Q: Can you guys each introduce yourselves so we can have voice distinctions later? (It's common practice in radio interviews to start with this, so you later know who's talking.)
Michael: I'm Michael Lennon.
Michael: We have a running joke about our last name being hard to pronounce. I'm Michael Lennon.
Mark: I'm Michael's brother, Mark Lennon.
Kipp: I'm their cousin, Kipp Lennon.
Pat: I'm their cousin and Kipp's brother, Pat Lennon.
Kipp: There you go.
Michael: We are Venice.
Q: Let's start off with the single. Whoever wants to talk about "If I Were You," what the song's about? Is that even going to be the single?
Kipp: Yeah, I think that's the single.
Michael: Kipp can talk about what it's about.
Kipp: "If I Were You," I guess, was chosen as the single because it represents the band the most, and it gets pretty much the most reaction of any of the songs in our whole show. And it starts off with all four of us singing, and you really get that Venice sound right away. And people seem to react really great to it when we do the shows and everything.
Q: And what's it about?
Kipp: Oh right, what it's about. It's sort of, really, when you're saying "If I were you," you're talking to yourself, you know, to your higher self, saying, "If I were my best person, this is what I would really be. I would do all these different things that I keep saying I would do. And I would hold people accountable for bad things they do, including myself. And I would strive to be all these different things. If I were you." Like, "If I were driving the boat," basically. Because a lot of times, you feel like you waste all this time, and you do all this stupid stuff when you could, if you were just in charge and you really took charge of your life, you could be a higher version of yourself. So that's sort of what the song's about. It's really "If I Were Me."
Michael: If I had the guts to do what I want.
Q: I get it. So, why did it take seven years to get this album out?
Michael: I think the main reason was just, we were going through artistic changes and member changes and things like that. And it kind of evolved to right before when we started making the record, to the members that we are now, to coming back to the four of us Lennons as the main group. And just timing. I think the timing's right. We kind of had to evolve into the new Venice that we're at now. We really all feel really comfortable in our own skin right now. And before, we would always feel like we were almost there, but we weren't quite finding
Pat: Trying to please too many other people.
Michael: Yeah. We finally made this record, you know, it was like, for us, and what we wanted, and what everyone involved in the record, even the guys that are just the musicians. Using their input and just pulling the best out of everyone. I think it just took that long to get to this point.
Kipp: It's like Pat said. This is the album we've been wanting to make all these years. Not necessarily even our first album. Our first album was like a rehearsal for making a great album. We worked with great people and everybody was really nice, and the label was nice and whatever, but it just wasn't the right combination at the right time.
Michael: I think it didn't mature until now. It had to mature and age like a nice fine wine.
Kipp: So if somebody had told us seven years ago, "It's going to be another seven years until you're on your next album," we probably would have went, "No, no way!" But now that we're doing it, it feels really right.
Michael: And we had to go through everything that we went through. As much as we look back and think, "God, that was a nightmare! Remember when we did this, or we had to deal with that?" Now, it's like, I look back and I go, "Yeah, but that's what made us do it different this time. And that's what made us not get into that same trap." So we're looking at it in a positive way, that we got that behind us and that's kind of like building our foundation for what we are now.
Kipp: We went through phases, even, where we weren't necessarily ashamed, but we were sort of trying to downplay how great our vocals were, because sometimes it made us stand so far apart from other bands that it seemed like we were too slick or too, I don't know what, too sweet, when we were trying to have more integrity. And we were going through stages of trying to be more rock, or more this or more that. Within the confines of what we are, but still, we were leaning towards more rock. And now, we've really gotten to this place where we realize it's We always knew it was our strength, but we're embracing it now even more, and then incorporating all our rock influences and soul influences, and lots of other things. To the point where now we're just proud of everything on this new album. It just feels like the best version of us.
Q: I was going to ask about the fact that, for a long time, you guys did the electric shows and the acoustic shows, and it was almost like two different bands singing the same songs.
Mark: When we did the electric shows and then the acoustic shows, it almost drew two different crowds. And now that we've combined both, we've combined both crowds, and it pleases everybody.
Michael: The electric / acoustic thing started out because we were playing an acoustic-type club that was too small for the electric show, and we were playing a club like The Troubadour that didn't warrant sitting down and playing lullabyes, acousticy songs. Because you wanted to take the energy level up. People were standing, we wanted to stand, we wanted to give them a show. So it started two different shows, which we then realized, "We're not just going to be playing these two clubs, we've got to decide what we're doing." Because people can see us at one club and then come see us at the other club and go, "Wow, I like this or I like that." So we kind of combined them. And now it's kind of a combination.
Q: And it did seem that the acoustic shows were more popular.
Michael: Yeah. I think it's the bare rawness of it, and the vulnerability of just us being out there with not a lot of stuff going on, not a lot of sound level, not a lot of screaming guitars and everything, competing with everything else. We're best at just being out there raw with a couple of guitars and a good backbeat groove, and just singing, and just real and organic.
Kipp: That's one of our strengths, is that you can play our songs around a campfire. You don't need it to be bombastic or anything. But also, we can make it that way and it's got that energy.
Michael: And to this day, we'll still step up a song. Like "If I Were You," totally acoustic. If we were doing a stadium, I probably would plug in an electric guitar. Pat would plug one in. "Okay, just for tonight, let's just go to the wall!" So it's not saying we don't do that. We do.
Kipp: There's no rules, really. We're just having fun. Our main thing now is just to have fun with it. Like the other night, we played at The Troubadour in the farewell show for KSCA, and there were 600 people that had never seen us before, and there's 1000 people outside the doors. And so we stepped it up a notch. Normally we might start with our stools or whatever, and we just went out and just took everything up a knotch, and the energy was just amazing. It's like Michael says, we adapt to different shows. But at least now, it's all
Kipp: It's all consistently the same band. You're right though, because the acoustic shows used to outdraw the electric shows like two-to-one. And I think it took us a while to realize that there's just as much power in a good James Taylor song as there is in a good Led Zepplin song.
Kipp: In its own way. A Led Zeppelin song might make you just party and go nuts, and there's a place for that, certainly, but there's also a place for just turning on your stereo in your room and identifying with the lyric or the melody, that a lot of Led Zeppelin songs couldn't do. So I think we're realizing the strengths in both those things, and trying to combine it.
Q: But the album definitely favors the softer side. Are you guys comfortable with that? Obviously the audience prefers the acoustic sound, but how about you guys?
Michael: The album is what we are. We wouldn't have done it if we weren't comfortable with it, and I feel like we wanted to make it that because, like I said before, that's what we've evolved to over these years, finding our niche in where we felt comfortable and where our strengths were. So we based it around that, definitely.
Q: So back to what you were saying about this album being more of what the band is than the last one, that brings us to you (Michael) producing it, instead of bringing in Danny Kortchmar, who insists on playing on some tracks Can you talk about that aspect? Was that part of the same line of thinking?
Michael: Yeah, I think this new record deal with a smaller, independent label, number one, the whole attitude of it was more back-to-basics and more back to just following our own hearts and trusting our own instincts as to what we felt like we should be doing, and what we felt comfortable doing. And although I don't have a lot of experience producing people and things like that, I've been working with this band since its conception. So I feel like the band and I, especially myself, have the best ideas as to what we are and what we need to pull out of it, and setting the boundaries. We all kind of know the boundaries now. I think that was the key. Finding where we're comfortable and where we shine.
Pat: It was also really comfortable just working with ourselves, as opposed to the big producer and the big studio where you're spending whatever it is per day.
Kipp: Yeah, you're on somebody else's time clock.
Pat: We did it in our studio and also in the another studio down in Vista.
Mark: Yeah, because we spent quite a lot of money on our first album, and this album we spent money only where it was needed, and saved so much more money.
Kipp: And we had so much more fun!
Mark: And had so much more fun, exactly. It was so much more relaxed.
Michael: It was just more relaxed. It was almost as if we were just at a Venice rehearsal, and we just were recording it this time. And a lot of the songs were new arrangements and new songs that some of the other musicians had never heard. And we worked them out and within three takes, we were onto the next song. We cut 18 songs in like 8 days. That's two weeks, but really 8 days of working. So it was pretty amazing.
Kipp: Basic tracks, you know.
Michael: Basic tracks, yeah.
Kipp: And I think the inception of the idea was sort of like, when we put out "Garage Demos," you know, our CDs, (put out independently and sold at shows), and we realized that a lot of those songs, even though they were just demos, conceptually, just were more like us. Even though they weren't up to the standard of this new album, still, there was something in those that wasn't in our first album. They weren't over-thought and over-produced and over-money-spent or anything, you know? And we realized, Michael was the one who produced all those things. And it just made sense. And what was great was to get with a label who said, "Okay." They didn't say, "Okay, but I think Hotshot Jones needs to come help out." You know what I mean? It was just like, "Okay." They just went with it. And they saw that we sold four thousand of our CDs locally, and they thought, "This has got to click around the nation." And going away and going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting up at a reasonable hour, and eating meals together.
Mark: Jumping in the pool and going for a hike when you're not needed, and then you're rested up for when you are needed to sing your part, or to play your guitar part.
Kipp: Right. You break for lunch and you listen to what you've done, and then you go, "You know what? We could do that better." Or, "That's cool, we could fix that little bit."
Mark: And the whole time Michael was producing, he was always asking our opinion. Or we just knew we could give it without him saying, "I'm producing this album!" It was always
Michael: Yeah. I was more just kind of like the coach. Just getting everyone to get out there and sit down and "Let's get started" and "Let's go back in and listen to it." I was kind of just organizing it, like a movie producer, almost. And that is producing a record. But I feel like I evolved as a producer, as well, over the years. Whereas before, I would think, "You've got to make it big, and we have to compete with this and compete with that." Now, I'm a totally different approach, just saying, "Do what we do and do it really good, and just keep it all honest and keep it out front, so that there's nothing masking anything." It is what you hear. We are what you hear on the record.
Kipp: We aren't pretending to be a part of any era or demographic or anything.
Michael: There's no elaborate production. I'm not trying to do any tricks or pull out the next new vocal sound. I just try to be as real as possible with everything.
Kipp: And what sounds fun to us, you know?
Michael: Pull the best out of everyone.
