Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Sound & Shape

Complex. Melodic. Virutostic. Compelling. Just a few words that could be bandied about when describing the intensely cool new band, Sound&Shape. Squeezing the band onto the Ripple red leather couch, we asked guitarist/singer Ryan Caudle and drummer Jerry Pentecost to fill us in on what makes the band tick.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkle, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Ryan: For me the biggest one, the one that has had the longest lasting impact, was hearing the Beatles for the first time. My first grade teacher brought in Help! on vinyl to play while the class read. As soon as he put it on I freaked out. I actually closed my book and took my chair and went and sat in front of the record player. I went home that night and asked my mom about the Beatles and to her credit (and probably her regret years later haha) she went out and bought me like 5 Beatles tapes the next day. I wore those things out. After that I got into Zeppelin ( I think I had a Journey period around the age of 11 or so) and so on and so forth. The next real big epiphany came when I listened to The Wall all the way through and actually understood it! Haha. It's always great discovering a piece of music that you can relate to and really hits you. Hopefully we can provide that for people at some point.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Ryan: It works in a few different ways. We write a good portion of the music collectively so I normally wait to write lyrics until after the songs are fleshed out for the most part. Having said that I have a few notebooks filled up with lyric fragments, fully formed ideas, or just pairings of words. On all the new stuff we've been writing it's definitely been a more collaborative process than ever before. Out of the ten new songs we have I think maybe only 1 or 2 of them were brought in fully formed by me and one of them is all Dave. Otherwise it usually starts with one of us bring a riff or a chord progression in and we'll all learn it, internalize it, and see where it takes us. Sometimes it takes us in three different directions but that's where you have to learn the art of compromise haha. Lyrically, I spend most of my days pondering the cosmos (haha) so I tend to come up with really expansive themes and stories, but I am making a concentrated effort to distill these ideas down to their rawest components and tell the whole story in one song, instead of spreading the narrative out over the length of the whole album.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Ryan: Life in general really. Everything has movement to it...a rhythm...a melody. Without getting too cosmic about it, an everyday conversation..either one I am having or maybe its one I am overhearing on the bus or at work, can unleash a flood of inspiration. Something most people don't think about is that everyone has a story. People are mostly self-centered and don't realize that just because someone walks out of a room, they don't stop existing. They have a past, present and future...they have a story too. The beauty of being a musician is you can take the amount of time that this person was in your life, be it 3 minutes or 30 years, and use your experiences and creativity to fill in the blanks. That's what's great about both sides of the musical equation. As a lyricist I can write something that I feel very strongly about, in reaction to something that happened in my own life, and someone all the way across the world can hear it and relate to it on an emotional level. If you're truly tapped into the honestly creative part of yourself even the most mundane detail of daily existence is enough to open the floodgates.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

Jerry: Raw, aggressive, thought provoking, progressive and not only in the way that we're a prog band. I don't believe in labels. All music should be progressive.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel

Jerry: I don't think there's a main message we are trying to spread. We're just 3 guys that love to play music. If there is anything I want to share with them it is passion. I like to inspire people to find something that makes them as happy as drums make me.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes

Ryan: I personally think that if you start "looking" for things in a song it almost always zaps the passion from it. We write very naturally. When I come up with a part I play with it until the next part comes out organically. The tricky part is then when we get together as a band. Whoever's idea it is that we happen to be working on will normally have a few changes in mind that they feel are "right" or "correct" but somebody else will feel differently. And that's where the beauty of collaboration and compromise comes in. You have to really love the people you're writing with to be comfortable with changing something from what you originally felt in your heart. You have to let go of your ego and realize that just because the idea is different it doesn't make it "wrong". There are no "rights" or "wrongs" in rock and roll. I'm definitely the most stubborn in the band when it comes to that though haha. I'm ok with calling myself out in that respect. But I trust Dave and Jerry with my life so how could I not trust their musical opinions? Egos ruin more bands than anything else. It's a sad fact.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Jerry: This business is cutthroat, but I love music enough that it could never put out my fire. That's why we are independent. We have worked with shady people in the past and we have learned our lesson. It's hard to find good people in this business so if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. We try to put out good, honest music and let the fans decide. Really, the power is in your (the fans) hands.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Ryan: There are so many it's hard to know where to begin. There have been hospital visits, arrests, we've played every kind of venue imaginable from the snack bar of a little league ballpark to a giant inflatable dome. We've played stages so small we literally had to be on top of each other and stages so big we had to shout to talk. Jerry and I have both fallen onstage a number of's the random craziness that makes touring so much fun.

Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?

Ryan: That's a tough one. Artistically I'd have to say wherever the muse takes us. I hope in ten years time we have established enough of an audience that's interested in our work to keep us on our toes.

What makes a great song?

Ryan: That's another tough one and to be honest I don't think I can answer it with any amount of truth. I'd love to be able to explain why a Dylan song like "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" captivates as much as a Yes song like "Close To The Edge" does. Actually now that I think about it I'm glad I can't explain it. That's what makes music such a powerful thing...the fact that it conjures up different emotions in different people. You can't describe to someone else what a specific emotion feels like.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Ryan: Jeeze...that was a long time ago! I remember where I was and how old I was but I couldn't tell you a single thing about the actual song haha. I was about 10 years old and I remember I hid the piece of paper with the lyrics on it in between my mattress and box spring so nobody would find it. I remember thinking "I know this isn't good...but I can get better." A couple years later I was going through a family issue or 2 and I would stay in my room for hours and hours recording songs on my dual tapedeck....just going back and forth between the two overdubbing stuff. It sounded absolutely terrible! I would do the drums and bass on my dads keyboard, an old Yamaha DX7 (the Full House synthesizer). None of the stuff was groundbreaking, to put it mildly, but I definitely think all of that has had an impact on who I am now as a person and a musician.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Jerry: I am most proud of my work on "The Solitary Journey" which is the last track on The Love Electric and a song we did as a B side for "Where Machines End Their Lives." It will never be released but it was a good song.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

Ryan: Not knocking modern music really but the people writing great songs today are the people who have been writing great songs for the last 40 years...Dylan, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Springsteen, etc. There are many great new writers and new bands out there but the sad fact is they are being overshadowed by the current state of the mainstream. I personally tend to stick to the classics myself. Having said all that I think the new Mastodon record is quite amazing and I am super glad to see a band like that getting the recognition they deserve.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Jerry: I don't really have a favorite. I have tons of cassettes, cds and vinyl. I'm not really a fan of digital but I do have a bunch of music on my laptop. I like have physical copies. I love looking at inserts.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Ryan: Nashville has a few really good ones...The Great Escape and Phonoluxe, but the one you REALLY have to hit is Grimeys. Amazing selection, great staff...they are kind of the hub of the Nashville rock scene.

Thanks guys. Waveriders, check out the band's page and be prepared to be blown away and enraptured at the same time.

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