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Soundtracking interview with Daniel Brummel Star Wick and Pierre de Reeder - 2006

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Original article (archived by Wayback Machine): https://web.archive.org/web/20070310223633/http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976924645

Soundtracking is a weekly column featuring indie and alternative music, published every Tuesday by Laura Cushing on Gather.com.

As an official Gather Music Correspondent, I'm pleased to bring my knowledge of indie and alternative music to the community. Soundtracking will feature some of the best up-and-coming bands in indie music today. Soundtracking will feature interviews, CD reviews, music playlists and mp3 downloads, and music discussions.

This week on Soundtracking - We have a double feature - two interviews for your reading pleasure!

This week, Soundtracking talks to Daniel Brummel and Star Wick of Ozma, and Pierre de Reeder of Rilo Kiley. Two California bands with impressive sound that toured together in their earlier days, both Ozma and Rilo Kiley are gearing up for spring album releases.

If you're unfamiliar with these bands, you may want to refer to our Sound Guides to Ozma and Rilo Kiley.

Daniel Brummel and Star Wick - Ozma

Ozma formed young, and put out three tremendous albums before breaking up in 2004. Now, having reformed with a new drummer (Kenn Shane, formerly of Addison), they're poised for a triumphant return to the music world. Ozma has opened for Weezer, played on the Warped Tour, covered the Tetris theme in a rock-out Russian cold fusion style - you never know what to expect next from this innovative band. Soundtracking recently talked to Daniel Brummel and Star Wick about their formation, reformation, new album, and plans for success.

ST : Daniel, what made you choose the name Ozma?

Daniel: When I was fifteen and we were about to put out our first four-track demo, we brainstormed trying to think of a name. The Oz books by L. Frank Baum were on the shelf and I took one down and flipped through it and wrote "Ozma" on the list. Somehow we agreed on it and it stuck. Later we found out "Project Ozma" was the name of the first search for extra-terrestrial intelligence by Frank Drake in 1960, which is neat. It's also the name of an awesome Melvins album.

ST : You had a lot of early successes (opening for Weezer, several US and outside the US tours, etc) at such a young age - was it ever overwhelming?

Daniel: Kind of, because we were always self-managed. Now we have fantastic management (Del Williams & Gary Spivack) which allows us to focus on songwriting and performing, which is what we do best.

Star: Come to think of it, our parents must have been pretty worried. A bunch of teenagers driving across the US in a van for the first time could have been pretty eventful. I always felt safe and happy. I definitely had to get used to playing in front of huge audiences really quickly. My fondest memories are of the happy times on tour.

ST : Star, is it ever hard being the only girl in a band full of guys?

Star: The only time it's hard is on the long drives when I have to keep asking them to make a pit stop so I can use the bathroom, but that's not even hard and usually they're fine with it. Unless of course we're late; then sometimes I have to hold it. For the most part, I absolutely love being in a band with four boys that are there for me like big brothers. They are hilarious and I always know it's going to be a fun time. It would probably be a lot worse being the only boy in a band full of girls.

ST : Daniel, during Ozma's breakup, you lived in New York City and recorded a solo album. What was it like living there? Did it influence the making of your solo album?

Daniel: Absolutely, New York is an international capital and spending time there was very influential on me and my music. I performed a lot and saw some amazing shows -- Richard Buckner, Trick and the Heartstrings, Elvis Costello with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, and Bonnie Prince Billy. I worked as manager of an indie record store (Kim's Mediapolis) which turned me on to underground stuff like Sun City Girls, Kaki King, Sparks, and Sharon Jones. In New York you're forced to be around the rest of humanity all day, every day, and I had lots of strange synchronistic experiences with people in Manhattan so I started investigating phenomena like that. My interest in esoteric mysticism started to get intense when I lived in Harlem, which definitely colored my solo record. A lot of "Speak Easy" was recorded while staring out my window at the intersection of 151st & Amsterdam, and a couple of songs were recorded for the play "Misadventures in Being" that showed on St. Mark's Place. But I had already begun recording that album in early 2004 while living out by CalArts in Valencia, CA and the whole Santa Clarita art scene was also a huge influence.