Mark: Our earlier stuff, we did a lot of overdubs, or a lot of doubling of parts, and it sounded beautiful, it was very well produced, but it didn't sound like us live. So now with these brand new mikes and new cables and new recording equipment, we transferred that sound of us live, onto tape, and used a miniscule amount of effects and echo. We barely used anything. It's a really live sound.
Kipp: It's rarely ever more than four voices on the tape, the whole album.
Michael: Yeah, we're not doubling the background parts of anything. It's all single track. There's a few special effects, like background aahs or something that we might have doubled for a sound, but
Mark: But definitely 95 to 98 percent
Michael: The choruses on the songs, and the harmonies, the verses, all of that stuff is single track vocals, each guy on a microphone. And we've never done that before.
Kipp: A lot of times when we got with other producers, they would hear our vocals and right away, they would go, "Oh, I can't wait to produce that!" And they'd go, "Let's double it, let's triple it!"
Michael: And turn us into Queen, you know? Sounds great, but
Mark: And we love Queen.
Michael: But, you know
Kipp: Lots of bands can do that. If you double it or triple it
Michael: Yeah, you get the lead singer to double, triple, quadruple himself, he's going to sound good. Or it's going to sound big.
Kipp: Also, what's great is that we're a family. And I guess some people would say that's a curse, but in our family, it works a different way. I know the Kinks or the Black Crowes or whoever, everybody argues in the studio. But for us, it makes it easier to communicate. You don't have to worry about the producer going, "Uh, excuse me. Would it be okay if we try one more?" Or him just laying down the law on the vocal, or whatever. Instead, it's like, Mark will be in the middle of a vocal and Michael will go, "Do that thing you did, remember that other thing you did from before? The di di di di di?" And then Mark would go, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Go, go, go, go." And the engineer will just be laughing, because he's so used to working with people where you have to have a certain
Michael: Or I can just be blunt and say, "That's horrible!"
Mark: Because he's my brother, he can just go, "Oh, phew, that stinks!" Or I'll sing it back to him, "Ahhhhh!" Is that what you want to sound like?
Kipp: Yeah, exactly! Mark will go, "Is that right?" And you'll go, "Ahhhhh!" And we'll all start laughing.
Michael: It sounds cruel, but we all just end up laughing, and it kind of relaxes everyone and then we just keep working. There's no attitudes or anything, that's for sure.
Kipp: Shut up.
Michael: Stick it.
Mark: Yeah, we're very lucky. We do nothing but laugh hard
Michael: Shut up!
Mark: ..and work hard. (Michael starts poking Mark) Don't!
Q: Do you feel that that adds to the harmony, too? Because my mother is in a barbershop quartet, and I'm always hearing from her that you can't just take four singers and expect the voices to automatically blend. So do you guys feel that the fact that you're family kind of lends itself to your voices blending?
Mark: Of course. Absolutely.
Kipp: Physically, obviously, it does. I mean, there's that physical thing where we all
Michael: We'll all have the same vibrato.
Kipp: Weird stuff that even, like, Manhattan Transfer, people that are amazing singers, they have an incredible blend, sometimes they do stuff that we couldn't even do, but there's a certain family sound where it all just locks up and it's like, we all came from the same parents.
Pat: There's times, also, that I cannot tell them apart. In the studio. Mark will be singing, and I go, "Is that Kipp or is that Mark?" Michael goes, "I know, I couldn't tell either."
Kipp: We have very distinctive solo singing voices, but there's just something that happens. We all know how to sing together. There are times, over the years, when we'll be in the middle of a song and we'll all end at the same time, or we'll end a breath at the same time, and nobody ever puts their hand up, or tells us what to sing, we just do it. We just do it. And that's something that we didn't always appreciate completely. I mean, we always just took it for granted. But then when other singers come up and say, "I've been singing in a group for years, and we never got that blend like that."
Mark: Right. Or "You guys sound like you have a tape of some sampled vocals on stage." And it's like, "Nope, that was all us."
Kipp: There's been times even, truthfully, when I've wished that we weren't quite so tight. Because you listen to The Beatles or something, and it's all these, like, three very quirky singers, and they make a very distinctive blend.
Mark: Right, like Crosby, Stills and Nash, three different sounds and you can say, "That's him, that's him, that's him."
Kipp: Whereas all of us sometimes sound like one guy singing all these parts.
Kipp: Which, after a while, we just realized that's cool.
Michael: Well, it's just a different sound.
Kipp: Yeah, it's a different sound.
Michael: And The Beach Boys were that kind of thing.
Kipp: Yeah, exactly. And we're proud of it.
Michael: It's great.
Q: So, I wanted to ask you about the fact that you guys have a sound that's hard to categorize. In a business where it's so important to put labels on everything, being unique can almost be the kiss of death. What's been your experience with that?
Kipp: Kiss of death.
Michael: Well, I think the new album and the most recent sound, and you guys can jump in and pull my hair out if I'm wrong, would be a folk rock soul.
Mark: Get him! Pull his hair out!
Q: But in a good way
Michael: In a great way, yeah. I mean, it's like folky. It's definitely rock and roll, because that's the live show. We love rock and roll. It's just got that underlying, I just feel like there's a lot of ethnic-type groove. It's very percussive, and it's got a pulse to it.
Mark: It's like Venice is a melting pot in itself, of cultures and music. We were raised on soul as well as folk, as well as rock.
Kipp: I think that's what separates us. People say "Southern California Sound." Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash and all that. And we have a lot of that. You can't get away from that, especially with harmonies, anyway. But we have so much more than that, because we're influenced by so much more than just those groups.
Michael: They were part of it, but there was also the Santana type, it's like rock, but it's got this ethnic groove to it.
Mark: Right, and the Stevie Wonder ballads.
Kipp: Yeah, tons of stuff. So I think that's where our influence What you were saying about, "Is that a hindrance, is that a kiss of death or whatever," only with industry people. Because plain old people that like our style of music, or that have an affinity for our type of music - someone who is really into hardcore grunge or something isn't necessarily going to like what we're doing - but there's a huge group of people who like the kind of music we do. And they don't care what label you are or what group you're from or whatever. They just stand there and they listen, and they say, "Great show, I wish I could buy an album from you guys. Where have you guys been, blah blah blah." Because they like our kind of music. And they don't care about demographics and all that stuff. It's mostly just industry people and getting our feet in the right doors. Because they say, "Oh, well, this isn't what's on the charts right now." Meantime, nobody likes us but the public. So that kind of thing.
Q: Well, what's important anyway?
Mark: Yeah, exactly. But who's in charge of getting you out there is the people that have the say-so, and they're so afraid of where to put you, instead of just going with it and saying, "I want a finders fee for putting these guys out there."
Michael: I think the key to that, also, is that any band that's come along and made a name for itself and become the new hot thing, the new number one, is a band that didn't sound like anyone else, and couldn't have a label put on them. Suddenly Nirvana comes out, and then everyone's that sound. Now we're all signing that band. Now, "Venice isn't grunge, so we're not looking for that, we're looking for more grunge." So The Beatles, U2, even Culture Club, everyone that broke new ground was always something that was like, "What? What are you talking about? A guy that dresses like a girl? You're crazy!" Suddenly, boom, it's the next big thing
Mark: And then everyone tries to be like them.
Michael: And people think people want to be force-fed the white bread or whatever. But people are ready for something new, and they like to hear something different. It's not like we're breaking all this new ground or anything, but it's a unique sound because of the combination of influences that there are.
Kipp: And because nobody else is doing it anymore.
Michael: Yeah, nobody's doing it right now. I mean, there's a lot of groups, I feel, that are doing the same type of music, but they're not singing with four guys, four part harmony, and the guys are related. It's a different sound. I think the harmonies are definitely what sets it apart more, but it's a combination of the harmonies with the music that we're doing that really - is going to make us number one!
Q: That's definitely the right attitude to take, because it would be so easy to just say, "You know what, we're talented. This over here is what makes money. We could do that." So to really stick to your guns
Kipp: But there are times, when we were growing up and we'd have different bands and we'd try and pursue different things, just like anybody, you'd have different hairstyles
Michael: Even within the last seven years, we'd go through things of, like, "Okay now, how are we going to do this? And what's the new record deal going to be? And how are we going to break through this?" And like we said earlier, it just took that seven years
Kipp: What almost happened, the band almost broke up about two years ago, because we were just getting frustrated for exactly those reasons you pointed out.
Michael: It was dead in the water.
Kipp: It was like, "Nobody in the business appreciates what's going on. We have our crowd and that's great, and we love performing locally, but no one appreciates it, and maybe we should just call it quits. We'll never get in the door." And we had to get right up to that brink and look into the abyss to appreciate what we're all about.
Michael: What are we giving up here?
Kipp: And we just fell and we regrouped, and we thought, "This is what we're about." And we put out the CDs ("Garage Demos"), and we did all these different things, and then that's when we signed with Vanguard. Instead of knocking on a hundred doors of major labels, and saying, "Please, I know we're different, but blah blah blah," we just went with some really cool label with real people who really appreciated what our music is about. And so what if they're not a major label and we don't right away get added to MTV the first day? We don't care. We just want to play for as many people as we can.
Michael: Give us a fair chance and let us be in the business and spread our music to as many people as want to buy it.
Kipp: Exactly. If we can sell enough records to make another records, then that's great. Anything else is gravy. I mean, we want to be big and we want to tour the world and all that stuff, but it's just nice to be a part of the business, and be on a label and have a chance.
Mark: Right. Sell enough just to get by to make the next album. Like he said.
Pat: And to buy a fur coat.
Kipp: Fake fur, of course.
Q: So, you guys probably had, what, forty, fifty songs to choose some? Something like that? More?
Michael: We narrowed it down. Yeah, we had that many songs, probably. We have forty songs, maybe, since the last record. But we definitely knew that we were going to cut it down to twenty songs, and then choose from those twenty. We ended up recording eighteen, and choosing sixteen.
Pat: We were going to cut it down to fourteen, I think, but we just said, "They're too good."
Michael: And it's been so long, that we should have like a double album on one CD. No one's ever done that.
