An Interview With Short Stack

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short stack

Australian pop rock outfit Short Stack recently released their third studio album, “Homecoming.” We sat down for a virtual talk with the band.

First, let me tell you: I love the album. I was at the office when I first heard it and couldn’t physically restrain a little desk-chair-wiggle. In the ideal world, where would your listeners be listening to this album and what would their reaction be? Beach partying? Club dancing? Park picknicking? Road tripping? What’s the ideal scenario?

Thank you! I think it’s definitely got a house party kinda vibe. The songs are very fun and loud, the perfect soundtrack for throwing away all your inhibitions and doing something a bit crazy.

As a music reviewer, I often try to describe a band’s sound without comparison to any other musical groups. It’s hard. So I’m going to ask you to do it. How do you describe your music and its effect?

I don’t really know. We have so many influences from Black Sabbath to Biggie. We recorded this album in London with Chris Kimsey who has worked with the Rolling Stones, so that gritty, guitar driven UK sound is definitely something we had at the front of our minds.

OK, with that second question out of the way, who would you say your main musical influences are?

We grew up listening to 90s punk. So Nofx, Blink, Green Day, Rancid, that kind of thing, but now it really is everything. Especially when somebody is doing something exciting in the rock community in definitely drawn to that.

Everyone loves a good how-did-you-meet story. How did you guys come together? Can you talk a little bit about your two-year break, how you reunited and why your sound shifted from pop to rock?

We met on a train in highschool & shared the same taste in music. We went from swapping mix CDs to being like “hey let’s start a band!”. We broke up because we felt we had done everything we wanted to do with the band, and felt creatively there was nothing at that particular time we wanted to say. When a few years passed we got back together and our energy was renewed. We had so much new found passion and it was really cool we got a second chance.

Can you talk a little about your music-making process? Do the lyrics come first? The beat? Is it collaborative? Or do you all play pretty separate roles?

I usually come up with an idea and we work on it in Bradies studio. It’s very much a collaboration between the three of us. One of our favourite songs we wrote was written in the studio in London, so we do enjoy changing it up a bit.

What is the one question you wish interviewers asked you, and what is the answer to that question?

Haha I love surfing. I surf every day, so if we just chatted about that I’d be stoked. Or Batman, we’re huge comic fans, Batman is my religion haha.

Shadows And Light: An Interview With Apocalyptica

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, interviews | Leave a comment


When they first formed in 1993, Finnish metallers Apocalyptica got their start playing cello arrangements of Metallica songs before eventually branching out into original compositions. They’ve just recently released their eighth studio album, Shadowmaker, featuring new vocalist Franky Perez, and while it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever return to playing nothing but covers, one thing is fairly certain: they’re probably never going to record a version of The Lego Movie‘s “Everything Is Awesome.”

Sitting down with Perez and cellist Paavo Lötjönen a couple of hours before their show at The Phoenix, we discussed the difference in nature between the Finns and their new American bandmate, with Lötjönen stating, “We hate each other as much as before,” and that things on tour have been “relatively OK-ish.”

“Which is basically their Finnish way of saying they really like this,” added Perez. “I never get, ‘Hey man, we love you.’ They basically go, ‘You’re relatively OK-ish.’ That’s a fucking compliment.”

Lötjönen elaborated on the subject. “That was one of the things Franky got to learn when he came into the band. You know, American guy – everything’s awesome and even if things are not that good, everything is really good … For Finns, everything sounds overrated. If something is awesome, we hardly use that adjective.”

However, despite any differences in disposition, the band seems to be enjoying the infusion of new blood. After collaborating with various guest vocalists on their albums over the years, they’ve paired up with Perez for the current album and tour and he seems like a good fit – an engaging frontman, but also a good match in terms of personality. And perhaps there’s even a bit of a cultural exchange going on, with Paavo adding that “It really is super, super, super happy. And maybe he’s teaching us some positiveness.” Perez, for his part, speculates that the Finns are teaching him to stay humble. “When you go there, nothing’s grandiose, nothing’s supersized … That’s a good way to live.”

