Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mini-Interview: Amateurs

The local folk rock act the Amateurs have come up quite a bit in discussion around the RFSL corporate offices since the release of their Speak Easy album last May, but since we recently lined them up to play our next Let's Independent! night at Boardner's on Tuesday, August 28th, a few of us were worried it might seem somewhat self-serving to interview them right before the event...

In the end, the debate was cut short when someone brought up the point that it was fine since we don't actually make a dime off of those shows. (Remember, they're FREE.) But, consider this one of those full fucking NPR-style disclosures, anyway.

Here's how our recent correspondence went with Amateurs lead Keith Waggonner about the origins of the band, the recording of their album, and what's next for them.

Hey, Keith. How's it going? I heard The Monolators' BBQ last weekend was fun.

Hmm… word travels fast. Yeah, it was a good time. Mary and Eli are such great people, I really enjoy hanging out with them. I think they know just about every band in town, so there were quite a few local musicians about. They had the full-on backyard acoustic jam going down. It was pretty sweet.

How long have the Amateurs been together now? How did you form?

Stephen and I started writing as the Amateurs about three years ago. We were living in the Bay Area and our band at the time, Espontaneos, had recently split up. Since we already had a studio, we continued writing new material. It was just kind of natural for us to keep going.

It took a little while for the band to develop though, we went through a few lineup changes and decided to relocate. We didn’t meet up with Shannon and Anthony until after we got to Los Angeles. Shan and I met through work and I invited her to come in and add some strings to an EP that we were working on.

Anthony lived across the hall from me. He produces a lot of electronic music and I would go over to his place from time to time and write with him. I ended up stealing some of the stuff for the Amateurs, so I asked him to come along on tour with us and perform it live.

He and Shannon also started dating around that time, which may or may not have contributed to him joining on full time.

Who would you say are your influences, if pressed?

Bands like Wilco, Fugazi, and Blonde Redhead have definitely influenced my style and inspire me to keep making records. I’d say my biggest influences though, are probably my band mates.

So, you don't have a bass player. Why?

You know, we tried. We went through a few and actually lost one in the middle of a tour last year. We still had about ten dates left to go and were forced to work around it. It changed our sound quite a bit, but surprisingly, people loved it. We got a better response on that leg than we had on the whole tour, so we decided to go with it.

Has that been a pain to work around or pushed you more creatively? Or, y'know, both?

I would say both. In the live setting it can be tricky, if we’re playing at a club with lousy sound on stage. In the studio, I think it forces us to be a bit more inventive. We tend to experiment a lot while arranging songs, I think because we’re not bound to any specific instrumentation.

You posted an ongoing diary on myspace during your recent national tour. What were the highlights and lowlights?

Ah, there were a lot of good times, it’s hard to recount them all. It was great to play in cities like New York, Philadelphia and DC for the first time. We also got to spend a few days hanging out at the beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Another highlight was attending the US Air Guitar Regional Championships in Minneapolis. Our friend Jon was doing his retirement performance as reigning champ and he did this aging rock star routine that killed it. Oh, and we saw this dude jump off the drum riser during his performance and break his knee! No kidding.

Who would have thought that air guitar was dangerous, right? There were probably a thousand people there for the show, it was pretty unreal. We put some pictures up on the blog you’re referring to. The lowlight of the tour was definitely the two-day trek in a minivan from Durham, North Carolina back to LA (52 hours to be exact). Ah, it was brutal.

So your album Speak Easy came out last May. When did you record it? Who did you record with?

We recorded last winter at King Size over in Eagle Rock. Manny Nieto, Josiah Mazzachi, and Scott Hirsch engineered at different points. Dave Trumfio mixed. It was a great experience for us.

There was a lot of work to get done with little time to do it all. I don’t think we could have picked a better group of people to help us undertake the project. I think we only budgeted for like nine days originally, for both tracking and mixing. We ended up going over by a few days, of course, but the time limitations really pushed us to go in prepared and lay it down.

How did the residency at The Scene go?

The folks over at The Scene are like family to us. We’ve been playing that club since we first came to LA and it was great just to have an excuse to go hang out with them every Tuesday. The shows were a blast. We were able to share the nights with a lot of our favorite local bands.

What's next for you?

We’ll have to see. We’ve got some pretty great local shows coming up that I’m looking forward to. I’ve been starting to write for a new record. That’s about it.

What did I forget to ask you that I'd regret later? (Were any of your members in a boy band? Have you ever lost any members to the porn industry?)

Funny that you ask… one of our many bass players, Ryan, left the band to pursue a career in the Adult Film Industry. He’s doing pretty well from what I hear.

I once tried out for a boy band once called Another Bad Creation, but I didn’t make the cut. I could never figure out why, I guess it was because I’m a terrible dancer.

Last question: What local bands are you listening to these days?

Simon Dawes, The Parson Redheads, Secretary Bird, and Le Switch are all in regular rotation. Also, I’ve been recently introduced to Everest and One Trick Pony. They’re currently providing the soundtrack to my mornings at work.

That's it, Keith. Thanks for your time.

Thank you, Joe. You’re a gentleman and a scholar.

The Amateurs' next show is at our FREE Let's Independent! night at Boardner's on Tuesday, August 28th with One Trick Pony and The Lonely Years.

- Omaha Nights MP3
- Six Days MP3


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