UCR Interview Lawrence Gowan of Styx

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo Credit: Rick Diamond

Styx returns to USANA Amphitheater on Monday, June 4 with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Tesla.  They credit Utah as one of the first regions to truly embrace their music.  Because of this, it’s always a good time when they come to town.  

I had the opportunity to interview Keyboardist/ Lead Singer Lawerence Gowan.  When I think of his contribution to Styx I generally think of his influence in the live show.  I also think of him as a newer member of the band, but as you’ll read, he’s actually been in the band for quite some time now.  We talk about that as well as the band’s new album The Mission.  He was really fun to talk to.  Enjoy!  

Utah Concert Review:  The first time I saw Styx was in 2000.  And I think you had joined up with them a couple years before that.  You should be close to your twentieth anniversary with the band, yeah?

Lawrence Gowan:   Yes! I’m about a month into my twentieth year.  Time flies.

UCR:  I just wanted to congratulate you on that.  I think you’ve been great as a member of the band.  I know it was probably a weird situation to come into and I think you’ve been so gracious with everything.  

LG: Thank you very much. It’s a great band to be a part of and it always was a great band before I got into it so it’s something I always want to acknowledge.

UCR:  Now I’ve always felt like the past drama with the band is not really part of your history with the band.  So we don’t need to get into all of that. But I am curious, you’ve replaced a principal songwriter, a founding member, and a vocalist that people love and associate many of these songs to, was there ever a transition period initially that you noticed the fans not being sure about you yet? And was there a moment/tour where you felt like the fans accepted you as an official member of the band.  

LG:  It’s funny, I have to go right back to the very first show I did with the band.  There was only one moment in the entire twenty years when I felt anything but 100% worthy of being with these guys.  The very first show we did together we opened with “Grand Illusion”.  Actually, they had just done an album called Brave New World so they did a short piece from Brave New World that segued into “Grand Illusion”.  And after the “Grand Illusion” intro I drew breath to sing that first line “Welcome to the Grand Illusion…”  and just about five seconds before I hit that first line I realized “Oh, there are a few thousand people here that are about to hear someone else sing this song that they’ve never heard before.”  And at that moment it all kinda flashed in my mind that “in about four or five minutes from now I’m going to know if this is going to work or not.” Because we hadn’t really considered that. We really were quite confident that it would work out because we had rehearsed it and everyone had smiles on their faces.  But by the time we got through the song I remember Tommy and JY walking forward and nodding and there were people with their arms in the air and it was all high fives. It’s kind of been that way since that time. And that’s something that has been inspiring to me that this was a good move.

The other thing I would always clarify is, right from that first show to this very day I have never looked upon the idea that I replaced anyone in the band.  It’s an easy thing to say, and I used to just accept it. But it really is not that. It really is that the band’s life was extended because they got another new guy.  Similar to what happened to them in 1976 when they got Tommy Shaw into the band after they had made five albums. Similar to what happened in the 90’s Todd Sucherman came in when original drummer John Panozzo could no longer do it.  It just so happens that because there was all the backstage brooha drama and all of the gut-wrenching emotions that go along with that because that preceded my joining the band, I think there’s a heightened sense of gravitas of it being a weighty situation.  But my time in the band has always been playing to a fantastic audience of Classic Rock Styx enthusiasts. And they always leave with a lot of smiles on their faces.

UCR: That’s a great way to approach it.  I enjoyed the band’s new album The Mission.  I believe it’s only the second album of original music you’ve done while in Styx.  Is that right?

LG:  Yes. We’ve only done two albums of brand new music.  There have been a good number of live albums and DVDs.  There was the covers album and of course the Regeneration album which were re-recordings of the classic hits with this lineup.  So there are a good number of records, but only two brand new records. That’s really a testament to how much we tour. The band never toured to the extent that we have over the last twenty years.  We have yet to play less than 100 shows in a year and then you add in all the travel that entails, and the distances. We’re in an era of the music world now where the live show, the live performance is at the center of what people gravitate towards because we’re in a different time.  We’re in the internet era where everyone gets their entertainment from their laptops. So when they go and see a live rock show it’s even a bigger seismic shift in their lives because they’re actually living something in real time in the real world. Even if they are holding up their cell phones for most of it.

