2012 Update toInterview with The Treading Lemmings Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
Feb 2, 2012
What can you tell us about your forthcoming Flotsam EP? Is Marco Delmar producing this one?
Andj: We would have loved to have involved Marco, but unfortunately we had no budget for recording and so decided to D.I.Y. it. Fortunately, I was friends with Ed Wade, who so kindly volunteered to record us at his studio, Perfect Hour Studios. We announced our fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to help pay for mastering and pressing. Indiegogo is a website that helps artists frame and promote their fundraising; artists offer various perks in exchange for donations.
Quinn: Marco and Recording Arts were necessary as a sort of marker - "Here we are and, we're giving this work the careful attention it deserves!” Going that route is expensive and, because we wanted the band’s performance remuneration to be the primary source for paying the bills, it was a very LONG route. Having been through the process now, I think we're pretty confident we can give these new songs (and future ones) their due justice. Also, having no time or real financial constraints, we can add things and enhancements we simply couldn't on [our first CD] Cliff Notes. I LOVE strings and horns and bits of percussion in rock/pop songs. Those things really belonged in places on that album and they're not there because after almost two years and a much bigger budget than we had anticipated, we hit a point when we had to say, “Let's put a bow on this thing.” That's not Marco’s fault, by the way, just the reality we faced.
How has audience reaction to Cliff Notes affected the songwriting for Flotsam?
For me personally, I don't think I've approached songwriting differently. I would say, the one regret with Cliff Notes was that we didn't include lyrics with the release. Flotsam will be an actual vinyl E.P. with at least four songs on it and with printed lyrics. We have all the basic tracks recorded at this point and have some amazing cover artwork done by Carl Yonder.
I think really great songwriting partnerships continue to grow and improve. There is evidence of that on this record (and it will be a proper RECORD!). My only regret is that we didn't prepare more songs for it – it’s four and I would have preferred one or two more. The plan is to follow up quickly with another, Jetsam. We have enough bits and pieces, songs and half songs, that it could be a proper album…. I would hope we could pull at least five or six beauties together for that one.
Carl Yonder is an amazing artist. How did you connect with him? Did he hear the music before he created the artwork?
Andy Hunt, our other guitarist, knew Carl from work, I believe. We met with Carl and gave him a very rough idea of the direction we wanted the album art to be. He also had an opportunity to listen to our music. We were simply floored by the artwork he came up with.
I'm relying on my memory here, but it seems to me Carl had become a fan of the music and was anxious to be involved. I was a bit reluctant because I had brought Jim Lucio in to do Cliff Notes and I really wanted to continue on a theme. Carl came out to meet with us after rehearsal one night (showing FURTHER commitment). I was struck by a truly genuine man who took on all instruction and delivered an eye-popping piece of art that I simply can't wait to see on a real record sleeve. I also believe we are about to start the theme I wanted in the first place
What marketing techniques have you learned since the release of Cliff Notes?
With Cliff Notes, we had no real idea what would happen. My own goal was to get air play on at least a few college and Internet radio stations, and we easily exceeded that. But, in order to actually chart on CMJ (College Music Journal), for example, we'd need rotation on at least two or three hundred college stations. With Cliff Notes, I discovered that most of the Indie bands on labels use a radio promotions company like Team Clermont. A typical radio campaign runs 4-8 weeks and easily costs $1000/ week - it would be nice if we could afford such a campaign. I've also learned that it is very difficult to get any press from newspapers or even blogs.
The idea of sending Cliff Notes to spots around the world and encouraging folks to enjoy it, record their thoughts on a webpage, and then pass it on was mine. It sounded and felt like a great idea, but in hindsight, making a thing like that fly is like trying to herd cats. Sometimes you can lead a THIRSTY horse to water and it won't drink - so where does that leave us? I'm sure we'll come up with something clever for the upcoming releases. The only thing we can REALLY control is what goes down on tape. I will say I have been thinking we need to record an alt/pop version of The Tony Kornheiser Mail Bag theme song. The Treading Lemmings were welcomed on to The Bandwagon (January 21, 1992 issue) when Tony did his series of articles in The Washington Post during the Redskins run to Super Bowl XXVI. There has been a lot of nostalgia for that over the last couple of weeks since it was 20 years ago and the last time the Skins were in the big game. I've also been thinking I need to get our stuff to [ESPN SportsCenter anchor] Scottie Van Pelt as he was a childhood neighbor of mine. I think the way we'll break through is by some national attention like that, if not a publishing deal in a movie or TV show, but that possibility seams a bit remote.
Not very long ago MySpace was to be the main social media tool for bands. What social media tools will you use to promote Flotsam?
We're also on Facebook, Twitter and Reverbnation. I think we'll also use Youtube.
We're also using IndieGoGo in an attempt to fund the project. If something like that is successful, I suppose we reach more people by default, right?
Was it an easy decision to release Flotsam on vinyl or was a four-song CD in contention? Will you be selling downloads to these songs?
The idea was to give people a medium where they could easily read the lyrics as they listened along, plus vinyl is making a comeback. Our E.P. will include a digital download card, so even if you don't have a record player, you would be able to listen.
It was Andj's idea but one I most enthusiastically supported. I'm a lifelong collector of vinyl. While I've moved with the times and bought CDs when they came along and now downloads, I still have about 1400 pieces of vinyl which I CHERISH. It was a lifelong dream to release a full-length proper album (Cliff Notes-Check!). Now we're putting our music on an actual vinyl platter with a lyric sheet and a sleeve with brilliant artwork....I expect I'll sleep with a copy the night they arrive.
When the opportunity arises to orchestrate horns and strings, would you consider it to be an extension of songwriting or would you outsource it to someone else?
It would probably be a balance between the two. I would like the musician to be able to put his/her own stylistic stamp on their performance, while still keeping true to the spirit of the song.
I'll defer to Andj on this one as he is an actual musician and I am just a yodeler. I WILL say that I would be just as happy with The Hated Salford Orchestra (what The Smiths called the synthesizer that created the strings on their bellwether, “The Queen Is Dead”).
What other projects and plans do you have for 2012?
We'll start writing new material for the follow-up to Flotsam, which will be called Jetsam. We're also hoping to do some regional touring as well.
I used to play Morrissey in a Smiths’ tribute act called Girlfriend In A Coma. We played a reunion gig after 3½ years a couple of weeks ago and it was such a success we're almost certainly going to do it again. I went out to see a friend in Madison, WI last October to play Moz [Morrissey] with his band. We call that tribute, The Queen Is Dead. Again, it was such a success that he's supposed to be putting together a mini tour of the Midwest for the end of April. For the meantime, it's difficult to know where to start with the Lemmings stuff. As I mentioned before, there are so many songs and bits of songs I want to develop....I suppose I just need to pick a song and dive in.