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Some of us first discovered Allison Weiss as an internet sensation that serenaded Youtube with acoustic covers of her favorite indie and punk rock songs. Since Weiss’ first EP release in 2007, she has moved to Brooklyn, toured with Lou Reed, and is hitting many stops this summer on the Vans Warped Tour.
Weiss recently signed to No Sleep Records, an independent record label based in California which features bands like Into it.Over it., Balance and Composure, Touche Amore and The Wonder Years.
Her music has seen a steady transition from the stripped down acoustic style of her early EPs An Eight-Song Tribute to Feeling Bad & Feeling Better and The Only Girl at an All Boys Pool Party, to the electronic touches of her second album Teenage Years. Weiss’ third album, Say What You Mean continues on this trajectory, using a more sophisticated sound with all of the heart and confusion of her earlier releases.
I first found your music in 2011, when you posted a video of yourself covering “Future 86” by Bomb the Music Industry. Are you still a fan?
Oh, yeah. I mostly know the first few records. I always love everything Jeff does, he is such a good musician.
Do you have a favorite BTMI record?
It’s a tie between Album Minus Band and To Leave Or Die In Long Island.
Your new record, Say What You Mean sees a much different production style, from your earlier minimalist production style. What prompted the change in sound?
I think it’s mostly because I was just performing solo because it was easiest. On all my past records, those were songs I was already playing out for years. Say What You Mean is the first time I actually wrote songs for a record, so most of the songs for the record were never played live with a band until after the whole thing was already made. I really spent a lot of time trying to think of the best parts for the songs. It was the first time I had the opportunity to explore some musical territories. And it wasn’t just whatever we came up with on the spot, it was figuring out what parts work best for each song in general.
How important is it to you for your music to be relatable?
I would say it’s pretty important. I personally relate most to songs that are about relationships and love and all that sort of stuff. I sort of use my songs to figure out my own problems, and the hope is that by finding a new way to talk about an old feeling, then maybe somebody else can get help or satisfaction by listening to my music.
I saw that you reblogged Grimes’ feminist statement earlier this week. Do you feel like this is an important time for women’s rights? How would you describe your experience in the music industry as a woman? Do you feel like you’ve gotten different treatment, as Grimes’ statement implied?
I reblogged Grimes post because everything she said is absolutely true. I feel like my experience as a woman in the music industry is not unique, because if you’re a woman in the music industry, you’re going to experience all that stuff. It sucks that that’s just the norm, and the way it is. We’re supposed to just accept it, and I don’t think we should just accept it anymore.
I consider myself to be the sort of band leader, who, I know what I want out of the musicians that I play with. My mom said I was demanding, and then that spiraled off into a discussion about how when you call a girl demanding, people automatically assume that she’s a bitch. But you’re supposed to be demanding as a guy. It’s stupid that there are these stereotypes either way. If you’re a girl, you’re not supposed to be as demanding about the type of music you want, or you can only be successful if you have a pretty face. Pretty much everything Grimes wrote down, she can say it a lot better than I can right now.
In Paste’s review of your new record, they compared you to Tegan and Sara. How do you feel about the comparisons?
I love it, Tegan and Sara are one of my favorite bands. I know a lot of people have been saying it lately, which is cool. But it’s almost weird because their new record sounds nothing like my new record, so it’s just pretty obvious that growing up I listened to a lot of Tegan and Sara records.
I’ve definitely been wondering lately if a lot of the comparisons are because I’m a gay lady with brown hair. Back when I had long hair, I got compared to Lisa Loeb and Ingrid Michaelson. So I think a lot of people confuse music styles with the way people look, which is unfortunate.
But if people want to compare me to Tegan and Sara, then it’s cool. I like it.
Well, to put those comparisons aside, what were some of your inspirations on this record?
Oh man, I was listening to a lot of Tegan and Sara’s So Jealous, Paramore, Rilo Kiley, a lot of Weezer. Even bands like TV on the Radio, to Robyn.
With the altered sound on this record, do you feel like there is still a different sound that you would like to experiment with?
I think on the next record, I definitely want to add a lot more electronics. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of St. Lucia and Stars. I like what they’re doing and I’ve always loved Postal Service and synth-y bands. I think this record is definitely more so than the last one. I want to find a way to combine the two. Mix an 80s rock sound with this new, hip synthesizer, like EDM, I don’t even know what that means.
In an interview with Punknews.org, you call yourself a pizza connoisseur. What is your favorite style/region of pizza?
I don’t know that much about Chicago pizza. I had deep dish once, it was delicious. I’m pretty partial to the pizza I get in Brooklyn. Whenever we’re out on the road, I feel like people always want to take us out to their pizza place and they’ll say ‘It’s just as good as New York pizza’, but it never is as good as New York pizza.
What would be your dream tour?
Probably getting to open for a band that I love, like Rilo Kiley, Tegan and Sara or Robyn. I don’t even know if I fit on any of those tours. Rilo Kiley, are they ever going to tour again? Who knows?
Honestly, my dream tour would be playing for a ton of people who are paying attention every night. Tegan and Sara, Rilo Kiley, and then I get to open and try to get people to like me.
