Category: Interview

Shadow Comes To Light – An Interview with Big Nice

Big Nice, aka Bradford Krieger

Big Nice, aka Bradford Krieger

I was floored the first time I clicked play to hear the music of Big Nice, a recent solo EP by Bradford Krieger. I’m constantly listening to music and it’s become rare for me to jarringly halt mid-step, akin to car crashing into a wall of awesome, and exclaim, “Who the fuck is this?!?” but that’s exactly what I did upon hearing Big Nice’s EP 1. There’s a fantastic mix of skill, looseness, & fun melded together in this short but ambitious EP.

Visions of the Unexcused:
You’re the Chief Engineer and Co-Owner at Hanging Horse Studio in Norwood, MA. Was there any inherit difficulty in recording your own material as opposed to others?

Big Nice:
I like to be super hands on when I’m working with bands in the studio. I find we get the best results when we’re all working together as a team, fully focused and immersed in the project. When I’m working on my own stuff, I prefer to be a little more free flowing and relaxed. It can definitely be more difficult when you don’t have a whole crew collaborating and backing each other up, so I need to be really self motivated when recording my own material. The logistics are a bit of a challenge as well, running back and forth from room to room, adjusting levels and recording takes.

Two questions – were there others whom helped you record on EP1? You play in a bunch of different bands (Soft Fangs, magic magic, Holiday Music, and 14 Foot 1) were any of these tracks potentially slated to be played with one of them? What made you decide to pursue Big Nice as an additional outlet? Ok, I lied, that was like four questions, lol.

Big Nice:
I don’t do a ton of writing in a lot of the bands I play in, so I wanted to focus on my own work with this project. All of the tracks on this record were written and recorded (with a few overdubs added later) in one day studio sessions, solo. I would book a day out, go in, and kind of run around like a mad man from one instrument to the next. Big Nice is really rewarding for me as someone who constantly produces and engineers other folks’ work. I get to play music with all my talented buds, then retreat back into the studio with their influence on me in mind, and churn something out.

Wow, that’s impressive – I can barely put vocals over a guitar, let alone create the layers you have here. What was the process like for a song like “Vino”? In three and a half minutes there’s quiet the journey – it sounds like a refined jam. Was there indeed some wine involved?

Big Nice:
Wine, of any kind, is the most essential tool in the studio. After corking, I laid down the initial guitar track and worked from there. I usually start with guitar and layer upon it, and lyrics are always last (or in this case nonexistent). I left the room mics on as I tracked all the instruments, and mixed them high, particularly for the bass part. I’m really crazy about the bass lines on this song – I thought it was a little too wanky at first, but I kept listening to my initial mix that I made that day and decided to just go for it. I was listening to Hot Rats that day and really digging Frank’s solo section on Peaches En Regalia; he played back the track at half speed and recorded his part, then sped the whole thing up. It gets this tinny, crystal sound that’s fantastic, so I copied the technique. My friend had his timbales at the studio, so I figured I would toss them on as well. I think the jammy feel comes from the fact that I did everything so quickly with the intention of chopping and altering things later but then just decided to keep everything the way it was. The only overdubs on this song are the key parts which I added weeks later.

Wow, I consider myself something of a “Zappa Head” and did not realize that. Super cool technique. Two performers whom I kept referencing when listening to EP1 were Cornelius and Nigo – both of whom happen to be Japanese musicians and producers.On tracks like “Ta Dum” the  gorgeous sunshined Beach Boys vibe over those drums really remind me of those two cats. Is that just a coincidence with my ears – or are you a fan of their work?

Big Nice:
I’ve never heard of them but I’m super excited to check them out! I think for aspiring engineer guys my age this may be a cliché, but Phil Elvrum’s “keep the mistakes in” style of recording has really been my biggest influence in writing and production. The sound of an ambulance in the background in the opening of Sand (Eric’s Trip) was a moment of epiphany that’s always stuck with me.

Any plans to play out as Big Nice? What’s Next?

Big Nice:
I have some things cooking for a live version of Big Nice. I’ve run the songs with a few pals and I think I’ll start playing out in early 2016. More importantly, I’m just looking towards being locked up in the studio working on the next batch of tunes!

