forgot?

Carman Lethbridge: The best compliment is when people sing your songs back to you! When you’re onstage and there are people singing along, that’s just the best.

Whenever anyone says you remind them of one of the greats you know you’re onto something good.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write with… who and why?

Carman Lethbridge: Maybe I would like to write with Ghost because I think they write great modern pop metal songs and I like their shtick. They remind me of a Satanic Bon Jovi! And they’re probably a good hang too.

Also on my list would be Max Martin. He’s penned more than a few bangers in his life and he’s still got it. That guy knows how to write a chorus. It would be amazing to learn from one of the modern greats.

And maybe Oasis. Mostly Liam though. They both seem like total dicks but they’re still iconic dudes. Iconic style. Noel probably doesn’t like to share. I get it. Love them or hate them they’re the last great rock band.

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

Lana Ryma: At first it was a bit scary there’s a certain amount of vulnerability that happens mostly on stage for me.

The human condition is to watch and form opinions, the goal is to guide those opinions to coincide with the songs message or emotion. I think people can tell if you’re not sincere in a performance so I try to be really present on stage & in the moment.

The more shows we play it gets easier I think less about what people think. It’s not an I don’t care thing but more a focus on the song & it’s delivery ultimately giving into vulnerability if that’s what the songs message requires.

I love when people sing along & dance. The world can be a bit overwhelming sometimes & music gets people thru dark times, it’s about sharing joy, excitement & emotions for me.

I love playing Live the most!

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

Lana Ryma: After playing 1000’s of shows as a drummer, the gig I’ll always remember clearly was my first show out front as a Singer. I remember my thoughts clearly, the show was packed and in a whirlwind of working through each song, hearing my voice LOUD for the first time was terrifying. Now I love it haha.

I got through the show and had a ton of people telling me who I sounded like.

Exene Cervenka, Blondie, Joan Jett, Heart, Annie “Holly” Woods, Marianne Faithfull. I got all those comparisons which made me feel unique because they were all different comparisons, it wasn’t a ton of people saying the same thing, I took that as my voice is original and mine.

What compliment you once received will you never forget?

Lana Ryma: After a show, a guy came up to the bar to talk to me. He said “you were so great and looked really hot. I had a hard on the whole time I was watching you on stage. You’re so beautiful.”

Ewwwwwwww omg, really, these people exist!!!


“Tiziano Tarli, the keyboard player and co-composer, along with Lorenzo Moretti (also a songwriter and guitarist in Giuda), answered the first two and the last question. I answered the others, Additionally, we have Pablo Tarli on drums (who is Tiziano’s son), says Emanuele Sterbini, ZAC’s bass player and guitarist, who we also know from Sterbus.

ZAC is an Italian Pop/Rock group that draws inspiration from various artists, including Squeeze, The Beatles, Jellyfish, and The Beach Boys, among others.

How did this record come together?

The record was born out of the need to follow up ZAC I, our debut album. That record came out two months before the pandemic, so we couldn’t work on it at all for the whole live promotional part. The excellent reception it received, however, gave us the confidence to continue the project and write new songs. This time, we wanted to try new synths – such as ARP Odyssey, DX7, Juno, Jupiter – and drum machines to refresh our sound. This is one of the main differences between ZAC I and ZAC II.

What was the moment you knew you were onto something?

Actually, from the very beginning, we were clear about what we wanted to write and play. After composing new songs, it’s usual for us to go to the rehearsal room and play them to see whether they work or not, trying different arrangements, chord progressions, vocal lines. Some songs were dropped, others were kept, and bit by bit, the record took shape and eventually was ready to come out.

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

I think that every band is never really looking for fame or money: we just want our songs to reach as many people as possible. Music lovers are always hungry for good songs, and we hope to be one of their fave suppliers! We also take great care in our packagings, so our vinyl and CD editions are really well thought out. The gatefold vinyl version of ZAC II is really a beautiful object to hold in your hands – complete with full lyrics and wonderful illustrations by Dario Faggella – so sharing it with our listeners is another of our main interests. We hope to tour a lot so people will be able to find it at our merch stand. The CD edition is very nice too. Doing the things you love in a way you’re satisfied with is always a success.

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

There’s always a moment during rehearsals in which we look at each other with a big grin on our faces because we made the song happen. We live for those moments. Then we refine them and try to perfect the arrangement, listening to our rehearsal recordings. Sometimes we feel like it’s the song itself that tells us, “Ok, I’m ready, record me!”

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

When we write, we don’t think in terms of “commercial appeal”: we do what we like, and a certain pop sensibility will always be in our musical DNA, so it will always show in our tunes whether we think about it or not. So, our experimentation has more to do with the sounds we decide to use, what chords, which structure suits the songs best. In a way, ZAC II is a more mature and complex album than ZAC I.

