cosmic roots collective interview

“Doing Whatever” w/ Cosmic Roots Collective (interview)

Ronnie Brannan, Paul Mauceri, and Wheeler Newman are the three psychedelic proprietors of Cosmic Roots Collective. The trio’s debut album, Poor & Happy, was released back in April 2014, and they’re ready to follow it up with an unexpectedly fresh second release. “Big Hand,” the currently untitled album’s first single (listen below), was released less than a week ago and CRC has been playing a string of Florida shows, the next being  Friday at SpacebarHappy Camper Booking’s Dave Hanson sat down with CRC for an in-depth discussion about the band’s evolution, creative process, and vision moving forward. Enjoy.

Fill us in a little bit on the history of this band.I noticed you guys seem to have dropped the Wheeler Newman prefix, is this indicative of a new era for this group?

WN: When I moved back to Orlando after briefly living in Asheville, NC, I wanted to get involved in the local music scene. Having been in bands where one member would leave, ending the band and leaving me to start over. I thought that if my name was associated with the music, no matter what happened, I could always continue as myself. I fully expected this to be more of a solo pursuit … then, once Ronnie and Paul started playing with me, writing and heavily contributing to the music, the style completely changed. These new songs sound nothing like something I would do alone … it is now a group effort. So, to sum all that up … we went from a solo act to a band, which I think is great!

RB: Yes, very much so. We’ve shifted from our former status of Wheeler being the featured solo artist into that of a fully collaborative and democratic band, in addition to a big stylistic change in our sound overall. It’s been a long time in the making; we started moving this direction back in the beginning of 2015. We’re just trying to get the rest of the world to accept it! [laughs]

PM: That, and “Wheeler Newman and The Cosmic Roots Collective” is quite a mouthful Wouldn’t you agree? In 30 years or so, Wheeler’s name will be added back, à la “Jeff Lynne’s ELO.”

“… psychedelic music comes across programmatic in the way that it paints very specific emotions with sound.”

What are the different musical influences/backgrounds that each member brings to the band and how do they each incorporate themselves into the songs? 

RB: I played upright bass and percussion in college, and studied a bit of jazz. I’m also a big prog rock guy — Yes and Rush being my two big favorites. That influence manifests itself in the form of big, loud, distorted basslines that aim to be bold and melodic, but also support the song without overtaking it. Sometimes, the bass riff is the hook of the song, which is exciting. I’m very happy to be in a band where I’m not censoring my instrumental or songwriting voice; I’m empowered by Wheeler and Paul to carve out my niche in the group. But even with the large palette of sounds and genres that we pull from, the song comes first.

WN: The three of us have played in jazz combos, classical ensembles, and many rock bands, so we are all pretty eclectic in our musical tastes. As far as my main influences, I tend to lean towards music with catchy melodies and what I believe to be good lyrics — artists/bands like Elliott Smith, Gram Parsons, Radiohead, The Beatles, etc.

PM: I was once in a band that was heavily influenced by My Bloody Valentine and Pavement and then played with a classic pop band with lots of hooks and harmonies. But we try to be open. For example, I play a Bernard “Purdie Shuffle” in one of our newer tunes, in an attempt to give it a funkier vibe. I also hear a Krautrock influence in one of the new tunes, like something the band Can might have done, and we also have one with just synths and drums, like an electro-pop thing.

What specific elements of your music and songwriting has evolved most?

RB: Musically, we’ve started to incorporate some interesting techniques like odd time signatures, tempo shifts, and a greater palette of sounds via effects pedals and synthesizers. As far as the songwriting goes, Wheeler and I co-wrote two songs together on the upcoming record, including our new single, “Big Hand.” Our writing styles are very compatible, so I look forward to exploring that in the future … Paul and I came in right at the end of making that record, but our involvement then was nothing like it is now.

PM: Yeah, we went from a more country rock Gram Parsons/Sweetheart-Era Byrds/Stones’ “Dead Flowers” vibe to a more expansive psychedelic rock vibe with more noises and effects, including the Moog synthesizer (Fun Fact: Wheeler built it himself when he worked at the Moog factory in Asheville). There isn’t much acoustic guitar anymore, or at the moment anyway.

