Interview with Jayne Ava!

UT is pleased to present an interview with talented, eclectic Canadian musician Jayne Ava! Find out more about Jayne on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter as well as from the subsequent interview.

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Please describe your trajectory to becoming a musician.

From a very young age I was surrounded by music. My parents always made sure I was involved in music in some way. I began doing theatre in my town and went to a performing arts school from 6-12 grade. Following high school, I was accepted into the prestigious theatre program at Sheridan Collage in Ontario and it was there I began writing my own music. I knew that this was what I wanted to continue doing and made the move to Los Angeles to pursue contemporary singing and songwriting.

How do you distinguish wanting to be famous from wanting to make music?

Being famous is just a possible outcome of being an artist. Making music is something I couldn’t live without. I can’t picture my life without making music and sharing it with people who connect with what I am saying. The goal is not fame to me, the goal is happiness and that is simply being able to do what I do for as long as possible and continuing to have a happy, full soul.

How has being from Alberta, Canada influenced the music that you create?

Where I grew up there is just an immense amount of support for the arts. We were always encouraged to pursue whatever huge dreams we had. I had a very open, positive, supportive upbringing. So that support has influenced everything from my musical style to my lyrics because I was always fully able to try new things and really go all in with what I wanted to create. Also, Canadian artist Alanis Morrisette changed the way I saw music and was such a strong female influence on me and really made me see the power and change music can create.

In what ways is this area of the world similar to Los Angeles?

They are very different! Haha, from everything from weather to outlook on the world, but like LA there is a huge arts community and so many wonderful ridiculously talented people you can surround yourself with to collaborate and grow with.

Your style has been described as alternative or electronic pop. What do you think of those depictions?

That is definitely the easiest way to classify my music though there are many other elements. There is some theatre in there, some rock, a little bit of everything!

When you want to relax, what is on your playlist? What about when you want to dance?

I love listening to bands I grew up listening to and usually keep it pretty moody. I have had Kings of Leons’s album Aha Shake Heartbreak on repeat for years. I go through phases like every other day of what I’m listening to. Right now if I feel like dancin I’m super into Betty Who and Haim. Queen. Always Queen!

You have identified Gwen Stefani, Pink, The Scissor Sisters, The Spice Girls, Alanis Morissette, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Gossip as musical inspirations. What about these artists have been impactful for you?

All of these artists have just had such important, impactful, and amazing careers. All these artists changed the face of music and did things no one else was doing. They are all just so unique and brilliant and stayed true to themselves and stood up for what they felt strongly about and that is just all you can hope to do as an artist. Stay true to yourself.

How do you want to inspire others? How have you already?

I just try to constantly stay positive and in this industry and I find especially in LA where it is so hard to get a foot in the door, you need to always see the light. I also want to handle everything with kindness and humility. Loyalty is the most important thing you can have and unfortunately when people have things like fame and money on their mind they can start walking on people to get to the top or treating others in a harmful way. If my goals take me a little bit longer to achieve because I want to handle my career with kindness and stay true to individuals who truly have my back I am completely alright with that!

Which other art forms are inspiring for you?

I am inspired by tons of different things something will catch my eye and give me a million ideas. I find fashion a brilliant art form and am inspired by fashion pieces daily.

What was it like working with Prince Saheb on your EP, March.

Working with Prince was phenomenal. He is a genius and he is just very open and accepting. Going into sessions with him it didn’t feel stressful or too heavy or that we were using each other to further our own careers it felt like a friendship and we were creating something beautiful. He is young and talented and just such an inspiration.

How did you come up with the title for the EP?

Well, I literally wrote the whole thing about a breakup I had that happened in March and as I finished writing the EP I found through it cathartically I found my way out of sadness and could march through anything head held high again. So it is a pretty literal title.

Listening to the title track reminds me of the season spring. What did you have in mind with this song?

It was when I was free again. I lived through the heart-break (as everyone does) and just was happy again. I could finally look back and reflect in a positive way! It reminds me of spring as well just sunshine all around and the beginning of something new. Everything is growing again and starting over!

With the refrain, “I’m ready to march right now,” I also think of not just literal movement, but also social justice movements. What are your reactions to the dialogues about race within the United States over the past several months?

Being from a truly beautiful open and supportive city in Canada I was never surrounded by any type of hate. So to hear all of this going on is shocking to me. I will fight fiercely for equal rights amongst everyone because everyone should be lucky enough to have had the acceptance I did.

How was it to make the song, “Something There?” I particularly hear the influence of Alanis in that track.

It was so fun making something there. I worked with a brilliant production team called Official Prodigal and as soon as we met I knew they understood me. The song just happened so naturally because we are all such a perfect fit. Something there is the first song in the concept EP we are creating. The whole EP will connect and chronicle the beginning to the end of a specific relationship. Kind of like Alanis it will be a bit more raw and emotional than my first EP. It’ll leave nothing unsaid and I’m just so excited for this creative process we are embarking on with this second EP

Is your music feminist? If so, in which respects?

As stated before I feel so strongly about equal rights for everyone. I don’t understand how everyone doesn’t agree with this statement by now. It feels very primitive to me that this isn’t just a worldly accepted concept. But I wouldn’t necessarily say it is “feminist”. I am however a strong female who truly believes in everyone being able to achieve and strive for and excel in whatever they want regardless of gender, race, sexuality or anything else!

How do your intersecting personal identities affect your art?

Oh I have so many different personalities and they directly affect everything about my music. I am a very different human when I am alone versus when I am out and about or even performing. Alone I am a lot more introspective and analytical, moodier and self-conscious, but that brings the truthful, real, and relatable side of me to my songs. On the other, I have a never-ending list of quirks and I am probably the weirdest person most people know so that brings the fun and out-there positive elements in!

What is next for you creatively?

My whole focus right now is doing this EP. I have never felt stronger about anything in my life than this project. I will be recording a song with the BRILLIANT Alex Hinsky who is a close friend of mine with the voice of an angel, so I can’t wait for that and very soon the music video for “Something There” (Directed by another one of my closest pals, Jo Roy) will be released once we finish that up. So just a lot of exciting wonderful things and I cannot even put into words how grateful and humbled I am to be able to do these things!

What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

I know I have said it a lot, but always be kind and always be loyal. You are always enough and don’t let people make you think you are not. The downfall of most people is how other people make them feel. Although I as well sometimes get down over what individuals try to do to bring me down, who doesn’t?!, Especially in this industry you just need to be above it. You are on this planet for you. So be your best friend and only strive for happiness. What’s better than that?! xx

-Sem

Interview: Brittany Ray!

Underneath This is happy to present an interview with Brittany Ray, a talented singer-songwriter. Please read about Brittany before heading to the subsequent interview.

Music is not only an expression of one’s self, but an opportunity to reach out and touch people, to make them feel something. 

Brittany Ray, a country/pop singer/songwriter originally from Dubuque, Iowa, is putting this idea in action with her music. Her new single to be released soon is a powerful ballad entitled “I’ll Never Lose You” which describes how even though someone might be gone from your life, you won’t ever lose them; they will still be with you in some way.

Brittany lives in Nashville, and although she is only 18, has already made strides in the music community. She had the chance to write with some of the members of Lonestar. Her previous single, “Love Is Worth It”, was a duet featuring Richie McDonald from Lonestar. This song gained Brittany attention, and was voted by NSAI top 12 out of 260 songs in the Tin Pan South Songwriter’s Festival. She got to perform this song at Belcourt Taps as a part of Tin Pan South. Along with singing and writing with Lonestar, she also wrote a song featuring Collin Raye called “You’re My Friend.” This song will appear on Brittany’s upcoming album.

Brittany’s sound is a clever mix of pop and country vibes. She writes about what inspires her, in hopes that it will spark optimism and creativity in other people. Thriving in Nashville, she continues to write and develop her artistry, inspiring  people along the way.

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What has been your path to becoming a musician?

I started singing at a really young age and fell in love with it. When I was five or six years old I remember saying that I wanted to be a singer; no other career path ever occurred to me. I became super involved in the music activities my school offered. On the side, I participated in talent shows and performances. When I was in eighth grade, I won a singing competition in New York for IMTA (International Model and Talent Agency.) This gave me some exposure and I became introduced to people who were able to start off my career. I went to Nashville and did some writing and recording, now I’m here!