Big Harp are one of the cutest bands to come out of Omaha, Nebraska. Straddling the line between being musicians and parents, the band has been known to take their children on tour with them.
Well indoctrinated in the Saddle Creek music scene, married couple Stefani Drootin-Senseney and her husband Chris Senseney have played with many famous Saddle Creek artists including The Good Life and Bright Eyes. Taking a chance on a project of their own, Big Harp have recently released their second album Chain Letters.
Experimenting with their style, Stefani Drootin-Senseney admitted, “we’re still learning a lot about playing together now, so it’s been a positive experience.” This sentiment is important to the band, giving sway to the importance of artistic freedom rather than limiting goals. Lead singer Chris Senseney noted that “I feel like in some ways we’re still kind of trying to figure out what kind of band we are. And I hope we never figure it out, because it’s fun just kinda stumbling along and going wherever it takes us.”
And the stumbling has gotten Big Harp recognized on a national level. Their new album Chain Letters was streaming on AV Club and their hit “You Can’t Save ‘Em All” was available for download on Rolling Stone, and their music video for “Everybody Pays” premiered exclusively on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). The band is currently touring the country in support of their new record, Chain Letters.
Saddle Creek has been instrumental to building up Omaha’s music scene. How did you get involved with the record label?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: I have been involved with them for years and years. I was in The Good Life, and I did some pretty extensive touring with Bright Eyes. They’re really good friends, and I’ve also lived in Omaha, Nebraska for years.
I interviewed Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos earlier this month and he mentioned the big corporate expansion of Omaha made him feel like a stranger when he was back home. Have you had a similar experience?
Chris Senseney: The city’s definitely changing, there’s a lot of construction going on. There’s a lot of gentrification of certain neighborhoods. But it’s probably a little different for us because neither one of us grew up in Omaha. We don’t necessarily have an attachment.
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: I don’t think it hits Chris and I as hard because we’re not originally from there.
What is your favorite Saddle Creek label mate?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: Oh my god, that’s like picking your favorite child. Honestly, I love all the bands on the label.
Chris Senseney: I feel like I have to say The Good Life.
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: There’s so many different kinds of music on the label and they’re all so good.
What’s your favorite part of going on tour?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: Just being free from work and household duties. Just being free and traveling around, waking up in a different place every day. Letting the kids experience different places.
Chris Senseney: It’s a good feeling when you’re driving out of town.
As you are touring with your children, do you have any special pre-show traditions?
Chris Senseney: We have a glass of whiskey.
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: We like to make sure we’re at the club at least an hour before we play, and then that’s when we’ll pour ourselves a glass of whiskey and get into show mode. That’s usually when we leave the kids at the hotel.
The single’s music video for your this album premiered on IFC. Did you initially think of the music video as a short film?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: Not really, I think it just kind of landed there. IFC showed interest in it, and maybe they did because it can be film-like.
Chris Senseney: We had a friend of ours, Kim Hager do the video, and we just had the basic idea of the video, and she just made it into a thing that I think is really cool.
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: She did a video for the band Tilly and the Wall years and years and years ago. Nick from Tilly and the Wall was playing with the Bright Eyes band as well and he showed me the video backstage, and I remember thinking that I would love to use her for something sometime in the future. Then when we were coming up with the video, Chris had some ideas about stop-motion and Claymation and I remember that [Tilly and the Wall] video came out amazing. I just think she does beautiful stuff, I love her.
Which music video was it?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: It was their very first release on Team Love.
Will you be performing at SXSW this year?
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney: We sure are.
Matt Pond’s sound is evocative of 70s California folk music scene. His music is tends to focus on an effortlessly harmonic sound that often deals with relationships and personal struggle. Starting out in the late 90s, some of Matt Pond’s first shows involved opening for indie rock bands such as Superchunk.
Growing up in New York, Pond lived near the infamous Bearsville Records, where he would eventually record his own albums. Set against the trends and angst of the music of New York City, Matt Pond’s sound is largely inspired by The Band. His dream tour would involve opening for legendary musicians like “John Lennon and Harry Nillson.” After producing several acclaimed records, Pond made it clear that he is still honing his craft, “I just want to do one thing well, and I’m waiting for that one.”
His new record, The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand was released on February 5 was reviewed by Paste and Consequence of Sound. The release coincided with a tour with fellow New York-via-Philadelphia folk band Jukebox the Ghost.
I saw that you recently played on Jimmy Fallon with Orlando artist Tierney Tough [of The Pauses]. How did you meet her?
She did an interview with us years and years ago. I knew her on and off, and she promoted a few shows of ours. And then I spent a lot of time in St Augustine, which isn’t too far away from Orlando. It all made sense.
You’ve played with a lot of great and popular musicians over the years. Which artist has been your favorite to play with?
You know, there was this tour that we were on with a lesser known band called Dios Malos.
I love this tour that we’re on with Jukebox the Ghost. It’s mostly when you like the person’s music and their personality and they treat you with respect. Those are the greatest things you could look for in a tour.
Is there anything that people should know about you that they probably don’t?
