For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we’re celebrating our phenomenal Bonnaroo 2016 Mixtape by having a chat with Jeff Cuellar, the VP of Strategic Partnerships for Bonnaroo. In our interview, we discuss how Jeff got started with the festival in its earliest days, what Bonnaroo’s place is in the summer music festival circuit, and we even had him tell us about some of his own favorite Bonnaroo moments as a fan.

NoiseTrade: Since you’ve been with Bonnaroo from the very beginning, tell us how you first got hooked up with the festival and what was your first role?

Jeff Cuellar: I had a pretty minor role at the first Bonnaroo. AC Entertainment was growing at the time and Ashley (Capps, Bonnaroo co-founder) needed an assistant. I came in to develop what would now be known as Community Relations for the festival. We were looking to really interface with local neighbors, businesses, key politicians and that was really the start of my role with Bonnaroo and with AC Entertainment. From the beginning, there was a lot of success, but if you gave me the opportunity to go back to 2002 and do it all over again, there are a lot of things I would change.

NT: What is your role with the festival now? In what ways has your role changed over the years and in what ways, if any, is it still the same?

Cuellar: I’ve never stopped doing the Community Relations piece. I guess you could say I’ve been the face of Bonnaroo within the local community since the beginning and I’ve just been able to grow that position within the community. For us, it’s been pretty vital to have that relationship between us and the city, the county, and the state overall. For the first couple of years, we didn’t really know what we had and we didn’t know how long we were going to be around.

We evolved from trying to take of the unknowns and the uncertainties to the dramatic impact of the festival. Dramatic impact meaning, you’ve heard the lore of our first year – 26-hours of traffic, parking lots all over town, businesses being obstructed. I’ve don’t think I’ve been cursed at more than by the trucking industry for bringing them to a standstill. So, from that point moving forward, for at least the next 3-5 years, it was almost rebounding from a standpoint of “how do we get that back?” We now know how to completely disrupt a town, but how can we rebound from that where Manchester and Coffee County can still operate and the businesses can continue to thrive and how can we integrate with those businesses to provide a positive, lasting impact.

The next transition with that was in 2007 when we purchased the property. Once we planted that flag in the sand to say we’re now landowners, we’re taxpayers, we’re members of this community, and we want to be better community members. From that point forward, it’s really changed the conversation. Instead of just producing on annual festival and then walking away, we’re working with the local community through art programs, the Bonnaroo Works Fund, philanthropic projects, and things like that. Looking for ways to involve the community and the local businesses plays a big part in what I do.

Over the years, I feel like I’ve worn more hats than just about anybody, just due to being there for so long. I’ve done everything from marketing, overseeing catering, technology integration (our mobile apps), artist transportation and vehicle coordination, land acquisition and leasing, I’ve helped with our on-site radio station… I’m sure I’m missing a few things. More recently, 3-4 years ago, I took over as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, so that entails overseeing all of our revenue streams that are outside of ticket sales.

NT: I asked Bonnaroo co-founder Ashley Capps this same question when I interviewed him last year, so I’d like to get your take on it as well: To what do you credit Bonnaroo’s unique space in the summer festival circuit, its rise, and its ever-growing popularity?

Cuellar: I think where Bonnaroo has carved out its niche is that the music part has created the community and we help foster that community. No knock against other big festivals, but when you add camping into the mix, it completely changes the festival dynamic. It also changes the financial model as well to find what it truly takes to build a city. It’s really brought people together.

Also, just the lore of the festival. I hear some stories from the first year that I know are not true and then I’ll hear others and think “Wow, it was much worse that that.” The folklore behind it all and the stories of what transpired to make Bonnaroo special really helped to solidify a core group that has spawned a community and has helped to build a positive eco-system. I think people recognize that. It’s an opportunity for people to connect on a much deeper level than your typical city-based festival experience of just enjoying some music, going back to your hotel, and then doing it all over again the next day.

NT: What is your #1 recommendation/piece of advice when someone tells you that they’ll be attending Bonnaroo?

Cuellar: Go with friends! It’s never as much fun to just be by yourself. It’s always more fun with friends. However, if you are going by yourself, prepare to meet friends. The other one is, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, be prepared, and radiate positivity. I think that was more than one recommendation (laughs). Oh, and drink water. Lots of water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

NT: Since you’ve got a long list to pull from, what are some of your most memorable Bonnaroo experiences from the last decade and a half?

Cuellar: As a fan, there are probably two or three that stick out more than anything else. As an encore one year, Damien Rice covered “Seven Nation Army” and no one was expecting it. It was pretty ridiculous to see that. Also, when Tom Petty played and brought Stevie Nicks out. There had been rumors that she might show up, but nothing was confirmed. To see her walk out on stage with Tom Petty was pretty amazing. Also, I’m a huge hip-hop head and when we booked Jay-Z, there were a lot of nay-sayers. I kept telling people to just wait and see. He put on a phenomenal show after Stevie Wonder – another one of my bucket-list performances – and one of the first things Jay-Z said on stage was “I can’t wait to call my mama and tell her Stevie Wonder stayed to watch my set.”

Professionally, we started a concept back in 2007 called “The Key to the City” and B.B. King was the first honoree. To see the mayor of Coffee County and the mayor of Manchester present the key to B.B. King, and to see the fans erupt when it happened, it was truly special. We’ve continued it each year and it’s always one of my favorite moments. A few years back, I actually received one of the keys myself. To be recognized in that way was one of my most proud accomplishments.

NT: Finally, if you could go back and relive one magical Bonnaroo moment, just one, who would be on stage and what song were they playing?

Cuellar: Back when Radiohead played in 2006, I had never seen them live before but had always wanted to. I don’t even want to pick one song because their whole stage presence and everything made it one of my most memorable shows, front-to-back. I was a fan beforehand, but that show solidified that whatever they do for the rest of their career, count me in. It was truly spectacular.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t just trying to change the color on your mood ring, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack

NoiseTrade One-on-One: Interview with Robbie Fulks

by Will Hodge Published Apr 11, 2016

With his celebrated album Upland Stories having just been released on Bloodshot Records, we interviewed Americana troubadour Robbie Fulks to discuss the literary influences sprinkled throughout his new album, what it was like to continue his 30-year recording partnership with legendary producer Steve Albini, and how James Agee’s 1940s book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men impacted his songwriting on Upland Stories.

NoiseTrade: Many of the songs on Upland Stories were inspired by Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee’s book about the plight of Depression-era sharecroppers from the 1940s. When did you first come across Agee’s writings and how did it plant the seeds for your Upland Stories songs?

Robbie Fulks: I can’t remember when I first came across Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, probably in high school. But I had never sat down and plowed through it until 2014, when I was working with Brian Yorkey on a musical treatment of Agee’s life and his Alabama excursion. We picked Agee as our subject for half a dozen reasons, among them that his character and work were in some respects so dramatically inflected with big American themes — rural deprivation, upward mobility, celebrity, Hollywood, excess and flameout — and in other respects so wildly sui generis.

NT: Your songwriting on Upland Stories draws from many other literary writers as well – Anton Chekhov, Flannery O’Conner, Mary Lavin, Javiar Marias – just to name a few. Do you find yourself reading lines you like and then writing a song around them or do the songs come first and those plucked lines just fall in naturally along the way?