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

Let’s start from the beginning, trying to reach nowadays in five songs! 1. “And Your Bird Can Sing” – The Beatles; 2. “I Like the Sound of Breaking Glass” – Nick Lowe; 3. “Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)” – Squeeze; 4. “Joining a Fan Club” – Jellyfish; 5. “Ain’t That Enough” – Teenage Fanclub

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

We think we tried different approaches to our songs for ZAC II, both in songwriting and arranging… So, I think a new listener should listen to

“The World is Standing Still” – that is also our first single – because it has massive synths, an anthemic vocal part, and a very punchy beat to it. “It’s only words” finds us playing with drum machines, robotic sounds, and a hypnotic and ominous bass/synth riff, counterpointed by a very open and melodic chorus. And then there is “Melting in the sun” that is pure Beatles, complete with horns and string parts, a very 1967 Maccaesque bass line, and a really playful singalong coda when we got three different vocal lines interwoven together… very Beach Boys!

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

If we could only use a time machine, we’d love to tour with Big Star and Badfinger… Today? I don’t know, maybe Squeeze or Electric Light Orchestra, though a tour with The Lemon Twigs would be really great as well. They’re one of our favorite bands, and “Everything Harmony” is probably their best collection of songs so far.

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

Brian Wilson, Roy Wood, Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal, Colin Newman from The New Pornographers, maybe… For sure, we dedicated a lot of time to vocals and backing vocals. I think people will love the harmonies they’ll find on this record.

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

Going into the studio to record is always a lot of fun and a wonder; it’s a creative world that has always fascinated and excited us greatly, but going live on tour to play music is a blast! We can’t wait to take the record on tour, so we’re just getting started!

Lane Steinberg – Headspace

I listened to Headspace for the first time on my 40-mile commute to work in Haarlem, and by the time I arrived, I felt like I had gone on a world tour and made more friends than a popular Instagram influencer. Whether it’s the lively personalities or the vivid locales, Steinberg’s creations are bursting with richness and vibrancy.

The album’s sound has been characterized as a fusion of Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, XTC’s Andy Partridge, and Ben Folds, incorporating a laid-back, Sunday morning production style that gives the songs ample space to unfold.

Headspace is undoubtedly a pinnacle in Lane Steinberg’s career, a shining example of his exceptional talents and a testament to his ability to continue to produce remarkable music even in the later stages of his career.

++ Follow Lane Steinberg on Bandcamp to get notified when Headspace is released in June.++

Paris, Lane, what happened? Have you heard about this phone number you can dial in Paris when you’re there but can’t seem to catch the “Je ne sais quoi” everyone raves about in holiday brochures? It’s like a hotline to tap into the Parisian vibe. How did the song ‘I Don’t Know What To Do In Paris Anymore’ come about?

That particular songs’ origins come simply from a phrase I heard a friend say. I’ve always kept notebooks, once analog now digital, of ideas, song titles, and the title inspired the lyric.

Do you think your voice is proof that age really is just a number, or do you credit it to good vocal care?

I’ve never been a screamer and I’ve never been a touring act, but I sing all the time so my vocal instrument doesn’t have the same miles on it as someone who does this for a living.

With a sound that reminds me of a fusion between Burt Bacharach and Ben Folds, and a production that leaves no room for error, it seems like you had to bring your A-game to pull off this unique musical style. Do you agree that the pressure was on to make sure the songs were top-notch in order to succeed?

The parameters of the album were to write each song on piano, which is not my first instrument, yet one I love for its harmonic possibilities. I have great respect for Ben Folds but Bacharach was the greatest songwriter of the second half of the 20th century, so that’s a pretty high bar. I revere his music.

The song, “The Best Part” was something that was very Bacharach influenced but I was struggling with the lyric for months. Then Burt died, and I decided to write the lyric a tribute to him.

I couldn’t help but notice that the lyrics on your new record are particularly witty and insightful, and some of them seem quite personal. As a listener, I’m curious about the stories behind the songs, but I also don’t want to pry into your personal life. How do you navigate the balance between sharing something meaningful with your listeners and keeping certain things private?

A key thing about this album is that it’s all me. Being someone who has been a serial collaborator for most of my artistic life, it was refreshing and exhilarating to record an album completely by myself. The lyrics are personal but there are also a few, like “Paris” and “Samardine” are fictional ones. I am proud to say that “Finally Next To You”, a song about finding real love after decades is 100% true to life.

Mainly, at 62 years old, it’s just me enjoying the process of writing and recording my songs. This joy has never left me. I simply do it because that’s what I feel I should be doing. I work hard at it but it’s work of love. My youth is in the past and in an objective way one could say it’s a complete waste of my time, but even if my audience is small, to share that feeling and inspiration is something I cherish and value.

