UCR Interview-Kiana Ledé

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo By: Katia Temkin

Arizona-born, multi-cultural singer, songwriter, producer, and actress Kiana Ledé released her much-anticipated, soulful debut EP, Selfless, this past summer.  You may have seen her on MTV’s Scream or All About the Washingtons on Netflix.  Now you can see her supporting Jessie J. tonight (October 8) at The Depot in downtown Salt Lake City.  I had the enjoyable opportunity to chat with Kiana leading up to the show.  Here’s our conversation.  Enjoy! 

Utah Concert Review:  How’s the tour going so far?

Kiana Lidé:   Oh it’s amazing!  It’s so much fun! Everyone on the tour has been amazing.  And we’re traveling every day. Getting to see the world. It’s great!  

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UCR Interview- Jim Avett (Father of the Avett Brothers)

By: Kevin Rolfe

Photo By: Joel Plotkin

Jim Avett is performing at the Velour Music Gallery in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, September 19.  Jim’s last name might ring a bell. He’s the father of Seth and Scott Avett, better known as The Avett Brothers.  I had reached out to Jim’s management to request an interview and I received an email and phone call from Jim himself the following morning.  That isn’t common with artists, but as I soon learned, Jim operates on a very personal level.  We played a bit of phone tag, and I we finally connected on Mr. Avett’s return call. I answered with “Hello, this is Kevin.”.  He responded, “Well get over yourself”. His southern wit and North Carolina accent were thick and I immediately knew this was going to be a really enjoyable conversation.  And it sure was. Jim told me that he’s been told he’s the easiest person to interview ever because he does all the talking. And he’s right. But I had no desire to interrupt anything he was saying.  He answered my questions eventually, but in the process shared wonderful stories of life, music, and love. You’ll see that this interview starts with him talking. I pretty much thanked him for taking the time, and he was off and running.  I loved every minute of it! Hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jim Avett!

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UCR Interview- Will Turpin of Collective Soul

By Kevin Rolfe

Photo By: Joseph Guay

Collective Soul has joined up with 3 Doors Down on the “Rock & Roll Express Tour”, which makes its stop here in Utah on September 12, at the Days of ’47 Arena.  Which is on the Utah State Fairgrounds.  I had the opportunity to visit with Will Turpin about Collective Soul’s upcoming show here in Utah.  We also discussed his solo album Serengeti Drivers, U2, and Paul McCartney.  Enjoy!  

Utah Concert Review: Hi Will!  I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.  Collective Soul and 3 Doors Down seem like a great pairing of bands for a tour.  What are some things bands can expect from this show?

Will Turpin:  Nice to speak with you today.  People are going to hear the songs that they know.  Some of this songs have become big hits. So they’ve kind of become the soundtrack to people’s lives in a way.  You’re going to get to see two different bands. So you’re going to see the different styles between us. I can really only speak to Collective Soul.  We have this thing, even 24 years later where we throw a lot of energy out there. It’s a tangible back and forth thing where the crowd gives us energy as well.  People can expect some great rock songs, and hopefully some great rock performances.

UCR:  I think that’s something comes across on your live album. You’ve been around for almost 25 years and this live album is a new release.  Sometimes I’ll hear a live album and I’ll think, ‘maybe I won’t go see them live.’, but with your album, it made me more excited to see the show in person.  

WT:  If we didn’t think that was still there, I don’t know how often we’d want to play live.  There’s definitely still something there where you can feel it. There’s a little magic there.  We definitely have the energy.

UCR:  Do you still get that anxiety before you take the stage, or have you done it so much that you’re just excited to be out there, but the nervousness has gone?  

WT:  There are instances of performing live where I’ll get a little anxiety.  Like performing on live TV you get a little anxiety. But when you’re on stage where you have fans there that have paid to come see you, you know they want to see us play, there’s really no nerves necessarily.  It’s really more of a ‘let’s go get it, let’s have fun’.

UCR:  If memory serves, Collective Soul has been to Utah for three summers in a row now.  And from what I’ve heard all the shows have been well received. Is there something about Utah and your fans here that keep you coming back so often?  

