Photo credit: Tyler Shores
Singer-songwriter Andi Rogers is a prolific musician. Her latest record under the nom-de-plume andi. is a catalog of dark narratives with augmented panoramas of drums, and pianos. “Eternal Sunshine” verses center around modulating piano chords with expansive choruses that shift time signatures held together by a gossamer violin line. The highly imaginative track is braided with andi.’s rhetorical questions “if I get beyond the path / will you pull me back? If we both forget the past will we go right back”? “Eternal Sunshine” features a bridge passage with no words save for the solitary voicing of a heart, breaking.
You buy a copy of the blackout sessions here.
SC: I love the dramatic difference between the clipped verses and the sweeping arpeggio-led choruses. What led to this choice for the song when you were writing it?
AR: I had just finished re-watching the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and was just so emotionally annihilated by it. It's a film that's full of stark contrasts and juxtapositions (memory vs. reality, past vs. present/future, man vs. science, emotion vs. reason, etc.), and I guess that subconsciously made its way into the structure of the song.
SC: Each verse begins a new question that furthers the narrative. How do you see the interrogative working in the song?
AR: Again, the film really influenced me in this regard. Each verse begins with a conditional and ends with a question (i.e., "If I get beyond the path, will you pull me back? If we both forget the past, will we go right back?") Those images come directly from the film. When Joel's memories are being erased, he literally pulls Clementine along the escape route (path) with him because he subconsciously wants to take the kernel of her memory with him. I am just continually overwhelmed by this idea: that these two people literally erased their memories of each other, but their bodies fought against it. That some force brought them back together. That they knew their relationship was doomed to fall apart again in the same exact way, and they still wanted to try. That they still ended that conversation, and thus the film, by saying, in so many words, this is worth it, this human thing. That they ended with that knowledge, and by saying "OK.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing process. Do you keep a songwriting schedule? Or do you wait for inspiration?
AR: I've tried to keep a schedule, and I just can't. It's corny, but I can't force it. Something overwhelming has to happen, or I have to have the time to sit down and access something that's happened. I call the latter "capsule writing"—breaking open a capsule and accessing the emotional memory of the body.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence your work?
AR: I love going to see other musicians play in town, but if I'm being honest, I can't say that it influences me much. If anything, I'm influenced by other poets in my community more than I am musicians. I don't write songs much with other people, with the exception of Colby Wright, who's my other half, musically. When I write for my solo project, it's just me frankly being a little bit extra. Colby comes in and brings something else to it—a technical and polished element, a level of sophistication, and a really intuitive knowledge of what it is that I am going for, which can only come from working with someone for over a decade. In the case of this record, Marlon Patton also came in afterwards and brought a largeness, just a huge textured sound, to the record. I am nothing—and my music is nothing—without other people in that respect.
Pocket Buddha handmade country-punk is percolated with an inventive array of diverse instruments and compelling arrangements. “Aeroplane” is a swaggering acoustic shuffle led by Darien Woodlief that features mandolins, banjos, and the bop of a Rhodes keyboard. Woodlief uses the repetition of “thinking about an airplane” in his narrative to muse on the potential for change through escapism that urges through each moment.
Pick up a copy of “Aeroplane” here.
SC: I love the repetition in “Aeroplane”—can you tell me a little about how you view the use of repetition in this song?
DW: I could hear the band singing the long “Aeroplaaaaaaane” in my head almost immediately so that's where that came from—the repeating in the verses—well, maybe that was lazy, I don't know. It just came out like that!
the banjo sound without the banjo work. So, yeah—banjo for lazy guitar players. I ordered one from Gold Tone and this progression literally jumped out of it the first time I picked it up. Then Ken Mixon suggested the variation of the melody that is the 3rd line of the verse. I was in the thick of the grad school deluge and the idea of escape via flight or checking out mentally was very appealing at this time.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing practice. Do you write every day on a schedule? Do you wait for inspiration?
DW: Well, to be honest, I don't have a normal writing practice. I've gone through phases. I just finished grad school and there was so much reading and writing involved that it seemed I didn't have a great deal of energy to devote to writing. My writing has always been inspired by my collaborators. I wasn't really actively writing when I met Julia Englund in my first year of grad school. She said "Hey, I sing and write songs, I'm going to send you one." I was so bummed out because she seemed so casual and self-deprecating about it that I couldn't fathom it being good. But I was blown away by her voice and her words. So we ended up, along with the aforementioned Ken Mixon, writing a number of songs together. She then moved away and I eventually met up with Ali Arant, who also sent me songs that blew me away. I told her I was producing her record and I did. We co-wrote a number of songs for that record and some since then. At one point a few years ago, hungry for inspiration, I started a songwriters group that gave a biweekly topic and everyone had to upload a song about that topic or using that phrase. So I got a number of tunes out of that, which lasted about four or five months before life intruded.
SC: How does your community of songwriter peers influence your work?
DW: Oh man, as a musician I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing songwriting and musical peers. The ones I've mentioned that had the pleasure to write with and the ones I've been fortunate enough to play with, like Kelley Mclachlan from Post-Timey String Band and the Prairie Willows and Mario McClean. And others, like Todd Mathis and Chris Compton, whose songwriting I'd put up against anyone, not just locally. These guys inspire me and scare the shit out of me, both of which can be useful tools for a musician. to edit.
