Having reviewed the latest from Lullwater, I was excited to be given the opportunity to speak with frontman John Strickland. Looking at photos and reading reviews, you wouldn't know this bands influences lean heavily to the 90's Seattle sound, but one listen through the disc and you know these guys are the real deal - they may have influences, but they rock to their own tune. What a pleasure it was to catch John while he was still on an incredible high after killing it in at The Machine Shop on a recent tour stop.
Toddstar: I wanted to say, first off, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for us. We really appreciate it.
John: Oh, Dude, no problem. Thank you for doing the interview.
Toddstar: Our pleasure. We love the disc. When Steve passed it along last year and this is what's funny is, I've been that guy that's never liked Pearl Jam. Yet you got nine and a half out of ten from me.
John: That's awesome. Yeah, I remember seeing that. We were all pumped in the van when we read that out.
Toddstar: Yeah. Obviously there's the reference and a lot of people say, oh, it's the next coming of Pearl Jam, for a while, but you guys have something that take that rock edge to a whole new level. Is that something you, obviously your influences, is that something you made the conscious effort to say, okay we know what we like, but let's do something better?
John: I'm glad to hear you say that, because that's exactly what we wanted to do. I think that's what we set out to do. Being from the south, being from Athens, we add our own flavor to the Seattle scene of the '90s. I'm really glad to hear you say that, because that's something that we want people to get. It's not like we're trying to be a '90s band or to sound like a '90s band. We love those bands. Those are our influences, but we definitely want to take it in a different direction and take it for the modern world, the modern era.
Toddstar: With that being said, you guys are touring behind this thing and I wanted to preface this with not only is this going on my site, 100% Rock, but this is also going on The Machine Shop website.
John: Oh, wow. That was crazy. That was probably one of the best shows we've had in a long time. That Machine Shop show was just crazy. The room, itself, sounds great, but the energy from the crowd, it was a great time. It was a really, really great show.
Toddstar: Well everybody from Minty the photographer to Kevin the owner and people I know that were there at the show, couldn’t get enough of it. I, unfortunately, was one of the guys that couldn't make it through the snow in time to get up there.
John: Yeah, it was six inches, something like that. It just started pouring.
Toddstar: Yeah, it got crazy. But I've been listening to that show all morning. You guys through it up there on a Buy It Now. I've been listening to it all morning.
John: What's your thoughts?
Toddstar: Oh, I love it. Like you said, you get the feel and the vibe from the crowd. You can hear it in your performance. As you start going through the songs, you can just tell that you guys are getting more and more amped with the crowd.
John: Yeah, it was crazy. We had a lot of really good response from Flint, Michigan. I think they really didn't know what to expect from us. At the beginning, we came out with “Oddline.” That took everyone back, like, okay, well let's see what these guys are about. That's what really gave us the energy to say, fuck it, let's kill the show and we did. I know everybody in the band was really, really happy with the performance and happy with the way the show turned out after the fact. Because, yeah, we definitely got a lot of love from that show. It was fun. We got to open up the show for Adakain and RA, but I think we put on our mark on The Machine Shop that night. I know that Kevin and Dusty and those guys came up to us after the show and were just, like, hey, man, you guys are really good. It's always good for us to hear that and it means a lot when people say that they enjoyed the show.
Toddstar: Facebook has been going nuts with you guys, with that show.
John: That's awesome.
Toddstar: There's something special about The Machine Shop as you have now witnessed.
John: Yeah, we've heard about it. We heard about the history and all the bands that go through there. That was our first time in Flint and at The Machine Shop, so it was really exciting for us to get to see what all the hype was about.
Toddstar: Cool. Well you guys played six songs, four songs from your self-titled album and yet, there are a couple tracks out of your repertoire with “Broken Wings” and “A Forgotten Name.” Do those two songs hold something special to you or are they just songs that you know will always be around as long as you are on the stage?
John: Absolutely. Those songs are very important to us and special to us. The cool part about those old songs and playing those old songs live is that Joe, our new drummer, who just adds so much energy to those songs, and we're excited. We're actually trying to get back to Seattle, hopefully at the end of this year, and re-record those songs with Joe and try to get an EP out with those old songs, the old rock songs and maybe a new one and a cover. Yeah, those songs have so much life to them and we're able to improvise during the set with those songs, and take them where we want. Joe has a lot to do with that. We really got lucky with Joe just killing the old songs and being able to perform them live the way that they should have always been.
