It's Fresh from the Post, the late edition. Due to an unforseen multiplication table breakdown with one of our resident indie music experts, Fresh from the Post comes to you on Wednesday instead of Tuesday this week. As they say, the best things come later in life. Well actually, I've never really heard that quote before, but it sure sounds good and suits our needs for the moment. But really, we've got something great for this week's Fresh from the Post, in the form of experimental pop/rock musicians - The Good Listeners.
The Good Listeners are friends Nathan Khyber and Clark Stiles, two musicians that have just released a film documenting the creation of their new album, 'Don't Quit Your Daydream'. They go on a road trip across the US, recording each track in a different place, as well as collaborating with the many people that they meet on the way, who are also living their own music-filled dreams. We chat with The Good Listeners, who have graciously lent their time to talk more about their band, and their new album and film.
How did the Good Listeners start out?
(Clark) As teenagers, we were both in seperate sort of new wave cover bands with a few originals thrown in. Bands with names neither of us care to publicly repeat. (Nathan) I remember skipping classes to hang out in one of the piano rooms in highschool endlessly practicing my Howard Jones and David Sylvian songs. I saved up money that summer working in a steel mill to buy a Roland synthesizer. Prior to that, I had tried to be a saxophonist in school bands, but I was dreadful. Keyboards were my gateway drug. (Clark) And then somehow, seperately, we both ended up as the only white kids in two funk bands! I actually learned a great deal playing with this band. You're rhythm and feel just has to improve when you're put in a situation like that and at that age, it all sticks. My dad gave me a choice between going to college and getting some equipment to produce music with and I took the ball and ran.
I'm always interested in how bands get their names. How did you choose the name "The Good Listeners"?
(Nathan)Coming up with a definable name is really difficult. After staring at the dry erase board for days, Clark thought it best to bring in an arbitrator. Miranda Lee Richards is a mutual friend, lovely singer and at that time a neighbor. We had her put on headphones as we had, listen to a rehearsal and write down whatever came to mind. She was probably being literal when she wrote it down but I think we responded to it because it is something often said in personal ads. Qualities women want in men.
Let's talk about your Don't Quit Your Daydream project. How did it come about? How long did it take for you to finish it?
(Clark) After making a couple of albums, we started to notice a pattern. The first song we came up with was the song we both found to be the magic one of the bunch. You plot out the space, set up the gear in a foreign location, you're immediately inspired and something good always comes from it. So I said to Nathan "why don't we do a series of first days?". The idea manifested into a roadtrip recording that would take us three weeks to complete.
Viewing the trailer, it has an interesting mix of people in it. I'm not familiar with most of them except for Adrian Grenier. How were you able to round up such an interesting bunch?
Mostly from the world wide web. Social networking sites, a couple of people were recommended by friends. The first half of the trip was pretty well laid out, but as we got deeper into it, we basically ran out of people and locations for the later days. So we busted a freestyle. The last collaborator for example is the brother of a guy in our film crew. The drunk guy in New Mexico just showed up.
I love the idea of don't quit your daydream, though for me, I find it often conflicts with the concept of "don't let your family starve". Any advice for people facing the same dilemma?
Well, it's never easy. Strangely, my musical output seems to increase when I'm stressed and there are too many things going on at once. If I'm free to be idle, I am more inclined to be reclined. I don't know. That said, providing for family should always take presidence but in order to remain happy and grounded for other people, you have to keep a window open for yourself. Also, you have to analyze just what the golden ticket means these days and take it for what it is. Maybe the daydream changes and music becomes something that keeps you regular. My old man went through this and still sings as a hobby, and he certainly could've gone pro in the sixties. He realized he couldn't give both things the attention they deserved so he conceeded his music. At the end of It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart realizes he IS living the dream. So perspective can shift.
Could you tell us more about the two songs that you have for our readers?
Eighty Steps Away was written in Manhattan. It was a rainy, miserable day, the last day of the trip. We had so hoped to be Beatles and record on this rooftop but as it turned out, we got drenched that day.
I really like dystopian fiction and that's factored into the words. New York is a city on overload, and the notion of being or feeling like a ghost in an overwhelming city is where that lyric came from. I imagined a new civil war and these are the sole survivors, still trying to eek out an inner city life.
In the rear of the bouncing RV, Our cinematographer stood, compiling video. I asked him how he avoided nausea. He produced this amazing footage of a job he had worked for the census bureau of Alaska counting fish in the belly of a boat with these massive waves flying through the air. This was the impetus for the song Never Good Enough. Basically it's about a fool who leaves his wife to go treasure hunting, having to take on crap jobs along the way and eventually giving up and turning himself in. We did this one at the School of Rock in Philly.
How do you define indie music?
Independent music comes from a specific group or artist doing a particular thing and being as involved with its exploitation as much as they can be. By the late eighties, something needed to happen, so thankfully Nirvana destroyed Paula Abdul and all that. And now we have Creed and Hinder. But hope is coming in the form of a new baby in a new manger.
I'm hoping that the new baby in the new manger comes in the form of a groundbreaking website called the Indie Music Database ;) Wishful thinking aside though - it's bands like The Good Listeners that bring hope to the state of music nowadays. I like what Bingo from Joshua Tree, CA said in the film - Just do what you really love to do, cause that's what you're gonna be the best at . There's no denying that The Good Listeners are really best at what they do, and it's because they put much heart into their music.
'Don't Quit Your Daydream' is available now for download at iTunes. You can find more information about the film and the album at www.dontquityourdaydream.com
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