Interview: Noelle Leblanc (Damone, The Organ Beats) talks about her new solo EP

Noelle Leblanc – who has fronted two incredible Boston-based rock bands (Damone, The Organ Beats) – pulled a surprise move last week when she released a 4-song EP that strays away a bit from the power-pop-meets-early-’90s-hair-metal sound of her other projects. The material on Good Ol’ Daze (buy it here) is the most personal stuff I’ve heard from the singer and there’s a definite early ’80s synth-pop influence in most of the tracks (reminds me a bit of the songs in the movie Drive). It’s already one of my favorite releases of 2012.

I suspect doing this interview in person would have been awesome (I’ve seen Damone 4 or 5 times in concert but never met Noelle), but since she’s in Boston and I’m in Columbus, I settled for an e-mail interview to talk about the new EP.

What is it about ’80s music that is so appealing to you?

I would say that my style of writing is more influenced by the people I worked with when I was younger who all grew up in the 80s. A ton of groundbreaking music came from that decade. Most of it super awesome and inspiring but some of it I don’t like at all. I love pop, I love synths, I love melody, dancey beats, four on floor. Can’t go wrong with any of those combinations.

The first time I heard “Never Too Late”, I thought it sort of sounded like a cross between Cyndi Lauper and Aimee Mann. Are you a fan of either of these singers and, if so, would you say either of them influenced your style at all?

Of course I love Cyndi Lauper, she is obviously extremely unique and a great role model for young women. I listen to all kinds of music. What I write just comes out so it’s hard to pinpoint who specifically influences me.

Is The Organ Beats still an active band? If so, what prompted a solo EP at this point in your career and is the EP a precursor to a full length or is it just a collection of songs you were ready for the world to hear?

Yes, of course. We are very active. We’ve been working on our full length the last few months so we aren’t playing shows until a release. While working on new music I had a batch of down tempo/experimental songs that I didn’t want to put on a “full band” record considering the performing aspect. Thus a solo EP to indulge myself in the meantime and I will continue to make music in whatever capacity until I’m dead.

At any given point in your career, is the most recent release indicative of where your head is at? Or, are you trying new things out with each release but ultimately a “rock chick”?

Everyone is quick to judge people in media but it’s only a vague assumption. I think anyone with common sense understands that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I’m certainly not one dimensional. As a musician/writer/artist I look at the world a little differently than some dude with a blog. Of course my songs are a representation of who I am. Music and art is an expression of oneself.

You’ve done the touring thing with Damone. You’ve played locally with The Organ Beats. Any thoughts to taking the solo thing on the road and, if so, is it something you can do by yourself or would you bring along a band?

It’s hard to give a definitive answer as there are no tentative plans. I don’t plan to tour as a solo artist. My priority is the band.

Looking back on Damone, what are your feelings about the way the band was perceived? I always thought you would have been better off opening for bands like Ratt and Joan Jett than touring with the likes of Less Than Jake. Dudes my age (I turned 40 last year) would have totally eaten up the modern take on the hard rock music we grew up listening to.

Damone was very accessible. We reached a wide audience. We did not target a specific gender, age, or sexual orientation. We were who we were and most everybody loved us. Every tour/show was amazing and we were very lucky to have been able to be apart of each one.

After the major label experience with Damone, The Organ Beats released music on your own (right?) and eventually offered up the album for free on Bandcamp. With your solo stuff, you offered up a free track on Bandcamp and made the EP available on CDBaby. What are your thoughts on releasing music in 2012 (and beyond)? What model works best for you as a musician?

How ever many songs we/I have cooked and ready to go, we’ll release for a suitable price. We will always give something away for free as promotion. Music is already something everyone can get for free so as musicians we sometimes have to come up with innovative ways to make a profit if need be. It’s an expensive endeavor and hard enough to break even. But what’s most important is making music and making it accessible for everyone to hear. There are always true supporters of music who donate to the cause and we’ve been fortunate enough to have very loyal fans that have helped us out a lot.

Introducing: Countless Thousands

A month or so ago, Danger Van Gorder (singer/guitarist) of southern California band Countless Thousands hit me up with a flattering email, telling me how much he enjoyed the content he read on Atomic Ned and how he thought that I might like his band. He was wondering if I might give We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here a listen and, if I liked it, maybe write a few words about it.

While listening to the – I hate to call it “pop-punk” because that conjures up all sorts of bands from the early ’90s that I’ve chosen to forget about – album, I thought, “This deserves more than me just throwing out a sentence or two saying, ‘Kick-ass, energetic rawk music by a trio that falls somewhere between Green Day and Jimmy Eat World with some early Foo Fighters influence and mid-90s math rock sprinkled in.'”

