Artists and their art evolve. The youngster that strummed their first chord into a four-track recorder decades ago has matured in so many ways since then – physically, emotionally, and artistically. However, without realizing it, their audience refuses to let the artist grow – they want them to stay the same as when they first connected with them. While we all know better now, there was a time when teens all over the world were dismayed when The Beatles grew facial hair and served up “Strawberry Fields Forever” to the masses in 1967. The kids wanted the same band that Ed Sullivan introduced them to three years earlier. Thankfully, audiences quickly adapted to the Fabs’ growth as a band. The same can’t be said for so many other artists over the years. Audiences can be so fickle sometimes…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your long-awaited album PLAYING FAVORITES is now released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction so far?
LOUISE MANDRELL: I’m very proud of PLAYING FAVORITES. I recorded songs that were special to me. My biggest surprise is how many people have reached out with their stories and memories relating to these songs.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: DESERT DOVE is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
MICHAELA ANNE: I’m feeling really grateful and excited! The response so far has been really positive. I’ve also been seeing a lot of feedback that makes me feel like people are already “getting” what I’m trying to put out there. This record feels different for me and the closest thing I’ve made to feeling like “me” internally so it’s exciting but vulnerable and nerve-wracking to share.
For decades, Rock supergroups have been embraced by music fans and derided by critics. In general, the whole idea of a supergroup has been misunderstood. Sure, there are those that come together strictly because it makes financial sense for each of the band members… and their management team. However, there are still plenty of supergroups that do it for the right reasons – artistic expression. Just because musicians are in successful bands doesn’t mean that they are always able to funnel all their ideas and energy onto their main band’s records. Sometimes, they have to turn to solo or side projects in order to release creative steam. In the process, they call on their musician friends and, before they realize it, they are a supergroup. This phenomenon has been going on for decades – including legendary jams by The Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell) and commercially successful bands like Asia and The Traveling Wilburys. You can add KXM – featuring Dug Pinnick, Ray Luzier, and George Lynch – to that list…
Before the collapse of print media, every kid in the UK followed music rags like NME and monthly magazines like Q and Record Collector. However, British music critics took great pleasure in building an artist up before pulling the stool out from under their feet and watching them fall from grace. It seemed to happen almost monthly – a band’s debut single was voted ‘best song of the year’ and by the time their first album was released, the critics would savage it before moving on to the next victim. Thankfully, by 2006, their critical power wasn’t as strong because the internet was giving the audience more choice and more power. It was then that both critics and music lovers became enamored by Bat For Lashes, a new artist that appeared – fully formed – seemingly out of nowhere. For once, everyone seemed to agree that this artist was something unique and special.
Sometimes, an artist’s career trajectory is carefully planned. From label contracts and recording budgets to marketing strategies and touring schedules, the build up to a debut album is often less about music and more about business. However, there are always exceptions to every rule and singer/songwriter Justin Vernon is one of those exceptions. The origins of his band, Bon Iver, and their 2007 debut album started almost by accident and the subsequent commercial success of the band has always been about the music and nothing else. Sure, critical success and two Grammy Awards are always good for ‘business’ but for Vernon, it has always been about the music. And to think that it all started in a cabin in Wisconsin…
We are so very lucky that Redd Kross exists. Formed by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald in 1978, the band has gone through numerous line-up shuffles – plus a few name changes (from The Tourists to Red Cross to Redd Kross) – over the decades. However, the band’s love of classic Pop, Punk and Rock ‘n’ Roll and their fascination with everything pop culture has made them one of the most beloved bands by anyone ‘in the know’. Better yet, they appeal to a wide spectrum of fans – from Punk to Power Pop. Redd Kross fans might be the same ones you’ll see at a Black Flag show or a Cheap Trick gig. And more than likely, the band’s fans own records by Annette Funicello, adore Peter Sellers movies, and prefer Quisp over Quake cereal. Redd Kross represent the fun side of life. There might still be heartbreak and sorrow in Redd Kross’ universe but nothing that a Buzzcocks 7” single can’t cure!
Musicians, by and large, carve their own paths. They take their influences, fuse them together, and create their own noise. Some of those musicians absorb more influences and make adjustments to their own sound along the way. While some of them might be distracted by the bright lights of YouTube viral videos and social media sycophants, we are still left with those that make music because they want/need/have to. Success might be their ultimate goal but how do you measure success anyway? Is a ‘one hit wonder’ like Starbuck more successful than artists like R. Stevie Moore or Daniel Johnston, two enormously creative artists that have built up devoted fanbases without even the slightest hint of massive commercial success? Some say that the hitmakers win out, but in all actuality, the winners are the fans who can enjoy the commercial Top 40 cheese while also enjoying those artists that inspire us to take chances, to move forward, and to be ourselves…
SPAZ: FROM HOME is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
JON RUBIN: I love the record and the way it was recorded and I think it sounds exciting. I am completely blown away by both fan reaction and the reaction from people less familiar with The Rubinoos.
TOMMY DUNBAR: It might be a little early to gauge the response, but I’ll say it was super fun making the record! Writing with Chuck Prophet was a total pleasure, and the rehearsals were a joy as always. But what really set it apart for me, was that we got to set up and play in a really great studio, with minimal overdubs. Also, Chuck introduced us to our wonderful engineer, Mr. Paul Kolderie. It’s a rare thing to be able to only worry about playing and singing, at least these days.
Smooth Hound Smith has come a long way since they formed in Southern California. Yes, you read that right – Smooth Hound Smith is a they, not a he or a she. Comprised of multi-instrumentalist Zack Smith and his wife, vocalist/percussionist Caitlin Doyle-Smith, the duo formed in Southern California back in 2012. Caitlin was performing with her band Dustbowl Revival and Zack sat in on one of their sets. Without even realizing it, the seeds of their future were planted at that very moment. Caitlin would eventually add percussion and vocals to Zack’s ‘one man band’ performances. Marriage would soon follow. Eventually, Zack’s ‘one man band’ concept was cast aside, replaced with the introduction of Smooth Hound Smith as a duo. Along the way, Zack and Caitlin left the comforts of Southern California, eventually settling in East Nashville, Tennessee.