It’s no secret how much we love the New Trocaderos here at the Audio Ammunition underwater volcano stronghold. Their EPs have thundered throughout the halls here many times. As many of you know, we’ve already interviewed most of the New Trocaderos’ members in different capacities (Geoff with The Connection, and Kurt Baker) so what we have here is an interview with Mr. Mike Chaney, the “silent” member of the band who actually brought them all together and writes or co-writes all the band’s songs. He took the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and discuss their new album, which is stellar and is sure to cause a commotion from ocean to ocean. It’s called Thrills & Chills and comes out in two days, on August 20th. Audio Ammunition has gotten a sneak preview of the album, but rather than us describing it, let’s let “Uncle” Mike take us by the hand to guide us through the stories of each song on the new record! Enjoy!
The New Trocaderos will release a new CD in two days, on August 20th, a full album this time. Before we get to the tracks themselves, though, tell us how an LA criminal lawyer got hooked up with…
MIKE: The New England Mafia?
MIKE: I heard that’s what Little Steven Van Zandt calls the guys.
That’s pretty funny coming from Silvio Dante of Sopranos fame.
MIKE: It is. I love it. To answer your question, the short version is about three years ago I went looking for new music on the Internet and stumbled across Kurt Baker and was blown away. He recommended The Connection. I bought New England’s Newest Hit Makers and Geoff wrote to thank me. I ended up emailing with Kurt and Geoff about music and influences and found out we had a lot in common.
And The New Trocaderos were born!
MIKE: Right. Then after the Coolest Song, we decided to do a follow up EP. I’d had the lyrics to “Brain Gone Dead” (written as a joke) for many years, but no music. Brad used to be in a punk band, The Rydells. He came up with the music for it and we had one song. I’d had the “real gone kitty want a real gone cat” phrase for a long time, but nothing else. So I finished that one. Then the melody for “Dream Girl” just sort of fell in my lap, and boom, we had our second EP. And then “Dream Girl” became a Coolest Song and blew my mind.
Now you guys have recorded a full-length album. Tell us about the songs.
MIKE: Sure. The record is called Thrills & Chills. It has 12 songs on it. The band recorded 15 songs during the sessions, but we’re saving three for a future EP.
Sure, that’d be great.
MIKE: OK. The leadoff track and first single is a screamer called “What The Hell Did I Do.” It’s in the same neighborhood as “Get Out of Denver.” It cooks, and it tells the story of a harrowing experience a guy goes through. All of it his fault, of course. It’s pretty funny. The chorus is:
Did I do something worse,
The weekend was a blur,
I might have driven home in reverse,
The Dave Edmunds influence is clear, but there’s a little early Beach Boys sound in there, too.
MIKE: Dave is a god to The Trocs. I bought everything he ever released, on vinyl as it came out, on CD, compilations, whatever. He personifies the best of pure rock ‘n’ roll. Geoff especially is way deep into Dave, too. His music is one of the main things that links the band guys and me.
You have two other high profile ladies also singing on the album, Kim Shattuck and Palmyra Delran. How did that come together?
MIKE: Can I get to that when I get to the songs they sing on?
Sure. What’s the next song?
MIKE: The second track is a Stones-influenced ballbreaker called “I’m So Bad.” Brad sings lead on it. It’s an open tuning mid-tempo ass-kicker with attitude. It’s also pretty funny. Kurt Baker harmonizes on it, and Line also harmonizes in spots and kills it again. The first verse is:
Got the rhythm and I got the swagger,
I drink a lot more booze than Keith,
But I never slur, and I never stagger,”
I hear a great slide guitar on this song.
MIKE: There’s an interesting story behind that. We needed harmonica on another song and Brad thought of his friend Steve Philp, an older guy (my age—haha). Steve came in and nailed his harp part (on “Business To Tend To”), then hung around while Brad added guitar on “I’m So Bad.” Steve had an idea for a slide guitar riff and showed Brad and me. I had no idea the guy played guitar, too. Brad and I heard it and looked at each other and we both said, dude, you gotta record that right now. So Steve recorded the slide guitar parts you hear, all kinds of tasty fills throughout the song, and he took the song to a whole new level. Those licks remind me a lot of Mick Taylor.
It’s funny how sometimes a great thing like that will happen out of nowhere.
MIKE: You’re so right. It just fell into our laps and it’s one of the best touches on the album. When people who know music hear that slide, I think the reaction will be, “Yeah, baby, the real deal.”