WT:  We definitely love the crowds there in Utah.  It’s always been a strong market for us. I’ve got to say we’ve been lucky.  We don’t necessarily have a weak market, but Utah has always been a very special place for us.  I don’t know, it seems like the crowds there are always extra special. Like I said before, it’s a two-way street.  I feel like we’re bringing it too, but we’ve always had great shows in Utah. That’s definitely something that’s real with us and that we recognize.  

Photo By: Joseph Guay

UCR:  You recently released a solo album.  It looks like you recorded with about 15 different musicians, some of which have spent time in Collective Soul in the past.  What are some of the benefits of recording a solo album as opposed to an album with the band?

WT:  First off I sit down and I start these songs with just me.  The inspiration starts from a different spot than a Collective Soul album.  With Collective Soul, it’s a rock band and I’m playing bass. The benefit of doing a solo album, you get to create and find yourself, and find your creative side outside of the setting that Collective Soul is, and it’s not that Collective Soul has ever been stifling in any way.  But as a band, we think it’s good for us to explore our art and whatever we’re feeling outside of Collective Soul. It’s not like with Collective Soul we’ve kept ourselves in a box. We cross a number of genres. It re-energizes you to be able to go create and finish these songs outside of the Collective Soul umbrella.  And in my mind, you might be able to hear some relevance to Collective Soul in a couple songs, but I don’t think they’re Collective Soul songs. And it’s not like I want them to be.  Like I said, it’s just a good thing to be able to go create outside of Collective Soul. It just makes us stronger when we get back together. We’re like “Woah Dude, we still have some magic when we’re together.”.  You can feel it, man, when we create together I still have those hairs that stand up on my skin. It’s a beautiful thing.

Photo By: Joseph Guay

UCR:  We touched on this a little, but next year Collective Soul will be celebrating 25 years as a band.  You have the benefit of playing a setlist that is filled with songs that have charted and some that have even reached #1.  I’m sure that took a lot of work. I’m curious with a band like yours, that has achieved so much success, what part of your career do you enjoy the most?  Is it the excitement of when you’re in the middle of making all of that happen? Or is it now where you have more control over your career, your touring, and I’m guessing your money?  What is better, the peak or the climb?

WT:  They are very different.  With us during the climb, during the beginning up until 2001 when we were with Atlantic Records, we were so busy and so focused on what we were going to do next, just so focused on taking steps forward to get to where we are now, it was hard to enjoy what was happening.  I mean, we were enjoying the moment, but we wanted to be that band that had a real catalog. We wanted to be that band that had more than one hit. So we were always going forward, forward, forward. So yeah, now there are different benefits being successful 24 years later.  We get to pick our schedule a little more, and we have a lot of fun. Me and Dean (Roland, rhythm guitar) grew up together so there’s a genuine friendship and a genuine love there. We don’t take it for granted, and we’re really appreciative. We appreciate the fans. We thank the fans every night, and we really mean it.  So yeah, it’s great to be in this spot all these years later. I think I’d have to say I like this spot better.

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

WT:  I think the first concert I had ever gone to was U2 Joshua Tree tour.  My dad was a musician so he played some big festivals here and there, but my first real concert I went to was that tour.  

UCR:  Did you happen to go to the Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour?

WT:  No, Dean and Ed (Roland, lead vocalist) got to go.  I saw some video of it though. Those guys, they just can’t do any wrong.  It’s just so amazing man.

UCR: They really can’t.  I mean how after all these years can U2 still be thinking of all these new and innovative ways to do a concert?  It’s nuts!

WT:  How? Seriously, How? And it’s still as amazing as ever!  It’s original, but still themselves. And still just four guys on stage.  

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

WT:  It would have to have been in a talent show in like third grade.  I put Ace Frehley makeup on and I played drums to Steve Martin’s “King Tut”.  It was a comedy record I liked in third grade for some reason in third grade. I had KISS’ guitarist makeup on, and I was playing drums.

UCR:  That’s quite the combining of worlds there.  

