Author: Ady

Philly area freelance photographer

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

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Joseph Arthur City Winery NYC 1-1-17

ja2Happy New Year friends, can you believe it? 2017! I say this with a big sigh. I’m not sure if this is a sigh of relief or a sigh of trepidation. I guess only time will tell. Sometimes when I feel like this I take certain precautions like self-care steps, and these precautions that keep/restore my sanity always lie in music, art, and adventure. I got all three yesterday 1-1-17.(Hey, that’s the first time I wrote the date and it looks weird and makes me feel old.)

My New Year’s Day adventure sent me to the City Winery in NYC to see Joseph Arthur—  yes again! To see the full photo set from the show click here. I’ve been fortunate enough since November ’16 to catch him three times live. This is my remedy, you know for my sanity like I said: art, music and adventure. As my break quickly wraps up and the real world is catching up to me I can say I ended it with some lightness, some fun, creativity and photography.

So, Sunday’s show was sort of like a wedding with something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. I went online and found the set list, it’s floating out there, but I’ll save you the trouble and you can just link here. You can see which fall into the categories, old, new, borrowed, and blue (which was the color of his shirt) .

The borrowed portion of the show was a cover of George Michael’s Freedom take a listen here  (just now creating this hyperlink for George made me sad again. RIP George Michael). The track was laid down on his phone but he didn’t say which app he uses  (getting hip like the kids nonetheless). I had a very visceral reaction to the Freedom cover, I’m sure others did too. I was a child product of the 80’s and I loved Wham and GM but I don’t think at my age  back then when Freedom was released that I actually grasped its poignancy. When Joseph sang it last night I listened, every lyric and to every bit of the intention in his delivery just absorbing it. Not to mention I think this cover officially gave him the #badass.  I think in its original form as a pop song (and my age) I missed the depth, and to hear it like this I finally got it. It hit me. And I’m being careful not to talk too much about the new president-elect, but I worry about things as simple as the title of the song, the things that should be simple for us all like Freedom.  Fair to say last night was strangely emotional for me kinda like a hybrid of feelings that come up the way church used to be when I was young or how my yoga mat is for me now as an adult. Just a deep feeling of contemplation and emotional space you can get once in a while.  And it wasn’t just this moment during the show but there were others too.ja3

I’ve mentioned it before, but me and the other half of Sis Diss, my sister Shan are Northeast Ohio byproducts and listening to Joe play songs from The Family feel so much like home, so much like the rust belt we grew up in, all the good and the bad all rolled up in a ball of yarn you can’t quite find the beginning or end to. It feels all so familiar and sitting with these songs as he plays them from the piano on stage just after holiday brought me even deeper into the head space I was in.

I think my conclusion from last night was that it’s not about resolutions, it’s not about getting better or being better it’s just about being. It’s enough. I think jokingly he even mentioned on stage the quote about something being the journey and not the destination. That may have been about his  Leonard Cohen cover of Everybody Knows.

One of my dear friends said to me the other day, “it’s not about knowing what’s next it’s just about asking the question of what is next”. I think the New Year’s Day show for me was about revelations and not resolutions and just thinking about what is next for me in many ways.

Not every show I step into will make me feel this way. I think for me it is when a show is done in the moment, and JA does this well with the feel of being free of ego, or as free of ego as you can get. He’s pretty much an open book up there, this is the part of his showmanship that the audience can connect with. I have some mad respect for a man who can just be in the Flow which takes skills to do. (For those interested in what the Flow is there’s actually some scientific evidence for the idea of the “Flow” you can read about here on your own. (I won’t get into it here in this post since it’s too similar to my work-work, but it is fascinating). My best example of this was midway through painting on his canvas with bubble gum pink paints, Joe just stops glances down and decides in that moment to paint a perfect pink heart on his tee-shirt. It was like this uninterrupted flow of feeling, thought, idea and action that just all came out at once. There wasn’t this process of “hey I want to paint a heart, should I paint a heart?, would a heart be cool?, will the heart be a good idea?, does the audience want to see me paint a heart?…”… That’s flow folks. And modern research says in order to be our happiest we need this trait and I admire him for having it, it’s what keeps me coming back and buying my tickets.

So for 2017 can we all just paint some metaphorical pink hearts. Don’t stop and think too much, get into the flow of the good things life has to offer us. We’ve got some negative forces opposing us for the time being. I’m not quite sure 2017 will make America great again, but I do believe in the power of jaollove, art, music and kindness. I think that is where I will put my focus this year.

Happy 2017 Joe. Thank you for sharing pieces of your musical and creative world with us.

Peace and pink hearts

~Ady

Joseph Arthur from Philly 11-19-16 to Akron 11-23-16

Joseph Arthur played the Tin Angel on 11-19-16 and it was timely for me. I haven’t been to a show in awhile and the in the midst of this post election crisis/haze/mess I really had no idea how badly I needed to get out. And doubly, how badly I needed it to be one of his shows.

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Photo Credit: Shan

For the 11 days after the election I kept to myself, limiting my time in public mainly for not knowing where to find my people. I knew that going to the show would be good for me so I grabbed a ticket and made a plan to do something I knew I would enjoy. Being there was cathartic and it was necessary because it somewhat got me out of the post-election slump. (See why…check out The Campaign Song live from Tin Angel here.)

The Tin Angel show was the first show on his tour that I had been able to see since the June 3rd release of The Family. And by the way, the album is phenomenal if you haven’t heard it yet. You can find the info here. Several of the tracks have quickly taken to my favorites list like You Keep Hanging on, which has been running in my head on and off for days.

These two shows: Philly and Akron were both a beautiful combination of musical genius, showmanship and edginess that somehow he pulls off with a comedic twist. His personality can’t help but shine through whenever/wherever he plays. I know I’ve said it before, but I suspect this is because he so genuinely speaks his truth which is something I respect.

So, we fast forward a few days to my trip home for Thanksgiving. Home…Ohio… for both Joe and Sis Diss. For four consecutive years now Shan and I made it to the Thanksgiving Eve show at The Tangier in Akron, Ohio (click here to find some of our previous posts). Of course the show was every bit entertaining as the one I had gone to just days before. It does feel different to see a home show than it does to see a Philly show or a NYC show. And trust me when I say I’ve seen him play in all these places so many times I’ve lost my count! But, I think being “home” brings out different qualities in us all, and I don’t think there is an exception to this rule even for rock stars. So it is always fun to be able to share in the hometown experience.

I wondered what it would be like seeing him play shows a few days apart. Would it be the same? Would the set list vary?  How would it be different? But of course his chameleon-like ability to change up any song arrangement making you feel like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it made the two shows feel like completely separate spaces in time for me.

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Photo Credit: Shan

As a side note can I just say that when I was searching for the Philly set list I came across a youtube video from a Milwaukee show in September where he covers Prince’s When Doves Cry. I would have loved to have seen that one live for myself-wow. His vocal range has always been perplexing to me. Just when you think he can’t get any higher he can, or any lower he does, and with pitch perfect accuracy. Truly a gift. Add his live painting on stage to his musical talent and he never ceases to blow my mind. I can sincerely say that each time I leave one of his shows I always walk out with a sense of admiration.

But can I just share a quick regret coupled with an apology for the iPhone photos (in spite of the missing camera somehow Shan managed to finesse an iPhone camera in ways I can’t-thank you for that Shan). I didn’t have my “real” camera with me at either show this past month sigh. Maybe January 1 in NYC I’ll get to fix that at the City Winery show. I just might be there with my camera and some hope for 2017.

~Ady O

{click the links here and here and here if you want to go on a past JA show photo treasure hunt}