Six Questions for The Paradise Eaters

Paradise Eaters, CD ReleaseThe Paradise Eaters have a long history of music making and over the years have gone through many changes.  After years of playing live, jamming, writing and seeing band mates come and go, in addition to working full time jobs, The Paradise Eaters will release their first album, Dream Another Way at the end of the month.  The release party will take place at Monte’s in the Prince George Hotel at 2pm on Saturday, January 25th 2014.  Cover is $8 at the door and includes food.  $20 will get you food and a CD.

1. The Paradise Eaters has been a project in the making for many years. Members have come and gone and songs have developed along the way. Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band and how it has come to its current incarnation? How have the ups and downs and changes in personnel affected the final versions of these songs?

Andy: As a whole band we have been playing together since the spring of 2012, however, Phil Wright, who plays drums and I have been playing in the same band since roughly 2002, when we met at a small house party jam session. I instantly recognized Phil’s ability for what it is (we call him Cool Hand Luke) because he has such a great feel on the kit and we actually have to ask him to overplay sometimes. There is lots of water under the proverbial bridge since Phil’s and my introduction. We played together with another bass player, Karne Kozolanka, who was learning to play bass while we played. During this time all of us went through some major life trauma’s including the suicide of one of my close friends. As most writers probably know, the darker times in one’s life tend to be more productive, if you are not in any kind of writing groove, writing comes easy when you’re trying to sort things out.

I met Frank Carone in 2008 at an Open Mic at Starbucks in Indigo hosted by Simon Handley. The scene was pretty neat, although not many people got to hear what happened there, something that seems rare at open mics was going on. We would all play along with everyone else and thought it would be great to put a band together at one point. This proved difficult to pull off and in the end Frank Carone joined with Phil, Karne and I. Bringing Frank in was neat because it added another layer of instrumentation. Frank plays lots of different things including trumpet, hand drums, harmonica, and sings. Karne dropped out at this point and was replaced by Doug Rooks, who plays with the Kingston Symphony among other jazz projects. We all were surprised that he stuck with us as long as we did. Our first gig with Doug was opening the Save our Prison Farms show at the Sydenham Street Church. Rick joined us in 2012 for the Homegrown Festival and shortly after Doug quit because he was becoming too busy to hold down all of the roles in various bands that he was playing in and his true passion is Jazz.

The impact all of these changes have had on the band is pretty substantial. The early stuff is pretty raw, it has energy, intensity and spontaneity, but with the addition of Frank and Rick to the line up, my own song writing has improved dramatically. Frank comes up with chord progressions that I just don’t think of on my own. Doug had a fairly profound influence on our arrangements and he taught us all how to play quieter. With Rick, we probably have the ideal mix for what we are trying to do. He has an incredible sense of rhythm, and he knows how to make people dance. He and Phil work really hard to lock into each other which, makes a great canvas for Frank and I to play and sing over.

 2. How would you describe the music of The Paradise Eaters to someone who has never heard the band? What kind of show can we expect at Monte’s on January 25th? Will there be dancing? Swaying? A quiet audience or some rowdiness? Perhaps a bit of all of the above?

Frank: at first listen PE sounds familiar – like putting on CD from the 90′s , however you realize that the lyrics and the sound is relevant to today’ sensibilities.

Rick: Folk/rock fusion with a splash of funk.  You can expect a lively show with several original songs and perhaps a few covers.  Rowdiness is unlikely (it is an afternoon show, after all) but swaying and/or dancing will definitely be on the menu.

Phil: Rick nailed it.

Andy: Well, as probably is more than cliché, our band is a mix of all kinds of genres. We like electric guitars, we like to improvise and we all really like a good groove. We are always looking for ways to make the arrangements more interesting and dynamic. As far as lyrical content, it’s pretty serious I think. Lyrics are a release for me, I write about what I see going on and what I think about. I’ve been really trying to work on the idea in my lyrics lately that if you say something negative, you have to figure out a way to put a silver lining in it and I am pretty interested in the idea of being mindful and conscious in our decisions.

The title track on our album is called Dream Another Way. I wrote the lyrics after I watched a documentary by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis called The Take about some workers in South America who were locked out of their jobs and the factory was closed. Instead of doing nothing, they bought out the factory and reopened it as a worker owned cooperative. To me, we seem like were stuck in a pattern, we are all dreaming this same dream, and its not working. We need to be thinking about other ways to live, and it turns out there are some pretty cool ideas out there.

