Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fistful of Questions - A Ripple Conversation With Amy Tung Barrysmith Of Year Of The Cobra

Year of the Cobra are set to release a new five song EP titled Burn Your Dead on October 27th courtesy of Magnetic Eye Records.  The Seattle duo comprised of drummer Jon Barrysmith and singer/bassist Amy Tung Barrysmith recently wrapped up a two week U.S. tour and also released a video for Burn Your Dead the title track from the EP.
Amy was kind enough to carve out some time to do a long distance Q&A via the old interweb, with yours truly, in the first of a recurring segment that I’m thinking of calling a Fistful of Questions.

What inspired the name Year of the Cobra and who thought of the name?
Finding a name is difficult.  Most of the good ones are already taken.  We had lists and lists of names that spanned many sheets of paper, but it ultimately came down to lack of time.  We had booked a show and needed to give the venue a name, so we decided Year of the Cobra was the best on the list.  Our plan was to change it after the show, but that never happened.  I wish there was a better story behind it. 

Were you in any bands prior to Year of the Cobra?
Yes.  I played in several bands prior to YOTC.  Most of them were just for fun,but the main one, HDR, was a stoner rock power trio based out of L.A..  We split up when I moved to Seattle, but still remain very close friends.

Did you and Jon start the band before or after you were married?
We started it after we were married.

How did you and Jon meet?
Jon and I met on Halloween in Los Angeles in 2007.  We were both playing a show at the King King on Hollywood Blvd and met in the parking lot.  I tried to find him again after we both had loaded in, but he was dressed up in a costume with a wig and sunglasses so I didn’t recognize him.  We didn’t really chat again until a few weeks later when we played another show together. 

Were you wearing a costume the night you and Jon first met?
The night Jon and I met I wasn’t wearing anything spectacular.  My band, at the time, would do side gigs as a jazz trio to make money (and just for fun), so we were just dressed up as “jazz” musicians.

Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
I started playing music at a really young age.  I don’t remember a time where I didn’t play music.  It’s just always been something I’ve done and something I’ve loved.  I do remember my piano competitions, though, and how nervous I would get.  There was this yearly competition I’d play in Piedmont, CA, and to this day when I drive by that exit on the freeway my hands still get a bit clammy. 

When did you first start playing bass?
I started playing bass when I was 20.  It happened only because someone needed a bass player and, on a whim, I said I’d do it.

How long have you been on the road on this latest tour?
This latest tour was a little over 2 weeks.  We essentially did a full U.S. tour, but broke it up into two legs.  This leg took us back out to Chicago where we ping ponged back and forth for a week and then headed back.  We had some long drives at the end, but all in all it was a great tour. 

Where are you at right now?
Right now.  We are just leaving Seattle for Eugene, OR.  It’s the last night of the tour which is always bitter sweet.  Part of me is so excited to be home.  The other part of me already misses being on the road.
What is your favorite thing about being on tour?
My favorite thing being on tour is hanging with Jon.  We just have so much fun together.  It’s cool that we get to experience these things together and to know that we work well together despite the exhaustion and other stresses that inevitably arise during tour is comforting.  I also love going through all of the cities, meeting people and bonding with other bands.  We have met so many great people while on the road and have made many friends that, I believe, we will have for the rest of our lives. 
What is your least favorite thing about being on tour?
My least favorite thing while being on tour is missing my kids.  That’s always the hardest, but we’re really lucky.  We have an amazing network of friends and family that help out and our kids always seem to be happy and are having fun wherever they are.

Who does the bulk of the driving on tour?
Jon and I split the driving pretty evenly.  I do most of the night drives and Jon will take on most of the early morning drives, but we generally see who needs more rest and we go from there.

Who’s most likely to get lost?
I would say I am definitely most likely to get lost.

What’s one of your favorite venues that you’ve played at?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite venue.  All of them seem to have their pros and cons.  Some that stand out the most certainly would be The Vinyl Stage at The Hard Rock for Psycho Las Vegas and playing Hell of Hammaburg in Hamburg, Germany.  I’m not sure if it’s really fair to compare those venues to any of the other ones we’ve played.  Festivals are just so exciting.  It’s impossible to not feel the electricity in the air when you’re there.  And then being on stage with all of those people in the audience singing along, or chanting (as in the case in Germany).  It’s truly an incredible feeling.

I forgot that you guys did a European tour.  How does that compare with touring the U.S.?
Europe is really good to touring bands.  Each venue always feeds you and houses you.  Two of the most important and costly things to cover when you’re on the road.  The set times are also longer, which I like.  It allows you to really take the audience for a ride.  I like coming up with a set with that in mind.  It’s fun.  In the U.S. the drives tend to be longer because things here are geographically more spaced out.  Those drives can get a bit tiring especially since it’s just the two of us driving.  Truly, though, touring is fun regardless.  It’s really great to get out and finally meet the people you’re chatting with online or get  new people into your music.

