meta-scriptFiddlehead's Next Show Isn't Guaranteed. As Their New Album Stresses, Neither Is Tomorrow. | GRAMMY.com
Fiddlehead
Fiddlehead

Photo: Pooneh Ghana

Fiddlehead's Next Show Isn't Guaranteed. As Their New Album Stresses, Neither Is Tomorrow.

"The band is clearly not our life," says Pat Flynn of Fiddlehead's relative scarcity onstage. But their new album, 'Death is Nothing to Us,' is drenched in life, consumed with the quandaries of existence.

GRAMMYs/Aug 21, 2023 - 08:14 pm

You don't see Fiddlehead crisscrossing the globe over and over; if you miss them in your area, chances are they won't be back in a few months. In fact, there's no assurance they'll return in the foreseeable future — or ever.

"There's no guarantee that it's going to happen again," says vocalist Pat Flynn, in an interview about their new album, Death is Nothing to Us. "Because the band is clearly not our life."

The rhythms of domesticity rumble around Flynn; because "my office was invaded by my children," he's Zooming from another room. (When he told them he was "talking to GRAMMY," the kids misunderstood it to mean Grandma.)

For the hardcore-adjacent supergroup — composed of members of Basement, Have Heart and more — life responsibilities have engendered a "scarcity effect."

But instead of rendering Fiddlehead lost in the shuffle, this has made their performances unforgettable — both for the audience and band.

"I've been in bands where we've toured for three to six weeks at a time, and I can barely remember one from the other," adds their guitarist, Alex Henery, from a parallel Zoom window.

But with Fiddlehead? "I can track down most shows in my brain when I think about it because there's not that many," Henery says. "It really does feel special, and I really never want to wish away that time."

Out Aug. 18, Death is Nothing to Us frequently evokes a feeling of holding onto the present. "Face it all/ Replace with love," Flynn repeatedly exhorts in the combustible "Sullenboy." In the aching "Fifteen to Infinity," he sings of heaven being attainable on the sofa, "in the nothingness of our night."

And the final line, from closer "Going to Die," seems to encapsulate the album's mortality-haunted essence: "See you on the other side/ I know I will/ But I don't wanna die."

Granted, Fiddlehead didn't become a "grief band" by some grand design. But from their first demo, that's been a major component of their emotional landscape.

"It just so happened that I was in a pretty thick stage of dealing with the loss of my father," Flynn says. "So, that first record [2018’s Springtime and Blind] really connected and I think a lot of people connected with it in sharing stories of profound losses in their lives. The positive response was motivating to continue the band."

This theme has seemingly crescendoed with Death is Nothing to Us, a 12-song, 27-minute volley of life-affirming, kinetic rock. Read on for an interview with Flynn and Henery about how Fiddlehead's third album came to be.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Pat, you grew up Catholic; in "True Hardcore (II)," you sing about scenesters who are "pseudo and false to the core/ keeping the gates closed." What's the overlap between religious sanctimony and subcultural gatekeeping?

Pat Flynn: Growing up in a Catholic education, perhaps I've always been skeptical of those who are trying to draw too firm of a line.

But in just terms of gatekeeping, to me, it's more like that's how you kill art, that's just how you destroy it. When you start to codify too many things and you label the genre, you make it really intensively small.. .it becomes like you have to look a certain way to sound a certain way. 

I'm skeptical of retrospective psychoanalysis, but, sure, I think that there's probably some type of overlap of there being too many strict codes — which is a lot of what a Catholic education has to be. And I've always really appreciated the power of the individual as opposed to the mediator.

[Catholicism is] a top-down structure. And when I was in high school, the top-down structure was definitely a motivator to find something like the hardcore scene really appealing; it was an equalizer.

I know why I felt compelled to write the lyrics for "True Hardcore (II)" more specifically, but the record in itself seems to really follow my own path with my struggles of hitting the low points. 

I can't deny the fact that for the last 24 to 25 years, I've always found hardcore to be a place that's kind of uplifting and helped me bounce back. I just see it as totally precious and valuable.

And so the idea when some people try to make it too exclusive, or a selectively chosen community, it really agitated me. It's taken away the human appeal to thriving in life. I don't know if that sounds all corny, but it's an interesting song.

Has that individual-over-group ethos always been at the core of Fiddlehead's music?

Flynn: I specifically and explicitly remember saying, "Hey, let's just write as if we're never going to play out and play live," so that we can keep a pure sound.

And I think I was definitely burnt out with too much exposure to a community, and dealing with the noise of the community with my previous band [Have Heart]. And so I just wanted to get back to just writing for the sake of the enjoyment of creation.

However, when it began to connect with people in a really positive way, I was very quickly reminded of the value of sharing your art with a larger world around you. It very much went on to inspire writing the second record, and it continues to inspire the band to continue creating art.

Alex Henery: I was thinking back to early shows the other day, and it was awesome, honestly.

Back then, all you'd care about is just playing the show. There were no distractions; we weren't trying to win anyone over. It was purely just that we'd written these songs we liked and we wanted to play them.

We always talk about some of those early shows, as it doesn't get much more pure than that or us. Getting back to the core of it was definitely really important to me.

How would you guys characterize the period of time between Between the Richness and Death is Nothing to Us?

Flynn: It's been pretty positive. We actually started writing this record before Between the Richness came out. Between the Richness was recorded in February of 2020, and obviously, the world kind of stopped.

We didn't know if shows were ever coming back. There was actually no guarantee that we would ever play music live again. And yet we were still meeting up in our barn just putting music together because that just felt right.

We don't play too much, and so it really does create a nice scarcity effect, if you will. People feel like they really have to — and especially, very much so us — really soak up the live moment.

We all have different lives; we all have very different ambitions. It's not that we're always teetering on the brink of breaking up or anything like that. But it does make us savor the moment, and it makes the shows to be as sacred as you can make them — and as intense, in the moment, and cathartic, in many ways.

We're just playing and continuing to write, and allowing for the interactions with the people to inform our ideas about writing. And it's been a pretty great reciprocal relationship with the people who have been supporting us through the last few years.

I think the record has been a bit of a reflection of areas that we wanted to explore musically and lyrically that we had not before.

Henery: I was writing out of the really strong desire, after being cooped up in my room for so long, of getting to play loud — practicing and just turning the amps up loud and letting it out. It was awesome, and I think we all needed that at that point.

Fast forward all the way 'til now — where everything has changed again, and we do have shows and I feel like we appreciate it even more than we already did.

I'm very excited to be able to travel and play music. We're about to go to Southeast Asia. I'm excited to go to some places I've never been before and play in front of a bunch of different audiences, and play this new record for people.

It's crazy to think about it starting all the way back then, and coming to fruition now. I forgot how long this journey's been.

Flynn: [Regarding] the record — it's cool in a sense. We don't really tinker too much with the songs. It's a fairly organic process when we're writing it. Ideas just sort of pop out and we don't want to overdo it, overproduce it.

I think a lot of that has to do with trying to keep the magic of the writing moment. A lot of these songs that end up getting recorded in the studio are pretty raw, other than the fact that we're just recording them again. We didn't change too many things.

I like that. It's special. Nothing is perfect. In a day in which there's increasing motivation to try and make it and do the right thing that the masses want to hear, what's going to be digestible and yada, yada, yada… this has felt pretty pure.

Henery: We've never had the luxury of going in for a month, two months and being in the studio and really just musing over the song. One song is maybe three days, four days.

I don't even know if I believe in the perfect take. I think we all just, we go until we feel that it's good and then we keep it moving. And I think that you hear that in this record. It has a natural feel rather than OK, again, again, again.

I think we're more of a "feel band" and we go off that, so there are imperfections here and there. But I think that adds to the charm of it.

And we have an amazing engineer, Chris Teti. I'm glad that we're not with someone who's like, "No, let's just do it another 50 times; maybe there's something extra we could find in there." Let's just keep it moving and see what else we can come up with.

Fiddlehead

*Fiddlehead. Photo: Pooneh Ghana*

With that in mind, tell me how you wanted the album to grab people on an aural, visceral level.

Henery: [Alex] Dow, our guitarist, brought the riff for the opening record ["The Deathlife"]. He showed it to Pat, and the two of them instantly had the vision. I was the last person to gain that vision. It just wasn't clicking.

It wasn't until we fully hit the studio that, hearing the lyrics and the way that Pat performed the vocals, [I realized] it's just such a stark contrast to our last record, which is such a build and then a final release. This was just straight "bash over the head."

I love that it is such a different approach and I just couldn't see the vision straight away. But we got there in the end, and maybe it's just that I was hungry and tired or something. I think I'd flown in from a different tour to go practice — not a good combo for me.

It is kind of interesting how we work. I don't have any experience in musical theory, didn't go to music school. It's very feel-based, and Pat really has that too.

Pat, you have a good perception of what story you want this song to tell, or what journey we want to go on. I'm more just like: if this feels good, I'm going to play it. Then I'll go from there and the building blocks then begin to stack up.

Flynn: Yeah, the opening track is definitely a clamoring at the gates.

If you're interested in creating a collection of songs that work together to take a listener on a journey, the sequencing is so, so important. There's a desperation that I thought we didn't really explore on previous records, and I just thought that a really great way to create this [feeling]. We're not ringing the doorbell; we're slamming it, breaking it open.

And then it's followed by a very pleasant sounding song that is very bright, but somehow has some of the most dreadful, depressed lyrics on top of it. So if it's not this sonic bashing, it really is this tug and pull of a variety of emotions.

The record ends at the antithesis, lyrically, of where it began. And it's fun: if you put it on repeat, you're going through a variety of human emotions.

Henery: I definitely think this isn't an unbelievably massive hard left or right turn with this new record. But I think we've established that we're not going to try and recreate what we just did.

Hopefully, that's enjoyable from a listener standpoint: that there's a story here that can continue as opposed to being capped out.

On Militarie Gun's Life Under The Gun, Ian Shelton Invites You Inside His Hornet's Nest Of A Mind


Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1970

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

news

5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Crosby, Stills & Nash': The Folk-Rock Classic At 55

Featuring classics including "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Wooden Ships" and "Helplessly Hoping," Crosby, Stills and Nash's self-titled 1969 debut album is the ultimate entryway to the folk-rock supergroup. Here are five lesser-known facts about its making.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:33 pm

They'd been on ice since 2015, yet the death of David Crosby in 2023 forever broke up one of the greatest supergroups we'll ever know.

Which means Crosby, Stills & Nash's five-decade career is now capped; there's no reunion without that essential, democratic triangle. (Or quadrangle, when Neil Young was involved.) "This group is like juggling four bottles of nitroglycerine," Crosby once quipped. Replied Stephen Stills, "Yeah — if you drop one, everything goes up in smoke."

Looking back on that strange, turbulent, transcendent career, one fact leaps out: there's no better entryway to the group than their 1969 debut, Crosby, Stills & Nash, which turns 55 this year. Not even its gorgeous 1970 follow-up, Déjà Vu — which featured a few songs with one singer and not the others — their sublimation was about to blow apart, leaving shards to fitfully reassemble through the years. (The Stills-Young Band, anyone? How about the Crosby-Nash gigs?)

Pull out your dusty old LP of Crosby Stills & Nash, and look in the eyes of the three artists sitting on a beat-up couch in their s—kickers. The drugs weren't yet unmanageable; any real drama was years, or decades away. Do they see their infamous 1974 "doom tour"? The album cover with hot dogs on the moon? That discordant, Crosby-sabotaged "Silent Night" in front of the Obamas (which happened to be the trio's last public performance)?