Toddstar: Well, you guys closed with one of my favorite songs of yours, “Tug of War.” You have songs like that where I think it's just different style song. It helps bring everything you do into one piece. When you are writing tracks like that do you just sit down and say okay, let's just write or do you come at it a different way and say let's try and mix it up?
John: Well the writing process in the band is open. We'll come together with a few riffs here and there. Really, where the magic happens is during rehearsal or during jam session when myself or Brett will come together and say hey, I've got this riff. Let's fuck with it for a little while and see where we go. They'll be some songs that I'll have completely written and then Brett will have songs that he has completely written. Then we get in rehearsal and it shifts and it changes. Then we'll go to the studio and then parts will be added or dropped or shifted. That's how it all happens. Really, where we get, we'll have an idea. When I'm writing a song, I'll have a riff idea or a core progression that I'm really digging. Then I'll put lyrics on top of it. Or I'll use lyrics that I have in the past, in my book that make me feel a certain way or did the song, itself, make me feel melancholy or excited, or amped up or aggressive, or whatever it may be. We pretty much put that all together and then we have the song. Then we jam it and then we'll test it out live at a few shows and feel our way around the song, and then get in the studio and put it out.
Toddstar: Well again, I mentioned you out on the road right now and you're going to be going out on another long stretch of run here. When you're talking about going out on tour and you're prepping for that, you look around your place at home, what are the couple things that you think, I cannot go on the road without these items?
John: Well a guitar is one. That's probably the first thing. I think a certain item that I need is nose spray and cough drops and medicine, so that when we know we're going to the -12 weather, we obviously don't want to get sick. But honestly, the van seems to be more of a home that our apartments in Georgia, for the most part. I think all of us feel very comfortable in the van and it's like a home away from home. We've got the van stocked van up as if we're traveling around in a mobile home. So we've got two homes, the van and our apartments.
Toddstar: If you accidentally left your iPhone or iPod at a venue and the next day one of your fans found it, what might they find on there that would surprise them?
John: Oh, man. It depends on whose iPhone they find. Let's see, that's a weird question. I don't know. Probably there might be some naked pics from girlfriends or something. I don't know.
Toddstar: How about musically? What kind of music?
John: Musically, alright, well, I don't know. I've got a lot of My Morning Jacket on my iPhone, a lot of Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, a lot of the '90s bands that I love. We're big fans of Spotify. We'll go through and check out new music on Spotify. The new Beck record is unbelievable. We've been listening to that like crazy and I think that's probably something that would surprise fans if they saw that on our phones, because we don't just all listen to rock music. We listen to a lot of things. Brett and Joe are big Reggae fans and Ray is a big metal fan. So, yeah, we listen to an eclectic mix of music. I'm sure the people would dig it. I hope they'd dig it.
Toddstar: Who, specifically, made you want to pick up a microphone and the guitar?
John: The person that made me want to pick up a microphone would be Eddie Vedder for sure. I think when I was twelve years old, and I got a guitar, I got a little Ibanez, like a junior guitar and I started playing chords here and there. I always loved the record, Pearl Jam Ten. When I got that record, that's what really made me want to sing and really start seeing what I could do with it. I don't know actually. Lynyrd Skynyrd was a big band for me when I was growing up in middle school, elementary school, fifth grade to six grade. I was into classic rock and really big into southern rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and stuff like that. As far as really wanting to sing, I think, Eddie Vedder, when I heard Pearl Jam Ten, it just was like, oh, my God. This guy's killing it. For me, that's what really got me interested in singing and writing songs.
Toddstar: If there were one piece of music in the history of time, John, that you could go back and put your stamp on, what would it be?
