Saturday, October 31, 2020

 I'm enough of a Beach Boys fan to know a good update of them when I hear it. mylittlebrother is one of them, and Howl backs up the good things I'd read about them. There never can be enough Beach Boys updates, especially when filtered through The Wedding Present.

Will Harris, the leader of mylittlebrother, was kind enough to answer a few interview questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: For those who don't know the band, could you give a short history?

Will Harris: We began as a solo project. I was touring a lot, playing piano for a singer-songwriter called Aaron Wright. At that point we were touring for months on end and playing festivals every weekend. In a rare gap after a tour, my girlfriend said "Right, it's a good opportunity to do your own stuff now," so I recorded the Nosedive EP in my bedroom. Nosedive ended up being played on BBC Radio 6 Music and Radio 1, and getting great reviews, and I started getting gig and festival offers. I had known Dan for years and always wanted to be in a band with him, and we built a band around that. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AW: Who are your influences?

WH: We have a huge range of influences. For the songwriting, I'm a huge Brian Wilson fan, and I'm also influenced by the bittersweet writing of The Wedding Present and John Grant. To be honest, pretty much everything I hear seeps in and can influence me sometimes.

AW: I hear college rock, especially REM, in your sound. Would you say that's right?

WH: Yeah, I certainly wouldn't argue with that. It's not really a conscious decision, but I grew up on REM as my brother was a huge fan. They were also one of the first bands I saw live in my teens. So I think they have inevitably influenced me quite a lot, and I am still a big fan.

AW: This album was recorded in 2019. Do you think the lyrics mean even more now than they did then?

WH: Some of them certainly do. The anger on "Chicago" has a whole new level now when I shout "I'm stuck in little England and I'm ill, annoyed and down." Lots of the other lyrics on the album also seem eerily prescient of 2020.

AW: To me, the lyrics seem gentle and subtle, even when it's a put-down, like on “Responsibility” and “Janey.” Would you say that's so?

WH: Definitely. I have always been a fan of pairing dark lyrics with a catchy melody, and I also like to leave a level of subtly or a slight ambiguity to my lyrics, even when they are immensely personal to me. Howl has taken my lyrics to quite an angry place in parts, but equally I'm quite a friendly person, and I think that this juxtaposition shows a lot in the new songs.

AW: “Falling” and “Regional Saint” are good change-of-pace songs. Were they meant to be that way, or just as fun?

WH: Both, really. We recorded "Regional Saint" purely, as we were really happy with the sound we had, so we just improvised it out. We discovered "Falling" when we were producing the album. But when it came to putting the album together, we knew that we needed those changes of pace. We had other options, but those two tracks worked perfectly with the flow of the album.

WH: In “Chicago” you talk directly and clearly about how you feel about being stuck in England, unable to get back to Chicago, which makes me curious. Why can't you get back to Chicago?

It's not actually about me trying to get to Chicago, it's more a howl of "I don't want you to go home to Chicago" whilst being "stuck in little England". It's about losing someone.

AW: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music?

WH: Keep going. You'll release things that you'll look back on and cringe at, but if you love it, keep at it.



Big Stir Records

There is a lot of Brian Wilson in the songwriting here, not so much his epic scale, but his directness and clarity, that he means what he says. That also goes for The Wedding Present as an influence, and it's a very good combination.

So, say, the song “Chicago,” which is a plea to the singer's girlfriend not to go there, is emotional, but not overly emotional, just the right amount.

Will Harris, the leader of mylittlebrother, writes very gentle songs, even when he's chiding someone, as in “Responsibility” or “Janey.”

The music is college rock, and special, because it's memorable, like all good music is. You'll remember these songs happily, long after they're over.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 Joe Giddings

Better From Here

Kool Kat Musik

Giddings' power pop is reminiscent of Fountains of Wayne, especially on the song that's something of a tribute, “Amity Horror.”

FoW were trailblazers, and Giddings breaks more ground just by presenting and sometimes ribbing himself as an ordinary person, like on the song “Irrelevant.”

All of these songs nicely rock, even the quiet ones. They're melodic, and more complex lyrically than their directness would indicate. This album is clearly a winner.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, October 24, 2020



Kool Kat Musik

The new album by SLD, or Sounds Like Digging, is a lot of fun--catchy, mid 60s vibe, mostly Beatles based, and all about troubled romantic relationships.

Musically and lyrically it's clear and direct, with a winning simplicity. There are still so many ways to update the Beatles and the 60s. In this case it's loose enough to not be too formal or retro about everything.

So if you're looking for music that isn't too heavy, or lyrics that never say more than they need to about relationships, this is a good album to get, and one that holds up to repeated listening.

Andrea  Weiss

Sunday, October 11, 2020

 Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes


While this band is new to me, I had heard Leslie's 90’s band, It’s Me Margaret, and liked them. The Lazy Heroes is a great band, as well, one of the best I’ve heard this year.


Leslie was kind enough to answer a few interview questions for me, and I thank her. And I echo her message here to vote, and to respect older people who marched before for today's equality.



Andrea Weiss: How did the band form?