Now we come to the first of the Kim and Palmyra songs.
MIKE: Yes. The third track is called “Crazy Little Fool.” Geoff Palmer co-wrote it with me--he added the bridge and had the “Peggy Sue” style drum idea--and he sings lead on it. It’s a mid-tempo British Invasion sounding little gem filled with hooks and harmonies. And like you said, Kim Shattuck and Palmyra Delran sing background. The overall sound of those three voices together gives me chills. I think fans will recognize that they’re hearing something pretty extraordinary.
How about Line Cecilie Dahlmann?
MIKE: I’m a huge Dahlmanns fan. I love every song they’ve ever recorded. I love Line’s voice. So as long as we had Kim and Palmyra on board, I thought why not ask Line, too. Kim and Palmyra wanted to sing on the British Invasion sounding songs, and I thought Line would sound terrific on some of the rockers. The Dahlmanns covered a Kurt Baker song called “He’s A Drag” about 18 months ago (and it was named a Coolest Song), so already there was a relationship between The Trocs and The Dahlmanns. Line was totally up for it. She agreed right away.
Were you all in the studio at the same time?
MIKE: No. The Trocs recorded all the songs in New Hampshire, then I sent bounces to the ladies, the same four to Palmyra and Kim, and four others to Line. Palmyra recorded her parts at a cool little studio in New York City called 30 Below, Line did hers at a friend’s studio in Moss, outside Oslo, Norway, where she lives, and Kim did hers at her home studio in LA. Then we mixed everything in New Hampshire. It all worked out really well, although Kim was only able to sing on two songs. She was, and still is, in the middle of touring all over the country, and Europe, with both The Muffs and The Pandoras and was really jammed, as you can imagine. But she came through for us. She made a promise and she honored it, and The Trocs are grateful to her, just as we’re grateful for Palmyra and Line taking care of business, right on time. All three ladies are total pros and terrific people, aside from being great singers.
They do sound fantastic. They bring a whole new dimension to the band’s music.
The next song feature’s Kurt Baker on lead vocal.
MIKE: Yes, and on lead guitar, too. You think of Kurt as a bass player--and he does play bass on all the album’s tracks--but he can really play guitar, too. In fact, he plays lead on three of the songs he sings on and he kills it. This one, the fourth track, is called “Love and Hate.” I co-wrote it with Kurt. It’s an up-tempo rocker, again with humor and attitude.
Twisted steel and sex appeal,
You want me girl,
But you bring me down,”
You’re a pretty lucky guy to be hooked up with players of this caliber.
MIKE: Oh man, don’t I know it. I never even would have written a song without Geoff’s initial encouragement, and none of my songs ever would have seen the light of day without the talent and enthusiasm of Geoff, Kurt, and Brad. I’m the luckiest guy in America. Those guys know all my influences. We all love the same music. And whereas I can barely play guitar and have a rotten singing voice, those guys are as good as they come.
Yeah, everything they put out is great. OK, what’s next?
MIKE: Next is one called “Like An Angel.” It’s another mid-tempo British Invasion-influenced hook-fest. Geoff sings lead. Kim and Palmyra harmonize on the chorus
Descended from above,
Oh-whoa, here I go again,
Fallin’ deep in love,”
I agree, man. I got goose bumps.
MIKE: It’s that kind of rare song, isn’t it?! OK, the sixth song is “By The Balls.” When Thrills & Chills comes out on vinyl (hopefully in the second week of October it’ll be co-released in Spain by Ghost Highway Records and KOTJ Records in time for The Connection/The New Trocaderos tour over there), it’ll be the last song on Side 1. It’s a rowdy up-tempo rocker Brad sings about a guy who liked booze too much and what happened to him.
Fallin’ through doors, bouncin' off walls,
If I can't walk, I'm gonna crawl,
Cause alcohol got me by the balls,”
Rick Orcutt, the newest Troc, starts it off with a careening headlong-feeling kinda drum roll, then Brad comes in with a sort of Georgia Satellites-AC/DC-sounding balls out rhythm guitar part.
Rick saved the sessions, by the way. Without going into too much detail, he jumped in the day before the sessions were scheduled to start and kicked ass non-stop till the last song was recorded. All of us are grateful to him. He’s a powerhouse drummer and a helluva nice guy. He played drums in The Guts, Geoff’s old band. He’s a total pro.
