Category Archives: Tell-All Thursdays

Tell-All Thursday: Reintroducing The Miracals

Welcome to the twelfth edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.  If you are fans of surf rock, or even music that has many shades of a Beach Boys sound, look no further than USC’s finest (except for fellow blogger Dylan of course), The Miracals! Read ahead for the actually story for their name change (it’s not as cool as the original story), stick around for a preview of their latest music direction and ambitions.
1) So let’s rewind back a bit. Can you tell us about the controversy over your former band name The Smiles?
  • Specifically how were you informed of this problem and what was your initial reaction?

Well, here’s the real, brief version of the story. It wasn’t anything related to a dentist, it had to do with another band in our area who had a very similar name to us, but the real problem was that they had it first. We held out as long as we could, but they were serious so we decided to change it. We were all really bummed out, we really liked the name. We didn’t want to say anything about that band because we didn’t want to be negative and we didn’t want fans to be negative. Plus down the line there was a possibility of having more legal issues, as The Smiles isn’t the most protected name…

  • Besides getting out of a potential legal problem, were you guys gifted with anything else for making this sacrifice? 
Nope. The name change hurt our following and our image, and it’s taken us a while to recover from that, and we’re still recovering. It was a great name and we were sad to see it go. The good I guess is that we really had some time this year to work on who we are as a band and what we want musically.
2) Unfortunately you guys lost out on a great band name, The Smiles, and I was wondering how the Miracals was founded in order to replace it. 

We made a big long list of names. We wanted to be a “The” band, so we rolled with that. It came down to a few names, and we basically just voted on it, using a complicated system that we made up. It was awesome.

3) With the departure of former band member Brendan, you guys said that you were working with other guitarists who could sing, citing that “the more voices, the better”. What was the process like trying to find new band members? 
Ha, still trying….we’ve got a permanent temporary replacement, Mike from another band Chasing Kings. He’s a great guy and we like him a lot as a friend, so it’s been a good fit, but he’s committed to another project first, so he’s not in the band officially. We really liked Brendan’s style and he’s a hard person to find a replacement for. We’re just still trying to find someone, but it’s hard because we move fast as a band and have a lot of new songs all the time. Plus we’re like…still really in school, so it’s hard to balance all of that. Hopefully now that we’re graduating we’ll have plenty of time to jam with more cool dudes. We would like someone that is cool, is good at guitar, can write, can sing, and kind of looks like us. It’s a pretty tough position to fill.
4) So based off of the interview last year, y’all said that John graduated from USC and was committed to staying in LA another year to wait for Will and Mark to graduate. First things first, what were your guys’ majors? Do any of these areas of study have any impact on your commitment to music or vice versa? 
Yeah, John is a badass. John majored in English and Philosophy, and Echo and I are getting our degrees in May, in Music Industry and Popular Music Performance, respectively. I think we’re all pretty committed, and it helps that my degree is in music performance and songwriting and all that good stuff, and Echo’s is in Music Industry. John’s never been one to be in the music industry world, but he’s a prolific songwriter and is very committed to being in the band and writing.
5) Shifting gears over to your most recent release Give Me A Chance EP, how would you describe the work in five words? 
Good songs, unhappy with result
6) What was your guys’ favorite song off the EP and why? 
I think collectively the favorite is Pretend, though I really like IDRLI but that may be because it is a little bit dearer to me. I think all of the songs are pretty strong (except Girlfriend), but kind of what I hinted at earlier, a lot of things combined in a way that didn’t with Hermosa and in the end we were kind of unhappy with how everything sounded and where we were as a band then. It was definitely a good experience though. We’re gonna start working on a new record soon, and we’re really excited about that and can hopefully use the things we’ve learned in the past few years to make it something we’re proud of.
7) Regarding the “Pretend” music video, can you guys talk about the experience shooting your first real professional video? Lovely video too, who came up with that concept? 
We got extremely lucky with the video. This guy, Dave Seger, virtually approached us and asked if we’d be interested in a music video. We’ve got a couple offers for that before, but they had all fallen through. We were pretty stoked to work with Dave though, as he’s established and works for one of my favorite shows, Community.
Dave and his partner in crime Mike Karnell proposed the idea to us over pizza, and it was honestly kind of hard to comprehend with just words BUT the idea sounded awesome and they were driven and we agreed to do it.
The experience was crazy. The location changed at the last minute, and when we got there, there was a crew of about 8 people. Dave did this because he wanted a music video for his reel, and so he did it for free. We were pampered, I had a girl who wiped sweat off of my face between takes and everything. We just kind of messed around on set and let the people who knew what they were doing tell us what to do.
We got so lucky, the result is so awesome. It makes us look like we are cool, which is unusual for us.
8) I’ve noticed that for the past two EPs, you guys have released them in late fall, but your sound is more indicative of the summer sound. Is there any particular reason for this time period?
Well we actually released Hermosa in May of 2010, but it didn’t really pick up steam for a few months. We recorded GMAC in the summer and we wanted to have it out by the end of summer but these things always take much longer than expected. We also had the name change thing to figure out and a release strategy to plan with that, so we waited till November, when everything was ready. We’re still reflecting on whether or not we liked the way we handled the release. We’d love to put something out in the summer, though it might be like spring of next year. Who knows. We’re actually planning on recording three songs before we start work on the album, so maybe those will be out (actually…it’ll probably end up being released in the fall).
OH and blue. That’s funny because we’ll release it in these upcoming summer months, but the whole thing was done in the wintertime and the tracks are much darker than Hermosa or even GMAC, so we’ll see how that goes.
9) Listening to the FRNZ demo track, I was pleased with the sound, even though it was only a demo, but I tip my hat off to you guys for the music video. Where do you see the band going in musical direction, and how does FRNZ reflect this direction? 
Thank you! Yeah, that took a few days of editing and mixing, but it was super fun. I’m really trying to get Final Cut Pro X under my fingers, so it was a good exercise. FRNZ is a good indication of what’s coming up, I think. We’re hoping to record a more formal version of it. It was one of the songs we’ve written recently that has energized us as a band.
Where the band is going is interesting. John and I, as solo writers, are definitely maturing, but we’ve always found that the sound of the band is kind of determined by the songs we write together. FRNZ was written together. I’d love to be a high-energy live band, with the type of tracks heard on Hermosa and FRNZ and a few of our really new songs, but John and I are also decent mid-tempo writers. So we’ll see, I can’t really answer that question.
10) Hopefully we’ll be able to do this interview again about a year from now, so I must ask. In the next year, what would you guys want to accomplish by then (Both personal and band achievement wise)?
Haha cool, that’d be sweet. I want to graduate college (two weeks!) and get some sort of job so that I can actually support myself, personally. Musically with the band, we want to put out a real record that serves as a definition of who we are. We’re probably gonna re-record some old songs and put some new songs on there too. We’re pretty excited for this next year, we’ll all be out of school and hopefully we’ll be able to start working really really hard. We’re excited to grow in this next year. And hopefully find a lead guitarist who works with us!
Thanks again!
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Tell All Thursday- Wild Vibes