I think everybody knows that I can only be myself. That it’s my best quality and my curse, that I’m stuck.
Do you consider yourself to be your own worst enemy?
Absolutely. I am the devil and I also have the ability to have a good heart.
Do you feel like it’s affected your career at all?
I push myself sometimes to do the right or the wrong thing. It’s only the next day that I realize ‘That was great’ or ‘That was awful’. I should use a little more forward thinking in some of my approaches.
What’s one of the weirder things to happen with your band on tour?
The xylophone jam session we had the other night was amazing. It was this installation of outdoor xylophone music. Our band and Jukebox the Ghost somehow collaborated and we orchestrated xylophone music. That was pretty cool at 2 in the morning.
You’ve recorded several albums in New York’s Bearsville Studios. The studio has also been used by famous artists such as The Band, Jeff Buckley, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, New York Dolls, REM and more. What got you involved with Bearsville?
Our management had good connections. I also went to school near there. So when there was a possibility of recording there, I jumped at it. Then of course, there’s the history of it. Recording up there is amazing, or it was. It’s all gone now.
Do you have a favorite Bearsville artist?
I’m going to go easy here and just say Levon Helm. I love The Band. I know it’s not a fashionable thing, they’re really one of my favorite bands of all time. Nobody could play the drums like him.
You’ve covered a number of songs over the years. What is your favorite song to cover? What is your aim when doing a cover?
The point of doing a cover is an homage, it’s out of respect. I think that it’s become somewhat of a lost art, in the way some people do covers as a joke, or really tongue in cheek. But if you have to cover a song, you should do it properly. Unless you’re like Weird Al or something.
I think that “Hollywood” was one of my favorites that we’ve done. It’s just one of those songs that people love so completely and then you get to change the gears on it. It’s not for everyone, but I’m proud of the direction we took with it.
And it was great the way that you did that with My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Ok (I Promise)”.
I actually like My Chemical Romance. Sure, they’re a huge pop band but they write good pop songs. I actually have a few of their records. It wasn’t tongue in cheek, we really like that song.
What is your favorite My Chemical Romance record?
I like the first one, and I like The Black Parade too. I’m not listening to it for introspection, but I don’t listen to music all in the same way.
Are you going to SXSW again this year?
We are not, we’re skirting around it. I love South By Southwest, but it’s also a cluster of madness. As much as I want to see other bands, and I love to play, sometimes it’s a relief do not have to deal with it all.
What inspired the title of your most recent album, The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hands?
I’m not the most comfortable with hugging. I like physical contact, it just doesn’t come as easy for me. There’s a lot of physical contact, and I guess hands on me. I guess there’s a certain point where you’re forced to reach out to other people and other people are forced to reach out to you.
“Love to Get Used” narrates a cynical view of romance. How much do you identify with the lyrics and how did they come to you?
I guess I do a bit of history bashing in that song, personal history bashing. People should approach their relationships without a lot of their historical baggage. We should keep out eyes open for the interactions that we have with people’s feelings, or my interactions at least.
The Dags have a reputation for being one of the noisier blues-punk bands on the local Tampa music scene. Sympathetic and political, The Dags have played several Occupy events in Tampa and have been known to be politically outspoken. TBT Soundcheck has compared their sound to Primus and The Toadies. The Dags are not strangers to Bulls Country either, playing Bulls Radio's Local Live music festival in 2012.
After releasing their debut LP Noise last year, The Dags are releasing their sophomore LP Modern Art today at New World Brewey in Ybor City. We discuss their new album with lead singer Ash Dudney earlier this week.
What inspired your new album?
Our desire to put out something new, fresh, and more refined inspired us to release a second album as soon as possible. Noise was a good album, but left plenty of room for improvement. The production of the album was actually largely inspired by The Pauses' album A Cautionary Tale. I loved the flow and unity of every song, which in turn inspired me to exercise the utmost patience in selecting which songs would make the final cut to get on the album, and to pay close attention to the track order. We wanted a real album - a sound - and I think we got that here.
What can you tell us about the new album?
The title [Modern Art] combined with the stick figure painting was derived from my personal irritation with the art & music world in regard to how frivolously the title of "artist" is thrown around. Sometimes it feels like everyone who's ever put a pencil to paper or touched a guitar is magically transformed into an "artist", which simply isn't true. One important note here is that we aren't claiming to be artists ourselves; honestly, I think history will let you know if you're an artist or not. Especially for musicians. Hendrix? Hendrix was an artist. Innovative, talented, revolutionary - Hendrix was an artist. Nickelback? Justin Beiber? Who wants to explain to me how they are artists?
You band has been very outspoken politically (anti-Romney song, protesting during the RNC, playing Occupy events). Are there any political songs on the new album?
Several. This album is a solid addition to our political resumé. From the socially political lead track "Art" to, as you mentioned, a remastered and remixed version of our anti-Romney "$", this album certainly won't disappoint anyone who digs our sarcastic/angry political fire.
Any particular political issues that are affecting you right now?
Ha. Minimum wage.
How do you think the RNC affected Tampa Bay?
