Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Here's part two of my conversation with Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, in which we continue to discuss the new album Underwater Sunshine, plus his habits as a music fan and his thoughts and feelings on the current state of the music industry. We wrap it all up with some discussion about the Outlaw Roadshow tour.
You alluded to it earlier, but that’s what is cool about this record is that hearing a song like “All My Failures,” “Like Teenage Gravity” and perhaps “Start Again,” those are all songs that if you don’t know what they’re sourced from, you could hear those for the first time as Counting Crows songs and they sound like Counting Crows songs.
Well, I think we made them into Counting Crows songs, but we also paid a lot of....once you do hear the originals, you’ll hear the homage in our song to their song, the spirit of them. “Start Again” is probably the most different in some ways from the original....well, I guess “Teenage Gravity” is [also] pretty different. But “Start Again” still has that thing in it, it has that sort of strum along comradery that they had with the 19 electric guitars going on and the 60 thousand harmonies. And ours was a stripped down version of it, but you can hear in little flickers of the arrangement, there’s a 12 string guitar part in the choruses I think, that we heard, it’s on one of the guitars on the Teenage Fanclub version.
There’s this one part I wanted Dave to lift, there’s this melody that plays in the chorus and I was like “well get this, I think it will sound really good, you just lay it back and it will sound really cool in this version.” It’s not the foreground part, but it will be cool in the background, the part really works.” It’s a very orchestrated kind of part. You know, we grabbed little snippets like that and I think, you can tell from the liner notes, the level of respect that we or I have for the source material. I did want you to hear it as a Counting Crows album, but we were very diligent about talking about source material and who the other bands are, so people can go find them. Those records are worth getting too.
It certainly does leave you with a lot of music exploration to do after the fact, which I’ve always thought is something that any covers album should accomplish.
Once I realized what it was, that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want a karaoke album. But having made a record of covers, I wanted you to go find the music, make it fun and go check out all of these bands. Rather than it being a list of your favorite songs on a record that Counting Crows is now playing for you, you know, like “Counting Crows plays the Christmas hits!”
I’d rather, you know, here’s a lot of stuff that we like you probably don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t intended that way, but once I realized what the record was as we were listening to it, it’s like “now go buy all of these records - you’re going to love them all.” Here’s a link - make it a trip to the music geek land. This is what music geeks do. People search out shit and make lists of records and go find them. Now you should do that. I was writing those liner notes and it was taking me so fucking long to turn them in.
They were supposed to be turned in and it was taking me forever. I was literally beating myself up, because you know, there’s only so much can expect of yourself, but I also felt like “fuck, Adam, will you just get your head together and speak clearly and finish writing these liner notes?” Nobody will take weeks to do liner notes or a week, whatever it took - nobody would take that time to write the liner notes. They’re due - turn the goddamn things in.
When I finally finished them, I wanted to do a more complete spell check on them, so I lifted it into a Word document - it had just been in an email, I was writing it - when I put it into a Word document, you know it will tell you how many pages you’ve got, how many words, you know? And it said 23 or 24 pages - then I realized why it had taken me so long to get it down. I wasn’t being lazy, I was writing a fucking 25 page book - that’s why it took so long. Okay, you can forgive yourself for that.
Well, the liner notes are certainly a very essential component that they help to fill in a lot of detail about this album. As a music fan, what’s your collection like? Do you still have a lot of physical media, or is it all digital?
Oh yeah, I have walls and walls and walls of stuff on CD. I have an entire library. I mean, I buy a lot of digital stuff now, because a lot of the bands I like, their stuff is online - they don’t have any CDs of it. I used to be more diligent about trying to get a hard copy. I don’t care as much about it anymore, because I carry most of the music around with me on computer anyways. I have a lot of vinyl, but most of my vinyl that I grew up buying is actually in storage.
The vinyl that I have around the house is a lot of older stuff that’s been given to me by great aunts or grandmothers left for me. They’re those really heavy duty, heavyweight singles from the ‘40s, I guess, like “Mr. Sandman” and stuff like that. Those I have in my house and it’s almost more because I’ve gotten them in recent years, but I still keep a turntable around the house, to play stuff. But again, it’s mostly not my collection I have at the house, my stuff is all in storage.
As an artist and a music fan, are you still an album kind of guy, or are you more about tracks and EPs?
Making or listening?
I guess both.
Listening, I feel like, whatever the band wants to make, I guess. A lot of bands have made records in recent years, but also I think one of the great things about the music business right now is the inexpensive nature of recording, means that you can afford to do it on your own without any support from anybody else. So with that in mind, some people have been making EPs as well. In that case, look, whatever enables them to continue to recording is good by me.
Mean Creek, one of my favorite bands, I love their first album, but they made an EP last time, Hemophiliac, which is phenomenal. Their new record, which isn’t out yet, is a full record. But in making it, they didn’t come to South By Southwest this year, because they couldn’t afford to. They weren’t on the Roadshow this year down there, because they were making the record. My feeling about it is that the great thing about the music business is how you can do it for less money nowadays. Because there’s no money coming in sometimes, the other bands are supporting themselves by their other jobs, so hell, whatever they want to make is fine with me. I’m just happy to get anything. Golden Bloom, their last record was an EP, but they just finished a writing a bunch of songs. I talked to their lead singer a couple of days ago when he came to see the show and I think that might actually be a full length, but you know, it’s hard to predict.
We’re dealing with the realities that you can make records without the record company now. You can have a career without anybody helping you out at all. But that may mean you need to make EPs sometimes.
From our perspective, I am certain it is better to make EPs for a band. I do think the public doesn’t digest stuff in large portions these days as much as it does the other kind. That said, I am also certain that what we do that a lot of people don’t do well is make albums and it sets us apart. So I think it would be a mistake for us to start making tracks. Because I think what we do is we make bodies of work. Not everybody can do that. Not everyone’s songs lend themselves to that as much - a lot of bands would be better off making great songs.
We make great bodies of work, you get into them and then you start listening to them and even if you’re not one of those people who listens to the whole thing, I think it flavors everything else completely and it’s part of a whole record. And especially because it’s what we do, we do it very well. So as contradictory as that may sound, I think we’ll probably end up making records still. I can’t imagine not doing that.
One of the things that has gotten a lot of notice and press, is the band’s decision to share music from this new album via BitTorrent. For the members of the media who don’t have any knowledge beyond “this is what the kids use to steal music,” the decision to give away music via BitTorrent is something they can’t comprehend. For you guys however, I look at it as using one of the primary delivery vehicles that people are using to acquire music to your advantage. Has this move given you the bump in awareness of the record that you were hoping for?
I don’t know, a lot of it’s educating people. And maybe this is what the kids use to steal music, but we worked for years with what the adults use to steal music. They’re called record companies and they do quite a good job of stealing your music. They take 80 percent of it and they don’t give you much in return. I mean, look, there’s a system out there that people have used for years, where these people get 80 percent of your product. 90 percent if they can get away with it and they often do get away with it. And then they sign you up for indentured servitude for seven years. And then in order to promote you, all they do is spend enormous amounts of money bribing radio, which is by the way technically straight up illegal.
Payola is illegal and the fact that they want to criticize BitTorrent for being illegal while they’re doing payola. Alan Freed got busted for it what, sixty years ago? And they never batted an eye. They just kept doing it through independent promoters and never stopped. And they bribe record stores to put you in the front. There’s no other way to look at those two things but [as] bribery and that’s their whole system. And you know what? When there was way, way, way more money to be made? Their 90 to 99% failure rate still made them a lot of money.
But there’s not as much out there anymore and it’s not working that way for them. So all they do is spend enormous amounts of money on a few artists and then the rest of the artists are stuck in the graveyard. Now BitTorrent to me, is a delivery system. Yes, this is exactly how Napster came along and stole all of our music. But hey, guess what? If the record company hadn’t fallen on their heels fifteen years ago like complete idiots and never recovered from the internet, they could have turned around and started using BitTorrent themselves. It could have been a delivery system.
Because guess what? Nobody’s carrying a fucking boombox around on their shoulder anymore. You don’t see kids walking down the street with a boombox. You’ve got an iPod or an iPhone - it’s in their pocket and your radio does not broadcast to them. But your BitTorrent song does - an MP3 will go on their iPhone and they can carry it around...and the other thing is, they can play it as much as they want, without getting sick of it. Because at its best, all radio does is make people really sick of you. I mean, you can’t trust them to play the stuff [by] paying them all that money.
