Saturday, December 18, 2004

Black Tie Dynasty: This Stays Between Us, Idol Records

Black Tie Dynasty combines New Wave and Britpop with gothic style and sublime energy, a Psychedelic Furs for the aughties. With cryptic and compelling lyrics, This Stays Between Us has my vote for best-titled album, and I’m fine with it that’s it’s only January. It’s a solid debut for the Fort Worth-based band. Beginning with organ-like synths that impart a gothy darkness and nicely balance the bouncy beat and danceable guitar, “Crime Scene” is the single. Best is the lyric: “It looked like a crime scene, covered up in ice cream.” The bridge, however, extends the song just a bit too long. Three minute songs should be the forte of BTD, but most on the EP stretch past four or, gulp, nearly six. The seamless transition between “Ghost of a Secretary” and “Souls at Zero” makes them almost two parts of the same song. The consistency between these six songs leaves me wishing the band would stretch their musical chops a bit more, but also firmly establishes their sound.

What to say to that soon-to-be ex-girlfriend insisting she can’t live without you? Sweetly sing her the second song for starters, with its catchy hook “I’m gonna let you, diiii-iiiiii-iiiii-iiiie.” There must be a few broken hearts trailing vocalist Cory Watson’s kohled eyes. With a voice more silken than Morrissey’s and more masculine than Robert Smith’s, Watson wanders paths New Wave left wide open. Brian McQuorcodale on synths/keyboards showcases his counterpoint to Watson’s Echo and the Bunnymen-inspired guitar riffs while Eddie Thomas’ pulsing drums and Blake McWhorter’s bass complete the band. Black Tie Dynasty is heavily ‘80s retro, but freshly done, not rehashed. It’s good to have this energy coursing again after Grunge and Emo have burned out.

You’re thinking about it right? What exactly would a crime scene covered in ice cream look like? I told ya. And the forecast reads: MTV.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Interview with Red Monroe

ooored monroe

What are the Ronettes, Dylan, U2, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead? If you said the influences of experimental band Red Monroe, you’d have found the only likely answer. Honed at the Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma and just breaking onto the Deep Ellum scene, this is a band to be experienced. With their first release Meeting on a Train coming out in days and a show this week at the Double Wide, Red Monroe are starting 2005 hot.

DMG sat down in the dining room of bassist Neil Wadley and guitarist Andrew Snow’s Lakewood home/recording studio/rehearsal area for a humorous, tongue-in-cheek interview with one of the most articulate bands in the Metroplex. The members of Red Monroe don’t take themselves seriously, but do their music. New to Dallas, except for their exceptionally well-connected drummer, Jeff Gilroy, the band is finding their footing in the music scene here. Vocalist Eric Steele and keyboard player Matt Moffitt cite influences as diverse as the Ronettes, Dylan, U2, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead –most barely apparent in their first album, Meeting on a Train. Red Monroe has fused their listening library into experimental rock with the potential to revolutionize how we hear music. Studio-produced tracks are dumped for ambient recordings, freeform drumming is celebrated, and the experience of listening to music is what drives this band. Red Monroe melds rocket science and folk singing into one interesting group of musicians. And if you want to call them babies about their art, well, that’s OK, too.

Dallas Music Guide: Tell me a little bit about the band, who’s your songwriter?
Eric Steele: We’re all songwriters, I guess. As a band, there’s two ways we write. One, all of us will be in this room behind me; we’ll drink some wine, couple bottles, someone will start an idea and we’ll just play around with it, see where it goes, all of us writing. The other way is I’ll have something that I’m working on and I’ll bring it to the guys and then everyone will take it from there, add to it, and see where it goes. There’s not a main writer, it’s just all of us.
Neal Wadley: Most of it’s freeform, we start with an idea of some sort, Andrew’s got a guitar riff, and we start building layers on top of that.
Andrew Snow: Most of the songs on the album, Eric came in with an idea, a cord progression and lyrics and we used that as a skeletal structure. We’ll change little tiny things but probably eighty percent of the songs started with Eric. Two of them were old songs, one of them Matt wrote back four years ago.
Matt Moffitt: You can hear it on the album because it’s a jazz song, and it starts with the piano.
AS: “Our Love” was Eric and I drunk one night, two years ago. Those are the only two songs which were the oldies. (laughing)
DMG: When did you form as a band?
ES: That’s a long, weird response; (pointing at Neal) you’d probably be best to answer that.
NW: As the format of the band is right now, February of last year (2003). But some combination of these members has been going now since three years.
ES: Andrew and Neal have been playing together for a long time, they grew up together.
AS: And then we met Matt our freshman year at college, and we started playing.
ES: And I was just playing, doing my own thing, embarrassing myself by playing folk songs. And then stumbled upon this, via a response to a ‘singer wanted’ ad.
NW: We’d been playing for about a year and a half with another lead singer and he left to move out to L.A., and so we put out ads for a singer. We were kind of a cover band then.
ES: I was a Woody Guthrie-Bob Dylan cover folk artist.
MM: (laughing) We were a U2-Pink Floyd-Radiohead-Rush cover band.
AS: (imitating a stoner) No man, we were a trippy band.
MM: As soon as Eric got in, we started writing all original stuff, and we just quit the covers, almost completely. The band really took off from there.
NW: A couple of choice U2, maybe some Bruce Springsteen…
AS: We did what we had to do in Norman.
ES: I was doing some stuff with Oddibe back in the old days, prior to Red Monroe in the Dylan-Guthrie-folk-writing era and was opening up for them. That was actually the show where Jeff, our drummer, had his appendix removed. The night before our big Dallas debut show. We had just moved down from Norman.
NW: We had to take Jeff to the hospital because his appendix almost ruptured. My little brother is a drummer and he drove down the next morning. Andrew put the songs up on the website and he burned a copy of the CD and my brother learned the songs, in the car, on the drive down from Oklahoma. We rehearsed one time and it was a disaster!
ES: Yeah, we had one run through and it was a train wreck.
NW: We set up and played and closed our eyes. We actually turned our backs and looked at each other in a circle and played so we could communicate and it was amazing. It was a perfect show.
AS: Jeff is our red-headed Irish drummer. (laughing) He’s true to the stereotype! Don’t put that in…
ES: Jeff’s role in the band has been huge. When we came down from Norman, we lacked any real connection with anything musically in Dallas, we didn’t know where to play, we didn’t know who to get shows with, and when Jeff became our drummer, he was plugged in. He played with Ethic and they played a lot of shows with Course of Empire, back in the day. He’d been in a couple of other bands, really early in the Dallas scene.
NW: Ethic was the big one, though, an industrial band.
ES: So Jeff started helping us get shows at Clearview and at Curtain Club and that’s how we started to play, and Jeff also is a producer. Even before he was playing music, he was engineering it.
AS: He’s at Alamos Studios, which is his sound studio and he’s done that for years, too.
ES: And he’s a real fiery, passionate lad. (laughing)
AS: He’s the icing on the cake, I mean, can you imagine? We really tried to hold onto our ties to Oklahoma when we moved to Dallas, our drummer, Brian, was a great friend of ours, he had a family, he had ties to Oklahoma, he couldn’t make the move with us and we did our very very best to hold onto him because we knew that moving to a city where we didn’t know anybody, if we lost any band members, the band would die. Because Brian was married and he had another kid on the way, we had to let him go for his own good. I don’t think he wanted to, but we had to be like ‘Brian, it’s OK man, just step away from it.’ We put up an advertisement at Guitar Center and and that’s where Jeff found us. And he was the first one?
NW: He was one of about seven people that responded.
AS: We knew right off that he was the guy.
NW: Once he showed us some of the stuff he had done, we were pretty certain.
ES: We love his drumming style, it’s really freeform. We have a tendency to just go for this real beautiful big thing and what Jeff did with drums is that he just created this separate raw, shredding drumming style.
AS: He never plays the same drum line twice.
NW: But it works.
ES: It’s helped us writing-wise. It’s been a great backbone for us because it keeps us constantly changing and evolving what we are doing.
NW: Songs like “Meeting on a Train” especially, his drumming on that song is so unconventional.
ES: And if he was here, he’d be talking about it, too.
AS: It’s different every time, yet it always does exactly what it’s supposed to, always. It’s consistent, yet freeform. He loves it, too. It’s a funny thing, he’s always grooving along to it when he’s listening to the recording. But we knew Jeff was the one, too, because the first time we met him, he was playing for us some of the things he had worked on, and I asked him, just out of the blue, so what have you done to our stuff? It was the first time we had met him, and sure enough, he had downloaded some of the MP3s off the internet and he had messed with them. He had rearranged some of the songs, put in effects, mastered them on his own, and played them for us. The ideas he was doing, they were brilliant. And he was saying, ‘My wife and I can’t stop listening to this song, which is the piano song that Matt wrote…
MM: “Green Light.”
AS: We knew right then. The thing about the band that has worked so well, is that we’ve been absolute best friends and we’re oversensitive, overanalytical, babies. We’re a bunch of babies.
NW: We fight all the time.
AS: We fight all the time, but we fight in a way that’s like …
NW: brothers.
AS: We fight, but we don’t want to upset. I would venture to say that Matt would be the most sensitive person in the band… Matt or Eric.
ES: I don’t know about that.
AS: You’re the most worrisome. We’re always afraid of hurting Matt’s feelings.
ES: I’m neurotic, I’m not worrisome. (everyone laughing)
AS: I’m serious! ‘What’s Matt gonna think? I don’t know!’ See? We’re just a bunch a babies!
MM: I think my skin’s a little thicker than that.
ES: I think the drinking has something to do with it, too.
AS: But anyway, I don’t know what my point was with that….
ES: For some reason, as far as drummers are concerned, they’re always married and have children. It’s our grounding.
MM: We’re pretty fortunate; Jeff has an awesome wife, too. He’s over here all the time.
AS: We have to send Jeff home to his wife, like, ‘Go! Spend time with your family!’ But she’s totally cool about it. She hears the stuff and she’s like, ‘Go Jeff, go do what you gotta do.’ God, we all want to have a girlfriend like that.
DMG: Matt, you live in Houston, right? You spend a lot of time in your car.
MM: (laughing) It’s a four hour trip each way. One of these days I’m gonna do a gas calculation in money, see if I get anything back. But I love driving anyways, so it’s not the big a deal. Every time I come up here I have such a great time. Eventually I’m gonna move up here. I’m trying to find a job; I have a good job there.
AS: Matt has his dream job there. That’s the thing.
ES: He works on the rocket ships. He really does.
AS: The space shuttle!
MM: (shrugging) I got an engineering degree and I always wanted to work in the space industry and you’re kind of limited with that. You either go to California, Florida, or basically, Houston. I was taking great steps toward a good career there, and then the band came along, and screwed up everything… (laughing) It’s a battle of my two passions. I’m young enough to know the music needs to happen now, and engineering can wait. My priorities with the band.
DMG: You’re hanging out, not being a rocket scientist to do this?
AS: Matt’s the brains.
ES: Whereas with the rest of us, if the band doesn’t work out, we’re fucked. (everyone laughing)
DMG: When is your CD release coming up?
AS: We’re shooting for January 18th. We’re going to do Ft. Worth, Dallas, Denton, Austin, Houston and do CD releases in all those places.
ES: We’ve basically just stayed in Dallas and played shows in Norman, but we haven’t really branched out to Ft. Worth, to Denton, to Austin, and that’s something with the CD, we think we’ll be able to start doing. We’re definitely excited about doing that.
AS: We’ve got it ready to go.
ES: We’re playing the Double Wide on January 7th. We’ve wanted to play the Double Wide for a while. That place looks so cool and a band we love, at least that I love, the Strange Boys are like the resident band at the Double Wide. They played there every Friday in August and September; love, love that place. Playing there, drinking some Lone Star beer.
DMG: What are your favorite songs of all time?
NW: ‘Where the Streets Have No Name,’ that’s my favorite song, unabashed.
DMG: OK, so we’ve got U2 covered, who’s got The Cure?
AS: Crap! We can only do U2 once? (to Neal) Why’d you have to say that one?
NW: And I’m gonna put a stipulation on that: it’s live. Live. ‘Cause it’s awesome live.
ES: For me it’s just Dylan or anything by the Ronettes. “Be My Baby” or any Dylan anything.
MM: I like a lot of British bands, like Elbow, and Doves. Of course Radiohead is one of our biggest influences. Any song they produce is pretty much beautiful, take anything out of those.
AS: Now that Neal has taken U2, I would have to say the song I could listen to over and over again is “The Great Gig in the Sky,” Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon. I could listen to
that for days.
NW: Jeff would probably say some industrial band you’ve never heard of, or Pink Floyd, Aphex Twin, maybe Celine Dion.
AS: Sidenote: if I could say any U2 song, I’d say… ‘Zooropa!’ That’s my favorite song! But I can’t say U2, Neal took it.
ES: There’s a big split in the band as to who appreciates the post-Achtung Baby era and who doesn’t. There’s a chasm.
AS: (to Matt) Are you on board? You liked Pop better than I did, didn’t you?
MM: Yeah, but anything else, I’m not really sold on.
AS: You guys are assholes. I’m the only true-blue fan here.
DMG: What are some other local bands that you like?
ES: Really like the Strange Boys and Timeline Post.
MM: Timeline Post.
NS: Pilotdrift is a good band.
ES: We just played a show with Coma Rally. Those guys are really good guys and we like their sound, too. The Ills.
AS: I wish they were a local band. They’re a band from Norman called The Ills and they are our favorite band.
ES: Those guys are just brilliant; they play progressive rock, jazz.
AS: There’s nothing in Dallas like them. What’s cool about the Norman scene is the Opolis. ES: It’s the best place in Oklahoma to play, one of the best places in the region. People experience music in Oklahoma, and at the Opolis, there was no booze, just coffee, just cash, just Coors Light, and it was just about the music. There’s no venue here to just hear music, to hear what’s created that’s new and off the beaten path.
AS: There’s an artistic crowd in Oklahoma.
NW: Which is unexpected in Oklahoma.
AS: The Opolis is about music, and they promote a band because they believe in them. Deep Ellum is obsessed with bringing back Deep Ellum. The bars are worried about keeping themselves afloat. But I do love to play at clubs. Chad at Clearview makes us sound like a rock band. He’s our favorite sound guy.
ES: Gene Coleman’s a genius at Liquid Lounge.
DMG: You have two versions of the song “Althea,” tell me about that.
ES: We threw the studio version away and in its place, one night, we were on the porch, trying to catch the moment of songs, trying to capture when you’re in the moment, when you got it, when you get it, you know. Jeff set up the ambient mic near the porch and one-taked ‘Althea.’ It was one of those really good takes, and I just played through it, sang it, and we took that and compressed it enough where it sounded really good, the guys went around and came up with this beautiful, ambient, really unique background.
AS: We played the title track of the album backwards, in another room, and let it seep in. Noises in the kitchen.
ES: So that’s track 4 (“Althea”), which is my second favorite song on the album, after track 11 (“I See San Bernardino”) and those are the two that we did at our house.
AS: Eric wrote “Althea” at a time when we thought the band was going to fall apart, and he came in and brought that song and we were wasted and started writing parts to it. And it sounded great at the time and we loved it because we were sentimental…
MM: and drunk…
AS: … and putting all that stuff in the studio totally cheated the song. That song should be played as if Eric was at an arena with just him and the acoustic guitar and it sounded so big, that if we made it any bigger with other instruments it would diminish the whole song. It was kind of fun to just tear it down.
ES: One of the things all of us finally learned is that a song is a song. If a song can stand on its feet with an acoustic guitar and vocals, then that’s a song. Parts of songs are not it, all the other shit, the effects, layers and layers. Just the simple stuff.
AS: When we rehearse, we just make sure the instruments sound as they’re supposed to sound, how we want them. We have rhythm mistakes, we have a lot of personality, a lot of character. The whole album was recorded in four days. We just captured and simplified the songs. We could have slaved months more over the mixing and the tonal placements, but ultimately we just had to let it go and say the art is there. If people like the song, then they’ll like the song. We like the song, and that’s really all that matters at the end of the day.
ES: The happiest, most pleasing thing is that everyone is really pissed off that we didn’t put the other version (of “Althea”) on the album.
AS: Maybe in a year, though, when we could have had money for that song, we’ll be like, ‘Damn it! Why did we do that?’
ES: Yeah, maybe it’ll be on the box set. But anyone who listens to track 11 (“I See San Bernardino”) and that’s their favorite song, that person will be a Red Monroe fan forever. (laughing) Those are going to be our true fans.
MM: That song is a true moment. If someone gets it, they get it, but otherwise….
AS: It’s their loss.

