Exclusive: Talking “Hook Me Up” with The Veronicas

Hook_Me_Up_European_Cover

Gearing up for the first show to promote the U.S. release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Hook Me Up,” at the Hiro Ballroom in New York City, twin sisters Lisa and Jessica Origliasso are full of energy and in high spirits. Even at the age of 23, the girls play around and tease each other, behaving like any two girls attached at the hip would be expected to. When they hit the stage as Australian pop sensation The Veronicas, however, they are no longer average, but forces to be reckoned with on the verge of exploding into international icons. Taking a break from the road of redefining the American music scene, the girls took the time out to give me the lowdown on both themselves and their new record.

AN: So first of all, your names are Lisa and Jessica. Why do you go by the name The Veronicas?

LO: I guess when we were thinking of a band name we kind of wanted something that wasn’t too obvious. We didn’t want to just be Lisa and Jessica, and because we’re twins we didn’t want anything twin like. The name The Veronicas came from the Archie comics, because Veronica had dark hair and we kind of related to her – she was always sharp and her rival was Betty who was blonde, so we kind of thought she had it going on (laughs).

AN: For your sophomore album, “Hook Me Up,” you changed your sound to electro rock, incorporating elements of techno and 80’s influences as well as the pop punk sound of your first album. What made you decide to revamp your style to create this dance record rather than staying with the initial style that put you on the map?

LO: I guess for us creatively it was a natural progression. It’s been two years since the last record, so we just kind of naturally evolved. The music we were listening to over the years was slowly changing and we were living in different parts of the world. We spent a lot of time in LA and got into a little bit of the electro pop kind of rock band, so that definitely influenced us when it came time to write the record. So yeah, it’s just kind of a natural progression, growing up and getting into different music.

AN: What was the main goal you sought out to achieve when you recorded this album?

JO: I mean I guess the goal was to make a record we were really proud of and happy with, you know, we wanted to be 100% happy with every song. You’ve got a lot of artists who maybe don’t like a couple of songs from their records and then they just kind of got lazy or got rushed and have a couple bad songs on there, whereas we definitely wanted every song to tell a story and be a great song in itself. All goals like those, Alex, all goals like those (laughs).

AN: One thing that makes your album so unique is how versatile it is. There are songs that are fun and sarcastic like “Popular,” along with songs of sadness, betrayal, and regret such as “Revenge Is Sweeter Than You Ever Were,” as well as songs that are just purely dance numbers. How did you structure the record and what is your personal favorite track on it?

JO: Oh gosh, my favorite song? It’s kind of hard to say. I really love all the uptempo ones like “Take Me On The Floor,” I love performing “Popular,” I love doing “Hook Me Up,” and I love, love, love “Untouched.” I also love “In Another Life” because it’s a very personal song about a situation that happened to me, so when I was writing and recording it, it kind of took me back to that place every time I listened to it, so I really love it. I guess we just wrote a lot of songs and kind of picked the album to tell a story and not have anything be the same, we really wanted a good mix. I’m really glad you think it’s so versatile, that’s really cool, that makes me really happy because that’s definitely what we were trying to achieve – just to have a story with the songs, and different emotions, so yeah.

AN: Now that the record has achieved multi-platinum success in Australia and is being released in the United States in May, are you ready to conquer the American airwaves?

LO: Yeah man, we’re ready to rock. We have had a lot of success in Australia with this record so obviously that gives us a lot of confidence and yeah, we’ve just been having a lot of fun rocking out. We’re just jumping on tours over here, and so we’re very excited about releasing music over here and embracing the American music scene.

AN: You’ve toured America a couple of times before, alongside artists such as Ashlee Simpson, Ryan Cabrera, The Jonas Brothers, The Click Five, and Ashley Parker Angel. This month you are playing two small shows in support of the release of “Hook Me Up,” one in New York and one in Los Angeles. Are you planning on doing a full tour in the States after the record is released?