Fulks: Mary Lavin cuts an odd figure on that list, but she was something once. Now, all but forgotten. I imagine I’m like everyone else to whom, luckily, art is important. Intensely imagined storylines and characters, and well-wrought sentences coming from a unique kind of voice, they stay with you permanently, they accompany you, especially in times of reflection, and songwriting is one of those times.

Besides the Agee project, and a similar Flannery project I worked on a few years before it, I don’t sit down with the intention of writing from literature, but just stay open to whatever my consciousness seems to be disgorging — mostly gibberish and junk, but now and then something practical looking and usable, sometimes an echo from one of the masters. So, I guess option #2 is the answer.

NT: To capture the appropriate aural atmosphere for Upland Stories, producer Steve Albini recorded you and your band in a live setting using vintage analog recording equipment. What drew you to working with Albini and to this type of unforgiving recording process?

Fulks: I’ve done records with him for 30 years now so it’s very comfortable – maybe too much. As with players, when you have a longstanding relationship with the engineer you don’t have to spell everything out along the way, as each knows a lot about the other’s aesthetic prejudices and can sometimes even read the other’s mind. Which saves a good deal of time.

And, though I’d rather benefit from the romantic picture you paint of us and the analog equipment, I should confess that my records have plenty of editing. We record onto a computer so that I can later mark edit points and comp between multiple performances, and after that, the edited masters are dumped onto tape and mixed. That said, the performing, with the exception of the harmony singing, was indeed live and without overdubs, and often without listening back afterward.

NT: Speaking of the instrumentation on your new record, what drives your decisions between recording acoustic solo material and fleshed-out full band performances?

Fulks: My feeling and opinions about the instrumentation on a given song take shape at the outset, while I’m alone writing it. I don’t experience a song, while in process, as an object in itself, but as a blueprint for a recording or a performance. And I suppose I agree with that philosophically as well, that music is a verb and doesn’t exist outside of the performance or outside of a present-tense interaction with other ears. Harder to figure out than what instruments is who will play them, that’s where things can go right or very wrong, in my experience. Casting is tricky!

NT: Recently, Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies) wrote a wonderful piece about you and Upland Stories for The Talkhouse. Does it feel any different for you when another artist reviews your work, as opposed to normal, run-of-the-mill journalistic reviews?

Fulks: Certainly I took special interest in Freda’s piece because she’s dear to me as a friend, writer, and musician, and her perceptions tend to be sharp and valuable. Except here, where she ridiculously overpraised me. As for the run-of-the-mill reviews, I do wish they were more high-quality, better argued, better balanced between the press kit and an informed but passionate personal experience with the music under review. Then they’d be more interesting to read, would direct audiences more reliably, and might even drive sales more strongly. But I can’t see that ever happening without music writers getting paid more, for one thing.

NT: Finally, your Monday night residencies at The Hideout in Chicago have become the stuff of musical mythos. While I’m especially looking forward to your upcoming “Christian Bob Dylan” night on 5/23, what are some of your own personal favorite themes from your performances over the years?

Fulks: Well, the Bob Dylan nights have been very gratifying for me because they replug me into long-ago youthful connections with powerful music. The night we covered the album Street-Legal allowed me to rethink and recast those songs which has the effect of pulling them closer to me and bridging the distance, an act of love. So gratifying in fact that I decided afterward to make a record covering Street-Legal.

Other favorites from the last six years have been collaborations with Robbie Gjersoe, Beau Sample, Jenny Scheinman, Brennen Leigh, Nora O’Connor, Don Stiernberg, and Kelly Hogan; tribute nights to Doc Watson, Roger Miller, and Levon Helm; mashing up Thelonious Monk with the Monkees, Miles Davis with Merle Travis, and Wayne Hancock with Fountains of Wayne; and covering Lou Reed’s Blue Mask record with Michael Shannon as Lou Reed.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t riding past destruction in the ditches, with the stitches still mending ’neath a heart-shaped tattoo, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack

Back in 2012, Larry Kloess started Cause A Scene to help build and strengthen the ever-growing and ever-developing musical community in Nashville, TN. In our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we chatted with Larry to hear more of the Cause A Scene origin story, to get his take on what makes the atmosphere of a Cause A Scene show so special, and to have him pick his ultimate “blank check” Cause A Scene dream show.

NoiseTrade: What were the initial sparks of inspiration for launching Cause A Scene back in January 2012?

Larry Kloess: I started Cause A Scene as a way to bring together different social circles in Nashville in order to build a community of people who genuinely loved discovering new music. When I moved back to Nashville it felt like everyone was pretty disconnected from each other and at the same time there were these burgeoning artists in Nashville and from around the country that I wanted people to be able to hear up close and personal and become fans of. So really it was about exposing people to one another’s stories and to great music that may be off their radar. A lot of the inspiration simply came from artists that I was a fan of and having a vision for drawing more people into their music. Artists like Seryn, Neulore, Anderson East, and The Vespers really helped us build the foundation of quality artists that allowed Cause A Scene to grow.

NT: What do you consider the primary mission of Cause A Scene?

Kloess: Community and discovery are at the heart of Cause A Scene. In some ways the mission of Cause A Scene is removing the imaginary “fourth wall” that separates artists and audiences in a way that brings everyone together and causes the audience to be active participants in the show rather than just consumers. With our shows and events being in non-traditional, intimate spaces that have a warmer aesthetic than a club or bar, community becomes a natural outgrowth of what we do as people feel more comfortable in those settings typically.

When it comes to discovery, we seemingly have more access to music now than ever before, but it’s challenging for the average listener to sort through what music they’ll enjoy and become a fan of. Cause A Scene aims to consistently curate high quality bills so that no matter what band or artist is playing, you’re likely going to enjoy the experience and hopefully become a new fan of their music.

NT: What was one of the first moments when you thought to yourself, “Wow, we’ve really got something going here”?

Kloess: There have been a lot of moments like that throughout the past four years, but probably the first was the first show we hosted somewhere other than at my own house. Two friends who owned a food truck that they were about to launch approached me about hosting a Cause A Scene show in their backyard. We had Seryn, Foreign Fields, and Julia Sinclair performing that night and we ended up having 250 people show up for the show with several people driving up to 7 hours from out of town for the night.

The biggest moment, though, was getting a call from one of my personal heroes, Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons, and him saying he had heard of Cause A Scene and was interested in having me partner with Communion Records which he started and collaborate on the label’s shows in Nashville. The call happened exactly a year to the date of me seeing Mumford & Sons play live at the Ryman and saying to myself “I want to do music for the rest of my life, no matter what it takes.” It was surreal in every way possible.

NT: Cause A Scene hosts shows anywhere from smaller house shows to larger non-traditional spaces around Nashville. Do you have any atmospheric preference for these types of intimate gigs?

Kloess: The goal for any Cause A Scene show is for the location to feel like ‘home’ for everyone in attendance, so it’s all about creating a warm, inviting environment where people feel comfortable. We tend to gravitate toward spaces that are a bit of a blank slate that we can build upon the natural aesthetics of the space and tailor the room to the individual artists and their sounds a bit more. There tends to be a lot of exposed red brick, reclaimed wood, and string lights involved. Never underestimate the power of some large-bulbed string lights to completely change the vibe of a room. Ha! And ultimately you just want each room to sound great and look great, so finding locations where we can get the sound dialed in and lit to where it feels like a living room environment is always critically important.