Well, I know the Columbia in Ybor had their biggest day ever. Over $100,000 in a day. I'd say the RNC was definitely a good boost to our local economy and a big unnecessary scare to law enforcement and their families. Things were supposed to get ugly with protestors, but it seems they couldn't or wouldn't put their anger where their mouth was.
I saw your cover picture on your facebook page has a psychedelic fish with Uncle Sam inside. What inspired the drawing? Is it going to have a presence with the new music?
That's actually a piece by my good friend Gina Alonso. I asked for a t-shirt design, gave her the concept of the album, and told her to go crazy. That was what I got. She used the stick figure idea and Uncle Sam, which I thought gave it just the right amount of political undertone for us. I love it. That girl? That girl is an artist.
As this is your sophomore EP, do you feel the band has grown or matured in any ways since the first album?
[These are actually both LPs.] Yes, we've grown tremendously. The songs are more complex, the project was well thought out, and we've really been tightening up as a band in general. We've got our first tour this summer with plans to release two EPs this year and tour several times - things are really shaping up. While Andrew's upcoming departure from the group is unfortunate, things are moving along in an amazingly positive way.
Do you have a favorite song of the new album?
Hmmm... I really don't know. Maybe "Death Cult Johnny", which afforded me the opportunity to sing alongside my fiancé, Melissa. That was a first and pretty incredible experience, not to mention a bad ass song.
Desaparecidos is the post-punk side project of Saddle Creek scene leader Conor Oberst. After recording several solo efforts, as well as a few records with indie bands Bright Eyes and Commander Venus, Oberst and some of his childhood friends decided that they needed a political outlet. Many of the songs on their debut record Read Music/Speak Spanish critique consumerism, corporate greed, and the development of their native Omaha. As sharp as their commentary might have been, many of the addressed issues have (arguably) intensified since the album’s 2002 release. This album could easily be a contender for getting the Pitchfork’s revisionist memory treatment, as Desaparecidos’ album Read Music/Speak Spanish initially received a mere 4.6 review. After all, Desaparecidos isn’t the only indie staple of the early 2000s that is coming back.
However, the band doesn’t abandon the more human themes either. In our discussion with the band’s guitarist Denver Dalley, he mentioned that “obviously Bright Eyes is way more intimate, but I think we touch on some of that stuff, like damaged goods.”
The band’s recent return has gotten attention for speaking out about current issues, such as Arizona’s immigration policy, Occupy, the Anonymous hactivist movement as well as the changing nature of the music industry. Desparecidos will be headlining at The Beacham in Orlando on Feb 19, you can find more information here.
I don’t know if a lot of things have changed. I think some things have gotten worse. We’re very privileged in the world that we live in as Americans, but that doesn’t mean that we should ever stop trying to improve.
We had talked for years about getting back together. We got back together for a reunion show in 2010 for the Concert for Equality, and it felt really natural, like we picked up where we left off. I think that really encouraged us to do more shows and just be a band again.
In some ways, it’s like we haven’t matured at all in the last ten years, but that’s impossible.
Before we’d just go out in the van and it was just chaos. But now, we have a really solid crew to run the amps and monitors, the sound is just way better. The performance is tighter but it’s still every bit as energetic , angry and chaotic and fun, if not more so than it was in the past. Especially the new songs, they’re a little bit more energetic and angrier than the original ones.
Before when we were recording Read Music/Speak Spanish, the main thing we wanted to capture was to have a live chaotic sound instead of a polished album. I think we did exactly that. Maybe we went a little bit overboard with it. But I love how this album came out, it’s a very nostalgic album for a lot of people. We don’t want it to be quite as muddy. The influences and the inspiration is there, but we’re doing it just a little bit better now.
Oh no. I have to check that out now though.
We all kind of live around different places and Omaha is still our home base. It’s very much expanding, and it’s even been rated as one of the top places to move to because of the expansion. I don’t live there full time, but you can really feel like a stranger in your hometown sometimes. But the people are there, and the people are awesome. That’s really what matters.
I guess I have the most control with Statistics. But I definitely think about Desaparecidos as my first love. I almost don’t like having that much freedom, it’s nice to have four other sets of ears to kinda balance things off. There’s something kind of unique about our band and the way that we just kind of connect and see things on the same page.
We all grew up together and to be honest, I can’t think of one thing that we’re that different on.There was one thing though. In “Marikkkopa” , we did talk about the part where Conor uses a racial slur as the song is supposed to be sung from the perspective of a racist. We all stopped and discussed it. But we ultimately decided that yes, absolutely this is something we should do. It’s the same way that Lennon used a racial slur in the title of one of his songs. It is necessary and it is powerful. It does make you feel something and I think it’s an appropriate time to use it in that context.
These days it the keyboard or the mouse that’s mightier than the sword. I admire that group and what they do, it’s just another form of standing up for what you believe in and taking the power back in your own hands. We all really respect that.
We’re as curious as everyone else. We don’t want to commit to anything and feel like we’re obligated. Basically, we don’t want to force any songs. With the new ones, we’ve been releasing them as 7 inches and digital downloads. We’re slowly building another album, but as for right now we don’t have any concrete plans as to when we’re going to release it.
