Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alaina Moore, of the indie-pop band Tennis. She, her husband Patrick Riley, and drummer James Barone released their third full-length album in September.
“Ritual In Repeat” is available now, and Tennis will be performing on May 17th at the Great Scott in Allston, MA.
WMFO: How has your process changed now that you’re onto your third full-length album?
Alaina Moore: Weirdly as we wrote our second record, we didn’t experience any kind of sophomore slump—it came super naturally. It was a fantastic experience, we had no problem. People asked about the sophomore slump afterwards and then it was in my head…
When we wrote our third record I had the sophomore slump, once I knew it existed. Anyway, I had basically the worst time ever writing Ritual in Repeat, nothing sounded right, nothing sounded like me, it felt forced. It was such a weird experience, but finally I came across (through the recommendation of a friend) a book called Daily Rituals which delineates the day to day routine of life, and explains the processes of best writers, artists, actors, philosophers…
How did that help you?
Well, everyone suffers self-doubt and lack of inspiration—grinding it out through the routine is what numbed our minds to get the work done. We had a really strict daily writing routine that changed a lot—read for an hour, write for an hour, play guitar for an hour, play piano for an hour, write some more… All of a sudden all of the songs just started being finished, after 8 months of getting nothing done.
The album is called Ritual in Repeat because that’s what we found, sort of discovering an artist’s daily ritual, repeating it, making the process feel comforting—it began to have a sort of spiritual significance.
Can you tell me a little bit about where you draw your inspiration?
It changes all the time—it’s never the same. Sometimes it’s a book I’ve read, sometimes a new or old album. Sometimes when we’re on tour I start to realize that I want to write a different sort of song, something more rewarding—then we go home and do that. It always evolves, as we do as human beings.
I don’t want to keep writing the way that we were on our first record. What has stayed consistent is newness and change, we go sailing again, and tour is a constant change, it’s helped us keep working.
It’s really wonderful how you describe everything as “we.” How do you and Patrick like to work together? What’s it like working together as husband and wife?
It’s’ a very different sort of “we.” It’s interesting because we feel completely connected, I don’t’ even notice when we say we, we’ve been doing this since the day we met. We do work really hard to maintain autonomy in our writing—we write separately and then once we have our personal ideas on our own we come together and finish it. We are both still pursuing personal things—our tastes have a lot of overlap but also have a lot of disconnect so we work a lot to keep our own ideas. Like any band or any relationship there’s a lot of compromise. We respect that part of each other.
I’m a huge Black Keys fan, so I know that your second album was produced by Patrick Carney, as was Ritual In Repeat. Can you tell me what it was like to work with him?
The first time was an incredible learning curve. I felt bad for him actually, he had to teach us all of these things and there were all of these draining lessons. The second time around we had this report and this trust, we all feel like “Young and Old” is such a great record, so we had that to build off of.
You need so much trust when a producer wants you to do something that is out of your comfort zone, you don’t want to do it. But we have this history that we’re really proud of so we were able to push ourselves with him.
He just knows what it’s like to be a self-made working band, though I don’t want to enshroud that with romanticism… We share that, we aren’t from a cool place, we’re from Colorado and they’re [The Black Keys] from Ohio, we’re not from Brooklyn or something, our families weren’t in bands or anything… We know what it’s like to be poor and confused and mistrusting of major labels and big contracts. This shared history is one of the things that makes things work in the studio. We go to him a lot just for advice or just to complain.
Its funny how it started, we were so ignorant… We just emailed him, we were pretty naïve, just being like, “Hey dude, want to work on our album?” At the same time I’m like, now I would have been way too scared to reach out. It was kind of great how ignorant we were, we weren’t afraid to just ask.
Best advice I could give to anyone: If you want something, just ask. The worst thing that can happen is if they say no. So many wonderful things wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been so ignorant and just asked anyway.
I am coming from a radio station; we play an enormous range of different stuff. I’m always looking for new music to play! What bands do you guys listen to?