This month, you can experience Red Monroe at the Double Wide and pick up their first release, Meeting on a Train.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Hourly Radio (EP) Lure of the Underground

(Kirtland Records)

Brave beginning from Dallas band The Hourly Radio, Lure of the Underground is a showcase of influences. Britpop evolved with Southern sentiment, their music is expansive, effusive, and beautiful. Every song is a departure from the previous. The radio-ready, The Strokes meets My Bloody Valentine, “Lost + Found” is pleasing pop waiting to be added to any playlist. But track five, “On and On” made me double-check my iPod to confirm I hadn’t accidentally cued up the Secret Machines. “First Love is Forever” is the slowest; an anthemic, pulsating beginning, but The Hourly Radio end strong with the dreamscapes of the trippy, synthy instrumental “Travelsigns.” The heavily drum and guitar song, “Fear of Standing Upright” is the hook that kept me enthralled with this album. The only inhibition comes from Aaron Closson’s vocals; subdued against the background of screaming riffs of Ryan Short’s guitar, their control and elegance is a flawless juxtaposition against raw animal energy, the human dualism of rationalism and emotionalism perfectly portrayed in a song. With a band this young, Lure of the Underground could easily become a sick addiction.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Live review: Flickerstick, Radiant*, [Daryl]

11.06.2004 @ Lakewood Theater- Flickerstick Tarantula Release

Three Dallas bands -[Daryl], Radiant*, and Flickerstick- played the Lakewood Theater and showcased three styles of indie rock that had depth and stamina and amazing presence. Three solid bands kept (most of) the crowd out of the plush comfy seats for the night.

The show was Dallas music in evolution. Radiant* are local, having played mostly around the metroplex with the occasional foray into Oklahoma, [Daryl] is on tour, having hit the eastern states and now moving westward, and Flickerstick is, well, Flickerstick. Winners of VH1’s Bands on the Run reality show and veterans of tours in the U.S. as well as the U.K., Brandin Lea, Cory Kreig, and crew have an international following. From lovable homeboys to notorious rock stars, the music and personalities at Flickerstick’s Tarantula release party ran the gamut.

[Daryl] was the sacrificial first band on stage. The line at the theater’s door at 7pm guaranteed a good turnout for later, and the fans were ready to go tonight. Lead singer Dylan Silver’s The Who-style guitar thrashing and rollicking was entertainment enough, but [Daryl] is a huge ensemble group. Seven members, from horn player Dave Hayes to keyboardist Justen Andrews, filled every inch of available stage. This group of best buddies, lead by the angsty Silvers (who only looks like Robert Smith of The Cure without the makeup and bad hair) are reviving the 80s phenomenon of synthy, bouncy rock. They made me long for my jellies and safety pins. Playing a set mainly from their latest, Ohio, a concept album about Silver’s childhood in that state, [Daryl] got the crowd moving and shaking their fists. In this band, there’s something for everyone to like. Drummer Spammy Lamm tossed out a sweaty towel but the audience politely stepped aside and let it fall. “Nobody wants that?” chuckled Silvers, “Here, toss it back. We’ll put some Justen sweat on it. I guarantee you that always works.” It did.

Radiant*’s fans were vocal. Chanting until the first riff, and screaming when vocalist Levi Smith peeled off his jacket, the girls in the front row were none too happy about a pushy reviewer trying to get photos. Radiant* is a must-see band. We Hope You Win is due out in spring 2005 and they played “160,” “That Girl,” and “She’s Alright” from the new album. It promises to be a bit harder and faster than the previously released The Sound of Splitting Atoms, a tour-de-force of cathartic ballads. Radiant* is supremely consistent live; every show is better than the last. Smith and guitarist Dragan Jakovljevic are consummate showmen, backed by the powerful bass and drums of Jon Shoemaker and Daniel Hopkins. Ask any band that has shared the spotlight with them and props are always forthcoming. “Radiant*’s a good band,” chips in Brandin Lea, the lead singer for Flickerstick, “one of my favorites.” If you leave Radiant* show uninspired, you weren’t paying attention.

