Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lovely Chat With Singer/Songwriter,April Devereaux

April Devereaux
Photo Credit:  Mark Wilkins

KA: April, hello!

KA: It's an honor for me to be chatting with you, as I have been a long time fan of your work, especially a certain amazing band from Seattle called, Sybil Vane. It was the 90's and you guys sounded very different from what was being hyped during that time. What was it like, not only being in that band, but also, being so different?

AD: Thank you Kim!! It's an honor for me to be interviewed by you. Being part of the music scene in Seattle in the early 90's was a bit surreal. I remember casually bringing up members from the grunge scene up in conversation on a regular basis. Parties and after hours I attended would have members of any one of the famous bands you might associate with that time period. Sybil Vane opened for some of these bands too...I was so spoiled to know all these amazing artists.

KA: I was lucky enough to see Sybil Vane open for a few of these awesome bands:)

KA: What kinda crowd did you guys attract? Besides 16 year-old me, of course. hehe

AD: The crowds at our shows were very eclectic. And the age range was always interesting to see. I think it really had to do with who we were booked with in the beginning. When we started to headline we had our definite local fans and they were so good to come to most of our shows to support us. I would like to think we attracted people who wanted something different than what was going on with the grunge scene. I have been told we were ahead of our time but actually there were bands in Europe that had a similar sound at that time.

KA: Also, Sybil Vane's song, "Sorry", was featured in the cult film, Empire Records. How did that come to be?

AD: The Empire Records gig came about as a result of our A&R rep and a friend who worked in the entertainment industry from LA. It's really who you know..I hate that it's a cliche but so true.

KA: So insanely true, though.

KA: When I think back to bands that really were totally outside of the box in Seattle, primarily in the 90's, I also think of Sky Cries Mary, which reminds me, you're going to be working with Gordon Raphael,
 (He was keyboardist for the psychedelic band), What can you tell me about that collaboration? 

AD: Yes, Sky Cries Mary was a totally unique band and we opened for them on a regular basis. Gordon was a friend of ours and that's how we got to be a part of those magical shows. If you never saw them perform live you missed out. Gordon just released a full vinyl of his own work after producing only for years. He will be co producing my album and all songs are written and arranged by me. It's a project that has slowly taken shape over the years resulting from life's sorrows, disappointments and those moments of exhilarated joy that can't be explained in words alone. It's like most of my projects in that it is my art and it's about the work first. If anyone likes it after that fact then I am happy the work touches others in a positive way or helps them identify with emotions the work is promoting.

KA: I did see Sky Cries Mary live. I even had a fun interview with singer, Anisa Romero not long ago:)

KA: You've been busy! You're also in the middle of releasing a novel and a film, yeah?

AD: The novel is another project I have been chipping away at for the last 8 years. There is interest from a British publishing company and now the pressure is on. Before it was just about the story and writing was enjoyable. Whenever the business aspect comes into town there's that element of "it has to be marketable". I am trying to keep it real and write the story I want to tell regardless of the interest from this publishing company.
The film has not been started yet. Currently getting the book done and getting all songs ready for recording this winter in Germany are a priority. Being out of my comfort zone, which is definitely Seattle, will make for a better album I hope. Filming will start late Spring 2018:) You are invited to be in a scene if you so desire.

KA: Are you kidding??! I'd love to be in a scene! Just let me know the details:)

KA: Speaking of novels and films, what do you read and watch?

AD: Film Struck has been my go to for films in the last year. I love Akira Kirosawa films..he has been an inspiration for me in choosing filming techniques for my project coming up. As far as novels go, I love the classics especially Tolstoy.

KA: Act magazine is getting a bit involved with miss April, too?

AD: Act Magazine is a fantastic outlet for artists. They are just doing an artist call out for me. Basically a photo and a few sentences summing up my plans for the year starts in September, so, wrapping up the book by then to start finalizing song arrangements is the order in which I hope to get the work done!

KA: As a performer and creator, what is important to you?

