The Lumineers did not come across The Dishmaster’s desk by accident. I’m on a constant hunt for new music, which includes an overloaded news feed flooded with music blogs and magazines. But with all that research, I rarely find anything worth listening to. You can therefore imagine my shock and happiness when I found The Lumineers. I discovered them through Paste Magazine, who voted them one of “The 20 Best New Bands of 2011.” I immediately listened to their EP, followed by playing their Daytrotter session on repeat. When I reached out to their team for an interview, I was elated when they invited me to their “Ho Hey” video shoot, which was filmed at a broken-down, old hospital that is also the home of some familiar movies, including Saw and Pearl Harbor. Though I was briefly afraid that ghosts might attack me, my nerves were immediately calmed when I met the band. They had been shooting all day and somehow still managed to sustain their fun, laid-back energy. I’m told by their manager that they revved up their dedicated, suspender-wearing extras with a live performance prior to the shoot, and it’s no surprise that everyone loved it. These guys are good. Our interview took place a few days later. They answered all my questions with the right amount of humility and honesty. In fact, after forty minutes I said, “I’ll let you off the hook. I’ve kept you way too long.” The band then said, “No, ask us anything. Keep going if you have more questions.” I took their bait and held them hostage even longer. Their self-titled debut album hits stores April 3rd. Enjoy the interview, and watch their “Ho Hey” video below.
As the daughter of a dentist, I’m intrigued by your name. How did you come up with it?
Wesley Schultz (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano): We stole it. We were playing at a place in Jersey City and they accidentally called us the name of a band performing the following week.
Why the move from New York to Denver?
Wesley: We wanted to move to the middle of nowhere and write songs. It was pretty random. We wanted to go somewhere new and cheap. It’s an absurd proposition to tour and live in New York. We wanted a low overhead. But we didn’t expect to find the really great music scene [in Denver]. There was a huge community of musicians.
How did Neyla join the band?
Neyla Peckarek (Cello, Piano): I just finished school and I had nothing on my plate and didn’t know what was next. I got a teaching degree and they don’t hire a lot of teachers in [December]. I checked the musicians page of [a Craigslist ad]. They sent me a couple of tracks and it was a pretty natural fit right away. I wasn’t looking to be in a band at all. It forged naturally. They wanted to go on tour, and I said yes.
I can’t remember where I was when I first heard Sister Hazel’s biggest hit, “All For You,” but I certainly remember singing it excessively. In fact, I’ve played . . . Somewhere More Familiar hundreds of times. So when my good friend – Rob Columbus – told me he was playing drums with the band for a few of their shows (because their regular drummer, Mark Trojanowski – had a baby), I immediately asked if he could land me an interview. He asked, and the band kindly agreed. I’ve never been more nervous. I spent the entire day immobile on the couch thinking of everything that could go wrong. Rob attempted to squash my panic by assuring me that the band members are “five of the nicest guys he’s ever met,” but nothing worked. Finally, I met the band. It became immediately clear that Rob wasn’t exaggerating. We did the interview in their dressing room at the Los Angeles House of Blues prior to their show. When we began, Ken Block (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) hilariously turned things around and started to interview me. Andrew Copeland (rhythm guitar, keys, vocals) laughed and said, “isn’t she supposed to ask the questions?” Thanks to Ken — I loosened up. It’s nice to meet a band with the perfect combination of success and humility. Enjoy!
I love that you still play the songs that made you famous. I know a lot of bands that get angry about playing their biggest hits. Is it difficult to sustain the energy playing those songs so many years later?
Ken: We’re fans of music, too. There are artists that we like to see, and we want them to play the songs that we love. People ask us if we get tired of playing “All For You.” It’s so fun to see how much it continues to resonate with people so long after that song came out. It’s more a feeling of gratitude that people still care and it can still make people sing every word no matter where we are in the world. And one of the things that’s so gratifying about our fan base is that they sing along to [our news songs, too].
Andrew: Even if they don’t know the words, they’ll just move their mouths as if they know the words. That’s even more fun to watch.
When you write a song about a tough personal experience in your life, does it reopen the wound every time you perform the song?
Andrew: There are certainly times when you fade back to something that reminds you of that time. It takes you back to what inspired the song.
Ken: There’s one song that I wrote that we had done for years, and after Andrew lost his dad he said he couldn’t do it anymore.
Andrew: He wrote it about losing his younger brother to cancer. I sang it with him forever, and I was always amazed that he could make it through without much of an issue. And when my dad passed away, I tried to sing it a couple of times and I couldn’t do it.
What song is that?
Ken: It’s called “Running Through the Fields.”
What about you Ryan? I know you wrote songs about your divorce. Is it difficult to keep singing those songs after you’ve healed?
Ryan Newell (lead and slide guitar, harmony vocals): The songs definitely helped me get through [my divorce] at the time and put my feelings into music. It’s like therapy. But I don’t go back to that place from where they came from. Once they went into the song they took on a life of their own. I don’t relive it every time we play the song. They don’t have that weight anymore.