JO: We are actually. We’re jumping on the Verizon Tour with Natasha Bedingfield and Kate Voegele in mid-May. I’m so, so, so excited because it’ll be venues like the House of Blues, those size venues. It’s just going to be a really fun tour. We can’t wait to get back on the road and reconnect with our American fans and just get out there and meet everyone again. You know, America’s one of those places where you kind of have to be out and doing it a lot and since we’ve been gone for a year, we just can’t wait to get back out there again.

AN: What have you found to be the main difference between playing large arenas in Australia and smaller venues in America?

JO: I mean we play the really big venues in Australia, all the arenas, and it’s that kind of thing where you can’t actually touch the fans because there are massive barricades up and it’s got to be a huge live show for all the people in the back, we have big screens up and stuff. It’s really cool to be back doing American tours again right now, to have the audience totally up close and intimate. It’s just such a cool, different interaction because it’s more about the music then the live show with the big screens. I mean one way or another it’s going to be great when we finally get to do the big shows here as well, but it’s nice to be able to go back to that and reconnect with our fans that way.

AN: As well as being performers, you also write all of your lyrics yourselves. Some of your songs have even been recorded by other artists, such as Cascada, t.A.T.u, and Everlife. Do you write songs separately for these other artists or do you just sell demos that did not make it on any of your records?

LO: To tell you the truth, all the songs we write is stuff that we love so we always write it for ourselves. But yeah, the songs we haven’t used on our records have been picked up by a lot of other artists which is quite a cool thing, and a lot of them stay true to the original demos which is also quite cool. We do write the songs for our own kind of music and stuff that we love, not specifically for someone in particular, but in the future we look into doing that just as songwriters.

AN: Are you planning on releasing any of these demos, such as “Faded” or “Did Ya Think” on any future albums or compilations?

LO: I mean you never know. We’re constantly writing new stuff so more than likely we get more excited about stuff that’s a bit more new and current. But you know there are times when we look back on an idea that we had, and think we can revamp that or look at that sort of thing, so we never rule that out.

AN: I’ve read that identical twins have a much deeper understanding and connection with each other than most people will ever have in their lifetime with anybody else. That being said, how do you two fuel off of one another? In other words, how do you feed off one another to create your heavily emotional and personal lyrics?

JO: I think it’s just that we know everything about each other. The way Lisa and I write is pretty much from life experiences, so we always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. We know the emotions the other one’s feeling, and we have no troubles discussing anything because we’re each other’s best friends. There’s a song on the record about a guy that was in her life and I could totally channel her energy and want to get revenge because I could feel the pain she went through. I’m not trying to sound dramatic, but it was true at the time. It’s like a heightened sense of being together and channeling each other. I guess it feels normal for me to have someone that close. I wouldn’t know what it was like to not have someone up in face and in my business all the time, but it definitely helps with our songwriting together.

AN: A lot of successful figures in the modern mainstream media such as Keith Urban, Missy Higgins, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe come from Australia. What about growing up Down Under do you think produces such superstars, and how do you feel about being grouped with such successful industry champions?

JO: You know what, it’s a real honor to be grouped with such people, so thank you. Obviously Australia is our number one supportive audience and fans. Everything has done so well over there, like our music and clothing line. I think around the world people love Australians, and growing up in Australia I can say it’s a very laid back and grounded country. We have a lot of successful actors, actresses, musicians, and it’s like a big support team when you meet an Australian overseas. Everyone embraces Australians I think, and it’s just a really good vibe.

AN: And for my last question, what is the best advice anyone has ever given you about pursuing your dreams of becoming musicians and how did it inspire you to push forward?

JO: Our parents were and still are extremely supportive. I remember our dad said to us quite young, he said “be nice to everyone on the way up because you’re going to want them to be nice to you on the way down.” He’s just a very realist person and you know, it’s so, so true. In this industry one minute you could be hot, one minute you’re not. It just pays to be grounded and nice to everyone and you know, just do your thing because we’re lucky to be given the opportunity to get our music out there and do this, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted for one minute.