Well damn has it been awhile since we did a Tell All Thursday or what? What better way to start off the year’s first interview with one of my most recent favorites as 2011 ended? Coming straight outta New York, Brett Copell of Wild Vibes was gracious enough to answer some questions that we had sent a few days before New Years…yes that was horrific timing. Nevertheless, it was an absolute pleasure to learn more and I can’t wait to see what happens in later this year. Given the track record of the band (good god they produce works so quickly!) so far, would it be too far-fetched to conceive of another work coming out by summer? Enjoy (and check out the answer for why their EP is named Zolpidem Lovesick)

Where and how did you guys meet?
  Ben, Javi and I went to the university of pennsylvania together … once we graduated we all moved to New York, where we met russell.

What is your songwriting process? Who writes what first?
  I wrote the first EP… some songs i make beats for and then write from there with a guitar in hand … 2nd EP was all written on guitar… and Russell wrote and sings the song “Don’t Stop”
What influences do you cite regarding either your inspiration for music or the way you produce your particular sound? As a follow up, how do you take from these influences and make your own distinctive sound?
I’m heavily influenced by ’60s garage/psychedelic production… big reverb + panning effects etc.  I’m also very influenced by modern electronic music, especially regarding the beats… so I think each song contains a blend of the two production styles.
How do you guys go about promoting your music? Do you send it around to various music blogs or do you rely more on the word of mouth that occurs when playing live shows?
We send it to blogs sometimes… we should probably do that more.  We also put our stuff on Deerhaus.com, a collective we’re in.

  If you guys could see any band or artist live, who would it be and why?
 Off the top of my head I’d really want to see the violent femmes. do they play ever?  I tried to go see the Zombies this year with my dad but it was sold out… would’ve been cool.
 When looking through your guys’ own music libraries, do you mostly have music that resembles what you produce yourself?
 Javi mostly listens to house, electro, dance music etc.   Ben is always showing me music i’ve never heard of… like moog producers from the 70s and stuff like that. Right now i’m listening to some Santana and Shakti albums.  I think our music is pretty all over the place, and our taste in music is all over the place so it makes sense.

