Sunday, November 12, 2006

Q & A with the Metro

One other thing. Last week, I said that I would write a bit more about The Boston Metro article when I found the time. Consider it found.

Now, I know that Dallas Mavericks' owner/media conglomerate/all-around rich bad boy Mark Cuban has paved the way to making the media quake in its boots, by posting criticisms and full interview transcripts on his blog since he feels the media doesn't focus on the things he considers important. THAT IS NOT WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO. Quite to the contrary, I think the Metro writer did a great job. She asked some preliminary questions through email just to get the background of the group and all, and I thought that some of my responses to these questions, which didn't make it into the article for obvious space reasons, were somewhat helpful in understanding the group and this blog (I plug the blog a couple times).

So, I thought you may enjoy reading the full background conversation. Again, this is not to call out the Metro -- and if this is any sort of a problem, I would not hesitate to remove this. Afterall, I couldn't do that even if I wanted to (I don't want to): I'm not powerful like Cuban, they don't have to interview me, and I have no beef. So, here it is, an intimate email conversation with The Boston Metro:

Metro: Who in this band is from Texas and how much of a Texan influence does your music have?
Glenn: The only member native to Texas is Scott. Mike and I both grew up there, but we were born in New York and Oregon, respectively. I moved to Dallas from Oregon when I was 9 years old, and so I think that I got most of my "music education" from the south (by which I mean, education in listening, because I've never taken proper lessons in anything but the drums). Being around that culture, I always kind of shunned country music, at least more so than welcoming it. When I was in sixth grade, we had to fill out personal information sheets on the first day of school and they asked what kind of music I liked. "Anything but country," I wrote, and I meant it. I can remember going to the enormous Texas State Fair and seeing country acts perform, and just being really turned off by it. Later, I would come to realize that's because almost all of this new "Nashville country" totally sucks, and it's a shame that Nashville is tied to it in title, because it's a sweet town. But that's neither here nor there. Anyhow, the good country, although I didn't realize until later, was always around the house in various forms -- my father played banjo and, of course, there was a healthy record collection. As my tastes broadened, I fell in love with the sounds of fiddles, pedal steel, and all things twangy. Later, as a big fan of getting a diverse range of sounds, that worked its way into my songwriting. So, in Cassavettes, our music doesn't come off as definitively "southern" or "Texan" or "country," because it isn't. It just has elements and flecks of the music we love and listen to, because after all, music is about absorbing what's around you. So you find these elements and sounds that have always been in our lives, and we're just trying to use them to tell our story.

Metro: What made you move to Boston?
Glenn: I moved here for college in 2003. I go to Northeastern, and study journalism. Mike and Scott moved up here at different points, for the distinct purpose of starting Cassavettes. They can tell you about their reasons for doing so, or you can read a long history I posted on my "daily life of the band blog" here:
The blog URL is Maybe you'll make it in there! (EDITOR'S NOTE: She did.)

Metro: What do you do aside from the band (Do you have other jobs)?
Glenn: Well, I go to school and I've worked my way around the journalism industry a bit. Balancing a band, school, relationships, and work is very difficult. It can really take its toll on you sometimes. In fact, I wrote a piece for the Boston Globe on that last year. But there are so many redeeming factors to playing in a band you love with people you love, that it really mutes all your complaints about time and effort.

Metro: What do you love about your band?
Glenn: First and foremost, I love the people I'm in this band with. These three guys are like brothers to me. We've been through some times together, like Scott almost leaving to move back to Texas earlier this year, and we've perservered -- a testament to everyone's devotion to the ultimate goal. Also, without a bit of insincerity, I love the people who support us and come to the shows. The thing about a playing in a band is that sometimes it feels like a company or corporation, like work. It gets so serious with managing money and time and personalities. I've had to start making Excel spreadsheets and it makes me want to shoot myself. But the people you play with and for make you remember why you're really making music and why you love it. It's a feeling, or a vibe, or whatever you want to call it. As I say, I try to employ an Andrew WK-like philosophy in this group and make sure that the audience feels like they are part of the band. It's a community of friends and love and it's supposed to be fun. That's how I see it, anyhow. There's no better example of the love between band member and audience member than our July 11 one-year anniversary show at the Middle East. We had a huge crowd who was deafening from beginning to end, and we had candy, cake, and little kid birthday hats for them. It was, as we say, emotional.

