Jackie Venson by E

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Catch up with Jackie Venson, watch the new video for "Fight", and look for much more to come from the guitarist/vocalist this year.

What have you been up to since we last talked?

Jackie: I've just been writing more and I've been hitting the road a lot and touring nonstop; I don't think I was touring when we were talking about the live album, maybe a little bit, but not nearly as much as I am now. It's just been really wild. I got an opportunity to go and perform with The Late Show band and I got to sit in with them for five shows in December of 2016 and then in 2017 I was on tour every month; I went on a 10-day stretch with Gary Clark Jr.. And I also released a new EP. It was pretty crazy.

Who are the artists who have been influencing your work lately?

I've been listening to a lot of hiphop and a lot of electronic, new age-y music, like neo-soul, because I kind of want to change the sound of my melodies and I want them to be a little different, so I've been listening to music I don't normally listen to. I listen to hiphop a lot, but I don't normally listen to a lot of neo-soul, so I've added that to my ear repertoire, I guess, so I can try it out for some new types of melodies.

Is there someone you'd say you're most looking forward to hearing more from in 2018?

I think OutKast is finally going to come out with something new, they've been touring again. I know they've been touring again so I think they might be releasing something; I've been hearing their name again for the first time in 10 years and that's kind of cool.

Could you tell us more about your inspirations behind "Fight" and the new video?

It's actually a live video performed in the studio and I'm performing it solo. I added a new instrument to my solo show, it's a drum machine. I used to do this loop for solo shows just with the guitar and I would make beats on the guitar and then I would loop bass line and loop the other parts and I would be able to solo over anything I looped; which was cool because, usually, if you're just solo guitar and nobody else, it's hard to play rhythm guitar solos because nobody is doing the rhythm part, but with the looper pedal, the looper pedal is doing the rhythm part. Since I added the drum machine, the solo show is completely transformed, because I used to make all the beats on the guitar but now I make beats on the drum machine and it's a different sound, it's not as muffled as the guitar. I can have different kinds of sounds, like I have handclaps - you can't really make handclaps with the guitar - and I can actually load anything I want onto the drum machine, so I even have background vocal parts and I don't have to hire background singers, so that's pretty fun. That's pretty much what I've been doing. I've just been in the woodshed writing new songs and with the influence of neo-soul and hiphop the songs are really loopy. There's a phrase that repeats over and over again and then they write the melodies and the raps or whatever it is over this repeated phrase and it's almost like they're using a loop pedal but I know they're not, so in that way it's all coming together. I've got this new drum machine, plus the drum machine has some of the sounds they use for percussion, so the whole direction is going in this interesting neo-soul, trippy, blues mixture and I'm pretty stoked about that. I'm still developing it though! It's going to be a while before I come out with that. There's going to be a preview of it in "Fight".

"Fight" is a song off my latest EP I came out with in September, but the EP version is the band - drum kit, bass, keyboards, and guitar - and this arrangement is just drum machine, guitar, and me. It sounds like a totally different sound but you'll get to hear that and the video is just me performing it live but it's really well shot so it's exciting; it kind of feels like you're in the room.

Is the music you released on Transcends indicative of the type of sound we'll hear on your singles this year?

Well, a couple of the singles are remixed songs from Transcends. For the next month it's going to be Transcends itself, but it's going to be with the keyboards, drums, and guitar, instead of guitar, bass, and drums, so it will be a little less rock-y. It's still really hard hitting like a rock song, but the keyboard sounds that we use make it a whole different vibe. And then, after that, I'm going to be releasing songs that are not recorded yet - some of them aren't even written yet! I'm finishing them up, I stayed up 'til like 5 in the morning last night finishing up some of these songs and they aren't going to really sound like the Transcends EP because some of them are going to use the drum machine and some of them are solo acoustic; I haven't done solo acoustic in a long time. And then a few of them are pop/rock almost. In that way, it will be kind of like the Transcends EP, but not that kind of pop/rock, more like original Coldplay pop/rock - not current Coldplay [laughs] - like "The Scientist" or A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay, one of the songs sounds like that. It's going to be interesting. One of them sounds like this Sade "Cherish the Day" kind of stoney, triphop-y type of song and that's going to be interesting... So it's really not anything like the Transcends EP [laughs] it goes to a whole other page because that's just what I do. With me you can't really fall in love with one thing. People are like "I really like the Rollin' On EP 'cause it was really bluesy" and I'm like, "that's cool. So whenever you want that just go listen to the Rollin' On EP, 'cause it's not going to happen again," [laughs]. I'm on a new chapter now so the Transcends EP was pop/rock and that's probably the pop-iest I'll get for a while, really.