UCR:  I’m sure with this much touring, not only is it the number of shows and travel, but I’d imagine that you need to spend your off days on vocal rest.  So there probably aren’t many off days the band would be able to spend in the studio laying down vocal tracks take after take.

LG:  It is exactly that.  It really is. You’ve got to stay focused on the most important thing that’s going to have the band continue on.  In the 70’s it was obviously “Let’s get an album out as quick as we can while people are noticing. Let’s make sure it’s really high quality, and then let’s get out and play some shows to support it.”  Now the creativity, for the most part, has been in how the myriad of ways we can improve the live show. And that’s something we’ve really worked at.

Now when we made The Mission, we just set aside the time.  That’s how it got accomplished.  We cut back on shows, we set parameters of how much time we had to work on it.  It took us well over a year to actually pull it together. And that was with some really creative maneuvering around the schedule, but it got done.  

UCR:  When I saw you back in January at the Eccles Theater it seemed like the album was well received.  Which I thought was great. Generally speaking, bands that have been around for 40 years don’t really get to enjoy that.  

LG:  The beauty of being in a band with great hits to play is, you’ve got great hits to play.  The detraction is so often the audience doesn’t want to hear anything but that. However, if you give them just the right thing on the right day you might be surprised.  It seems with The Mission that’s what’s unfolded.  The audience was ready for it, they were ready to hear something that after all these years this lineup could accomplish in a studio setting with the writing and the culmination of our lineup.  I know what you’re saying, “Radio Silence” and “Gone, Gone, Gone”, and “Khedive” those songs are going over as well as many of the classic hits. I think it’s because they slot into the show in an effortless fashion and the audiences are digging it.  

UCR:  And for you, as somebody who had success as a solo artist how has it felt to get to create music again, and with this band?  

LG:  Really satisfying.  I thoroughly enjoyed being a solo artist, but there were times where I was kind of jealous or envious of the idea of creating with a band and having a collective voice that still sounds like one entity.  There aren’t all that many solo artists that I listen to compared to the number of bands that I listen to. I enjoy listening to Elton, and a few others but really the list of bands is far greater. Maybe it was the “grass is greener” idea, but the idea of the collective and what happens when the creative friction comes into the room and something emerges that really doesn’t sound like one guy but very much like this outside entity that no one can claim as their own because it exists as the sum of the parts.  

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

LG:  I was in grade 2.  I grew up in Toronto.  I can even tell you the date!  It was February 10, 1964. I remember that because The Beatles played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, 1964.  When I went to school the next day, I don’t know why but everyone was asked to sing or perform something in front of the class.  I had nothing prepared but I already kind of knew “All My Lovin’” and “Love Me Do” because I had heard them on the radio prior to seeing them on Ed Sullivan.  So basically I got up in front of the class and stood there and I pulled up three other unsuspecting guys and showed them where to stand, and belted out “Love Me Do” in front of the class.  What I remember is the rest of the class looking like “What the hell is he doing?”, but my teacher Ms. Davis had this big grin on her face. I know now what it was. She was probably in her early twenties, and she was obviously a big Beatles fan already.  Or had seen the show the night before. So I was basically doing what a whole generation of musicians have been doing ever since. Trying to figure out “How do we put a band together that looks as much fun and artistically satisfying as that band?”. It was an entire generation of musicians that were affected by that night.  I think I might have beat them all to get in front of an audience with that schtick (Laughing).

UCR:  Do you remember the first concert you attended?  

LG:  I do.  It was in Toronto.  It was a Canadian band called “The Guess Who” that people, of course, know for their biggest hit “American Woman”.  I was 14 and they sounded exactly like the record. They were just so good live. It really had an impression on me.  Whenever I see a band live, if they don’t come up to or surpass the quality that they do on record they kind of lose me forever.  I was branded with that way of judging an act. If I’m on the fence with an act or indifferent to them and I see them live and they just slay the audience I’m forever devoted to what that band can do.  And vice versa, I’ve seen acts where I actually like their record but they’re subpar live they kind of lose me for good.

