Tag: Oscar Award

Interview: A Q&A with The Sighs

Holyoke, MA-based rock band The Sighs can trace their origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals) met and bonded over their mutual of love of acts like The Beach BoysCrosby, Stills and Nash and other that employed the use of multi-part harmonies. Interestingly enough, it helped that while the Holyoke-based band’s founding members were jamming together, they discovered that their own voices blended together beautifully.

Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete the band’s initial lineup. Shortly after the band’s lineup was finalized, they quickly began makin a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explained in press notes, “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed paths with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter and producer, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club in 1990. And after meeting DeNicola and Allen, the Holyoke-based band signed with  Charisma/Virgin Records, who released their full-length debut, What Goes On to critical acclaim. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band toured with nationally touring acts like Gin BlossomsDada and others.

The band eventually split up with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects and/or focusing on family life. Interestingly, the material on the band’s third full-length album, 2017’s Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to an unearthed batch of demos that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Originally recorded in the early 1990s, and later placed on hard drives, the demos had been forgotten about for the better part of 20 years – until Cullen played them. He was so impressed by what he heard, that he shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola.

Feeling that the band had unfinished business – and that they should continue the collective story they started 20+ years previously, the band decided to reconvene at DiNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio to revise a handful of songs. But as the band’s Tom Borawski explained at the time “. . . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche said of the five-day recording session that produced Wait On Another Day. Borowski added “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” As a result, the material possesses a urgency and vitality to it that many contemporary bands wish they could capture on record. Interestingly, while much of the album’s material focuses on many of the things that they wrote about in their youth – girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love but tinged with the wistful and aching nostalgia of middle-aged men, who have been forced to accept the passage of time, their impending mortality – and the old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same: no matter how old you are, heartache is heartache and life is ultimately about figuring out how to learn from it and move forward.

Building upon the attention they received from Wait On Another Day, the members reconvened to write and record its highly-anticipated follow-up, the five song Tearing My Heart Again, which OMAD Records released today. The EP’s material finds the band continuing where its predecessor left off but while revealing a band that has grown in the past three years. While they pull in some new ideas to the mix, they do so without straying too far afield from what has been successful – carefully crafted, hook-driven rock paired with earnest songwriting.

I recently exchanged emails with the members of The Sighs for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. World events have found a way to impact all of us – and as a result, they’ve managed to bleed into every aspect of our professional and person lives in ways that will reverberate for quite some time to come. With COVID-19 forcing cities and localities across the world to indefinitely shut down bars, restaurants, clubs, music venues and countless other non-essential businesses, the impact on musicians and the music industry will be far-reaching and devastating. Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the careers and lives of artists of all stripes – and the members of the Holyoke-based band openly and honestly discuss where they stand right now and what may be next. Of course, we chat about the recently released EP at length, the band’s tour with The Gin Blossoms and more. Check it out below.

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Support these artists by buying their work. You can order The Sighs EP here:

https://www.omadrecords.com/store/the-sighs-tearing-my-heart-again-ep

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WRH:  Most of the country has been enacting social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How are y’all holding up in such a difficult and uncertain time? What are you doing to preoccupy yourself? Anything you’re binge watching? 

Robert LaRoche: Been pretty much staying home. Except to go for a daily run and food shopping.

Working on new songs. Binge watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.

Tommy Borowski: Been binge watching bad 70’s movies…

WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or canceled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed or rescheduled tour dates, album releases have been rescheduled. I’ve asked this question to a handful of artists already – and I suspect that for some period of time I’ll be asking a lot of bands this: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career? 

Matt Cullen: Well, we’re all at a standstill. We had a Sighs gig booked in mid-March in our home base of western Massachusetts. Robert flew in from Austin and I flew from Des Moines. After couple of spirited rehearsals, the gig was cancelled. I’m now home and have seen all of my gigs here cancelled for the foreseeable future. I don’t make my living entirely from music but playing roughly 100 gigs a year certainly helps the family kitty. Those lost wages will hurt and the loss of that enjoyment, performing, making music, that hurts equally.

WRH: Who’s the funniest guy in the band? 

RLR: It depends on the given day I suppose! We all have our moments. [But] I’m going to go with Tommy Pluta on this one 💙

MC: If you asked Tommy Pluta……..😎

WRH: Who are your influences?

Tommy Pluta: Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Shoes, Foo Fighters.

RLR: I was heavily influenced by The Everly Brothers. And tried to incorporate their two-part harmony style into The Sighs music. Also love early American Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. And, of course The Beatles and Beach Boys were a big influence.

MC: Too many to name. The typical ones. The British Invasion bands, particularly The Beatles. A lot of 70’s rock and pop rock: Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, Raspberries, Queen, The Cars. I could go on…….