John: That's a hard question. I'm going to rip somebody off here with that question. I want to say it was Lemmy that quoted it with the same type question. He said he wanted to have the Happy Birthday song, so that he could be a multi-billionaire, because who knows how much money that song has generated? I don't know. I would say, I guess it's cliché to say the big epic Zeppelin tunes like “Stairway to Heaven” and all the Zeppelin's tunes. That's a hard question. I really don't know what song I'd really like to have my stamp on, to be my song. Yeah, I don't know. I'll have to think about that one.
Toddstar: Well that said, are you putting any new stuff together yet? Are you starting to put ideas and thoughts together as a follow up to your record?
John: Yeah, we're definitely excited about writing new songs and getting back in the studio and seeing where we can go. Honestly, we've been really just touring this record like crazy and focused on making these songs the best they can be for the live show. We definitely have some ideas. Like I said earlier, I've got several riffs. Brett's got a ton of riffs. It's just a matter of us getting in the jam space and working out the songs, because for the most part, Brett and Joe live four hours away in Savannah and Ray and I live in Athens. When they come up for rehearsal, we're really just focusing on the six week tour ahead or the shows that we have. I think once we get back home from tour, we'll be able to really focus on the new stuff and the new material. I know when we all get together and there's no pressure as far as, okay, let's get our set for the tour, let's jam, let's rehearse these songs, when it's just an open feeling of hey, let's just be creative and let's have a jam session. That's really where we start to connect on structuring songs and bringing ideas to the table. Yeah, we're excited about having a new record. I think everyone wants to go back to Seattle and I know I do. As far as the follow-up record, we definitely want to go back to London Bridge and try to make the magic happen again, because that environment was just so magical anyway. It's hard not to feel awesome all the time when you're sitting in the big drum room at London Bridge and all these infamous bands around you had recorded records in the same room. It's very inspiring, so we're excited to get back in that atmosphere.
Toddstar: I've got two more for you before I let you go, if you don't mind. What's something that maybe no one else knows or not a lot of people know? What's one of your secrets?
John: One of my secrets? Something that most people don't know. I guess on a personal note, I always struggled with ADD when I was growing up. I think that's something that nobody really knows. That was a really, really hard time for me, growing up, in middle school and early years of my education when I was going through school and dealing with that, and not being able to understand it. Thankfully, my dad was the most supportive dad ever and supported me with how to deal with that and learn with it. Now, I don't think it is as bad as it was when I was growing up. I'm sure my band members will disagree. Yeah, I think that's something that really, because of that, I threw myself into music and music and writing, and songwriting and just listening to music was my therapy, growing up. It's something that changed my life, literally, because before music, you're lost. For me to be able to go into my room and listen to my stereo, and listen to all these bands that I love, was definitely something that made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Does that make sense?
Toddstar: Yes, very much.
John: That's something that I learned how to deal with, with that leaning disability, through music, honestly. I think without music, I would be, I don't know, probably a drug addict or alcoholic or something. Yeah, that's probably something that a lot of people don't know about me. I guess that's the secret that I have.
Toddstar: One last one for you. You have one of the better albums that came out in 2013. You're out touring this thing. You're catching on at some great new venues, for you guys everything is looking up. At this point, what's the meaning of life, John?
John: What's the meaning of life? The meaning of life, I guess, for us at this moment is to make sure that the New York show is going to go really well. I'm looking at it from day-by-day. We're in New York right now. We focus on the show that we have ahead of us and just to be able to do this forever. That's, to me, is the most important thing. The meaning of my life is definitely to make sure that we can continue this, because it's such an awesome fucking life that we're living right now. Being able to play music and to get a response from people and to, I don't know, continue this lifestyle, continue touring and continue writing music, and performing music and recording it. That, to me, is, maybe the quality of life. I don't know the meaning. I'm still working on that, but to have a high quality of life is what we're working for and what I'm working for, personally.
Toddstar: Very cool. Well I can personally wait until you guys can make your way back to your new home in Michigan, The Machine Shop.
John: Absolutely, absolutely and I hope you can make that show, Michigan is a rowdy place, so yeah, we're looking forward to it.
Toddstar: I'm definitely going to catch this show, hell or high water.
Toddstar: Cool. Well thank you again, so much more your time, John and I can't wait to get this out there for everybody to enjoy those twenty minutes that I had with you.
John: Absolutely. Thank you, Todd.