ST : How did Ozma decide to get back together again?

Daniel: After we broke the band up and I'd been in New York for a year and a half, I decided I was going to move back to LA to finish my degree at UCLA. Ryen called sometime in July 2005, I let him know I would be moving back, and we started talking about doing Ozma again with a new drummer. It seemed like the right thing to do with our lives since we all love writing, recording, and touring together.

ST : What was it like playing your reunion shows after being apart for so long?

Star: The reunion shows were probably some of the funnest shows ever. I think fans were super excited because they hadn't seen us play in forever, so the energy at the shows was super high. It was really fun playing a long set with lots of old songs and also showing off some of the new stuff we'd been working on. The best part was that it seemed really familiar and welcoming. I was nervous the whole time leading up to the shows because I felt like I had gotten out of the swing of things, but once the show started and I forgot about all of that and just wanted to have fun.

Daniel: The reunion shows were among the most memorable experiences of my life. We did two sellout nights at the Knitting Factory Hollywood and the kids were just so stoked to have us back. They sang all the words to every song, so loud. Plus we had two of our favorite bands opening, Satisfaction, and the Mae Shi -- who were totally bizarre and freaked out all our fans which was interesting. Those turned out to be two of their last shows with Ezra Buchla and Corey Fogel as members. Our first show in San Francisco after reforming was also totally epic, as was our entire "Return Tour" with the Rentals.

ST : Your band reformed with a new drummer, Kenn Shane. Tell us about Kenn. Where did he play before Ozma? What is his style like?

Star: Kenn played in Addison before Ozma. He is a great songwriter, guitarist, singer, pianist and drummer. Basically, a musical jack of all trades.

Daniel: He's a well-rounded musician, excellent songwriter, vocalist, pianist, and ukelele player as well as being one of the best drummers I've ever heard. His style is crisp and kind of aggro which brings a ton of energy to all our songs.

ST : When can we expect the new record?

Daniel: It'll be out May 15 on About A Girl Records, distributed by Sony/BMG.

ST : How are your recording sessions going?

Star: Recording is taking a little longer than anticipated, but that's just because we are taking extra time to make sure everything is exactly how we want it. It'll pay off in the end when we listen to the album years later and not have anything we wish we would have done differently.

Daniel: Our sessions for this album have been the most productive and comfortable sessions ever. We are working with two great producers, Billy Burke and Greg Doyle, and the album is being mixed by Matt Hyde, a total badass. To pass the time while we're tuning and stuff, we watch lots of Spanish-language television -- our favorite show is "Asi Es La Vida." It's golden.

ST : Do you have a favorite of the new songs you're working on? A favorite of the songs you've already done?

Star: I'm excited about a song Daniel and I have been working on called Heartache Versus Heartbreak just because it's exciting to see an idea realized from conception to finish. The song is powerful, yet cheesy at the same time... that's the appeal if you know what I mean.

Daniel: Favorites change but usually we're most excited about whatever's newest.

ST : Are you planning to tour in support of your new album? How far reaching will that tour be?

Daniel: After this record is out I want to tour until we drop dead from exhaustion. How far we'll go depends on how well the record is received.

ST : What are your favorite cities to play in? Do you have a favorite on-the-road food?

Star: I like playing in Salt Lake City because the kids there are awesome! I also like New York City of course, Boston, anywhere in Florida, New Orleans, Chicago, Lawrence... basically I like every city. My favorite food on the road is when we stop at Whole Foods. Also, Apple Holler on the drive from Milwaukee to Chicago is a band favorite. I'm going to get a big basket of blueberries the next time I'm there.

Daniel: Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Vancouver, Montreal, Austin, Berkeley, Seattle. For some reason we always have totally epic shows in Salt Lake City. My favorite on-the-road food is beer.

ST : Star, I understand you majored in Biology and Art. How did you go from a biology/art major to music?

Star: I've always been involved with music, even before I went to school. I used to play in orchestras and enter piano and flute competitions with pieces I worked on. I joined Ozma when I was a senior in high school and continued with the band all throughout college. I used to want to be a doctor, but then I had too much fun rocking out.

ST : And you also worked for Marc Jacobs? Do you still do any fashion work?

Star: Working for Marc Jacobs was a dream, I was like a little girl in a candy shop. I got to dress up every day in amazing clothes and work with fun people. I miss it sometimes. I have all these cute dresses with no place to wear them. I sometimes assist styling shoots for Vogue. I haven't done it in a couple months, but it's the kind of thing where I receive a call and I can turn down the job if I'm busy.

ST : If you could give Ozma a fashion makeover, what would you dress your bandmates in?

Star: Oh goodness, this topic has swayed in and out of conversation for some time. We had an idea to all wear jumpsuits of different colors, focusing around primary colors, but Kenn & Dan were the only ones that actually got their jumpsuits. Kenn's was red and he wore it in Japan, it was awesome! I think everyone in the band has their own unique style, so in order for me to do a fashion makeover it would either have to be something completely drastic... or perhaps something that was a mixture of everyone's styles. It would be fun to see everyone dress like we did when we were babies in the '80s.

ST : Daniel, what is the ultimate goal of Ozma? What's your wildest ambition for the band?

Daniel: Tyrannical rule of the world, for its own good, through complete arena rock domination, while retaining absolute artistic integrity. Sharing peace and harmony with everyone. Staying dedicated to the great work.

For more Ozma:

Official website/myspace
Ozma fansite and forum
Ozma on YouTube
Sound Guide to Ozma
Ozma's free mp3 downloads
Daniel Brummel solo MySpace

Pierre de Reeder - Rilo Kiley

Pierre de Reeder talks with Soundtracking about being a full-time musician and dad, vegetarianism, the new Rilo Kiley album, and his solo work.

ST : There's a lot of anticipation for the new Rilo Kiley album. Can you give us some information about it?

Pierre: With this, for now, I must be a bit vague. I can say that we are finally coming to a finish with it, and I'm really excited. It's been a fairly long, explorative process... not to say we made some weird concept album or anything, but we did take our time. And it's always hard to be objective with these things... but as I sort of feel we've done on each successive record, we've definitely gone somewhere else while at the same time remaining true to ourselves. Whatever that means! At the end of the day, again, I'm just excited about it, because it just feels good. (How's that for vague?)

ST : Is Mike Bloom an official member of the Kiley?

Pierre: Ah, a burning question. I'll just have to leave some mystery here.

ST : You've released a 7 inch split with the band Acute that features a lovely song, Shame on Love. Is this song going to be included on your solo album?

Pierre: Well, thanks on that comment. Yeah, it'll be on the record. And sure, I'll tell ya a bit about it. Not sure exactly when to expect it to be released, figuring that all out now. Have been so entrenched in finishing the Rilo Kiley record that I haven't had too much time to pursue a potential home for mine. I'll hopefully have a better idea in the next month or so. I'd love to work something out for a fall release. You never know with this stuff. But as for the record itself, I'm very happy with it. It was both a lot of fun and a lot of work making it. It took a while because for a lot of the album it's just me playing all the parts, and that kind of compounds the time needed to finish each song. But I do love working that way, for my own stuff anyway... it feels sort of like sculpting or painting, in the way that you create the whole picture, and get to come at the songs from all the different perspectives of guitar, drums, piano or whatever. There's no absence of guest players on it either... Jason Boesel plays on a few, as does Mike Runion, both Dave and Harry Trumfio, and my probably only full time member, Jeff Litz. And there's appearances of one form or another by my friends that you might expect. Well, I guess I just blabbed more about its creation rather than how it sounds... but I don't suppose I could describe that anyway. Right? Who can ever do that? So, I'll probably start rotating in some of the songs on MySpace in the meantime.

ST : In addition to being a busy musician, you're also raising a family. Is it hard to balance recording, touring and family? What does your daughter think of Rilo Kiley?

Pierre: Oh yeah, it can be tough, but it's all workable. My two priorities are my family and music, so it can definitely be a balancing act. But it's also a time of feast or famine... when we're not on the road I'm here, full time. Sometimes for months at a time. And that is an amazing thing to be able to be full time with your family. My daughter and I are very close, closer than I think we could ever have been if I had a regular 9-5 job. And yeah, they'll visit somewhere in the middle of a tour, or I'll sometimes come home if we have a few days off. So we make it work. And Sophia loves Rilo Kiley! She knows just about all the words to all the songs... plays the tunes on her kazoo trumpet... and has a knack for making up words that she can't quite make out what Jenny or Blake is saying, and they're always strangely poetic.

ST : From watching a Peta video a while back, I learned that you were a vegetarian. How long have you been? How has it affected your life?

Pierre: I've been since I was 17! Crazy, been a while. It's certainly affected my life in a good way. Of course I can't get anywhere close to perfect with it, but at least it lets me strive towards being a non-hypocrite. I think it spans much further than just eating choices, but to grander, life-living choices. Compassion, consideration, understanding... all that. I hope to be able to pursue a more proactive whole thing with it someday... always had dreams of a restaurant, and other things... well, we'll see.

ST : You can often be seen playing a wide variety of instruments (was that a glockenspiel in that Dave Foley video?) - how many instruments can you play? Are you self taught? How hard is it for you to learn another instrument?

Pierre: I noodle around on a lot of stuff, and that glockenspiel was true noodling! I don't know what I can truly claim that I 'play', but I can get around on the core instruments you'd likely see or hear in a typical band, and I'll try to take on whatever outside of that. Ever since I was fourteen or fifteen I'd had some sort of band set up in my room or whatever, and I always liked recording, so that was the beginning of jumping around. I'd lay down some drums, then bass and guitars, just a means to an end of making songs by myself. Anyway, I don't think that's too uncommon. But as I mentioned in your earlier question, it's a lot of fun. I can really obsess on getting better at drumming or whatever. I did take lessons a bit. Took piano when I was kid. Guitar and bass lessons. Even had a few drum lessons here and there. But none of them were too lengthy. So it's a mix, but mostly just playing more than anything.

ST : Do you have any favorite cities to play? Does the bus ever get really really crowded?

Pierre: Usually my favorite city is home. It's usually the last show of a tour, and the energy is always up and swirling, a real hometown kind of feeling. And it's always coupled with the feeling that I get to be back with my family for a while. But there are plenty of other places that are just great. And some of the best shows are in unexpected places. Like some small town in the middle somewhere, where everyone is so happy and appreciative that you've come to their town, and it just resonates. And there are seemingly obvious places like, but not limited to, New York, or Chicago, or Seattle, or London that are just always extra fun. Sometimes it's just the whole experience of the place, whether it has a favorite restaurant or something that we've been looking forward to that can make the difference. I guess it's fair to say that I usually have fun playing in most places. It's probably easier to think of places that, for whatever reason, seem to be less of an experience or the shows never seem to go as well there or whatever. But those are few, and I won't even think to list any... especially because the way things go, we'll probably have the best show of our life the next time we go there! As for the bus, it's usually pretty mellow. It can of course get crowded sometimes, when people are visiting and all that, and I'm certainly a culprit there when the fam is out with us. But we're never a real party wagon or anything.

ST : What's your favorite knock-knock joke?

Pierre: Knock knock.

ST : Who's there?

Pierre: Candace.

ST : Candace who?

Pierre: Candace be the last knock knock joke? (ever, truly ever?)

For more Rilo Kiley/Pierre:

Rilo Kiley website
Rilo Kiley MySpace
Rilo Kiley fansite
Rilo Kiley on YouTube
Sound Guide to Rilo Kiley
Pierre solo MySpace

See also