FEATURE INTERVIEW with Sean Spellman of Quiet Life

Interview by Corrine Jensen
November 22, 2011

Quiet Life emerged onto the New London music scene in 2004 and soon became a local favorite. In 2009, the then quartet packed up and moved to the other side of the country where they’ve been living, creating, and performing up and down the West Coast.
Over the years, the group has featured a variety of talented musicians with it’s current line-up featuring original members Sean Spellman (vocals, lead guitar), Ryan Spellman (drums), and Craig ‘The Rupe’ Rupert (guitar), now joined by Thor Jensen (guitar, bass) and Jesse ‘The Ozark’ Bates (steel guitar, bass).

Quiet Life is in the middle of a jam-packed tour (17 states in 33 days!) in support of their latest album Big Green and they’re doing it all gasoline free in a converted Ford Diesel Van appropriately named 'Greasy Pete'. The local rockers will be home in Connecticut later this week with multiple shows throughout the area and two in New London.
Somewhere outside Chattanooga, TN., easy-going front man Sean Spellman charmed WailingCity.com while talking about Quiet Life’s "ultimate road trip", going gas-free as an economical choice and his memories of New London.

WC: You grew up in New London. Tell me about the music scene from back then. Any memorable stories? Bands? Shows?
Sean: Yeah, actually, I used to work at the El ‘N’ Gee when I was about 17. Yeah. (Laughing) It was great. I was the runner. I was the dude who went and bought all the all the energy drinks and backstage food, like veggie lasagna, for the bands. It was cool. I got to go into all the shows for free and I hung out with all of my favorite bands at the time. There were a ton of emo, punk and hard-core bands. I saw a ton of hard-core shows there. I also used to work at The Oasis. I bartended and my brother, Ryan, used to work the door. We were there all the time and one of my favorite shows there was definitely the Justin Townes Earle show. One of the best shows at the Oasis.

WC: In 2009, the whole band decided to move out to the West Coast and now live in Portland, OR. How has the music scene been for you guys out there?
Sean: It’s been great. There are a lot of bands and a lot of places to play. There are a lot of great bands. Some of my favorite bands that are well known all over the country live in Portland and we get to be a part of that whole music area which is really inspiring. It pushes us to do more and be more productive and work harder so that’s the most beneficial thing about living there. There’s always room to grow.

WC:  Now you’re on a pretty intense tour with some very talented bands in support of Big Green. How’s that going? Enjoy being on the road and playing and seeing the country?
Yeah, we’re opening for a few bands. We did 2 weeks with Dr. Dog and then rode up to Philly and met up with Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside for a few shows with her. Now we’re doing about a week of shows on our own before meeting up with Cotton Jones for a few days. It’s kind of a hodge-podge of bands for the tour. Being on the road has been pretty great. Just getting to see places is the added bonus to getting to play music every night. Discovering new bars and restaurants and meeting people in different towns that want to show us the things that they enjoy about their city because they know we’re out of towners, it’s like the ultimate road trip really.

WC: Let’s talk about why your band decided to convert your tour van to run on used vegetable oil vice gasoline?
Sean: We’ve been trying to do the conversion, running on grease, for a long time. Really, it’s the only way we can actually tour because it’s unaffordable to pay for gas. We’ve only spent $160 bucks on diesel so far on this tour and we’ve been out for 3 weeks and driven from Portland to Cleveland, down to New Orleans, over to Charleston and back up to Tennessee, we’ve been all over the place. We actually just filled up. We got 60 gallons of used vegetable oil here in Chattanooga and that’s probably gonna get us up to Philly.

