Blaine The Mono Discusses Their New Album, Jellyfish
I have to start off by saying this was one of my favorite interviews. On a frigid Orlando night, we chatted on the patio at Rock & Brews for about an hour, took frequent fun detours for tangential conversations about random musicians, and I got to witness firsthand that these four really seem to like their music, and each other.
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They have a penchant for throwing the “y” on a word to turn it into a fun adjective, all frequently show off their dry senses of humor, and were almost always slightly distracted by the rock music playing in the background. Fun stuff, which made it all the more entertaining for me, when I sat down with Blaine The Mono to learn about each of the new songs on Jellyfish. Now grab your own beverage, find a comfortable spot and dig into the excellent new album with me.
Alright, grab the album,and then let’s take our track-by-track tour through Jellyfish with the talented members of Blaine The Mono.
Cretin: Why did you choose this one as the first track on the album?
Randi Stickles (Vocals): Crowd response. The best crowd response for our songs.
Eric Joseph (Guitar): We wrote it before we went on tour, and it wasn’t on that album we were touring for. In all of the cities we went to we got a really good crowd response. I think we all felt it was more upbeat – kind of dancy, punky, high energy. And, it just seemed to have that nice strong chorus. I was into a lot of Arctic Monkeys at the time and I thought I’d write an Arctic Monkeys song that’s not an Arctic Monkeys song. (We drifted off on a brief tangent about the Arctic Monkeys. I won’t cover the dialogue here, but it’s safe to say the band members are big fans).
Cretin: The opening guitar on this one does not sound like the Blaine The Mono I heard on the first album. What was the inspiration for that?
Joseph: Just something different. Going and performing at South By Southwest really opened my eyes. A lot of the riffs I wrote for Vices, I wrote before I even met Randi. It was a lot of music that Cliff, Chris and I had and then she filled in a lot of stuff and I really wanted to do some music that I felt was more the four of us at the time. That’s how the whole albums is. I just think this is what we actually sound like as a foursome.
Chris Culverwell (Bass): Your songwriting changed a lot. He played in an old band before called Atrophy and everything had that grunge vibe to it, and it’s less of that now.
Clifton Garner (Drums): It’s more Alt now, and less grunge. I think there’s still plenty of metal influences, though.
Stickles: Especially in the breakdowns.
Cretin: I also thought it was a really good drum song.
Joseph: Oh, yeah, it totally is. Love the drums. Absolutely.
Garner: When he wrote that riff, the first thing I heard was Arctic Monkeys and I wanted to make sure we had a really dancy song that you hear that hear that opening and you immediately want to have fun with it.
Cretin: What about the lyrics? They actually confused me a bit.
Garner: She’ll do that.
Stickles: It’s kind of a one night stand perspective and then somebody taking it further than a one night stand and just becoming ridiculously obsessed with you and you have no idea why.
Joseph: I hate when that happens,
Garner: (chuckling) It happens all the time, right?
Stickles: It happens all the time. Something’s got me locked inside your head and you keep that person a secret because you don’t want other people to know how obsessed they are. It’s embarrassing.
Cretin: Do you want to reveal the person?
Stickles: No, no, I’m good.
Cretin: Tell me about “Jellyfish.”
Garner: Another upbeat alt-rocker.
Joseph: Wasn’t “Jellyfish” the one we called post-Jacksonville rock? I think we played a show in Jacksonville and I don’t remember exactly what the motivation for the riff was, but I wanted something fast and attacky. And the thing I love about “Jellyfish” is what Randi does with the verses and choruses and how it tells this watery, wavy story all through it. I love that song.
Cretin: When Chris first sent me the album, I was thinking this would be the first single.
Garner: We thought about it.
Stickles: We went back and forth.
Garner: This song was first on the album until two or three weeks before we did the final cut and then at the final cut, we decided to switch the song order.
Culverwell: “Capsize” was going to be the single for awhile, but “Jellyfish” was going to be the opening track until literally a month ago.
Joseph: And then we decided to have the opening single kick off the album. And a lot of that has to do with where we are as a band now. If that’s the song we chose to shoot a video for and we’re banking on for our first single, we should have the confidence open the album with it.
Cretin: That’s cool
Joseph: And we are planning to shoot a video and release “Jellyfish” as a single, as well. We have a plan to shoot a video every few months and to keep pumping out the singles.
Garner: And, I think the timing to the chorus makes a big difference on where you place your opening song and pick your singles.
Joseph: “Capsize” shows itself right away.
Garner: We’re also in a position where we’re not on a label and we don’t have national recognition. So, every year we do this cycle with A&R from the industry and they literally listen to just the first fifteen seconds of every song. And if they don’t get to the chorus or it doesn’t catch their eye, it’s “Next.” I’m like, “Hey, Dude, wait five more seconds.”