Speaking of staying humble, Apocalyptica comes from relatively humble beginnings. As Lötjönen pointed out during our conversation, the band never had any lofty goals when they started out and didn’t necessarily have any plans to branch out beyond Metallica covers.

“Basically, we started off because we had a joy of music and we wanted to play something fun. We never had a master plan. Even the first album, we didn’t have even the plan to make an album. Just a bunch of guys playing together and having fun and enjoying the music … We were expecting to sell maybe 1000 copies and it sold almost 2 million copies. It just happened. After that, we got to feeling that it might be interesting, a possibility to create music. Album by album, it’s like step by step.”

While they may come from different backgrounds, both culturally and in terms of musical upbringing, Perez and Lötjönen each feel that they were always meant to play music. “Music has always been a part of my life.” says Lötjönen. I started to play cello at age six. Before that, my parents are professional musicians. I’ve always lived inside the music, from classical to rock and pop. It’s part of me from the start. I’m swimming in the music.”

Perez agrees. “Same thing for me – I never had a choice, it was something I was born with. But I can honestly say everyone in this band is the same way; if you asked that question to each one of us, they would tell you the same thing – they didn’t have a choice. Kind of born with it. And I think I’d be miserable doing anything else. I don’t think I could do anything else, and I’ve tried. Not very good at it.”

An Interview With B Side Shuffle

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The Panic Manual sat down for a pre-show interview with B Side Shuffle members Jasper Drisko, Carter Jones, Geoff Browning, and Nik Sus before they take (and dominate) the stage with White Ford Bronco at DC’s venerated 9:30 Club on Friday, December 19:

No better place to start than the beginning! Can you tell me a little about how you guys teamed up, why you’ve made Washington DC your home, and where your name comes from?

GEOFF BROWNING: In 2009, I moved to DC to work in the House. This was right after the financial crisis, and there were a lot of big legislative fights going on – it was an intense time to be here. The year before that, though, I had been completely captivated by my first trips to Bonnaroo and the All Good Festival. My heart was really drawn to that world. But it felt oddly incompatible with this one. And I assumed the two would never really jive.

That all changed when my friend Corinne Baker convinced me to reconsider. Guitars came out of their cases for the first time since high school. Eventually I wrote a song and played it at Barney Frank’s wedding. That same week, I ran into Jasper at a reunion in Vermont. Then we started trying out bandmates. Then Corinne booked us our first show. Then we met Carter. Then Nik found his way to us, blew us away in his tryout, and convinced us we needed a lead guitar player rather than a keys player. Then a real-life Rube Goldberg machine of amazing events happened, and we started playing shows all over the place. And now we’re playing a sold-out 9:30 Club for the second time this year. It’s kind of crazy.

I think there were a few extra steps in between, involving jello shots, figure skating, and Carter dressing up like Sesame Street characters. But I can say this definitively: the B Side Shuffle is an elaborate mating dance performed by penguins at the North Pole, which Jasper discovered when he was working on his Ph.D. in penguinomics. He has published several scholarly articles about it. And he knows how magnets work.

So here’s a fun fact. When I Google B Side Shuffle the first hits have taglines that include “B Side Shuffle is a highly collaborative, good-times musical collective”; “It’s more than just music – it’s an experience”; and “B Side Shuffle are one of the most exciting and kinetic up-and-coming bands hailing from Washington DC.” Awesome all around. Combining this Internet commentary with the fact that you’ve played our District’s most-revered 9:30Club three times in 2014 makes me think you guys are on to something good. Can you tell me a bit about these shows and what you think has prompted all this super positive commentary?

JASPER DRISKO: I think “good-times” is a key phrase there. Every time we play, we try to put on a really fun, energetic, engaging show for everyone who comes to see us. We’re doing this because we love music and we love playing our music for others. So when we’re on stage, we’re just having a ton of fun sharing that music with the world, and I think the audience really picks up on that and responds to it.