AD: This is a great question, Kim. As a creator my intentions are to tap into the universe for inspiration and direction. It's never just about me. It's about all of us. I am coming from the the perspective of my life experiences and I try to create work that will benefit others and be a positive outlet for them. As a performer, I want to reach out and touch everyone in the audience. It really is about opening up your being and becoming vulnerable when you perform. I prefer creating to performing as you give up a piece of yourself every time you perform. But sometimes there's those shows where there is an even flow of give and take..this is why I love small venues. I performed at the Bowery Electric last winter twice in New York upstairs in the piano room, and it's like you are literally playing in your living room for the crowd. The songs become the conversation at that point.

KA: Your voice is absolutely beautiful. When did you begin singing  and what was your motivation?

AD: Thank you. Actually my mother is my first teacher and inspiration in music. She really is the genius who plays several stringed instruments, the piano and has an amazingly beautiful voice. She has the gift and maybe any thing I have received comes from her. My second inspiration is Elizabeth Frazier from the Cocteau Twins. That woman has the most beautiful voice ever hands down. Her melodies and notation skills are brilliant. I fell in love with her when I was a kid. I heard the Cocteau Twins on KCMU way back it's 90.3.

KA: Being that you were around in the Northwest music scene, how did you take the loss of so many local musicians?

AD: I remember being around the gifted artists we have lost from Seattle including the most recent tragedy. There are no words.

KA: You have a daughter, what is important to you about nurturing her creative side?

AD: My daughter's name means radiant creative. She is the most sensitive, caring, compassionate person I know and she is the love of my life. She also has a depth of empathy that few in this world possess. True creativity comes from these qualities to make an artist. It's either from beauty or ugliness within that art arises. Her creativity, her inner artist, comes from beauty and depression. She is gifted in drawing, painting and writing..She also took 5 years of violin and I was heart broken when she decided to quit. She can pick up a guitar and make up a song pretty quickly but she has no desire to pursue music.

Have you had any epic fangirl moments in this business?

AD: Mmmm hahaha! fangirl moments? I have some funny stories but it would take too long to tell them! OK, so there was a club called The Rock Candy (RKCNDY) in the early 90's. I was underage and had a fake ID...sorry Mom:) I was a huge Soundgarden fan and still am to this day. Their first album is pure magic, not to mention Chris Cornell's voice. He's probably the best male vocal of all time and he will be missed terribly. I was standing in the audience watching a show and I turned around to see this gorgeous, god like being behind me. I stepped up close to him and asked him if he had a cigarette. I felt this electric surge of energy go straight up from us like opposite lightening. He patted his pockets and said no I don't but hold on a minute. He went to a couple people at the bar and came back with a cigarette and a lighter for me. That was my first encounter with Chris. He was a genuine, highly gifted, caring and humble person.  And, he did not judge especially since smoking is terrible for the way, I quit when I was 24 and I highly recommend quitting no matter how old you are people.

KA: funny! I had a similar story about Layne Staley. Although he was all out of cigarettes when I tried to bum off him. (laughs)

KA: During your touring days, did you or your band mates struggle with any vices or demons?

AD: Yes, I am not going to say what vices belonged to which members, but I will say heavy drinking was a problem. Debauchery came into town sometimes when we partied and there are so many completely crazy stories..we had some hysterically epic moments. And, I have been known to have those nights still...last night was one in Georgetown. I will say that I do not do drugs other than alcohol once in awhile. I do love red wine but taking care of my health is very important to me. When I do drink too much something is very wrong in the universe the next day, like today. It's really not worth wasting the next day with a hangover.

KA: Where are you living now, what's life like for you these days?

AD: I am currently in Seattle now and will be in New York soon, then London and then Germany. This is the succession of traveling that goes with my goals for the year.

KA: What are you completely and utterly passionate about?

AD:My true passion is women's and children's rights. It breaks my heart to know how difficult it is to live as a woman or a child in some countries. It's 2017 people..time to step out of the "Dark Ages" into the light.

KA: If you could be anyone else for 24 hours, who would you be?

AD: 24 hours is all I get? Bummer! Can I go back in time? If so, then I would be Tolstoy. Just to know what it is like to possess such genius would be worth the 24 hours. And, in our time, Maya Angelou.

KA: Who are some of the most impressive people you've worked with?

AD: I have to say the Seattle Symphony with Sybil Vane. They played on a couple songs for the Sybil Vane album. Their discipline as musicians is very respectable.

KA: What makes you, well, YOU?

AD: Beyond the nature, nurture give in there is a constant ticking in me making me never content with what I have done in my life. I want to create,  create, and create some more. It is my very core, my existence.

KA: What else do you have in the works, stand on your soapbox, dear.

AD: I am doing another short film about the homeless community, and a book of photos and short interviews with homeless individuals. This is a huge issue in Seattle and all over the world. We need to educate ourselves, and use empathy and walk in people's shoes to understand better. Not everyone homeless is an addict. Seattle closed many doors to homes that housed the mentally ill, and cut benefits for the poor, not to mention if you are not in a certain field that offers the best jobs wherever you are then life can be difficult. These and other factors are some of the reasons people who have no family or anyone to help them can find themselves in a bad situation. If you really think about it, most people are living month to month and becoming homeless could be a reality for many people who have never experienced it before. And some people choose this lifestyle..they are tired of playing society's games. Life is easier without that stress. There is this young man who lost both his parents relatively close and he ended up with their medical bills which he could not pay. He lost everything. Think about his sadness and displacement in life after losing both his parents and having no one to help him. He is a bright, beautiful person that just had a series of unfortunate events take place in his life. This happens to people every day. We cannot separate ourselves or judge people on the basis of having shelter or not having shelter or choosing a lifestyle most of us do not understand. And, being a bit of a gypsy myself I have an understanding. My early childhood was spent on communes where we had one room and shared the kitchen, bathrooms and main living areas with everyone else. We were not homeless but very poor. I was not aware of this because everyone worked together for the farms profits to eat and have a place to call home. I had my imagination and books instead of toys or other material items kids might usually have and I was the happiest I have ever been in my life.

KA: Thanks so much,April. You are amazing!

AD :Thanks, Kim!! This has been my favorite interview ever!! You are really good at this you know!

Check out April at these links!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Interview with the Amazing Below Blackstar

Patricia Lockeman / Catch the Groove Photography.

Band Members:

Jason: guitars, vocals.
Gerard: guitars.
Debra: bass, vocals.
Jessica: drums.
Christopher: guitars, vocals.

KA: I recently got to have bit of a chat with Below Blackstar's vocalist/guitarist/keys, Christopher Standard Time

KA: Christopher, thanks for your time.

 BB: I appreciate it, thank you.

KA: Your album, Below Blackstar, Bowie inspired?

BB:No, actually, despite how much I love Bowie. The band name is really old, and comes from nights hanging out down in Austin, Texas.

KA: OHHH... what were those nights like? I love descriptions. Paint me a picture...

BB: Can I describe that time and place without incriminating anybody? But seriously... there was a rotating group of people at a rotating series of locations, and you never really got going before nightfall. Everybody's out doing their thing, either playing at the parks under the sun, finishing up with work, or grabbing a bite, whatever, and when the sun finally goes down, the curtains closed and that's when night has truly fallen. It didn't even need to be anything wild, but when you're all creatures of the night, you can rest assured that you'll be going strong until daybreak. Sometimes you spark up a bonfire on somebody's property, or you all get into your best gear before a night at the industrial haunts... some of the best moments were when there are about thirty of you cramped into somebody's tiny shit hole apartment, and everybody does a little time on Burton Drive. There were a lot of mid-mornings and late afternoons when you'd wake up and have to step over a lot of sleeping people, some drunk or what-have-you from the night before, some tired from having sex in the bathroom while keeping other desperate to use it, and a small handful of you stay awake because there's an immortality and an honesty in the conversations that happen as the sun rises (fortunately, modern sunglasses allow vampires to walk through the day). I'd be lying if I said I didn't wake up next to strangers a time or two, or that I didn't stay awake listening to stories the old guys would tell, some of whom were strangers that you might never see again. One of my personal musical influences was the result of a chance meeting at a party thrown by an entire apartment block (seriously, people were jumping off the roof into the swimming pool); I'll never forget Luke, and in the five hours I hung out with the guy, he taught me so much about music. I never knew anything else about him, never saw his band play, never ran into the guy again, but the lessons he taught me stick to this day (and dude, thank you for the Cowboy Junkies).

