Interview | Joy Riding

I always enjoy doing  Q & A interviews. Totally fun for me to get to know new people, discover their music and spend some time taking their photos- asking some questions. It’s like putting together a little package I get to send out to the world to share.

On 4.22.17 I had the opportunity to meet up with the fellas of Joy Riding a Philadelphia based band at Creep Records for record store day (it was a blast btw). You should go see them live June 5th at Pharmacy and/or catch their record release show for their record “You’re So Smart” on June 16th at Johnny Brenda’s. If you can’t make that you can pick up their new record digitally on June 2nd.

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Joy Riding left to right: Brian Mietz Keys/Guitar, Scott Rumble: Drums and percussion, Joe Ryan: vocals, guitar (and keys when recording), John Masino: Guitar, Kerry Mahoney: Bass

Ady:  Joe! I’m thrilled to be able to have a some time to chat with you and the rest of the guys from Joy Riding. When did Joy Riding form? Did you all know each other before the band got started?

Joe: Hey! Me too! Chatting is good. Joy Riding formed as an idea a really long time ago when my old band stopped. I planned on just making music under the name Joy Riding by myself. I knew Scott (drums), John (guitar), and Kerry (bass) and I kinda figured I’d ask them to play when I got things going. John and Scott were in one of my favorite bands (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start) so it is/was kind of awesome to get to play with them. Kerry was in some bands and was bandless at the time Joy Riding was getting started, and we’re tight, so it was a no-brainer to ask him. Brian (guitar/keys) just joined the band a few months ago and I’ve always sort of obsessed over his music. It’s really great to have all these dudes. But to answer the original question, we’ve been a band for like 4-5 years now.

Ady: Wait, at first I thought (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start) was a Mortal Combat combo, but I could be wrong… is that Contra? I digress. Feel free to not answer my childhood video game obsession related question.

Joe: Haha, It’s Contra. Scott can elaborate on this…

Scott: Well, if you want to get technical about it – and who doesn’t? – the code could be used for multiple Konami games. But Contra is the one that was most popular because it was pretty much impossible to play without the code. Regardless of what game it comes from, it’s a terrible name for a band.

Ady:  I shouldn’t know those codes regardless (but I do) so you get a free pass on the band name.

Ady: Tell me about your latest release “You’re so Smart”. What was the inception of “You’re so smart” like?

Joe: Aw man! It’s our first full length, which is super exciting. It took us a really long time to make. We had a bunch of recording obstacles and it took a really long time to record – but now that it’s done and ready for the world, it’s really exciting. The songs feel sort of old to us now, I think. But I think it will be neat for everyone else who’s seen us play most of the songs live a bunch to finally hear them on record.

Ady: I have heard other bands also talk about the challenges of recording and getting the full length out there. Glad you guys stuck through the process. What was your best memory of putting together “You’re so smart”?

Joe: Certainly. We definitely went through some shit. The producer (Dave) basically made us re-record the whole record after we got halfway through because he wasn’t happy with how it was sounding – that was such a bummer, but listening back to the first recordings to the final ones, it was definitely the right move. That delayed the process for probably a whole entire year. That was definitely the biggest challenge. As far as best memory, I think my favorite memory was probably recording the song “Hail Mary”. I have this problem where I get attached to my original demos and that one probably stayed the most true to the very first recording I did in my bedroom. That was a fun one to record.

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Ady: “Hail Mary”, it’s a good one. It’s catchy, I’ve caught myself singing it in my head a few times since I’ve heard it.  What’s it all about? (I love knowing the story behind the songs…)

Joe: That was the last song written for the album and the newest one. It was actually written for the Arbor Christmas record that we participate in every year – but the reception was really good and we felt like it was good enough to be on our album. It’s about the beach and the birds and the baes.

Ady: I love that you wrote a Christmas song about the beach (and the birds and the baes). 

Joe: Haha, thanks! The Christmas songs are particularly all over the place because they’re usually crammed and written at the last minute. I do like our Christmas catalog though. They’re all fun.