Community, Passion, Adaptability, Endurance, Openness, and Adventure: Unveiling the Essence of Big Stir Records

Big Stir Records is celebrating its sixth anniversary, and to commemorate this milestone, they have announced the signing of six new bands to their roster.

Rex and Christina engage in a conversation with Sweet Sweet Music blog, discussing the journey thus far.

SSM: By cleverly concealing it, how did you manage to harbor such a momentous secret about signing six new bands in honor of Big Stir Records’ six-year anniversary?

Rex & Christina from Big Stir Records: Thank you so much! They say the secret to comedy is timing, and this was basically the same thing. There were a lot of artist announcements building up – and to be fair, a few of these bands, like sparkle*jets u.k. and The Flashcubes have been working with us on singles and other projects for a while now. And we’d done the Sorrows release with Arthur Alexander, and the solo album from Steve Stoeckel of The Spongetones, and they’d been happy with what we’d done and we were honored when they brough their next projects to us.

Meanwhile we very suddenly found ourselves working with Graham Parker, and The Cyrkle, and since we hadn’t officially announced any of those projects and were looking for the perfect time to do so… it dawned on us that we had six new artists to announce, right on the eve of our Sixth Anniversary as a label. So we made it into a themed event!

SSM: How did you secure the legendary Graham Parker under the esteemed banner of Big Stir Records? The world yearns for this revelation!

CHRISTINA: Believe it or not, Graham found us, on Twitter of all places! He reached out to us telling us he liked our style – later on he’d say that it was because we’re “not f***ing boring”, hahaha! – and we got the message in the middle of recording a live podcast. We weren’t quite sure it was really him, but we were on a Zoom call with him within a week and it just came together really quickly. He was looking for a label with reach beyond the UK – the great 100% Records is still handling this release in the UK and EU – and we were his pick from among several notable contenders.

We’re still pretty dazzled by it all, although Graham is an incredibly down-to-earth guy to work with. Still incredibly intense and mesmerizing as a performer, though, as we found out when we met him at a gig in Northern California just after the ink dried on the contract. And what a songbook he has to draw on… just amazing.

REX: We’ve never gone chasing after any artists – at all! There has always just been an abundance of talent surrounding us so there’s never been a question of “what comes next”. When someone like Graham – and there really aren’t many like Graham! – comes to us, we do what we always do: set about working out how we can live up to the quality of the work, and getting it to as wide an audience as we can. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time!

SSM: Should you distill the essence of Big Stir Records’ illustrious six-year journey into a mere half-dozen words, which carefully chosen gems would encapsulate its very soul?

R&C: Community, passion, adaptability, endurance, openness and adventure. All credit is due to the amazing artists we’re fortunate to have on board, from the first batch until today. We just work really hard and try to learn every new skill set that’s needed to keep get their music out there.

SSM: Amidst the tapestry of time, was there a singular, pivotal instant that molded Big Stir Records into the marvel it stands as today?

Rex: For me, I think it was a very quiet moment between just Christina and myself at the very beginning of the pandemic. Everyone everywhere was shut down in some fashion, and between the two of us we realized that there were going to be a lot of artists at loose ends, and a lot of other people in need of new music and art to get them through some unprecedented, difficult and isolated times.

We agreed that we were in a position to help both groups: to get the music being made to the people in need of it, like never before. It would mean that while a lot of people were looking at a lot of unwanted free time, we would be working harder than ever and re-inventing our own wheel, but we recognized we were among the few in a position to do something meaningful… and that doing so was also going to give us a sense of purpose as well. I really believe that all the big, big things that have happened for the label since then came from that private moment of commitment between the two of us.

Christina: It might sound odd from the outside, but for us it was such a transformative moment to be invited to be distributed by The Orchard, Sony’s Independent Labels distribution arm. It’s hard to explain how much difference real distribution and genuine support makes, but any artists who have struggled with the impersonal and not-exactly-competent paid third party distributors out there will understand how much difference this makes. But the biggest thing about it was that being invited – you can’t just “sign up” – was a recognition and validation of how much we’d grown and learned in a really short time. It also meant another crazy learning curve, but that process got us ready for new and bigger challenges, too. Mostly, though, just being recognized for how far we’d come, and how quickly we’d gotten there, made us feel like we had “arrived”.

SSM: Reflecting upon the bygone six years, which grand triumph looms largest in the annals of Big Stir Records’ esteemed endeavors?