After intermissions filled with Jet’s Get Born, the crowd was revved for Flickerstick’s return home. True to their reputation, yes, there was a fight, but, no, the band wasn’t in it. Yes, there was alcohol, but, no, the band wasn’t falling down pissed. There may have been drugs, but Brandin Lea says grass makes him hungry and he doesn’t smoke it anymore. There definitely were groupies. But mostly there was one freakin’ great set.

I have a confession: I wasn’t feeling the love for Flickerstick before they hit the stage. I’m, a bit too mature to envy the rock star life. I’m not cute enough to get past the bouncer, not hip enough to hang out without being in the way, and totally geeky with my little notebook. Completely out of my element around anyone cool, actually. I wasn’t a Flickerstick convert, even backstage, drinking their beer. When Tarantula arrived in my mail in its sterile brown paper package, it left me lukewarm. I stuck it in the CD player a few times, but nothing. This morning, though, in the grog of my hangover from too little sleep and not enough beer to alleviate the boredom of the hurry up and wait last night, I’m listening with a newly educated ear. My little computer speakers bring back the pounding in my chest of the Lakewood’s monsters. I’ve been sucked in by Flickerstick’s persona, by watching Brandin up behind the Korg Trinitron and seeing his world. It’s a glimpse of brilliance. The live show is the songs given the flesh they need; it’s Brandin and Corey and Rex bouncing off each other. Three spinning stars held in check by Fletcher’s flatline personality and Todd’s just plain niceness. It’s all about the music and the band on stage broke down my internal barriers like no piece of shiny plastic ever could. As polished as Tarantula is, it can’t capture Flickerstick live.

In the echoing reverb of the Lakewood Theater, more suited to civilized movie dialog than the wall of noise emanating from Flickerstick, true rock-and-roll hit Dallas. Waiting to go on, Brandin quipped, “I see empty seats out there; I’m not used to that.” After their orchestrated entrance, he got down to what they are known for: his clear and concise vocals, the frenetic guitar of Rex Ewing, and Cory Kreig’s words. Lea is a minor rock god with ragged hair and an obtrusive yellow daisy pinned to a jacket that bled red under the spots so that his hair matched it precisely. Behind them ran a psychedelic commentary of vintage commercials hawking the benefits of caffeine and dancing Muriel cigarettes. Repeated screams of “I love you, Brandin!” and flowers came from front row fans whose ages easily covered the span of fifteen to fifty.

Lea conducted the crowd and worked hard for it even though the crowd sang along from the first song. Despite the unfortunate similarity to that other Brandon’s matador hand-on-hip style of delivery, this Brandin is no over-produced MTV pretty boy. What you hear on the album is pitance compared to what you get live. Sitting on the edge of stage, Lea connects to the audience and jokes that he’s enjoying “playing in a nice neighborhood like Lakewood, instead of getting shot.” Climbing on the speakers to drive the energy even higher, he ratchets up the frenzy of rabid fans.

“I like the way that it’s killing me… I love my nicotine, I love my alcohol… I love the way she screams, my teenage dope fiend.” The words from ‘Teenage Dope Fiend’ are the band’s anthem. Smoking on stage, Fletch’s cigarette hangs apathetic and limp from his lips, while Brandin holds his between fingers, in jaded, tired style. In the break before the sad, pitiful ballad, “Bleeding,” Lea graciously accepts flowers from a fan and places them on the drum set reverentially, as if on top of a tomb. Lead guitar Cory Kreig stands absolutely still doing his licks until the music catches him in its wave and rips him off his heels. Dangerous boy Rex- all soaking six feet of him- is down on his knees, a bouquet of flowers dangling from his back pocket. Generating the driving beat in the smoke halo and strobing light show, he’s transported by the music, with his preppy Asian princess staking out her territory from the wings of stage right. Fueled by political frustration and preceded by a tirade on the current administration, Flickerstick delivered a far more inspired “The Ones” than the plodding version on Tarantula. After a final wave to the fans from Brandin, Rex tossed his guitar with abandon across the stage to the crew. A trailer of noise that wouldn’t stop confused the crowd into thinking that Flickerstick wasn’t coming back and began the exodus of the comfy chair sitters. But the band came back for the requisite encores of “Coke” and “Direct Line to the Telepathic,” after which a bewildered Rex roamed back out on stage, hanging onto the vestiges of the energy and a foaming beer. Instead of any musical last effort, he tossed out an extra towel or two to the remaining diehards.

With homage to Pink Floyd, U2, and a bit of Britpop, sometimes all in the same song, Flickerstick is nearly impossible to label. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear them on ClearChannel. In an interview prior to the show, I asked the band about the diversity of their fans’ taste in music, but none of the guys would narrow down their sound for me. After experiencing the show, I realize my search for a label is pointless. Flickerstick is rock, in totality. They encompass all that went before. Exiting the stage, a sweaty Fletcher asked me, “So, what would you call us?” I had to say I didn’t know. In his typical brevity, he smiled and said, “See.”

As Brandin said in his parting words, the night was “Mucho craziness.”

Flickerstick Set List:


Catholic Scars and Chocolate Bars

Girls & Pills


When You Were Young

Pistol in My Hand

Got a Feeling

Never Enough

Teenage Dope Fiend

The Tourist

All We Are Is Gone



Sorry… Wrong Trajectory

The Ones


Direct Line to the Telepathic

Radiant* Set List:

That Girl



Save Yourself

The Way You Make Me Feel



She’s Alright

Do Not Delay

[Daryl] Set List:

Make Up

You Were Way Too Young

Just Because the Lake Was Frozen Over

Uneven Surfaces

The Make

Leak in the Media


Rooms 31 & 30

Happy Accidents


The Crash That Took Me

Originally written for in November 2004.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Five Minutes with Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol- Dallas, Texas, The Gypsy Tea Room with Eisley, 10/13/04

OK, this is a very short, five minute interview, but ... it's Snow Patrol! yes, I'm a fan...

Nathan Connolly, guitarist.
Aced: “Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter, is one of your fans?”
Nathan Connolly: “Yeah, do you know what? I seen that in the NME, actually, yeah. Did see that, really. He said he liked… well, he mentioned bands like the Zutons, the Kings (of Leon), other bands. I did see that, actually, yeah. Well, I mean, a couple of the guys like it, too, Harry Potter. I don’ know, I’ve not read the books personally, but I like ‘em a lot.”

Gary Lightbody, vocalist
Aced Magazine talked to an exhausted and ready-to-go-back-home Gary Lightbody after Snow Patrol’s set at the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas. Sporting new long curls, Lightbody and crew put on a rocking show for the packed Wednesday night crowd. Be sure to imagine delectable Irish accent now…
Aced: Let’s play ‘free band association’. If I say “Sex Pistols” what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
Gary Lightbody: Johnny Rotten.
Aced: Pixies?
GL: Ah, yeah, like them.
Aced: Ben Kweller?
GL: Brendan Benson, I don’ know why…
Aced: Travis?
GL: Laughs very amused, and then shakes head, “I got nothing.”

