I first heard about Claire Lodge on a Tom Waits message board about 10 years ago. Everyone was fascinated, but no one seemed to know much about her. Then somehow we linked up online through an old musician friend. For years we’ve shared ideas and filthy jokes and suggested books and music and films to watch, without ever meeting in person. That all ended last week, when I was at a grocery store on Buford Highway in Atlanta.
We both tried to grab the same piece of fruit. She looked at me and said “You’re Tom Cheshire, I’m embarrassed I’m in my pajamas.” I responded saying “that’s OK I’m in my rain boots.” So there we were, finally face to face. We put our groceries in our cars and went and had a cup of coffee.
Three hours later and a lot of laughs a real friendship was born. We managed to squeeze out an interview and we are talking about doing an EP.
Here you go, I hope you enjoy.
Tom Cheshire: The first time I saw you live was in New York City, It was with Compartmentalizationalists. You had two drummers and a bassist.
Claire Lodge: Yeah, I co-write in that band. We have made three albums.
The Fainting Couch is your first solo album, do you approach your solo music differently?
With Comparts, most of the tunes have a set structure, even if we improvise within that structure. When I play solo, It’s almost all by feel. Some tunes will be two minutes one night, and eight the next. Life has enough structure, I like freedom. I like that in the artists I go see live too. If you are a rock band that plays everything the same way every time I see it, I get bored. I love people like PJ Harvey, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits. I like the element of surprise.
Did you set out to make it with just guitars? Did you try playing with a band first?
I set out to make it with just guitars. I love solo guitar albums. Bill Frisell’s In Line, Marc Ribot’s Saints, Masada Guitars, Sharrock’s Guitar, Etta Baker’s Railroad Bill, the list goes on. I like the intimacy of one person with one instrument.
The songs on the album have no titles. And it is an album, not a record. And where did the name come from?
They have titles. “Part 1,” “Part 2,” and so on. I want people to listen to the entire album, like you would watch a film. And no, no vinyl. They sell records at Target. So I hope I’m ahead of the curve on the comeback of CDs. As far as the title goes, I have always liked the words “Fainting Couch,” it sounds like it could mean several things.
Tom Cheshire: What is the first song you remember hearing?
Probably “Happy Birthday.” My parents didn’t listen to any vocal music growing up. I don’t remember hearing anyone sing until I was 10.
How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it called?
When I was 12 or 13 I got serious about guitar. I wrote a song called “Cincinnati String Bean.” It was a banger… I have never sung in my life.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up and where is home now?
I was born in London. I have lived all over. Mainly London and Atlanta. I went to school at Stanford.
Have you ever stolen a car?
Never. I can barely drive.
What is the best cross country driving record?
Oh man, probably Francoise Hardy. Anything by her. Or Pink Flag on repeat.
Who is your biggest influence as a guitar player?
I heard the song “Apache” by the Shadows and wanted to learn it. While I was learning guitar we were living in Italy and my teacher introduced me to Tom Waits’ music and I fell in love with Marc Ribot’s playing. Then when I heard Sonny Sharrock my life was forever changed. I wish I had a cool story about discovering him, but it was on Space Ghost.
Who is your biggest influence as a piano player?
First off, I can barely play piano. But I like to listen to this dude Francois Couturier a lot. Nina Simone, Monk.
What is your favorite film score?
A Zed & Two Noughts by Michael Nyman. It is insane and perfect. In the past 20 years, I also really liked Johnny Greenwood’s The Master.
Do you see colors when you hear music? Do you see colors or visuals when you write music?
My images are almost always black and white.
How long should a film be? What is too long?
90 minutes if you have children. Up to 2.5 hours if not. I hope Bella Tarr doesn’t read this.
What do you look for in a song?
Your favorite city/country to perform in?
Poland. I have been going there for the past eight or nine years and it has been a blast. That’s what pushed me into recording my tunes.
Your favorite food on the road?
Mexican vs Chinese. Your thoughts? That’s on food.
I hate goddamn cheese, so Chinese. Chinese food is awesome.
Go-to snack food?
Ice cream. Any kind, anywhere.
Guilty pleasure music?
I rarely feel guilty. I guess I will go with Poppy Family, Ace of Base. At this point… Nick Cave.
