Great to see you back, where have you been?
Well, after we finished our tour opening for Jeff Mangum's comeback--before he put the band back together as Neutral Milk--we took a few few years off, just doing a few festivals here and there. There are kids in the mix these days, and being in New York was important to us.
What's the feeling now the new album is done and dusted, are you both pleased with the end product?
I'm super pleased, and I think Aaron is, too. We got to reconnect with people we've worked with over the years and do a different kind of recording--and of course spend time together, which is a big part of our thing. We're close friends.
What was the main difference this time around with the recording process?
This time around Aaron was super busy, so I wrote the tunes and recorded the barebones stuff myself (guitar and vocals). Then I had all sorts of musicians we know and loves improvise and elaborate on it.
We met Scott Minor on tour with Emily Haines years ago when he was her drummer and I loved his drumming. (He was a member of Sparklehorse, too, which is thematically close to what we do.) Anyway, he's also a great engineer, so he did all his percussion work remotely from Knoxville Tenessy. After he finished we had the structure set up, and everybody else layered on top. Then Aaron and I did all the guitar overdubs and he mixed/ produced it with my help.
How do you go about creating new music, do you have to been in a certain space, mentally and physically or is it, just when the spark strikes?
I think we both write all the time in fits and spurts. Aaron really locks into one song and labours on it until it are perfect. I quickly write a ton of tunes, then throw a bunch away, then go back and fix what I don't like.
What is your opinion as an artist about the shift by the likes of Apple and Amazon into the streaming market, will that be the end of downloads?
Speaking for myself, I think it's just another form of decentralised labour, where amorphous online entities broker decentralised work from all over the place and drive the price down in an attempt to raise profit and defray costs--royalties in this case. It's just like Uber, or Etsy or Amazon or whatever. The upshot is that more folks can participate creatively and make a small amount of cash; the downside is that the number of people who rely on a single profession is shrinking fast.
Split 7" singles are quite trendy at the moment, who you like to share your split 7" record with?
Again, speaking for myself--but I'm guessing Aaron would be stoked, too--I'd love to do one with Bardo Pond.
Are there are particular stories from any song on the new record that you would like to share?
The title track is Ghostlight. When we were doing theatres with Jeff Mangum, I was introduced to the phenomenon of Ghostlights. In some of these old places, the stagehands and actors put out a single standing light in the centre of the stage before they go home. The practical reason is that nobody walks into a darkened theatre and falls into the orchestra pit. But, around that was built a whole mythology, where the light is left out to comfort the ghosts in the theatre. Sometimes the even put out a snack and a cocktail.
I thought it was cool, and it reminded me of my relationship with Aaron. I'll always put the Ghostlight out for him, even if the stage lights go dim for a while.
How was the experience of the ATP festival you played in Iceland recently? Any UK dates planned?
Hopefully we'll hit the UK early next year. Iceland was rad! Packed house, they laughed at our jokes, and the folks we hung with were super smart and fun-loving. It really is like no other place I've ever seen. It's like being on the moon.
Just how difficult is it to earn a living wage from being a musician these days and where would you say is the bands strongest fan base domiciled at the moment?
Honestly, Tall Firs has never paid the rent for either of us for any long stretch of time. We do it because we love it and we think the endeavour has value. We know a lot of folks who make they're living solely as artists, but it is the exception not the rule.
It's pretty hacky, but do this if it enriches your life--and it has enriched mine tremendously. If your first thought is the monetary reward, you're never gonna get all you can out of it.
I dunno where the fans are. If I did I'd be busking on they're street.
Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would like to pass on to any new band starting out today?
Go out and see and meet other people who do what you wanna do. I'm pretty shy, and because of it, I've never done enough of this. That said, when I was able to, the experiences and friendships and creative cross pollination was worth it's weight in gold.
You can download the 'Ghostlight Ensemble’ now via ATP Recordings.
Initially living in Brooklyn, guitarist/vocalist Brady Keehn and drummer/vocalist Melissa Scaduto made a jump to Los Angeles on a whim as the financial climate in New York became too much. Within months of being in LA, the two met bassist Kenny Elkin and guitarist/keyboardist Eddie Wuebben ...................
Your debut album ‘A Thousand Hands’ is due 21st August, how would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?
Primitive Post Punk from outer space
How did the process work that you found yourselves with a label and in a position to get studio time to record an album?
We played our first show at the Echo. Jeff at Felte saw us there and a week later we signed with him.