Kipp: We finally decided, we know it's a lot of information, and it's a lot of songs, and all that kind of stuff, but these are the songs that represent this little time capsule of where Venice was in the Summer of '96, and where we are right now. And this is what it is. And in the same way, when we picked the sequence of songs. You could maybe start off with a song that's a little more high energy, to get those people at the listening stands in the record stores, but in a way, these are like bookends. Starting off with "That's the Way It Is," it sort of draws you in. It almost says, "Okay, relax, drop everything else you've got going in your day, and just listen to this song." It pulls you in. Almost like the way we got pulled in with k.d. lang's album. Or certain albums that have a famous beginning, from when you're a kid. You put it in and you go, "Ah." That's the way this felt to us.
Mark: It's almost like Enigma or something. It draws you in and takes you on a journey.
Michael: Or even "Sgt. Pepper," starts with an orchestra kind of tuning, and you're kind of like, "Ooh, what is that?"
Kipp: And it isn't even that we calculated that. I mean, that's how it feels to us. We're hoping it feels that way to other people.
Mark: And a lot of bands put their first single on the first track, and maybe their second single on the second, and then leave all the leftovers
Michael: We thought of the overall picture of what story we're going to tell.
Mark: Yeah, the story we're going to tell, and what they sound like going in and out of each other. So it's like a journey. Sometimes you're in the desert. Sometimes you're in the forest. Sometimes you're being chased by a big monster.
Michael: (imitating Mark) Sometimes you're cold. Sometimes you're warm.
Kipp: And "That's the Way It Is," that song, we wrote in Vista, the place where we recorded the album, and so it really reminds us of that whole Summery kind of vibe. And it's got that feeling to it, that almost like that Brian Wilson surf music kind of vibe to it.
Mark: Right. And what the song's about even kind of represents us almost breaking up, but back together, doing what came naturally to us. And it feels so right now.
Michael: "Back where we belong."
Kipp: "Back where we belong." Exactly.
Q: So, I'm curious. What were the two that almost made it?
Kipp: There's a handful. There's "Circle of Life."
Michael: "My Woman," "Circle of Life," and a song called "Party's Over" that we've never done live.
Kipp: Right. And "Only Love I Had."
Michael: That wasn't in the eighteen.
Kipp: That was in the twenty, right. And "Again." That song Michael sings called "Again."
Michael: Those are probably the final five that didn't make it.
Kipp: There's a few that we know that we're still probably going to do. "My Own House."
Mark: "Girl In 204." There's certain songs that if we really want to be bad, we could pull up sixteen more songs from our past, redo them, make them perfect, and not have to write any songs. But it's kind of fun to write.
Kipp: Yeah. Probably the next album will have a smattering of the other songs, because we still really love a lot of those songs.
Mark: And then when we do our solo albums, like Kiss, then it'll be jammed full of all the ones didn't record.
Kipp: And then Pat's is going to be Whoa.
Michael: Just the makeup alone.
Q: So, over the years, a lot of songs have come and gone quickly, like "I Swear" and "Take Me Far Away." Is that a process of experimenting? Did they not feel right?
Kipp: It kind of just happens really naturally. It's really weird. It's very unspoken.
Pat: And it's almost like no one talks about it. All of a sudden, it's just kind of gone. We only do it two or three times, and we just won't feel right about the song.
Mark: It usually comes down to two reasons. One is it doesn't really fit the overall sound of Venice. Because already, we're diverse and slow, up to rock and roll, and kind of an R & B undertone pulsing ethnic thing. With songs like "Take Me Far Away," it got a great response, everyone would run down and dance to it and go, "Oh, I love that song," but sometimes as far as getting a record deal or whatever, that's what we were more looking at.
Kipp: Trying to focus it more.
Mark: Yeah, just trying to focus what our sound is. And then there'd be songs that do match the Venice sound, but the crowd wasn't going as nuts, or people weren't coming up and saying, "That's my favorite, that's my favorite."
Kipp: We don't totally base it on the audience reaction, because at some point, you have to be the artist and say, "Yeah, but this is what we're about." But you just get a vibe. You do it a few times, and like Mark said, you can appreciate it as a well crafted song, but after a while you go, "You know what? It's just not Venice. It's not what Venice is."
Mark: Or recorded well, but it doesn't transfer live because we don't have that one little instrument we were playing around with. It's a bunch of reasons.
Michael: And a lot of them could be, now that we've found this new sound and we're in this new place with the new record, I feel like I'm a lot better at visualizing or hearing the way some of these other songs could have been done to where they could have fallen into the same basket of songs, as opposed to being that one weird guitar sound on one song, with this weird drum beat on that one song, could have been pulled together by just production. So it's not out of the question that some of these older songs that miss the first boat might not catch the second one.
Q: You're talking about "Very Real?"
Michael: Yeah. And the recording of that is like a drum machine, which we'd never done.
Mark: Yeah, that made the CDs, but it's just because I pushed for it.
Kipp: It's also a band. You know what I mean? So there are going to be times. There are still songs along the way that have been dropped, that for me are so personal, it's like, "I wish we did that song again." One song we only did once, and it's one of my favorite songs I ever wrote, but the rest of the band didn't like it as much as I did, or it didn't fit the way I thought it fit. So you just carry that with you, and that's part of being in a band. There's going to be times when things drop by the wayside.
Mark: Right. They're very personal to you, but
Kipp: Yeah. You thought those pants looked good on you until everybody said You know what I mean. That's part of being in a band. It's the process. I suppose if we were solo artists, we'd have a bunch of albums with some songs that you cringe at now or whatever, because at the time, you thought it was cool, and it didn't really fit. Or you'd still like them. Who knows?
Mark: Right. And there are a couple of songs on this album that we felt, "God, we've heard them so many times, and we have these new songs." But then you've got to think of the big picture. These songs have always got a great response, and there's people all over the United States that haven't even gotten a chance to hear it. So that made the cut, and a brand new one that we love, didn't.
Kipp: Right. We have some brand new ones that didn't make it, but then "Bad Timing Song" or "Rivers Never Run," things we've been doing for a while, "Time On My Hands," "Circus In Town," we wanted to put those on the album because we realized so many other people hadn't heard them. We're still proud of them.
Q: Right. But it is kind of heavy towards the new songs. Was "Garage Demos" part of that? Were you concerned about the fact that the Los Angeles fans already owned a good part of the collection, and here's some stuff they don't?
Kipp: No, we couldn't be concerned with that, because you're really only talking about four thousand people at the most that have these. Which is a lot of people, I'm not saying we have a small following, but we had to look at the big picture all the time. Because that was a consideration. Every once in a while we'd be talking and Mike would say, "Oh, but we've played that song so many times for everybody," or, "They already have the CD. They can listen to the CD." And then we go, "No, but the world can't listen to that CD."
Michael: That was just out personal opinions on those songs. We just made a huge list and went through and said, "This isn't necessary in painting the picture of what the band is now." So we'd go, "Okay, that's one's not on there. It's a great song, it's recorded, nothing against it, but it's not up to par with where we're at." And I think a lot of it's just keeping our own integrity. We're proud of every one of these. We're able to say that.
Kipp: Also, the versions on the new album are different enough. We all think that they're much improved versions of the demos anyway. So you're still getting the better version of the song.
Mark: Right. Even if we would have done all the songs on the CDs but redone them, you definitely would hear the difference, and you wouldn't be like, "Oh, I have to listen to these again." It's like, "Oh, listen to these! Listen to them now!" You know?
Kipp: It was nice to add English horn to "Rivers Never Run," instead of having a synthesizer. Stuff like that, where it really stepped the song up.
Q: Now, who played keyboards on the album?
Michael: I played some. Monroe Jones, our keyboardist from the first album, played keyboards, and Paul Mirkovich.
Kipp: He plays with us a lot too.
Michael: Another local friend of ours that plays with us live. He did some of the specialty, like the melodia stuff on "We're Still Here," and played some B3. Overall, the three of us did all the keyboard stuff.
Q: I was curious, after Mirkovich stopped playing with the band, you didn't replace him. You just became a keyboardless band.
Mark: We knew that we sounded okay without it. We weren't making much money, so we couldn't always keep saying, "Oh, can you play for free?" And we always knew, in the big picture, once we do get a big thing going, we can always have that added in. Or for recording, we can always add it in.
Michael: The sound of the band was going more towards two acoustic guitars and a rhythm section, or an electric and acoustic going, with a rhythm section. And not having to be the full-blown, full big band, you know, the Doobie Brothers or the Toto thing. We wanted to be a little more broken down than that. More simple. And when you're onstage, you don't need that full production. You don't need all that sound pressure hitting the people. You've got four people singing, to start with. Really, all that needs is a guitar, bass and drums behind it and it would probably sound great. So we try to simplify it and knock it down, and I think it gives it a simpler root, a solid foundation. We're not trying to force so much sound on everyone.
Kipp: Yeah. It got so thick, that after a while, it was just this big lush
Michael: It still sounds great.
Mark: It's also great for Michael to take a break from guitar, and even though he's not the world's greatest - you're good, okay, don't get me wrong.
Michael: Yeah, right.
Mark: He's not the world's greatest, but it's so great to see him go back and just do his best, and break it down to piano, and we'll sing something, something that we wrote, or we'll do a cover tune where he'd go back and play the piano. So it's good. We hope to get it back in there.
Kipp: Yeah. If we bring keyboards back, which I'm sure we will if we do a big tour, it'll be more to add the little flavors that we added to the album, as opposed to playing chords on every single song.
Michael: And maybe a guy that can double an acoustic part on a song here and there. It won't just be keyboards on every song. It would be just, like Kipp's saying, the flavors.
Mark: And it wouldn't be as much samples as it would be just your basic acoustic piano sound or B3 sound or a Fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer.
Q: It's nice to see Monroe's name on a couple of the songs. Is he still involved with you guys?
Kipp: Definitely with the writing. He flew out for the Summer, when we wrote a whole bunch of these new songs. And he wrote a bunch of them with us. I think Scott and Monroe and Mark will always be part of our band, even if they're not in the band. Even if they're not on tour with us or playing gigs with us or whatever, there's always going to be this vibe that the seven of us have together that nobody else has.
Michael: Tell him our nickname, Kipp.
Kipp: The Magnificent Seven. So Monroe comes back sometimes. He's producing and doing stuff in Nashville.