Last question, I’m starting to put together my Best of the Year podcast for 2015 – what are some albums that came out this year that readers shouldn’t miss?

Big Nice:
Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape by Dilute is one of my absolute favorite records and it was reissued on vinyl this year and everyone needs to hear it. Besides that, this year I had the incredible honor of producing a record from the absolute best band in Boston, Horse Jumper of Love, but you’ll have to wait ’til 2016 to hear that masterpiece.

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The Last Renaissance Man: Ten Questions with Kurt von Stetten

(Photo Credit - KVS)

(Photo Credit – KVS)

Kurt von Stetten is a continual favorite of mine and one of Boston’s finest artists. His 2014 solo release, Animals, is one of the best albums of the year, and will be featured in Episode 63, The Top 21 Albums of 2014, dropping this Thursday. I recently asked Kurt some questions on his DIY approach, Art, Influences, among other topics.

– Buy Animals via BandCamp

Visions of the Unexcused:
I can’t seem to get away from comparing you to Robert Pollard. That may be a lazy “lo-fi” comparison on my part, but you both have such a high level of DIY to your music, and you’re also both prolific in the quantity of music you release. Is Pollard an influence for you, and if so – are there any albums or Guided By Voices tracks that are particularly important to you?

Kurt von Stetten:
Yeah I take that as a compliment! I love Robert Pollard and GBV. I came to know their music only after I played with The Longwalls. The lead singer is a huge fan and I slowly started getting exposed to them. I love his work ethic and sound- a sound which is not that far from mine. Lo-fi and a little clunky. I think one of my favorites is a recent one, 2012’s The Bears for Lunch. I just think that is a great record and an inspiration- because he produces so much. I always think to myself- well I could do that if I didn’t have a job too. I wrote a song called “Competition (fuck Bob Pollard)” off of my last record that is a reminder to myself that I am not competing with him. It’s no contest at all- he wins!

Another similarity between Pollard and yourself is you’re both Visual Artists as well as Musicians. You both create your own Album art, and you even take it a step further and create your own videos. Does your music influence the art you make – or is it the other way around?

I think visual art definitely influences my music and not the other way around. Really only because all of my training/education is in visual art and music came into my life much later- but all in all they are starting to become closer. This month I started working with an artist on abstract video pieces that I would be writing music for- we will see how that pans out. But really music takes up the emotional space that visual art can’t ever seem to cover- so they compliment each other, but music sometimes gets only the table scraps or base emotions to start with!

Back to your DIY DNA – you’ve played every instrument on each solo album you’ve released – one every year since 2006 – how does this differ from playing drums for fellow Static Motor Recordings band, The Longwells. Do you prefer the solitude of your solo work, or do you miss the camaraderie of collaboration?

They are very different endeavors to be sure. When I sit down to write my own music I make sweeping changes every minute- tempo- key- voice- instrumentation- and then see where the chips land. Then I record it, listen to it, and eight times out of ten trash the whole thing. I shoot first and then aim- I have 90 songs on my iPad from this year that I will never use- they are just in the “booshit” folder (and trust me they are strait up booshit). So I am definitely most comfortable with not being beholden to any sound or style.The Longwalls do all of that hard work before I even get to hear it and add drums to it- that is a huge difference for me and my process. We also usually stay true to the original feel of each new song- that is hard for me too. That is definitely something that I still wrestle with- not being able to be like “why don’t we have a killer musical saw solo here.” I also am the least talented of the bunch so I am playing catch up (musically) most of the time.

Kurt von Stetten - Animals (Artwork - KVS)

Kurt von Stetten – Animals (Artwork – KVS)

Your latest release, Animals, feels like a silver dream. There’s a sheen of cohesiveness that shines throughout it. Did you approach writing and recording any differently than last years Broken, But Not Undone? It’s certainly a von Stetten album, but the vibe has swaygaze smoothness to it for me.

Yeah I agree- there are more compatible sounds from song to song than usual for me. I think that is because I used a lot more synthesizers on this record. For a long time I was scared of having the synth be the main sound of a song – or something that leads everything else. And because it is programmable the screw ups are much less noticeable. I generally leave all the rough edges showing in a song, but synths are always a little smooth. I also spent a lot of time on the drums this go around- I was just loving being in studio and recording them- so there are less screw ups in the drums and drum sounds.