Photo credit: Ashley Kauschinger
“You Never Bring Me Any Flowers” is a hard rock song decked out in a wide pair of bell bottoms. The Buzzards of Fuzz bring a little bit of everything to this track—boxer fracture guitar leads from Ben Davidow, Bassman’s croon-of-doom, and a prog-heavy guitar solo underpinned by big piano chords. It's a sweet fuzz trip about romantic frustration. Van Bassman joined us for a chat about the writing process, studio life, and his fellow buzzards.
Check out "You Never Bring Me Any Flowers" here.
SC: What inspired the inclusion of the piano in this song?
VB: Actually the piano inspired the rest of the song! That opening lick was rattling around in my brain for about six months before I did any real work with it. I wanted it to be good, I needed something warbly . . .
SC: How important do you think it is to try to bring different instrumentation into the songwriting process?
VB: Personally I believe there's a time and a place for anything. I'm a drum and guitar guy but you know we'll throw a theremin at a track in a heartbeat if one of us hears it!
SC: What was your writing process like for "You Never Bring Me Any Flowers"?
VB: Buzzards typically has two writing methods. Roughly ninety percent of it comes organically from jamming a riff that one of us brought in but occasionally we'll do it Super Awesome Family Fun Band style and walk in the studio with a riff and let it flow. "Flowers" was definitely the latter.
all my ideas were too weird and I really didn't think it would go anywhere. I'm not shy with the delete button and at least twice what comes to fruition ends up in "Whalehalla".
(Lead guitarist) Ben and I were slated to lay some guitars on another track called "Tarantulove" but the night before I sprang out of bed at three in the morning, wrote down all the lyrics without a second thought and went to sleep. Due to a serendipitous computer issue our tracks for "Tarantulove" were inaccessible the following day.
Ben was a little late so Damon Moon (producer/engineer at Standard Electric Recording Co.) and I got to work. I only heard it on piano but I wanted to wait for Ben as he's a much better pianist than myself so I did a rough run through on guitar with a metronome. I stopped at each section to write the part as we were rolling. By the time we got to the middle eight Ben was there and we sorted the rest.
Ben hammered out the pianos and leads fairly quickly. Zach wasn't scheduled that night, but he was close by so we called him in. He nailed his parts on the first go—we call him "One Take Batson" for a reason. Chuck (bassist) came a week or so later and sorted the bass and the song was complete. It was a really quick and easy process.
SC: How often do you write? Do you keep a songwriting schedule or do you wait to be inspired?
VB: I write constantly but I'm very selective about what I keep or finish. Those that make it to production require inspiration . . . otherwise it's just a bunch of songs about Hot Pockets.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence your writing?
VB: More than anything Atlanta makes me work. I go to a lot of shows, especially in the village—and the sheer talent I see on any given night has me thankful to be a working musician in a city so full of stellar bands.
Photo credit: Ian McFarlane
LeeAnn Peppers music is a blend of roughhewn poetry and rich Folk arrangements. Her song “Annabel” is a fingerpicked character sketch about growing up and learning to deal with the adult pain. LeeAnn relates the story of Annabel who is “skinny in the sunset, / [an] only child fatherless in blue jeans” as a spinet piano keens clustered whole notes that sound like a gavel on a courtroom bench. LeeAnn sings with just enough ache to make you feel as bruised as her characters. You’ll want to listen to her fragile narratives again and again.
Listen to “Annabel” here.
SC: I love how well you enjamb your lines in these verses. Each line in the verse leads into the next by providing information that drives the story: “to save you from the blackness / that you feel inside / crying at the clothesline as the fire burns / the trailer where the neighbor boys made you feel / the need to please in / a simple game of truth or dare”)
I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about how you approached the rhythm of these lines and/or how you think about your lines on paper and in song.
LP: I used a cut up method for “Annabel”. I gave myself a short period of time to write down every word or pair of words that passed through my mind—words which fit the scene or mood of the overall tone. After filling the page I picked a word to begin with and then a word to follow, so and and so forth until it was complete.
LP: Lucas McAuliffe arranged the song after I gave it a melody. He brought in Liz Brooks to sing a harmony part—which devolves—so, throughout the entire second half of the song, she repeatedly sings the word "Annabel" to add to the quiet urging.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing process. Do you keep a songwriting schedule? Or do you wait for inspiration?
LP: I think any kind of writing is good for using the muscle. There are exercises which train you to go to that place inside yourself, the well you draw from, intentionally and effectively and on command. An excellent resource for writing exercises is Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison. I also think reading is a great writing exercise.
I don't currently have a writing schedule. From the time I could write as a child (not spell, but write!) through the first few years after college I journaled extensively and I still carry something to write on and with everywhere I go. I like to write the moment I'm inspired--which is how most of my work manifests--though Annabel is not an example of that. I've experimented with writing first thing in the morning or right before I go to sleep, writing with a time limit, writing with a page limit, and sometimes I just sit with a pen in hand and write nothing.
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