Friday, May 22, 2020

Interview: Ragged Lines on Life During Quarantine and Their New Single

Ragged Lines by Kelsey Ayers

"Keep Talking"

Asbury Park's Ragged Lines began as a songwriting project for Carter Henry following the dissolution of his previous band, Monterey (who we interviewed here way back in 2015). Henry soon recruited lifelong friend, Lucas Dalakian. Following the release of the band's 2017 EP red lights, your ghost, Ragged Lines evolved to its current 3-piece configuration with Henry on guitar and vocals, Dalakian on bass, and Matt Viani on drums. With an assist from part-time member Ally Rose, Ragged Lines are moving closer to the release of their debut full-length, recorded by the prolific and talented Erik Romero.

Today, Ragged Lines released the second single from that upcoming record in the form of "Keep Talking." In its short, energetic minute and a half, "Keep Talking" contains an important message that feels especially appropriate for our current situation. That, simply, is talk to people and don't be afraid to tell them how you feel.

I talked to Ragged Lines over email about "Keep Talking" and to see how they've all been doing during quarantine.

Check that out below. "Keep Talking" is available now via your favorite streaming outlet.

First of all, how are you doing? How are you holding up during these strange times?

Carter Henry: I've been fortunate to be able to keep working through all of this, and that's definitely kept me sane. And luckily my family and friends have all stayed healthy. Just have my fingers crossed that we'll be able to return to some sort of normal this summer.

Matt Viani: At first, it was very hard to get used to. I'm a pretty social person and saw my friends every night, so not being able to do something as simple as that really sucked. Working every day plus writing / demoing new music has helped the most.

Lucas Dalakian: Holding up! So far my family and friends have been healthy and safe. Lucky to be busy and well and appreciating the people close to me.

What have been your favorite at-home activities over the last couple of months? Have you become expert bakers? Video gamers? Something else?

Matt: I've been using the extra free time to practice demoing new songs, and it's definitely come a long way.

Lucas: I'm a big gamer. I've been stopping by Icarus to get beer every other week and making my way through a lot of video games. I also watched Breaking Bad front to back. I had never seen it. Also I cooked salmon for the first time, I’m not a cook at all.

What do you miss most from the pre-social distancing days?

Carter: Definitely miss going to shows and going out to restaurants / bars with friends.

Matt: I miss making fun of Lucas to his face, but especially playing shows and seeing my favorite people.

Lucas: My friends, hugs, and bars.

You're releasing your second single, "Keep Talking," today. When was this song recorded?

Matt: "Keep Talking" was the first song we wrote for this record which was about two years ago. It's evolved a bunch since we first started writing it, but when we finally recorded it last August with Erik [Romero], it felt perfect.

"Keep Talking" is a short, power poppy track that encapsulates the "freak out" energy in the lyrics. Can you talk a little bit about what the song's about?

Carter: This song is literally about talking things out. Whether you're upset, in an argument, or in a really beautiful moment, I think we often hold back or pull away when things get intense and I think it's important to continue those thoughts and those conversations. At least for me it feels good to say the things that are sometimes difficult or awkward to say. The words that we find hard to say are usually the truth, and the truth always matters.

How does it feel to be releasing new music right now? There have to be some challenges in promoting it.

Lucas: It feels very very good to be releasing new music right now! We feel very fortunate to have an entire album in our back pocket at this time, so the timing worked out right. I feel awful for bands that can't get together, or had recording plans cancelled. Promoting has actually been nice. We all have a little bit more downtime to get our plans just right, and we feel like it's not the worst time to be releasing music in the world, we want our songs to be a little light in the hard times everyone is experiencing. Luckily we have great friends with blogs like you who are willing to support!

It doesn't seem like you'll be able to play the new songs out any time soon. Do you have any plans for livestreams or music videos?

Carter: Actually we do have a livestream coming up this Sunday [5/24], hosted by our friends in Cold Weather Company. We'll be posting about it on our social media, but it should be starting around 3pm if anyone would like to tune in! We’ve got a few ideas for music videos in the works right now as well. One of our ideas is to have people submit random video clips of their day to day routines during quarantine and piece them together. If anyone is interested in collaborating or being a part of it definitely hit us up!

How, if at all, do you think live music will be different on the other side of all of this?

