The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world










Mark: It’s great to talk to you, thanks for taking the time. I guess you’ve got a bit of a break now, before your final show, back home in Georgia?


John: Yeah, we got a little break coming up, and its Thanksgiving this week, and we’ve got a few things rolling around in December, but really the big show is in Savannah, Georgia, on the 21st December. It’s the last show of the year, and then next year, we hit the road! It’s going to be nice to have a breather before we hit it hard in 2014!


Mark: So you have big plans for touring in 2014?


John: We do, yes. We are planning on really touring this new record, and being on the road for most of the year.


Mark: How did the tour you’ve just finished go? What was that like?


John: It was good. We toured before the release of the record, and during the release we were on the road. We kind of slowed it down a bit on this tour, we would do one off shows, and weekend shows, and then we had a home show, last Saturday at the 40 Watt Club, in Athens, Georgia, and it was a great turn out. It was really good to be back at the 40 Watt! It’s been nice getting all the business stuff done with our manager and our publicist, that all gets done on a weekly basis, but, I’m always used to being on the road, so when I’m not on the road for three or four weeks, I get a bit “antsy!” I get the itch, something’s not right if I’m not on the road!


Mark: I can only imagine what the live show is like, is it pretty high energy? What’s the show like?


John: Yeah, our show is a lot of energy, it’s really loud, and we just put ourselves out there. We try and play like we’re playing in front of 10,000 people every night, and make sure everybody has a good time.


Mark: It was great to get a copy of the album, from Steve, it’s not often I’m impressed as much, as I was with that!! There’s just something, and I’m not entirely sure what it is, that you manage to capture on there. There’s a feeling of familiarity, and yet there’s something new and really fresh, and vibrant on there. Were you happy with how the recording came out?


John: Oh, Yeah! We are super excited with how the recording came out, and thanks for the kind words, we appreciate that. We are huge fans of the late eighties, early nineties rock scene from Seattle, so it’s going to have that familiar nineties feel, that Seattle scene feel. But, we are also from Athens, Georgia, it’s 2000 miles away from Seattle! So, we think we’ve put our own spin on it, we are influenced by that Seattle grunge scene, but we all put our different parts in to make the music our own, and original. That means a lot, thanks again, Mark.




Mark: It’s great to hear a band, that you can’t quite pigeon hole with a genre. What’s the critical response been like, so far, from the reviews I’ve read, it looks like its pretty good.


John: It’s been great; we knew the record was good, we always thought it was something special, but it’s really nice to hear everyone else think so. I wouldn’t say it’s not been a pleasant surprise, but we are really grateful that people are latching on to the record, and getting what we are about. Some of the reviews are saying the same thing that this is a great rock record, and it’s not like anything that’s out right now, but it sounds familiar. That’s a compliment to us, saying these guys have a real Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, type feel, that’s great to us, we take that as a huge compliment. Those rock bands are huge idols of mine, Pearl Jam, “Ten” was the record that changed my life when I was like twelve, thirteen years old.


Mark: Definitely, but not necessarily that you sound like Pearl Jam, they sounded, especially with that album, they seemed to take the best of what had come before, and made it fresh, and I think that’s what I get from the Lullwater album. What was it like to go in to those London Bridge Studios? And I read also you insisted on a certain amount of vintage technology, recording on tape, was that really important to you?


John: Mark, it is. In answer to your first question, it was an overwhelming experience when we walked in to the studio for the first time. We travelled far, across the country to get to this legendary studio from this epic time. I saw all the platinum records, from Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, all those bands I love, and still do! It was kind of that way for a moment, “I’m not worthy!!” and then it sank in, and I was like ok, now we have got to work! We’ve got a month here, let’s snap out of it, and let’s settle the nerves a little bit, and be able to show them what we got! The technology for that record, we wanted to get back to tape, and we knew that through research of London Bridge, that they used tape. It kind of happened in a weird way, I wanted to go to London Bridge, for different reasons, because of the history, and then we found out that they use analogue tape, so it was like a double whammy!! We had two aspects of the studio, that we would love working in.