Mark: And married with a kid and is busy.
Q: So he's not likely to rejoin you if you tour?
Michael: He could probably be talked into it if we had the money.
Mark: If we have the money and his wife doesn't mind, or if she can come along too.
Michael: He would be my first choice, there's no doubt about it.
Kipp: It really depends on dough. If we land a great tour, then we can afford to take people out. That would just be great.
Q: What's the significance of the album title, "Born and Raised?"
Michael: Well, fourth generation Venicians, born and raised. That's the basic answer to your question.
Mark: Right. We've never left the city of Venice, and most of our family still lives there. I would say 75 or more percent of our family still lives either in Venice or LA. We all were born and live in the city.
Kipp: And when people ask us the question, "Why did you name your band Venice?" inevitably, over the years, someone always says, "Well, we were born and raised in Venice." Not thinking, "One day we'll title an album that," but just, we've always said that. And then we used this cool vintage photo of Venice on the front for our album cover, so when we were looking at it, we were saying, "What can we call it that's like a thing like Venice," and then we started thinking, "Well, we always tell people we were born and raised," so then all of a sudden we thought "Born and Raised." It made sense.
Mark: Yeah, we had some funny names.
Michael: Also, with the band going through member changes and stuff, it's kind of evolved into back to the four of us. It's the four Lennons and we are from Venice, and in a way, we're kind of going back to our family, going back to our roots. The band's always been based around the four singers. That's been our strength. And it's kind of like we're back to where we started.
Kipp: Right. We can kind of reflect our lineage a little bit more because the four of us now, without hurting anybody's feeling or slighting anybody else, it's more like this is our heritage.
Michael: That's what's helped us focus the new sound, I think, is that we don't have six or seven guys going, "Yeah, but I don't think it should be that. And I don't want to be related to So-and-So. We're not in the family. Let's not talk about that all the time." Now, it's just the four of us. We're not hurting anyone's feelings. We totally love those guys and they all played on the record as if they were in the band
Mark: They are like family.
Michael: But the four of us are able to focus as four people instead of seven, and get things done and just weed through things faster.
Kipp: There's less distraction.
Michael: Less distraction and more focus on what we're going for.
Mark: We had some funny name ideas. Most of them were jokes. "Venice - We Want To Meet k.d. lang." You know that if that album got kind of big, she'd love it. And we'd probably get to meet her. We think she's a great artist. Or the other one was "Kickball," because we all grew up in grammar school here, and that was one of the big games, kickball. So we were going to cover this rubber ball with our names on it. That's our next album.
Michael: So the "Born and Raised," I think it's a combination of the heritage of our family, that we're fourth generation, and also that we've evolved back to the four of us, and we were all born and raised. We can say that now without lying.
Kipp: And also, it explains it a little bit more in the liner notes. It explains a little bit about our family being in Venice, California since 1917. Also, I think the "Born and Raised" thing helps us to acknowledge, instead of trying to downplay our relationship with The Lennon Sisters and all that stuff. Instead of it being this big question about "Are you related to The Lennon Sisters?" Instead, we're saying, "The Lennon Sisters are part of this big puzzle. They're one piece of the puzzle of this big family heritage that we have. And there's hundreds of us in this family, and they just happen to be one part of it, and so is our Uncle Jimmy, the boxing announcer, and so is our dads, who all sang together as a swing group, and everything like that. So in a way, we're acknowledging it before anybody even asks us the question. It's like, "Hey, we're part of a big family heritage, and we've got our own thing going."
Q: Tell me about you guys in the studio. Is it all business? Do you fool around a lot?
Mark: I think it's both.
Pat: It's pretty much all the time fooling around.
Michael: We fool around, but we're professionals, so we take care of business. But we're able to fool around, because we've been working together so long, and we're so professional. Not that we're so great, but we're just professional. Just like a carpenter who's a professional woodworker that gets the job done. We just can hammer things out and joke in between, and we know when to be serious. Well, most of the time, we do.
Mark: Sometimes we get the giggles, and no matter how serious
Michael: That's usually when we're working with someone else that's serious. Then we'll get the giggles. But if we're working with each other, we know we can laugh, and we're not as crazy about it.
Kipp: We're amazingly efficient, I think. All of us, in our own way, have worked with other artists and other people in the business, over the years, and you see all the time that gets wasted with egos
Michael: Telling stories.
Kipp: Telling stories or sitting around. We're all one for a funny story or whatever, but there's just something that happens with people when they waste hours and hours. We love to just go in and make a song. I mean, that's the fun part for us.
Mark: We joke a lot, but we've never wasted money or time doing it, which is what I think sets us apart.
Michael: We didn't waste any time.
Kipp: We grew up with a real work ethic. Michael and Mark's dad, Uncle Ted, and our dad, everybody, they were into the real work ethic. "Do the job that you're hired to do, and do it well, and be proud of it, and be nice to everybody." And we just carry that ethic with us everywhere we go. And what's nice is it's kind of infectious. We go to different studios, and by the time we're done recording the album, we're friends with everybody who works there. Because we treat people with respect, and we respect each other.
Michael: And we know each other so well. When you're sitting in a studio with a producer and an engineer that knows you but doesn't totally know you, and I'm standing next to them and Mark's singing a vocal, Mark will sing a line and I'll think, "Oh, stop the tape, rewind. He's going to do it over. Why do you keep rolling?" Then they'll just go three lines into it and they'll go, "What do you guys think?" And then we'll have to talk, and then we'll rewind it. If Mark was doing a vocal and I was sitting in there, I would run the board, and I would be on the stop-and-play or I would have someone that was, and just stop him. While he's singing, just stop, rewind. He would know that it was bad. I would know that it was bad. You know what I mean? It's like, those kind of things that we do in the studio
Mark: Come naturally.
Michael: Yeah. And that was another reason why we said, "Let's do it ourselves." Because we spend to much time waiting for someone else to get that he sings better than that.
Mark: We don't worry about stepping on someone's toes.
Michael: Yeah, you're constantly trying to be nice, but you end up wasting so much time!
Kipp: And Mike doesn't want to step over people's authority, go over their heads to say, "No, that's a bad vocal." But when there's nobody there, it's perfect.
Michael: And I would always end up saying, "Well, we need to do this on this song." I would always be the producer. I wouldn't get my name on the thing, but I was always there, every minute, every second, mixing it, making sure that this was happening. So I just finally went, "God, I've been doing this anyway, over the years. I might as well step up and not have to go through someone else to do it. I can do this."
Kipp: And what was nice was Paul Dieter, the engineer, he was so great to work with, because he really appreciated that, as opposed to thinking, "Whoa, what do these guys think they are?" He loved how efficient it was. Because engineers, if anything, they appreciate efficiency, because they're the ones who end up staying till four in the morning with people who want to do one more take, or wasting a lot of tape and money. And with us, we're just in there working and working and working. We're making him laugh the whole time, we're feeding him, we're keeping him happy.
Michael: Or I come out and do my own guitar overdub, like an acoustic guitar overdub, and then go, "I'm sorry, I'll get it this time, I'm sorry, it's taking forever," and he goes, "Are you kidding me? This is the fastest guitar overdubs I've ever done!" Most people do fifty, and then they'll listen to them, and then they'll comp them down to one. And there's no need to spend that kind of time. And when you do, you're losing the sight of what you're supposed to do. There's a lot of spontaneous stuff on there.
Kipp: It's pretty funny. When we were doing overdubs here at our house, we would say, "Okay, tomorrow, Mark will do his lead vocal at about 11:00, and then we'll come and do backgrounds at 12:30 or 12:00, somewhere in there. And then I'll do my lead at 2:00 for the other song, and then everybody will come back." And when we first were scheduling, Paul was going like, "Are you serious? No, no, come on, really." Because most people take all day to do one vocal. And at one point, we had done a bunch of vocals within five or six days, and we got six or seven songs, and I won't name names, but Paul said, "God, if this were So-and-So that I've worked with before, we would have done three songs, and we'd already be redoing the vocal on the first song by now." And after a while, that's another thing we learned, that you don't just keep chipping away at it until you have nothing left. When you sing live, you don't pick it apart, you just do a show for everybody. We don't want to leave bad notes in there or anything, but for the most part, you want to capture the spirit of the things. Somebody hits a bad note here and there
Michael: That's what was going on at that time, at that moment. So almost all the tracking guitars that Pat and I did, we ended up keeping. And if anything, we would put a little solo over the top. But even a lot of the solos were done live while we tracked the song.
Kipp: Yeah, with no intention of keeping them
Michael: Yeah, "I'm going to replace that and put a real guitar amp and really spend some time on it." And then I'd get here and I'd be like, "Oh, I'm starting to like that. It actually sounds pretty damn good. I don't remember playing that melody before."
Mark: It's amazing how much stuff we left on there that was live when it was recorded.
Kipp: Like "That's the Way It Is," that tremolo surf guitar.
Michael: And the acoustic guitar, the whole track was totally that one thing.
Kipp: Yeah, it was all kind of tweaked. Tunewise, it was a little tweaked. We were thinking, "We've got to replace this or that," and we went to fix it, and by then, we were in love with it. It was just like, "Aw, forget it." It's a certain mood.
Q: You guys are so tight, you almost could have recorded the album live and it would have been fine.
Michael: We thought about that, because we've always had that problem, where you go to the live show and you're like, "Oh my God, they're amazing! The record's good, but that was amazing." But making an album is number one, capturing what you do live and what the band is about, but it's also being able to paint a picture and do different layers and try things that you can't always pull off live. Like the first song on the album doesn't go over huge live, because you can't get the necessary brushes on the snare, swishing. You know what I mean? Certain things you can't recreate live.
Mark: There's a lot of room noise.
Michael: We wanted to make a record. As much as you want it to sound like a live performance, you're also creating a visual, like a painting. You're going to paint it differently if it's coming out of speakers, than if you're standing up in front of somebody. Because there's a lot more going on there. You don't need to put that stuff, but sometimes you need a little ear candy to tingle people, and make them feel warm and make them feel excited and all that.
Q: So back to the harmonies. It's so a distinctive and integral part of the band. How do you guys work them out? Does it come naturally, or do you take a lot of time to say, "You should be singing this part, and you should be singing over here...?"