AN: Well thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me ladies.

JO: Of course! It was lovely talking to you!
LO: Yeah, it was really lovely talking to you.

AN: Oh well thank you, it was really lovely talking to you as well. I’m really looking forward to the show!

LO: Yeah we’re so excited, I hope you have an awesome time!
JO: Come on and grab us afterwards!

AN: Yeah, of course, I definitely will! Thanks again so much!

JO: Thank you!
LO: Bye!
JO: Bye!

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Exclusive: Interview with Megan McCauley


(Myself, Megan McCauley)

With yellow, purple, and red highlighting her nearly waist length brown hair, it is hard to believe that at 19, Megan McCauley has not been a rock star her entire life. She wears big fake lashes, and flashes a smile that shows off her lip and chin piercings, as well as her custom chiseled vampire fang teeth. Doused from head to toe in leather and metal studs, as well as a self promoting tour T-Shirt, she takes a break from hanging out with her band before her final stint at New York City’s Arlene’s Grocery to talk with me for a little bit about herself, her music, and her plans to overrule Madonna.

AN: You started out a very early age performing country music, and even self – released two country albums before Wind-Up records signed you in 2005. What made you make the switch from country to rock?
MM: I got sick and tired of slide guitars and not being able to say “fuck.”

AN: You received your first national exposure as a featured artist on the soundtracks to comic book movies “Elektra” and “Fantastic Four,” both in the same year. What was it like for you, an unknown artist at the time, to be making your debut and be part of such huge compilations alongside bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Velvet Revolver, and Hawthorne Heights?
MM: Well “Fantastic 4” kind of sucked because they didn’t actually use my song in the movie, just on the soundtrack. “Elektra” was cool, especially because I always liked Elektra because I do martial arts myself, and I use the same weapons she does. It was awesome because she’s always been my favorite comic book hero and then when I heard the song play at the end, I yelled at people when they got up to leave, I was just like “Sit down!” And they were like “who’s this crazy bitch yelling at us? We’ll do what she says.” I got a tattoo in commemoration of that (turns around and lifts up shirt to reveal lower back tattoo of “Elektra” logo). It says “assassin” which is what her arm band says in the movie. I have a lot of tattoos (laughs).

AN: How many do you have?
MM: Ten, one of which I did myself. I’m telling you I do the strangest things when I’m bored.

AN: Which one’s your favorite?
MM: I don’t know. I really like my panther, and I have one of Jessica Rabbit on my hip. My favorite one is probably this one on my arm though. It says “Forever 27” because all the great rock starts died at 27 – Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrisson. I figured by getting it tattooed to my arm, I probably won’t fall subject to it because how much of a fucked up coincidence would that be? (laughs)

AN: You released your debut album, “Better Than Blood,” last September. Can you tell me the inspiration for the album title and the meaning behind it?
MM: If I told you I’d have to kill you. Everybody asks that – it’s just such a common thing, you can take it however you want. Blood is a term for whatever you want it to be. It can mean family, it can mean the essence of life, it can mean a lot of things. So really, “better than blood” can be read how you want to read it. For example, it can be “better than what people think of me because of who I’ve been brought up as”. I believe it was Type O Negative that once said “blood is so sexy because it is the essence of life. Without it, there’d be nothing, without it we’d be dead.” In that case, it would mean “better than an anything in the whole world”. No matter how you look at it, everybody draws their own meaning from it. Neither one of those are the story behind how the title was born, but that’s how it was the selling point of the title when we came up with it. That was a very good question, but like I said, if I told you I’d have to kill you. My own mother doesn’t know the story behind it – just know it’s very comical, it’s not as serious as it sounds.

