UCR Interview- Cat Leavy of New Shack

Trevor Christensen

New Shack is headlining Les Femmes De Velour second night (Feb 23).  I was able to speak with lead vocalist Cat Leavy.  Here is our conversation.   

Utah Concert Review: I’m always interested in how things got started.  How did you decide you wanted to do music, and how did you New Shack form?

Cat Leavy: Eric and I have similar backstories in that we weren’t originally pursuing music full time as careers.  But it’s something that we’ve always done our whole lives.  I was raised as a classical musician doing a lot of competitions and I always thought I was going to study music and become a classical performer but that changed.  It was a really intense way to grow up.  It’s something I still love.  I practice the piano every day and I have a very deep love for classical music.  But as a teenager, it became a very negative thing for me.  I trend towards being obsessive and neurotic so it was a really negative environment for that. Just like the competition aspect.  So yeah, I decided to stop doing classical music that way and I actually didn’t really think I’d ever come back to music but I did.  And in my early twenties, I decided that I was going to use music as therapy, to write out my feelings.  And at the same time, this was before I knew Eric, he lost his job and decided to do music full time.  We met through mutual friends and began collaborating virtually because I was living in Germany.  We just started emailing tracks between us.  So Eric would come up with a cool beat, he would send it to me, then I would write a song to it, record some vocals then send it back to him.  And then we would mix it and turn it into a finished product.  What’s interesting is even now I live in L.A. and Eric lives in Utah and we still make all of our music virtually.  With that said, I think that our live shows have a lot of different exciting qualities about it.  Because when we get together and make a live version, it adds a whole different dimension to the music that is already there because we have to spend time figuring out how to really make it come together in a group setting because we don’t create it that way.  So we have to put extra effort and strategy into figuring out how to make it translate live.  I would describe our live show as our music but elevated.  It has so much more excitement and presence.  It’s been really fun to do that.  

UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?  

CL: Well Velour is our hometown venue.  I’m from Provo.  So I spent many high school nights at Velour.  We perform most of our shows there so it’s really exciting to be able to headline Friday night.  We’re basically friends with everyone we’re playing with.  It’s a really positive cozy experience.  It’s the atmosphere.  It’s not too big, it’s perfect.  We Love it.

UCR: So what can those attending Les Femmes this weekend expect.  Not only for your performance but throughout the weekend?

CL:  I think that they can expect a very wide range of musical styles.  I look at the artists performing and it’s quite diverse in musical style.  That said, I also think it’s important to bring up that this is just a very small group of women artists and specifically femme artists.  I think that there are so many underrepresented artists in Utah that won’t be playing this show.  You know this is just a three-day series.  While I definitely think it’s important to support this show, I think it’s also really important to keep in mind that there is a diverse music scene with young queer, female, like, a lot of underrepresented artists that are out there.  There’s a music scene for that and it should be supported.  I think that we can use this weekend as a reminder that this is a tiny little peek into people participating in that scene.  But the biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of different musical styles represented.  Which I think is so cool!  

UCR:  Why do you think Provo thrives as a local music scene?

CL:  You know, I think there are a few reasons, but I think one is very much the presence of Velour.  You know, a cool venue, and Corey who’s doing a lot to support local music and connect local bands with opportunities and exposure. I think that he and also Kaneischa foster that music scene.  But also, I think if you go to a small town where there isn’t really a nightlife and there’s also a bunch of high school and university students and it’s just something really fun to do.  There aren’t any nightclubs or bars, and a lot of people don’t drink.  So the music scene is where it’s at.  It’s what you look forward to doing on the weekend.  When I was in high school that was what we did.  It almost didn’t even matter who was playing at Velour, it was where to go.  It was where you meet people, hang out with your friends, it’s exciting, it can be loud, it can feel like a party.  So I think between the fact that there is this really cool venue and there are a lot of young people looking for thing to do, I think it encourages people who are prone to creating and writing music, I think it gives them a space to do that.  So I think it between all those factors it snowballs into something really cool.

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?  

CL: I remember when I was 14 I went to a smoothie cafe that was really cool for teenagers at the time.  At night they would let local bands play and I remember going to see this local screamo band with these cool 16 year old boys.  I remember feeling really cool.  I have no idea who that band was, but I was definitely a really young teen.  But the first real concert I remember was, I think I was 15 or 16 and it was Death Cab.  And I was obsessed with Death Cab when I was a teenager when I started to feel feelings and realize there was more than pop music.  And it was just a little more alternative than Jimmy Eat World.  I just remember listening to that music in a dark room being like “Oh, so many emotions!”

UCR:  Do you remember the first time you performed live?  What was that experience like?  

CL:  Oh my gosh.  So the very first show I ever played was at Velour with New Shack. AndI had never performed a show in my life ever.  I had maybe sung in a microphone twice.  I was writing and kind of recording songs, but I wasn’t ever viewing myself as a vocalist.  The very first show I played I was headlining at Velour, the crowd was huge and I actually was so nervous that I can’t even remember it.  I like, blacked out! I don’t even remember performing the show.  It was so awful, I think my voice was just so shaky.  Someone had taken some cellphone footage of it, so the next day I watched it and it was so traumatic!  Hearing my voice so shaky and so off, I couldn’t hear myself because I sing so quietly, and it was just traumatic.  Eric just laughs it off, he is just able to look at things objectively.  And objectively people had a great time, but I remember the next day he could not get out of bed the next day.  I would be like “Well, that was my debut! All these people came to see me and I just really flopped.”  It was rough.  But it’s also motivated me practice really hard and invest in my voice as an instrument.  I definitely identify myself as a vocalist.  I’m comfortable singing a wide variety of things and I’m comfortable on stage.  So yeah, I’ve come a long way from that first show.  

UCR: What would you say has been your best experience as a performer.  

CL:  I’m not sure if this is my best performance, but my best experience would be last summer, New Shack got to open for Glass Animals at the Complex.  The crowd was huge!  Three Thousand people I think!  I really like to dance when I perform.  Every time I pulled a dance move the whole crowd just freaked out!  So I was like wait, hold on a second you like that?  You want me to keep doing that?  It was incredibly validating, incredibly fun, and just exciting to play with a big successful band!  So yeah that’s probably been my favorite experience.  

I want to thank Cat for chatting with me.  I really enjoyed it. Be sure to catch New Shack’s headlining performance this Friday night (Feb 23) at Velour!  

Get New Shack’s single Cherry!  Just released today!  Available everywhere.  You can take a look at the video below.  

Cat has a solo project called Madge with an excellent single titled “Fight or Fight Club” available everywhere.

Eric has a music subscription service called Pleasant Pictures Music Club. There is a wide variety of music that you can license.  

UCR Interview- Trevor Free of Sister Adolescent

Sister Adolescent will be performing at this weekend’s Les Femmes de Velour on Friday night.  I had the opportunity to speak with Trevor Free, the brother of the brother sister duo.  Here’s our conversation. 

Utah Concert Review: How did you get into music and then form a band with your sister?

Trevor Free:  So this particular band Sister Adolescent started almost three years ago.  It was just me and my sister. It was just an acoustic type thing, but I started to realize that, just how the songs were, it just didn’t feel right.  That style didn’t fit my vision with the songs.  So we changed things up and added guitars, keyboards, and beats.  Then it turned into what it is today.  So originally it was just my sister and me making the music and performing. Like, we did a show where it was her singing and just me on my laptop.  Which doesn’t make for a great live show we found out.  So we added our drummer Seth Ringger, who we literally just met by happenstance.  We posted on Facebook that we needed a drummer and a friend referred him to us.  So I sent him a message and he came to my house and he didn’t know any of us.  So I was just like ‘Hey if you hate this you can go.’  But he was actually like, “No I actually think this is ok.”  So he stuck around and he’s in our band now.  For a while, it was just a three piece but we all realized that we needed more for it to feel, and look, and sound like what we wanted to sound like.  Because we had a lot coming through backtracks and it just wasn’t a compelling live experience.  So we added Dave Reynolds who was playing bass with us for a while.  He’s currently away studying abroad in Greece.  This last year we added Matt on the Bass, Dave switched to guitar and when he left we brought Ethan on.  So a lot of musical chairs so to speak with our band members.  

UCR:  How did you get involved with Les Femmes De Velour?

TF:  I’ve known Corey Fox (Owner of Velour) for a while now.  I grew up in this area, so even in high school, I was in bands that were playing Velour.  So recently we played there at the “Battle of the Bands”.  And we won our night and ended up playing in the finals.  I think the judges were kind of impressed with our set, and I think Corey liked it too.  So we had pretty good feedback and we were talking to Corey about playing other shows.  We’re actually going to play a release show for our album that comes out next month. So he just reached out to me and asked if we wanted to play the event.  I’ve always followed Les Femmes over the years and have felt that it was an amazing an important event, so when he reached out I was obviously excited.  

UCR: See that’s the thing I love about Velour.  Not only is it one of my favorite venues to see a show, but it’s in a place where people who grew up here, like you, can see shows, then be in shows, then win your night at “Battle of the Bands”, then be asked to be part of this event.  It seems like a great place to receive a musical education in that way.  

TF:  Yeah!  As far as winning that night, yeah we actually won!  I never thought anything like that would actually happen.  It’s been really cool growing up in this area.  Really admiring the people that are playing in these shows, and then getting to actually play in them, it’s kind of a dream come true really.  And the support Velour provides local artists, to how great Corey and Kaneischa are, it’s just really encouraging to grow up in a place like Utah, to have a place where you can go and connect, and be in shows that have been curated, where you can play with other like-minded artists and grow as a collective community.  Velour is a great place!  

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

TF:  So my cousin.  Well, I don’t know if he’s directly my cousin, but he’s in No Doubt, so when I was 6 or 7 my parents took me to see No Doubt.  I just remember thinking it was the coolest thing.  And also, just bragging to my friends that I got to go to some concert, and the fact that I got to stay up past my bedtime.  That was pretty cool.  

UCR: Now do you remember your first time performing live?  

TF:  Yeah, I think so. It was this one show.  I don’t know if you could really call them shows.  But we got to play in the commons area of the school.  It was kinda cool because the commons area had all these step platforms.  So all of us were standing on different steps and playing like we were The Beatles or something.  So yeah that was the first time I played live.  I’m sure it was terrible.  But it was fun.  

UCR:  I have to say though, that’s pretty innovative for first time performers to decide to be on different steps like that.  

TF:  Oh yeah, so, we weren’t any good I don’t think, but we had choreographed guitar moves.  Yeah, it was pretty good.  We were all in the performance.  Not in the actual music.  But we were very interesting performers for sure.  

UCR:  Do you have a concert that you performed in that you would say was your very best?

TF:  I don’t have a particular experience.  But I will say that there is something amazing about, especially at Velour, about playing at these live shows.  There are a ton of people there, and because they’re curated, there are artists there that are similar to you, and playing a song that you’ve written and produced, and hearing people be receptive to that and actually really like it, and being into it, that’s really cool.  I think the moment where you get people to like your music and it’s not just your mom telling you, you know, sweet lies, and identifying with it, is just really nice and what I think it’s all about.  You hope to make art that people want to be connected to and to say something to that person.  Seeing that translate from the initial thought to performing in a live setting and hearing people be receptive to it is kind of a magical thing.  

