Fans of Jimmy Century Also Featuring:
Josh Damigo Ember Swift Vintervila My Cousin, The Emperor
Editors Janet McCulloch Marianna Roetto
Contributors Marie Bergström Hilde Marie Grensbråten Jeff Haden Bronwen Stewart Sarah Wilson
The New Age of Independent Music
Featured Photographers Amalie Antonsen Daniel Chin Paolo Diavolo (COVER) Patrick J. Eves Hilde Marie Grensbråten Lex Laracuente Lü Qiang Qiang ! Johanna Elvira Bakke Haarstad
Lex Laracuente Copyright 2011.Rising Magazine, LLC. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission of the publisher. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the publisher or Rising Magazine, LLC. Rising Magazine, LLC welcomes submissions, but accepts no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Material is accepted for Rising Magazine, LLC on the understanding that it does not infringe on any copyright or libel laws. Copyrights to be declared 2 on submission.
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F J ans of
Fans of Jimmy Century are: Alicia Perrone- vocals Victor James-guitar, keyboards Lion Bellamy Chiu- drums
Rising: Okay, obvious question first... Where did you get the name for your band? Whose idea was it? Alicia: The name was my idea, but when we were coming up with it I told Victor that the combination of words "Jimmy Century" was randomly generated with one of those autogenerators. I find that sometimes an idea is better received if I'm not the one lobbying for it :). So, the REAL story is that the name Jimmy Century rolled off the tongue well, and we hadn't ever heard of another band name with the "Fans of" in the beginning. We seem to have an affinity for boy names as well, our last project was called Simon Stinger. Throw a female singer into the mix & it's obvious we have a subconscious need to confuse everyone. Add to that the fact that we write all of our songs about girls, i.e. "Hot Sahara," "Blonde Ambition," "Lola Like This," "Shy Violet," and "Hush Madame X," and you've got an androgynous hot mess on your hands! Facebook wouldn't let us have our own official page for about a year, thinking that we were a fan page trying to start a page for a band and we've been commonly mistaken for Fans of Jesus Christ and my personal favorite, Friends of the Jewish Community. Rising: When did you first form the band? Did the 3 of you start together? Were you friends before you formed the band?
Photos this page Lex Laracuente
Alicia: Vic and I started FOJC as a duo in late 2006 & went for about a year like that, but there came a point where we needed to make a fast booking video and had the idea for a stand-up electronic drummer. Vic noticed the door guy at Guitar Center who used to sit there twirling his sticks plus he had the coolest afro ever! Lion was coincidentally already a fan of our former project so he was into it. He quickly took over a lot of the business for the band & became an invaluable 3rd partner. He's a hustler, just like we are, in the best sense of the word. Rising: You've played to 20,000 “Hotheads” (the name for your fans)... why do you still play in tiny venues? (awesome for those of us lucky enough to see you in one!) Where did the name Hotheads come from? Where did you play your very first gig? Alicia: When choosing a gig, we don't always think in terms of how many people will be there, it's sort of a gut feeling and has much to do with the promoter involved. There are some people in our community that we would do almost anything for. Whether it's a favor or a benefit or something smaller, there's a reason it rolled our way and we're open to that. The name Hotheads came from the song that keeps on giving "Hot Sahara." That song keeps rearing her head in Film/TV placements, etc. although it was written and released in 2007. So it's a nod to that song plus anyone with an Italian temper can relate :). It's also a tribute to our friends/fans who are so vocal in their support for us. They've been called to social action a few times in the last few years and they always come through - they raised $500 for Haiti last year by downloading one of our songs and sharing it. They also won a huge Zippo lighter contest logging in over 40,000 votes over fans of 6 other major label bands. So, that kind of hustle and verve deserves title... Hotheads! We played our first gig I think in Walnut Creek at a place that used to be called Betty's with many technical difficulties and wardrobe malfunctions. Our 2nd gig was an NYE house party at our Mojo Man's house. Rising: Do you have another tour planned for 2011? Alicia: We probably won't make our way to Canada again this year, but we have some ideas in the works! Right now we're hopped up on caffeine in our songwriting and recording cave and focused on that for at least the next 2 months with online parties and club parties in the bay area, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas planned for
Grammy Security Guard
July/August. And we were just added to the lineup to support Robyn at Great America for Pride Night. Thatʼs worth a trip out of the songwriting cave for sure. Rising: You have songs licensed to TV shows... The L Word, Ugly Betty, The Hills, Samantha Who, Community, The Division, The Sausage Factory, to name a few. How did you get into this? Did you submit songs or were you contacted by the shows? Alicia: We have spent 4 years now building personal relationships with really wonderful music supervisors and licensees, so now we're at the point where many times they call us to see what we have available and as soon as we finish new music we send it to them or we might write a
specific song for them. I remember 3 years ago thinking that was such a tough nut to crack, but it really is about putting the time in and developing strong trustworthy friendships in that industry. In the beginning though, yes, we submitted songs and if a busy supervisor took the time to contact us back, we knew they really "got" what we were doing. We seem to be a go-to band when it comes to needing music for fashion, club scenes, and hot make-out scenes :).
Rising:Considering how visual your show is, it seems a contradiction. Is performance or seeing/hearing your songs on TV more fun? Alicia: They're so different. We live for live performance, but currently we make more of our living with our film/ TV placements, so every time we're able to catch a show with our song, we break open some champagne and celebrate, luckily we've been a lot more tipsy lately :).
performance inside of performance something that you would like to do more of? Can we expect to see more of you performing
We seem to be a go-to band when it comes to needing music for fashion, club scenes, and hot make-out scenes :).
Rising: You actually performed ON The L Word. Is this type of
on TV? Alicia: I would love to continue this amazing rumor of an actual performance on The L Word, but actually it was our song "Hot Sahara" that was played during a hot threesome scene - they really created the dialogue in that scene to showcase the lyrics of the song as well, emphasizing the word drama about 10 times. So it was exciting to know that they made such an effort to give the song a starring role in that scene :). Rising: Can you tell us about your upcoming songs that we will be able to see/hear on TV? Alicia: We have 2 songs (Hot Sahara, Lola Like This) coming out in the upcoming Columbia Pictures summer release with Cameron Diaz & Justin Timberlake called "Bad Teacher." I believe it's in the Director's cut so it'll be released on the DVD, and we actually have a new song called "Mr. Las Vegas" that should be making an appearance soon. I think Hot Sahara will have finally met her match in terms of hogging the most
placements. The new album coming up has gone completely boy crazy skewing more toward male characters and counterparts to the female characters in the past couple of releases. Rising: How did you get involved with Charity Fashion Show? It looked like a great event. Alicia: We were invited to do the opening performance for the Charity Fashion Show last year in 2010 when it was held at Stanford. It was a wild
Don始t worry about making a buck on a download. Go after TV & film placements, make your money that way, but start building those relationships now, they need time to simmer. challenge to perform on that slick catwalk. I just regretted not bringing 6 dancers with us to line the entire catwalk and really take it up a couple notches. We were unprepared for how much of the catwalk we would actually be able to use so there were some missed opportunities there for pandemonium. Rising: You might be the hardest working band in the industry right now! Has the path of your band gone the way you planned or did you not foresee any of this? Alicia: I think the path changes daily and it always ends up better than the plans we originally lay out. Once we let go of steadfast fine details of how things need to happen, it opened up the opportunity for things to happen in a much bigger,
broader way. Because you can never think as big as the universe can think for you. In 2011 I did think we'd already be out touring the new music and traveling more, but with this new CD we want to take our time and get everything out we need to. If we wrap the writing up too soon, we might miss out on a song that's still waiting to manifest. We plan to release a ridiculous amount of songs this time around and release them in a very different and special way that particularly gives back to our