AN: One thing your fans really admire about you is the fact that you’re not afraid to be yourself at all – meaning you don’t censor yourself, in your look or through your music. You’re not afraid of exposing yourself or your emotions too much, and your lyrics can really take people places and when they do, they take them there hard. What do you think the benefit of putting yourself out there the way you do is, and why do you think that so many of today’s artists are afraid to do so?
MM: You know, I’ve always said a good musician will flirt with the line between genius and insanity, a great musician will walk it, and only the best will cross it. That’s what I try and do. I try and be as open and rash as possible, say things that people might not necessarily want to hear but it’s the truth, it’s honesty, why lie? Really, why lie? What’s the point? If you’re in any career where you can say anything in the world, rock star is the way to go. That’s how I know I’m doing the right damn thing, because I sure as hell can’t do anything else with my mouth (laughs).

AN: I find it really interesting that a musician such as yourself, who has such strong vocals and can play numerous instruments like the piano, guitar, cello, bass, harmonica, and flute, is in fact not able to read music and instead composes and plays all of her songs by ear. What is the biggest challenge you face when doing so, and now that you are a successful artist, are you planning on taking any type of lessons to learn how to read music?
MM: I cannot read music to save my damn life. It just looks like dots on a bunch of lines to me. I’m not playing anything on stage this go around but who knows, maybe in the future I might, so right now my band is taking over the music side. I’ve got so much else to worry about, so I tell my drummer Mark to handle that stuff. I’ll come in with my creative two cents but that’s about it.

AN: Your music incorporates a large number of very clear influences, ranging from Janis Joplin to Rasputina. Who would you say was your biggest influence was in the writing and recording of your album?
MM: Brian Neno. I think the work that he did on the “Velvet Goldmine” soundtrack was really good. That soundtrack got it for me, turned me onto his music. Bowie is another one, who’s another very big, huge influence. Of course Janis, and then I listen to a lot of old blues. But really, if it’s in the Rock Hall of Fame, it’s been an influence. I grew up going there a lot so every single artist in there has something in there I like to incorporate.

AN: Your entire album has a flow to it, but there’s one song that doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the rest of the CD. While most of the album is either angry or sad, “Tap That” stands out as a fun, party song to dance to. What made you decide to break away from the themes of the rest of the record to include this song?
MM: I want to kill that song. I had too much to drink one night and decided to do something crazy. I sent the song in to Wind-Up as a joke, and I thought they were going to send it back being like “what kind of crack have you been smoking?” I did it with the same producer who wrote “U + Ur Hand” by Pink, and I didn’t realize how similar they were because they both got written and released at the same time. It’s not like me and Pink know each other and could be like “Oh, no you take the song, I’ll do another one.” Now I get all excited when I hear Pink on the radio because I think it’s “Tap That.” Then The Veronicas come on and again I think it’s “Tap That” and then it’s not. Just that similarity drives me insane. The whole song is, I don’t know, fun. It’s definitely one side of me, however, not exactly the side I am most of the time. That’s the side I am when I’ve had too much to drink (laughs).

AN: Now that you are out on tour and your music is beginning to receive heavier rotation, where do you see yourself a year from now?
MM: I hope to see myself on top of the world duct taping Madonna to a chair and saying “Say my name bitch!” I mean that. If this album doesn’t do it, then hopefully the second one can.

AN: Are you working on a follow-up record yet?
MM: I already am. I actually just got done writing a song for it this morning that I have to record. One of my issues with this album was that so many tracks that had already been released that by the time we released the album, half the people who were fans from the beginning were already sick of it. I already started working on that second album a very long time ago.

AN: Are you planning on releasing it this year?
MM: I don’t know, it’s up to Wind-Up. What they say goes.

AN: In a world where female pop rock is more common than it used to be, with artists such as Paramore, Evanescence, and Flyleaf dominating the radio, how do you separate your sound from what’s on the TRL countdown right now?
MM: First off, I can actually sing. Second off, my music just sounds a little grungier and rawer to me. I think a lot of the newer pop rock bands that are female are just so overly processed. I did like Avril Lavigne when she first came out, then she went all crazy on me with the blonde hair and dance routines. I was just like “No, what happened to you, you poor child? I want to hug you, calm you down, and give you a bottle of Jack and tell you to get back into the rock.” I don’t know much about Paramore or Flyleaf, but as far as I know with Avril Lavigne and Evanescence, my music is more raw and less opera choir backgrounds and corsets – but not a real one, one from Hot Topic (laughs).

