Wednesday, September 29, 2021

 Prog of this type is what I like the best. A lot of these songs remind me of ELP's more folk-oriented music, like "Lucky Man," but without the Moog. If you're a fan of songs like that, New Sincerty Works' new album Heirloom Qualities is for you.

The band was formed in 2014 by guitarist/vocalist/drummer Mike Tittel (The Loud Family, Roger Klug Power Trio), with guitarist/vocalist Roger Klug, Lauren Bray on keyboards, Greg Tudor on drums, Bob Nyswonger on bass, and Mike Landis on guitars and keyboards, who also mixed and engineered the album.

Mike Tittel was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Could you give a short musical history of the band?

Mike Tittel: The band was created in the image of what all bands should look like: themselves. The songs contain modest, heart-on-your-sleeve themes mashed up with indie-pop, Americana, and 1980's guitar-driven new wave, for a decidedly familiar, yet fresh presentation. I always wanted to be in this kind of band playing guitar and singing, but nobody ever asked me, I guess because I was a drummer. So I just made the band happen. Actually I made a record first, then decided to play it live with a band. That's how it started. The music won't shock anyone, but it might connect with those of more subtle tastes, and I'm beyond happy writing songs and playing with these Cincinnatians.

AW: Who are your influences?

MT: I have so many influences, as most do, I suppose. As a drummer I had influences like Stewart Copeland, Bill Bruford, Bruce Gary of The Knack, and Ringo. Throw in guitar influences and songwriting influences, band influences and the list would be staggering. Some influences on the type of band I might front had always been bands like Rogue Wave, The Reivers, The Replacements, or New Pornographers, to name only a few. The red thread here being a certain earnestness, and sometimes a big lineup, coupled with the ability to rock and to play with some depth and complexity all in one set. I would always hope that anything I would do sounds unique, but to be honest I am also not trying to hard to define anything in particular.

AW: You played with the late Scott Miller in The Loud Family as their drummer. Would you say he was an influence?

MT: I did the Interbabe Concern tour as their live drummer. Scott was a creative influence on me for sure. I don’t know if he rubbed off in any literal way on the music side of the equation though. To me he stood for being your unique self and building the music around that vision even if it meant creating a potentially limited appeal. The notion of being an almost accidental true original is something I loved about him. I also think he gave me a certain confidence. I remember playing him some demos of mine and him getting really excited about them. And then, of course, getting his approval from show to show as we performed was important to me as well.

AW: I like how the music owes as much to prog, folk, and indie rock. Did the music just lend itself to that, or were you going for a specific sound?

MT: Thank you. It’s all a non-intentional mash-up, I think. The folk thing, for me, is back to that red thread of earnestness and realism that I value. I get far more inspiration from 1950-60s country/folk than I do with, say, something like 60s or 70s rock or pop music. I’ve just realized this recently, how little I think about or pull from those decades. It's sacrilegious in a way. Perhaps it’s because it was so prevalent, growing up when I did, with radio and my older sister and her friends immersed in all of that music. Learning how to be in bands in the early 1980s I fell in love with music that started out in a basement and then trickled into our world through college radio or record stories. So I think the indie music comment makes sense. I really do value the work ethic involved and the innovation, so to speak. And then for progressive rock: well I am not a prog rock enthusiast at all. But I will say things like the 1980s King Crimson was a state of the art rock ‘n roll band. So if anything I certainly could be influenced by those records, but beyond brief visits into the realms of Yes, Rush, and Genesis I really don’t get much from that music.

AW: What I also like is how meaningful the music sounds. Was that part of the overall sound you were after?

MT: Well I am not sure about that. I think that I had quite a few more songs that I left off. I am really aware of whether or not something feels real and vital or not, when it comes to my songs. If I think something doesn’t have any kind of value lyrically I leave it off the record. When I made this record I was and still am in a really good place in my life and there was a lot of pent up love and positivity that I had to share, perhaps. So maybe that is what you are detecting. As for the overall sound, I tried not to overbake this record. I co-produced it with Mike Landis and we did extra rounds of scrutiny to make sure that everything we added to a song was really helpful. So I think it has a purposeful approach and a good quality sound due to not crowding the production.