At the time of their debut, the three radiated unity, harmony and boundless promise — and classic Crosby, Stills & Nash cuts like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" bottled it for our enjoyment forever. Here are five things you may not know about this bona fide folk-rock classic.

There Was Panic Over The Cover Photo

As silly as it seems today — nobody's going to visually mistake Crosby for Stills, or Stills for Nash — that the three were photographed out of order prompted a brief fire alarm.

"We were panicked about it: 'How could you have Crosby's name over Graham Nash?'" Ron Stone of the Geffen-Roberts company recalled in David Browne's indispensable book Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga Of Rock's Definitive Supergroup. (The explanation: it was still in flux whether they were going to be "Stills, Crosby & Nash" instead.)

The trio actually returned to the site of the photograph to reshoot the cover, but by that time, that decrepit old house on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood had been torn down. (It's a parking lot today, in case you'd like to drag a sofa out there.)

It Could Have Been A Double Album

At one point during Crosby, Stills & Nash's gestation, the idea was floated to render it a double album — one acoustic, one electric.

"Stephen was pushing them to do a rock-and-roll record instead of a folk album because he was the electric guy," session drummer Dallas Taylor said, according to Browne's book. "He wanted to play." (Back in the Buffalo Springfield, Stills and Young would engage in string-popping guitar duels on songs like "Bluebird," foreshadowing Young's impending electric workouts with Crazy Horse.)

Happily, the finished product blended both the band's electric and acoustic impulses; rockers like "Long Time Gone" happily snuggled up to acoustic meditations like "Guinnevere" sans friction.

Famous Friends Were Soaking Up The Sessions

As Browne notes, there was a "no outsiders decree" as this exciting triangulation of Buffalo Springfield, Hollies and Byrds members was secretly forged.

But rock royalty was in and out: at one point, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun rolled up in a limo with an "eerily quiet" Phil Spector. Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott, and Judy Collins also turned up — and, yes, Judy Collins, Stills' recent ex, was the namesake for the epochal "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

"It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins," Stills said in 1991. "It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks." (The "Thursdays and Saturdays" line refers to her therapy visits. "Stephen didn't like therapy and New York," Collins said in the book, "and I was in both.")

"Long Time Gone" Almost Didn't Make It On The Album

Crosby's probing rocker "Long Time Gone" meant a lot to him. He'd less written than channeled it from the ether, immediately after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

"It wasn't just about Bobby," he told Browne in the book. "He was the penultimate trigger. We lost John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and then we lost Bobby. It was discouraging, to say the least. The song was very organic. I didn't plan it. It just came out that way."

It was always considered for Crosby, Stills & Nash, but it was proving hard to capture it in the studio. It might have died on the vine had Stills not sent Crosby and Nash home so he could work on the arrangement — which took an all-nighter to get right.

When he played the others his new arrangement, an exhilarated Crosby tossed back wine, and dove into the song "with a new, deeper tone," as Browne puts it — "almost as if he were underwater tone, almost as if he were underwater and struggling for air."

Ertegun Boosted The Voices — And Thank Goodness He Did

For all the prodigious, multilayered talent in Crosby, Stills & Nash, it's their voices that were at the forefront of their art — and should have always been.

However, the original mix had their voices relatively lower in the mix; Ertegun, correctly perceiving that their voices were the main attraction, ordered a remix, and thank goodness he did. The band initially pushed back, but as Stills admitted, "Ahmet signs our paychecks." As they say, the rest is history.

