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.