Friday, May 30, 2008

Nervous, much?

Man, there’s a lot going on right now. Plenty to update you on, and plenty more coming. For now, we’ll hit the big stuff.

Last night, I played at the Lizard Lounge solo and it was the first time I can remember being nervous before a show. Even during our biggest shows – Kings of Leon, Superdrag, etc – I can’t ever recall this kind of anxiety. Then again, when playing with the full band, stuff that you've rehearsed endlessly, I feel like the other guys act as a protection buffer, as you do for them. Plus, playing loud doesn't hurt. But last night, I was so nervous that I paid Matt $10 to come. OK, that’s only half true. So, why the butterflies? Well, the show is part of a series where musicians come up in two forms, as I understand it: 1) Friends and 2) The Stranger. The idea being that after you come and jam with these folks once as The Stranger, you become a Friend. It’s definitely the most organic form of music I’ve ever taken part in. The players just watch your hands and try to pick up on the song as you go, a song they’ve never heard. A few of them are from Session Americana, who are the best at this type of thing. Either way, they called me up as The Stranger and I played a few songs (“The Rain’s Not Far Behind” (just wrote it the other day) / “Like Secrets Beneath” / “Broken, Beaten & Blue”) and admitted to the blasphemy of not liking “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars.” It was pretty darn cool, to tell you the truth. The whole thing feels so incredible – that people really try to capture the vibe of the song as its going. But it wasn’t just the unknown aspect of the songs that got me worked up – I was nervous because everyone there is a musician! But, to my extreme delight, they were all very complimentary, despite the fact that there was truly excellent talent in the room that completely squashed me, I think. But, man, what a cool idea. Hopefully I get invited back as a Friend.

In band matters, there have been a few shows going on behind the scenes. On May 19, we played a prep school in Connecticut. It rained in the morning, but it cleared up later on. Mike wasn’t allowed to smoke on school premises, which almost brought the show to a halt (kidding), and Scott proved that he is way more in-shape than me when it comes to moonbounce obstacle courses but way less skilled at American Gladiators jousting than the rest of us (not kidding). There were lots of dogs walking around, and games and cotton candy, but really, the most amazing thing to me is where these kids go to school! I’ve never seen a fancy prep school before, and it was something out of a movie. Like a mini-college campus set in really green surroundings. Beautiful. The highlight of the show for me, personally, was when a young aspiring singer-songwriter took the stage and played one of her tunes. You could tell she hasn’t performed publicly a whole lot yet, but it was really special to see her getting her confidence going. And she was good! Matt, Scott, and her teacher backed her up (Mike was changing a string, and I was taking it in). I wish we had a set list, but the show was two long sets and I fear we don’t have it anymore.

The next show was this Tuesday, May 27, a.k.a. my sister’s birthday. We played Great Scott as part of a showcase for the Milkhouse Studios, where we cut the live albums. Since we can’t promote shows now, there wasn’t much of a crowd, but it was still a pretty fun time. There were a lot of kinks (two false starts, no flow to the set list, and too much stopping time between songs), and it was definitely one of our sloppiest shows in recent memory (though Scott vehemently denied this), but whatever, man, it was a Tuesday night. What do you expect? I don’t think we brought a whole lot, but the folks who were there seemed to enjoy it. We shared the bill with TAB the Band (Joe Perry’s boys + 1) and a group I’d never heard of, but wished I had, Quixote. They both were awesome. So, it was a good night after all!
SET LIST: Don’t Get Me Wrong / Shotgun Wedding / Madeline / Golden Fleece / Better Than This / On the Lam / Loose Lips / Lights On / Carolyn, Don’t Leave Like This / Shine A Light

Well, that’s all I can write for now. I’ll keep you filled in on other recent developments: A new practice space! That alleged scam! And the ongoing problems with Nimbit and “Animal Friends” – which will hopefully end soon!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When it rains...

Yeah, two posts in one day, and the chance of another coming. Be sure to scroll down and read the post before this one, as it is undoubtedly captivating.

I just wanted to share this just-posted interview I did with the blog, Stranded in Stereo, which you can read here. But since I like posting entire transcripts...