Greg Ferris has been a part of Florida’s local music scene for a while, playing music in bands like The Equines and Cats in the Basement, which endearingly and accurately identifies itself as ‘surf waltz pop’ on their facebook page. Ferris has always been one for incorporating elements of performance art and costumes to his band’s live acts; from costumes to stage props, Ferris’ projects keep it weird in the best way possible.
An avid fan and participant in the local music scene in Sarasota, some of Ferris’ favorite local bands include Finch House recording artists Bard and Mustache, Brazos the Rat, as well as Raef, 60s outfit The Umbrella Cult, as well as New College band The Antiquarians.
And with that, Ferris released his new project Godsnack, a one man electronic band. Drawing influences from artists he’s worked with in the past like Nashville’s Meth Dad and Sarasota’s Raef, Ferris also utilizes keyboards and synthesizers to create colorfully layered, dub-influenced tracks.
I saw that you played a show with former Flaming Lips tour openers Prince Rama back in December. How did that come about?
I played a show with Prince Rama at South by Southwest the year before, when I was playing with Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. And when I heard that they were going to be at New College, and I was like ‘Hey, I know those guys, I want to play that’.
There have been rumors circling about the potential breakup of Cats in The Basement. What can you tell us about the band?
Whoa, really? I don’t think that’s happening.
What happened was, we had our record come out, we did this tour and people just move in and out of bands. Me and Mike have been working on different projects. When the stars align in the right way, that’ll come back. We’ve actually been working on our studio interface for that follow up record.
We have been talking so much about this next record and in the meantime, I’ve just been working on other stuff.
Your new project, Godsnack, sees you taking a much more psychedelic and electronic turn. What prompted the new project and who are some of your influences?
I guess it would be all the people I just got to see from my own travels who were doing things different from say, Cats in the Basement like Meth Dad in Nashville. I guess it was strange to see different regions, and how people play different kinds of music. Like in Nashville, known for guitars and stuff, it turns out all the kids are not into guitar music so there’s like a huge electronic movement going on. I just wanted to produce some of that stuff; it was the exact opposite of Cats in the Basement.
Instead of having to arrange songs around lyrical compositions, I can kind of turn the machines on and let them run, and there’s no way it has to be. I started listening to like trap music and all the crazy stuff I’d seen in one man electronic acts, and furthered my own research into drum machines.
I think it all started because we did that Cats album and there was no keyboard on the whole thing. I thought that was crazy. I liked playing keyboards, but I just didn’t have one of my own.
It’s been a really cool exercise to get control of my own destiny as far as considering different elements of production. You would normally go to people that know how to do that kind of stuff. But here, in 2013 you have to wear all hats. It just became so strange that I considered myself a musician yet I would have to go to somebody else to finalize my work.
I met Neil when I was playing with the Equines, I used to play the xylophone, it was pretty cool. We played a show up in Tampa at the Crowbar, and we kind of watched the videos online of what Terror Pigeon was. It looks like this insane party. So we just brought our A-game and those insane costumes and I think Neil just kind of liked it. I gave him a CD, and a local compilation. A month or two later he called me asking if I wanted to go on tour with him for a few months on the west coast. That was a game changer, actually, in my life at the time.
I started playing with Terror Pigeon and I was indoctrinated into this whole crazy thing. You know how you find all the beautiful details of your own scene just because you know the right places to go? Neil had been non-stop touring for years and I saw all the things that I thought were out there. But Neil had never stopped traveling, but I wanted to come back home and work on things. That’s largely why I got Cats going, and I wanted to kind of have my own artistic identity.
So it’s fun whenever things kinda line up with tours, and that’s how I met Philip Karneef, who’s played with Pat Jordache, who’s played with tUnEyArDs. It’s all good stuff. South by Southwest was so good.
I think I just decided yesterday that I’m not going to go this year [to South by Southwest]. I’m going out to New Orleans, and then it’s gonna take a turn to Nashville and Atlanta in lieu of the trip to Texas. That’s just how the world works.
And which project is that going to be with?
I think I can make sense of this whole crazy thing, maybe that’s something worth telling. You just go through the scene of projects and play some shows, and building momentum and people want to work with it. And I would have all kinds of people play Cats, some nights I’d have eight people on stage, and the next week I’d have three. It’s so much fun and I try to invite people in.
People left [Cats in the Basement], and I felt a little weird about pushing this material that I created with them, but also felt such a loss putting myself into this thing that has all these weird strings attached to it now. We tried to do a Kickstarter to do a vinyl record and that was going to cost so much more than we had raised. It just sort of got me down for a long time, and then the pendulum shifted the other way, and I thought what was the opposite of Cats? And that was to have the most mobile version. That’s why with Godsnack, everything’s with me in one backpack, the Godsnack Pack. I just wanted to have a touring model that was a little more sustainable.
Conservation proponent and television wildlife personality Jeff Corwin hosted fall’s final University Lecture Series (ULS) event, Nov. 15, in an evening heavy with environmental awareness and a call for the preservation of global biodiversity.