NT: Looking back over the last 4 years, what are your own personal Top 3 Cause A Scene shows that stick out to you as a fan?

Kloess: Just 3, haha?!? This feels like someone choosing their favorite child. Hosting Judah & The Lion in January 2013 for their first proper show as a band was one that will always stand out because there was a palpable buzz in the room that we were all witnessing the start of something special. One of our very first “secret shows” in April 2014 with The Lone Bellow and Cereus Bright stands out as it was one of those “wow, we’ve really got something special” sort of nights and was a show that we continue to hear about from fans over and over again as their favorite show. Last summer, we were privileged to unveil collaboration between Penny And Sparrow and Joseph that was the most goosebump-inducing show I think I’ve ever experienced. When they debuted “Double Heart” it was like every person in the room was collectively holding their breath. It was gorgeous.

I’m going to cheat and add a fourth: our most recent four-year anniversary show back at my house with Seryn and Neulore. As they were the first two bands we ever hosted, and it was the first show back in my living room in almost two years, it was special on so many different levels. The bands went completely unplugged and it was a refreshing reminder of exactly why we do what we do. We’ll cherish that night forever.

NT: Finally, if you could pick ANY band in ANY setting for your dream Cause A Scene show, who would it be and where would you host them?

Kloess: If we’re taking a step out of reality for a minute, I’d want to collaborate with T Bone Burnett and Dave Cobb on a house show for the ages with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and Josh Ritter all performing. Let’s just make it an all-day event at the Cumberland Caverns. I think I could die happy after something that legendary.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t waiting all this time to be something he can’t define, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack

One-on-One with Rob Sinclair

by kayliecaswell Published Mar 21, 2016

This interview can be downloaded in its entirety on NoiseTrade Books.

Introduction

Rob Sinclair is the bestselling author of the three books in the Enemy series, a fast-paced espionage thriller trilogy featuring the experienced and hardened black ops agent Carl Logan. Dance with the Enemy is the first book in the trilogy, where we meet Logan on holiday in Las Vegas, attempting to recover after being captured and tortured by his mortal enemy, Youssef Salim. Logan is called out from his holiday and thrust onto an especially personal mission: to find Salim, who has struck again, this time having kidnapped America’s Attorney General.

Rob’s other novels include the two remaining books in the Enemy series: Rise of the Enemy and Hunt for the Enemy. Originally from the North East of England, Rob graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specializing in forensic fraud investigation, and worked for nearly thirteen years for a global accounting firm, living and working in cities across the globe. He began writing in 2009 on a bet with his wife, and fell so in love with the craft he made it his full-time career.

In Dance with the Enemy, while working on a case especially close to his heart, Carl Logan comes to realize he may not be as hard as he’d once believed himself to be. The book is fast-moving and thrilling, with just the right amount of action, romance, and vengeance, and a twist ending that is somehow unbelievable and inevitable at the same time.

Dance with the Enemy Questions

Can you please give our readers a summary of Dance with the Enemy and the Enemy series in general?

The Enemy series follows Carl Logan, an ostracised agent who works for the secretive JIA – an intelligence agency that operates in the shadows. The series picks up with Logan suffering post traumatic stress following him having been captured and tortured on a previous mission. Logan’s world is in a mess. He’s gone from being this robotic-like operative to someone consumed with emotions and feelings that he doesn’t know how to deal with. He’s been out of action during his recovery but then he’s handed an olive branch by his boss, Mackie. And soon he finds himself on a mission of revenge against the man who brutalised him. That sets the scene for Dance but there are a lot of twists and pitfalls along the way for Logan. In the second and third books Logan finds himself on the end of betrayal by those he was closest to and has to fight for his very survival once more.

Although the backdrop of the books is international espionage, I think the series has much more wide-ranging appeal than to just fans of spy books. The series is a story of one man’s struggle to find his place in the world, a story of redemption and recovery. The three key themes that flow through each of the books are love, betrayal and revenge and I think those are primal concepts that everyone feels familiar with on some level.

Did you know right away that Dance with the Enemy would be a series, or did you finish the book before realizing there was more to Carl Logan’s story?

It’s hard to remember exactly how it all transpired now! I know this: when I typed out the first few words of Dance with the Enemy I didn’t have a fully formed plot in my head for that book, so certainly had nothing thought out for books two and three. That’s really how I’ve started all my books. I just have one or two big ideas that I run with. That said, I knew quite quickly after starting that the story of Logan’s recovery and redemption wouldn’t be complete in just one book—his life is just too complex—and so the idea for the trilogy started to come to fruition certainly before I’d finished writing Dance.

Do you think the Enemy series is complete, or might there be more books set in Logan’s world?

It’s complete in the sense that the story arc of the three Enemy books is well defined and comes to a natural close at the end of Hunt for the Enemy. We’ve seen Logan battle his inner demons. He’s stronger mentally than he was at the start of the series. We’ve seen him overcome betrayal and get to a point of closure in his life. So that’s the end of the Enemy series for me. But it’s not the end of Carl Logan. He’s still living and breathing and there’s plenty of life left in him still. In fact I’ve now completed drafting the first in a follow-on series that sees Carl Logan in a new life after the end of the Enemy series. But I’m not going to give too much away about exactly what that looks like just yet!

You say you first started writing Dance with the Enemy on a bet with your wife. What was the catalyst for that bet? Was penning an action-based thriller a goal you’d always had?

It was nothing more than an innocuous and off the cuff comment that got me into this life! I’d never had aspirations to be a writer. I was in my late twenties and had a good job working for a global accounting firm. On holiday with my wife I’d read a number of thriller books in quick succession and for some reason I just hadn’t particularly enjoyed any of them. They just seemed so formulaic. I said to my wife I reckoned I could write a book to match those. And that was it. The marker had been set. I’m a very competitive but also impulsive person. So I had to give it a go, even though to my wife my comments were nothing more than bravado. Unbeknownst to her, I started to think through some ideas in my head and when we were home just started to write out those very basic ideas. There was no plot, just individual scenes. But everything went from there. I found I really enjoyed writing. And when I built up the courage a few weeks later to show my wife what I’d written she gave me the encouragement to carry on. So I did!

In the past, you worked for a global accounting firm specializing in forensic fraud investigations. Do you think this career helped prepare you to write spy fiction?

In some ways yes. The job saw me travel around the world investigating high profile fraud and corruption cases. Certainly some of the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve met have inspired parts of my plots—though only small elements. I’ve been able to use a number of settings in the books which were familiar to me from my job too, and each of the Enemy books has a very international feel with just about every continent covered in the three books!

I think the job also helped in that a big part of my role was report writing. It wasn’t unusual to have to write an investigation report that was a hundred, sometimes multiple hundreds of pages long. Of course these reports were fact-based, not fiction, but the process of pulling together all of the evidence into a coherent structure that flowed and was able to tell the story of what had happened certainly has a lot of carry-over to the process of writing a work of fiction.

Since you were never an intelligence agent in your past life, how much research went into preparing to write the Enemy series?

To be honest very little! It’s a genre which is familiar to me from my own tastes in books, TV and film, so much of my inspiration and knowledge has come from that. I tend to research as I go along, only at the point when I’m stuck on something, and then the research tends to be some simple internet searches. It’s a process that seems to work for me. I like to keep the books focussed on the characters and the plots and so I haven’t found a need to do any in depth research really. But people have commented that the books appear well researched, so hopefully I’m getting the balance right. It is fiction though, so that gives you a lot of license. And if you write with enough conviction, and people believe what they’re reading, then I think that satisfies my aims.

A major factor leading to Dance with the Enemy’s excellence is Logan’s sense of vulnerability. Throughout the book, he is grappling with the discrepancies between the hardened black ops agent he once was and the sudden rush of emotions he’s feeling now. Can you tell us a bit about the creation of Carl Logan?

I think that’s exactly what I wanted Carl Logan to be. Vulnerable. I think it’s very easy with a highly trained agent like Logan to make them almost indestructible. I mean, he has to come through a hell of a lot of scrapes to get to his goals. But I wanted a hero who isn’t perfect. One that does make mistakes and one that suffers the consequences. I think it makes Logan a more interesting character. More human. I think the reader can empathise with Logan more this way. So that explains his creation really. I wanted a hardened agent, but one that had a human side. It also meant that I could more clearly show a path of recovery for Logan. In Dance he’s starting from the very bottom and working his way back into the world. But it’s a world that’s very different from the one that he knew because he simply isn’t that mechanical operative any more. Everything is against him really, which makes his struggle all the more powerful.

How about that twist ending! I can honestly say I didn’t see that one coming! Without giving any spoilers, did you always know how Dance with the Enemy would end, or did that come as a surprise to you as well?

It was one of the first elements of the plot that I decided on! Like I said, I’ve started each book with just a small number of big ideas. And the ending of Dance was one of the first ideas I had, not long after coming up with the idea of Logan himself.

What did your wife say when she read the final product? What did you win in the bet, besides a great writing career?

Thankfully she’s loved all of the books I’ve written! So yes, I won the bet! She’s been incredibly supportive of me. This all started from nothing. I was content in my accountancy career before the writing bug took control. Once it had, I knew I had to give it my all but that’s not so easy when you’ve already got a full time job. And publishing is not an easy process. I went through years of rejection before finally self-publishing Dance with the Enemy, and I probably would have thrown in the towel if it hadn’t been for my wife and parents pushing me on to see it through. In the midst of all that me and my wife had two boys which made the process of balancing writing and work all the more complicated. But my wife still encouraged me to carry on. That culminated in her supporting me in taking a sabbatical from my job to complete and publish Dance, then moving to part-time working for a while before I eventually started writing full time not long after Rise of the Enemy was released. I took a lot of risks, which she always supported, and gladly it looks like those risks are paying off.

Writing Process

Dance with the Enemy was your debut novel. Was this the first novel you wrote, or did you have others “in the drawer” before you published this one?

I had a very raw draft of another thriller that came before Dance. I’ll go back to that one day as the basic concept has potential I think. But as soon as I started on Carl Logan and Dance with the Enemy it just felt right and I knew that was the one to carry forward.

Since you weren’t a writer before making that fateful bet with your wife, how did you go about learning the form?

I just started! I’m a great believer in getting your hands dirty, so to speak. I hate forced learning. I hate planning. I hate being told what to do, to be honest! I’ve got a really short attention span anyway so I’ve always found I operate best when I just get stuck into something, rather than doing courses or anything like that. So I really did just make it up as I went along. And it certainly was a steep learning curve. When I first sent Dance to an editor for developing she pretty much tore it apart. The basic elements were there, but there was all sorts of things I’d not thought about that now come to me quite naturally; points of view, pacing, chapter lengths, secondary character development, things like that. I’ve learned a hell of a lot and I think the editing process has been where most of that has happened.

Tell us a little bit about your development process. Do you consider yourself a pantser or a plotter?

Definitely a panster! Like I said above, I just like to get stuck in. The thought of mapping out a full detailed plot before starting to write just isn’t me. I’m not sure I’d be able to actually. There are so many ins and outs to a plot that thinking it all up before starting to write must be near impossible. A lot of the ideas for characters, plots, twists, only come to me as I’m actually writing. The drafting process is essentially how I develop a plot. I’ve found that just an idea or two is enough to start a book with. And it doesn’t matter which part of the book it is. Sometimes the beginning, sometimes the end, sometimes just the main character. I find something and run with it, see where it takes me.

What I love so much about Dance with the Enemy is how well you developed every character’s background and motives and laid them out plainly for the reader. How do you keep all these characters straight and remain true to their individual goals?

I’d love to say it’s all brilliant foresight but I really don’t know! I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but I have a really clear picture in my head of who all the characters are. Not just what they look like, but how they act and what they’re about. I know some writers have story boards and also write down character profiles and the like but I’ve never tried that. I just use what’s in my head. That’s not to say I don’t put a lot of thought and effort in to it. I get very focused on my work when I’m in the midst of writing, kind of like a method actor would. It can become all-consuming and my wife can sometimes notice my changing moods when I’m in the middle of a project as it does affect me to immerse myself into these dark worlds.

A lot of the time when I’m not writing I play actual scenes in my head. Imagining a scene or a conversation between two characters. Imagine what they’d be saying, how they’d be acting and feeling. That’s where a lot the character development that eventually makes it into the books comes from I think. The voices in my head!

What does the typical writing day look like for you?

My wife works full time in a challenging role. Given my job, sees me at home every day I take on the majority of childcare responsibilities and household chores too! That means I’ll get the boys ready for school/nursery each day and by the time I’m home and (occasionally) done some exercise I’ll be ready to start writing by about 9 am. Once I’m in the zone I’ll really get stuck in and will lift my head from the screen just a couple of times to make a coffee before it’s lunchtime. After lunch I’ll bash through again until just after 4 pm when I head out to get the boys. The writing in itself isn’t a long day, but when you’re in the midst of drafting a new story, I do find it very taxing on the brain. I’m quite often mentally drained by the time I leave to get the boys.

When they are in bed I generally do an hour or two of marketing work (social media, etc.) in the evening, finally putting everything down to relax by about 9 pm. Days can be very full-on, particularly when my wife is working late or away from home, though actually it’s as much the every day demands of being a parent as the writing—I don’t stop from about 6:30 am through 9 pm each day! Every now and then I’ll make a trip out to the local library or a coffee shop for a couple of hours for writing, but more often than not I just sit at home all day!

Do you listen to music while you’re writing, and if so, does the music you listen to impact your work?

Never. I work in silence. My mind is busy enough that any music or TV noise would just get drowned out by what’s going on in my head. I really get into the zone when writing and just get lost in my own world.

What is your editing process like? Do you edit yourself, or does someone help you?

I do multiple rounds of editing myself but have also found a great editor (Charlie Wilson, The Book Specialist) who’s worked with me on every book so far. Generally after a first draft I’ll do two or three rounds of editing before passing the book to her for a development edit—looking at plot, structure, characters and settings. In between each editing round I’ll leave at least a couple of weeks so that I’m going back to the work cold. It’s just much easier to spot problems and issues that way. When I receive the book back from the editor I’ll do another two pass-throughs, addressing her comments and making any other changes I think are needed before sending it back out for copy-editing (i.e. addressing the language, sentence structure, etc. rather than developing the plot). I’ll then do another edit when that comes back before sending out for proofreading. Then when that comes back I do one final read-through. So it becomes quite a long process overall!

How long does it typically take you to write a book? Has that rate increased since you first wrote Dance with the Enemy?