Joseph: We’ve played “Capsize” live so many times and every time I start with that riff, heads start bobbing and the chorus just comes so quick in that one, within twenty seconds. We really try to think analytically about it, as much as it’s a passion thing, because we want it to be successful.
Cretin: Yeah, I get it. And, we’ll talk about it shortly, but I thought “Your Ghost” was the perfect song to be in the middle of the album, and “Blue” was the right song to end it.
Joseph: We thought the same thing.
Garner: We focused on having album continuity. Back in the old day, you could put on an album and listen to it and it flowed, and we were able to do that, and still put the most marketable song first.
Cretin: And what about the lyrics on this one?
Stickles: Basically it’s about somebody who’s real weak-minded, They don’t have a spine and they have to be with somebody who’s got a spine because they don’t. Fluid like a jellyfish. You know what I mean? Like they need support.
Cretin: You have some angst built up inside you, don’t you? Some crappy relationships.
Stickles: That’s why I write music, it helps me write my lyrics.
Cretin: I love it. It makes for some compelling lyrics.
Joseph: That’s one of the five things we like about her.
Stickles: I’m working on five and a half.
Get Me Right
Cretin: This felt like an epic rock song to me.
Garner: I like that.
Joseph: This is the one we wrote in the van. I have a little travel acoustic guitar that I like to take with me on the road. I was just jamming on that first part and then Cliff and I started going back and forth on the guitar parts. We all have full-time jobs, so we usually bring our parts to the other members, but this is one of the first songs we wrote together. We were all in the back of the van free to write a song together. It was really cool.
Cretin: How long did that take?
Garner: I think we had the chorus and big hook in an hour. I was surprised because we had that hook written and that was the meat of the song. When we started practicing, and I heard Eric start the song so slow, it was different than I expected and at first I honestly didn’t really feel this beginning, and once we worked on it and arranged, I thought having that slow beginning really adds to the chorus.
Stickles: It complements the chorus.
Joseph: It starts out epic and more ballady and then turns into more punk influenced. And then that breakdown with the magic scream.
Cretin: That’s a great segue. The next question on my notes was simply “That scream, oh my.”
Stickles: (chuckles) I see that.
Cretin: I timed it. It’s a full ten seconds.
Stickles: It was totally out of the blue. I was getting so fucking frustrated with that song because that breakdown is so long and I thought what am I going to do here? I just screamed, and it lasted, and it sounded awesome and it fit perfect and we kept it.
Joseph: And when she did it in the studio I couldn’t believe it. Randi’s in there doing vocals and I have my back to her and that scream keeps holding and holding and holding and I’m like Is she really doing that?
Stickles: My eyes popped out, these are actually fake.
Cretin: The lyrics?
Stickles: This one is about how you can’t let music influence your feelings about somebody. It says in the song, “You cut so I know this can’t be wrong. Your words they fell through without a song.” Like if you tie a song to somebody or a feeling you have about somebody , don’t let that song convince you that that’s what’s actually getting to you. Just strip it from the music and if you still have feelings for that person then that’s where you go.
Joseph: I couldn’t listen to Radiohead for years. I just had that song tied to someone so fiercely.
Stickles: It makes you wonder if you really feel that way or if it’s just the song.
Joseph: Your Ghost is the first one we have done where Chris wrote the riffs on guitar at home. Chris also plays guitar, as well as bass. We just loved it for the longest time but we couldn’t put it together. We practiced it a bit earlier on and then kind of put it on the backburner.
Stickles: Every time these two (Joseph and Garner) would leave the room at practice, the first thing he would play is this song, and I’d be singing along with it and I had for the longest time had a verse and melody written down for it.
Garner: We actually had the intro piece, which becomes the chorus very early on. The first time he played the riff for me on guitar, I wrote that drum part. We put this on the back burner so long, we finally came to the decision to make this happen and just sat in the room and filled in the parts.
Joseph: All we really did was tweak the arrangement a bit.
Cretin: So how long was it floating around in your head before it became a song?
Culverwell: Probably a good three years or so. I play a lot of acoustic guitar at home, and I have more that maybe we’ll incorporate in the future.
Joseph: It’s a great song. I love it.
Garner: I’m surprised at how well it fits into this album. It fits so well.
Joseph: And like you said, I love where we placed it. It’s such a perfect song to turn that corner from the first half of the album.
Cretin: You said you wrote it on guitar, but I though the bass stood out on the song, as well.
