Monday, June 6, 2011

Utah Pride Festival: Andy Livingston, The Suicycles

Posted By on June 6, 2011, 10:30 AM

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Pride came, it conquered downtown, it kicked all our asses. --- Probably one of the hottest and highest attended in years, the festival and subsequent parade received rave reviews over the weekend on TV and print, some predicting that it may overtake the Days Of '47 parade set for next month. (For those of us who've had to suffer through that parade and didn't want to, that's fantastic news!) For those of you who couldn't attend, you can check out the second day's worth of pictures, nearly 500 total (including the parade and Craft Sabbath next door) in this gallery here.

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This year the festival brought back local performers (after last year's nonstop DJ fest), finally bringing live music to the stages. Which, if I may be so blunt, was severely needed. No offense intended to the LGBT community, but overplaying gay anthems is so 2009. “I Will Survive,” “Its Raining Men,” “Believe,” and “Bad Romance” are fine songs... but not in 15-minute reruns off your iPod. Could you possibly make a 90-minute mix with a broader library next year? Anyway, this year we chat with solo performer Andy Livingston and loud rockers The Suicycles!



Andy Livingston

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http://www.andylivingstonmusic.com



Gavin: Hey, Andy! First off, tell us a little about yourself.



Andy: Hi, Gavin, thanks for chatting with me. My name is Andy Livingston. I have been technically playing music since I was a kid, but only started writing music in my junior year of high school when I took up doing instrumental numbers and orchestral pieces. It’s been about four or five years that I’ve been writing singer/songwriter lyrical songs and performing them. What else? I cook amazing lasagna; you will most likely find me at the gym or in front of my piano; and I’ve lived in Utah for about eight years, but am originally from Missouri.



Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?



Andy: I took piano lessons as a kid – I think I started in the third grade – but it wasn’t until years later when I discovered Tori Amos that things clicked and I learned what music could do. Dead composers are great, but this woman did things with that piano… It was then I began to realize how powerful music is in its ability to communicate the ineffable. Those things you aren’t supposed to say, or think, or believe, but you do. I realize now that a lot of that oppression was self-imposed and more perceived than real. But still, I think that growing up when you’re told – albeit implicitly by others’ actions or by your own self-doubt – that you are broken and messed up, you need to find another way to communicate in order to survive. Music became that for me, and still is. It’s my escape hatch when things get gross. Other musical influences include Pink Floyd, Queen, Billy Joel, Elton John, Elliott Smith, and Enya.

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Gavin: I read that you were in a couple of bands prior to your solo career. What was your time like with those groups?



Andy: I really enjoyed the time I had with them. The music wasn’t necessarily my style, but it was good to know that there was that support every time we went on stage. I had played in front of audiences before, but not in the same context, so, looking back, it also helped to shape my stage performance and taught me a lot about what it meant to be a “local musician.” And, if we’re being honest, one of the best things about having a band was having someone help me haul my keyboards and gear around. That stuff gets heavy.



Gavin: What persuaded you to start performing as a solo artist as opposed to forming a band?



Andy: I love playing with a band, and am still more than open to the idea of playing with one. The new songs really lend themselves to a full band. Honestly, though, it’s just hard to get a group that really flows well together. At first, I tried to get some people to play with me, but it always ended up fizzling out before it even started. So, it really was just easier to say, “I’ll do the boy and a piano thing.”

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Gavin: Being a solo act, do you prefer more intimate shows or larger crowds, and why?



Andy: I love love love intimate shows where everyone is there for the music and is really taking part in the performance. It’s so gratifying when you can actually hear the audience listening.



Gavin: You released your first album Waltz back in 2007. What was it like for you putting that album together, and were there any difficulties along the way?