Originally published in Aced Magazine

Hope for the Masses - thoughts on Radiant*

Pillars and concrete walls,
How they’re weighing down on me.
All that I wished for, all that I love
Seems so far away…
I’ll seize the day.

It’s early on a Thursday evening in Dallas and these words run through my head. It’s an anthem of sorts, urging me to go on, keep moving forward. This is good, because I could use some encouragement to calm my nerves. The lyrics are from “Do Not Delay” by Radiant*, the latest unsigned band to break on the local music scene. Words of inspiration and a damn fine tune to go with them, the song is acoustic and powerful with a classic U2-inspired guitar break. When I got their CD, The Sound of Splitting Atoms, I put this song on endless repeat.
Deep Ellum is in the heart Dallas, just beyond downtown, surrounded by industrial buildings and freight yards. In years past, the clubs that now rock to local kids and national headliners were blues clubs. A bit of New Orleans-style seediness still hangs on the low-slung buildings and wide streets. Standing outside the silver garage doors of Last Beat studios, holding a 12-pack of Shiner that I’m not even sure the band inside will drink, I’m waiting to meet the guys behind the words. The very suburban family walking toward me doesn’t yet look out of place, but give it an hour or so and Elm Street will fill with twenty-somethings in search of tattoos and cheap beer. I try to hide the golden box behind my knees, and at the same time, smile into the sphere of the security camera as I ring the bell. I feel like a total idiot. Lead singer Levi Smith opens the door and rescues me. I grin and forget to introduce myself. I’m a bit starstruck, because Smith is a blonde Julian Casablancas, minus the New York attitude. In his black suit jacket, jeans, and brown suede Wallabies he looks exactly as you’d expect an indie rocker would. He takes the beer and leads me down the hall past bitty cellblocks of recording stuff to the nuevo-retro lounge. He promptly sticks the case of beer in the fridge, but doesn’t take one. Hmm. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do? passes through my mind, but I know what these guys do. They make incredible music.
I first saw Radiant* this past July when friends and I arrived at local alternative radio station KDGE’s anniversary concert way, way too early. Whatever possessed us to get there at seven o’clock could only have been called divine intervention because otherwise, we would have missed the spiritual experience that is a Radiant* set. Smith and his band were the opening act for The Killers at Trees, a venue that holds a thousand people, uncomfortably. The hundred or so music buffs there with us got something we didn’t expect: quality rock. Radiant* was the first band on the bill, but it didn’t matter. They were 100% there for the listeners who came for more than MTV’s latest conquest. Radiant* sold to us; they got up there and put themselves out, almost naked in their passion. They knew that, at the end of the set, it didn’t matter if a hundred or a thousand people were listening. They played to that one person out on the floor whose heart was open to their music. On a bill that was packed with diverse acts, from solo guitars to Linkin-Park-alikes, Radiant* was up there with confidence and got the crowd behind the music. Levi Smith, Daniel Hopkins, Dragan Jakovljevic, and Jon Schoemaker follow illustrious indie rockers who have risen in the heat of Texas; Ben Kweller, The Secret Machines, Tripping Daisy, Polyphonic Spree, just to name a few.
Local music reviewer Zac Crain [Dallas Observer, April 2004] has labeled their sophomore release, 2003’s The Sound of Splitting Atoms, as ‘Texas’ answer to Coldplay’, but it’s much more than that. Rock with a melodic sound, it’s is a tribute to the depth of the band member’s souls. Striving for hope in changing times, Radiant*’s message has particular relevance today. Four guys from Grand Prairie never sounded so good.
Back at the studio, Smith’s cellular rings and he excuses himself, leaving me with Serbian transplant Dragan (pronounced dragon) Jakovljevic, lead guitar for the band, and Daniel Hopkins, their drummer. Dragan takes a break from his dinner to say hello to me and I’m completely at a loss as to whom he is. Somehow, in the four days since I met them at their latest gig, he’s shaved his beard and lost his Bosnian inflection. He says he’s been practicing sounding like an American. I wish he wouldn’t. Lanky and dark, Dragan is a bit shy, maybe because of his now nearly non-existent accent. Hopkins immediately makes me feel welcome; with his shaggy blonde hair and giant blue eyes, he’s the puppy dog of the group, so adorable you just want to take him home. Other than Smith, he’s the one who fills in all the details. Bassist Jon Schoemaker isn’t here, or maybe he is, just hiding out. Apparently interviews aren’t his thing. We make ourselves comfortable on Last Beat’s patio, one of those tiny urban oases you wouldn’t expect in the middle of a recording studio, especially one this small. Just a strip of brick and greenery and a few modern chairs much more suited for kicking back than serious conversation, and we’re braving the mosquitoes on one of the last of North Texas’ muggy summer nights. Jakovljevic finished his burger and the interview began.
“Hey guys, want to go to Oklahoma this weekend?” Smith interrupts our small talk. Dragan and Daniel confer and decide that, yeah, it’s possible. “We don’t do covers. Make sure they know we don’t do covers,” Smith repeats to the phone. That decided, he joins us. “So, you’re Kate?” Oops. With his slight drawl, Levi is gracious and smiling and very relaxed, as if nosy interviewers just went with the territory of being the hottest new act in town. Which they are. It’s verified. Observer readers voted Radiant* the Best New Act of 2004. Their single, “Way You Make Me Feel” was also in the running for Best New Song, but got trumped by “Beautiful Night” by the Burden Brothers. Not bad, considering the competition. Hopkins bursts in to fill me in about the band; with his enthusiasm and surfer-dude voice, he’s a great spokesperson for the group. He’s the one you usually find manning the t-shirt table after their set. Being with the members of Radiant* is like hanging out with your brothers’ best college buddies. The guys are relaxed, fun and genuinely good friends. The vibe is easy, just like their concerts. Jakovljevic was the last member to join Radiant*.
“I basically came [to Dallas] for school,” he says, “I chose between going to London or here, but they had a better music program here. I mean it was a bible institute, so in England they didn’t have anything. I always wanted to come to America because, you know, England is so close to Bosnia.”
Smith adds, “Jon was going Christ for the Nations at the time, too, so that’s how we all met. Anyway, we had to drive across town and pick up Dragan every day for every rehearsal, every show for a year, and all of us lived like Midcities, like Bedford, Arlington, and so it was pretty far.”
The guitar player tips his head. “Thanks for coming, dude.”
No longer in school, Jakovljevic stayed on in Dallas after meeting his wife. All the other guys are married, too, except Hopkins who chuckles at the suggestion he might get all the female fans’ attention. “We’re not a crazy party band or anything like that, we’re just good guys. It’s not like I go around looking to hook up with chicks or anything like that so… I guess being the only single guy in the band doesn’t really benefit me that much. If I was a little crazier, or wasn’t a Christian guy, I’d have fun.” Daniel shrugs, a bit embarrassed. “We’re real serious about making music and disciplined.”
Levi and Dragan can’t help but laugh.