fans. Rising: What advice do you have for new bands that are trying to get heard? Alicia: At this point, Iʼd say go back to basics and write and self-record as many songs as possible. Then release your songs online and gauge reaction. Give lots of your songs away free – let people enjoy them, get comfortable with them, to the point that they “have” to see you perform that song live. Donʼt worry about making a buck on a download. Go after TV & film placements, make your money that way, but start building those relationships now, they need time to simmer. With a bit of googling you can find anyone. Donʼt be worried that youʼre not playing out enough. Spend your time in your song-cave so youʼre ready with exciting songs when that big ticket gig comes along. Most of the battle is writing those songs that hit people where they live. The more confident you are with your songs, the more naturally at ease youʼll be on stage. The best way to get heard is to
create tracks that people love so much, that they pass them around and share them with their friends. Tracks like that always end up being heard by the right people – the people you eventually want on your team. Iʼm not a fan of the carriage before the horse mentality, Iʼve done enough of that. Rising: I first met you in Vancouver in July 2010. Your back up singers were wearing these scary helmet/masks! Who designs your stage show? Do you all participate in the overall show design? Alicia: We design our own concept for the stage show though there have
been so many times when I would have loved to offload that to a real expert, but a real expert would fire me because I wouldnʼt leave them alone to do their job. I personally prefer more of the avant-garde, but I can tend to mix up too many conflicting elements at once, especially in costuming and props. So Iʼve pulled back a lot on props, because they can
get messy. Something Iʼd never pull back on though is the unique artistry that our favorite artist Omie Morineau brings to the table. He designed the helmets to be beatnik bobble-heads & Iʼm looking forward to him designing one-of-a-kind painted clothing for us and our dancers. Vic and Allen are sensational with lighting design and coming up with rare concepts for
bands like the stand-up drum kit, so they deal with the production end. And theyʼre both so passionate about it. We have frequent “light nights” where they design new light scenes at our home in Dillon Beach. Iʼm sure our neighbors go crazy trying to sleep with lasers and strobes flashing through their windows and over the water. Itʼs like the Aurora Borealis of the North Bay. Rising: Do you consider yourselves more of “performance art”? Your look is very retro and yet futuristic ...were you into disco back then? Were you even born back then? Alicia: I really dig disco! I would say that many people think of us as performance art because of our incorporation of dance and theatrics. I tend not to because it all just looks normal to me and when I think of a “band” I think of all of those elements rolled into one. And when I think of performance art – I
Iʼm sure our neighbors go crazy trying to sleep with lasers and strobes flashing through their windows and over the water. Itʼs like the Aurora Borealis of the North Bay always imagine something much more still. But to that end, I would love to incorporate more quiet, more vulnerable moments. Rising: Lion has a production company? ... Can you tell us about that? Alicia: Lion produces various special events, from live music concerts to dance parties in beautiful San Francisco. Being as gregarious as he is, heʼs naturally drawn to San Francisco's nightlife as an organizer and promoter, in addition to his role as performer. Rising: What would FOJC like to do that you havenʼt done yet? Alicia: I donʼt know about the boys but Iʼd like to perform at John Cusackʼs next birthday party. Or if Brazil has a birthday party, that would be nice. Rising: Victor is a descendant of Jesse James. Thatʼs pretty bad-ass... is this for real? Alicia...is he a bad-ass? Alicia: Yes, heʼs a distant cousin. Victor is a riproaring gunslinger. But heʼs a Gemini so heʼs also a pretty pink pussycat, like his other distant relative, Jane Russell.
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Josh Damigo 16
Photography by Daniel Chin
huge Bengals and John Denver fan, so I knew a lot of their music, but overall I was stuck listening to random music sporadically. My life was more about sports.
Rising: Youʼve got a long list of amazing influences for your music, including the Beatles and the Beach Boys. None of them seem “churchy”. How do you reconcile this with starting out as a “Church Singer”? Josh: Hereʼs whatʼs funny, I think both the Beatles and Beach Boys are extremely “churchy” compared to artists now-a-days. When I was growing up, I wasnʼt allowed to listen to anything that was defined by my parents as “inappropriate”. So, when I was young, the only time I got to listen to “good” music was when I spent the summers in Maine with my birth father, and it was mostly Jim Croce, Journey, and James Taylor. All of the stuff that I usually was allowed to listen to was soft music, or marching music. My adopted father was a
...the amount of failure Iʼve experienced in calling into radio contests set me up to be a hard worker… When I started spending hours in front of the radio, it was mostly to listen to an oldies station in the Bay Area. (KFRC), because that was the only station I was allowed to listen to. I used to regularly call in, but I never won anything, maybe thatʼs why Iʼm so determined to make something out of
Leave the auto-tune for someone who needs it. Iʼm fine with missing a note here and there. Iʼm human
music… the amount of failure Iʼve experienced in calling into radio contests set me up to be a hard worker… I also used to listen to a ton of radio shows. The Shadow, The Green Hornet, and Gunsmoke were my absolute favorites. I guess that this influenced me ʻcause I used to LOVE hearing stories. As I grew up, I started listening to Christian Music like DC Ta l k , N e w s b o y s , T h e Supertones, Audio Adrenaline, Slick Shoes, MXPX and Relient K. But my church was pretty much against that type of music. They called “Christian Rock” an “oxymoron” because those two things donʼt work together… (they still are… VERY conservative…). They probably wonʼt even let me play at the church anymore, because I play in bars… sigh… But the truth is, I love those people, and they have taught me a lot about how to “Feel” and “Move” a crowd. I hear this from a lot of musicians who started in churches. Thereʼs a special
connection with religion and music. Hymnals still hold some of the best music the world has ever heard! I donʼt think any song can hold a candle to ”Amazing Grace” or “Jesus Loves Me”. Nobody, goes and sings “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga when they are trying to ward off things that go “Bump” in the night… (Maybe I just outed myself…. but yeah, Iʼll pull
the sheets over my head when I get scared and sing church music at the top of my lungs…). Rising: You started out very young. What was the inner drive that got you to teach yourself guitar even after quitting the hated childhood lessons? Josh: Even though I quit the piano lessons, I knew I could sing. I
singles. Thereʼs something about the story in that song that people seem to gravitate towards. I recorded it with San Diego singer/songwriter/producer Aaron Bowen. He and I talked about making the album sound as similar to a house show as possible, and the idea of Raw came out. My original goal was to release a first acoustic album called Raw and then another album called, Polished, and re-record all of the songs with a full
The best part of going on the road is that feeling that, “Wow Iʼm actually doing it! Iʼm actually living my dream!!!” enjoyed performing in drama and stuff like that, so there was something about being on a stage that was great for me. I guess I enjoyed it, and just kept going. I was always incredibly active, and that helped out. Iʼd wake up, go to work, go to school (which included student council and playing tuba in the band), go to soccer/ basketball/baseball practice (depending on the season…), then go back to work, and home for homework. I guess that type of work ethic influenced me to keep being active and try new things like guitar. I always thought that my birth father was a wicked good guitar player too, cause I knew he had one when I was a kid. Thatʼs actually a big influence for the guitar I picked out, as well. So maybe it was trying to draw a connection with a blood-line that I felt I belonged to. Regardless, I shy away from being called a “Guitarist” ʻcause Iʼm terrible… Well… maybe Iʼm being hard on myself… Iʼm definitely no Monte Pittman… but my strongest tool in music is my voice. The guitar is just better to look at than my gut…
from those songs is exhausting and very addictive! Josh: Raw was a collection of songs that I wrote between the ages of 18 and 22. It basically encompasses my life in undergrad, and my imagination and love of storytelling. The most popular song on the disc was “Pocket Change”, and it still gets more downloads than any of my newer
band and studio work… I later realized that people usually donʼt like hearing songs in new ways…. When you show them a song, and they dig it, it becomes a part of them, and they resist change. They call you a “sellout” if you try to do anything outside of their comfort zone. I saw that happened to
Rising: Can you talk about your album Raw, how did those songs come about? The energy coming
Mr. A-Z. The dude is one of the most phenomenal acoustic artists Iʼve ever seen. And I think most of his true fans dig him with just a guitar. When Mr. A-Z came out, I thought it sounded great, but people that know him much better than me said itʼs his worst record cause he wasnʼt himself in it… I donʼt agree with all that, but I canʼt fix the way that people think. I just like writing new songs, and finding the ones that hit people the hardest. The last song on my album Raw was
fine with missing a note here and there. Iʼm human.
