Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

11Nov/0930

Bill Stone of Paranoid Lovesick: The ATV Interview

This weekend will bring a multitude of glorious events, all happening right here in Cleveland.  Now, I can already hear you out-of-town types starting to snicker a bit - knock it off!  Cleveland IS cool - say it with me, and you'll start to understand!  The world renowned International Pop Overthrow festival will make what I believe to be its Cleveland debut on Friday and Saturday night at the Beachland Ballroom.  A mecca for power pop fans and lovers of music in general, IPO has come as close as Youngstown, OH in recent past.   With the CLE debut, Ohio music fans that missed the Youngstown IPO, can finally stop kicking themselves - second chances do sometimes come around!

The IPO lineup is largely a showcase of some of Cleveland's finest - from veteran Bill Fox (The Mice) to relative newcomers Pale Hollow, peppered with a few bands from outside the zip code, including two bands - Triggers and The Jellybricks from PA  -  plus Colin Gawel and the Lonely Bones from Columbus, OH.

Perhaps the most exciting part of IPO for me personally, will be the reunion/farewell show from Cleveland's personal slice of power pop goodness from the 90's,  Paranoid Lovesick, who will release TWO CDs of "new" material for the first time at IPO.  Suburban Pop Allegro, the band's long overdue never-released second album, will be released for the first time, accompanied by Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown, the band's unreleased third album.

The tale of Paranoid Lovesick is lengthy and complicated, both critically acclaimed and yet at times, universally and criminally ignored.  The story had an unplanned premature ending with the sudden death of guitarist Rick McBrien in 2003.

Paranoid Lovesick

I can't recall when I first saw Paranoid Lovesick, but I remember the feeling that I got from hearing them on-stage.  My ears perked at the sound of something that was finally different from the rest of the Cleveland music scene, which had gotten a bit stale.  I signed up for the Paranoid Lovesick mailing list, unaware that I was opting into the greatest band mailing list ever - my ticket to receive their "newsletter", the Subterrestrial Glamorous Pop Hymnal - made up nearly 100 percent of satire, un-truths, and inside jokes/not-so-subtle jabs at members of the local Cleveland music scene.

And oh yeah, the road.  Touring.  Lots of things going wrong.  Thank God, we had the internet in its infancy to read their numerous tales of highway-related woe.  The PL "road stories" were legendary good reading back in the day, via the band's AOL message board - an area that deserves its own separate hall of fame.  We caught up with PL frontman Bill Stone to swap a few more stories, talk about Saturday's IPO show and about the mysterious series of events that led to the release of Suburban Pop Allegro and Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown.

I'd like to congratulate you on continuing to be a trendsetter. This weekend, Paranoid Lovesick will play a reunion show, CD release show, and farewell show, all wrapped into one tightly scheduled 40 minute set. To your knowledge, has this ever been attempted by a band before?

I'm sure it's happened, but perhaps the bands didn't know it at the time, at least the farewell part.

Will there be pyro, a laser light show, or at the very least, 8-Tracks?

I think the 8-track supply has dried up. I suppose we could toss VHS tapes, but it might not be the same. As for lights, it's just what the Beachland has, which I assume is a few cans hung on the ceiling that don't really point at anything specific. There is pyro at the rehearsals- don't ask me why, but Kurt, our bassist, has a smoke machine that operates via a foot pedal. He's been using it a lot. We've already discussed ending the show by channeling the smoke to our amps to make it appear like we've had an across the board equipment failure, but logistics may end that idea.

Paranoid Lovesick - Suburban Pop Allegro

The Beachland gig will mark the release of two Paranoid Lovesick albums, one of which is Suburban Pop Allegro, the long awaited follow-up to PL's classic debut EP, Molly. The album's been on the shelf for about 10 years now - how much work did you have to do on the material to get a finished product that you're happy with?

Well, the first one, Suburban Pop Allegro was started in 1995 as our Molly follow up. Gerard Dominick, who was then our bass player (we had fired Kurt because he wouldn't go to New Orleans for a show) introduced us to engineer Bill Korecky at Mars Recording. That was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Bill has been our mentor, quality control, and general good times guy since. So, we start recording, and things go badly. We're a bit aimless in the studio, and Korecky is a pro, used to working on real records etc, but because he thinks we're funny, I assume, he doesn't toss us out- or at least he lets us come back after being tossed out.

The grinding goes on for 5 years. We think it's our Sgt. Pepper. Record labels are banging at the doors for more music, but we thought we had to have it perfect first (a big mistake on our part). So, when it's finished, Kurt's back in the band, and we're not too hopped up on the record anymore. We decide to use what cash we have to record a batch of new songs that we feel are stronger than those on Suburban Pop Allegro. In the meantime, we still have it mastered, by Jerry Tubbs in Austin. That sort of puts a new shine on it and we decide to release it- sooner or later.