WC: So, what does it smell like?
Sean: Right now it smells like a mix between garbage, egg rolls and french fries. (Laughing) We got some stinky grease a week ago and it still smells a little funky. I think we all get used to it though.
WC: I read that you guys are taking donations. Are there restrictions or a minimum? Sean: We’re just looking for used vegetable oil that’s golden and clean and doesn’t have a bunch of sediment in it. We’re trading people tickets into shows for some fuel. It’s cool. We’ve had people in different states come up to us and give us grease and it’s working out pretty nicely. We’re hoping people will continue to do that so that we don’t have to search everyday for hours. It’s nice to get about 5 gallons but there’s no minimum. What we’re really hoping for is somebody will say "Oh, I work at this restaurant" or "My friend owns or manages this place and they have a grease trap and you should come get our grease" that means we can get a lot of grease. We are trying to spread the word so that people can get in touch with us. They can email us at quietlifeband@gmail.com

WC: So this week you’ll be back home in New London. Are you excited? 
Sean: I’m stoked about that. We’re doing two shows in New London and I don’t think we’ve done that since... I don’t even know when? We’re playing The Bank Street CafĂ© on Thanksgiving and then we’re playing The Oasis the next night. We’re going to get to see a bunch of old friends. It’s going to be great.

WC: This is where it all started for you guys 7 years ago; you have to have a good Quiet Life and New London story from back then.
Sean: Basically, what happened was Quiet Life needed to book a show with this band called The Only Children from Lawrence, Kansas and we had booked the gig at this place called Heroes, which is this old bar on Golden St., but it actually closed down and we wound up doing the show at the Oasis. From then on out, Sean Murray pretty much started working as the promoter at the Oasis, I got a bartending job and my brother started working at the door and we had such a great little scene happening. There were so many local bands coming out at the time and we booked as many shows as we could and had as many out of town bands come through as we could. I think it was great for all the local bands, especially for us, to play with them. It was just a really awesome time. I think New London’s definitely changed a little bit but I think hopefully there’s a new breed of younger bands that are going to do that because that’s what it takes. It takes people like Sean Murray to book the shows and bands to get out and play the shows.

WC: What is Quiet Life going to do after the tour is all over?
Sean: Oh, we’re going to relax for a little bit and then we’re going to hit the road again in February. We’ll go home and try to finish the record in January and we’re still trying to figure out the tours but ultimately we’ll do a full U.S.

WC: Last question, do you have any advice for singers, bands, or musicians out there who want to get into the business or are just starting to emerge?
Sean: Work your ass off and play as much as you can. Play wherever you can and keep doing it. We’ve been a band for almost 7 years and we’ve played at all sorts of places, everywhere from H.S. football fields to bars that fit literally 15 people. We just played as much as we could and I think you just have to do that. Have the motivation to play wherever you can because if one person likes your band and that one person buys a CD, then it’s worth it and it’s a step up.

FEATURE INTERVIEW with Barefoot Truth

Interview by Corrine Jensen 
November 20, 2011

First performing as an acoustic duo, Barefoot Truth was born on the summer beaches of Mystic, CT., and has grown over the years into a dynamic 5-man multi-instrumented line up led by co-founders Will Evans (Lead Vocals, Drums, Guitar, Didgeridoo) and Jay Driscoll (Weissenborn Lap Guitar, Acoustic & Electric Guitars), and joined by Andy Wrba (Electric & Upright Bass) Garrett Duffy (Harmonica,) and John “Wayno” Waynelovich (Pianos, Organs).
Together they’ve created a distinct sound that is a blend of root-rock, jazz, folk and reggae. Their shows are high energy and filled with fans singing and dancing to catchy songs filled with lyrics that are both meaningful and uplifting because as Evans puts it "People have enough to deal with in their lives. When they go out to a show, let them be happy."
Barefoot Truth remains an independent band that continues to take a grassroots approach to the music scene. Through hard work, planning and the strength of their music they’ve created an impressive resume: their latest album Carry Us On shot to #10 on the iTunes rock album chart, they recently hit over 8 million plays on Pandora Radio, and their song "Threads" was featured in the game ‘Rock Band’.
Recently these 5 guys, who refer to each other as "brothers" and are as close as family, took time out of their busy touring schedule to speak with WailingCity.com.

WC: Will, you grew up in the area, how did that influence you getting into music and what experiences did you have here?
Will: I grew up in Mystic but for a few years my family moved to Burlington, VT and I went to a very liberal school where music was very encouraged. We moved back to Mystic and I went to Cutler Middle School where I started playing trumpet in Jazz, which was actually my first instrument. I was also in choir, where I was the only boy.