Christina: Way back at the beginning, around 2015, Big Stir was just a local concert series in LA, but we saw it as building a community, filling a need for the artists on that scene. In 2016 our band The Armoires did a little tour of the UK and we started to hook up with bands over there, and the “scene” became a little more global, to the point where a year later we were ready – nervous, but ready! – to launch BSR as a label, starting with another much more expansive tour including a lot more bands from the US and UK. Right before we left, Don Valentine of the UK blog I Don’t Hear A Single posted a piece with the headline “I Want A Big Stir Over Here”… he was writing about the UK needing something to unify its community the way we had done in California, and that gave us the confidence that we were doing the right thing in launching BSR, and doing it on UK soil with a bunch of US bands involved!

It may seem like a small thing now, but at the time, “Big Stir” had only ever been the name we used to try to get enough people to come out to a gig in North Hollywood that we could keep doing shows every month. So it was a big deal to see it being used in an international context, and as a role model for how things should be done, even! Even though our reach is astronomically wider six years later, it wouldn’t have gotten there without that kind of grassroots support around the world in those early days. There are many examples of that, including you right here at Sweet Sweet Music, but the timing of that one felt like a game changing event.

Rex: It’s tough to pick one singular achievement, because by the time each milestone comes to pass, we’re already working on things well into the future. But for me it’s a recurring thing that I love every time it happens. Most people don’t think much about record labels, especially these days, because they’re “just businesses”, and that’s fair in most cases. But for real music lovers we’ve almost always had special labels with unique personalities where we will at least check out – and usually love – everything they put out. Not even by genre, but by their own unique vibe and vision: Bomp!, SST, 4AD, Not Lame, Factory, SubPop, Sarah, Flying Nun… amazingly, we’ve been compared to all of them, and even some of the more personally curated biggies like Sire, Elektra, and Geffen. That thrills me every time, not so much because it puts us in the “big leagues” but because it means someone gets what we’re going for: not just looking for hits or chasing the money, but assembling a great roster of artists who want to push the sound forward, and who, taken all together, create something that’s a sound of its own, united under our umbrella. That’s always been the dream, and it’s a low-key but incredibly meaningful “triumph” when people say we’re achieving it.

Both: Thank you so much for asking us to answer these questions – and for all you support throughout the years! There is much more to come and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Louie & The Flashbombs – Shiny New Skin

‘In order to start talking about ‘Shiny New Skin,’ I have to go back almost three years.’, says Louie Lucchesi.

In the fall of 2020 (during the COVID lockdown), I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma, cancer of the kidney. I started treatment, but by the end of the year, it was starting to get dire. I had lost a lot of weight and was struggling to even get out of bed. In January of ’21, my oncologist changed my treatment, and I began to respond, starting a very slow, very long recovery. And I started to write.

My good friend Mike Benign had been stopping by to see how I was doing and was also bringing me books to read. Deborah Harry’s ‘Face it’ and Chris Franz’s “Remain in Love” among others. One day he asked me if I had been writing, and I told him that I had just started. So we decided to collaborate. I warned him that this was some heavy stuff, and that the first song was called ‘I’m so glad (I didn’t go away).’ I was hedging my bets. And it was a rocker. We now close every show with it.

Our goal was to write enough songs for a record. By July, we had written 15 songs, and I was jokingly referring to it as my ‘Covid, cancer, mortality, and regrets’ record. The problem was that I still couldn’t sing. Apparently, because of my substantial weight loss, my vocal cords had atrophied. I started seeing a voice therapist, and with the help of a phone app, I began doing vocal exercises twice a day. Slowly, I found my voice again. By the fall of ’21, the clubs were starting to open up, and we were asked to do an acoustic set opening for Marshall Crenshaw at Shank Hall. In the middle of the set, the show was stopped, and I was given a proclamation from the mayor’s office, making it Louie Lucchesi Day in Milwaukee. A good omen.

The Flashbombs (myself, Mike Benign, Bo Conlon, Paul Pieman, Matt Meixner, and Al Hildenbrant) started playing live in May of ’22, and after only two shows, we were asked to perform at the legendary Milwaukee music festival Summerfest as a support act for The Cult and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Walking on stage that day was a moment I will never forget. Not because I got to play Summerfest (I’ve played it many times before), but because of how far I had come. I had accomplished something that I didn’t think would ever happen. I was back on stage. By now, we had over 25 songs, and it was time to start planning a record.

We had just written a group of new songs. Among them were “Hard Luck Story,” “Ruling The World” (about Putin), “Celebrity Cred,” and a rocker named “Shiny New Skin.” I decided that these were the songs I wanted to record, and that we would do an EP. I called Jeff Hamilton (Violent Femmes, Beatallica…) who had produced my remake of David Bowie’s ‘This is Not America,’ and he was in. The single, “Hard Luck Story,” was released in January of ’23, with the five-song “Shiny New Skin” EP following this May. We’ve also been nominated for Best New Artist and Artist of the Year for the 2023 Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards (WAMI). The Flashbombs will be performing at the awards show on May 21st at Turner Hall, and we return to Summerfest on July 6th.

Four days after Summerfest (and only six weeks after the release of “Shiny New Skin”), we begin work on our first full-length record. Half of the songs will be from the original group of songs, and the other half will be new. As far as the future goes, who knows? None of this was supposed to happen, and with a new record on the horizon, it’s all good. We now have over 50 songs and counting. Nothing will surprise me.

On many levels, the band has already achieved success. Just writing, playing, and recording is a significant achievement. Of course, a festival tour of Europe would be very welcome.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was that I was told that I sounded like a cross between Lou Reed and Tony Bennett.

When people ask me what kind of music we play, I tell them ‘gray pop.’ What is gray pop? Music by mature artists for a multigenerational audience. That would make me ‘the king of gray pop.’

This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing music. Whether in the studio or live, it doesn’t matter. Even rehearsals are fun. I’ve never worked with a band where all of the members had a common vision. The support I receive from The Flashbombs, both artistically and personally, is very humbling.

Vanity Mirror – PUFF (Q&A)

We are acquainted with Brent Randall and Johnny Toomey due to their prior work in The Electric Looking Glass. Presently, they have collaborated to establish a new band named Vanity Mirror. Their debut album “PUFF” is overflowing with remarkably captivating melodies that evoke the sweet, nostalgic sounds of the sixties and seventies. If you appreciate the music of The Kinks and Sparks alike, then the ten endearingly eccentric and contagious pop tracks on the album will undoubtedly bring you happiness.

I am happy!

Brent Randall explains how it came about.

How did this record come together?

I had quite a backlog of songs that I was waiting to record for a while. And then I realized what am I waiting for? So I just started demoing and tracking things with the limited home studio I had. So a lot of the sounds were wonky but I was just enjoying the process of sketching out ideas. At one point I considered these songs to be possible for another group we play in, Electric Looking Glass. So, naturally, I sent them to Johnny (who also plays in that group) to lay down drums.

He laid down drums and percussion and flipped that back to me. Soon it all started coming together and we realized that these were no longer demos or rough sketches but an album. We didn’t want to go somewhere and create “good versions” or chase the demo (“demoitis”) We realized any imperfections is really what gave it personality.

And so PUFF was born!

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

Around the time we had rough mixes of everything and we started floating the idea of presenting these recordings as an album I did share it with a few trusted friends. They gave really positive feedback which gave us the confidence to move forward with it. I’d say the record was 98% done at the moment. I don’t really like sharing unfinished things. A few trusted people I know who have the right ear but generally I like to wait until things are ready.

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

Honestly, it’s already a success in that it exists and people seem to genuinely resonate with it. The world is so saturated with content I think as an artist you have to see the simple completion or manifestation of your vision in itself a success! That being said I’d like to see the 1st vinyl pressing sell out. That for me would be a success.

What’s the best song you ever wrote?

For me it’s “Happily Ever After” which is the last song on this album. It’s very simple but I think the melody, chords, lyrics and production all align to create a very real feeling which people can resonate at an instant. And it all came together really quickly. I’ve probably written more musically clever or catchier songs or have done more sparkly productions but for me a simple song that can capture a real feeling is always the test.

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

I used to struggle with this a lot but it has gotten much easier over the past year. I think it’s the key to having any artistic success.

I used to really try and shy away from revealing too much or try to hide things and it really hinders the process. If you have any hope of people resonating with your work it has to be real and vulnerable. But it is very difficult. But therapeutic This is also the sole purpose of a song really, to me, so it’s really so important. Leaning into the discomfort. I’m always uncomfortable.

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

Jad Fair because he has a freeform, childlike wonder and directness that just explodes from everything he does. Really admirable creative energy and instincts. Not too fussy and really effortless and natural.

Joanna Sternberg who is a contemporary singer songwriter who I really admire. Again a very personal, effortless way with melody and lyrics that is so inspiring and refreshing. Every word and note seems so perfect, so understated yet so important. I’d be delighted to co-write.

Mo Troper is another current songwriter who I admire. He writes great power pop jams that also have heart. Often in the power pop world you things that sound like an exercise in executing the genre with no humanity in there. Mo seems to execute the nostalgic power pop riffs with a song that can still melt you on an emotional level.

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

Rarely think of either. Usually I just have a vision I want to achieve and so every recording is just an attempt to capture something. Some attempts are more successful and then others. I put them out to share them and see if anyone else resonates with them but never really am too concerned with commercial appeal or experimentation.

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

I’m a Lonesome Little Raindrop – Tiny Tim

Who Has Seen the Wind – Yoko Ono

Night After Night – Dolly Mixture

Why I Didn’t Like August 93 – Elevator to Hell

Hey Joe – Daniel Johnston

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

Can’t stand it!

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

There’s a duo called The A’s right now from North Carolina I think who are just marvelous singers so them for sure!