The drafting doesn’t take long. I aim for 4,000 words a day when I’m doing a draft. I don’t know why, it’s just a number I came up with that seems quite attainable for me in an average day. And I like to set targets for myself, whether it be daily, weekly or monthly, or whatever. So I plan in my head when I’d like a draft to be completed by, when I’d like an edit ready by, and ultimately a targeted publication date. And the daily target of 4,000 words I find is a good way of breaking down the prospect of writing a 100,000 novel – which is always daunting when you’re first getting started. And it’s always a good morale booster when I hit that number.

At that rate a draft will only take a few weeks. But when the numerous rounds of editing are thrown in the whole process stretches out to many months—12-24 usually. That said, the process is becoming quite well engrained now but for Dance with the Enemy was much more hit-and-miss, largely because I was writing while working full time, and also the editing went on over a prolonged period while I was sending it out to agents and publishers. Overall it was about 5 years from conception to publication!

What do you do to relax when you’re not writing?

I like to have lazy days every now and then when I can. When I’ve finished a draft or a round of editing I’ll usually have a couple of days off where I do very little except for watch movies and read. Really, that’s a kind of research though, right?!

Other than that I love spending time with my family, going out and having fun with the boys. I’m very immature in many ways, so I get a lot of fun from playing silly games and reliving my youth through them. My eldest son is just getting into football (soccer!) now, so I really enjoy sitting and watching that with him (as well as playing when the weather is nicer!).

Writing Life

Do you plan on sticking to thrillers, or might you venture into other genres at some point in your career?

I write thrillers because that’s what I’ve always most loved myself. However I’m not going to say that’s all I’ll ever write. I’ll go with whatever ideas I have. I think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever write romance or literary fiction (just two examples) as that’s quite alien to me but I enjoy other genres every now and then like horror, sci-fi, comedy, historical, war etc.—so who knows!

As a self-published author, you are not only a writer, but also an entrepreneur. Could you tell us a bit about the business end of your career? What additional skills does it take to become a successful self-published author like yourself?

There’s a hell of a lot that goes into self-publishing a book. Pre-publication, you’re in charge of all of the various stages of editing. Then you’ve got things like cover design, typesetting, ebook conversion, distribution and launch strategy to think about. I do pay for some of those services but it’s still me at the centre driving and organising it all. Then when the book is finally ready it needs a hell of a lot of work in promoting and marketing. I could write a whole book on how I’ve gone about this but really I’ve just tried everything I could think of. Some things have worked very well, others haven’t worked at all, but I put it all down to experience either way.

Given all the myriad tasks that go into making a book a success, and that at any one time I’m working on multiple book projects whether it be drafting, editing, publishing or promoting, I think having good project management skills is essential. Luckily for me that type of organisation is something I’ve always been quite good at, and something which I had to do a lot of in my job as a forensic accountant where I could be managing a team of 50 people across multiple continents.

The other very important quality is tenacity. The publishing world is very harsh. Not just in the amount of rejection that virtually every author experiences, but in the difficulty in getting even published books into the hands of readers. You have to be relentless and dogged in the pursuit of success—traits needed for a successful entrepreneur in any walk of life, really.

With three books in the Enemy series under your belt, what do you know now that you wish you had when you were first starting out with Dance with the Enemy?

It would be great to have known more about the publishing process, and particularly about self-publishing and marketing. One of my biggest regrets is that I spent a lot of money, particularly in the early days when Dance was released, on marketing activities that just didn’t generate any noticeable return. It would have been nice to have known that in advance! But at least I’ve also found some successful strategies too.

I also do wonder what would have happened if I’d sent Dance out to agents/publishers as the finished article. I first started approaching agents when it was in hindsight a very early draft and looking back it’s no surprise it was so roundly rejected. Agents and publishers are looking for potential, of course they are, but they want someone who is much closer to the finished product than I was. I didn’t get an editor involved in my work until I’d already made the decision to self-publish and my advice to any other writer would be to do that much earlier in the process, before you every start approaching agents and publishers. Having said that, I’m happy with the route I’ve now taken. Being a control freak, self-publishing does suit me in so many ways!

What are you reading now?

I’ve just started a book by another self-published author who I met on twitter—Aiden Bailey. The book isn’t released yet and I’m only one chapter in, so haven’t got too much to say about it yet! I’ve been reading a lot more books from self-published authors recently. There’s a lot of unknown talent out there.

Do you have a favorite book or author everyone should read?

Not really. There’s no single author who I’ve methodically worked through every book of. There’s probably a list of ten or fifteen who I know I’ll more often than not read and enjoy their work—the big names in the thriller genre that everyone knows—but other than that I like to uncover the hidden gems as much as reading the bestsellers.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently working on, or what you have coming out next?

I’ve just finished a draft of a book that will be the first in a follow-on series to the Enemy books. I’m very excited about this one as it takes Logan in a new direction.

In addition, I’ve completed a standalone thriller which is more psychological thrills than action-based. It’s about a normal guy who gets drawn into a deadly situation. There are no secret agents or guns or bombs or anything like that, but it’s still got a lot of thrills and twists and turns.

I’m not yet sure which one I’ll release first, so watch this space!

I’ve also been working on a screenplay for Dance with the Enemy. It’s coming along nicely even though it’s been a steep learning curve trying yet another new craft! I think it’s got great potential. I love movies. In fact I probably watch more movies than I read books so I always had it in the back of my mind when writing the books that I’d like to see them adapted one day. Now I just need to find myself a producer!

 

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Copyright © 2016 by NoiseTrade Books

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, email kaylie@noisetrade.com.

Frye Days in Austin: Spotlight Interview with Escondido

by Will Hodge Published Mar 10, 2016

As NoiseTrade returns to South by Southwest for another year of live concerts, day parties, and all the barbeque we can hold down, we took some time to ask a few questions of some of the bands playing our shows March 17-18. It’ll be two days, two stages, 11 bands per day, all curated by NoiseTrade and presented by Frye. RSVP here: http://2016.do512.com/fryedays

NoiseTrade: If this is your first SXSW, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been before, what are you looking forward to experiencing again?

Jessica Maros: This is our bands second time playing SXSW. We’re looking forward to playing The Parish and just taking in the craziness of it all. Hoping to see some friends play and find some new music as well.

NT: To those who have been to SXSW before (either playing or just attending), do you have any favorite SXSW memories?

Maros: I always feel like I get closer with my band and friends when we go to SXSW. It’s the best feeling when you walk by a stage and you like the sound and then realize those are your friends! Makes you proud.

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience?

Maros: I don’t think so… just putting the pedal to the metal the best we can every night.

NT: Are their any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to check out yourself?

Maros: I’m going to go check out Sun Kil Moon. I’ve been a Kozelek fan for years but never seen him live.

NT: What made you pick the song you did for our NoiseTrade SXSW sampler?

Maros: “Idiot” is one of our favorites from the record. It’s a good one for long drives. Upbeat good vibes and a little more ’90s influence than our previous recordings.

NT: In February you both released your sophomore album Walking with a Stranger and also went out on a Northeast tour with The Lone Bellow. How have both of those back-to-back experiences been for you guys?

Maros: It feels great to finally have our new record out in the world. Having a tour with The Lone Bellow right after has been the perfect way to kick off this record cycle before we head out on our own dates. They’re such talented people and having them give you goosebumps every night makes the tour really fun. They’re also the kindest people.

NT: Finally, you guys have been playing a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” lately. What inspired the cover and how has the reception been with your audiences?