Name one of your favorite cities on tour?
Again.  I’m not sure if I can name a favorite city.  They all stand out in different ways.  Some are smaller than I expected.  Some are bigger than I expected, but you can certainly get the feeling of each city as soon as you roll in.  Some cities have such history it’s almost awe inspiring to even be in them and others feel so young and vibrant.  You really never know what you’re going to get.  On this last tour we were lucky to get, essentially, a guided tour around Salt Lake City.  I really appreciated that.  I loved hearing some of the history of the city and seeing parts of it that we probably wouldn’t have seen.  I do wish we had more time to spend looking around, though.  Too many times we roll into a city at night and right back out after the show. 

What are some of the challenges of being on the road that your average person wouldn't know about?
I think one of the challenges that an average person wouldn’t know about would be dealing with the boredom.  There is so much sitting and waiting it’s ridiculous.  From sitting in the car for seven plus hours to get to the next city to waiting to play after you arrive.  You spend so much time waiting it ends up being really exhausting, oddly.  Jon and I have a bunch of games we play together to keep us laughing which helps, but you really have to make sure you’re in the right mindset.  It takes a few days to do, but once that becomes your “norm” you just go into autopilot for the rest of the tour. 

What band that you have played with has really impressed you with their live show?
We have played with so many bands it’s difficult to narrow down.  There’s this two piece out of Bozeman, MT called As The Crow Flies that has an incredible live show.  The singer makes his own guitars and amps and he’s such a good front man.  His brother is the drummer and he’s so dynamic when he plays.  After we played with them the first time we immediately asked to play with them again the next time we drove through. 
If you could insert yourself into one band what band would it be and why?
Oh my gosh, if I could insert myself into one band…. That’s a tough question.  I don’t know.  There are SO many bands that I love and would be so excited to play with and they aren’t exactly the ones you’d expect.  When I was younger I loved The Cure (I mean.  I still do.)  I actually wrote them a letter to see if they needed a new keyboard player wanting to throw my name in the hat.  Lol.  I think.  I was 12.  It would be incredible to play with Stevie Wonder.  I think that man is a god.  Or to have played with Prince, or Black Sabbath, or Black Flag or to play classical piano with an orchestra. The list really goes on and on.  So many dreams, so little time. 

Favorite guilty pleasure?
Favorite guilty pleasure?  Sitting and watching TV.  It’s the only time I can turn my head off.  Where I don’t feel like I have to be doing something productive or creative or anything at all.  I get to just sit down and do absolutely nothing. 

The year is 1997.  Where are you at and what are you doing?
Hm.  In 1997 I was still in California and in school.  I was deep into punk rock going to shows at Gilman St..  I believe my head was shaved (except for bangs) and I hadn’t discovered any heavy music yet.  I was just engulfed with punk rock and it’s ethos.

You are originally from California, correct?
I am not actually originally from California.  I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. when I was one.  We lived in Memphis, TN for about eight years before moving to California.  For simplicities sake, though, I usually just say I’m from Cali. 

Is the video for “Burn Your Dead” Year of the Cobra’s first video?
Burn Your Dead is actually our third video.  The first one was for the song The Siege, produced by Deviant Kind Productions and the second one was “Temple of Apollo” by Black Sate Production.  The same company that did Burn Your Dead.  We have a couple more videos in the works, so keep an eye out!!

Does making a video feel at all glamourous or is it all business?
Making a video is definitely not glamorous.  Lol.  It consists of long days, lots of waiting, and then hard work.  It’s just odd because you never know what it’s going to look like until they start sending you edits back.  Then you’re like Ohhhhh.  I get it.  It is nice to see the final results, though.  We’ve been lucky to work with really talented people. 

Describe Jon in five words or less.
Jon in five words or less would easily be, Jon is awesome.

Favorite book?
I really don’t have a favorite book. 

Favorite movie?
I really don’t have a favorite movie.  My tastes are eclectic and I find it really difficult to narrow my likes down to just one thing.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
I actually like them both.

Waffles or Pancakes?
I really dislike both and never eat them. 

This is the first interview that I have conducted and I would like to take a minute to express my deep gratitude to Amy for taking the time to answer all of my questions while she had so much else going on.  Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the new EP Burn Your Dead available via Magnetic Eye Records October 27th and be on the lookout for more videos and if the metal gods are smiling upon you perhaps you could catch Year of the Cobra live at some future date.

~El Pedo Caliente (AKA Uncle Jameson from the Fistful of DOOM show)

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