AN: Alright, well thanks so much and good luck!
MM: Thank you! See you at the show!

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Exclusive: Interview with A Fine Frenzy

My cell phone rings and I hear a very meek and humble voice on the other end. Fire haired and melodiously uplifting 23 year old songstress Alison Sudol, better known as the woman behind indie music sensation A Fine Frenzy, greets me in such a way that you can hear the smile in her tone. Taking a break from preparing for her Boston show tonight, we chat for a little bit about Shakespeare, inspiration, and music.

AN: So first things first. Your name is Alison Sudol, yet you record under the name A Fine Frenzy. Why is that and how did you come up with it?

AS: It’s because I wanted the music to have its’ own name and not have everything be so focused on me. That’s basically why once I’m finished recording and producing a song, it’s as much the listener’s as it is my own – they have as much ownership over it as I do, so it’s just a way of sharing it. The name itself comes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

AN: Oh really? That’s so cool, I didn’t know that!

AS: Yeah, it’s a really beautiful quote that Theseus says, “the poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and as imagination bodies forth, the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” It’s really an excellent quote.

AN: Yeah it really is. Your sound is clearly full of various influences, ranging from both classical and swing music to a whole slew of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Elton John, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple and Coldplay. Who would you say your biggest musical inspiration is and why?

AS: Ahh, I don’t know I mean I think it really depends on the day, because some days Sigur Ros is the center of my universe and other days it’s Aretha Franklin or The Beatles or some classical piece. I mean, it just depends on my mood and I never know, which is why I like so many different kinds of things because you can have a different music for every mood.

AN: Haha, yeah I totally agree with you on that. In the past year, not only have you released your debut album, but you’ve also toured with the likes of Rufus Wainwright and have been featured as a VH1 “You Oughta Know” artist. Your music has also appeared on television shows such as Private Practice, One Tree Hill, Brothers & Sisters, House, and The Hills, as well as on the soundtrack to the film Dan In Real Life. Now that you’ve embarked on your first headlining tour, how have you been handling all of this sudden success?

AS: Honestly things have been going incredibly well, but I think because I’m still working with basically the same people I have been the whole time, I just don’t really feel that different. I’m getting to see more of the world all the time and meet more people and it just feels fantastic, but it just feels like a nice, gentle natural growth. Maybe I ought to feel different but I don’t really feel like there’s that much more to handle, so I’m kind of just rolling with it.

AN: On your official website, you are described as growing up having “developed a strong love for the fantastic literary worlds of CS Lewis, EB White, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens, while becoming a passionate author in her own right.” Do you consider yourself solely a songwriter, or do you dabble in other fields of writing as well?

AS: Well songwriting is my passion, it’s the thing that wakes me up in the morning and really drives me. On the other hand, I’m writing a book, a young adult book, and that’s really just for my own peace of mind, it’s relaxing to me. So maybe if I’m not inspired to write a song, I can work on that, it’s kind of holding itself really well, but I’m primarily a songwriter. I just love to tell stories and I find them and sometimes I feel like I discover them and have to write them.

AN: What is the meaning behind your album title “One Cell In The Sea”? Also, what was the main goal you sought out to achieve with the release of this record?

AS: The name comes from the second track on the album, “The Minnow And The Trout,” and the song is about being near people and how everybody is alike despite our small differences or situations and circumstances or whatever, because at the end of the day we’re all connected. I felt very connected when writing this album because I knew I couldn’t be the only one that felt the way that I did, or had gone through the things that I did – I mean it felt like I was but I knew that was not possible – so that’s pretty much where it came from. Also, I was just really lonely and isolated and one cell in the sea is pretty much the most isolated as you can get. The main goal of the music was really just to give something to people that would make them feel sad or be able to acknowledge sadness in their lives, or maybe see things they weren’t able to see or feel things they hadn’t been able to access through music, and that’s always been the basic goal for me.