So, somewhere in that mess of humanity lies the story of the name, "Below Blackstar".

KA: I like that.

KA :These days, it's always others describing and labeling bands. How would you describe your own sound?

BB: I used to jam with a bassist who came up with the idea of being "neo-Texan", which he described as a modern-day/dystopian cyberpunk-cowboy in a neon wilderness. He thought Below Blackstar's music worked as a soundtrack to that imagery, and it led to us referring to ourselves as "Halo Tex-Hex Punk Floyd Sad-bastard Music". If you pick it apart, it's an apt descriptor.

KA: "Punk Floyd", I dig it. A fan of Pink Floyd?

BB: I'm a massive Floyd fan. I have every piece of music they've ever put out, and I love it all, equally. In fact, 1975's Wish You Were Here is my favorite album of all time.

KA: You're based in Seattle. Were you inspired by any 90s grunge bands?

BB: I still really love Sunny Day Real Estate, but I don't think they're grunge.

KA: I loved them in the 90s, too. I think they were the forerunners of "Emo" (giggles)

BB: So I've been told, but Jeremy Enigk doesn't think so. I like to think of it like this: Jon Thor Birgisson once said that Sigur Ros wasn't so much "post-rock" as "pre-something else". Besides, being too close to a scene can be detrimental. Some of the best musical advice I received was from a veteran Seattle musician who was entrenched in the goth scene: "Don't become a part of this scene, or any scene - if you do, you may find it really difficult to escape those labels."

Maybe it's best to just do your own thing and leave the labels to someone else.

KA: What is your favorite platforms for tube, Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, or?

BB: I really like Bandcamp - it's a great platform that allows artists to reap a majority of the profits of sales of their music and merch - which is becoming the new normal. You can chase after cool stuff based on their tags, too. It forces you to be patient, which is key. I've discovered a lot of great music by going down the Bandcamp rabbit hole. They recently donated their proceeds to the ACLU, as well, and that's an important cause these days.

KA: How has social media benefited your band and others?
I think we've reached people who might not otherwise have access to us. It's crazy to have people in Ottawa, Canada, and in Sydney, Australia, tell us how much they enjoy our music. If used properly, social media is an amazing tool and not just a drama factory.

Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram?

KA: Do you guys tour, or just do the local thing for now?

BB: The goal is to tour at some point, but we'd like to make smart decisions about it. For now, we're focusing on Western Washington and will expand outward as the weather becomes more conducive to travel.

KA: Where in Washington do you plan, where can people find your gigs?

BB: We are really loving Bellingham right now. There is some crazy good music in that town! When I want something a little unusual, a little more artistic, I listen to Bellingham bands. They've been really accepting of us as we try to build there, so we're grateful.

We're also a member of Soniphone Records, an eclectic collective based out of Everett. We're slowly opening up to playing in Everett, but the schedule hasn't worked out quite yet.

We also want to play Arlington, Bremerton, and give Tacoma a little love. Wenatchee and Ellensburg should also have music, and we've got friends in Spokane, including Below Blackstar's original lead guitarist, so we definitely want to go over there, too. There are projects on Bainbridge that bring music to the island, and we're interested in that, and of course, we've also gotta play on the home field right here in Seattle. Now, if we can just get Band in Seattle to call us back so my mom can watch... ha!

KA: Do you prefer that you have a mix gender band?

BB: There are a lot of ways to answer this... how much time do we have?

Let me start by saying that a good musician is a good musician, and if you have chemistry with that musician, then how they identify should be irrelevant to the process of making music. Of course, this is also reality, and everything I've just said is an oversimplification.

One of the tenets under which Below Blackstar operates is that everything that CAN be a resource IS a resource. For example, there are lead and backing vocals on Under a Concrete Sky that are obviously performed by a woman, and those songs happen to work best with that tone and timbre. We feature male vocals and female vocals in the group, and sometimes some things work well for some stuff, and some for others. A mezzo-soprano is not a tenor or falsetto, so in this example, a woman can provide something that a man simply, physiologically cannot (traditionally-speaking).