NIK SUS: It’s been a true honor to play 9:30 twice this year already, and now a third time. Over the years, I’ve seen some of my musical heroes grace that stage, so it’s surreal being up there. Each of our shows there in 2014 has been very different, too. Needless to say, we’re really excited to close out the year with a sold-out show at 9:30. We’re bringing a full horn section and have some surprises in store that we think the crowd is gonna love.

Speaking of the 9:30 Club and all that is the DC music scene, let’s hear a bit about how you see the Capitol City’s music landscape and where you find yourself fitting in among the musical crowd. Are there any specific venues where you really feel at home?

NIK SUS: I think we’re able to fit ourselves into a variety of musical settings. Indie crowd, professional crowd, jam crowd, whatever. We just want to get the music out there and for people to have a good time. One stage I feel really comfortable on in DC is Rock and Roll Hotel. It’s the definitive rock club. Intimate, great sound, intense crowd energy. Love the staff, too.

CARTER JONES: This city has very eclectic musical tastes: from jazz to punk, indie rock and gogo – there’s a local band to fit the tastes of pretty much everyone in DC. We see ourselves and our music as a reflection of that diverse listenership. Just like this city, we try to bring all of those influences together in each of our songs to make something that appeals to the differences among us.

Maybe 9:30 Club will feel like home eventually after a few more shows there, but I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch. I still get chills every time I set foot on that stage. And that’s unlikely to change.

Your newest album Farmalade is great. I love how diverse the sounds are, while remaining cohesive and true to the B Side Shuffle ethos. (I especially love Gauntlet.) What is the process in putting together such an ambitious work? Do you take on specific roles or is it more of an artistic free-for-all?

JASPER DRISKO: It’s a long process, very collaborative and democratic. It really started about six months before we even set out to record on the farm, with actually writing the songs. Then we played them all summer and really developed each one of them, tweaking things as we went along, seeing how the audiences responded, giving each other feedback about what we liked and didn’t like, and getting more comfortable with them. When fall came around, we felt ready to put them down. We spend an amazing weekend on the farm doing basic tracking, and then another few months putting the finishing touches on. It took a whole team of awesome, creative people, more than just the guys in the band, all working together to create the final product. I think we are all really happy with how it came out.

Looking ahead, what’s after Farmalade? What types of plans are you crafting for 2015?

NIK SUS: Look for some live releases, some brand new material, studio releases, and bigger festival appearances. B Side plans our moves strategically. I’m looking forward to working on new songs. In a busy band like ours, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of generating new material, yet it’s the most important thing you can do to keep the train moving.

CARTER JONES: Writing new songs and giving them a chance to fully form. We have lots of new songs already written, but the process is now about filling in the gaps and leading the songs to become the best they can be. That takes making more time to write and jam out new parts rather than just rehearsing for shows. The writing and songcrafting is where the real fun is for me.

You’ve had several awesome partnerships with other, mostly local, musicians (Frank Mitchell of Thievery Corporation, Jason Hann from the String Cheese Incident and Washington DC based saxophonist Ron Holloway as well as Danny Davis and Mario from Yellow Dubmarine). How do you identify possible partners? Can you give us a high-level idea of what that type of partnered collaboration looks like (is it structured? Impromptu? More or less challenging than keeping the creativity to the band alone?)? Is it a learning experience for you or more an exchange of ideas?

JASPER DRISKO: First off, I just want to say that having a drum duel/breakdown/jam with Jason Hann was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. It was an amazing experience to get to play with such a prominent and accomplished musician, but also someone who was extremely cool and down to earth. We had a ton of fun on stage without ever having met before and then after the show I talked to him and he was just a really nice guy too. I’ll never forget that experience.