The record I'm coming out with after this whole singles thing this year - I'm coming out with another record next year - that's going to be like R&B Motown, so that's going to be interesting. If I write a song and I like the song but then it's like, "oh, well, it doesn't sound like this so, therefore, you can't release it 'cause people want to hear this and not that," I don't ever want to be an artist that does that. If I write a song and I think it's good, I don't care what genre it is, I want people to hear it and that's about it [laughs].

And one of the songs I'm coming out with this year is straight reggae, man. Not like, American Sublime reggae, like, actual reggae. It's going to be cool.

How would you describe your style of music?

I've been coasting on R&B/soul for a while, just because it's so broad. I don't like to say pop/rock because then people think I'm going to sound like Coldplay or Taylor Swift - I think that's what pop/rock is these days - so I don't like to tell people I'm pop/rock even though it really is sometimes. I just say R&B/soul because I think if you like R&B/soul you'll like my songs no matter where they go, but if you only like pop/rock, you might not like some of my reggae stuff, so I choose R&B/soul just because where all of my songs go, people who like R&B/soul like that and I don't feel that way about pop/rock; if you like pop/rock, you're probably not going to want to hear my jazz-y songs or my reggae songs, whereas if you like R&B/soul you're definitely going to be okay with hearing some jazz-y stuff. I've just been saying R&B/soul to cast a wide net.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

Yeah, "Transcends"! Man, that song is so lit [laughs]. It's crazy. We've been playing on really nice sound systems, finally, [laughs] we haven't been playing in too many dive bars which is really great, that's changed from 2016. This year was a change from the norm, we got to play in a lot of really nice venues outside of Austin whereas before, whenever we went outside of Austin, it was like, the first gig we could get we'd take. But, this year was awesome and every time we played "Transcends" live people always really flipped out. It's a toss up between "Transcends" and this song that I wrote a million years ago called "Rollin' On"; the live album version though, not the acoustic version. People always freak out during that song and we always have to place it in the set right when people are least expecting it because it's a standard blues that I wrote, like super standard blues - 12 bar, you know - but we play it in a way that builds the dynamics to where it gets to a crescendo for the second guitar solo: there's 2 guitar solos in it, one that's kind of quiet and subdued and one that's really loud and nuts. So if you place it in a set where people don't think they're going to hear blues, they freak out really hard. They freak out so hard it's like they're re-evaluating their life or something, [laughs] it's so weird. So we'll play "Flying", "Flying" is good, it's kind of a short guitar solo and a pop/rock song and then we'll probably play "Mysterious" - and "Mysterious" is the pop-iest song I've ever written - and it's slower and soft and then we'll play one more song, maybe a reggae song, and then we'll play that blues and people are just like "whaaaat?" [laughs] because they're just not expecting to hear old school 12 bar blues, they're just not. Then, on top of it all, it has so many dynamics: it starts quiet and gets so loud and people freak out at the dynamics the most, so that song ["Rollin' On"] always stops the show. But "Transcends" is the best closer song ever, so people have been on this wild ride of the set and then we hit them with "Transcends" and that's a really good one. It's kind of a toss up between those two.

You've touched on this throughout, but what more can we expect to hear from you in 2018?

I've got a reggae single coming out in March, I've got a pop/rock single coming out in April or May, and then I've got this Alicia Keys-esque pop/R&B song coming out in either April or June; I can't figure out when I'm going to release each single. And then I have this really raw, acoustic - solo acoustic, no looper pedal, no nothing, just me and the acoustic guitar - one of those coming out. I don't know when though! Some of them are done, some of them aren't [laughs]. When it comes down to the wire, I'll either release the blues-y song because I don't have the pop/rock song finished yet or the other way around. It also depends on the season, I think the pop/rock song should come out in the Spring, so I should probably get on that, finish it and record it [laughs], that's probably a good idea. And the blues-y song probably should come out in April, I think. And then I'll do the pop-y/rock-y song in May, but I'm figuring it out. I swear I'll figure it out though! [Laughs] I won't let you guys down!