Lucas: I'm hopeful that live music will see a return to normalcy. With any large world event, I think there will be a “new normal”, less touching, more cleaning supplies at gigs and things like that.

What keeps you motivated right now? Do you have any advice for people who may be struggling to find their own motivation?

Carter: The thing keeping me motivated lately is just focusing on the future beyond this pandemic and ways we can come out stronger from this, not get left behind. There's always something we can be doing to improve our circumstances and the lives of the people around us, and I'm trying to just focus on my vision for those things. My advice to anyone struggling out there right now would be to reach out to other people. It's ok to be vulnerable and talk about what you're going through. Everyone has been affected by this in one way or another and we need to all lean on and support one another.



For more info, you can follow Ragged Lines on Instagram or Facebook.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Interview: Tom Barrett on His New Album, 051480



051480

Our good friend Tom Barrett (Overlake, Tom Barrett and The Cuts, WAVE) released 051480 this week. It's a quiet and intimate portrait of life during lockdown that Tom originally intended as a private birthday present to his wife, Stacy. I was honored and humbled, therefore, when Tom reached out to me with his intention to make this very private, very personal project public.

The album is the result of a creative outburst that came following Tom's own experience of being laid low during the early days (in our part of the world, anyway) of the pandemic. "Like, making it was painful," Tom says of the album, "but it helps heal me to listen. I want it to have that effect on EVERYONE." With the ideas of sharing and healing in mind, Tom decided to release 051480 to the world and to donate all proceeds from the sale of the album to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

I had a socially distant "conversation" with Tom over email yesterday. Check that out below to get some more detail on the making of 051480 and the events leading up to its creation. 051480 is available over at Tom Barrett's Bandcamp page with all proceeds from sales, remember, going to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

I'd like to start off with a little background / history. Can you talk about where you were musically -- or otherwise -- early this year, say January / February / early March?

I had a pretty busy and fun beginning of the year. I had my new band going (WAVE) with Jamie Zillitto and Matt Siegle, both formerly of The Everymen. Both solid dudes who were willing enough to follow a poseur like myself out onto the shoegaze battlefield. I took part in this really fun David Berman tribute up at LoFi in the heights in Jersey City with a bunch off cool new friends I haven't seen since. I was working on some songs, playing some shows, generally in a good head space during this time. Stacy and I went down to Riviera Maya in Mexico for the Wilco festival, where we got real up close with most of those dudes, and they played three nights along with a bunch of other bands: Yo La Tengo, Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett, Kamasi Washington, etc. We swam and drank tons of tequila, haha. Things were looking up. We had joy, we had fun, we had our season in the sun. (sigh)

Then came mid-March and we all started on this current situation. What was that like for you?

What does a dog say? "Ruff." I can't remember much, except that if I was in bed for weeks then I was asleep for at least two of em. I didn't feel great. I hardly ate. Had some freak-outs because I couldn't really breathe, I was weak and shaking all over, and sorta forgot how to play guitar a little bit. I can't really fingerpick anymore. Or use a pen. Violins.

Stacy tried to cheer me up by making me watch ALL the Avengers movies and their spinoffs / standalones, some of which I enjoyed but mostly are just sort of insanely difficult to follow for me, especially when you're dealing with all this nonsense. And an idiot. I was having these insane fever dreams with all the Avengers in them and they would NEVER END. But, anyway, that's what it was like. Everlasting, haha. I sadly can't speak for Stacy. She was too busy saving me while my useless tuchus was binging on old episodes of Top Chef and Parks and Rec and shit.

You had a burst of inspiration / creativity that produced this album. When did that start? Are all of these songs brand new, written in just the last several weeks?

With the exception of "(other) birds," which I'd come up with back in 2014 while walking dogs by Exchange Place, I'd say it started either Wednesday or Thursday of last week and finished on Tuesday. My friend Neil and I were going back and forth on FB. He was sending me some words he wrote for a song making fun of all these dudes playing songs on acoustic guitars. It's called "Dudes Playing Songs on Acoustic Guitars." And I just sent some back. Then more. Then a couple more. I don't know if it's finished, but it started the flow, the avalanche. Changed everything. I was writing down one, two maybe three songs a day. I say "writing down" because I really feel like I just plucked them off the song tree on a nice day and placed em in my little wicker basket right next to the lotion (which was really a pail if you go back n watch). I really don't feel so much like they're mine, I just went out and got the mail on the right day, man.