We work really hard to listen to very obscure music, the word obscure is super relative, but we try to listen to off the beaten path stuff, just because what you listen to it influences your music so much. Sometimes I’ll be writing something and think it’s so genius and then Patrick will come in and be like, “This is a Katy Perry song.”
If you’re trying to write something original or new you have to dig really deep—you can’t make something out of nothing, art and music is a conversation. We try to listen to really niche things because we want to bring things that are less explored territory, to bring new stuff to the forefront.
After all of this work and change, where do you see your music going?
I think that for our next album I think we’re starting to realize how really important and integral the live element of being a band is to being successful these days—you have to tour a lot more than you used to in order to succeed, to keep afloat. Normally, I would write thinking of me in my room writing a song to record, but now it is to writing to play it all over the world. I have to write something that’s more engaging, more of a narrative, and more performative.
The next thing is a really long sailing trip—after writing this next record it’s time to recalibrate and go back to that really reflective place. We want to re-center and find that place again and see what we have after that.
We’re going to go away for awhile, go back to sea, ready for the next stage of our career.
Fans that came to see Rx Bandits on Wednesday, April 8th at the Sinclair in Cambridge were treated to an excellent performance from beginning to end as we saw a strong showing from every act.
Cayetana was the first opener, and they brought an easygoing stage presence with them. The frontwoman commented that the first show that she had ever attended was to see “The Pharmaceutical Bandits” (Rx Bandits’ former moniker). The three-piece, all-female outfit from Philadelphia played straightforward hard rock with lots of energy, the perfect first opener and excellent beginning to the show.
The next band was A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and the crowd reception to the indie rock group was so positive that one got the impression that many concertgoers were there to see them instead of the headliner. This made for a very strong set from the Brooklyn band. A lot of their set consisted of their most recent release from Topshelf Records, “You’re Always On My Mind.” The crowd was screaming the words along with the band for their last few tracks, which only set the scene for a killer set from Rx Bandits.
The indie-prog reggae-rockers (along every genre in between) opened with “Ruby Cumulous”, the first full-length track off their most recent album “Gemini, Her Majesty”. They played a few songs from this album, getting the 500-strong crowd moving and dancing all the way. There were some moshers in the front, but the mostly young, low-30s crowd danced harmoniously, enjoying the music.
The highlights of the night from Rx Bandits included excellent renditions of “Apparition” (reggae chops combined with a hooky chorus), “Wide Open” (hard-hitting), and “…And The Battle Begun” (fast-paced and complicated). The real treat of the set was when frontman Matt Embree slowed it down and played a cover of Bill Withers’ famous track, “Ain’t No Sunshine” in his own style.
Overall, the show was worth the price of admission and all three bands come recommended.
It’s been a while since The Graveyard Shift (now Friday nights at midnight) posted to the WMFO blog, but we return with a vengeance: the show’s first ever band interview. And it is fitting to feature a band that formed in WMFO’s backyard. Carved in Stone has its roots in Malden and Medford and consists of Mike Olen and Adam Dipersio on Guitar, Andrew Ang on vocals, Jason Barsotti on drums, and newest member Anthony Torres on bass. While the band members are young (ages range from 19 to 24), Carved in Stone has been around since 2011, played with Psychostick, and graced the stage at the Palladium.
On Friday night, April 10, they’ll be playing Day 2 of the South Shore Insanity Metal Fest at 91 South Street in Kingston, MA along with Quick! Before the Outbreak, The Floor’s Embrace, Til Our Collapse, Lies in Motion, and Paradigms. The show is all ages, doors are at 6 p.m., and tickets are $10.
You can download two free tracks from Carved in Stone here and then listen while you read the full interview in which the band talks about the local scene, what it’s like to book and play shows, and a special benefit show they play later in the month…
It looks like you went through some pretty early lineup changes. How did the band originally form, and how did the current lineup come together?
Originally it just started with Mike and Adam in high school playing acoustic songs. We met our previous members through advertisement. Personal reasons led to our previous members leaving and eventually it led to our current singer, drummer, and bassist.