Favorite member of Wu-Tang Clan?
Inspectah Deck. He is the man. He has the best verses and he needs the publicity.
Who is your favorite comedian?
Living or dead? George Carlin might be the best ever. But I love so many. Chris Rock, Chris Elliott, Norm Macdonald, Louie, Pryor … Why didn’t he make a record called Pryor Convictions? Wait, did he?
Would you date a man who drives a Corvette?
Only if it was stolen. Jesus … I sound like Lana Del Rey.
Who would you like to work with, write with? Dream collaboration?
Chris Gaines. We could talk shit about Garth Brooks. I bet he sniffs glue. I should go easy on him. He survived tragedies.
But really, Tom Cheshire. Let’s make that happen.
Please say me, and do you want to put out a record together? If so, let’s do this.
Oh… I didn’t even read ahead. Yes! Let’s do eet.
Will we get a Claire Lodge U.S. tour soon?
I don’t think so. I play secret shows in Atlanta and New York a few times a year, but can’t hit the road anymore.
Last but not least, your thoughts on sandals? I personally can’t stand them.
Is Sandals a show on CBS? It should be.
Thank you so much for your time, Claire.
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Ladies and gentlemen this is Golden Frown, this dude has songs.
Jordan Berardo aka Golden Frown, sounds like Roky Erickson partying with Joey Ramone on certain nights, other nights he sounds like Jay Reatard partying with Neil Young. It doesn’t matter, because his songs always sound great. They sound like snippets of a psychopath and dreams of a child, and echoes in the desert. This is a very honest conversation we had on a Saturday morning.
Hope you enjoy.
Tom Cheshire: Good Morning.
Jordan Berardo: How you doing? Give me a minute. I just woke up, it’s a.m. Alabama time.
What is a normal day for you these days? What do you do, what is the songwriting process.
Life feels great these days. Every day I wake up feels like a gift. Making music is a gift, and I take advantage of it. Cleaning up my act was a gift. There’s no turning back now. My only goal is to be a musician, so when I wake up, I live and breathe music and writing songs.
Can you talk about your past, your drug use?
I’m very transparent about my past. No one is perfect. I started meds when I was 14. I started self medicating in 2000. I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve had my addictions. I died in 2007 from a methadone overdose and came back to life. I’ve died eight times because of my addiction. The last time I died was the beginning of my new life. I was on heroin. I got off it and all drugs and began my new life as a musician. I started writing songs. I use my past to help me with my songs. I will write 15 songs in a day some days, and I talk about my struggles, tell my life story.
Tell me about these songs.
These songs aren’t love songs. They are what happen in my mind. They are stories I learned from. My music is a love song to the road, the romance of life.
Sounds like you’re in a relationship with your songs.
I am. Nothing can touch you when you’re on the highway. No one can touch you when you’re in the moment, writing songs. My romance is the music. I’m in a relationship with my songs and with the road. I just sit down and the music just comes out of me.
Tell me about the lyrics.
Well the lyrics are my story about my past, but I write them all freestyle off the cuff in the studio. I come up with the music on the guitar, that’s all written out. Then I get in the studio in front of the microphone and in five minutes I have a brand new song.
You’ve developed a wonderful working relationship with Peter Mavrogeorgis (Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Twisty Cats) who is recording you and producing your record.
Peter has been amazing. We have a lot in common. We are both artists and eccentric. I love the way he works. He knows exactly what I need. He’s such a great musician and has such a great ear. We have a great system down, so why change it or fix it, if it works already. We have two albums done already and we are writing more.
Tell me about this record. When will it be out?
This will be a four-song EP and it’s coming out July 23. I am calling it Gone Are the Lemon Trees and I think it’s the best stuff I’ve written in my life. The title is a Kinks reference.
I love it and can’t wait for you to share it with the world. Anything else you want to share with our readers.
Everybody loves an underdog. Ruff Ruff Mother Fuckers, and that’s me. I’ve come out of the darkness and now I’m alive. My story is a second chance story. Please give me a chance, and listen to the songs. I’m going to continue writing songs every day, and perfect my craft, and hit the road and play these songs. Check me out, this dude has songs.
Thank you Jordan, and long live Golden Frown.