Looking at your bandcamp, I see the Wild Vibes EP released in June and your latest EP Zolpidem Lovesick released in October…first off, what’s the story behind the name of Zolpidem Lovesick? Secondly, how has the sound changed from the first to second EP in your opinion? In conclusion, how do the sounds of these works anticipate / foreshadow the sound the eventual release of a cd, which based on your proficiency, should arrive next year?
 Well the first EP was all samples + me on acoustic guitar and vocals.  the second EP has russell singing on some songs, Ben on bass, and JAvi on synths. So now we’re a band.
Zolpidem is the generic name for the sleep drug Ambien….  i thought it sounded like a strange alien warrior.. ZOLPIDEM.  and all of the songs are pretty much emo-lovesick ballads (whether masked by psychedelic production or not) so it seemed natural to title the EP with Lovesick.

Sound engineer shout out (or any venue that gave you great sound)
The multitalented rob seiden.

 If you could give a shout-out to another band, who would it be?
I’m working on a remix for Savages right now.. another great band on Deerhaus.  They’re releasing tons of new music, even doing songs weekly.
Here’s their music video for “Molly”.
wildvibes.bandcamp.com
myspace.com/wildvibes
soundcloud.com/wild-vibes

Tell All Thursday- Hectic Zeniths

Welcome to the tenth edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.

If you’re into Balam Acab, I would like to steer you towards the company of Hectic Zeniths, “the work of bedroom producer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Morgan Prince. Nearly three years in the making, the densely layered project builds around original piano compositions with an atmospheric collage of chopped and pitched dollar-bin vinyl samples, live instrumentation, synths, and haunting vocals. So we managed to get a chance to get talk about this process and learn a bit more about a math teacher by day, artist by night! Let’s begin.

As stated on the artist page, ‘Hectic Zeniths’ is an anagram for the German word ‘Zeitschtichten,’ meaning “Layers of Time.” Is there a story regarding how that name was even concieved?

  I was trying to come up with a name I felt fit the project and was looking up random phrases or works of art that involved different eras of time overlapping. When I found the word “zeitschichten” meant “layers of time” I thought that was incredible and wanted to incorporate it in some way, but didn’t want to name a band “Zeitschichten” so I started playing with the letters and the second Hectic Zeniths came out I knew I had to use it.  I think even without the anagram it’s a pretty good description of what I was going for…it’s trying for the “zenith” of what I feel i’m capable of artistically/emotionally.
Have you played in a live setting before? If so, how well does the music on the album translate over to a live performance?
I’ve played keys in a band before, but I haven’t figured out a live set quite yet for the Hectic Zeniths stuff, although I have a bunch of ideas.  As of right now I’m planning to wait til I have a second album to try to put together a live set to do shows with it.  Most likely to start I want to have a piano and guitar with loop pedals and MPC to trigger samples from, and run around switching between them…and hopefully add on a live drummer and singer.  It’s definitely something that wasn’t intended to be played live when I started it.
On the bandcamp page, the page info described the hectic zeniths as “three years in the making”. Was there ever a point in time in which you thought that perhaps finishing the work was no longer worth it? What motivated you to finish the product anyway?
 I loved all the tracks too much and put too much thought and time into it to not finish it.  Also, a large part of the time working on it includes writing a ton of stuff on piano I haven’t recorded yet, and listening to hundreds of records that I didn’t end up using samples from.  Basically scrapping a lot of stuff and narrowing it down to what I ended up with on the album.
What influences do you cite regarding either your inspiration for music or the way you produce your particular sound?
Tori Amos’ piano playing, Geoff Barrow’s production on Portishead albums, RJD2’s using samples from different sources to construct something that resembles a traditional “song,” DJ Premier’s chopping of samples.  And actually Kanye West, as far as using vocal samples melodically, and having a combination of samples, live instruments, and synths going on at the same time, even if I approach it in a pretty different way from him, he’s the first person I heard really having all those layers from different sources going on at once.
On the bandcamp page, there are only three songs that can be streamed (“then and now”, “curtain”, “I might drown”). What was the reasoning for allowing those three songs to be heard?
When I first finished the album, I played it or sent it to about 10 friends.  The more hip hop oriented ones liked “Then And Now” the best, others liked “Curtain” the best.  “I Might Drown” I knew I had to pick because it was probably the catchiest and most accessible on the album.
You previously released a free EP and an array of hip hop and electronic remixes under the name ‘amplifya’ in November 2009. When comparing the that EP and the Hectic Zenith EP, what would you say is the biggest difference between the two? Any similarites?
The only similarities I would say exist is that my sense of melody and rhythm probably is similar from one to the other.  Otherwise…sonically, structurally, really different…I never used live drums or acoustic piano before Hectic Zeniths, never recorded anything in a real studio outside my bedroom before Hectic Zeniths, didn’t really make full instrumental “songs.”
It’s not everyday we learn about an artist who is also a teacher too. Does your daytime job have any influence whatsoever on your musical production? Do your students know about either amplifya or Hectic Zeniths? 
I actually finished the album in April and it’s my first year teaching, so I’ve yet to attempt to produce and teach at the same time.  Haven’t ever told a student I made music, haha.

