We caught up with one half of talented duo Donna Blue as the band was getting through customs to head back home to The Netherlands. Heavily impacted by the cancellation of SXSW, they spent a few days in Austin after the announcement hit. They calmed our nerves, and we’re going to spend the rest of lockdown listening to their music.
2020 was the first year Imperfect Fifth was accepted as an official press outlet for SXSW. Though two members of our team have been listed as press in the past — and we have attended and done extensive coverage even when we aren’t listed — this was a huge feat for Imperfect Fifth as a bootstraps music publication. But our reach is larger than we know. We are bringing new music to the forefront as best we can, especially in these times when people are turning to the arts for an escape, or peace of mind.
Though we can’t make things physically better at the moment, we did decide to move forward with our in-person interview format… but from our couches. Elizabeth Schneider — music journalist, writer, and DIY queen — came up with the name, and we’re sticking to it! So relax for a few minutes, and delve into the first episode of our quick-hitting third season of our podcast, The Sofa Sessions.
Stephen Clair is doing everything he can to stay involved in the music community during quarantine. During our first interview of what would have been our SXSW series, he talks Al Franken, social distancing, and Beacon Music Factory!
In March of 2017, we were in a different place. Financially, emotionally, career-wise… but the biggest difference? We were covering SXSW as official press (for a different publication). Imperfect Fifth has thrived on what we learned within that community, learning tenfold about the industry in one week over what we had in the previous five years combined working within it. Because we are all feeling a sense of lack of community right now — and almost none of us are out enjoying ourselves in the streets of Austin — I wanted to share some video interviews from that first, fated SXSW. You know, when social distancing didn’t exist and we all did yoga in bars together.
For official SXSW coverage and takeovers all week, head to our Instagram!
Amidst the madness following the release of their new album Claw Your Way Out, indie quartet Modern Moxie took a few minutes to answer some questions for us. Quite the feat, considering this is the debut full-length release for band members Madison Lucas (Vocals, Guitar, Synth), Harrison Kollm (Bass), Phil Pucci (Lead Guitar), and Charlie Weeks (Drums), who have come in to the soundspace with an ethereal energy we can’t help but melt into. Check out our interview below, and take a listen to the album while you do! We promise you’ll be a convert.
What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?
The memory that sticks with me the most is seeing an infomercial for a Beatles box set when I was a small kid. The commercial started with a clip of “Hey Jude” and I just remember seeing Paul McCartney’s face and yelling at my mom “Who was that?!” I was obsessed instantly and have been since then. The Beatles have always been a massive influence for me and I will never forget that moment I first heard them. I am a sucker for that classic pop song structure and I burned it into my brain over years and years of obsessing over every record they every put out. I’m constantly working on expanding the musical world of what I listen to, but they will always be home for me.
What is the conception story of Modern Moxie? Was it a meet cute? (P.S. LOVE THE NAME!)
Thank you!! It took what felt like a century to come up with the name. I always just played under my name (Madison Lucas) but I wanted to be in a rock band more than anything. All I wanted was to play with a group and create music together, it was my biggest dream since I started writing songs. It seemed like this distant life just out of reach, but I just kept pushing until it finally all fell together.
I met Harry first, he is the beginning of the band! He means so much to me and it honestly freaks me out how random our meeting was. I was out at this bar called Jack Beagles in Charlotte and having a pretty terrible night. I was in one of those infamous rough patches everybody has in their life and Harry just sort of dropped into my life out of nowhere like a beacon of light. I was sitting in a corner alone feeling sorry for myself and I saw him across the room. I just wanted to go talk to him, so I did. I said “You play music don’t you?” which in retrospect was about the corniest pick up line I could of possibly said. Remarkably, I was correct, he played bass. We have hung out pretty much every day since then. We started playing shows together as a duo and we came up with the name roughly a year later. We helped each other through a lot and many of the future Modern Moxie songs were forming then. We went through a series of lineup changes but eventually met our band family with Phil Pucci (lead guitar) and Charlie Weeks (drums). Me and Harry were married by Phil in 2017! He is an officiant if anybody needs a marriage real quick.
I wish there was a cool story behind the actual name but basically, we love M’s, alliteration and the letter X so it checked all the boxes. I carried around a little notebook with ideas for about 8 months, I thought nothing would ever work. I also love 60’s mod fashion so it just fit and here we are! Band names are so strange, they feel wrong at first then after years you just become them. I can’t imagine having any other name now.
Do you think that being located in Charlotte has any bearing on what type of music you create? I always wonder in a “nature vs. nurture” kind of way.
Absolutely! I don’t think you can help being influenced by the music that is around you. I go to a ton of local shows in Charlotte and I know each and every one of them shape the music I am creating along with the feel of our live performance. There is so much beautiful art in Charlotte and I try to soak up as much as I can. Also, without Phil/Charlie/Harry the music would not sound the same and if I wasn’t in Charlotte I would have never met them. This city means everything to me and it’s been a wonderful city to create music and share what we do.
What’s your favorite thing about performing together in front of a crowd?