recorded with Jeremy Rubolino, a producer from LA. He singlehandedly took my career from an acoustic singer/songwriter to a radio friendly threat. He helped me see what the next level was, and that taste of it stuck out. “Shooting for the Sun” is my fourth most popular track on the record behind “Pocket Change”, “Saves the Day” and “Somethingʼs Telling Me” which I sang with my friend Shawn Mayer, who I met on the TV show, Nashville Star. It has received the most radio play of any of my songs, but I think that my true sound will always be a sort of “rawʼ sound. Leave the autotune for someone who needs it. Iʼm
the award, I went backstage and called my mom, and when I returned to the backstage, the guard wouldnʼt let me in. I said, “Sir, I have the award for best acoustic right here in my hand!!!” He said, “Sorry buddy… if you donʼt have a ticket, you canʼt get in.” Talk about embarrassing! And talk about an idiot… but still, I learned right then and there that winning awards means dick. The 2010 SDMA means a lot to me, because my fans/friends/family voted me that trophy. It gave me validation that people actually believe in me, almost like a Peopleʼs Choice Award. The trophy that means the most, however is the award for Raw. It won
Rising: You won the 2010 San Diego Music Award for Best Acoustic as well as several other San Diego based music awards over the last few years. Can you tell us how much those awards mean to you? Is it just nice to be recognized or does it actually help with motivation? Josh: Awards are cool and being recognized makes you feel good. But I still remember how, after winning
Best Local Recording in 2009. Aaron Bowen and I asked ourselves at every recording session if this recording was good enough to win an SDMA. When we won, we were floored, because it was up against some pretty huge bands. I guess thereʼs something cool about hearing a dude au-natural, un-auto-tuned and with only a guitar in hand that “strums” a chord with the music community in San Diego, cause this award was voted on by a panel of 15 judges. That gave me validation that I was actually respected as a musician by a panel of “Whoʼs Who” in San Diego. Some people told me that I should have given more credit to Aaron Bowen, and that he deserves that award, but he and I both know that recording that record wasnʼt for the award, and anything good that ever comes from the album is a gift, and heʼll always be one of the first guys I toss my ideas off of. Jeremy always tells me I owe him the trophy because “Shooting For the Sun” was the best song recorded on the album… But I honestly think my favorite music comes from a guy sitting with a guitar in a good room. I donʼt need anything else with my tunes, and I hope that comes across in Raw. Itʼs a straight-up acoustic album, with good songs, that makes you feel like weʼve been friends for a while, and Iʼm always just a song away from chilling with ya. In the end, the truth is that you have to just take awards as they come. You donʼt do music to win awards… you do it ʻcause it completes you. If you do it for any other reason, youʼre missing something, and your life will never be fulfilling. Iʼve been telling people lately that the only reason I do music is for the 3 minutes inbetween the start and finish of the song that I find myself completely lost in my story and song. Rising: You were recently very well received for a performance at the
Troubadour in Los Angeles. Tell us why you wanted to play that venue? Josh: Los Angeles has some of the coolest venues in the world, but this one is much more epic. The first time that I was inside watching my friends in the Green River Ordinance, I knew that I wanted to play here. A LOT. Like every night of the week. Nothing would make me happier than to play regular gigs there, and skip the other clubs in LA. But rationally it doesnʼt work. That place has a history. Elton John, James Taylor, and Tom Waits all played shows there early in their career, and I was talking with multiple Grammy winning mastering engineer, Gavin Lurssen, yesterday, and we both agreed itʼs the best sounding room in LA. (And even if my opinion means shit… I think his means something…) Unfortunately, LA is all about the draw, and thereʼs something thatʼs been lost in these historic clubs, and even throughout the music scene. Most of the venues now hire outside promoters to handle the booking. Therefore, unknown bands, and people just goofing off, (or even terrible at music) can play venues like the Viper Room, the Roxy, etc… without working their way up. Itʼs all about $$$ and guarantee on people showing up. A company offered me a gig at the Roxy with a spam e-mail and a lineup that included 2 rappers and a metal band closing the night… right… cause I fit on that bill… Take me to the legit artists. The shows that go together and flow. The gigs that people talked about for months afterward, and not all the posers who are nothing more than pierced and funky-smelling, wannabe actors… On top of that, the venues that everyone raves about have just become cool hangouts. I went and saw my buddy, Tyler Hilton, at The Hotel Café, and was disgusted to see how people treat the performers there. The sound is not terrible, but itʼs not “all that”, and the fans come to see one artist, then talk over every one who is performing that night, or just get up and leave when their artist finishes. Thatʼs a STUPID way to watch and appreciate music. A few weeks ago, I went and saw another artist at El Ray, and was so annoyed at the fact that people were paying 25 bucks to get in, and then spending half of the show “hushing” the other people around them. Itʼs like James Brown said, “They donʼt want music… they just wanna hear boom, boom, boom…” (LAME…) You should go check out a Swell Season show sometime. Glen
everyone knows that I actually care how theyʼre doing and whatʼs going on with their lives, because that usually inspires me more than anything else. Knowing how a person ticks will always make me appreciate and respect them more, and in the end, you have a lifelong friend, rather than just a stepping stool.
Hansard will cuss at the crowd if they donʼt quiet down and listen. People just donʼt appreciate music anymore… (Thanks Clear Channel and Napster!) The crowd at the Troubadour the night that I played was amazing, along with the staff. I donʼt think I met a rude or unkind person that night, and I wish all my shows were that great, but itʼs going to be an uphill battle to get to that level. I usually play small coffee shops and fight the grinders and pre-teens playing on their ipads… (Angry Birds is BADASS!!!)
meant to be a big star, and how it was DEFINITELY going to happen because of how talented she was, and the people she knew… gag me. Actually, scratch that… gag me twice... That type
Rising: Obviously San Diego loves you! How has L.A. been treating you overall? Josh: I hate LA. It honestly feels like a bunch of opportunists waiting to grab you and rub some of your success on them, then itʼs off to the next schmuck whoʼs better looking or has more money than you. Now, I will say that I have met some friends that are not like that in LA and been very blessed to know them, but overall, people are more interested in who you know or how big your wallet is, than if youʼre a good person, or talented songwriter. You have to be VERY careful who you work with, because there are a lot of fakers. I wrote a song called, “LA is Not My Home” on one of my firsts nights here after my ex-girlfriend spent most of the night talking about how she was
of mindset is wicked unattractive. The truth is that you do the best you can and let things fall the way they do. The most talented people donʼt always make it. You just need to enjoy the ride, and make good friends along the way. Now donʼt get me wrong, I also play the game in LA. Iʼm not High and Mighty, but Iʼve seen enough to know that if someone is talking about how great they are, and who they work with, theyʼve probably already peaked, and you need to move on. I will prefer to work with a talented nobody with a positive attitude, than a suit any day. (Like that Entourage reference??? I Want Ari Gold as my manager) Iʼm smart. I position myself well. I take chances, and talk to people who can help me move up in the world of music, but along the way, I make sure that
If you want to do music, you need to be your own record label. You need to be ready to do everything ...
Rising: You are embarking on a southwest tour this summer. What do you like most about being on the road? And what, if any, is the downside? Josh: The best part of going on the road is that feeling that, “Wow Iʼm actually doing it! Iʼm actually living my dream!!!” The stories that come off of tours are AMAZING. Itʼs an adventure! Itʼs a rush! You find new music that no one has heard, play new venues with new pretty girls I mean, uh, people, You pick up accents, you LIVE. The downside is that people in other cities donʼt know or trust you. You end up playing cruddy venues to a room that only has the sound guy paying attention if youʼre lucky enough to get that! Promoters who stiff ya, friends that find better shows to go to and blow you off, so you end up sleeping in your car or at a bus stop. Lots of broken promises happen on the road. Girlfriends go and hook up with other guys back home, people back home forget about ya. But probably the worst is that even if you have a fantastic resume with great professional references, you end up working a parttime job at Starbucks, and get a dirty looks from your manager for taking so much time off of your job. (Part Time means part of the time. bro, donʼt hate) But itʼs all a part of growing up, growing as an artist, and doing what you love. You gotta take the good and the bad, or youʼll quit before you get to kiss a girl youʼve never met. Rising: You have had remarkable success promoting yourself. What advice do you have for up and coming indie musicians? Which means have been most valuable in your selfpromotion?