But even if they do, if they decide it’s going to make them enough money to play you, they’ll play you until people fucking hate you. The thing about the iPod is that it gives people...I believe in giving people their own choice to make sometimes, you know? Your iPod and your iPhone and BitTorrent in a way, it enables people to choose for themselves, how much they play you. So if they don’t like it, they won’t play it. But then again, why would you want them to play it if they don’t like it anyway? My feeling is that this is what kind of, if handled correctly, it could be a form of radio. I don’t know that it is yet - I don’t know that people think of it that way yet, but it does deliver the music in a form that people can carry in their pockets. And it delivers them to a shitload of people.
That to me is a delivery system and we are an independent band. We need delivery systems, because radio doesn’t work for us. Even Top 40 doesn’t play 40 songs anymore, it plays 10. And there is no college radio or alternative radio at the same level there used to be. So we need delivery systems for independent music. I don’t know if BitTorrent is the be all/end one and it’s certainly how they stole all our music, but it isn’t going anywhere at the moment, so you can either look at it as a solely negative thing, a drain down which all of your profits are being flushed or you can look at that tube as a tube. And a tube going both ways is a conduit - you can give stuff to people too and you can get responses. You can put links up and do ticket sales or CD sales.
I don’t think all of that is us working at the level we’d like to be working at - not at all, but we just started using it.Part of using things right now and part of setting up these whole new systems is education. It’s like educating people in different ways to do things. When you’re promoting a tour and you start doing stuff [like telling people that if you] share stuff on Twitter and on Facebook and if enough people share it, you’ll reveal the tour dates. You know, it’s not normally how people find out about tour dates, it might frustrate them a little bit right now - but it is a way of getting people involved and I think you have to start these things and try these things now in order to make them workable systems for later.
The greatest thing about the internet and being independent is that the internet makes anything you want to do possible. You’re only limited by the boundaries of your imagination. But you have to have an imagination. And the other limits are the amount of people you can get to respond to something that they’re not used to responding to. But part of that is that if they’re not used to responding to it now, they will be next time if you do it now. I mean, I don’t think that we can expect that massive success right now of a lot of the things that we’re trying. But I’m perfectly happy because I’m free to try them now. I can’t tell you, in some ways, especially as Americans, we bandy about words like “liberty” and “freedom” with such ease that they do become meaningless at times.
But let me tell you, it was not “freedom” being on a record company, because they don’t allow you to do anything. And some of it is fucking stupid - some of it is completely counterintuitive. They’ve been fighting against the internet for years and guess what - it’s free and it’s out there and we’re going to use it. I’ve got to tell you, there’s a real liberation in knowing that we can do anything that we want to and we’ll succeed and fail on our own. I’m okay with failing some because nobody succeeds all of the time.
I don’t know if we’ll ever sell 20 million records again, but right now, we do it our way and I’ll tell you one thing: From the beginning, it was our records that we made. That first one was our record, we made it how we wanted to make it and so was our second one and the third and the fourth. We had creative control from the very beginning and that may have hindered us in some ways. Some of the things that we did weren’t what everybody wanted us to do, but they were what we wanted to do. I feel a lot cleaner in my life knowing that I did what we wanted to do. Having gone through all of this stuff, because you know what? I wanted to play rock and roll when I was a kid and nobody gets to - it doesn’t work out that....and we did and it did work out. Even rarer is the fact that 20 years later, we’re still here. That’s a fucking miracle.
I kind of feel like - it came up the one time...somebody complained at the concert because we didn’t play “Mr. Jones” and we usually play the song - I love the song. And someone said “Fuck you Duritz, remember what got you here.” But see, the thing is I do - it wasn’t “Mr. Jones.” It was play great concerts and play the songs that you want to play that night because faking it isn’t going to work for me - I don’t do it very well. I think we owe an audience our complete passion and commitment in concert.
So in order to do that, we make our setlists up after soundcheck or after dinner every night. It’s a different setlist every night. Sometimes it’s the same setlist, but it’s the songs we want to play and that enables us to play really good concerts every night. That’s what got us here 20 years later, so we didn’t burn out. The thing is, out of all of this stuff like BitTorrent and everything else, we made the choice. People are going to steal from you.
I’m not sure BitTorrent ever stole more from us than the record companies did, but this was our choice to go to BitTorrent, not somebody’s choice to steal from us and not somebody’s choice to not go there. We chose to go there and to give songs away. That kind of freedom feels pretty good. I mean, we’re adults, why shouldn’t we be able to choose our own thing? And I don’t mind failing every now and then. I’ll tell you what I am doing - I put out a record this year with my band of a bunch of songs that I really love. I made a difference, I think, in the careers of a bunch of people I really respect.
Right now on the Outlaw Roadshow, I’ve got three of those bands out with me on the road. They’re playing in front of crowds they’ve never played in front of live and they’re having the time of their lives learning to play. There’s a rotating slot they play in every night - it’s making a huge difference to them. In a few more weeks we’ll go home and then we’ll take a week off and we’ll call up three more bands and three more after that. I’ve been doing it for the last few years with Ryan, the Outlaw Roadshow showcases we’ve been putting on and that’s all pretty cool - it’s fun every night.
There’s a nice sense of like “I’m not sure how much you could possibly be failing right now.” It’s not as easy as other things we’ve tried, as far as immediately succeeding at things, but the BitTorrent thing was a good experiment. I’d like to do more with it - I’d like to try some other things. I would have given the whole record away, but it was a covers album, so I can’t do that.
You have a lot of toys at your disposal at this point, some of which you can control and some of which you’re automatically a part of. I buy a lot of albums and get other albums for free through a publicist, for example, but I also enjoy streaming a lot of music from sites like MOG. How do you feel about the streaming thing?
Well, I think they’re all just business. I think that where people make a mistake is getting up on their high horse and “this invalidates this and this fucks us.” I know iTunes doesn’t like Spotify very much. But I don’t feel the need to compete in that way. I know friends of mine who have been very angry with me about the BitTorrent thing, because they think....I don’t know what it is....it is a system through which people have done some damage to artists, but there are larger concerns for artists. The truth is, taking away artists copyrights and not abiding by that is horrid and it’s completely without any morals, the people who just want to do that, they’re completely without any morals or values.
But the larger concern for us to me as artists is how do artists survive? Is there a system under which artists can make music and make money and survive? That’s the really important thing. How are you going to do that? Now there was a system in place for years with the record companies, but it didn’t really work - not for 90-plus percent of the people on it. It was a graveyard for most bands. Bands that got signed and just sat there on the shelf for years and couldn’t do anything else, it’s terrible. A few of us succeeded, but just because I made a lot of money on it - most people didn’t. I don’t think that’s a great system. So with that gone, how do we get our music played?
Well, okay BitTorrent - they’re definitely stealing shit from us and they’d like to pretend like we have no rights as artists and that’s bullshit. But how do you get your music to people? Because I don’t think radio does a great job of it - they don’t play enough of it and they annoy the shit out of people. And anyway, it’s not how people listen to their music as much anymore. Whereas MP3s are and BitTorrent is a good delivery system. So maybe you have to not look at anything as absolute. Maybe if enough people are going to get on Spotify where they can listen to it, are they going to find a way to pay us?
Radio never paid us very much anyway. Are these Pandora people ever going to buy music again? I don’t know. I don’t think that streaming services necessarily mean that people won’t purchase the record that is out. I’d like to risk that, because I don’t see how else we’re going to get music to people other than playing it for them. That means either radio or streaming - I don’t see what makes streaming any worse than radio. After all, you don’t get to take it home with you, you just listen to it - that’s all radio was. The money we got paid by radio and stuff is gone. Spotify [and related streaming businesses] does pay, because they’re signed up on those services.
I think on some level, you have to be willing to believe that people hearing music will hopefully go buy the music or go buy a ticket. And you have work on that assumption. So in that case, you have to just find ways to let people hear your music - Spotify is one and Pandora is another. Pandora is the one radio station I still really like - that’s just my personal taste, but I like that. It surprised me, so I like that. They play stuff I wasn’t thinking of, they teach you about new music, just like my favorite radio stations when I was young.
