So it’s time for the first real article in this installment of my blog !
Those of you who followed my New York blog will recognize half of this week’s interview. Kelsey Warren, front-man of Pillow Theory and guitarist for Denise Barbarita and the Morning Papers, is now collaborating with singer/songwriter Alex Kelly, adding yet another project to his prolific musical resume.
Alex, the former front-woman of Amungus, a side project of Goo Goo Dolls’ bassist Robby Takac, joined forces with Kelsey on her first full-length solo album Orange Circle. The 2012 follow up to her debut EP Sticky Butterfly earned Alex and her new partner spots on prestigious festival line-ups like CMJ and Northside, as well as a sponsorship with MAC cosmetics.
The duo’s sound can best be summed up by a lyric in Orange Circle’s title track, “Dancing in the joy of today,” because their tracks are crafted to get you moving and slap a big grin on your face. It’s everything you want out of dance rock; all the fun of a pop song fused with roaring guitar riffs.
Funny enough, this piece was actually supposed to happen way before Orange Circle was even released. I met Alex in 2011 during my last days in New York, when Kelsey brought her along to a bar where we met up for farewell drinks. They told me about their project that was in its beginning stages, which sounded like the total blast it has manifested into today, and I had every intention of doing a story on them. But I got back to LA, and well, life got in the way. So in a serious case of “better late than never,” I finally caught up with these two after a recent Midwest tour to get their whole story.
How did the Midwest tour go? Any fun stories? Judging from Facebook, it looked like the food was pretty good….
Alex: Yeah, we had a great time. It’s nice being on the road meeting strangers in other parts of the country who happen to like our music. Kelsey and I tend to send out tour tweets at random, so if you really want to know how it went down you should check out our Twitter pages. There were a couple food spots we really enjoyed. After the gig, a place called Wonderland in Richmond VA served the best fried chicken I’ve had in my life! They use Captain Crunch in the batter (sounds gross, tastes delicious). The Omni Hotel spoiled us with “the breakfast experience” the next morning so we were pretty much in food heaven.
Kelsey: The Omni Hotel’s breakfast was the best! Also this diner called Frances in Chicago was amazing! We had bacon chocolate chip pancakes, which were the bomb!
Alex: *sings* “Bacon PanCAAAAKES…” (both laugh)
How were the Midwest crowds compared to NYC? Sometimes it seems like people are way less jaded and get more into a show outside the major cities.
Alex: This question makes me mindful of Manfred, the owner of Taffy’s in Eaton OH. Taffy’s is one of the most chill spots we’ve ever played. It’s like a funky/Zen/ Winebar/Coffeshop/Eatery/Nightclub. From the moment we arrived, Manfred’s commitment to supporting live music was clear. He hung a huge sign outside that read “Concert Tonight”, he put a chalkboard on the street in front of Taffy’s describing who was playing, a poster at the register of the nights lineup, and a speaker in the window so that passersby could hear our set and stop in. And if that wasn’t enough, he even put a large glass tip jar to the side of the stage.
People came to Taffy’s because Manfred has essentially created his own scene…a music oasis for both the musician and the audience. New York City is more “Yea, yea, how many people can you draw? “Bands pay full price for alcohol!” and “You got 30 minutes kid!”
So how did this collaboration come into being? How does working together compare to your other (previous and current) projects?
Alex: I met Kelsey through a friend of his that we haven’t seen since he introduced us almost 3 years ago now. Working together I think we have more freedom than with previous projects. Kelsey knows what I want, I know what he wants, and sometimes we don’t even need to discuss things. It’s just automatic with us. Also, we push each other, so there’s always a challenge involved.
Kelsey: Definitely! The way we communicate musically is hard to explain. We can finish each other’s musical ideas without even speaking. Or sometimes when one of us is trying to finish an idea and there’s a block, the other says, “Try this,” and then it’s like, automatic. I’ve collaborated and played with many musicians throughout the years and I feel most comfortable when I’m working with Alex.
Alex said in an interview that you two play music because it’s just your function, your nature. When and how were each of you bit by the music bug?
Alex: I started singing when I was around 6 years old. It’s the thing that brings me joy in life. No other single act gives me satisfaction like singing the songs I wrote.
Kelsey: I started on drums at 5 but I’m not a great drummer now. I gravitated towards guitar and piano around 12 and started singing after. It’s what we both have to do and makes us happy. Plus just listening to music and deciphering sound growing up is what really captured me forever.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Alex: I love hearing stories about how the Orange Circle album/singles made individual fans feel. I’m fascinated by how some people pull meanings out of the music that were unintended. It’s all so mysterious.
Kelsey: Yeah, just want people to feel something from our work. People have so many interpretations, which is interesting but cool. I don’t think either of us want to be “background music.”
How is the follow up to Orange Circle coming?
Alex: We are taking our time with that. The next piece I put out is going to be completely different than OC, so don’t expect anything too soon. We just put out a new music video for Magnet on Youtube. I like to think of it as a prelude to our next release.
This one’s just for Alex, but Kelsey you’re still welcome to chime in. Did you ever get your hula-hoop back, or at least replaced, that was stolen at Northside? (I know that was a while ago, but I’m a fellow hula hoop addict, and was curious after reading your blog. What an awful thing to do…)
Alex: Noooooo! Why’d you have to mention that?! Oh god, it hurts. I still have dreams where I turn around and see the theif just before they make off with my hoop. I have since replaced my original hoop with a 4 piece collapsible one that fits into a bag I carry around. It’s nice and transports easily, but nothing will ever replace my stolen baby.
Any other shows coming up in the near future?
Alex: Yes, we have a few more tour dates in August that you can check out at alexkellymusic.com/shows
Anything I didn’t cover that you want to mention?
Alex: Go to our website and buy the Orange Circle Album, especially if you are tired of hearing the same old auto-tuned voices over trap beats, and synthesized horn sounds…Wait, can I say that? Well I guess I just did, so…
Kelsey: Co-sign on what she said!