This week’s Q&A comes from Boston’s own urban cowboys, Cassavettes. Their rustic instrumentation and soulful Americana stand out in a scene typically ridden with hardcore and indie-rock. Cassavettes slip past the drudging melancholy of traditional country twang and artfully give it a new face. As the Boston Metro put it, these guys “provide an alternative to alternative-country (Alt-alt-country?).”

Strung together in 2003 by high-school friendships and tidied up by means of Craigslist, Glenn Yoder, Mike MuCullagh, Scott Jones, and Matt Snow of Cassavettes have come a long way since their first show at the All Asia. From being praised in the Boston Globe to being voted Best Local Band in the Boston Phoenix Reader’s Poll, their pop sensibilities and charming melodies have slowly seeped into the local music scene, bringing a little Texas into the Northeast.

Commemorating the band's birthday every year on July 5th, Cassavettes will be holding this year’s “quasi-narcissistic” birthday party as headliners at the Paradise Rock Club with friends/tour mates Girls, Guns & Glory, and NYC’s Teenage Prayers. Don’t let their “Texan country” labels scare you away... These guys manage to transcend the simplistic categorization of any one genre. Give them a listen.

Glenn took a few minutes to answer the five questions Stranded in Stereo always asks:

Hailing from Boston makes us better than all those non-Boston bands because...
It's my personal belief that being a Boston band makes you a hell of a lot tougher than other cities. I wouldn't say it gives you any "tough" street cred -- we're not like hanging on the corner and what not -- but it certainly doesn't give you a whole lot of false hope. Boston is a tough, tough scene, but rewarding. There isn't much time for nurturing when there's so many college students, so many music schools, and so many hopeful musicians crammed into one city. So, it's very sink or swim, and bands have to learn how to do that for themselves. This isn't to say that Boston doesn't take care of their own -- quite to the contrary, it's been great to us -- it's just that you can't expect anyone to hold your hand through the process. And you have to let Boston know you love it in order to be loved back. How many other cities have that kind of relationship with the bands they produce?

Name at least three bands that are still around and touring that you’d love to be on a bill with, and think it fits well...
It's funny you ask this specifically, because we just got the chance to play with one of them recently, and this very question came up in the van on the ride home. We opened for Superdrag in Philadelphia in April, one of my all-time favorite groups and with whom we're recording our next record in Knoxville, and this is the shortlist of active bands I'd like to share a bill with: Ryan Adams, Wilco, Old 97s, Neil Young, Centro-matic, Nada Surf, and Superdrag. One down. Almost 1 1/2 really, since Superdrag helped get us VIP treatment at a Nada Surf/Superdrag show in NYC the night before our Philly date to the point where it almost felt like we were on board. And take into account that three of those bands rarely use openers and one of those bands is on-and-off again, and we did pretty well in one night.

Your favorite Boston venue to perform in is...
Probably the Paradise Rock Club, which we're headlining on July 5 (plug alert). No joke. For a long time, we considered the Middle East to be our home because Shred gave us our first shot when he was still booking there, and we still love it, but there's something about The Paradise. It can almost feel like a holy experience to stand on that stage sometimes.

Are there any genres that influence your music conceptually, rather than sonically? (In that you can’t hear from simply listening to the music, but from getting into the structure or mathematics of the song-writing, etc.)
When the band started in 2005, I had just come off making a string of solo EPs for fun, one of which was jazz-influenced. Not like real jazz, but more like Karate/Geoff Farina jazz. Mike and I worked some of the chords and structures into our early Cassavettes songs, and made the dubious error of listing ourselves on Myspace as country/rock/jazz, or something to that effect. I think the jazz label perhaps scared off some rock fans and worried some jazz fans when they actually heard what we sound like, which is far more rock than jazz. Nonetheless, I think there's still an element of jazz buried in the sound, even if we aren't promoting it anymore these days.

Your favorite local bar to hit up when not doing the whole band deal is...

Wally's, without a doubt. Now, after my explanation of jazz in our music and telling you I love Wally's, you're probably thinking I'm some jazzbo, and honestly, I wouldn't mind the label. But if we're being truly honest, I'm by no means a jazz expert. I just used to live down the street from Wally's when I went to Northeastern, and not only was it a great place to stumble home from in the snow, but it's got the right atmosphere. It's not flashy -- just a tiny place with sparse seating, decent drinks, and awesome music. The music is their reputation, and it's why I go there, but it's also easy to have a conversation in there. Yeah, it's got it all. Plus, there's awesome pizza one door down. I still meet friends over there on Sundays, if you want to hang.

