Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Inquisition: 032.Beware Of Safety

1. How did you came up with the name of the band? 

Sometimes the most inane and cheesy things provide inspiration. In the case of the band name, I had this “Stupidest Things Ever Said” daily desk calendar at work. One day it featured a sign in China that read “Beware Of Safety.” It wasn’t really funny at all, but in the context of a band name, it had a nice ring to it. And I discovered multiple layers to the meaning as I thought about it more. So I added it to the list of band names we were considering at the time and it made the cut after we all voted. It’s no Soundgarden or Deftones (two band names which I think are fantastic), but it works.

2. Do you have a standard procedure of creating a song? Do you just jam around or is there a main riff and the track is build up on it?

Often, one of the guitar players (Adam Kay, Jeff Zemina, or I) bring a riff or a theme to the other guitarists. The three of us will then work out some general ideas and later present them to Morgan Hendry (drums/keys) and Tad Piecka (bass). At that point everyone goes to work in a more collaborative format (“Wash Ashore In Pieces” from Lotusville, “The Supposed Common” from dogs, “O’Canada” from It Is Curtains). 

In other cases, we’ll jam on a musical passage in the rehearsal space which is a more democratic approach (“Crooked Nails for Catching Skin” from Leaves/Scars, “Cut Into Stars” from the BoS/Giants split). 

Other times, Morgan or Tad will present an idea and we’ll flesh out the construction of it together. (“Raingarden” from dogs originating with Morgan, and “To Be Curious Is Dangerous Enough” from Lotusville originating with Tad).

During the writing of Lotusville, there was a great sense of togetherness in the writing process. I certainly felt most connected to my band mates and the process was very transparent and honest. There was very little ego to sift through; it was a culmination of years of work and communication that made it a healthy and productive environment for us.

3. What are your influences and what kind of music do you hear when you are at home?

Direct musical influences are tough to pinpoint. More often, I am influenced by life experiences and I don’t consciously reference specific passages of music when I write. One thing I pay most attention to when writing new material is what I’ve done before as a guitarist and musician. I like to approach new music by attempting to do things I’ve never done before, or at the very least, put a new spin on existing strengths.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Sinoia Caves, My Morning Jacket, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Boards of Canada, Lorde, and some other goodies.

In December, a couple of guys in the band took part in an annual show we host with some friends called Winter Jam. A lot of my friends are musicians, so a few years back we decided to get together and play covers of pop songs at a local venue just for fun. We form three bands (typically drums, bass, guitars) and rotate singers on multiple songs. Over the course of the four years the multiple bands have played songs from Katy Perry, Tame Impala, The White Stripes, Superdrag, Hall & Oates, RATM, Backstreet Boys, Bing Crosby, Outkast, the theme from Team America: World Police, and others. It’s basically live karaoke. And wicked fun. The bands rehearse two or three times, then get on stage and let loose. 2014 was our fourth year putting on the show and it’s always an awesome night. Some songs I played I had never even heard until a week before the performance. It’s cool learning guitar parts for mega-pop songs from the likes of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift even I’ll probably never listen to the songs again in my entire life.

4.    Which is the one album you can't live without?

At this very moment, I’d have to go with Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop by Stone Temple Pilots. That record has aged really well. The production and tones they found are near perfect and timeless. It also brings me back to my teen years when I was a total newb on guitar struggling to learn “Art School Girl” and “Adhesive”. It’s a really beautiful collection of music.

5. What's the first record you've ever bought ? 

I’m 35, so the first record I bought was actually not a record at all, but a cassette tape back in the 80s. And technically, my mom bought it for me. It was Beach Boys tape that had pictures on it of attractive women wearing swimsuits. I just Googled it to try to link the artwork, but had no luck. Maybe it’s still in a shoebox in my mom’s house with Motley Crue’s "Dr Feelgood" and Weird Al’s "Fat". Ah, the 80s.

6. Name a band that you would like to share the stage or tour with ? 

Tool. Without a doubt.

7. Did the internet and specially the blogs helped to spread your music around the world? Name a place (country) that you were surprised to know your music has reached to?

The internet has been HUGE in our band’s success. I’m sure every band nowadays would agree that its presence for worldwide communication is something previous generations never could have dreamed of. One of the main supports for BoS in our early career was The Silent Ballet. They had writers all over the world covering bands and artists in the instrumental realm. Without their support, who knows where we’d be at this point? But they wrote honest reviews about musical genres they cared about. Genres that weren’t (and still aren’t) getting any attention from larger music information sources. So they were big for us at a time when people wanted a central source for niche music like ours.

We played a show in Poznan, Poland – 6,000 miles away from our home in Los Angeles – in 2012 and had an amazing and memorable time. The club owner was wicked gracious, the sound guy was talented and kind, and the crowd was overwhelmingly supportive. After the set, many of the folks in the crowd stuck around and bought us countless Polish vodkas and shared stories about their culture and home. It was a blast.

8. Do you support the idea of Bandcamp where fans can decide the price or services like Spotify?

Personally I think Spotify is a joke. The royalties a band receives from the service are laughable (

Bandcamp on the other hand, is a great service for bands and fans alike. They provide an easy-to-use platform to point your fans to, have excellent customer service, and don’t gouge the artists’ income to support their site. Still, you run into a few difficult issues, the biggest being promotion. How do you reach people who don’t already know who you are? I spoke to a friend recently who had a conversation with the head of a large indie label in NY. My friend asked him, “If you have $10,000 to spend to make a record, how would you allot the money?” The owner of the label said to him to put at least half – and even as much as three quarters – into promotion. He feels nowadays, you can make a solid sounding record for relatively cheap, but promotion is the thing that takes time and money and, unless you have the deep connections or the credibility an established act may have, you can’t do it on your own. Without it you’re just another band with another record competing for a share of a drowning voice.