Oh man there is nothing like it! I love everything about it, it invigorates me in a way I have yet to reproduce in any other way. I’m still terrified before I go on stage, but I’ve learned to use that energy to help my performance. It’s taken years, but I feel like I’m finally finding my comfort zone up there. There is no better practice in the world for a band, we learn new things every single time we go on that stage. You never know how people will react, what they will dance to, it’s all an experiment. I love connecting with people and playing music for a crowd connects you to them in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s something I hope to do for the rest of my life. If just one person takes something good from one of our shows I consider that a successful gig.
In June, you released the masterful Claw Your Way Out. From the beginning, we’re drawn in by powerful vocals and gorgeously layered vocals that just won’t quit. Any fun anecdotes from the production of this album?
We had so much fun recording that album, I don’t even know where to begin. Working with Kenny McWilliams in Columbia, SC at Archer Avenue Studios was an absolute dream come true, he is just magic to work with. That was the first time we have all recorded anything together as a band so it was a riot. Lots of goofing around and way too much Taco Bell. The coolest part in my memory is when we were able to play around with this Roland Space Echo tape effect. We were all entirely too obsessed with the spacey sounds and watching the tape feed through, it was wild. It makes a different sound every time you use it so we wasted many valuable studio hours playing with that thing. You can hear it best at the end of the record on “Believers in Sound” after Phil’s beautiful guitar solo (my fav solo on the record).
Was there something in particular that made you choose the order of the tracks on the release?
That part will make you think entirely too much! One of those final touches that really feels like a giant decision. We wanted to have tons of energy opening the record and for there to be a journey to the sound. We always knew we wanted “Symphony”, “Claw Your Way Out” and “Til I’m a Ghost” out front for high energy. “Believers in Sound” felt like an album closer to us so we stuck with that. The order of the rest was just trial and error, playing the record over and over and then we finally landed on the final track order. I’m a big fan of the album format and we did want it to tell a story beginning to end.
The title track has a unique sense of urgency to it from the beginning, which dissipates a little bit with the vocals later. How did you approach the production of that track?
That track has changed so much throughout time. The first time we ever played that it was just Harry on bass and me singing. In my head I heard it as this huge, driving track, really bass heavy. It really began to take form when I bought my Korg Minilogue, the main synth sound comes out of that. I wanted it to be huge, but also be able to reproduce it on stage. I was listening to a ton of Metric at the time, I know that had a big influence. On the record Harry played his bass with a pick which helped it really cut through. I’m so happy with the way that one turned out, giant thanks to Kenny McWilliams for locking that in exactly like we had in our heads. We have entirely too much fun playing that one live, it’s usually our closer.
“Flowers in Your Hair” feels theatrical, in a Panic at The Disco Pretty. Odd. kind of way. We’re obsessed. What inspired it, specifically?
Well holy crap thank you, I love Panic! Listening to Pretty Odd as I type this. So glad you enjoy it! This song has a very embarrassing back story so here we go. I am a giant Lana Del Rey fan and had tickets with one of my best friends Aly to go see her show. My friend Aly is also an amazing bartender, so we were having mad martinis pre show. Have you ever gotten so excited about something you ruined it for yourself? Yep, that is what happened. I barely remember the show. I also fell down Aly’s giant apartment stairs on my way down to an Uber (multiple times, multiple stairs). In summary, a very bad night. I’ve had a touchy relationship with alcohol and this was my last bad night. The next day I wrote “Flowers in Your Hair” with bruises all over my entire body and promised myself I would never do that to myself again. One bad fall down some stairs and you’re dead, never forget.
Taking care of those vocal cords can be a little taxing. What do you do to keep yourself healthy when you’re prepping to sing?
What do I not do to get ready to sing? I’m slightly insane in this department. I think it’s sort of connected to my anxiety. It can’t hurt to prepare right? I drink as much water as humanly possible, limit alcohol, singer’s spray (so great), tea and honey, room temperature water, pineapple juice, vocal warm ups/exercises etc. Basically, if you have heard that it helps voices I have tried it probably.
Throwing this one in for fun! How do you think the seven wonders of the world came to be? Do you think it was human hands, aliens, a little help from Mother Nature or some other force?
After much debate, I’m pretty certain people just had a lot of time on their hands back in the day. If we didn’t have phones and TV imagine the number of things we would have to do to fill our time? However, me and Harry watch a LOT of Ancient Aliens and conspiracy theory shows so I’m open to anything. Cats probably did it.
I HAVE to ask about Bowie. What’s the story behind this precious cat, and would you consider Bowie a mascot of sorts? (My cat Schmidt is a mascot for iF FOR SURE.)
I have two cats! Bowie and Scully. Bowie just makes the internet more because she’s always doing strange things, Scully is move private and elusive. Bowie was discovered in a Vespa dealership parking lot by my yoga instructor. Her name was actually Vespa as a kitten but when we adopted her we named her Lady Stardust Bowie. Bowie had just died that year, I’m a huge fan, so her name was written in the stars. Scully is named after Agent Dana Scully from X-Files, a hero among women. They are both definitely Modern Moxie mascots, I wish we could take them on tour. I hope to meet your cat Schmidt one day, what an amazing name!