Your style has been called “country.” What do you make of that designation?

I think that’s an accurate designation, my music definitely has a laid-back country feel to it. I don’t think it’s just country, though, there’s a lot of pop influences that go along with it.

Do you consider your music feminist? If so, in which ways?

I wouldn’t call my music feminist, but I think it definitely has women empowering aspects!

How did you decide on the title, “Love is Worth It”? I am especially enjoying that song.

We came up with the hook first before any of the other lyrics or music: “Nothing’s perfect, love is worth it.” That was a really strong place to start, and the rest of the song was built around those initial lyrics.

On that track, you collaborated with Richie McDonald from Lonestar. What was that like?

It was great, Richie is such a nice person. It was amazing singing with someone so established in the music industry and so talented! My time with him was a real learning experience.

You have also worked with Dean Sams from Lonestar and Collin Ray. How were these experiences?

It was awesome! Dean is such a funny person, always kept me laughing. He also did an amazing job of producing my songs. He put a lot of time into making me sound as great as possible and seeking out things that would make me unique. Working with Collin Raye was awesome as well, he is the sweetest person and gave me a big hug when he first saw me. It was a lot of fun singing with him and recording the video for “You’re My Friend.” He has a bubbly personality and is always smiling.

I also really like the covers you have done, especially “Born to Die” by Lana del Rey. How do you decide which songs to cover?

I try to cover songs that are popular or have been popular in the past because more people will recognize it, and also notice the changes you have made and see your own twist on the song. I don’t only cover popular songs, but I find that it resonates more with people in doing so. I also pick songs that I really enjoy and will have a fun time covering. I absolutely love Lana del Rey!

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You have described yourself as loving “all types of music,” which I think is awesome. Which artists resonate most with you?

That’s hard to say; the answer changes at different times. Some days I may be in the mood for alternative rock and listen to artists like Linkin Park and Three Days Grace and feel most connected to sounds like that. Other days I may be in the mood for more relaxed music, and enjoy Ed Sheeran or Ingrid Michaelson and that music will resonate the most with me at the time. I guess the answer is it depends on the moment, because my musical mood is always changing!

Your sound has been likened to that of Sara Evans and Martina McBride. What do you make of this comparison?

I think that is an amazing compliment.They are both strong vocalists with solid music and I feel honored to be compared to them.

Who have been your most significant creative influences?

I would say Miranda Lambert is one of my main influences. I love her edginess, the songs she writes, and her voice is so strong and beautiful!

How has being from Iowa affected the music that you make?

I grew up in the suburbs of Dubuque, Iowa. It’s not quite in the country, but about 15 minutes away from the city; I do have a cornfield in my backyard, though. I think this atmosphere inspired my country-ish sound.

What is next for you professionally?

I will be writing more songs, making more videos, and my plan is to record and release new songs soon!

What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

Find your sound and something that makes you unique and stand out. Be confident, work hard, and be kind; eventually things will happen for you.

-Sem

Interview: Natalie Denise Sperl of Kill My Coquette!

Underneath This had a nice opportunity to interview Natalie Denise Sperl. Please read more about Natalie before checking out the subsequent interview.

Natalie is the front woman of Los Angeles-based quartet Kill My Coquette whose self-titled debut EP just came out on January 20th.  Armed with attitude and boasting vital rock & punk with a twist of designer blues, Kill My Coquette is influenced by game-changing artists like Jack White, Lou Reed, Joan Jett and the New York Dolls, but they have a sound all their own.  Written and arranged by Natalie, the 5-song EP was recorded at Evelyn Martin Recordings in Los Angeles with producer Danny McGough (Tom Waits, Social Distortion). The first single is “3rd & Bonnie Brae.”

photographer:  Brandise Danesewich

photographer: Brandise Danesewich

You have been involved in several creative paths  – modeling, acting in film and television and more recently, music. What are the differences among these types of formats? What is unique about music?

With music, I have more control creatively. Acting and modeling I’m part of someone else’s vision. I can say whatever I want with my songs. It’s scary but more thrilling at the same time. Music soothes me.

Which moment or series of moments prompted you to pursue music?

I was getting bored of waiting around on film sets and all the down time between jobs, so I decided to try to write and play music, see where it took me. I started a band and started writing. I HAVE TO keep re-inventing.

How does a sense of geographic place, including being from the Midwest, affect your music?

I knew from early on I wanted to get out of there, see the world. I read so much about Hollywood and New York I knew it would be one or the other.  I’m glad I had those beginnings though, for being so far removed form the rest of the world. Wouldn’t have worked so hard, fought so hard otherwise, ya know? I would have been comfortable and complacent, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

You have described your influences as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and especially Social Distortion. What about Social Distortion was so impactful?

Yes I talk about them a lot. I just really dig their music. Plain and simple.

I also hear female influences – Joan Jett and Hole (Courtney Love) seemingly most prominently. Have female musicians been influential? If so, who?

Yes both those women are huge for me. It’s not about loving every song they ever did either. It’s what they STAND for. The idea. THAT spoke volumes to me. Unapologetic. Aggressive. I have utmost respect for Brody Dalle, Janis Joplin, Chrissy Hynde, Patti Smith and even Madonna. All doing it on their own terms.

Do you consider your music feminist? Why or why not?

I’m not writing music because I have a feminist message I want to convey. I just happen to like a lot of bands with front women so I’m sure their influence can be heard in my music. Does that make my music feminist? You decide.

What stereotypes are still prevalent for women in pop and rock?

I’m not really aware of any. Pop music in general gets flack for all the auto tuning but that’s for anyone. Other than that I don’t know of any.

There seems to be a dearth of women in mainstream rock? What do you make of that lacking?

It’s hard. It’s dirty. It’s not for everyone. It would be much easier if I played solo with an acoustic guitar but I love the big sound you get with a full rock and roll band. Plus it’s all about electronic stuff now. People wanna feel good and dance. I get that but with my band I want to bring back the feel of music from back in the day when it was played because you had a point to make, felt restless, or just wanted to hear guitars cranked on ten.

How do you feel about the Sleater Kinney reunion?

I think it’s great all these bands from back in the day are touring again. It’s super cool to see they didn’t fall apart. I love seeing bands play live. Looking forward to their show.

Your music has been described as riot grrrl, rock, punk, and even “dirty pop.” How do you perceive these designations?

Better than “clean pop” I guess. The EP is a mix. A sampler. I have tons more songs. We decided on those tracks because it made sense and sounds cohesive. I’d love to write only punk rock, but other melodies are coming out, so there you have it. Just don’t call it “model rock,” lol.

How did the name, “Kill My Coquette” originate?

Kill My Ex was already taken I think. Coquette is euphonious. It sounds good.

photographer:  Brandise Danesewich

photographer: Brandise Danesewich

How are you feeling about the band’s EP?

I’m super excited to release it. All the work coming to fruition. It’s just fun to play rock and roll! It’s a good cruising soundtrack too.

I absolutely love the song “Festival Boy” (including the Journey sample!) What is the story behind that song?

A dreamy melodic tale of meeting someone new. We met at Coachella. Stormy..turbulent..beautiful..all at the same time. I had to write a song about it.

The vocals on “Close to Me” sound particularly passionate. What was it like making this track?

It was a song that came out of an improv kinda jam session. I had the chorus from the beginning, verses changed a bit. Vocally it was tough to get the right vibe but I think we got it.

“Post Teenage Angst” seems the most punk on the album. What is the “post” referencing?

It literally means after your teenage rage, don’t get soft.

What is next for Kill My Coquette?

We’re busy promoting the EP. I’d love to get on a bill with another band and do some shows. Maybe do a Southern California tour up and down the coast. I’d love to get to NYC and the UK too, or Germany. That’d be fun.

What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

See as many shows as possible. Study the greats.

Thanks so much!
Check out http://www.killmycoquette.com for all the latest news and tour dates.

-Sem

Interview: Six Time Champion!