Whenever one of our women has departed and we've had to go looking for new members - and in this band, bass has traditionally been anchored by a woman - dudes will respond with this horrible shit about how they can sing in falsetto, and somehow that's the same thing as replacing a woman's voice in the lineup. The answer is usually a diplomatic, "a falsetto is not mezzo-soprano", but the reality is that such answers really upset me; I mean, you've basically just minimized the existence of women artists, and I'm not okay with that. Go fuck yourself, asshole.

There was an article that came out after Prince passed away about how he spent his career mentoring women. I remember reading it and wondering exactly how I fit into this equation in my own way (though I would NEVER even consider that I would be on par with Prince, ever). I remember how many women influenced ME in one way or another... why shouldn't Below Blackstar have women in the group? Everybody always ever brings a different perspective, so why wouldn't the female perspective be equally as important?

Besides, I've never been the traditional "dude", and as a result, the band has never been traditional. In that way, then yes, I prefer having people of many walks of life in the group.

All of the women with whom I've ever played music are very, very special to me, even though I don't really know some of them anymore... even though I might not be on good terms with some of them.

KA: Does your mood inspire your creativity?

BB: I think so. I once read this thing about how action creates inspiration and not the other way around. I guess the mood that spurs on the action really highlights the mood of the work.

KA: Where would your dream gig be at, who would you open for?

BB: I really love my bandmates. Any job where I can be on stage with Jessica, Jason, Debra, and Rabbit is my dream job, whether it's at a cool house show or headlining Glastonbury. They keep the dream alive.

KA: What kinda people does your music seem to attract?

BB: Lately, we're getting a lot of younger listeners, people who haven't reached 21 and have found us through word-of-mouth. It's cool to know that people love music enough to go searching for it.

KA: Where can people find you on a FridaySaturday night?

BB: We're trying to meet new people and see new bands, so we're out and about in Seattle, Everett, or Bellingham, and checking out more non-traditional venues.

KA: I recently went into the studio to record an album and the vibe is very important. What are YOUR studio necessities?

BB: As long as there's coffee and a cool diner, nearby, I'm pretty sure we'll survive. Breaks are important when you're doing twelve-hour days in the studio, or you might go stir-crazy.

KA: Breaks are insanely important. Lighting, too. And I SO agree with the caffeine!

KA: Describe your music with 6 different adjectives

BB: Cinematic, intricate, visceral, haunting, communal, and vulnerable.

KA: Awesome!!

KA: You got a sample lyric to show off?

BB: "So is this over now?
I just cannot believe
the mark of painted flesh,
the storm clouds in your eyes,
the glance I steal away,
so softly spoken and
still here breathing..."

KA: Brilliant!

BB: Thanks! Lyrics are where I excel, and I'm not shy about it. I've been writing all my life, so I figured I should put that talent to good use.

KA: Do you write music or lyrics first?

BB: Stevie Ray Vaughan used to say that  the music didn't come FROM him, but THROUGH him. I think songs write themselves, and a lot of factors contribute to how songs want to express themselves and ultimately take form. Our song, "Goldcrank", is a fine example; I'd had the title for a long, long time before I had words or music or anything, but it was such a moving title - with its own history - that I knew needed each spectacular words and music to match the feelings it was feeding me. I think it took about a year to complete, sometimes scrapping a chord here or a quatrain there.

KA: With so many bands to choose from, get on this cyber soapbox and tell readers why they should check you guys and gals, out.

BB: Pete Carroll says that you shouldn't be the best at what you do, you should be the only one doing it.

When you see us live or listen to our recordings or watch our videos, we want you, dear listener, to become a member of the group. This isn't just our band, it's your band, and YOU are important to this process. We want you to feel the same things we do: we want the sweat that drips off our noses during a performance to be the sweat that you wipe away when the lights go down and the song peaks; we want the tears that we shed when trying to figure out a lyric or an upbeat be the same tear you shed when those words or beats hit your soul; we want the blood that courses through our veins to flow in tandem with every beat of your heart. We want you to hear yourself in the music of Below Blackstar, because if you like loud music, quiet music, slow music, fast music, long songs or short songs, screaming or crooning, electric or acoustic, we are all of those things, and all of those things are us and you, too. You're a human being with a vast palette of experiences - we hope we're the soundtrack of your humanity.