Mark: Did you take it as far as using valve amps, or using vintage equipment?


John: The coolest thing about some of our equipment, Brett, our lead guitar player actually got to play Mike McCready’s old Marshall, from the nineties, 1992 that was the most piece of vintage equipment on the record.


Mark: Getting on to the record now, how did it come together? You’ve been around since 2007, can you just fill us in a bit on your background, as I think people here in Australia, aren’t too familiar with the band.


John: We all live in Athens, and we’ve had a lot of line-up changes over the last seven years, but we’ve been working hard over that time. There’s a funny story about how Brett, our lead guitar player, and I met. He’d just moved to Athens to go to school, I was in Athens, at UGA, at the time, and it was just a random Thursday night, and I was walking around with some buddies, and it was like, hey, one of my friends is playing at this little shithole bar!! It was great though, but it was a dive, it had this nasty feel about it, but everybody loved it, because you didn’t care!! You’d just go down there to listen to somebody playing music, the guitar, or whatever. Brett was down there playing some acoustic music, and messed around with a loop pedal and he was hosting an open mic, so that’s how we met, through a mutual friend. We instantly clicked; we started talking and had a few drinks, and afterwards, I said I would love to jam sometime, would you be interested, and he said, Yeah, whenever you like, and I said actually, I have a show tonight, if you want to come and jam with me at an acoustic show, in college, and make some money. So we played that show, and we’ve been playing since then.


Mark: Did the record come together easily; are some of the songs, some you have been hanging on to for a while?


John: The new record, honestly, was kind of a very challenging experience for the first few days, because we travelled all this way, and then our former drummer, he decided to follow other passions, within three days of starting the recording! So, we got to Seattle, and all of this shit hit the fan, with our former drummer!! We sat there thinking, we’ve travelled all this way, and now we don’t have a drummer, so Dave Bijowski, is a great studio drummer, and our producer and engineer said we have a great studio drummer, let’s get him in, and he killed it! Dave really is an unbelievable drummer, and he saved our asses! He got the drum tracks laid down within the first five days! It was definitely a tortuous time, that first week, and then once we got in our groove, it just really fell in to place.





Mark: It says in the press release here that you wanted to bring Athens to Seattle! Do you think you achieved that with the record?


John: I think we did. The funny thing about Seattle is, we brought our influences and our southern style to the Pacific North-West; we also brought our personalities, which I thought was great because we are still really close to those guys in Seattle, the producer and engineers, and the interns that we met. We definitely met lifelong friends, in that experience, it was almost like a dream when I look back at it. We were there for a month and it seems like we never left. I think we brought Athens to Seattle, our friends who we met; our dialect still sticks with them! They laugh about our accents and all those sort of things! I think we created something there, it was very magical for us, and London Bridge is really proud of that record too.


Mark: It’s a great record. The first couple of songs that you released off it, “Tug of War” and “Blind”, do you think those two songs are the best representation of the band?


John: Yeah. They were very emotional songs and very straight up, rock music. It definitely represented part of my life as a writer. But, I think there are several songs on that record that define the band, and the identity of the band that we were at that time. We are always evolving in to something new, at that time “Tug of War” and “Blind” are really up front and honest, and then we did “Hello” which doesn’t fit the mould of either of those two songs, we decided to stretch our legs a little bit and get creative.


Mark: I’ve decided after listening to the album for a few weeks now, that if you were a drink, you’d be more like a wine than a beer!  I mean they both taste good, but there’s a lot of different flavours going on there, a lot of complexity in what you do. If we look at a few of the tracks, the opener, “Oddline” which has that searing hard rock guitar, and it sounds like you are just playing and you don’t really care! Can you tell us a little bit about that song?


John: Yeah, it’s kind of like an F you song! It’s a really aggressive song; it’s an anti-do what you’re told song! The song was written about an acquaintance of mine, and a friend of our bass player, who was going through a hard time with his establishment, I think everyone has their own personal establishment that they are trying to rebel against. I think that song for me was very much a middle finger to the establishment that I was fighting against, at the time that related to a certain persons journey. We were going through a really hard time with the music business, and being naïve with things, and being taken advantage of, actually while we were in Seattle. That was kind of the final battle against a former record label! It’s a very aggressive song.


