Hi Guys, how's life in the music business today?
Shitty the music business sucks.
Tell us about 'Herzog' …. How did you all get together to form a band and how would you describe your sound?
Most of us have been playing music together for over ten years in various bands. Power pop
Third album done, 'Boys'; how has your recording process changed since your 2010 debut?
We recorded in a very nice studio with an awesome producer Kevin Mcmahon,(Titus Andronicus Walkman etc) and spent an entire week together doing the tracks. previously we had done things piecemeal and over several months when we all had time. recording with Kevin it was a great experience.
Any plans of a UK/Euro tour in the near future?
We don't have a booking agent so probably not. I would love to one day.
How is Cleveland for music, any other bands we should be checking out and, does your home city have any influence on your song writing?
What were the albums you listened to in school/college that you still play today?
Weezer – Blue, Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream, Built to Spill, their first four LPS most of the late era Beatles early kinks Neil Young decades Simon and Garfunkel greatest hits Elvis Costello, firsdt two albums, all of the Elliott Smith and early Leonard Cohen and on and on. The bassist in Herzog Brian commented recently that "I listen to old records like people talk to old friends".
What are your ambitions for the band and how important do you think it is to have a record label behind you these days? just to make great records.
I feel having someone believe in you on any level helps the band emotionally a lot. But let's face it even with a label it's hard to sell records now.
Any particular instruments, effects, or recording techniques used on the new record, that you would like to share with your fellow musicians?
Always record as much live as you can especially with rock music. Gear only matters so much, in my opinion energy is key.
Where are you favourite places to play gig and what are the memories of you very first gig?
Happy Dog Cleveland. it's our home. Memories; Being very nervous and sucking really bad
If you could tour with any other (active) band in the world, who would that be and why?
Diarrhoea Planet. we've played with them a few times and love them to death. Funniest band to see in America as far as I'm concerned.
How's life finding you at the moment? You seem very busy touring the new album?
Yes, we've just returned from a run of dates across the UK and Ireland: we've played some shows with Shearwater, Death Vessel and Hospitality, as well as a few of our own shows. It's been good to get back into the groove of playing, as we hadn't played all that much for a year or so while making the record. It's been fun exploring the songs, seeing which ones work together, which ones we can approach in different ways to how we recorded them.
The vinyl version of Best of Times is a thing of beauty (I'll be bringing my copy along for signing next week!) Who's the art fan in the band?
Art has always been a really important to what we do - Nick and Dan are both practising artists. It definitely influences how we write and it's something we've tried to incorporate into other aspects of the band, like playing shows in art galleries, or how we make videos.
The packaging really grew from that. The idea was to commission 9 different artists to respond to a song each, so we had a unique piece for each track. Nick and Dan both contributed, along with Nick's brother Phil (who has done all our previous covers as well as this one) and other artist friends of ours. We also asked Tim Rutili from Califone, whom we toured with a few years back. In this age when it's easier not to buy records we wanted to try everything we could to make it something worth investing in. I'm really proud of how it turned out
Who chose the band name and why?
That was me (Ed). I took it from a poem by Thom Gunn that I discovered and liked ... it somehow seemed to reflect the sound of the songs I was making.
You're currently on the Bella Union label. How did that happen and has it been good for business?
It happened fairly organically. We'd done a couple of records, the last one of which Simon Raymonde had put on his favourite albums of the year list. We played some festival things they were organising - Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, their 15th Anniversary celebrations at End of the Road. So we just got to know the people there over a couple of years and had always loved the label, so it seemed like a good fit.
The new album is called Best of Times yet despite the beautiful mournful music the themes seem to contradict the title. Are you naturally drawn to the melancholy?
Well, the title comes from the song 'All Times into One' which says 'it could be the best of times, the worst it could be too'...so accepts the possibilities of both hope and regret at the same time.
It would be great to see a longer set from you guys live. Any plans for a headlining tour?
We've been playing a handful of headline shows. It is nice to be able to stretch out a bit more. It's been hard for recent support shows boiling things down to half an hour, as we either have to trim things a bit which doesn't feel right or only play a handful of songs. We'll hopefully be back with more headline shows after the summer.
Which current bands do you admire and who are your influences?
Current things ... I really like William Tyler, who recently put out a great EP called Lost Colony. Also enjoying records by Kevin Morby and Younghusband. More generally influences kind of start with the Beatles, move through 70s krautrock and end up with US indie stuff from the 90s.
What would be your dream venue to play and why?