Leslie Pereira: Jeff Page (drums), Paula Venise (backing vocals), and myself were in a band together in the 90’s. I put together a garage band to work over a new sound I was channeling. I had about 12 songs I wanted to record with legendary producer Earl Mankey. When it came time to record, I decided that Jeff would be a better fit for the drumming parts. He thought his buddy Rob Lontok would be a better fit for the bass parts. We sounded so good together that the rest is history.



AW: Who are your influences?


LP: Rock, hard rock, '90s rock, country, pop, surf, and punk. Anything guitar driven!



AW: Your sound is very '90s alt-rock (say, Sleater-Kinney) mixed with the early Go-Gos and the Pandoras. Would you say you also mix in today’s music?


LP: Yes, I love the single-string guitar sound with Rob’s driving bass tone. Jeff seems to always find ways of doing something different in every song. Three piece bands are very hip and today, very now.



AW: Some of your lyrics are about same-sex relationships. As someone who’s out, it is always great to hear lyrics like that. Would you say that’s the case for you, too?


LP: I like hearing the truth, it’s very attractive. I’m not into “tricking” people anymore for the sake of a old-school record label's wishes. Paula and I know that all too well – of course. It’s offensive, not attractive, to lie to your audience. Writing UNI-Sex lyrics is sexy. I like that. Doesn't everyone? And of course Big Stir wouldn't ask us to change a thing about who we are and what we sing!



AW: Who are the other two vocalists?


LP: Leslie is the main vocalist (that's me)! Paula is the female backing vocalist, featured on “So Hard” (and my wife). Jeff sings lead on “Slip” and backing vocals on everything else. Rob sings harmonies as well!



AW: Your literature says you are out, which is wonderful. Do you want to say anything to the LBGTQA community? 


LP: VOTE! Be nice to the oldies that marched the streets ahead of you for equality.



AW: If you could tour with anyone, when concerts resume, who would it be?


LP: Anyone from Big Stir Records. They have really good taste! I have my favorites, but I think it would be really fun to do a whole lineup together.



AW: What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out in music?


LP: Listen to music, learn your instrument, take a songwriting course, go out and support local live music, play in front of people, and rehearse your butt off.

 Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes

Good Karma

Big Stir Records


This LA punk/hard rock band 's second album, their first for Big Stir, is equal parts Sleater-Kinney, the Go-Gos, rockabilly, and the Pandoras, with Karen Basset from the Pandoras as engineer. They combine all these influences very well.


Lyrically half it’s half relationship songs and half life songs, like the title track, “Time To Rock,” and one funny one, “Race Car” Relationship songs include “I’m Waiting,” “Coraline (Where Are You),” and “In My Backyard.” While these songs are same sex, they are meant for everyone.


This is a great album to rock out to, but also to think to. It’s a lot of fun, but also serious, always a great combination. You can't go wrong with an album this enjoyable.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, October 4, 2020

 Marshall Holland

Paper Airplane

Mystery Lawn Records


This very direct, clear, simple in the best sense of the word, power pop/indie rock album from Holland is a lot of fun.


There are relationships, romantic and otherwise, as in “When The Rain Comes,” politics, as in “Waiting For That Peace and Love,” and feminism, as in “She Buys A Dress

(To Match With Her Pink Belt)” in preparation for the woman in the song stepping out on her own.


Holland played all the instruments, and shows himself to be very nimble and light on his feet. So if you want something that goes down easy and yet has a lot of meaning to it, this is the album to get.

Andrea Weiss

 Marshall Holland is a new discovery for me, and a welcome one. Modern power pop is very expansive, one of many subcultures that thrive even more on the net, so there's a lot that's new to explore and like. This artist is one to like a lot.


Marshall was kind enough to answer a few questions.


Andrea Weiss: For those who dont know your work, could you give us a history?


Marshall Holland: I'm a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter based in the San Francisco Bay area. I've written and produced my own instrumentals and radio-friendly tunes; genres from classical, electronica to Americana and pop/rock, in which the latter I'm more known for.


Self-taught musician starting at the age of 2, starting writing songs at 9, and in high school and college I played various rhythm section instruments in the Jazz Band, mostly guitar, bass and drums. Was even awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and various soloist awards while playing in jazz festivals.


I have a new indie pop album, “Paper Airplane,” just released earlier this September, and it's my fifth full length that I wrote and recorded during the pandemic lockdown, and it has been said gives a nod to bands like The Monkees, America, The Left Banke, and even UK New Wave. My last album, “Marshall Holland and the Etceteras,” was an unexpected hit for me, as it reached the #2 spot on KALX and had heavy rotation on KZSU, as well as getting mass (underground) attention around the globe. I'm still not sure how it happened, as it did so very quickly and organically with very little promotion. I did, however, strategically name the album “and the Etceteras,” as I had a feeling people would pay more attention to a name that sounds like group than just a name of a solo artist, but the proof is in the pudding, as I got a large following from it.


Sadly, because I released that album while I was between jobs and also had the mental real estate available to give it my full attention, much of that fan base left somewhere, as I had been absent from it all for 6 years after acquiring full time employment as well as suffering from medical issues. I was still writing and recording music for myself during those years, but I just didn't have the mental energy to release music then, but I'm back now! Hello world!



