Sounds in San Diego: You got a great review on iTunes, your music as was described as “Nifty 60’s-retro keys and roarin’ guitar and urgent vocals, space-y thermin and a rhythm section that will punch you in your chest.” Is that an accurate description of what SBU sounds like?
Will Lerner: I think that’s 100% accurate!
SISD: What would you add to that?
WL: I’d like to say too, ah ya know too straight from the gut lyrics I know that when you’re seeing a band live or even when you first hear a recording you know we’re not a signer songwriter project where you know…it’s not all about our precious poetry. But I’m pretty proud of what we came up with. I think a lot of our fans and people that see us you come away with a sense of excitement and energy of our songs. The way the tunes are being expressed and played but ya know there’s something to our words too, that if you hear them grab onto you know because it’s,-not super personal poetry or anything like that but it’s just we try to build images and refrains that can sink into your mind so, I like that about us. And I like that we have multiple lyricists in the band and some of the way we write is almost exquisite quirk style where we’ll start…
SISD: How does your song writing process start then?
WL: Well sometimes with the lyrics we’ll almost build on it with each other. Jesse will have an idea and then Fonda will write a verse then I write a chorus. We’ll literally build it block by block like that and shape it together. We write together. We arrange together. Shake Before Us is a band. And the riffs and sometimes the melody lines will get into our heads that will usually be from me and Jesse. If something is gonna,- if the germ of the idea is there then we all shape it together. Occasionally, I’ve brought in some more finished songs where I just had the ideas but we always arrange together. And we’re always very critical. We spent I think it was 9 months practicing and writing before we even stepped foot on a stage before we even tried to book a show. And part of that was we were getting to know our style of songwriting and definitely realized early on in this project that we are best as a band and any ideas any of us bring in are gonna change. And that goes for lyrics too,-that’s not just the music. And I think that makes us a little unique too. Usually in bands even if “the band” writes the music the singer will write the lyrics. Or whoever. Or if you’re Rush Neal Peart, the drummer writes the lyrics. But we, Shake Before Us, more than any other band I’ve been in,-in the past defines that word. I hate to call bands “projects” that’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m not in a “project” in a band. For ease of conversation, it’s the most band-like project I’ve ever been in. Please if you quote me using the word “project” make sure you use my disclaimer. *laughs* It is such a pet peeve either that or cut the whole thing out.
SISD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
WL: So so so many. The Animals are a huge one in terms of our arrangements, one of all of our favorites R&B singers is Eric Burdon, so yeah you can’t really ignore the British invasion, but we love that’s what the rock critics say right? It was the Black American musicians that affected that the English kids but then those English kids affected the American kids. So there’s almost that second generation that came out after 64-65 and you had bands in ‘65, ‘66, ‘67, bands in this country like The Sonics and The Chocolate Watchband, The Standells, and I’d go on but really just look at the back of any Nuggets compilation. I mean I hate to,-I mean it sounds corny now but when they put that together Lenny Kaye and the rest of his team,-man that was it that was where it was at. In terms of early rock and roll that was it early what became psychedelic on and up so…
But then we embrace modern artist I sometimes find bands a little pretentious, “..Oh whatever,-we don’t listen to that we only listen to this other stuff.” We love The Strokes, we love Jack White’s bands. We love ya know The Hives and bands that broke out but stayed true to what real rock and roll is. Or at least their interpretation is of it. We love our brothers and sisters in the San Diego music scene. That’s what I personally see more than anything else I don’t go to a lot of big shows. And a lot of the stuff I listen to tends to be either old 60’s rock or my friend’s bands that I like.
SISD: You talked about your lyrics not being poetry I wanna go back to that,-so what does move you to say what you are saying (in your songs)?