Ady: Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Joe: The easy answer for me would be that they’re all my favorite – but i’m a #risky guy, so i’ll take the hard route here and say the closer, “Grad School”. At some point during recording, Dave Downham (producer) and I started talking about how Grad School might sound cool as a piano song. We shortened it a bit and recorded just a vocal over a piano with all this noise/feedback that comes in and leads into the ending. We had recorded an early full band version, which I like just fine, but I think the piano version is a much better representation of that song and makes for a pretty good album closer. We actually released the full band version a couple months ago, so at least those early *cut* recordings weren’t a complete waste!

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Scott: From a “my favorite song” standpoint, I think it would be the second track, “Suzie Lynn.” I’m typically more into the crunchier or poppier songs we write, so that one hits those key points for me. But I really love how the title track ended up coming out in the recording. I just love the way it sounds and the long solo ending is pretty out of character for us, so it’s a nice change of pace. I think it’s a toss up between those two.

Ady: I can get behind that. I like “Suzie Lynn” too. Ya’ll don’t seem to have trouble creating catchy tunes.

Ady: Does it happen to musicians where they get more attached to some songs rather than others?

Joe: I think so. It definitely happens to me. I feel like when I first finish a song, i’m really into it. And then the band works on it and we play it a few times. Then i’m just over it.

Ady: Are your fave songs also your faves to play live?

Joe: Hmm, not always. We try and throw a cover into most of the live shows and they’re usually my favorite to play. Lately we’ve been doing this Springsteen song that I really like to play. Mostly, I just like butchering it when we introduce it to the crowd. I told the audience in Long Island a few weeks ago that it was by “New York’s own Bruce Springsteen” and we got some boo’s and strange looks.

Ady: Ah, ha ha keep them on their toes Joe.

Ady: Who are your biggest childhood musical influences? Would you say these influences still shine through in your current work? And, I have to ask what was the first album you owned that you actually purchased yourself? Ohhh, and your first concert? These are the most important firsts (in contradiction to what society may think–who cares when we took our first steps or said or first words or whatever!)

Joe: Well, I have two older brothers and when I was a kid, I was pretty obsessed with Kurt Cobain. Like to the point where it was sort of creepy. My two favorite things in life were like Kurt Cobain and the 76ers. My brothers were super into Nirvana and I pretty much just liked whatever they liked. I still love Nirvana a ton. My parents always had pretty cool music on throughout my childhood too, I guess. My dad loves Springsteen, so he was someone that I was always hearing and I still love him. My mom always just listened to pop music, which would probably explain my obsession with Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen. I think these influences sort of shine through in us? I remember getting the first mixes back and listening to “Suzie Lynn” and my brother telling me it sounded like a Nirvana song. I definitely can’t sing like Kurt Cobain though, probably more so Carly Rae. I think the first album that I purchased myself was probably like Dude Ranch. I loved Blink-182 when I was in my teens. I think my parents took me to a Beach Boys concert when I was 4 years old.

Ady: I love it! You’re all over the place with influences and likes. It’s got to be that way in order to keep your music alive and evolving over time I imagine. And Over liking Nirvana is in no way creepy. KC was the best of the best. Talking to a true blue.

Scott: My history with music is a terrible story compared to most respectable indie musicians, I suppose. My parents listened to some pretty lame stuff – The Carpenters, Alabama, Garth Brooks – just the worst. Okay, The Carpenters aren’t the worst. But everything else. And it took me a long time until I realized that. I also have an older brother and he somehow, through sheer force of will I suppose since this was pre-everyone-had-a-computer-and-the-internet days, was able to break through our checkered music past and found out about bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas is the Reason and that sort of stuff when I was in my early teens. That led me to find Braid, The Dismemberment Plan, The Promise Ring, all huge influences that I continue to try to rip-off. They changed everything for me. But they can’t change the fact that I think the first album I bought with my own money was Bon Jovi’s “New Jersey” from The Wall in the Ocean County Mall. That’s a stain that doesn’t wash off. But hopefully I get some points back by saying that my first concert ever was to see The Promise Ring on their tour supporting “Nothing Feels Good” (which is an all-time favorite) at Maxwell’s in Hoboken when I was 16. C-clamp and Compound Red opened. It was so great.