Corwin used his animal expertise and humor to introduce the audience to numerous exotic and native animal species, including kinkajou, zebu, mink, Barred Owl, Burmese Python and Russia’s domesticated silver fox, an experimental morph of the common red fox.
Tying concepts and the consequences of ecosystem loss into his lecture, Corwin encouraged the audience to understand the human-animal reliances that balance our ecosystems and act with the natural future in mind.
“Our biggest challenge to conservation is people don’t feel connected to nature,” Corwin said. “You can’t protect what you do not care about and you can’t care about something if you don’t know it.”
Corwin concluded his lecture with an open Q-and-A session with students, addressing everything from conservationist advice, close encounters with poachers and his dangerous ordeal with a young elephant on CNN’s “Planet in Peril” in 2007.
“You can still put your seatbelt on and die in a car accident,” Corwin said, putting the incident into perspective. “You have a problem with an elephant, you may not get out of it. You just try to be careful. I think that elephant thing was the only time I ever thought, ‘Holy moly, this may not work up.’”
Corwin’s lecture served many purposes, providing answers to the curious, entertainment to the bored or even inspiration, in the case of pre-veterinary junior Lauren Koos.
“I’m interested in characters that are very much involved in helping animals and awareness of conversation,” said Koos, who arrived at the Marshall Student Center hours before the lecture to ensure good seating.
Jeff Corwin rose to prominence in the early 2000s with his acclaimed and wildly popular Animal Planet program, “The Jeff Corwin Experience,” and Disney’s “Going Wild with Jeff Corwin.” He currently stars in ABC’s “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin” and has had programs on Food Network, Travel Channel, and MSNBC.
Before Corwin took to the stage, ULS organizers rewarded students for completing a Facebook “like” challenge by tossing 100 ULS t-shirts into the audience, and announced the lineup for spring 2012’s lecture series:
Jan. 13: Football analyst and philanthropist Herm Edwards
March 4: Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield
April 9: Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Legend
ULS organizers and Corwin were able to manage time for a quick split-interview before the lecture with Bulls Radio and USF News.
What do you feel is the most pressing environmental conservation effort, or project today, and what role does that play on the global scale?
Corwin: I think one of the greatest challenges we face is we live in an age of extinction. Unfortunately, during the last debate and election, all of this stuff gets lost. We lose a species of life on our planet about every half an hour. It’s gone forever. We lose more animals, plants and life-forms today than was lost 65 million years ago, in the wipeout of the dinosaurs. It’s been argued as the “sixth extinction.”
When we lose life, we not only lose an aesthetic element to our planet: We lose a resource. It could be a cure for some sort of disease; It could be a resource we depend upon as food; It could be a life-form that interconnects to an ecosystem that makes it whole and complete, and drive it. We are losing things before we even can identify them, and I think extinction today is, to me, one of the biggest issues.
The cause of extinction is basically four or five factors, and they’re all equally deleterious. They’re all equally terrible: Habitat loss, pollution, environmental degradation, the unsustainable exploitation of species and human population growth. All these factors, habitat loss, climate change, human population growth and environmental pollution, work together; They conspire together and they don’t work in a vacuum. Habitat loss, “cut down the trees, burn it down and make room for agriculture,” contributes to climate change. So you see how they work together. Cut down the habitat, access of the animals, and sell them to the black market trade. They conspire to make it the perfect extinction story.
My new series that I’ve had, actually season two for “Ocean Mysteries,” which is a series running on ABC, has opened my eyes to the great challenges we face in the ocean, which finds its way into that pie of extinction, I’m sure. The thing that’s really shocked me, filming “Ocean Mysteries,” is that no matter where we go, the bottom of some deep abyss off of Alaska, filming Stellar sea lions or somewhere in a cave in the middle of the archipelago off of Hawaii, filming manta rays or a remote beach, filming nesting albatrosses, we find trash. We’ve polluted our oceans. It’s really inspired me to do a few projects, and one of them is an e-book coming out around the end of November. It’s designed to really use this sort of 21st century technology, the sort of trans-media, interactive technology of video, footage, narration and classic literature reading to combine all together in this really cool, interactive e-book. The first book is called “Sharks,” because nothing says more about what’s happening to our planet than sharks. Ninety percent of all shark species are in trouble, and 70 percent of our sharks are endangered. These are animals that have been around, some of the first creatures on our planet.
How did your passion for conservation and wildlife involvement start, and how did you turn that into the career it’s been?
Corwin: Well, I’ve always loved critters and nature; I’ve always had a fascination for the natural world. I was a city kid at first: Until I was about eight or nine years old, I lived in a very urban environment, in an apartment building. My dad delivered doughnuts, worked at a printing shop and then became a police officer. I put my mom through school to become a nurse, so you can’t really say a “Rockefeller background.”
I needed nature. I would go to my grandparents, who lived in a farming community, and I’d go up to the pastures, to that rural area and look for critters, and that’s where it all began. It just crystallized and germinated. I remember finding my first snake when I was six years old, and that was the lightning bolt that struck me, that said “No matter what I do, when I grow up, I want to work with animals in some capacity.”
