Monday, August 17, 2015

The New Trocaderos

     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!

Interview by J. Castro

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?

What’s that?
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.

One time I told Geoff I had lyrics and chords I’d written years ago and he offered to demo it. That turned into “Money Talks.” I had only wanted to listen to it privately, but Geoff wanted to release it. He acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. Then he wanted a B Side. I didn’t really have another one. I wasn’t a songwriter. I can barely play basic guitar and my singing is atrocious. But I’d been getting and forgetting song ideas since I was a kid and Geoff pushed me to focus, not to throw anything away anymore, to finish what I started, and that gave me a real confidence boost. I came up with “The Kids” and that was the B Side. Geoff got Brad and Kurt to pitch in, those guys recorded the two songs, and we self-released the EP under the name The New Trocaderos. A few months later, Little Steven made “The Kids” a Coolest Song in the World, which gave all of us, especially me, another huge boost.

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.

You want me to just go in order?

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 hit a parked car,
Did I do something worse,
The weekend was a blur,
I might have driven home in reverse,
Oh no,”

That’s what he’s thinking when he hears the cops are looking for him. Brad Marino sings it and wails on lead guitar.

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.

The Beach Boys. Yeah, there’s a background vocal on “What The Hell that’s kind of like something they might have done. Or The Beatles, really. Like in the balls out version of “Revolution.” It’s a surprise when you hear it. Also, it sounds extra good because Line Cecilie Dahlmann harmonizes with the guys on it. I love her voice. Anyone who doesn’t know The Dahlmanns should check out an album called All Dahled Up. Every Ramones fan should definitely check out that album.

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:

“My Tele stings like a silver dagger,
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.

To answer your earlier question, here’s how Kim and Palmyra got involved. A few months ago, when Dream Girlwas a Coolest Song and was getting played a lot (thank you Steven and Dennis, and all the Underground Garage jocks), I saw a Facebook post from Palmyra saying she loved the song. And under it Kim Shattuck had commented that she loved it, too. I messaged Palmyra and thanked her. We met for coffee when she was in LA to record a new Bubble Gun single. I love her voice, so I just asked her if she’d consider singing harmony on a couple Trocs’ songs. And she was into it. She’s good friends with Kim, whom Geoff and Brad and Kurt have idolized forever, and Kim sang with Palmyra recently, so I contacted Kim about joining Palmyra to sing on the Trocs’ record. And she was totally up for it, too.

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 Dragabout 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.

“I’m lean, I’m clean, I’m the real deal,
Twisted steel and sex appeal,
You want me girl,
But you bring me down,”

Kurt’s vocals are superb, as always, but check out his lead guitar work, especially on the outro. Line sings harmony on this one, too. Also, Kris “Fingers” Rodgers’ piano on this one channels Jerry Lee Lewis throughout and really drives the song.

Fingers is a consummate keyboard man and vocalist. His main band, The Dirty Gems, had a Coolest Song a few months ago. He’s played on all of Kurt’s solo records and nearly all of The Connection’s records. He can play anything. One quick listen and a couple of words about what you want and BOOM, he’s all over it. He played keys on all three of the songs on The Trocs’ last EP, Kick Your Ass, shifting from neo-punk to rockabilly to British Invasion to nail them all in 45 minutes. He’s a wizard.

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

“You are like an angel,
Descended from above,
Oh-whoa, here I go again,
Fallin’ deep in love,”

And Kim sings a sort of mini duet with Geoff on the last verse. The vocals, Geoff and Kim and Palmyra together, are transcendent. Another thrills and chills moment.

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.

I might be pukin', out in the hall,
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.

She said, hey big boy,
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.

All I know is she said she'd never leave me,
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,

This song is really catchy. Geoff’s guitar solo is short, but it’s a killer.

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.

OK, Kurt sings the next one, “Oh Boy (Today Is My Birthday). It’s a riff-driven rocker. Kurt came up with the bridge, which is one of my favorite parts of the song. It’s about a guy whose girl says she loves him, then he finds out the hard way that she’s duped him. "Too late, I finally see it, that girl's a pain in the ass." The horn guys are back to wail on this one, too.

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?

Kurt played bass in The Leftovers and he plays bass in The Kurt Baker Band, so it’s natural to see him as a bass player. But living over in Spain and playing live a lot with his other groups (The Kurt Baker Combo, The Bullet Proof Lovers) he’s become a terrific rhythm and lead player. He plays the guitar solo on this one and it’s really, really tasty.

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.

I think everyone in the band would be happy to go with anything that sounds good, no matter what year it reminds you of, or what style of music it might be. I mean, we did a punk song, “Brain Gone Dead,” we did a rockabilly song, “Real Gone Kitty,” we do Chuck/Dave/Keith-influenced stuff, we did a 12-bar blues screamer this time, we do the melodic “power-pop” songs. We actually also had a sad/funny little country-rock song called “Present and Absent” that Geoff did a killer demo on, but we didn’t have time to get to it for this record. Hopefully next time. But my point is, The New Trocaderos ain’t one trick ponies; they’re diverse, and I think that really separates The Trocs from other bands. That and the fact that The Trocs have three terrific lead singers trading off, whereas most bands only have one singer.

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.

Sometimes with lyrics, I do push past the limit, then get pulled back when Kurt or Geoff or Brad says they’re too much. Then I rewrite.

For example…
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.

My parents say stay away from you,
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,

No response from Kurt after more than a week. I guess that’s my answer!

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.

Anyway, it’s a thrill to hear for the first time how real musicians take my low-rent demos and turned them into real songs. There are many great moments between getting the first idea for a song and getting the song released, but that moment when I hear a real demo for the first time is among the best.

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’”.

Anyway, The Trocs’ song isn’t a blues song. It’s a mid-tempo rock song. I can hear late ’60s Ray Davies singing it, in that laconic voice of his. Kurt’s vocal on it is terrific, as always, and Fingers adds an organ part that’ll give you thrills and chills.

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 Tois 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.”

Brad sings this one and wails on lead guitar. There are also solos from Geoff on guitar and Fingers on piano, with harp accents and riffs throughout. And the song closes with a very cool little harp solo from Steve Philp.

I said uh hey there, baby,
Have a seat at the bottom of the stairs,
Got my bidness to tend to,
And it ain't none of your affair,

The song kicks ass, just the way an album closer should.

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.

Also, and this is pretty cool, Marco Padin, the guy who owns Ghost Highway Records, and Oscar Garcia, who owns KOTJ records—they’re co-releasing Thrills & Chills on vinyl in Spain—are also releasing Labor of Love, The Connection’s new album, and Play It Cool, Kurt Baker’s new album, on vinyl in Spain, and they’re planning a Triple Release Party in Madrid during the time the Trocs are all over there. That should be pretty wild. In fact, I’m thinking about flying over for it.

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: 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.

The Bandcamp site is also the only place to order the actual CD which, by the way, is housed in a special deluxe, 4-panel wallet, although pretty soon Interpunk will have copies. Also, in short order, Rum Bar Records, which is run by the great wild-man rock ‘n’ roll entrepreneur of Boston, Malibu Lou Mansdorf, will be distributing the CDs to dozens of retail outlets. Lou handles The Connection and Kurt Baker as well, so we’re in familiar hands. We’ll make announcements when that’s in the offing.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment