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- Posted on Mar 14th 2010 7:07PM by James Meyers
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Wow, that's a really tough question. The whole self-analysis thing is rough. I don't want to sound too pretentious but I guess I'd describe it as adventurous rock and roll or rock and roll with a cerebellum.
You started out on the fiddle, why the switch to guitar?
I actually started on the violin, I was really young, but I was into classical music. But I always wanted to play guitar. My parents got me fiddle lessons, just to keep my interest in the instrument. Then, when I was a teen, I tore all the ligaments in my wrist. I couldn't play fiddle any more so I took up the guitar. It was a great experience, because I was exposed to so may kinds of music, I learned to love almost every genre and came to know that feeling na commitment were the most important aspects of music.
How did the band come together?
Well, my band situation is constantly fluid. I tour and record with so many different groups. I have bands or artists that I work with in Seattle, San Francisco, Tucson and Austin. Each thing I'm involved in has different people and different sensibilities. The band I'm playing with right now is kind of a power pop trio. I've got Matt Harris of the Posies on bass and Kyle Schneider on drums. We first hooked up to ply a tribute concert for Roky Erikson and we've kept on playing together in Seattle.
Who would you cite as your influences?
That's always an interesting question, because I think the most obvious influences are actually the less important. I'm really into the first three Bee Gees albums, amazing melodies and harmonies, incredible song writing and performance.
Of course I've always loved the core groups, the Beatles, Velvet Underground, all the bands that it seems every musician of a certain age had the same kind of core influences, it just was a matter of what you did with it. I love Roby Hitchcock because of his wit, I really love Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel as well. Big Star, obviously, Martin Denny, I love that exotica. There are a bunch of bands from Texas I grew up listening to like Roy Head and The LeRoi Brothers.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
I love a lot of corny things, but I can't say I find any kind of music embarrassing. Really, anything that brings joy to people doesn't have to defend it self. The more I get involved with and try to master the arts of producing, engineering and recording, the more I admire stuff that I absolutely hated when I was teenager. I mean stuff like Boston, Supertramp, even Molly Hatchet, I detested that stuff, thought it was sterile trash. But they all had the ability to create amazing sounds and textures and emotions that I could never see before. As you get older, you worry far less about hype than you do a semblance of a vibe, an emotional attachment and an enjoyment of the creative process.
You've played with some legendary acts such as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. What were those experiences like?
Well of course it was a dream to work with the Stones and Dylan is the absolute zenith for any singer-songwriter. The experiences were great and they've brought me some more recognition than I may have had before. It's great with what I call the "mom factor". Whenever I meet someone's mom and the fact comes up that I'm a musician if I can tell them I toured with Dylan and the Stones, they always say, "Oh, you must be very talented then", it's almost like it offers me some kind of validity. I think my favorite person I ever toured with was Paul Weller from The Jam. We toured together a few years ago. He was such a cultural hero to so many of us, and was just always a defiant bad ass. He never, never ever had a bad band or foot a bad foot forward. He had so much conviction; he was and is a real inspiration.
The new album is El Sonida Nuevo. Has it differed from previous albums?
Oh, yeah, this is by far the most collaborative record I've ever done. My last record was meant to be in the vein of classic Kinks and Big Star. I tried for what I thought would be simple guitar driven rock and pop and it just ended up sounding sophomoric. That perfect pop that sounds so easy, is actually really, really hard to do. The water is far deeper than it first appeared. For the new album has really helped me create what I think is a great rock record. He really helped me turn dead ends into songs and brought a cool psychedelic, trippy, power pop approach.
You're originally from Austin, is SXSW like a homecoming to you?
I always have mixed feelings about attending South. Each year I get burned out by the end and tell myself, that's it, no more. But I have a bad memory so I keep coming back. I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but I think I've been pretty much every year. I mean, Austin's not even Austin during those weeks. But I get to catch up with a lot of friends from places like Australia, Japan and Europe that I only see at South. I get to act as a kind of ambassador and I show people around, tell them about the best places to eat, bands to see, labels to talk to. All that kind of stuff. I'm always grateful to check in with friends, see some music, but the whole industry thing makes me uncomfortable. It's great if bands can get record deals. But some of those people are just like vultures and vampires.
James Meyers is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.