But I think somewhere you have to have that leap of faith and make the connection between hearing you and wanting to buy you. I mean, isn’t that what we’ve been depending on all along anyways, that someone would hear our music and want to buy it. If that’s the case, then Spotify is a way to hear it. The answer about if any of it works or not, I don’t know. I’m not sure about any of it. I’m not sure about BitTorrent, I’m not sure about Spotify, I’m not certain about radio. I’m certain that radio works for some people, I’m certain it doesn’t work for us right now, because they don’t play enough for it to work. There’s got to be some things with a wider range because humanity has a lot of range and artistry has a lot of range.
Radio’s too narrow, at least the way it is now. You know, Spotify, I don’t know. I don’t use it as much. I can see people do. I have a massive record collection, a massive CD collection and a massive MP3 collection. So for me, Spotify is more of a great place to play playlists and I tend to get frustrated by what it doesn’t have. But for anybody else who doesn’t have a music collection like you or I probably have - it never occurred to me to use it this way until someone told me “oh, I had so much fun on Spotify this weekend” and I said “oh my God, how did you have fun, what did you do?” And they said “well, I listened to all of the Cheap Trick albums that I hadn’t heard in so long and then I went back and listened to all of the Grateful Dead” or whatever it was - they just started listing bands. And I said oh yeah, of course - you know, I have all of the Cheap Trick records, I have all of the Grateful Dead records, I have all of the Dawes records. I mean, I have all of the records to listen to period, so Spotify isn’t as useful to me for playing stuff as it is for other people, but it never occurred to me that when you don’t have a record collection like we have, Spotify is the way to go listen to bands and go like “oh God, I used to love this when I was a kid” or whatever. It really does work that way.
That’s kind of cool, it’s like a mobile record collection. It’s like what I take my iTunes for. I just loaded everything up into my iTunes and blew up a couple of computers [by using] too much space in them. But that’s what people use Spotify for now, the people who don’t have a massive record collection, Spotify is a massive record collection. As a music fan, not touching business-wise at all, as a music fan, somebody who loves to listen to music, that seems like a really cool thing. That’s what I love about Pandora is that they play new music [and] the challenge and the fun of trying to design the perfect radio station that plays the stuff that you love and surprises you all of the time.
What I want to hear is the stuff I haven’t heard - I want to be surprised and find out what I don’t have in my collection in a way. And for anybody else, that’s what Spotify does - they get to go listen to what they don’t have in their collection. And I think as a music fan, that must be pretty fun. So I don’t think that’s a bad thing. People have to at least trying to keep interest people in their music, so they don’t get bored with it. So they don’t turn to the record companies and their massive five billion dollar video product. If you want people to be interested in music and like your music, they have to listen to music. And that means they have to start with Justin Bieber, they have to start with boy bands.
It’s better if they do listen to that stuff, because it means they’re listening to it when they’re like six and seven. The main thing is, what do they turn to, to make their souls feel good and enrich their lives? Because it could be anything and I hope it’s music. I do believe that a six year old may listen to music that you don’t love, but that six year old’s special music, whatever music it is, is going to grow up and be an adult who loves music too. And they’re not going to listen to that music for their whole lives and what’s fucking wrong with that? I mean, me and Justin Bieber, or the generation before with Justin Timberlake and N’Sync, we have everything else in common. I know exactly what they did in their afternoons after school, they sat in their room in front of the mirror singing or they sat at their piano and they sang. I’m sure of it - that’s what we all did. I have that in common with them. I grew up to make this music.
We have this in common. I just think that the introduction to music is always going to be a good thing. As far as like which of these services is good or bad, it’s really hard to tell right now, because there really isn’t a working system in place for translating from exposure to sales, so it’s kind of wide open right now. What does a like on Facebook really mean? I don’t know. I’m sure it doesn’t really mean “like” in the same way we all think. You know and Twitter followers, I’ve got a lot. I took over our Twitter and there was like 90 people on it a few years ago and now it’s at one and a half million and it’s powered by the fact that it’s very much me and my real personality on there and that makes it good.
But it’s hampered by that, because me and my real personality gets down sometimes and can’t write and can’t be on Twitter, so it doesn’t function as a business as well as it should at times. But it’s very real and it does do something, but I’m not sure what it does. It doesn’t translate to 1.5 million people react - that I’m sure of - that’s not how Twitter works. I don’t think it works when you say something and everybody does it. I do think you say things and some people will react to it and repeat it and people get a stronger reaction out of that, the ripples that causes. It’s the repeating and the quoting that causes the ripples and hearing something immediately from someone you know, that makes a difference on Twitter.
That’s just my own theory, but I believe that it works in ripples, so the amount that you are repeated by people who other people trust even more than you, they might like you and they trust other people. I do believe that works in some ways, but I’m not sure. But we’re very invested in trying to find out and that’s what we’re doing, we’re trying to figure out how this all works and then we’re trying to have fun. You know, it’s a network - a lot of the people that are on the record, the younger bands, I met because of Twitter. Taylor from Dawes and Kasey, these are all people I made friends with over Twitter and then at South by Southwest and now we’re there reading some shit and repeating and talking to each other and they’re my friends. There’s a network of musicians out there, so many that I never saw before. It’s a new independent music scene.
It certainly is, it’s put a whole new face on the process of networking. It’s pretty crazy. Well, you and I could go back and forth for hours about music consumption and what it means to be a music fan, but I want to move towards wrapping up and talk about this current tour. Counting Crows have a long history of supporting new bands and I think back to when you would take bands like the Gigolo Aunts out on the road, for instance. How did you connect with the current crop of new bands that you have out with you now on the Road Show?
Well, I mean, I didn’t know Good Old War before this, but the others were friends. This really did grow out of the Outlaw Road Show itself that Ryan and I have been doing the last few years. The shows we’ve put on at CMJ and South by Southwest. Filligar’s played two or three of them [and] Foreign Fields played this year at South by Southwest. Ryan introduced me to to Filligar and he was just going on about how much they rocked and they do. They’re just a great band - it’s three brothers and a cousin and they’ve been together since they were very young. I know they’ve got to be no more than in their early 20s now and they were definitely making albums in 2005, so they were making records when they were 15 and they weren’t bad records either, they’re pretty good. It’s shocking that they were making records so good at that age.
One of the things that we did with Filligar is that they played near the top of the bill at CMJ and they were awesome. But Ryan and I had a thing where we’re really not about hearing bands status wise, we’re about making a whole show work. So it’s always really important to us that the first band on the stage has to be able to kill it. They’ve got to be the kind of band that can capture an audience at the beginning, because not all bands have that skill. So when we were looking for how to open - we had three stages going at once on the Road Show at South By Southwest, so we need a lot of bands that can handle a lot of different areas. One of the things we were trying to figure out was who was going to open the indoor stage this year, the main stage, and Ryan suggested Filligar, because they had been near the top of the bill at CMJ and I worried that they wouldn’t want to do it, but they didn’t really mind.
We need a band that could come right on stage at noon and crush so that the show would start off awesome. And that’s what they did for us. They blew the fucking roof off. My friend Frank, who did all of our posters for us, was standing with me in the audience as they played and I’ll never forget this, because I talk about it on stage, he said “whoa, that’s a lot of rock for noon!” And it was too, it was pretty impressive. I liked them a lot as a band before that, but I loved them after that. Because when you can walk on at noon and do that without a bit of resentment at being on there or fear or anything else, just put on a great show and crush it, it was awesome and that was really impressive.
It’s important on the [current] Roadshow, because we rotate the bands - we headline every night, but [the other bands] you play first one night and then you play second one night and then you play third and then you’re playing first again. A lot of these are GA shows, so there’s crowds out there anyway, but it’s a different thing being the first band on and it’s a good thing to learn how to do. It’s a different thing too playing, Filligar played first the first show and then the third show we were playing a brewery in Utica and there’s a big crowd out there and after Filligar came off stage, I was on stage - I’ve been on stage watching every band play every set pretty much.
They came off the stage and I asked the bass player Pete “how did that feel, that seemed pretty cool” and he said “aside from playing in front of the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen in our lives, it was cool - I’m glad it was over.” And I said oh yeah, it’s just daunting in a way to play in front of that many people - because there’s a lot of people out there. But they pulled it off and I think they’re all learning how to do all of those things.