Culverwell: I wrote the bass part, too. I think it may have been easier since I wrote the guitar part as well. Usually when he writes everything on guitar I have to figure it out but since I wrote both of these parts, I knew what would fit more nicely.
Garner: Yeah, yo were more intimately familiar with the guitar parts.
Culverwell: The song has been near and dear to my heart for years, but I had always played it by myself.
Stickles: I wrote this about my mom for sure. I heard him play it for so long and for some reason the way he played it on guitar just emotionally grabbed me. My mom passed away in 2009. The way that she died, she had brain cancer so I never got to talk to her for the month she was sick before she passed. Every time I dream about her, she’s always trying to tell me something. She always has a voice in my dreams, so it’s about her voice and her ghost haunting me when she didn’t have the option to before she passed.
Cretin: Randi, on this one, your vocals are kind of beautiful and vulnerable.
Stickles: This is a hard one for me to get through, I’m kind of scared to play this live, not because it is physically difficult, but emotionally.
Joseph: It’s a beautiful song.
Joseph: It’s another one we’ve had for quite some time, too. We kind of worked on it here and there. Randi, I think you and I got together for a few hours at practice.
Stickles: Yeah, and figured out the chorus.
Joseph: She had the verses pretty much worked out, but we were having a lot of trouble with the chorus but then we put that together. I love that song, I think it’s super drivey.
Cretin: (To Randi) Do you play guitar at all?
Stickles: No, I don’t. (Giggles) I’m not as talented as these boys.
Garner: You have different talents. You’re amazing.
Joseph: When Randi and I can find time outside of practice and I play things on acoustic –
Stickles: We’re to the point where we can literally predict what we’re going to write; either guitar or vocals, we’re that in tune now. It’s crazy. He helps me so much.
Garner: Which is a good thing, because he (Joseph) and I have been at that level for such a long time. It just comes with time.
Joseph: I definitely do feel like that I’ve gotten real comfortable and used to what Randi likes to do and I can tailor things to that.
Stickles: He treats me like a princess.
Cretin: Appropriately, I’m sure.
Joseph: I was going to say partner, but princess is fine, too.
Stickles: He’s my partner princess.
Garner: We’re going to get her a tiara if this album takes off.
Stickles: No doubt.
Cretin: So, I thought it was another strong drum song.
Garner: The way he wrote that intro riff, I was like, I have to have something that’s really killer and dynamic and drivey in the beginning. The second he played that riff, I wrote that intro tom-filled thing and it’s always stuck because it fits so well.
Cretin: And the bass was nicely spotlighted.
Culverwell: Probably during the verse.
Joseph: It is cool during the verse, but I really like it during the bridge how you do that walking part.
Joseph: I really like that. I think the note choices there really complement what everybody else is doing and that really sticks out to me bass-wise. I really love that part.
Culverwell: During the verse the bass is really minimalistic and it’s just right on beat with his kick drums.
Joseph: Powerful, though. Those held out notes; a lot of low end there. And that song has cool lyrics, too.
Stickles: The lyrics are about the way I grew up, and the way I saw people show affection, I’m not going to say any names; I don’t want to say my parents or whatever. It’s through fighting and the whole idea of how opposites attract. You wonder if that’s distilled in your head, if it’s pounded in all the time that opposites attract and fighting is how you show affection? In the chorus I say “You like my antics in the night, but I’m far from what you like.” Then I say “Are we done, are we not done?” You can’t tell if they’re showing endearment or if that’s how they know how to show affection.
Culverwell: Is that why you always hit me?
Cretin: This is the first one you wrote for the album, right?
Joseph: We’re not entirely sure. But, when I wrote the initial riff, I was listening to a lot of Black Keys and I was letting my blues influence roll out. I take a lot of inspiration from Dan Auerbach and I think he’s amazing. I wanted to do something different than we had done before – that blues diversity with an alternative rock thing we’ve been doing. To me, that’s our most progressive song. There’s a lot of changes, a lot of parts and pieces to make that song.
Cretin: So, the guitars in there, you weren’t playing those parts real time, right? It sounds like there are two guitars at times.
Joseph: There are delay effects and different things like that.
Garner: But, it sounds like that live. There are layers on the track, but that’s with every album you hear.
Joseph: With that in mind, we don’t record anything that we can’t duplicate live. Because we’re a one guitar band, when I’m soloing, I won’t play a rhythm track over it. We’ll let the bass carry those kinds of rhythms. But I do use a lot of effects and things on that song to give it that kind of swirl.
Garner: I love that song because it felt like there’s a lot of open space for me to do a lot of different things in that song. Also, with all of the changes, it allows me to be free in certain parts to do open stuff and to be in lock step in others.