Lots of people -- myself included -- have found it difficult to be creative or productive during this time. On "PINK MOON II," for example, you seem to be offering some reassurance that that's OK. What other advice do you have for people who find themselves with all of this free time but very little motivation to do anything with it?

I think my turning point came when I saw my friend Renee from Elk City post something on Facebook about how you're under no obligation to art or to be creative just because we're living thru this pivotal moment in our history. There's enough pressure in just getting thru it all. And healthy. Since then, I've seen tons of other articles reflecting that same opinion exactly, which is an important opinion to have floating out there in the ether for others to pick up on. During any time. The only true obligation you have is to be the best version of yourself for yourself, so you can also be that for your other. But first, you gotta BE yourself before you can be the BEST version of that. Gotta complete that word. "That's my philosophy, Marty." NAME THE MOVIE! (This Is Spinal Tap)

The album is intimate in the true sense of the word. I imagined myself sitting at home with you as you played these songs. I think touches like the short interludes and the ribbing on "...kitties..." add to that. It all hits in a way that I think is different now that so many of us are sitting in our homes all day rather than being out and about with all our friends. How did you go about recording these songs? What did that look like?

That's what it is. It's me playing for you with my mask on. Best mask in the world. The mask of not being there. Um, where do I start? Yeah, I just recorded everything as memos. The actual "songs" I tried to make good and did a few takes of. Some several. "(other) birds" was hard. "me out" was hard. I straight up fudge a chord at the end, but I just loved the feel of it, so it stayed in. That short whistling track was completely spontaneous. A moment of pause with the sound off that I just sorta had enough prescience to capture in that moment right then and there. Glad I did. My favorite track on the record. "song for Sean" was half-written, half-improv, all fear. Never been more terrified recording something before in my life. You can hear me wringing the neck of the guitar because I'm so scared. You can hear it on just about every track, some sort of fear, some sort of discomfort. I wanted it all in there, Jim. That Schitt's Creek moment which was a total gift, some Real Housewives noise at the end of "PINK MOON II," boilers, plumbing, cats... everything.

There are songs here about gratitude, sadness, love, guilt, and ultimately hope for the future. This may sound too mechanical, but can you talk a little bit about the structure and sequencing of the album? Did the songs flow from you in the order that they appear here?

It's all just feel. And a river. I really just tried to let everything flow as completely freely as I could, and the pieces just came together. Petty was right. I DID get lucky. And I'm about to contradict myself a little here, because I'm gonna go ahead and say I did not write the album in order, as opposed to "write down." I really just lucked out and somehow amassed this batch of songs and moments that just sorta all fell into their right places on their own. They Tetrissed themselves... tetrised.. tet..... EVERYTHING WORKED OUT.

What was your original intention for this album? Has that changed? If so, what was the cause for that?

Serious time. It was supposed to be just for Stacy and no one else. Like the Wu-Tang record they only made one copy of and sold to that Trump-in-Training, piece of human garbage Martin Shkreli for 2 million bucks or something. I wanted it to be that, but GOOD. In spirit, in quality (from what I've heard), in EVERY WAY. I was gonna give it to her on her birthday. 051480. I didn't always have the songs, but I had the concept and the title. I wouldn't even play them live. Maybe one here or there. This was my pre-pandemic plan, except I wasn't inspired enough by the idea to really get cracking on it. It normally takes me years to actually FINISH songs. Then this little interruption happened. I got sick, I got better, the songs just came. I had this crazy surge coursing throughout my entire body throughout the entire process that only had one meaning to me. This was worth it to me. Like, making it was painful but it helps heal me to listen. I want it to have that effect on EVERYONE. So I instead decided to make it for EVERYONE and donate all the dollars and cents to charities, like the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund. Stacy was really touched by the original idea and was a little sad that it was no longer hers, and I get that. I'd be sad and maybe hurt if she did that to me, too. But she's warm and compassionate just like me. She gets it. Something else will happen. She'll have her day. Like I said, she really carries me. I'll do something.

How do you think the world will be different after all of this? How do you think you may be different? What do you hope will happen?

Can't speak for the world, really. I only know I'm different after all this, and when I imagine the highly improbable scenario of going right from this to WORLD'S OPEN, GO PLAY LOUD SHOWS WITH DISTORTED GUITARS AND CRASHING DRUMS with no sort of gradual reintroduction procedures or anything whatsoever, just a complete, no-holds-barred return to normalcy... It fucking terrifies me. I feel like it could kill me, like taking an infant to front row seats to see the Flaming Lips with NO PROTECTION WHATSOEVER. I don't know if I'll be able to really do that again, honestly. I don't know if it's such a bad thing for me, tho. I'm sad for everyone else. I hope they can go to shows again. I really do, man. I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothin. God. Fuck off.

Thank you, Jim, for everything.

Premiere: New Video from Yawn Mower

Yawn Mower at the Could Eat, Would Sleep release show in 2018

"Operators"

Almost 2 years ago to the day, on 4/20/2018, Yawn Mower released their EP Could Eat, Would Sleep on Mint 400 Records. Around that time, they began working on a video for the song "Operators" off of that record. For reasons known only to Yawn Mower and their collaborators -- the great talents at Hologram Visuals and Burke Multimedia -- the video is just seeing the light of day today. And that's fine. More than fine, really, because this is a perfect time to revisit the song's message about supporting one another.

Guitarist Mike Chick had this to say about "Operators" in a CoolDad Music interview with Matt Chrystal back in 2018:

YM's lyrics are historically pretty dystopian and critical of various social structures we live with every day... ...Every day we are flooded with negativity from the news and people, so I don't want to write about that all the time. "Kickstand" and "Operators" are songs about your friends and family being there for you no matter how bad things are. It's YM's version of PMA.

In that same interview, drummer Biff Swenson added:

Those are also the 2 songs ["Operators" and "Kickstand"] that hit me emotionally more than any other tunes Chick and I have written together.

Lyrics like "It's the little things / We all could do / To keep things running / Relatively smooth" contain some real wisdom during this time when everyone's lives have been turned upside down.

Check out the video for "Operators" below; and, if you're ever feeling down, you can feel free to reach out to me here anytime. Operators are standing by.

Could Eat, Would Sleep, along with the rest of Yawn Mower's discography, is available over at Yawn Mower's Bandcamp page.



Sunday, April 19, 2020

New Single from Lowlight

Lowlight from the very last set I shot before the world changed. Not the best pic ever, but I had to get the disco ball into at least one shot for Renee.

"Julian"

Am I gonna start every post from now on by saying how I haven't been posting much lately because I just haven't felt like it? We'll see, I guess.

I was exchanging messages with good friend Renee Maskin of Lowlight yesterday. At one point, I mentioned how CoolDad Music has kind of been on life support for a while now and how I thought maybe it would become another casualty of the pandemic. The main context of our chat, though, was my telling Renee how much I'd been enjoying Lowlight's latest single, "Julian." I told her how refreshing it was to hear Lowlight continue to try new things. What I didn't explicitly say (but I think I implied) was that the song's epic sweep (It's nearly 8 minutes of epic sweep that absolutely flies by. Trust me.) and hopeful tone helped to keep things going here for at least one more day.

"Julian" provided me with a little moment of inspiration, and I asked Renee to share some thoughts about the song:

"Despite its runtime, "Julian" is a song that came together relatively quickly. It’s also a true Lowlight collaboration. Sometimes, we all write on our own and then present the rest of the band something that's structurally set in stone. But, in this case, we really molded the different elements of the "Julian" together.  Derril [Sellers] and Dana [Sellers] had the initial chord change ideas. I suggested that the song shift to a long instrumental ending. Colin [Ryan], Rey [Rivera], Derril, and Dana went to town on putting it together, while I shuffled around with a notebook, listening, and trying to figure out what the lyrics should be about.  

I had been getting comments recently that my lyrics are often pretty depressing (as if I wasn't aware). So I thought I'd take a shot at writing something a little more upbeat. And, while the song is not all sunshine and fucking rainbows, I think the takeaway is mainly hopeful. There are moments of depression, confusion, and disappointment. But there's also love, appreciation of the people and things we have, and hope for what's to come. 

We had no idea that we’d collectively as humans be in the mess we're in right now by the time "Julian" was released. With any luck, some of that feeling of hope in the song will rub off on whoever listens."

Julian is available now at your favorite streaming service via Telegraph Hill Records.