Interview

An Interview with Silverbacks

By Will Oliver, August 7th 2020

Dublin-based band Silverbacks have been around for a few years, emerging as the project of brothers Daniel and Kilian O’Kelly. They have really come into their own over the past few years, which has led to their debut album Fad, which was released on July 17th via Central Tones Records.

Earlier this month we spoke with Daniel about the process of getting to this point, their ability to juggle a wide array of sounds, and how his relationship with his brother impacted the band.

Enjoy our conversation with Silverbacks below.
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An Interview With Fontaines D.C.

By Will Oliver, July 30th 2020

Last year Fontaines D.C. released their debut album Dogrel, which went on to be our favorite album of the year. Here we are, barely a year later, and the band has already returned with their sophomore album A Hero’s Death. It’s a triumphant return that slaps the idea of the sophomore slump right in the face. The band returned with an effort that is not only as good as what came before (if not even better) but sees them re-shape their sound in ways fans may not be expecting.
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An Interview With Fontaines D.C.

By Will Oliver, July 30th 2020

Last year Fontaines D.C. released their debut album Dogrel, which went on to be our favorite album of the year. Here we are, barely a year later, and the band have already returned with their sophomore album A Hero’s Death. It’s a triumphant return that slaps the idea of the sophomore slump right in the face. The band returned with an effort that is not only as good as what came before (if not even better) but sees them re-shape their sound in ways fans may not be expecting.

Last month we had the pleasure of chatting with the band’s guitarist Carlos O’Connell over the phone. Speaking from Dublin, he gave us some great insight into their mindset going into recording this time around, the first scrapped session of the album out in Los Angeles, meeting the new set of expectations, and the way that producer Dan Carey helped them find their way once again.

This is one of my favorite interviews that we have ever done on the site, thanks to some really genuine and well-thought answers from Carlos.

Please find our conversation below.

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Will: Hey Carlos, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Are you in Dublin at the moment?

Carlos: I am yeah, been here a couple of months now.

W: How are you doing with everything going on during this crazy time?

C: It’s been good, to be honest. It’s been good to be a little slow-paced and to go back to what is a more normal way of living for me. It’s nice to relax and focus on writing without any sort of time pressures. Few distractions as well.

W: Your new album, A Hero’s Death, will be released next month. Were there ever any conversations about postponing it with all that’s happening or did you consider it a good time to give people something new?

C: It was definitely something that was talked about a lot. The original plan was to release it at the end of May. Then there were conversations about postponing for an entire year. Then we settled on doing it during the summer. It just seemed like the best idea to everyone. We didn’t want to wait that long and wanted to let the album live in people’s ears before we get to tour it.

W: You guys only released Dogrel a year ago and toured seemingly non-stop and yet have another fantastic album ready. When did you guys start writing this record and find the energy to record after so consistent touring?

C: We started writing it kind of just straight after finishing Dogrel really, anytime we’d meet up we would start working on tunes. We had a few days a week off in-between festivals and I think we made sure we would always have three days off, of not gigging or traveling, and those three days every week we went and wrote all day. So we really didn’t take any breaks, which probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but I suppose we came out with a good album at the end of it.

We actually had to record it twice. We recorded it in L.A. after our last American tour was over. We stayed over in October and recorded at Sunset Sound. But we actually scratched all those recordings, it didn’t feel right, you know? Even though everything was there for us to record a good record, it just didn’t feel right, I don’t think the energy was there. So we decided to go back in with Dan Carey, who did Dogrel, as soon as possible and he freed up some space in January. And that time was really amazing. It was like we did all the touring over the year, we knew the record was good, we had the record done and already recorded it once, we just had to do it again in a more comfortable setting. It was exciting to go back in and work with Dan again. I believe he’s just an intrinsic part of our sound really at this point. After doing that in January it was a great relief and a great ending of the first chapter of Fontaines: going in to record with Dan again and then finishing that chapter recording the second album after all the ups and downs of the year after the release. It felt like a good point to start off again after finishing that record with him.

W: After the critical acclaim of Dogrel there are understandably different expectations the second time around. Did you guys feel any of the external pressure and how did that help shape the record?

C: We really tried to ignore that pressure. I think we managed to while we were writing it. We didn’t go in thinking of what album we were going to write or what album we should write. We just went in to write and write anything and entertain any creative ideas that came up, just to entertain it, even if from the get-go you knew it wasn’t going to be a Fontaines song. Which allowed us to explore music a lot more in-depth and to not repeat ourselves. But also to not completely purposely change the sound to avoid repeating ourselves either. We tried to get into a natural space where our creativity got to happen without the expectation of the public that Dogrel had attracted.

I think we successfully did that. Although I think recording the record was a lot of pressure when we did it in L.A. anyway. I think we did feel a bit of that pressure getting the sound right and all of that. Kind of like the idea of how Dogrel, I think, has a very specific sound that sounds quite different to other albums that are out there. We didn’t want to do an album that sounds too generic in the production, or too polished. I definitely felt pressure while we were doing that.

That was the main reason we went back to Dan because we knew that he had such a big role to play in what made Dogrel special as a recorded piece of music and really just wanted to have that again. Not repeat the same style that it had in production but find something that was special in us again. Dan seemed to be the only person who could do that really.