The Empty Bottle in Chicago - it's near where our bass player Dan grew up and went to see shows all the time ... it would be nice to end up there.
What's next? Do you start writing new songs now or wait until touring this one is over?
New songs are always percolating. I've got some things I'm working on and now this first bit of touring is over it's probably time to start pulling things together and working on new stuff in earnest.
And finally: Who's going to win the World Cup?
Questions from our Keith.
What are the feelings now that your debut LP is 'done & dusted' ?
It’s a pretty bizarre feeling. We just got the test pressings back the other day and it blew all of our minds. Listening to our music on vinyl for the first time was just crazy. It sounded pretty much the same but then you’d look at the record spinning and it was surreal. When we started the band we didn’t really have any goals, it was started as a sort of joke. Once we started to take it a bit more seriously we knew that bringing out an album on vinyl was the ultimate goal. I think too many unsigned bands hold out on making an album because they are waiting to get signed. I think that if you have an album in you then you should get it out as soon as you can. So the main feeling is just a mix of relief and happiness.
What was the experience like in the studio recording eleven songs together and how long did it all take?
We did the majority of the tracks over two days and then spent the third day adding some extra over dubs and vocals. Then we spent just under two days mixing. We recorded the album in Green Door Studio onto 16 track tape. Most of the tracks were done live in the first few takes which was a good way to work. I think if it takes more than 3 takes to get a song down then it’s not tight enough to be recorded yet.
Stu Evans was our man behind the desk and he was great to work with, he knows his stuff and is a super easy going. I was pretty stressed going into it as I didn’t think we’d have enough time to get it all done but it ended up being a pretty stress free experience. It was one full week of constantly being in the studio though which was pretty intense; I put everything else on hold for a week and just focused on the album.
How did you make the tie up with Fuzzkill Records and how important do you think it is for a new band to have a 'label' behind them?
We were asked to play up in Shetland last year by the guys who run Fuzzkill, Marshall and Keppie. They had just started out with the label and were both about to move down to Glasgow. We got on straight away and agreed to release something together when they moved down. Having Fuzzkill help with all the press side of things has been a massive help for us and has let me concentrate more on booking shows and working on material.
I think it’s very important for a new band to have support in any form, whether it’s their friends working the doors at gigs or helping out with photos/artwork. If we didn’t have Fuzzkill helping us out over the last 8 months then we definitely wouldn’t have got as much attention from press and radio. I believe in always retaining a strong DIY ethic but its also positive to work with people who you know genuinely care about your band, you’d be silly to turn that down. I’ve pretty much spoke to Keppie every day for the last 4 months about something relating to the band, I would be way more stressed out/depressed if I didn’t have him helping with all the number crunching and press stuff.
How is life treating you in the music business this week?
Very good, I seem to be riding a creative wave at the moment, busy writing songs for a new album as well as a collection of obscure covers for a possible album or e.p. including songs by Sandy Denny, Mickey Newbury and Bob Carpenter. At the same time I'm also working in collaboration with another local musician Neil Campbell (he released an album under the title of The Professor Campbell Explosion in 2011) who is re-working some of my old songs which should be interesting.
22+ Albums and EPs, you must have been long overdue a retrospective release. 'From The Fleet To The Medlock - A Collection (1997-2014)' is being released on 12th May – How did you go about selecting the must to use?
As opposed to my personal favourites, the selections have been based on critical feedback and popularity through downloads, streams, etc, so hopefully it serves as some kind of varied introduction to my music.
What were your ambitions for album No.1 and have they changed with this latest release?
Looking back I used to sweat blood over my early records and then just hand them out to a few mates so I wasn't very ambitious in that sense although I used to put heart and soul into every release. It was only by 2007's The Julius Work Calendar that I decided to market my music to a wider audience.
How would you describe your music to people that have not heard any of you music so far?
It's difficult to pigeonhole, but I would say it's essentially singer-songwriter with an experimental edge. My love of folk, drone, krautrock, synths and psychedelia colour the music too.
A lot of solo artists play under different names to their own. Did you ever consider that and if you did so now, what would be you’re 'also known as'?
I actually did release my music under the pseudonym of Rhubarb from 1998 to 2010. I've also released more experimental music as G For Gnome. However, it felt like the right time in 2010 when I released Safety In Movement to use my own name and draw a line under the whole ‘Rhubarb’ period.
Hi Nick. Hot on the heels of supporting Laura Marling’s shows, you have just finished a big solo UK tour ...how did that go?