Ady: Scott, I think you can release yourself of the checkered music past knowing you found your way. We all do eventually. And we all have those albums we try not to admit we owned (eh hem I think my big admit would be buying my own first cd when cds first became a thing – wait for it-  Big Daddy Kane’s “Long Live the Kane” 1988). Oh, and don’t you worry I also had a copy of Bon Jovi’s “New Jersey” and I think I bought the Young Guns soundtrack too (did I just admit that in a public forum?). See, we’ve all got these bones in our closet! I think in order to be a good musician- or a discerning listener you have to be all over the map and know just about every genre you can.

Joe: Shit. I wish our album was called “Long Live the Joy”.

Ady: Perhaps you’ve got your next album name. And I just have to say, after I divulged that info about my first cd purchase I went to youtube and listened to a little bit of Big Daddy Kane and to my shock and confusion I still knew all the lyrics. This journey into Youtube also led me to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”. 

Ady: So guys what’s next for you? When is the next show? Summer tour dates to come?

Joe: We’re playing on June 5th at Pharmacy and then our record release show is June 16th at Johnny Brenda’s. The record is coming out digitally on June 2nd and then all the physical copies will be available at the release show and beyond. The tapes are being released on Black Rd Records and they look super amazing. It’s been a really long time coming so i’m super pumped to see what everyone thinks of it. Beyond that, we’d like to do some touring now that we’ll have our record out. Either that, or we’ll just break up.

Ady: Yes, it’s always a wonderful idea to break up just as you release. I’m KIDDING. It is not a wonderful idea!

Ady: I’m so glad I was able to spend the day at Creep Records to meet up, take photos, and catch you guys live. You are all a fun bunch to hang with. I’m looking forward to seeing you all play again at Johnny Brenda’s on 6/16.

Joe: WE ARE so glad you were able to spend the day with us too! Creep was so much fun! Brian has been talking about that Ol Dirty Bastard record so much since that day. Thanks for having us.

Thanks guys! See you soon!

~Ady

Interview + Exclusive EP Preview | Night Windows

 

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left to right Ryan Buzby- bass VI, percussion & group vocals, Ben Hughes- guitars, vocals, synthesizer, & korg mini pops5, Tad Lecuyer- drums, percussion & group vocals

I was one of those kids who grew up singing into her hairbrush. I guess in adulthood the equivalent is dancing in the kitchen singing into wooden spoons. When Ben Hughes from Night Windows shared his latest EP Home with me I couldn’t wait to take a listen. It’s the first release in a long time that has me dancing and singing in the kitchen again like a kid and I like that.

Instead of just writing up a review I wanted to know more about the themes in their EP Home and more about Night Windows themselves. I set out this past week to ask some questions and take some photographs of the Jersey/Philly trio. We did this at the American Sardine Bar  and it was a lot of fun. And, lucky all of you SD readers you get to stream Home here before it’s released! Take a listen while you read on

 

Ady: So, I’m excited about this release. How long did it take you to complete Home?

Ryan: The songs recorded on “Home” were added to the set list and took shape in early 2016. We recorded them in our garage studio at Ben’s house in February, they were sent back and forth to Fred (Thomas) for his input over the course of spring/summer 2016. The masters were finalized earlier this year, and now we’ve got some pretty nice looking little cassettes for the analog kids to enjoy.

Ady: Cassettes, love it!  Who’s idea was it to embrace the good ole’ days of analog?

Ben: It was my idea. It just seemed like something fun to do. We actually listened to one of the tapes the other night in Ryan’s car, and it sounded really good!

Ady: Tell me about Night Windows! How do you all know each other? How long have you been making music together? And what does the writing/recording process look like among you all?