Josh: If you want to do music, you need to be your own record label. You need to be ready to do everything that every one of those employees in the Capitol and Sony Record building get paid 40k a year to do, and you need to do it expecting to not make a dime. There are no more overnight sensations, who enjoy long careers in music anymore. The days of Elvis are over. You better look like Justin Bieber, and have a team of people working for you if you think itʼs gonna be simple.... And I guarantee that kid works his ass off. Even Lady Gaga paid her dues. Fact: You are not as entertaining as either of them when you first start performing on stages. You will have to start with nothing, just like everyone else. Overnight sensations end their c a r e e r s o v e r n i g h t , a n d fi l e f o r bankruptcy just like all the other unemployed, ex-millionaires do. Take your time. Hone your craft. Itʼs a marathon, and you better build up your endurance. :-P
Rising: Are you working on your next album right now, and what can you tell us about it? Josh: Iʼm working on funding right now. Starting in June, Iʼll be starting a Kickstarter project in which Iʼll be taking
donations from anyone who digs my sound and wants to help me record a full length album. I definitely have the songs ready, because Iʼve been writing pretty much every day, and have a new song or two at the end of each week. My guess is that I will come out sounding like a west coast, Gavin DeGraw mixed with Marc Broussard and Adele. (Delicious… huh???) My fans are in for a much heavier and rocking album with much more mature lyrics and melodies. Iʼve grown a lot since the first record, but Iʼll never leave my heartfelt and “in-yo-face style.” Rising: You are a very funny and articulate writer for your blog. Where did this come from and does it help your songwriting? Josh: Comedy comes from pain. I was told by a psychology professor in college that laughter is simply an outlet for pain. Why is it that we laugh the hardest at watching a guy get his balls kicked? Why does jackass do so well in the box office with no plot? We laugh at pain. Being broke, having your brother have issues caused by being a veteran, having your father leave when youʼre a young kid, being the ugly kid in school, and never having a girlfriend till youʼre 18 cause youʼre too nervous,
will do that to ya. Iʼll be the first to do something to make you smile, but I wonʼt always be the first to admit that Iʼm sad. Many people who know me know that I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I like being known as the life of the party, rather than the Debbie Downer. I also have a theory about schooling. When youʼre a kid, if youʼre attractive or well-liked, you are given things automatically. Your teachers grade your papers easier, only call on you for the easy questions that will make you look g o o d . Yo u ʼ r e s a v e d f r o m embarrassment, picked first for sports teams at recess, and in the end, you become entitled. Those types of people usually fail at music ʻcause they have nothing to sing about. The people who experience pain, embarrassment, and arenʼt necessarily the most attractive or favorite have to fight to survive. Iʼm going to guess this is why Iʼm such a hard working/funny guy. Iʼve had to find a way to get people to pay attention. Now I canʼt help that Iʼm drop-dead gorgeous and have a killer six pack all of a sudden. Thatʼs just genetics. (Obviously, Iʼm being funny. I also hate LA ʻcause theyʼre all perfect-looking, s k i n n y, v e g a n s t h a t d o n ʼ t e a t . Compared to them, Iʼm a fatty behemoth of a man). If you find popularity in the world, you just go with it, and play the cards youʼre dealt. But people will turn on you at the first chance they get, so just keep studying and rely on your brain more than your looks/personality. (I also have a Bachelorʼs Degree in Communication and a Masterʼs Degree in O r g a n i z a t i o n a l Management, so Iʼve been told a lot of terrible jokes in college classes. Write those down! Theyʼll come in handy on stage). Rising: What would you be doing if you werenʼt a singer-songwriter? Josh: I thought I was going
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to play professional sports. But I ended up 5 ft. 8 in. and not as good as I thought I was. Iʼd probably be doing something in social media, marketing, or teaching. I was a High School teacher for a year, but teaching 17 and 18-year-old girls at the age of 22 is not a good thing, especially at a Christian
School. Thank GOD I never did anything to get in trouble, but the rumors that go around in a small campus are enough to cripple a man. Even the principal was talking shit to other teachers! Oh well. People are flawed. You just got to love them and go on with your life. Learn from mistakes and do the best you can with wherever you end up. I could do anything and be happy. I even did data entry at a job that didnʼt allow me to bring my ipod! (thatʼs 9 hours of MIND NUMBING HELL!!!) But I know myself, and my drive. Iʼd be a CEO at a Fortune 500 company in a matter of years.
Rising: You recently got a new tat, What is it? Josh: Ha!!! Well done! You definitely do your research. Christians donʼt usually get them. Well, at least conservative ones like where I grew up, so no one would have ever pegged me as a tattooed guy. My brother paid for my first one in 2004, and since then, Iʼve gotten 6 more. The latest addition to my arm is hated by my family, because itʼs ugly, but I mixed my greatest fear with my greatest love, and a REDSOX SPIDER was born. Itʼs biting my skin and injecting the Red Sox Venom into me. With my first few memories being from Maine, Iʼll be a die hard Sox/Pats/ Celtics fan for life. If the next few tats come through in the same fashion as this one, with my greatest fears/hates paired up with my greatest loves, Iʼll probably have a Boston Celtics Mushroom, or New England Patriots Cold Weather tat (Maybe a Tom Brady Snowflake???)
Music can change the world because it can change people. ....Bono
Photography by LĂź Qiang Qiang Â
Ember Swift is an internationally touring artist, musician and songwriter, and founder of the independent label Few'll Ignite Sound. With ten releases since 1996, she has won numerous awards and is well known for her political activism, business acumen and her commitment to the ideal: independent by identity, not default. She now resides predominantly in Beijing, China but splits her time between touring Asia, Canada, the US and Australia and returning to her hometown of Toronto, Canada to visit family and friends. She is working on a new album to be released in September, the "11th in '11."
Rising: Why did you move to China? Was it after you had visited there? Ember: Yes. I visited China in 2007, twice. The first time was for three months as both a break from my touring and because China had always been my dream destination. I have a degree in East Asian Studies and it was always my dream to go to China, use my Mandarin language skills, and just see what the country was like. I loved it so much that I went back in the fall of 2007 for two
more months. That was when I met my current partner (who's Chinese) and fell in love. The rest is history. We got married in late 2009. Rising: Do you still have family in Toronto? If so, how do they feel about you living so far away? Ember: My family still lives in Ontario (not Toronto directly, but close by) and they're supportive of me living here, mostly because they love my partner and are just happy for me to have found not
just a country and a cultural environment that I love so much, but to have found a sense of home here. Of course they miss me and I miss them, but with my career being one that includes a lot of traveling, I get back to see them at least twice a year and am able to spend more concentrated time with them now, even more so than I could when I lived in the same time zone! Rising: You sing in both English and Mandarin. Did you learn
Mandarin first or learn it as you incorporated it into your songs? How long did it take you to get comfortable with the language? Ember: This is a language that probably requires at least ten years of intensive study to claim a full-fledged fluency. I am comfortable with the language to a degree of f u n c t i o n a l fl u e n c y n o w, mostly thanks to my educational background and then my relationship, which is
Here in China, I also learned to just slow down and listen to myself, something that I had failed to learn how to do before coming here. one that is in Mandarin and not English! That helped incredibly! But to claim fluency as a foreigner is a bit of an arrogant stretch and so I humbly continue to study. Incorporating Mandarin into my music was essential if I wanted to truly communicate with Chinese audiences. It was definitely secondary to learning the language as a language, however. (It's far too complex a language to have picked it up through lyrics.) My new album (to be released in September 2011) will have twin language versions of almost all the songs. I will simultaneously release a Chinese edition and an English edition. I'm really looking forward to having that available as my current album, Lentic, is a mixture of both languages but still has more English than
Mandarin, which alienates my Chinese listeners. Rising: The title of your 2009 album is Lentic. What does the word mean and more specifically, what does it mean to you? Ember: "Lentic" means "of or related to living in still waters." It represented a huge shift in my life and so I wanted to name the record something that meant the polar opposite to my given name: Ember Swift (fire/ speed). The album is a sonic exploration to a new territory (electronic and dance music mixed with folk/roots) and this represents my life's journey to a new geography and culture. Here in China, I also learned to just slow down and listen to myself, something that I had failed to learn how to do before coming here. Perhaps that's a result of the “fire” and “speed” that I was born into in North America, or perhaps
it's just about divine timing, but regardless, I am grateful for everything that China has taught me. Rising: You said China holds “past life memories” for you. Can you elaborate on this?
Ember: When I arrived in China, I felt distinctly like I had been here before. I felt comfortable in Beijing and a sense of a homecoming. I also felt the language returning to me not just from my previous university study, but from a deeper memory. It felt more comfortable in my mouth than even English does sometimes, despite English being my Mother tongue. These things are inexplicable but undeniable. I'm pretty convinced I was Chinese in another life and that returning to China was inevitable for me. That can never be proven; it's just something I feel in my bones.