Foreign Fields, they used to be called Flight and about six months ago, I got an email from Sean Moeller who runs Daytrotter and it said “dude, you’ve got to pick up this record, I just got this, go to this Bandcamp website - they’re called Flight, the record’s called ‘Anywhere But Where I Am’ - you’re going to love it.” So I went there and downloaded it and flipped out - it’s so beautiful and like nothing I’d ever heard. It was such a unique voice and just a very unique record and beautiful. It really blew my mind. I called up Ryan and said “dude, get this record right now - go get it - this band is amazing.” So Ryan went there and got it and same reaction - he flipped out. We decided to call them up and get them for the Outlaw Roadshow. It had been a week already and I’d been corresponding [with the band] because there’s so few people buying their record on Bandcamp at that point, so when my name popped up, they recognized it. I got a letter from the guitar player/singer Brian just thanking me and so we’ve been corresponding.
We wrote them and invited them to play and they said “fuck yeah” and they came down and it was really cool. Mistakenly, I thought they were playing a Daytrotter session when they got down there, so I congratulated them, but they didn’t have one. So I wrote Sean and I was like “dude, that’s so embarrassing” and Sean has Daytrotter down in Austin, so he found a spot for them. So one of the first things we did when we were down at South by Southwest was go over to watch them do their Daytrotter session. They finished the first song, a song called “Pillars” and we’re in this little house with a recording studio in it and most of what we’re hearing is just through the air, because the amps are in different rooms and the drums are in different rooms - nothing’s really amplified, so we’re just hearing this singing through the air and the guitars kind of in the distance.
It was so unearthly beautiful that I couldn’t believe it. I knew the record was pretty, but I couldn’t believe that they did it live and I couldn’t believe it was audible through the air - it was so good. I walked over to Brian after the first song was over and I said “dude, that was unbelievable - that was one of the most astonishing and beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It was incredible.” He looked at me and breathed this big sigh of relief and said “Phew, thank God, because it’s kind of our first ever public performance and we were just really nervous about it.” And I was like “wait, that was the first time that you played that song?” And he said “no, I mean the first time that we’ve played. So that Roadshow on Saturday, that will be our second.” So it was like “you’re off to a good start, don’t worry about it.
And it was even more shocking, because they were so good and they’d never played a gig out. They came and played the Roadshow on Saturday and they were just awesome. It was fucking amazing. A little while later, someone was talking to me, one of our managers, my friend Anna was telling me “you know, you’ve been curating all of this stuff with Ryan in your life and you made this record where you went and found all of this music that you really liked. But you’re doing all of these showcases and working with all of this independent music, why aren’t you bringing this together with the Counting Crows live [show]? I mean, this is what you really love doing and this is where you’re actually enjoying your life as opposed to being stressed about it. So why don’t you bring that area into the Counting Crows, into that arena.”
And I thought “oh, that’s not a bad idea” and we talked to our agents about whether it would work and they thought it would and we then we put together this show and it’s been really cool. It’s been great to see these bands, who are friends of mine who I know, who I’ve been through things with, like our own showcases, watching them play every night. By the time we got around to opening this tour, that was Foreign Fields fourth gig! But they’ve been awesome on stage - it’s been really fun to watch. And then you give them suggestions about songs, switching order around, things that might work, try to help them create different ways of playing.
The audiences are really getting into it. I started feeling bad about only half an hour for the band, that it wasn’t a good set [length] for them, but I’m actually realizing now that it’s actually really good, because the audience I think gets to feel really cool, watching all of these indie bands and liking them, which they do. I think a half an hour is enough that they feel good without getting overwhelmed - it’s not too much new. You don’t want to overestimate what people can deal with. Half an hour each, they really dig it, they like that they dig it and then someone new comes.
We’re running these - thank God for my crew - we’re running these shows with 10 minute breaks between the bands. We’re pulling the changeovers in 10 minutes, which is not easy, but they’re pulling it off. It’s working really well and the audiences seem to be really flipping out and even more than they’re flipping out over those bands, they get keyed up for us. It’s like they’ve had a whole evening of enjoying music and I think they feel like they’re at a music festival and they just learned a bunch of new music, because they’re also flooding the merch booths and talking to the bands after the show. The other bands are out there signing CDs and selling stuff and from what I’ve been hearing from the bands, there’s tons of people hanging out with them, during our set, after the show.
People are really getting into it and I think they really enjoy it and they feel the variety of it and it feels like being at a music festival and when we come on, it’s a different atmosphere - it’s really electric when we get on stage. It’s not the normal thing - it’s not like a bunch of people who have just been waiting and the waiting is finally over. It’s a bunch of people who have been totally entertained and waiting and they’re not worn out from the waiting or from the noise or the volume, they’re really keyed up. We’re going on stage to a very vibed out audience when we get on stage. It’s really wild.
Somehow it’s the perfect length of things going on and that combination of Filligar’s very rock thing and the really beautiful ambient Nashville Radiohead sound of Foreign Fields and Good Old War’s great Simon and Garfunkel-esque, I don’t know they’ve got - it’s just great songs. They’re really fun and everybody’s really digging it and they’re really great guys too - I’m really enjoying them - I didn’t know them before, but a friend of mine introduced them to me and when I heard the records, I really loved them. It’s just been...everybody’s really nice guys, so we’re having a good time on tour. It’s a very cool vibe on this tour.
The next leg, we’ve got We Are Augustines, one of my favorite bands in existence right now, Kasey Anderson, who is a really good friend of mine that I can’t wait to see play every night, because I love watching people play and we get Field Report. Between Foreign Fields and Field Report, those two records are so good. The Field Report record is some epic shit. It’s beautiful, but there’s some scope to it - it’s really good lyric writing and I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s going to blow your mind when you hear it. That this album is out there and someone made it and people don’t know about it [is crazy], because it’s just really good.
Just get this record and the Foreign Fields record and sit down with them and realize what is coming out of Wisconsin and add Bon Iver on top of that. Because that’s where Field Report comes from. Chris was in Deyarmond Edison with Justin Vernon and the guy in Megafaun. When that band split up and Justin Vernon started Bon Iver and the other guy started Megafaun, Chris stayed home and was writing, didn’t leave Wisconsin and had a little band called Conrad Plymouth, which was mostly just him playing by himself, which some of these songs were played in Conrad Plymouth, I think. I know one of them was at least.
And then he made this record this year and it’s really good. When you hear Field Report, [hearing that] and Foreign Fields are going to make you wonder what the fuck is in the water out there, because these two albums are completely unique and they have something in common too somehow that makes you think there’s something about Wisconsin there. But they are completely unique and they make really well made great records. I feel like I’m overhyping it, but I’m not sure I could overhype these two records. They’re unique and awesome. They’ll blow your mind.
Adam Duritz photo credit: Pam Bogert via Counting Crows Official Facebookmore
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
That’s the end thought from Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz in reply to a question about the prospects for a new album from the band, which would be their first studio album of new material since Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings in 2008.
Underwater Sunshine, the latest release from the Counting Crows is not the new studio album that many fans might have been waiting for, but it is something that Duritz and the band view as a “new Counting Crows album.” If you look past the fact that it is on paper, a covers album, you’ll discover in listening to it that in fact, it is not a “covers album” in the traditional sense.
It does play like a new Counting Crows album, with covers of songs that you probably haven’t heard by Dawes, Kasey Anderson and The Romany Rye mixed in with some songs that you might have heard, along with a few that you definitely know. And for the most part, the band succeeds in making each of the songs sound like Counting Crows songs. In short, put aside your preconceived notions and give Underwater Sunshine a good listen.
The press release for the album describes it as “a testament of a band geek-obsessed with music.” Certainly, that comes through in talking with Duritz, who peppers our conversation with mentions of various bands that he’s excited about (and he continued to share additional bands in emails after the fact), including the bands featured on this summer’s Outlaw Roadshow tour, a trek curated by Duritz and blogger Ryan Spaulding.
Our interview was lengthy, so I’ll present it in a couple of installments for your enjoyment. Believe it or not, for everything we talked about, there was plenty that we didn’t get to. But I feel like we covered some good ground.
One of the things that really impressed me about Underwater Sunshine is the good energy and vibe that you captured with these new recordings, something that reminds me a lot of the feeling behind the first two albums. I know that you recorded a lot of this new material live in the studio and it just feels very alive.
Well I think, it’s our records since the first album that sound alive to me. It’s the first album that sounds kind of produced [to me]. We weren’t very good at being a band yet on that record and it feels slicker. Two months of production is a lot slicker than anything we did after that. It’s like we went for much more live sounding things after the first album. But yeah, I know what you mean though. Like all of our records, it is recorded with all of us in the room together.
I guess a better way to put it - which is not to say that I haven’t liked the other albums, because I really liked the Saturday Nights album for example - but I really hear the enthusiasm behind this material in the recordings.