Pat: It's not actually often that we do change our parts. Sometimes we do, to accommodate one person's vocal. But for the most part, we almost just have our parts down.
Mark: It comes naturally, unless Michael says, "You know what? Change your one note. Instead of doing the norm, a third above or below, hit this." And then we do and we're like, "Oh! Thanks for thinking of that."
Kipp: When Pat says we have our parts, he means he's always going to sing the high part, Mark or I will always sing lead, and the other person will do the medium.
Michael: And I do the low.
Kipp: And Michael sings the low part. So we know that that's where we fit. So even when we're writing the song, we'll go, "Da da da, oh, and then Pat will sing " You know, we know where it's going to go. And then every once in a while it'll be different. I think "Bad Timing Song," Mark sings the high part.
Mark: I sing the highest part, which people go, "Isn't that Pat?" and I go, "No, it's me. He'll sing the lower part."
Pat: It's so much fun, I finally sing the bass.
Mark: But basically, they do come naturally.
Michael: Unless there's a weird chord progression that's happening, that's so out there that I just need to pick up the guitar and go, "Here's a note that's missing. Here's a note that's missing." And then we just weed them out and go, "These are the best four ones, so let's go with that."
Kipp: A funny thing, "River's Never Run," we've been doing for a while. That's I think, the oldest song on the record. We wrote it, like, in '91 or something. Anyway, that vocal arrangement, we worked out so long ago, and we've been doing it so much on stage that we don't really know what each other's parts are.
Michael: We sing it in the same time every time we sing it. It's always all of us or none of us.
Kipp: And so we were recording Most of the album, if not all of the album, was done where each person sang their own part o n their own track, with nobody standing next to them or anything. As opposed to everybody gathering around one mike, which tends to make it a little more lush. This just made it more controllable.
Michael: And I wanted to be able to place each person in the stereo field, where they are on stage. So every time you hear Pat sing, 95% of the time, he's coming out of that left side, like you're looking at him on stage. And I'm always coming out of here (the right), and Mark and Kipp are split in the middle, depending on who's singing lead.
Kipp: Yeah. So we were doing that and we were working on "Rivers Never Run," and I don't know who went first.
Michael: It was you.
Mark: I went last.
Kipp: Oh yeah, my lead. And then Pat got there.
Pat: And he said, "Are you sure that's what you sing?" And I'm going, "Are you sure that's what you sing? You really sing that note?"
Kipp: "Rivers Never Run" is one of those songs, almost like one of those old Police songs, where you're not quite sure what the lead is on the chorus, because there's so many neat parts, that just pick one and you sing it. And all of us kind of thought our part was the lead. But until the fourth person got added, it sounded like this bizarre Asian song with bizarre notes. And then finally Mark got there and added the last thing, and then all of a sudden it's like, "Oh, that's what it sounds like."
Mark: There's the normal harmony!
Q: What is it like being in the middle of a strong harmony? As opposed to singing by yourself?
Michael: It's like playing football with four guys instead of yourself.
Kipp: It's a really weird thing. It's like all being part of one instrument.
Michael: Sort of, yeah. And it's great, because when we listen to ourselves on stage, each guy's kind of separate on his own vocal, but you can always hear the other guy. We always have a little bit of each other bleeding in, so you kind of hear what they're doing. You can hear the chord setup, and then all of a sudden it's like each guy tunes in his notes to make the chord hit just right. Or, at least, that's the way I am. I want to make sure that my note's holding up the bottom of the chord, you know.
Mark: It's like a big soft comforter instead of a rotten airplane blanket. It's like, it works and you're warm, but
Kipp: It's true, and it's almost unconscious, in a way. You just start going. And all of a sudden, you realize, "Wow, we just sang a really good chorus." And you weren't really thinking. It sounds kind of zen-like, but it kind of is. You're just doing it, and you're all breathing at the same time. It's like you're this big animal or something. It's really cool. We don't really talk about it very often. I think you might have wrecked it.
Q: So what's your songwriting process?
Michael: The songwriting process, for the most part, now, is us sitting around, either down in Vista, up at a remote house up in the hills there, or maybe even here, and maybe two of us, three of us, coming up with a song idea, a groove, a couple of guitar chords with a certain rhythm in mind, and then trying to take it from there. And start maybe singing things over it. Sometimes it could just be a guitar hook or something that I think of or Pat thinks of, and we'll build something over that. And then Kipp will come out, or Mark will walk out and say, "Oh, that's kind of cool! What if the vocal did " You know, it's always different. But it's basically starting with an idea of maybe a chord progression or a groove idea, a certain beat
Mark: And the bass just knows where to go, so that creates a little groove, and they'll put that down. And maybe it's just a verse, and we don't know where to go next.
Michael: Sometimes we'll just write a musical groove, and there'll be chord changes and we don't have any melody, and Mark will be outside with Kipp by the pool, and they'll come running in going, "Make it like that Sting song!" Or we'll think of a song to kind of like go, "Okay, let's pull it this way." And then all of a sudden, once it starts going
Kipp: And there's a bunch of misses. We've got hours and hours of tape of all these little ideas that we come up with. And there's some that we go, "Oh God, that's horrible."
Michael: Sounds like a porno soundtrack.
Kipp: Not that we've ever seen pornos And then there's the other ones that you know are the gems. You can just tell. Like, "Oh, that's the one we're going to turn into a song." And sometimes there isn't even melody on it, but we sing to the tape, and then we come up with it. And then every once in a while, there'll be a song like "Running Home," where Scotty had an idea for a song, and he brought it to Michael at his house, and then Mark and I came over and we turned it into a song. So each one is different.
Mark: Or sometimes I'll have a whole song already in my head, and I'll sing it a capella and be snapping my fingers, and the drummer kind of knows what to play, and after hearing me sing it a couple of times, Michael knows what my chords are, what I'm hearing. So you can start off many different ways.
Michael: But it's usually pretty organic, making it up and then chasing it. It's never like one guy who'll sit down and write the song and bring it over and go, "Look, I wrote a new song!" It's always like, "I got this cool lick that I've been playing, that I want to do something with."
Kipp: And what also keeps it alive, I think, is that sometimes Scotty will be playing bass, or I'll be playing bass. Or I'll be playing drums, even. Even though I can't even play. And I can't even play bass. But I can play it enough that I would go some weird place, because I wasn't even thinking
Michael: By accident.
Kipp: By accident, and then everyone will go, "What did you do?" And I'll go, "I don't know!" And then we'll turn it into that.
Mark: Yeah, the bass lick on "That's the Way It Is" at the very beginning of the album. Kipp did that by accident.
Kipp: Yeah, I made up that lick, not even knowing what I was playing. I just knew that these dots are in the song. These dots on the frets.
Mark: And it's the most beautiful thing. We go, "We're keeping that, for sure." We said it over all the months we were doing the album, and it's on there. It's not him playing it, it's our bass player, but it's the exact same thing he did by accident. It's amazing what you come up with. It's great. It's like The Beatles "Anthology" thing. You listen to that, you're like, "Hey. it's kind of like us! They wrote a stinkburger and turned it into Yesterday!"
Kipp: It's true. And a song like "Starting Here Again," basically Michael and Mark came up with the whole idea for the song, and then Mark thought of "Starting Here Again, da-da da-da da-da da." Making up fake words or whatever. And then it wasn't until we got back here that he and I ended up writing the rest of the lyrics. But basically, it was their idea. So sometimes somebody comes in at the last minute. Like when we had a songwriter, John Vester, write the words for "When I Get Over You." That was a song we'd already written, we'd already done lyrics we didn't particularly like.
Mark: We'd performed it live, even, with totally different lyrics.
Kipp: We just didn't like it. But we knew the music That was one of the instances where we thought, "It doesn't quite fly." Like those other songs that we ended up rejecting. But we knew the melody was still great.
Michael: It was worthy of good lyrics.
Kipp: Yeah. So then we talked to this local singer and songwriter, John Vester, because we love his songs so much. And Michael said, "I've had this idea of When I Get Over You, I've had this hook in my head. Do you think you could come up with something?" We went up and started working on writing songs for the album, and sure enough, he called us while we were there and said, "I got it all!"
Pat: We were recording it.
Mark: Yeah, he said, "I think I'm finished. Want me to bring them up?"
Kipp: That's right!
Mark: And we all freaked out over the lyrics.
Kipp: That's one of the few times we've collaborated with somebody outside the band, and right away just known, "This is so cool." Not that the other people were bad, but it doesn't necessarily gel with what we do. He's just like an extension of the band, the way he writes.
Mark: He also wrote the last song on our album, "We're Still Here," which is a beautiful anthem.
Kipp: Yeah, we really identified with that song when we heard it. It's about sticking together and appreciating the people you've survived things with.
Mark: It's funny. I didn't realize, the first song is a little bit like that. "Back where we belong." And then the last one is "We're still here, back where we belong." It's great, like you said, bookends.
Michael: That's right.
Q: Okay, Pine Mountain Logs. Can you talk about what it is, how it started, why you do it ?
Michael: It started when we were on the road, supporting our first record on Atlantic Records, self-titled debut album, "Venice." And we were up in Oregon, and it was after one of our big shows we did at a horsetrack, a free concert for the community, and it was just packed and we had a great time. And we were staying at a divey - I won't say any hotel names, because they might sponsor us - but a small, simple little hotel. We all got bored, and there was one of those little bar-restaurants that are attached to the hotel, that are called "Buffy's Restaurant" or something. So we went into the bar to have a drink, and there was a band that was set up there, and they weren't playing. They were done for the night, and there was probably three people in the bar or something. And it wasn't the whole band, though. I think it was just me and the drummer and the bass player and maybe one of the guitar techs or something. And we asked one of the band members that was left if we could pick up the instruments and play around. Because we just felt like we were having a good time. Feeling pretty good. So we go up there and we start playing, and all of a sudden we're like, "You know that song? Alright! Let's try this one!"
Mark: All cover tunes.
Michael: Suddenly we were just wailing song after song.
Mark: And people were calling friends, and at the end of the night, we had like 50 people.
Michael: And then the next night, somehow word got out through the radio station, and the whole town is there. People videotaping, it's crazy.
Mark: All cover music, all top 40.