Also, Wimpy Rutherford, one of the original Queers, added vocals on the last chorus on “Balls.” He came by the studio on unrelated business and he was drafted to pitch in. That was pretty cool.
Wimpy and The Medallions.
MIKE: Right, another project with most of The Trocs playing behind Wimpy, before they were The Trocs.
Now we get to what will be Side 2 on the vinyl release.
MIKE: Yeah. It starts off with “Hey Big Boy.” It’s another Dave Edmunds style rocker about a guy who gets hit on by the babe of a lifetime, but fear of his girlfriend’s wrath holds him back. Line harmonizes with Brad in spots on this one and it’s electric.
Kiss me now, or I'm headin' on down the line,
I said, hey woman,
My girl's next door, you must be outa your mind,
The girl in the song is trying to lure the guy over the line. At one point she says, “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” You get the idea.
Fingers kicks ass on piano, and we have sax and a trumpet guys beefing up the rhythm, taking the overall sound to a new level for The Trocs.
Horns? That’s different.
MIKE: Yeah. There aren’t any horn solos, it’s all rhythm stuff, but man, it sounds good. It adds a whole new dimension.
Next up is another melodic British Invasion-inspired tune that Geoff sings with Palmyra called “She Don’t Know.” Palmyra is terrific on all three of the songs she’s on, but this one’s my personal favorite. She sounds so good on it. Listen to her harmonies and the “oohs” she sings behind the bridge. She sounds like an angel.
The song’s about a guy who wakes up one day to hear his girl say she’s out the door cause he’s changed so much, when he hasn’t changed at all.
Now she's sayin' no way we stay together,
She said I changed, that I'm a different person,
But I'm the same, always and forever,
We worked so hard for five good years,
Now she's throwin' it all away,
She put an icicle in my heart,
Never thought I'd see this day,
So Geoff sings three songs on the album, and they’re all mid-tempo British Invasion style songs, power-pop songs?
MIKE: That’s the way it worked out this time, although as long as we’re at it, I should say that we don’t love the term “power-pop.” It’s misleading, I think, because it puts some people in mind of lightweight, syrupy stuff, and The Trocs have nothing to do with that end of the spectrum. All of the Trocs songs have an edge, a RnR attitude. I mean, The Trocs “power-pop” songs are much more “Ticket To Ride” than they are “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” if you see what I mean.
Describing music can be difficult at times, but I think one listen to the songs Geoff sings and people will know exactly what you mean.
MIKE: Right, right. The proof is in the music.
Like you said earlier, most people think of Kurt as a bass player, but he tears it up on lead guitar on this song.
MIKE: He does, doesn’t he?
Next we have “Love Anymore.” This one’s a lot different than the others. In fact, it’s a lot different than most anything I’ve heard that wasn’t recorded in the ’50s, or maybe in the ’60s by The Beach Boys.
MIKE: Well, it’s really a doo wop song. What usually happens, after I do a crude demo of the verse and the chorus of a new song, I send it to one of the guys, along with a lyric sheet and the chords, and they do a real demo. On “Love Anymore,” I wrote it and saw it as another mid-tempo hook and harmony song, like “She Don’t Know” or “Dream Girl.” But Geoff saw possibilities that had never crossed my mind. His demo was pretty close to what the finished song sounds like. It’s got doo wop style vocals, three separate three part harmonies in spots behind the lead vocal, and we added bass, tambourine, an acoustic rhythm guitar, and Fingers plays piano. It’s a gem. Geoff gets the credit. He took a pretty simple melody and the lyrics and turned them into a true musical tour de force.
I can’t think of any other current band that would do a song like “Love Anymore.” Especially along side all the rockers. But it fits in perfectly.
MIKE: Thank you. Yes, I don’t know of anyone else either.
Is that what The New Trocaderos are about, sort of recreating the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s sound?
MIKE: No, no, no. There’s no conscious attempt to recreate anything. But my main influences come from the best albums of that time period. For me, that’s when the best RnR music was made. For the most part, that music sounds far better than most anything I’ve heard since then. So it’s shaped the ideas I come up with. Like songs with lots of harmonies. But that’s not done because The Beatles or Beach Boys did it; it’s done because it sounds good.
Getting back to “Love Anymore.” You wrote the melody and lyrics, and Geoff arranged it and added parts. But Kurt sings it.