Maros: We were listening to a lot of Everly Brothers while out on tour with Lord Huron a while back. Tyler’s brother Grant plays bass with us and he mentioned trying it.. We worked out the harmonies in the car and have been singing it quite a bit ever since. It’s an incredible song.

Frye Days in Austin: Spotlight Interview with Wild Child

by Will Hodge Published Mar 10, 2016

As NoiseTrade returns to South by Southwest for another year of live concerts, day parties, and all the barbeque we can hold down, we took some time to ask a few questions of some of the bands playing our shows March 17-18. It’ll be two days, two stages, 11 bands per day, all curated by NoiseTrade and presented by Frye. RSVP here: http://2016.do512.com/fryedays

NoiseTrade: If this is your first SXSW, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been before, what are you looking forward to experiencing again?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): Since we live in Austin, SXSW is just a time of year like Christmas holiday or something. It happens every year and it’s magical. I think the thing I look forward to most is the family reunion vibes. All of the bands you tour with and run into across the world all end up in the same city for a week.

NT: To those who have been to SXSW before (either playing or just attending), do you have any favorite SXSW memories?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): Last year we had a party at Scoot Inn called “Wild Child and Friends”. We played a two hour set but had a string of our favorite musicians come play songs with us throughout the night. It got so rowdy. We ended up having a Friends theme song kareoke jam with the crowd for what seemed like forever.

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): Yeah we call it the Party Set. Short and fast.

NT: Are their any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to check out yourself?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): Honestly I haven’t looked up who’s going to be playing this year. I think part of the magic of SXSW is accidentally finding gems of bands. Literally stumbling across them as you walk the streets or pop into a bar for a cocktail.

NT: What made you pick the song you did for our NoiseTrade SXSW sampler?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): I dunno.

NT: You released your last album Fools back in October. Has the album changed for you any in the last six months after playing these songs live out on the road?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): Luckily we still enjoy playing the material on the new album. It still feels fresh. We are still learning how to make the songs better. It’s a never ending process of improving the songs. We are still changing things on songs from years ago.

NT: With the unique instrumental break-up of your band (violin, ukulele, cello, bass, keys, trumpet, and drums), do you find it’s harder or easier to grab the attention of a listener who’s never heard your music in a live setting?

Alexander Beggins (Wild Child): I think it might be easier? I’m not sure but I think breaking up the norm of what a band looks like – two guitars, bass, drums – makes you pause and listen for a second longer.

As NoiseTrade returns to South by Southwest for another year of live concerts, day parties, and all the barbeque we can hold down, we took some time to ask a few questions of some of the bands playing our shows March 17-18. It’ll be two days, two stages, 11 bands per day, all curated by NoiseTrade and presented by Frye. RSVP here: http://2016.do512.com/fryedays

NoiseTrade: If this is your first SXSW, what are you looking most forward to? If you’ve been before, what are you looking forward to experiencing again?

John Mark Nelson: I always look forward to the feeling that you are participating in something bigger than your own music or project. At SXSW, it feels like you are contributing to the big picture of music as a whole, and that is such a beautiful and important thing.

Aubrie Sellers: I’ve never been so I’m just excited to see what the whole experience is like. I know I’m going to be super busy running around and playing, but hopefully I will be able to check out some other bands I like, too. I also love Austin and I am looking forward to getting some good food.

The Cactus Blossoms: We’ve been to Austin many times and had a great time playing SXSW a couple years ago. There are sooooooo many bands and the whole thing can be pretty overwhelming, but that’s also what makes it so much fun. Tons of friends and bands we’ve played with will be there and it will be fun to catch their shows or better yet randomly run into them on the street!

Corey Parsons (Banditos): This will be our third SXSW. I’m most looking forward to reuniting with our Austin homies and our friends we rarely see because of tour schedules. SXSW is kind of like a big family reunion.

Daniel Chae (Run River North): This will be our second time hitting SXSW. The first experience was a whirlwind, there really is nothing quite like it. It’s a really polarizing experience. You either thrive in it or absolutely hate it. I think we’ve learned to just take it for what it is – the 5-second non-soundcheck line checks, the sardine sea of people, the endless free mediocre barbeque – so this time around I’m really looking forward to playing shows, living in the moment, and having a good time in the chaos. Bring it on.

Steve Dies (The Peach Kings): This is our 2nd time as The Peach Kings at SXSW, and we are looking forward to reconnecting with many of the friends and fans that we made on our last trip to the festival. We are also really looking forward to the food trucks, vintage shopping, and people watching – definitely the people watching.

Paige Wood (The Peach Kings): Being from Texas, it’s always exciting to get back home and reconnect with the smell of BBQ and the sound of some honky tonk.

NT: To those who have been to SXSW before (either playing or just attending), do you have any favorite SXSW memories?

Alex McWalters (River Whyless): After three year’s worth of SXSW, we’ve accrued a lot of fond festival memories, but I’ll pick one that stands out. I think it was our second year at the festival (2013) that we participated in a show that was organized by a group called Annie Street Art Collective. It was a ‘secret show’ that took place under the arch of a stone bridge–I want to say somewhere near Sixth Street, I can’t remember exactly. The show was totally unplugged and we used the bridge’s natural acoustics as our PA system and there were candles burning and it was one of those relatively rare occasions where we forgot ourselves and disappeared into the moment, an accomplishment that depended greatly on our audience, who on this night was just as rapt and captivated by the ambiance as we were. It was beautiful and totally unexpected, which is the kind of thing that happens a lot at SXSW.

Corey Parsons (Banditos): I don’t remember much about the last two SXSW we played.

Steve Dies (The Peach Kings): One of the best memories (or least fuzzy) is of a time we were looking for a parking space during the festival, which is basically an impossible and never-ending task. However, we were able to use a little insider information to park in an alleyway behind a row of shops. There was a sign that said “NO PARKING – VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED” with a phone number to the tow yard beneath it. Turns out the sign was a phony one put up by one of the businesses and the phone number to the tow yard was the number for the local pizza delivery spot. We felt pretty cool to be in the know. Also enticed to get a slice.

Daniel Chae (Run River North): Favorite SXSW memories was in 2013, watching St. Vincent at Stubbs absolutely kill it. Her show was progressive, challenging, and refreshing. Everyone just staring in wonder at her futuristic, robot-dance sequence filled show transcended above all the noise coming out of SXSW.

John Mark Nelson: When I came to SXSW for the first time, I was so overwhelmed by the size and scope of it. I had only been playing music for a couple of years, and had no idea what to expect. I remember the first time I walked down one of the main streets and could see a band playing in every single shop, bar, and street corner. It was deeply encouraging to see that music is still really valued and treasured, and has the power to bring people together on a massive scale.

The Cactus Blossoms: Our first time playing at SXSW we had some really fun shows and then on our last day in town Dale Watson got in touch with us and invited us to come down and play a few songs during his famed chicken shit bingo gig at Ginny’s Saloon. It was an honor to be invited to join in on that tradition and now a couple years later we’ve become label mates with Dale on Red House Records … It all makes sense some how.

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience?

Steve Dies (The Peach Kings): We will be focusing on our most energetic, rockin-est set list of released and unreleased music. The one thing that is consistently said of our live show by folks who are seeing us for the first time, is that those who know our recorded music had no idea how gritty and raw the live versions come across. It’s definitely intentional. Especially in an environment where you are literally competing to be noticed among hundreds of bands and venues, we really want to pull people in and hold them down while we sweat all over the stage. At least if they don’t like the music, they won’t fault us for being boring. We want to be the sharpest needle in the haystack.

Paige Wood (The Peach Kings): We also have a few surprises within the performances that will be new for anyone who’s seen us before.

John Mark Nelson: I always try to alter the setlist to fit the crowd and venue. At SXSW, you may only get 3-4 songs to try and make an impression on a new audience, so it is really important that you fit your set with what the crowd is looking for. I try to put myself in the audience’s place and imagine what things I might be looking to discover or hear from a new band. It’s a fun challenge, but the payoff can be really rewarding.

River Run North: All fast songs. Acoustic guitar don’t work here when you’re competing with three other bands playing 15 feet away from you.

Alex McWalters (River Whyless): We won’t be altering our set in any way other than that we’ll be incorporating a couple new songs from our upcoming LP. SXSW is a good place to test new material because it’s a festival that’s all about discovery. Our approach has always been to assume that we’re performing for people who don’t yet know our music, which not only makes even the most fine-tuned sets feel fresh, it also allows us the freedom to put our best (and/or newest) foot forward.

Aubrie Sellers: I haven’t finalized it yet, but I do want to make the shows special. A lot of the sets are shorter so I’m going to try my best to fit as much as I can in there. I sing way more than I talk…

The Cactus Blossoms: This year we’re playing as a duo, so we’ll miss our band. But we’ll try to eat enough tacos to make up for those who couldn’t make it.

Corey Parsons (Banditos): We’re in the process of writing a new album, so we’ll definitely be trying out some new tunes.

NT: Are there any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to check out yourself?

Aubrie Sellers: Jake Bugg and Escondido are both playing shows that I am and I love their music so I really hope I can catch them. I am a total SXSW noob so I don’t even know what else to be looking for. I think I’m gonna get lost.

The Cactus Blossoms: Yes! We’ve had the pleasure of playing a few shows with Sam Outlaw and Kacey Musgraves, hopefully we can see them again. Of course, we’ve gotta catch fellow Minneapolis bands like Polica, John Mark Nelson, and Har Mar Superstar!

Corey Parsons (Banditos): I’m gonna try to see Ramsay Midwood at some point.

Daniel Chae (Run River North): To be honest, we’re excited to play and attend the Frye party. Also looking forward to the Whole Foods showcase.

John Mark Nelson: I love the artist, Emily King, and couldn’t get into her 21+ show last time I was at SXSW. So, I will definitely try to catch her set somewhere. I also love taking a long walk when I have some time off, and just seeing where I end. Sometimes the best discoveries are accidents.

Steve Dies (The Peach Kings): Honestly, our favorite part is picking a place to drink rather than a band that we want to see. First, find the spot with the best deal on drinks and post up for the day. The point of the festival is music discovery and hearing and seeing the unexpected; so what better way than to blindly stumble into a bar and behold the glorious shit-show that is Austin during SXSW. More often than not, something great will happen, and the fact that it’s unexpected makes it that much sweeter to witness.

Alex McWalters (River Whyless): Our philosophy in regard to seeing bands at SXSW is to make an itinerary and then to almost never stick to it. Things happen quickly, plans change, shows get announced, etc. It’s best to be active in seeking out shows, but also to be willing to go with the flow. That said, we’re definitely hoping to take advantage of our access to panels and screenings. There are a lot of panels this year about streaming, digital marketing, and the evolving nature of the label industry – all of which is of particular interest to us.

Paige Wood (The Peach Kings): We live in LA and we know better than to go anywhere during rush hour. SXSW is rush hour 24/7 for a week straight.

NT: What made you pick the song you did for our NoiseTrade SXSW sampler?

Paige Wood (The Peach Kings): Our sound is a mixture of soft, sultry velvet and seductive fuzz and “Mojo Thunder” is that. It’s a good boot stomper for the dance floor.

Alex McWalters (River Whyless): “Life Crisis” was an important choice for many reasons, but mostly because we felt it best represented the spirit of collaboration we’re striving to refine as we move forward. With three songwriters in the band, it can be challenging to incorporate everybody’s voice into something that sounds not only cohesive, but also distinct. “Life Crisis” takes steps in the right direction.

Aubrie Sellers: “Light of Day” is the first song on the record, and it sets the tone and vibe for the whole album. I think it’s a good representation of my sound and the subject matter I tend to be drawn to. So if you like it, listen to the rest of the record. If you don’t like it… listen to the rest of the record.

John Mark Nelson: My newest record, I’m Not Afraid, represents a stylistic and artistic shift for me. The song I chose, “Holes in Our Skin!”, feels like one of the best representations of where I am at now, and where I might be headed in the future.

Steve Dies (The Peach Kings): “Mojo Thunder” has got some swagger that embodies the live sound in a way that some of our other recorded music doesn’t. Not to say that our other music isn’t representative of us as artists, but “Mojo Thunder” is pretty raw, sultry, and aggressive, just like our live performance. It’s also got an amazing animated music video that has fast cars, gunplay, nudity, and booze, so we figured it’d be perfect for SXSW.

The Cactus Blossoms: Hopefully “Stoplight Kisses” will inspire a few romantic moments for couples stuck in festival traffic.

Corey Parsons (Banditos): “Still Sober (After All These Beers)” is the definition of Banditos’ SXSW.

Daniel Chae (Run River North): “29” is definitely one of the band’s favorite songs from a lyrical, musical, and live standpoint. It’s definitely fun to play, it’s accessible, and honest of who we are. We hope you can enjoy it the same way we do!

As NoiseTrade returns to South by Southwest for another year of live concerts, day parties, and all the barbeque we can hold down, we took some time to ask a few questions of some of the bands playing our shows March 17-18. It’ll be two days, two stages, 11 bands per day, all curated by NoiseTrade and presented by Frye. RSVP here: http://2016.do512.com/fryedays

NoiseTrade: If this is your first SXSW, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been before, what are you looking forward to experiencing again?

Madeleine: It’s our first year at SXSW so we don’t really know what to expect. I’m most excited to be introduced to new bands and new music.

Lily: Yeah, I’m just excited to see whatever shows we can!

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience?

Madeleine: We’re going to keep our set pretty much the same depending on the venue of the show we’re playing. It’s a good thing we have a lot of material so we can always pull out some old songs if we need to.

Lily: I’m sure we’ll have to alter our sets and/or arrangements based on the audiences and venues but I think it’ll keep it fun and interesting.

NT: Are there any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to check out yourself?

Lily: Honestly I haven’t looked into the lineup too much. I sort of want to be surprised!

NT: You guys have just released your brand new album Keep It Together (released 2/26). What can you tell us about your new batch of songs?

Madeleine: Keep It Together is different from our last records because it was arranged and recorded with just us and our friends Shannon Hayden and Kate Siefker. Therefore, it has a “band” sound and all the songs are very cohesive.

Lily: The songs are all a lot more personal too. Each song feels like a moment in my life.

NT: What are each of your favorite songs off of Keep It Together and what’s the story behind both of those song?

Madeleine: I like “Nothing”. I wrote the bulk of that song and it’s one of the more dramatic ones on the record.

Lily: My favorite is “Westfield” because I think it’s the most unique song from a production standpoint. I also like it because Madge and I never sing simultaneously in harmony or unison so I think that’s an interesting new dynamic between us as vocalists.