WN: I am enjoying freedom to “do whatever” musically with Ronnie and Paul. If our last song sounded kind of country but Ronnie comes in with a new riff in 7/8 that sounds Rush-like, so be it … cause I think it sounds cool and is still us. Having that freedom allows everyone to do what they do best without preconceived ideas of what the music should be and it has unlocked sounds that individually we don’t make. That is what being in a band is all about.

cosmic roots collective interview

Was this evolution a specific vision that you all intended to strive towards or did it happen less intentionally?

RB: I would say somewhat intentionally. We knew we wanted to expand past the folk/country genres, in addition to incorporating more psychedelia into our sound. So the psychedelic implementation is intentional. But we didn’t have a clear picture of where we would wind up … We get bored easily! [laughs] Early in 2015, we decided that nothing was off the table musically, as far as ideas go. Then more prog rock influence started seeping in from Paul and I. We all agreed we weren’t going to stop and worry about something being too weird or too heady for a general listening audience. As a result, I believe we’ve written our best and most accessible — albeit the most “out there” — songs to date.

PM: For me, it was more the types of songs Wheeler was coming up with and then it just seemed to happen organically. We eventually phased out the songs from the early sets and just focused on this new material, which was very different from what we had been doing. We’re pretty laid back guys and, it turns out, also pretty adaptable musicians. Maybe we’ll shift again and do an old school Stax R&B thing next, which would also be fun!

What elements of musical psychedelia appeal to you and how have those things started being practiced within your own band? 

WN: This may be out there but … to me, psychedelic music comes across programmatic in the way that it paints very specific emotions with sound. Just as some orchestral pieces can evoke scenes by emulating certain sounds with their instruments. I’ve always felt like certain tones in psychedelic music are actually trying to represent the intangible feelings you get when you are angry, sad, or contemplative. The idea of using intentional sounds to paint the atmosphere of the music is where I think the psychedelia in our sound comes from.

PM: We love the whole middle to late ’60’s Summer-of-Love-freak-out-on-acid stuff (who doesn’t?), starting of course with The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and the LA scene with bands like The Doors and Love and even the Grateful Dead too — although we’re not “jammy” like them. The reverb-heavy guitars and some of the bass effects Ronnie is using reference some of that. We also stretch out more on a few of the new tunes, building in intensity and creating a sort of “wall of sound.”

What are some tenants of a live show that you all strive to achieve?

RB: Giving the best performance I can. I believe performing for an audience is a privilege and that you should prepare accordingly. And between the bass, pedals, synth, and harmonies over odd time signatures … I have a lot to prepare!

PM: A well thought out and paced set that showcases the diversity of the new material, with peaks and valleys and a high energy closer.

What have been some of the highlights of this band thus far?

RB: Getting to play with some great bands here in town! It took us a little while to settle into this little pocket of the scene, but we love it. Transcendental Telecom, Someday River, Timothy Eerie, and PLEASURES are a few of our favorites. Also, making this record has been a blast so far. It’s been a ton of work, but no one is going to believe that we recorded it in a house!

PM: Getting a positive review from my friend and guitar player supremo Gary Lucas (Jeff Buckley, Captain Beefheart) for the last album!

What do you all got planned for the future?

WN: Releasing our first single, called “Big Hand,” from the upcoming record, pressing the album to vinyl, and continuing to (hopefully) entertain Orlando.

RB: Distributing free koozies at the Spacebar show! After this show and the release of the first single, we are playing May 13 at Will’s Pub for the Someday River EP release. We’re releasing the second single in the coming months, and then eventually the finished record later this year!

PM: Ditto what the other two said and also doing the whole social media promotion thing (Instagram or Twitter, what’s your poison?).

What’s your favorite thing about your band?

RB: Playing in a band with such good, solid dudes. We always have a great time, no matter what we’re doing. The fact that I trust them musically is a bonus.

PM: In addition to playing with such accomplished, versatile musicians, the beer Wheeler and Ronnie bring to every practice, some of which is pretty esoteric and quite delicious! For example, the Hunter Thompson-inspired Flying Dog Brewery’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale they call “The Fear.” Try knocking back a few of those over the course of a couple hours!