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

TP: Fountains of Wayne.

RLR: Jenifer Jackson, a local singer/songwriter here in Austin

MC: My current go-to is a live record by Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders. Bo is a spooky, great player, known for his work with Lucinda Williams and Greg Brown. He’s an Iowa guy and I’ve opened for him here and have gotten to know him a little. I’m crossing my fingers to do some playing with him. Also, and sadly, I’ve been revisiting Fountains of Wayne since the news of Adam’s death.

WRH: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with The Sighs? 

TP: Classic Power Pop / Rock sound. Two guitars, bass, drums, melodic with three part harmony.  The Smithereens, Gin Blossoms

WRH: The band can trace its origins back to when its founding members – Robert LaRoche and Tommy Pluta – met back in 1982. Tom Borawski and Matt Cullen were the recruited and the band then spent next eight years gigging around Western Massachusetts. In 1990, the members of the band crossed paths with John DeNicola, who became your producer and you signed with Charisma/Virgin Records. So, the band went from playing the college circuit to touring with the Gin Blossoms, who were selling millions of records and being played on the radio every single day. How was that experience like? 

TP: We always tried to make the most of every opportunity.

We had been on the road for months prior to touring with the Gin Blossoms so we were ready to take the next step.  Getting the chance to perform our music to their fans night after night was a terrific experience.  They were especially nice to us, and we found a lot of commonality with our music and influences. It would be great to do some dates with them again. . .

WRH: The band eventually split up after the release of their sophomore album with each of the individual band members focusing on other creative projects, on raising families and working day jobs. 20 years pass and as the story goes, Matt Cullen stumbles upon some demos that the band recorded in the early 90s. What was the experience of hearing the demos for the first time in so long like? 

MC: It was really cool to find the old recordings. I had transferred a boxful of 1/4 tapes to a hard drive, without listening to them. That was in 2010. It was 6 years later that I opened the folder labeled Sighs. We had been cranking out demos from 90-93 (?), both for the Charisma album and also for what we hoped would be a follow up with them. None of us recalled recording a few of them. You’d finish a song and move on. I got goosebumps when I realized what I had stumbled upon. I did rough mixes and sent unnamed mp3s to the guys. They were really surprised, and we were all excited by how well the home recordings had held up.

WRH: How was it like to revisit material that you wrote some 20 years prior? How were the first writing sessions for Wait on Another Day? Did your songwriting process change between your sophomore album and 2017’s Wait on Another Day?

RLR: The WOAD songs were written before, during, and after the recording of our debut CD What Goes On, during the period between 1987 and 1993. We had a lot of songs to choose from at that time. And only a dozen were chosen for What Goes On. The tracks on WOAD were songs already included in our live performances. We were a pretty well-oiled machine by then. Revisiting and re-recording this material over 20 years after their inception was great fun! And genuinely satisfying.

WRH: The five song EP, Tearing My Heart Again was recently released. In some way the EP finds the band continuing where they left off, as though the lengthy hiatus had never happened. While the material is centered through some passionate performances as collective whole, the EP – to my ears – reveals quite a bit of growth. It seems to capture old, wizened pros, who have gotten back on the proverbial horse but with some new ideas. How does Tearing My Heart Again differ from your previously released work? Was that intentional? What inspired it? 

TP: We drew inspiration from the fun we had recording WOAD in the Fall 2016. Recording new Sighs music (20+ years later) was something we discussed a couple times, and the possibility came around again in August of 2019.  We had a couple songs and several ideas, we just had to find the time to all be in one place to record which ended up being 3 days starting New Years’ Day 2020. The process of writing was the same in some ways and very different in other ways. We always shared ideas to see which ones we though would fit, and then developed them, but sharing ideas is so much easier with technology. A lot of text and email.

 WRH:  What does the EP touch upon thematically?

RLR: The five songs on “Tearing My Heart Again” deal with personal relationships.
In the title track, the protagonist is involved in an unhealthy love affair. Where heartbreak is an ongoing concern, and dark attraction becomes a fatal flaw.

WRH: “Over the Line” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. It’s probably the most Smithereens-like on the five songs. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?

RLR: “Over the Line” is about the near hopelessness and futility of caring for someone in active addiction. With the resignation that although you cannot judge the person you care for, and will continue to be there for them, the possibility of the active addict to cross over the line and become another fatality statistic, is forever present.

WRH: Oddly enough, there are sections of EP closing track “Rise” that somehow reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” Maybe I’m hearing thing but, did that influence the track at all about 

RLR You’re spot on with the Pink Floyd reference on the EP’s closing track “Rise.” Tommy Pluta initially sent me the guitar riff and chord changes. Which were already quite psychedelic sounding. We put a two-part harmony over the music in the vein of Waters and Gilmour. Our producer John DeNicola used an old school tape echo on the vocals. This gave the track the retro feel we were striving for.