Culverwell: I remember this very vividly. When we were first writing this song, you guys wanted to have that breakdown be significantly shorter, and I was like no – let’s make this long, let’s drag it out as long as we can. It’s that Tool, Radiohead or Pink Floyd thing to me where I thought ‘let’s make this a fucking fifteen minute long song.’
Joseph: I think we came up with a nice compromise for that section and that it’s very powerful.
Cretin: It is the longest song on the album. Gave you time to do what you wanted to do.
Garner: And it has a lot of different emotive parts. The emotion varies from part to part. In writing and arranging it, it seemed to be the most varied from part to part.
Stickles: But, the lyrics are super repetitive, and I think that’s to compromise.
Joseph: It keeps the pop sensibility in a very progressive song.
Stickles: That song is about the end of something terrible and the beginning of something new, and just saying the tide brings something new, it was you. The part where I say ‘The footprints filled with blue.’ meaning when you first get into something new and the very next day you walk away and feel fulfilled, meaning you’re taking something away from that experience.
Garner: I have to throw my sister, Rebecca, some cred. Before we had lyrics, we just had the guitar riff, drums and bass; we had the instrumental and she said she really loved the song and that it really spoke to her. It made her feel like the moon and tides. I told Randi that and she ran with that idea of the moon and tides.
Culverwell: (laughing) So your sister wrote the song and Randi wrote the lyrics…
Garner: She gave her emotive feeling of the instrumental.
Stickles: That started the whole ocean theme as it is with this album.
Cretin: Damn, I didn’t even notice that oceanic theme.
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Cretin: So, that brings us to “Blue,” which, by the way, was a great way to close the album. I think it’s my favorite song.
Stickles: A lot of people say that.
Cretin: So, who did I agree with? One of you said this was your favorite song?
Stickles: This guy (points to Chris).
Cretin: So, Chris is the one with great taste.
Stickles: I love it and it has a special place in my heart, but there’s songs on the album I like a lot more. Let me go over the lyrics before I forget. If you listen to this song, it’s literally about a constant battle with your heart. Like if you go, I’ll go, even if that’s the worst possible scenario for me, I have no other choice but to go with what you tell me to do, that’s what it is about. Battling with your heart even though you’re not supposed to. A lot of times my brain agrees with my head and that’s the worst possible decision in life.
Joseph: With Blue, I remember wanting to write something super-minimalistic and powerful.
Cretin: This was my favorite guitar song, too.
Joseph: Besides the bridge, the verse and chorus is really just an arpeggio of two chords.
Culverwell: And, you were frustrated by that initially, that it was kind of the same thing all along.
Joseph: A good compromise for that is we made the transitions between verse and chorus so dynamic and so different. It is a little worrisome to repeat two chords through the verse and chorus. It’s not a difficult guitar song.
Cretin: Figures that’s the one I preferred.
Joseph: Hey, being complicated doesn’t always mean good. It’s just about that passion it evokes in you, and you can do that with any sound.
Cretin: One thing I did not like about the song were the last three seconds – the way it ended.
Garner: I kind of loved that.
Joseph: I loved it, too.
Cretin: (laughing) Well, I guess you guys win.
Garner: We tried different ways to end it, but I liked the abrupt stop.
Joseph: It’s also that same little three note progression we used that varies.
Stickles: Maybe it’s because it’s just when the vocals get pretty?
Cretin: Your vocals are really dynamic on this one.
Stickles: Thank you. That one’s tough and I don’t mind playing that at the end of a set because after that song, I’m dead. (laughs) I’m ready to pass out.
Joseph: She definitely gave an amazing vocal performance.
Stickles: That song is tough.
Joseph: Another thing we did on this album is we purposely recorded her vocals very hot – like several decibels above where we recorded Vices and Verses. They’re much bigger than on previous albums. We wanted to show off what we sound like live. She really does have that beauty to raspy to scream and we wanted to make sure that was captured by cranking the pre-amps on the vocals and letting them record just how they are. The first thing I thought when I heard this back is ‘my god, the vocals are huge.’
Garner: We did the same things with drums on this album. We purposely tracked drums to an analog console.
Joseph: We wanted a big boomy rock ‘n roll sound.
Stickles: I love the whole bare bones feeling to this album compared to Vices which was so clean. This one, it’s like you’re front row at one of our shows.
You can pre-order the album now on their website, and get an instant download of “Capsize.” The album will be released at a big party at The Social Saturday night, where they’ll be joined by fellow Orlando rockers, A Brilliant Lie, Leaving Haven and Soul Switch. Buy service charge free tickets here – they’re only a paltry $10! This is a can’t miss show for Orlando rock music fans – hopefully, we’ll see you there.
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