Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Ripple Conversation with Chris Schara (aka AJ Sugar) of Vaudeville



When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, 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?

Chris Schara:
Glosoli by Sigur Ros has always been a hard hitter for me, I can listen to it happy, sad, angry, or…well, just about any emotion that song seems to just fall into.  The entire album “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” has always been one of my favorite musical epiphanies…. Starting that album from front to back without any stopping is pure bliss.

AJ Sugar:
Led Zeppelin IV. I still remember popping that cassette in, before I was really into music. I sat and listened to the entire thing and was like holy shit…blew my mind, and I haven’t looked back!

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?

Chris Schara:
For the band?  It’s never really had much in common from one song to another.  It almost seems that every song that we’ve done to this point has had a different approach.  Whether it starts from a progression that Gummeson has put into place, or some kind of random sound that AJ makes – or some kind of idea from Timmy comes along, or something that I pump out randomly sparks something, or even John just playing around on his kit…. It honestly just all depends on the time, the place, and the kind of day.
What I can say with Masquerade is that it wasn’t just a process of “Wow, this song is awesome, let’s do it!” There were songs that didn’t make it onto the album, and won’t be making it onto an album.  We were very picky in the process of choosing what kind of album we wanted to release, and although there was some heartbreak with some of the songs not making it, I fully know that each and every one of us could not be prouder than the record that we are releasing.

Who has influenced you the most?

Chris Schara:
I would like to say that I believe that we as bandmates almost influenced each other on this album.  “Vendetta” was us finding out what kind of music the 5 of us were capable of doing when we first started playing together.  I think our personal influences speaks very loud on that album.  But as far as this album goes, I believe that the goal for this album was not to find out whom we resemble or what kind of sounds we can create, but instead, to begin to discover what the true sound of Vaudeville is.  To find that element that makes us who we are.


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

Chris Schara:
I truly believe that we look to our friends, our family, and our lives for continuing motivation.  There are a lot of people in our lives that are more important to us than they could ever know.  And it is their continuing support and love that strives to move forward, that strives to us be create and make new ideas, and motivates us every day.  To those people – we love you.


We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

Chris Schara:
Haha, well… Minneapolis is a very, very vibrant scene.  One venue can have a Metal band playing in it, then you can walk probably about 4 doors down the street and find yourself listening to Country, Alt Rock, or any other kind of Genre.  Much to what people tend to say about our scene here in Minneapolis, we actually have one of the healthiest music scenes in the entire Nation.  We are so diverse, and also, much to what people say, Local Music will always be alive, it will never die, and it will continue to grow and expand as to what kind of music is played.  I legitimately walked to somewhere in Minneapolis and caught a Polka band once, no joke.  (I enjoyed it)


You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

Chris Schara:
You know, I would have loved to take a crack at the TRON soundtrack or any Sci-Fi action film….. but then I would remember that Daft Punk would always be better than me (because they are AMAZING).
But seriously, I would see us writing a soundtrack for a Zombie flick……..we want to do a soundtrack for a Zombie film…. Any takers?  Let us know.  J

AJ Sugar:
We are probably going to go back and do a new soundtrack for some epic romance film in the next year or so. Like ‘The Titanic Soundtrack, as performed by VAUDEVILLE…feat. Celine Dion’…sound kinda cool…

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

Chris Schara:
I hate these questions!!! I can’t pick one song ever!
Let’s see here, I would say that my song that I would pick is “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin.  Out of every single song I’ve heard in my entire life, if there’s rain outside and this song is playing, my brain cannot control the effects of this song.  It’s such a beautiful song, the vocal performance is absolutely outstanding…… and it’s my favorite Guitar Solo of all time.  There’s just so much heart and soul into it, so much feel.  That song feels.
My 1,000 word essay would just simply say “Listen to it!!” 333 times, and then the last word would be. “Wow.”


AJ Sugar:
One song? Shit…Can I cheat and pick something like ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ by Green Day? That’s like 5 songs in one, and it is one of my early influences (that whole album actually…), but yea, I’ll go with that so I can write 5 mini essays.

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

Chris Schara:
You know, I believe that is something that we will never be dead set on.  Our intention will always to be to play to the name Vaudeville: we want every song to be a new experience and a new feel than the previous, and I don’t feel that’s going to change anytime soon.  I also believe that Chris Gummeson did a phenomenal job for the lyrics on this album.  Vendetta’s lyrics were good, but I truly, truly feel that this was a HUGE step up in his game as far as a lyricist goes.  And I think that’s going to show for this new record, people have already start to comment on how great the lyrics are, and knowing that, I believe that he’s only going to get better at expressing new feelings and experiences going forward.

AJ Sugar:
I agree with Schara, but I also feel like we don’t want to dictate how someone should feel with a song or album. Every one is going to hear it differently and feel it differently. If you feel SOMETHING listening to our music, we’ve done our job, and I don’t care what that something is.

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

AJ Sugar:
We should probably start writing these down…we’ve done a ton of ‘whoops, we started in the wrong key’ things, but those are lame…most recent example (and he’ll hate me for bringing it up again haha) is Jimbo being a little schwasty and throwing a shopping cart into our van breaking a window…when it was like 10 degrees out…and snowing…and right before a 2 hour drive hahaha…It’s ok tho, we covered the hole in some kind of duct tape. #rockstarswag

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

Chris Schara:
Playing live is an experience that cannot match any other emotion that I’ve held in this life.  It’s completely weird, because there are moments on stage when I lose myself, all I can see is my fellow bandmates.  But then you can turn out to the crowd, and you see them…. Their faces, their reactions, their emotions, and it completely sweeps you away.  It’s bone chilling some days, I can go back and remember specific moments from the show that can turn any of my days around.  Our fans are some of the greatest on the entire face of this planet, and we love each and every one them very dearly.

