January 28th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview / Matty McLoughlin Of The Soft Pack

 Rollo & Grady Interview / Matty McLoughlin Of The Soft Pack
Matty McLoughlin (r)

I recently met with The Soft Pack (formerly known as The Muslims) backstage at the Echo, where they opened for Darker My Love last month. The band told me that they had started a “new chapter” when they renamed themselves The Soft Pack. Some fans expressed disapproval, but the old name had brought out a dark and sometimes racist side of listeners and critics. I interviewed Matty McLoughlin (lead guitar) for the piece and got the chance to hang out with the band, which includes Matt Lamkin (lead singer/guitarist), Dave Lantzman (bass), and Brian Hill (drummer).

The Soft Pack originally hails from San Diego, but recently moved here to Los Angeles to get themselves more in the mix. You can tell that Matty and his fellow bandmates are good friends; they’re a laid-back, tight-knit group. They’re all super talented as they effortlessly play their unique blend of pop-punk-garage rock n’ roll.

Since I met with Matty and The Soft Pack they have signed with New York-based Kemado Records. They were one of the hottest bands at last year’s SXSW and CMJ festivals and the industry buzz they generated there is what led to the deal. You can expect their debut album with Kemado late next year, and until then they’re playing some of their new tracks on tour. You can catch them at The Echo tonight (1/28) and again on February 4th & 13th.

R&G: Tell me a little bit about the name change. How did that come about?

Matty: I think we officially changed it around Thanksgiving. We had wanted to change it for about a year now, but hadn’t come up with anything that we could all agree upon. Brian came up with The Soft Pack, and we liked it a lot, so we changed it. We were sick of the shit people would say about the old name. I guess they were trying to be funny and some things that were said came off as racist… It just became fucking stupid.

R&G: Journalists or fans?

Matty: Everyone in general. Anybody on the street asking about our band’s name, everything about it became a nuisance.

R&G: Why The Soft Pack? After cigarettes?

Matty: It sounded really good. It’s neutral. That’s why I like it. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t matter.

R&G: Were you worried about the name change, in terms of alienating the fans that you’d already made with The Muslims?

Matty: No, I wasn’t. Some people got upset, but it’s their choice to not follow the band anymore. It was our choice to change our name. If you don’t want to listen to our music because you only liked our name, it’s cool with us.

R&G: Did the Velvet Underground and the Strokes influence your brand of music?

Matty: We grew up listening to the Velvet Underground in high school. I like the Strokes; good pop music. Their first record had some pretty awesome songs on it.

R&G: Tell me about your first recordings.

Matty: We recorded with our friend Ryan at 1928 recordings. It was our first EP, which is seven songs and it comes in a CD with three bonus tracks. Then we released a 7-inch with Sweet Tooth Records in San Diego, that’s where we’re from. And then, we released a 7-inch with I Hate Rock and Roll, which is an LA based label.

 Rollo & Grady Interview / Matty McLoughlin Of The Soft Pack

January 26th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Jessica Lea Mayfield

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield
is wise beyond her years. At the age of 19 she has already released two albums (White Lies, 2005 & With Blasphemy So Heartfelt in September, 2008) in her own distinct folk-indie-country rock style and is set to record more.

Mayfield was home-schooled in her native Kent, Ohio and started playing in her family’s band, One Way Rider, at the age of 8. She’ sings her sad, dark songs about love and heartbreak with an unmistakable drawl. I listen to Mayfield almost daily, it’s hard to believe that she started writing the tracks on With Blasphemy So Heartfelt at 15 and 16 years old. But, her voice is so beautiful it makes you look past it all. I haven’t been this excited about a musician in a long time.

Jessica Lea spent two years producing With Blasphemy So Heartfelt with Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the Black Keys, who also played guitar, piano, organ, drums and lent vocals to some of the tracks; also a signal of Auerbach’s own rise as a talented producer. Mayfield was the first guest to appear on a Black Keys album (Attack & Release) on the “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” track.

As Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers said “With the edge and attitude that Kurt Cobain possessed coupled with a rich musical family history similar to Maybelle Carter’s, Jessica Lea Mayfield is the most exciting new artist on the scene today.”

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R&G: Your songs are extremely personal. Have you always been comfortable singing in front of strangers?

