Sunday, 19 October 2014

I FOUND YOU AGAIN: Exclusive feature on The Empty Hearts, featuring members of Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings, The Cars and The Romantics!

The Empty Hearts are a classic rock and roll super group featuring Elliot Easton (of The Cars), Clem Burke (of Blondie), Wally Palmer (of The Romantics) and Andy Babiuk (of The Chesterfield Kings). Now, we all can list a whole variety of super groups that have not lived up to the sum of their parts, most recently perhaps is Mick Jagger's rock/reggae collective SuperHeavy. However, The Empty Hearts have lived up to the sum of their parts and more. They have recorded a storming debut LP and have just embarked on their US tour.
In the feature below we caught up with Elliot Easton to discuss the new group, the album and some other musical (and non-musical) stuff! We also have a go at reviewing The Empty Hearts superb debut LP!
Hi Elliot, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us. First question that we ask to every artist is what your first musical memory is and what kind of records were on around the house when you were younger?
Elliot: "First musical memory was Elvis Presley on TV, singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, Eastern European classical like Khachaturian and Rimsky Korsikov, pop like Judy Garland, calypso records by Harry Belafonte and Oscar Levant playing 'Rhapsody In Blue'. My mom was a Julliard-trained singer so there was lots of music in the house!"
You have recently started this incredible new project called The Empty Hearts. The band is quite literally a supergroup, featuring members of The Cars, Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings and The Romantics. How did the band come to be?
Elliot: "To my mind it really grew out of an idea Andy Babiuk had. He called us all and asked us what we thought of the idea of forming a group. I like everyone in the band, and I respect their musicality so I said yes. We're spread all over the country and I thought it would be quite challenging to get it together but it worked out really well."
Where did the name, The Empty Hearts, come from?
Elliot: "The name came from Little Steven Van Zandt. He's a friend of Andy's (The Chesterfield Kings even appear in an episode of The Sopranos) and had a list of band names that he thought were cool. The Empty Hearts was on that list and we all agreed that it was a great name, so we went with it!"
The eponymous LP was produced by the legend that is Ed Stasium. How did he get involved and what would you say that he brought to the record?
Elliot: "We all go back a ways with Eddie. For example, I played on Peter Wolf's (from the J Geils Band) first solo album 'Lights Out' in the early 80's and the others have worked with him over the years so he was an obvious choice, for his friendship, talent, sense of humor, and personality. I think he brought an unbiased ear to the music, essentially become a 'fifth member' for the duration of the recording process. We knew he'd be getting great sounds in the control room, so we were free to concentrate on the music."
For people that haven’t hear the record yet, how would you describe it?
Elliot: "I'd probably describe it as a modern rock record that tips it's hat to the golden age of guitar based rock, circa 1969-1971. It has a classic vibe, but we were just being true to the music that inspired us early in our lives and careers, which to me is still the best. However, this is not a retro vibe, the influences are there but I feel that it still sounds fresh and new."
There are two particular tracks I want to bring up. Firstly, the first track from the album to be released to the public, “I Don’t Want Your Love (If You Don’t Want Me Anymore)”, a very strong classic rock ‘n’ roll tune. What is this track about and what influenced it?
Elliot: "Well I feel qualified to answer this one as I wrote everything except the verse lyrics, which Wally did a fantastic job on. What's it about? It's about I don't want your love if you don't want me anymore! Seriously though, I had a definite Beatles 'White Album' vibe in mind and hopefully that comes through!"
Secondly, another highlight of the album for me, “I Found You Again”, which hints at a bit of a country/Americana vibe. What is this track about?
Elliot: "I suppose it's about finding that which is right in front of you all along. You should ask Wally. I'm very proud of the guitar on that one. I was playing a regular Fender Telecaster but simulating a pedal steel guitar. I think it came off really well."
As well as the four of you Ian McLagan also plays on the album. How did he get involved?
Elliot: "We asked him and he said yes!"
What is on the cards for the rest of 2014? And will you be touring the UK at all?
Elliot: "Yes, at this point, touring is our immediate goal. We want to have a great time playing in front of audiences all over the world, and certainly the UK."
Final question – who would be in your dream super group?
Elliot: "You're looking at it!"
Favourite Beatle?
Elliot: "John, but Paul is a very close second!"
Favourite band?
Elliot: "The Beatles."
Favourite new band?
Elliot: "The Strypes."
Favourite song?
Elliot: "That's a tough one, maybe "Something In The Air" by Thunderclap Newman."
Favourite album?
Elliot: "Revolver."
Vinyl, CD or download?
Elliot: "Vinyl just sounds the best but downloads are so convenient that I think they have their place."
When you press shuffle on your iPod, what is the first track that comes on?
Elliot: "Usually Billy Strange, The Ventures or Les Baxter exotica."
Style icon?
Elliot: "Brian Jones."
Favourite film?
Elliot: "Goldfinger."
Favourite TV show?
Elliot: "Shindig."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Elliot: "Leo."
Favourite food?
Elliot: "Southern Italian, Kosher Deli."
Football team?
Elliot: "Liverpool FC, New York Jets."
The Empty Hearts eponymous debut LP certainly lives up to its credentials. The band themselves have a line up featuring members of Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings, The Cars and The Romantics. On top of this there is a guest appearance by Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and the record was produced by Ed Stasium who has previously produced records for the Ramones, Talking Heads and Motorhead.  
The record certainly kicks off with a blast with the anthemic trio of "90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street", "I Don't Want Your Love (If You Don't Want Me)" and "(I See) No Way Out". These three songs really set the tone for the rest of the record; one of anthemic, classic, vintage rock and roll. However, the record is not all flat out and there are also some slower numbers such as the mysterious-sounding "Fill An Empty Heart" and the country rock gem of "I Found You Again". The Empty Hearts also hint towards a hard rock influence with "Perfect World", "Just A Little Too Hard" and "Soul Deep". The latter of which also has a slightly funk-driven element in the rhythm section. The album goes on to conclude in a similar fashion to which it started with "Meet Me 'Round The Corner".
The record on the whole has a very punk feel to it and a very back-to-basics kind of approach and this is no bad thing. In fact, this is exactly what makes this record what it is; a great classic rock and roll album.
Hope you enjoyed this feature on The Empty Hearts, be sure to check out our previous feature on Gregg Cave!
You can check out The Empty Hearts at the following link -
Keep up to date with future interviews and reviews at the following link -