Well that, I mean, the Saturday Nights record, I’m losing my mind during the first half of it, I mean seriously losing my mind during that half of it. I don’t know if any of us thought we’d make another record after that. It’s not an enthusiastic record, for sure. The second half, I was pulling myself together, but I was still a bit of a mess. That was a bleak album. What it’s about, it just wasn’t very much fun to live through it. This one was a lot different. I don’t know if it's fun, I mean, we’re always kicking each other’s ass around the studio. We played really well though - I really like it.
I was really excited after hearing the Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings record, the way that album wraps up with “Come Around.” I was going “man, I can’t wait to see where they’re going to go with the next record after hearing that record.” So although perhaps my enthusiasm wasn’t in place when I first heard about this covers album, after I heard it, I had a very similar reaction - I was equally stoked to hear the studio album that’s going to come out of this experience. As the songwriter, what sort of songs and directional thoughts are in place for the next album?
If I had songs in place, we’d make the record. I haven’t been interested in really doing it. I’ve been writing plenty, but not for Counting Crows. I’ve written a lot for the play, the theater piece that we’re working on. That’s another reason we did the covers album, because it was really hard for me to think about writing for two things at once and I was much more interested in writing for the theater piece than I was for writing a Counting Crows record.
I’ve enjoyed writing that stuff and I kind of want to get back to it after this. I feel like I’ve put it aside - I did it right in the middle of all of this and then I put it aside, because I wanted to be able to make a Counting Crows record and we’ve been wanting to do this record for a while, so it was perfect. It really made it so we didn’t have to take a break, just so I could do the other thing.
You know, records come when they come. I don’t really think about them too much or plan for them too much, because I don’t think you really need to. There’s no real schedule - you’re just kind of living your life. So you should express it however you feel at the moment. We can always make records and I’m sure we will. But I don’t know, I mean, I don’t have any plans - but I never have plans for making records - it just happens. It can be me writing a couple of songs and we’ll go right in and start recording. It doesn’t need a lot of advance planning, we have all of the equipment, you know?
The truth is, I shouldn’t say that we did no planning, because a lot of the time that we spent in the studio for this album was sort of research, looking at different kind of rooms that we could use, because we have our own studio basically. We’ve made all of the records in houses and that’s kind of our way of keeping a working studio open all of the time for us. We sort of halfway did it for this album, because we didn’t really find exactly what we wanted room-wise, so we spent a little more time, just to get in the studio and record. But you know, we’ve spent this whole year looking for an ideal place in L.A. or Berkeley.
We looked at a place at one point that had a big barn that had rooms in it. We still continue to do that. Dave Bryson came up to me a few nights ago when we were in Utica. He had been looking at a couple of places and he found a space in Berkeley that might be really good, so he was talking about that. The truth is, that I tend to write when I have a place to put things. I’ve spent a lot of the past couple of years honestly going through these drug withdrawals. Although that’s a story in and of itself, I’m not sure I feel like writing that story after after just coming out of writing all of that Saturday Nights shit.
But I didn’t have a lot of life during that period, because I was shaking. I was either working....I mean, I did work a lot during that period. We made the record and I worked on the theater piece in the midst of the worst of the drug withdrawals, but I can’t tell you that I’ve lived much of a life in the last year. There’s not much to write about except for me sitting in my room and I did a lot of that with Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings and I don’t want to write about that again.
It’s funny though, one of the things that I realize with Saturday Nights also, it’s not just that people expect you to write good material, but they have a plot in mind for you too. It’s like they want to write the plotline for your life. It’s like if you hadn’t gotten healthy soon, it’s like “alright, [you're] talking about the same thing again.” It’s like when you have a first album that’s really big and you write a second album about dealing with fame, everybody complains about that.
What are you supposed to write about? It’s your life - that’s what you’re living at that moment. You can criticize the quality of someone’s work, but don’t sit and criticize the plotline, because I mean, that’s just life. That always cracks me up when it comes up. I think after writing the last album and having the second half be about trying to get better, I’m not supposed to be better in the plot. And quite honestly, it didn’t work that way. And Sunday Mornings wasn’t really about getting better, it was about trying to get better and mostly not succeeding, which is still better than getting worse.
Well, you had some beautiful songs that wound up on the second half of that album, so I guess for everything that you go through, if you can come away with that, you’re leaving with something.
Oh absolutely. I really love the album in some ways. There’s not a lot of fun on it to listen to, but I’m really proud of it. It was not easy to make that record, for a variety of reasons for me and the whole band too. It wasn’t easy to work with me when I was losing my mind. I was doing my best to focus but I was narcoleptic and it was difficult. You know, it’s funny, when I was doing the initial interviews for this album, one of the things that occurred to me was God, I could stay and do....and obviously I’m not going to do this because I’m not going to make any publishing money.
But you can record other people’s songs if you did them the right way, because I know what people mean - a lot of covers albums are just like karaoke albums. They’re purposefully put out there to maybe get on the radio, reminding people of a couple of famous songs they know and here’s us doing the song. Look at us playing the song you already know you love. They are kind of an easy out that way, especially if you don’t really do them well. We didn’t intentionally make this the most obscure covers album ever, but it certainly is.
We’re not going to make a karaoke album. It’s just not going to happen. If we make covers albums, the same with Counting Crows albums, it’s going to take a lot of concentration and if the songs don’t live up to it, we’re going to throw them out. We really weren’t interested in having a karaoke session with America and the world on this album. I mean, I wouldn’t allow them. There’s only a few songs on this album that I think people would know and they aren’t on that radio thing we sent out, because I didn’t allow them to go on it.
Because I wanted people to listen to this album...you know, I wanted people to put the album and hear “Untitled (Love Song)” right at the top and I wanted you to hear a Counting Crows record, because that’s what this is. You know, you get it, for all of the best intentions of your managers or agents or whoever, if you give them “Ooh La La,” they will take “Ooh La La” to radio. They’ll talk all they want about this album being so much not like a covers album that people will think of it as a Counting Crows album and take it as originals, because the songs really are originals in the way they are played....and then they will take “Ooh La La” straight to radio.
But we did not allow it, we did not allow “Ooh La La” or “Amie to go to radio, because I wanted people to get a chance to listen to this album for the work we put into it. There’s a reason “Untitled (Love Song)” is at the top of the record. It’s a really good album opener. We wanted people to hear the work we put into this record and not their memories of a Faces album. I’d say we probably lost ourselves a lot of radio adds thinking like that, but you know, [there’s] better things. You at least, listened to this album for what it really is and liked it.
Absolutely. That’s what struck me, is that it hangs together really well as a Counting Crows album, especially considering the scattered diversity when you look at the artist lineup on paper, that these songs were sourced from. I can imagine that you might have laid down more songs than the 15 that we’re hearing on this album. Are there any good examples of that which missed making it onto the final album for one reason or another?
Oh, it’s always the same reasons, but yeah, there are. The reason is because they suck - our versions, not the originals. Well this isn’t because it sucks, but “Local Boy In The Photograph,” by Stereophonics, that’s just because we didn’t finish it. That probably would have made it - that was really cool, we just didn’t get it done. You know, we only had like two sessions, we were only in the studio for about two weeks total.
We did a week-long session and a 10 day session, but with all of the studio breakdowns we went through, I’d say it was about 13 or 14 days in the studio, maybe. So we didn’t finish it, but that was actually really cool, I thought it was a very interesting take on that song. What else? “You Might Think,” the Cars song, I did a version of that for the All My Bloody Valentines record I made last year and it’s really cool on that record. It’s a very original take on the song and I thought, “well it’s such an original take, we should see how it works in a band version.” Well, the band version sucks. It sucked so bad that I started laughing in the middle of the second verse. I started laughing and said “turn off the tape, we’re not using this, it’s terrible.” It was so horrible and boring, I don’t know how to describe it - it was terrible.
Was it uptempo or downtempo?
It was exactly like the version I played, but with a full band on it. So kind of, I guess it was an uptempo song. It ended up being really light. There’s a version of “Mr. Universe” by James Maddock that Immy [Counting Crows multi-instrumentalist David Immergluck] brought in. I really like that song - we just did a terrible version of it. It was really boring and pretty bland. Although the interesting one really is “It’s Different For Girls” by Joe Jackson. We came up with this idea....I had heard a bootleg version of it - it was a real famous song when I was younger although it’s not one I’m sure people remember now. I found a live version of it that was really cool and we based our version off the structure of that. It’s such a great song and it was great to play and we loved it.