Scott won't agree with me on the Wally's thing, but TOUGH.

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I have a confession here: I haven’t been completely honest with you. And really, that’s a shame. See, things have been more active than ever behind the Cassavettes’ curtain, but alas, my posts have grown infrequent. Part of the reason is a betrayal of this blog’s mission: Lack of transparency.

Now, let’s not chalk it up to lack of trust. It’s just that since bringing in Creamer, instead of things becoming easier, I’ve had my hands more full than ever. So many decisions, and everything seems to be moving at 100 m.p.h. At the same time, so much of what is discussed is so fragile and fleeting that is would almost be pointless to post it. Furthermore, publicly, the band is supposed to maintain the façade of being fairly inactive -- spacing out shows so that momentum builds. So, it’s odd, to say the least: privately, you’re busy as hell with your music; publicly, you’ve got one show on July 5 and that’s it.

I’m not saying that I can write with more regularity (part of being so busy means I just don’t have the time – I’m currently writing illegally from the office) or that I can even divulge more of what we’re thinking (a cardinal blogging sin of my own construction). I just want you to know why.

Nonetheless, isn’t the point of the blog to document the life and times of the band? It’s a historical document, really, so that we can look back and laugh. Or whatever. There’s plenty to talk about that has passed.

Here’s what’s coming:
- An update on our Connecticut show from last Monday, which ended up being swashbuckling (or close to it)
- A wrap-up of our semi-surprise Great Scott show last night
- A rant about a scam we found out about before we got screwed

Sorry, the Nimbit thing is all screwed up. I wrote to them to fix. We'll see...

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Private moments

Since we're trying to keep our shows spaced appropriately apart, say six weeks or so, to maximize draw, we've taken a few private performances this month. This weekend is undoubtedly the best-paying weekend of the band's career, with private shows hugging both sides of the weekend. This is good news because it means new merch is on the way: new shirts, more CDs, and more. Hopefully, that cycles back.

On Friday, we played at the Artists for Humanity building in South Boston. I had gone to check the space out when I was sick with shingles and was thoroughly impressed. It's a completely green-sustainable building, totally glass-sided, that gives kids the opportunity to make and sell art, since a lot of art programs are buckling. Pretty neat. To pay the bills on the building itself, they rent it out to events like the one we played Friday. It was a convention for architects, and they did over the building is grandiose fashion -- definitely the fanciest shindig we've been a part of -- as Scott put it, like a "Batman Forever party." Oddly enough, Scott told me that later that night, he was talking to a guest who said something to the tune of, "It's like Batman's going to walk out any minute now." WHAT? Two people with the same offkilter description? Either way, the show was interesting to say the least. It was a cash cow, so we were willing to go outside the norm of our usual show. As the organizer put it to us during soundcheck when we were repeatedly asked to turn down: "Think of it less as performance and more as background." So, we were the evening's entertainment, besides some capoeria, and they were fairly nice when asking us to control the volume, though it was difficult to do. We also had to play for about three hours. We were supposed to play three 45-minute sets, but instead we played from 5:45-7:30 and then from 8-9:10. Long time. We only repeated a bit, though we did "jam out" the endings to some songs, including a 12-minute "Shine a Light," an 11-minute "Seasons," and a 8-minute "The Nadir." Crazy. Either way, glad its under our belt and would like to do another show like that sometime. For sure. Yeah, no question.
SET LIST(s) to the best of my recollection, though probably pretty wrong: Six Hours / You'll Be Crying Soon (quiet version) / The Devil's Arms / St. Anthony / The Nadir / Empire Central / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Bad Luck / Loose Lips / Whitewashed / On Our Own / Like Secrets Beneath / I'll Be Damned (debut) / Valley of Gold / Golden Fleece / Trouble From the Start / We Could Be Solo Acts / Seasons / Beginning of Ambivalent Farewells / BREAK / Ambivalent Farewells / Debts / Lights On (debut) / Madeline / the Devil's Arms / Six Hours / Lightning in a Bottle / You'll Be Crying Soon (regular) / On the Lam / Don't Get Me Wrong/ Research Blvd / It's Gonna Be Alright / Shine a Light

I think that's it -- 32 songs, three repeats. We were supposed to play other tunes, but they were too raucous for the quiet sets they wanted: St. Anthony (loud version), Nothing on You, A Hard Rain, Better Than This, Marie, Bad Television, and Shotgun Wedding.