To describe what we sound like, my favourite song on the album is called Lions (rules for radicals). The song starts with a big chorus, goes into a Led Zeppelin style breakdown, holds down a salsa beat for a while, with Chris Alfano ( a great local woodwind player) alternating between Flute and Alto Sax and ends with an all out punk crescendo. Other songs mix psychedelia and folk style sounds, while others have some heavy bass lines that end up in some dub style jam outs.

As far as what the audience will be doing…hopefully they will be dancing to some degree or another. Our first performance together in this iteration of the band was great. People were dancing, and we were shocked because much of our past performances were mostly friends watching and listening supportively tapping their toes. I would encourage people to dance if they felt moved to do so. It’s such a freeing experience to dance to live music.

3. This band is made up of people who all have other jobs and projects on the go (as most bands do). Can you tell us a bit about what each band member does when they’re not playing with The Paradise Eaters?

Frank: I am a Certified Tai Chi Instructor and Meridian Therapist – He practices a rare form of Shiatsu and comes with a Traditional Chinese and Western Medical background. He has also worked in advertising as a photographer and producer in Toronto, his home town.

Rick: I work for Queen’s in the Scheduling Department

Phil: I am a landscape designer. I work for the Clermont group doing landscape design.

Andy: I am a high school teacher. I have been teaching at La Salle since 2001 and love it. Its probably one of the most rewarding jobs I can think of. Everyday is interesting, and kids are great. Their energy is contagious and they like to laugh which is a great way to spend a day. My other paid gig is as a Whitewater Canoe instructor. I spend a couple of weeks a summer guiding and training people to run rapids in canoes. It’s a blast!

4. With so many years of working at your music, taking lessons, changing up band members, how did you decide which tunes would make it onto your first album?

Andy: That’s not an easy question to answer, but a couple of things influenced the choice. We put most of the new stuff that we had in a polished form on the album. Lions was actually finally thrown together in the form it is now a couple of weeks before going into the studio. Surface to Believe, Conspiracy Meltor, Al Capone, and Los Angeles were all written to some degree or another with Frank and Doug who also came up with the chord progression to the chorus of Los Angeles. The other choices were harder, but really it came down to what felt good while rehearsing. We wanted music that best reflected who we are now and as a band we probably had at least a whole other album’s worth of original material that we had played live when we went to the studio. We are still coming up with new stuff now. It’s actually an interesting writing time for me. Things are pretty stable in my world right now, but I have lots of ideas floating around in my head. Every time I sit down with Frank we come up with something, and with Rick and Phil playing the way they are every rehearsal is a struggle to try and stick to the programme of keeping older stuff together and working through newer stuff. There is only so much time in the day. So in answer to the question we tried to put stuff together that best represented the scope of what we do as a band on a limited budget.

5. You’re a teacher at LaSalle and a venue coordinator for The Homegrown Music Festival, which raises funds for Joe’s MILL. Although the MILL is for everyone, there is a lot of focus on young people who are learning to play music. Clearly kids and teens are a big part of your life. How does your work with them influence your own music making and theirs?

Andy: Well, for me in high school music saved me. I love athletics and I like learning, but I never really felt like I was part of those scenes. I enjoy sports, but some things about team sports really turned me off, especially in high school. I started taking guitar with Dave Barton when I was in grade 10 and that changed my world substantially. I was always drawn to music and the guitar from a somewhat early age. But what really worked for me was playing in a band and playing with other people. It was one place at the time where I felt comfortable. What I learned early on was that music was a way of understanding the world around us and myself in it, I have some pretty early memories of my Dad playing Simon and Garfunkle, especially a pretty chilling version of Silent Night where there is all kinds of media going on commenting on the Vietnam war. At Bayridge, there was a great Coffee House Scene. There were lots of great bands. Phil actually was a couple of years ahead of me, but I remembered him from Coffeehouses when we met. What made it neat was that most people were playing and writing original music. Barton encouraged it. You couldn’t play unless you played at least one song that you wrote. This spirit was something I wanted to share in my teaching.