Jessica Lea:
It is what it is. I used to feel uncomfortable. Now, it’s something that I kind of got over. It’s a good thing. It’s a way to lift some weights off my chest and get out there and bare my soul.

R&G: How old were you when you wrote the lyrics to the songs on With Blasphemy So Heartfelt.

Jessica Lea: I wrote most of the songs when I was 15 and 16.

R&G: You’re 19 now. Why did it take you so long to record the album with Dan?

Jessica Lea: We were both just busy, and it started with just recording for fun. We had met and just started recording some of his songs, then some of my songs. We’d meet up and hang out and try out new stuff and some covers. One day he was like, “Hey, I think we should make you an album.”

R&G: Do you still speak to the guy or guys that you sang about on the album?

Jessica Lea: I’ve had a few boyfriends. Some of them I do talk to; some of them I don’t. I’m usually the one who cuts things off. No one has ever broken up with me, so a lot of times they will IM me or send me a MySpace message like, “Hey! How are you doing? Do you want to hang out?” They’re always still trying to hang out with me, and I’m just, “No thanks, but how are you doing? How’s life?” I probably only have one boyfriend out of the history of my boyfriends that I don’t talk to at all.

R&G: What have you learned touring on the road?

Jessica Lea: It’s just really hard. The most taxing thing about it is the constant routine. It drives you crazy when you’re on the road and you can’t wait to get off. But as soon as you’re home, you don’t know what to do with yourself. Its sound checks for the shows and hotels. Sound check, show, hotel; I was just on the road for five weeks, and that’s the routine. When you get home for two weeks, you spend 30 minutes trying to figure out what to make for dinner. You have all this free time. You don’t know what to do with it.

R&G: So you’re ready to get back on the road?

Jessica Lea: Yeah, I’m ready. As always, it’s the only thing that I really know how to do, and it’s what I’m used to. It’s my life, and I love it. I love getting to see tons of different places and venues, making friends and discovering new bands. That’s how I get half the new music I listen to, by touring with a band.

R&G: You cite the Foo Fighters as a musical influence. Do have plans to put out a rock ‘n’ roll album?

Jessica Lea: They were a huge influence on me. When I was a kid, I saw the music video of “My Hero” and I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” That’s what got me into music. My family played bluegrass, so I played with them just because I really wanted to play music. I write rock songs first and then they turn into what they are. I play them acoustically, but a lot of times when I write songs I hear big huge rock drums and electric guitar. I hear all these things for it, and then I end up scaling it down and shifting it down. It turns out to be really cool. I will probably release some upbeat rock stuff in the future for sure.

R&G: Rock ‘n’ roll would have taken away from your flow on your recent album

Jessica Lea: Yeah, it would have. That has a lot to do with Dan. He’s got that real laid back vibe in his style. He’s great to work with.

R&G: Did you get to meet Danger Mouse?

Jessica Lea:
Yeah. Brian is a really nice guy. I love what he did with the Black Keys album. It’s my favorite album of theirs. I like everything they’ve done, but it’s such a good album. It’s different from their previous work, and I like that.

R&G: Your songs are dark and haunting. It seems like everything’s going well in your life, so is it hard to continue writing dark songs when you are happy?

Jessica Lea: I think that I’m naturally in a dark place. I’m just one of those people who have a dry mindset. I look at everything from the rawest point of view possible. I always see the bad sides of things. I guess you could say I’m a realist. I’m not really that much of a daydreamer. I don’t get my hopes up about things until I’m doing them. If someone’s like, “Oh, you’re going to get to do this,” I’m not excited about it until I’m doing it. I’m that kind of person. I think a lot of people think that because I’m friendly and nice then I must always be happy.

R&G: You’re friendly and outgoing?

Jessica Lea
: I’m a very open person. I love meeting people, but I’m not always happy. I try to be. When I meet people and they hear my music, and I’m upbeat, they’re like, “Wow, you sound so happy, so upbeat!” I say, “I’m having a conversation right now with someone I don’t know. Oh yeah, life sucks.”

R&G: Did you catch the CSI episode that featured “Bible Days”?

Jessica Lea: No, I didn’t. Most people I know accidentally saw it, but I don’t even watch TV. There’s no chance in me accidentally watching it.

R&G: I’ve never seen the program, but it’s apparently popular.