W: You sort of touched upon a question I had so I’m going to try to merge them into one. What exactly was it about recording in L.A. that didn’t felt right? And during the recording process, were you guys trying to push the limits of what you could do sonically, or was it something that just sort of happened on its own naturally?

C: Yeah I think when we went to L.A. we purposely went there to be far away from home to be in an uncomfortable place where we thought it would reflect positively on the creative outcome. But I think it did the complete opposite. I think it was way too far from home and the complete opposite to where we come from. A big American city, very superficial, at the end of the day, L.A. is that, isn’t it? L.A. has a big persona. Even though it has a lot to offer, there is a surface there that is excited by fame and charisma and it just felt difficult to make music the same way when we were so far away from where we came from. Then we did it in a big legendary studio that is meant to sound amazing, but all of that studio time felt very different than recording with Dan. Everything is very isolated, you don’t have your amp right beside you, you’re hearing mixes through headphones while you’re playing and all that kind of stuff. I think all that, to me, puts me off. I’ll probably go deaf while I’m very young, but I love hearing very loud music. Where I’m from, it moves me physically. I feel like trying to capture that kind of performance that is so physical when you’re only listening to what everyone else is playing through a set of headphones is virtually impossible.

Whereas when you go to Dan’s studio, it’s a small room that the desk is in the same room that you’re playing, the amps are there in the room right beside you and it’s loud. We did something with him where we set up the studio in the way that the sound that we were hearing live, almost sounding like it was mixed. The way everything was placed, we had the bass amp placed right in front of the kick drum facing the band. Tom [drummer Tom Coll] was the only one that couldn’t hear all of this.

So facing outwards from the kick drum, one of the guitar amps and one side of the bass amp, kind of slightly angled inwards and the other mirroring that. So myself, Deegan [bassist Conor Deegan], and Curley [guitarist Conor Curley] were standing on the other end of the room looking at Tom and this wall of amps. So that sound we were getting was almost panned and mixed the way the recorded should sound. As you’re playing live you’re hearing exactly how it should be mixed, but it’s coming straight from the amps and not going through anything. It’s an incredible experience to do that, you’re playing to the finished product in a way as it’s literally happening. It moves you a lot and there’s a great energy there.

Dan’s attitude to recording a record is to capture a moment. It’s not to capture the best performance that can happen. It’s to capture a moment that feels like everything is being moved like the plane was being influenced by the music that’s being played. So mistakes don’t matter, mistakes are a part of that and the anxiety that comes with that, which may actually have a good effect on the overall sound. It’s very liberating. We also never listened to the takes – so we played through a song and thought it felt good, we would decide that was the take. But if it didn’t sound good, we would delete that and play it again. We never listened to two takes of the same song. Just from the feeling in the room, we would know if that was the right take or not. It’s a very different approach to what happens in the studio but it’s what makes it special.

W: Dogrel had a lot of the personality of Dublin. Would you say This time around, did your newfound life on the road really shape the new album?

C: Absolutely. Completely. Dogrel was a record about Dublin that people expected. We knew that we couldn’t meet that expectation of “another record about Dublin” again because we hadn’t spent any time in Dublin since recording Dogrel. So we never once thought about writing another record about Dublin like that, as it would’ve been a lie. So in the end, the record ended up being quite a surreal one. A record that sort of creates its own world around it because when you lack a constant place, the only thing you have is what’s left inside of you, that’s the only constant. You have to shake that yourself and bring yourself to a place that’s happy and means something. That’s the essence of that. There’s a lack of place, so it just looks inwards rather than outwards, as there’s nothing outside when everything changes so fast outside, it’s impossible to grasp anything or to find any sort of deep meaning in anything around you that comes and goes so quickly.

W: I’ll admit when I first saw the report of you guys hinting of Beach Boys influence on the new album it was a bit of a surprise to me. But you can hear it on tracks like “Sunny.” How did that influence start to soak into your sound this time around?

C: I think a big part of the Beach Boys influence was the arrangements. I think Dogrel was a record that was really direct and we were trying to peel off a bit of music that wasn’t necessary and write songs that were straight to the point, where every single section or note that’s played is completely necessary. We had that attitude towards music for a long time and then the Beach Boys opened the idea up that you can explore arrangements a lot deeper, and you can let go of that sense of immediate directness and just explore music in a deeper way to point out something new that’s not necessarily there firsthand. It’s just inspiring and I suppose it makes you a lot more ambitious when you start appreciating those arrangements.

For us, we always think it’s about writing a good song and not about big sections or anything like that. But The Beach Boys have that perfect balance between good songs and incredible arrangements.

W: One of the most striking things on both records is your ability to juggle the energetic rockers with the poetic ballads that tap into a more vulnerable side. How do you strike such a balance and is it something you guys strive to do during the writing/recording?

C: I think it’s something that happens. All the sort of slower songs were the songs we would tend to write, we never wanted to just ignore them. The greatest ambition for the band was to create a platform where we can write all these songs that move us physically and with whatever kind of energy, but also to be vulnerable at the same time. It was difficult at the start to have the confidence to merge those two.