What is it like to balance other commitments?
Balancing all of our commitments can be tough. Some of us are in school, and some of us are both working and in school. This is a passion of ours, and we are very dedicated to this band, so we make it work.
How did you come up with your name?
We were trying to think of a name for days. Our drummer at the time came up with Set in Stone, and it was already taken by other groups. We ended up changing it to Carved in Stone.
How was the recent bassist search?
It [was] tough. Bassists in this genre are pretty much unicorns! Pretty much impossible to find. Thank god a friend of ours has joined and we have a full band at the moment.
What was the first show you played, and what was that experience like?
Our first show was at Paul’s Pub in Methuen. It was a new experience, but a memorable one. [It] was a dive bar, but we still had a blast with all of the other bands.
Malden/Medford isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for metal, especially compared to areas like the Merrimack Valley and central and western Massachusetts. Do you feel unique coming from this area? Is there a bigger scene than people think?
There is not much of a scene, but there are some talented musicians that have come from this area. We like to think that we are unique and have our own style, but it has nothing to do with the area that we come from.
What is the state-wide scene like? Do you find it to be more collaborative and community-based? Or is there a bit of competition?
There are bands that love this music and want to play. The bands that we interact with are extremely talented. There are other bands that are not really in it to have fun, but rather do it to get big. We don’t look at scenes to be competitive. Instead we look at it as inspiration. There are a lot of sick bands that we perform with and hear of, and watching them perform and listening to their music pushes us and drives us to become better both individually and as a band.
Are there any other local bands you’ve grown close with?
We have grown close with our good friends Til Our Collapse. We have also had some great experiences with Apollo’s Resurrection, My Missing Half, Nightslasher [ed. note: who unfortunately just broke up last week], and many other amazing bands that we are lucky to have come across.
How do you go about getting gigs?
Adam does pretty much all of the booking. When we got our first show, we performed with some great bands who later invited us to perform with them again, and it just formed a chain reaction where other bands would invite us to perform with them. Eventually it led to us meeting the people we book with.
What is the biggest show you’ve played so far? What was that experience like?
We have performed at the Palladium a few times and [last year’s first ever] Rock the Block Festival at the Claddagh. The experience is nerve-racking before we get on stage. Pretty much every performance we have is a bit nerve-racking before we perform, but once we start performing the nerves turn into excitement, and we just have a blast.
How did you end up on the Psychostick bill?
Thanks to our good friends from Killer Robot Promotions and Sammy’s Patio we were able to land this amazing opportunity. A huge thanks to them for everything that they have done for us. Sammy’s Patio is a great venue for any bands that are looking for shows. Every time we perform there the crowd is sick. We book our shows for Sammy’s Patio through Killer Robot Promotions, and they are hands down one of the best bookers we have worked with. Highly recommend these guys to any band looking for a place to perform.
You had a flourish of shows around the end of 2014. What was that like?
It was a great experience. This is what we love to do so any show opportunity we come by, we will take it if we can. We grew a lot and the amount of shows helped us become a bit better with our performances each time.
Can you talk about the Angie’s Angels benefit show you’ll be playing on April 25?
This is a benefit show to help battle cancer. All of the proceeds go right to the Boston Children’s Hospital. Angie’s Angels is a group that helps with people that have cancer. It is going to be held at DV8 in Providence and promoted by Rocksteady Promotions. This is a great show, and we are very excited to be performing this show with our friends Til Our Collapse. Below is a link to the donation page. Please donate for this cause. Every dollar counts. You can also check out the Facebook event page.
What do you find to be the best method of getting your music and band news out as an unsigned band?
Social media seems to be the best way of getting our name across. We use any social media you can think of. Word of mouth is also a great way.
What is your approach to and process for writing original music?
Usually Mike comes up with a riff or bare bone structure of a song, and during practice we will jam with him and come up with the other parts of the songs. If anyone else comes up with lyrics, a riff, or anything, we just start jamming to that part and it all just comes together naturally.