AW: What you sing about life and love is profound, and also a bit wry. Did you have a particular reason for bringing in that element?

MT: I try to leave lyrics feeling specific, but open at the same time. I do at times like to make people smile, either when they realize a phrase might not be what they thought originally or something that could be understood multiple ways. But I do not try to be witty or wry. In fact that kind of lyric writing is something I don’t aspire to do. A guy like Elvis Costello is a million times more capable than I am, but at the same time I want to not have to think about lyrics so much, and certainly do not like lyrics that feel tricky or overly literate. I think trying too hard is the downfall of many of us. At least for me!

AW: How did the pandemic affect how the album was written and recorded?

MT: It was written and recorded long before the pandemic. I didn’t want to release it during the lockdown, so instead I went ahead and wrote and recorded my solo record. “Heirloom Qualities” precedes that!

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

MT: Three tips I can only offer up from a creative perspective, as I’ve had severely limited professional success musically speaking. 1. Be yourself. 2. At all costs, don’t lose your focus on your music, ever. 3. And find your audience.

There is no better time to do music on your own terms. You don’t need a record label. You just need smarts, talent, and some people that believe in you. It’s a new game out there for those that have original thoughts that appeal to people.

 New Sincerity Works

Heirloom Qualities


This new album from the Cincinnati band's music sits at the intersection of of folk, rock, folk/prog, and indie rock. It is a very interesting hybrid, and a great one; all three blend in such a meaningful way that  they make the words even more expressive.

The lyrics might be the main characters' thoughts, conversations the characters have with each other, or a friend talking to a friend. These are wise, sensible words. Everything has a clear, direct meaning, which is why these lyrics are a must-hear; there isn't enough of that in today's music.

So if you want something different, maybe an alternative to the alternative, this is the album to get. This music will mean something to you, and you'll get a lot out of it because of that.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, September 26, 2021

 It's amazing, and a testament to how great the Beatles were, that so many bands can find so many new ways to take them places. The Weeklings make them straightfoward power pop and punk, but really sounding like the early 60s. Could they have played at the Cavern Club, right alongside the early Beatles? I'd like to think so, and then share in Beatlemania.

Read more here, with the band kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: For those who aren't familiar with you, could you give us a short musical history?

Bob Burger: Wow! We organized officially as a band in 2014, after performing together for a while in Glen Burtnik’s Beatle Bash series of shows. After that, we soon recorded our first album, which was patterned from the sound of the early Beatles. Since then, we refined and progressed our sound both sonically and compositionally. We are still a power pop band, but we are branching out a bit.

Glen Burtnik: For years I had an annual show called “Beatles Bash,” in which we’d celebrate the anniversaries of each Beatles album. I had been including members of what would become The Weeklings in these shows. Then there was the year we celebrated the earliest Beatles albums, the arrangements of which were almost entirely 4-piece quartet numbers requiring very limited extra musicians. We discovered working like that was easy and enjoyable for the four of us. So we began doing shows as The Weeklings, which led to our making records, writing songs and getting airplay.

AW: I can tell you're taking the Beatles as an influence, but is there anyone else?

GB: Tons of influences, primarily from the rich popular music of the sixties. We naturally find old-school style so much more fun for us than modern music. We’re older guys who gravitate toward more classic approach. Antique, really!

BB: Yes. We’ve drawn from a number of influences, although the Beatles has been at the top of the list.  We tend to steal short snippets and place them here and there. I hear Todd Rundgren, Rolling Stones, Badfinger, Steppenwolf, Yes and others.

AW: I love how you rev up the sound of the early Beatles. Does that sound lend itself to that treatment?

BB: I’m not really sure. We were first trying to capture the early sound, but after a while we found that it was cool to make it a little heavier. Hopefully, we are just expressing ourselves a bit.

