Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tonight's Entertainment: The Interview

Last week I caught up with Tyler "Sweet T" Thurman of Tonight's Entertainment, who together with drummer Nick Layman creates sweeping soundscapes of electronic rock. I got the chance to ask him a few questions about their new EP, Drive-By Shootings.

Paisley Music: How did you get started in writing and recording music? Is there anything in particular that inspires you?

Tyler Thurman: I got my first guitar for x-mas one year when I was about 12 or so, but after just a few beginner lessons with a teacher who never showed up, we quit and never found a replacement. My guitar just collected dust for a year or so, and then I slowly but surely began to teach myself to play, with the help of my cousin.

A few years ago I branched out into other instruments and found that my true love is the piano. I realized that I had a passion for music and that if I could spend the rest of my life putting together songs that someone would like, I would be happy. So I began programming beats and instrumentals to play guitar and sing over, and continued to practice guitar and keys until my music naturally evolved into what it is today.

PM: You use a lot of vocal clips to great effect in your music--for instance, the background chatter in "Talking in My Sleep," or the film clip and children's laughter in "A Clockwork Orange." What makes you decide to put a clip in, and how do you go about recording or selecting them?

TT: I try not to use samples in every single song I do, and I don't like to take it to the point that it distracts or takes away from the song at all, but a lot of times I feel that certain sounds or samples nestled into certain songs really add a whole new color and element to the them. Obviously, I sometimes like to use them as a way to emphasize certain phrases or themes to my songs, like the children in A Clockwork Orange coming in as I sing "And the children get excited" etc. But some of my biggest influences and favorite artists use a lot of ambient sounds and samples as almost a replacement for pads and other ambient instrumental sounds to add extra flavor and realism to things.

I look at songs the same way I look at a book and the author. If I read a book and I can picture in my mind exactly the place that the author is trying to describe and paint in my mind, then I consider them to be a successful writer. So when I choose a sample for a song, I try to add things that will help paint the picture I want and really just help take the listener to the place that I want them to go, if that makes sense. I think the best part of music is its ability to transport people and take them places, like an escape that can be taken with you anywhere you want to go. I love drawing that out of songs as much as possible, and I have found that good use of samples and sound clips can really help a lot.

PM: How often do you play live as Tonight's Entertainment? What are your shows like?

TT: Honestly, we have only played two shows together, but they were both with our former band (The Pinstripes). We decided that until we had finished the entire EP and album that we would wait on playing live, so that we could focus all our creative energies on one of those aspects at a time, because I believe they are both very important, but also very time consuming.

We have plans to start prepping for live performances as soon as the album is done, but we really plan on just keeping it local and playing in cities around Louisville that we can drive to and back in a day, as so on. Once we get a record deal or get to a place where we have the money to really tour long distance, I want to get away from traditional touring and gigs, and I want to perform almost a rock opera type of dark musical with a kind of creepy version of Alice in Wonderland feel to it. I'm writing the script right now, but it’s a long, slow process. There is really no telling how people will react, but I have high hopes that if I can get enough people behind me to put it together the way I see it in my mind, it could be a huge success.

PM: What's the story behind the EP's name, Drive-By Shootings?

TT: The album (which is not yet named) is basically a concept album in a way, but only in the sense that it has an overall prevailing theme. The theme of the album is that morality, caring, honesty, respect, and most other good qualities are no longer valued in our media, culture, and society as a whole like they should be. Entertainment in today's world has basically become naked women with unrealistic proportions, blood and violence for no reason, and restraint-free living where everyone just does whatever makes them feel happy in the moment, without regard to one another's well being or happiness. It's why things continue to get worse in the world, and not better. I wanted to write a collection of songs that basically "call out" our culture and society as a whole, and just be willing to speak up and ask the question "Is there really no one left who realizes this is wrong?"

I decided that I wanted this theme to be prevalent in the EP as well, so that when people hear it they can know what to expect from the debut album. "Drive-By Shootings" is the name of the song that will tie the whole EP together, and it will talk about how for entertainment and pleasure we like to get together in groups and just hurl insults/falsehoods. We cause drama and trouble for others just because they may not be the same as us or hold the same views or practices, and I think of that in a metaphorical way as a drive-by shooting.

Thanks to Tyler Thurman for the interview. You can check out Tonight's Entertainment at their page at

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Holiday Sweaters" - My First Earthquake releases new video

My First Earthquake just released their new video for "Holiday Sweaters," and it's bursting with holiday goodness. Quoth the band: "A lovely in-between time is upon us as Hanukkah comes to an end and Christmas has yet to crush us with its cheer. What a perfect time for San Francisco indie pop foursome, My First Earthquake to bring you Holiday Sweaters, the video, the free download, and the joy of polyester."

You can download the song right here, and find out more about the album, Downstairs, here.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire, Songs from the Pit

Eight songs, one hundred cassettes, thousands of hearts.

So go the statistics for Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire's album Songs from the Pit. An album of eight songs, released in a limited-edition set of a hundred cassettes, and put up in digital form on where the songs reached a few thousand hearts--each.

"Hold on," you're saying, "am I reading this right? They released an album, in the year 2009, as a cassette?"

Sure--why not? The original explanation I heard was that chiptune music sounds best on tape, and the band wanted the novelty of a unique format. I can't remember the last time I bought an actual cassette tape before this (if ever), but it has a distinct, very real feel to it. It's not just sounds and pictures in your iPod; it's something tangible. Also, my car has no CD player, so it works well enough there.

When I first decided to review the album, I didn't know the first thing about nerdcore. And, well, I still don't. I am in no way an expert in video games, as my experience with them started to get hazy after 1996 or so. (Tetris is still popular, right? Right?) But I first stumbled upon Shael Riley through his project The Grammar Club, and though the musical style has shifted a bit this time arouns, he and his band don't disappoint.

This is an attitude-driven album of love, video games, and kicky melodies. Perhaps the one thing you should keep in mind is that chiptune is woven into the soundtrack, and for those not in the know, that means it sounds a bit like an old NES video game. The album is peppered with references to movies, video games, and general pop culture. It's sassy and irreverent and epic, as it should be.

The first track, the incredibly energetic "Publishing Rights," featuring Schaffer the Darklord, sets the tone right away: this band means business. But it leads into the softer song "The Other Side of Memphis," which is sweet and rather elegant. "How to Fire a Gun" may well be the star of the album, and most of us can identify with the speaker: he longs for independence, and maybe the ability to leave a mark on the world.

"Asian Kids Have all the Best Moves" is a rather fun and touching tale about friendship and trying to assimilate another's (much cooler) culture. "Hipster Hoax" revolves around the catchy hook "It's just a joke, it's a ... hipster hoax that I'm not cool enough to understand," while "Chinese Ninja Warrior" is a cover of The Immortals' theme song for a character for Mortal Kombat. (Yes, I had to Google that.) But the power chords make this song pretty awesome, and the chiptune is trippy.

As for catchy tunes, it doesn't get better than "tip eht fo mottob," a rockin' song that also references Mortal Kombat. The album's outro is a solo piano-backed reprise of "Asian Kids Have All The Best Moves." It's quite pretty, and the stripped-down format lets the lyrics ring out.

Altogether, it makes for a great and intriguing listening experience. The cassette album is currently sold out, but many of the songs are available for listening and purchase on

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