Rising: How has this concept contributed/influenced your song writing? Ember: Good question. I'm not sure I can answer that. I think it has pushed me to be a more open and conscious person who listens, not just to the sounds of music but to the energy and dynamic of a life around me. Surely this has i n fl u e n c e d h o w I a p p r o a c h songwriting and how I create music, but to pinpoint exactly how is difficult for me. All songwriting is organic and it's a craft that continues to grow not unlike a creature. It's only when I look back on my bodies of work over time
All songwriting is organic and it's a craft that continues to grow not unlike a creature. that I can piece together the journey of this craft in retrospect. I think I'll be more equipped to answer that question in a few years time! Rising: Can you talk a bit about your activism? What is your view of the future?
Ember: Well, these are two enormous questions in one. I am an activist in that I believe that activism is a daily choice a person can make to try to do a small part in making the world a better place, starting within our own homes and working outwards. I believe activism is not just podiums and picket signs, but also kindness and generosity and humanitarian acts towards our neighbours and fellow living things. For instance, an activist act is not limited to a signature on a petition; it could be a smile at an elderly person who looks lonely at the bus stop. I think if everyone were to adopt a similar view on activism, i.e., not restrict it to the realm of aggressive political agitation like so many do, that we would have a world filled with much more positive action--action infused with the belief that such optimism and positive intention can and will make a difference. Because really, that's what
"activism" means: being active for change. My view on the future? Well, it's an increasingly dynamic world where there is so much change so rapidly, both socially and
further, for women musicians in China? Ember: Independent music is gaining strength and momentum here in China. The music market is totally different
I am an activist in that I believe that activism is a daily choice a person can make to try to do a small part in making the world a better place, starting within our own homes and working outwards. environmentally. I don't think there's going to be an Armageddon, but I do think the challenges will continue and with every passing year we're going to have to be more and more vigilant in protecting the Earth and the creatures on it. I do think it's a thrilling time to be alive in both humanity and Earth's history. Rising: What is the climate like for independents in China and
here, however, and a lot of the system lacks an infrastructure to support the artist, regardless of gender. There is no royalty rights organization, for instance. No copyright protection. As a result, a lot of Chinese artists are seeking audiences overseas and there has been a huge increase in international touring by Chinese bands. Women in the scene are much fewer, as to be expected (as they are in the scene back home as well) but they are also
growing in number, which is really encouraging. I, on the other hand, occupy a very unique space in this music scene as a â€œforeignâ€? woman singing in Mandarin. It's not exactly a path that has been forged, let's just put it that way. It will be interesting to see how this next album will be received. Rising: How is the music scene different or the same in China? Ember: Well it's different because it's smaller - there are fewer places to play and tour even though the country has a larger population. It's also different because it's Chinese and I'm an outsider. My only perspective is that of a foreigner, so I can't exactly speak for what it's like as a Chinese musician here (even though my partner is a musician, so I get a bit of a glimpse)... It's also different because it's relatively new. There have only been contemporary "rock" musicians in China (meaning: using We s t e r n i n s t r u m e n t s l i k e electric guitars and basses, but not necessarily playing rock music in terms of style) since the early 80's. Those big stars are now only in their 40's. It's a bit like being in the US in the late 70's when a lot was blossoming. It's a really exciting time to be a musician in China. The ways that it's the same are that it is about communicating with an audience (and as I mentioned, this has to happen in the language of the land), and it's about generating an audience through repeated performances, and it's about distributing your music through
online sources and social networking. In these ways, it's exactly like the Western music scene. Rising: Can you tell us how well received you are in China as a Canadian woman? Ember: My "Canadian-ness" is not as relevant as my "foreignness." The fact that I'm from Canada is an additional piece of information, but I'm first and foremost a â€œnon-Chineseâ€? person here. Over the past year of focused performing regularly in the Chinese market (it took awhile to develop a band first and to establish the contacts to begin here), I have started to have a strong following and a sense of being a part of a very exclusive scene that, as I said, doesn't have any other foreign women in it who sing in Chinese. I feel really lucky to be slowly making inroads. It would be the same for an immigrant who came to the US or Canada and was trying to make their way into the North American music scene while singing in their second language: English. I know very few artists like that in Canada, so it's not an easy road! That being said, when it can break through, it's even more of a victory! Rising: What advice do you have for independent musicians in general? Ember: I often publish advice on behalf of Canada Council of the Arts and other arts organizations. Here is a link to a recent article: h t t p : / / w w w. c a n a d a c o u n c i l . c a / development/ontheroad/ inter_handbook/selling_your_show/ do129483239531231634.htm I also have many resources on my label page: h t tp : / /w w w.fewllignite sound.com/ resources/ Mostly, though, I advise artists to never give up on themselves. Their belief is their most important currency - much more valuable than any other currency- and they
should gather that belief in themselves and keep wads of it in their pockets every day. It's the only way to survive this tough business! Rising: Do you have a tour coming up? What is your favourite place to perform live? Ember: I have a tour coming up in Sept-October that takes me around a large circle in the US, with some Canadian dates in there as well. The first of the dates have been posted on my website's show page. My favourite place to play is a room full of people eager to hear the music. The environment is irrelevant. It's all about the moment!
http://www.myspace.com/emberswift http://www.facebook.com/ emberswiftmusic http://www.kaixin001.com/?flag=1&url= %2Fhome%2F%3Fuid %3D55337721%26t%3D97 http://www.youtube.com/user/ lenticmusic http://www.last.fm/music/Lentic %2520%253A%253A%2520Ember %2520Swift%2520%253A%253A %2520%25E5%25AD %2590%25E7%258E%2589?ac=lentic http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lentic/ id315419988 http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ LenticEmberSwift%E5%AD %90%E7%8E%89
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Photography by Hilde Marie Grensbr책ten
INTRODUCING VINTERVILA: Some Facts about Music & Career and Some Oddities about Life by Hilde Marie Grensbråten Sitting down to chat with up and coming Norwegian artist Martin Beyer, the young man behind the pseudonym Vintervila, turned into an entertaining mix of music, childhood crushes and surviving the apocalypse. Martin first got into music at the age of 12 when a teacher, who by the way not only was a huge The Beatles fan, but also looked and acted a lot like John Lennon, made him choose guitar lessons as extra credit, instead of soccer or any of the other more obvious choices for a guy his age. The following Christmas his dad bought him his very first guitar. At the age of 15 he moved and found himself kind of lonely at the new place. This lead to him starting to pick up playing the guitar more. In the beginning the playing was a way to kill time and fight boredom, but Martin soon started getting more and more invested in the music. He never took lessons outside of school, and is a self taught guitarist, who lists his first inspirations as pop/punk music, U2, Green Day etc.
“Vintervila” is a Swedish word, but would translate into English as something like “Winter’s Rest”.
Ever since, music has been a major part of Martinʼs life and 4-5 years ago he realized that this is what he wants to focus on for the future, making it his career choice, so to speak. Performing and making music is the only thing he really feels rewarding. Heʼs now half way done with his Bachelor degree in musicology. Martin says his voice is his main instrument, and the only
instrument heʼs had official schooling in. Besides being self taught on guitar and playing for more than 10 years now, he claims to be a decent pianist and flutist, at least good enough to trick someone not professional into thinking he can play. Heʼs also been part of the cast in several musicals. The name Vintervila originates from a song from the Swedish band Kent (name of a b-side from 2002). He chose the name, not only because he loved the song, but also because he feels the word suits the atmosphere in his music well. “Vintervila” is a Swedish word, but would translate into English as something like “Winterʼs Rest”. So far Vintervila has released one EP called Static Dreams (independent release, dated December 8, 2010), in his own words the music should be described as “ambient mood music”. However, played live he likes to improvise and most
music more centered around the melodies and not so much the improvising, but itʼs still early in the process and he does not like to tie himself down in any way, so the album will end up wherever his creativity leads him. On the side Martin is involved in a Jazz project with Bjørn Magnus Midthaug. Not everything is about music, or maybe it is, but by learning to know the artist behind the music a bit better, the music tends to take on a new dimension, hence the odd seemingly off-topic questions here and there: Hilde:What do you do in your spare time, any interesting or unusual hobbies? Martin: Iʼm actually planning on how to survive the apocalypse, depending on the kind of disaster that brings the world to an end, I have different plans set up, be it Zombies, comets, etc. This might sound weird, but is actually a result of way too much time spent travelling on trains and buses. I also like to question quantum mechanics and theories of relativity, and besides Iʼm working on a way to make Hermione Granger into a real life girl (sheʼs been his biggest crush since he was 11). Hilde: How do you recharge your energy? Martin: This is something Iʼm really bad at, Iʼm always on the go, but I love reading, so going through the Harry Potter books, for the umpteenth time would probably work, that and watching Hugh Grant movies. I also try to meditate, as described in Paulo Coelhoʼs books, and work out.