Another love of yours is BMX. You recently posted a video of yourself (below) flatlanding on an abandoned basketball court. This was my first time being exposed to your BMX skills and my jaw was agape the entire time, it was beautiful. Do you find your experience with BMX translates over to your music? There seems to be some symmetry between the two – as the final results appear seamless, even though there’s a tightrope you’re walking – with the fall always being a possibility. That’s where I garner a lot of appreciation for your music, you’re obviously not afraid to push yourself and potentially fall.

YES! They are very similar to me- they are both physical, dependent on patterns and structure, and usually end up with me being bloody and disoriented. Seriously, I love practicing things and repetition- probably to an intolerable degree for those around me. Being on that line between not falling and falling- or musically failing or not failing is enjoyable. It means I fail a lot- and have to- to get something that really surprises me and that I like.

Will we be able to see you performing Animals out anytime soon? Or are you more of a Studio guy solo, a la Harry Nilsson?

Well I am not really a performing musician- and I haven’t had a band in years, but if I was able to find some folks I would love to play again. For now I am a studio guy.

What’s the next big project for you you in 2015?

The Longwalls have another great record coming out soon and I will have another coming out in 2015- those two records are front and center, but I have other side projects in the works too- I have had more people ask me to collaborate this year than in any other so hopefully I will be on many other records. One such local record is the new Dan London recordI Will Take You Back.  I played drums and cello (and other odds and ends) on that record- and that was just released.

Animals will justifiably be featured on the 21 Best Albums of 2014 for Visions of the Unexcused – what have you listened to in the past year that’s really dug into your ear holes?

I think a lot of old music came back to me this year- like digital leather, the drums, and Guided By Voices. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the re-releases of classic hip hop that have dominated my listening year too- Ice Cube, NWA, De La Soul, Wu Tang, and Tribe. For new music I would go with Youth Lagoon, The Folk, Pixies, and Karen O.

What does being “Unexcused” mean to you?

Unexcused means presenting yourself – warts and all (and I mean WARTS)- and not taking yourself or others too seriously.

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Rise Above: Interview with Vanyaland Founder Michael Marotta

Michael Marotta of Vanyaland. (Photo of Michael - Sarah Sparks)

Michael Marotta of Vanyaland. (Photo of Michael – Sarah Sparks)

Michael Marotta is the Founder of Vanyaland, an excellent online music magazine which ironically rose from the ashes after the storied and historic alt-weekly, the Boston Phoenix, ceased publication this past March. Michael was the music editor at the Boston Phoenix as well as the music director at Marotta’s also the DJ/promoter of the long-running indie dance party the pill, and is an all around champion of music and the Boston scene.

Visions of the Unexcused: The closing of the Boston Phoenix occurred when you and others with the paper were down in Austin, TX at South by Southwest – far away from Boston. Do you think that was a conscious decision, or just poor timing?

Michael Marotta: I’m really not sure, and it still doesn’t make too much sense. You can’t just shut down a nearly 50-year-old operation on a whim, so of course it was planned by the higher-ups for a while. Why the hammer dropped while we were in Texas, who knows? Although I like to joke that none of my superiors wanted to tell me I couldn’t go to SXSW, so they said screw it let them go and we’ll deal with it when he comes back.

Visions: How soon after the announcement did you decide to shift your efforts at both the Phoenix and WFNX and pour them into Vanyaland?

MM: It took about 36 hours until boredom set in and I re-booted Vanyaland, which I created around 2008 as a means of staying busy and covering Boston music while I was at the Boston Herald. I didn’t get many assignments while I was there, so I filled the void with my own personal blog, posting mainly about music but also baseball and hockey and reality television. I left it up when I joined the Phoenix but rarely updated it. After the Phoenix died, I starting posting regularly again, just to stay sharp (and sane), with the idea that I would re-launch it in the next few weeks as something bigger, almost like the Phoenix’s music page, with a stable of writers and more varied voices and coverage.