You know when you write a fast energetic song with a good groove and set of lyrics, you know that will work live and move people. But you need a lot more confidence to pull off the slower vulnerable songs. We find writing those to be as important, and sometimes more. At the end of the day, Fontaines is our creative outcome and we want to be able to tap into those sides. At the very start of the band, we were very influenced by the Velvet Underground, they would’ve done that. They were able to make rock and roll bangers and then absolutely beautiful ballads that are really emotional. They had so many different sounds that could have influenced a decade of music. I suppose there was always that ambition to do that, and with this record, I think we have done it more than with the first one. It’s hard to say how it will come across, but so far I’m quite confident that people will get it and that both those sides of music are executed to the best they can be.

W: I saw you guys at that first Union Pool performance in New York and a lot has changed for you since then. But even then, it was a sold out show and there was a buzz in the air during that show. Can you talk about your relationship with NYC?

C: I absolutely adore New York City, we all do. In 2016 I spent a few months over there and had a brilliant time and lived on 5th Avenue in Manhattan with a girl I met and explored that side of New York, and then the other side of it where I hung out with all the different punk bands in New York and crashed on their couches because I had nowhere else to be. New York opened itself to me and was a place that was incredibly welcoming on both sides.

I found it to be a generous city and obviously it’s covered in culture, history, and art is fascinating. The New York scene in the 70s with music is so important to me and poetry as well with the Beat Generation. There’s a book called the Poet in New York by a Spanish poet named Federico García Lorca, which was written in the late 20s/early 30s, and it was a Spanish guy from a raw background who came to New York and found the city to be a living entity and wrote this incredible book of poetry. It was an Ode To New York. It’s been one of my favorite books for a long time. So before I had been to New York, I had read so much about it and listened to so much music that depicted it and I just wanted to spend time there.

I learned to hate it as well, I had some hard times there as well. But it offered me so much and it’s a place that I find to be so alive. So going back to New York for the show was so exciting and it meant a lot to us to make an impact there. We just loved going there and I can’t wait to go there again. We’ve enjoyed all those shows, the two at Union Pool, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Bowery, and the one with Idles at Brooklyn Steel. Every single show we’ve played there has been brilliant.

W: Your tour with Idles was quite a perfect pairing. What was it like touring with those guys?

C: It really was! We knew Idles for a bit, just bumping into them before we signed to the label (Partisan Records) and we always had a good connection with them. That’s what it was, a great balance. I’d love to tour with them again. We were only just starting, our record had only just come out, and we had never done a big tour of the States before. Obviously they’d been touring relentlessly for a couple of years so we learned a lot from them, how to do things right. It was a lot of fun. They had their shit together and we didn’t…at all (laughs). We learned a lot looking up to them.

We had this shitty little van that you had to pop your suitcase on your lap the whole time you’re driving. They just had it all sorted. They find different things that they have to do every day to make stuff feel good on tour and can’t forget to do. Like Bowen (Idles guitarist Mark Bowen) is really into meditation before every gig, and I’ve never done anything like that. So before every gig, we’d get into their splitter and meditate for 15 minutes or half an hour and tried new things like that every day that felt good. But there’s just a lot to learn from them. They give everything on stage, they’re a very different band than us. It’s quite inspiring how much they let go and give it all. And every single show they play is brilliant, it doesn’t lack something. You can see they’re grateful to be doing what they’re doing and they want to give everything back. We really. had the time to make good friendships with them

W: Thinking back to this same pre-release time for Dogrel, what have you learned this time around going into this release that you wish you knew back then?

C: I’ve learned that it’s very easy to overlook your personal issues and sadness and to let that sadness turn into anger if you’re physically tired all the time. I wish if I could go back, I would have sat with myself a lot more and thought about what is actually making me feel bad and try to deal with it. Rather than relying on that crutch of “oh I feel like shit because I’m tired,” that just turns into being pissed off and resenting things that you shouldn’t be resenting because it has nothing to do with the actual issue.

I think I didn’t take in a lot of last year the way I should’ve because I didn’t know that. When you don’t deal with your problems, everything turns grey and it’s impossible to find joy in anything and you don’t know why and you find excuses or reasons that are completely wrong because you’re not allowing yourself the time to process things. There’s always something going on in everyone’s lives, everyone always has something shit going on. That’s just like a fact. But I’ve just learned you have to be aware of them and try to understand the best way possible and get the help you need if you do need it and to deal with specific issues at the time they’re happening so you can enjoy what’s around you. I think we spend a lot of time ignoring a lot of things and life just goes by you. I sort of wish I could repeat last year and do it differently. But the only reason I can see this is because I’ve had these three or four months of lockdown where all I’ve had is time to spend with myself and seeing things differently.

That’s what I’ve learned and what I’m going to carry on forward into the next tour because what we have is something that most people don’t get and if I let it all go and it passes me, I’ll regret it a lot one day when I have a lot of time to think back. I am grateful I can see it now and can’t wait to tour again.

W: Every time I’ve seen you play you particularly have gotten a bit bolder with your stage antics. What can we expect the next time you’re in town, is there a balcony leap in your future?