Metro: What do you hate about it?
Glenn: There's nothing to hate about the band. It's a great group of guys, they are my best friends, and I've been very pleased with our progress thus far.

Metro: Has Boston been responsive to the alt-country genre? Do you know any other bands who are alt-country in Boston?
Glenn: Well, I'd be reluctant to label us alt-country. We sort of have that thing going for us, but sort of not. As in, if you played our record for someone at Lost Highway or something and told them "Listen to this great alt-country band," they'd probably laugh and say, "They ain't alt-country" and then also think to themselves, "What the hell is alt-country? It's been around a long time and still no one can define it." Whatever we are, Boston has been great to us. We have amazing friends here, there are a bunch of excellent places to play and some of the people on the business side have been too kind. It's really incredible, considering we're coming from Dallas where if you don't sound like Drowning Pool or a straight-up country band, you generally get ignored. Although, lest we not forget the Old 97s, Toadies, and Polyphonic Spree, amongst others. As far as other bands in Boston doing this kind of music, there are a good many. My personal favorite is Three Day Threshold, fronted by the affable Kier Byrnes, who has been so helpful in mentoring us. They are a lot more country than us, though, and a lot more punk. Also, there's Frank Smith, Tennessee Hollow, the Johnny Mazcko Band, Jake Brennan, some of Christians & Lions stuff, Kieran Ridge Band, etc. All great folks.

Metro: What attracted you to performing this type of music?
Glenn: Not to sound contrived, but this wasn't a conscious decision to perform "alt-country" or whatever it is. As I said, I never learned to play instruments properly, except drums, so this is kind of what my personal raw songwriting sounds like. I had opportunities to learn music, but I was always very firm on the somewhat strange idea that lessons may ruin my creativity and musical individuality. I've always counted it as a blessing that people tell me my songs don't sound like anything they can particularly put their finger on. Perhaps it was stupidity or laziness on my part not to learn the craft I was pursuing, but I'm happy about where I am and where the band is right now. I've slowly incorporated elements and sounds from my songs that I've always wanted to, and I'm very pleased with how Cassavettes has come along so far.

Metro: Who are your influences and what about them do you like?
Glenn: Personally, I can say that my biggest songwriting influences are Neil Young, The Beatles, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Paul Simon, and Nick Drake. I like Neil's politics, amongst other things, but I just think he's had a really incredible career in terms of longevity and how he achieved that seemingly impossible plateau. He'll put out something beautiful one year, and the next, with everyone waiting for a follow-up, he'll release something totally different, or hard-charging. It's great. It keeps the audience on their toes, and keeps you interesting. He's very broad in songwriting range, and subject matter. When I was 15, I found my parents' copy of "Harvest" on vinyl, and just killed it, listening to it over and over again. Plus, even his new stuff is awesome -- a rarity in songwriters from his era still hanging on. As for the rest, I have different reasons for loving each of them and what I take from their songs, but I won't go on and on with explanations.

Metro: How many hours a week would you say you practice?
Glenn: We practice three times a week together, usually 2-3 hours at a time, at a little below ground bunker on Boylston Street. But as we were preparing to record our new record, "It's Gonna Change," a few months ago, we started practicing a lot. We cut a lot of the record primarily live, so we really had to have our ducks in a row. Meaning, we needed to sound like a well-oiled machine of rock.

Metro: How did you come up with the "Cassavettes"?
Glenn: I'll let one of the other guys field this question more in depth, since there are many legends circulating, but my take is this: A few years ago, I jokingly lifted the name from a Fugazi song mislabeled on my computer. Others theorize that we're huge John Cassavetes fans (we're not, though we've got no problem with him) or that it's some kind of combination of Cassanova and Corvette (also, not the case).


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