Monthly Archives: July 2007

Riding the Cyclone

Riding the Cyclone 7/30/07
I first rode the Cyclone many years ago, when I was a kid. It was thrilling. Through the years, I’ve braved many roller coasters in this great land of ours – but – NONE compare. I took a ride on the Cyclone today, and it proved once again that there is nothing quite like it. Each time the cars head uphill, there quickly follows a steep, fast, plunge. Each turn, swinging you from one side of the car to the other.
Riding the Cyclone 7/30/07

What Is Indie? A look into the world of independent musicians.

Brooklyn screening of "What Is Indie?"
Dave Cool and Rew (NYC musician at outside of Hanks Saloon in Brooklyn following a screeening)

“This film was inspired by and is dedicated to indie artists everywhere”

Dave Cool (Stand Alone Records) traveled throughout the Northeast in search of the answer. He interviewed indie music experts and artists to discuss the advantages, disadvantages, challenges and rewards of being an independent musician. Through these interviews, he breaks down the subject and redefines it in terms of philosophy as opposed to business. This film is a must-see for all independent artists, fans and industry professionals. “The old model is dead”

“What Is Indie?” is well made and is both informative and fun to watch. It leaves one in a positive state of mind about not compromising what is important to you. That’s something we can all relate to – no matter what our field.

Dave agreed to answer some questions about his filmmaking experience:

Q: Why did you choose this subject / How did you decide to do this film?

It really happened kind of naturally. I’m a music guy and had never thought
of making a film before, but when someone asked me what being ‘indie’ meant,
I realized that it was a good question, so I figured I’d ask some musician
friends on camera what they thought. It was only supposed to be a short
10-minute thing, but it then ended up growing into a full-fledge documentary
film as more and more people wanted to get involved, and I realized that we
had touched on something that had never really been done before.

Q: What did you learn? What surprised you?

My perception of being ‘indie’ really changed after having made this film.
It was specifically after interviewing Derek Sivers, the Founder of CD Baby ,that I realized that my impression of what an indie artist is was very
narrow. I went into the project feeling that being indie meant that you ran
your own record company, DIY all the way, but Derek gave a great example
about an artist named Gary Jules , who even though is signed to a major
label, he considered him to be an indie artist. And with the argument he
gave, I had to agree. So that was definitely the biggest surprise for me.

Q: If you had more resources, what else would you have included? Will you be
making more films?

Ha ha, great question! If I had access to more resources, I probably would
have gone after some interviews with people who were further away, maybe in
Los Angeles or Nashville, but since I didn’t have much a travel budget, I
stayed close to home here in the Northeast. But luckily, the people who are
on the film were some of my ideal candidates for interviews, so it worked
out pretty well.

As for making more films, we’ll see. Like I said, I had never thought of
making a film before this one, but the reaction has been great and I had an
amazing time doing it, so yeah, I think I’d like to make at least one more
to try and improve on some things that I learned throughout this process.

Q: Do you have formal training?

Hmmm, not at all actually! Unless you consider watching “Super-Size Me” and
“Bowling for Columbine” way too many times as formal training!

Q: What are your biggest creative influences?

Definitely the films I mentioned above, as well as many other docs I’ve seen
over the years, but the biggest influence was definitely the artists and
people in the film, who inspired me to really make the film what it is.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing and
producing this film?

Well, to quote an artist in the film, “Can you say MONEY?!”. Yeah, lack of a
real cash flow to produce the film was difficult, but luckily I had some
great professional people in Ian “Steady-Hands” Graham (camera) and Tim
Rideout (Editor) who worked for almost nothing.

Also, scheduling was tough, just trying to coordinate 30+ interviews, plus
all of the travel arrangements, it was crazy, but it all worked out 🙂

Q: Describe a typical day during the making of this film.

Haha, well, it would usually start out with 8 hours at my day job, a lot of
which was spent sending e-mails and making phone calls trying to schedule
interviews. Then, I would meet up with my cameraman and we would go to do a
few interviews in the evening.

During editing, it was essentially the same, except after work I would go to
my editor’s home studio and do as much work as we could until our eyes would
go blurry!

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

Basically, I would just like as many artists to see it as possible so that
they realize what an amazing time we’re living in right now in the music
industry. They have more opportunities to forge their own careers than ever
before, and many have felt inspired by watching the film and seeing that.

I also hope it brings about further discussion about the way the music
industry operates and how the old system is really finished, even though the
major/corporate structures continue to cling to it!

Q: What responsibilities do you feel you have as a filmmaker?

I guess the only responsibility I felt I had was to stay true to the people
I interviewed and to make sure that I conveyed their message to the best of
my abilities.

Q: In what ways is documentary film important to the education and definition
of culture?

Ha ha, wow, that’s a great question! I could probably go on for a while on
this topic, but to out it simply, I think it’s extremely important for
people to know the truth about the world, and documentaries and documentary
filmmakers help in that endeavor.

Of course, we’re all human and have our own prejudices and views, but I
think for the most part documentaries can be great educational tools for
people to learn about new subjects and discover things they may not have
known before.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers.

Don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ time or subject to come along, just go out
there and make your movie any way you can! There are a ton of people out
there willing to work on DIY projects just for the experience, so take

But before you start your film, my best advice would be to PLAN. Plan
everything ahead of time, believe me, it’s going to save you a lot of
headaches down the road!

To host a screening or purchase a DVD visit:

Bowery Ballroom 7/27/07

On Friday night, after transporting some video equipment from midtown…Jeff and I went to Bowery Ballroom. The highlight? Aeroplane Pageant.

Line up:
Jealous Girlfriends at Bowery Ballroom 7/27/07
The Jealous Girlfriends

Aeroplane Pageant at Bowery Ballroom 7/27/07
Aeropane Pageant

Robbers on High Street at Bowery Ballroom 7/27/07
Robbers on High Street

Interview with Billy McCarthy of Pela

This is an old interview. I’m starting this blog with it though.

Pela at Mercury Lounge 6/17/07

Vegas Bar Smith Street 2/13/07

In December, I went to see what was quickly becoming one of my favorite bands, Pela .

I was quite literally on my hands and knees in front of the bar when I looked up and saw the lead singer standing over me. This is how I met Billy McCarthy. Over the past several months we have had many conversations. Recently, he agreed to sit down with me for an official interview.

I asked Billy how he became interested in music and what experiences he had as a child that made him follow this path. At around 9 years old, he was put in a class at school, learning instruments like saxophone and flute as well as singing in choir. That got the melodic thing going for him. At an earlier age, while going through a “difficult family time”, he would go to a place that had a piano and would just “put my ear on the piano and just hit a note and let it sort of resonate. I used to just follow the note until it died out and I remember feeling that it was in every sense of the word, striking a chord like it was touching me. I remember feeling something that was larger than me. It was larger than my age. It was larger than the room. There was something I could feel about history, about adults. It was very powerful.” At around 12 years old, when the school band became a chore he asked for a guitar.

We spoke about how he started writing songs. He told me it took me a really long time to be able to play and sing at the same time. “That’s really hard because it really hurts your fingers when youre a little kid.” Billy was always into writing, poems or just stories, also drawing and doodling. In his senior year of high school he started “pulling it all together.” Towards the end of high school, he discovered, “the best deal in America”, the Greyhound bus. He began to travel across the country and had many adventures. Much of this has been put into his songs.

We started to talk about songwriting by discussing process. He explained that it has changed a lot. “I think when you’re younger, you dont have much mobility with your instrument so youll make something work with the three or four chords that you can play. Now he feels like its fishing. Everyday, I just put my line in the water with the instrument and then if something starts to heat up – Im like wow! I can tie this to this.” He describes it as “not unlike collage”. “You just start sticking stuff on a blank piece of paper and all of a sudden, it can say something at the end”. Generally, he writes at home on an acoustic guitar. He brings his songs as complete as possible to the band and “they just jump into it”. They also write together and the other members of Pela (Eric Sanderson, Nate Martinez and Tomislav Zovich) often record music at home that they bring with them. Billy describes his band mates as “tremendous musicians”. He feels that Pela is a band that “can deliver an impact”.

In previous conversations, I had described the songs as snapshots which is how he describes them as well. He says, “I can definitely remember periods that would easily have been forgotten. Songs, the way I’ve come to start writing them seems to encapsulate a period.” He explained that in some way songwriting is “like cinematography”. It just takes awhile to “sketch out in your mind or maybe have the life experiences to be able to figure out how to get it in a frame because if you think about songs, theyre really verses and choruses and you have your variables but you have to figure out how to fit the subject matter and the music and marry them in generally three minutes”. We spoke about two songs in particular.

“The Trouble With River Cities” is a song about the state of things in small towns or in medium size cities not grandiose ones not with people from all around the world but in a small city where theres people from all around the region”. “Places where people stay.People of middle and lower middle class communities who he describes as “big dreamers, you know, the gay kid who wants to go to San Francisco to be a designer or the guy that wants to be an actor. Its really common to go for a couple of years and have it not work out and no one knows you and you want to go back. Want to go back to people who know you.”

The town that he comes from in Northern California has a rumored curse. “A General that settled there and had, decimated many Indians was cursed, in a city where two rivers meet you can never leave. And, thats the trouble with river cities; you can never leave.” He describes leaving as being “quite difficult, I remember being on a Greyhound bus, riding out of there and refusing to turn around and look behind me. I refused. Im not looking back. I will not even turn my head and look back.”

His lyrics illustrate these feelings of being stuck “Are we waiting on a hot air balloon,” which he explained as, “can we please get the fuck out of here.”Do you need oxygen, he sings. Maybe you should think about this maybe we should leave. There will be hells to pay. I had to leave and I didnt say stuff and I have to live with stuff like that. But, I just had to go to break that curse or whatever. Im not going to be trapped.”

Billy spoke to me about the type of songs that he would like to write but doesnt feel that hes quite there yet. Songs about much deeper subjects like the Middle East. A few years ago, he traveled there, to Jerusalem and Jordan. He expressed some thoughts about the media here in the U.S. “The media portrays this and that, but people dont blow themselves up for no reason and people dont storm towns for no reason. We cant always trust our media.” I asked him if he felt that the role of the artist was to challenge how the media portrays things and he said, “absolutely and thats our responsibility, to step up”. However, he feels that it takes time to address these subjects, “we better damn well be spot on and be able to stand behind it because, I mean, who are we, why should we put our names out there to start saying shit about what we dont know”. Out of this has come, Cavalry.

Cavalry is a song that Billy “rescued” from his best friend, Chris, whom he traveled with for ten years. They were a bit of a duo and one day, Chris stopped playing music, moved to another country and the two arent as close as they once were. Billy used Chris lyrics, added a chorus and adapted it into a rock format.

“It is a song about the Middle East. The inhabitants want things to change and so they make this procession and they form this cavalry. Probably the thing that touched me most was this line. It says, Charge the great general screams. Everyone to his grave! Or so the legend goes, cause none were saved. Its mythical. A story of this bravery. This guy sends his men to their graves for what they believe in. Its pretty powerful.”

Pela headlines at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City August 25, 2007