Where was the album recorded and over what period? Were the songs already complete before you went into the studio?
The album was recorded in LA, in the back shed of this place Brady was living at. It was quickly completed in a month and the songs were written during this period as well.
What is your song writing process and where do you tend to write. Any particular places you draw inspiration from?
Brady wrote most of the material. We tend to start with a simple sound, rhythm or some kind of progression, it all varies. It's always the music first, and then a vocal stream of consciousness to develop melody and rhythm. And depending on whether the lyrics during that part of the process work or not, we may go back and re-write proper lyrics to the idea. We draw inspiration from everywhere and anything.
Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the record?
No, we'd rather not.
If you could choose to be on the cover of a magazine, which magazine would that be and why?
News of the World
Split 7" singles are quite the trend at the moment, who would you like to have on the other side of your 7" single?
And finally …. Your views on Apple Music are?
Shows are going to continue be the only way to make a tiny bit of money.
How and when did the band come together and what are your early ambitions for your album?
We formed through number of years in a series of lucky timing and coincidental circumstances with enough Kevin Bacon degrees of separation to make it happen. That's the short story at least.
I think our early ambitions for the album are for people to hear it, spread the word and get some traction on a few different fronts. We've never put out a real album before, let along a 13 track, full length, so this is sort of our coming out. We want it in as many people's ears and stereos as possible, preferably at high volumes. Not to mention trying to find some licensing/commercial deals for some of the tracks. And now that we have something to show people, we are starting to look for a label as well. This first album is the foundation for all of that, hopefully.
How important do you think it is for new artists in 2015 to find a label?
Good question. I guess I wouldn't know because we don't have one... yet. I think ultimately you need a label for sure. Whether you create it yourself or not though, somebody is going to have to that work, and it's a LOT of work. I don't think it's realistic or beneficial to have the band doing the artistic side and a majority of the business side as well because it takes away from both at the end of the day. Plus, with a label, I think there’s more of a family vibe and they help immerse you into more of a community with a connection to other bands, people and places. It takes a village…
How would you describe your songs for people that have not heard your music yet?
We have never been able to boil that down to a concise answer. I’d say we are a blend of spices. The main ingredient is gritty rock, with a heavy dose of soul, a handful of punk and a pinch of jazz. The side dish would be funk and desert would be hip hop. You combine all of that; you get a nice taste of the Benjees.
Where was your debut album 'Alright, Alright, Alright' recorded and over what period? Were the songs already complete before you went into the studio?
We recorded at Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, NY with Rocky Gallo and had a great experience with both. But studios are expensive and like most bands, we’re broke- so being well prepared helped save us a lot of money. We had an agenda, literally. I typed out a production schedule for recording because we didn’t have any time or money to waste and we needed to get a lot done. We had already written and recorded 18 demo tracks to narrow down and choose from, before we hit the studio. We pretty much knew exactly what we wanted to do, we just had to do it in a nice studio with a good engineer. Two full days into night, a full moon, flasks of whiskey, beers, a few jazz cigarettes, Chinese food delivery and some Williamsburg pizzas later, we had recorded 13 tracks and the album was finished.
How do you go about creating new music, do you have to be in a certain space, mentally and physically or is i t, when the spark strikes?
It depends on the song but usually the music comes first either way. It also helps me to be in a really good mood or a bad mood. Any extreme emotional state is gonna help dictate the nature of the song and those ones tend to write themselves more so than the others. The emotion is there is just needs to come out. Lyrics are a different story though. They involve a lot of the same parallels, but I feel like they can’t just be pure gut feeling like the music is, because I want them to tell some type of story and that usually involves finessing things a bit more and re-drafting until there are some spots of clever word play and more of a through line to the character or situation. But yeah, it’s definitely a “spark” kind of writing for me. It’s there or it isn’t. And it’s funny, some weeks are spark heavy, and others are the complete opposite and turn into practice weeks instead of creative weeks, so striking when the iron is hot is key for us. Get it while the giving’s good.
Split 7" singles are quite trendy at the moment, who you like to share your split 7" record with?
We have played some shows with the Whiskey Bitches and they know how to have a good time and are a great band on top of that. We love you bitches.
How do you approach getting your music heard and making an income and what are you feelings about Social networking as a means to musical recognition?