I had a very unconventional life. I started out kind of ordinary, and by the time I was sixteen I was living in a rainforest, on the front lines of rainforest conservation that in the 80s created one of the first rainforest organizations, and in the late 80s created one of the first national parks with this foundation we created in Paraguay. This was my passion.
I was down living in Central America, kind of fingering my way, feeling my way, trying to find out what I was going to do for research. I got featured in a documentary, and I knew that I was in the wrong path. I did go to graduate school, but my passion wasn’t “lost in a jungle, doing important research,” but was to be a communicator, to be there to be a sort of conduit; To take that scientist’s information, that she or he has done, and translate it for a mass audience.
So, what was it like filming “The Jeff Corwin Experience?” A lot of us did grow up watching it.
Corwin: Yeah, that was my second series. My first series was called “Going Wild,” on Disney. That was the first series that really had been on television since Marlin Perkins’ Mutual of Omaha. I did that for three years for Disney, and I was one of the first new Disney stars with the rebranding of the network. Then I went back and finished graduate school, and then went on to Animal Planet.
It’s funny. I’ve been on television now for almost 17 years, and I’ve had ten different series; A series on the Food Network, and now I have a series on ABC, the highest rated series for 2012. Everyone, that’s what they remember: “The Jeff Corwin Experience.” It was a delight; It was a joy because I created that series and it was really different.
It was very funny when Animal Planet was entertaining the idea of taking me on board. They were like, “Oh, he’s too kid-ish,” or, “He’s too young,” and someone sent them an outtakes reel of me being me, and they said “If you can do your outtakes reel, and you can combine that with nature…” It was really an incredible experience. It was very different, and I’m very grateful for it because it allowed me to do the things that I’m doing now.
It was great, but I don’t wallow on stuff, I move on, you know? You move on, and you evolve, and that’s how you survive in the very competitive, unforgiving environment of television. Again, right now, I think this is my twelfth or thirteenth TV series. I’m just glad I keep going.
What was the most memorable experience that you’ve had? There’re so many, and you’ve worked in so many continents and been to so many places, but do you have any memories that jump out at you from working in the field, on or off camera?
Corwin: Incredible moments in doing this… I think, probably for me, a moment that really resonates is in itself a small moment. We’ve gone and taken orangutans and released them back into a rainforest, and we’ve gone with gorillas, and giant snakes… I think for me was a moment being with the scientists when a very special, iconic frog of Panama became extinct. They only lived in captivity. We kind of went on a “fool’s errand” in the area where they were, and we found one, alive, which became a critical part of the reestablishment of this species. That to me was an amazing moment. To see a species that had become officially extinct, with the scientists, as it was rediscovered… That glimmer of hope for the species to me was a great moment.
With this series, “Ocean Mysteries,” we’ve had amazing moments. We spent six weeks in Alaska this summer, and I remember being on a helicopter with a scientist from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, darting a giant grizzly bear as it slid down an ice slope to get a satellite collar, jumping off, securing the bear, and just sitting there, blue sky, mountaintop with a grizzly bear in your lap. You think, “Wow, I’m getting paid for this.” Could be working a toll-booth.
Obviously, you have a message of conservation for all the students tonight, but did you want to expand on that with what your goal is for coming here tonight and educating everyone?
Corwin: Well, really, we’re all accountable; There’s no excuse. I used to be the science correspondent for NBC, and I covered the oil spill. Whenever there’s a big environmental issue, someone brings me in and I cover it, and life gets back to normal and people forget about oil spills. There was not one conversation between a journalist, Romney, or President Obama about “What about the future of life on Earth? What about climate change? What about these major factors that are affecting our planet, and the success of all life on Earth?” That bothers me. I want to remind everyone that we all have responsibility to be stewards for our planet, and that’s why I do what I do.
Ultimately, who you’re punishing is not me, you’re not punishing yourself, you’re not even punishing nature; You’re punishing my two daughters, because they will inherit a world that is less biologically rich, healthy and diverse as the one we had. If you want a crash-course to extinction, deny your species resources they need to survive, and you’ll be just like the dodo bird.
Conservation proponent and television wildlife personality Jeff Corwin hosted fall’s final University Lecture Series (ULS) event, Nov. 15, in an evening heavy with environmental awareness and a call for the preservation of global biodiversity.
Corwin used his animal expertise and humor to introduce the audience to numerous exotic and native animal species, including kinkajou, zebu, mink, Barred Owl, Burmese Python and Russia’s domesticated silver fox, an experimental morph of the common red fox.
Empire Cinema are coming out with a new album. After having opened for Cursive and Bad Veins, Empire Cinema are releasing their own inaugural self-titled EP. To discuss the band’s changes, turmoil and early notoriety on the Tampa music scene, Bulls Radio interviewed the band’s lead singer Brenden Hock and bassist Jeff Dominguez.
What is the name of the new album?
BH: It’s actually self-titled. We dabbled with the name and decided to start from scratch. It’s all about a new process, a new line up, a new band.
A lot of the songs on the new record seem to talk about life changes. How does that relate to your band personally?