Hi Kevin. This most recent tour felt special to me, a bit different. People were singing along and having their own relationship with my songs. We're getting to all know each other..
And theres an album out soon?....
12th May! The album is called First Mind. I made it last September with producer Dan Carey and I'm really proud of it. It's very me.
Heard a rumour you may be playing some big festivals this summer....are you allowed to say which ones yet?
At time of writing I'm not at Liberty to reveal all out festival plans but I can say I will be at Green Man, Bestival and Summersault. and I believe you may be playing with a band? We are a five piece and I chose my players carefully. I hope you love it.
You were a founder member of the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet – what made you leave such a successful band?
I had a wonderful time in Portico Quartet but I had to leave the band to keep true to my creativity. After all nothing else matters really. Or put it this way, for me everything else that does matter tends to fall in to place when I do what my creativity asks.
A lot of your song lyrics seem very personal...are family and friends a big influence on your work?
Of course, they pop up in my lyrics from time to time. All my songs are very personal in the sense that they come from a deep place but not in the sense that they are confessional. I'm not interested in public laundry hanging- what interests me is that at a certain level we're all the same and if you can dig deep enough and write from that level whatever you produce should stand and chance of connecting with others.
Finally can you recommend 2 tracks for our readers to enjoy – one from yourself, and one from any other artist
From me- 'The House Of Saint Give Me' and from someone else- Charlotte Dada's cover of The Beatles 'Don't Let a me Down'.
Nick was talking to our corespondent Kevin Hand (@Kevinhand3)
How is life in the music business treating you today and where on your tour are you?
Well we are back with a new album and still rocking out so things are still going great! Currently we are at the beginning of the CONTROL European tour and currently in Spain and we have to say it's great to get back out there on the road!
New album out and lengthy tour underway. Can life get any better?
Haha it's going to be a busy year which is great for us because that is what we like to do best play music and get out on the road!
Can you tell us how the band was originally formed, and are the ambitions from those early days still alive today?
It's a very long story but we formed back in 2004 Jason was playing around town in a couple of blues bands and The Brew "formally strange brew" at that time were playing around the town of Grimsby also and had a strong reputation, the previous guitarist left and an occasion came where we just happened to meet at the right time we got together for a jam and never looked back and Jason still doesn't know if he got the job in the band!
As far as ambitions go I think right now they are at their strongest as we have gained a lot of touring and writing experience over the years we just want to keep evolving and developing as a band and I think the moment that stops with any band it's time to give up and we are not going to do that for a long time!
Your fourth studio album ‘Control’ was produced by Toby Jepson, how did that come about and, did you approach the writing or recording of this album, differently from your previous records?
We just wanted to try something different try a different writing process, try a different studio and work with somebody different so Tim contacted Toby Jepson we sent over some demos which he was really enthusiastic about so we hooked up and things really gelled he was on the same wave length as us when it came to our sound and how we wanted the album to come across which was back to basics just three guys in a room raw power!
Hi Tom, How is London life treating you today?
Well the sun's out, and so is my album, so all in all pretty good...
Did your choice of music as a career, come from your parent's involvement in music or do you think it could just all be in the genes?
It's definitely in the genes. Eventually it just became irresistible.
How did your tie up with Richard Hawley and his band come about and what was the most valuable piece of advice he gave you during the recording of the LP?
I was introduced to Colin Elliot through a mutual friend, and through him met Richard and his wonderful band. Richard is full of pearls of wisdom, many of which are not repeatable! He's said to me on a few occasions just to follow my heart and my creative instincts.
What is your process for writing a song, or, is it all when the spark of an idea strikes?
Song writing is a craft like any other. The hardest part is finding the first idea, the spark, that's where the work is. After that it should flow.
Do you feel like you have written an album of short stories?
Yes, it's an album of first person narratives told by rogues, chancers, unreliable fantasists and dreamers. And in amongst their tales I'm able to weave very personal lyrics too.
Where was the album recorded and over what period? Were the songs already complete before you went into the studio?
It was recorded in Sheffield at Yellow Arch studios over a period of about 3 months. I took the songs finished into the studio and we then explored different arrangements and treatments together as a band. Some songs I had very clear ideas on how we would record them, some went in quite different directions.
What are you hopes and ambitions for the record?
I hope that it finds an audience who love it and care about it.
Was there any music that you listened to through your School / College days that you still get a kick out of today?
Are you digging for guilty pleasures here?! I got played by Huey on Radio 2 the other day, and my school band used to do a version of Scooby Snax. I've always been a big fan of Fun Loving Criminals since I was at school, so it was pretty surreal to get his endorsement.