If I had a good answer to that we’d be a richer band. We do the usual Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram, Bandcamp, and blah blah blah and all the other sites… but we have tried to take an interesting approach in some aspects because we make short sketch videos to help promote whatever we are doing at the time. Check out our our youtube page, we probably have 12 of them by now maybe, www.youtube.com/thebenjeesrock .
I would say PR is also important. If a band makes an album in the middle of the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? The answer is a hard “no”. And when it comes to making money playing music… I’d say licensing is the best option to get paid an actual amount worth bringing to the bank.
I think musical recognition stems from repetition and having good songs that people will share on media or pick up on blogs and whatnot. It has to be good music first and foremost, but creative music videos can help a band stand out from the crowd too. I think anything creative and unique that helps the band show their personality will help with recognition.
What are your plans for the rest of 2015 and how far do you actually plan ahead when it comes to your musical activities?
We will be debuting our second music video in August, recording another music video during the summer and a tour is happening in the early fall. Then we're going to head back into the studio and record another album in late fall. We’ll have shows in the city throughout that time and will keep making promo videos. In general, we try to plan ahead a fair amount because everybody in the band is busy. We have our record release show on July 10th at Bowery Electric and want to pack it out as well! So mark your calendars.
What was the first gig each of the band ever attended?
The first show I saw was the Roots, Joe’s was a Jurassic 5 I think. Martin's was Linkin Park... and Grahams..? Not sure.
And finally …. Your views on Apple Music are?
There are so many platforms available now for “selling music” and they are all basically the same, to me. Spotify, Pandora to Apple, it’s the difference in fractions of a penny to an indie artist. I don’t think the music or television industry knows what to do with itself at the moment because the internet changed everything. And the contracts and bureaucracy can't keep up with the speed of technology and the dramatic change in entertainment consumption. At the end of the day, most musicians are not profiting on plays from any of those platforms and could probably make more money selling five T-shirt at a show than they would for a quarter’s worth of profits from one of any those places. What’s 10,000 plays of a song multiplied by .007 of a penny? Grocery money. But $70 goes a long way at C-Town. We could cook you a tasty meal with all that.
Wow, 40th Anniversary tour … where has the time gone?
The band came together in 1969/70 Do you collectively still have any ambitions left or is it now about enjoying the legacy?
When your ambitions die you will die with them. We do enjoy ourselves immensely when we play. I personally want to work on Broadway! Maybe the West End stage in London also!!!
What can we expect on your 2015 tour, is the old magic still there?
Absolutely! Our current show features 7 or 8 character/costume changes. We are a 5 man band now, 4 original members. The production is not as gigantic as it was in the 80's but still very high energy and enjoyable!
How do you approach getting your music heard by a younger generation and what are you feelings about Social networking as a means to musical recognition?
We are still old school. Not a big fan of social media. Too many haters. Our fans bring their kids now and they dig it.
How would you describe your songs to that younger generation who may not have heard your music yet?
Complicated, interesting, not your typical 3 chord rock, Sarcastic, parodic, sometimes pedantic!
What was the music you listened to back in School/College days, that you still draw inspiration from today?
Zappa, Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, Sinatra, Pavarotti and of course Beatles!
Where did you play your first gig and last gig. Any particular memories of both?
Our first gig was in the cafeteria of the San Francisco Art Institute. Haven't played our last gig yet, I hope! Playing Vegas on Saturday! Hate Vegas!!
What was the most satisfying record you recorded and why?
The Completion Backwards Principle. First time working with producer David Foster. First rock record he ever did. First big radio hit.
How do you feel the music industry sits in 2015? Is it a better place than 1975?
No, not even close. It's all a very corporate business now. No people just analytics.
Is there any place that you have not played that you still need to tick off the list?
Many places. South America, need to play polo in Argentina!
Some of the Tubes songs or even The Tubes story would fit onto a Broadway or West End stage, do you any ambitions to write music for theatre or films?
I want to act on the Broadway stage and the West End stage more than anything!!!
THE TUBES 40TH ANNIVERSARY UK TOUR
Rex Haberman is a Minneapolis-based rocker who plays around one hundred shows a year with his band War Poets. In 2014, Rex met young Galway vocalist Aileen Henderson via twitter and the pair started sending song ideas back and forth and ended up recording a fully produced EP without ever actually meeting face to face. They will finally get together in person this August as they embark on an Irish tour. We asked him about this unlikely project.......
How long have you been playing and performing and what was the spark that sent you both down this musical career path?