Andy: Waltz marked my first foray into solo-musicianship and was an interesting experience. I learned a lot from it, and mainly it was the “what not to do” variety of learning. At the time it was exciting, but in retrospect I rushed it, and should have paid more attention to detail. My last album and the upcoming releases have a lot more focus; there is a central story in those pieces that Waltz lacks. It could have been better. I still believe those songs have merit, and would like to re-record it someday. Maybe when I’m totally out of new ideas I can do that.

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Gavin: What was the public reaction like to it when it was released, and what were your thoughts at the time on breaking into our music scene?



Andy: It was very humbling to realize that those who followed the previous band I was in would not be coming along for the solo ride. I still have so much to learn about marketing myself and getting myself to people who have never heard of me before. I really need/want a manager who would do that part for me, because I am so bad at it. I had an opportunity to leave Utah mid-2008, but I wanted to stay here to prove that geography had nothing to do with success as a musician. It’s still kind of an uphill type of thing, but I know there’s an audience here that would appreciate what I have to offer.



Gavin: You followed it up in 2009 with Indigo. What was different the second time around for you, especially now having a fan base?



Andy: The main difference was my confidence in the product I had created. I feel like Waltz may have been working out the kinks for me as a musician. As I mentioned before, I had much more focus with Indigo and the guy I worked with was just freaking fantastic. Trevor Price is his name, and he was great to work with. I think working with someone who gets where you’re coming from and can translate that in the mix made a huge difference. It was also so gratifying that people were actually starting to pay attention, and to hear people say things like “This song spoke to me” has been so rewarding.

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Gavin: Over the years, what's it been like for you developing your music and perfecting it in front of audiences?



Andy: The songs become like little portals for me, and when I listen to them, I’m taken back to that moment when they first showed up. Of course, I’m always finding new ways into the songs, and some songs become relevant in different ways as time goes on. The song “Heavy” isn’t always going to be about “that guy.” I think the main thing is realizing how much everything changes, really, and adapting that to the performance. I have come a long way from when I first started and I am excited to continue to grow in that regard. I mean, when I first started, I think my inner Tori was on overdrive and I was doing weird things just for the sake of being weird, and I wasn’t being honest with myself about what the music needed to be. A big part of my musical development is allowing simplicity and a little more honesty to take over instead of dictating that there “must be meter changes” or “if I don’t use more than five chords and change keys at least twice, this will be crap.”



Gavin: You've got two new albums on the way (according to your website), Water and Revolution Hymns. What has it been like for you putting two albums together to come out in the same year?



Andy: I have loved working on these albums, and I am so excited for people to hear them. I think I’ve taken the focus I gained on Indigo and improved upon it. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been so gratifying, and has reminded me that music is something I could do forever. I typically can’t focus on anything for more than an hour, so the fact that I can sit at a piano and do take after take without stopping for eight hours is telling. Many of these songs have been around for years, but just weren’t ready to come out yet on the other albums, so in a way I’m doing both of these at the same time to kind of clean the slate so that I can start fresh with the next project without wondering if certain songs are ever going to get on an album. Also, I lost my voice a couple of weeks ago just as we were about to do vocals, so that’s put a damper on the release date. They should still be ready to go by the end of July or August, as everything else for them is done. It feels surreal still to say that, but EVERYTHING ELSE IS DONE! I am so excited for them.

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Gavin: Are there any plans for you to head out on tour after they both come out, or will you mainly stick to Utah for now?



Andy: As much as I would love to tour, it isn’t feasible at this time. I want to do more in Utah to garner a larger following, and maybe then I’ll be more able to hit the road. With communication tools the way they are, though, I think there are many ways to get the music out there without having to be on the road.



Gavin: A bit statewide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?