Kipp: Ted Nugent songs.
Michael: No Venice music, just all other stuff. So it wasn't called the Pine Mountain Logs then, but since then, we came back home.
Mark: You and I went to the Venice Bistro on the Venice Boardwalk and saw our friend's band that were doing their original stuff. We were like, "We could come here." It was a very cool, woodsy, two-story brick building on the Venice Boardwalk. Saying, "We'd have a guaranteed crowd, we don't even have to advertise. We'll just come."
Michael: "We won't even do Venice. It won't conflict with this, it'll be all cover tunes. It'll be good for us to play, and we can make some money." So we sit down with Scott, our drummer, Marky and Kippy and I, and bassist Mark Harris, and Kipp's nephew, Joey Cathcart. And we're sitting there, we're trying to think of a name, we've got to think of a name for this if we're going to start doing this. So Scott looks over at the fireplace and sees a Pine Mountain Log sitting there ready to go on and start the fire. And he goes, "Pine Mountain Logs!"
Mark: And then we went, "Oh yeah!"
Michael: It turned into a whole other big band that we had that would play Sunday nights in Manhattan Beach. We'd only play a couple of clubs, but it's like Venice doing their encores all night long, of other people's songs. But Marky quit.
Kipp: I think what's great about it for us, the weird side effect of it that we didn't anticipate at all, is that it really got us in touch with our roots again. And it made music fun again. Not that we weren't having fun, but it reminded us of what we were aspiring to when we were teenagers.
Mark: And we never had a practice. We never had a Pine Mountain Logs practice. Unless we were learning some new song we didn't all quite know. But basically, it was all just off-the-cuff. We were just making it up as we went along. So that carried on over into our real shows.
Michael: We realized that we were missing that fun spontaneity. It was fun for us to do those gigs, and then the Venice gigs would be like, "Okay, what songs are we going to do? What time do we have to be at soundcheck?" And those, for a while, weren't really fun. We're doing the same show, we're like, "What's going on with the band?" And then all of a sudden the Pine Mountain Logs was like, "Whoo! Party! This is fun!"
Mark: Don't have to stick to the same songs. You can just go off.
Michael: So it really got us back into the band, I think.
Kipp: Yeah, it brought a whole other sense of recklessness and fun back to Venice, where we didn't care if we made mistakes. Or if we did, we didn't apologize for them or act like we didn't do them. It infused a whole new life into Venice, as a weird side effect of having this weird cover band.
Mark: And the following got huge, like way out of hand. We'd play these clubs that held 500, and there'd be another 500 out the door. The crowd was as big as the crowds we drew for Venice, which took us years to get this following.
Michael: Because we were doing songs they all know, and because the guys know the girls are going to be there, and the girls know that the guys are going to be there. And that I'm cute.
Kipp: And what's nice is that the other thing that it infused into the band is that we got all these cover tunes that we do. It's sort of a trademark of Venice anyway, that at encores, we do a lot of cover tunes and everybody gets up on their feet and dances. And I think we're never going to stop doing that. That's just a trademark of our show. Led Zeppelin used to do it, and Springsteen certainly does it all the time. And Phish does it. All these bands do it a lot. And we've always felt like that was a cool part of the night, where people go home and maybe they don't know our tunes yet, but they can say, "They did this cool version of Woodstock." Or "They did this cool version of whatever." And the Logs sort of reconfirmed that. When we saw how many people turned out, it was like, "This is cool. This is a cool thing to do. As long as we're still writing our tunes and we're still trying to get record deals and whatever, this is a neat thing to do."
Mark: And we thought that if we ever got huge, to make the Pine Mountain Logs be the opening group for Venice, and we all come out with wigs and fake outfits. The crowd wouldn't know.
Michael: We'd blow us away!
Q: Where else can we find you guys? I know you had song on the ending credits of "Inside Monkey Zetterkand" and "Boxing Helena." The "Scrooged" soundtrack. David Crosby's live album. Epcot Center. Any commercial, any time you turn on the tv.
Mark: Warren Zevon's abum. I forget what the name of the album was.
Michael: It's like a weird negative. "Searching For A Heart" was the song.
Kipp: We sang on Jeff Healy's first album.
Mark: Dave Koz.
Michael: We did the Bob Seger, and we did the one that the Eagles sang on the original. We did "Someday, Someway."
Kipp: And then we did something else.
Michael: That Bob Seger song that Jeff Healy did that the Eagles sang on background original.
Kipp: Anyway, we did another Jeff Healy thing for a compilation album.
Michael: Dolly Parton.
Kipp: Dolly Parton, yeah. The soundtrack to her movie.
Mark: I put my head in her boobs.
Michael: Per her request.
Mark: She just gave us huge hugs, and she put my head in her boobs.
Kipp: She was so cool. She was the most normal people we've ever met. Like Springsteen, same kind of thing. They're just this regular, nice person who just is funny and hugging you and goofing around
Mark: Hangs on every word you say as well as you hang on theirs. Such a doll.
Michael: Who's the drumming artist that we sang on? Nick?
Mark: No, no, Troy Newman?
Kipp: Troy Newman. A new artist.
Pat: We sang a lot on that.
Kipp: And we worked with Bruce Springsteen, but it ended up not being one of the songs that he kept, on the Lucky Man album. But that was so fun.
Michael: That was great. Just talking to him.
Mark: He stayed at the session for forty-five minutes just to talk to us, saying, "Don't give up." It wasn't until his fourth album when Born To Run came along.
Kipp: He was just telling us, "Don't give up, my first few albums only sold thirty thousand each, and don't let anybody tell you you're not great. Just keep going and it'll happen." Just so normal. Just a really really great guy. And we sang a bunch of harmonies on something, and then he did end up going with that. But they sort of told us before we went, even, that he doesn't usually keep a lot of the stuff that he hires people to do, but he likes to work with interesting people. So he had heard about us and he called us in. It was pretty cool.
Mark: And he had big boobs too.
Michael: And he put his face in his butt.
Q: So other than David Crosby recording "People Laugh," which didn't make his album
Q: has anyone else recorded any of your songs?
Mark: Kipp's brothers are in a swing band, and they did a song called "Charm You," which I'm sure you're familiar with.
Kipp: A song I wrote called "Charm You" that my brothers recorded on a swing album. That's pretty cool. It's a pretty cool version.
Q: Where can we find that?
Kipp: It's on Ranwood Records. The band's called The Lennon Brothers, and the album's called "Swing Away." And it's all real authentic swing music. Not just like Kalamazoo, corny kind of swing music. But real authentic
Mark: Every time we've been on vacation or playing that song, we were in Catalina on a boat playing the album all day, everyone around us on the neighboring boats were like, "Who is that?" Young and old, "Who is that, that's unbelievable!"
Kipp: It's Pat and my three brothers and our sister-in-law. It's great.
Mark: It's definitely an album worth having in a collection.
Q: Well, I already brought up David Crosby, but all over the bios and in articles, they keep using that quote that David said at the Whisky. Just, to have that kind of endorsement. It's kind of cool.
Kipp: It's great. He was appreciating us as a band before we were friends with him. It isn't like we've known him that long. Dallas Taylor brought him to see us, and he liked us that much. And then we became friends with him. So we consider it a real genuine opinion.
Mark: What was the quote?
Q: "The best vocal group in the country, and one of the best groups of any kind I have ever heard."
Pat: David would come sing with us at some local clubs, and he would always borrow one of my guitars, and he always would make fun of my guitar on stage, like, "I can't believe you have such a bad guitar." So he asked us to come do "People Laugh" on his album. And he called me and he said, "Don't bring any of your guitars, you can use one of mine for the session." And we went in, and there were ten beautiful Martins, just lined up. Just incredible. And he kept going, "Try this one, try this one." And I picked up one of them, and he goes, "Well, what do you think of this one?" I said, "It's just gorgeous." It was a D28, herringbone. And he goes, "Well, it's yours." And I said, "What?" He goes, "It's yours. I'm sick of you having shitty guitars." So he gave it to me. And then all these guys walk out, and I guess they knew about it. I didn't have the faintest idea.
Kipp: We're all in the control room, everyone's just cheering. We were all just cheering like crazy when he handed the guitar to Pat. It was really cool.
Michael: But a great little cliff note to that story. When we were doing a gig and my brother Kevin was loading the truck out with the lift gate, and he had his kid out there with him operating the lift gate, "Oh, isn't this fun, Dad?" Well, Pat's David Crosby acoustic Martin guitar, he put on the lift gate and raised up and crunched in the lift gate. And the whole case just goes CRUNCH! We open it up, and luckily, it was just a little nick in the headstock.
Pat: Almost nothing.
Michael: But to this day, five years later, the case is still destroyed.
Mark: (pointing) It's right there. It's absolutely smashed.
Michael: (bringing the case out and showing me) It's still destroyed. I don't know if you can see this on the microphone. But you can see where it got caught, and boy, it was a close call.
Mark: Pat's had bad luck with his guitar. I call it good luck, because there's nothing better than a guitar that's been seasoned. When we were doing our first album, we were all in pre-production, and we all went to El Coyote for Mexican food and had Margaritas, we go, "Let's go back to the pre-production room and work on this one song."
Michael: "I'll Be Drivin'." We wrote it that night.
Mark: So we had a brand new Stratocaster. So Michael's playing Pat's electric guitar.
Kipp: Pat wasn't even there. Pat had gone home.
Mark: And someone had some cigarettes.
Michael: I've never smoked a day of my life, and suddenly I was Keith Richards.
Mark: And he stuck it in the string in the headstock, and all of a sudden I go, "Oh golly, Michael, look." And the cigarette had burnt down and made a beautiful round burn mark.
Pat: Brand new. Hadn't had it a week.
Mark: And then, didn't Pete put a crack through your other one?
Pat: No, Tommy did.
Q: Pat, I wanted to get back to you, because you used to be a bigger part of the show. I remember at the acoustic shows, every single time, you had your solo. Everyone would leave the stage and you'd play your bit. And you've withdrawn from that. I was wondering why.
Pat: Me too.
Pat: I don't know. We haven't done that in a long time.
Kipp: The show kind of evolves. I don't know. It just sort of happened.