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

Just the message to be yourself. And don't just be yourself, love yourself and love being yourself and don't let anybody sway you from that, don't let anybody treat you bad. Usually, people don't love themselves or don't wanna be themselves because maybe there's somebody in their life that makes them feel bad for being themselves and you've got to find those people and weed them out. Be yourself and don't let people poison your life. Get rid of toxic people.

Is there anything you want to add?

Follow me on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, and thanks for the interview!

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Orissa by E


Catch up with Orissa creator David Dodini and listen to the new album Resurrection, out now.

What would you say first got you interested in music?

Gosh, it's been a while. I guess, it was probably a little bit of wonderment. I remember my brother said, "I want to have guitar lessons," and so we got this guitar and it was half this sense of awe and wonderment at this thing that made sounds and a little bit of forbidden fruit because it was like, "oh, we got that for your brother and you can't play it," and I would find a way to sneak around and taste the apple a little bit [laughs]. Those were the two sparks. And then, once you start making music with an instrument you just can't stop.

What made you decide to start Orissa?

Instead of the David Dodini project? It's really for artistic reasons in the sense that I never really ended up doing everything by myself because I wanted to do everything by myself. In an ideal world, I will find some other collaborators who want to be part of the project and who have a compatible and complementary vision and temperament and everything that works with what I want to do with this project. It's not about me and promoting myself as a guitar player and a writer, so one of the reasons that I presented it as an art project and forgetting about who's doing it is just to focus on the music and artwork and poetry itself. The name is a part of several layers of metaphors that are a part of what this thing represents to me and what it might represent in the future as I grow as a person and if I find somebody else to collaborate with on it. I want to focus on the art, I don't want to focus on me. I feel like when you encounter some project where it's the person's name and it's about them, I listen to it differently or approach it differently than when I encounter something presented as a band. Even if a visual artist does a show, the show will have a theme, so you're there to see a theme and by focusing on that instead of the name of the person, you're already going into a different place. You are surrendering your connection with another ego and another human identity and instead going straight to the source of it, which is the human heart. So, I just want to focus on the art.

Which musicians have you been influenced by?

My influences are pretty nonstandard for a typical project. One of my biggest influences was my teacher at the conservatory. Aside from the technical aspects of what he taught me, it was really about that creative aspect and being a creative person with music, everything from the language and the approach to creating music, so Dušan, my teacher at the conservatory, was a major, major influence on me; in a lot of the stuff and the language that I use and also just my approach as a writer. I'm kind of experimenting a little bit with phrase structures, harmonic structures, contrapuntal textures and stuff like that that you wouldn't really find in so-called progressive metal, I'm playing with that and condensing these two worlds that live close to each other so there's some experimentation there and I definitely get that from him. And then, I listen to a lot of Carnatic folk music, music from Eastern Europe, all kinds of stuff like that, so that has imprints all over my language. I've been inspired by a lot of the more traditional bands from the '90s, too. I was way into how, in the '90s, music went away from that show-off-iness and back into song: when that whole grunge thing popped and it was like, "hey it's about the song now, again," and the influence on the poetry and the message in those early, mid '90s bands. Tool was an interesting band and none of these bands influenced me really, because I don't sound like them, but they inspire me.

In a weird way, my other sources of inspiration are just other forms of art altogether, like visual art. I'm really into a lot of what's going on in the visionary art community so that inspires vibrations that turn into music [laughs]. Those are a few of my influences. A lot of world music, folk music - but not the stylized pop version of it, straight from the source - and that's where some of peculiarities towards melody and mode come from.

How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?

I don't think I could succeed at that [laughs]. I feel like it would be much better to just say, "hey, you know what, just go give it a listen and figure out for yourself what it sounds like". Or, don't even worry about what it sounds like, just get lost. I can't say. Probably because, on the one hand, I know it's easier to say that Orissa is a progressive metal project, but it also does not fit into any of these categories that exist underneath that broad umbrella. For me, there are some bands where it's just, 'the band'. Like Karnivool, to me, there's no style that they play, they're just Karnivool and I really respect that about them and, hopefully, if I'm succeeding, that's true of what I'm doing, as well. I'm just writing the music that I hear as opposed to being like, "hey, I really like this thing, so I'm going to go and do this". When you're recruiting band members or other people are recruiting band members, you start to hear the difference. There are people who are like, "I want to form a band that sounds like these bands and that band and this band," and they probably end up sounding like that, and then there's people that go, "I just want to write music and we'll see what happens," and I'm probably in that camp.

I'm just going to write the music that these emotions push out of me and so it's less about style and influences. It's like me trying to figure out what it sounds like is like a road map without any 'X' at the end of it, just draw your own map for yourself. It's probably more fun anyways, because I'm probably wrong [laughs]. I could probably say what it is and someone else could have a completely different opinion. Yeah, I would say give it a listen and see.

Could you tell us more about your album Resurrection and how it compares to Omens?

Yeah. First of all, Resurrection is a full-length album whereas Omens was an EP. [On Omens] I was just going to record a demo and then it came out better than a demo and I was like, "this sounds like my first release so I'll put this out as an EP", so that leads to another difference: besides that one is an LP and one is an EP so the amount of music is different, what I did for Omens was, I had songs that I had already that I thought belonged on different records but, since I was making a demo, I thought, "okay, I'll do these songs and maybe reproduce them in the future," and so Omens has a flow and there's definitely underlying themes and stuff that flow together, but it wasn't really created as an album. Resurrection is a consistent, cohesive thing from end to end. And then, production quality is much higher on Resurrection.

My music is always pretty vibe-y and pretty visceral, in terms of the emotional, and the cathartic theme is always there because of the author, [laughs] for better or for worse. But for Resurrection I took the potential of the ambience and built on it with many, many layers so there's much more lush, harmonic language; it's super large scale. I call Resurrection a sonic novel because there's a dialect inherent in the music, there's multiple layers of story where I started out and had these ideas - or emotions that were sparked by ideas - both verbal and nonverbal. So those are my songs, and I think that's probably how you would write a book, like go, "oh, okay, I'll have this character and that character," and then, as you start writing it and fleshing out the details, all these other subtexts make themselves known to you and then, even when you're done, you're like, "oh my god, look at this connection that I didn't even make consciously!" So, because of that, there's a lot of depth on Resurrection that isn't there on Omens because I spent more time on Resurrection and I conceived it as a whole. It's just much more lush language, much more large scale movement. All the same characteristics of large scale form and drama and catharsis and with a wide range of tension, but even bigger, bolder, and more lush.

You've got extra players for your live shows, so how would you say your recorded sound is different from your live sound?

The recording is about capturing the perfect representation of the songs but keeping enough spontaneity in the performances so that there's magic in there and I'm really proud of the work that I did with that. There's both, there's great execution, but with an edge to it, because i just turn it on and it's like, just take it and play it like it's live. And then, for the live shows it's different, because now there's musicians in a room interacting and playing off each other and the ebb and the flow and the energy, so you might articulate something different and, emotionally, that changes or enhances the arc of the song in terms of the way the sections flow together more, just because you have 4 different human beings spontaneously grooving out to this music. Right now, we play the backing track from a laptop and what I'd really like to do is move away from that because I'd really like us to improvise a little bit more. Like, take a section and, if we're feeling like extending it or shortening it or creating a new section, I'd like to bring some improvisation into the live performance, because the music wants it. There's some sections where it's like, "hey, we should play this riff longer just because we love it," but, by the time we're way into it, the song has already moved on. In the future when we can figure out either to jettison backing tracks or have other people come in and perform them, I'm really looking forward to getting even more improvisatory with the songs. That's something that's on the horizon that I'm definitely shooting for.

Would you say you have a favorite track to play live?

Yeah, our by far favorite song to play is "Blue Communion". We love them all, they're all awesome, but "Blue Communion" has a very special magic and the audience reaction to it is interesting because it's a fifteen-and-a-half minute song, but people suspend their sense of time for some reason and it's like being in a temple and everyone's just sort of in a trance and we're all on the same page and it's really cool. There's something magic about that one.

Whatever song we're playing is my favorite at the time, but when you look back it stands out. I just shot two music videos, one for "Blue Communion" and one for "Verse V" and for "Blue Communion" there's so much story in the music - it's sort of a left brain rational sub-story and then a right brain emotional, visceral story - that I'm exploring bringing more visual art into what I do; and so, for "Blue Communion" - I don't want to give away too much, but there's performers that I used for this music video and we did several takes with them and there was one take where they did their routine in front of the band - they're two dancers - and you could just feel - [laughs] it sounds really corny - but you could feel an energy connection and a soul connection with them the whole time. It was crazy. And they turned around afterwards and I looked at them and I was like, "did you guys feel that, too?" and they were like, "yeah, that was amazing, that's never happened to me," and they're performers who have toured all over the world doing what they do, so that was super cool to find that in the song. You're playing songs and the song you're playing at the time is your favorite every time, but then you look back and it's like, "oh, there's always a magical moment in this one," where you connect with the audience and another performer and it happens more in this song than in others. The video is going to be pretty cool.

How would you describe Resurrection in one sentence?

Resurrection is an imperial erotic psychedelic sensual sonic novel.

[Laughs] I accidentally was prepared for that question. In the full album stream video I was like, "oh it's like a novel," and it's a little bit of invented words, but I think all of those words kind of capture its source. The imperial erotic is kind of like soulful, explore the spirit and Eros and passion in relationships and those connections because they're not disconnected; sometimes in religion, they're presented as either the material world or the spiritual world, but they're all connected. And then the psychedelic sensual is sort of like, there's a psychedelic aspect to it that, again, ties back to the sensual realm. Psychedelia and sensual experience are related to each other, too. In the end, I think the record, because it is about so much but so little, that it's about relationships and it's about how our relationships with others are really about our relationships with ourselves. I'm exploring my relationship with myself as a complete being and then relationships with others and with these other aspects of our humanity, so there's another sentence: it's about relationships.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

i just hope it captures their attention and that they connect with it and that it speaks to them and they're able to appreciate the depth of what it is and get drawn in and go deep with it, because there's a lot there. I was thinking about this the other day because I'm getting ready to start writing another record and it's like, we live in this time where so many people are putting out music and it feels like there's a temptation to always put out music and my process can be pretty labored and tortured. I remember once, after I graduated from the conservatory, I just wanted to be around Dušan and I wanted to keep learning from him so I did private lessons with him and we had been studying all these classical masterpieces and one time we were going through Schubert's Quartet and Schubert is this crazy amazing harmonic genius, he's at a whole other level, and I was like, what is it that makes the guys who we think of as 'masters' compared to the lesser composers who most people don't know their name, what's the difference between them and why is their music so much more interesting? Dušan was like, "you know, I think it's because they heard the formulaic response and then they heard the other response, the response that came from somewhere else". Music is like that, it can be like a jigsaw puzzle where you put together the right response after you say something, and that really stuck with me. That influenced my process because I want to go deeper because there's something else on the other side and sometimes I'll go searching and be like, no, that's perfect, but sometimes it's like, "ah, I'm glad I didn't just settle for that answer and I went looking for something else to say".

I hope people get that, that there's that kind of care in there. You have to ask yourself as a musician or someone who is making art, what do I want to do? Should I do something that's less dense and is more hooky and catchy and write a bunch more of those things, or should I keep going down this path? I'm just going to keep being who I am and who I am is probably the person who is not going to be releasing 5,000 songs just to keep my name in front of the public, but I'm just going to go deep and do the ones that i feel are the ones that are meaningful, really, really meaningful. I'm sticking to those guns, even if it means it's harder for me to find an audience. But I also think it's very respectful of the audience that I do find because it's like, "yeah, go in there and dig around," and so I hope that they do that and find and take a lot from it. That it's something they can just keep listening to over and over again once they get used to it and make a lot of discoveries.

Is there anything you want to add?

If anybody has any questions, I'm happy to take follow-ups and just thank you very much!

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Given Names by E


Catch up with Given Names' David Raymond and listen to the duo's single "East To West" off their forthcoming eponymous EP.

What brought you together to start Given Names?