Possibly Flo & Eddie from The Turtles & Mother of Invention. Incredible singers who’ve rocked so many classic records.

I think Flo has a vegetarian restaurant too so that could come in handy.

And then maybe Mo Tucker because I love her voice.

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

The best fun is done – for me records are always number one! The recording process. But the other stuff is good too 🙂

Sand Brothers – Too Much Sky (Q&A)

Introducing Sand Brothers, a hotly anticipated musical venture hailing from the land down under, led by none other than Greg Walker of Machine Translations and Rick Sands of The Night Party. Joining forces with the likes of Pete Cook from Yamamoto, Din Roberts from Kutcha Edwards Band, and Glen Scarlett from Oak, this quintet delivers a beautiful and captivating sound that is sure to leave listeners mesmerized.

Their debut album, ‘Too Much Sky‘, is a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece that boasts jangly guitars and poetic lyrics that are reminiscent of the exceptional quality that The Church has been renowned for over the years. From the moment the first note hits, it’s clear that Sand Brothers is not your average band. Their distinctive style and captivating melodies set them apart from the rest, making them one of the most exciting musical projects of the year.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some truly exceptional albums this year, but there’s no denying that Sand Brothers’ debut is a cut above the rest.

Rick Sands explains about the making of ‘Too Much Sky’.

How did this record come together?

About ten years ago, I played drums and sang in a band called The Night Party and during rehearsals, I’d sometimes swap to guitar and make up songs, with any demos we recorded named ‘Sand Brothers’ and dumped in a folder that never went anywhere. A few years later, Greg Walker, who had produced some later Night Party singles suggested we work on something together and I suggested that we use that name, this resulted in a few jams with Korg synth and upright piano – very Roedelius sounding and atmospheric.

It wasn’t until I threw a big party at my place, for New Year’s Eve 2020, that we came together as more of a rock outfit. Pete Cook and Din Roberts joined us that night on synth and bass and we could feel a creative frisson in every improvised track we knocked out. There were quite a few friends there and their positive response encouraged us that we had something going on! It was quite exciting to have a band materialise so quickly.

Well, as that weird year rolled out, we began rehearsing whenever we could. We’re based in the countryside about two hours southeast of Melbourne so we were not as deeply affected by the lockdowns and so forth – we worked around the various restrictions to rehearse at Greg’s studio but we didn’t record properly until January 2021. We got about nine tracks down then did another session one year later with another eight or so.

We actually have a double album’s worth of material but we decided to focus on these nine – primarily as they fit perfectly onto a vinyl record without any loss of sound quality!

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

That’s a great question! When I was younger I suppose it meant getting signed to a cool label, recording in real studios, touring and playing stadiums etc., Some of that has happened. All of the members of Sand Brothers are ‘lifer-musicians’ and have played in a wild variety of bands over the years to varying degrees of success. Greg’s the most established of us, with his band Machine Translations having had a pretty successful indie career. I’m not sure if he’s played any stadiums though – I’ll have to ask him. He’s also quite renowned as a producer, having worked with Paul Kelly and the like.

Success for this record would be reaching listeners overseas and perhaps even breaking through enough to justify touring not just other parts of Australia but overseas too. It would be nice to be ‘big’ in The Netherlands…or even Portugal or Greece!

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

If I think of some of the (still-living) masters – Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, etc, I can’t really imagine the kinds of music we could write together without me feeling very inadequate and not pulling my weight! I like the idea of other people performing songs I’ve written. Maybe in the distant future some cool Dutch or Portugese kids will do hip-hop mashups and sample Sand Brothers a la Avalanches or something. That would be nice.

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

Our songs are usually 95% in place by the time we record, then we might add some interesting backing vocals or percussion etc. We’ve been lucky in that most of our songs have come together very quickly. For whatever reason, each member is contributing the exact sound and feeling at the right time! As far as knowing when a song is ‘ready’, David Bowie said something about it being important that you don’t ‘recognise’ what you are doing – and that’s when you know you’re doing something possibly interesting. If the song is too familiar it will probably bore people! We use that philosophy.

We often have to stop ourselves from diving into new jams and ideas as we need to rehearse current songs for an upcoming show and we don’t have a lot of time to get together as we all have quite busy schedules. We really have to fight to find windows of time to get together.

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

Oh, there are so many good songs out there at the moment! But if I had to share some recent Australian songs with friends in Holland I’d send them:

1. Simon Juliff – Private Party

2. Tyrannamen – Diamond Ring

3. Murphnick – Coming On Home to You

4. Machine Translations – Weightless

5. Augie March – AWOL

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

Well I guess the first three singles do give people a broad sense of what we do – Adelaide,The Usual Things and Spirit Animal were chosen for a variety of reasons like being radio-friendly and some catchiness – however there are songs on the album like Dead End Road and Stolen Poetry present a quite different band. I don’t believe there is anyone around at the moment pulling songs out like Stolen Poetry. It’s hard to do half spoken-word vocals well, in your own accent without sounding provincial. We’re tapping into something bigger that we really don’t recognise there, and it’s exciting to make music like that.

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

They say never meet your heroes. It would be disappointing to go on the road with some great band to find out they are awkward weirdos or arrogant jerks! That can happen and we’ve all heard those stories. However, most of the bands we spend time with are all very gregarious and easy going, like us. So, on the pre-condition they are friendly enough and easy-going I’d suggest Guided By Voices or even Pavement. The Flaming Lips would be fun to hang out with but a hard act to follow!

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

A minor one, but we’re all happy here in our little corner of the world, doing our thing!

What’s up for the next couple of months?

We’ve got some launch shows coming up for the album. A few of us are going overseas in the next few months, so we’ll get busy with more shows later in the year. We’ll also start putting together an EP of some other songs that are ready to go.

From Tokyo to Great: Gruppo Sportivo’s Journey Through Four Decades of Pop Music

Well, well, well, let me tell you the story of Gruppo Sportivo, the Dutch band that rocked the world with their quirky tunes and infectious energy.

It all started back in the late ’70s when the Dutch music scene was as cold as a frozen herring. But then, along came Hans Vandenburg, a man with a mission – to bring fun back to music. With his signature blend of punk, new wave, and rockabilly, he formed Gruppo Sportivo, a band that would make you dance, laugh, and wonder what the hell they were singing about.

Over the years, Gruppo Sportivo went through various lineup changes, but Hans Vandenburg remained at the helm, writing and performing songs that were witty, catchy, and just a little bit bizarre. Their live shows were legendary, with Hans and his bandmates donning matching tracksuits and performing synchronized dance routines that would put the “Grupettes”/”Bombitas” to shame.

Despite their success, Gruppo Sportivo never took themselves too seriously. They poked fun at the music industry, themselves, and even their fans, with songs like “Mission a Paris” and “Disco Really Made It.” But behind the humor was a band that knew how to write great songs and put on an unforgettable show.

Today, Gruppo Sportivo is still going strong, with Hans Vandenburg leading the charge. Their music may not be as ubiquitous as it once was, but for those who know and love them, Gruppo Sportivo will always be the ultimate party band. So, put on your dancing shoes, grab a beer, and get ready to have some fun – because that’s what Gruppo Sportivo is all about.

Enjoy some of the career highlights.


Career Highlights

10 Mistakes (1977)

“10 Mistakes,” the debut album of Gruppo Sportivo, received generally positive reviews from critics. At the time of its release in 1977, the Dutch music scene was dominated by serious and politically charged music, so the album’s lighthearted and irreverent approach was a breath of fresh air.

The album was praised for its catchy melodies, clever lyrics, and tight musicianship. Critics noted the band’s eclectic mix of musical styles, which ranged from punk and new wave to rockabilly and reggae. Many also singled out the lead vocals of Hans Vandenburg, which were described as energetic, playful, and full of personality.

Some critics found fault with the album’s production, which they felt was a bit rough around the edges. Others felt that the band’s humor and irreverence could be grating at times. However, these criticisms were outweighed by the album’s many strengths, and “10 Mistakes” went on to become a cult classic.

In retrospect, “10 Mistakes” is seen as a seminal album in Dutch pop music.

Back to 78 (1978)

Released in 1978, “Back to 78” was an ambitious concept album that paid tribute to the music and culture of the late 1970s. The album’s songs were filled with references to disco, punk, new wave, and other musical styles of the era, and the band’s sound had evolved to become more polished and sophisticated.

Critics praised the album’s strong songwriting, inventive arrangements, and Hans Vandenburg’s witty lyrics and charismatic vocals. Many noted that the album was a significant step forward for the band, both artistically and commercially.

“Back to 78” received glowing reviews from music publications such as Melody Maker, Sounds, and NME. It also helped to establish Gruppo Sportivo as one of the leading bands in the European music scene, and the album went on to become a commercial success in several countries.

The song “Tokyo” is considered a career highlight for Gruppo Sportivo and is widely regarded as one of their signature songs. The track was featured on “Back to 78,” and was released as a single in 1979.

“Tokyo” is a catchy, upbeat song that tells the story of a Dutch man who travels to Japan in search of love and adventure. The song’s lyrics are filled with clever wordplay and cultural references, and its infectious melody and sing-along chorus made it an instant hit with audiences.