Tomorrow, we're playing a prep school in Connecticut. Hopefully the kids like to rock. No idea on set lengths, but I hear we can play as long as we want. We'll probably do 60-75 minute set, making sure we give the folks what they want. I'll tell you how it goes.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Two things to look forward to

This is my 200th post on this here blog. Fittingly, here are two things to look forward to...

The show is still priority no. 1. Please buy tickets!

Since many have asked, the live record Animal Friends has been uploaded and should be available next week! Details to come.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Weird, wild stuff

Crazy show last night. We played the Middle East Downstairs for Girls Guns & Glory's CD release party -- quite a big affair for our favorite gents -- but I really had no expectations for the night. I figured it would be a night of good times with a good crowd, which it was, but it also felt different. Something was strange about it. Not that it was a bad thing at all. Quite to the contrary, I think we personally had an excellent night.

We played second of four bands, so fairly early, but by the time we got on stage, I was dying to get up there. Yesterday was the first time I've felt the slightest bit mobile in two weeks thanks to the shingles, and while I had originally felt I would wear my guitar strap banjo-style over my right shoulder, I was able to be a normal human again and play a regular show. And this may have been the pick-me-up I personally needed after two weeks of wallowing in pain around the house. I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I feel worlds better than I did just two days ago.

Anyhow, the band played well. We tried "Madeline" out as an opener, and I really thought it was a good choice. It felt right. I think that we've been playing locally so infrequently that I've been making sure that when we do play, we pull out the tunes people want to hear. But still, we're playing often enough to where the sets are starting to all feel the same, so this was a welcome change of pace. The crowd was into it, we got some familiar faces back who I haven't seen in awhile, and -- here's the wild part -- a lot of folks who knew who we were that I haven't seen before. A couple guys at the front called out for our Toadies cover, which wasn't planned, but I couldn't send them home unhappy. They were cool dudes, too. Another group of girls I've never seen crowded the merch box and filled out an entire page of the email list BEFORE we played, leaving a nice note about enjoying our songs and "good vibes." See what I mean? People were awesome last night. Hopefully it's all karmic. We also got a surprisingly long set, which we took full advantage of, randomly plunking songs into the middle of the set. It was just a good night, on the whole, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. If so, then there's a few people feeling good today.
SET LIST: Madeline / Debts / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Golden Fleece / On the Lam / You'll Be Crying Soon / I Come From the Water / Don't Get Me Wrong / Loose Lips / The Nadir / Whitewashed / Shotgun Wedding / Shine A Light

In the last couple weeks, with all this time to sit around the house, you'd think I had accomplished a lot. Maybe write some songs, update the blog, update the website, email folks. Unfortunately, I couldn't do any of that stuff. Didn't feel like sitting or standing, or doing anything. Couldn't sleep. So, alas, it was wasted time. But that's how it goes. Either way, I did manage to upload a few of the tracks from Animal Friends to our Myspace, which I hope you'll enjoy. The record, since so many asked last night, should be up in the next week or two. I handed it off to Creamer yesterday, and presuming he doesn't sit on his duff, we should get it up ASAP. I'll let you know. But I think it's a good summation of our live sound, something the band desperately needs to release these days since we sound so drastically different than the previous two studio records. It's raw, but then again, so are we. So it's accurate.

Also, the band is doing only private or unannounced shows (some really good ones, too, that should net a bit of cash for us, which we badly need) it appears for the month of May. June won't be much different. It's full steam ahead for the July 5 show at the Paradise now. I need to figure out how to pack that room, since last night's draw gave me a few doubts about the current lineup's ability to get a good crowd out. We'll see what happens. But ideas are welcome. Please just tell all of your friends to buy advance tickets, it's our only way of monitoring how well we'll do for the show.

If you only see one Cassavettes show this year, make it the Paradise on July 5. You won't regret it.

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