Underneath This is pleased to feature an interview by Lauren Reading-Gloversmith from Inception Press:

Six Time Champion Answer The A-Z Interview

Pop-Punk: just in case you missed the billboard sized memo, it’s back, hotter than ever, and it now comes in a fetching shade of British. Hot on the heels of fellow countrymen Neck Deep, ROAM, As It Is and Trash Boat, Brighton quintet Six Time Champion are making their presence felt with storming new five-tracker, Expecting Honesty. Released on the 1st December, the work is buoyant with hooks and drives its points home with fiery panache, Six Time Champion’s rougher edge reveals their boisterous live energy.Here Vocalist James answers the A-Z Interview…

A Song Which Made You Want To Make Music: Linkin Park – By Myself

Best Album Ever Written: In my opinion, Meteora by Linkin Park

Craziest Moment You’ve Experienced In The Band: For me it was playing our first show, I’d never even considered stepping on a stage before at that point, so was pretty nuts for me!

Deepest Lyrics One Of Your Songs Features: “And it’s true that I should have learnt to drive, now I’m taking loneliness within my stride”

Easiest Song You Wrote: Would have to be separation, that just fell right into place.

Favourite Show You’ve Ever Played: Would have to be the first date of our little weekender with Trash Boat and Homebound in worthing!

Guest You’d Most Like To Feature On A Your Record: Dallas Green

Happiest Moment In You’ve Experienced In The Band: Again it would have to be that worthing show, was such a great night!

Interesting Fact About One Of Your Members: Rich loves dinosaurs, to the point where he has them tattoo’d all up his arm.

Jokes You Have In The Band: The most consistent joke is probably the suggestion that our songs sound better without the vocals. At least I hope it’s a joke…

Kicking Off Your Set Is Best With Which Song: Running Dry

Longest Distance You’ve Travelled To Play A Show: Not too far actually, about 60 miles to london. We’re hoping to head much further out in the new year!

Most Inspiring Musician You’ve Ever Experienced: For me personally, it’s Dallas Green all day long, his live performance is flawless.

New Band You’d Recommend: Weatherstate

Opening For This Band Would Be Ideal: A Day To Remember

Place You’d Most Like To Tour: Japan, I’m sure it would be an experience

Quote That You’d Like To Pass On To Readers: “You are your own memorial, so find your mark and leave it”

Reason For The Title Of Your Recent/Forthcoming Release: The title pretty much sums up the general idea behind all 5 tracks.

See Us Live At: We’ve got plans for the new year, but can’t reveal anything just yet!

The Old Days Of Music Were Better Than Those Current, do you agree: Erm, no not really, I think the majority of mainstream music is terrible these days, but if you look a little deeper than that, there is so much quality music being produced at the moment.

Unusual Merchandise: Saw an Acacia Strain Christmas jumper the other day, with “The Human Santapede” on.

Variations You’d Like To Do On Any Of Your Songs: Perhaps some acoustic versions at some point.

What Bands Have You Seen Live and Regretted: It would have to be The Summer Set, I just can’t get past the cheesiness, it’s unbearable.

X-rays or any other treatments needed for band related in juries: Not yet, I’m sure something will go down eventually!

You could have written any song in history, which would you pick: Sex Bomb by Tom jones, because who wouldn’t want to be responsible for such a tune!

Zoo animal that best describes the personality of your band: Gotta be a rhino!

Interview (via Inception Press): Canvas!

Underneath This is pleased to feature an interview (with a unique A to Z format) with the band Canvas by Lauren Reading-Gloversmith from Inception Press:

Canvas Answer The A-Z Interview

Self-styled as ‘music for misery’, quintet Canvas pride themselves on having built up a formidable reputation on their own steam, solidifying a fervent following in the UK and European underground scenes. “The phrase ‘hardest working band…’ is put out there a lot, but we definitely put a lot of work in to touring and keeping busy,” states vocalist Jack Rodgers. Taking a break from their throbbing touring calendar in August of 2013, Canvas entered the studio with producer Ed Sokolowski to record their debut opus, ’No Love, No Hope, No Future’. Released on October 20th, via Transcend Music (Dead Harts, Heights, Liferuiner), ‘No Love…’ is down-tempo and mournful, weighty in both sound and subject matter. You can watch video for opening track ‘No Future’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtV0HrY6Imk

Here vocalist Jack answers the A-Z Interview…

A Song Which Made You Want To Make Music:

The first time I heard ‘Burn Out’ by Green Day, The opening track off of Dookie.

Best Album Ever Written:

In my opinion probably Nimrod by Green Day, They are the reason I wanted to start making music and be in a band.

Craziest Moment You’ve Experienced In The Band:

We met someone at our show in Prague a few weeks back who had our album titled tattooed on them. That blew our mind.

Deepest Lyrics One Of Your Songs Features:

‘Love has died, Hope has gone, I can see no future to carry on’

Easiest Song You Wrote:

Probably Griever we managed to write that in an afternoon whilst demoing the album.

Favourite Show You’ve Ever Played:

Probably for me Milan or Verona in Italy, It was the first time I had pretty much the whole room shouting every word to almost every song back at me, the energy in the room was amazing.

Guest You’d Most Like To Feature On A Your Record:

I’d love to have Jeremy from Touche Amore feature on a track or someone ridiculous like Dave Grohl haha

Happiest Moment In You’ve Experienced In The Band:

The first tour we ever did.

Interesting Fact About One Of Your Members:

Jon and Chris are brothers!

Jokes You Have In The Band:

Haha, we have WAY too many inside jokes in this band. If anyone listened to the conversations we had in the van on the way to shows we would all probably be sectioned and sent to some sort of asylum. When we get together things tend to get really weird really quick haha!

Kicking Off Your Set Is Best With Which Song:

We currently open our set with ‘No Future’ the intro song off of the album, I have really enjoyed opening with this especially if people know the words as its very vocal based and fun to shout along to!

Longest Distance You’ve Travelled To Play A Show:

Longest distant as in time it took to get to the venue would probably be Italy to the Czech Republic it was like a 14 hour drive. But the furthest we have played away from home I think is Poland.

Most Inspiring Musician You’ve Ever Experienced:

Most recently for me probably Frank Turner, My brother dragged me along to go see him a few months back as he is a huge fan and I wasn’t really that into him, but after seeing him live and doing a bit of research into his career I have been so inspired by his work ethic and how many shows he has played, that dude is a machine! He is constantly touring and playing shows!

New Band You’d Recommend:

Bad Sign, Those guys are going to explode next year! Quality band.

Opening For This Band Would Be Ideal:

I would love to open for Defeater or Touche Amore that would be epic.

Place You’d Most Like To Tour:

America for sure!

Quote That You’d Like To Pass On To Readers:

No Love, No Hope, No Future

Reason For The Title Of Your Recent/Forthcoming Release:

It just seemed the best way to describe how I felt at the time of writing the record.

See Us Live At:

06|12 – Barfly, London

13|12 – The Intake, Mansfield

22|01 – White Hart Hotel, Bridgewater

23|01 – Tiki Bar, Plymouth

24|01 – The Alma Inn, Bolton

25|01 – The Library, Leeds

The Old Days Of Music Were Better Than Those Current,  do you agree:

In some ways yes, I mean now a days you have the internet which means anyone can record and release music for free and have a platform to show the world, so there is more variety and ways you can access music, but this can also put the musician at a disadvantage when it comes to album sales and making any profit on their music, as illegally downloading an album  is so easy to do now a days.

Back in the day if you wanted to listen to the record you had to go BUY the record.

Unusual Merchandise:

We have always really stuck to the standard merch (Tees, Hoodies, Crew Necks etc) so nothing too over the top from us unfortunately haha

Variations You’d Like To Do On Any Of Your Songs:

I would love to rerelease some tracks off of the album as a ‘Post-Rock’ EP. We have been speaking about the idea of possibly doing something like this but nothing is set in stone at the moment. I hope we do get to have a go at that though!

What Bands Have You Seen Live and Regretted:

There have been a few smaller bands I have seen live that haven’t been as good as I thought they were going to be, but nothing I have really regretted.

X-rays or any other treatments needed for band related in juries:

Haha yep! Two days before our first European tour I got a phone call from our drummer (Jon) at about 10PM saying that he had fallen off his skate board, he couldn’t walk and was in A&E waiting for his X-Ray results haha! To cut a very long stressful story short both his legs were fucked BUT we still went on tour and luckily managed to add the kick drum to our backing track for those shows. It sounded surprisingly good haha!

You could have written any song in history, which would you pick:

Sire Duke by Stevie Wonder. That song is unreal!

Zoo animal that best describes the personality of your band:

Haha we are not cool enough to be a part of a zoo we are more like some lame goat or rabbit on a farm wishing we were a cool animal in a zoo.

Interview: Jeremy David Miller of Rambos!

Underneath This has been looking forward to an interview with Jeremy David Miller, bassist and one of the talented vocalists of Rambos, a 5 piece band from Chicago. Jeremy describes Rambos as, “We are fast. We are heavy. We are Rambos. All who’ve seen the band live are Rambos too. Anyone who has ever heard the music is, you guessed it, a Rambos.” In addition to Jeremy, the band consists of JJ Evans (guitar and vocals), Ryan Anderson (guitar and vocals), Ian Tsan (drums and vocals), and Julie Meckler (lead vocals). Please read below for the interview.

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Describe your path to becoming a musician.

I grew up in a musical family. My parents sang together as a folk duo and they often took me and my brother and sister with them to their gigs.

When I was very young I remember looking at my dad’s musical gear as holy and off limits but once when my mom caught me pretending with one of my dad’s guitars, she gave me a chord book and I realized that I too could be using this gear and not just looking at it.

Fast forward to when I was 13, some friends of mine asked if I wanted to join their band as the bass player. I didn’t know how to play the bass nor did I own one. I took the idea and prospect to my dad and within the hour we had been to the pawn shop and back and I was getting my first lesson on the bass guitar.

The rest of my learning came from playing along with my cd collection for hours in my bedroom.

It did not take long for me start writing my own songs and while in high school, along with my brother on the drums, I put together the first band that I alone was writing and singing for.

How did Rambos form?

Rambos started at a house party. Some friends of mine were playing guitars in a very heavy way and one of our pals, Nik Bratz, who was hosting and showing off his newly made teepee, started chanting “Hiyawhtha,” to go along with the music. I thought it all funny and clever.

I left the party with the chant in my head and shortly after wrote the Rambos song called Hiyawatha, which appears on our album Rock and Roll Monsters.

After that I wrote the song Terrorize, also on the album.

With these two songs and a funny name I contacted my favorite musician friends and we formed the band.

What does the name mean?

The name was a joke. There was a Rambo movie poster that hung in the room were the band first rehearsed.

We just figured that if that one “Sly” guy is a Rambo then I can be a Rambo too and why not include everybody in on the gang and there you have it, we’re all Rambos. Minus the tough guy stuff.

In what ways does being in the Midwest influence your music?

I write a lot of songs. Love songs in the spring and summer and “kill em all” jams during the brutal winter.

I grew up in the Midwest. Everyone I play music with is from the Midwest. There is a laid back vibe that goes along with living in a place like Chicago. There’s no room for attitude in the Midwestern cities; it’s just too small of a space.

The Midwest is a very hardworking region. We don’t stop. And we don’t want to.

Your song “Human Monster includes the lyrics, “I only hang with monster girls who hang with monster boys.” Is there a significance to these?

The significance lies in the fact that if you are one “thing” then you tend to surround yourself with like-minded creatures, be it athletes, musicians or monsters.

The album overall contains references to vampires and monsters. Is this theme intentional?

Like I said, I write a lot of songs. Most of the songs I write are for another project, a folk duo that my wife Bekah and I do called “The Millers.” When Rambos started I was pushed in a new and exciting way of writing. The band was not going to be playing love songs, we are called Rambos, we had to playing fast and loud. The monster theme came on its own and I liked it and so I tried to stick with it the best I could.

One of my favorite songs on your album is “Radio.” What was it like making this song?

I remember writing this song at home on the piano. We had just got a dog, a white lab and we named him Radio.

The song was not written for or about him but if you think about it, there are so many great songs that sing about the Radio and I wanted one too. I actually have at least 3.

The lyric about “burn down the disco” is real. It’s about the event that took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979. It was deemed Disco Demolition Night and most of the fans had showed up to see crates filled with disco records be blown up on the field and not for the game between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Which is your favorite song on the album? 

Terrorize. It’s catchy, it’s fun. It’s also the second song, after Hiyawatha, that I wrote for the band. After writing Terrorize my mind went crazy with ideas for different songs. I was a very exciting moment.

Who is “Poet Murder” about?

Me. Or just poets in general.

With a pen you are given the liberty to kill off whomever you please and in any way you can conceive.

I am not a violent person but I do have a very busy imagination.

What are some of the differences between performing live and recording?

Recording can be a very time consuming process. You want to create a mirror image of what you believe your songs and ideas should sound like.

On stage, all bets are off. You still play the songs the same and you want the audience to get what you’re putting out but it’s a different beast. Recording can be exhausting. Playing live is exhilarating.

David Byrne, among others, has said that rock is dead. What do you think of this statement?

I never think of rock being alive or dead.

If you’re doing it then it must be alive, right?

David Byrne is a genius but I think what he meant to say was, “I’m dead tired of rock and I need a nap.”

I hear a garage and rockabilly sound to your music. How do you characterize your style?

I tend to tell people that Rambos is a rock band. It’s a very general thing to say but it fits.

We rock, you rock, they rock.

When I listen to your album, I feel the influence of the band X. Is that accurate? Who have been creative influences?

Honestly, I’ve never listened to the band X. I saw Jon Doe solo once and thought it was good but I never went down that road.

As a young songwriter I was influenced by the lyrics and delivery of Matt Skiba from the band Alkaline Trio. Here was a band writing about dark stuff such as murder and blood and I just loved how he’d leap into a scream for the dramatic ending a song.

I really loved the band’s first 2 albums.

Beyond that it’s all about the lyrics: that’s my game. Elliot Smith, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch. I love these people and their gifts for melody and imagery.

Which other art forms are influential on your music?

Books. I read a lot. Right now I’m reading the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry, real cowboy and indian stuff.

My wife’s art is also a big influence on me. She’s always drawing or painting or decorating; our entire apartment is her canvas. She makes art under the name RadioBirdDog and can be followed at:

radiobirddog.blogspot.com

When you live with someone who is always creating art you want to keep up and I do that with my music.

In what ways has your music been feminist?

Rambos is a very masculine name, I know this but in stating that “everyone is a Rambos,” we proved that by enlisting one of the most powerful women I know to help front the band: Julie Meckler.

Julie is a songwriter and performer on her own and her music is beautiful. She’s the kind of person you want to be around, the kind of person that attracts people to her and the kind of person that you don’t want to cross.

I was just listening to Billy Bragg’s Mermaid Avenue #1 album today and he has that song called “She Came Along to Me,” in it he says “woman are equal and they made me a hell of a man.” These lyrics are old, older than Billy Bragg, they were written by Woody Gutherie back in the 40’s when people had a much different view of the sexes and specifically, roles in the workforce and household and then here is this guy saying that nothing good comes about without the added aid of woman and not just the aid but by letting them and everyone just play their part.

This I agree with whole heartedly.

What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

Never stop creating your art.

Write, write, write. Practice, practice, practice.

You don’t deserve anything you didn’t work for.

What is next for Rambos?

Rambos is releasing a 7″ to go along with our Friday February 27 show at Chicago’s Hideout.

After that we’ll be writing and playing just as before with the hopes of having as much fun as we can while turning as many heads as we can in process.

Full album available for download at https://rambos.bandcamp.com/releases

Follow Rambos on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rambosmusic

and see our most recent music video at http://vimeo.com/105571164

-Sem
 

Interview: Dane Davenport!

Greetings! Following a brief hiatus, Underneath This is returning to publishing articles and interviews. We are pleased to break this hiatus with an interview with Dane Danvenport, an indie folk singer songwriter. Before proceeding to the interview, please read some more about Dane in the below bio:

Bio:  Back before music was an industry, folk singers traveled the country on foot, rail, and rubber. Tying the country together by sharing songs and sounds, both new and passed down over generations. Since then folk music has continued to grow and has been fused with dozens of new genres and sounds. Born and raised outside Kansas City to the sounds of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Tom Petty, Dane Davenport continues the folk tradition today by carefully combining the sounds of our musical forefathers with something new for the 21st century. These days you will find him traveling the world, working to fuse together the ideas, emotions, and sounds that unite us all, with a song.