Sunday, 12 October 2014

OLD ENGLAND GROWN NEW: A brand new feature on Gregg Cave's latest studio album, "Old England Grown New"! Features exclusive interviews and a review!

Gregg Cave is one of the many talented singer-songwriters that are coming out of the UK's underground folk scene. Gregg very effectively combines old traditional tunes with his new contemporary compositions. He has recently released a studio album entitled "Old England Grown New" and continues to tour the UK, both as a solo artist and with a backing band.
We caught up with Gregg recently to have a chat about his music and his latest album, it can be read below. Also, be sure to check out our review of the album which is also in this feature.
Hi Gregg, hope you're well. The first question we always ask acts that are new to the blog is what kind of records were on around the house when you were younger and who are your big influences?
Gregg: "I was brought up on a steady flow of folk rock and prog rock. Bands such as Lindisfarne, Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Tom Petty and Aphrodites Child. One of the biggest influences from my childhood was Alan Hull, the frontman and songwriter for Lindisfarne."
As you know, we have only just discovered your music via your new studio album, "Old England Grown New". Can you give is a brief overview of your career to date?
Gregg: "I've been writing and singing in public since school days. I've fronted all manner of indie type bands through my teens. I gradually got more into folk rock and enjoying mixing old trad songs with electric instruments and mixing them with my stuff. I put together a band called CAVE and we played all over England and bits of Europe, playing festivals and toilet sized venues, one of our highlights being Sidmouth Folk Festival. I'm now finding that going by my own name as a solo artist is a lot less restrictive but I still enjoy playing and recording with musicians that I've been playing with most my adult life!"
Your new LP is a great folk rock album and sure to do very well. It has a very English feel to it. Would you say that is a fair assessment and was this what you were aiming for?
Gregg: "Like a lot of writers I didn't set out to make a particular thing but as the songs started being recorded there was definitely a theme that came out and I am quite happy with that. You're not the first person to say that it has an English feel to it so maybe you're right!"
The album features three traditional compositions. One thing that has always fascinated me is the vast array of traditional songs that are recorded by folk artists and they all seem to be as good as the last! Where do you discover these beautiful, old songs and how do you choose which traditional songs that you want to perform or record?
Gregg: "I read a lot of old books and note down anything interesting that I hear or read. I've picked up songs from my local town library and made the pilgrimage to the famous 'Cecil Sharp house'. My passion is giving the old songs a relevance to where we are now. That can be whether they have a good beat or melody to get a night started or the words still ring true today. The title track of the album I believe is a good example of the latter."
One of the traditional songs you recorded, "The Bonny Lass Of Anglesey", features a fine fiddle part from folk legend Dave Swarbrick. How did he get involved and what was it like recording with such a legendary figure?
Gregg: "I met Swarb by booking him to play a gig in my local town. I then crossed paths with him a year later when performing at the Cambridge Folk Festival. I mentioned the album and he was up for it. It was a pleasure and an honour to work with him."
It has to be said that the original tracks on the album are just as good, if not better, as the traditional ones. One of my favourites is "The Bunny Run". This track does have a very classic folk feel to it but still has a very fresh edge. What influenced the track and what is it about?
Gregg: "'The Bunny Run' is the nickname given to a main road that leads into Northampton town centre. These days it's an infamous pub crawl and back in the day young people would wear their best rags and 'court' down this road. My nan told me this so it must be true! That inspired the song and its evolved into a song that talks about landmarks in my hometown, some of which have been torn down and ruined forever by bad council planning but the people will always be linked by the river that flows through the town and our blood itself."