Jessica Lea: It’s my best friend’s favorite TV show. I just got this text message that was like, “CSI?” and then “WTF?” I was like, “I forgot to tell you!”

R&G: It’s mind-blowing to think that 15 million or more people watch that show.

Jessica Lea: When stuff like that happens, you don’t really notice it. Other people think that I’m having this great success. Everything is just going slow, on my side of it.

R&G: Have you written any new songs?

Jessica Lea: I write all the time. I have some new material that I’m excited about.

R&G: When do you think you’ll record your next album?

Jessica Lea: Sometime in the next few months. I’ve got enough songs for a few albums, so when I have the free time I’ll probably record with Dan. So when Dan has the free time, we’ll lay down some tracks.

January 22nd, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Keith Wood AKA Hush Arbors

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Keith Wood AKA Hush Arbors

Hush Arbors, born Keith Wood, is one of my favorite artists. His self-titled album in 2008 was one of the best albums of the year. It should have been a breakout year for Wood; his music falls into the folk category, but it’s edgier with a more psychedelic-rock-folk sound. He’s been kicking around for years as a solo artist and been a contributing member of Six Organs of Admittance, Current 93, Wooden Wand and Sunburned Hand of Man.

Wood told me recently that he feels like his best work is on the horizon. He’s excited about recording his next solo album with Ecstatic Peace in April, which is Thurston Moore’s (Sonic Youth) label; one of Wood’s idols. He will be touring the states in May.

R&G: Where are you right now?

Keith: At my house in London.

R&G: Which album or band changed your life, and why?

Keith: Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. “Tombstone Blues” affected me as much as it did when Judas was called at Newport. I know I grew up with an entire canon of amazing rock ‘n’ roll at my disposal, but even to this day that track has an amazing effect on me. I don’t know if it’s the heavy backbeat or the lyrics. It stills feels present. No one has ever been able to capture that sound and fury on tape. You can’t overlook “White Light” by Gene Clark. The title cut is enough to make songwriters reconsider their profession. Neil Young; I wouldn’t be anywhere without him. His recordings gave me the spirit to sing and record. Bless him always.

R&G: You are deeply inspired by nature. Tell me what it means to you.

Everyone has their own personal experiences within the bounds of nature, you know? Personal history and experiences create all of this. Now, maybe walking to catch a train or hiking up a mountain occupy the same space; that experience is a personal one but universal at the same time. We all have shared experiences and how we communicate them is what’s important. Relating to the shared experience is the goal. Presenting things in a universal vision is important. I feel as though my experiences in the natural world have lead me to a certain understanding of life.

R&G: You’ve travelled much of your adult life to many beautiful places. Can you tell me how these journeys have affected you personally and as a musician?

Keith: I like to travel. I’ve always been restless and wanted to see a lot of places. I have been very fortunate to do so playing music. But when I was younger I just wanted to see stuff. You know, the Kerouac thing, with the “getting somewhere” being the best part. I also had a goal of visiting the 48 continental states before going to any other country. I did a pretty good job, but still haven’t been to Nevada or Maine.

R&G: Were you trying to “find yourself?”

Keith: Well, you know… whatever. The meaning of that is really ambiguous. I’ve found myself in a lot of different places, jams, good times, etc… I just wanted to be where I was meant to be, so I had to look around. I’m always looking for something new, something exciting, but familiar and loving at the same time.

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Keith Wood AKA Hush Arbors

January 21st, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview // Chris Anderson

Rollo & Grady Interview // Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine and the new chairman of Booktour.com. He’s had an amazing and diverse career that has included work as a researcher at Los Alamos and launching The Economist’s coverage of the Internet. In 2007 he was named one of Time magazine’s Time 100, an annual list of people whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.

Anderson is best known for his 2006 New York Times bestseller The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. The book is an expansion of a theory he first wrote about in the October 2004 issue of Wired. Anderson wrote: “Our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of ‘hits’ (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. Narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”

Some critics disputed Anderson’s Long Tail theory. But last week, eMusic published new data stating that 75% of the tracks on their site sold at least once in 2008. This finding supports Anderson’s research and contradicts a November 2008 study released by British licensing body MCPS-PRS, which claimed that of the 13 million songs on the Internet, ten million did not sell a single copy.