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Hello. Please describe your path to becoming a musician.

When I was ten years old my mom called out to me sitting on the swing in our backyard. She asked me what instrument I wanted to play. I didn’t realize she wanted to sign me up for orchestra so I answered “Guitar.” Rather than narrowing her inquiry and asking for a different answer, she found me a guitar teacher. Not just any guitar teacher either, the renowned classical guitarist John Svoboda. Over the years Svoboda became a mentor to me and he was the one who encouraged me to move from classical guitar to folk/rock, to writing my own songs, and finally into the life of a touring recording artist.

Did you consider any other professions?

If I could do anything else for a living I probably would. For years I worked for others and finally for myself as a graphic designer and saw success in the field but those successes never meant much to me on a personal level. So one February morning I woke up and emailed myself a resignation letter and never looked back.

Jumping without a safety net is not something I would recommend as a career plan but I also believe that if you feel it in your bones that you were born to do something and you don’t do it, that will hurt so much more than failing. I am lucky to have seen as much success as a singer/songwriter as I have but I would rather go down in flames doing what I love than be wildly successful doing anything else.

Your music has compared to that of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Damien Rice among others. Have these artists been influential? Who and what else have been influential?

They are all monumentally influential. I love the folk music tradition of emulation and expansion on what has come before and my influences cross a dozen genres and hundreds of artists, some obvious, others invisible. Lyrically I like to approach songs in a manner that can be taken literally or figuratively, something Lennon and McCartney were the masters of. Other names that jump to mind are Glen Hansard, Josh Ritter, Amy Lavere, Ryan Adams, Joe Henry, and Rachael Yamagata.

Have you had female influences and if so, who?

Jenny Lewis’ new album has been a staple for me lately. In her single “Just One of the Guys,” she is tackling struggles with gender and biological clocks inside a pop song. It’s incredible and inspirational. Brandi Carlile has a new album coming out and every time I hear a new track from her I always find myself wishing I wrote it. Gillian Welch, Kathleen Edwards, Jesca Hoop, Serena Ryder, Laura Veirs, Vienna Teng, Neko Case, Sarah Jarosz, and Amy Millan (of Stars, Broken Social Scene, and solo fame) are also artists I would call influences. I would go on and on but I think the influences you aren’t aware of are usually the most prominent so I’ll leave it at that.

Do you consider your music to be feminist?

Good question. I would consider myself a feminist. There is a lot of debate surrounding that label but I believe that the cultural movement should belong to everyone who supports full civil and legal equality for women. It truly boggles the mind that women still face such widespread discrimination and disrespect.

I suppose that wasn’t your question though.

I don’t tend to think of my music as inherently feminist in the same way I don’t ascribe my other world-views to my music. This is because I write about emotions surrounding topics as opposed to the topics directly most of the time. Then again, I wouldn’t say my music isn’t feminist since the way someone sees the world will almost always seep into their art. So maybe I’ll let you be the judge of what does or doesn’t come across.

How has being in Kansas City influenced your creative process?

Kansas City has one of the fastest growing arts communities in the world. That kind of support from a large community is both rare and valuable for any artist. One of my favorite parts of the job is traveling and meeting people from all over the world but after being on the road for large periods of time, coming back to Kansas City will always feel like going home.

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Your sound has been described as “post indie folk rock.” What do you make of that description?

During the indie rock movement ‘pop’ was deemed a bad word only fit for big label artists but those worlds are blurring now. The internet has leveled the playing field and independent and mainstream artists are crossing genre lines like never before. That freedom in music is what I live for. The first person to describe my sound that way might have meant something different by it but that’s what it means to me.

Genres are still helpful to inform people of the form and style but my music has been described in so many different ways in my career I’ve decided to be willing to be classified into any genre that will have me.

I quite enjoy your song, “When does the Heart End?” What is the story behind that track?

Thank you. During the 2010 Tennessee floods, there were houses that were built generations ago that were washed out. Still standing but no longer homes, just walls waiting to fall. Those houses were on my mind in The Basement (a fantastic Nashville venue) a couple years ago, inspiration struck and as soon as I got back to my room I wrote out the song almost exactly as I play it now.

The story told in the song (now titled Walls on the new record) is about a relationship that has been falling apart for a long time told from the perspective of a man who had been lying to himself saying everything is okay and has to face the truth when she leaves without a word.

I so much like the incorporation of nature into the video for your song, “Time Flies.” What was it like to make that video?

Lot’s of fun! That was my first video so there were only a few of us and not much planning. We grabbed my guitar and a camera and headed into the woods just before sunset and as you can see in the video it’s all recorded live in one take. There were a couple early attempts ruined by people on the trail and by our cameraman bumping into trees as he was filming while walking backwards up a winding rocky path. Yet we still had fun and we got the song done just before the sun went down.

I have some more traditional music videos in the works now but I fell in love with live performance videos that day so I will probably keep recording them as long as my career lasts.

So far, what have been some highlights of performing live?

I have my favorite venues and cities but for me the highlights that jump immediately to mind are the more personal moments. When you find a connection from on stage and something clicks. Sometimes with an entire room, sometimes a single person. During a happy song we share in each others joy, or in a sad song comforted knowing someone else has felt the same sense of loss. Or with some songs knowing that someone else recognizes what it’s like to struggle and fight for something you love. It is always powerful and it’s the reason I keep getting back on stage.

What is an overall message you would like listeners to take away from your songs?

I love when everyone takes away something different and personal best. That said there is a theme I keep coming back to; life is short so give love freely.

What insights do you want to share for aspiring musicians?

There is no substitute for experience. Get as much of it as you can, wherever you can, as fast as you can. Break down your biggest goals into the smallest steps you can and cross off at least one a day. If you love and believe in what you create, chances are there will be other people who will love and believe in it too. Focus on principals not methods. The music world is a small community and every person you meet knows someone who can make or break you so be nice to everyone. Actually, be nice to everyone anyway because there is no excuse to not be.

What is next for you creatively?

My first full length album titled Time Space & Paperclips comes out worldwide later this year (you get to hear a sneak peak of the album by subscribing to my monthly newsletter at danedavenport.com/signup).

After the release I’ll be announcing tour dates in the US, UK, Europe, and Australia on my website (danedavenport.com).

My team and I are currently developing ideas for music videos to go along with the album and of course there will be some new live videos shot for YouTube as well (danedavenport.com/youtube).

I am constantly interacting with people on Twitter (danedavenport.com/twitter) and Facebook (danedavenport.com/facebook). In fact, recently,on Twitter I dubbed February “Covers Month” so I’ll be posting my versions of other artist’s songs all month long on those platforms and I’m still accepting suggestions for songs to choose if you want to join in the fun.

Last but not least, I am already writing songs for the next album!

Underneath This looks forward to hearing them.
-Sem

Interview: Tamar Haviv!

Underneath This had the wonderful opportunity to interview singer-songwriter Tamar Haviv. Her debut album, You and Me Without Pajamas, is made up of beautiful, well-crafted songs with honest lyrics and lovely melodies. She took the time to discuss her songwriting process, feminism, her thoughts on being labeled “quirky,” and the meanings behind her songs. You can find more information about Tamar Haviv at tamarhaviv.com and at the links below.

Tamar Haviv

Photograph courtesy of Ron Haviv/VII, Art by Kazoo Studios

Please describe your path to becoming a musician.

Path! Ah, things are so not linear in my head in that way…there was no path…I’ve just always been writing songs since I was really young, before I knew the language to call a song a song.

Melodies and lyrics would come to me and I would walk around singing. I didn’t realize this meant anything other than ‘this is just one of the things that I do’ – like I didn’t realize that other people didn’t do it…and it took me a while before I let myself really focus in on it and actively make decisions to move towards it – purchasing a guitar etc.

You have moved around a lot. How has that influenced your music?

I was thinking about that recently, I think mostly because my songs on this record are based on my life and relationships and moving around shifts the landscape and timing and can alter the form of things – and also the language and intonation and actual nuance of literal sound in a courtship – so if I’m documenting an interpersonal connection, that will all show itself somehow.