BH:There were a lot of changes with the band, the new line-up and stuff like that. I was just getting out of a long relationship, we lived together for three years. I was under more pressure because I wanted to take myself more seriously. It took a little while, but when the new guys came in, they just really ran with the songs and made them their own.
JD: It was definitely a different grouping of people. I met Brenden and he had a few songs he was working on. One of the songs, “A Man, A Plan, A Dream”, we started working on cooperatively. We started feeling really good about the recording.
BH: We’re all really a lot alike too. We seemed to be going through a lot at this point in our lives together. It’s interesting when you get four guys that are on the same wavelength that can do that together.
What inspired the vocals on the album?
BH: We started working on the songs eight months ago. On one of the songs, the chorus was a completely different melody, and it almost got cut from the CD. Then in the middle of recording, one of us started improvising and we really liked it.
I’m also a huge fan of early 80s post punk. I love Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen. Then you can look at some bands that are more modern, they’re influenced by that as well. Music ians are always evolving, trying new things, getting more comfortable with themselves.
Craig Finn is a Tampa celebrity. Or at least he should be. Singing tracks about the seedy underbelly of Ybor City and being dubbed "America’s greatest bar band" by Rolling Stone magazine, Craig Finn has made highlights of our hometown. Songs like “Slapped Actress”, “Killer Parties” and “Most People are DJs” capture the spirit of Tampa’s night club district.
After wrapping up his first solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, and subsequent tour, Craig and his fellow band members have started writing material for their next album.
You mentioned in an interview earlier this year with the AV Club that you were writing for the next Hold Steady album. Will we be hearing any of it at the Ybor City show?
Yeah, definitely. We’ll be playing four or five new songs on this tour. You want to balance playing songs that people don’t know with the stuff that people do know. So we don’t want to play all the new songs, but we’ll throw a few in there.
What can you tell me about the new music?
Well, we’ve been writing with [former Lucero member) Steve Selvidge, our new guitar player. It’s a little bit more guitar-focused. But that said, it still sounds like The Hold Steady to me. It’s not any kind of radical departure
I interviewed Franz Nicolay earlier this year and he mentioned that your band hadn’t been to Ybor City until the Separation Sunday tour. Since then, your band has played a lot of shows in Ybor City. What did you think of Ybor when you first got here?
Well, I knew a lot about it because I had some friends from Tampa. They had told me about going to punk rock shows at the Cuban Club in the early to mid-eighties. They’d told me about Ybor City, and I really mostly liked the name of it. I thought it was fun to say. So I started thinking about how it’s become more of a glitzy place and it wasn’t always. So I started thinking about the dichotomy there.
There’s a lot of nightlife there obviously, and it seems like the kind of place where you could wake up after you’ve done an excessive amount of drinking.
On an interview for Clear Heart Full Eyes, you mentioned that while with THS you felt like you had to yell louder and refrain from talking about religion as much as you would like to. What did you miss about playing with the band?
Well, I was always hoping to come back to The Hold Steady. I just wanted to do something a little different. The thing about The Hold Steady is that I do love loud rock and roll and I do love the camaraderie that we have in the band, the songs and the community. It was just a time for me to do something less loud. I’m not much of a musician, I’m pretty much just a lyricist.
Putting on a live show, the reality is that the lyrics are mostly not getting through. [Clear Heart Full Eyes] was really wanted to do something that was quieter and really kind of controlled, something where the story was able to get over the music, et cetera.
While promoting your solo album, you participated in the Esquire songwriting challenge and wrote “Respective Coasts”, which was not on the record. You’ve also posted “Meserole” on your personal twitter, and have been doing more solo sets lately. Do you plan to release that with another solo LP?
The priority right now is The Hold Steady record, and I don’t think another solo LP will come for quite a while. I think it’s a really nice release to have something quieter, coming from a different place. Solo songs tend to be a lot more intimate, a lot more vulnerable and maybe more autobiographical. But in the near future, The Hold Steady is definitely going to be taking up more of my time.
You’ve mentioned in many interviews that Bruce Springsteen is one of your biggest musical inspirations. How do you feel about him supporting Obama in the upcoming election?
I think it’s cool. There are people that say that entertainers shouldn’t voice their opinion that way. But I think he’s doing what he can for what he thinks is right. I think his belief, like mine, is that Obama will be better for the majority of the people.
I saw that you also played a solo show at one of Obama’s Gotta Vote rallies with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James
Yeah, Jim James and I played at a New Hampshire for Obama event. It was a really cool way to get younger people out to vote. That’s a small state where a couple hundred votes make a difference.
You’ve collaborated with Titus Andronicus, as well as Minneapolis hip hop artist POS. Being that you were able to work in such different genres, what do you look for in an artist for collaboration?
Passion and some sort of a spark of creativity or vibe. Titus Andronicus is more of a punk band and POS is more of a rapper. They’re both people that I knew from being a fan of their music, and they were just excited about what they did. So, in both cases when they asked me, I was honored to be a part of it. I think one of the coolest things about playing music is collaboration. Music is a form of communication, so if you’re communicating with people on that level, it’s really exciting.