WRH: What advice would you give to bands/artists trying to make a name for themselves thematically

 MC: I don’t know that my track record qualifies me to give advice but I will say that you must absolutely love what you do. There are many obstacles and it’s a long road. In today’s music world, I’d say you need to have a strong presence online. Sales are a different animal than what I grew up with. Touring is always helpful in spreading the word but can be financially daunting. CD mailers to college or community radio in your area are helpful. Try to grow it steadily. Again, you better love it!  :/)

WRH: What’s next for the band

MC:  It’s hard to say what is next for us. I’m not sure anyone of us would have guessed that we would have released a full-length record and an EP in the last three years. We never say never and leave ourselves open to all possibilities.  We have a strong personal relationship which leaves the musical door open at all times.

  

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New Video: Acclaimed Drummer and Songwriter Kyle Crane and The Shins’ James Mercer Team Up on a Shimmering and Nostalgic Single

Kyle Crane is an acclaimed drummer and prolific songwriter, who has been a part of the touring bands for the likes of Neko Case, M. Ward and others. Additionally, he was the drum double for the Oscar Award-winning film Whiplash.  Crane recently announced a solo album of his own, Crane Like The Bird, which is slated for a January 18, 2019 release, and the album is reportedly steeped in Crane’s autobiography: Crane’s father was a Coast Guard lieutenant and pilot, whose helicopter went down in a search-and-rescue mission in 1997. The album tells the story of the time leading up to his father’s death and the effects on them; in fact, the album cover photo is a picture of his mother at the crash site, throwing a rose out to sea, and the album art includes his father’s old pilot logs and maps. 

As a result, the album’s material touches on love, loss and memory but also ski lifts and Nintendo, perhaps as a reminder that along with love, a healthy dose of nostalgia is part of the universal experience. Interestingly, the album finds Crane collaborating with a who’s who of indie music including Conor Oberst, Daniel Lanois, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Luke Steele, Peter Bjorn and John‘s Peter Moren, Sabina Scuibba, Brad Mehldau and The Shins’ James Mercer — and each collaborator allows the material on the album to be sonically diverse, as the material nods at points to jazz, New Wave, country and others. The album’s latest single is the jangling, Smiths-like “Wishing Cap,” an achingly nostalgic track that wishes for simpler and easier times, perhaps with loved ones who aren’t with us now. 

Animated by Tim Lierman, the recently released video is a larger metaphor for being transported back in time. After putting the wishing cap on, the video’s hero is transported with the task of healing a world that has fallen apart. That world represents Crane’s broken heart, after his father’s death. As Crane explains, “When I would visit my Grandparents i would stay in my father’s old room that he grew up in. One time I was rummaging through the closet and I found an old shoe box with letters and an old green baseball cap in the closet. I thought ‘what if I put this hat on and it gives me special powers and I can climb through that old photo on the wall and be transported to the past’”

Earlier this summer, you may have come across a post featuring the Western Massachusetts-based indie rock band The Sighs, and as you may recall, the band can trace its origins back to 1982 when its founding members Robert LaRoche (lead vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals), bonded over their mutual love of The Beach BoysCrosby, Stills and Nash and other acts that employed the use of multi-part harmonies; of course, it also helped that while jamming together, LaRoche and Pluta quickly learned that they own voices blended together beautifully. Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (lead vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete their initial lineup, and as a quartet the band quickly made a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explains in press notes “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As luck would have it, the members of The Sighs crossed pants with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and producer, and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club, and they then signed with Charisma/Virgin Records, who eventually released  What Goes On to critical acclaim. And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the band went on tour with nationally touring acts like Gin BlossomsDada and others. But after a number of lineup changes the band eventually dissolved with members of the band pursuing individual creative projects or focusing on family life, and so on — and the result was that The Sighs became less of a focus for its members.

Interestingly enough, the band’s third full-length effort Wait On Another Day can trace its origins to recently unearthed batch of demos recorded on analog tapes back in the 90s that the band’s Matt Cullen recently stumbled upon.  Once Cullen had shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola, the members of the band decided to reconvene at DeNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio and revise a handful of songs; however, as the band’s drummer Tom Borawaski explains “.  .  . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche says of the album, which occurred over a spontaneous five-day recording session. As Borawski adds, “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” And as a result, the material possesses an urgency and vitality that most bands wish they could capture on record. And while the material of Wait On Another Day thematically focuses on many of the things the band’s members wrote about in their youth — the prototypical rock related subjects of girls, getting kicked around, hopes and dreams and falling in love; but perhaps because the members of the band are now middle-aged men, the material unexpectedly possesses a wistful ache of someone who has been forced to accept the passage of time, and the strange realization that the moe things change, the more things manage to remain the same.  Heartache is heartache, no matter how old you are or what you’ve done and seen, and hell, at some point life is ultimately about having the courage to go on towards what’s next after life has broken your heart.