Ryan: Ben and I met as Freshman in high school. We bonded over Weezer “Blue” and have been playing in bands together ever since. In our travels, we came across Tad while he was playing with a great South Jersey/Philly band called “Big Fat Marker”. They eventually disbanded. Then, in Winter of 2013/2014, we recruited him to play drums for Night Windows. In the music creation process, typically new songs come in mostly-completed demo form which Ben records by himself. Then, Tad and I help to refine the structure and the parts for our instruments.

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Ady: Alone (punk rock tees) really resonated with me. I’m 100% guilty of weaving my rock tees into my professional attire at any chance I get. Is this something you do too? I love the line in the song …”I still wear punk rock tees…- as I fool myself into believing I still dream”. Is this how you keep your youthful side alive? And do you have any advice for us on how to keep going even when the years pass (and we work these day jobs) and watch some of our dreams pass us by? (or am I over identifying!)

Ben: When I wrote Alone, I was working between 50 & 60 hours a week as a mail carrier. I had to put everything, including being on time for dinner & spending time with my wife, on hold for something that I didn’t give two shits about. It felt strange and stupid and the only thing that made me feel better was blasting all the old punk records I used to listen to growing up. I had this little portable speaker in my mail truck that I’d listen on. Most of those days, I was wearing band shirts under my uniform. Advice for keeping it going: I really don’t know, but I think it has to do with the idea that you have time for what you make time for. Also, a supportive significant other and group of family & friends helps.

Ady: I like that— the idea that you have time for what you make time for. So true and I’m glad you have made the time! I’ve really enjoyed Home (the whole EP) I’ve had an earworm all week! Which song off the EP is your favorite right now and why?

Tad: Miss You and the Weekend. I love every part from start to finish. Really fun to play as well.

Ady: Safe to assume this one will be included in the set for March 28? (Am I  trying to get a set list spoiler??)

Ben: You got it! We have a little surprise planned to go along with it, too.

DSC03726Ady: The song Alone (punk rock tees) is of course about much more than the attire we wear. You talk about loneliness in this song and also about being ashamed of admitting this. So, is it fair to say this song is about getting older, wanting more, resenting the grind?

Ben: I’d say this song was more about growing up than getting old. I remember feeling really down for an extended period of time. Then it hit me. I was spending all day alone, working really hard for something that I didn’t care about — I guess that would be resenting the grind… So many negative feelings are suppressed throughout life. It’s taboo to bring it up. It would be better to talk about it, but who wants to hear it & who wants to admit to feeling it? It’s tough. I know that those feelings and moods are there for a reason, so I try my best to accept them. It’s still really hard to talk about it. Nobody wants to feel vulnerable or to be viewed as weak.

Ady: It sounds like such a double-edged sword, some of the things that can bring you down also create the space for your creative/writing process. How many years have you been writing and playing music? Was it always an expressive outlet for the down times in life?

Ben: I started writing songs when I was 13. I’m almost 30 now. It’s hard to explain, but yes, songwriting has always been an expressive outlet for the down times in my life. It’s been so much more than that, though. It feels like a whole different dimension sometimes. There’s a certain energy and serenity, where everything makes sense and I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, where I’m supposed to be doing it. It could just be the simple fact that I’m distracting myself or the fact that I’m fully present in the moment — who knows… Whatever it is, I’m addicted to it and I’m grateful for every moment I get to spend in that little world.

Ady: The creative flow! Yes, it’s the space most human beings long to be- where you can lose time and be immersed. Lucky are those who can find this outlet in their lives! So when you’re in this space of writing and creating your flow, is it a solitary experience or a collaborative experience?

Ben: Solitary all the way. I love collaborating and fleshing out the songs after the fact, but I’ve got to be alone during the initial phases of songwriting.

Ady: I love Home, the first track. It honestly got me bouncing around my kitchen when I first heard it. It’s so catchy. I can’t wait to see it live (hope you play it). Got me thinking about your song creation. When you write a song do you write the melody first and lyrics after? Or do the words come and you write the melody to match? The songwriting process is always so fascinating to me.

Ben: Funny you mention the kitchen… I actually wrote Home in my kitchen. The chords came first, then the melody and lyrics for the first verse came shortly after. Eventually, the whole song came together. Back when I wrote these songs, a lot of times I’d write the melody and the lyrics as I was walking (mail routes) and then I’d get home and figure out the chord progression. It’s nice writing the melody first, so the song isn’t held captive by my muscle memory on guitar. Historically though, I don’t have a set formula or method for songwriting. I go through phases and follow what excites me.

Ady: That’s awesome, so maybe having a job that keeps you on foot is a good thing. You can have that quiet head space to create even while on the clock. Sort of like footsteps as a metronome.

Ben: Exactly! I don’t work as a mail carrier anymore, but I do get an hour lunch break that I use to walk a nearby nature trail everyday. Also, my wife and I have an awesome dog now (featured on the album art of the EP in a jean jacket). She’s super energetic, so we take her hiking and on walks around the neighborhood all the time.

Ady: What does spring/summer tour look like now that you are releasing the EP?

Ben: We’re all really excited for the release show at Boot & Saddle on Tuesday March 28 with Fred Thomas, HLEP & Max Stern. After that, we’re planning to get out for some long weekend tours over the summer months.

Ady: I’m excited to see the show also, and  I will definitely keep an eye on the tour calendar! Here’s a fun question for you all. If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?

DSC03782Ben: Hands down, I’d say John Vanderslice. Ever since I first heard his record Emerald City, I was in love. The records he produces are almost always done to tape with minimal takes and they sound amazing. We don’t currently record to tape, but we try to apply the same mentality when recording. It would be awesome to get out to his studio, Tiny Telephone, someday and make a record with him.


Ady:
I know you and I have some mutual musical favorites. What’s currently on repeat on your playlist? I love hearing what musicians actually listen to when not working on their own projects.

Ben: New records from Bonny Doon, Conor Oberst, Big Thief, Shannen Moser, The Afterglows, Wilco, Fred Thomas, John K Samson, Pilkington, Sun Organ & Beach House. Also, a lot of old Dylan & Cohen records.

Ryan: Over the last year: Conor Oberst, John K Samson, Regina Spektor, Kacey Musgraves

Tad: Mac DeMarco, Real Estate, Tennis, Deerhunter, and 80’s remixes of Justin Beiber

Ady: See this is why I get along with you all! Great musical taste- and more importantly you make great music. Thank you for letting me be a part of your EP release! I really enjoyed talking with you three, rearranging the furnishing at the American Sardine Bar and taking photos, and having some laughs. Good luck this Spring and Summer.

NW: Thanks – let’s do it again sometime!

Their EP officially releases March 31, 2017 on Black Rd Records.

Release show with Fred Thomas, HLEP & Maxwell Stern 03/28 at Boot & Saddle in Philly

In addition to their release show, you can also check out their Daytrotter Session and Rubber Tracks Session.

~Ady

Interview + New Music Alert | Maesmynis

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Maesmynis

By Shan
All photos by Maesmynis

Eight years ago I stumbled upon on a song. It was one of those kinds that, for whatever reason, just hit me right in the gut . . . the kind of song that evokes that unnamed magical feeling when the music becomes bigger than itself and resonates within every cell in your body. As a fellow music addict, I am pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.

The song was “Garden Song” and I found it during one of my frequent visits to the Strummerville (now the Joe Strummer Foundation) website, perusing their DIY section–an early innovation that appeared during the dawn of sites like Soundcloud. Strummerville DIY was their version and allowed visitors to hear a song by some of the selected talent (the stipulation being that the band was unsigned and had no record contract, therefore allowing bands some well-deserved exposure). The band in question in this instance was The Cuban Heels, and it prompted an immediate frantic search for more by them.

The first thing I discovered was there were a couple other bands with the same name, so, taking on the challenge I sampled music of various other origins (nope not that one, no I don’t think they’re from Scotland) and I started to wonder if the search would end there. But then the clouds parted, the sun blared in my eyes and I found a thread of information that lead me to the right place, the Cuban Heels, the ones from Bristol England, and oh shit!, a band that existed until about 3 years prior. It was a posting that then-Heels guitarist Chris Venables had made about the disbandment of the band, and offered to anyone who found his post that was interested, a disc containing all of the music they had recorded, for free. I was bummed to learn that they were no longer an entity, but, what!? I was thrilled to suddenly have hit the lottery with a treasure box of their songs potentially on the horizon.