GB:The Beatles pretty much set the standard. Before them, bands had accordions and pianists and saxophones and whatever. These guys showed up from Northern England and created the template for rock music: a rhythm guitar, a lead guitar, a bass guitar and a drummer. That’s our approach – maybe just a little more umph and distortion.

AW: I like that your lyrics are clear and direct. Do you think power pop is naturally like that?

BB: I do, although some power pop bands don’t stick to that. Like, 10cc is not like that. But Badfinger, Big Star, The Raspberries, and others stay with the clear lyrics. I can’t guarantee we will always do that tho.

GB: Thanks. I guess “power pop” isn’t about poetry as much as attitude.

AW: Do you think power pop lends itself to happy, positive, rocking music and lyrics?

BB: Yes, that kind of defines it. I like happy, positive and rocking!

GB: Well, no. I mean, I think you can go either way. The Stones, The Kinks, and The Who could be considered bad boys, whereas The Beatles, Badfinger, and The Raspberries might be perceived as nice guys.

AW: At what club was the album recorded?

GB: I don’t remember! I think The Strand Theater in Lakewood and maybe some tracks are from Daryl’s House Club.

BB: At the Strand Theatre and Daryl’s House Club.

AW: Where did the name The Weeklings come from?

BB: We made it up.

GB: We met at the gym.

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

BB: It’s a long road, and you really have to have perseverance! Play out live as much as you can!

GB: It’s a zany career choice. Only stay with it if you love it more than anything. Best of luck to you!

 The Weeklings

In Their Own Write

JEM Records

This is a new band for me, but a great one. Their sound is based on the early Beatles, say, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” with a lot of other influences thrown in, like Todd Rundgren, Steppenwolf, and Yes, to name a few.

This also makes them punky power pop, that they'd put all of these very different styles in a blender to see what happens. The two covers, both Beatles songs, “The Word” and “Baby Your A Rich Man” are more examples, especially “Baby” radically reworked to be punk.

The lyrics are happy, and the romantic ups and downs are for young and old alike, which makes the whole package wonderful. That it's a live recording gives these songs a lot of energy.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

 I like jangle pop, so anytime I find such a band that's new to me, I'll listen. Speed Of Sound I really like, both for the music and for a good, unusual concept--a museum exhibit. But it is a lot more than that.

John Armstrong, guitarist, songwriter, and one of the vocalists for the band, was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

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

John Armstrong: The first EP was 17th September, 1989 so Museum Of Tomorrow is exactly 32 years on from that; it wasn’t planned that way but it is tidy that it ended up there. Over the decades there have been 19 people in the band (which is a lot less than have been in The Fall!). The line up has been stable for the last four years, with the addition of keyboards. This our fifth full length album.

AW: Who are your influences?

JA: Everyone listens to different music and brings that to the sound. Kevin is a huge Rolling Stones and Northern Soul fan, Anne-Marie trained as a classical singer, John B would say Rush is his major influence, and I listen to a wide range of music from Beethoven, John Coltrane, and Joni Mitchell to The Who, and a whole lot more, too. The ones that made me want to pick up a guitar for the first time were Small Faces and The Chords.

AW: Would you say jangle pop bands are an influence? I hear a lot of that style in your sound.

JA: It's that 12-string Rickenbacker sound that adds the jangle. There is a thing The Byrds do where the music rushes along while the vocals pull it back and that is something that naturally happens in our music a lot. I think there is a definite parallel evolution with bands like The Primitives and The Darling Buds. We share a lot of influences and the oldest songs we still play live are from 1983-4, so not so much an influence as parallel.

AW: I like that the concept is a museum exhibit. Where did you get the idea for that?

JA: My first job was as a museum guide; museums are fascinating places, and the idea that although we are continually living at the point where the future meets the present, that moment will move into someone else’s past. We like to release our music physically and that in itself makes it an artifact that could be found by future archaeologists and end up in a museum. The idea is a future society is trying to understand the early 21st Century as a lived experience based on these songs.

