Saturday, December 26, 2009

Interview with Andy Poliakoff of Virginia Coalition

Way back in 2008 I interviewed Andy Poliakoff from Virginia Coalition. If you don't know VACO, I recommend you check out their latest CD, Home This Year. Many more interview transcripts are to come, since it's what I do in my free time.

What’s the story behind your band? How did you guys all meet?
We all grew up in the same town, Alexandria, Virginia. We originally just wanted to get together in somebody’s basement, make a racket, and a few of us decided that we really wanted to keep playing. A friend of ours booked us a gig at a small club in Georgetown. We played the show and we got hooked. Playing live is just incredible … we actually went to the high school that "Remember the Titans" was filmed at.

How did you pick your name?
We were all away at college and would come back on breaks to play shows. We didn’t have a name and since we’d all go away to college away from Virginia and think “I can’t wait to get back to Virginia and play music”, we just felt like we were this coalition of like minded musicians who wanted to play music together. We had a really strong connection with our hometown, our home state, and it just seemed like everything that happened to us happened in Virginia. So, it seemed to fit.

Who are your major influences?
We grew up listening to everything from Paul Simon to Metallica to Mozart. We love all music.

How would you describe your sound?
I think people say we sound a lot like the Barenaked Ladies or O.A.R. or Dave Matthews. We hear those names a lot. We don’t know if that’s true. We don’t really know what we actually sound like. It’s hard to know what you sound like. You have to sort of depend on other people for that one.

You guys are famous for the energy at your shows. How do you get to that level of excitement every night?
I don’t know if you or a lot of the people reading this have been on stage, but there’s a lot of nervous energy on stage and you’ve got to find a place to put that and sometimes stuff just sort of boils up inside you and you start getting electrified and you act crazy. You can’t explain it offstage. We just have such a good time. We all look at music as a way to make something melodic and uplifting, and I think our live shows are a lot like that. We just want to have positive energy flowing and see people happy and having a great time. Sometimes an audience just needs to see you projecting excitement and then it becomes contagious.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened on stage?
Lots of crazy things that I probably shouldn’t tell you. Ummm …. Our drummer’s had to run off stage to use the restroom. Let’s just say it wasn’t the pretty stuff. One time we toured with Sister Hazel and they had all of their crew in bizarre costumes and they just came on and started taking our stuff off stage during our set and messing up the tuning on our instruments. It was crazy.

Was that an end of tour prank?
Yeah. It was. Oh man. End of tour pranks …

How would you say your sound has developed over the years?
We’ve gotten a lot more excited about making music for the purpose of really communicating messages of hopefulness or "positivity" that we feel. We’ve always been about the live show, but as we’ve gotten older we’ve been like “Who are we?” I think no matter what age you are, as you mature, you ask, “Who am I? What am I?” and we said we want to be people who change something. People who commentate on all the things in life, sadness and happiness and jealousy and love, things that really touch people. The essence of that is just to write songs that are lyrically meaningful.

Do you prefer touring or working in the studio?
I prefer touring. Definitely. It’s way harder but it’s just so much more rewarding. I’m definitely a musician and I love music and that’s why I do what I do, but I really love performing for people. I can’t speak for the whole band obviously, so the other guys might like the studio better. I just love to be in front of people and make a fool out of myself and connect with people. I just really adore it.

What is your songwriting process:
On songwriting: “The essence … is just to write songs that are lyrically meaningful.
The process is just to get together. In the past, we did more writing on our own. We would write stuff separately and then come together when a song was done and work on it. For our new record “Home This Year” we all got together and wrote all of the songs together and that was the first time we’d done that. We also worked with a couple professional songwriters and that was an interesting process. But as a band, we pretty much go in a room, we lock ourselves in it and say “Okay.” As far as chord progression stuff, we come up with that on our own and then we go in as a group and work until the song is finished. If it doesn’t sound good on an acoustic guitar with vocal harmonies, we just drop it. There’s all these crazy … sounds that they can do in the studio that make stuff sound cool, but we want it to sound good on an acoustic guitar. We don’t dress stuff up ... We’re kind of old school in that way.

Do you guys have any good studio stories?
I’m not the guy to ask. Um … we’ve definitely played in some pretty wild studios, especially for “OK to Go” But in the studio we’re just under water, and sort of there. You’re just in there for so long and you have no idea what time it is. I’m always like “Let’s go out. It’s too dark in here.” The studio for us is generally like me complaining that I’m in the Bat Cave. I want a studio in the Caribbean … I hate the studio, like the atmosphere. I hate basements. I hate caves. I hate low lighting. I hate candles. I need to see the sun as much as humanly possible.

What is your favorite part of being on tour?
That’s a good question. There’s a lot of it I like. I think one of my favorite things to do on the road is wake up before the rest of my band just to wake up to read the paper and relax and reflect on the day before. The part counter to that is … I don’t know. Sometimes you see people that you went to school with that moved to a new city. The not knowing. I mean I’m sitting here and I have no idea what will happen tonight. There is just so much routine in life, and not knowing what’s not going to happen is nice. You can just make music and be positive and make this little piece of the future that you can control when you’re on tour. It’s nice.

What is one question that you’ve never been asked that you’ve always wanted to be asked?
I don’t know. How about “How do you really not want to die?” “I don’t want to be eaten by sharks.” Let’s see … I would love to be asked, “So how was the flight on your private jet? How was the Japanese tour?” That would be awesome.

12/31 - Alexandria, VA
1/30 - New York, NY
2/5 - Philadelphia, PA
2/6 - Baltimore, MD

Photos by Emily Williams.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sara Bareilles Give Fans a "Free Ride" for the Holidays

Merry Chrismakwanzika!

I bet you don't know what I'm doing. Yes, I'm writing a blog. But what am I doing while writing this blog?

Did you guess?

No. I am not working on college apps. Who are you? My mother?

I'll give you a hint.

Last night around 6:45, Sara Bareilles posted an update to her Twitter announcing that she would release a new live EP on her website today.

Can you guess what I'm doing now?

That's right. I'm listening to the new live EP by the one and only Sara Bareilles. You should be too. Go download it.

What's that? Your iPod is already exploding from too much music? Well delete some stuff. You've got to make some space for this.

This one-track, 31 minute delight is from the Chicago stop of last winter's Gravity Tour. Featuring new arrangements of tracks from her major label debut, Little Voice, this is Sara Bareilles as you've never heard her before.

Remember "Love Song" - the one with the insanely catchy piano riff and a Grammy nomination to its name? It's here. Bareilles barely touches the piano on this live recording. It also features "Come Round Soon," a track shamelessly left out of last fall's live DVD, Between the Lines: Live at the Fillmore.

She also debuts a new song on her internet EP, "Free Ride."

It's not a new record, but it will definitely tide eager fans over until its release.

Have I still not convinced you?

It's free.


Track Listing
1. Intro
2. Bottle It Up
3. Come Round Soon
4. Vegas
5. Free Ride
6. Love Song
7. I'm On Fire (featuring Tony Lucca) [Bruce Springsteen Cover]
8. Gravity