The short of it is this. Chris did indeed send me a cd, kindly ignoring the fact that the parcel had to be sent overseas to get to me, and The Cuban Heels quickly became one of my favorite bands ever that no longer existed, and I wore–and continue to wear–a hole in that cd from repeat listening (Now that the cd has been converted for my iPhone, I have to stop to ask . . .can you wear a hole in digital music? I think the answer could be yes).

Flash forward to last year when a posting on the Cuban Heels Facebook  page announced a new page to follow. Hmmm? What could this be? Alas! Hark! Yessss! and all those other extreme swearwords of excitement. It was the announcement about the reforming of a new band from the ashes of the Heels . . . Maesymnis had been born! I bought the album as soon as it came out and devoured it, making them one of my all-time favorite bands that are not no longer existing.

To celebrate the music, I got in touch with Chris to work out doing a transcontinental interview, which follows below. Before we get to it, you can check out some of their songs via YouTube, follow them on Facebook (tell them Sis Diss sent you!), and grab some of their music here.

You can check out  The Cuban Heels on Soundcloud, including the now infamous-in-my-book Garden Song.”  I also discovered during the course of writing this article that their SoundCloud is even more evidence of their uncanny ability to ceaselessly and prolifically create beautiful music together. Searching for Garden Song yielded even more magic, as I discovered The Soundcloud now contains even more songs, many, many I have not heard yet myself, that were not part of the cd. I think I’m going to be pretty busy absorbing all these great tunes for the next few months. I suggest you do the same!

Special thanks to Aron, Marcus and Chris for taking time to make this interview possible!

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AA – Aron Attwood
MA – Marcus Attwood
CV – Chris Venables
SD – Shan / SisDiss

SD – You were the Cuban Heels and then you weren’t for a while, and then you became Maesmynis. What where you in between?

AA – Most of us embraced normal life. Being in a band can be a very overwhelming experience. It makes you sort of selfish when you set your mind to a single almost impossible task. Things fall by the wayside, so it was nice to get back to a simple life and interact with friends and family on a more personal level rather than being constantly distracted with other things that seem more important.

I personally had to get as far away as possible for my own sanity so decided to move to Australia for a short while. Unfortunately while I was there I got caught up with EMI Australia through a solo album of mine and I was landed right back to square one. I did a short UK tour when I got back to England with a shit punk rock band called ‪Towers of London. Fun and shit at the same time. It was like going on holiday with complete strangers then finding out you have nothing in common with them.

I ran my own studio for a while, played in a few local bands, one Birmingham band called Liner (with old friend Alex Callaghan) got a songwriting diploma, moved to stroud and am playing in a couple of really fun bands now. I don’t take it all that seriously anymore. I just try to enjoy the moments as they happen. It’s still very difficult to avoid the cycle of excitement and disappointment though. That’s still my biggest work in progress.

MA – So the Cuban heels came to the end of their run but the music continued.  Aron joined Alex in his band ‘Liner’ and started producing other bands as well as developing his own songwriting.  Russ joined Marcus in ‘Transit Cop’ (quickly being promoted from van driver to second guitar) and then later teamed up with Chris to form ‘The Ripleys’.  After ‘ Liner’, Aron and Alex would later form ‘Mule’ with Joel.  Steve and Joel subsequently hooked up with a third party Will to form the power trio ‘ ‪Biff Bang Pow’.

CV – Steve also played in a couple of punk bands ‘Waiting for Taylor’ and ‘Dead Kids’. Working full time to support ourselves whilst being in a full time band on top became overwhelming.  We remained friends and we’ve always loved making music and so that never went away.  What went away was the practicing 3 days a week and gigging 3 times a week that took quite a toll.

SD – How has the lineup changed since the Cuban Heels, and what brought you all back together (perhaps you picked up my mental messages imploring you to)?