Tell-All Thursdays: Christopher Ewing, Music Video Director

Welcome to the ninth edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.

This week, Christopher Ewing, a fantastic director who was recently featured on RollingStone.com for his “Teenage Tide” video, talks to us about his techniques and inspirations.

1. Do you go to bands or do bands come to you, and how does that relationship evolve?

It goes both ways, but when I started out it was all about reaching out to bands that felt compatible with my style and working with people who sparked to my short films and my writing. As my body of work has grown, I’ve started getting approached more and more by musicians that want to work with me.

Once that initial relationship is established and an idea is agreed upon, I work with the band to tweak the specifics, by discussing films, photographers, artists and other music videos that could serve as touchstones or inspirations. Then I usually write a detailed treatment that reads like a short story and is the basis for all our subsequent production documents, from shotlists to shoot schedules.

2. How much input does the band have during the process of making the music video?

It’s totally dependent upon what the band wants to do and what works best for the video. I usually figure out the basic idea, pitch it to the band and then we edit and mess around with the specifics until everybody is excited about it. Some bands I’ve worked with are very hands-on during the development of a treatment or during the actual editing process and others only send me a note or two here and there.

3. What are your career ambitions? Do you see yourself solely as a music video director or something more broad?

I love music videos and absolutely identify myself as a music video director, but my end goal has always been to write and direct feature films. I was writing features and directing short narrative films years before I started making music videos. That’s what I went to film school to study and I’ve just found that the feature film tends to be the medium that best fits the stories I’m most excited to tell, many of which have a heavy music component. Because the music videos are more contained and have a much shorter development period, I’ve been able to push myself technically and story-wise in a lot of ways that inform my screenwriting and have made me a better filmmaker.

4. What’s your first step in creating a concept for a music video?

I listen to the song a disgusting amount of times. I burn a CD for my car, load it onto my phone for when I go running and when I’m washing dishes, put it on iTunes in my office, etc… I surround myself with the song and then plow through every distinct image and scene that jumps to mind, fill my desk with Post-It notes and then dump those into a rambling, stream-of-consciousness Word doc. Then I compile bunches of images, videos and photos off the web and sometime around then a story or character will begin to emerge, usually in the form of a short story or scriptment.

I also keep an ever-expanding Word doc in between videos that has really weird, random video ideas – some are fully developed stories and others are just confusing half-thoughts. Here’s one random example: “Retro 90’s setting: pog championship + creepy puppets.” I don’t remember exactly what I was going for with that one, but it sounds like fun.

5. With the recent press surrounding your “Teenage Tide” video, most notably appearing on Rolling Stone’s website, do you feel concerned that if opportunities for more success arise (e.g. doing a music video for LMFAO), you’ll compromise your artistic principles (i.e. sellout syndrome)?

I think I’ve developed a pretty solid internal barometer to gauge what I’d be excited and interested in working on and I’m always looking for new challenges and ways to jump out of my comfort zones.

Because of the nature of music videos, you want to make sure you’re working with artists and songs that you can listen to constantly for weeks on end without going insane, but I’ve got a schizophrenically diverse taste and there are very few things I genuinely dislike when it comes to music. The directors whose stuff I grew up watching and falling for, like [Michel] Gondry, [Mark] Romanek, [Chris] Cunningham, Spike Jonze, Anton Corbijn and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, put out work that was all over the map, from big budget commercials to smaller, more “indie cred” type projects and that’s the kind of diversity I’m hoping to get the chance to explore in my own career.
6. Do you plan on making all of your future music videos with dialogue after the successful experimentation on the Seasons and Thrushes videos?