Michael: That's not to say we wouldn't go back to it, it's just
Mark: To do it every time makes it not special. You're right, it's about time to bring something like that.
Michael: I agree that that was a great part of the show and there needs to be something like that. But we had done that for a couple of years straight, and it was just like
Mark: We used to sing "Guinnevere" all the time and "Stuck In the Middle "
Michael: Pat, I'm happy with you to do that again.
Kipp: Also, he doesn't want to have to throw up before the show.
Mark: Actually, he's fired, but we won't going to tell him he's fired until after the interview.
Q: Pat, I read a quote from John Entwhistle once, where he was talking about the old days of The Who, and how Keith Moon would be destroying his drums, Pete Townshend would be swinging his arms and doing scissors kicks, and Roger Daltrey would be swinging his microphone, and John said, "Why compete with that?" So he'd just stand off to the side and play his part and let them do their thing.
Pat: That's kind of my philosophy.
Mark: Yeah, every time we're in a deciding vote, it's like, "What do you think, Pat?" "I don't know, I don't care, I'm totally happy either way." "Okay, great, let's vote, he doesn't care." Sometimes it drives us crazy.
Q: Okay, but to fill in people who are going to see Pat standing off to the side, let's hear from you guys, what's his contribution? Personally, musically, the whole thing.
Michael: Pat is wisdom.
Mark: Yeah. We call Pat "Wisdom."
Michael: We call him Wisdom because he's the overseeing Executive-Producer, simple, I don't know. He just kind of holds the thing together in a different way than any of us do, I think.
Mark: Right. He's got a beautiful old-school way of playing his acoustic guitar, as well as the electric. And his melody choices, when we takes on solos, and even rhythm. And then his voice is angelic. Of the four of us, he's the oldest, but he sings the highest, which sounds like the youngest. So it's just a really trippy combination of talents.
Kipp: We grew up with Pat being in bands. He's just a little bit older than us, and he had bands already. And we idolized his band and wished we could play in a band with Pat. So he brings an untrained, raw guitar vibe to everything. Whereas Michael might be more adept at things or more schooled or whatever, and have his own way of expressing his own thing, but there's a certain sort of
Michael: And I always think about everything. I'm a numbers guy. Pat's more of a fly-by-the-cuff.
Q: Okay, so for people who haven't seen the show yet, what can they expect? What's a Venice show like?
Mark: Depending on if we're opening, the show could be, lengthwise, anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours.
Michael: We never have a lack of energy to play all night long. If they allow us to play, we will play as long as they will let us go. That's one thing, for sure, you'll know about Venice. It's hard to get us off the stage.
Kipp: We're in it for the show, we're not in it for the
Michael: We're not trying to move to the next town. We're whoring ourselves out for as long as we can so we can get our point across to you that this was fun. And I think it's a very very high energy show, with some very intense and up-close-and-personal moments at the same time, where you're going to get a guitar and a singer singing a song right to you with nothing else going on.
Kipp: Right. That's one thing you're going to get from Venice that you might not get from a lot of bands, which is the dynamics of true ballads and true rock songs, and true songs in between. We aren't just one thing. We're more like the people that we grew up listening to. The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles or whatever, where you have slow songs and you have fast songs and you have different moods and you have different vibes. And also, I think you're going to find our show to be more communal. We're not so standoffish. It's not like, "We're the performers and you're the audience, and you clap for us." It's more like we're this roving party that goes to your town, and we play for you and we hope you like what we're doing.
Michael: And we enjoy each other. I think that's one thing we have over a lot of bands. Even though I've seen some amazing bands, I can still feel the tension on stage. The guitar player's not really associating with the bass player. They're not really making eye contact. Whereas I feel with Venice, the band, the audience, we're all like, "Isn't this fun?"
Mark: We still get chills on stage, and it shows.
Michael: And we're still amazed at each other's abilities, and just how all of a sudden one of us will just step out and, "Whoa, you've never played that before." Or, "Good for you for going for that solo."
Pat: When we played the Coach House a week ago, Kipp went into a harmonica solo for the first time. He's never done that on stage. And I started crying.
Kipp: The bottom line is we're still family, and I'm still his little brother at some point. So even though I'm the lead singer for this song and I'm playing the harmonica and Pat's in the band, I'm still his little brother, and we appreciate what each other does.
Mark: I don't think we've said that Michael and I are brothers, Pat and Kipp are brothers, and we're all cousins. So there's definitely a family camaraderie. I sometimes think, "We're smiling too much," and people are like, "Why are they having such a good time?"
Kipp: It's hard to explain, because you could say that we all love each other and we have a great time on stage, but it might end up sounding too wholesome or sort of cornball, like we're some corny revue, Up With People or something, but it's really not like that.
Michael: It's okay to get along.
Kipp: And it's genuine. There's still a lot of guts to it and a lot of depth.
Mark: And we tell secrets, and we get a little nasty sometimes. But it's all in jest. Something funny like, "Oh, Pat really messed up on that thing, but don't let the audience know." And people wonder, "What are they whispering about?"
Kipp: I think there's a vulnerability that we allow ourselves to have, that a lot of bands, not every band, but a lot of people don't. And some people like that.
Michael: I think you see a little more of each individual personality than you do in a normal visit to a concert, where you see the band, you see the musicianship, but you don't really learn anything about the people. Whereas I feel like with us, almost to our fault, we're just very open. That's who we are. If he sings great, I'm going to walk over and put my arm around him and say, "That was great." Or say, "That's my brother Mark on lead vocal."
Mark: And I think people can also expect to see a wide age group of our audience. We've got everywhere from 16 to 60. You never know. If it's a club where there's no age limit, everybody, all ages, have generally liked us. And we find no trouble with that. Those are all people that will buy albums or ask their parents to buy them albums.
Kipp: That's a good point. The other night, we were playing at The Coach House, and we were in the middle of doing our encore, we were doing a Crosby, Stills & Nash song, "Woodstock," and I see some guy who I'd been sort of watching during the show, and he's back there, he must have been probably about 55, and he's standing up and he's dancing and he's going crazy, just like everybody else. The whole room's standing up and dancing. And I'm thinking, there isn't music, or it's not very easily accessible if it is, music for people that age who don't want to go see Neil Diamond, and aren't into Michael Bolton and they aren't into easy listening dentist-chair-music, they grew up with The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan and The Beatles and The Stones, they grew up with all this music and there's nobody new who's doing it. Or they don't think there is, because everything is catered to certain markets.
Michael: Well, you've got your Eric Claptons and your Bonnie Raitts
Kipp: Right, exactly, but they're not new artists. They don't expect a new artist to be playing their kind of music anymore. So you can see the look of relief and surprise and happiness on their faces.
Mark: And then their 18 year old daughter that they brought with them is just as happy. You don't really see families coming together to listen to the same music. It's usually a rebellious thing, like, "Oh, I don't want to go see them, my mom and dad like them." But that doesn't happen with us. We get all ages and all family members. It's very communal, very tribal.
Q: So is performing the high for you guys?
Michael: I don't know. I've been known to sit in the studio for hours on end.
Mark: A performance with a good audience, I think is the main high.
Michael: I think the performance is what keeps us going. That's where you get the feedback. That's where you get the instant gratification.
Kipp: The other night, we were playing for that big show, and right before we went on, we were on stage, he was about the introduce us, the whole room is just electric, waiting for us to start, and I said to Mark Harris, "I love this entirely too much." I was just like a little kid. I couldn't control myself. People say, "Do you guys get nervous?" And we don't get nervous, but we sometimes get too excited.
Michael: Well, Kipp came over to me, and he goes, "Think about the tempo for the opening song." And I'm tuning my guitar before we go on. And then I'm sitting there going, "Now, come on, how many times have I counted off every one of these songs and you've never told me that." And then he walks back over and he goes, "I'm sorry, what am I saying? You're fine. You do what you want." We get too excited about it. It's part of the excitement. We care so much about pleasing those people and giving them their money's worth. It's like the 16 songs on the record. We make half the amount of money per song on the record because we're using so many songs, but that's not the thing for us. We wanted to give the people as much music as we could. And I think the record's even going to come out on sale. I hope that's still the plan. It's like, we just want to get it out there, get it in their hands and let them enjoy it.
Kipp: We wanted to make an album that you put on and you leave on, and you don't go, "Oh, track four's good and track seven's good, and the rest of it's not very good, or doesn't fit with the rest of it."
Michael: This way it's all mediocre.
Kipp: But it takes you on a little journey, and you leave it on, and you have your barbecue or your party, or you listen to it in the car. And the cool part is this is the first time, I think for all of us, that we've ever made a record that you want to keep listening to. A lot of times as artists, you get so involved with it and you dissect it and you put it together, that by the time you're done with the album, you barely even want to listen to it.
Michael: And the production is so intense that you just beat it to death.
Kipp: And this is the first time I still get in my car and I put it on, and I think, "Oh, I'll just listen to the first one," and then I end up listening to five or six songs. I'm so proud that we finally captured what it was we were going for.
Michael: I think it's the spontaneity of the live tracking of Pat coming up with a part when we tracked the song that he'd never done before, or I'll come up with something To this day, there's still parts where I go, "Oh my God, I didn't know that was on there!" Or, "Wow, I played the guitar that way on the record?" That's what keeps me liking it, because I can always find something new. It wasn't like, "On the verse, you play this, and the chorus, you play this." Within reason, we have to have a structure, but There's still, one time on the chorus, Pat doesn't hit the strum chord like the other time, but it's like, "Wow, that's kind of cool." It's things like that, the spontaneity, that keep it spontaneous forever, somehow.
Kipp: It's weird. I think, as a band, that the reason I feel like we're a rarity, besides the songwriting or the performing or anything, is that we're the kind of people, I love doing this. I'm as excited sitting in this chair right now doing this stupid interview as I would be doing a show.
Michael: Oooh .
Mark: Stupid interview?
Kipp: You know what I mean? It's as exciting just being part of the business. It's fun when we have to go and stay in one room at some stupid hotel and go do a radio interview and then go somewhere. We could be flipping burgers. And so we're never the kind of people that are just going to take it all for granted, and we're mad that the limo's late. We're just not that way. We just get such a rush out of being part of it, and knowing that we're good at it. Just get us to the venue and we'll show up, and we'll be there, we want to do it.
