Sunday, 16 March 2014

THE BRIDGES I HAVE BURNED: Our interview with David from Eddie Japan!

Below is our exclusive interview with David Santos, frontman of Boston baroque poppers Eddie Japan! Enjoy!
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What is your earliest musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the music business?
"I can remember my earliest childhood friend Roger playing 'Smoking in the Boys Room' by Brownsville Station. We said we were going to start a band and I was going to play drums. We were probably about five or six. I eventually became a drummer, but in high school, I discovered that I had a singing voice. With that knowledge, sitting behind the drums became much less appealing. So from then on, this whole thing has just been a big part of my life."
What kind of records were on around the house when you were younger and would you say that these records still influence your music today?
"My parents had lots of 45s that I enjoyed. When I was very young, I remember being transfixed by 'Yesterday' by The Beatles, 'I Am a Rock' by Simon and Garfunkel, and 'I Get Around' by The Beach Boys, to name a few. They also had a Dion LP, and I remember being obsessed with the song 'Run Around Sue'. Our sound owes quite a bit to the sixties, so these records just may have stuck with me!"
Had you been involved in any other bands or musical ventures before Eddie Japan?
"Yes, a few. Proud of all of them, but they were not bands of note."
How did Eddie Japan begin?
"In 2006, I sent an email to a Boston trumpet player named Chris Barrett. I had never met Chris, but he played with a Boston artist named Paula Kelley whose songwriting I really admired. He was curious enough to see what I had in mind, and then he just started bringing in great players."
Can you introduce us to the band and tell us what you play?
"The aforementioned Chris Barrett on trumpet and keyboards, Bart LoPiccolo on guitar, Eric Brosius on guitar, Chuck Ferreira on drums, Charles Membrino on bass, Kate Connell and Emily Belastock on backing vocals, and me on lead vocals."
Where did the name Eddie Japan come from?
"In high school, I had a fairly prominent widow's peak, so for a time, friends called me 'Eddie Munster', after the character on the sixties TV show. 'Japan' came from the line in the song 'Ziggy Stardust', ' some cat from Japan'. Years before Eddie Japan came together, I had the idea of writing a glam concept record in the vein of Ziggy. At some point, I put the two words together and thought it sounded like a good name for my Ziggy character. I never wrote the glam record, but when this band was considering names, I tossed it out, and that was that."
How would you describe the sound of Eddie Japan?
"Our former guitar player labelled us 'melancholic Pop classicists'. Overheard recently was this descriptor: 'Gene Pitney sings the Echo & The Bunnymen songbook at the Copa Room in 1966'. In a nutshell, we draw from the sixties and eighties to create slinky, sad, soaring pop music."
Your sound is very unique in today’s musical climate. How did you find yourself playing this type of music?
"For years prior to forming Eddie Japan, I had been listening to a lot of Scott Walker and Divine Comedy, and I also discovered a record called 'Forever Changes' by the sixties band, Love. These artists all employ orchestral elements, and I knew I wanted to go in that direction. Morrissey and The Smiths have always been a big influence, though it's probably heard more in the lyrics than in the music. I guess I wanted to do something that was the exact opposite of indie rock - big, dramatic, and vocal-centric with less of an emphasis on loud guitars."
You have released one EP to date entitled ‘Modern Desperation, Part 1’. Where did this title come from?
 "We're living in desperate times. The political climate in America and the actual global climate are things that often make me feel world-weary. I find it hard to be optimistic about the future because I think the planet is in real peril. It seems that greed – in all the ways it manifests itself – has become a monster that we can't control. (Actually, our first EP came out in 2009, and that one is called 'Four By Six')."
Does the title reflect the subject matter of the songs?
"The songs aren't political (though 'Modern Desperation, Part 2' will contain a track about income inequality), but the title also related to the personal - the feeling that one is not on solid ground. There is a worm in the heart of man."
Our favourite song from the EP is ‘The Bridges I Have Burned’. What is this song about and what influenced it?
"Glad you like this one! This song was me trying to write a Jacques Brel song. It's about acknowledging the negative aspects in life, even honouring them in a way. It seems the collective modus operandi in America is to banish all negative thoughts and emotions. I don't think that's a very sound approach to life. When we repress, we give the negative stuff more power. You have to dance with it a bit. And I think we glean just as much from our failures as we do our successes."
The sleeve of the EP seems to be quite retro. Do you consider yourselves to be a ‘retro’ band?
"It was purposefully retro! The sleeve was inspired by the work of Reid Miles, who designed many covers for the jazz label, Blue Note, in the fifties and sixties. When I think of 'modern', I think of that time period, so I thought that design sensibility would work well with the title. While we have definite retro influences, we're not a novelty act that comes out in Nehru jackets and love beads!" 
In your career to date you have received a number of awards including a Boston Music Award and Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble Award. Many artists say they don’t care about awards but would you say that this recognition has had a boost on your career in Eddie Japan?
"Last year was a very good year for the band. The Rock 'n' Roll Rumble has been happening for thirty-five years and it is a fairly big deal in Boston. Bands like 'Til Tuesday, The Lemonheads, Dresden Dolls, and Morphine have participated in it over the years. It was a treat to be included, but winning it was hugely thrilling. The Boston Music Award for 'Live Artist of the Year' was a very nice way to cap off 2013. Both wins definitely raised our profile and helped bring in new fans."
Do you have any 'rituals' before you go on stage?
"My only ritual is trying to go easy on the cocktails
Any live dates coming up?
"Yes, we have some dates in Boston this spring. Right now, we are focusing on recording and writing."
Any new songs in the pipeline?
"Yes! We are currently working on 'Modern Desperation, Part 2'."
When can fans expect the next official release?
"Definitely maybe by fall of 2014."
Who would be your dream collaboration?
"I would like to sing with Charlotte Gainsbourg."
Who would be in your dream super group?
"The Last Shadow Puppets. OK, they are/were real, but I eagerly await a follow up! (The artists I admire are all oddballs, so putting them together in one group would be a horror show)!"


Favourite Beatle?

"I appreciate John's songwriting the most but they were all superb."

Favourite band?

"The Smiths."

Favourite new band?

"Lake Street Dive out of Boston/Brooklyn. Their sound is not one to which I would usually gravitate, but they are wildly talented and very appealing."

Favourite song?

"I have dozens of favourite songs. If I'm forced to pick, I guess I would say There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths. The opening notes never fail to give me a shiver."

Favourite album?

"Again, hard to pick just one, but The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is perfect."

Vinyl, CD or download?

"I mostly listen to music while driving, so that rules out the Victrola!"

When you press shuffle on your iPod, what is this first song that comes on?

"My Ship Is Coming In by The Walker Brothers."

Style icon?

"Steve McQueen."

Favourite film?

"Tom Ford's A Single Man is a recent favourite."

Favourite TV show?

"My wife and I have been enjoying Orange Is The New Black."

Who would play you in a film of your life?

"Robert Downey Jr."

Favourite food?

"India Pale Ale."

Football team?

"I don't like American football, and I don't follow English football, but I'll go with Sheffield Wednesday. I think its Jarvis Cocker's team, and I always thought that with a "The" in front, it would be a great name for a band."

All pictures in this feature are taken from the Eddie Japan official facebook page! Bass drum shot taken by Derek Kouyoumjian, beach shots taken by Kelly Davidson and table shots taken by Liz Linder!

Thanks to David Santos for chatting to us and all at Eddie Japan!

Hope you enjoyed this feature on Eddie Japan! Check out our previous feature on The Broxton Hundred!

Check out Eddie Japan here -

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