Formed in the new millennium, Radiant* began by rocking Peru. Hopkin’s dad was on a mission to Lima and Smith, Schoemaker, and a cousin tagged along. Wherever his dad set up shop around the capital, they played. “I guess we were Peruvian rock stars for a while. We had this terrible four song EP and we sold all of them there. We played every day, and all our gear was borrowed,” remembers Smith. The university even closed the city streets for one of their concerts. “About 3500 people were there. It was the most amazing energy. It was a mess –even the bass cabinet fell over– but so fun.” When asked if he thinks if that CD would ever find its way back to the U.S., Smith shudders. “I hope not! It had this seven-minute song on it that should have been a three-minute song. It was awful; verse one, then a two-minute music break, then a bad chorus, then verse two and a long music break, the chorus and another music break and a two minute end. It just went on… No, there’s no chance of it coming back.”
Another Radiant* album that has faded away is 2001’s A Year of Holidays. “It’s out of print now. We worked on that just weeks after Dragan joined the band and our idea was to make the best record we could, but we were unsure of what we wanted to do. We’ve progressed now. That’s not really us anymore. It’s way far from what we’re doing now, but we sold 1500 of them, so there’s a few copies floating around,” says Smith.
Hopkins adds, “Levi’s working on a solo project, a gospel album that has a song from Year of Holidays, ‘Come and Save’.”
“Yeah, but that’s not with the band,” says Smith.
“Yeah, not Radiant*,” they agree.
Songwriting is a group effort. “We all get in a room and start playing,” says Smith, “and then me and Dan solidify the lyrics. We’ve got this cool studio out in the woods in De Soto and we lock ourselves in.”
Jakovljevic chimes in, “Then it all has to be translated into Bosnian to work.”
Taking it into the studio later, they’ll nitpick the details. That’s where I found them today: hard at work –and not drinking my beer- on their new as-yet-untitled album. The guys discuss names such as “The Man Who Couldn’t Save Himself” (too much like the Travis album, Smith says), “Do Not Delay” (even though that song’s not on the EP), and “We Hope You Win.” A little creative friction pops up and they exchange looks. Oh well, not everything is sunshine and light with these guys, but they’ll figure it out.
“The new EP is a dedication to the band,” says frontsman Smith.
Hopkins looks at his hands, his eagerness turned down a notch. “Levi’s parents got divorced, Jon’s brother, in Dragan’s family, too. We had divorces in three families.” Dragan shrugs his shoulders, but smiles at Daniel. Smith continues on, “The band was going through hardships. This album is about identifying hurts and sending a message of hope.”
“Our last album had a lot of acoustic-driven songs, very similar melodies and stuff. Our next album is more rock-and-roll, more electric, it’s a little faster at times. I don’t think we’ll get the Coldplay comparison that much this time around,” says Hopkins. “Right now we’re not limited at all. We were recording it in a smaller studio, with less access. [The new] album will have a gospel choir on it. It’ll have a string quartet playing orchestra parts on it, where as last time we had to do that on keyboards and go without the choir. We’ve also had a lot more time also to really work on these songs, to fine tune it.” The planned release wouldn’t be until spring and the guys were upbeat; just a few more months in the studio and they could have the album they really wanted to make out to the public. Their goal for the next five years is clear for Smith, “We want to support our families on music.” How hard is that on family life? “It’s tough. I’ve seen my wife a handful of times in two months because we’ve been recording. I think it’s almost harder to be working and then playing on weekends and trying to balance both those out. If we were touring, one, maybe my wife could come with us sometimes and two, when I wasn’t touring I’d be home. I’d be like home home. Every time we leave and I’m working during the week and playing on the weekends…” Levi pauses and sighs, “that definitely takes a special person to be able to take that.”

People want to talk about Radiant*. Waiting for them to arrive at a concert, I got to chatting about their spiritualism with the manager of progressive rock band Halto Bravo, who are musically quite different. “They’re able to write incredible music and someone like myself who doesn’t go to church on a regular basis, I don’t walk in there going ‘Oh this is a Christian based background band’, I go in there going, ‘this is awesome music.’ You’ve got a lot of bands out there who say ‘this is who we are’,” says Chance Wimberly, a local music promoter. “Lyrically, they’re sharing what they believe in, and it’s a pretty strong message. These guys are passionate when they play. As soon as they hit the stage, they’re into what they’re trying to convey to people. I don’t see them as a specific belief or focus; I listen to them because I love how it moves me. It’s sharing what the artist is really feeling, not what you or I expect to hear.”
When asked about the influence of their Christianity in their music, Hopkins reluctantly discusses it. “There’s a Kanye West album, he’s a hip-hop rapper. One of the lyrics talks about you can’t put Jesus in a song, it takes away from your record sales, it takes away from your money. But I don’t know, I don’t necessarily agree with that. We don’t play where Christian bands always play. It gets you stuck in certain markets.”
Smith goes on, “We’ve made a conscious effort not to play the Christian market. Just because we feel like being part of that will limit us in the mainstream world in our ability, in who would hear us.”
“We’re all Christians, we’re all really solid believers, really spiritual people,” says Hopkins.
When asked if they think being believers would limit them commercially, Smith defers, “It won’t limit us any more than anything else will, the way we play guitar or whatever.” Hopkins finishes the thought, “We’re not looking to use our Christianity as a marketing tool. It’s just who we are.”
Scott Headstream, lead singer of Halto Bravo, talked about playing with Radiant*, “They change the quality of room when they play. It kind of lifts everyone up.” When asked about this, Smith scoffs, but then says, “Yeah, I wanted to do that. The strangest, coolest compliment we’ve gotten was from Carter Albrecht of Sorta. He said, ‘You guys make people want to go home. Not to go out and get smashed, but be at peace.’ I want to bring hope, give a word of encouragement. That’s our message.” There’s plenty of room on the charts for a band whose message isn’t dark, and there’s a few of them out there. While Switchfoot rails against what’s dark in our hearts, Radiant* lifts us up and celebrates the good: redemption, friendship, faith.
I asked about The Killers’ show. “That was cool, man. Yeah,” says Smith. “We had a lot of fun. And it was kind of weird because I had never heard them before. I wish I would have already had the record before we played with them, but it was definitely cool.”
Hopkins smiles at Dragan and laughs. “Dragan ate all their chips and hot sauce back stage. He was like, no dude, it’s for everyone.”
“That’s what they told me, for everybody. There was upstairs chips and dip and there was downstairs chips and dip, so I took those from downstairs, brought it up, thinking we could be like up, but not really,” sighed Jakovljevic, shaking his head. Stealing treats from a better-known band may not have been the best idea, but at least he didn’t take their alcohol. So, if The Killers were good for a snack, who are Radiant*’s most seminal influences?
“The Verve, that’s one of them,” says Hopkins nodding at the music playing in the background. However, Jakovljevic has a better idea: “U2 has probably been our longest running influence, since the very beginning. We’ve always been influenced by them.” Smith opens his suit jacket, shows me his Walkmen t-shirt, and grins. “A lot of eurorock, so many eurobands like Kent, The Walkmen.” Coldplay wasn’t mentioned.
The interview nearly over, someone suggests the beers in the fridge. Whew- I wasn’t crass for bringing them. We get into a debate on the relative merits of any beer other than Shiner. Jakovljevic looks thoughtful then says, “I like Miller Lite, it’s better than Bud Lite.”
Hopkins enthuses, “Me too, for sure. It’s got half the carbs, that’s what the commercial says.”
Smith gives him that big brother, you’re so out-of-it look. “Dude- he’s eating chips.”

You can find Radiant*’s The Sound of Splitting Atoms at and sample it on their website Their upcoming album, We Hope You Win, is due to be released in March 2005. And if you’re in Peru and have a copy of their first four songs, you might want to hold onto them.

Originally written for Relevant Magazine

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Interview with Radiant*

From Peruvian rock stars to Dallas’ best indie band, Radiant* lifts us up and celebrates the good in our spirit: redemption, friendship, faith. Melodic rock with a message you can take to heart, four guys from Grand Prairie never sounded so good.
Levi Smith, Daniel Hopkins, Dragan Jakovljevic, and Jon Schoemaker follow illustrious indie rockers who have risen in the heat of Dallas. Rock with a melodic sound, 2003’s The Sound of Splitting Atoms is a tribute to the depth of the band member’s souls. Striving for hope in changing times, Radiant*’s message has particular relevance today. The best quote about them has come from Carter Albrecht of Sorta. He said to Smith, ‘You guys make people want to go home. Not to go out and get smashed, but be at peace.’ That’s not a bad way to inspire. Whereas bands like Switchfoot rail against what’s dark in our hearts, Radiant* lifts us up and celebrates the good; redemption, friendship, faith. Levi Smith fronts the band with passionate vocals, reminiscent of Julian Casablancas on Prozac. Dragan (pronounced dragon) Jakovljevic’s Eire-inspired whining guitar riffs are inventive and powerful while Dan Hopkins keeps the energy high with incredible enthusiasm on the drums. Jon Schoemaker fills out their sound on keyboards and bass. DMG caught up with Radiant* as they were hunkered down in Deep Ellum, recording their as-yet-untitled new EP.

DMG: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you guys form, who got you guys together?

Levi Smith: We took a trip to Peru as a band, with Dan’s dad, who’s a missionary. We played around the universities, played on the street. Dragan wasn’t with us yet actually, he missed out. Before that, me and Dan, and my cousin was kind of with us. Then we met Jon, the bass player. Anyway, the original lineup was all of us, minus Dragan, plus my cousin, and then within 5 months, my cousin dropped off, and Dragan jumped in there through Jon’s ex-girlfriend.

DMG: (to Dragan) How did you get here from Bosnia?

Dragan Jakovljevic: I basically came for school. I chose between going to London to school or here, but they had a better music program here, so … I met Jon at Christ for the Nations; it’s like a bible institute. I always wanted to come to America because, you know, England is so close to Bosnia.
LS: Jon was going at the time, too, so… Anyway, we had to drive over there and pick up Dragan every day for every rehearsal, every show for a year, and all of us lived in the midcities; Bedford, Arlington, and so it was pretty far.

DJ: Thanks for coming, dude.

DMG: Is your family still over there?

DJ: Yeah, but now I’m married.

DMG: So it’s better to be here?

DJ: (laughs) yeah, yeah.

DMG: Who in the group is married, who’s still single?

LS: All of us are, except this guy. (points to drummer Daniel Hopkins)

DH: The only bachelor.

DMG: What’s that like?

DH: Well, it’s kinda cool. We’re not a crazy party band or anything like that, we’re just good guys. I guess we’re all good people. It’s not like I go around looking to hook up with chicks or anything like that so… I guess being the only single guy in the band doesn’t really benefit me that much. If I was a little crazier, or whatever, I’d have fun. (shrugs) You know, wasn’t a Christian guy, it’d be really cool.

LS & DJ: (laughing)

DMG: How would you describe yourself as a band?

DH: We’re real serious about making music and disciplined.

LS: (laughs) Have you ever heard of Fugazi? I’m just kidding; we’re not like Fugazi at all.

DMG: Your music definitely has a spiritual bent to it. Can you talk about that a bit?

LS: Yeah. We’re all Christians; we’re all really solid believers. We’re all really spiritual people.

DMG: Do you think that’s going to limit you commercially?

DH: Oh no. I mean, I don’t think so. It’s just part of who we are.

LS: It won’t limit us any more than anything else will, the way we play guitar or whatever.

DH: We’re not looking to use our Christianity as a marketing tool. We’re not trying to use it one way or the other. It’s just who we are. We don’t play where Christian bands always play. It gets you stuck.

LS: We’ve made a conscious effort to not be part of the Christian market. Just because we feel like that will limit us in the mainstream world, like our ability, like who would hear us.

DMG: I’ve heard you compared to Switchfoot.

DH: That’s a new one.

LS: Yeah, I’ve heard it. My dad heard this song and called me and said, ‘I thought it was y’all or something, I think it was by 311”.

DH: What?!

LS: (laughing) I was about to punch him in the face. Then he called back later and said, ‘Oh no, sorry, it was Switchfoot.’ That was the first time I heard that.

DH: I don’t think we sound much like them, really.

LS: I don’t either.

DH: I guess you can compare us (on the message), but…I mean, musically, I wouldn’t make a comparison.


Radiant interview (continued)
DMG: So how about Coldplay? Because I keep hearing that.

DH: We get it a lot. Our last album had a lot of acoustic-driven songs, very similar melodies and stuff. Our next album is more rock and roll, more electric, it’s a little faster at times. I don’t think we’ll get the Coldplay comparison that much this time around. Right now it’s pretty unlimited what we can do.

LS: We’re incorporating tracks, adding pedal steel, keyboards, tambourines. You know, different instruments.
DMG: What changed? Why aren’t you guys limited now?

DH: You just move on… this album will have a gospel choir on it. It’ll have a string quartet playing orchestra parts on it. Last time we had to do that on keyboards and go without the choir. We’ve also had a lot more time to really work on these songs, to fine tune it.
DMG: What do you think is going to be the single?

DH: Probably the “Way You Make Me Feel”, it’s re-recorded.

LS: We have a lot of songs that maybe could be a single, but probably not. We don’t fit into that standard pop format.

DH: I guess we’ll just leave that up to if we get a record deal or something. Just leave that up to those people.

LS: (laughs) Leave it up to the audience.

DH: Yeah, leave it up to the audience. “By round of applause…which song will beeee…”

DMG: So is anyone talking with you right now for a record deal?

DH: Oh, tons. (scoffs)

LS: (laughs) Yeah.

DH: You know that company Warner Brothers? They offered us like 6 million dollars, and we were like -pfft!- come on, we need some real money.

DJ: We need at least, at least, four limos. At least four.

DMG: So how was it opening for The Killers?

LS: That was cool, man. Yeah. We had a lot of fun. That was the first time, that night, that I had heard them, and then I got the record. I wish I would have already had the record before we played with them, but it was definitely cool.