AN: Your music is very intelligently and eloquently poetic and lyrical. In other words, you use a lot of vivid imagery to convey whatever it is you’re trying to get across in each song. If you were asked to describe the underlying meaning or message of your record as a whole, what would that be and what inspired it?

AS: I suppose it’s rediscovering the fairytale of life and applying a soundtrack to it, because I think there are so many wonderful, wild, and poetic things in the world that are very much like fairytales or things that are just greater than the ordinary day to day humdrums, and I think you can see that usually when you’re looking at it from a child’s point of view, so there’s all that under the surface of my record.

AN: I read that you taught yourself how to play the piano. How long did it take you to do this and what kept you from giving up?

AS: It took me a long time, I feel like I’m still learning so much and getting better and having a lot of limitations that I’m trying to get rid of, and always expand. The thing that kept me from giving up is song writing, I mean that’s the thing that taught me to be able to play to write better songs. So whenever I got frustrated I would just continue to write, and no matter how terrible I was I would just work on it. When I was writing I would have to play the same thing over and over again to kind of work things out, and that was practice but it didn’t feel like practice – it just kind of felt like working to solve a problem, so that’s why it was easier for me not to give up, because I had a purpose.

AN: When you were in the learning process, did you ever think that one day you would be a singer/songwriter whose practically entire album would consist of piano arrangements you yourself had composed?

AS: No, no, not at all. I mean it took a few lessons with a songwriter named Joleen Bell when I was about 19, and she showed me how to arrange songs, keep rhythm, and how chords work. I remember her saying “you can’t take lessons with me anymore, you have to finish this yourself.” I told her I’m not looking to play piano live, I’m not looking to play any pieces or anything like that, I’m not really looking to do anything except to be able to write songs. I was terrified of playing live but then it just happened that way because the way that I sing really depends on the way I write my piano parts and no one else can play them the way that I do, so I just had to do it, I had to get better.

AN: On your MySpace page, you wrote a blog talking about the current state of the Hollywood industry and how destructive it is for those who succumb to it. You cite the recent deaths of actors Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro as examples, as well as a plea to the media to be nicer to Britney Spears. Having already been thrown into the scene by making multiple appearances at New York’s fashion week as well as being featured on the David Letterman show, are you afraid that in the crazed tabloid obsessed world we live in, that your personal life will overshadow your music?

AS: No, actually not at all. It actually hasn’t even been involved in anything. In all the interviews and all the people that I’ve talked to, nobody really asks any questions about my personal life. It’s been pretty music focused and I like it that way and I think people like it that way too. There’s a lovely respect and kindness with the way that I’ve been treated and I hope to maintain that. I think you can choose to a degree how much that stuff affects you and how much you let your personal life come out. I’m not really that worried about it because it’s not who I am, I’m not like that.

AN: And finally for my last question: Every liberal arts college is full of aspiring artists and musicians. What is the best advice you can give us Muhlenberg students about pursuing our dreams?

AS: My best advice, actually the only advice I can really give because it’s such a personal thing, is be the best that you can be but don’t get so lost into technicalities that you forget emotion. Have a purpose; really have something to say because I find that a lot of music gets made just to make music. I think to make a deep difference, which you have an opportunity to do in music (pretty unlike like anything else really) is give something, give yourself because that’s the thing that differentiates you from anybody else if you’re on viewpoint. It’s the scariest thing to do, might not sound like it, but in reality it is the most threatening thing to do but it’s the best.

AN: Well that’s it for me. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk!
AS: Yes, of course, anytime! My pleasure!
AN: Break a leg tonight!
AS: Haha, okay I will. Thank you, bye!
AN: Goodbye!