See Sister Adolescent tonight (February 23) at Velour in Provo.    And be sure to be at Velour for their album release on March 17th!

 

UCR Interview- Mia Grace

Michael Hansen

Mia Grace is a up and coming musician from Utah.  She will be headlining night one of Les Femmes De Velour, a three-night event that will showcase some of Utah’s finest female musicians.  Here is the interview we had leading up to the show.  

Utah Concert Review: What is your background in music and how did you decide you wanted to perform?

Mia Grace:  Music is something that has changed my life in so many ways. Since I can remember I have been writing songs. Writing songs is relaxing to me. I don’t get distracted easily with music and instead it gives me energy and I’m so passionate about it. It is something that is refreshing and stimulating and when I have finished a song or am working on it I feel like I face other things in my life feeling inspired. It also has given me so much power in my life when I felt like I had none. I am a very quiet person and incredibly shy but when I sing I feel like I have a voice. It has given me the power to heal and cope.

UCR: Do you remember the first time you performed live?

MG:  Oooooh, I try not to. Just kidding. I was maybe 13 and I cried. Not a good cry. Like a nervous, I am so scared cry.  So If you come tonight you will see that I have come a long way.

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you attended?

MG:  The first concert I went to was The Allman Brothers Band. I was six and couldn’t see over anyone in front of me and was covered in spilled beer by the end of the night. Even so, it was a great concert and I still love that band today.

UCR: So how did you get involved with Les Femmes?  

MG:  I have been to every Les Femmes weekend the past eight years as a fan of course because there are so many talented female musicians around here.  I think I have performed at all apart from maybe two or three years as a solo act.  Corey and Kaneischa (Cory Fox and Kaneischa Johnson owner and booker of Velour) have always been really supportive and encouraging and it’s actually Les Femmes that kind of pushed me to finally start a band. They told me I could headline last year if I got a full band and so I did and I feel like the luckiest person ever to kinda have had that push because the evolution from last year until now is black and white.  Les Femmes De Velour provided that platform for me to get that started.

UCR: What do you think those attending Les Femmes should expect?

MG:  Each night is well curated by Corey Fox. If you are going to hear one performer you are likely to leave a fan of someone you just heard there for the first time. All of the ladies performing this weekend and the men who support them are really talented and great songwriters so I would expect to be moved in some way.

UCR: In your opinion, what is the message a show like Les Femmes is trying to convey?

MG: With music, you are conveying messages.  Sometimes it can invoke feelings of happiness, sorrow, patriotism, inspiration, loneliness, and camaraderie.  All of these emotions bring about change because music is inspiring and empowering. Right now the culture is shifting. If women are given more opportunities in any field or industry it could only help them feel empowered and I think with female songwriters and musicians to see them perform and hear their perspective I don’t know about everyone else but that inspires me and makes me feel like I can be and do more.

Justin Hackworth

UCR: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?

MG: Black Keys in Mesa. for their “Brothers” tour. My neck was so sore for about a week from the headbanging! HAHA!

UCR: What was your best concert experience as a performer?  

MG:  All my favorite memories of performing are because of my band. I played as a solo act for a decade before last year when I started a band. My band includes Scott Wiley, Marcus Bently, Nate Pyfer, and Aaron Anderson. The confidence I have gained from playing with those guys is black and white from last year until now. They don’t want me to fail and even more than that they are supporting me and are my friends. I am so lucky to have them.  When we first played together I think I clapped after every song was finished because I wanted to celebrate them after every song.  They are so funny and are always making it fun and making me laugh.

Mia Grace headlines night 1 of Les Femmes De Velour on February 22. Doors open at 8, with music starting at 8:30.  Tickets available at the door for $8 or at  24tix.com

Mia’s music can be found on both Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.  

UCR Interview- Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature

 Kevin Rolfe

I can’t express what an enjoyable time I had at the Naughty By Nature show at Park City Live.  It’s an excellent venue to see this group.  If you haven’t been to Park City Live, I recommend checking out a show there.  I would imagine it’s unbelievable seeing shows there during Sundance Week.  

The concert was great.  So much fun! They hit the stage and opened with “OPP”, then they gave all in attendance an education on the history of hip-hop.  They Sampled hip-hop legends like  Run DMC, Sugar Hill Gang, Tupac, and Biggie.  They paid homage to the best while mixing in their own chart-topping hits like “Feel Me Flow”, and of course “Hip Hop Hurray”.   

I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Vin Rock before the show.  Because UCR focuses on the live music experience, our conversation was focused in that area of his career.  He was really enjoyable to talk with, as were Treach and DJ Kay Gee who I briefly met.  Naughty By Nature’s tour management was extremely accommodating to the point that they pretty much rolled out the red carpet for us.  A carpet that escorted us to the stage for the final song!  Here’s the interview…

Utah Concert Review: Hey Vin, it’s good to meet you.  My name is Kevin by the way.  

Vin Rock: What’s up Kev. My hood alias is Kev.  I’ll explain it to you.  When we used to be on the block, you know what I mean, the customers would come up and they would never really know your name.  So me and my partner who was out there on the fly, I was Kev, and he was Antoine.  So all the customers knew us as Kev and Antoine.  So if you’re ever intimate enough to be around our hometown crew, nobody calls me Vin.  They all call me Kev.  “Yo, Kev, Yo Kev, Yo Kev Kev”.  Cats will come up “What’s up Kevin?” And then people who are around are like, “Why are they calling you Kev?”  So that’ a  moniker that’s stuck around since the 80’s.  

UCR:  So next time I see you I’ll be like “What’s up Kev?!”  