Golden Frown’s four-song EP Gone Are the Lemon Trees is out July 23.
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Happy New Year! West End Motel kicks off the new year with a new jam, appropriately titled, “New Year’s Day.”
Singer and co-writer Tom Cheshire offers up some intel on the song’s words and meaning:
‘Well New Year’s Eve has always been a celebration of just another year being alive, and this year it rings truer than ever. Yesterday, my friend Rob Kincheloe sent me a text saying ‘Happy New Year, if you’re alive you won.’
With ‘New Year’s Day,’ I wanted to write a love song, with a sense of humor in it, and a sense of hope. We always talk about these New Year’s resolutions but they only seem to last a week or two. That’s why there are lyrics in the verse like ‘I know I’ve made mistakes but this time we’re gonna be great,’ and ‘Talk to me on New Year’s Day, I’ll find a place for us to stay,’ and ‘This year is for me and you, all the things that we’re gonna do.’
I also wanted it to be a nod to ’70s soul. I was channeling Motown and the Jam when I started writing it. But Ben Thrower, who wrote it with me, said without realizing it we were flirting with the sounds of early E Street band.
Either way, I love the way it came out. I love the New Year’s horn riff that Ben Davis plays at the end. I guess it is a celebration of being alive and maybe finding love again.’
“New Year’s Day” is the fourth single from West End Motel’s ongoing campaign to roll out a new single each month till Spring. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album.
Check out the previous singles:
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This month, the group unveils “Raisinha,” a Brent Hinds-penned numbed that’s dedicated to his wife. “Raisinha” features Hinds taking the lead on vocals and guitar, while Tom Cheshire and Ben Thrower come in for the back up chorus. It’s a love song that ebbs into some power pop terrain, exploring a smoother and more blissful approach in ways that West End Motel hasn’t really embraced before. The songs is also a rich counterpoint to West End Motel’s most recently released singles, “All The Witches,” which arrived in October, and “New Wave Kid,” which arrived in September.
“Raisinha” is part of a larger work in progress. The plan is for West End Motel to drop a new single each month for the next several months. After that, the group will turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album. In the meantime, press play above.
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West End Motel is back with a new single, titled “New Wave Kid,” a wistful song that frontman Tom Cheshire calls the group’s “positive jam for dark times.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I released West End Motel’s first 7-inch via Ponce de Leon Records back in 2008; a four-song EP featuring “Oh I’m On My Way” and “There’s Gotta Be More To This Life” b/w “Under My Skin” and “Women Come and Go.”
Really, though, West End Motel is a much different band these days from what it was back then, and it has been for a good long while. In the beginning, Tom Cheshire and Brent Hinds played and recorded as a wooly and red-eyed pair of poets, songwriters, and troubadours suspended in the aspic of Atlanta when the sun goes down—a derelict version of the city that no longer exists.
West End Motel, however, was something different. Their weird and tender acoustic songs—as though they were discovering their sound during loose, late-night recording sessions—found both Hinds and Cheshire bearing their hearts and souls in disarmingly unguarded sentiments. The vocal and guitar melodies teemed with beauty, depression, elation, and wisdom gained from hitting rock bottom and pulling yourself back up to face the sun one more time.
Since releasing that original 7-inch, the group has released three albums, toggling between major label offshoots with 2011’s Don’t Shiver, You’re A Winner (Rocket Science Ventures) and 2012’s Only Time Can Tell (Alternative Distribution Alliance) before taking matters into their own hands and self-releasing 2017’s Bad With Names, Good With Faces. The group’s personnel has expanded as well, incorporating Hinds’ Fiend Without A Face cohorts—bass player Stiff Penalty and drummer Troy King, along with a few other players.
As the story goes, “New Wave Kid” was born when Cheshire and Ben Thrower went into Audio Oasis in Bristol, Tennessee with producer Matt Smile. Cheshire sang and Thrower crafted the song’s rhythms and melodies on an acoustic guitar. They sent the song to Jeff Bakos in Atlanta where Stiff Penalty added bass and King added drums. Will Raines added majestic keys from his home in Brooklyn. Then they sent it to West End Sound where Tom Tapley recorded Hinds and Brian Kincheloe’s guitar parts, and Ben Davis’ saxophone and bells.