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Exclusive: Interview with Automatic Loveletter


(Juliet Simms, Myself)

So what happens when the tour bus (or trailer in this case) of a band on tour blows a tire on the road and is then stuck in four hours of traffic and doesn’t arrive for their 6:30 show until 9:45? The audience clears out. Unfortunately for them, such was the case for Paramore/Flyleaf crossbreed band Automatic Loveletter at their headlining show at the Crocodile Rock Café in Allentown, Pennsylvania tonight on March 19th. What this did mean, however, was that the 13 die hard fans that would not give up hope and stayed at the venue would be treated to one of the most intimate rock shows of their lives. After playing an hour long set, lead singer Juliet Simms sat down with me to dish on the band and her hopes for their future.

AN: So what was it like playing to such a ridiculously tiny crowd tonight?
JS: I loved it. The more intimate the funner I think. I know funner is not a word but I just made it one. I like to make up words (laughs).

AN: Haha, it’s okay we all do that. How did you come up with the name for your band, Automatic Loveletter?
JS: I came up with the name because for a while most of my lyrics were like love letters, and automatic is because it’s through a song, coming through a stereo and coming through speakers, so I just thought it was cool. It’s kind of like a non visual love letter.

AN: The band has gone through quite a few changes in terms of various members dropping in and out over the years. Having always been the front woman, tell me about how and when the band was started, as well as the inspiration behind it’s creation?
JS: I started writing when I was really young, when I was 12. I wrote a bunch of songs and started playing them on a guitar and started playing a lot of shows locally until the age of 15 when I went out to California and got signed by an indie label around 16. They suggested that I put a band together, so I started doing that when I was 17 after already recording an EP. Then I would just go through members because certain members weren’t right or certain members were just filling in because they were friends, and finally these are the right guys. I love it but it’s taken like five years, (laughs).

AN: This year you’re going to make the transition from exclusively playing small venue shows to huge concerts at landmark events such as the Bamboozle festival and Warped Tour. Are you ready for this change and do you think it’ll affect the intimate feel of your music?
JS: No I don’t think it will. After playing as many of these little shows as we have, I don’t think we could be ready at all unless we had done this. I think this is a really good base and a really good ground to grow and maintain your integrity, intimacy and a great show. I just feel really, really prepared now.

AN: In October of last year you released your first EP, “Recover.” Are you working on a full length album? If so, are the same songs from the EP going to make an appearance on it?
JS: Yes, we’re finishing up the album in May and releasing it at the end of the summer. I believe a few of the songs from the EP will be on it, like “Parker” and a few others the fans know of plus some new ones.

AN: Your lyrics are very vivid, strong, honest, and expository. Not to mention, your songs have an extremely wide range of emotions. “Shut Your Mouth” for example is a rather angry rock song, while “Make Up Smeared Eyes” is one of the most genuinely heartfelt acoustic songs of sorrow I think I’ve ever heard. Overall, however, your songs all seem to tell stories. Do you write them from life experience or from fiction?
JS: Life experience. I have to be inspired. I need a muse or something to inspire me to write lyrics. I can’t just sit there and poop out good lyrics. The good thing is I can get inspired really easily, so I’m constantly writing everyday.

AN: Really? So then what inspired you to write the first song you ever wrote?
JS: The first song? A boy, definitely a boy.

AN: When you were twelve?
JS: Yep, when I was twelve. I think the chorus was even like “I need you now, I want you, you’re the light of my life.” Something corny like that. They were really cheesy, dumb lyrics, but you know, I was twelve what can I say (laughs).

AN: You have an absolutely stunning and very different voice compared to mainstream music. Did you have to take lessons or train it to sound that way or is that truly your natural instrument?
JS: I just have been singing my entire life. Ever since I was three years old singing every Disney movie, I mean I could sing every Disney song you could think of, plus I was in plays when I was growing up. I’ve only recently in the last year started doing warm ups everyday for about an hour and building just a stronger range and a stronger bridge, but other than that no, I don’t take lessons.

AN: Many fan reviews I’ve stumbled across online have cited your music as a “life saver.” How does that make you feel, and what is your main goal as a musician?
JS: That’s my main goal – touching people and helping them. Helping kids, or whoever, grown ups, feel better. I like them to think of my music as a Band-Aid, or some sort of ointment cream that massages your scar and makes it go away (laughs). No, but seriously all I want is people to feel safe by my music.

AN: You’ve already collaborated with artists such as All Time Low and Cartel. If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, dead or alive, who would it be?
JS: John Lennon, hands down. Come on, that’s an easy one (laughs).

AN: When you look at all the amazing changes that have happened for your band in the past year and with everything you have to look forward to, where do you see Automatic Loveletter being a year from now?
JS: I am a dreamer. I hope to see us playing for 30,000 people. I want to get on great tours, I don’t want to stop, and I want Automatic Loveletter to become a household name.

AN: Well thank you so much, that’s all I have for you. Good luck with your trailer and the next coming months!
JS: Thank you, I appreciate it. Hope to see you at our next show around here!
AN: I will be there!
JS: Awesome, goodnight!

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She & Him Folk Around on "Volume One"

Imagine that indie legend Cat Power bought a time machine, traveled back to the 1960’s, and recorded her very first album there. This contemporary singer/songwriter feeling fused with the vintage folk sound of the original Woodstock age would most likely sound exactly like “Volume One,” the debut record of She & Him. Being released on March 18th through Merge Records, She & Him is the brainchild of one man band M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel (best known for her performances on the television series Weeds, the Sci-Fi channel mini-series Tin Man, and in films such as Elf, The Good Girl, and the charmingly irresistible Flakes). On their official Myspace page, the duo describes their premiere album as “a love letter to the musicians who inspired it,” and the hippie era throwback and nostalgia it ensues is remarkably undeniable.

It all started with a collaboration for the soundtrack of one of Deschanel’s films. The director of 2007’s “The Go-Getter” brought the two together to record a cover of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “When I Get To The Border.” Both incredibly impressed and intrigued with one another’s sounds, this duet sparked conversation about further recording sessions. When Deschanel ultimately admitted to having recorded a huge series of self written demos on her personal computer, Ward insisted on hearing them. The combination of Deschanel’s soothing yet melodically haunting voice and Ward’s phenomenal arrangements and instrument playing, turned these demos into the skeleton of “Volume One.”

The album opens with “Sentimental Heart,” a song that vividly breathes summer air about being internally lost. It’s staccato and catchy tune makes it a track that can easily be seen as playing in the background of a cheesy California beach movie during the post-heartbreak contemplation scene. Next comes the first single “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here,” the most mainstream song on the record by far. That being said, it is anything but conventional “mainstream,” but rather a very cute, Tegan & Sara-esque song that has the potential to receive heavy rotation on an alternative country radio station, but that’s the extent of it. The disc ultimately progresses to “I Was Made For You,” which sounds like a folk interpretation of Brian Hyland’s 1960 classic “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

Unlike the rest of the record that serves as a tribute to the 60’s, two tracks in the middle backtrack even further in time. Continuing her metamorphosis into a female Johnny Cash, Deschanel’s vocals soar on “Change Is Hard,” a slow yet catchy track that combines both old country with the Doris Day teenie bopper sound of the 50’s. Next, the song, “Take It Back,” goes back even further and sounds exactly like it was recorded by a young Judy Garland back when she was still a radio star – incorporating everything from the light piano and violin in the background, to the lovesick damsel-in-distress message of the song.

The song that truly shines above all others, however, is the flawlessly exquisite version of Motown icons The Miracles’ “You Really Gotta Hold On Me.” Originally released in 1962, the song takes on a whole new attitude with She & Him’s rendition of this R&B/Soul landmark track. Deschanel utilizes her vocals with such conviction over Ward’s stunning arrangement, that it is difficult to even remember the original song, especially considering it fits in so perfectly with the rest of the record.

Giving homage to music of the past, along with a passion to keep this genre alive, She & Him have truly created a modern masterpiece. “Volume One” is not the typical album one would expect to be made in 2008. That, however, may be the formula for creating the best folk album of the year.

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