What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
My grandfather was a musician and recruited my dad to play bass for him in the 60s, so my house always had guitars in it when I was growing up. When I fell in love with metal in high school, though, that got me into playing drums and playing in bands. I played metal for a bunch of years until I couldn’t have drums in my tiny apartment anymore, and taught myself guitar, finally. That’s what Sci-Fi Romance grew out of.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Our latest EP is called The Rain Becomes a River, and overall, it’s the loudest, most aggressive thing we’ve done. Usually for a folk band, maybe that doesn’t mean so much, but for a one led by a guy who used to play death metal, it’s saying something. We’ve had big, loud songs on most of our releases, but because this one is coming out in louder, more overwhelming times, that’s reflected in the sound of the EP, as well. Definitely folk music you can break rocks on, this one.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Musically, the influences are pretty diverse, I hope. From traditional folk and blues, to punk, post-punk, and metal, and because we have a cellist, there are classical influences as well as some percussion ideas that come from different traditions around the world. Non-musically, the biggest influence is just stuff going on with the world. With the exception of our October EP from 2014, which was inspired entirely by classic horror movies, all of our work has been inspired at least in part by stuff that’s always informed folk songs — how people treat each other, loss of identity in the face of change, big interests stepping on regular folks. All that stuff.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
For years when people asked this question, I said, “We sound like that time Johnny Cash covered Soundgarden.” Most people responded, “Woah! Johnny Cash covered Soundgarden?!” That’s still not a bad description, I guess, but as our sound has evolved, I think maybe it’s closer to say we sound like if Johnny Cash were *in* Soundgarden. When I compare us to other folk, Americana, or similar bands, I feel like there’s an aggressiveness or urgency in our songs I don’t hear in a lot of other places. And I think we make interesting choices when it comes to our instrumentation.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
This is impossible! But at the moment, for music I’ll go with The Crane Wife by The Decemberists, We Sing of Only Blood or Love by Dax Riggs, and Anais Mitchell’s original recording of Hadestown (not the cast recording). I love movies, and old movies, so this is a constantly moving target for me, but Once Upon a Time in the West, Dr. Strangelove, and, I don’t know, maybe Big Trouble in Little China to lighten the mood? For books, I don’t re-read a ton, because there’s always so many more, but Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Bone by Jeff Smith because it’s 1300 pages long, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, because you’d miss people on a desert island, but that book might help me to not miss them *too* much.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
I really enjoy the experimentation of the studio. I’ve played all kinds of guitars — acoustics, electrics, 12-string, Nashville, bass, baritone — and I never get tired of finding new tones and sounds, but also drums, percussion, piano, vibraphone, theremin…I just don’t get tired of finding new ways to make noise.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
My daughter, who’s 10, played the Rhodes on “The Rain Becomes a River,” but before that, she first played piano on our song “Voices,” back when she was nine. The studio where we tracked it had this gorgeous 100-year-old Mason & Hamlin grand piano that dropped my jaw. I said, “There’s no way my kid gets to play on a 100-year-old piano and I don’t,” so I went and wrote a piano part for our cover of Temple’s of the Dog’s “Wooden Jesus” just so I could play that piano.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
There are maybe three or four songs I’ve done where I felt like, “I got that one right,” but in terms of which of those is the most unique, I’d probably have to say “Shakespeare’s Lovers” off of our Dust Among the Stars album. It’s a duet with Kristin Vogel, who’s an opera singer, and has a long outro in an odd meter where I felt like the emotional build just grabs and doesn’t let go. Very proud of that one.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
As it happens, there’s a good chance I’ll be doing a collaborative project with Kristin again as the next thing over the horizon. Possibly involving ghosts.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
What’s your favorite Roger Corman movie?
I think it’s Masque of the Red Death, with Vincent Price. It was intimidating when I did the October EP and picked that as one I was going to write a song about. But it wound up being my favorite song on that collection. And fun fact: I got to meet Roger a couple of years ago and I was able to actually give him a copy of that EP, which is bookended by songs inspired by his films.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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