Mark: But it's not a stupid interview.
Q: Thank you. So along that same line, avoiding auto-pilot. I know you've played a lot of these songs a lot of times. How do you keep your mind from wandering? Or do you?
Mark: Some nights, Kipp will go, "I just sang a whole verse and a whole chorus, and I don't even remember singing it. Right now I was just looking at that girl over there. Look at the crazy eye makeup she has on!" Or whatever. Or, "Look how much she looks like our cousin So-and-so! And I sang the whole verse and chorus without even realizing!"
Kipp: It's really weird. It's kind of like driving down the freeway, and all of a sudden you realize, "I didn't look up!" You were looking at some book in your lap or something, and you think, "I just drove two miles without looking up!" It's kind of like that. You did look, but you just don't register it.
Mark: Exactly. And when you do look away and you're registering it, you feel yourself swerve. Or sometimes the audience will keep you from just going on auto pilot, because every audience is different, every venue is different. But even when we're on auto-pilot, it's not like we don't care about the audience.
Michael: And no one would ever know. They're singing the same words, they're doing the same motions. I don't know they're doing it.
Pat: I've never even thought of that. I've never thought of that question. I'm always the one that gets nervous before a show. I can't eat that day, I just feel horrible. And as soon as the first chorus is played, everything just feels great. I love playing.
Kipp: It's really weird. The only times when it's kind of depressing, when we might get a little down, is if we show up at some place and it wasn't promoted right, and they told us there'd be a certain amount of people and there's ten people or whatever. But even then, Michael will say, "That's my favorite kind of gig. Come on, let's go get 'em!"
Michael: Turn 'em up, man. Those people paid the $14 bucks the same as five hundred people would have paid.
Kipp: And then it ends up being even more fun than a regular gig.
Michael: I think when you play the same club for like two years in a row, nothing's going on with the band and you're doing the same songs, that's when we would get in our auto-pilot once in a while. But even then, something would make it horrible that would turn us all around, make us end up, "I'm going to have a beer and screw with it. I make no apologies for my boringness." Whatever it is, you have to just keep your chin up and say, "Hey, I'm really lucky to be doing this."
Kipp: Sometimes we do the National Anthem for the Kings and the Laker games, and the first time, it's this amazing rush that you're standing in center court and you're doing that. And then after a while, you get more and more used to it, so pretty soon we're literally standing there as the guy's going, "Please rise, here's Venice," and we're going, "So, you want to go to Paco's afterwards and we can get some tacos?" But as soon as we start, we're just as into it as we've ever been into it, ever. But it's like you get really comfortable.
Michael: Or you just sit there and you go, "Think if we messed up right now. We're standing in the middle of the court!"
Kipp: Yeah, it's pretty funny.
Q: So is changing the show up a good way to avoid that as well?
Michael: Oh yeah. We change the set list, our repitoire.
Mark: Changing up the opening song is kind of fun. We'll do one for a few gigs, and then it's like, "We've done that opening song for a few, let's knock them out with this one."
Kipp: Or there are times even when there are songs that we know are good songs and the audience is going to like it, but we feel like the band's getting kind of tired of it, and we don't want to sound like we're tired of it. So we'll just take it out for five or six shows. And then after a while, we'll go, "Hey, let's do So-and-so."
Mark: Right. Bring it back and they go twice as nuts.
Kipp: For instance, the shows we're doing lately, we mostly do the songs from the album, so we don't confuse people too much with too much other stuff.
Michael: If we can do it this good now, I feel really confident that going out of LA and going everywhere and seeing people all around the world in this country, it's going to keep it so much more interesting for us. It's always going to be new. It's going to be a brand new setlist to them.
Kipp: Even at our lowest level, when we've been like, "Oh God, what are we doing? We don't have a new deal. We don't have a record deal." As soon as we play in front of a new audience, it's just like all these songs are brand new. Every time. Like we played that thing at the Troubadour and there wasn't a Venice fan there, and yet that made it even better! Most people would think, "Oh God, nobody knows who we are." But to us, here's new people we get to convert and we get to play for, and it'll all be fresh to them, and we get so excited. So if that's the downside of traveling on the road and having to prove yourself every night, to us, that's the fun part.
Michael: Yeah. We just want the chance.
Q: There's also a downside when you've got a headliner that says, "I don't want my opening act to be better than us."
Mark: Yeah. Without sounding That's been a problem.
Q: I heard a story that that happened with (name of band will remain nameless).
Michael: We opened for them, we just never got the callback. We don't want to mention any names. But we did open for them at Irvine Meadows and pretty much had everyone run down to the stage during our encore.
Kipp: People were on people's shoulders, and even the spotlight guys who aren't even supposed to work our show were doing the spotlights all over the audience.
Michael: We had a bra come up on stage. It got pretty crazy. And so we didn't get a callback for that. We opened for Air Supply once and somehow Stevie Nicks happened to be in town, came up and did two songs with us and tore the house down, and they came out and someone goes, "Stevie!" Right before they started their set. So we burned that bridge. We've been turned down for a number of things. It's like, "Hey, you guys are great, but you're a little too great." Or not too great, but just, it's too powerful of a show to warm an audience up on. It can drop down after that. Because we're into it. And we're not going to go out there and just give this laid-back thing. We're going out there to convert
Kipp: It's true. We're going to do the same show no matter what. And so there's some people who feel like, "Warm them up, but don't get them that warm." Which is frustrating for us, because that's a blessing and a curse. We're on a medium ground right now. We want some artist who's secure enough with themselves that they just want to have a cool band open for them so that when people go home, they'll say, "Wow, what a great double bill," or, "What a great night of music."
Michael: Or, "Finally, an opening act we can get there early for."
Kipp: Right. That's like what they used to do in the old days. People who played the Fillmore, there'd be all these great artists all together, and nobody felt threatened by anybody else. It was like, "Let's just give the people a great show all night." And it seems like that spirit has kind of gone away. People are more bottom-line dollar kind of thing, and worried about being threatened as artists. But we're just hoping somebody's out there who's going to hear our CD and say, "Yeah, I'd love to have you guys."
Q: So are there prospects? What is the gameplan?
Kipp: Well, that's what we're shooting for. To release the album and have people notice us
Michael: We haven't even gotten the promotional CDs out yet. Everything is ready to go and there's a lot of groundwork being done, but there's no plan. It's not like we have this huge money behind us that's going, "No matter what, you're going on the road, you're going to do this, this and this." We kind of have to sit back and see what starts to happen, and then chase it. And then go, "Those people are into it, man, let's go show them that we're into them being into it." We'll take our two acoustics, hop in a car and do a radio promo tour if we have to, and pick up some gigs on the way.
Mark: As soon as my boob job scars heal, then we can go on the road.
(everyone laughs. I look over my notes)
Mark: Hey, you've been asking all the questions, let's ask you some questions.
Kipp: Mr. Nosy.
Q: What's your best concert story? You guys have one that immediately pops to mind?
Kipp: We had fun when we opened for Stevie Nicks at McNichol's Arena. There was like sixteen thousand people. That was pretty cool.
Pat: And also, we did her encore with her. "Landslide."
Kipp: And it was the first time she'd done the song in like ten years or something.
Pat: The audience just went nuts. It was exciting.
Kipp: It was so neat. We were sitting backstage. You know, those stairs that go up to the back of the stage in those big arena shows. And Michael's sitting on the stage with his guitar, and he's tuning it, because he's going to play on "Landslide." He plays it with the same fingering as Lindsey Buckingham. So I'm sitting there next to him, and there's sixteen thousand people going crazy on the other side of this curtain. There's a rumbling and everything. And Mike said, "This is so great! I get to be the guy who plays the opening note of a song that everybody knows!" It's like having your own hit song. "I get to be the guy! There's nobody else on the whole stage playing, just me!" So when we finally went out there, and Stevie re-introduced us and we came out, it was so cool, because Michael starts the plucking and everyone goes crazy, and he just gives me this little nod, like, "I'm the guy! I get to be the guy!" It's pretty neat. We appreciate it. Because we've been doing this for so long, and have been aspiring to it for so long, we really appreciate the cool parts of it. As opposed to thinking, "Yeah, we deserve this. Of course we're here!" There's a lot of people who get it at such a young age, that they don't appreciate how lucky it is to have it. And I think we've been getting it so gradually, that we really appreciate how cool it is to do it for a living. Just to have people with spotlights on you from across the arena, and have great sound and great lights. All that stuff.
Michael: Concert stories
Q: Well we got pelted with cake on Kipp's birthday one time.
Kipp: Somebody tried to hit me and it missed me.
Mark: Was that the Troubadour?
Michael: Cream pies.
Kipp: I ducked, because I saw it. At the last second, I ducked really hard, and I hit my forehead on Pat's amplifier. I was like walking out on stage and hitting my head as hard as I can against an amplifier. It's like, "Okay, and here I go Ugh!!!" And the cake went everywhere. That was pretty funny.
Q: Right where I was standing. Thank you.
Kipp: We've had some nice moments like where Jackson Browne came down and sang with us at the Street Fair down in Venice. That was really cool. Doing "Brown Eyed Girl" or "Take It Easy," and everybody's going crazy. Those are the moments that you remember the most.
Q: So let's finish up with the future. The grand plan. Five years, ten years, best case scenario.
Kipp: Keep making records. That's the main thing.
Mark: Best case scenario would be a record every year, or a record every other year. I know Grammy's are just opinions, but, you know, a Grammy would be great for us.
Kipp: It would be nice. Recognition from our peers would be a really cool thing. Because we've been doing it for so long, and when we run across the occasional peer that comes to our show, and they tell us that we're great, or that we're good enough to be with everybody else, that part, it would be nice to have acknowledgement from the industry. Because it's so frustrating to not have it, or not have it very often. But besides that, I just think, being able to tour and play for a lot of people, play big festivals where you go and you think, "Damn, we should have played here! Oh, we could do so well here!" And being able to meet other people that are musicians, and play with them and hang out. Just be part of the industry.
Mark: And to pay the bills. We're not in it for the money, but if we could pay the bills and vacation for a couple of weeks out of every year, that'd be wonderful.
Kipp: Yeah. That's the main thing.