So, looking over the arsenal of Atomic Ned features, I decided to throw a bunch of them at Danger. If you’re a regular reader (or even a part-time reader), you’ll see Band(camp) of the Week, Track 3, and Soundtrack of My Life as well as a short interview.

Who says flattery won’t get you anywhere? Read it all after the jump.

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Interview: Kyle Krone

You should know that I have a man crush on Kyle Krone … not in THAT way … but when I think of somebody that I want to grow up to be (and, yes, I realize that I’m considerably older than Kyle), you should look no further than the (former?) singer of The Shys. He’s got a classic movie star look, the charisma of Mick Jagger, the swagger of Greg Dulli and the songwriting chops of Julian Casablancas (for my money, I’d much rather hear something Kyle has written than something Julian has written).

In the past couple of weeks, Kyle’s been releasing individual tracks from his upcoming debut solo album, For Those Who Think Young – “Hiding in Plain Sight” (Amazon / iTunes) in early February and “1963” (Amazon / iTunes) in early March.
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Interview: Joey Allen (Warrant)

With new singer Robert Mason (Cry of Love, Lynch Mob) in tow, ’80s hair metal giants Warrant show no signs of hanging things up anytime soon. Currently doing shows on weekends at both clubs and as part of festivals, Warrant’s working on new material which they hope to release sometime in early 2011. Of course, it’s the hits the fans want to hear as the band makes stops across the U.S. and Warrant doesn’t disappoint, playing songs from their first 3 albums (the only 3 to feature guitarists Erik Turner & Joey Allen, bassist Jerry Dixon, drummer Steven Sweet, and singer Jani Lane) – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich, Cherry Pie, and Dog Eat Dog.

There is no doubt that there have been highs and lows during the history of Warrant, the most recent low coming in 2008 when the band tried to reunite with Jani Lane (this coming after a 4-year stint with ex-Black N’ Blue singer Jamie St. James leading the helm and producing an album called Born Again). Booking a short tour to see how things would go, Jani had a tough time keeping his demons in check and it resulted in what probably is his final chance ever playing live with Warrant. But Joey Allen isn’t looking back when it comes to that brief reunion. Instead, he, and the rest of the guys, are still happy to be out there doing what they love to do – playing in front of fans.

Judging by your tour dates through the end of the year, it looks like you’re continuing to do the Weekend Warrior thing. Is this a good lifestyle for you – getting to go out and play with the boys on the weekend or does it ever wear on you?

The travel schedule is brutal but the shows more than make up for that. We are so “on” right now, the band hasn’t sounded this good since I can remember!

Had I asked this in 1989, you probably would have answered, “Hell yeah.” Had I asked in this in 1999, you probably would have answered, “Hell no.” Let’s see how you answer it now. Would you have ever believed that in 2010 that bands like the Scorpions, Warrant, Great White, Ratt, Cinderella, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Trixter, LA Guns, Bang Tango, Danger Danger, the Bulletboys, etc. would be touring?

For the most part, yes. Most of these bands are out kicking ass and it is good for the fans that they are.

I remember seeing LA Guns years ago at the Alrosa Villa. These two dudes positioned themselves right in front of the stage before the band went on. They asked one of the roadies if they were standing on Tracii’s side of the stage and the roadie said, “Tracii hasn’t been in the band in years. Keri Kelli is LA Guns’ guitar player.” These guys turned around and walked out of the club, not even stopping to ask for a refund. Are there still people showing up to Warrant gigs expecting to see Jani Lane? Have you ever had to deal with upset fans who want their money back?

That hasn’t happened since we attempted the reunion and Jani decided it was more important to get blind drunk at 9 out of 11 shows then it was to put on a professional show. He has NEVER made a public apology to the fans and has certainly never taken responsibility for his actions in any way, shape or form with the band. Maybe he feels no remorse!?! I think that Warrant fans see we tried with him, he took a different path. Robert Mason is a pro and delivers an A+ show night after night.

I know it’s probably not in your nature to slag Jani and I’m not trying to stir anything up. But, I’m curious, when he rejoined the band and you booked a tour with him, how confident were you that the tour was going to run through to completion? I’m guessing that – because, if I remember correctly, you had Robert waiting in the wings – had you had to bet on Jani making it through the tour, you would have bet against it.