The result is a sterling trip down memory lane rising from layers of lush pub rock melodies and what is, perhaps, the most evocative vocal delivery of Cheshire’s career.
“New Wave Kid” is a catchy number that’s branded with intoxicating musical motions that crystallize all of West End Motel’s influences—Pogues-esque punk and rock ‘n’ roll, The Band’s roughly-hewn stride, power pop, and blue-eyed soul—into a stylish hybrid that’s tailored to Cheshire’s husky voice, which telegraphs so much of the band’s character.
The song is part of a larger work in progress. The plan is to drop a new single at the beginning of each month for the next six months. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album. In the meantime, “New Wave Kid” feels like a watershed moment for the group’s ever-growing movement from ramshackle magic to a deliberate and stylish sound and vision.
Young Antiques are at it again. Longtime friends and songwriting cohorts Blake Rainey and Blake Parris have convened with drummer John Speaks to craft Another Risk Of The Heart (Southern Lovers Recording Company), a new eight-song LP that’s teeming with phantasmal Southern power pop and rock ‘n’ roll storytelling.
Another Risk Of The Heart is the Atlanta trio’s first offering in nearly a decade, and it’s what Rainey calls “a love letter to the band.” Songs with titles such as “Euclid Creeper,” “Armies In The Alley,” and “’92”reaffirm the power and allure of the group’s hook-laden legacy. Guest appearances from Atlanta-rooted voices such as Kelly Hogan, Chris Lopez of the Rock*A*Teens, and Tom Cheshire, expand the group’s repertoire, while keeping each song planted firmly in the Atlanta music mythos. Rainey took a few minutes to talk more about the album.
“Euclid Creeper” feels like a powerful statement coming right out of the gate on this album. What did you have in mind when you wrote the song, and why you put this one front and center?
“Euclid Creeper” is about the band in our early days—roaming around Little Five Points and EAV bars and drinking and partying and “looking for a little light” outside of this neighborhood-rat existence, all of which kind of felt like living in a coal mine at times. It’s also about a return to form and doing this rock ‘n’ roll band again—albeit a little bit differently this time around.
I see Blake Rainey and His Demons’ 2016 LP Helicopter Rose as an homage to your early years spent growing up in rural Georgia, and the new Young Antiques LP, Another Risk Of The Heart, as a nod to your time in the city—Cabbagetown specifically. Are there parallels between these two records?
Personally, the parallel that I see between Helicopter Rose and Another Risk of the Heart is that both mark a turning point in my songwriting, as far as attention to detail and quality goes. I was proud of Rose at the time more than anything else that I had previously done, even though I could see its flaws like most of my albums. When I finished Risk however, and when we got the track listing in order, it was like nothing I’d ever accomplished before. It was quintessential ‘Tiques, in a nutshell, and to me the quality was steady from beginning to end, the band’s performances were much more together this time around, and with Risk I think we really hit on a formula for all of three us—John Speaks, Blake Parris, and myself. And today, we are already starting work on the next album.
When listening to your records, and even now, thinking about the stories and characters in your songs, my mind starts pulling threads about the landscape, neighborhoods, and how you fit into the environment. When you’re crafting songs do you feel particularly inspired by your surroundings?
I do. I can definitely look at something like an old run down building or a dirt road and think about what sound might accompany it. It’s an interesting thing to think about—writing music to describe something visually inspiring—like walking down the sidewalk and seeing a church steeple showing through branches in a winter sky. What does that sound like? Or noticing an old man on a park bench with a sack of beer at 9 a.m. These type of things can definitely help me paint a vivid picture in a song.
Tell me about the title, Another Risk of the Heart, and what it means to you?
On the surface, the title, Another Risk of the Heart, is akin to what Soundtrack To Tear Us Apart (the previous ‘Tiques album) was like: a description of where the band is or was at the moment. The overall theme of this album is a love letter to the band, like, “here we go again…” We’re here, giving this thing another shot. Getting back together, doing what we do best—having fun, making records.
And how about the songwriting that’s on display here; is there one song on the album that resonates with where you are right now?