WL: I’ll get inspired by sometimes it’ll work just like music and it’ll be a kindred musical spirit. Whatever that inspires something. Like “All Day and All Night” has an interesting story. We had written this song. I had written the words for this one. It was straight up gonna be the classic “woman done me wrong/woman doing me wrong” thing. I literally had this line: “I got a woman” and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t Ray Charles influence,-it totally is. It’s not that R&B style, but that was the germ of the musical idea. And it was like let’s do this,-let’s follow this though. I think in the Ray Charles song she’s a good woman but in our song she isn’t. So the character is feeling put upon by this woman. So and then we couldn’t come up with a chorus. I was like, I actually wanted to call the song “Jezebel”, and have Jezebel be the refrain. They didn’t like that. They were like “Nah!” I said “No it’s a great name; we should do something like that. It needs to be something with the woman’s name.” And they just didn’t buy it; they weren’t buying it from me. Fonda had been flipping around,-I don’t know if it was on Pandora or internet radio, or TV but he got on a gospel station and there was a singing Minister and the refrain was something like “Love Jesus all the day and all the night” (I hope some Gospel outfit doesn’t try and sue us now.) But it wasn’t just All Day and All Night it was very close to that. But it really affected him, this “all day and all night”. And as soon as he said it I knew I’d been wrong their instincts were right that the woman’s name wouldn’t have been as powerful. The story is about her but it’s more about her affect on the character. So it’s really the character, all day and all night it’s the stress of this relationship and wanting his woman to be a good woman all day and all night. And as soon as we heard that we knew. That’s the best example I can give. Take a bit of my own personal my broken hearted stories and combine it with a Ray Charles (influence), and a gospel influences throw in some lyrics and you pretty much have that song.
SISD: What do you think the biggest obstacles are for bands?
WL: Geez really I think a good band will be heard. And I do believe that. Sometimes I think its personal the vision isn’t entirely clear. And sometimes I see that when I’m seeing bands play. I don’t even wanna say like little bands even some bigger bands who have lucked in or through whatever position have been doing well. It’s a difficult thing to describe because it’s not a gimmick not necessarily a hook it’s something and you know it when you hear it. It’s a mixture of everyone gelling together commitment, belief that transfers to the audience that’s something honest and original to say. And believe it or not it can be really hard to say something honest and original in an over-crowded market. And I hate to talk about rock music like that but it is. You know there’s a lot of bands. But if you’re good you can be heard. I think some of it is too there’s the old “The industry has changed so much…” for some people they just aren’t sure what to do. But it can be exciting too. Since the musician can control so much. Or can try to control a lot. You know what I mean obvious stuff like social networking, it’s a variations on the same shit of what you always did which was get out meet people, put your music in front of people you have the clearest vision you can you do it as well as you can. It can be tricky making yourself heard there’s a lot out there. I know for us we feel we’re just at the beginning and we just wanna keep getting heard more and more. Our next step is getting back the studio and then getting back on the road.
5 S’s of Sounds in SD:
Sound you love:
A sound I love is the whir and purr of a bass note of a keyboard though a Leslie Speaker.
Sound you hate:
I guess there’s nothing sadder than the sound of a chord or pedal going on the fritz and you haveta like cut a song short and restart it due to technical failure. That’s a sound all us musicians hate. There’s a zap the dead silence.
Spot in SD you have to see:
Oh! The Casbah! I do occasionally meet people who haven’t been there. And if you love (not that I’m a shill for Mays or anything,-he doesn’t need it)- but let’s face it – if you have any interest in what’s going on musically in San Diego there’s a lot of places you can go but The Casbah is Ground Zero.
Song that makes you smile:
I guess for me and for all of us what we all kinda dig -outta left field, something you might not expect: Rod Stewart’s version of “I’m Losing You” off of Every Picture Tells a Story Album, originally by the Temptations. It’s a Rod song in name only. But I know that’s one we’ve loved and every time Jesse fiddles with that riff in the practice room I know for a fact we all smile. That may be an example of the cover could even best the original. So everyone check it out if you haven’t heard it.
SD band you’re a fan of:
Ah, I’ve already praised Schitzophonics,-you know I’m gonna give some love to the Widows they’re great high energy garage punk band. Definitely more of a straight punk influence than we are. But they’re good friends they’re a good band they’ve been around for a while they’re doing great stuff. Making great records and shows. I can speak confidently for everyone in shake Before Us that we all like them. We admire what they’re doing and what they’re carving out for themselves. Cause that’s part of it too you see the energy and excitement you know you wanna see bands do it. Unfortunately we’ve both seen bands we’ve liked go away. Y’know maybe to get back to the question about ‘What’s the toughest thing in a band?’ and yeah you can say “Oh, the world, the ever changing music industry, the fickle fans..” it’s all true but really can you get along and keep it together long enough,-where at least the core remains? And is there enough of a vision where you can ride out you know if there has to be,-certain changes? You know how badly does the core of the group want to keep it going? And at any band,-I mean we were a core of four but one of that four had to leave, which left us at three but we love and share that vision. So I’d say bands need to keep that going. They need to keep that alive. And it was sad to see some bands go that I particularly liked. And I still listen to their records now *cough* The New Kinetics . But it happens. Bands are like relationships and we don’t all get lucky enough to have 50th year anniversaries.