The new sessions go effortlessly. It's like we were in training on Suburban Pop. Korecky is impressed, and he's a hard guy to impress, so we're jumping up and down at that. I think we had about three weekend sessions, none too long, maybe 8 hours a day, and that included the goofing off (we do a lot of goofing off). This happens over the course of a year or so, so now it's maybe 2001. Rick McBrien, our guitarist, and his wife are expecting their first child, so we did a few more shows in 2001/early 2002 and then, for the first time, took about 6 months off. Rick died in February of 2003. At that time, the record that would become Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown was almost done- it just needed some polishing, and a few of Rick's leads were missing.

A few years after he died, we resumed work to complete the record. We turned to friends of the band to complete his work- a fitting tribute. I might forget somebody, but Colin Gawel of Watershed, Larry Kennedy of the Jellybricks, Adam Marsland, PL alum Nick Perry, Susan Rasch, Jim Koch of The Big Creak, Tom Dannery of Medicine Show, and a cast of others came in over a weekend and we nailed the missing work. It was a blast, and very fitting to have them on the record.

So, a long answer to a short question. It's been a lot of work, but more fun than work. There are very few things in life that are as fun as hanging out at Mars with Bill Korecky. Drummer John Potwora and I think we need to do a new recording project just so the party's not over.

There are new vocals on a couple of tracks, courtesy of Lisa Mychols - what's her story?

John found Lisa. I thought he was a bit nuts, spending some serious cash to have this girl sing over our track on a song that was already mastered and included on Suburban Pop Allegro. At most it would only be an expensive "bonus".  But.....she was amazing. I immediately had John ask her if she'd do another song for us, one I just couldn't get the singing right on. Another big win.  Lisa is out in LA, John never met her before, and did most of his communication via email. She's been in several power pop bands, and people have heard of them (I hadn't), The Masticators among them. I believe she's also worked with that LA crowd that is currently working with Brian Wilson. I encourage people to seek her out. She's a very talented person with an amazing voice.

Your old pal Adam Marsland of Cockeyed Ghost also makes an appearance of sorts...

Adam almost didn't make it on. He happened to be on tour with a stop in Ohio on literally one of the last days of tracking. We used him for some vocals on a re-mix of "Universe Boat" from Molly. The next day, still on layover, his road band recorded an album in a day with Korecky. I invited myself to hang out and they let me, and in the end I sang backgrounds on a bunch of songs. Adam's record is called Hello Cleveland and will be out in the spring. Very, very cool.

Paranoid Lovesick - Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown

Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown is the other CD being released, and it looks like quite possibly the highest quality odds n' sods compilation to ever be released.

It's really a full length, with a couple of extras tossed in like they're not extras, because in the end, the quality of the extras was too good to just put them at the end. We re-mixed "Big Star," "Universe Boat" and "Velvet" from our Molly EP, and Bill Korecky says "these are some of your best songs, I love these mixes, you can't put them on the end- go for satellite play!", so as usual, we listened. When we got down to track placement, we did the old "let's put our best songs on a list" and that list had 9 songs on it! We had 10 others that were good too. So, hopefully, when you listen to Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown, you'll enjoy all 19! It's not one of those records with two good songs and filler; at least that's our humble opinion.

Paranoid Lovesick - Velvet (original Molly version)

What's the timeline for the stuff on Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown - when was that stuff recorded?

Probably around 2001-2002. We spent very little time in the studio for it. Bill Korecky kept saying, "This is how it's supposed to be!”

You're releasing some of the various tracks that you did for tribute albums over the years too, right?

That's the extra stuff on Suburban Pop Allegro. We covered "Icicles" by Badfinger for a Badfinger tribute that came out around 1998. It's a great record, very rare now, and we were quite proud to be among the artists on it- Aimee Mann, The Posies, the Knack, lots of others that are mainstays of Little Steven's Underground Garage today. The other record was a tribute to the Who's Sell Out, titled The New Sell Out. It was never released, although it's still talked about and rumors swirl around it from time to time. We covered "Armenia City In the Sky," the opening track. The artists on it were again amazing- The Shazam, the Posies again - I believe, people submitted all the little commercial parts between songs too, and there's a voice over by Roger Mcguinn doing a station ID. They had so much good stuff, they were going to have an additional CD of updated fake commercials. It's a shame this never came out.

There are two very different versions of Alright To Drive - one on Suburban, and one on Tuxedo - What's the story on the evolution of that song?

Well, somewhere along the line, we just did a fast version of what was a slow song, and said "the fast one is better". We had already recorded the slow one and put in on Suburban Pop Allegro, so we just recorded it again to see what would happen. We liked it, so now there are two!