David: I was in a band in 2003/2004 and we were touring all over the country on like a 6 month tour and one of our shows was in Melbourne, Florida in Brevard County and one of the bands that was playing was called Sleeping Girl Drowning. It was their first show ever and all of the band members showed up in black suits with black ties and white shirts and they played this very progressive rock, really inspired, indie, high energy show and it was really cool. And the singer of the band was Jeremy and we had a pretty immediate energy so we stayed in touch. We were pretty close for the next decade and became really close friends and traveled to see each other but never really got the chance to play music together, until one day we did. I was just in Brooklyn working - he still lives in Brooklyn - and we were just doing what we normally do, hanging out and chatting about life and we started talking about music and writing these stories and he and I both had, between us, just an infinity of unfinished material of art and music and so we just started picking from the pile of music we had and it began from there.

Which artists have you been influenced by?

I think it's not as direct as it is just the culmination of many things. He and I have a very similar appreciation for music but I'd say our tastes are different from time to time. It's ironic, because I have a rock band and I barely listen to rock and roll [laughs]. Last night, he sent me this video from Lorn with one of his songs called "Acid Rain" and I was like, 'man, this just seems right up Given Names' lane,' and we kick that kind of stuff around. Really, the stuff we take inspiration from is like FKA twigs and M.I.A. and just going off of that. And a lot of the contemporary classics like Michael Jackson and Queen and George Michael and Prince, because that was the schooling that we had and that had a big thumbprint on our musical endeavors.

Are there any artists you're most looking forward to hearing more from in 2018?

It's tough to say. I think I'm just going to use a different mindset in general, because the way that music is served up is different than it used to be, the album experience is a different thing. A lot of the stuff that I get excited about are usually a collaboration of sorts. Like the newest St. Vincent record and having worked with Jack Antonoff, I wonder if that's why I love it so much, because I love his individual work so much and had she gone to work with another producer, would I have fallen in love with Masseduction the same way? So, I think both Jeremy and I are just sponges for things. We monitor what each other are listening to really, really closely and if something pops off it's like a flurry of texts like, 'listen to this!' and then a few texts later like, 'no, seriously, stop what you're doing and listen to this,' [laughs] and we'll listen to it for a little while.

What words would you use to describe your sound?

Foggy, dark, ethereal, moody, and scattered. It's cool with Given Names, because we've cut things down and, in essence, what we do is what we don't do. We've given ourselves guardrails and we write lyrics that are around storylines; there has to be a story to it so it's not another love song and it's not another song about death, there has to be a protagonist. Same thing with our music, we often start with these lush arrangements and instrumentation and the idea is to get it down to being as synthy as possible so each thing is doing exactly what it needs to do. And the EP that we wrote and produced with Villain Lighting, we had a pretty limited set of instruments, like one or two synthesizers, one drum machine, and I think I sang on two different microphones and that's it for the entire thing.

What were your inspirations behind your single "East To West"?

It was fun. There's obviously death, the afterlife, coping with death and love and loss: there's just an infinity of inspiration to be found on those topics, right? So the idea of this character going through a process that none of us really have any true dictation for - none of us living have experienced death - what if there was a guide that was there to take you through it and calm you down and make it a little less scary, someone who's done it before. And then we started looking at rituals and one of the rituals in Predynastic Egypt was, the way that they celebrated their dead was often more about the way they celebrated the living and there was one particular burying ritual where they would lay their dead from East to West, from sunrise to sunset, and that's where we derived the song.

Is this sound on "East to West" indicative of what we can expect to hear on your EP?

Yes! Similar expectations. The idea was to change the mood from song to song and we tried to curate the best that we can and I think, in retrospect, we sound a lot more direct in our application than we truly are, but it really just comes down to that curation. "East to West" was one of our favorites from this EP but, in honesty, it was hard to pick. 3 of the 4 songs were like, 'oh, that's the one, oh no that's the one' [laughs]. So similar soundscapes, a little bit different mood, and storytelling in a similar vein; and you can expect some more visual art to accompany the EP.

How would you sum up the EP in one sentence?

Elemental. We wrote it during the Winter time and it was dead cold outside so we were locked up indoors, drinking whiskey, looking out the windows, and we just got enamored with this endless dark and freezing rain.

Is there a track off the EP you're most excited to share with listeners?

There's a song called "Funeral Fires" that I'm really stoked on. It's unique in that, when I listen to it, it's something I would have never made on my own. I think that's the best part about collaboration, is when you feel like you can stand back and enjoy something and it's from a  spectator's point of view because it wasn't only yours. So, yeah, there's a song called "Funeral Fires" that I'm really excited to show people.

What do you hope listeners take away from your music?