UCR:  It makes a difference how they sound live, doesn’t it?

LG:  Yeah!  I’ve tried to figure it out over the years.  Ultimately music is communication. So in the live arena, that’s where it’s the most real and visceral and intense, or the opportunity is there for it to be that.  And a great rock show is the best form of entertainment I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I don’t think anything is going to surpass it. I know what it can do to you, and when it fails to do that it’s disappointing.  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened all that often because most of the bands I like are phenomenal live.

UCR:  I think that’s something that could be attributed to Styx.  I’ve seen bands where when they take the stage it looks like they are going to work.  But with Styx, I’ve seen you at the beginning of tours and at the end of tours and it looks no different.  Every time you guys seem excited to be out on that stage. That goes a long way for fans.

LG:  I’m glad you perceive that because I can tell you it’s genuine.  It’s funny that you say that you’ve seen bands that “look like they’re going to work”.  We’re only doing this so that we can avoid going to work! (Laughing) The last thing we’re doing is working!  We’re basically just trying to create this great vibe in front of a few thousand people. When you leave the stage seeing this sea of smiles on faces as far as the eye can stretch, that’s a pretty good end to a satisfying day.  You should really drink that in and be happy to suit up again the next day. I’m lucky that I’m in a like-minded band in that regard.

UCR:  You’re really giving people their escape for a couple hours from their work week.  So it’s good that you guys have that approach.

LG:  The effort it takes to get out to a show, and park, go through a crowd, and that whole ritual, they deserve the best possible performance.  And we’ve jumped through a few hoops of fire to get we are so we don’t want to let ourselves down either.

UCR:  Is there a particular Styx song that no matter how many times you’ve played it, you still get excited?  

LG:  Every night I look at “Renegade” on the setlist.  It’s always towards the end if not the very end of the show.  I embrace that moment every time. It’s great too because I don’t have to sing lead on that one!  I get the opportunity to take the temperature of the audience and every time it’s at a fever pitch.  So I get to observe it and enjoy it so I love seeing that that song is coming up on the setlist.

UCR:  Do you have an experience or two as a performer that you might say are your very best?

LG:  A couple pinnacles come to mind.  First I’ll go back to 1985 prior to joining Styx.  In my hometown Toronto, my second album went to number 1.  It wasn’t released in the states which was a terrible frustration, but it did get to number 1 in Toronto the very week I had the biggest show I had ever done to date which was about 9,000 people. That was one of the highest moments for me personally because I had played all the little clubs around the area and then suddenly to have that happen, it was like, it’s what you’re dreaming of but yet it hits you like “Wow!  That was an unexpected thing.  That was great!”.

The next one I would say, in joining Styx I think we played twice at the Super Bowl.  Funny enough it was the second time, which is weird, I don’t know why, but it was the second time we did it.  I had been in the band for five years at that point. We were still reaching to see what was achievable. The show in San Diego that day was really spectacular.  I remember feeling like I was at the center of the universe. It was just astounding. That was an obvious giant thing. But, there are other moments that I can mention along the way.  Like the first time we played at Red Rocks in Colorado was a phenomenal moment. You’re looking up at this gigantic natural amphitheater a mile or so above the city, it’s almost like you’re in outer space playing there.  It’s an unbelievable spot. And then there are surprises along the way. Like playing the Eccles Theater there in Salt Lake back in January where you don’t know what to expect. You’re playing a new venue, you don’t know how it’s going to go. You’re playing some new material in this case.  And suddenly that’s just as rewarding as anything you’ve ever done. So the answer to your question has become a real moving target over the years.

UCR: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Gowan.  I really enjoyed this!

LG: Me too!  We’ll see you out at USANA with Tesla and Joan Jett!  It’s gonna rock!!!

 

For tickets to Arrowfest: Styx, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, with Tesla on June 4 click here.  

To purchase Styx new album The Mission, click here.

UCR Interview Bobby Dall of Poison

By: Kevin Rolfe

                                                                                              Photo Credit: Mark Weiss

 

For as long as I can remember Poison has had a really strong fanbase here in Utah.  On May 22,  they bring their Nothin’ But a Good Time 2018 Tour to USANA Amphitheater with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil.  I had the opportunity to have a really entertaining and informative conversation with bassist Bobby Dall.  Enjoy! 

Utah Concert Review:  Your last couple times playing here in Utah I believe you opened for Def Leppard at USANA Amphitheater.  This time you’re headlining the show. Which means a longer setlist, your staging, etc. Was there a determining factor to tour as headliners again?  Or did things just play out that way?

Bobby Dall:  It was definitely a mixture of things.  We have headlined USANA before, several times.  We’ve played there with Def Leppard, and I think Motley as well.  This time around we’re headlining with Cheap Trick and Pop Evil. Lovely guys in Cheap Trick.  The guys in Pop Evil, great music, I don’t know them personally, but soon we’ll get to know them very well.  I don’t know, I guess it’s just the natural correlation of the next step in our career. We’ve spent several years not headlining, although we had a few headlining dates last year.  But this year we’re headlining the whole tour. It’s always more fun when you have a little more control. You get to play longer and controlling the show and the environment. But you also have more responsibility as well.  

UCR:  I’m sure one of the nice things about headlining out at USANA Amphitheater is you won’t have to perform while the sun is setting.  It’s a great venue but I always feel bad with the openers at that venue because the sun is right in their eyes!

BD:  Yeah with the amphitheaters it’s always better to play when the sun goes down! (Laughing) But you know, in different situations you have to deal with it.  

UCR: So it seems like the thing to do these days is package a few bands together and send them out on tour?  As a fan, I love it. But I have wondered what that was like for the bands.

BD: Well since the beginning of Rock and Roll bands have been packaged up.  In fact, in the 70’s, my first concert was Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Rush, and about ten bands.  It was the Florida Jam. That was the first time I saw Cheap Trick, who’s with us on this tour, and I fell in love with them.  I think I was 15 or 16. You are right that bands are packaging up. But they always have. I believe in value for the fans. And the more bang for the buck is the best way to describe it.  Having three bands on a package and going out and playing, give the fans more value for their money. And what I think is great about our tour this year is you’re getting a band from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  So we really are covering three decades of fans. And our band itself, we’re always getting new fans each tour.

UCR:  So when you look at the bands of your era, they’ve become really fragmented.  Sometimes there is only one original member of a band touring as the band. Or in the case of RATT, I think there are two versions of the band circling the globe.  And while we don’t need to get into the history of it all, Poison has had their drama, but the original guys are still together. How have you done that? Do you just have to turn off the relationship aspect and make it about business?  Or have you just figured out how to make it work?

BD:  Truly the secret is, we have a saying in the band “If you can get all four of us in the same room or on the stage we get a free pass.”  It really does seem to work out that way. There are bands like you said that aren’t all the original members and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just is what it is. But I believe it’s important for us to be together. So hopefully the four members of this band will keep going for another ten, twenty, thirty years together.  But as you get older it gets harder and harder.

UCR:  Now you’ve played thousands of shows over the years.  But is there a song that no matter how many times you’ve played it, you’re still excited, and still enjoy playing it every time?

BD: I love playing them all.  But “Ride the Wind” is one of my favorites.  Every night it’s always based on the audience reaction on any given evening.  It isn’t about me, it’s about the fans. That’s the best way to answer it. But I do particularly love every time we play “Ride the Wind”.  It never gets boring. None of the songs get boring playing them again and again. It’s great to have a such a deep catalog as we have. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been around so long.  And I think it’s important to play those songs for the fans. But that’s just me. You can vary a little, but if you don’t give the fans the hits they won’t be happy.

UCR:  Are there certain cities in particular that you go to where you know without fail it’s going to be an awesome Poison show?

BD:  I love every city we play.  And I won’t diss any city we pay.  But you surprisingly get the most audience reaction from the cities that the least shows.  We’ve never not been well received though. I’ve never had an experience where I haven’t been happy with the audience.  

