Where We Are Now? A Short Chat
by Marcel Feldmar
The inspiration, the scene, the set-up. Just the music found on Sunday's Best debut, Where You Are Now , available from Crank! Records. Just the music, which starts with a lush roll into melodic life. Filling the air until all you can breathe is the twist of clean guitar, atmospheric bass rhythms, high clear expansive vocals, heartbeat drums. Just the music. Nothing else is needed.
Talking with Tom (Thomas) Ackerman and Pedro Benito of Sunday's Best (Ian Moreno and Edward Reyes both unaccounted for), I try and put together pieces of a puzzle that forms for me every time I find myself with a CD that moves me as much as this one does. The liner notes hinting at other worlds, other ideas. The images used, the words chosen. If the music makes me feel this much, I just want to know more. So I ask...
About the layout and design of your CD, not trying to judge a book by it's cover... the packaging is very subtle, minimal and smooth. Balances the depth of the music. How much of the design was the band's idea?
Tom Ackerman : The design was entirely the band's idea, executed by Pedro.
Pedro Benito : I had a ton of help from the nice people over at 1K Studios. The skyline picture inside was taken from my balcony by my roommate, and the cover still was a picture for a film I am doing the music for...
This film, Spin Cycle , what's the story behind that?
Pedro : It's a short film that was made by a kid named Chris Young for his USC Film School final project. The whole short was filmed in Japan last summer. He asked me to do the music supervision, so I wrote some music for it that will be coming out on Sign Language Records. I love the film, and hopefully he and I will be working together on bigger projects in the future.
Is Where You Are Now your only release, or do you have some other singles floating around? It's your big CD debut, right?
Tom : Where You Are Now is our CD debut indeed, but we do have an out-of-print 7" that was put out before I joined the band. We don't play any of those songs anymore, so we don't usually mention the record.
What are your future recording plans?
Tom : Right now we have only 4 or 5 new songs, so we are concentrating more on getting our live show together and writing a new song whenever we aren't playing shows. Crank! would like us to release a full length CD sometime in the spring of 2000, but I guess all that depends on whether or not we feel ready to record some new material.
When I listen to your CD, I hear hints of bands like Pop Unknown, Mineral, Christie Front Drive... but then I sometimes get taken back into much older memories, like Die Kruezen, "Century Days" style from like 1988, and I wonder where your musical inspirations come from... not necessarily influences, but... yeah... inspirations.
Tom : Well I'm 29, so I'm influenced by the old timers like Husker Du, Fugazi, Shudder To Think, Dinosaur Jr., etc., which I guess doesn't really matter, since I don't write the music. I've always been attracted to music that seemed to be an honest expression from the artist, regardless of how fucked up the result ends up coming across. Oh yeah, and I love pop hooks.
Pedro : I am very inspired by bands such as the Cure, New Order, Ride, Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Seam, because they are able to create lush soundscapes and still write big hooks.
Why is your CD too damn short? It stops about an hour too soon. Ah well, at least you know I'm waiting for more.
Tom : Is that a question? Thanks for the compliment, but when we first started talking to Crank!, we were going to do a split 10" with another band. I don't think we had 10 songs we still liked when the EP was recorded.
Songwriting... Do the lyrics fit into the music or does the music come after the lyrics?
Tom : Music first, vocal melody second, lyrics last.
What inspires the lyrics? Personal, or is it more story-telling?
Tom : Like most lyrics, I would guess that they are a combination of images the writer finds interesting plus a few vague personal references. Ed is pretty shy about discussing the lyrics, but I do know that he has no agenda or mission statement or any other ulterior motives.
Pedro : Most of his lyrics are stories, from what I can gather. Ed is pretty insane, so I don't really want to know what's going through his head. I'm scared to be in the van with him without the others around. Please help me, I'm scared.
Other bands you've been in... I was thinking there was a connection to some other band I like, but I really can't think of the name.
Tom : I was in a band called Skiploader once upon a time.
Pedro : I played in my high school band. Is that what you were thinking? I played second trumpet. You might have seen me in my school's jazz night.
Yeah, that's what I must have been thinking. I was also wondering, just for a quick segue, if you enjoy touring? Where are some of the best places you've played?
Tom : So far, touring has been a real kick in the pants. You know, the tedious drives, the bad food, the smells from your filthy band mates. The weird thing about touring is that you really don't see the country... you see freeways. You enter a strange town, you find the club where the kids seem similar to the scene back home, you play the show, you sleep on somebody's floor, and then you repeat the process the next day... We have, however, received some very generous hospitality, especially in Santa Rosa, CA, Seattle, WA, and from the heroic fellas in Acrobat Down from Denver, CO.
Pedro : San Diego doesn't count, because for one, it's my home town, and two... it's so close it's not really like touring... but I love it there anyway. The kids are great and I get to see my parents and some really close friends.
Do you get good response in your hometown? Or do you find more attention given to you when you play in other towns... I've noticed that often bands are appreciated more when they go somewhere other than where they're from.
Tom : I believe we are fortunate in that we have been well received in both our hometown and away. We are pretty likable chaps, and I think that goes along way in being popular in your hometown. Or maybe people just think we suck and don't feel threatened by us yet.
Pedro : They should feel threatened because I am MEAN! MEAN, I TELL YOU! Seriously, we have been super fortunate, because every time we play here at home, there are more kids than the last show we played. I'll be worried when there are less and less, but for now I couldn't be happier with the turn out and the support the kids have shown us.
Any bands you've played with that you would like to play with again?
Tom : Sterling Silver, Rainer Maria, Acrobat Down, Burning Airlines, At The Drive In, Damien Jurado, Pedro The Lion... the list goes on and on.
Pedro : Boilermaker, because they are amazing live. Tristeza, because they play all sexy. One of our first shows was this KXLU show here in L.A. at the Whisky, and the line-up was Sunday's Best, Tristeza, Get Up Kids, jejune, No Knife, Strictly Ballroom, Spanakorzo, Knapsack, and Jimmy Eat World. That show was amazing, but Tom wasn't in the band, so that doesn't count. Ohh, we played with the Van Pelt once when they were still around and that was breathtaking.
Some Sunday's Best history... How long have you been together?
Tom : I've been in the band a little over a year, the band had been together at least a year previously.
Pedro : A little over 2 years... I think... no that's right.
Have you gone through any line-up changes?
Tom : Ian used to play drums and a guy named Mike used to play guitar. Ian switched and I joined on drums.
Well, cool! That about covers it, except for the "Lame Interview Question"... where does the band name come from?
Tom : It's an Elvis Costello song.
Pedro : It's the Elvis Costello song.
The interview over, I'm at home, listening to Sunday's Best. Just the music, and I feel like I can do anything. The music gets under me, and I'm gone. I can fly.