Paranoid Lovesick

I saw quite a few PL shows in the 90's - the sold-out show opening for Weezer (on the "Blue" album tour) was a favorite of mine. I was both in awe of the 8-tracks being thrown into the crowd, and happy that I didn't get a concussion from one of them. What's your personal favorite/most memorable Cleveland gig experience?

There's a lot, and those Peabody's shows were all great, but I remember pulling up to the Agora for a show, and there was a huge line outside because the doors hadn't opened yet- and we were the headliner. That was about as cool as it gets. But just having the electricity of a packed room, that's the stuff you dream of when you're 14 years old playing air guitar in your room, and we got to experience the real deal.

You recently told me a great PL road story involving the world famous Arch in St. Louis. Can you share that again so that we can officially preserve it on the world wide web?

Of course, and it's one of our few "kid friendly" stories, but I'll add offensive parts too- I mean it is a PL story. So we're in St. Louis, and decide to take in the sights. We go up the Arch in one of those little pods. Gerard is elsewhere, we haven’t seen him since he left the club with some convicts to do God knows what in some hotel room. On the way up, we decide to have a photo op by doing one of those collage photos (this is circa 1995, no digital) so we all contort ourselves upside down etc. in this little round pod. Well, there is a sign that says "don't move" for a reason. The tram to the top stops midway up. It instantly gets hotter than hell. A ranger has to climb up the inside of the Arch and check on everybody through a little window in the pod. We can hear his voice while we argue whether or not to admit we did it. We don't, and when we get to the top, we are rewarded with a view of pretty much nothing. St. Louis is one boring city from the air, but the ride in the pod is cool.

On a side note, under the Arch is a museum. There's a display of buffalo, and John is pointing at the buffalo doing a Corky from Life Goes On imitation when an entire group of similar kids come up to the display behind him. We all drift away while John continues his bantering thinking we're behind him. Lots of St. Louis road stories.

There's finally a PL website again - notably featuring EVERY single issue of the Subterrestrial Glamorous Pop Hymnal, digitized for the world to enjoy. This might be the single greatest contribution any one band has ever made to the internet.

People loved it. We did about a thousand at a time, and put a stamp on each one- no bulk permit for us! I still like reading them. We used to get A&R departments requesting one CD and 40 newsletters. We'll probably have a few lying around at the gig.

What can fans expect from the Beachland gig?

A short but sweet set of about 40 minutes. It will be a best of. Tom Dannery of Medicine Show is filling in for Rick. Kurt and I played in Medicine Show with Tom in the early 90's, PL practiced at a studio where Tom worked, and he recorded our first tracks. I think it might be a well-attended show, so I'd advise advance tickets; the Beachland Tavern isn't too big.

Now that Suburban Pop Allegro and Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown are being released - is this the final word on Paranoid Lovesick?

Yes and no. John and I are going to try to get some satellite airplay for Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown. Everyone who's been involved in it likes it- we had it mastered in Nashville by Jim DeMain, a former Clevelander. Jim masters for all the country stars, along with Shazam, Brad Jones, John Hiatt etc. He said he was humming "Big Star" all week. When you hear that stuff, it makes you want to go for the brass ring, you know? It's all icing on the cake now, just to release them was the main goal, but who knows.

I do know we won't ever be together as Paranoid Lovesick again. We're lucky to have Kurt for this one show. John and I have already discussed keeping the party going with some sort of collaboration on a new project, we might try to write some songs and have Lisa Mychols sing on them for us. Just a project thing, but in this new world of music, and with none of us wanting to get beat up on the road anymore, it's very appealing.

How about a quick update on what the various PL members are up to these days? Any plans for further music?

Well, I just spoke for John Potwora and I in the last question. As for Kurt Maracz, I can't say. He's a mysterious guy. John and I would love to use him on whatever we do, but I don't think there will be that band thing again. I do play with Kurt and Tom Dannery in a band, along with Pat Kirchner (New Snyders of Berlin), but we mostly goof off and play covers. If we did play a gig, it would probably be in somebody's bar, and we'd be doing Teenage Fanclub and Replacements covers until the patrons booed us out.

As for PL alumni, Gerard Dominick is with the Colin John Band, and they travel the world from time to time. Lucky bastard. And Nick Perry, who was in when John quit for a year or so is in Pale Hollow. They're playing a lot of gigs in the Cleveland area.

So, I don't think it's the end of the road, but I don't have a map at the moment.

Thanks to Bill for taking time to answer a few questions!  International Pop Overthrow happens in Cleveland this weekend on Friday and Saturday at the Beachland Ballroom - purchase your advance tickets via this link.  Paranoid Lovesick will perform on Saturday night at 10:30pm.

Related Links:

Visit the official Paranoid Lovesick website

Hear more music via Paranoid Lovesick's Myspace page

Coming soon:  Purchase Suburban Pop Allegro and Tuxedo Avenue Breakdown online via the fine folks at Not Lame

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