VR: What’s up Kev! That’s right.  You know me on a Kev basis.  

UCR:  Some might think, coming to Park City or Utah, in general, might be a random tour stop for Naughty By Nature, but it seems year after year you pack the club every time. Why do you think that is?  

VR: Hey man it’s Hip Hop.  Hip Hop has been around for a long time.  It started in the hood it spread to the burbs it spread to, you know, every nook and cranny of America.  Then you have these pockets, like Park City Utah.  You have the Sundance Film Festival here, I mean this is a destination city.  So hip hop and culture period thrive here. And the hip-hop community here they just love it.  They love music.  They just love art period here.  You know what I’m sayin’?

UCR: Absolutely.  So Naughty By Nature has been doing this for almost 30 years now.  What is your secret to being able to stay successful and have the longevity you’ve had?  

VR:  You know to me, music is all about the live performance man.  Minus the record contracts, minus the hype and hoopla, your average musician starts in their garage or in their bedroom.  You know? And that will never go away. The live performance will never go away.   So no matter where music evolves to, it’s the people who have those great live performances that will always thrive. And that’s the school we come from, you know?   We started in Kay Gee’s sun porch.  Rest in peace to his father Gizmo, man.  His parents let us practice on their sun porch on 18th Street.  And we practiced our routines, went out to the clubs.  We banged out with different artists.  You know, club for club, artist for artist.  And we developed a live stage show.  So, those were our bones. That’s the bones and that’s the crux of Naughty By Nature’s business.  You know what I mean? And then when we got put on and had the record deal and everything, just that live stage show always you know, always carried us. And here we are at Park City Live, right?  You know what I mean? So all the artists, and this is a jewel for any artist out there, you can do whatever in your bedroom.  But you gotta get out here in front of the people.  You have to perform live.  You have to have a reputation for performing live.  If you have that and God-given gifts of songwriting and musicianship, you never have to worry about thriving in this industry.  

UCR: Was there a specific show where you guys realized, “Ok, we’re going somewhere with this.”?

VR: Yeah, yeah.  For one it was our first talent show in high school.  We didn’t even have a name for ourselves.  We scratched the Beastie Boys “It’s the New Style”, and we just had a freestyle routine but it went over so well that we called ourselves The New Style.  And then we switched our name to Naughty By Nature once we got hooked up with Flavor Unit.  But prior to that, when we did The New Style, we used to do a Tough Teen Talent Competition around the way.  So it was Club 88 and all the teens used to come in and compete.   So we used to always come in their with our crew and the crowd would judge who was the best.  We would win every week that we came in there.  So they switched it. And said, “You know, New Style comes too deep.  So we’re going to get judges.”  So the judges came and we kept winning amongst the judges!  We were the best performers!  And we were like “You know what, we really have something here.”  And that’s when we transformed from The New Style to Naughty By Nature.  

UCR:  That’s awesome.  Great story!  Is there somebody right now that never miss seeing live?  

VR:  I don’t see a lot of them but, you know, and I have to study more of the newer cats, but I definitely know that some of my veteran peers like no matter what DMX always gives a good live show.  And Redman and Method Man, they always bring it.  You know what I’m sayin’? They always bring it.  So that’s how I judge the new cats.  I don’t care because music is music and marketing is marketing.  You can always break a record.  Especially in today’s climate.  My thing is, what do they do live with their live show?  I’m gonna look more into that, into today’s artists to see who’s really bringing it live.         

UCR:  I know people are dying to get you on that stage, so I’ll just ask you this one last question.  Is there a concert that Naughty By Nature has done that you look back and consider the best as far as performance, crowd, venue, etc?

VR: When we first came out, maybe ‘91, ‘92, I remember we were in Rhode Island, we did some arena date and we were red hot, brand new, just O.P.P. you know?  And I remember coming on stage and Treach had braids back then.  When we came on stage we used to stand still and say nothing, like Michael Jackson.  And I remember the crowd being so loud, that I saw Treach’s braids blow backwards!  You know what I mean?  And there was no music playing, no nothing. It was just the crowd going “Aaaaaahhhhh!!”  And his braids blowing backwards like a cartoon you know?!  

UCR:  Wow!  That must have been incredible!  Well, thank you so much, Kev.  Have a great set tonight!  

Vin Rock: Thanks, good talking to you Kev!    

UCR Interview- Midge Ure of Ultravox

Midge Ure of Ultravox is currently making his way across North America with his Live + Electric Tour.  Ure is coming to The Complex in Salt Lake City on Monday January 16, 2017.  Prior to his stop here in town, I had the opportunity to interview him. I believe our conversation will be of interest to any New Wave, New Romantic, or Electro music fan. I split my time during this interview between mustering as much journalistic integrity I possess and just totally geeking out.  I’m a huge Ultravox fan, so this was an absolute delight for me.  I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I had conducting it.  

Utah Concert Review: Hello Mr. Ure.  Where might you be calling in from tonight?

Midge Ure: I’m in deepest darkest Germany today.  

UCR: Wow, well how’s the tour going so far?

MU: It’s been going really well.  It’s a kind of a three piece, mainly acoustic stuff I’ve been doing.  It’s a tour called “Something from Everything”. I’m trying to play something from every album that I’ve done since 1978. So I’m choosing songs from Ultravox right through to now.  So it’s been going incredibly well because a lot of the songs I have never performed live before.

UCR: When you tour the states early next year, will you be continuing with this type of show, or will you be playing with a full band?  

MU: No, we’ve already done the first leg of the US tour back in October.  We did the East Coast and up into Canada.  So we’re picking that back up again starting in Vancouver and working our way across the West Coast through Salt Lake City, and down to Texas and finishing up in Nashville.  This tour we’ll be using two American multi-instrumentalist musicians.  One of whom I’ve worked with before. It’s basically a three piece power trio, but using synthesizers as well.  So we’re trying to incorporate a bit of everything.    