WT:  Yeah! (laughing)  I combined them all together.  I don’t know why or what I was doing.

UCR:  Do you have a show you’ve attended that you thought “This is the best concert I’ve ever seen.”?

WT:   Paul McCartney is clearly my main inspiration and main idol.  I got to see him live 4 or 5 years ago and I can’t really mess with that.  Whenever he’s singing and playing that’s pretty much the best for me.

UCR:  I saw him here in Utah around the same time and it’s almost like a religious experience.

WT:  Oh, it was definitely a religious experience for me.  I didn’t realize how emotional I’d be. Just walking him on stage, I got very emotional.  And I’m a professional! This is what I do, and I got, woah, I was like a kid fan again. It was weird.  

UCR:  I love hearing that.  That’s exactly how I was.  For me when he walked out it was this weird feeling of “That’s really him!”.  And then he brings out his iconic Hofner Bass…

WT:  Oh Man, I mean, I was happy, but I was tearing up!  I was 43 years old and I was like “What the hell is going on here?”.

UCR:  Last question.  You’ve played so many shows that it might be impossible to pin down just one.  So I’ll ask, what was your favorite tour you’ve been on?

WT:  The best tour was the ‘95 tour with Van Halen.  It was Sammy Hagar’s last record with the band. They just treated us like little brothers.  I was 24 years old on that tour. The fact that Sammy Hagar, and Michael Anthony, and Eddie Van Halen are still friends of ours, it just means the world to me.  So that’s what I’ll always reference as my favorite tour. And as far as shows, I’d say both Woodstock’s ‘94 and ‘99.

UCR:  That must have been nuts.  Just an ocean of people out there.  

WT: It really was.  You could not see the end of humanity.  You just couldn’t see it. Especially the first one.  They estimated around 400,000 people out there.

UCR:  What a sight that must have been.  Thanks again for taking the time. It was a pleasure!  

WT:  Cheers man!  We’ll talk again later buddy!  

Collective Soul will be here in Utah with 3 Doors Down on September 12.  Tickets are still available.  Click here for tickets!  

Also, check out Will’s solo album Serengeti Drivers. Available wherever you get your music!  

UCR Interview: Interview 2 with Midge Ure of Ultravox

Interviewed By: Kevin Rolfe

Midge Ure of Ultravox and Visage fame returns to Salt Lake City Wednesday, September 5 at The Commonwealth Room with another great vocalist from the 80’s Paul Young.  I had the opportunity to speak with Midge this last week for the second time.  As you’ll see from the interview below, he was a pleasure to speak with.  

Utah Concert Review: Hi Midge, I’m looking at your tour schedule. It looks like you’re next stop on the tour is the Bay Area.  

Midge Ure:  Yeah we’re heading towards there. We have two nights off from Portland.  So we’re in a little town called Eureka, in California. Which we figured out was named because of the gold rush 150 years ago.  So we’re moving on from here on the way towards San Francisco. So we’re stopping off again tonight, which gives me a chance to let my very sad voice recover a bit before we do the show in San Francisco.  

UCR:  That’s a beautiful part of the country that most people don’t get to go through.  So I’m glad you’ve been able to experience that.

MU:  Oh, stunning!  I don’t know why I’ve never done that drive before.  We deviated off the I-5 which I think we’ve taken for most of our journey and went to the northern part of the 101, which of course meets with the Pacific Coast Highway.  It was just outstanding. So we drove through the Redwood Forest and the national state park. It was glorious. Sometimes touring has its benefits!

UCR: Definitely!  I think those Redwoods are something you have to see in person to really understand just how massive they are.  

MU:  Paul Young and I had a photo taken of us at the base of one of them with our arms outstretched, and we didn’t quite make it the width of the tree.  We posted it and someone said we looked like hobbits. I think that’s pretty close!

(We share a laugh)  I looked up the picture on Twitter, and he’s right, they look hobbit-esque next to this enormous redwood!

UCR: So how are things going with Paul?  I was excited to see that you guys paired up for a tour.  How did that come about, and how is it all going so far?