Do you have more songs already written that did not make the record and if so, what are your plans for them?
I've got hundreds. I guess most won't be recorded, but some will if the right opportunity emerges.
Finally, some of the songs on the record sound like they could sit happily on a to a West End stage, do you any ambitions to write music for theatre or films?
Funny you should ask, I've just written my first film score. I love the challenge of writing to pictures; I hope to do many more.
'War, Peace & Diplomacy' is out now via Fierce Panda records on and is available here:
Hi Henry, how’s life in the music business for you today?
I don’t really feel I AM in the music business anymore …and life’s oh so much better for it. It’s almost a cottage industry, I sort my own gigs, and workshops, record my own albums in my own studio. Indeed, initially I was going to release this album on my own label (the old adage “why give away 50%”!), but the enthusiasm from Proper was such that I thought I’d give one more go with a label, and I’m not brilliant at admin…and so far, they’ve been great!
Your new album has a lot of personal songs; does that make them harder to write?
No, actually makes them easier to write…don’t have to rack your brain too hard for something to say. Plus it’s cathartic too.
The record must resonate with a lot people in the early autumn stage of their lives, was that your intention?
Not particularly, I’m just singing about my life, and it’s great that other people can relate to it too. Pre “The Chronicles of Modern Life” (my debut solo album, that came out in 2008) I was mainly working/writing with other people (usually singers), so they would tend to choose the subjects they wanted to sing about. Even with The Christians (my former band), I was aware I was writing songs that I personally wouldn’t be singing lead vocals on, so tried to tailor them to Garry Christian’s voice and give him topics/themes that he’d want to sing about. Now I’m solo, I can sing what I like, and re your question above, they’re the easiest songs to write; it’s more honest, and more real. After releasing Chronicles people would come up to me and say things like “you’re singing my life”!
The record was three years in the making, was it the ‘difficult second album syndrome’?
Not really. As I’ve explained before in interviews, I started it in 2010 with the idea of getting it out pretty quickly, in order to capitalize on the relative (and critical) success of the first album. Had it nearly ready and mostly mixed, then sadly I lost my Mum and my mother-in-law in a 7-month period, and suddenly rushing out an album didn’t seem that important. Also, due to what had happened, I started writing different (and to my mind better) songs that perhaps better reflected where I was in my life (my solo work has been largely autobiographical, I suppose). So I shelved half of the album, and then, in my own time (and without any record company distraction or deadline), started putting together the album that you hear now.
Photo: Derek Schultz
Hi Beth, how are you today and how is the current tour progressing?
I’m great and the tour has been fantastic!
Your latest album, ,UnCovered, was said to be the idea of Bob Harris. Is that true and can you explain the concept behind the record?
The record is a collection of songs that I’ve written or co-written that were previously recorded or hits by other artists, which I’ve never done my own version of. Bob Harris pointed out to me that it would be a great idea for a record and that I should call it “UnCovered”!
What is your process for writing a song, or, is it all when the spark of an idea strikes?
All different ways. But mostly I start with a sound and follow the sound….even following the vowels into the consonants. It’s magic!
How do you decide if a song is for you or someone else and how do other people approach you to write a song or, for permission to cover one of your songs?
It varies greatly. But mostly I let the songs to be the songs they want to be and then find a good home for them. I don’t think of songs I’ve given to someone else as being gone or unavailable for me to sing too! The more the merrier!
How would you describe 'the music business' now as to when you started from your own perspective?
It’s changed a lot! I’m deeply concerned that those who create the “content” are being bypassed for the most part by those making money from them and that music is generating more energy and money than ever….but the gate keepers are not sharing. That makes for a generation of creators that are forced to find another way to make a living.
What are your interests outside music and do you have much time to follow them?
I love drawing and painting. Lately I’ve been designing a line of scarves which has really been fun. And no…I never have enough time for anything!
What music did you listen to back in school / college days and do you listen to the same songs still today?
Classic great songs has been my passion. In all genres from Carole King to the Beatles and all the great songs of every era!
When on tour, who has control of the CD player and what is currently getting played in the car or on the bus?
I’ve been listening to Rosanne Cash’s new record “The River and the Thread”. It’s a real masterpiece.
Are there any fellow musicians or bands that you would like to collaborate with but, you haven't managed to do so yet?
Too many to name!
When on tour in the UK, what is the thing you most look forward to and the thing you most dread?