I mean, it was so much fun to play that song and we really loved it. We had a great time and I could not wait to get in my car with it. We finished work on it that day and listened to it on the drive home. We got in the car and drove [home] listening to it and I stopped about five minutes later when it was over and I played it again and I thought “what’s wrong with it?” I could not figure it out. It sounded great and I did not like it. It sounded great and I could not have been less impressed. I mean, I went in the next day to work on it and I went “okay, what’s the problem with ‘It’s Different For Girls’” and someone went “oh my God, that was amazing, I love it [and] listened to it all night.” It’s like okay, it’s so much fun to listen to it, but yeah, I do not like it [and] I do not know what the problem is. I did think it sounded great, it did sound like fun and I did not like it and I could not figure out why.
And that stretched on for months, because everybody loved it. The guy mixing it was Brian Deck and Brian was in Chicago and I was in New York over Christmas when we were doing it and I forgot to tell him that I didn’t want to use the song. Because I’d already decided without telling anybody in the band that I wasn’t going to use it. And that was going to cause a huge argument, because people loved it, I mean, our managers, everybody loved it. I forgot to tell Brian about that and he just mixed it one day. He had a first mix and sent it to me and he told me what it was and I said “okay, well yeah, let me just hear it.” I thought maybe he would have fixed whatever problem it was in the mix, he was very, very good about stuff like that. I listened to it and had the same reaction again - it sounded awesome, but I did not like it. I did not want it on the record.
I called Brian up and I said “look, I’ve got to talk to you about something. I have a problem here. I don’t get what it is, but I have a problem with this song. I think it sounds awesome, everybody thinks it sounds awesome, but I don’t like it. I don’t really want it on the record and I don’t know why.” And he said “Oh, I know why, I can tell you right now - it sounds like a cover.” I said “what do you mean?” He said “it all sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun playing a great song, but it doesn’t sound like you, it doesn’t sound like you’ve really made it your own. It’s the only thing I’ve heard on the record so far that just doesn’t sound like you’re owning it. It sounds like you’re singing a song, a little like karaoke.”
And I realized kind of what the problem was with it, because it’s a really fun song to play, but it’s a very sad song and I was having such a good time singing it that I forgot about how sad it is, you know? I took the wrong path on the song and the band is very sensitive to where I am. I mean, they listen to me very, very closely, even if it’s not in an intellectual way, they just get it and they follow me when I’m singing stuff. It’s part of why we’re really good as a band, because we do that. I was having a great time singing one of my all-time favorite songs and I was really excited about it being on our record because I thought it was probably a song that people forgot and it would be a real gem on the record. All of that doesn’t add up to what “It’s Different For Girls” is about. When I used to listen to that song when I was young, when you’re sad and bummed out about a girl, you listen to songs that really make you feel something....
It’s got a lot of that in it and it didn’t have any of that in our version, because I was having too good of a time singing it and everybody had a blast playing it and then it lost all of its emotional weight. And as good as it sounded - I mean, it sounded great - that’s not what that song is supposed to be like. It just didn’t have any emotional resonance for me except for “wow, this is really a great song!” Which is again, not really the emotion it is supposed to have in it. And then hearing Brian say that, that’s when I realized I just took the wrong path on the song. I just covered it and everybody went along with it. It’s got nothing to it.
Right then, we didn’t bother mixing it any further than that, because that was it. That’s a cardinal, cardinal sin - that’s worse than sucking in a way, I just didn’t realize it. I don’t know if that sounds asinine or anything, because people loved this version. I mean, they were not happy when that was off the record. I think they understand now kind of, but that’s not something that thrilled anybody. But that’s a cardinal sin and that’s why it’s off the record. But that’s also why I think this record works, because we didn’t keep stuff like that and we never do. Which I think is what kind of makes a career work in a way. It doesn’t seem like a short-term good thing. In the long-term, it’s really served us well being strict about things like that. If you don’t hear the emotional weight you’re supposed to carry, well then what are you there for at all, really?
One of my favorite tracks on this album is the version of ‘Like Teenage Gravity’ and it was interesting to read the story of what a challenge it was recording the track. Knowing that, I think that’s a big part of why it works, because you can almost hear the frustration in the recording and it gives it that right vibe.
Well, have you heard the original?
It’s gorgeous. That is a great, great song. You can see listening to it why we would fall for it. That’s a trap with shit like that. Because everything that’s awesome about that song, we were going to have to jettison to play it [differently], or else copy his version exactly. When somebody does something really stripped down, it’s really hard to cover that, because what are you going to do with it? You know what one of my favorite songs of all time has always been and there’s no way it would ever go on this album? Graham Parker’s “You Can’t Be Too Strong” off Squeezing Out Sparks. You know that song?
That’s a great song. That’s just guitar and a little keyboard and it’s great that way. But how are you going to cover it? What are you going to do that really needs to be done at all? Nothing. I don’t know what to do with it. And this one, I didn’t even think of it until we started playing and I realized “oh Christ - we’re murdering this song.” We could not figure out what to do and everybody was just at wit’s end.
And no one came in with any ideas either, which is what pissed me off. Because I feel like sometimes they just wait for me to show them what to do. No one came in with any ideas and I was fucking not in good shape anyways. You know, trembling, having very bad tremors from withdrawals and it was a rough week that week. I was just so pissed off at them for just like coming in and standing around each other. But you know, I’m not always the most patient person but it’s okay. I mean, it’s just about music, it’s nothing personal - everybody gets that.
But yeah, I guess [with “Like Teenage Gravity"], Jim started playing that drum thing and then Dan was sort of dicking around, he was doing this thing and it was very off-key. I think he might have been tuning up or something, with the amp on. But I stopped him and went in the room and I’m like you need to go to this note, like halfway through the intro when he goes to that very dissonant note. I was like “do that thing and then go to this note.” And he’s like “man, that sounds horrible” and I’m like “yeah, I know, but I think it would be cool though. As long as you get to that note at the beginning of the second time around, it will be really cool. You’ll know where to go from there, trust me.”
And then we just got it. I mean, considering how fucking sick I felt during the second sessions, I had the most complete arrangement ideas pop into my head, full-blown. “Hospital,” I mean, I had this idea for “Hospital” which just had all of those drop-ins and drop-outs with the guitars and drums. I don’t know, I just got it in my head. And on this one too, I had this idea about “we’re going to go completely electric on the first verse and then all of the electric instruments go away and it goes to acoustic. From like electric guitar and organ to acoustic guitar and piano and it worked really well - it was really cool. And then the guys picked it up from me - I mean, we’re really good.
Give an idea like that to our band and people will find cool things to do. Considering that there’s seven of us there, people have a really good sense of where to get in and out. Of how to find just the end of the other person’s phrase to trail in after. You can hear it, especially in the latter parts of the song before the solo parts, when the whole band is in there, dropping in and out, like Dan’s starting a guitar line and Charlie being right there, following it with an organ, or the other way around.
There’s one of those [moments] right before the last chorus, the break between that sort of bridge section, going into the last chorus. It’s the split-second hesitation between when the organ and the guitars come back in. It’s really cool. There’s a lot of that on this record, just really telepathic playing. You can hear it on that song and especially on “All My Failures,” that might be the best we’ve ever played as a band. I’m not sure we’ve ever quite played with the level of communication that we do on that song. I mean, it’s just like, as a band, I’ve never been more proud of those guys.
Listening to it, their sensitivity to each other and especially the way that Dan [Vickrey] on acoustic guitar, Immy on electric and then Jim [Bogios] and Millard [Powers] in the rhythm section chase each other around through that song, like reacting to everything each of them does, it just blows me away what they accomplished on that. That’s the most like The Band I think we’ve ever sounded [on that song] - it’s really cool.
Stay tuned for the second part of our conversation with Adam, where we talk some more about the album and also dig into his thoughts about being a music fan and making albums vs. releasing EPs and single tracks. There's more musical/industry discussion beyond that, plus some chatter regarding this summer's Outlaw Roadshow tour.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
There's quite a bit to enjoy about today's slate of new releases.
First of all, Bonnie Raitt makes a very welcome return with a new album Slipstream, in which she splits the production duties between herself and veteran Joe Henry. The results are something that your ears will love.
Bonnie hits the CLE on May 23rd with Marc Cohn handling the opening duties and with any luck, I'll be there.