Anyway, when I got to La Salle there wasn’t any space for kids to play music that I knew of other than band class, but it turned out that there were lots of bands. Another colleague dragged me out to Inverary to judge a battle of the bands. There were at least three different bands from La Salle there and they had no where to play at school. Karne (original bass player) and I started coffee houses at lunch and eventually decided to move to the evenings so more kids could play. We played too, and kids learned from us that it was okay to make mistakes. These coffeehouses were amazing, we really worked hard to make it into a learning atmosphere, and some pretty phenomenal talent came out of them. Probably the most valuable part of it though is that their was a space for kids to be themselves in different ways then the day to day goings on in the school halls and classes. Kids have to be allowed to be different and to experiment with their identity and there is lots of that at the Coffee House. Are you going to be a rocker? A folky? A country singer? What’s sad right now is that there is a real lull. There are still kids playing music and there are some really talented ones doing this, but, there is not the same energy and way less kids involved which is kind of scary. I am trying to think of what has changed.

Supporting Joe’s Mill is not a tough decision. In my own head supporting local stuff is a big deal. Musical instruments can be inaccessible for some because they are expensive. Libraries make sense because we need less stuff to keep them a float. Everyone who wants to play drums doesn’t have to buy a drum set to figure out if they like it or not. Music isn’t for everyone, it takes a lot of work to get to a point where you can make a sound that sounds like more than just noise for people and if you can borrow instruments before you get started you can protect yourself from the costs of buying new. In the future it’s going to be the only way to do things. Also giving kids more access to musical instruments makes lots of sense in my mind for all the reasons stated in my above ramble about coffee houses.

What is interesting to think about though is the way the world is going in general. I know music stores in town are also struggling, having had many conversations with various owners in town, no one is buying musical instruments (at least not at the same rate they used to). The recession is hitting those stores hard, and they are having a hard time staying open. There are probably lots of reasons for this, but I think if you look downtown it’s pretty obvious that people aren’t spending money like they used to. The weird irony is that this is probably good… but people have to work to put food on their tables and roofs over their heads.

Most of this doesn’t really answer your question, but the short answer is, people are creative by nature, they need to be doing creative things to feel like they have meaningful lives. The sooner kids figure that out, the better off they are and anything we can do to help them get there is what we should be doing. The political end of all this is what influences my writing, and the kids of course keep me young, which is probably why I still prefer electric guitar to acoustic instruments. Although to be honest I am listening to less and less new music. It’s missing something. For kids, they just need a space to be creative. Once they have that space its amazing what happens.

6. Kingston is rich in great recording studios and sound engineers. You decided to do this recording at North of Princess Studios with Zane Whitfield – known for working with many bands both local and otherwise such as The Gertrudes, Ianspotting, Shark Tank, The Swamp Ward Orchestra, Megan Hamilton and Rueben DeGroot to name a few. What made you choose NOP and what sets it apart from other studios?

Well to be honest I have only been in one other studio in town. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out recording on my own. Its fun, and at school we have the stuff to record kids who want to record, so learning how to record just made sense. That being said, I am not really happy with anything that I have ever done on my own for myself. I think it’s pretty hard to record your own music and engineer it and produce it. We spent some time before Rick was in the band with Gene Rankin, who is an awesome guy. He has a studio out in the north north end, and he does some amazing stuff in it. He has built his own plate reverb, which is amazing. We never finished with Gene. We got some great stuff down and we never got it to an end point, the project got too big for all of us. I wanted to finish an album in a studio, and I heard Zane had built this really cool space called North of Princess Studios. I went to Zane to check out the space, and it is a beautiful space, but it’s not the space that makes it special, it turns out that Zane is an awesome guy, and when I sat down to talk to him about recording in the space, I found myself agreeing with him a lot. We got along really well and saw things the same ways and in the end it was a wild experience because it felt really creative. We did the album in about 24 or 25 hours of time I think…And it was really intense and fun. We basically played everything off of the floor except for a few guitars here and there, backing vocals, trumpet, Chris Alfano’s parts, and most of my guitar solos. We wanted five good songs for a demo, we got through the allotted time and six more hours got us a whole album. Zane works quick, everything he added made things better, his turn around time was amazing, he likes Bengal Spice Tea and he was good with all of us. He wasn’t afraid to say if something didn’t work so it was super easy. I think what we did speaks for Zane’s abilities to reign us in and at the same time let us all take off. I am really happy with the way the music sounds. Its fun to hear our music the way I think it sounds when we rehearse and perform coming back at us on a cd which I think is no easy feat.

 

 

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