DH: It was the end of a four show crap run for us; we were out of town, nobody showed, we had electrical failures, then we did that concert and it was nice for everything to finally go smoothly. Very encouraging, like ‘oh man, we don’t suck’. You start to doubt if you’re really good when everything goes wrong.

DMG: So who would you say are your biggest influences?

DH: The Verve, that’s one of them.

DJ: U2

DH: U2 has probably been our longest running influence, since the very beginning.

LS: A lot of eurorock; bands like Kent, The Walkmen.

DMG: Who’s in your CD player now?

LS: The Killers.

DH: South San Gabriel and Centro-matic out of Denton, Beck- Sea Change.

DJ: Travis - The Man Who.

DMG: If you could play with one artist, dead or alive… you know the drill…

LS: Tupac. I was him for Halloween. Dan drew on all the tats on me.

DH: I want to put it in, very heterosexually.

LS: (laughing) No, really, I’d love to do an acoustic set with Willie Nelson.

DJ: U2- very much.

DH: Oh, yeah! U2, but Radiant* would be killed if we played an opener for them, but we’d be a good fit, a great combo. It’s so hard to be into opening bands for the big huge bands because everyone has paid $100 to get in and they don’t care.

LS: It’s also cool because like everyone’s instantly lining up all day and they’re ready to get in, so when you get on stage as that opening band the place is packed already.

DMG: How has the experience been for you guys, getting the draw?

DH: The Killers concert introduced us to a lot of new people. Our Dallas draws are pretty steady, like 300.

LS: Dude- oh yeah? No, I don’t think so. (laughs)

DMG: So what’s the plan for the next five years?

LS: Release this record, keep just playing shows, and hopefully get on some good tours. Go from there. There’s just no way to plan what’s going on. You just never know.

DJ: Hopefully get a big fan base, but I guess that would come with the tour.
DH: I hope that within five years that we’d be headlining tours and playing big places.

DMG: What’s your message?

LS: To bring hope, a word of encouragement. The new EP is a dedication to the band. We were all going through hardships; we had divorces in three families. So this album is about identifying hurts, sending a message of hope.

DMG: Where can I get your CD?

LS: Good Records, CD World, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, it’s in the computer at Virgin Records, and

©2004 Dallas Music Guide

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The lost interview with Black Tie Dynasty

The infamous "incomplete interview" – this is the second half of a long conversation with Black Tie Dynasty, which means it's Cory Watson doing most of the talking, Brian McQ making us laugh, and Eddie and Blake tossing in a few brilliant lines. The iPod chose to take a powder on the first half of the conversation, and this was never published on, which is the site I wrote for in 2004. It's fun to look back to see how far the guys have come in two years.

DMG: Which songs are your favorites to play?

Cory Watson: “Crime scene” and “Ghost of a Secretary,” you’ll never see us not play those two songs. Those are really good live songs, a couple of our best songs, even though they were written quite a while ago.

DMG: Didn’t you play “Die”?

CW: we didn’t play “die” the last few times. I'm a big advocate of that song, but some of the other guys don’t really like playing it. Eddie, would you like to explain yourself? She wishes that we would play “Die” more often.

E: We could do that. It’s just something that goes from day to day.

CW: If there is a single, really because of the length of all of the songs, “Die” is the only possibility. “Crime Scene” has moments where people can sing along and everything, but it is a drawn-out song, six minutes long.

DMG: That is so, I mean once you get it, it’s ‘that is so cool!’ This is the other side of love, it’s over, this isn’t the one having the heartbreak, this is the one causing the heartbreak.

CW: That’s awesome. Cool. You know, it comes off that way and it’s fun to appreciate it as a big ‘Screw you, I’m outta here,’ but really, to be honest, when I wrote that song, I was trying to convince myself to let this person go. You have these moments where you're just like, ‘I got this.’ I was having a moment where I was trying to let everything go and trying to convince myself to put it on paper that it was over.

DMG: Do you ever wonder if they are hearing the song and thinking, ‘is that about me?’

CW: Heh… (laughs nervously)

B: I think if you start doing that it would sway your writing.

CW: I think maybe I did at the beginning, there’s one particular relationship at the beginning of my writing that stems from the breakup of the relationship. And there was some bitterness there, a lot of songs, a lot of lyrics that I had to get out. Really those I haven’t felt in a long time, I haven’t really thought about it. When I first started writing it, sure. It wasn’t the intention, but as I was writing it I was saying ‘wouldn’t it be cool if I used this’ but you grow out of that. When I wrote “Die” I was starting to let go, but I was trying to get myself the last ‘let it go’ ok. It’s dead to you, it’s not gonna happen.

DMG: So it’s more like a pep talk.

CW: Really I think that may have been the last song I wrote about this particular person.

DMG: (laughing) And her name would be…?

CW: (laughing) Yeah…. right. That is interesting, I just realized that. From then on, I started getting into some things that meant a little bit more. Things that were really going on and that were interesting to write about. It gave me a whole new set of material to delve into and pick from.

DMG: So, there’s no mascara tonight?

CW: There will be. (patting jacket) It’s right here in my chest pocket. I didn’t want to show up at the Angry Dog with it. I always show up at the gas station with the eyeliner on getting some gas, on the way to Dallas, that long trek to Dallas, and they’re like, ‘What’s your deal man?” Going to a costume party or something like that. I don’t want to explain I’m in a band.

DMG: Why not say you’re in a band?

CW: (shrugs) I guess I could. I don’t know. Just let me pre-pay and get out of here. Costume party? No questions. Band? You got a lot of questions. I just want to get my Doublemint and my gas and get out of there.

DMG: Have you ever gone in to write with a three minute pop song as your goal?

E: We’ve never tried to do anything like that.

CW: We’ve never thought about it. It’s interesting when you compare “This Stays Between Us,” the EP that just came out, to the songs we have following that. We never even thought about our transition from this CD to the next. Or this song to the next song. We never said, ‘OK, now we’re done writing this EP, let’s start writing songs for the next one.’ We never thought about that. But all those songs, hit it right on the head, in the review when you said the songs are longer but they define the sound. We didn’t try to make these epic six minute songs, but they just came out that way and we were fine with it. We tossed and turned a little bit when it came to well, these songs have singles potential, why not chop them down to three minutes. We had a lot of people in our ear telling us that we should. We thought about it, but then we decided not to because that was the way the song was meant to be, and to change it and make it anything different was to compromise the art of it. I don’t want to form our songs into something that they aren’t. The interesting thing is that after that, the songs we have for the full length, which basically, we have twelve songs, that are ready to go, and ironically enough, all of them are around 3.5 minute songs. I really don’t know what to make of that, we felt like we’ve grown a lot as songwriters and somehow we’ve found a way to get the ideas out quicker. The songs on “This Stays Between Us” take like, four, five minutes before you feel it was complete. With these new songs, they are so hooky and so instantly done, we don’t add anything to it. If it’s done, it’s done. And if it happens to be a three minute pop rock song, that’s what it is. It is what it is. We don’t try to change it.