Visions: Do you ever see Vanyaland making the shift to print? Or was Egon right – is print dead?

MM: It’s unlikely, though I’d never rule it out. Printing costs are prohibitive, and the world moves too fast in 2013 for a print publication to keep up. Possibly one day we could morph into a newsprint alt-weekly – I wasn’t a fan of the glossy magazine the Phoenix had become in its final months – that would serve as a best-of, so to speak, for our longer-form pieces.

Visions: What made you decide to re-launch on the one year anniversary of the sale of WFNX’s signal? Do you view the future of Vanyaland inherently connected to the past of the Phoenix and WFNX?

MM: It was a bit of a coincidence, honestly. We originally were going to launch in mid-April, but with the Boston Marathon bombing it didn’t feel right, the city was vulnerable and still shaken up a bit, and launching something like this takes a bit of chest-thumping and cheerleading, which I didn’t feel was appropriate at the time. When we looked to mid-May, the re-launch date – May 15 – made sense; I’ve always had an affinity for the number 15, as it was my baseball number when I played competitively when I was younger. When I realized it was the day before the one-year anniversary of WFNX’s 101.7 FM signal sale (I learned about the sale the day before), it seemed poetic.

A lot of things in my life seemed to go sour after the sale of 101.7 FM – I lost my radio show, an intense personal relationship ended a few weeks later, and the black cloud stretched all the way to March’s closing of the Boston Phoenix. It wasn’t a great year. So having a sort-of rebirth on that date made sense to me, as I was starting a new chapter.

My approach to Vanyaland is similar to the Phoenix, though we only cover music. I will always be grateful of the opportunities I was given by WFNX and the Phoenix, being music editor of the Phoenix was by far the best job I’ve ever had. I miss it tremendously.

Visions: There’s a lot of great new acts coming out of Boston, which ones do you think have the best chance of making a National impact?

MM: Bad Rabbits are just about there, they owned Boston Calling and are now doing the late-night TV circuit, playing for a national audience. I think North Shore garage rock trio Fat Creeps are ready for a breakthrough, as are modern rock band Burglary Years. And the Western Mass scene is incredible right now, with Speedy Ortiz and Potty Mouth ready to put Massachusetts, as a state, back on the map. Closer to home, but not quite Boston, is Worcester’s Secret Lover. Boston’s RIBS just did a quick tour with Joy Formidable. And of course there’s Bearstronaut, a dance-pop band from Somerville, who I love so much I started a record label in 2011 out of my bedroom just to put their music on vinyl.

Visions: What’s the best way for up and coming bands to contact Vanyaland for a possible feature? If you had a choice, would you rather have a Sound Cloud link, CD, or Record?

MM: Soundcloud/Bandcamp links are preferred, I’m always at my laptop and the easier I can hear a band’s music, the better. CDs are clutter, and vinyl is cool only when you like the band (haha). Anyone can email me at I get a ton of email, so no one should be discouraged if they don’t hear back; a lot of times I’ll get an email, pull up the band links, and listen to the music while I’m doing other stuff. Many times I’ll get an email and mark a show into my calendar.

Visions: Your favorite “classic” Venue to see a show in Boston/Cambridge is…

MM: The Paradise is still the best place to see a show in Boston, and we’re spoiled around town with Great Scott, the Middle East, and TT The Bear’s. I love the network of clubs we have here.

Visions: Your favorite new Venue to see a show in Boston/Cambridge is…

MM: The Sinclair has a great feel to it, and sounds incredible, and Radio in Somerville (I guess they’re not really new anymore) is a super friendly place that I never have a bad time at.

Visions: Your favorite place to get late-night grub is…

MM: Tedeschi because Boston hates late-night culture.

Visions: The best album of 2013 thus far is…

MM: Suede’s Bloodsports. I’m still amazed that my favorite band of all time pulled off a remarkable comeback a decade after I left them for dead. I’ve also been really digging Charlie XCX’s True Romance, as well as the Jagwar Ma record and the new Gozu disc.

Visions: The future of music reporting and discovery lies in…

MM: Twitter, the most important online entity in the world.

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Interview: The Under’s Daniel Costa Talks Influences, New Album, & Upcoming Show

The Under

Jason, Daniel, and Randy are The Under, and you should take notice.