I like writing dialogue because it allows me to interact with the song in a different way and create a parallel story to what’s happening in the lyrics, but I don’t think dialogue or subtitled dialogue is right for every situation. It was really challenging and fun to experiment with subtitling dialogue exchanges on “…Of Our Discontent” and “Trees” because it took a lot of tweaking to figure out where the subtitles needed to pop up in order to gel with the vocals and visuals and not overload the viewer’s brain. Having the subtitles allowed us to get a lot of information across in a relatively short time period, but those particular videos and the stories lent themselves to having that additional layer. With those videos I wanted to create something that felt like a part of a larger story, almost like you’re flipping channels in the middle of the night and you come across some strange foreign film that you dive into right in the middle of things and have to work to figure out who these people are and what is going on.

7. What do you shoot on, and what editing software do you use?

My most recent videos (shot by two super-talented cinematographers, Tyson Maughan and Layne Pavoggi) have been shot mostly on the Panasonic AF100, which performs incredibly well in low light situations or the Canon 7D, which is so portable and unobtrusive that it works phenomenally for gorilla shoots and those moments where you don’t want to get in the way of the actors. I also used my personal stills camera, a Canon Rebel XT for the stop-motion Family of the Year “Stupidland” video, but the thing would overheat after every thousand or so pictures. I’ve also used the iPhone 4 camera for certain things (like the film-within-a-film footage in “Light, Lost”) and use my iPhone cam and an old FlipCam for video storyboards and test footage. It’s so convenient to have an HD camera in my pocket during rehearsals that I usually wind up shooting a scratch version of my more complicated sequences, many times in our actual shooting locations, that I then edit together as reference for the crew on the day.

As for editing software, my editor Colin Brooker and I usually send edits to one another, alternating passes on any given vid (when scheduling permits). We currently cut everything on Final Cut 7 because I haven’t fully committed to FCP X or Avid, despite Colin’s best efforts to get me up to speed.

8. How do you plan a shoot for a music video, or do you plan at all?

I definitely plan a lot for every single video and generate a lot of documents and reference materials: from scriptments to storyboards to song breakdowns to detailed, location-specific shotlists. But the exact documents change depending upon the needs of each video and the parameters of our schedule on any given day. I usually board out narrative-based moments very specifically and then let a few scenes (like party scenes or something like the paper airplane fight in “Our Younger Noise” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4IinOQF1KI)) play out organically with the camera going into documentary mode and just grabbing little moments and details as they happen. I love these sequences because you get all sorts of bits and pieces that you could never have planned for and it introduces some confined chaos into your shoot day. It’s nice to relax and just see what happens. A video like Thrushes’ “Trees” allowed us to take this looser approach to almost every scene just because we had a lot of freedom working with a very small crew using only daylight and bounce boards for our light.

9. If you could do a music video for any song, what would it be and what would you make for it?

I’d love to make a self-contained cyberpunk mini-movie for an extra noisy band like Sleigh Bells or Death From Above 1979 or Thee Oh Sees and use a lot of hands-on practical effects, shooting on 16mm film with vintage cameras. It would be amazing to play with all the old B-movie film techniques and turn the volume up style-wise to some majorly WTF? levels. Or it would be amazing to do a super literal translation of something like Pixies’ “Motorway to Roswell” because it would be such a fun narrative to recreate with actors or stop-motion.

10. What’s your personal favorite music video and why?

Such a hard question! I watch every music video I can get my eyes on and I enjoy the vast majority of them, but I’ll try to name just a few that have been important to me. When I was really little I remember being blown away by Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and every single Talking Heads video. Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were hugely important to me, especially the Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be,” as was Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ “1979” for Smashing Pumpkins.

My current favorite is probably Spike Jonze’s “Scenes from the Suburbs” for Arcade Fire. The performances are gorgeous, the premise blends a very surreal, nutso alternate reality with intimate, painful coming-of-age stories and winds up really blurring the boundaries between music video and narrative film. The Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (Revisited)” is a very close second and does a lot of similar things, just with John C. Reilly, a DeLorean and an impromptu urine fight.

Well, folks, there you have it. This is probably my favorite interview that I’ve had the pleasure of conducting so far, so thanks to Chris again for agreeing to do this. We here at LifeAfterNirvana wish him best of luck in the future, and we all hope that you check out his music videos. Just to prove how much we like this guy, I’m posting one right here as a little sample:


Tell-All Thursdays: Lily Elise of NBC’s The Voice

Welcome to the eighth edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.

Angel-voiced Lily Elise gained widespread notoriety for finishing in the Top 16 on NBC’s hit show The Voice. She’s also a pop vocal performance major here at USC, which is why she came in to do an interview on the Trojan Vision show Propaganda!, which I crew for. I got to talk to her casually for a bit in the studio, and she’s super chill.

Her jewelry was sparkling, that was the first thing I noticed. She came in humbly, handled everything professionally, and even looked cute in a combo of pink jacket and low-cut t-shirt that worked just right for her unique style.