WC: I bet you got all the girls...
Far from it! (Laughing). But then I went to Fitch and I continued in Jazz, but to be in Jazz you also had to be in Marching Band and ultimately I didn’t like the structure of it all and it was stifling creatively, so I quit. But in the summers I would go to Esker Point Beach with my friends for the concerts and I remember watching all the great shows like The Sugar Daddy Band and I really liked watching the drummers and would think ‘I can do that.’ So, during my sophomore year I picked up my dad’s guitar and he and I kind of taught me how to play. That’s also when I started playing the drums. I played in a rock and roll cover band called Overdrive for a while but that got frustrating and I wanted the freedom to express myself musically. That’s kind of the time I met Jay and we started jammin’ together.

WC: Jay, you grew up in Massachusetts but met Will down in Connecticut, what brought you to the area?
Jay: I have cousins who live in Groton Long Point and I spent every summer there. I still have lots of family in the area and it’s basically a second home for me. Will and I were introduced through a mutual friend the summer between High School and College and I remember going out and watching him perform in Overdrive. During college we kept in touch and visited each other and kept making music.
 Will: I remember going to UMASS, where Jay went to school, and we would jam in the stairwell of his dorm and it was about 26 floors and all cement. It had great acoustics. We then played casually in some bars along the Connecticut shoreline and in Rhode Island as a duo.

WC: So, then you went from 2 to 5. How did each of you guys (Andy, Garrett and Wayno) join Barefoot Truth?
Andy:  Before I knew who they were, I was at a Jurassic 5 concert and a mutual friend told me they were looking for a bassist. I contacted them (Will and Jay) and we talked but we were all busy and things didn’t work out. A few months later I went to one of their shows and I liked their sound and introduced myself and shortly after I was part of Barefoot Truth.
Garrett: I met Will in college (St. Michael's) and wanted to jam with him and other friends so I started playing the Harmonica because no one else did and also, because my older brother used to play it. I remember my first official show was at the Coast Guard Academy in New London in 2006.
Wayno: Andy and I were in Jazz Studies together at Westfield State and I was incredibly intimidated because he was such a monster on the bass. At his final Jazz Studies recital he transformed the Barefoot Truth song "Reelin" into this huge 18-piece jazz composition and all the guys from the band were there and I was played piano for it. Later, I played on two songs for their Walk Softly CD. It was an interesting time because I would play some shows with them but I still had 2 years of college left and the guys were already out there doing their own thing. I grew up listening to and playing Dixie and Swing and I’m super proud of that but I’m most proud of what I’ve done with Barefoot Truth. These guys already had their own sound, their own product, and I had to figure out my place in all that.
WC: So you’re not only the newest but you’re also the youngest, how’s that?
I do feel like the youngest but we’re all equal. I’m a little more different, from my hobbies to what I eat, but being with these guys has opened me to so many interesting things and ideas. It’s neat. 
Jay:  Wayno is an oddball.

WC:  Barefoot Truth was officially born in Mystic, Ct what experiences have you guys had living and performing in the area?
We lived in Mystic, as a band, for 3 years and we hung out when we could. There’s not a lot of our style, our sound, in the area but we’ve played locally at places like The Bean and Leaf and The Hygienic Art Park, which was a great show and we had a great response.
Andy: I remember the Hygienic. We were playing outdoors and it was just a beautiful night.
Wayno: I only lived in Mystic with the guys for a year but it was a great place to be a band and create music and provided a solid home base to come home to. I love that area. It’s where we met Raise the Rent and allowed us to play with them and other bands.
Garrett: We love Raise the Rent, they’re cool!