Anderson is currently working on Free, a book based on his February 2008 article for Wired titled Free! Why $0.00 is The Future of Business, which examines the rise of pricing models that give products and services to customers for free. The book will be released July 6th, 2009.

R&G: Can you discuss the concept of The Long Tail and the role it plays in the music business?

Chris: My research started in the music business, and it largely reflected the fact that when I was first doing the work in 2004 or so the dominant way of buying music was in stores. Wal-Mart was the canonical example. This was in stark contrast to the emerging way of buying music or consuming music online, particularly in terms of the variety available. Wal-Mart has about 50,000 tracks available, which is about three or four thousand albums, versus roughly ten million tracks available online. You can see what an injustice traditional retail distribution had done to the true richness and variety of the music industry and how blinded we’ve been to the reality and diversity of music production and taste, simply because of the constraints of traditional bricks-and-mortar distribution.

R&G: When you wrote the article in Wired, MySpace was around, but did you anticipate the growth and popularity of the other online social networking music sites like imeem, Last.FM and MOG?

Chris: Not specifically. It was glaringly obvious that there was latent demand for variety, that there was a lot of music out there that was being failed by the traditional distribution model. When I wrote the article, my examples were things like Rhapsody and iTunes, but we didn’t have concrete data from iTunes. Nobody has data from them. This was, obviously, many years after Napster, many years after peer-to-peer. Every year there’s some new manifestation of how people buy new music and consume new music, and the ones you describe are just the latest ones. There will be more in the future.

R&G: So you think social networks will play a major role in the future of the music business?

Chris: Yes. I mean, the two elements necessary for a functioning Long Tail marketplace are availability and findability. Availability is solved simply by digital distribution, so ‘check,’ that’s done. Findability remains an unsolved problem. The ability and tools with which to discover new music that you’ll like is an ongoing project that we will be working on for the rest of my life. We started with simple things like recommendations, playlist sharing, Top 10s and Top 40s in micro genres, etc. But social media is yet another discovery tool to help you find music that’s right for you.

R&G: What are your thoughts on The Hype Machine and Elbows, the blog aggregators?

Chris: I don’t use them. I know people that love them, but I’m just not familiar with those sites.

Rollo & Grady Interview // Chris Anderson

January 20th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview // Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate

Rollo & Grady Interview // Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate
Photo by Jeff Gentner/Getty Images

Last November I met the Athens based Dead Confederate at a Thai restaurant next to Spaceland where they were performing later that night. The entire band was there: Hardy Morris (vocals, guitar), Brantley Senn (bass, vocals), John Watkins (keys, vocals), Jason Scarboro (drums), Walker Howle (guitar) and manager Dawson Morris (Hardy’s brother). It was obvious that I was hanging out with a tight-knit, laid back group of friends. After dinner Hardy and I went to the bar for a beer where they told us they weren’t serving. So, we walked across the street to the 7-11 where Hardy talked me into buying the caffeinated beers we “enjoyed” on the corner outside the store during this interview.

Dead Confederate are one of the hottest bands on the scene with the September 08′ debut of their first LP ‘Wrecking Ball’ receiving praise from Spin and Rolling Stone. They have also played the Conan O’Brien show and opened for REM at SXSW last year. Hardy’s howling vocals have been compared to Kurt Cobain and with the lyrics and often heavy guitars, the band’s music is considered dark and haunting. Hardy is definitely the leader of the band, but he and Brantley each wrote 5 of the album’s 10 songs. And, while the band is Southern, they prefer to be known as a rock band that hails from the South.

R&G: Tell me a little bit about growing up in Augusta.

Hardy: Growing up in Augusta was a little culturally depressing. It’s one of those small Southern towns that’s unlike Athens where there’s a college, or Atlanta. It’s just kind of there.

R&G: Do you think living in a small town inspired you to become a musician?

Hardy: I guess every town, even cool towns, are crappy. Either way, kids get together and play music. My mom was always big into music. She’s an artist and musician, too. I had her pushing me along as kid. I tried a lot of things before I really got into doing the band thing. Around our town, there was football and baseball.

R&G: Were you a jock?

Hardy: (Laughs) Of course not. I’ve weighed 130 pounds since I was in 9th grade. I’m not built for that shit.

What type of music did your mom turn you on to? 

Hardy: The first song she taught me to play on guitar was “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young. 

R&G: How old were you?

Hardy: I was either 11 or 12. She gave me ‘Harvest’. She had it on vinyl. We would listen to it all time. The funny thing about “Heart of Gold” is I think we were playing it in the wrong key.

R&G: When you moved to Atlanta you started thinking about becoming a serious songwriter. 

Hardy: Playing in bands when I was younger, we would play old funk songs or try to write songs, but they were just skeletons of songs to bang the drums to or to try and break your strings to; we played them as loud as we could. Then in college, we listened to a lot of Pink Floyd. We became more experimental, jammy kind of stuff. Then Brantley wrote “The Rat”. That was the first time I felt like we were becoming a ‘real’ band.

R&G: When was that?

Hardy: About three years ago, in 2005. “The Rat” was the catalyst to starting The Confederate. Bentley played “The Rat” for me on an acoustic guitar one day and I was like, “That’s as good as any of the songs that we’ve ever written as a band”. The others were not even in the same ballpark. That’s a great song. I was like, “Wow.” And Brantley said, “I was just pissed off and sat down and wrote the song.”

R&G: Did he envision writing “The Rat” knowing that you could put the voice behind it?

Hardy: Yeah, Brantley and I have known each other for a long time. It’s really cool of him to trust me enough to deliver a lot of his lyrics, which both of us write from a very personal head space.

Rollo & Grady Interview // Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate

January 13th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview // Bob Lefsetz

Rollo & Grady Interview // Bob Lefsetz
Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Bob Lefsetz is the author of the wildly successful Lefsetz Letter. It started out as a paid subscription newsletter in 1986 that was soon read by just about everyone in the music business.

Lefsetz has an uncanny ability to bring readers into his world. And, his world revolves around music. I read his “Letter” for almost 2 years before asking him for this interview. There were a few email exchanges before our scheduled meeting and I felt very at ease with him. It wasn’t until I was sitting in traffic on the I-10 en route to Santa Monica that I remembered I was headed to meet the most influential music analyst in the world.

Lefsetz’s detractors think he sounds off without offering solutions, but with regards to music, he is the most passionate and knowledgeable person I have ever met. He walked into the restaurant where we were meetting with his trademark shirt collar popped. He then asked several genuine personal questions about me and why I started Rollo & Grady. He then answered every question I asked.

Lefsetz has been hitting his stride in the last couple of years. If you’re interested in music and where the industry is headed, the Lefsetz Letter is a must read.

R&G: What do you think of the current state of the music industry?

BL: On some level, you can argue that music’s never been as vital as it has in the last couple decades, but there’s no coherence to the scene. Finding out what to listen to and feeling part of the scene is extremely difficult. Music doesn’t drive the culture today. The ‘60s and ‘70s are equivalent to the Renaissance age of painting and sculpture in that we had this amazing time. People painted and sculpted subsequent to the Renaissance, but it didn’t have the same overall impact. Would I love for that Golden Era to come back? Absolutely. Is it going to come back? I highly doubt it. But, what we’ve seen as a result of the internet is that all of the elements that ruined music in many people’s eyes over the last couple of decades are now gone. Now anybody can make a record: buy a Mac, get Garage Band, make a song and put it up on Myspace for free. But, how do we filter through all this stuff and find out what’s great? Anyone who’s been in the business for a couple of decades used to know every record in the Top 40. You may not have actually heard it, but you read enough about it to know what it was. Now, no one knows all the records, so there’s not a very coherent scene. The scene will become more coherent, but we’re never going back to what we once had.

R&G: Do you see music becoming a service, like a utility bill where you pay monthly for unlimited music?

BL: I do, but I believe the era of renting music is not in the imminent future. At some point, people will believe music is available; they’ll pay monthly, and get it whenever they want it. Right now they want to own it.

R&G: The ownership model favors Apple and iTunes.

BL: I believe that Steve Jobs is a brilliant guy, but I don’t think anyone would argue that his main job is selling iPods. He found a way to monetize online music when no one else had. Let’s not make him the bogeyman. If you go to Myspace Music, what they didn’t learn from Apple: the interface is horrific, and you can’t take the music with you. It’s a service that would have been good prior to the fall of 2001 when the iPod came out.

R&G: What are your thoughts on the ad-supported model that Myspace Music has adopted?

BL: No one hates ads as much as consumers. I read an article the other day about the monetization of online music in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. The article said that no one looks at the ads; everybody minimizes the window that has the player in it. I have nothing against the labels trying new models, but if an ad-supported model is going to be successful, Myspace Music is not it.

R&G: Who are the most important players or innovators in the music business today?

BL: Something that people don’t understand is that it comes down to the talent. You can have the best managers and the best labels, but if you don’t have a great act, it’s all irrelevant. So what’s happening? Something akin to the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, but even more so, the acts are getting all the power. So that’s where the story is. And who’s in bed with the acts? The major labels want to be in bed with the new acts for 360 deals and the old acts are not going to sign 360 deals unless they are lucrative. There are certain managers who sold one act, who are very powerful. They have power in that narrow area, sort of vertically, like Paul McGuinness with U2. Very powerful because U2 is a gargantuan band. But, the most powerful person in the business is now completely obvious. It’s Irving Azoff, because he controls a couple hundred acts. No one else has near that level of power.

R&G: You mentioned U2’s manager Paul McGuinness. He suggested that the ISPs pay for people downloading on their networks. How do you feel about that?

BL: The concept of getting the ISP to shut the user down, I don’t agree with. The concept of having a reasonable business offer where you pay the ISP, I completely believe in.

R&G: What’s your opinion about music blogs helping to promote music?

BL: The person who is going to make all of the money in the future is the person who creates a filter. What is that filter going to be? Is it going to be the Hype Machine? It’s something that’s going to tell you what to listen to; the filter must be something that people trust. Blogs are on the road to that, but, if you go to Pitchfork the concept is clouded because there are too many different writers saying too many things; there’s no single opinion. The filter is going to be just like the radio stations. No one forced us to listen to those. We listen to the stations where that guy plays the music we like. It’s going to be the same type of thing online, but it’s going to basically tell you what to listen to, and it’s going to have a lot more elements besides music. I would love that site. I would go to that site tomorrow. Where is that site???

R&G: It’s going to be difficult to pool 6,000 blogs or 6,000 people into a cohesive filter.

BL: This is my problem with the guy who’s at Pandora. We’re supposed to believe that computers are going to tell us what to listen to? Computer dating never worked, so all of a sudden we have computers, choosing music for us. It’s a human element. I want somebody to pick something. So the human element is going to be the solution here. We don’t listen to the television networks to tell us what shows are good. They say they’re all good, until they get cancelled. People don’t even look to reviewers; they ask their friends. So somebody’s going to build that concept online, and I think that whoever does it is not going to be looking for money first and foremost. Anybody who puts money first isn’t going in the right direction because they make their decisions based on that. People can sense that. If you’re about the art or the music first, then you can grow something, and make a ton of money down the road.
Rollo & Grady Interview // Bob Lefsetz

January 6th, 2009

Rollo & Grady Interview // Mark Hamilton Of Woodpigeon

Rollo & Grady Interview // Mark Hamilton Of Woodpigeon
Mark Hamilton (Image Courtesy of Frank Yang/Chromewaves)

Mark Hamilton is a renaissance man; a novelist, a music critic, and he fronts the hottest band in Canada. The Calgary based Woodpigeon is a super-group of eight members, scaled down from fourteen, that has received critical international praise for their latest album “Songbook”. They have opened for Andrew Bird, Broken Social Scene, Calexico and Iron & Wine. Hamilton creates what I would describe as “Summer of Love” breezy pop music, but when you look under the surface, the lyrics are sometimes dark. According to Hamilton “If you look at pop music, most of it is really kind of sad, most of it is about someone not loving you or desperately wanting something you can’t have.”

Woodpigeon recently signed with Boompa Records and have double CD coming out in February.

The band was originally named Woodpigeon Divided By Antelope Equals Squirrel? When did you decide to shorten it?

Mark: That was what it was called in Edinburgh and all we did in that city was play a couple of instrumentals, and I smashed some guitars in the street. Then I went back to Canada and it just kind of went from there. That’s a really boring re-telling of the story, I guess. [Laughs]

R&G: Yes, very boring. [Laughs] You have seven other members in the band.

Mark: Well, it started with just Kenna [Burima] and myself. I asked her to play with me, and then as that went on, we kept on asking more people to play with us. The first show I ever played was me by myself. The second one was with two people. The third was three people. At one point we had fourteen members because people would ask to play with us. We’ve narrowed it down to the same eight for the past two years.

R&G: So I assume you’re easy to work with?

Mark: Yeah. I’m a dream.

R&G: Your lyrics are deep and unique. Some are funny and some are complex. You’re also a novelist. Did you originally plan to write songs for a novel or did you first write a novel and then move to songwriting?

Mark: No, I had this stupid idea that I was going to be a Renaissance Man, so I decided I would write one song. The truth is that I went to film school and started out making films. None of them really turned out the way I wanted them to, so after fifteen films there was one I liked, and that was the point when I went to Scotland to live for a little bit. So I decided I was going to write one song, and people reacted to it really well when I played it for them. It prompted me to write more and now I haven’t stopped.

R&G: You’re a journalist and a music critic. Is that correct?

Mark: Yeah, yeah, I do some of that. I hate the word critic, though. I don’t know. I probably hate it because every music critic I meet is so high and mighty. I’m a listener who can string a sentence together.

R&G: You guys have been compared to Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire. Do you agree with the comparisons?

Mark: Yeah. I think they’re both amazing. I’m not really bothered by comparisons. You know, if it was five years ago every single thing you’d read about us would say that we were Belle & Sebastian, because there were a lot of us, and I sing like a girl. So everybody’s got reference points that are really easy.

R&G: Do you really think you sing like a girl?

Well, I sing like a gay gentleman, I guess. I have a high voice for a man of my disposition.

R&G: You recently played with Calexico and Iron & Wine. How did that come about?

Calexico called me at my home because we don’t have a booking agent in Canada. We were offered the Iron & Wine shows based on the work we did with Calexico.

Did you get to spend any time with Joey Burns [Calexico – Vocalist & Guitarist]?

Mark: Yeah, Joey Burns. The little bit of time we spent with him he felt totally like a mentor. And we just really had these great conversations with him and got our heads on straight in the process. I mean, he’s been doing this for a long time and knows all the crap that you have to go through. He, and all of Calexico actually, was so supportive and wonderful to us that we ended up onstage with them a few times. So, it was all eight of us and all seven of them doing Bob Dylan and Thelonious Monk and the Velvet Underground. It was incredible.

R&G: Did you get any quality time in with Sam Beam [Iron & Wine – Vocalist & Guitarist]

Mark: A little bit. I had a similarly eye-opening conversation with him.

R&G: When you say “eye-opening” can you elaborate?

Mark: When you get these really great opening slots for people, I think there’s always this kind of preconceived notion that you must be making lots of money. But in reality, when you’re opening for someone you’re making less money than you would headlining at a club. Merch certainly takes you over the top. Just talking to Sam about how when he was starting out he would do entire tours for free and just realizing very early that if something is meant to happen you can still make it happen on your own terms. He wanted to tour for like two weeks a year, and so quite early on he said, “I’m only going to tour for two weeks a year.” Just the realization that you can actually set your own terms and just do what you want to do.

R&G: You released “Songbook” in 2006 in Canada and you released it in 2008 in the United States and UK.

Mark: We released it in Japan in 2007, and then just the timing for it to come out in England in 2008 was just how it worked out, really, and we were over there for the tour. It was perfect timing because we have another record coming out in February and then another one coming out next September, so within a year we will have released three records. It’s a really strange feeling to have “Songbook” come out right now and to have people writing about it because I didn’t even remember a couple of songs that were on it. I hadn’t actually listened to it in about a year-and-a-half, so I just listened to it the other day. There’s a lot of stuff that we’ve kind of moved onto that I’m excited for people to hear.

R&G: Is “Treasury Library” one of the records?

Mark: Yeah, it’s coming out in February.

Can you tell me a little bit about signing with Boompa Records?

Mark: They’re an indie label from Vancouver that has been active in Canada for quite a while. They were pop-oriented for a bit, and it was one of those label stories where they were doing better and better all the time, and then they signed some big kind of deal with EMI and then EMI downsized so Boompa restructured. We are extremely excited to be working with them.

MP3: Woodpigeon – Home Is A Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always
MP3: Woodpigeon – Knock Knock
MP3: Iron & Wine & Calexico – Dark Eyes