“Questions” is my favorite song on the album, and with all of the frustration and fear that we have going on with authority figures at this very moment, it definitely resonates to me the most. The opening line is, “Yesterday I woke at dawn/With the police on my lawn/Never had they stayed so long until today.”
Even before the pandemic or the protests, it was the song that somehow brought everything together on the album and kept the pace where it should be. So far, it’s been one of the more overlooked tunes on the record, but I like how it serves a deep cut purpose. It’s also set in a quasi sci-fi future like “Armies In The Alley” is, and it’s a sister song to that one in many ways. There’s an authoritarian bent to both in the lines about showing your papers and your government tattoo and hiding out in cinemas from the authorities and all that. There’s also another cinema reference in “’92,” which is another favorite of mine. It’s a young love song set in 1992 about two high school misfits falling for each other over cigarettes and the cinema and skateboards.
Tell me about “Armies In The Alley.”
That one definitely feels Orwellian. A “lovely liberal in a dress” is new to town and is taken to the boulevard, even though it’s a risky move. The narrator is drawn to her because she is “without that fascist look.” The couple ducks in and out of alleys and the cinema to escape the oppressive authority outside—both literally and figuratively—while smoking and getting lost in film. To me it seems very close to reality or a past reality—just on the edge of science fiction. It also feels a little like what parts of Europe might have been like at times during WWII.
In the past, when writing about Young Antiques, I’ve dropped comparisons to Paul Westerberg and the Replacements. Over time, however, that seems like a pretty one-dimensional comparison. Who are some other songwriters that have influenced your writing and outlook on music?
I’m a big Replacements fan, no doubt, but I’m also a pretty big fan of rock ‘n’ roll and popular music in general. Right now, all I pretty much listen to is American jazz from the 1950s and ’60s. As far as songwriters go, I’m influenced by quite a few: Dylan, Ray Davies, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Jagger/Richards, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Strummer/Jones, Tom Waits, Bob Mould … I’m well versed in just about everything those guys have done. I’m leaving out a few, I’m sure.
How did you select the guests who appear on the album? Did you write songs with them in mind and approach them, or was it a more natural process?
John Speaks had been in the Jody Grind with Kelly Hogan and he was also old friends from that same era with Chris Lopez from Rock*A*Teens. Parris and I have known Tom Cheshire for years; he’s an old friend and a bandmate of mine (in the All Night Drug Prowling Wolves). So everyone involved is family in one way or another. I told Speaks, “We need a female singer on Goin’ Home.” He said, “Kelly Hogan.” I was like, perfect! We wanted gang backing vocals on “Euclid Creeper,” so I brought in Tom and Speaks brought in Lopez. I am a big fan of much of Chris’ songwriting, so that was extra special for me.
Chris and Tom came in separately and hung out all night and drank beer and sang their respective parts. It was amazing. Kelly had to do her part remotely in Wisconsin and the first time we heard her performances sent via the internet, we were like “Fuck. This is really good!”
Also, can you tell me what recording with this core lineup of you and Blake Parris teaming up with drummer John Speaks revealed about the songs or the chemistry that you share? I know that you and Blake have been working together since grade school. John, is someone who’s played shows with you, but hasn’t been in the studio with you, at least not for many years.
John is the drummer for the Young Antiques—no question about it. He joined the band in 2001-2003 and we recorded Clockworker with him and toured the Midwest to Chicago and the East Coast to NYC. That was the best time we’d had with any one drummer. When John left, we worked with another drummer, Kevin Charney, for a couple of albums before fizzling out. I moved on with two more solo albums with His Demons (Love Don’t Cross Me and Helicopter Rose). That band consisted of Joe Foy, Eric Young, and Aaron Mason (Nikki Speake and the Phantom Callers). Parris was performing with Volume IV and a variety of other bands around the city at that time. After that, John came into Boutique Guitar Exchange where I was working at the time and basically said, “You wanna get the band back together?” and Parris and I decided a reunion sounded like the right thing to do. So I put down the new solo material I was working on and started writing what would eventually become Another Risk Of The Heart.
I had no idea how comfortable or interesting we would sound when we got together. The time we spent bonding and performing in the early 2000’s has definitely played a big role in our overall chemistry today—plus we’re all better musicians individually at this point in our lives. It was the best decision we could have made.