All in all, the financial landscape of music as art has become pretty bleak for those who aren’t the top 1% of musical acts. I generally expect to make very little money if any when releasing a new album. But BoS isn’t making music to make money. We do it because we love what we do. We love challenging ourselves and bettering ourselves musically and personally. When it comes to music and art, why you do it and how you do it is infinitely more valuable than what you can get once it’s complete.

9. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

With all that Spotify income, we’ll be sipping pina coladas on a beach in Mexico, of course! But seriously, in five years, I have no idea. I’m not one to look that far into the future. I recognized a few years ago that the unexpected has a way of keeping you grounded and in the present moment. I’m much more concerned with the next phase of BoS. Which I see as a venture into the unknown. This next writing phase will be for our fifth release. We’re certainly not going to write the same stuff again. Perhaps it’s time for a major departure from what we know. Or maybe we put heavier constraints on ourselves creatively or in the way we manage time. At this point, we don’t know. But I know none of us want to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

10. Is the artwork of an album important nowadays in the digital era?

Absolutely. The album artwork is the visual representation of the music…even if it’s a 200x200 px icon on iTunes. We’ve released all our records on vinyl and CD as well as digital, so artwork plays a large factor in the presentation across each medium. Vinyl is the most fun to design because the artist has a much larger canvas on which to work. One thing that has been fun for BoS is to have multiple versions of artwork for each release. For example, our first release It Is Curtains was first issued in hand stamped CD cases and issued later on vinyl with completely different. The CD and vinyl versions of dogs were simultaneously designed quite differently. Each BoS release has at least one small portion of the artwork different between the vinyl and CD versions.

11. What is you favorite album cover?

One of my favorites is Bersarin Quartett’s self-titled LP. I reference it often when BoS begins discussions about album art of our own. I think it’s important for a cover to beg questions of the audience, to provoke some sort of visceral response. BQ’s does this by showing what I perceive as the frightened reaction of a young girl putting her hand in front of her face, but it doesn’t show what she is frightened of. It’s very powerful. It reminds me of the first line of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The opening line is “Who’s there?” As an audience member it captivates you and makes you want to know who is there, it makes you want to listen to every single note on that record.

12. It seems that a lot of people are turning on vinyl again. Why do you think that is and which is your preferable media format? 

Listening to vinyl is an event. You must be engaged when you do it; it’s an interaction between the record, the player, and the listener. You have to flip the record every 20 minutes or so, unlike iTunes which can play forever. I love vinyl for that reason. I love sitting down with a lady friend or my buddies to spin some wax. It feels like we’re there for the experience of listening to music, not just talking over it while it plays in the background. Nowadays physical touch can feel so distant – it’s the internet age – especially with the way we consume music. Too many folks don’t ever hold in their hands an actual album or even see its artwork or know the album or song titles; it just hides in their iPhone or on their hard drive. I love the touch of records and the fact that I have to be careful with them, treat them like the delicate treasures they are.

13. What's the most vivid story or moment as a band?

From August, 2012 until March, 2013, BoS was unexpectedly forced into a period of downtime. On September 11 and 12, 2012, I suffered two strokes. Long story short, I tore an artery in my brain (cause unknown), the wound clotted, cut the blood supply to my brain, and caused the first stroke. I was rushed to the hospital and stayed there for over a week. (The second stroke happened the next day while I was in the hospital). Thankfully, I avoided death and surgery, but it was a terrifying experience for my family, friends, and me. My BoS guys were super supportive throughout the whole thing – Jeff and Adam even brought my acoustic guitar to the hospital so I could make sure I could still play. It was like when Gandalf exorcises Saruman from Théoden in Lord of the Rings.

Gandalf the White: Breathe the free air again, my friend.
Théoden: Dark have been my dreams of late. [looks at his hands]
Gandalf the White: Your fingers would remember their old strength better... if they grasped your sword.

Thankfully, I lost no mobility (or my sense of humor) and was able to play without any issues.

During a long recovery process I was ready to take the stage again. It was March 2, 2013. We were asked to support our friends The Victor Ship who were playing their final show as a band. I generally don’t get nervous for shows; it’s more of an excited anticipation of performing. But this time, the nerves were kicking in. Not so much for the performance, but for the fact that I wasn’t sure how my body would respond. I was very conscious of the doctor’s orders to avoid any sudden head/neck movements for fear of exacerbating my healing artery and I wasn’t sure if my emotions would get the best of me. At a few points in my recovery, I had honestly thought I would never get to perform again, so this was a very big deal to me. As I set up my pedal board, warmed up the amplifier tubes, and slung my guitar over my shoulder, I kept picturing myself falling to the stage in a heap mid-show and how the crowd would respond to seeing me die during a performance. It shook me to the core and it was hard to focus on the job at hand. But I maintained with the help of the calmness of my bandmates and the support of my friends in the crowd.

Other than help with technical issues before or during our sets, the band members’ communication with each other on stage is generally musical or via eye contact. But right before we were about to start, Morgan called to me from behind his drum kit. I turned and leaned over his ride cymbal thinking he may need more guitars in his monitor or maybe an extra minute to dial in his drums. Instead he leaned over towards me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said to me: “I’m so glad you’re here”.

I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

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