Mike Doughty is a talented guy. I’ve been a fan since my high school days when I played Soul Coughing on repeat, and I later became addicted to his solo work when my musically adept cousin pointed me to Haughty Melodic, one of my favorite albums in history. So when he agreed to do an interview with The Dishmaster to promote his new album, Yes and Also Yes, I was elated. While preparing for the interview, I quickly discovered that he and I have very different feelings about the band he spent numerous years with. In fact, he once referred to his time with Soul Coughing as “the devil’s asshole.” You can therefore imagine my trepidation on broaching the subject. But I wouldn’t be The Dishmaster if I didn’t get the dish. So I dove right in, and I happily discovered that Mike was not only gracious about discussing the subject; he was also honest, which is rare in this industry. Read my interview below, and then listen to his song, “Na Na Nothing,” at the end of the post. It’s fantastic, and so is he.
I was a huge Soul Coughing fan. You’ve described your experience with Soul Coughing as “Dante’s Inferno.” Do you think being in a band inherently lends itself to fights over songwriting?
No. My band mates, in my opinion, were sociopathic. It was worse than your average band conflict. The majority of the songs were solely written by me. My band-mates’ [perspective] was “You’re not very good, and you’re very lucky to have found us,” and they also threatened to leave the band over the [songwriting split], and they were stupid enough to have done that. I do not know a story of a band crazier than mine.
Did they ever approach you after reading your interviews about them?
No. I refuse contact. But there was an interview with the keyboard player, where he basically said, “Doughty doesn’t really write music at all,” and he wasn’t trying to be a dick. He really believed that. It would be one thing if they were just mean-spirited and conniving, but to really talk to someone and say “The sky is blue,” and have them follow up, “No, it’s red” . . .
Is that why you no longer sing Soul Coughing songs?
I choose not to sing them. Chances are I wouldn’t sing those songs even if it was a good experience. I just want to get away from it. I just have songs that I like better. I’m not going to come to your house and steal your iPod. You are welcome to listen to those songs. But I don’t want to play it. If people come to the show and say they want to hear “Super Bon Bon,” I’ll tell them not to come back. And if I could give you your money back, I would. I genuinely dislike the Soul Coughing stuff. I don’t think most of the songs are very good at all.
Is that because you’ve changed styles as a musician since your time in the band?
If I had not had to constantly appease my band-mates, it would have sounded more like my solo stuff. We were Captain Beefheart, and we could have been Led Zeppelin. It sucks that this work I really dislike is hanging around my neck. I feel like a creative person that wants to keep creating art and I have a large audience that digs it.
Too bad schmucks like me keep asking you about Soul Coughing.
I don’t think you’re a schmuck. I just really wish honestly, humbly, and respectfully that guys that want to hear Soul Coughing don’t come to the shows. It’s so aggravating.
Did getting away from the label contribute to your freedom as a solo artist?
The label was very good to us. But there were a lot of stupid decisions made by my band-mates that lost [the label] money, and I look back and don’t understand why someone didn’t step in and say, “This is what you’re going to do and you’re going to like it,” because it would have been better for us.
I’ve heard you say that you make more money now than you did on the label.
It loops back to the band. But I also don’t own the Soul Coughing songwriting. The label was making a profit even when we were in the hole. But the band spent a lot of money. I remember a gig in DC and my drummer insisted on taking a tour bus instead of a van. There was so much money spent. I am not excluded from that. I would stay at the Royalton for a month making my record, and when I got out I couldn’t pay my rent. When I went solo that’s when it all made sense to me. Also — I wasn’t wasted anymore.
When you write music, do you ever look back on your songs and discover a new meaning?
Yes. You have a perspective on the emotional context after playing it for a bunch of years that you don’t have when you record it. I don’t really want to talk about it because very, very deep factors in my personality are revealed to me years later. But I’ll tell you one thing – “I don’t need to walk around in circles” was about Soul Coughing.
I love the song “Holiday” on the new album. I read that Rosanne Cash said something nice about you during a concert. Did you contact her after hearing what she said?
She said from the stage, “I’m really nervous because Mike Doughty is here and he’s such an amazing songwriter,” and my jaw hit the floor. So when Dan Wilson and I wrote “Holiday,” there happened to be this note there that I couldn’t hit, so my solution was to get a female backup singer who would sing along with the chorus . . . but I [thought] . . . as a shot in the dark, let’s send this to Rosanne Cash and see if she’ll do a full-on duet . . . And she said yes. It was astonishing.
Because of the climate of the music industry, artists are making most of their money on tour. Does the excessive traveling bother you?
No, I love touring. This last tour I did with the band was a dream. Everybody was so awesome. I’m touring with dedicated, smart, funny, interesting people that are a blast to work with, and I like being on the road.
Is it true you wrote this on an artist’s colony? Do you usually write in one condensed period of time?
It was more writing from square-one than I had done in the past. I wrote it in a more linear way than I [usually] work in.