NIK SUS: Have to give a big shout out to our horn section, which is anchored by Will Sautter (alto sax) and a recurring cast of players including Danny (trumpet), Mario (tenor sax), Frank (tenor sax). This is the first band I’ve worked extensively with horns and it’s actually helped me grow a lot as a musician. It definitely takes a lot of work to do the arrangements, but once you get there, it’s amazing how a well-orchestrated horn section can breathe new life into a song. All around it’s been a game changer, and I’m glad we’re moving in that direction.

The sit-ins have ranged from being meticulously planned to impromptu. When Danny joins us, he usually has everything charted out and it’s very polished and structured. But other sit-ins are completely spontaneous, like the one with the Ron Holloway. He was the artist-in-residence at a great festival we played this past summer in West Virginia, the Mad Tea Party Jam. In the middle of our set and seemingly out of nowhere, our buddy Marc Worden rides up to the stage in a golf cart with Ron and we’re like “What? YES.” He jumped on stage and killed it, of course.

GEOFF BROWNING: In each one of those cases, the circumstances were different. But each was amazing for its own reasons. Frank Mitchell has been part of the Thievery Corporation team for a long time. His sax-slaying skills are mindboggling, and he has a very distinct style. He has been playing and practicing with us a lot recently. Ron Holloway has played with literally everyone—the Allman Brothers Band, Dizzy Gillespie, Government Mule, Gil Scott-Heron, you name it. It’s a privilege to play with these guys, and they each a lot of lessons to impart on younguns like us.

As for how it effects our creativity, it’s always a net positive. We always learn something, and it’s really exciting to think these people actually want to play with us. Sometimes when Frank’s ripping a solo, I almost forget I’m on stage and not in the audience, because he just has such a mastery of sound, and I’m rocking along so hard with my ear monitors. We’ll be playing more with him in 2015 for sure.

What is the question (and corresponding answer) you most wish interviewers would ask?

CARTER JONES: A perennial favorite question for me is “What are you currently spinning/listening to?”

To answer my own question: Lettuce, The Pimps of Joytime, Moon Taxi, Opeth’s latest album “Pale Communion,” and Blood Orange – just to name a few.

NIK SUS: You know when you find a band you really like and you dig deep into their catalog and want to tell all your friends about them? For me, both Tame Impala and White Denim fit that description. Also Chromeo and St. Vincent put out killer albums in 2014.

GEOFF BROWNING: There have been a couple times where we played with a band, and I got to know them, then got into their music afterwards. It’s cool, you can almost hear people’s personalities reflected in their songs. Tauk, Moon Taxi, Big Something, the Revivalists, and ELM come to mind in this category. Also, Rubblebucket is amazing. And Tune Yards. And the Daktaris.

The Wild Life: An Interview With Vacationer

Posted on by Celeste in interviews | 2 Comments

“No point to making plans/the wild life is human nature”

With that lyric and some amazing tropical beats, Vacationer caught my ear with their heavenly 2014 sophomore album Relief. Everything about this Philly/NYC based ‘Nu-Hula’ band is chill – from their name to their lyrics to their sound. My plan to survive the 2015 Chicago winter is to just close my blinds, crank up the heat to 80, put their albums on repeat and envision palm trees.

Lead singer Kenny Vasoli was kind enough to respond to some questions I emailed his way:

You told EO8 that you enjoy touring because you like to see how people on the road react to your songs – that it provides inspiration for new material. How does the crowd’s reaction influence your future songs?
I once heard James Murphy say in an interview (and I’m paraphrasing here) that he likes making dance music because he can see people visibly enjoy it.  Like a chef making food that people devour.  I identify with that mindset.  I’m not aiming to read minds, I really have minimal insight on what the masses want to hear. So it always come from a place of wanting to make music that I want to exist. Seeing how well a crowd reacts to something only strengthens my instincts. I don’t overanalyze it, though I definitely want our music to be a key component to an enjoyable experience.
You have an EP of remixes from other bands of your song “Good as New.” How did that project come about and how did you decide which bands to collaborate with? Do you have a favorite remix? (Also I understand that the song was inspired by your dog – that’s awesome that your dog had an entire album created around him. Most people will never be able to claim the same).