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

BD:  I do.  It was in Pennsylvania, and it was in a fire hall near Mechanicsburg.  It was the first show we played as a band. It was Poison, but we weren’t called that yet.  We were called Paris.

UCR:  What was that experience like?

BD:  It was incredible.  Frightening, terrifying, amazing, wonderful, and the rest is history.  Rock and Roll history. But before going on absolutely terrified anxiety.  Mortified might be the best word. (Laughing)

UCR: Does that feeling still exist?  Or have you performed so much that you’re just excited to get out there now?

BD:  The first show of every tour, my anxieties are a little high.  But that’s typical and just the way I’m built. But once I hit the stage it all goes away.  The second we’re in front of the audience I’m just part of this energy between the fans and the band.  And if that initial anxiety goes away, that’s probably the time to stop doing this.

UCR:  Is there a band you make a point of seeing whenever they tour?

BD:  As far as a show that I’m not working on, I’ve seen the Rolling Stones about 7 or 8 times. Now I’ve seen other bands a lot more than that, but that’s usually a band we’re touring with.  But as far as a band that I’ve gone to see, the Rolling Stones are my favorite band and the band who I’ve seen the most.

UCR:  Again, I know you’ve played a ton of shows, but is there a particular show, or maybe tour that you would say stood out as the best?

BD:  It’s so hard.  Paul Stanley (of KISS) coming up and playing with us, all the bands we played with.  I grew up on Aerosmith, I grew up on Cheap Trick, I grew up on Van Halen, so any interaction with any of those bands has always been exciting.  I don’t have a particular favorite though. There’s just too many.

UCR: Well let me ask you this in closing. Do you remember that feeling where you realized this was happening for you?  

BD:  I think in the very beginning, it was us, RATT, and Cheap Trick on tour in 1987.  And we were originally scheduled to tour for three weeks. It was when Talk Dirty To Me took off.  We ended up staying, and Cheap Trick ended up leaving.  And that particular stretch playing with RATT of all the times was one of the most exciting times.  But it’s a hard question to answer. It’s like answering “If you could have anything in the world what would you want right now?”  

UCR:  Thank you so much, Bobby!  See you at USANA!

 

Poison will be at USANA Amphitheater on Tuesday, May 22.  Click here to purchase tickets!

UCR Interview- Erin Slaver of JD & The Straight Shot

(Photo Credit: Kristin Barlowe)

 
JD & The Straight Shot are an Americana band that is hitting the road to promote their new album “Good Luck and Good Night”.  They will be the special guests of the Eagles when they play at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday, May 3.  I had the opportunity to interview violinist/ fiddler, Erin Slaver.   
 
Hi Erin, I’m really interested what your background in music is.  How did you decide you wanted to perform? 
 
Hi! My parents actually began my musical journey by enrolling me in a Suzuki violin program when I was three years old. I never stopped playing, and when I was old enough I began to play and perform in public with my father (who played guitar). By the time I was going to college, I was so deeply immersed in the performing/musical lifestyle I never questioned my path. 
 
Do you remember the first time you performed live?
 
It was a 3rd grade talent show at my school and my father had learned the chords to accompany me while playing one of my Suzuki violin songs. I think the song was ‘Humoresque’ by Dvorak. 
 
Do you remember the first concert you attended?
 
 Honestly, it was the 20th anniversary of Woodstock (I would’ve been a 1 year old).   My family lived near Bethel NY, (and my parents actually attended the real deal!)
 
That’s amazing! What are some of your influences both in music or otherwise that have brought you to the style of music you play?
 
The Eagles
Carole King
Stephane Grappelli 
Patti Griffin
The Beatles 
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms
 
That’s a solid list.  So, how did you get involved with JD and the Straight Shot? 
 
I met Marc Copley, the musical director, in Nashville (where we both now reside) and he recruited me for the band. It was perfect timing! 
 
What do you think those in attendance should expect from a JD and The Straight Shot performance?
 