AW: I also like how sci-fi is used here as a way of the past informing the future. Why did you want to make it like that?

JA: There are science fiction themes running through the album from the opening line “We were offered Star Trek but they fed us Soylent Green,” and yes; if you look at old science fiction like Star Trek it actually has formed the future. Technology boffins and designers grew up looking at Kirk’s communicator and Uhura’s ear piece and now we have mobile phones and in-ear devices. The past makes the future. I’ve always been interested in science fiction and the songs were written with the idea that they would be thematically linked and presented as an album rather than simply a collection of individual pieces.

AW: You write very good melodies. Is that something you strive for?

JA: Thank you! I think it's derived from the chord structures of the songs. There are a lot of unusual voicings and passing chords and a generally unresolved feel to a lot of the music, which pulls the vocal line in directions it wouldn’t go if it was only straight major/minor chords, so its a natural thing with the way I write. The lyrics always come first. They’re written separately, essentially as poetry. They’re set to music later, which means the music can fit the feel of the words. I find that much easier than doing it the other way around, of starting with a melody and bending words to fit that. It gives much more freedom.

AW: Is “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” about climate change?

JA: It is about climate change; or ‘climate malfunction’. There is a really good British science fiction film with the same title, but it was the fires around Manchester in 2018 that inspired it; they were nowhere near as serious as the fires in California or Australia, but I could see them from the day job office window and they were much bigger than anything we’d had here before. The following February we had temperatures here in the mid-20s (75F) when it should be snowing, or at least very cold and wet. There is still an uplifting and joyous feel to the song, not exactly a ‘party at the end of the world,’ but more a realisation that there is still something we can do about it. As with the rest of the album, it is very dark subject matter, but presented in a bright and hopefully engaging way.

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

JA: Do it. Find your own voice and use it. Don’t worry about what is fashionable, make music that you want to hear and music that means something to you. Go the DIY route and retain control, plan ahead, (a long way ahead!) and enjoy what you’re doing. That bit is very important!

 The Speed Of Sound

Museum Of Tomorrow

Big Stir Records

If Liz Phair was a jangle popper and wrote sci-fi, she would be the Speed Of Sound. It's in the emotional honesty of their lyrics, deadpan singing, and the ability to rock out with a lot of common sense.

The album concept is how the future informs the past and the past informs the future. Each song is an exhibit in this museum, all meant to be taken together. The lyrics say so much about the past and the future, how sci-fi that was made in the past really was the future--the 60s Star Trek is a great example of that--and that the future need not be dark and scary. If done right, everything will be okay.

“The Day The Earth Caught Fire” is an example of that, about climate change. It could mean the end of the world, but if fought properly and tamed, the result will be great. It's catchy and melodic, like all the modern jangle pop on this album, and wonderful.

If you want a rather quirky, but great concept album, Museum Of Tomorrow is for you, for its smartness, toughness, wisdom, and futuristic jangle influenced by the world around it.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, September 19, 2021

 Rich Arithmetic

You Are Always Right/Up To You single

Self Released

These two indie rock/folk songs also have a touch of the Beatles to them, one reason they're so enjoyable to hear. The A Side is nicely bouncy, and the B Side speeds by smoothly.

The lyrics are about romantic ups and downs: contemplative on “Up To You,” bemused on “You Are Always Right,” and the tone gives the songs a lot of substance. More good music from Rich. Everything I've heard from him is great.

Andrea Weiss

 Jim Basnight with the Rockinghams

4 Singles

Powerpopholic Productions

These four singles are nicely punky and, in the case of “Python Boogaloo,” cool blues/punk. They're also pop, and very good pop, at that.

“Python” is about being a cool cat. “Played A Trick” and “Uncertain” are romantic relationship songs. The first two are a lot of fun to hear, and with “Uncertain,” you feel for the couple.

“Ho Chi Minh” is a bit more serious. It could be about a Vietnam vet going back there, a Viet Cong soldier going home, experiencing the war secondhand, or a bit of all three. All the characters think the city is the place to go party, and they could be right. This is the most pop of the singles and has a nice flow.