shows bring a different version of the songs, depending on whether he brings other musicians with him or plays alone. Heʼs done performances with a cellist, a pianist and other guitarists and the instrumentation has a huge impact on the expression of the songs. He likes to call it auditive art. When asked to mention similar artists to himself he brings up Espen Jørgensen, a guitarist that has inspired him a lot and who he rates as one of Norwayʼs best in his genre. Another artist mentioned is Hildur Guðnadóttir, Islandic cellist with Loop Station. On the newer material, he moves more in the direction of IAmX, and maybe even borderline M83; heading into a floating dream pop area. Martin is currently working on a new release that will take him more into the electro, dream pop genre, making the
Hilde: What would you have done if you were not a musician? Martin: I would like to think I would have been an astrophysicist or an astronaut, but Iʼm probably not in a good enough shape physically for the latter, imagine Sheldon Cooper, only slightly more social intelligence. When I was little I always wanted to be an astronaut though, at the age of 3 my biggest dream was to be able to travel to the stars, I found them so fascinating. Like all children, however, my “dream job” changed often. At the age of 6 I saw the movie The Lion King and actually wanted to BE the Lion King, but then I read the Harry Potter books for the first time and of course I wanted to be a wizard. I remember I was so upset when I did not get “the letter”, as September 1st came and the train left, man, that was a gloomy day. Hilde:Who are your biggest influences, and why? Martin: Musically I would have to say Trent Reznor, Imogen Heap and Sigur Rós - first and foremost because they are all excellent musicians, but also because they have
struggled and fought and never given up in their quest to follow their dreams. I find it fascinating. For instance, I have the utmost respect for how Trent Reznor went from sweeping the floor at the recording studio in order to be able to borrow it, to winning an Oscar for his music. Personally, my biggest influence is my step-mother, Ane Cathrine. She has always pushed me and given me courage to pursue my dreams and reach my goals, to follow my heart and not my head and made me put my fear of failure behind me. Ever since she got together with my dad about 15 years ago sheʼs been a huge support. The rest of my family has also been amazing, but she has really helped me realize my own potential. Iʼm also very much influenced and
inspired by Paulo Coelho and Kat Von D, especially after reading their biographies. In a very similar way to my musical influences, they have fought hard to fulfil their dreams by “fighting the good fight” (Coelho). To read how they have achieved what they have achieved has given me so much inspiration and helped me through many rough days. I guess the main issue is, they have influenced me to be stronger and to not give up when things do not go as planned, they have showed me that hard work does pay off in the end. Hilde: Tell us a little bit about your creative process. What is easier to create, and what is most important, lyrics or melody? Martin: I think I have to quote a Hugh
Grant movie for this, I think in Music & Lyrics they said something in the order of, “The melody is the physical attraction, what you fall in love with. The lyrics is when you get to know the person, get under that person's skin.” Personally, I think the melody is the most important, there is so much excellent instrumental music out there, and that works perfectly without words, not all lyrics works without music. When listening to a song, a good melody makes me want to listen to it again, and adding good lyrics to it would make me not get tired of listening to it over and over again. Again, though, if the melody is not capturing me in the first place, I will never get to the next stage, and the lyrics will never be allowed to make an impact on me.
When writing music I find the lyrics the easiest to create, even if they can never be forced, once the inspiration hits, lyrics tend to come to me as wholes, and I find I very seldom need to sit down to edit them afterwards. Itʼs almost like going into a trance, like the words are not coming from me but through me. Sometimes I donʼt even know what the lyrics are about right away, and I see analyzing them as a good way of getting to know myself better. Creating the melody is much more work for me. I always have the lyrics ready first and then put music to it. When I tried to change that around, I found the words sounding forced and it was just not a good process for me that way. Finding a melody to fit the words of the lyrics is like putting the whole thing into context and closing the circle. If you told me to sit down and create a melody, I probably could do it right now, for the lyrics I would have to wait for inspiration to hit. I honestly donʼt think you learn to get better at writing songs/lyrics, you
either have it or you donʼt. What you can learn is the techniques, and experience will make you better at recognizing the quality of your own
The most important part of it is how people feel when listening and not how I felt or what I thought when I wrote the music
work. You get better at judging yourself. Hilde: How important is a live show? Martin: For me the live show is maybe the most important part of being a good artist/performer. Live shows are also an excellent way of promoting your music, and in the end getting out there, playing gigs, is what you can create a living from, not album sales. At a live show you get a very immediate feedback from your
audience. Trent Reznor said something like, “In a studio you will always try to please yourself, at a live performance you always aim to please the crowd.” Good technical skills are important for a live show. Should you choose to use play back etc., I think it should be obvious to the audience youʼre doing so and not lead them on to think itʼs all real. Personally, I would never want to use play back in any way, I want my live performances to be 100% live to get the whole experience. Live shows are my carrot to keep going. I can think of several artists I think make excellent live performers. Imogen Heap for instance, her live shows are maybe the most charming performances there is. Jared Leto is another, he is probably the best example I can think of for a front man who knows exactly how to direct his audience just the way he likes it. Nine Inch Nails are also an excellent live act, maybe most of all because of the integrity Trent Reznor puts into every single song, they all seem to come directly from his heart. My own live shows are not the most visual of shows, very little special effects etc, but some lighting to enhance the mood of the music, that to me is the crucial point of the whole thing. I guess you can put me in the shoe gazer category, fiddling with my laptop (for effects) and playing my guitar. Actually I would recommend everyone that attends a Vintervila show to close their eyes and bring forward the images the music creates within themselves, hence the auditive art label. I have been told that I tend to look like Iʼm in pain when Iʼm performing, I have no idea why, because I really enjoy it. The only time I can think of that the pained expression would be justified would be when I try to do a
Sigur Rós inspired vocal performance which is slightly high up for my range. A Vintervila show is minimalistic and stripped down to basics. Iʼve done all acoustic shows where even the lighting was acoustic, all candles, and found you can create very powerful visual effects with very limited equipment. The most important part of it is how people feel when listening and not how I felt or what I thought when I wrote the music. This way songs will stay alive, and taking into consideration the fact that I improvise a lot and base the performance of the songs on the mood Iʼm in that particular day, there are never two shows that are exactly the same. If I can choose Iʼd prefer to do my live shows with other musicians joining me, but I often do performances all on my own. Bringing other musicians along is limited by how good they are at improvising and how much time they have to practice, besides a lot of shows are booked on very short notice. Hilde: Do you have any special preparations before a live show? Martin: I tend to get very nervous, but not before the last 20 or so minutes before Iʼm due on stage, and when the nerves hit I constantly run to the toilet to pee. I think my record is 13 visits to the toilet within 40 minutes. Maybe itʼs a fear of having to go while in the
I would never compromise when it came to my musical integrity, but rather try to find a label that would respect me for the kind of artist I am.