C: (laughs) I don’t know, maybe. One of the last shows we played at an old theater in Dublin called The Olympia, we had five or six bands playing the show that we curated to help raise money for homelessness here in Ireland. It was a really special show and a brilliant night but I kind of lost my shit at that gig and climbed up to the balcony and I was up there, sitting on the ledge with my legs hanging over the crowd and swinging my guitar around and the strap broke and the guitar went flying. Luckily it landed in the pit and just missed a security guard that was standing there. But that could’ve been a fucking disaster (laughs).

I can laugh about it cause nothing happened but I don’t think I would be laughing if something had happened. So I think that made me a bit scared, to be honest. I actually don’t remember any of that but I saw a video someone had sent me. That’s the furthest things have gone but sometimes when playing you get into these episodes where you’re in a trance.

W: And finally, what stuff has helped you pass time being stuck at home (movies, music, books, tv, etc)?

C: For the last few weeks I’ve been reading this Irish writer Kevin Barry and I started with Night Boat to Tangier.

W: No way, one of my good friends just recently let me borrow his copy to read. As well as Sally Rooney’s Normal People.

C: Oh yeah?! She’s actually from the same town that Tom and I are from! But yeah, Night Boat to Tangier is a brilliant book, I read it the week before and it’s one of the fastest books I’ve ever read. I really recommended it. I’m reading some of his short stories as well and some plays by Lorca and I started the quarantine reading this book The Unbearable Lightness of Being Novel by Milan Kundera.

I’ve enjoyed reading a lot. I’ve been writing a lot of music as well. In the first half of the lockdown I was in the countryside in the West of Ireland by the Atlantic and I had a lot of space to write and record. So I spent two months doing that and came back to Dublin and now the time in Dublin has been hanging out with the boys in the band and practicing and rehearsing playing through the album and writing some new stuff with the band already.

W: Wow, already?!

C: Yeah, the holiday of going back in was to practice the album because we have a couple of things coming up that we have to do, a few sessions that we’re recording. We’re the kind of people that can’t really do that and practice and focus, we always kind of get sidetracked with new ideas. So that’s been pretty good going into the room and just exploring new ideas again altogether. It was good having the time to explore ideas on my own and bringing into the room with the band. This time has actually been productive and peaceful to reflect.

A Hero’s Death is out at midnight. If you haven’t already, pre-order it here.

An Interview With DEHD

By Will Oliver, July 21st 2020

[Jason Balla, left]

On Friday Chicago trio DEHD returned with their third album Flower Of Devotion via Fire Talk Records. It’s a big sonic leap forward for the band who sounds as confident as ever, while still keeping their sound very much intact.

We had the chance to chat with DEHD’s Jason Balla about the sonic shift forward, the quick follow-up from their last record, his process with Emily Kempf, how they’re getting through this tough time, and much more.

Find our conversation with Jason Balla below.
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An Interview With The Beths

By Will Oliver, July 9th 2020

Tomorrow The Beths will release their sophomore album Jump Rope Gazers via Carpark Records. It was a tough task for the band to follow-up the whip-smart songwriting prowess and hooks found on their utterly terrific 2018 debut Future Me Hates Me. But they do just that and then some on the more than worthy follow-up that puts the dreaded sophomore slump right in its place.

While a more polished take of their infectious indie-pop that throws garage rock and tear-inducing ballads together resulting in a fully formed album that makes that next step forward sonically, while also maintaining what made us fall in love with them in the first place.
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An Interview With Courting

By Will Oliver, July 3rd 2020

Courting are an exciting rock and roll band out of Liverpool, who caught our attention in a big way in May with the release of their stunning new single “David Byrne’s Badside,” which has remained one of our favorite songs of the year ever since.

We had the chance to speak to frontman and lead singer Sean Murphy-O’Neill about the track, how they’re handling life under quarantine, if David Byrne himself has heard the song and what the future holds for them during such an uncertain time.
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An Interview With Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

By Will Oliver, June 17th 2020

Tom Russo of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Earlier this month Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever returned with their sophomore album Sideways to New Italy (via Sub Pop Records). It was one of our most anticipated records of 2020 and it’s safe to say that it found a way to exceed our unfairly high expectations and is one of the years very best.

A few weeks ago I had the honor and privilege of getting the time to ask singer/guitarist Tom Russo some questions about how he’s handling quarantine, what is was like releasing a new record during such a crazy time, if they experienced any pressure about matching a critically lauded debut album and their songwriting process at large.

You can find our chat in full below and please note that it has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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An Interview With The Murder Capital

By Will Oliver, March 6th 2020

Irish rockers The Murder Capital have been building quite a bit of momentum overseas both back at home in Ireland and in the U.K. as well. They released their debut album When I Have Fears last year to mass critical acclaim (it was one of our favorites of the year) and now it’s time for the band to have their moment here in the U.S., where they are about to embark on their first-ever North American tour.

Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with the band’s drummer Diarmuid Brennan over the phone, one day before they played their biggest hometown show to date. We talked about the early days of the band, their process, how they bring it live every night, and how grief helped shaped their debut album.