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
If you dig our music please share with your friends, post it, add to your playlists, every little thing helps! I wish I could get across to everybody how much those tiny actions help out baby indie bands like us. Thank you so much for your support while we chase these dreams!
Today, we sit down with Ken Kurson from The Lilacs, a Chicago rock band formed in 1990. With their first album release in more than 25 years together, it’s safe to say we had a few questions. Our time together delves into musical influences, live performance, and – of course – unexplainable phenomena.
For our first episode of season 2, we had a chat with singer/songwriter Janet Labelle. Of course we dove into the topic of aliens, but you best believe we got deep before that. Be sure to listen through to the end for August show dates!
The Skints are absolutely phenomenal. Past their live performance, their music is enigmatic, their personalities are so fun, and there’s just a sense of community around everything that they do. We were recently blessed with their presence in New York, where photographer Christie McMenamin got to hang out and take some portraits of the band, comprised of the phenomenal talent of Jon Doyle, Jamie Kyriakides, Josh Waters Rudge, and Marcia Richards. We got some time to chat as well, which gave us a glimpse into the lives of one of our favorite bands right now! Check out the interview below, and take a listen to the new album and peep their latest video while you’re at it!
What was the first album or song you remember hearing, and do you believe that music has any bearing on how you approach your career?
First music I remember hearing I don’t know. First reggae song I ever remember hearing was my parents playing “Iron Lion Zion” when I was like three, which I remember cos I liked lions. First album I bought was the soundtrack of Space Jam on cassette. I don’t know if the first music I heard had any bearing on the APPROACH of my career more than “I like music”, I was say the music that had that bearing I found about 12/13 years old.
What is the origin story of The Skints? Was it a meet-cute?
I don’t know what a meet cute is, but we were all just local friends from school. Teenagers form punk band at school, very primitive! We started with the dream of playing our local venue (The Standard, Walthamstow, RIP) and never stopped.
Swimming Lessons. SUCH a wonderful album. So well-rounded, and so laser-focused on a unique and beautiful soundscape adventure. Anyone have a favorite track off that album, or a song you revert back to to make you feel a certain way?
Wow, thanks so much, that’s very kind of you. My favourite changes all the time, but today I’m gonna say “Stop Looking Back”; I think it’s the most musically mature song we’ve done.
On “Restless” you vocalize criticism on the government and media. Totally warranted. Was there any piece of you that might have been nervous about releasing a track like this, or was it an obvious inclusion on the album from the get-go?
Nah no way, we’ve been calling our government, the media, the “system” out on their shit from when we first starting writing songs and that’s not going to change.
You have some incredible features on this album. What ignited the conversations to include Protoje, Runkus, and Jesse Royal on tracks, and how did you approach them to work on it? Had you already had those established friendships?
Protoje and Jesse Royal we had met and formed road friendships with those 2 guys with about 5 years ago at festivals in Europe. We’d stayed in touch, always linking up with Protoje to hang when he was in London and playing on a bunch same festival bills around the world, and had been saying to one another “let’s do a tune” for ages. We also did a secret support for him in a tiny club in a Parisian suburb once! Jesse came over and played this pop-up Skints party we curated called “Nice Time” a couple years back and we went to the studio the day after and wrote a DIFFERENT song to Love Is The Devil, maybe that will see the light of day some point! So yeah those were totally organic connections, and it was Protoje that put us on to Runkus a few years ago, who was also a fan of ours as we are of him, and we connected off the back of that.
You chose blue vinyl for your recent album release. What inspired that decision?
The album is called Swimming Lessons and we love colour vinyl!
You have been touring the last few years almost non stop. What have been some of your favorite memories of this time on the road?
Man, so many. Japan completely blew all of our minds, I’d say that was the most different place we’ve ever been. Even down to getting the train as to being on the road, the pace of touring is just different out there.
But also… any crazy fan stories or random happenings on tour that are just too bizarre or funny to not talk about?
Ah man, we been touring for like 10 years haha! We once stayed in a terrifying hostel in Berlin with unfinished paintings on the walls. Portraits with no eyes or mouths. Scary.
You guys seem to get along really well. How have you kept your heads on straight while touring together for such a long time?
We’ve spent so much time around each other we actually operate like a family. We just try not to push each other’s buttons, communicate honestly and healthily and try to be respectful of one another as we operate. Also gotta just laugh through the madness!
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Big up everyone supporting and showing love, it means the very most!
Today, we sit down with Morgan Geer to chat about his musical project Drunken Prayer, the buildup to his album release in April, and UFOs. We actually got neck deep in UFO stories, and there’s a lot of laughter and awe in this interview that makes it the perfect end to season 1 of the podcast! Check it out below!
Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Cole Guerra. The brainchild of musical project I Am Casting, his latest release “Carnival Barkers” gained widespread praise. We get to chat a bit about the album and its inspiration, as well as some offbeat topics like what aliens might think of America today. Keep listening for more.