Also out today: Underwater Sunshine, the new album from the Counting Crows. Hopefully you got a chance to stream it over the past couple of weeks. If not, today's a great time to get your hands on it.
Adam Duritz says there will be a vinyl release, so stay tuned for that.
But since we're talking vinyl and Counting Crows, I have to give big thanks to @emw1968 for the heads up that August and Everything After will be coming out on limited edition 180 gram vinyl on June 5th. Details are a bit sparse, but there's a pre-order link here. It looks like Rock Classics will be pressing this title.
A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted my wishes for vinyl editions of August and also Recovering The Satellites....so at least part of that wish is coming true!
Among the other releases out today: The new album from Scars on 45 is finally on the streets and if you think Todd is God, you'll probably want to get your hands on this new vintage Utopia live release.
Along those lines, my comrade Will Harris chats up Todd as the latest subject of his Set List series.
Lots to dig!
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
That's right, not a song....not several songs, but the whole damn thing.
Perhaps more stoked than anyone should normally get about a covers album from any band, but those who are listening to these tracks seem to agree with me that this one is one of those rarities that hits the mark. It's the real deal.
Adam Duritz is a guy who understands what it means to be a music fan. He's clearly a huge music fan, as you'll pick up when you read the liner notes to this new album.
[For an advance read, he also did a track by track summary for Paste which you can read here.]
As the industry shifts, he's trying to figure it out like everybody else, which is why it was cool to get an email from him telling me (and other music blogs) that I'd be receiving a streaming player embed to share with the readers of this site.
We just want people to hear our record and all these songs and, quite honestly, you're where people who dig new music go to hear new music. That being the case, we want our record with you too.
Perhaps it's the digital version of how artists used to beat the streets, going radio station to radio station to sell each one on their music, one by one. Or maybe, it's even more powerful than that.
However you look at it, they'd like for a lot of people to hear this album. And it's my pleasure to finally be able to share it with you.
In the spirit, share this with a friend and make plans to get yourself a copy of the album if you dig it. This is one of those that if you enjoy the music, you'll definitely want to have the liner notes to get the rest of the story.....that's a big assumption on my part, assuming that you're still a huge liner notes geek like I am. But you are, right?
[And on a side note, Duritz says there will be vinyl for this new album....stay tuned for further details on that]
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
I've had a follow-up post brewing, because after I made my initial post regarding the new Counting Crows album Underwater Sunshine, I realized that I had some notes on the album by Adam Duritz in my email.
The band's gigs for April and May went on sale this morning with the majority selling out within an hour or less. To celebrate, they're now streaming six songs from Underwater Sunshine for your listening pleasure, although as you can imagine, the link appears to be hammered with traffic right now, so the streaming gratification might not be an instant thing.
The advance notes on Underwater Sunshine call it a "testament of a band geek-obsessed with music." Presumably, that's "geek obsessed" and not a description of Adam Duritz as a "band geek," although perhaps both can be applied.
Duritz says that “there’s a million great songs written every day that you discover, and wish your friends could appreciate as much as you do. These songs come from bands young and old, stretching from the early '60s to last year. They’re all great and will hopefully be heard by a few more people now.”
“If you wonder why we didn’t just write our own record, it’s simply because we wanted to do THIS one,” says Duritz, We now have the creative freedom to release albums like this and offer our fans more music than ever."
From what I've heard so far, it's a great listen and I can't wait to hear the rest. I'd love to see them play some of this material live, although I'm not sure that a road trip to Chicago is in the cards for me right now.
Hopefully the 2012 touring season will bring a future show date that's a little bit closer to the Cleveland zip code.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
I was excited when I recently learned that the Counting Crows had a new album on the schedule of upcoming releases. My excitement faded when I found out it was a covers record. But I always like to give an artist the benefit of the doubt, especially when it's a favorite like the Counting Crows.
Today, I had the opportunity to hear seven of the songs that will be featured on Underwater Sunshine (or what we did on our summer vacation), the upcoming album from the Crows which is set for release on April 10th.
I think fans are really going to love this album, because as I hit play, I had the thought that hadn't occurred to me previously, "self, you love listening to cover songs from Counting Crows." Shit. Why didn't I think of that before?
One of my favorite Crows covers from the past is their take on "Friend of the Devil" by fellow San Franscisco natives the Grateful Dead. Specifically, I love the version of it that they played live at the Warfield on 12/13/03.
The whole album (or at least the portion that I've heard) has the vibe of what I loved about their Warfield version of "Friend." It's clear that they are invested in the material that they've laid down, but it also doesn't feel overly polished. It has the feeling of a group of friends that got together for a day in the studio, to run through a set of some of their favorites, one take a piece, without going back to smooth out the occasional off moment that might have occurred in their mind.
Some of the material has vintage roots in the Crows history - most fans will probably recognize "Jumping Jesus" by Sordid Humor and "Four White Stallions" by Tender Mercies, two bands with close connections to the Counting Crows family tree. [Incidentally, Tender Mercies featured future Crows guitarist Dan Vickrey and his early work with Tender Mercies helped to put him on the Counting Crows radar and secure the gig. 20 years later Vickrey took care of some unfinished business and released a Tender Mercies album.]
None of it comes off as by the book, boring "anybody could have covered this" kind of material. Quite the opposite. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, the band's most recent studio album released in 2008 found the band occupying two different sides of the fence. The "Saturday Night" portion was appropriately S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y, night loud, while the "Sunday Morning" side was indeed a perfect fit for a quiet contemplative Sunday morning listen.
The tour behind the album found the band focusing on the joy of collaboration, sharing the stage with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana for a traveling experience called the Traveling Circus and Medicine Show. Eschewing the traditional individual sets, the combined touring package of band members instead spent the evening on stage together, playing each other's songs.
Underwater Sunshine makes a lot of sense as a transition point on the heels of that touring experience. Adam Duritz and crew reportedly recorded at least 20 songs for this album and it's one of those things that you hear it and think "man, I can't wait to hear where they're going to go next."
"Next" as in, "next album." I've been waiting for quite a while to see what their next move would be after Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. Hearing Underwater Sunshine, I'm fairly confident that the "next" album will be a trip worth taking.
You can hear a sample of the album by dropping your email address in here to get a free download of "Mercy," the second of two Tender Mercies covers featured on the album.
The track listing for the whole thing is here and it looks like if you're lucky enough to be in San Francisco, you'll have the chance to see the band play a couple of special shows, including a date on March 9th at Slim's. Pre-sale information for the shows can be found here.
And if you're going to SXSW, the band will be playing a free show for BMI at Auditorium Shores on Friday, March 16th with Diamond Rug and Tender Mercies opening.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
As you know, we heavily encourage the audience participation here as well, so I very quickly became a fan of The Friday Five. I don't often get a chance to share my choices on Fridays, which tend to be busy, but I always like to weigh in eventually. And by "always," I think I've actually done it two or three times, but who is counting? I felt pretty good about the five tracks that I shared this past Monday at Ickmusic, so I thought that I would share them with all of you. Check 'em out, and go have your own Friday Five fun with Michael!
1. Nada Surf - “No Quick Fix” - Gotta give credit to Heather at Fuel/Friends for really making me love this band with her posts about them. She posted an acoustic show that really hooked me in, and made me get the catalog. Sadly, the download link doesn't seem to be active for that acoustic show anymore, but you can still read a great interview that Heather did with Matthew Caws here. This cut can be found on this version of Let Go.
2. Ryan Adams - “Come Pick Me Up” - This song always seems to come up in the shuffle on the perfect morning. This is one of those mornings. I'll admit that I heard this song for the first time via Elizabethtown, although I had heard Adam Duritz weave it into the middle of "Round Here" countless times. I hadn't gotten on board the Ryan Adams train at that point, and when I heard it while watching Elizabethtown, it threw me for quite an emotional loop. Of course, that didn't stop me from turning down the chance to go see an amazing Ryan Adams show here in Cleveland last year. For even more good stuff, check out the Ryan Adams Elizabethtown sessions here.
3. Bill Champlin - “Organ Solo/In The Heat of the Night” - I got into Bill’s stuff after being a longtime Chicago fan. Started buying his solo albums in 1994, and this record Mayday, recorded live in the studio is a great career summary of Champlin’s solo work and also his work with Sons of Champlin. For the Champlin-curious, the Sons of Champlin Live album on Grateful Dead Records is also a good one, if you can find it. Honorable mention to his latest album No Place Left To Fall, the first solo release from Champlin in a number of years released last year - it's good stuff.
4. Extreme - “No Respect” - I’m not going to say that I was a diehard Extreme fan back in the day, but I liked the hits, and bought Waiting For The Punchline as soon as it was released. Saw them on the tour for WFTP, and was stunned at how good they were, and I subsequently talked up Gary Cherone to anyone that would listen, when he was tapped for the VH singer slot. And I continue to defend Cherone-era VH as recently as this past week on Twitter!
5. Ernie and the Automatics - “The Best Is Up Ahead” - This is the latest band project from former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau. For any of you that followed his solo work in the 90s (i.e. not RTZ) you might cringe a little bit, because some of it was pretty bad. This CD is one of my unexpected favorites of the year.
Surf on over to Ickmusic and offer your five cuts - as you can see, it's a lot of fun!one
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
The following post is ripped straight from my Facebook page.....kind of. I've been amused recently by the people that are irritated by the rising amount of Top 5/10/15/25 "chain letter" posts on Facebook. "Don't turn Facebook into Myspace," is one of the pleas that I read from one person. I actually enjoy reading this kind of stuff - probably because most of the ones that have been coming my way, have been music-related.
As soon as I hit submit on this particular post on Facebook, I started thinking of albums that I had left out - including one of the first ones that had come to mind - August and Everything After by Counting Crows. My friend Cristi left me a FB comment asking me to "let her know when I finish the list."
With that in mind, I thought about adding 5 more, and then 10 more, and I settled for an additional 15 albums, which are tacked on below. It still doesn't cover 'em all, but I had fun putting this list together.
Original post follows - enjoy!
Wow, this is going to be fun. There's no way I can even begin to include all of the albums that have inspired me. I'd need a lot more than 15 slots. This list is in no particular order, although I like the running order on this one. It's tough, because Blue Rodeo could easily be at #1 on this list, same for Bruce Springsteen, etc. etc. etc.
Without a doubt, these are 15 albums that all made my life a little bit brighter at the time I got them. They continue to inspire me to this day, and when I hear them individually, they remind me of where I was the first time that I heard them, and the people I was with. Good times.
I'd like to thank Corey for tagging me in his note, and for having the courage to include T-Ride in his list of albums. Now that I've done that, I'm going to steal his entire setup paragraph:
Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs (if you're over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean. Then when you finish, tag 15 others, including moi. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!
1. Del Amitri - Twisted
2. Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience
3. Weezer - Weezer (The Blue Album)
4. The Wallflowers - Bringing Down The Horse
5. Bruce Springsteen - Live 1975-1985 (Honorable mention to Lucky Town)
6. The Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray
7. Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
8. The Smithereens - 11
9. Blue Rodeo - Five Days in July
10. The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall
11. Sting - The Soul Cages
12. INXS - Kick
13. Jackson Browne - I'm Alive
14. Dada - El Subliminoso
15. Tonic - Sugar
16. Social Distortion - Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
17. Alice in Chains - Dirt
18. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend
19. Counting Crows - August and Everything After
20. Van Halen - 5150
21. Michael Penn - Free-for-All (Now We're Even is STILL one of my favorite tunes!)
22. Tom Petty - Wildflowers
23. Ben Folds Five - Ben Folds Five
24. E - A Man Called E (honorable mention to Broken Toy Shop)
25. U2 - Achtung Baby
26. Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love
27. Peter Gabriel - US
28. Yes - 90125
29. The B-52's - Cosmic Thing
30. Faith No More - Angel Dust
31. Def Leppard - Hysteria (okay, so I ended up with 16 more....)
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Oh, the paragraphs I could dedicate to the subject....
We're going to talk some Counting Crows in a second, but here's a couple of things that led up to the Counting Crows subject matter:
This past week, I was in Target picking up a copy of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for a friend - an occasional purchase each year for friends who love the film but don't own it, or worse.....haven't seen it!
Seriously, what rock are you living under if you haven't seen Christmas Vacation?
While I should immediately remove you from my friend roster for such a thing, it seems that I have a charitable side that likes to broaden the horizons of others.
Last night I went to my DVDs to pull out my own copy for a viewing and it was missing! A spontaneous phone conversation with Brian from Broken Headphones revealed that his copy was missing as well! What's happening here in Cleveland?
Later that evening, I sat down at the computer to see what was happening on email, Twitter, etc.
I threw a quick Tweet:
Still love the latest Counting Crows album....but the person who mixed it deserves a nice kick in the face. Overmodulated sonic mud.
I was listening to Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings this weekend, a listen that was inspired by thoughts I was having as we head towards the end of 2008. SN/SM is certainly on my mental best of list for the year, but I hadn't listened to it in a while because of how sonically unpleasing the first half is from "1492" to "Cowboys." Since it had been a while, I thought I'd give it a spin in the car to see if my opinion would be modified at all. Sadly, the answer is still a failing grade for the Saturday Nights portion.
To play catch-up for you if you haven't heard the album, SN/SM was conceived as two separate albums with the more electric material comprising the Saturday Nights portion, and the quieter material (for the most part) makes up the Sunday Morning half. Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Del Amitri) produced Saturday Nights with James Brown mixing, and Brian Deck produced and mixed Sunday Mornings.
So where do we assign the blame? Taking a look at the recent Police DVD/CD release, I hear we can assign the blame for the unbelievably poor packaging to the band, who wanted to use the most environmentally conscious packaging method possible. Fair enough, I guess. And your complaints about the sound quality of Metallica's Death Magnetic? You guessed it, the band is the alleged culprit.
So what if we look at the problematic sound on Saturday Nights starting with producer Gil Norton? Norton has a long line of respectable production credits including *ahem* Recovering The Satellites by Counting Crows. Gil also produced Del Amitri's Change Everything album - is it wrong that I'm inclined to give him a pass just for being involved with those two albums? Plus, the dude produced an entire SR-71 album and still retained the desire to have a career in music!
I kid. I like the first SR-71 album a little, shhhhh!
I'm left with inclination to place the blame on mixer James Brown and his suspiciously named "Just Managing" production company, but is that the right move?
I can somehow see the scene now: Adam Duritz is cackling maniacally like John Cusack at the burger joint, overseeing the Saturday Nights mix with instructions to make every-thing louder than every-thing else........and then make everything else louder than that!
Once you get past the sound issues, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is one of the best albums that Counting Crows have made in years, and I'm saying that as a someone who has been a fan of generally everything they've put out. Duritz has a historical knack for wrapping his voice around some of the greatest miserable songs and he does it so well. As one who trends toward the more miserable side of music, you won't be surprised to hear that I really love the Sunday Mornings side of the album, and songs like "Washington Square" and "When I Dream of Michelangelo."
Mel was asking on Twitter if there was anywhere that she could stream the album, and indeed there is. You can stream the album via the band's Myspace page - Navigate over to the music player, and click on the album cover, and the entire album loads as a playlist.
I also found the following "in the studio" performance videos that I hadn't seen:
Counting Crows - Washington Square
Counting Crows - 1492 (Couldn't embed this one - here's the link to the video stream)
Counting Crows - Cowboys
Counting Crows - Le Ballet d'Or
And here's an oldie - "Have You Seen Me Lately" performed earlier this year on Fuse and worthy of inclusion because of the two chuckleheads that intro the band at the beginning of the performance:
Counting Crows - Have You Seen Me Lately (live on Fuse)
One of my favorite songs from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is one of the first songs I heard via the "digital 45" released by the band prior to the album release in March. If you haven't heard the new album, "When I Dream of Michelangelo" might be the one song you need to hear to sell you on the release. Classic Duritz.
Well you know I don't like you but you wanna be my friend
Well, there are bodies on the ceiling and they're fluttering their wings
It's ok I'm angry
But you'll never understand
When you dream of Michelangelo
They hang above your hands
And I know that she is not my friend
And I know cause there she goes
Walking on my skin again
Counting Crows - When I Dream of Michelangelo
Just in case you missed it:
In one of my first posts here, I wrote about something that you won't want to miss:
For an extended trip behind the scenes of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings as an album, check out the Counting Crows performance on World Cafe which can be found at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. The World Cafe performance is a fascinating look at both halves of the new album, and reveals the genesis of each song, and the ties to the back catalog of Counting Crows songs you already know and love.
Check it out and grab the zip - that's the only link that is still active.
Counting Crows official website
Purchase Saturday Nights and Sunday Morningsmore