The Under are a three piece progressive rock trio from Boston who chug through their craft with precise abandon. Their music embodies a finely engineered train cutting aggressively down a mountain and into a forgotten Valhalla past. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the Under’s vocalist and guitar player Daniel Costa about his time with the band and their influences. The Under play O’Brien’s in Allston on 02/21.

Visions of the Unexcused: Your songs volley between some pretty epic peaks & valleys. Is this part of the “winding composition” you speak about in your Bio?

Daniel Costa: Yeah, pretty much. We have a tendency to write songs in such a way that they become these auditory journeys, so to speak. The potential for grandiosity in music is pretty limitless, so as a band we strive to tell a story with our compositions. What’s funny is that it’s not something we set out to do consciously. It just sort of happens on its own. It’s kind of the only way we can write.

Visions: You also mention that your style of writing “left many a bandmate in bewilderment”. You’re obviously locked in step with Jason Walker (bass) and Randy Odierno (drums), can you pinpoint why the three of you click so well?

DC: I think for a band whose individuals have such broad tastes, there is a ton of overlap. Therefore, a lot of the music is generated where our tastes intersect. Nevertheless, I’m sure that there is also stuff on the periphery that gets in there as well, consciously or otherwise. I think another element is simply time. With a good amount of the songwriting being generated at rehearsal, things often come together very organically. When you combine that with the overlap in music preferences, you start thinking very similarly. Before you know it, you’re playing as one. It’s pretty nifty.

The potential for grandiosity in music is pretty limitless, so as a band we strive to tell a story with our compositions.

Visions: When listening to your debut album Mercurial I was having trouble cornering your influences. To me The Under sound like a prog-rock metal hybrid – something like if Rush, Soundgarden, and Motörhead had a baby. Who would you say the The Under’s biggest influences are?

DC: You kind of nailed it with the prog rock/metal hybrid. I think anyone familiar with Rush can hear the influence in our sound. I think the tendency to write in peaks and valleys comes from their approach. I also cut my teeth on many a Soundgarden tune when I first started playing guitar, so it’s no surprise when someone hears that in the music. I was always attracted to their unique brand of melodicism. The other guys are also big fans. We’re also big thrash metal heads, and as far as we’re concerned, Motörhead are the forefathers of that movement, so they’ll have an imprint, for sure.

I think many of the classic rock/metal bands also drive much of what we do. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Metallica figure quite prominently. Then there are some more progressive acts that make their way into the equation such as Voivod, Don Caballero, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, a few others. Speaking for myself, I’ve always been a huge Jeff Buckley fan, so a lot what he did finds its way into how I write. I’m sure I’m leaving out quite a bit of stuff. When I’m affected by something strongly, its influence usually weaves its way into my writing.

The Under.

The Under laying it down live.

Visions: What’s the process of writing with The Under? Do you start with music or lyrics?

DC: Songs just about always start with a few guitar parts I have laying around. Sometimes Randy, our drummer, will come up a with a riff or some crazy drum part over which I’ll write something and things will blossom from there. The vocals usually start coming along once things become more crystallized. I’ll start hooting and hollering some melodic nonsense over riffs until something sticks. When a melody has become somewhat clear, then I start to craft lyrics that fit that scheme.

Visions: Can we expect any new recordings to be released soon?

Costa enjoying a dream.

Costa enjoying a dream.

DC: Yes, we plan on getting into the studio in March to churn out 7 tunes, which I guess amounts to a full length. Most of those songs can be found in our current live set.

Visions: Your dream guitar is?

DC: I think I already own my two dream guitars. I play a 1998 Gibson SG Standard and a 1985 Les Paul Custom. I suppose if I had two dream guitars, they would sound exactly like these, except with a bit less weight. I sure wouldn’t mind having a Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, however.

Visions: What can people expect to see out of The Under at O’Briens on 02/21?

DC: I think the first thing that people will notice is that it will be very loud, though I think this is a night where we’ll be in good company. Once they get over that, then I hope they’ll hear a unique mishmash of things they dig and things they haven’t quite been exposed to. Sprinkle that with guitar solos, high vocals, and crazy rhythms, and we hope it will be a performance that they’ll remember for a while.