Click HERE To Get Their Tunes On Bandcamp!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Chat With Singer Song-Writer Erin Pellnat

KA:Hey Erin!

KA:: When you contacted me, you stressed that you were a "DIY" artist. What are some of the benefits and struggles you have encountered  being on your own in the musical world?

EP: Control is the greatest benefit. There's nobody looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. The vision can be completely your own. It's a huge plus. Not having access to the best equipment can be a bummer, but with it, the DIY sound would be sacrificed, so I'd say it's actually both a pro and a con.

KA: Are you able to get out and perform live much?

EP: I perform constantly, but not with this project specifically. I live in Brooklyn and I have a band here, "Caretaker." We perform 2-3 times a month at various venues. Dream In Color was made by me and my dad, who is in upstate New York, so we make music when we see each other, but we reside in different places, so it isn't as easy.

KA: You described your music as "flavorful acoustic, to accordion waltz, to Bossa Nova." Who are some of your main influences, and who would you compare yourself to?

EP:Some of the greatest influences would be Stan Getz, Shivaree, Imogen Heap. I'm honestly not sure who we'd be compared to, but some of our songs remind me of Shivaree.

KA:You're based in Brooklyn, NY. How is the music scene treating you up there, lots of competition?

EP: The music scene is always on point out here. Always something happening. Definitely a lot of competition, but not in a hostile way. Everyone wants to succeed and wants everyone else to want them to succeed and watch everyone else succeed too. And when people dig an act, they get very into it, so support is pretty strong out here, for the good stuff anyway.

KA: Do you ever think being in a more musical city would benefit or challenge you more or less?

EP: Benefit one hundred percent. I've done all my greatest work in this city. People acclimate to their surroundings without even trying. Being surrounded by so many people who are hell-bent on "making it" is a huge drive boost. No one wants to fall behind, and in a place like this, everything seems just a bit more tangible.

KA: Are you working on a full length album in the future, I'd love to hear more!

EP: I have zero doubts that my dad, (Christopher Pellnat) and I will always continue to make music. He writes really beautiful songs. Constantly getting better with time, too.

KA: The album was written by Christopher Pellnat, your dad, who also did some producing. He's probably gonna stick around for the ride, yeah?

EP: Of course!

KA: Who would you love to work with and what would you want their role to be?

EP: I would love to work with Kevin Parker. I would give anything to sing on a track with him. Lonerism vibes. He kills me.

KA: Being a woman, have you tumbled upon any misogyny in the music business?

EP: I hate that this is such an obvious 'yes.' People act surprised when they find out I write the music for my band. Asking if I "applied" for my residency at a Brooklyn venue. The sad part is that these men don't even realize that they're being so condescending. It just really doesn't occur to them that I, a woman, could be capable of whatever success is at hand. It's the underhanded misogyny that gets me the most.

KA: Your lyrics are very dreamy. They paint pictures of skies and love. Was that Christopher's vision, or yours?

EP: Christopher wrote the lyrics on the "Dream in Color" EP. He went to college for writing and when we were kids, I remember him working on a book....which I never actually ever got to read. Hm. Have to ask him about that.

KA: What is something about your music that you feel is important to get across to listeners?

EP: The magic of music as a revelation, as fun, and the thrill of sharing it.

KA: What kind of audience does your music seem to attract?

EP: I'm always surprised by the many different types of people who like what we do.  There are no barriers with music.  As long as your ears and mind are open, the music has a chance.

KA: Have you been able to get any airplay?

EP: We're on a few blogs and the SoundCloud plays continue to rise, but no radio as of yet.

KA: If you could tell readers why they should listen to your music, what would you say? Heres your soapbox:) 

EP:If you like harmonies and beautiful melodies on soft, full beds of sound, this music is for you.