You say that you are organising a tour in support of the album. How is this coming and can you release any details to us?
Gregg: "Yes, we plan to be on the road throughout the end of this year and into 2015. I'm putting together a new year tour in Germany and we'll be hitting the folk clubs and festivals in England. Gigging is what we do all the time. So my advice is to keep an eye on the website as we are always announcing shows."
After finishing the tour what is up next for you? A new album?
Gregg: "Like I said the gigging doesn't really stop. I reckon by the tail end of next year I'll be looking at getting some more stuff onto record if not before. I am writing for an exciting project that's a bit secret at the moment so hopefully that'll get me out and about more too, any news will be on the website."
Final question, who would be in your dream super group?
Gregg: "Drums - Ginger Baker, bass - Dave Pegg, guitar - Jimi Hendrix, spoons - Miley Cyrus and lead vocal - Woody Guthrie."
Favourite Beatle?
Gregg: "George."
Favourite band or singer?
Gregg: "Wilco."
Favourite new band or singer?
Gregg: "Temples."
Favourite song?
Gregg: "Over The Hill by John Martyn."
Favourite album?
Gregg: "First Utterance by Comus."
Vinyl, CD or download?
Gregg: "CD."
When you press shuffle on your iPod, what is the first track that comes on?
Gregg: "What's an iPod?"
Style icon?
Gregg: "Lovejoy."
Favourite film?
Gregg: "Excalibur, the 80's version."
Favourite TV show?
Gregg: "In The Night Garden."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Gregg: "Ian McShane."
Favourite food?
Gregg: "Indian."
Football team?
Gregg: "The Hammers."
Gregg Cave's brand new studio album is sure to become a classic English folk album. Entitled "Old England Grown New" it blends contemporary folk sounds with the more traditional approach as well. There is an array of different approaches to the tracks; "Aida's Lullaby" is a solo instrumental, "Last Day" (featuring words taken from a John Clare poem) is just a duet with fiddle and melodeon and tracks such as "The Bunny Run" are brilliant folk rock songs with a full electric band.
It certainly starts with a bang with a fine rendition of the traditional ballad "The Bonny Lass Of Anglesey". This track also features some fine fiddle work from none other than Mr Dave Swarbrick who gives the track a very traditional feel. The percussion and thumping bass also adds to this and bring the recording to life, giving it a very live feel.
There are a further two traditional tracks featured on the album; the title track and "An Atheist's Grave". Both of which are pure and brilliant, however Gregg Cave also has the talent of being able to write great folk songs in his own right. "Born Of This Land" perhaps demonstrates this best and is a song that Richard Thompson would've been proud of writing. Again, this track features a great fiddle part. "The Bunny Run" and "Ancient Hymn" also provide highlights amongst the original compositions, as does album closer "William Morris-Wat Tyler"; a beautiful ballad.
Cave is not however purely limiting himself to the folk genre and the Americana / country and western influence is evident on "Down By The Lake" and "Ancient Hymn", both original compositions from the Northamptonshire singer-songwriter. These tracks are comparable to modern alternative country artists such as Ryan Adams and Eric Church, so there's definitely variety in this album.
The lead vocal throughout is also exceptional and deserves a mention. It sounds as if it has been lifted from an early Fairport Convention album, which is no bad thing!
Overall, this album is as good as it gets in modern folk rock. It has a solid footing in old, traditional approaches but Cave brings a very nice and fresh original take on the folk music genre.
Hope you enjoyed this feature on Gregg Cave, be sure to check out previous feature on Crash Club!
You can check Gregg Cave out at the following link -
Keep up to date with future interviews and reviews at the following link -