Frye Days in Austin: Spotlight Interview with Lissie

by Will Hodge Published Mar 10, 2016

As NoiseTrade returns to South by Southwest for another year of live concerts, day parties, and all the barbeque we can hold down, we took some time to ask a few questions of some of the bands playing our shows March 17-18. It’ll be two days, two stages, 11 bands per day, all curated by NoiseTrade and presented by Frye. RSVP here: http://2016.do512.com/fryedays

Lissie’s new album My Wild West is now available on iTunes (digital) and Amazon (CD/vinyl).

NoiseTrade: If this is your first SXSW, what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve been before, what are you looking forward to experiencing again?

Lissie: I just want to eat lots of good food, hear good music, and meet nice people!

NT: To those who have been to SXSW before (either playing or just attending), do you have any favorite SXSW memories?

Lissie: I’ve done SXSW three times. The first one made me feel really bad about myself, haha. I was like, such a speck. My second one had some buzz and made me feel pretty cool! We rented this great house in town and I did 10 shows in four days. There was a gig at a church that was just so special! My third one, I went to being kind of old news and I drank too much mezcal and was a hot mess pretty much the whole time! So, yeah, we’ll see what this one is like! The second SXSW for sure has the best memories!

NT: Are you altering your normal setlist/show in any way for the SXSW audience?

Lissie: A lot has happened in the past couple of years. I’ve put out a new album and I’m playing with different band members – sometimes touring solo, sometimes band, sometimes duo. SXSW this year will be all guitar duo sets. So yes, a completely different version than ever before! I’ll play a lot of new tunes as well as some of my favorite oldies!

NT: Are there any bands or panels at SXSW that you are planning to check out yourself?

Lissie: I haven’t begun researching yet, but I’ll be part of the Luck Reunion at Willie Nelson’s ranch this year. There are a lot of great acts playing like Jenny Lewis, Dylan Leblanc, Robert Ellis, Insects vs Robots, and Willie himself. So I’m looking forward to that!

NT: What made you pick the song you did for our NoiseTrade SXSW sampler?

Lissie: “Hero” is one of my favorites off of the new album. I think because I wrote it so quickly – in one sitting and then recorded it live – it just feels really special and genuine. There aren’t too many tracks going at once and the voice and lyrics get a chance to breathe while the guitar parts set such a nice tone. Lyrically, I feel like as I age I adopt this sort of ambivalence where I’m less concerned with outcomes and more concerned with the process. I think I’m always wondering what I’m capable of while also kind of being afraid of my true potential, hence the “coulda been a hero or zero” sentiment!

NT: In February you released your newest album My Wild West on your Lionboy Records label. What can you tell us about the songs on My Wild West and what it means to finally be releasing an album under your own label?

Lissie: A lot of the songs on My Wild West came together in this really present, spontaneous, and natural way, where I was writing more for my own expression than for an album. It wasn’t clear that I was even making an album! Rather, I wanted to return to letting music be my therapy. After I’d assembled a chunk of songs and decided to move back to Iowa from California, it was evident that this was an album about my years spent west. It’s more personal and I’d even say kind of self indulgent than past works, haha! I spend so much time wondering what my purpose is, what I have to offer society. Now that I’ve gotten this really introspective album out of my system, I aim to be more a part of a community in Iowa where I can get out of my head and see what my contributions can be! It felt really good to release this on Lionboy Records because I got to see a vision through without a bunch of interference, which unfortunately is more typical when you are part of a big machine!

NT: Finally, I first came to know your music through some of your stunning slow burn cover songs – Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” just to name a few. For you, what all goes into choosing a cover song and how do you go about making them your own?

Lissie: I wish I could tell you that I thought it through carefully! Generally, I just hear a song and think “Oh hey, I like that song, I want to cover it.” It’s usually because I relate to the sentiment. Then I strip it down to its basic chords and melody, find a key that’s good for my voice, and just buzz off of the feeling it gives me! My band was big in helping realize the build and dynamics of covers past. We’d just jam on it and keep it simple. Hopefully it’s a compliment to the originals that they can be so stripped down, yet impactful!

NoiseTrade One-on-One: Interview with The Waco Brothers

by Will Hodge Published Mar 8, 2016

With their brand new album Going Down in History having just been released last month (2/26 on Bloodshot Records), The Waco Brothers are offering up a little taste (and more) on Receiver EP. We also chatted with frontman Jon Langford and guitarist/vocalist Dean Schlabowske about both new releases, their take on cover songs, and how they’ve created their own brand of country punk for the last two decades.

NoiseTrade: With your new album Going Down in History being your first proper studio album in 10 years, what got you guys back in the studio?

Dean Schlabowske (vocals/guitar): We felt that the band had gained super-powers since our last album. Also, stylistically we had morphed into something a little beyond our hopped-up hillbilly past. This is the dawn of the Post-Alt age.

Jon Langford (vocals/guitar): Dean moved down to Austin a few years ago so we started using the time we had when he flew back to Chicago for gigs to record at Mike Hagler’s excellent Kingsize Studio where we could bash out ideas quickly. This turned into the new album.

NT: One of the standout tracks on Going Down in History is your stellar cover of “All or Nothing” (originally by Small Faces). What’s your connection to that song?

Schlabowske: We became friendly with Ian MacLagan during our time kicking around Austin. He was a lovely fellow, full of humor, always incredibly generous for a legitimate rock star. The cover is in tribute to one of our favorite eras of his music – that concise, powerful rock-soul was like little else of the time.

NT: What can you tell us about the writing and recording of the two singles (“Receiver” and “Had Enough”) from Going Down in History available here on your NoiseTrade sampler?

Langford: Dean wrote “Receiver” and I wrote “Had Enough.” Both songs were fleshed out in the studio, allowing Alan and Joe, our satanic rhythm section, to do their very worst. They feel very immediate because they are! “Had Enough” is pricked boil bursting under the pressure of current madness on the wind… I am moving to Mars.

Schlabowske: “Receiver” is just a paranoid, somewhat tongue and cheek observation of connectivity and how little and much it can tell you about your world. The guitar lines are correspondingly simple zeros and ones. The depth of the piece is quite remarkable (sarcasm).

NT: Your NoiseTrade sampler also features two tracks from last year’s covers album Cabaret Showtime. How do you guys pick which songs to cover and what’s the secret to making it “yours”?

Schlabowske: Some are leftovers from the band’s beginnings as a country cover bar band. The punk, glam and psychedelic covers are just songs we truly love and wanted to put through the meat grinder. Since we’ve never attempted to be authentic or have career minded worries about alienating fans, we have felt the freedom to cover whatever songs we like.

NT: Your unique mix of garage-glam punk and alt-country roots rock have become a signature for the band. What influences all went in to the creation (and the continuation) of The Waco Brothers’ sound?

Langford: Waco Brothers is definitely a strange experiment with each member bringing something of their own to the delicate chemical mix – we listen to a lot of Ferlin Husky and Death Grips.

Schlabowske: All of us cut out teeth in the punk and post-punk era. Like most people who participated in that era, we got into reggae in all its forms, soul, blues, country…you name it. The exciting thing about the beginnings of what later became known as “alt-country” was the mixing of these genres. Put it all in through the filter of our limited technical abilities and it comes out sounding “Waco”!

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t out there a ways, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack

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