Great (2018)

The response to Gruppo Sportivo’s “Great” album was generally positive from both fans and critics. Here are some excerpts from reviews of the album:

  • wrote: “Gruppo Sportivo has returned with its signature blend of clever, punchy rock songs on ‘Great.’ Led by the charismatic Hans Vandenburg, the band sounds as playful and energetic as ever, and the songs on this album are as catchy and enjoyable as anything they’ve done in their career.”
  • The Dutch newspaper Trouw praised the album’s “inventive arrangements, memorable hooks, and clever lyrics that often contain a humorous twist,” while noting that the band’s trademark mix of rock, pop, and new wave influences remained intact.
  • Music website hailed the album as “a welcome return for one of the most underrated bands in pop history. ‘Great’ features some of the catchiest, most inventive songs that Gruppo Sportivo has ever recorded, and the band’s playful energy and sharp wit are as infectious as ever.”

Overall, the critical consensus on “Great” was that it was a strong album that showcased Gruppo Sportivo’s continued creativity and musicality, while also delivering the infectious pop hooks and clever lyrics that fans had come to expect from the band. The album may not have been a commercial blockbuster, but it was certainly a highlight in the band’s long and illustrious career.

Dolour – Everything I Need

“Everything I Need” is writer/producer Shane Tutmarc’s new Dolour EP.”. Bursting with irresistible earworms that’ll have you humming along for days, this little gem is a certified banger. And with a full album on the horizon, you’ll be grooving to Tutmarc’s tunes well into the summer – and beyond!

++ It’s with great pride that Sweet Sweet Music presents the world premiere of the music video for “Everything I Need”! ++

What an incredibly strong collection of new songs you have created. You probably figured that out when you were making Everything I Need, or isn’t that how it works?

Thanks Patrick! Actually this is the halfway point leading to my next album. After writing, recording and releasing three albums between 2020 and 2021 (The Royal We, Televangelist, Origin Story), or four albums, actually, if you include the 2020 Kool Kat Musik compilation (Written & Produced by Shane Tutmarc) which I did a couple new songs for as well – I knew I was gonna need to take a break. But it’s hard to slow that engine down, so within a month of finishing Origin Story in Fall 2021, I pretty much had another batch of songs written. But I was determined to try and slow the pace down a bit. So what happened was those songs I had written by Fall 2021 have slowly been replaced by newer songs I’d write over the last year and a half.

In Spring of 2022, I had a movie placement opportunity come my way which forced me to finish up a song for submission. That song became The Comeback Kid which kicked off the series of singles I’ve been releasing every few months. So now here we are a year later and I just released Everything I Need, the 5th single for this next album. My plan at this point is to finish up the 5 remaining tracks, and get it up for pre-order in August, with a Fall release. I think the album’s gonna be called The Almighty Dolour.

Moves Like Miyagi already sounds like a synth pop classic to me. How did that song come about?

It had a really unique writing process. It reminded me of when I was a little kid just making up silly songs to make my brother and sister laugh. My wife has gotten really into gardening the last couple years, and she had a bunch of mulch out on our patio where I liked to sit and drink coffee in the morning. But the mulch kept attracting all these flies.

So eventually I started going out there with a fly swatter. And as I was swatting flies I guess I thought about Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid catching flies with chopsticks. And the song just started coming to me one line after another. Once I had a verse and a chorus I started thinking it was kind of a cool song, and maybe it could be more than just a song I’d sing to myself while swatting flies.

So I tried to think about what Mr. Miyagi represented. Disciple, inner strength, wisdom etc. Qualities that I admire in people, and that I aspire to myself. So I thought, maybe it could be a song about that. And about how many obstacles we all go through just to survive.

How complicated is it these days to get your music heard? Or was it not necessarily your intention to make this EP for the widest possible audience?

It can feel very complicated. Especially since I’m a one-man operation. Once you’re done writing and playing and recording and mixing and you’re kind of exhausted, then you have to figure out the release plan, and videos and playlist pitching and everything else. I’m very grateful for folks like you who help get the music in front of folks who might like it.

Sometimes I wish I had more people helping with the release side of things, but ultimately I really enjoy being as autonomous as I can be. Which is kind of what the song Everything I Need is all about.

Is the best song you ever wrote on Everything I Need?

Maybe! I know a lot of songwriters think of their songs as their children, and I’m no different. They’ve all shown up for me when I needed them. I don’t really pick favorites. But I will say, from a writing and arrangement perspective I’m especially proud of Have I Finally Gone Insane.

The writing and recording was a long process for that one, but I’m really satisfied with how all the sounds work together. In my mind the song is about the strange joy of falling in love with a song while you’re writing it. But I tried to keep the lyrics open enough for listeners to put their own story into it.

What is the best compliment you’ve received on Everything I Need so far?

Well, I just released it yesterday, so I haven’t heard too much yet. But there’s been a lot of good energy around this one. And a few folks have called it a “banger” so that’s nice.