Oh yeah, she’s the real deal.

Accepted into the semifinals of both The Glee Project and The Voice after serving as the lead singer for USC-based band The Beat Advocate (who opened for Mos Def last year, among other things), Elise chose the NBC show because she felt like she wanted to be an “artist”, rather than an “actress/singer”. To Elise, performing live is better than anything else in the world; it’s what she wants to do for at least the next twenty years.

The way her career is going, it looks like she might just get that chance. Having just released a sick new single on iTunes, “Lock and Key”–produced by fellow Trojans Highlight Productions–and expanding the reach of The Beat Advocate, not to mention an assumed large amount of industry attention, Elise is about to break out, and possibly in more ways than one.

The single she wrote mostly herself, with her bass player in Beat Advocate, and it’s about her “emotions” and other things. The song is “very personal” to her, and she describes it as “pop with an R&B twist”, which I’d say is accurate.

Check out her Beat Advocate stuff and the single here and then go buy the single on iTunes. Help a Trojan out!

I LOVE THAT ^ (just so you know)


Tell All Thursdays- The Don’ts and Be Carefuls

Welcome to the seventh edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much.

Today we’re talking with The Don’ts and Be Carefuls. A few weeks back we introduced them with their insanely catchy song, “The Still Favorites”. TDABC (Yeah it’s a lot to type out), a four piece band from Denver, Colorado. I particularly enjoy their little story to answer #1. I find that they are quite humorous and very chillax. I especially like their answer to #4 because it’s quite honest and real. Thank you guys so much for conducting this interview and I look forward to seeing the growth of this band for some time to come.

  1. Where and how did you guys meet?

When we were all kids, we worried about the corruption in the leadership of our school. After meeting secretly at safe house to discuss our problem, a strange man came out, and suggested that the superintendent is in fact the real corrupt one. While at first we were insulted by his claims, we soon found ourselves surrounded by the superintendent’s men, proving that he was correct. The strange man fought off the men in return for money, however after realizing that our principle could now be in danger, he decided to help us bring down the corrupt superintendant.  After we accomplished this goal, we were inseparable.

Er, wait, no it’s more like we met in college and around the Denver scene haha

 

2.     What are some of your musical influences? As a follow up, how do you take from these influences and make your own distinctive sound?

 We started off being very influenced by bands like Wolf Parade and LCD Soundsystem, but as we’ve progressed, we feel like we’ve shed those influences, and other specific influences for a less focused, more intuitive sound.  Meaning that we put more energy into feeling out the songs as opposed to planning them out. 

3.     What’s the story behind your name?

The Don’ts & Be Carefuls was the street name for a list of rules and regulations on film from the early age of film.  We appreciate the attitude that was developed by those who had to work around the list in order to continue to make movies of any worth.  It’s an ironic name for us.  Because of our goal to make high energy, fun music, we felt that the evocative juxtaposition of our music with that band name would, frankly, be fun and humorous. 

4.     Did you/you guys ever have any kind of crystallizing moment that sticks out in your history as an artist/band?

Each time we reach the completion of a new song, there’s an air of exuberance that could be likened to a crystallizing moment.

5.     Why do you make music? What is it that drives you to create?

Speaking for myself, my mother asks me every once in a while how much we made at a show, and I always laugh and tell her that “you don’t get into this kind of thing for the money,” and I stand pretty firmly behind that.  We do it because we can’t not do it.  

6.     What is it that you want most out of your musical experiences? Is it the ability to get out of those 9-5 jobs, or is it something you do for the sake of a creative outlet, or what?

We don’t all work 9-5 jobs, and it’s not exactly that we do it for some sort of scheduled amount of weekly creativity.  There are cultures/languages/etc. that don’t really have a word for “art,” because it’s just another part of life, there’s no need to “make time” for it, their creativity comes out when it does. We work in a similar way.

7.     When looking through your guys’ own music libraries, do you mostly have music that resembles what you produce yourself?

We all come from such varied musical backgrounds that we barely have music libraries which resemble the other member’s haha.  There are too many wonderful things in the world to just focus on a certain type of music, and it’d be an injustice to ourselves to allow ourselves any limitations.  That said, of course we all have our own preferences haha.

8.     If you guys could see any band or artist live, who would it be and why?

Answering solely for myself on this one, Tom Waits and Laurie Anderson are always near the top of my “want to see” list, because they rarely come through and I’ve yet to have a chance to see them.  If you need a why, then all you’ll need to do is look up any song by either, then you’ll be sold. 

9.      Sound engineer shout out (or any venue that gave you great sound)

This town has an amazing group of sound engineers in it.  I suppose the most recent one we worked with that we have always loved is Matt Daniels who did our sound down at the Meadowlark more than a few times.

10.  If you could give a shout-out to another band, who would it be?

An almost infinite amount of bands deserve shout outs.  Our collective, Hot Congress, is home to some incredible bands, so, with just one shout out to give, I’d say everyone connected to Hot Congress and the bands we play with all the time … those are the bands you should check out haha.

Thanks!
Luke Hunter James-Erickson

The Don’ts and Be Carefuls 


Tell All Thursday: A Special UW vs Cal Edition

Welcome to the sixth edition of “Tell All Thursdays”, where we seek to go beyond the song and find out more about the artist. Through conversation with the artist, perhaps we’ll obtain more insight about the songs we enjoy so much. Today I’ll ask my good friend Alan Bach on what’s it like to be in the Cal marching band. Is it everything like I think it is due to my experience watching Nick Cannon’s Drumline? Or perhaps it’s a bit more in depth than that? Let’s reveal the interview already and get a close glimpse of the responsibilities and traditions of being apart of the marching band.

So who have you met so far in band that you think is really cool?

Well since band practices are so long each day and my section has “mandatory” (it’s not really mandatory but it’s strongly encouraged) bonding I’ve made friends with most of my section. Also the TA that trained me during band camp is kind of a (good) big brother figure to me (he saved my hat and picc when I dropped them on the field during pre-game show yesterday). Then since I’m rooming in the band dorm there’s my roommates, some other recruits in the dorm that I manage run into quite often, the house manager and president of our dorm, and some upperclassmen who play Pokemon (although I haven’t actually battled anyone yet).

During these band practices, what is different about it than high school and what exactly do you do? Pregame show? Tell me all about that experience bud. I see you’ve got quite the frinedship circle around you eh?

Well unlike high school we have to memorize our music and our drill instead having a lyre to hold up our music with markings on the music to tell us what to do in the drill. We also march a lot more than high school bands In high school you might march drills to 2 songs (number obviously varies based on competency and if you want 1 or 2 very polished drills or a bunch of sloppy drills that the audience will probably still think are great anyways) over the whole season.
Then each game there are a few new formations (the formations from the previous show are usually rotated out for the new formations) that they march to cadence to (in cadences you don’t have a required path you have to march to get to a spot, you just get there anyway you want and march in place while you wait for everyone so it’s pretty much impossible to mess up as long as you’re not marching off the beat).

For Berkeley we have a pregame that remains constant for the whole season that consists of drills to 5 songs and 1 formation to Banner. On top of that, every game, we learn a whole new show which consists of drills to about another 5 songs (obviously the previous game’s show is rotated out). This pretty much means we have to learn about what a high school learns in a season (they have way more formations but we have more drills each game which are a lot harder) every 1-2 weeks. Then to ensure that you don’t just wing it they have music memorization tests before every game, if you fail the test you get “points” (they’re actually demerits). You can also accumulate “points” for messing up your marching drill during games. If you have a high number of points compared to everyone else you’ll be alted (meaning although you still have to practice unless someone gets sick you don’t get to march in the actual game) and/or be denied opportunities for the extra fun events.

Yeah I guess the more obscure and cult-ish (besides the time commitment you have to go through a lot of hazing and several initiation rites to be in Cal Band) an activity is the more close-knit the group is. Sorry this was pretty long.

So what’s been the toughest thing for you to adjust to the college marching band experience?

Time management. Although in the long run it’ll probably improve my time management skills cause I’m forced to not slack off too much, whereas without band I might have the free time to develop bad procrastination habits now and pay for it later.

So does this points system make you nervous at all? I mean that seems hella competitive for what seems to be a pure volunteer thing ya know?

Even if you accumulate a lot of points chances are you won’t be alted for everything because once you’ve been alted your points drop in compensation of you being alted. And alts only applies for marching on the field, you still get to go to the game and do everything else. Also, SHB (straw hat band, our equivalent of pep band) mostly doesn’t factor in points at all, so you can still go to random events where people requested the band to play, volleyball, and basketball games.

My friends told me about this thing called a purity test? What does that mean, and how does one receive such a score?

Took my first purity tests, (93 on both of them, generally anything in the 90s means you lost points for stupid stuff, like for example you can lose a point for hugging a PPG). That makes me tied for highest (out of 44) in the band dorm, for only 5th highest (out of 16) in the picc section. Although some people have theirs artificially low because they attend [im]purity bondings, where they willingly lose a purity point per bonding. That’s not too nasty if you’re high up cause you can lose easy points, but if you’re one of the outliers down in the 10’s or 20’s…that seems pretty messed up that you would willingly commit things on par with bestiality, accepting a proposition from a prostitute, etc.