AW: Who are your influences?


MH: Good question, and I don't know how to give a straight answer at this moment, as I have always had an eclectic taste in music and can gravitate, listen to, and absorb a genre for a few days or for months and then switch to something else as my mood sees fit. I'm a sponge with a short attention span (no relation to any cartoon characters). I grew up in a family of music lovers and musicians who also listened to and were open to all types of music.


There are artists and bands I admire and I could say they are my influences, but sometimes I think that can calcify an artist or band into being almost gimmicky, so I want to be careful admitting. I do admire the Beatles and Elvis Costello a ton, of course, but a band like the Beatles is just a default these days for most people in my genre. Before writing and recording this album I was in the mood for The Cowsills, Paul McCartney/Wings, Partridge Family, The Monkees, The Association, The Left Banke, Chamaeleon Church (a psychedelic band Chevy Chase plays drums in) and just a ton of 60s, 70s, even 80s New Wave playlists all on random. It just felt good to hear this music, especially during the depressing pandemic lockdown.



AW: Some of your songs, like She Buys a Dress,” are about empowerment, which is great. What is it about that subject that lends itself to songs? 


MH: If I feel subjects to a song can hold their own weight and energy, it sometimes triggers me and grabs my attention to motivate me to start writing and finishing the song. With this song I literally woke up one morning with the line in my head “She Buys a dress to match with her pink belt,” and it was because of that curious phrase I was inspired into making it a song.



AW: “Waiting For That Peace & Love” is wonderful. Do you find that its needed even more now? 


MH: Thank you. I think peace and love is our forgotten default and it will always be there if we just learn to tap into it; however, it's because we fall into blinding ourselves and getting influenced by issues opposite of “peace and love.” Peace and love is not anything we have to acquire or strive for; we just need be aware of the negativity that we consume ourselves with and peace will fall back into place--mediation (and voting!) can help with that!



AW: Lets Active, in particular, seems to be a big influence. Is that so?


MH: Good question. Not specifically, but I'm very much moved by heavy melodies and songs with guitars. There's so much music that I love that it would be a crime to single them out, but I'm really drawn to catchy tunes like the ones Let's Active has.



AW: Some of the songs here, like Our Fate,” seem to be political. Do you find political songs are needed now?


MH: Indeed, these are heavy and powerful times, so having artwork or music that's inspired by our environment, social voices, or the energy of what's happening now is just too hard to avoid, especially today.



AW: I like your guitar playing. Its very much jangle pop, which so many experiment with. Do you like to experiment, or do you aim for something more straightforward with your music?


MH: Thank you! These are wonderful questions, by the way. I do like to experiment but I also try not to aim too hard to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, where no one can relate to it. I love improvising and getting inspired by what comes out of nowhere just for the sake that I felt like it. In fact, I think Brian Eno said something like, “Inspiration comes only while you're working.”


Although it's probably hard to hear it , but many parts recorded were improvised or just came out quickly and I kept it in. I like my “experimentations” to compliment the songs however, not the other way around, or it can make most people just go “huh?”. Some would argue, but I think experimentations are incidents that are somewhat forced; in other words, experimentations are made for the sake of being experimental, so are they genuine? It's not a bad thing, but in my mind it's a scientific approach to reach a destination, so to speak, but improvising comes from the soul I believe. For example, turning a knob or playing a note to reach a different outcome is an experimentation, but improvisation would be that you did it because you just felt like it at that moment and you have no idea where it's going to take you next and you go with the flow. I digress...I was “going with the flow” in my answer--Haha! To answer your question, both. :-)



AW: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?


MH: Do it because it makes you feel good, and practice using your ear. Reading music is a good skill to have but the ear is an amazing tool that should not be ignored. Practice improvising. Learn songs by ear, and don't worry about being a master at an instrument, learn to play anything you can get your hands on (use your ear). Don't worry about doing it the proper way at first, but also learn from others more accomplished, if you can, and just have an open mind. Have fun at first and worry about being serious later. Learning while having fun is the best approach.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

 Big Stir Singles: The Seventh Wave

Big Stir Records


What’s striking about Big Stir’s latest singles compilation is how much meaning it has. Every band on here has something really good to say, with no irony, just sincerity.


There’s love, like Carol Pacey

& The Honey Shakers' “If Romance Is Dead Then I Want To Be Dead Too” and “Love Does,” or Kai Danzberg’s “Let Him Go” and “Let Her Go (2019 demo).”


But a lot of these songs are political, too, like Broken Arrows' Byrds-like “The Worst Of The Rest,” which is anti-Trump and a lament for the US.


Then there are songs that don’t fit into categories, such as The Forty Nineteens' “Late Night Radio” or The Corner Laughers' “The Calculating Boy.”


But listen to all of them. They all have something to say, whether going full tilt or quitter, whether psychedelic like Rick Hromada’s “Dreams Of A Hippy Summer” or quiet like Nick Frater’s “Intro.” They’re all great and deserve to be hits.

Andrea Weiss


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