Andy: Let’s do bad first: I’ve noticed that a lot of artists can be incredibly snarky and are prone to tear their fellow-musicians down, as well as some bad musician behavior in general. Also bad, and everyone knows this, is how poorly the venues treat musicians. I mean, all you have to do is say “no pay, but free exposure!” to set off a tidal wave of fury among musicians. There are probably other bad things, but really I think they’re things that you would encounter anywhere. However, I would love some tips on where the audiences are. I know there are people here who appreciate the flavor of local music, but I can’t seem to find them. Now the good: For every snarky artist who has forgotten that he/she poops, too, there are three who are generous, gracious, and incredibly supportive. Likewise, there are a lot of venues out there that are trying their best to give everything they can back to the musicians.

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Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?



Andy: I have no clue. There seem to be relatively few successful venues that are dedicated to a local scene, and that might simply mean there just isn’t the market for it. That’s not to say we can’t be successful here, but I don’t know that it’s going to be accomplished in a conventional way. I think also people take for granted that there are really talented acts right in their backyards. Maybe they think “I’ll just catch the next show.” It’s so strange that people will pay $80 for a ticket to a band they love, but won’t pay $5 to see an equally engaging local show. I know that there are avenues for success here, and that there is an audience here, but I just am at a loss as to how to tap into that. Again, I want a manager to do this thinking for me.



Gavin: Aside from yourself, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?



Andy: I really enjoy Melody and Tyler; I’ve played keys for them before, and they are so down-to-earth and talented. Not only that, but they are doing everything they can to create cohesion in the music community. Skylar Church, McKail Seely, and Joshua James are others. I’m also proud of those acts that I may not know very well but have brought good attention to our little corner of the globe. It’s funny, there have been countless acts that I’ve seen at open mic nights and such that I just think “I could listen to this a lot more” but they have the bad habit of not mentioning their names. For example, there was a guy who did a cover of “Send In The Clowns” and I practically melted it was so incredible, but he didn’t mention his name. Hey, guy who covered “Send In The Clowns” at Velour a couple years ago: If you’re out there, record that and I will buy it.

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Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio these days and how it’s affecting local artists?



Andy: I think it is a fantastic alternative to other radio options. KRCL really seems to strive to highlight the local scene, and UtahFM seems to be really devoted to the locals, as well. It’s healthy, I think, for the general public to hear that there is really great stuff being produced in their city. It makes me realize that as an artist there are so many more ways that I could/should be connected. These stations could be an avenue to connect musicians and create more cohesion in the local music community. I think the local scene suffers from a lack of centrality, and these community radio “hubs” could remedy that. It still begs the question: Why aren’t more people listening to this? Is it that people are just generally afraid of the unknown, and they know what they’re going to get when they plug into a generic commercial station? I hear people say all the time, “radio blows,” but it is like, “what are we doing about that?” If commercial radio is the dragon here, then how do we slay it? If it needs slaying at all, that is. Every good village needs a dragon, right?



Gavin: What's your take on file sharing these days and how it affects you as a musician?



Andy: I don’t like hearing multimillionaires complain about losing out on their 30 cents every time someone “shares/rips/steals/downloads/whatever” their song. I am happy to know that my music is out there, and as an indie artist with limited options in reaching potential fans, file sharing can be a really valuable tool for being heard. However, I think there is a line that needs to be addressed. I honestly don’t know where that line is, or even how to address it, because I can understand both sides of the issue. Am I doing music for the sake of art? Well, yes, but…Am I going to sound like a capitalist douche who is only after money for wanting to be paid for my music? Well, possibly, but…where is that line where it’s ok to want to be compensated for letting out your veins on stage, but yet still remain true to your art? So, in overly simple terms, it’s good and bad.

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Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?



Andy: I’m hoping to do a lot of performing over the summer after I finish up Water and Revolution Hymns. That and I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a musical with a couple of my friends.



Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?



Andy: As you mentioned, I will have two new albums coming out. I’m pretty sure they will be done no later than August, but add me on Facebook, or join the mailing list on my website and you will be kept in the loop. All the lyrics and tracks for all albums, including Water and Revolution Hymns, are up on the website now.





The Suicycles (Chris Cole, Camden Chamberlain, Van Christensen, Robert Roake & Kellie Penman)

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http://www.thesuicycles.com



Gavin: Hey, guys! First off, tell us a little about yourselves.



Camden: I like Twilight, kittens, and long walks on the beach at sunset. Everyone else in the band likes to sit around on dirty couches wishing they knew enough words to have a decent game of scrabble.

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Gavin: What first got you each interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?



Robert: I went through a long period where I only listened to ABBA, but in the car the other day I heard a little bit of this band called Creed on the radio and decided that I will continue to only listen to ABBA.



Camden: I also am heavily, deeply, and inexplicably influenced by ABBA, which is why Rob and I manage to not strangle each other each time we play music, but the band that really truly first made me want to write music was definitely The Cure. Jane's Addiction was also a major influence on me at a young age.



Gavin: How did you all get together to form The Suicycles?



Robert: I burned all my bridges with every other musician in town with my The Doors Suck t-shirt, and this is literally the only group who will still work with me. At least until I get my Pink Floyd Blows tattoo.



Camden: Van and I have been having a torrid musical affair for two years now. Rob begged to be in the band after seeing the original Suicycles line-up that was just Van and I. Kellazor drew me a me a nice little picture of her in Suicycles gear and Chris just heard he could score drugs if he joined, and that was that.

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Gavin: Considering the following and history that a band like Cavedoll had, did you find it a challenge creating music that sounded very distinct and separated from that band?



Robert: That band is old news, and they were pretty vanilla to begin with. Look, there is a reason Paul McCartney saved all his best material for Wings. It’s because Wings could kick The Beatle’s ass in a rock and roll fight. We’re Wings.



Camden: The initial reason I started The Suicycles was to try and break myself out of the writing mold or rut I had fallen into with Cavedoll. I wanted to write lyrics that held nothing back and were a lot more ... graphic, shall we say? Over the past couple of years, my life has changed drastically and it felt like the right time to start expressing those changes through my music. Also, apart from the last incarnation of Cavedoll, The Suicycles has become a much more collaborative project. With Cavedoll, I wrote the majority of the songs mostly on my own. With the Suicycles, we now write most of the songs together.



Gavin: Back in February you released the EP 4 Psychotic Car Rides. What was it like recording that album and how is it doing everything the DIY route?



Camden: Recordings for us are just sort of always happening ... the benefit of owning and living in your own recording studio. So, it was just a lot of late nights, hanging out after practice, smoking, drinking and knocking the songs out. I've always done the DIY thing so I don't have anything else to compare it to. Obviously, it would be nice to have some decent financial backing behind our efforts, but at the end of the day we just do this because we enjoy it, so whatever happens we'll be pleased as punch.

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Gavin: Just two months later, you released another EP, Experiments In Being Awake. Why the short span between releases, and why not combine the two into a full album?



Robert: Most of the writing process for Experiments came from an entirely different place musically, with a slightly different lineup, so combining the two really does not make a lot of sense as a single album.



Camden: Exactly, the Experiments In Being Awake EP was basically just documenting the short-lived project called Experiment In Being Awake which was the catalyst for The Suicycles. We just took all the songs we'd worked on with EIBA. and re-worked them with The Suicycles flavor and released it under The Suicycles banner.



Gavin: You've got a third release coming full of B-sides, and a full-length album called Sex, Drugs & Death in a few weeks. What was different between this main album and the other releases, and what was it like putting this album together?



Camden: Putting Sex, Drugs & Death together has been a process of writing and writing and writing until we felt like we had 12 songs that were our absolute best. We didn't want to rush it and settle for sub-par songs. This is the creation we really want to push much more so than our EP's so we wanted it to be our best of the best so to speak. I think in the end that's what we've achieved. We've got some really nice packaging planned for the album and plan to get out there into a lot of people's hands. The EP's were just a warm-up to this.

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Gavin: On the side you also have the UtahFM show “Waiting For The Rapture.” What made you want to do that show, and how has it been for you playing your own selections for an Internet audience?



Robert: Aside from the ability to shamelessly self promote ourselves, and our friends, the great thing about the Internet is that we don’t have to deal with the FCC. I am confident that we would be fired before we even got on the air at a regular station.



Camden: Indeed, that was sort of our stipulation for doing a show. We wanted to be able to do it our own way. Otherwise it wouldn't be anywhere near as fun as it is. The Suicycles band/project as a whole is about living how you want to live in a very open manner. Some shows we play very little music and just bullshit about whatever is on our mind, and other shows we play a whole lot of whatever music is inspiring us at the time as well as lots of the great local talent.



Gavin: Are there any plans for a possible tour or major festivals once the album comes out, or will you mainly stick to Utah for now?



Camden: That is certainly our goal. Once we have our album and press-kit in hand, the next step will be to try and get touring regionally.

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Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?



Robert: There are a lot of cool musicians and venues around here. There are also a lot of douche-cocks that think they are too cool for school. I would imagine a lot of them might be reading this, as you seem like the friendly type who would most likely not tell them that they are douche-cocks, and just let them keep pretending to be cool by proxy through reading your blog.



Camden: All the bands we play with rule. All the photographers, videographers, and artists we work with rule. The clubs we've played at more than once rule. We really don't deal with many people who don't rule.



Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?



Robert: I think bands should stop playing at venues that treat bands like shit and put them out of business. Also, we need to really all come together and support the rap metal scene around here because I don’t even remember the last time I heard a local rap metal band (’94?) and that is probably because we are not purchasing our rap metal locally. Also, if anyone out there is interested in joining my rap metal band Phist Phuck, please send a demo of you doing rap and metal at the same time to mentalmike@utahfreemedia.org.



Camden: The more good bands that can get out of Utah and tour -- that will help spread the word about our scene here.

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Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?



Camden: King Niko, Long Distance Operator, Muscle Hawk, Dirty Blonde, The Last Look, Uncle Scam, Plastic Furs, Blackhole, Lazy Billy and the Pillows -- lots and lots, really.



Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?



Robert: I think in general you are going to get a more unique and higher quality listening experience from community radio. Also, those DJs are always more willing to play your local music even if it sucks, because they can get the rights for free.



Camden: I think the more of it the better. Overall, most community radio DJ's are pretty supportive of the locals, I'd say. Now I'd just like to see some of the mainstream radio stations playing locals more, and not just on their local shows. There are some quality bands here that have proven they deserve to be played in regular rotation on mainstream radio, for example King Niko, but are they being played? No. That should change.

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Gavin: What do you think of file sharing these days, both as musicians and as music lovers?



Robert: I think if someone is willing to steal my CD, more power to them. Just drop me a line and let me know what you thought. I personally try to steal as much as possible, and basically whenever the opportunity presents itself. I have some dude out breaking into your car right while we do this interview, so file sharing seems like a no-brainer.



Camden: I don't think it really matters what I or anyone thinks because it's happening on a massive level and it's here to stay. The days of making a living through selling your music are coming to an end. You need to be able to put on good live shows and make money that way as a musician. I'm always flattered when people actually pay for our music (as we always give people free options for obtaining it, as well), but if they steal it or download it for free I'm perfectly happy, too. As long as it's out there getting enjoyed, that's what matters most.



Gavin: What can we expect from you guys over the rest of this year?



Camden: Who knows? We have some interesting ideas in the works, and hopefully we'll be starting to do some regional touring before the year is out.

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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?



Camden: Just wanna say, please support your local artists and musicians and help our scene thrive. I've already named a lot of my favorite bands and would love for people to go out and support them. I'd also like to tell people to support their local visual artists, in particular Sri Whipple, Teresa Flowers, Heidi Gress, and Rusty Sessions. Those are some folks that have helped us out big time.





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