MIKE: Right. We got to the studio and Geoff just said he thought the song was perfect for Kurt’s voice. That’s the kind of guy Geoff is. He wants what’s best for the band, for the song. He’s a team player all the way. So Kurt sang it, Elvis style, ala "Good Luck Charm".
There’s humor in it, and in a lot of The Trocs’ songs.
MIKE: Well, amusing yourself is half the fun in writing lyrics. On this one, I wrote: "You’re getting calls from a whole lot of men, and one of them's older than Roger McGuinn." It cracked me up and we kept it. I wonder if Roger McGuinn will ever hear it.
MIKE: Well, right now I’m working on a new one now that I was going to send to The Crush. I love Kira Wilson’s voice. I sent this to Kurt, half in jest and half testing the water. It’s written from a girl’s point of view.
I guess they heard you’re huffin' glue,
Even though you went to jail,
Around the time I went to Yale,
I-I-I, got a crush on you,
Yeah I-I-I, got a crush on you,
Haha. Will you send it to The Crush anyway?
MIKE: Sure. I love the melody. It’s catchy. And if I need to rewrite the lyrics, I will. I love it when other bands are interested in covering a song. I wrote another one that Kurt did a demo on called “Girl Band.” I sent it to The Dahlmanns. They liked it a lot and recorded it. They’re putting it out. That will be very cool.
Why not save songs like that for The Trocs?
MIKE: Well, The Trocs just recorded 15 songs and won’t need any more for a while. Also, sometimes I get ideas for songs that wouldn’t work with The Trocs. Another example, there’s one called “Bubble Gum.” I sent it to Geoff and he wants to finish it and send it to an all female group, or else form a one-off group to record it. Just for fun. It’s not a song The Trocs would ever do.
Thrills and Chills?
MIKE: Ha! Yes, exactly.
OK, the next song is “Midnight Creep.” This one’s way different, too.
MIKE: Yeah. I wanted to break out of writing in a major chord, so I looked at minor chords and came up with this sort of moody melody that ended up being “Midnight Creep.” Now that I think about it, though, I believe I had the first two lines of the lyrics before that. “From a parking lot across the street, I watch her do a midnight creep.” I was thinking of all those old blues songs where somebody’s always doing “a creep.” You know, stepping out on her man, or his woman, as the case may be. And a variation on the term “midnight creep” is in one of my favorite Little Walter songs, “My Babe,” where Walter sings, “Oh yeah, she don't stand no cheatin' / She don't stand none of that midnight creepin’”.
And the next song, the last one on the album, is a blues song.
MIKE: Yeah, there are all kinds of blues, and this one, “Business To Tend To” is in the style I like best, up-tempo, drivin’ 12-bar blues. I got hooked on this kind of sound listening to The Spencer Davis Group in high school, Stevie Winwood singing “Dust My Blues.”
Have a seat at the bottom of the stairs,
Got my bidness to tend to,
And it ain't none of your affair,
The CD cover art is pretty cool, the lipstick and the stiletto. Whose idea was it?
MIKE: I think Kurt came up with the basic idea after we decided on Thrills & Chills as the album title, then Brad and Geoff made suggestions. Kurt enlisted his girlfriend, Rocio Cervera Ceberio, who’s a graphic designer, to put the cover together. She did a terrific job. It’s a grabber.
So what’s next for The New Trocaderos? Are there any plans to tour in support of the new album?
MIKE: Yes, but so far only in Spain. Kurt lives in Madrid 10+ months of the year, so touring in the US hasn’t been feasible. But The Connection will be touring Spain in October and someone, Brad I think, got the idea to have The New Trocs also play a set. Kurt juggled his schedule to make it work, and it looks pretty definite now that fans in 10 -12 Spanish cities will be seeing a Connection/New Trocaderos show.
And last, where can people go to get Thrills and Chills?
MIKE: Right now, from the band’s perspective, the best place to get digital downloads is at our Bandcamp site: TheNewTrocaderos.bandcamp.com. But people can also download through iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, all the usual digital retailers. But those retailers all keep a piece of the action, whereas with Bandcamp, all the purchase money goes to the band. And that’s fitting, I think, since it’s the band that paid the money to get the music recorded and released, and it’s that money that’ll go toward financing another release down the line.
Cool. Well, thanks for taking the time to do this long interview. Thrills & Chills is exceptional and we hope it sells out quickly!
MIKE: Thank you, and it’s been my pleasure. I hope your readers find all this interesting.