Lots of good energy, charisma and a unique sound that blends rock, country, folk, Irish, and roots music. (Oh and lots of fiddles…from yours truly 😉  
 
There’s nothing like a good fiddle! I’m looking forward to hearing that. What JD and The Straight Shot song do you always look forward to playing live?
 
I love “Ballad of Jacob Marley”. I look around on stage while we’re playing it and I can literally SEE how much fun everyone is having. Plus there’s banjo 🙂 
 

 

Banjo, Yes! Is there an artist out there today that you always make a point of seeing live?
 
I think Jason Isabell is incredible and I’d watch every show he plays if I could!
 
What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?  
 
Robert Plant. I didn’t know the meaning of rock star till I saw him perform…. And then  I said, “Oh, now I get it”.
 
I have never seen Robert Plant.  I really need to make that happen. 
Finally, what has been your best/favorite concert experience as a performer?
 
It’s always about having a great audience.  As a musician/performer, the energy and attitude of the audience are reflected in our performance no matter what.  A great energy from the audience changes the whole experience.  SO my favorite experiences as a performer have taken place when that magical balance between the audience and the performer is just right. It’s special.
 
Thank you so much, Erin.  I’m looking forward to the show!  
 
If you’re coming to see The Eagles, make a point of arriving early to see JD & The Straight Shot.  They’re sure to start off a great night of music.  
 
JD & The Straight Shot will be The Eagles special guests at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 3, 2018.  For more info on the band, click here

UCR Interview- KOLARS

I had the opportunity last week to spend some time with L.A. based band Kolars. In preparation for my interview I with them I downloaded their 2017 self-titled album and their new single “King of Carrot Flowers”.  I immediately fell in love with this band. Their music has been on constant repeat ever since. I was a little nervous that I would be overly praising upon meeting them. No one likes a kiss up! But I think any artist would like to hear if someone likes their music.  I really enjoyed spending time with Rob and Lauren. They were really laid back and gave some really insightful information on the interworking of Kolars. Enjoy!

Utah Concert Review: How did you to come together as a band?

Rob Kolar:  Well we’ve been doing music and arts and theater for Lauren for a long time.  This thing kind of came out of the ashes of heartbreak with other projects. So we were in another group that toured for a long time and people just sort of wanted to go their different ways.  People didn’t want to tour anymore. And we were kind of like man, maybe this is over. So I was thinking ok well maybe I’ll do a solo album or something and Lauren was focusing on other things and directing some plays and then it was like well, we can still have a band with the two of us.  What if we just…

 

Lauren Brown:  But it was a scary prospect too because it was like, ‘Is two people enough?  Is it interesting enough? how do we fill out the other sounds? We still want to have a bass.  We still want to have all these other things. And I was always drumming and tapping in the background with this other band and with this I would be in the front and everyone could see what I was doing.  In a positive way, but also in a negative way where I felt exposed. So that was scary.

RK: And before I was co-fronting, and now I’m the only singer.  So there’s these of like, ok all these things are going to be a challenge, but it’s what we want to do.  

LB: (Laughing) Now we just have to get better at it.

RK: Yeah, so we got lucky because our first tour was with this band called The Revivalists.  They have a single that’s become a hit. But at the time they were just breaking. So we got on the road with them and we were just honing in on what we do…

LB: Our first show was a sold out 600 person show.  And I remember being petrified because our first show was in front of all that instead of being a small show in front of Mom and Dad and our friends.  So that moment was Sink or Swim. I always felt like look, if I could do that first show in front of all those people and be that scared and get through it and then think I did well at it, you feel like you can do, well not anything, but you’re definitely more confident.  

UCR: I really enjoyed listening to this album.  Each time I listened to it, I would notice something new in each song.  There were a lot of layers in this album.

LB:  That’s this guy right here!

UCR: I can tell that you put a lot of work into making this album.  Some people love getting in the studio and making the album, others want to make the album simply to get out on the road and perform because performing live is their preference.  Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage?

LB: That’s a good question man!  We’ll probably totally different on that!