Is your music feminist? If so, how so?

I don’t know if my music comes across as feminist at all – in this moment I am equating an element of feminism with a certain strength. One that can also be shown when expressing vulnerability as well.

There are some empowering moments within these songs, like even in a more crushing heartbreak song like “Arrested,” there is a lyric:

you may be lighter than me
but i’ve seen things
you won’t let yourself see
you may have your phd
but the way that I love.
you can’t even conceive.

But there are also some more disempowering ones, that I wouldn’t want other girls to feel. Like in the song “Peanut butter sandwiches,” there is a lyric:

i think that you are beautiful
and i feel like i’m nothing

All in all, I hope that my songs can help to uplift and empower women. Even in the record’s sometimes sorrowful voice, if a song can resonate with anyone and make them feel less alone, that would be a gift to me.

What have been some highlights of performing live?

I loved performing at Webster Hall as part of the Tinderbox Festival. Also, opening up for Jesse Harris at The Stephen Talkhouse – that was especially sweet because one of my favorite Artists came to see the show that night, Rufus Wainwright. He came to see Jesse Harris and actually missed my set completely but, there is still something tender knowing that he came out to the show that night. Whenever I go hear an artist play I think about all the people from all over the place that are preparing to go see the same show – the collective consciousness of that and how that ties people together in a significant way. So even just the fact that Rufus Wainwright got himself to the same venue as me on the same night was pretty fabulous, I have to say!

Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and Sir Paul McCartney have praised your music. That is quite an endorsement!  Have these artists been influential? Who and what have been other creative inspirations?

Yes, they have been very influential and it is truly humbling having their support.

Other than music, I am very moved and inspired by film and photography, both being in front of the screen as a viewer well as being behind the camera.

Which songs have you or would you like to cover?

There are many to cover in the future, too many to name but you can find one that I have yet to release here on YouTube.

It’s a song you will most likely be familiar with from the musical Grease called “You’re the one that I want” – I did the cover with the brilliant artist Greg Daniel Smith.

How was the title developed?

Well, the whole album explores these intimate relationships – and the title comes from a line off of the title track of the record, “i like you.”

The title is open to interpretation in terms of how deep the listener wants to hear the record as a whole.

I see the title as a bit of a balancing act in itself…strangers coming together and trying to cohabitate and coordinate such delicate and basic daily rituals – can present so much awkwardness, absurdity, beauty, frailty, laughter, love…it’s all kind of amazing & expansive.

The opener to your album contains very little music. What inspired that decision?

I like your questions Sem!

I tend to sing normal wacky silly stuff in my day to day, likely to balance my more serious melancholic reflective nature and my two dear friends had just piled into my car and I simultaneously wrote and sang that little ditty for one of them in the back seat and it just stuck…it didn’t have instrumentation then so, it made sense to keep it that way…

I know the album can feel quite lighthearted at times but, recently actually, my favorite astrologer Eric Francis of Planet Waves was talking about my record on the radio, which was an amazing honor, and he called it “deceptively simple” which I really appreciated. Some of the songs on my record may have a lighter feel but can also touch on darker things. I wouldn’t say that it has a dumbed down quality to it necessarily but some songs definitely do have a simplified way lyrically of expressing some things and  I think ironically that might come from my poetry background. I used to write 6 minute songs describing my feelings towards someone or something, the super details: the intonation of someones voice, a birthmark on their neck etc. But then there finally came a time where I was like, “There are a million ways that I can tell you how beautiful I think you are and how much I want to be nearer to you but instead of the elongated poetics I’m just going to unabashedly tell you, I really like you. There it is.” and that’s actually much more forward and courageous than wearing all of these sweet words in front of that feeling.

I really enjoy “Adore.” What is the story behind that song?

Thank you! “Adore” is pretty word for word – It was a complicated situation because for various reasons I wasn’t able to be forthright about how I was feeling towards this person.

And I think also to myself to some degree. And there is something else quite special to me about this song – the way in which I wrote it is unusual for me – it has happened before, but not many times – where I went to sleep, and woke up in the middle of the night and had the entire song, ALL lyrics & melody I just sang it once into my phone and went back to bed. When I woke up in the morning I hardly remembered it had happened because I REALLY didn’t actively participate in it – it just crept in. I think it had just been brewing on so many levels for me and it was ready. But that’s also what I find so fascinating about songs and songwriting, that sometimes it really is about being a vessel for what’s already there – I guess it’s like those conversations artists have had about sculpting from stone and removing the excess stone that was in the way of the piece to begin with…it’s all perception.

“Orange” has an alternative country vibe at times. How would you describe your style overall? 

“Orange,” that’s one of my favorite songs on the album. You know personally I’m pulled in so many directions musically – I think these songs work well together as a collection and there were many we had to cut because they really didn’t fit the overall feel in the end. Style wise, sure, I’d say this record could be considered ‘left of center, quirky, pop,’ but that’s only to help people get a grasp on it… I’m not sure if trying to quantify genre actually makes meaning.

Your music has also been called, “quirky.” What do you make of this adjective?

Yea, as I was saying, I’m not opposed to “quirky” and it works for me I suppose but, like anything else when we start building squares and titles for who and what and how we are and see each other – it’s important that we also build windows and give each other expansiveness and room to rotate evolve, thrive. We need to be supportive of each other as artists and beings to find our true nature and rise.

“The Good Has Won” blends the personal and political. What worries and inspires you most about the world today?

This is a tough question, without overthinking it…

What worries me most would be that with all the accessible technology today, younger generations will be so isolated, numbed and disconnected from their heart and spirit that they will not know how to make basic human connections with one another in actual real time…Like just the sweet interactions that can happen between strangers…that that ability, sensibility & magic could be lost. What inspires me most…I love seeing all of the amazing talented artists that are coming up right now, their strength and self-expression is thrilling.

What is the meaning of “Girls Away from Girls?”

This song is quite literal – I can say a lot things but, I guess no matter who anyone is in a romantic relationship with, despite the gender of all involved, it’s important to find balance and maintain friendships as well…

Another voice complements yours on “6am.” How was it to harmonize?

The beautiful Frank McGinnis is singing with me on “6am.” His voice is luscious, so it was a complete pleasure singing with him.

He also joins me on the song “Orange.”

In the same song, you write, “I have to laugh at the epitome of what an artist is supposed to be.” Per the media, what are singer-songwriters supposed to be like these days?

Sem, I just need to stop and recognize your tenderness and attention to detail and just the outright loveliness in your work at this moment. I just feel touched by all your incredible listening.

Now, to answer your question!

I don’t know what Singer/Songwriters are SUPPOSED to be like today – my hope would be that they are out there speaking their truth, not being afraid – or being afraid and speaking it anyway – you know how fear goes! I say these things for myself as well. I hope we don’t give up and stop putting our songs and ourselves out there due to lack of funds or a feeling of lack of appreciation – because music and Artists have saved my life over and over again – So I hope Singer/Songwriters are feeling lifted up and nourished.

What has it been like writing about personal experiences?

It’s just always what I have done – the songs are just an extension of my experiences but, every once in a while I do write about a situation that is not mine directly.

On what projects are you working on next?

I’m so excited to start work on my next record & share even more new songs with you!!!!! There is a bit more writing to do and things take time and costs etc. but I am very looking forward to my next new project! And in the meantime there might be more music videos coming soon too! Have you seen this one?

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

Explore whatever it is that is most interesting, exciting & delighting to you, despite what those things might be for others.

If you are following your intuition and making artistic choices that resonate and feed you most, ultimately I believe others will be drawn to what it is you are creating.

-Sem

Interview: The Kut!

Underneath This had the pleasure of interviewing The Kut, a basement rock trio from London, England. The band’s energy shines through in the distinctive, melodic tracks on their EP Make Up. You can find more information about The Kut at thekut.co.uk and thekut.bandcamp.com. In our interview, the band discussed the meaning of “basement rock,” the influence of grunge and alternative bands on their sound, their thoughts on sexism in the music industry, and their experience performing at the London 2012 Paralympics and Olympics.

The Kut

Please describe your path to becoming musicians.

Hey, thanks for the interview. For me personally I’ve always been pretty interested in music and singing. I started the piano at age 4 but mainly played it to sing along too. By the time I was about 7 I used to write songs and my dad would always have me on the karaoke at the hotel where I grew up. By the time I was not too old I would sing to full bars of guests, either acapella or with a beat. It was something that was part of my everyday life and that I loved. I think my dad always wanted me to be a singer. By the time I was about 13 I’d been through quite a few instruments and none of them really seemed to suit me or interest me enough to keep up with practicing every day. When I found my sister’s guitar in the other side of the hotel I actually fell in love, though. I used to play for hours and hours a day until my fingers would bleed and then some, eventually learning to strengthen them up using surgical spirit or super glue just to keep on playing. I don’t have a music theory background, though. When I first started with the piano I did follow that, but soon I decided it was better in some ways to make my own way without theory. Even when it came to scales I didn’t want to know them then. Initially I’d use it to write music around songs I’d written the lyrics and melody for, but it soon helped me to write even more songs as I’d be able to use new riffs to inspire me to sing. At 14 I formed my first ever real band. I always knew I wanted to be a performing musician even if I didn’t know how to get there or where it would lead.

You have identified several grunge and alternative bands who have been influential including Hole, L7, The Deftones, Placebo, Nirvana and Faith No More. How does your style reflect these feminine and masculine influences?

We really love these bands and they’ve been really influential in our lives. Like Ali always says in this context, you can’t be what you can’t see. Female bands and, for me, female rock vocalists have always been a really heavy inspiration because of that. But I never really grew up with that whole sexist vibe about oh this is a man’s game, or believing that you can’t play rock because of your gender. That’s only something that’s come up recently because so many people including past band members have had issues with the gender being a key part of what we do. Deftones, Nirvana and Faith No More are all amazing bands too, though. I guess we probably take on some of the grunge sound just as a result of what we’ve listened to, although it’s never a case of that when it comes to writing. The things that inspire me to write a song are very much about the real world – someone that says something profound in passing, an experience, whether social or perceptual, or just the moment when a new melody comes into my head. The longer we’ve been together the more you can see our influences coming out, though, which I have to say I like. Just a few years ago we’d read a ton of great demo reviews that all referred to different acts and no one really knew where to put us in terms of our influences. Now we’ve tried to work on putting out material that’s a bit more cohesive genre-wise and in that way we’ve been through our own development process. Sure it would have been nice to have a major label development deal and a funded block of time in a rehearsal studio to figure that stuff out, but it didn’t come, so we fought through and are now beginning to find our identity as a band. I think it’s an important aspect of where we are now and it’s something we did off our own backs because we love the band and making music.

Underneath This agrees with Maha’s perspective that “it’s a shame that being an all-girl band is still seen as a gimmick.” Why and how do you think that sexism persists, and has there been any progress from your perspective?

There’s definitely positive progress with sexism in the music industry. I don’t personally find it offensive when someone says we are an all female band, because we are, but then when that’s the only focus and it’s not the music, then that’s a problem. It should be about the music first, although our gender does often get picked up on because of the riot grrrl genre too.  I guess there are a few stereotypes about females playing music – probably some of the same ones that you’d see on an anti discrimination campaign. Also as Courtney Love says, there only ever seems to be space for one female in rock at any one time. Its a sad state of affairs because it should be about the music and sure if we can empower other females to get together and pick up instruments then that has to be a good thing too. I guess that we’d never want to be known for just being an all female band, we want to be known for our music first and then because we are female too.

In what ways is your music feminist?

The thing is that our music isn’t feminist…Sure we are pro-equality but our music is about other things, about life and experiences.

Maha has also said, “We love female fronted acts, but for us the focus has always been the music.” Please say more about this.

In terms of the acts we love we are always getting compared to other bands because they are female fronted or all female bands, and while we do love female fronted bands, we are more in love with just writing songs, playing gigs etc. We see each other all the time, it’s not new for us that we are an all female band if you know what I mean, so it’s something we feel is really natural and normal to us. When we step into the outside world, i.e. out of the rehearsals and gigs, we get a lot of comments on it which are great. But then when we get compared to other bands based on their look and genre it doesn’t seem to make sense. We do have a lot of influences in our songs so for a music fan they are there to pick up on.

How does being in England influence the music that you make?

The UK has a great music scene as far as we’ve experienced. In some ways because we are a small country we can travel easier and now get around to a few cities repeatedly across the year. It’s a great thing for us. That said, we listen to a lot of American bands, and the grunge scene is a big influence on us and the music we play. We’d love to get out and tour abroad though. It’s something we haven’t done yet and it’s now a case of finding the right agent to help us to do that.

The Kut

You have described your style as “basement rock.” What does this designation mean?

I think it was something that stuck with us from a while back where we were reviewed as a basement rock band, probably because we used to rehearse in a basement in a party place over in New Cross in South East London. We were always the band in the basement mixing it up with a load of styles. Although we’ve definitely locked down our sound more now, at the time we used to genre hop a lot more. Some of the tracks in the set were ska influenced or with breakbeats – some of that we’ve still managed to get in the set in tracks like DMA with the ska riff in the chorus and Mario with the breakbeats in the verses. Basement rock for us was a way of combining those elements in rock without being straight up rock and without not being rock. It was just the ability to experiment with our sound within the rock genre.

What were you up to in the nearly four year span between recording music?

Haha yeah I know…I’m hearing you! It was a big gap, we’d just released the Closure video and it was on NME TV (RIP) – it was a great channel. We’d been given our own one hour show and it was going to be really exciting to put it all together. Things were really kicking off for us. We started to speak with Dennis Ryder, who managed Ugly Kid Joe and Evanescence and he’d got us in touch with the head A&R at Warner. We were told they loved the tracks, feeling they were really strong songs, and that they wanted to see us live. It was like a big weight lifted but suddenly we weren’t recording. Sure we were doing a lot of demos, but there wasn’t any real movement on taking them and getting them professionally recorded. We’d also had some bad experiences with producers in the past, and I will tell you, there are a lot of sharks out there when it comes to the industry and money! We just couldn’t afford to work with someone who wasn’t going to do our tracks justice. We focused on gigs, rehearsing and a lot of frustration came into play. It was really a tough time because what we really needed to be doing was recording and releasing more songs! It became a long stint of nothing and something I’m only just getting over now. We were back in the studio yesterday though, so that’s got to be positive. We won’t be letting it happen again!

I am really enjoying your new EP, “Make Up.” How did you develop the title?

Hey thanks a lot. We really wanted to put a collection out that showed a few of the new tracks, but also had some of the older stuff on there. Make Up is an emotional track for me personally. It’s not particularly the lead track – in my opinion that is No Trace, but No Trace wasn’t even a song when we decided to record an EP. Make Up was one of the tracks that says a lot about the frustration and hiding your emotions, to not let the world know how bad things are. It was a cover up story. When we saw the cover, someone had sent a portfolio of art to Criminal Records. When we saw that it looked like it was the perfect cover for us, and the designer, Echobeatstudios added all our info to it and made the art.

One of my favorite tracks on that album is “Mario.” What is the story behind that song?

That’s great! We love playing that song. It’s probably our most Jane’s Addiction track we have on the record. We were having a mess about in rehearsals and I was playing the Super Mario theme song on the guitar. One thing led to another and we were in the midst of a full blown jam. It had a great energy and after we got the sound down it was where it was. The lyrics were about the frustration and the feeling of fighting back against it. We can’t be the only people who were made a lot of promises and felt fed up at the system and everything in it. It was the realisation we were on the verge of a personal and culture based revolution.

What are some of your favorite songs to cover?

Hm, we haven’t really done many covers, but we have played Love Buzz and the Distillers once or twice. Oh and of course L7’s Pretend We’re Dead : )

How was performing at the London 2012 Paralympics and Olympics?