I most look forward to walking out on stage and leaning back into the hammock of the music. I most dread bad soundchecks. But I’ve been lucky to be working with some great house engineers on this tour!
Beth is in concert at the following venues;
You have dates this side of the pond this week, how are they going and is this the first time the band has played over here as a three piece?
We have our first show in London this evening. Just me and Joe, Mike (Belitsky), our drummer, is touring in Spain with The Sadies at the moment and couldn't make this trip. This will be the band’s second UK trip.
Do you hope to get time at Celtic Connections to see other bands?
We'll only be in Glasgow for about 16 hours but already have plans to meet up with a few musician friends. Glasgow is my home town anxiety haven't been back for a few months.
How did you all get together to make music as the New Mendicants and with what aims and hopes?
Me and Joe have known each other for quite a few years but only recently (about a year and a half ago) discovered that we lived within close proximity of each other in Canada. We met up for a beer and within minutes had decided to start making music together. Mike played with Joe as a member of The Pernice Brothers band and has also found himself living in Toronto. We really have no aims other than to make albums and tour when our other bands are dormant.
What was the process of choosing a name for the band?
I had mentioned to Joe that I thought that The Mendicants would be a good name for the group. He told me that he had recently written a song for the Scud Mountain Boys called the Mendicant. We googled that name only to discover that there were already several Mendicants in existence. Joe suggested that we add "New". We chuckled, it stuck.
It's been said (Jim) that you and Joe make a 'cute couple' is it a fun and productive relationship?
We wouldn't be doing it if it was any other way. It's very much a cottage industry at the moment.
Hi, how was your Christmas and New Year?
It was really good thank you. Plenty of booze, snow and "Breaking Bad".
What was in inspriation behind the name Black Onassis?
Thinking of a band name is hard because there’s always the tendency to overthink it. I was sitting drinking tea one day and the name just came into my head pretty suddenly, no rhyme or reason to it really.ã€€
When you were recording your debut album Desensitized, were there any instruments, effects or techniques used in the recording process that you had not tried before?ã€€
One thing I’d never really recorded before was vocals with a vocoder. It’s always dangerous ground to tread the line between it sounding interesting and sounding wank. But with Minus Humans it came out cool. Also, on this album there was a lot of experimenting with tape which came out really well. A lot of the drum loops and guitar noise were done using a six track tape recorder.
Where was the album recorded and over what time period, for example, where the songs ready before you hit the studio?
The bulk of the album recording was split between our rehearsal room and my house. We did some basic drum tracks at a professional studio as well, but the majority of it was pretty DIY. The tracks came together over a span of a few years. I feel like that time gave the album a lot of diversity. There’s a variety of inspiration, headspace and mood throughout the album that reflects what was going on in our real lives.
You used many guest vocalists on the record. How did you choose the people you wanted to sing or, where the songs written after you would knew who would sing them?
It was all through people we mutually knew. Lucky for us we had a few mates with strong personalities that happened to be good singers as well, so we had a go with them. And it all worked out really well I think. We didn’t actually record any of the vocals in person. The music was written first and then we’d send that over and bounce ideas off each other over email. They were all pretty spot on, no awkward conversations there.
Hi there, how are you today and what's the view like?
I'm well today thanks! I've had a bad virus for the past week and have finally come out of it, so feeling much more like my ol' self. The view? I've just started answering your questions on my laptop in bed and it's 2am...that's a very bad habit!
Why produce music under 'The Cheek of Her' and not your own name?
'cause I'm shy?....Well, The Cheek of Her started off as myself and a Guitar player who I wrote a handful of tunes with and then we got a band together, but as things evolved it became clear that in fact I was the only fixed and permanent part of The Cheek of Her, well it / she was/is me! The name stuck and well I kind of like it :).
When you have a stage name it is a little bit like a security blanket you can hide behind / be another person, so maybe that initial response to your question "'cause I'm shy" has got something to do with it!
You used to be a librarian, what sparked the change to musician and do you miss the old job?
I always knew that I was a creative person but hadn't quite figured out how I wanted to use my creativity, so I trained and searched for a job which was still Arts related while I figured that out! Music completely came knocking on my door a few years ago, and I needed to go with it and find unrelated / non-consuming side jobs to pay the bills and let me focus on it to see where it took me.
I still think of myself (in no particular order) as an Information Professional, Singer-Songwriter Musician, Artist, Digital Marketeer, general all round head-case!....I don't think there's anything wrong with wearing a few different hats. I guess we all do in some shape or form!