Cosmic Roots Collective Interview by Dave Hanson (Happy Camper Booking).

SWIMM Interview

SWIMM’s Sweaty Sweater Fest Homecoming

The studio sounds of SWIMM, found on their recent Beverly Hells EP, will leave you swimming freely in an upbeat, feel-good psych rock soundscape. And if you’ve seen them live, you are likely aware that it’s difficult not to move, or dare I say, get rowdy at their shows. They have a contagious performance energy that commonly results in a sweaty mess of excitement and fun times for all. In summary, you’re going to have a good time at worst at a SWIMM show. Previously known as Le BLORR (Bastard Lovechild of Rock ‘n’ Roll), Chris and Adam played raw, stripped-down blues rock. However, as the dynamic duo evolved, thus did their sound. The sounds of SWIMM are rooted in folk rock and psychedelia. They loosely adhere to a pop formula, pleasant to many whilst maintaining both musical integrity and originality.

Hailing from Florida, they made the big move to the bittersweet musical Mecca, formally known as Los Angeles, to advance their craft. Recently, they’ve spent a considerable amount of time touring with noteworthy acts such as Dr. Dog and Bright Light Social Hour, in addition to Orlandian hometown heroes Someday River, who are also playing Sweater Fest 2015.  They bring the weird with an exceptionally ecstatic energy that renders them a perfect fit for Sweater Fest, and we couldn’t be more excited to have them onboard to wrap up 2015 with a bang. Anyhow, we recently conversed via the interwebz to discuss their music, Sweater Fest, and more. This is what they had to say.

For more info on all of the Sweater Fest happenings, check the FB event page, and read more interviews with the band’s at Happy Camper Booking.

I want to start off by saying we are really excited to have you guys onboard for Sweater Fest 2015! In spirit of the sweater season, and for those who may not have heard your music yet, how would you describe the music of SWIMM if it were a sweater? Might it give one supernatural powers?

Thanks, we’re excited to play as well. If I had supernatural powers I would choose to fly, so I’d probably want our music to have that effect … I guess the only issue with that is if everyone could fly they probably wouldn’t stick around for the show, so maybe if it just made people float a foot or so off the ground. That would be pretty tight.

You guys have been touring quite a bit as of late; have you encountered any bizarre experiences or scenarios you’d like to share? Tell us about the weird.

Yeah we recently played in Philly and stayed with our friend Marriane at this creepy old mansion she was house sitting. Back in the 1800s it was a doctor’s office that they performed operations in. We all experienced a strange feeling when walking into one of the rooms on 4th floor and later found out it was the room they performed the operations in. It still had the original sink in it and you could see where it was stained from blood! Needless to say none of us slept in that room.

So part of your live band seems to vary by region; what’s it like playing with an alternating lineup?

It’s been really cool to be able to play with so many talented people that are also our close friends, but it can also be pretty darn frustrating not having a set band all the time. Keeps things interesting to say the least.

As far as I’ve seen, you guys have always put on some pretty phenomenal shows; do you have any favorite songs to perform live?

Thanks man! It kinda depends on the vibe of the night. “Tisk Tisk” is a fun one when it’s a rowdy crowd, but overall I’ve been enjoying “Suddenly.”

So, your recently-released Beverly Hells EP was a hit! I heard you’re already working on a new full-length record as well. How is that going? Anything else we SWIMM fans (Swimmians?) should be looking forward to?

Yeah, we just started working on finishing our full length this week. We’re hoping to have it done early next year. We’re also working on some music videos and getting ready for our residency in LA.

What are your favorite holiday traditions to partake in? Anything strange?

I love Halloween. We have been dressing up as women the past couple years which has been really fun. We were goth girls this year, and last year we were old ladies. I think we’ll make that a tradition.

One more question to wrap up: what are you guys most looking forward to at Sweater Fest 2015?

All of my Floridian friends! That and seeing Someday River’s set.

SWIMM Sweater Fest 2015 Interview by Bobby Hellmuth.