middle of the show, I donʼt know, or maybe itʼs the fact that I do like my privacy back stage and not being the biggest of names yet, I most often have to share with other artistsʼ bands. I really donʼt have many special preparations, I guess I do what most performers do: jump around to get my body going and step into the mental state of a world champion. I mean itʼs
Amalie Antonsen irrelevant how good you really are, if you manage to come across as accomplished, the audience will most likely buy it too. I guess you can say I turn into a modified version of myself. Look at Jared Leto, for instance, on stage he doesnʼt seem to know the word humble, but when he leaves the stage he seems like a very down to earth person. The stage persona he takes on is what he needs to take on to control the audience the way he does, if you go out there thinking you are going to fuck up, youʼll most likely do just that. Hilde: Shows/Touring life; bad or good? Martin: It can be both, but Iʼd like to
share a story about a performance that started absolutely horribly bad and ended up being one of the best shows Iʼve ever done. I was in a band at the time and we were playing a show one night. I was flying in from Stockholm the same day and of course the flight was delayed, and we did not get to the venue on time. We were a progressive synth band and had asked for 12 DI boxes on our rider, the normal would be 2 or 3, and our request, however unusual, was promised to be fulfilled by the show host. When we got there they had managed to get 1, leaving us to try and think out a way to solve it. With just the one, we would simply not be
able to play the show at all. It was late on a Saturday and the shops were closed. The show was supposed to start at 7 pm, and we did not get there before 3 (the first band were playing at 7 pm, we were scheduled on at 9.30). Band brainstorming ended up in us calling a friend who was an electrician, asking him to bring his tool box and come over, the only problem was that he lived quite a bit away and it took him a while to get there. When he finally arrived we grabbed a box of cables and started making our own equipment. Not the perfect way to do it, as a DI box is there to stabilize the sound etc, but at least there would be sound. Of course the host was not super happy with our way of adjusting their stage equipment, so we just pointed out the fact that this had all been on our rider and they had actually promised to get it for us. Getting that many DI boxes maybe isnʼt the easiest task, but at least they should have let us know in advance so we could have dealt with it before we got there. Making the cables took quite a while, and when we were done we rushed through sound check. The first band entered the stage 2 hours late and our band started playing at 11 pm. We were supposed to play for 2 hours, it was an all ages venue, meaning at the time we actually hit the the stage there were hardly anyone left. Our audience was probably like 3 people in addition to the staff. It was weird though, all the negative energy we brought out on the stage melted away as we started playing. Our songs ended up super long because of all the improvisations, 3 songs took us 2 hours to get through. It has to be said that our pianist was a jazz pianist who when told to play as long as he wanted, did just that and then some). The worst possible preparations actually turned into a pretty amazing show, in spite of lacking audience and bad sound, we felt very accomplished when we were done.
is the perfect song. The best song ever written in the history of popular music. I mean I can find absolutely nothing wrong with it. Maybe in 50 years when I have more experience I might give it a shot. Maybe “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap, it might be cliche but itʼs one of my favorite songs of all times. 5 chords making it simple to play, but hard to do well, kind of like “Hallelujah”, and itʼs a fun song to perform. I think it would be the perfect combination of easy to manage, which makes room for personal interpretations, and a super good song. A good cover, for me is an alteration of the song. It shouldnʼt be a copy of the original. You have to make it your own. A song is a way for the artist to show their soul, if you are doing a cover song, you need to show your soul through the performance of it, if not you will just show off a copy of the original
artistʼs soul, and that will probably not be a good copy either. If a song is too good, I think artists will be too busy trying to get it right to manage to make it their own. My favorite cover is Jeff Buckleyʼs version of “Hallelujah”. The perfect example of really making a cover song your own. Leonard Cohen's version is very good, but since Jeff Buckley in my opinion is one of the most talented guitarists of the last 50 years, and really played the song in a way that could have carried it even without the words and on top of that added his very own special voice and technique, you just canʼt beat that. There is a reason why a lot of people have heard Jeff Buckleyʼs cover but never the original. Imogen Heapʼs version of the same song is also a very good cover. There have been a lot of artists having a go at this song, but not that many have been
Hilde: What would be your dream song to cover and why? Martin: Nine Inch Nails “And all that could have been”, but I really do not have the guts to even try. Iʼm terrified I wouldnʼt do it justice. In my opinion that
able to do it the right way. Hilde: Visual effects is an important part of music. What makes a good album cover? Martin: I think two elements need to be present to make a good album cover, the artistic element that is there to represent a whole, all artists need to think about how they make the image of themselves complete - Lady Gaga is a good example of this, and there needs to be a punchline, the cover has to hit, instantly, draw attention to itself. It needs to stand out when on a shelf with dozens of other albums, but Iʼd recommend to save the weirdest and most out-there pictures for the inside of the cover. There must be a balance between art, integrity and commercial success. The most perfect cover made is in my opinion Nine Inch Nails Year Zero. Itʼs kind of a pixel image and hard to really interpret. It looks a little bit like an alien hand reaching down, it got me to the extent where when I listened to the album while looking at the cover, the songs took on a new meaning. Another side of visual effects are videos, but honestly do people even watch them anymore? Ninety percent of the ones who watch videos do so because the video is made by an artist/band that they already know and love. Videos as a promo tool is not very effective anymore, unless you go for a really controversial video that will get you a lot of media coverage. This way the controversy of the video can be regarded as an artistic promo stunt. A good example is 30 Seconds To Mars “A Beautiful Lie”, it has a message, and the song is kind of reborn through the video. Itʼs esthetically beautiful and they made the genius decision of filming on the glaciers of Greenland, from what little experience I have it looks technically very well made. Hilde: How do you make use of social media in promoting your band/music? Martin: I use 100% social media. Most of the people coming to my shows have gotten to know Vintervila through twitter/facebook etc. This kind of promotion is really alpha and omega for independent artists especially, or my mom would probably be the only one buying my songs.
Street teams are a good concept as well, but I think sometimes they are used the wrong way, and not being as effective as they could be. With some bands there is so much competition within the different divisions that that itself becomes the main issue, not the actual promotion of the band. A street team could be very useful for getting radio play time etc. Hilde: How do you think the changes in the music industry have influenced the music scene? Martin: Live shows have become the main source of income, you need to get out there and play, meet fans/ audiences more than before. The twoway communication you get from that
is the most important way to develop as an artist or a band. People that never or rarely get out of the studio miss out on this opportunity. Because the live shows have become so important the whole industry has become a lot more professional. You can no longer keep going like Rolling Stones did in the 70s, you need to nail the performances every time or you will lose audience, and with the range of technical equipment that exist today, you need to be a good singer/talented musician. You canʼt depend on being “covered” by bad sound anymore. Iʼd say that the music has become more real. A lot of artists think that you no longer need a record label the same way you
did before, when it comes to the already recorded music, but the costs of touring require for you to have some sort of management agency, record label or booking company supporting you. Somebody needs to send your music out to the masses, and such agencies/companies have a way bigger contact net and so many more channels to send information through than an artist without representation can reach on his or her own. Being signed can be a good thing on a musical level too, as someone will set frames for what you do, and some artists/bands really need a quality control of their work. As an unsigned band you have all the control, but you do not have the capital or the means of promotion. Indie labels have a bigger part in the market and huge names like Nine Inch
Nails, Imogen Heap and Sigur Rós have never been signed to major labels. This has lead to a growth in the number of booking agencies and a bigger variety. I think it is easier for an artist now to find his or her own niche without a major label, though I still remain firm in my belief that every artist needs a label. I really donʼt see any danger of being forced into adjusting my music or losing my musical integrity if I was signed. The company wants to make money, and they should know that an artist whoʼs not authentic will not sell. If you do not have your own “thing” going they might try and push you in a direction, but if they see and recognize an expression I think they would want to cultivate that rather than change it. Though if I should get in a situation where I was asked to change my
music, I would never compromise when it came to my musical integrity, but rather try to find a label that would respect me for the kind of artist I am. Major labels have more money, indie labels have more time for their artists. I think if you are not a top priority band on a major label, you are better off being on an indie label instead of ending up in the middle somewhere. Hilde: What do you think is the biggest difference between the music industry in Norway and the US? Martin: It seems to me like image is not as important in Norway, the focus is more on the actual music, the artistic expression. We do not have as many over-styled artists. Ours seem to be more down to earth or stripped down. I think in the US major labels still have a very strong position, and
radio and MTV seem to play a big part in promotion and getting music out. Most up and coming artists in Norway today are on indie labels. My first EP I was asked to send in to the label it was released on, but Iʼm out looking again now for a new agent for my next release. When it comes to making it abroad, I think a lot of Norwegian bands have a drawback in the fact that thereʼs not enough money in the music industry here to be willing or interested to give too many bands a chance for an international career. They will maybe give you a try in Europe but not the rest of the world. I think the only real chance you have to make it world wide is to relocate to, i.e., the US and start over. There are really not many
Norwegian bands that have made it in the US. Hilde: If you could front a charity, what would it be and why? Martin: Wiki leaks, because truth is important, and Amnesty, because freedom is important - the two values most crucial in this world. Hilde: What do you think is your obligation/duty as a public person? Martin: To always think twice about what you are going to say before you say it. The effect of what you say is huge, and if youʼre in a position with that kind of influence you have to try and use it for the better. I mean what kind of person would you be if you didnʼt? Public persons need to think about what kind of image they give of themselves, and what kind of
influence they have on new generations. I think bands like 30 Seconds To Mars have used their influence in a very positive and good way by fronting their environmental side through abeautifullie.org and getting their fans involved in the issue as well. Hilde: Do you have any advice to young aspiring artists/ bands? Martin: They absolutely need to be prepared to work hard, be willing to put in the effort and run that extra mile. Itʼs not going to be easy, but itʼs going to be worth it. Hilde: Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now career-wise? Martin: Iʼm touring and performing and making a living from my music. I really see myself as the kind of artist that more or less is on a never ending tour, of course this would depend on whether or not I have a family of my own by then. In all honesty, no matter how important the music is to me, I would accept to have to choose family over career, simply because I believe in love. Though, I donʼt think it will be a problem, the music is such a big part of who I am that when my one true love comes along, she will see that and accept my way of life. Hilde: Finally; if you could be God for one day, what would you do? Martin: I would make all humans in the entire world think that everything is possible.