I don't have any particular hopes. I'm very thankful that people will even spend the time because there's a lot of beautiful, enriching things you can spend your time consuming. Just with our process, we spend a lot of time making sure it truly represents us and there's clearly a design aesthetic to a lot of what we do, we're both designers by trade. We've been musicians a long time and I think that our friendship is a testament to this band and, at this point in life, it's just important that we spend time together. If i could tell people to look for anything in our music, I would tell them to look for the relationship Jeremy and I share. We're good friends, we keep each other in line, and our music with Given Names is a very vulnerable experiment and very vulnerable exercise.

Is there anything you want to add?

I really just want to say thank you. If you stumbled across this stuff by word of mouth, playlist, or someone's blog and even gave it a few moments, it means the world, really.

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Noiseheads by E

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Catch up with Noiseheads' Nick Gray and listen to the Florida-based rock trio's new album Sitcoms For Aliens, out now.

What brought Noiseheads together?

Nick: Well, in 2009 I was signed to an indie label as a solo artist and we were working on what was going to be my debut on the label and, long story short, it didn't go over very well. We had creative differences; they had a very different idea of how the music should sound and it didn't really turn out the way that I thought it was going to. After that, I was like, 'well, I'm just going to start my own thing,' so I started Noiseheads and that's how it came about!

The bassist is my brother, Joe, and the drummer is a friend of mine that I've known since high school; we both marched drumline - not together - but we marched drumline in the same community and our drumline community is very tightknit and we all kind of know each other. We just started in 2010 and put up a couple of demos out and it's gone on since then.

My brother and I have been playing in bands for a long time and we have a musical family, so every family get-together turns into a jam, which is cool. So we've always played together and, of course, being siblings, there's that little bit of competition that comes with that, but I think this time our roles were sort of established and we were okay with how things were going. I would do my thing and he would do his thing and we worked out our relationshjip to where the band could always continue to progress. And the drummer, Greg, he's the only person I've ever found that plays drums similar to me. He plays it a lot like me, so if I come up with a part or something he can match it and then do his own thing with it so it really worked out well and since our inception we've formed our own sound.

Could you tell us more about your label Silly Monkey Music and how that freedom has affected that sound?

Yeah, it's our own thing so we can do whatever we want. I think what's not fun about it is the business side of things and learning how all that works and figuring out how to make sure that the music that you record and produce is going to reach the most amount of people possible. Thankfully, because of the internet and because of social media and whatever, there's a lot of opportunities for that. The downside of that is that there's a lot of opportunities for that [laughs]; everyone has the same opportunities, which is good and bad. We have to compete with thousands and millions of other bands that can do the same things that we do, so we just have to do it our way and try to find people that we think will like what we do. That's probably the hardest thing about having your own label and doing things yourself, is that I've had to become a social media expert. I hate social media and I hate that I feel like I have to constantly check our stats on everything and make sure that if I'm promoting this song it's reaching this amount of people. The only part of having a label that I don't like is having to figure that stuff out [laughs]. But, again, the big plus is being able to do things your way and showcasing yourselves in a way that you want to, which is a big reason in why I started the band. When I was with the indie label they heard the demos that I did that were pretty similar to what Noiseheads sounds like - it was just me playing the parts - and they heard that so I assumed we were going to continue in that vein, but then they had a very different idea of what that meant and what that looked like and that's just not what I was about. I'm fortunate enough to be able to have our own label and our own studio so any time I want to write or record something I can and if I want to release it the next day I can, so that's really cool.

Are there any artists you'd say you were most influenced by for this album?

That's a really good question because that tends to happen, where each album seems to have some band that did inspire it. Our last release was an EP and I'd been listening to a lot of Weezer, so a lot of those songs sound like Weezer. On this album, I don't know... I would probably say The Beatles. Although I wasn't listening to a lot of The Beatles, they've been a big part of all our lives, specifically my brother's. When we were growing up, he got into The Beatles when he was in high school and I was just a kid, but I knew every Beatles song by the time I was 8. The Beatles were just such a big part of our lives and so having Noiseheads and writing our own songs, I aspire to match that level of musicality and freedom that they had, where they would write this experimental song but somehow it's still pop-y and catchy. I've always wanted to do that and I don't think that we've done that yet [laughs], but I would definitely say that this album is more inspired by The Beatles than anything that we've done before. There's a lot of weird sounds and you hear talking and laughing and there's a lot going on. There's a lot of layers, a lot of orchestral elements which is very Beatles throughout the album. We're a trio but the album has several keyboards and guitar parts and strings and there's all kinds of stuff, so I think the main thing is that we just tried not to limit ourselves on this one, much like The Beatles didn't.