WC: Barefoot Truth is playing at The Garde Arts Center Thanksgiving weekend on November 26th. How does it feel to be playing such a large venue so close to home?
We love playing there. Will and Jay both have family in the area and it’s nice to catch up and when you can incorporate that love into a show, that’s always a good thing.
Jay: It’s really special to come back and play for friends and family. When we see how excited they are at our growth as a band, it keeps us excited.
Will: Yeah, there’s always a thrill when playing big venues like The Garde but there’s also something special about playing small venues or even in a barn like here (Holcomb Farms), it’s so vintage. But we’re definitely looking forward to the show because we appreciate local shows and it is a Homecoming for us.
Garrett: It’s more or less home for us because that’s where everything started.
WC: You guys have been called the ‘symbol of independent music success’, how do you feel about that label and why are you unsigned?
Jay: That really is a big title and it’s amazing, sometimes we’re blown away from it. As for why we’re not signed? It has never been a priority for us. If that’s why you’re in it, then you’re probably in it for the wrong reasons.

WC: What do you guys do outside of Barefoot Truth?
Will: I’ve been doing some solo shows on the Cape, where I live now, and it’s liberating because there’s no set list and I just play off of the vibe of the crowd. But playing with the guys, there is the warmth of a family behind you. It’s nice to have when you’re having a tough night. It’s nice to know you can rely on your brothers.
Andy: I do some funk/jazz jammin’ on Monday nights with a rotating group of musicians in Pittsfield, Ma. It’s a little more song base and loose and intimate. I’m also big on family and I spend time working on my family’s orchard (Riiska Brook Orchard) whenever I can.
Wayno: I’m currently training for a marathon and eating lots of candy. Yep! I’m also a musical theatre geek and occassionally do a production in my town with my family who owns a performing arts building. I also try to keep busy musically. (Check Wayno out on Raise the Rent’s album Dig & Be Dug)
Jay: Today I was actually helping Wayno’s family build a set for a performance. Other than that I keep busy with Barefoot Truth and friends and family.
Garrett: I’m an avid practitioner of Yoga and I do many other outdoor activities. I’ve also started to write and compose songs.

WC: What advice do you have for musicians/singers/bands trying to make it?
Will: We’re still trying to figure it out! We’re still very much grassroots but I would say it’s all about balance. You gotta find the happy medium of not driving yourself crazy on the road. Play less shows but make them better shows. It’s easy to burn yourself out trying to play everywhere. Picking when to play and where is important. Be cautious and smart with touring.
Andy: It’s hard work. I would say practice and persistence. And practice doesn’t necessarily mean shredding the bass, it could mean actively listening to music or studying music theory. It helps to set realistic goals and learn about yourself and what you want.
Jay: If you’re playing in a band it’s more important to base it on friendship and not to let music get in the way of that. Play with people you like.
Wayno: I have a lot of respect for these guys. It’s amazing. I’ve made four best friends.

FEATURE INTERVIEW with Samantha Urbani of Friends

Interview by Corrine Jensen
November 17, 2011

Friends are a playful indie-cool band with an old school Brooklyn vibe infused in their sound, music videos, live performances, and in each one of them. Comprised of real-life friends Samantha Urbani (Vocals), Lesley Hann (Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals), Oliver Duncan (Drums), Nikki Shapiro (Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion), and Matthew Molnar (Keyboards, Percussion, Bass), the rhythm heavy dance-loving quintet has been generating lots of attention on sites like Spin and Stereogum.
The band is currently on a globe-trotting tour that kicked off in Amsterdam this past weekend and will end in the Midwest shortly before Christmas, but mesmerizing front woman and former Mystic resident, Samantha Urbani took time to talk to WailingCity.com about Friends, Music, and New London.

WC: Friends have been playing together for just over a year but in that time you’ve created a fresh sound with fun songs and funky beats. What inspires you musically?
I can feel inspired by other music but I don’t necessarily feel directly influenced by it. Things I am influenced by are all kinds of sensory things and when I am making music I think about visual art and stimuli. I’m usually inspired by relationships I have with people in my life and myself and nature and my sense of reality.

WC: The music videos, ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’, in which you were either co-editor or director for, are very artistic. Did you take the same approach when making them?
Yeah, I definitely like a certain type of aesthetics and production quality. I don’t like the sound or look of things being produced right now. It’s very over polished and kind of a hyper-reality that doesn’t sound or look like real life; it’s an HD version. I think it’s more interesting when you’re creating a piece of art. For the ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’ videos I was thinking of a 70’s playboy photo shoot/80’s home video look and it worked out and I really like both videos.