Are there certain lyrical themes you explore?
Mike usually writes a lot of the lyrics, and it is usually anything that comes to his mind. A lot of it is about his life and what goes on.
Can you talk about the songs you’re currently working on?
We are experimenting with a more aggressive style than what we usually play. All of our songs usually have a different tone and uniqueness about them because we don’t like to be bound by one style.
Are you planning any physical releases?
We did just finish a rough draft EP. We don’t have much money so it’s hard to plan anything now. We are saving for bigger things, though, so keep an ear out!
What else does 2015 have in store?
Hopefully we will have a lot more shows. We would like to get some new recordings and possibly more merchandise. We would also like to expand our reach throughout the New England area—possibly farther—and expand our fan base. Hopefully!
Somewhere in between trips to SXSW and appearances at the Comedy Central roast of Justin Bieber, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, the stars of Warner Brothers’ new comedy Get Hard sat down with a group of college reporters to discuss the film.
Ferrell and Hart were both predictably charming and affable, cracking jokes between themselves, lauding praise on first-time director Etan Cohen, and responding to questions covering a breadth of topics.
In a sense, they compose themselves in much the same way throughout the film — this is not Ferrell or Hart at their most brash, both turning in performances that are about what you’d expect from them at this stage in their careers. Unfortunately, this laissez-faire approach ends up hurting the movie more than it helps it. Hart in particular is likable as the emotional center of the film, but neither star is able to elevate the movie beyond its rather odious premise: Successful hedge-fund manager James King (Ferrell) is convicted of a series of embezzlement and fraud charges and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security lockup. Because his thoughts immediately turn to an inability to handle 10 years of prison-rape, he offers his car washer Darnell (Hart) $30,000 in exchange for a month of prison readiness training, based on the assumption that Darnell had spent time in prison. (When Darnell tells his wife about the new arrangement, she presses him for more explanation on where that assumption comes from: “I was being black,” he responds). And that, sadly, is where most of the film’s humor come from.
This is the kind of movie where one type of joke is hammered into your skull so many times you almost give up questioning the setup out of pure exhaustion. If you wanted to know how King, who we’re repeatedly told is brilliant (he holds a degree from Harvard Business School and makes partner at his investment company) is dumb enough to make repeated assumptions and continually mis-read social cues, you’re going to have a tough time digging through ethnic and rape jokes to find an answer. A trip to a gay hookup spot designed to teach King how to properly fellate a fellow inmate (because, the film reasons, this will prevent him from being raped) similarly relies on gay-panic humor and a full-frontal semi-erect penis as a sight gag.
It’s not all that bad, however. Ferrell’s hilariously white-collar prison-yard trash talk (“I hope you brought your rewards card, because the 8th d*** is free!”, “I’m about to put a hashtag on your a** and see how many hits it gets”) and backhanded snipes at Yale offer occasional glimpses of what could be an original take on the setup — but too often the film tosses these ideas aside in favor of easy jokes about people of color, rape, and homosexuality.
You get a sense that Cohen had some legitimate social issues on his mind when making the film; the opening credit sequence shows the disparity in basic living conditions between LA’s wealthy and poor, the ostensible “villain” of the film is a disgustingly wealthy billionaire who buys an entire island as a tax shelter, and King misses the irony in claiming he “never asked for handouts” despite being born to a wealthy family. But nobody involved seems interested in making that kind of movie (Hart and Ferrell, for their part, entertained questions about the prison system and their preparation for the roles, but their responses indicate that research was not a big part of their process). Cohen is ultimately more interested in winding up his two stars and letting them play with the material. They’re undoubtedly a great comic pair — you can’t help but smiling every time 6’3” Ferrell physically lifts the 5’4” Hart — but in the end, they’re underserved by the script (also by Cohen, along with Jay Martel and Ian Roberts) which settles for a tone that wouldn’t be out of place in any Adam Sandler movie from the 1990s.
And in the end, this is a Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie from the 2010s — at this point, we should know what to expect.