http://www.myspace.com/Vintervilanor h t t p : / / w w w. l a s t . f m / m u s i c / V i n t e r v i l a ? ac=vintervila http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vintervila/ 181512205194682
Buy The Music! iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/artist/ vintervila/id414513834?ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/StaticDreams/dp/B004IYM3PY/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&qid=1306763145&sr=8-1
http://vintervila.bandcamp.com/ June 2011
My Cousin, The Emperor
Photography by Patrick J. Eves Rising: Where did the name for your band come from? MCTE: I spent a few weeks in India, where everything is a reference to their past emperors. I thought of calling us "The Emperors" but that would make us sound like a doo-wop group, and was a bit heavy handed in my opinion, so I opted for "My Cousin, The Emperor". Rising: So how the heck does an alternative country/ Americana band end up in Brooklyn? MCTE: Why wouldn't an alternative country/ Americana band end up in Brooklyn? New York City has been a
magnet to the artistic crowd for many years: beatniks and folkies, poets and painters. They used to go to the Village, and hung out in the Park singing folk songs on acoustic guitars. Now NYU, Duane Reade, and Citibank
own the city. All the musicians have moved to Brooklyn, where the rent isn't necessarily cheaper, but the vibe isn't as corporate. It's starting to get there though. I didn't necessarily mean to start a country band either. I,
for one, never really thought of our music as country until that's how we were painted in the press. I admit there is a country influence, perhaps because I grew up in North Carolina but I consider us a rock band. Rising: Where do you find inspiration for your songs in that city? MCTE: Songs are about people, and emotions; conflicting (or non-conflicting) inner dialogues, and when you're in such close proximity to such vast amounts of people you can't help but put yourself in their shoes or in their heads when
you're standing next to them on the subway, or walking beside them on the street. It's very helpful, as a writer, to see so many different cultures interacting. It helps formulate lyrical ideas and concepts from various viewpoints that I necessarily wouldn't be exposed to anywhere else. Van Gogh said "I see drawings and pictures in the poorest of huts and the dirtiest of corners." Well, I see stories of hope and despondency, ambition and complacency on the faces of people I come across every day. There is no better muse than living in a big city.
Rising: You have such a big bold sound. Who does the writing or is it a band collaboration? MCTE: I am the chief songwriter. I come in with the lyrics, melody, and the chord progression. Nine times out of ten the arrangement is already complete, but we do go over everything as a group and try to edit and tighten things up democratically, structure-wise. If something isn't working, we change it. We play the song a few times and see what happens naturally. I'm a very lucky bandleader because all of these guys are fantastic musicians, and I also appreciate their tasteful musical decisions. I'm their biggest fan.
My strong belief is that the song is master, and that all decisions should be geared on maximizing the impact of its interpretation. At the same time, as a musician, you want to be playing music that is creatively satisfying for you. I think we do a good job as a band of making sure that everyone is satisfied creatively on every song, but like I said everything has to serve the song. We're not going to put a guitar solo on a song that doesn't need one, just like we're not going to be a harpsichord on a section that doesn't need it. Rising: You've mixed some rock and blues into your sound. This makes your genre harder to
d e fi n e . W a s t h a t o n purpose or just how the songs naturally evolved? MCTE: Like I've said, I've always considered us a rock band. When you look at the history of rock and roll, it was a mix of country, blues, and folk. Early Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Holly were all country and blues influenced. The Beatles weren't not only trying to be Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, but they were trying to be Elvis, Big Bill Broonzy and Carl Perkins. The history of rock and pop is intermingled with country and blues so much that the lines are blurred. To me, it's all the same but I do understand why the modern era likes everything categorized specifically by genre. We have had some d i f fi c u l t y i n t r y i n g t o establish what genre our particular sound falls under, because we try to make every song a different feel. One of my favorite records of all time is The Beatles White Album, and I think that's because every song is in a different style. That
makes it interesting for me every time I listen to it. I don't think they were concerned with how their music would be categorized while they were recording it. But nowadays, everything needs to be classified by genus and sub-genus, creating genres I never knew existed like "baroque pop".
There is no better muse than living in a big city.
I guess in the end I have to quote another person (even though I'm not sure who said it originally) but I feel that it is very relevant to my general musical outlook: "There are only two types of music: good and bad." I hope that enough people would categorize us under the former. Rising: I read that you all have jazz backgrounds. What made you go into this style of country instead of forming a jazz band?
MCTE: We are an American band, with A m e r i c a n i n fl u e n c e s . Country, blues, and jazz are all American southern traditions that we have incorporated into our sound. We take what we like from these mediums and we combine them with our current music sensibilities. We have also absorbed rhythm and blues, and gospel music. As students of the history of music, we have made specific choices to combine all of these influences to try to create something that is fresh and original, yet has a direct lineage to all of these expressions of American musical tradition. We are also primarily a live band, so we approach live performance as a jazz band would. The song is the form or structure we use to improvise around. We never play a song the same way twice, which is another way we are able to keep things fresh and exciting. Rising: So, you played SXSW this year. How much fun was that?
MCTE: Do I really need to answer that question?? Rising: When you tour in places known for country music, how well received are you when they find out you are from Brooklyn? (or do you keep it a secret?) MCTE: We were just in Little Rock, and an elderly man came up to me and asked me how the hell this music came out of New York City! He loved us, but I do think he was surprised. We don't keep it a secret. I think we've moved past the era where musical tastes are regional. It is easy to be exposed to all types of music these days. You just have to look around and it's there. I have a theory that everyone likes country musicâ€Ś they just don't know it yet. I hate it when I hear people say that "I like all types of musicâ€Ś except country", because it shows their naivety. I would say to these people "Listen to Hank Williams, he is the greatest American Songwriter of all time." Listen to Johnny Cash. Everyone can relate to
Johnny Cash, whether you are a metal head or pop person. He was the first punk rocker. Listen to Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Listen to Patsy Cline. All of this music is authentic and speaks to the human condition. That
is the purpose of art to me, and country music does it just as well or better than any other type of music. Rising: You went through Kickstarter (the online funding platform for artists) to raise funds for your album back in 2009. That is becoming a common way for indie music to get funded. How did that work out for you? Would you recommend it to other artists? MCTE: It was fantastic. It's unbelievable the outpouring of sincere gratitude you receive when you allow your fans to become involved in the creative process. We were able to cover about half the cost on
our 2 EPs in less than a month. I would definitely recommend it to other artists. I think it's better to take full control of your career in the current environment of the
The music industry is at a crossroads, and is at a loss to figure out how to survive in the digital age. music business. The music industry is at a crossroads, and is at a loss to figure out how to survive in the digital age. They aren't really taking chances anymore. When Springsteen was signed, they knew it would take three albums for him to break. Nowadays, if you get signed at all, they would drop you for
not selling a billion copies of your debut record. The old model is broken. Kickstarter is definitely part of the new model, and I would suggest that many more bands take advantage of what they have to offer. It worked for us, and it will work for you. Rising: What's up for this summer and MCTE? MCTE: We've just released 2 EPs and are putting the finishing touches on another one to be released soon. We are going to release a free cover song each month over the next year for exclusive download on our Facebook bandpage. We're probably going to head into the studio in the fall to record another record, and we'll keep playing live shows and trying to grow our audience one fan at a time.
http://mycousintheemperor.com/ http:// mycousintheemperor.bandcamp.com/ http://www.myspace.com/ mycousintheemperor# http://www.youtube.com/user/ MyCousinTheEmperor
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