AA – I have been working on my psychic abilities and definitely picked up on some encouragement from over the Atlantic. Unfortunately I have also been picking up the shipping forecast and the local police radios.

Seriously though we always jam together whenever we can, and have played together in various line ups. This is the first line up that includes all the former Heels though. Chris and Russ had a band called The Ripleys which I contributed to. Me Joel and Alex had an on off project called Mule. Dan had his one man show The Nine Lives of Henry the Cat on Ice, where he would play prog versions of the damned and sex pistols while being pulled on a sleigh.

Russ getting married brought us all back together though. Rather than a traditional stag do, we decided to get together and have a songwriting weekend instead. All the heels with the addition of my brother Marcus, our school friend Steve and Alex from Liner and Mule. This proved so productive and fun that we did it a few more times. We eventually decided we should properly record some of the mountain of songs we had written and the obvious next step after that was to gig it too.

CV – We’re the same, Joel (Stevens), Russ (Mulligan), Aron, Dan (Wells) and me (Chris) but now have also Al (Callaghan), Marcus, and Steve (Payne).  When it came to one of the ex-heels getting married for a “stag do” we decided to arrange a songwriting weekend for musical friends which included all original heels plus 3 others.  Russ and I were inspired by Karl Coryat and Nicholas Dobson’s The Frustrated Songwriter’s Handbook, in which you are forced to individually write songs for 12 hours straight!  We played around with the format quite a lot to make it more collaborative.

SD – I’ve seen the mini documentary floating around online and your recording space looks idyllic. What was the experience like and what part did it play in influencing your record? How did you find your space?

AA – The first place we got together as the full group was Russ’s stag do. At a house in Wales in a hamlet called Maesmynis. A beautiful, remote country hide-away. We returned back there a second time, but unfortunately the owners sold the property. We convened at Chris’s house in Oxfordshire for another session, then recorded at Steve Winwoods studio near Cheltenham. We have been very lucky to have managed to find very idyllic inspiring spaces to work in. That makes a huge difference.

CV – The video shows two different places.  The place with the beautiful rolling countryside is in a hamlet in central Wales called “Maesmynis”.  It was a cottage we hired for the writing weekend – we chose central Wales primarily because it’s cheap to hire a house in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours (in order that lots of noise can be made) but I also had a slight hankering to pay homage to Led Zep who also retreated to a cottage in Wales to write Led Zep III.

SD – It looks to me like everyone is multi-talented and plays and sings in different configurations. How was it decided for each song who played what? Did everyone have a hand in writing or do you have a principal writer?

AA – Everyone writes, and usually the person who comes up with the vocal idea sings. The songwriting process is an organised game. Generally in the morning everyone finds a quiet spot on their own and writes solo for about an hour. Then we come back and pick a name out of a hat and partner up in pairs. You play what you have to each other. Either a riff, some lyrics, a melody or a complete song, it doesn’t matter. The idea is to just flow and be creative with the prospect of other people adding parts to what you have. There are two very good lead singers in the band who would sometimes be used if we felt the song needed a more solid lead vocal but quite often the person who wrote the vocal would have their own inimitable way of putting the vocal across. Generally I would end up on the drums, and lead guitar would be either Marcus or Chris. Dan is our ‪Garth Hudson and would cover all the keyboards and Steve rolled blunts and made us all laugh. On the whole though anyone could be asked to do pretty much anything so we have probably played in just about every conceivable variation eight people could play in.

CV – The answer to this is hand in hand with the original idea for the songwriting stag do.  30 minutes individually to generate ideas.  Pairs formed by names being drawn out of a hat and another 30 mins to come up with music!  The songs all then generally had a genesis from either one or two people within the group and then were worked to completion by anywhere from one to eight of the members.  To foster the sense of camaraderie and collaboration we decided that songs be credited to all members even though in reality it was usually one or two per song who would be the writers.  There was no principal writer.  All members had a hand in writing at least one of the tunes on the album.  There are 6 different lead vocalists on the record.  Most of the group are competent on a number of different instruments.  Generally when it came to recording everyone played parts in line with what was played during the writing process.  However there were exceptions such as that although 3 or 4 of us are decent on the drums we have a world class drummer in Aron so it didn’t make sense for any of the rest of us to play drums on the recording.