The London Olympics was a great experience for us. Initially we were selected to play at a pitch at the London Olympics by the Teenage Rampage Foundation. It was a lot of fun, and after we played we were invited back by the stage bookers to play on one of the main stages in the Paralympics. It was a great thrill for us! It was a shame we couldn’t invite our friends, though, because it was all sold out, but the stage was awesome! We had no idea it would be such a big one, and as we approached it was like a huge pod. It wasn’t until I saw the pictures after that I realised how awesome and futuristic it looked. We had a great show and it’s something we would have never had the opportunity to do if it wasn’t for the Teenage Rampage Foundation.

What have been some other highlights of performing?

I guess it goes in circles, but at the moment we are getting to travel a lot and hang out. We are best mates, so if we can just go out to different places, hang out, meet new people and go away with a few pounds in our pockets, it’s all a highlight really. I love playing live and the heckles from within the band. We all believe in each other as musicians and performers. There’s something very special about being proud of your band mates and rocking out together.

So far, what insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

Right now I’d say, it’s a tough long slog if you want to make music your career – but don’t let the world hold you back and if you believe in something, just go for it, fight for it. Don’t give up! But also, listen to what people around you say…don’t be blinkered, and take on everything, even your critics – not to the point that it breaks you down, but just so you know the difference between reality and ideals. Music is a path for people who can’t live any other way. It’s not something you choose.

What is next for your creatively?

We were back in the studio with our producer James LeRock Loughrey. He produced the three new tracks on our EP and we are really excited about how these new ones are going to sounds. We will go in next week to work on these and put down bass and vocals and see how it shapes up.  We managed to record four new songs we’ve added in the set in the last four months. One of which we just did yesterday and never even played out or in a rehearsal. It’s going to be exciting and good to be going out there with some brand new ones plus Hollywood Rock n Roll which is one we’ve been playing out for a while now. After that we are working on getting out more videos and a new EP for the new year. In the meantime I guess we will just keep our heads down and get as many gigs in as we can.

-Sem and Strike

Interview: Holly Elle!

Underneath This had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Elle, a Canadian musician who launched her career in Nashville, Tennessee. Her EP Leopardess showcases her powerful voice and strong songwriting ability. She is able to connect with audiences through well-crafted songs infused with honesty. In her song “Freak,” she sends a strong message of inclusion that has resonated with LGBT audiences. She also incorporates humor in her work, as can be seen in the revenge fantasy video for the song “Seeing Red.” You can find more information about Holly Elle at her website. You can also listen to her new single, “Lifeline,” below.

In our interview, Holly Elle discussed her personal journey, the story behind Leopardess, her experience performing at Atlanta Pride, and the power of music as a tool for social justice.

Please describe your trajectory to becoming a musician.

That has the potential to be a very long story. I’ll start by saying I have always been a musician. Your calling in life, that thing that you feel like you have to do – you are already that thing – regardless of whether you are paid for it or even recognized for it. That’s my philosophical answer. When was I good enough at it to pursue it as a full-time career? In 2009, after I was finished school I decided to put all of my energy into making it work as a career.

How does being from a small town near Calgary influence the music that you make?

Every single part of who I am and where I have been influences my music. More specifically though, I grew up in the country, so until I could drive I couldn’t really go that far, physically. So I learned to make my own fun. It fed my imagination.

In what ways has being in Nashville affected your creative process?

When I first moved here I tried for a bit to “fit in.” I did some country shows in cowboy boots and then I was like “what am I doing?” I realized I could still be me here.

It has been interesting to learn how songwriting and business operate differently in country music, and how in many ways all music is the same. It’s been a learning experience.

Most importantly, I love Nashville and feel like it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, so that has done wonders for my creative process.

Who and what have been other influences?

I have been influenced by many genres of music over vast periods of time, too many to name. From Broadway to Britpop, Country to Opera, Disco to Dance, you name it. My favorite and biggest influences are The Beatles, Mariah Carey, and my family.

You have said, “The whole point of making music is for me to connect.” Indeed, your songs seem to be conversations with audiences. How are you able to create that dialogue?

I think the point of life is to connect, so the work that anyone does, no matter what it is, is important to that end. I do it by being completely honest. Whatever I’m feeling in my life comes through in my writing. Sometimes very deliberately, sometimes I have absolutely no clue how something came out of me. But you can always bet there’s someone else out there that feels the same way.

How are your personal and social identities influential to your art?

My personal journey absolutely informs my art. The fact that I am speaking from my own unique vantage point as a human being, makes my voice special. The best part is that that’s true for everyone. We all have a special unique voice we can create with.
Man you guys are really bringing out the Buddha in me. If you want to take it there, let’s get deep…

Another theme important to you is “no Labels, no rules, no limits.” What does this mean for you stylistically?

It’s just a catchy motto to sum up a much greater philosophy, which is my personal philosophy of life. As a pop artist I like to take more complicated sentiments and make them simplified and universal, and therefore accessible to everyone. To me, if I can just remember these 3 things as I go through life and make decisions, I’ll be cool. Want an even simpler one? “All you need is love” (but that one was already taken).

How do you incorporate your formal music training with creative instincts?

I let it all go, one hundred percent. I trust that it will be there for me as a tool when I need it, but I never even think about it. I have learned that the less thinking I do the better, when it comes to letting creativity flow.

Holly Elle

Your song and video “Freak” have spoken to LGBTQ+ people in particular. How do you see music having a social justice function?

Music can change the world. That’s already been proven. It’s a powerful force that can express where we’ve been, what we’re going through, and where we’re going. It brings people together, it moves us, and people who are united in a cause they feel strongly about can do anything.

What was it like performing at Atlanta Pride?

It was fun and exciting, and it was an honor. I’ve performed to audiences who get it, and audiences who don’t. When they get it, it’s a nice feeling. They got it.

In what ways is your music feminist?

Hmm I don’t know about this word “feminist”, it’s not my favorite. Along the way it’s picked up some unintended connotations. Do I believe women are powerful and equal and independent? Yes. That’s what being a Leopardess is all about. When I wrote that EP I had finally discovered my full power as a woman. Now I want to go on to find even more power as a person. I’m thinking about uniting rather than dividing. Woman vs. man? Is that even an issue anymore? It’s not on my radar.

I am enjoying your latest EP, “Leopardess.” How did you develop the title?

Thank you! I’m kind of a word nerd. I love words and I like to try and expand my vocabulary. If I’m reading a book and discover a word I don’t understand, I must look it up. So with my last two EP’s I wanted to have the titles be single, interesting words people wouldn’t necessarily know the meaning of.

To me, Leopardess represented a single solitary powerful female, which was exactly how I felt at the time. It summed up that important point in my life where I knew what I wanted and I was able to take charge. The other title was Infinitude. I challenge you to go look it up. You’ll love what you find.

How was the experience of working with producer Isaac Hasson?

It was fantastic. I had never met him before so I was unsure and a bit nervous going in, but I had faith it would work out. Boy did it ever. We connected immediately and the song, “Lifeline” flowed easily. What a relief!

The opener, “Predator” is quite energetic and feels anthemic. What is the story behind the line, “you think you’re the predator but you’re the prey?”

In that story it’s about a woman playing coy to a man. Letting him think that he’s the one in charge, when we all know who’s really in charge.

I like how you incorporate humor into your video for “Seeing Red.” What was the experience of making that video?

I incorporate humor into everything I do, may I just say. It’s so important to laugh, especially at yourself, that’s what will get you through the tough times.

Making that video was exactly as fun as it looks; it was a blast. I had a director who really understood the message of the song and the vision for the video (Greg Welsh, Toppa-Poppa-Jons Productions). He was so enthusiastic that those of us working on it couldn’t help but be carried away by that incredible energy. Plus, who doesn’t like being silly?

“Who I Am” seems to have a more reflective feel. What message(s) were you trying to convey on that song?

I’m always reluctant to explain too much what the message or the story behind a song is, because the truth is that I want each person to get the message they need out of it, and that could be many different things. But in the interest of not being a pain in the ass, one interpretation could be: hey, this is me, take it or leave it. This is what I need from you in this relationship, hand it over or hit the road.

So far, what insights do you have for aspiring musicians?

If you’re a musician, be a musician. Don’t wait for anyone’s permission, approval, or validation, it ain’t comin’.

What is next for you creatively?

I don’t know, isn’t that what makes life so exciting?! I do know that I’ll be heading out to LA to get in the studio very soon, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of that and to share it with all of you!

-Sem