Taken together they're a good lead-in to Jim's new album, Makin' Bacon, featuring the Rockinghams. They're a lot of fun to rock out to.

Andea Weiss

Sunday, September 5, 2021


Come Clean Right Now

Sofaburn Records

The new album from the duo of Kate Wakefield on electric cello and Daisy Caplan on drums expands their sound from their last album, All The Kings Horses.

Some songs are political, like “Sugar Pill”, and give voice to the unease around us right now. Then there are songs about romantic and sexual obsession, like “Air”, which hit even harder than the political songs. Whoever Wakefield is pining away for, they should go to her; she wants them, she'll be good for them, so let's do it.

Wakefield has outfitted her cello to play like an electric guitar. It is a very good sound, a unique one, and Caplan's powerful drumming augments it well. And all without any pretensions whatsoever. For all the art-punk here, they don't put on airs. They are just honest, direct, clear, and emotional in all the right ways, like not going overboard with it.

If I could write a Top 10 list now, this would be a strong contender for Album of the Year. That's how good it is, so I'd get it, and hear something wonderful and truly different.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, September 3, 2021

 I am a longtime Bangles fan, and was into them before they started having hits, so when I heard The Lunar Laugh, I immediately heard an update of All Over The Place, one of the Bangles' best. I was thrilled about that, as I’d wondered what The Lunar Laugh would sound like. Now I do, as will you, if you want to hear it, and if you are a Bangles fan this is a must hear.

Jared Lekites of the band was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Could you give a short musical history of the band?

Jared Lekites: Connor and I began playing shows together with just us and two acoustic guitars. We'd play a handful of songs I had from my solo releases and some covers we both liked like Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel... stuff that works with two guys harmonizing, basically.

I recorded the bulk of the Apollo album by myself with session guys. Connor only sang a couple of backgrounds on it. One day Graham Colton, who was the main producer on that, suggested that instead of it being another solo outing for me, I should put a band together and give this thing a name. I had just happened to have heard the phrase "the lunar laugh" on the Cosmic Sounds: The Zodiac album the evening prior and I thought it would be a good band name. I took it as a sign and it became The Lunar Laugh from that point onward.

Campbell was introduced to us by his cousin who happened to be backing up Connor and I in our live full band performances at the time. Campbell needed a group to record for an engineering class he was taking in school and we volunteered for that because it meant free studio time for us. We all got on well and we could tell he had talent. Not long after that, Connor suggested we expand the team to a trio and invite him to join us.

Since then, the focus of the band has been the three of us being the main singer/songwriters and then whomever is orbiting around us at the time.

AWWho are your influences?

JLWe all listen to a lot of music and we each have our share of favorites. I'm one of the biggest Beatles nut-jobs you'll ever find. I love just about anything from the 1960s. That's my favorite era for music. But I also am fond of country music, particularly Garth Brooks. He was the reason I wanted to make music in the first place. He changed my life. I think the Brian Wilson influence is fairly evident in the way we stack vocals.

I know Connor likes Blink-182 and folkier things like The Head and The Heart and Penny & Sparrow. Meanwhile, Campbell's into The Flaming Lips, Prince, P-Funk, Bowie and such. But we can all get into what each other is into, as well. I think that's why the collaboration works so well.

AW: I hear a bit of All Over The Place era Bangles in the music--that is, folk/rock with some garage rock in it. Is that type of music an influence?

JL: The Bangles are definitely in my top 5 favorite bands. I even thanked them in the liner notes for Apollo because I kind of modeled what I wanted our sound to be after what they did. I sometimes get a little miffed when they end up on those lists of "best female bands," because, while they totally deserve the praise, I think they are one of the best bands regardless of their gender. The way they managed to meld together their hardcore 60s influences and still keep them modern enough for the MTV generation is certainly admirable, too.

AW: The lyrics also seem influenced by folk/rock, say, Roger McGuinn. Would you say that's your overall style?