MU:  Well, we’ve known each other for a long time.  And we’ve worked together live a couple of times with the Nelson Mandela concert, and Live Aid, but we’ve never actually toured together.  So Paul up until last year hadn’t toured America for twenty five years. A bit like myself, prior to me coming back and touring here again.  We had just kind of lost all contact. Paul did the Retro Futura tour last year, a multi-act bill, and absolutely loved it. And when he was talking to me about it I said, ‘Well why don’t we team up and tour like how I do America?”.  I pick up some American musicians, I have had some great connections here. We go out and do this kind of like it was in the old days. There’s no crew, there’s no sound guys, there’s no lighting rigs. None of that stuff like we have everywhere else.  You go out and you do it on a grassroots level. And it’s been an absolute ball I have to say. Because Paul and I got on really well, and Paul’s guitar player who he’s brought over from the UK, I know him as well. And I’m working with the three American musicians we have.  It’s just been absolutely brilliant. It’s been fantastic.

UCR:  Utah Concert Review spoke with you about 18 months ago, and I recall you mentioning then that you were touring with a couple of American musicians.  Are these the same guys? Or do you have a totally new lineup?

MU:  One of them is the same musician.  The guy who was playing bass and keys for me, he’s doing bass duties.  It’s funny, he played perfectly good bass for me when I toured here 18 months ago.  But when I hear him play Paul’s stuff, which is all really tricky bass parts, I mean really tricky, I mean it’s Pino Palladino sliding fretless bass things, and he’s got it absolutely nailed!  He’s fantastic. So he’s really gone up in my estimation. I mean, he’s far too good for me. So he knew a couple of friends who also went to Berklee School of Music and they’re all just phenomenal.  If I can tell you, the drummer plays better guitar than I do. It’s frightening. They’re sickeningly talented!

UCR:  So in general terms.  I don’t want to give away any surprises, but what can your Utah fans expect from this tour?  Do you and Paul Young play separate sets? Or do you intertwine your songs?  And do we get to see you play together?

MU:  It’s two separate sets.  Depending on which way the coin falls, either Paul goes on first or I go on first.  And then we realize, of course, even when we arrived here to start rehearsing with the band, it wasn’t until we were in the middle of rehearsals that the idea came up, ‘Hold on a second.  We’re both doing independent sets. Surely people will be expecting us to come on together to do something. So, we do. At the end of the evening, we come on and we do a track. Neither of our particular songs, but a track that’s connected with us.  It’s great fun. It’s a great way to leave the evening.

UCR:  I’m very much looking forward to that.  So in thinking about this co-headlining tour, I wondered, had you ever done a co-headlining tour when you were with Ultravox that would you enjoyed, or was at least memorable?  

MU: Ultravox was such a complicated band.  We never coheadlined with anyone. We never did any festivals as such.  In the early days, the equipment was so archaic. It was so incredibly basic.  It would take us up to five hours to do a sound check. So we couldn’t open up for someone.  We couldn’t do festivals where it’s a very quick turnaround. We refused to use backing tapes like many of the bands did back them because it was so much easier to have sequences on bass or synthesizers all recorded.  But we refused to do it. So this is a whole new thing for me, doing a double package, or a multi-act bill. I mean, the last time Ultravox played about five years ago we did some shows with Simple Minds. And that was a great compatible bill.  It was a Simple Minds show, and we were the special guests. That just proved to be a huge, hot ticket.

UCR:  I love that you mentioned the word “Compatible”.  I feel like there are so many package shows, or many of these shows billed as “80’s” tours where the bands are not at all compatible.   

MU: I think sometimes when you get packages put together by promoters, they have a very different idea of what will appeal to people.  So they find acts that come from the era but not necessarily from the same genre. And it just falls on the ground. Nobody wants to see this mishmash of artists just because they happened to be around in the same decade. You end up staring at the sky for an hour until a band you do like comes on.  It doesn’t work. No one ever said, “I like an entire decade of music”. Things change radically over a ten year period. But when you do something like Ultravox and Simple Minds, or myself and Paul there’s a reason for it. It works. It’s compatible music.