We have made a point in not slandering Jani since we let him go in 2008, no one in this band wishes him bad will. In fact, it is the opposite. We let him go so he didn’t have the temptation of being on the road. When we did tour with him we removed all alcohol from our rider, keep it out of backstage all together. We hired a highly regarded “sober coach” at a high price to shadow him 24/7. There’s so much to that story no one knows, it is really no one’s business but ours.

I recently read an interview that Jani did and he admitted that being on the road is not healthy for him but that he’d like to continue to someday team back up with Warrant and write songs. Is this something you personally would be open to? Is this something that, as a band, Warrant would be open to?

Plain and simple, we already tried that. We have moved on and are very happy with the band as it is.

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Ultimate Fakebook is back! New album, interview

There was a 6-12 month period of time in 1999, while Kansas’s Ultimate Fakebook was touring to support This Will Be Laughing Week, that the trio (vocals/guitar – Bill McShane, bassist – Nick Colby, drummer – Eric Melin) seemed to play Columbus, Ohio every other week. And, hey, I wasn’t complaining one bit! The band’s power-pop sound bore some similarities to bands I dug like Weezer, Superdrag, and Green Day and it helped them land a short-lived major label deal with Epic Records.

In 2003, after releasing the Before We Spark EP, Ultimate Fakebook quietly called it quits. Colby and Melin formed The Dead Girls while McShane moved to California and got a job unrelated to music. It was a sad and anti-climactic end to a band that, for a while in 1999, felt like family to me.

In June, an Ultimate Fakebook Facebook page appeared and the first status update promised “some very cool announcements coming soon”. Then, earlier this week, this update appeared as well as a link to download a new song: “Ultimate Fakebook broke up in 2003, but the power pop punk powerhouse has just put up a song at ufbrocks.com for a free download and announced a record called ‘Daydream Radio is Smiling Static’ out July 27!!!!!!”

A new song? A new album? What? How? I HAD to know what was going on so I got in touch with Eric Melin. Here’s what he had to say:

Why now? Did Michael Jackson’s death last year make you realize that you never want to have lingering regrets?

Yes and no. This album would never have come out if we hadn’t been able to approach these songs with a new sense of what the hell they sounded like.

How did you keep the recording of a new album a secret?

With the exception of one new song, it’s been done since 2003.

Are the new batch of songs truly new songs or are they ones that had been cooking in the crock pot at the time of UFB’s untimely demise?

They weren’t cooking; they were done. The first batch were supposed to be half of the major-label follow up to This Will Be Laughing Week that never happened. We saved some of our favorites and didn’t put them on Open Up. The 2nd – 4th batches were 3 sessions of new stuff recorded in 2003. They were supposed to come out on the record that followed the Before We Spark EP, which was finished over a year before it finally came out. After a little bit of space, we hear them now with new ears and think “Why the fuck didn’t we do this album,?” Now its kind of a lost record. It sounds really fresh now, like a radio broadcast from another, less cynical time and place. Hopeful, everyone will get that same wistful feeling when they listen to it.

There wasn’t a big and nasty split with Bill, as far as I can tell (never noticed any gossip in the Weekly World News about in-band fighting or sleeping with each other’s girlfriends or anything). Did Bill decide that he was done playing ‘rock star’ for a little while?

You’d have to ask him, but we have all remained friends throughout this time, even though touring took its toll and our own expectations were the hardest to meet.

Are you as excited about putting out something as we are in hearing it?

Abso-fucking-lutely. We stupidly kept no web presence at all and just disappeared when we broke up, so for us, its exciting to know people are still enjoying our music. For a band that prided itself on its connection with its fans, we really blew it and just dropped off the face of the Earth after we broke up. The challenge now is to find everyone who cares about UFB through the Internet and make sure they can get these tunes, cuz we’re pretty sure they’ll like ’em as much as we do.

I loved UFB’s music but what really endeared me to the band was your constant touring with many, many stops in Columbus over a relatively short period of time. Any chance you’ll do another coast to coast tour or is the reunion album a studio project that came together because the timing was right?

No coast to coast tour unless we get Green Day big out of nowhere. So, no. There is no infrastructure to support that. We have no van. We have no money. There is no pool to draw from.

Is this the long overdue final chapter to UFB’s career or is it the sequel?

That’s up to you all. As long as there is demand and we have good ideas that we’re excited about, you never know! The music industry is a pile of shit and we are 100% independent, so we’ll do whatever we want. But that also depends on what the fans want. Making $$$ is not really an option so anything we do will be for the love of the music. We’re just excited to see who we can find that remembers how much fun it was back in the day. You all deserve these songs–we owe them to you.

Jump into the wayback machine after the jump to read an interview I did with the band in 1999.

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