JL: When I write lyrics, I want them to be able to stand up on their own, apart from the music. I want the same thing for the music, for the tune to stand up on its own without lyrics, so I just try to make them as strong as I can. They're often introspective, because I'm working from my own experiences. I keep reworking lyrics until I feel like there's no better way of putting them together. Bob Dylan songs like "When I Paint My Masterpiece" or "Tangled Up In Blue" really fascinate and inspire me.

AW: Why put out a live album? To give an overview of the band, and also sum things up?

JL: It was one of those projects that we would always talk about. We had several shows recorded for our own amusement, but also because we had that possibility of doing a live album on the back burner. Once the pandemic hit and we had to cancel our tour plans, we decided the time was right. We had three studio albums out and we knew we had enough shows recorded that covered all that material and more.

We are lucky to have a sizable following outside of our home country. There are places like Spain, Sweden, Japan, and Australia that we have never been to before, but they know us there and they know our music. We don't know how long it will be before we ever get a chance to visit those places, and since they haven't yet had a chance to see us, we wanted to give them a chance to hear us performing. I think a live album also makes for a nice souvenir after a show, so it is going to be nice to have these discs at our merch booth.

AW: I like the covers. What made you decide on Death Cab For Cutie's "Soul Meets Body" and Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man?"

JL: Our cover choices are typically spontaneous choices. Those are the two that we just happened to have decent recordings of. I think they both stemmed from the same outdoor show where we had to play two sets, so we were pulling in as many songs as we could, because we only had a couple albums under our belt at the time.

We had been doing "Solitary Man" for a while because it's a nice rocker and it always gets a favorable response. The Death Cab tune was something we chose to do with Chase Kerby, who was our special guest on that show.

AW: Could you say a few words about upcoming albums? I think I'd like your studio albums just as much as this live one.

JL: We have a ton of material that we are sifting through to record. We aren't sure when it will be finished or when it will come out just yet, but we all really like the handful that we have so far. Hopefully the wait won't take too long.

AWWhat would you tell someone just starting out in music?

JLSurround yourself with people who impress you, and work only with people who impress you. You are only as good as your weakest link.

 The Lunar Laugh


Big Stir Records

Though this album starts with two studio tracks, it's mostly live. This long-running Oklahoma City band gives a flavor of what it was like to see them before the pandemic happened. It's a lot of fun to listen to for that reason alone.

The other reason it's fun is that the band was influenced by the early Bangles, and this band is as good as them, especially early on, and on their comeback albums in the oughts. The Lunar Laugh has a similar sound and harmonies, and the the second studio track, “It's Okay,” sounds like it could've been written by Susanna Hoffs.

The two covers, Neil Diamond's “Solitary Man” and Death Cab For Cutie's “Soul Meets Body,” also establish their sound, and it really is a good blend. “Welcome To The World” is superb.

If you want to be reminded of what live music sounded like, get his album, have a good time listening to it, and then go and see them, or any other band, in concert.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

 Jeremy Pinnell

Big Ol' Good Single

Sofaburn Records

This mellow, ZZ Top-like country/rock song is about being a good person in every way, respectful to women, likes his girlfriend, and fishing. It's straightforward and clear musically and lyrically. Soulful singing too, making for another great selection from his upcoming album, to be released October 1st on Sofaburn.

Andrea Weiss

 Paige Beller

Failed Attempts and Cigarettes video

Sofaburn Records

This 2-D, stop motion animated video, directed by Katie Anne Marks, is about what a pain overthinking anything can be. It features a rather confused guy, Paige as a puppet, driving, and many guys falling through the air, then falling upward in an instant, all standing in for muddled, confused thinking, the kind that makes for failed attempts and smoking.

The unease of the spooky, ambient synth music by Jason Watkins (Mouth of the Architect) fits the images perfectly, with the feeling that you're dwelling on something too much. It's really good animation and music, perfect for taking your mind off of what you may be obsessing about, and a lot of fun to watch too.

Andrea Weiss


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