UCR:  I recently read a tweet from you where you were expressing frustration that someone in the front row was doing a lot of texting while you were performing.  I have to say that this is something that drives me nuts!  I think it’s so disrespectful.  

MU: (Laughing) Yeah.

UCR:  You’ve been touring for decades now, aside from people using their smart phone during concerts, whether to text or to record some of the performance, what else has changed over that time for you?

MU: Although I was tweeting about the annoyance of technology and the way people use it, it’s not about me and my ego.  It’s not, ‘How dare they not listen to me!’.  It’s the fact that people will sit in theaters and in cinemas and they’ll look at their phones.  Some will even make phone calls!  And you think, that’s just not the right thing to do.  So, although I was moaning about technology, I think the big change is technology.  The fact that an artist or a band can sit on the computer and book their own flights, book their own car hire, and they can liaise with venues on the road.  And you can do it on the phone while you’re touring as well.   You don’t need a massive office. You don’t need a huge road crew. You have to know what you’re doing of course, but the level I’m doing America right now, I could not have done this twenty years ago.  I could not have gone out without a road crew, or without a tour manager, you know, no one there to kind of back you up.  You’d need that kind of infrastructure.  Now you don’t need that.  You can kind of just do it yourself.  

UCR: That reminds me of when OMD reunited back in, I think around 2007.  After a successful European tour, they wanted to come here to the states and tour.  Concert promoters wouldn’t advance the money to put the tour together.  I guess they didn’t think they had the audience in America anymore.  So OMD decided to put the tour together on their own.  And it was a huge success, and they’ve been touring here ever since.  So to speak to your point, it seems it is possible now to tour without relying on others.  The advancements in technology allowed you to do it on your own.  It that pretty much what you’re saying?  

MU: Absolutely.  I have to look back over the years with me, or with Ultravox or whatever, and I find a twenty-year hole or a twenty-year gap where when I stopped being with major labels. I seemed to lose all connection with the US and Canada.  As I did with Australia and New Zealand and Japan. I seemed to have lost this flow.  So I had no way to get back in again.  So like you say with OMD, people ask you, “Well, how much do you go out for?”  and you tell them, and they say “No, we haven’t heard from you in twenty years. Why would we pay you that kind of money? Everyone has forgotten about you.”   If you’re determined to do it like OMD were, and like I am, I mean, I’ve toured the states maybe three or four times the last few years because I chose to do it. I don’t need to do it. But I chose to do it because maybe there’s a chip on my shoulder saying ‘Why did Ultravox never happen in America?’. Even though I know the answer, it still kind of grinds a little bit.  So I choose to come out to America and do it on a much lower level than I would in Europe or anywhere else really.  

UCR: Ok, so I have to know then, what are the reasons Ultravox didn’t happen in America?  

MU:  It’s probably a variety of answers.  This is a pick and mix. You can throw just the answers in a big pot and mix them up and that’s the reason.  Initially, only the coasts really got Ultravox, at least as far as we were concerned.  I’m not sure Ultravox ever played Salt Lake City, I don’t think we were ever in Utah. As far as we were concerned, it was College radio.  College radio got Ultravox. When we arrived first in New York, we were interviewed by a newspaper and this guy says, this is in around 1978, and the guy says “You guys speak really good English.”  And being British, we’re like “Yeah”.  He says, “I thought you were Germans.”  I think he had us mixed up with Kraftwerk.  And that was part of the problem.  The majority of America didn’t understand us.  They didn’t get what it was.  The record label was distraught that the Vienna album had an eight-minute instrumental as the opening track.  And they didn’t get it because radio played Styx, Boston, and Foreigner.  Corporate middle of the road rock.  So there was no space for something like us.  We were like the very point of the ship, and we got broken off.  And the bit that came behind us, got in. So we kind of helped to pave the way for the Depeche Mode’s, and the Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, and whoever to follow through.  That’s part of the reason.  The other part is when we toured America, which we did a few times, we could work our way up to performing places like the Avery Fisher Hall in New York, where they wouldn’t let amplifiers in there, but they let Ultravox in there because they saw Ultravox as art.  And we would play two to three thousand capacity theaters.  And then beyond that, the next step, the obvious step was to open for a bigger band. But we insisted on playing absolutely everything live.  There was nothing pre-programmed.  This was a logistical and technical nightmare because we didn’t have time to do a proper sound check.  So we stalemated at 3,000 capacity venues and we just kind of fell back and disappeared.  

UCR:  It must have been so frustrating to not have the necessary support from the media and your label when you had such a huge fan base everywhere else.  

MU: Of course I can see exactly where it all collapsed and fell apart.  Our record label didn’t understand us.  We were having number one records in the UK, and not seeing anything reciprocated in America. I can’t begin to tell you how hideously frustrating that was.  Ultravox would step off the plane to come and do a tour to promote an album, and the record company would say “Never mind guys, we’ll get them next time.” And I would say ‘Well, hold on, the album’s just come out.  How could it be dead in the water before we ever played a note?  How could this possibly be?’ It was because we were a square peg, and they were trying to push us into a round hole.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  They knew how to do Billy Idol, Pat Benatar and Huey Lewis and the News, and all that, but they had no idea what to do with us.  

UCR: Sometimes it’s amazing that these people are in the music business.  It would seem they rarely know what they’re doing.  

Other than maybe the size of the venues you perform in, what would you say makes a concert in America different than a concert overseas?