What makes a great song?

Chris Schara:
I believe that there is no equation to making a great song.  My top 50 favorite songs are all set differently.  Some of those songs are 11 minutes long.  Some of them are 2 minutes and 30 seconds long.  The point being is that there’s no process or trick to making a great song, or at least that’s my opinion on it.  I don’t believe great songs cannot be forced, they have to just kind of…. Happen.
AJ Sugar:
I want to take this moment to steal a quote from one of my friends I saw on Facebook…something to the effect of ‘the music I like has ‘it’’. You can’t lock in what a great song is, and no one will ever agree, but to one person, a great song just has ‘it’.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Chris Schara:
Haha, well, the first new song that was written when I joined Vaudeville was “Bosconian”  -- that was the first song that I ever participated in the writing of.  It made the cut for Dismantle the Sky, and it just accidentally happened when I had a delay effect on and I was tuning with Harmonics.  Gummeson just kind of heard it and was like, “I like that!” and then a progression was born.  I particularly enjoy that song because of that, but because as well it’s the only song off Dismantle the Sky that we tend to play often when we do play live because our fans love it.

AJ Sugar:
I won’t dive into it, cause I used to write shitty punk music. But I’ll sum it up saying that we recorded it terribly in garageband in my high school av class. The name of the song and only lyrics are ‘fuck the man’. Because as punk musicians, we were clearly hardcore and very original in our content. It’s probably still floating around the interwebs somewhere. Probably don’t look it up.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

Chris Schara:
“Into the Blue” – I believe this is the first song where we as a band came out and gave people a song with true “feel”.  From the first few seconds of the song to the last few seconds, it’s a song that, to me, bleeds pure feel and emotion.  We are all very proud of that song, and it’s my personal favorite on the album.  We were going through some hard times personally, and it was a song that stuck out to us and shined through some very dark days.

AJ Sugar:
Can I take back what I said above and say that ‘fuck the man’ is my best piece of music? Ok…nevermind…but for real, I think I would have a hard time locking in one particular song that I am truly proud of…I think that I am just proud of the albums we are making as a whole, especially what we are doing with Masquerade. A lot of people can make a good song or two, but we are striving to make a good album as a whole. So far, I think  it’s going well, and I am proud of what we’ve been doing with it.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Chris Schara:
Right now?  It sucks very, very, very much that Thrice stopped playing music.
Thrice stopped playing music at the peak of their careers (well, on hiatus anyways) – but their latest album “Major/Minor” is undisputedly one of my Top 5 Albums of All Time for me personally.
It has a combined effect of kicking your ass, makes you feel out your happiness, your anger, your sadness, or however you are feeling.  There’s a song on there that gives you the chills, and then there’s a song that just comes straight out and punches you in the face.
I had to miss their Farewell Tour show here in the Midwest due to an unfortunate situation, and I will never forget not being able to go.  One day, they will come back and make sweet, sweet music to us once again.

AJ Sugar:
This answer will change 20 minutes from now, I’m always stumbling across new bands that blow me away. As of the moment of my writing this though, I’d have to say The Strypes. I don’t even remember how I found them, but I haven’t taken their disc out of my car in a loooonnngg time. Sexy music.

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

Chris Schara:
Haha, well, I know a lot of Vinyl people, but me personally, there is nothing better than driving around in your vehicle, and popping a CD in.  I will continue to buy CDs until they stop printing them all together, I love physical CDs and the thought of it.  I remember when I got my first actual “CD” – my Aunt got me an AC/DC live CD / DVD set that I loved and refused to stop listening to.  My next favorite CD was “Hybrid Theory” by Linkin Park…. But the point is just the feel of buying that CD, and listening to that entire album for the first time is pure bliss.

AJ Sugar:
Driving music aside, I am one of those vinyl people. Not a snob about it, I have almost 500 CD’s floating around, but I have a stack of vinyl that kicks it’s ass. It’s a cliché, but it sounds cool, and if you think different, you can piss off and go listen to a CD somewhere else. Unless I don’t have what you’re listening to on vinyl. Then we should probably be friends and go listen to CD’s together…

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

Chris Schara:
Your point is invalid, Jagermeister and Fireball.

AJ Sugar:
I bleed Svedka. Always and forever.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Chris Schara:
Minneapolis, and go to CHEAPO’s!! I seriously cannot walk out of that store without spending at least $50.00 everytime!

AJ Sugar:
Electric Fetus, Down in the Valley, Extreme Noise (if that’s still open, I don’t do the whole Uptown thing a lot…), Treehouse Records…there is a lot of awesome shit to find!

What's next for the band?

Chris Schara:
We have a tour coming up here in May, we are releasing Masquerade Part 1 at the prestigious First Avenue Mainroom in Minneapolis…so that’s going to be a lot of fun considering the bands that have played there in the past.  And then we will be playing RockFest again as well with another tour or so in the summer / fall area.

AJ Sugar:
ALL OF THE AWESOME THINGS THIS SUMMER!

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?


AJ Sugar: Thanks for reading our ramblings…check out our music, and if you like it, show us some love on facebook/twitter/whatever. If you don’t like it, go write angry hate-filled things online about us so we can be entertained later. Cheers!

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