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Interview for Holy Grail Points: Bill Peters on Music and his Novel, Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality

High Falls: Rochester, NY (Photo - A. Schmitt)

Rochester, NY: City of Quality, High Falls. (Photo – A. Schmitt)

“An opening band plays a song with boogery garage-rock chords and a drum part that sounds like a man falling down stairs.” -Bill Peters, Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality
Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality

Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality

Bill Peter’s (@wpeters) debut novel, Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality, is one of the more colorful, funny, and honest books I’ve read in awhile. Full disclosure, Bill was a good friend growing-up, and we’re still fairly close, but that said, if Bill was a complete stranger I’d still stand behind Maverick Jetpants as being one of the most innovative books written in years. It’s incredible.

Bill’s use of language through the secret code of friends turns inside jokes into cornerstones of conversation which carry the book in poignent and oftentimes hilarious ways. Maverick Jetpants is set in Rochester, NY in 1999, and while Rochester is the third largest City in  New York, it’s rarely been written about, and never in such a creative  manner. Bill embraces the Rust Belt City of our youth making Rochester an intricate character.

Music is also present in Maverick Jetpants, and is a vehicle that carries Nate, Necro, Lip Cheese, Toby, and Crew past the days of the “Classic Rochester Drive Around” and towards something greater. I recently interviewed Bill about Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality and its musical influences.

Music is a theme that’s woven throughout “Maverick Jetpants”. When you’re writing, is there a certain style or genre you find yourself listening to?

Since I worked on this book over many years, the soundtrack to “Bill Peters, Writing This Book” would likely be a 25-CD set, for $540.00, that would contain some of the following artists: Broken Social Scene, Scud Mountain Boys, Marah, the Paybacks, the Darkness, Underworld, Autechre, Sparta, At the Drive-In, Nicolai Dunger, Dungen, Kent, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Imogen Heap, Janelle Monae, Cocteau Twins, Mastodon, Muler, Memory Tapes, His Clancyness, Fennesz, Junior Boys, The Field.

I find more and more, though, that I like the Eno-y stuff – songs that are 10 minutes long, that aren’t distracting me with their lyrics and drum fills and that have slow, auroral shifts. It’s all about the auroral shifts.

A few of your characters seem to have an affinity with rock T-Shirts (Rush, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, etc.). What’s your go-to rock T-Shirt that you gravitate toward most often?

The rock T-shirt that continues to survive my pit-sweat is of Inugami, a terrific band from Rochester. But as I’ve gotten older, I don’t wear rock T-shirts as much, and buying one is an act of real deliberation. As in, I have actually said to myself: “Huh. I really need to order an Iron Maiden T-shirt.” Then I went online.

WCMF, Rochester’s classic rock station, seems to be a favorite of the main character Nate. When you’re back in Rochester, what are the Top 3 stations you find yourself listening to?

CMF, still, probably. And WBER, which will still play stuff people haven’t heard of. But like many people, I listen to terrestrial radio much less, so I probably couldn’t even give you a third station.

Speaking of radio, you briefly mention how there’s a progression in the stations Nate listens to. He listens to WPXY (Rochester’s Top 40 Station) when younger, but progresses towards the Rock of WCMF as he gets older. If your novel took place in 2009 instead of 1999? Would radio still be an influence on the story, or would blogs/podcasts have crept into the book?

I see Nate and Necro as working-class radio and hard-copy loyalists, and their tastes defined by whatever tests well in listener research. They’d probably be fans of post-Limp-Bizkit metal or spewy modern rock, with maybe some Foster The People or MGMT thrown in to cut all that grease. But I don’t see them as having the curiosity that would lead them any deeper. Although, I imagine some of the book’s main drama – that is, Nate’s suspicions that Necro might be a domestic terrorist after a series of arsons coincide with Necro’s perceived slights – might play out more online through Likes, Unlikes, or obsessive refreshing of a friend’s profile.

As a society we’re becoming much more compartmentalized. Instead of listening to radio, with influencers such as John Peel or even Wease, we’re queuing up Spotify or Pandora to ensure we won’t hear anything we don’t disagree with. How different do you see the characters of “Maverick Jetpants” if they lived in the post cellphone era. Would things like the “Classic Rochester Drive Around”even exist?

Right. I actually read an article in the New York Times last year about how smartphones have reshaped the way young adults define independence. An official from Ford interviewed for that story said the automobile “was the signal into being a grown-up. Now, the signal into adulthood for teenagers is the smartphone.” In other words, an analyst quoted in the article said, smartphones “offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.” The article also cited Transportation Department statistics indicating that fewer young adults are getting drivers licenses, as well as a survey by Gartner that the article said “found that 46 percent of people 18 to 24 would choose access to the Internet over access to their own car.”

Anyway, the characters in Maverick Jetpants in The City of Quality share a Byzantine language of in-jokes, which is, I guess, their own form of compartmentalizing, or reducing the possibility of dissent from the outside. But for all the talk of the Internet being a vehicle for people to connect, it can be very lonely. You’re confronted, in a more direct, quantitative way, with the vastness of people’s indifference – whether it’s meager page views, an empty comment thread after some well-labored writing, or Twitter users that follow you, fishing for a follow-back, only to un-follow days later. The online life of Nate, Necro, Toby and Lip Cheese, I imagine, would be similarly lonely, and a virtual hall of fame for the least viral memes of all-time.

You mention The Bop Shop and the late great Fantastic Records in Maverick Jetpants. When was the last time you went to a Record Store to buy music, and what did you walk out with?

This is awful, but the only record store trip I can recall specifically right now was in 2010 at the Newbury Comics on Newbury Street in Boston. It was the weekend of your wedding. I bought Baroness’ “Red Album,” Alcest’s “Ecailles de Lune” and “Before Today” by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. But there have been other trips to other record stores where other albums have been bought. I know this for a fact.

In my opinion, one of the strongest moments in the book takes place in The Bug Jara Rochester favorite for live music, with Nate and his father. When writing this scene, was there a particular concert that you referenced, or was it an amalgamation of all your times in that club?

It wasn’t really based on any one concert. Basically, I took all the different personalities that I’d seen at the Bug Jar and poured them into Real Dad, which is what Nate calls him. Then I tried to make it as awkward as possible.

What is the best concert you’ve ever seen in Rochester?

The best concert, probably, was when I saw Muler, a heavily-Superchunk-influenced band from Rochester, at Milestones in 1996 or 1997. Maybe four people were there, but Muler was drunk, telling jokes, amusing one another and jumping around like the place was packed. I think the second-best through fifth-best Rochester shows are also just other Muler shows. There’s a great life lesson in that Milestones show, and I could only hope to keep similar perspective when Maverick Jetpants in The City of Quality eventually settles into forgotten-ness.

What contemporary band would Nate be into in 2012?

I think Nate would love a band like Clutch – big blowout riffs; goofy but clever – if he ever had an opportunity to see them play. But because of who he is and who his friends are, he might never have that opportunity, so I imagine he’d most likely be stuck with Clutch’s modern-rock brethren. I don’t even know the names of those bands; mentally I file all of them under ‘Incubus.’ But I remember that awesome AV Club essay series, “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation,” that talked about – and I’m paraphrasing those essays – how the disenfranchisement that came across as smart and self-reflective in early-90s alternative bands became roid-rage by the end of the decade. I think that’s what Nate’s got for his life, band-wise and, as a partial result, feeling-wise.

If “Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality” was a band it’d be…

Actually, now that I think about it, Clutch. Their sound has the same swagger (a word also used in a back-cover blurb) as Nate’s voice. Some of Nate and Necro’s catchphrases – like Colonel Hellstache, Roasted Face of Satan, or Washcloth King – fit nicely with Clutch song titles like “Gnomes Enthusiast,” “Day of the Jackalope,” “Mr. Shiny Cadillackness,” “Army Of Bono,” and dozens of others. The lyrics, as well, I think, have the same feel as Nate and Necro’s conversation – one-off jokes, maybe, that sometimes balloon into stories, entire joke mythology, or entire joke conspiracy theories. Which, in fact, is what drives the book’s entire plot. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this earlier.

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