You can find our chat in full below and please note that it has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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An Interview With Longwave

By Omar Kasrawi, February 22nd 2020

Photos and Interview by Omar Kasrawi

May of 2018 brought the first new Longwave show in nearly a decade – a band that helped define the New York rock and roll sound of the early 2000s. And more than a year later, the band dropped its first new album since 2008’s Secrets are Sinister. The band used a mini-tour supporting Blue October, to bring If We Ever Live Forever to the masses, culminating in a sold-out Webster Hall show. They’re currently on tour at the moment.

I spoke with founding members Steve Schiltz (vocals/guitar) and Shannon Ferguson (guitar) to get their thoughts about getting the band back together after a long hiatus, recording at Schiltz’s studio, and what music gets them going these days.

The following is edited for brevity and clarity. The band play Bowery Ballroom tonight.

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Omar: I’ve spent a lot of time with this new album and it was around a minute and 20 in, when that bassline kicks in. And shortly after that, the guitars come roaring in, and it kind of feels like, “Okay, this is a Longwave record.” Were you guys trying to recapture that sound that has been so associated with the band?

STEVE: Well, see the thing about that song in particular…it was something I had started by myself and we had, we kind of made it into a Longwave song. I think Christian’s bass is the last thing we did on it.. we had done everything with this scratch bass and [Christian Bonger’s bass] really made it….

SHANNON: There’s definitely a push to make it sound like the band. I know Steve really likes that song. And he likes the intro a lot. I like it, too, of course. But I think he liked it because it didn’t sound like Longwave. Especially in the beginning…he said, “You know, let’s do something new.”…And I think that, me and Christian, especially, wanted to make it more like the band. You know, I do think it was my idea to push Christian to the bass. Christian didn’t want to play the bass on that song.

STEVE: Chrisitan had thought I did a fine job on the bass…

SHANNON: Steve’s a great bass player, but Christian’s really, really amazing. It makes a big difference having Christian on it.

STEVE; It’s also better just because that bass originally wasn’t intended to go all the way to the end. I just recorded it. No amp, you know, I was just fucking around here. So yeah, Christian had the Marshall set up…as soon as he started playing and it was like, yeah, well there, we don’t need that other thing now.

O: So Christian’s in Vietnam. Shannon’s in California. And Steve and Jason in New York. How did that distance affect the creative process during recording? Were you sending files across the Internet?

SHANNON: Very old school I mean, we probably could be sending demos around and stuff, but we didn’t really do it that way…I think I was the only one out of town.

STEVE: Christian was not in Vietnam at that time Shannon was the only guy out of town. Jason also has moved upstate, and he was still in town, too. So it was three of us still living in New York. Shannon…would fly in.

In the beginning, we weren’t expecting to be recording a record at first. We were seeing if we wanted to play and what it sounded like again, cause we hadn’t played in like, eight years or so. But what ultimately happened was that I just recorded every single thing that anybody played that was kind of interesting.

Shannon would be messing around the guitar and he’s got his amp up…I would just have the mic on the guitar the whole time…he’d be playing and just fucking around with a peddle of mine early on, something he just found…And then I would go, “Oh shit!” And I pull up Pro Tools and there it is, and I’d just recorded it and a lot of little loopy things and things on the record. The little noises and stuff were from that.

In the old days, you would lock out a studio and just have everything to set up the whole time and usually, you can’t really afford that kind of luxury anymore. But I have this place, and if I was willing to step over everybody’s shit for a little while, like here on the floor…then we could just leave it all set up. And I had very recently made it so that we could record everybody. So it turned out to be a really cool way to have done it…it wasn’t started like that, envisioned like that, it just happened to kind of be a cool way to do it. But once everyone would leave, that was it….I would sit there and mess with this stuff and kind of go through and edit things.

O: So what was the impetus to get the band back together again?

STEVE: Shannon had asked me … God, seven years ago now. So more than a couple of years ago, we went out drinking one night, had a good time with each other, and then, you remember that Shannon? You asked me, at Rosemary’s in Williamsburg. And he said, “You know, I think we should get the band together.” And I said, “Oh, God, OK.”

So I went into the bathroom, came back and I said, “Shannon you need to know, I haven’t told anybody this yet, but my wife and I are pregnant.” So, you know, that kind of stopped it for a while…I called Shannon up maybe two years after that. four, five, I don’t know how many years after that. And I said, “I hit a wall.” I do these like TV commercials for a living. And I’m lucky to have that kind of work. And it’s good work….It’s creative…I get to play guitar. I get to do all my own instruments. And I had hit a wall and I called him up….I need to do something else, too. And I said, “Do you still want to get the band back together?”

And he had just moved to California, because. you know, none of it was an easy thing to do. It wasn’t like, “Hey, come on down Tuesday, we’re going to mess around,” OK, well, we look at flights and see how much it costs to come out here. So. But the good thing was that whenever, when we finally did get together, it was with Christian. And Shannon will attest that really kind of, that all of a sudden it was everybody’s a little bit better now because Christian’s so good and everyone really focused when they came. I was worried…people are just gonna want to take breaks a lot…But when we were here…everyone was focused and doing it…four or five times of doing that. And then we basically had the record.

SHANNON: It wasn’t a struggle. It was pretty easy once we got together and started working on a song. It felt pretty natural. You know, I think we took a long break. But all of us have played, been playing with each other in different formations for that whole time.

STEVE: That’s true. This is like the fifth or sixth or seventh band that I’ve been in with Christian now. And Shannon, it’s like the third or fourth for Shannon, Christian’s been in all of our bands. And the second time he’s been in Longwave.

I think all this is to say I can only speak for myself, but maybe you might be able to understand. And once you have kids, and three of us have kids, now your time gets really scarce…And so I really felt like when I had this time when we were all getting together, it was very important and we were going to make the most of it. And again, speaking only for myself, at our age. We’re in our forties now, I’m so lucky to have enough guys, to have a band that wants to do it. And it’s good, right? Like most, most guys at this point…have lost interest or your friends don’t want to do it or… It’s very lucky to have it at all.

O: What did it feel like stepping back on stage for that first gig in nearly a decade at Mercury Lounge?

SHANNON: I think that was the most nervous that I had been, and I could tell Steve was nervous too, for a show in like maybe 15 years….But then, you know, the backstage of the Mercury is actually in the basement. And when we came into the crowd and it’s completely packed, full, I just felt really at ease. It was good to be playing again. Maybe a little rusty for me but OK.

STEVE: Same for me. I remember thinking the same thing. What had changed for me that I knew that to kind of stay away until, like, I had to have my own little space. So I remember that show, I went off by myself and I got dinner, and not that I didn’t want to see the other guys, but I couldn’t deal with it before the show, all of our friends and people that I wanted to see. It was just a little overwhelming and kind of emotional….I remember walking up and walking through…to get ready for the show. And I looked in, and the room was full and I was like, “Oh, this is gonna be fun!” You know, it’s not going to be nervous or weird or whatever. It’s actually gonna be really fun.

SHANNON: I have a lot of confidence in Steve and the rest of the guys. So…once they start playing it, it’s easy to get excited. So there’s a lot of time on stage where I’m not actually playing. So I get to listen and it’s like, “This is amazing. You guys really rocked it!

O: One of things that has always stood out to me about Longwave songs, is that so many feel like they could be the track to climactic cinematic moments.

SHANNON: Well, I mean, as far as the band’s sounding sometimes like every song is the last song of a really cool movie. You know, I feel it. I feel like that’s always kind of been a part of the band. I think that Steve always kind of brought that kind of drama to the band. Like you listen to the first record, Endsongs, it sounds like every song could have ended any John Hughes movie. And I think that’s why I wanted to be in the band. It’s a great thing to be able to pull off in songwriting.

O: And you’ve both been working on creating musicals scores and music for commercials since the band went on hiatus, has that changed or influenced the creative process going into the new record?

SHANNON: I think that it affected the recording the most., I noticed, and I’m not sure that Steven noticed this, but sort of getting back to Steve’s studio and where we made the record. I know it’s like an increased amount of efficiency….to be able to make fast decisions. And I think that that just comes from doing all those scores. But maybe just getting older, too. I don’t know. But I feel like, just all of us, we debated the songs and the parts much, much less than we have on any other record.

STEVE: You know what? I forgot about this, but Omar, what we would do, especially when we’re writing stuff together for this record, you’d be in this room, have this thing kind of half written, definitely not finished yet, but we liked it. And didn’t know how to finish it. What we would do…because I had it all miked up, We would record it and then we’d listen back. And it would sound good, right? Like sound coming through the speakers like everything’s miked and it sounded pretty good….made it really easy to say, “You know, I don’t think that section works,” or, “What if it was twice as long?” and rather than [rerecord] it, I would just chop it in like a second and then I’d play it again for everybody and we’d say, “Oh, that doesn’t work”….”Oh, that’s right, that’s right.” And then we chop…I would do it in the machine…one thing about doing that stuff is it makes you really fast. You have to be fast right, with the software. So it was actually much faster to do it that way than it would be to just play it again…into your iPhone voice memos. And when it’s all done, you hold it up to everybody and listen back….I especially like even knowing that it’s possible to do that now. And that’s that comes from doing so many edits for scoring things.

SHANNON: I remember, having just the whole record kind of an easy feel to it. The other thing, as far as scoring and having all this time and having to work, kind of in a different industry for the last decade. I do feel like we’re just faster and better at writing the parts. That could also be partly because Christian is in the band.

O: I’ve lost track now, but you guys have brought up Christian as an influence on the band a number of times. That sounds like he’s some sort of special sauce.

STEVE: He’s good.

SHANNON: I mean, you can hear it on the record. Yeah, that’s him.

STEVE: You know, I played in bands with Christian on the drums. Me on the drums. Probably in three bands. Shannon, do you even know this? The reason I bring it up is that I’m not a great drummer, but when I was playing with Christian, I was like, “Damn, I sound good! Listen to me play these drums!” And it’s cause he’s just so solid…He just makes you sound so much better because he’s got it together.

SHANNON: The thing that you brought up earlier, Omar, asking us what it was like to do this again after 10 years. It’s not just that we were all playing in bands for ten years, we’ve also been hanging out for the whole time, too. It’s not like the band had a huge falling out in2009 and we didn’t talk for years. We’ve been pretty much doing stuff together. So it wasn’t that hard to come back again.

O: To me, Longwave was one of the defining sounds of the early 2000s rock scene. And that makes me wonder, who are some of the artists you enjoy listening to today?

STEVE: Shannon probably listens to the same five records still, yeah.

O: What are those five records?

SHANNON: Shannon: Well, I. I don’t get to listen to my own music anymore because I have a 10 year old. He controls the playlist in my house and he’s super into Nirvana. He likes Green Day. And that’s basically it. I played him some Led Zeppelin yesterday…Steve told me to listen to the new Spoon record. Maybe it’s an old one, Dave Friedman produced it?

STEVE: He’s done the last two. [NOTE: Friedman produced Longwave’s The Strangest Things in 2003]

SHANNON: I listened to the first one. That’s the first “newest” record I’ve listened to in years.

STEVE: Yeah, I love that Spoon record. I like The War on Drugs. I don’t find myself listening to a lot of Longwave-y type music. The last record that really knocked me out was that Mark Ronson record (Late Night Feelings) There’s a song with King Princess…that just killed me (Pieces of Us). I listened to it over and over and over and over again…There’s a few songs on that Mark Ronson record that I just love.

So I don’t know if Shannon can relate, but…I don’t usually get the awesome, transcendent feeling from listening to other people blast loud guitars and distortion and delay and shit. I’m kind of selfish that way. I like to do it but…I don’t really care when someone else does it too much.
Shannon: Yeah. Yeah, me neither. Yeah. Especially with the effects.

Steve: Again, that Mark Ronson record sounds fucking amazing. And you’re like, “How did he even get it to sound like that?” You know, one song is with the Tame Impala guy (Kevin Parker). And I’m listening to this. And I think this is just great music. And I don’t I don’t think there’s a guitar on that song.

O: That kind of makes me curious, as you say, you’re not going to search out heavy guitars, distortion. But when you sit down to write a song, is the first thing you pick up the guitar?

Steve: Yeah, it could be. It could be anything in this room. There are a lot of guitars. With Longwave, it starts with Shannon with a sound …it’s still a release to do it. “Wow listen to that!” you know. It’s not as exciting, honestly, for me to make the new sound…I get more excited when I hear him doing it.

O: So, what’s next? Besides the tour?

STEVE: There are a couple more videos there that are either done or in process for a couple of the songs on the record [NOTE: They’ve since released the video for The Trick]. We haven’t yet talked about playing anymore or writing more music together. I don’t know how that will go.

SHANNON: Actually, I brought it up a month ago. I think Steve thought I was being sarcastic.

STEVE: Oh, okay (Laughter)

SHANNON: “When are we going to make the new record?” And you laughed.

STEVE: We should, we should do it. We have stuff we didn’t finish for sure from the last record. I definitely started making a big list of stuff that was unfinished that we could start with. Yeah.

Interview and Photo by Killian Young

Jukebox the Ghost are getting in the Halloween spirit with their HalloQueen concerts on a six-city mini-tour, the most they’ve ever done in a year. The indie-pop trio are splitting these October shows into a set of original songs followed by another set of covers while they’re dressed as Freddie Mercury (played by vocalist/keyboardist Ben Thornewill), Brian May (played by vocalist/guitarist Tommy Siegel) and Roger Taylor (played by drummer Jesse Kristin). They even recorded some studio versions of their Queen covers (“Under Pressure”, “Somebody to Love” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”) to hype up their fans for the gigs. Ahead of Jukebox the Ghost’s headlining show at Webster Hall, I caught up with Thornewill about all things HalloQueen,

Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Q: To start off, can you tell me about the first time you listened to Queen?

A: It’s so funny. I think I probably had a similar [experience] everyone else did of our generation. It’s just a part of growing up, it’s just the music that you know. And “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song from Wayne’s World. All these other songs are at sporting events. So I actually don’t remember the first time I encountered Queen.

I remember in high school stumbling upon the Greatest Hits and thinking, “Oh my god, how are there this many incredible songs by this band?” And that’s been the experience we’ve had doing these shows. We keep adding songs and changing them out. No matter what we play, it’s hit after hit after hit.

Q: How have the couple early HalloQueen shows been?

A: Fantastic, awesome. The first one of each year is a little nerve-wracking because I’m shaving the beard into the mustache for the first time, and we’re playing new songs. We haven’t done it for a year. So that’s always a little stressful, but we played in Austin on Friday and Seattle on Saturday – and they couldn’t have gone better. Smashing shows, totally packed, people were in costume and freaking out, and we had an amazing time.

Q: I heard there are three new cover songs in the set?

A: Yeah, three new songs. We may have switched one of them out for an old favorite because it didn’t get the response we wanted. But there’s still new stuff happening in the set for sure. We’re still being cryptic about it, I guess.

Q: The costume contest is a big part of these shows. Can you think of any especially memorable costumes?

A: It’s funny, I have two answers to this. One is, I’ve never gotten to watch the costume contest. Because while they’re parading across the stage and voting and everyone’s screaming and clapping, I’m trying to change into my Freddie Mercury outfit and get ready to be Freddie. So I never actually get to watch it, which is such a bummer.

So I usually go back and look through the socials and find out who the winners were. There was one some years ago, and a girl just dressed up as fish. Not like a Nemo, not like anything – just a fish. For some reason, everyone just latched ahold of it. It was not the best costume. It was not the most creative costume. It was the dumbest costume onstage, and it was 700 people chanting, “Fish! Fish! Fish! Fish!” So I remember hearing that and seeing the picture: “Oh, that’s a girl in a fish outfit. Cool.”

Q: I remember a few years ago in Brooklyn, the winner was a guy dressed up as “Juicebox” the Ghost.

A: There’s usually a couple Jukebox-related puns, and then usually somebody dresses up as me or Jesse. That seems fairly common too, in a really nice way.

Q: Can you tell me about the inspiration to do HalloQueen for the first time?

A: Jesse, the drummer, came up with the name: “Guys, I’ve got a name for a show. It’s called HalloQueen. We do a full set of Queen for Halloween.” We had learned like four or five Queen tunes at that point just ‘cause we wanted to and for playing the shows. He was like, “If we learn three more songs, we’ve got a full set.” And then it was born, and it’s taken on a life of its own.

Q: What was the first Queen song that you learned how to play?

A: “Bohemian Rhapsody”! We did “Bohemian Rhapsody” in college, even before we’d come up with the band name Jukebox the Ghost. I’d completely forgot about that because it was so audacious. We had no right to be doing that. We sounded nothing like how we do it now. We learned that back when we were 19, 20.

Q: Do you have any favorites of the Queen covers to perform live?

A: “Bohemian [Rhapsody]” is always a trip. I play bass on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “[Another One] Bites the Dust.” So that’s really fun for me to play the bass. I play drums on “Fat Bottomed Girls”. Honestly, every song is a blast. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but I’m either playing piano, up dancing around, playing bass or playing drums and all the while dressed up like Freddie Mercury – and it’s so much fun.

Q: Can you tell me how Queen has inspired Jukebox the Ghost, either in original music or performance?

A: The Queen influence on our music actually happened in a roundabout way. People for so many years would say, “You guys sound like Queen.” When we were actively trying not to sound like Queen. Then maybe four or five years ago, we’re doing these Queen tunes, and everybody keeps saying it. Obviously we’re inviting the comparison. And we just thought, “Screw it. Let’s try to sound like Queen a little bit.” So you heard that a lot on our last record, like with the bridge of “Everybody’s Lonely” or “Jumpstarted” or some of these songs that are a little more adventurous and a little more out there.

For me as a performer, being able to run around and sing and have the microphone like that. I’ve integrated that into our set a little more, some more freedom to roam around.

Q: Are there any Queen deep cuts that you could envision covering?

A: We learned “Death on Two Legs” for this tour. Do you know that tune? That’s a deep cut that’s awesome. It’s super metal. It’s really fun. We only play 1:40, 2:00 of it. And that was the one we played in Austin, and it just didn’t get a response. So we’ve found that we can sneak ’em in. If it’s something that people won’t know, we’ll do a sample of it, just to give ’em a taste. For the most part, they’re not coming to hear the Queen b-sides, the deep cuts. They wanna hear “Bohemian [Rhapsody]”. We wanna play “Bohemian [Rhapsody]”. And we’re gonna make it a party.

Q: You have a band cell phone number that fans can text. Have you gotten any good HalloQueen-related questions?

A: It’s so funny, most of that is people being like, “Is this real? You’re screwing with me, right?” There hasn’t been a ton of richness of questions yet. So hopefully we’ll get into some more deep conversations. But it’s also a little overwhelming because at any given time there’s 2,000 text messages awaiting response.

Q: Have you seen the Queen + Adam Lambert tour?

A: No, I haven’t. And I don’t know if I want to. I want to for the sake of doing it, but I don’t know what my emotions would be about that. I have very mixed feelings about the Queen movie itself, so I want to maintain some of the shine and glamor of the unknown of the band.

Q: Tell me about your thoughts on the movie.

A: I hated it [laughs]. Hated it, hated it! It’s funny, Jesse, our drummer (who’s the biggest Queen fan of the band), loved it. For him, he was looking at it like, “Are they gonna check all the boxes of the Queen history?” He’s checking the outfits are in chronological order and the albums are in the right order and who wrote “I’m in Love with My Car”. He loved all that nerdy stuff. For me, I wanted to see all the messiness of Freddie Mercury and the reality of the band. And I just didn’t feel like it was there for me.

Q: If you could collaborate with any of the living members of Queen live, who would it be?

A: It would have to be Brian May, right? Just to get those guitar licks. And his guitar writing is out of control. And I would just love to see him and Tommy nerd out and play together on guitar. ’Cause Tommy’s playing those licks in his own way, and I think they could do something real cool together.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory from a past HalloQueen show?

A: My strongest memories are of the first HalloQueens when I didn’t even know how in character I was gonna be, what I was gonna do, if I was gonna talk in an accent. Just getting up there and trying to embody the bravado of Freddie. And I attempted it and loved it. It felt for the first time like I was doing theater, like it wasn’t me on stage – it was me playing a character. And I really loved that.

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Jukebox the Ghost will play the NYC edition of their HalloQueen concert at Webster Hall on 10/26, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out from the venue but are still available on Stubhub.







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