How did you choose the title, Yes and Also Yes, for the album?
It was an improvised headline to an OkCupid profile. You can’t put the profile up without a headline, which is annoying, so I wrote “Yes and Also Yes.”
Jackie Collins is one of those fabulous women that still manages to stay relevant after an astounding amount of success. She’s sold over 400 million copies of her books, and she’s still producing great, original material. Her latest book, ‘Goddess of Vengeance’, is just as fun as you’d expect. It follows her coveted protagonist, Lucky Santangelo, who’s running a highly successful hotel and casino in Las Vegas. When her casino is threatened, you get to see the quintessential Jackie Collins girl-power at its best. Lucky is joined by a new generation of Santangelos, who bring their own set of juicy drama. I was honored to interview the great Jackie Collins for her new novel. Enjoy!
After 28 books and a four decade long career, how do you continue to find inspiration for your stories?
Inspiration is all around me. I just have to pick up or go to a Hollywood party!
Your novels often have very strong and beautiful female protagonists. Was this always your intention when you began to write, or did it evolve over time?
My object was to create strong positive role models for women. Female heroines who can kick ass!
There’s some fun dating in this book, particularly by Lucky Santangelo’s best friend, Venus. Is her character at all inspired by your own personal life?
Madonna was the muse for Venus, with touches of Beyonce, Cher, and Lady Gaga. A true original and beautiful and strong diva with a penchant for gorgeous men!
I noticed that your characters curse a lot. As someone who greatly enjoys using profanity to express my point, I have to ask if this is a natural or calculated choice.
Natural of course. That’s the way real people speak, and my characters are very real.
Hollywood these days tends to favor the very young. Is it tough to write a whole new generation of characters that fit today’s current trends?
Not at all. I am a popular culture junkie and T.V. addict, so I am always in touch with everyone and everything. I write for all colors, ages, and sexual orientation. Something for everyone!
When I saw the first trailer for ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon,’ I thought, “I wonder if that guy in the space-suit is hot?” Then I landed an interview with him and as it turns out — he is hot. There are days when being a blogger really pays off. Actually, I prefer to call myself an “online journalist,” but that’s neither here nor there. The hot guy in question is Don Jeanes, and he plays Neil Armstrong in one of the biggest blockbuster films in history. Jeanes grew up on a ranch in Texas, and he later moved to New York to pursue acting. After a few years in New York, he moved to Los Angeles, where, needless to say, he’s doing quite well for himself. Read my interview with the yummy actor below.
I think every kid fantasizes about being an astronaut. What was it like wearing the space suit?
It was really cool. Our costumes were inspired by the designs of actual NASA space suits. I couldn’t help but feel a little heroic just trying it on at the fitting. I will say though that once you put on the glass helmet it gets a little claustrophobic.
The 1984 animated Transformers film was Orson Wells’ last movie. Were you intimidated by the history of the Transformers franchise?
Yes and no. As an actor I was intimidated to play one of America’s most beloved heroes in front of such a large audience but not of the Transformers franchise; in that aspect it was an honor.
As a kid, I loved the transformers cartoon and used to watch it every morning before school. I went to see both ‘Transformers’ and ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ in the theater. I remember sitting there after ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ envisioning myself being a part of such an action thriller film.
Shia Labeouf has described Michael Bay as having an “aggressive personality.” What was your experience working with him?
From my personal experiences on set, I would say that Mr. Bay is straightforward when he is directing. I found him to be as personable as a man can be considering the millions of dollars invested in the film while orchestrating hundreds of people on set everyday. I was intrigued by his hands-on approach for each scene and his interactions with all of the actors and crew members. It was great knowing that I could have an open line of communication.
You’re starring in the Los Angeles play, ‘Jesus Hopped the “A” Train,’ this summer. I know your career began in New York. Do you favor theater or film?
That’s a hard question to answer. I really enjoy working in both mediums because they allow me to work as an actor and perform in different ways. A linear performance in front of a live audience on stage is what I love. On the other hand, I also love film because it reaches a broader audience in which I can impact more people.
I read in an interview that your cousin is a rodeo clown. For some reason I think his career might be just as entertaining as a Hollywood film. Any chance you might have stayed in Texas and gone that route?
(Laughs) Yes, there’s a slight chance that would have happened. I started riding bulls when I was fifteen with my older brother. We had only been riding for a short while when he broke his collarbone. I must admit, as a young kid, that scared me a little given that I could no longer get to the rodeos because I couldn’t even drive yet. I think if that accident hadn’t happen I might still be “Spurrin and Pickin Apples” in Texas today.
Tell the truth. Do you have a Megatron figurine from your childhood that you fight in your spare time?
(Laughs) No, but I do have a “Sonar” figurine that was given to me for my last birthday.
Did you get to steal anything from the set?
(Laughs) Does a pair of socks count? I drove my motorcycle to the set every day and one morning it was raining. My feet ended up being soaked. I ended up getting a pair from the costume department and they have been a memento ever since!