Mark: Where did the title of that song come from? I’ve not heard that before, 'Oddline'?


John:  It’s from the chorus, it’s about being in the Oddline, it’s about being different and weird, and feeling like you’re weird! You are in the oddline; you’re not in the path where everyone wants you to be.


Mark: Another track that stood out for me, which is a little bit different and you really get that southern flavour to it, is “New Design”.  It is more laid back, but has that ferocious chorus, was that a relatively new song, or had it been around for a while?


John: A lot of the songs on the record are new, we played a few songs on the tour before the record; we wrote the songs and decided to play them to see how they went. A lot of the songs had a structure; I would say they were 90% completed, until we went to the studio and then we’d shift things around and add different parts. But for the most part, that whole record is new songs.


Mark: The song that really did it for me, just after I thought I’d listened to a great album, was the closing track, “Hello”. Tell me everything about that song, its amazing!


John: That’s awesome!! Brett and Ray really dug in to that song, as far as musically goes; they were the big writers of that song. I think what really made that song come together was, was that it was an honest song, we weren’t trying to do anything with it, and we were trying to be vulnerable and open and honest about the lyrics and the music itself. We said if we want to go 8 or 9 minutes with this song, let’s do it tastefully, and let’s try and have an impact on people when they listen to it. We wanted people to feel what we felt when we wrote and recorded that song. For us, it was a closing song to the record, but, it’s also inspirational to us, as we were going to put it all out on the table with that record, so I’m glad you like it!! After 12 songs it kind of sends you on your way, it’s like have a good journey after listening to the record!


Mark: It was one of those songs, where I thought what can’t these guys do? You have a great album, and the expectation’s now there, it will be a hard one to follow!! Do you play that one live?


John: Oh, God!! We do, we pick and choose on that song, it really depends on the venue and how we’re feeling that night. We have an hour and fifteen minute set and we have to really feel out the crowd, before we play that song. When we do play it, and people really are digging it, it really connects, and it’s really fun to play live. People really get in to that song, and get lost!




Mark: Where do you get your inspiration from for the lyrics? Do you write all the lyrics?


John: Yeah, for the most part, there are a few songs where Brett and I co-wrote the lyrics. But, it’s a weird process writing lyrics. Sometimes you just, whatever you’re feeling in the moment I write down, and if there’s something that’s been weighing on me for some time, my song writing is really therapeutic for me, it’s always been that way since I started writing. I feel like when I have something to say, and I have to get something off my chest, writing is the most therapeutic thing I can do. Without it, I don’t know what I would do! What’s crazy about the new record and the writing process, as far as the lyrics go; there were a lot of issues that were going on during recording that came out during those sessions, like” Albatross” for instance, that to me was a self-loathing, vulnerable and angry song, but I was also living that walking to the studio every day, we were a mile away from the studios and we had to walk to London Bridge every day and every night, in December, which is not a pleasant environment to walk in every day!! So, I think that environment had an impact on the emotion of the song, and the feeling, because it was grungy and rainy, freezing cold and miserable. So, you put the weather with some of the issues that were going on in my life at that time, it did come out on tape. I appreciate that now, because without those variables happening at the same time, I don’t think the record would have had the balls and the honesty, as it does!


Mark: The record really stands out, lyrically, and you can sense the emotion in there. You talked about the band having different line-up changes in the past, and then your drummer leaving during the recording of the album. What do you see as being the greatest challenges in getting your music heard? It really upsets me sometimes, when I hear a fantastic album, and I play it to someone a few years later, and they say,” wow, why didn’t I hear that at the time!” The music industry is so messed up at the moment.