We love to remix other artists and we had a chance to pick some artists who we’re fans of to rework our tunes. It’s a fresh excitement hearing how those will turn out. My favorite is definitely Geographer’s mix. I’ve been a fan of them for a while and I really dig what they did with our song.Good as New is indeed about my dog, Ollie. It blows my mind how sweet he is. He’s my first dog. I wrote that song within the first month of adopting him. I love him so much.
How has it been touring with St. Lucia? Any funny stories from the road?

We’ve only had two shows with them so far and just had a proper hang with the members for the first time last night in Calgary. They are totally sweet people who have only been friendly and welcoming to us.  As far as funny stories, we in the band are always barreled over with laughter cracking each other up. It’s hard to pinpoint or retell what makes us lose it, we are such tight friends it’s usually absurd nonsense. For example one morning we were just having fun switching out one word in common questions. Such as: “How do you think you are??” or “Where is the matter with you??”

You all are based out of Philly and NYC – do you find that the city influences your music at all? Do you have a favorite venue in either city to play? 
Most definitely. Growing up in the Philadelphia area made discovering music very easy, and I was always searching. We made our bones playing in NYC when we first formed. We also record up there. I find that it’s a terrific place to create music. The frequency of creativity around there is operating at such a high level that I can noticeably feel it.I love Underground Arts and Union Transfer in Philly. Music Hall of Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bowl are my favorites in NY.
Does being based in two different cities make it at all difficult to collaborate on writing and recording?

Not really.  We only run into rehearsal issues once in a while.  For recording, it’s nice to head up there to work with Matt and Grant. Since I’m making a bit of trip, we waste no time.  Also with the technology today, we can pass each other ideas from virtually anywhere and we often do.
One of the first songs I really got into was “The Wild Life” off your 2014 album Relief. The chorus of that song is “No point to making plans/the wild life is human nature” which I love, although I think I’m probably the antithesis of it. Is that pretty true to form for your lives? Or is that more an idealized representation? The music video for the song is also lovely and looks like it was a lot of fun to make – where was it filmed?

I really believe in that lyric, it’s nearly a mantra for myself. It’s been a breakthrough in my life learning how to be present-minded. It’s just in stints at this point, but I love it when I’m dialed into the moment. Planning is a tendency that is not unique to humans and is often unavoidable. I definitely try to avoid them any chance I get. I want life to take me on a ride and I’m exhausted at the thought of trying to completely control it. Over-planning is just projecting a future, and that has been a surefire recipe for disappointment in my experience. Living primarily from moment to moment has been a much better fit for me. My outlook is filled with considerably more wonder and ease these days. It’s been a welcome change in my life.We got to shoot the video in Nosara, Costa Rica. A remarkably beautiful village. It was exactly as much fun as it looks.
Obviously relaxing and de-stressing and vacations are a big part of the ethos of the band, from the tropical sound to the band name to the song names to the lyrics – was there a specific vacation that inspired the band’s ethos? What have been some of your favorite vacations?

I did have a week long vacation in Amsterdam during the making for the first record. It was an enlightening and cathartic trip for me to take. I explored myself and the city during that time and I returned with so much inspiration that had fueled the songs. Now we seem to be in perpetual vacation, we keep getting sent to amazing places. Since we’ve started touring we’ve gotten to play in Iceland. That was a goal I never expected to reach. We were there for 5 days and played one show. We had so much free time to explore and experience the land. I love that we are afforded those opportunities. I want to keep this adventure going.
Vacationer is on tour right now with St. Lucia and they’re playing Chicago this week! Dates below:
Nov 10 – Metro, Chicago, IL
Nov 11 – Metro, Chicago, IL
Nov 12 – The Crofoot, Pontiac, MI
Nov 14th – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, Canada
Nov 15th – The Hollow, Albany, NY
Nov 16th – Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Nov 17th – The Sinclair, Boston, MA
Nov 26th – Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA