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Gavin's Underground

Matt Ben Jackson, Sleepover, Ben Shepard

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-10-26 -

This past Friday amd Saturday night Kilby Court held its own mini-festival of both established and up-and-coming local bands, showcasing some of the finest we have in Utah. But we all know this two night event as Kilby Fest!

I popped in on Friday night's showing (with dancers galore), kicking off with the moody rock sounds of Matt Ben Jackson, the pulsating twee music of Sleepover, a rare solo show from Ben Shepard (Uzi & Ari) and a strong finish to the night from the, well, unknown status of rockers Future Of The Ghost. I chatted with the first three acts and took pictures of the entire night for you to check out here.

Matt Ben Jackson (Casey Romney, Austin Frodsham, Stratton McCausland, Dylan Roe & Dan Pectol)

http://www.myspace.com/mattbenjackson

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

Casey: We're Matt Ben Jackson. We're a Country Rock n' Roll band from the Wasatch Front, and we're here to play you some tunes! Our current members include Casey Romney, Austin Frodsham, Stratton McCausland, Dylan Roe, and Dan Pectol.

Austin: We get asked all the time about the origin of the name, so here's a really brief explanation: Matt Ben Jackson was the name of an outlaw in a Louis L'amour western short story. We liked how it rang, so we named our band after him.

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

Austin: Well, when I was about four, our neighbors across the street had a piano, and it blew my mind, I just wanted to play on that thing all the time. I asked my parents if I could have one, but it was too expensive, so they rented me a violin instead, and that's pretty much where I got my start. I've had so many influences and so many favorite bands, but anyone who knows me knows that in my opinion, nothing will ever compare to The Beatles.

Casey: For me, Music was always just there. I couldn't help but be a part of it. When I was little, I used to jump around on the furniture while my dad blasted Talking Heads on the stereo. Sometimes I still do.

Gavin: How did you all get together to form Matt Ben Jackson?

Casey: Matt Ben Jackson has been a band since late 2006, but it wasn't until Austin joined the band in 2008 that we started to develop our current sound. We've had a lot of member changes in the past, and our sound tends to change with them; most often for the better.

Austin: Yeah, it started out as just Casey and a friend. They approached me one day asking if I wanted to play fiddle and mandolin for their band. I agreed, but at our first rehearsal, they shoved a bass guitar in my hands and told me to learn how to play it.

Gavin: What was it like developing the slower rock style you perform and finding that niche in the audience for it?

Austin: Slower?

Casey: Maybe "slower" isn't the right adjective. We do some face-melting on occasion, but we aren't afraid to calm things down significantly once in a while. We're often complimented on our versatility.

Austin: Yeah, we do have some mellower tunes, but a good amount of it is quite kickin'. We're still trying to find that niche in the audience for our music, and will continue to, as long as we're still playing music. We just try to get out there and show what we've got to as many people as possible, and try to get some people to bite.

Gavin: How was it for all of you recording the self-titled album, especially as a DIY project?

Casey: Our self-titled release was written, produced and engineered by a former member and I during our senior year of high school, 2007. It was just the two of us back then. I think the whole purpose of that album was just to prove to ourselves that we could release a record completely independently.

Austin: We've written and recorded a whole lot of new material since that album, which has been much more collaborative. None of that new stuff has been officially released on an album yet, but it's available online and at our shows.

Gavin: What was the public reaction like to it once it was released, and how did you take it?

Austin: I still wasn't in the band when the first album was released, so from an outside perspective, I'd say MY reaction was quite positive!

Casey: Yeah, it's been alright! Our overall sound has changed drastically between its release and now, so we're anxious to get another album finished.

Gavin: Are there any plans in the works for a second album or just performing around for now?

Casey: A new album is most definitely in the works. We still engineer and produce our own material, so we're on our own time. We do gig a lot still as well!

Austin: We have a demo available at all our shows with 10 or so songs, most of which will be going on the next album when we finish it up.

Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Austin: I think that overall, the music scene is pretty awesome. I mean, it's not really something that can compare to somewhere like Austin, Nashville, or Seattle, but it really seems to be taking off. Awesome venues like Kilby Court in SLC, Velour in Provo, and Mojo's in Ogden always seem to have some sort of event going on, so if you're bored, you can just head over and see what kind of music is playing that night.

Casey: I think it requires a lot of self-motivation to be successful as a band around here. Its often hard to get people out to shows, especially when venues don't do a lot of promoting for local bands, and instead only promote touring acts. Bands that take it upon themselves to promote, and expose themselves seem to do pretty well. All in all, it's the quality of the music that really draws the crowds, though, and we really do have some amazing artists showing up in the area.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Casey: I'd love to see artists and bands take themselves more seriously. There's nothing wrong with playing in a band as a hobby, or just for fun, but I think it'd strengthen our local music scene if more bands started cutting albums, booking gigs, and even buying vans and hitting the road.

Austin: Yeah, I agree. There are a good amount of bands around here with plenty of talent, and they may not be using it to its full potential. It seems like every week there's a band performing here from Portland or something; bands from Salt Lake just need to do the same thing.

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

Austin: My favorites are The Devil Whale and Band Of Annuals. They've both got the kind of folksy/rock with an edge that I'm into.

Casey: I'm really digging Fictionist. They're moving into something that no one else in the local scene has even scratched the surface of yet.

Austin: I do agree with that also, they're pretty rad-A.

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

Casey: I think local radio stations are doing a killer job at helping artists gain exposure. Paige and Portia at UtahFM have helped us out a ton by playing our new material on their shows. I hear a lot of local music on KRCL as well. It's real cool.

Austin: Those stations that are featuring local music are great, I just think other stations around here need to expand on it. There's a thriving music community here in Salt Lake, and you won't really hear about it on the radio unless you tune into KRCL or listen to it on the Internet. I really wish there were more outlets out there that fellow SLC-ers could turn to in order to hear some of this local music.

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

Austin: We are all for the sharing of OUR music in any way, shape, or form. I know that personally, I wouldn't own 90% of the records that I currently own if I hadn't downloaded it and listened to it first. Then if I dig what I hear, I'll definitely go out and buy the album.

Casey: I say let em' download! We give out a lot of free music online, as well as at our live shows. Since we are lucky enough to have our own recording equipment and space, we don't mind handing out our tunes. Anyone will take a free CD; even if they aren't super into your music. It just gives us that much more exposure.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year and going into next?

Casey: Hopefully a new album! Guaranteed a lot of local shows!

Austin: We would also really love to hit the road by spring, and do some touring throughout the states and try to get our music out there to people who don't live in the Wasatch Front.

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

Austin: The best way to keep updated on our shows and other such news is becoming a fan of us on Facebook.

Casey: Yeah, find us on the web! Facebook, Myspace, etc etc. Send us an email too!
mattbenjackson@gmail.com.


Sleepover (Stephen, Lydia & Braden)

http://www.myspace.com/sleepoverband

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

Lydia: My name’s Lydia, I’m pretty good at killing zombies, and I’m Twee as fuck.

Braden: Well, the names Braden. I'm a human development family studies major at the University of Utah. I like otter pops and Donkey Kong Country. That pretty much covers it.

Stephen: I'm Stephen Walter and I play drums for Sleepover. I'm a twenty-three year old male.

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

Braden: When I was a young teenager I got super into 80's punk like Circle Jerks, Angry Samoans and Operation Ivy. But when I was 15 I heard Mirah's song "Sweepstakes Prize" for the first time on a KRCL's Kicking Judy (R.I.P). It totally blew my mind. After that I started to get into more indie pop stuff. Now a days, I'm into whatever. I really like 60's girl groups and classic stuff like Bo Diddley. Basically I'm a sucker for pop music.

Stephen: I've been in love with music since my dad bought me a boom-box and a copy of Abbey Road. I still feel like I'm growing up, but I think Beastie Boys and Pixies have probably been my biggest influences personally. Just listing two groups seems silly though. I listen to all kinds of music and always have. For instance, my iTunes player is pumping "Blue Train" by the Coltrane himself. I think that listening to all types of modern music is why all three of us get along in the first place.

Lydia: I mostly remember listening to this Misfits tape my oldest sister had when I was pretty young. The first album I bought was Weezer's Blue album, which has definitely shaped the way I write music. As a teenager, I listened to Teenage Fanclub, The Pixies and Mazzy Star. I should have been born ten years earlier.

Gavin: How did you all get together to form Sleepover?

Stephen: We formed Sleepover not too long ago, but we three have been playing music together for a little over a year now.

Lydia: I’ve been pals with Beej and Steve for over a year now, which has involved us playing music together. A few months ago, Twee was calling all of us together, in a way that would help us see the world as a cuter place, and we realized that was the only option.

Braden: I've know Steve since I was twelve and we've been rocking out since Junior High. Met Lydia a little over a year ago and things just clicked. She's a rock star. We started Sleepover because Lydia and I are suckers for cute indie pop and wanted a twee band of our very own.

Gavin: In talking with you a bit about the music, how did Twee play a role in developing your sound?

Braden: We'll, we like Twee and wanted to be in a Twee band. Lydia naturally writes songs that sound like they are from 1993. So things just happened. We actually practice in this band, so we keep getting tighter each show. It's been real fun.

Lydia: Well, Twee is the basis of our sound. Just straightforward pop music with cheesy lyrics about the girls you fall for. And sometimes kittens.

Stephen: Twee is the beginning and the end of Sleepover.

Gavin: What's the general reaction you get from audiences so far, and what do you think of the small group of people who have been coming simply to dance to it?

Lydia: People seem to have fun listening to it, which is good, because I have fun playing it. And seeing people dance makes the energy flow really well at shows. It’s nice.

Stephen: Dancing is what people do when the music makes them happy. Our music makes people happy. It is a great feeling to make people happy. Sleepover is that feeling.

Braden: A person dancing to your music is the best feeling in the world. Our music is super straight forward and pretty simple to play, so we aren't looking for any big reactions. We are having a good time with it and just hope that others will too. But ya, responses have been way positive so far, it feels nice.

Gavin: You've been together a few months now, has there been any talk on recording anything, or are you sticking to playing around for a bit?

Braden: We've got twelve songs ready for an album. We will record in November.

Lydia: Yeah, we already have all the songs written for a full-length album.

Stephen:
  Sleepover will be putting out something next year on record. We want to capture the Twee-happiness and bottle it.


Gavin:
When you do record, will you be doing it DIY or looking to go more professional?

Stephen: Anything worth doing is worth doing alone.

Lydia: Between Sleepover and all our other friends that play music, we have enough equipment to record ourselves. And Braden has an amazing space for recording. We all kind of have a DIY ethic, I think it makes it more honest and personal when you’re fully responsible for what you’re recording, rather than paying some random person who has limited knowledge on your musical aesthetic to do it for you.

Braden: We will record it in my apartment with my buddy Seth's help. Always DIY, all the time.

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

Braden: I think there are plenty of good bands, but there are not a lot of people interested in what's happening. Sure, the Alt-Country scene is alive and well in Salt Lake, but there are other things going on in the city that I think people could get excited about it if they gave it a chance. All in all, Salt Lake is a small town, so for its size I guess there's no reason to get too stressed. I just like playing music and seeing my friends play what they love.

Stephen: Local music is the best. There is nothing like hanging out with friends and making music. More people would be into it if they knew how fun it is.

Lydia: It’s disappointing to me. I feel like there aren’t enough people listening to different types of music, or, at least the people who are interested in different music don’t have interest in looking for local musicians. Can’t say I blame them, though. As far as someone could see, the only music that’s coming out of salt lake is Bar-Rock and Alt-Country. And that’s what’s a shame really; because there are a lot of talented kids here.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Lydia: Sure, if the people who run the venues make better booking choices with touring bands and work to promote more people than just their friends or their own bands.

Braden: I remember in high school all the good shows would be at Kilby, but it seems now a lot of the bigger touring bands play and Urban Lounge. I'd love to see a lot of those shows at Kilby or other all age's venues. Mainly I just wish there was a thriving all ages scene again.

Stephen: Making local music bigger? Possibly just getting people that never go to local shows to go. When the realize how much fun live music is, they will be unable to stay away. Finding those people isn't easy. Maybe if there were a more inviting environment for youth to get together and listen to each other perform.

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

Braden: First off, want a give a shout out to Circus Brown. He's way good at promoting and playing local bands of all kinds. I know each show has its niche, but I feel some of the more prime time stuff forgets there are other bands besides Band Of Annuals and their crew. But Circus seems to play it all. He's a real genuine dude. But ya, I love KRCL, we are lucky to have such a good community radio station.

Stephen: I listen to KRCL religiously. KRCL's new format has an amazing mix of music that is as eclectic as it is refreshing. I don't think that a lot of people listen to KRCL (or any of the other local stations). It has influenced me a lot. I am constantly calling in and talking to the DJs. I will write down artists to go home and listen to all the time. Maybe there are a lot more people that do that, but I just don't know. One of the best things that KRCL has going for it is Circus Brown's Friday night show. He loves having bands play on his show, and his sound guy, Connery is amazing.

Lydia: Well, KRCL is a great community radio station. They do a great job of supporting local acts, by giving them airplay, and also letting them play live.

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

Stephen: I admit to nothing.

Lydia: I think it’s great. If a band tours here, and I like them, I try to buy their album, that way they’ll get the money directly, but I’m a big fan of sharing music; I guess I see it similarly to buying movies. You wouldn’t buy a movie without seeing it, even if it was from your favorite director. In the same way, I wouldn’t buy an album without listening to it first.

Braden: I like it. Personally I usually don't buy anything unless I listen to it first. I feel a lot of people are that way as well. I actually run my own web label, Magic Goat Music and all the music there is free to download. So I guess I'm all for file sharing/stealing. But ya, still go to shows and buy records when you can. It's nice to support bands that need it.

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

Braden: Seven Feathers Rainwater is by far the best band in the city right now. Its nuts. They got this great mix between early Animal Collective and Deerhunter. Totally mind blowing. I just listened to S.L.F.M for the first time on MySpace yesterday, that was pretty fun. It's fuzzy ukulele with super cute vocals. Felt pretty twee to me.

Stephen: Aye Aye, Stag Hare, Mario Kart, Navigator, WYLD WYZRDZ, Grizzly Prospector, Silver Antlers, Sparks & Spools, and Ronald Raygun.

Lydia: Seven Feathers Rainwater, Navigator, Aye Aye, Stag Hare, Crystal Antlers, and Tenants.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year and going into next?

Lydia: Well, we have a few shows lined up, including SLUG's Localized in November. If anyone wants us to play at their house, we’re more than happy to! Next May we’re going to be doing a west-coast tour.

Braden: We got a few shows lined up, recording our album, then a tour in May. Maybe online sitcom?

Stephen: We hope to play a show hosted and promoted by Gavin.

Gavin: Awwww! And finally is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Braden: New Mario Bros Wii is coming out in a few weeks. It's going to be great. Also, go see Zombieland while it's still in theatres. So good. And Diego's in Provo is the best Mexican food in the state.

Stephen: A daily dose of FailBlog.org and Hasil Adkins

Lydia: Famke Janssen, Mélanie Laurent, Jill Valentine, the Uroboros Virus, and local artist Evan Jed Memmott! He did our posters for our last show and is way talented.


Ben Shepard

http://www.myspace.com/benshepard

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

Ben: I've been playing music as Uzi & Ari for five years.

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

Ben: My parents got us into classic rock early on. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, etc.

Gavin: How did you first join into Oriental Half Price, and how was your time in that band?

Ben: It was my high school band, just a few close friends. We were inspired a lot by Sonic Youth and Hum.

Gavin: What made you chose to quit and go to Chile for a couple of years?

Ben: I lived in Santiago as an LDS missionary.

Gavin: Why did choose to relocate to Utah instead of heading back to Texas?

Ben: My brother and I moved out to Utah to go to school together, I never planned on staying!

Gavin: How did the idea come about for Uzi & Ari, and how did you meet the other members to form the group?

Ben: I just started playing shows, bringing in new members as the music progressed. Over a dozen people have been involved in some form or another over the years, some friends and others were members of bands I've played with.

Gavin: When recording the albums you've done so far, do you prefer the DIY touch or wish you could take a more professional studio take of it?

Ben: Well we record in a hi-fi studio on 2" tape, so we haven't done much DIY. I have never been interested in lo-fi recording.

Gavin: Over the years the band has become quite popular, even when you seem to be doing nothing. What's your reaction to that level of local fandom and success?

Ben: I have never thought of Uzi & Ari as "popular", so I guess I just haven't noticed any fanfare locally. It's news to me!

Gavin: Why did you decide to join Own Records, and how has that relationship been going with the label?

Ben: The guys at Own have a very solid ethic in the way they release music that appeals to their aesthetics without much concern for the commercial viability of the records or the bands themselves. They have struggled at times but have now established a reputation of a solid catalog. We recognized right away that we would be much more comfortable with a structure like Own than another type that would interfere with our artistic vision and integrity.

Gavin: Last year I chatted with Andrew about the robbery. What's the status on that situation, and have you gotten any of the equipment back?

Ben: We never saw the equipment again, no arrests or leads. I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Gavin: For this show at Kilby you'll be doing a solo performance. Have you given any thoughts to a solo career or do you enjoy the idea of being in a band more?

Ben: Well I definitely prefer to play with other people on stage, though I do write and perform the records autonomously. I would never tour alone, it sacrifices too much in the delivery of the music. You cannot replace the excitement that comes from a live rhythm section with a laptop. It's not the same.

Gavin: Going state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Ben: I've always been surprised at the diversity of music played in Utah. There are so many clusters throughout the state ranging from country to jazz to rock to even hip-hop. It is sad to see the only bands getting attention on a national scale are those creating the most forgettable and derivative music.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Ben: Well I think Provo has seen more success in their community because it's exactly that. Salt Lake could take some cues from the organization and camaraderie of the Provo scene, like The Sego Arts & Music Festival which was organized by members of the bands and local artists of Provo.

Gavin: Aside your own projects, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Ben: I really enjoy Boots To The Moon, Mammoth, Birthquake, etc.

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

Ben: I couldn't really comment on it, I don't know much about it. Seems like there could be a little more done in that department though, I never hear local music on the radio unless it's a program dedicated to showcasing local artists.

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

Ben: It's unavoidable, and anyway I think it's a positive thing for independent artists.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of the year and going into next?

Ben: We are re-releasing It Is Freezing Out on vinyl in December with a new EP on 7" as well as a new album next summer. I'll be trying out the new songs on tour in Europe over December and January. Our new music video for Wolf Eggs will be released next month as well in Luxembourg.

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

Ben: Catherine and I sang on the new Arms & Sleepers album that's out next week, and I'll be touring with them after Christmas for three weeks in the UK and Eurpoe. Google it.

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