WC: You’ve been getting attention not only here in the states but overseas as well. You’ve played in the UK and also, this past weekend at the London Calling Festival in Amsterdam and there is a Europe Tour scheduled this February. How does it feel to be going international? Surreal?
It’s very surreal. It’s hard to have any perspective on it right now. Two years ago, seeing my life, I would have been really excited and impressed and blown away but the way that things have progressed it just seems natural and it’s hard to suddenly realize I’m doing what I’m doing and what I’ve always wanted to do. I think the world feels smaller, a lot of people probably realize that feeling, especially with having access to the Internet and being able to communicate with each other. Now, traveling and playing for thousands of different people from different places and easily being able to reach out, kind of proves that everything is connected.

WC: Ok, but there’s still no place like home and this Friday you’ll be playing at The Oasis Pub in New London, CT.... growing up in Mystic, this must definitely feel like a homecoming show for you. Are you excited? Nervous?
I’m excited because I don’t get to come home that often anymore and see all my old friends. I love to play in New London and I have been hanging out at The Oasis since I was way too young to hang out there. Ha, hopefully no one gets in trouble! It was definitely a home base for me before I moved to New York and I’ve seen a bunch of really cool shows there. To someone who didn’t grow up in New London, maybe The Oasis just looks like a regular, small-fries bar but to me it’s infamous and tons of people in New London still feel like hometown celebrities. It always feels really good to come home and have everyone be really excited about what I’m doing and not only about my music but about me, personally. Everyone there really inspired me and I really appreciate that they gave a shit enough to have a ton of touring bands come thru the area and have shows all week and didn’t kick me out of the bar.

WC: Hilarious! So, tell me about the New London music scene that you remember, any bands or musicians that stand out?
When I was younger there was a punk scene and all these cool bands. Specifically, I used to hang out with The Electric Noise Act when I was 18 or 19. It was with some of my best friends, these guys named Jared and Michael... and Randy who died a few years ago. Hanging out with those guys was kind of the high point for me. There was also Fatal Film, I love those guys and they’re really good friends of mine, and Brava Spectre, those kids always have a million different products going on but they’re great, and, of course, The Royale Brothers. But another thing that’s hard for me is a few of my favorite people from New London have died over the last few years so it’s a bittersweet feeling coming back because I miss those guys and it’s never going to be the same as it was. But I have faith that New London is going to continue to survive because there’s always people there who really, really care about and are trying to bring the city up and they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. It’s kind of an amazing place.

WC: You’ve been writing songs your whole life and now you’re lead vocals for a band that’s on the cusp of something big, what advice do you have for those bands/singers/musicians out there who are just getting starting or wanting to start?
I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to “know” how to do something to do it. You don’t have to be taught. You can do it intuitively and if you’re passionate about it and it makes sense to you creatively and it works in a way that you want it to work, make it happen. Also, it’s really, really important to go on tour and expose yourself. If you have a band and some songs, don’t wait around until it feels perfect, just get out there and do it because it’s never going to feel perfect. Don’t be scared ever. Make music in your room until you’re not scared anymore and then play it for real. Do it. And living in New York doesn’t hurt either. As much as I love New London and I totally support smaller cities and their scene, I can’t lie, it’s way easier to get attention from labels and booking agents or other bands and network in a bigger community. It’s in no way a put down to a smaller city like New London but it doesn’t hurt to move. Once you feel like you need to get to the next level and you’re really serious about having a band, you need to figure out if you need to stay or go.

WC: Alright, so tell us, what can we expect from Friends in the future?
We’re going to put out our full-length album in the spring of 2012 and go on tour in Europe and in the U.S. around that time too. I just think, ‘don’t have any expectations, we could do anything’. I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future just like I didn’t have any idea what we were going to do when we started the band. My whole life’s philosophy has sort of been to take things as they come and recognize opportunities. Everything is fluid, just go with it and see what happens. This is all I can really say about what we’re going to do next because I don’t really know. Hopefully it will make a positive impact in some way.



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