RK:  That is a good question.  I think I’m right in the middle where it’s both.  I don’t think I’d be satisfied if it were leaning one way or the other.  But there is something I really adore about being in the studio like a scientist tweaking things.  I love exploring and making the song come to life in the studio. There’s something really special about that.  But I love being on stage. Especially with Lauren because she really gives it and pushes me to go even further with my performance.  

LB: I’m not somebody who likes the studio. I like the performance.  I feel like I learn the most from the performance. And not even because people are watching.  I escape in what I’m doing in that format. It’s my meditation. I’ve been a dancer since I was a little kid so that’s what I’m drawn to.  I hate rehearsals. I like talking about ideas. I like directing shows. But no, the studio is not really where I’m at.

RK: That’s accurate.

LB:  But I’m still there!

UCR:  So how did your part tap, part percussion come about?  Was is born out of necessity? Or did you think “Well, I dance, and I play rhythm so…”?

LB:  No, I didn’t play any rhythm.  I was a dancer and I was tapping with one of Rob’s earlier bands along with the drummer and then the drummer quit so Rob’s idea for me was to learn all the drums and keep up with the tap.  So I created this whole thing based on necessity. Based on we didn’t have a drummer. We didn’t want to hire a new drummer. Ok, I’m going to figure this out. So I started with one drum, and Rob would play the kick drum.  And I would just split a kit with him. And he’s already playing rhythm guitar so we were really splitting the rhythm section. And then I took the kick. So now I play the kick, the tom, and the snare, and I do the tap at the same time.  

RK:  It was definitely an evolution.  Even the tap box itself started with just an old plank of wood with a mic.  Then we nailed apple boxes together. And now we’ve converted a kick drum into a platform.  So it just keeps evolving every couple of years. She either enters a new phase with her ability as a drummer.  And the kit evolves with new elements and new drums.

LB:  I just want to keep getting better.  

UCR:  Isn’t that cool though?  How long has rock n roll or popular music been around?  Seventy years? You start to feel like everything has been figured out or done.  And then this comes around. I don’t know if anyone else is doing anything like this.  

LB: I think it’s just me.  

RK:  It’s really exciting.  Also as a songwriter, because she doesn’t have a lot of cymbal use, and the beats and rhythms are simple and kind of guttural but still have a pulse, as a songwriter that’s what you want underneath your songs.  Because that’s what’s propelling it. Because a lot of times you’ll see bands and you’ll see drummers who are using different elements and cymbals and sometimes that’s competing with the vocals and other things.  But in this case it just kind of fits right.

LB:  And we’re creating rhythms for dancers because I’m a dancer.  So I want to create a rhythm that I want to dance to because I’m actually dancing to it.  So I can only go so fast or do it so slow because I’m actually dancing.

UCR:  Well and as you already know, with dance, it’s all timing, so while the transition to percussion might not be easy, it does make sense.

LB:  And I was keeping time with my feet and doing fills with my feet.  So it’s just trying to figure out what to do with my hands.

RK:  It’s inverting the kit.  Because she plays the kick drum with a mallet with her hand, where usually a drummer would play it with their foot. And her feet are doing what a drummer would usually do with their hands.  

When I first heard of how Lauren does percussion I have to admit I was extremely skeptical.  A tap dancing drummer? I don’t know, sounds kind of gimmicky. But I was wrong to be so cynical because it was awesome!  Not only is it a huge part of the visual aspect of the show, but the driving style of her rhythm removes any thought of it being a gimmick.  As you read, it was born out of necessity, but now it’s essential to their sound and live performance. Click here to get an idea of what tapping and drumming looks like.  Ok back to the interview!   

UCR: I want to preface this by saying that you definitely have your sound. There is definitely a Kolars sound.  But as was listening to the album I heard “Turn Out the Lights” and thought ‘Oh, I can hear elements of Joy Division or early New Order.’  

LB: I love that. Thank you!

UCR: But then I’d hear “Bullet on the Run” and I recall thinking, ‘I wish Johnny Cash was still alive because I could totally hear him covering this song.’ So it caused me to wonder, who are your musical influences?

RK: Amazing. Those are some of our biggest influences.  

LB: Totally! You nailed it, dude!

RK: We love 80’s New Wave whether it’s New Order or Echo and the Bunnymen, or The Cars.  But we also love Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. We love that early country, rockabilly blues style.  But we also love glam rock like T Rex and stuff like that.

LB: I always want drums to sound like Gary Glitter.  Fat, Dead, Big.

RK: So we kind of pull from every era.  That’s what we always wanted to do. And how do we do that without making it sound like a weird collage?  Like how do we do it to where we honor it and it gels. That’s what we’re hoping to do, but you kind of roll the dice a little bit.  

UCR:  That’s not easy to do but I think you’ve done a great job blending elements of different styles with your own sound.  

UCR: Do you remember the first concert you went to?

RK: Yes.  Definitely!  Mine was Rancid at the Palladium in Hollywood.  And it was mind-blowing! I was like 12, and my mom just dropped me off with my friends for my birthday present.  So I get dropped off, and of course, I was still growing and I wasn’t super tall and I just remember looking around and seeing all these mohawks and chains and leather jackets and these real authentic punk rockers.  I was thinking “I think I need to change my hairstyle”. Because I had that 90’s parted in the middle cut. So got into the show and I had never seen a mosh pit and I’m watching this spiral of people and looking to my friends saying “I just gotta do it.”  So ran in and I was like a sock in a washing machine. I was just thrust around all over but it was thrilling! I mean, I’m a young adult, and there are my idols at the time on stage rocking out.

UCR:  The floor at the Palladium is huge.  That must have been an enormous mosh pit.  

RK:  There were actually three separate mosh pits!

LB: I’m going to go a different direction.  My grandma took me to see Gregory Hines (tap dancing legend).  He was alone and did all these solos. And if we were tap dancers we were told to bring our shoes.  Then we were invited to go on stage and dance with him. My grandma was very much like “Get up there.  Get on up there.” I was so scared and so embarrassed, but I went up. He has since passed but he was brilliant.  So yeah, that’s what I remember. Polar opposite of Rob’s.

RK: But it’s sort of formed where we are now to a degree.  Like we’re somewhere in the middle of that.

UCR: What was your best live experience as a band?

LB: That’s so hard.  

RK:  We did this festival in Germany.  We didn’t know what to expect. It was wild, there was this line down the block.  It’s this festival put on by Rolling Stone. Spoon and some other cool bands were there.  They put us in this smallish club where you can fit a few hundred people.

LB:  We had never played there before! We had never even been to that part of Germany.  

RK:  Yeah, never played there, very little publicity there, but the crowd went wild.  And on the last song, we have this section where we try to get the crowd to clap along with and literally everybody in the crowd was clapping along to the point where the claps were louder than our playing.  So there was this feeling of everyone being united in this moment and experiencing it with the band to where they were almost as much of the band as we are.

LB:  I think I started crying a little.  It was just kind of mind-blowing.

RK:  Yeah I think I did afterward off stage.  You just felt the emotion in the room.

LB:  And I think we just felt like, if there were just twenty people in there we would have been excited.  But then you see a line to get in and you’re like “What? Is this a dream coming true?”

RK: And we’ve had some rough shows along the way.  Then you have a show like that it makes everything feel like “Ok, keep going. There’s more of these in front of you.”  

 

I sincerely believe the best is yet to come from this band.  As I mentioned, I fell in love with this band right when I heard their first song “One More Thrill” on their self-titled debut album.  However, there is nothing I love more than when I see what a band can do on stage.  It’s just the two of them up there.  They have a little help with some pre-programmed baselines and synth, but that’s it. Rob’s voice sounds great live. And he has all the charisma and stage presence necessary to be a frontman all on his own.  His signature guitar style meshed with Lauren’s one of a kind percussions, they’re a band you will see on the rise from here on out. I told them it wouldn’t be long before they’d be moving from 200 person Kilby Court to selling out The Complex which holds about 3,000.  Not only do I believe they’re that good, but they clearly have the work ethic to make it happen.  Click here for more information on Kolar’s music and tour dates.  

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.