UCR:  So as you mentioned, this is a kind of bare-bones tour.  No crew, no manager, etc. Are you also responsible for what venue you’re playing in a particular city?  If so, how do you decide?

MU:  It’s the one thing we don’t do. I can do many things, but I can’t book the venues.  I wouldn’t know how to go about it.

UCR:  It seems like it would be impossible for you to personally know the best venue to play in each city.  

MU:  Absolutely.  You have to be advised on that.  And sometimes the agent gets it absolutely right and targets it just to the right size venue. And sometimes they get it completely wrong where you find yourself playing the equivalent of an airplane hangar.  You know some huge vacuous place that you’re never going to fill. But you have to trust them, that they know their job. They don’t come and tell me how to play my songs, and I don’t tell them where to book the venues.  But I can say, ‘I want to play in this city, or that city’ and they will make that happen.

UCR:  I have to say that you will enjoy the venue here in Salt Lake City.  It’s called The Commonwealth Room. It’s practically brand new. Maybe six months old.  In fact, your show was one of the first announced when they opened their doors. The sound is fantastic, and I think the size will be perfect for your show.  Everyone there is great. I really think you’re gonna like it.

MU:  Oh great!  I’m looking forward to it.  

UCR:  I wanted to talk to you about your album Orchestrated.  I have to tell you that I love the album. I think the orchestrations and arrangements in your songs are excellent.  I’ve seen other artists who have attempted to orchestrate their music and the idea is great, but if it’s not done right it just doesn’t work.  Your album works. Was it your idea? Or were you approached with the idea?

MU:  Thank you!  I think it’s one of those things when you do perform stuff that I’ve written or stuff that I’ve done with Ultravox with an orchestra it really suits it.  The melodies and the grandiose elements, the cinematic elements that were always in Ultravox and my music are just enhanced when you do it with an orchestra.  And it can be a very powerful thing when it’s done properly. I was extremely lucky that when this idea came to fruition, which mainly came from other people who had seen clips of me performing with the orchestra scene saying “For God’s sake, you’ve got to do something with this.”.  And it was one of those ideas in the back of my mind that I’ve toyed with for years but never really thought anything of it. I never really wanted to pursue it. And then when I started taking it seriously and looking at who my sidekick would be because I do not read or write notation.  I don’t write music. So I could not orchestrate if you put a gun to my head. I wouldn’t know where to start. So I started looking for someone who would be sympathetic to the music. And I went through a few who were probably very good orchestrators but just did everything that I didn’t want.  They just threw some strings on and did the same kind of arrangement, and had brass playing instead of synthesizers, and there just wasn’t any soul in it. So by chance, I met a guy called Ty Unwin who writes film music for television series and things, who happens to be a massive Ultravox fan. Who knew everything I had ever done.  He was as passionate about the project as I was. I met him at Howard Jones’ house a few Christmases ago at a party. And I just got a feeling. I didn’t know he was an Ultravox fan at the time. I just knew he did film music. So I got in touch with him a couple months later and said ‘If we were to try to do something together, how do you think it would work?’. And he said “Look, I’ll choose one of your songs, and I’ll do an arrangement for you.  if you don’t like it great, and we’ll walk our separate ways.” He chose I think it was “The Voice” he did initially. And when I heard what he had done with it I just knew he had got it absolutely right. He put this heart and soul and passion into it. So we spent the next year, to eighteen months doing the arrangements and choosing the songs. Because all of them could make the transition to that type of arrangement. So between us, we chose all the songs.  He was suggesting things I had forgotten. He knew more of my stuff than I did! It was just a marriage made in heaven really. I was so happy with the final outcome because my big worry, which you will no doubt agree, was that I was going to ruin the memory of the original recordings for people. I wanted to enhance the music. I didn’t want to detract from it. I didn’t want people going “Oh, God that’s dreadful. I much prefer the original version.” I wanted to take the songs and take them slightly somewhere else.  Make them bigger, or more intimate, or sadder, or happier or whatever it was. Just do something different. And that’s what took the time.

UCR:  I think because you had that concern, you were able to enhance those songs in the right way.  I suppose the positive of having a great new album like this is how great the response has been.  But also perhaps the burden is there is an immediate clamor for a follow-up.  So I have to ask, is there talk of an Orchestrated 2?

MU:  I’ve got no idea to tell you the truth.  It’s still all very new to me. It’s an odd thing having an album of orchestrated music because you don’t really have an awful lot of outlets to play it.  Radio won’t play it because the arrangements are too long. You don’t just go in with a razor blade and start chopping up the arrangement trying to get them on the radio.  It just doesn’t work. It’s a piece of music from start to finish. So you’re kind of limited in how you promote it to let people know it’s out there. So I’m still in the process of thinking this is still just a fresh idea.  So we haven’t started working on anything else yet. As I’ve said, there’s a wealth of material. Besides with all the great response we got, there’s a lot of people saying “Why didn’t you do “Visions in Blue”? Why didn’t you do “One Small Day”?”  And they just kept throwing songs at me. I was like ‘You’re right’ but couldn’t keep doing it. You have to get something done and put it out and a bit of a breather before you do part 2. So it’s a possibility. But so is going in and doing a completely electronic album.  I’ve got no idea where I’m going. I never have had. I go in and I follow whatever feels right to me at that moment in time. So I cannot commit to doing a part 2 straight away but it was received so well that it would be a bit of a sin to not follow it up and do something else.  

UCR:  Final question.  Something that I’ve been very interested in with artists that have been around for a while.  And you’ve been a recording artist for 40 plus years now. So you’ve seen peaks and valleys in your career, but now things are stable.  You can book a tour and people will always show up. So what do you prefer, the peak, or the climb? Did you like the challenge of trying to become a successful artist, or do you prefer now, to where you’ve had the mainstream success, but now you have the stability of what your career produced?  

MU:  You’ve got to, on a purely human level, you’ve got to look back on the moment where things started to happen for you.  Everything changes. Except you. Hopefully. Everything around you changes. People attitudes towards you change. All of a sudden there’s a little bit of respect.  All of a sudden whenever you open your mouth, people want to hear what you have to say. And that can be a heady mix for any young person. I was in a sticky, smelly, carpeted rehearsal room when all of a sudden my manager walks in with a bottle of champagne saying you’ve got two top 40 singles and two top 40 albums all on the same day.  And that’s a wonderful feeling to think ‘Wow, I’ve I’ve done something kind of worthy’. But it’s a bit like a party. It’s over and done with very very quickly. And you’ve got to think ‘Ok, that was great. That peak was just wonderful. And that’s elevated me to allow me to do other things that could be more interesting. That could have longevity.’  Because as you say there are dips and peaks, but that success would give me a road that I can follow with that behind me. That little bit of success behind me has given me this ability to go forward and explore and do the things that I want to do. My first taste of commercial success was with a record that I didn’t write and I wasn’t allowed to play on.  And I vowed there and then that I would never, ever, ever allow myself to be put in that situation again. And I’ve never done it. I’ve followed my own weird, strange, wonderful, exciting path. And the fact, as you say, I have 40 plus years as a professional musician in this industry, I am just grateful that I wake up and I’m still allowed to do it. And that you only get by being stoic or being fastidious, or being stupid.  By sticking to your guns and doing what you think is interesting. As opposed to like, DJs coming in and remixing your music because that happens to be the current fad.

UCR:  Thank you so much Midge.  I could talk to you all day.  But I want you to rest that voice.  Can’t wait for September 5!

MU:  Thank you very much!  It was great talking to you again.  See you then!

Midge was so generous with his time!  We spoke about many other things, including the possibility of doing a concert with a live orchestra.  He hinted that something is in the works, but was not at liberty to say what just yet.  So keep your eyes peeled for that.  

Midge’s latest album Orchestrated is available everywhere! 

Mide Ure will be performing with Paul Young at The Commonwealth Room on Wednesday, September 5th.  To purchase tickets click here.  See you there!  

 

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!