MU: You know what, there’s really not a massive difference I have to say. Audiences react similarly all over the world. There are subtle changes between audiences but American audiences tend to be a bit louder than European audiences.  Although, these days I supposed European audiences emulate American audiences with the shouting and screaming, whoopin’ and hollerin’ so maybe the UK and Europe audiences have caught up with how audiences react in American.  But there’s not a huge difference anymore.  I’m quite surprised at the level of reaction I get in America when I play what I think is probably quite obscure material.  The audience knows the songs!  The last time I played Salt Lake City was with the Retro Futura tour with Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Howard Jones, China Crisis, and I’m thinking well I haven’t been in Salt Lake City in ages, so no one is going to know me at all.  But I walk on stage and the whole place stands up and sang all my songs.  I was completely and utterly blown away.  So in my mind, my perception is, no one knows me except for hardcore fans that really get into the music and know my place in the chain, my little link in the chain.  When I was in Salt Lake I spoke to the audience afterward and I was signing stuff, and they said there was one radio station there that was a New Wave station and they played Ultravox and that type of music all the time, so they all knew the songs!  

UCR: What was the first concert you attended?

MU: Now this is going to sound bizarre, but the first one I remember buying a ticket was for Black Sabbath, but they didn’t turn up.  On the bill was Family who were a 60’s and 70’s rock band and another band.  So I watched the other two bands. I went to see Black Sabbath because my brother bought their album and I was 15 and wanted to be cool.  

UCR: With touring a lot yourself I’m sure you don’t have time to see a lot of concerts, but is there any band that you would like to see or that you make a point to see.  

MU: I’d love to see Sigur Rós. They’re an Icelandic band well worth checking out.  Really interesting music.  But they don’t tour very often. The last person I saw that I deliberately went to see was Kate Bush.  But I was completing the circle because I saw her first shows she did in London back in 1978.  But yeah, if there is someone I really want to see I’ll make a concerted effort to go see them.  However,  I’m a bit over going to sticky carpeted clubs.  

UCR: Eliminating Live Aid from your options, because that I’m sure was its own incredible experience on its own, what is one of your concerts that stands out to this day?

MU: Yes, there was a very famous venue in Glasgow back in the 70’s and 80’s, called the Glasgow Apollo.  After the single Vienna was successful, therefore the album was successful, Ultravox played the Apollo for the first time.  I walked on to a roar I had never experienced before in my life!  There were 4,000 people screaming, just shouting their heads off because it was my home city. Walking on there and performing in the venue that I saw T-Rex and many other bands perform.  I saw them all on that stage, and to walk on that stage and receive that ovation, was an experience I’ll never ever forget.  And it never gets as good as that again.  It doesn’t matter where you play, how big the venue is, or how magnificent the event might be, that first time you feel that it’s the best time ever!  

UCR: Thank you, Mr. Ure.  I really appreciate you taking the time. It has truly been an honor.  I’m really looking forward to the show.  

MU: Hopefully you’ll hear a lot of things you’ll recognize.  I’ll be doing more Ultravox songs on this set than I ever have outside of Ultravox.  I think you’ll enjoy it.  It’s good fun.  

 

Click here to purchase tickets to Midge’s Live + Electric show.  Keep in mind this is a 21+ show.  Hope to see you there! 

www.midgeure.co.uk 

UCR Interview- Debra Fotheringham of The Lower Lights

debfoThis week I caught up with local solo artist, Debra Fotheringham. Along with her solo work, she sings with the Blue Heart Revue and The Lower Lights.  

Beginning December 5, the highly acclaimed The Lower Lights Christmas returns for the seventh year, with a six-show residency at Kingsbury Hall.  I really enjoyed speaking with Debra.  

Utah Concert Review: How did you get into Music?

Debra Fotheringham: I got into music when I was around 14. I had always loved music from a young age watching live shows, that it was something that I knew I wanted to do.  My dad was a musician at one point so I grew up listening to a lot of music. So it was part genetic, and part I just gravitated towards it at a young age.

UCR: How did The Lower Lights come together?  

DF: The central figure in the whole thing is Scott Wiley.  He owns June Audio recording studios.  And most of us know him from different projects and records he’s worked on. He was the central figure that called people and had people come in.  He and a few others had the idea to do a Hymns record with some of their friends.  And so they finally made it happen and Scott invited me to come and be a part of it, and then it
morphed into The Lower Lights.  It was supposed to just be an album we were recording, but then we started playing live shows and it turned into a thing.

lower-lights

UCR: So was it a love of the holidays or holiday music that started these concerts?  Because it seems like this has become the real focal point of the band.  Am I off on saying that, or does this seem to be the case?  

DF: No, I’d say that’s a fair assessment.  I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I think we were releasing an album around Christmas time and we just decided to make it a Christmas show.  I can’t remember if that’s how it started but at some point, we decided we should do a Christmas show because we had people asking us if we were going to do one.  We had a surprising turnout at the first one, so we just started doing it every year because it was so enjoyable.

Another reason it became a thing with the band is due to the fact that there are so many people in the band that it can kind of be a logistical puzzle to get us all together and so when we have a set show like this, we’ll all be able to show up for it.  And the Christmas shows just happened to be what it turned into.

UCR: Did I hear that there were thirty or so members of this band?!

DF: (Laughs)  Yeah!  It changes depending on who shows up for each show.  It’s a pretty flexible lineup.  

UCR: So what is your role within this enormous band?  

DF: Within the band, I’m mostly just a singer.  I have arranged a couple tunes that we’ve done  but mostly it’s fun for me to just show up and sing, which is pressure off from doing my own stuff where I have to promote it all myself and write everything.  So it’s relaxing and fun to be part of a project where I just show up and sing and make music with friends.  