Both of us have been playing since an early age. I have been in bands since being a teenager and Aileen has been singing with her family as long as she can remember. It seems that once we started to play, in very different situations, we both became seriously attracted to performing and once that gets in your blood, it’s almost impossible to remove. We have different influences. Aileen was influenced by country acts like Dixie Chicks and I more so by songwriters like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. This combination is what gives Light Over There its characteristic sound: messages in songs with great vocal performances.
Aileen you come from Galway, Rex you come from Minneapolis. How do you get together for band practice?
The truth is, at the time of this interview, we haven’t practiced together. Mainly because we haven’t met face to face and won’t until August 15th, the day of our first official rehearsal. Don’t think that the band won’t be ready for the tour though. We have an A-list band that will be fully prepared to rock on!
How would you describe your music for people who have not yet heard your songs?
The genre is Americana. Our songs are all about a message or a story played with music that has melodies that stick with you. Aileen has an unmistakable vocal sound and style, so when you hear it you know you’re listening to Light Over There. The songs captivate the listener to follow the story lines and is consistently present, so even though one may be humming along with the melody, the story will become clearer as If a light suddenly is turned on or to say: “oh, that’s what they mean.”
How did your collaboration come about?
My other band War Poets followed Aileen on Twitter then she responded by following back and sending a direct message to me with a link to some of her You Tube videos. I looked and listened then asked if she would be interested in songwriting and collaboration. Aileen said yes so I sent her the lyrics for Solitude Gratitude. After a week or so, Aileen sent me a demo of her singing and playing acoustic guitar. It was a huge success, as we both really liked the demo. Subsequently, we traded ideas on 4 more songs then headed to our studios to record.
Touring in Ireland in August, is there anything you are particularly looking forward to on this tour and are there any UK dates to follow?
We are looking forward to delivering great shows for people. The band includes acclaimed guitarist Cory Wong, Nashville bassist Adam Beard, and former Gin Blossoms drummer John Richardson. The level of playing will be very high so the audience can expect the best performances possible. We are of course looking forward to playing in Aileen’s hometown of Galway. This is the opening night of the tour and should be a lot of fun. We’re also very happy to play the other cities: Cork, Limerick, Connemara, Belfast, Bray, and Dublin. Our opening act, Dave Moore, is from Belfast so we’re looking forward to playing there.
You are working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland on the tour. What was the inspiration for this?
Our first song on the EP is called Where Memories Live. It is about Alzheimer’s Disease and the toll it takes on families. I decided to write lyrics about Alzheimer’s because my father in law suffers from it and I wanted others to be aware, including younger people that may not think about it much. Aileen wrote the music and delivers a great vocal performance with studio vocal backups by Nashville singer Lizzy Herder. As part of the tour, we didn’t want to lose sight of its importance, so we reached out to the Irish society and we’re glad they’re with us in Galway.
What was the music you both listened to back in School/College days that blew you away and still does today?
Some of the classic rock bands that focused on socially relevant topics were inspirational for me, being heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. Aileen always had an ear for country singers like Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift but also liked Ray LaMontagne and others similar.
Light Over There is the polar opposite to War Poets, or is it?
It is different because War Poets is more of a rock band with a definite agenda for writing and playing socially conscious songs, including topics such as American gun violence, income inequality, poverty, and homelessness. Light Over There songs have messages too, but are more about family issues and individual struggles and successes.
Rex, do you ever give Aileen advice on life in the music business and if so, what would you share with new bands starting out today?
Aileen and I talk virtually every day about any topic you can think of. I have given her advice, but she is fiercely independent and far more mature than her age would predict. Having said that, there are certainly aspects of recording and playing music professionally that we’ve discussed at length. My best advice to new bands is to stick with it for the long term if you’re so inclined. There is much more money in cover bands, but if you’re playing original music, you have to develop a fan base that will follow you. That is a significant challenge especially if the band has no label to back it.
How has the response been to your debut EP released on St. Patrick’s Day and are there anymore songs in the pipeline?
The response has been very good, but as with all original projects, you must have a strategy for get the news out to people. We feel confident that once people listen, they’ll love the songs. Our strategy has been to focus on social media with Facebook and Twitter, and we’ve seen success working with CyberPR from New York City. Now we hope the tour will bring an entirely new group of fans to the music. We’ve been approached by some Nashville producers about writing more songs and doing more recordings. It makes sense to keep a good thing going, so we’ll see what happens.