John: Yeah, it’s definitely f’d up, it’s crazy! We have a lot of friends in bands, and we’ve played with other musicians on the road, and we’ve heard some great bands, and you’re like, Man, these guys are really good. I’d say you have to put everything out there, to get your music heard. We’ve been playing for seven years now, and it’s all about perseverance and about how passionate you are about playing and recording the music that you create. Some of the pop music out there, you think, how the hell did that get so popular, and how did it get to be so exposed?? Then you have these great bands that you run in to, about 500 miles away from your home town, and there are 10 people at the show, but they are killing it and so why don’t people know about these guys?!! It’s a crazy world, man, and if I think about it too much, it’s saddening.


Mark: On one hand it’s so easy to find stuff these days on the internet, YouTube, etc. and the stuff you get force fed is like the lowest of the low, it’s terrible!!


John: It is, Mark! I don’t know about the Australian music business, whether it is like here, where you are just force fed regurgitated garbage. We have come to realise that a lot of people are tired of the same old stuff, we are not going to record this record on a computer, and it be over polished and over produced. We wanted to have those influences come out through analogue tape, where you can hear four people playing, it’s not like you hit play on a computer and all this noise comes out! It’s not real!




Mark: I think we need a revolution, but I don’t know who’s going to start it!! When did your musical journey start for you? You mentioned you heard “Ten” as a kid, but what made you know that you had to be in a band?


John: Music has been part of my life since I can remember. My older sister was a huge music fan, and I can remember going into her room and she’d have all the Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and then she’d have like 80’s pop, and she’d have Duran Duran playing!! I would sit in her room for hours while she listened to all these crazy records. I would say she got me started as far as listening to music, and then it graduated from there. My mom, bless her heart, would just let me listen to Lynard Skynard over and over again! I recently met up with an old friend of mine last weekend, in my home town, and I haven’t seen him in 14 years, and we reconnected, and he was the guy, my best friend in the entire world, and he was the guy, who, we would go in to a room at the outside of my house and we would play and record music, and just go through the writing process. He was a fantastic drummer and a fantastic guitar player, and he could play every Van Halen song at like 12 years old!! Joey Nebrowski was his name, and he was the guy that really got me in to playing, before then I didn’t know how to play guitar, I was just a huge music fan. We started a band together, our first middle school band together, we would spend hours listening to records and then learning how to play it, and trying to write our own stuff. There’s something really honest and innocent about being that age, and everything being so new and exciting.


Mark: You’ve hit the nail on the head about, certainly what music means to me. Kids these days don’t see that, they don’t get that, they see the TV shows and they want to be that person in the spotlight on American Idol or whatever, and that’s so incredibly wrong!


John: It is! And to expand on that and I guess this makes me sound old, I turned 30 this year, and it’s like “kids these days don’t listen to records!!”, but it’s the truth!! I used to save up from my allowance or do chores around the house to save up and get that record from the store. My mom would take me to the record store on a Friday afternoon, and I could not believe it, I was so fucking excited!!! I had money in my pocket, and I just had to go and find a CD. Kids these days go on their phones and download a hundred songs for free!! I had to go to the record store; the nostalgia just comes back to me! I would go back to my room and look at the artwork and read the lyrics for days, and put the CD on repeat and get immersed in that record! You can always tell the real music fans!


Mark: Yeah, it’s that emotional connection that people are missing. For our final couple of questions, if you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you and why?


John: Well, I would have to go back to “Ten”, just because of everything that’s happened, and they are my idols. But, I was watching Crossfire Hurricane, the documentary on the Rolling Stones, and Exile on Main Street, to be a fly on the wall for those recording sessions, that would probably blow my mind, those guys are great!!


Mark: I think that would have been pure madness!! Finally, what is the meaning of life?


John: Good one, Mark! I’m still trying to find that out, man!!


Mark: I’ve asked three hundred people that in the last few years, and no one knows! It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, John, thank you for your time. I must check you guys out next time I am in the States.


John: Definitely! Thank you so much for having me, and hopefully one day we’ll get to Australia!


Mark: I will spread the word, over here! Thanks again, take care.




John Strickland spoke to Mark Diggins November 2013





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