Wait On Another Day‘s first single “It’s Real” was jangling guitar pop with gorgeous harmonies, impressive guitar work and the sort of anthemic hooks reminiscent of f The SmithereensStarfish, Gold Afternoon Fix and Forget Yourself-era The Church with a swooning, urgent romanticism. That shouldn’t be surprising as the song focuses on being desperate, youthful love with that pretty young thing you can’t get off your mind and the anxious excitement that comes about as you wonder aloud to yourself  “Can this be real. Is this what I’ve been seeking and desiring for so long?” But it’s unde-pinned for the hope of finally achieving something you’ve dreamt of for as long as you could remember.  And while album title track and latest single “Wait On Another Day” continues in a similar vein as its preceding singles — in other words, deeply heartfelt, jangling and anthemic guitar pop, the band manages to capture something timeless within the material. After all, rock is ultimately about the connection between a group of friends and musicians with big dreams and something to say about their lives and experiences but interestingly enough the material manages to sound as though it could have been released sometime between 1988-1993 — or well, yesterday. And what this song managed to remind me of today was the fact that when the world seems on the verge of complete collapse there’s always the comfort and hope of love and of music.

 

 

 

Formed in Western Massachusetts back in 1982, The Sighs initially began with its founding members Robert LaRoche (lead vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pluta (bass, vocals), two lifelong musicians, who had bonded over their mutual love of The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash and other acts that employed the use of multi-part harmonies — and the duo of LaRoche and Pluta quickly learned that they own voices blended together beautifully.  Tom Borawaski (drums) and Matt Cullen (lead vocals, guitar) were recruited to flesh out the band’s sound and to complete their lineup, and as a quartet the band quickly made a name for themselves as a must-see live act across the region. As Tommy Pluta explains in press notes “One luxury of living in Western Mass is that we played all the colleges and clubs for years and years. By the time things started happening for us, we were primed for it — we sounded really tight and everything was just spot on.”

As the story goes, the members of The Sighs crossed pants with John DeNicola, an Oscar Award-winning songwriter, who co-wrote “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and producer, and his production partner Tommy Allen at the China Club, the band signed with Charisma/Virgin Records and released What Goes On to critical acclaim; in fact, the band built upon a growing profile with tours with Gin Blossoms, Dada and others.

The Sighs third full-length effort Wait On Another Day is the first release from the Western Massachusetts-based indie rock quartet in over 20 years, and the material on the album can trace its origins to a recently unearthed batch of demos recorded on analog tapes back in the 90s that the band’s Matt Cullen stumbled upon. Once Cullen had shared the demos with his bandmates and their longtime producer John DeNicola, the members of the band decided to reconvene at DeNicola’s Upstate New York-based studio and revise a handful of songs; however, as the band’s drummer Tom Borawaski explains “.  .  . it all came together so well, and we were having such a great time, we ended up making a whole album. It really just took on a life of its own.”

“All the years of playing together left a permanent mark on us. It wasn’t too difficult to tap into our musical and personal bond again,” LaRoche says of the album, which occurred over a spontaneous five-day recording session. As Borawski adds, “Everything had more of a spark to it than when we made What Goes On, where we put all the songs under a microscope and tried to get it all completely perfect.” And as a result, the material possesses an uncommon urgency and vitality — of the sort the most bands wish they could capture on wax; but interestingly enough, as Pluta notes, the material on the album focuses on many of the things they had written about in the past: girls, getting kickedd around, hopes and dreams and falling in love. And perhaps because of the band’s age and experience, the material possesses the wistful tone of one, who has accepted both the passing of time, and the strange sense that the more things change, the more they manage to remain completely the same. So what if you’ve traveled the world, read the great novels, seen and done all that’s needed to be seen? Heartache is heartache and everyone knows it at some point, and life is about knowing what to do once your heart is broken again and again and again and again . . .

The album’s latest single “It’s Real” is jangling guitar pop paired with gorgeous harmonies, impressive guitar work, and the sort of anthemic hooks reminiscent of The SmithereensStarfish, Gold Afternoon Fix and Forget Yourself-era The Church but with a swooning and urgent romanticism; after all, the song is about some of the classic rock ‘n’ roll tropes: wildly passionate love with that pretty young thing and the desperate excitement of it being real, for perhaps the first time and of finally achieving something that you’ve dreamt of for such a long time.