UCR:  So, what might people who have never see this show before, be in store for?

DF: Well, (laughing) there will be a lot of people on stage.  It’s a “get on your feet and clap” kind of thing.  There are parts of the show that are more rockin’ and parts of the show that are more contemplative.  We try to have something in it for everyone.  We make it non-denominational so everyone will feel welcome.  We just try to have a good time and celebrate the season.

UCR: This might be a difficult question, but, what is your favorite part of doing these concerts?  

DF: That is a hard question.  I think my favorite part is just being on stage with these people that I’m friends with who I love so much.  Getting to make music with them and sharing it with people that I’ve never met who are touched by it.  I’ve had some of the coolest experiences and heard some of the coolest experiences from people that share how they’ve been touched by the music.  That’s really made it special.  So that’s probably my favorite part, just the connection I get to make because of these shows.  

UCR:  Being a local artist, what is your favorite venue to play here in Utah?

DF:  That’s a difficult question.  I really liked playing the State Room.  I think my favorite venues are house concerts, to be honest.  Just playing at people’s houses for maybe fifty people.  I like it because they are there specifically to listen to you so it’s a special experience.  They’re not there to socialize but to listen to music.  Venues like that where that is the emphasis are my favorite.  Kingsbury Hall is like that.  People are there to come listen to music rather than socialize.  Of course, there is a place for that, but for me specifically, those are the venues are my favorite for me to play.    

UCR: What has been your favorite concert that you’ve attended?  

DF:  I just went to Americana Fest in Nashville.  I went to so many good concerts there that the whole experience was my favorite.  It was all day long, good show after good show.  It was sort of mind blowing.

UCR: Yeah I bet that was amazing.  Well, on a personal note, I’ve been wanting to see The Lower Lights Christmas shows for years and for one reason or another not been able to attend.  So I am very much looking forward to it this year.  

DF: Awesome.  I’m glad you can go. Hopefully, it’s a good time.

Debra is currently writing her next solo album that he anticipates being released sometime next year. You can find her previous solo work here www.debrafotheringham.com

You can also hear Debra with the band The Blue Heart Revue.  They recently released an album that Debra described as “Americana Covers”.  (Personal Note: Since this interview I have purchased this album, and have been listening to it on repeat.  I highly recommend it.)  To learn more about The Blue Heart Revue or to buy their album, click here.  

The  7th Annual Lower Lights Christmas concerts begin December 5th, with shows on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and two shows on Saturday.  Tickets are going fast and these shows are known to sell out, so be sure to get yours soon. Click here for tickets.  

Utah Concert Review will be attending the opening show on December 5th.  Look for our review of the show the following day.  

Interview: Cary Judd of the Vacationist

CJ_TVACUtah Concert Review recently caught up with Cary Judd, frontman of the Boise-based band The Vacationist. We discussed what got him into songwriting, technology, and The Vacationist.

Kevin Rolfe (Editor in Chief):
You have a lot of exciting things going on right now. But first, let’s rewind a little. When did you first begin writing songs and why?

Cary Judd:
I don’t think I ever really completed a song on my own till I was 16-17, but I wrote with bands I was in in high school as a guitarist and occasionally lyricist, though I was terrified to sing in front of anyone. I have vague memories of melodies and lyrics I would string together when I was 5 or 6 years old, though.

I think hearing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” caused some sort of neural connection, however old I was when that came out, that really made me start to think about writing.

KR:
Do you remember your first time singing in front of an audience?

CJ:
Yeah, it was at a coffee shop with my band Moz Eizley. We were a trio at the time and I had been writing a lot of songs. Our plan was to find an actual singer to be the singer. My endearingly spaced-out drummer decided to book us a show before that happened. I had been singing in practices so I was the default singer.

KR:
Those familiar with your music know you primarily as a solo artist. How would you describe The Vacationist? How is it different from your solo work?

CJ:
I would say it’s an extension of my solo work. I’m at the center of the songwriting, or at least the lyrics.

I think after a certain amount of time though you become bored with yourself and you have to rattle your own cage. After the first three albums, I started drifting towards pleasing people rather than making music I would actually listen too (i.e. the Trillions EP) and I very quickly found that I wasn’t really pleasing anyone.

I had bounced ideas off myself for about 10 years and was ready to bounce ideas off of someone who knew and understood things differently than me. I wanted to put as much into every note and sound wave as I had always put into lyrics and amplify the live presentation as well as create a visual experience.

KR:
Tell me about the other members of The Vacationist, Conor, and Sunnie. What is their contribution to the band?

CJ:
The dynamic of the band is something like this. I write and demo new songs whenever I’m at the studio and have free time. I show them to Conor and Sunnie and know immediately by their reactions if they’re making the cut. Conor comes in and does a lot with sound design as well as arranging and rearranging my initial demos. He also comes in with pieces of music that are laid out into verses, choruses, or other sections and plays them for me. I’ll get excited about certain pieces and start maniacally typing lyrics in reaction to his compositions. Then of course, there’s the other way I described above. The two of us get on the desk and start what is essentially a modern sound design/producer’s jam session.

I’ve learned so much in my collaborations with Conor. There are a lot of points on the new record where I designed sounds and played parts that were based on things he had taught me, or me asking myself, “what would Conor do here?”.

I need to learn new things to keep it fresh and collaborating with someone like him who understands sound waves on an elemental level blew the creative doors wide open again.

The sonic magic happens when the two of us are in a room together. The sonic landscape is the dividing point between “Cary Judd” and The Vacationist. It really doesn’t matter who plays what or designs a certain sound because I think there’s a certain respect between the two of us that we have faith in the other to fill in any blanks.

Several of the songs I had written and demoed out on my own and then when Conor and I had time together, he put the last few pieces in the puzzle.