No a higher score means you’re more pure. Everyone initially starts at 100. Then 100 questions are asked (e.g. have you ever had alcohol), and for everyone that you have done you lose one purity point. However, it is pretty much impossible to have a perfect 100 or a completely imperfect 0, because there are some questions which everyone has done (i.e. hugging) whereas to get a 0 you would have to commit acts that no one has ever done (i.e. bestiality).To decrease their scores (because apparently being impure is good), some people participate in [im]purity bondings, where the goal is to lose at least one point for every bonding.

Would you ever do an impurity bonding to lower your score?

No I would never attend an impurity bonding. An example of an impurity bonding depends on how pure the person is, cause if you’re pure you can lose less dirty points (e.g. french kissing someone) whereas if you’re down to the 50s or 60s (like most people) you have to commit sexual (e.g. have sex in a band building) or alcoholic (e.g. use alcohol to lower someone’s resistance to you) acts. And if you’re really low, you’re down to doing things like bestiality, using 4 drugs in the same night, etc.

Shifting towards more music based questions, I have to ask: What’s the biggest difficulty in transitioning to your new instrument? What kind of music does the band play? Do you take popular hits and turn them into big band style or what?

Piccs have a much smaller tone hole, so for the first couple weeks I could barely play it, and now that I’m used to it I can’t play flute. Also the first few weeks my ears would be ringing after every practice but my hearing’s damaged enough that that doesn’t happen anymore. We have a large amount of Cal songs; most songs I believe are late 20th century early 21st popular hits. Our shows are usually a bit more modern.

What would be some things you would talk about your band experience if you were talking to someone who had no idea what it was like to be apart of the marching expereience? That is, what are the first three things that you would talk about?

I think I would talk about the spirit (after all we’ve made it this far without caring what other people think of us). At Cal Band the spirit is kind of forced down our throats (it wasn’t like that at Inglemoor); however instead of thinking of that like a negative thing it’s instead like an endless cycle of giving because next year we can do it to the new recruits. And for the most part the “forced down your throats” is done with a jesting nature anyways so I don’t take it too seriously. Actually at Cal the band claims to be the “living embodiment” of Berkeley’s spirit, and to an extent it is true, despite all the media stereotype that band kids are uncool we really get the crowd rallied up.

The community. With all of our rituals and initiations stuff I’d say we’re almost like a cult :P. But I think what even more makes it such a strong community/cult is how much we’ve all been through together and because of that you become friends with your bandmates in ways that can’t be replicated anywhere else; there’s the mess ups at practice, getting used to your bandmates stripping off multiple articles of clothing to get out of their uniforms, the ‘Hawaiian Punch’ (you probably shouldn’t include that on your blog), Sober Comm. getting to know each other very well during parties as they try to avoid the wasted people, etc. I guess the more exclusive of a group the closer knit it gets.

I guess dedication, it takes a lot of work to be the best band in the PAC 12 you know (though the general consensus here seems to be that UW is a solid second :P). I’m kind of repeating myself here, but on top of the time commitment and having your entire Saturday used up to prepare/play for the game it takes a lot of dedication to make it this far in band.

Well I take it that the band kids really contribute to the atomsphere at the games right? What happens if Cal is playing away, how does that work?

Yeah, I mean the Friday before the game we perform a noon rally to get everyone ready, then the same night we do a “Backwards March” (we don’t actually march backwards) from our practice field down to Sather (where the hub of Berkeley is), then before the game we march on the streets parade-like around the stadium to make sure everyone knows a game is going on; then there’s pregame and halftime shows and we do random stuff and play songs in breaks in the game. Wish I could be at that game; and the combination of some people not being able to go and my high percentage meant despite my 1st year status I only had to get rid of 1-3 people to go too.

Alan, thanks for such an in-depth interview about the college marching band experience. A pity you’ll have to watch the Huskies beat Cal on tv.

A big special from Alan himself:

Oh and:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejcPVGmSrQc&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRNYUvEdeXo
And you can’t even tell I dropped my hat and picc after the first song on pregame. Stupid fresno state and needing to take a full 2 minutes to get on the field.Assuming you mean where I was when I dropped my hat/picc (since we move around a lot so I can’t tell you where I am all the time) when we’re in the “C” design in the pregame after the first song I’m somewhere in the bottom left corner of the C. Woot Asian black hair blends in with the color of the hats!