How would you describe your sound to someone who had never listened to Noiseheads?

We're influenced by so many things and it's much easier just to have people listen than to try to describe it [laughs]. I've joked before that if The Beatles and Weezer and Nirvana and Soundgarden and Michael Jackson all had a baby, that's what Noiseheads is. We have so many different influences. The drummer is a huge underground hiphop fan and not a lot of that comes out, but it definitely comes out in his playing. And my brother is, of course, a huge Beatles fan, so a lot of his bass playing is inspired by that. I studied jazz all throughout college, so there's a lot of that influence in my writing and in my playing. There's just so many influences, but that's what I would say: if all of those artists had a baby, that's what we are.

Could you tell us more about your new album Sitcoms For Aliens that was just released?

It's a nice, tight, emotionally-packed punch. It's 35 minutes long and it's made to be listened to however you want to listen to it: you can listen to it all the way through and it works as a complete piece or you can single out your favorites and put them on your own playlist. On our first album, 1994, the album was made and produced to listen to front-to-back so when you put some of the songs out of context it sounded kind of weird so we tried to make this album a complete work of art that could be appreciated front-to-back, but then also dissect it to fit more of the modern Spotify playlist sort of world. So there's that from an execution standpoint.

Musically, there's so many different emotions that are on the album. There's happy songs, sad songs, cynical songs, weird songs; there's a lot on there. The whole album is a loosely based concept album. It's not a true concept album, but it is in that the idea started from one of those nights where you're just up talking late and us being like, what if aliens came by and they were watching Earth as a TV show, what would it be like? Each song, to me at least, represents different episodes of this sitcom that these aliens are watching. It's not meant to be literal like that, but that's how I thought of it in my head as I was putting it together. There's a wide range of things that you'll experience when you listen to it and it's fun. It's fun to listen to and it ends the way it begins so it really lends itself to be listened to over and over again, which is something I've always liked in an album, is when an album's over and it starts back up I don't change it, I just listen to it again, and I hope we did that on this one.

Do you have a favorite track from this album?

I like them all and it would probably change from day to day just based off of how I'm feeling. The album has been floating around for a little bit and it's been interesting to see which songs people are immediately drawn to and it's cool because I don't care, people like whatever they like and I'm fine if they just like one song off of it because that's still one song that they like. But the one song that I haven't seen getting a lot of attention is the very last song called "Here". It's just piano and vocals and it's the most vulnerable track on the entire album and I was really proud of how that came out because I had had that song for a really long time and I'd tried to record it as a full band and demo-ing it as guitars and bass and drums and it just didn't work. It was the last song that I recorded on the album and when it came time to finish it up, I did one piano track and a vocal and it really came together and evoked the right emotion that I was looking for, so that's one I was really proud of. We just haven't really pushed it because it's not a traditional "Noiseheads song". I would say, today, "Here" is one of my favorite tracks.

Is there a track you guys most like to perform live?

I think one we really like playing live is "Expectations" and that's from our first album. It goes over well live and just has a nice groove to it and even if people don't know the song, they can still get into it, so that one's always a nice upper in the set. No matter what song we're at, if we play that one next, people are bouncing, so it's cool.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

For me, music's always been about connection and, coming from a muscial family, I've had a very strong connection to music, always. And, everyone in our family is always overly sensitive; I watch The Lion King and I'm bawling my eyes out. Music has always been very important to me in terms of the connection that I have to it and that's the only thing that I can hope for in any of the songs that I write and we record and perform, is that it connects with somebody. We've been lucky enough to have people reach out to us to say how much this song means to them or if they were going through something and this song got them through it. We've been lucky enough to experience that and that's all I can hope for. At this point, the way the industry is going, I mean, there's no money. There was never money to really be made, but especially now, you don't write music and produce it yourself and do all that for money, you do it to connect with people, so that's all I can really hope for.

Is there anything you want to add?

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