A few of the songs, we created in a very stream of conscious way where we were both at the desk, one of us turning knobs to dial in a sound while the other was searching for a melody, then I go and sit behind him on the couch filling pages with words. The opening track, “The Sound”, to me is the quintessential Vacationist song in that it was created this way.

Introducing Sunnie’s input makes for a really cool wildcard. Her main function is to produce the live show with light design, but she was present in a lot of the sessions and though she’s not a veteran musician, she would find these little melodic movements that had this really cool naivety to them which to me is another theme of The Vacationist, finding wonder in a sound or line of words the way I did when I was a little kid and wanted so badly to understand what a song was “about”.

I think there are moments where some people think of it as, “Conor’s band” or as “Sunnie’s band”, depending on how they came to discover us. But when we perform live, I don’t think anyone in the room thinks of it as anything other than “a band”.

KR:
What can someone expect from one of The Vacationist’s live shows?

CJ:
My hope is that they will expect to be in some way amused, surprised, and changed. With the first album and on into the new album, there’s a certain air of innocent thinking. A lot of the message in the music is a sort of joyful view of the world that I hope will untangle the complexities that we as humans weave into a giant mess over the course of our lives.

It’s not some hippie-new-age rant, but more of a spirit of zooming out and looking at our world and existence with awe of what we know and wonder for what we don’t. Like a magic show might be for a young child.

“whoa, how’d you do that?!”

“magic…”

“…and a lot of computers.”

KR:
I’m a huge fan of Electronics and Technology in music. However, there are those out there that claim that Electronic music is not really music. TVAC uses quite a bit of both. What do you have to say in regards to the use of technology in your music?

CJ:
I don’t think the role technology plays in this band can be overstated. I know it’s common for some people to think of technology as a “cheat”.

The Beatles took criticism for multitrack recording. They weren’t all in the same room playing their songs at the same time, but rather overdubbing and layering piece by piece.

This is now the standard.

Then in the last 20 years, you hear people that don’t really know what they’re talking about, criticize synthetic instruments or “auto tuning”. These are tools to create new layers in my opinion. For me, and I’ve talked at length with Conor and Sunnie about this, if it’s a sound, it’s music.

So much of what we do is definitely dependent on the technology we have access to. I don’t have the slightest bit of remorse or shame in saying that. I have made a lot of samples we use in TVAC by recording sounds I hear when I’m out & about with my iPhone. Conor and I have even set blocks of “recording time” aside to walk around with microphones or handheld recorders, just looking for a literal pattern in the chaos that we can manipulate and make a sound we’ve never heard. A lot of the synths we make from vocal samples of the three of us talking, humming, screaming etc and I think that gives us our sound.

I don’t think people realize that technology is the one thing that makes us human. To interpret our world around us, scramble it into something new, and then simulate a future in our imaginations is its own miracle.

Imagine if Mozart was born before the invention of the instruments he composed on and for, what amazing and wonderful things would humanity have never seen?
I guarantee you if he were alive now, he’d be composing on a seaboard surrounded by computers and modern instruments.

Human’s cheated the first time a cave man figured out he could eat better if he sharpened a rock and put it on the end of a stick he could hunt with. Imagine the first tribe that actually cooked the meat they hunted by making a spark and starting a fire, huge cheaters.

Technology is the most human thing we possess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_aNMjbieWk&feature=youtu.be

KR:
You’re about to release your 2nd album “Prime Colours/ Bright Numbers”. When do we get to hear it and what can you tell us about it?

CJ:
it’s a very happy album

KR:
So you’re not only in TVAC, you’re also running your own studio. I want to call it a recording studio, but it’s much more than that. Isn’t it?

CJ:
Anymore it’s a multimedia studio. We aren’t experts in everything, but we are fanatically curious, so we’re learning new ways to manipulate sight/sound/photography/video every day. We’ve all worked together on photo and video projects on our own and together and have learned a lot. We have at least 4 music videos in the works to coincide with songs on the new album, possibly more.

KR:
It is unknown to many outside the region, that there is a really strong music scene here along the Rocky Mountains. Why do you think that is?

CJ:
The part of the Rockies I’m familiar with is mostly Boise and Utah. I would attribute the growing scene in Boise to Eric Guilbert of Finn Riggins. He started up Treefort four or five years ago and I think that’s been the seedling that’s grown into a bustling scene here. As for Utah, I think Corry Fox, his venue, The Velour as well as events that have spun off from there. Both those guys are incredibly talented. In both cases you have an individual who saw a lack, set a goal and started taking steps that grew into amazing scenes in both places.

In Boise, there’s been a great scene for a long time. When I was living in Wyoming and would come through while on tour I always felt very welcomed, which is part of why I ended up here. Back then I was an outsider, so it’s hard to say where it was pre-Treefort (Music Festival in Boise), but every year Treefort seems to get better. I’m sure there was a learning curve the first year or two, but as a musician and observer, it seems to have this really beautiful combination of bringing in outside/national talent and weaving the local artists into the fabric of the festival. It’s exposed a lot of locals to great artists that live here.

My favorite thing that I’ve heard every time I’ve played Treefort in different bands is, “what, you guys are from Boise? I had no idea!”.

KR:
You have some very devoted fans in this state. Can the great people of Utah expect to see TVAC performing here live soon?

CJ:
Yes, we will come down to do a show when the album comes out. Utah Valley, specifically Velour has been my default home venue even though I’ve never lived there. I wouldn’t miss the chance to play these songs for the amazing people that have supported me for so long!

To hear music, see videos, and to receive updates on The Vacationist tour dates as well as the release of “Prime Colours/ Bright Numbers”, click here!