SD – Who are some of your influences (long term growing up type) and who are you listening to these days?

AA – Me and Chris were at primary school together and were into retro music, 60s, 70s etc.  It wasn’t something you talked about openly. I distinctly remember getting some Motown acetate records on a cereal box and dancing around to them at Chris’s and thinking we should be in a band and do this kind of stuff. We went to a few formative gigs together growing up. Reef, ‪Supergrass and a few others. Later on people like ‪the Flaming Lips and Beck.

I have gone through all the major phases since then. A Beatles phase, a bob Marley phase, a Dylan phase. My most recent obsession has been ‪Tom Waits. I have so much admiration for his conviction and craftsmanship. His catalogue is so rich it never fails to inspire me.

CV – Amongst the 8 of us I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t appreciate the 60s and 70s greats; Beatles, Stones, Credence, Bowie.  Outside of that there is quite an eclectic taste within the group taking in punk, soul, DnB, jazz.  For me, when music started becoming important my first heroes were ‪Pearl Jam, Lemonheads, Nirvana, RHCP, Pumpkins, ‪Weezer, REM, ‪Radiohead.  Later Jellyfish, ‪Flaming Lips, ‪Tom Waits, ‪PJ Harvey, ‪Pixies, ‪Fleet Foxes. Most recently been listening to some old jazz blues records; Billie Holliday, ‪Nina Simone, ‪Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli.

SD – If there was one single word to describe what Maesmynis brings to the world, what would it be?

AA – Friendship

CV – Trouble

Shan – Besides the Cuban Heels and Maesmynis, is there any other music out there from any of you that is available online for our readers to seek out?

‘Magic 8 Ball’ – Aron Attwood – available on Spotify/itunes etc.

‪https://open.spotify.com/artist/6FLnXFoCy3bF9l5sHecL8e

‘Nothing like before’ – The Ripleys  (Russ & Chris) – available on Spotify/itunes etc.

‪https://open.spotify.com/artist/3vIi0v6TsyIt7nWzCCN7br

‪https://m.soundcloud.com/steve-payne

All bands mentioned above have have various levels of presence out there on the infoweb.

SD – I know that you ha[d] a gig coming up very soon in Bristol. Barring me finding a teleportation device, will it be recorded so you can share with the rest of the world? And are there any future plans for more music?

CV – With all focus on the logistics of making it right on the night alas the gig wasn’t recorded as such.  However there are some great photos and a couple of short (surprisingly reasonable quality) phone clips to at least give a flavour of the night on the facebook page.

AA – It is very difficult to organise eight busy people to get together for a beer let alone rehearsals and a gig so the prospect of another gig is unlikely but not out of the question. We treated the last gig like a one off but if something seems doable in the future then we would all love to do it.

[SD – dig around for clips of their live show, and also definitely check out their cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage from that night!]

SD – If you were each a condiment, topping or spice…what are you in terms of what you bring to the band?

AA – (all the below)

Alex, definitely chilli. He adds heat and spice. His energy is so irrepressible it’s infectious.

Marcus, salt or pepper. You probably want at least a little bit on everything.

Chris, cheesehe’s the topping that everyone loves. Comfort food you couldn’t live without that binds everything together. Until he plays a guitar solo then he’s jalapeño!

Steve, weed browniesvery sweet and makes everyone laugh like children.

Dan, hundreds and thousandshe’s the magic on top of everything. Sprinkling his fairy dust on top.

Russ, mayonnaisecos he’s white and likes chips.

Joel, horseradishcos he likes to go with something beefy.

CV – Aron, poppy seeds–nutty, magic powers, illegal in several countries.

PS
SD – Maesmynis (pronounced ‘Maze-menace’ if you’re in the band, or if you’re Welsh ‘Mice-minnis’) is available on iTunes and Amazon– treat yo’self and go get it!