Thursday, February 26, 2009
5 Questions with Jason Bays of the Spires
Part revivalist and part visionary, The Spires of Ventura, California, blend warm indie fuzz with swoony-croony often-thoughtful lyrics that create a nice mellow high. Consisting of husband and wife duo Jason Bays and Colleen Coffey (the fearless leaders of Beehouse Records), and new edition Katie Kindred on bass, The Spires make one of the most exciting and interesting bands in Southern California … yep.
Jason, Team Spires front man and main song contributor, is probably one of the funniest guys I know—along with being one of the most musically inclined. Not only is he an avid Lou Reed fan, from which there is no hiding, but he also massively digs on Bill Evans and Miles Davis.
1. Is there a specific album that had a huge impact on you in your youth that you see as a direct influence on where you are today as a songwriter and a musician?
There have been many records that I can see looking back as kinda touchstones. Records that at some point in my life clicked for me and made me see things differently. Took the blinders off, or just confused me at first. Too many to list but here are a couple.
First came Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
I was just getting into music and didn't really know what was out there except for my father's anemic record collection. He did have a cool 45 of Dick Dale's Misirlou though. That song is still amazing. He had some cool Stones stuff too.
Anyway - One of my friends was getting into punk rock and turned me on to The Pistols and it blew my mind, it's all been down hill since then (financially speaking). I just wanted to be Sid Vicious or Johnny Rotten so bad - I couldn't pick. They where both so cool. They Pistols had long since broken up and Johnny was doing PIL but my 15 year old mind wasn't ready for that. The Pistols had it all. Great songs - they still hold up, great production, danger, cool record art and best of all they showed me that anyone could make music, cool music. Just pick something up and play what you feel. I blame that record for everything that's happened since.
Postscript: They have since become buffoons and a cartoon image of their former glory. Too bad. But they did turn me on to cool music like Wire, Crass, Swell Maps, Ramones, etc...
Next: Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left.
I was kinda of over the rock action for a while and someone said that I looked like Nick Drake since I had long hair and gave me a copy of Five Leaves Left to listen to. I wasn't into it at first because I had been conditioned to hate all things folk but it soon took over my life. Calling Nick Drake folk is like calling Garth Brooks country. No bag on folk music, I love a lot of it now because of Nick (Fairport Convention, Bert Jansch ). Nick was heavy and working on another level. I couldn't get my mind around his guitar playing and all those crazy guitar tunings. He has so much power and depth that it's hard to believe he was only 20 when he put it out and almost completely ignored in his day. I guess he wasn't into promotion but who in their right mind is? I would have to say River Man and Three hours are the one two punch - like floating in a blue dream. Joe Boyd's production, or lack of it, is perfect.
Pink Moon and Bryter Layter are just as good but I heard Five Leaves Left first. I hope one day I can write a song half as good and half as sad as the songs Nick wrote at 20.
Last but not least The Velvet Underground.
I don't remember when or how I got into VU because they were always there. I always knew about them but never really heard them. I feel VU is that way for a lot of people. Cool to mention as an influence but not really an influence - at least not directly. At some point years ago I picked up the first record used - went home, put it on Sunday Morning followed by I'm Waiting For The Man and fell in love. Sunday Morning is such a beautiful and dreamy song to put next to the one about scoring dope. I was like WTF? You can do that. All that wonderful atonal guitar noise was there too and very inspiring - nobody was doing that then. It was the summer of love and VU was in the summer of bummer along w/ Arthur Lee. Plus, they had Andy Warhol and Nico making things even more badass. It was like all the coolest people in NY started a band. It was only later after getting all their albums that I really realized how great a band they really were.
They did it all - noise, pop, country, ballads, and always sounded like VU. I would have to say that Sterling & Lou are my biggest influences for sure. It's like Dylan says: I don't break the rules because there are no rules. VU knew that right out of the gate.
Other albums I would like to expound upon if I had time:
Pavement - Crooked Rain Crooked Rain; Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks; Mile Davis - Kind Of Blue; John Coltrane - A Love Supreme; Felt - all their records; The Smiths....
2. When you write a song, does it tend to be about a past experience or a present feeling? Or both...
Sometimes both but often it is about the moment or the mood I'm in. I really try to write as intuitively as possible at first and then go back later and fine tune things. Sometimes songs come real fast and all at once and other times they sit around for months or even years. Then all of a sudden they pop out wanting to get finished. Other songs are kind of like old cars sitting around the front yard that you pick parts off of to make a better songs. I never push them around.
3. Is music art? Are you an artist?
Colleen says that art and music are two different things. Apples & oranges but still in the fruit family. I think that some people that make music are artists. I think Django Reinhardt is up there with Picasso or Hemingway. Coltrane is an artist. I might have written a couple songs that I might consider art but I don't think that makes me an artist. Maybe one day. I have a hard time arriving at places.
4. These days are you more influenced /inspired by music or things outside of music?
I'm really trying not to be influenced by music right now. It can clutter you mind - all those bands. It's hard because I love listening to music. I find a lot of inspiration in old jazz, drawing, Kerouac and his ability to string words together, nature, my band. I am always trying to look around the corner you know. I often just want to get to a certain sound or color in my music.
5. What are The Spires plans for '09?
We are putting out our new record called "A Way Of Seeing" in March on Beehouse and already writing for the next one. Lots of shows, hopefully. Making some groovy new friends. Just doing things The Spires' way. That is to say we keep on keeping on.