David Crosby On His New Album For Free & Why His Twitter Account Is Actually Joyful

Members Of J-Pop Group JO1
JO1

Photo: LAPONE Entertainment

interview

JO1's Big Year: Follow The J-Pop Group's Rise, From Their First U.S. Appearance To One Of Japan's Biggest Venues

With a new album, 'HITCHHIKER' out in the world, JO1 are on a road to success. The 11-member J-pop act spoke with GRAMMY.com about their impressive past year, and their hopes for the future.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:13 pm

Immersed in a sea of lights and basking in the clamor of tens of thousands of fans at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, one of Japan's largest venues, JO1 felt a profound fulfillment. The 11-member J-pop group brimmed with gratitude at the realization that the road to their shared dream had stretched wide open.
Over a video call from Tokyo,
vocal leader Junki Kono reminisces about the power of JO1's two November shows at the dome — his former employer. "I was impressed by the fact that I was seeing the same view but from completely different sides – from the perspective of a security guard to the one of an artist," he tells GRAMMY.com. "In the next dome concert, I want our fans to be more excited about our performance, and I want to show them something even better."

This sense of conviction has been ingrained in JO1's DNA since the outset. In 2019, each member bet on faith and auditioned for the inaugural season of "Produce 101 Japan," a television contest aimed at creating a boy group chosen by the public. After 12 nerve-wracking episodes, Takumi Kawanishi, Issei Mamehara, Sho Yonashiro, Ren Kawashiri, Junki Kono, Shosei Ohira, Ruki Shiroiwa, Shion Tsurubo, Sukai Kinjo, Syoya Kimata, and Keigo Sato were crowned JO1

However, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the newly debuted group to build from scratch while their fans watched them grow from afar. Their tenacity prevailed and, today, JO1 is at a zenith where collective harmony coalesces with individual projects. 

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind journey. JO1 traveled to California for their first performance stateside at KCON LA 2023 and embarked on their second arena tour, which later expanded to Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei, and Shanghai — their first concerts outside their home country. The tour drew a total of 200,000 attendees and led to a pair of encore shows at the Kyocera Dome. Moreover, aside from new music, their solo artistry was enhanced with acting roles and other creative pursuits.

And the group has no plans to slow down. "I know that many people have a final destination in mind when planning a trip, but for me and the rest of JO1, I'm not quite sure what that final destination is," says Shion Tsurubo. "I believe what's important is that we can enjoy the process and the journey itself."

The next horizon is their eighth extended play, HITCHHIKER. Confident and lively, the six-track production pulsates with versatility, and its funky title track, "Love seeker," is a sonic adventure where to be enamored is the ultimate goal. Or, as JO1's leader Sho Yonashiro puts it, "love for everything. For our songs, our fans, and our members."

As JO1 prepares to continue running "with top speed," they pull the break for a bit and unravel the most important year of their trajectory so far. Fasten your seatbelt.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Developing Their Artistry From The Stage To The Silver Screen

Ruki Shiroiwa: Seiji, my character [from the film You Made My Dawn], is very free-spirited, but he's also very realistic and believes that there's only life, so he does what he wants and clearly expresses what he thinks. I must say his perspective is very similar to how I live.

JO1's activities are also this way, and each performance is treated as if it's the last one. In a way, I was replicating the strength he has, which somehow also made me feel supported in all the work I did with JO1 [last year]. Seiji felt like a source of power.


Takumi Kawanishi: When [reflecting] on the current music market, it seems like there is a higher demand to create viral or trendy songs. But within that, there is always music and sounds you want to play and things you want to say. [Playing Kiyosumi in Buzzy Noise] made me realize that it's important for me to try my best to showcase the [message] that I want to convey [with my music] as much as possible.

[For my song "Heaven,"] I wrote what Kiyosumi would feel and think, and then tried to capture what I felt as Takumi Kawanishi. I had a slightly strange feeling of being both Kiyosumi and Takumi when I was writing the song, but I think that sentiment aligns with the emotional nature of the film.

Performing Stateside For The First Time At KCON LA 2023

Sukai Kinjo: We couldn't attend KCON LA when we were first invited in 2022 due to [some of us contracting] COVID-19, so when we heard that we could go the following year, we [asked] every member and the surrounding staff to stay indoors and not go outside at all. Going to KCON is a big step, so we asked our managers if we could take a break before the event to rest and [prioritize] our health.

Ren Kawashiri: We performed three songs, with the third one being a cover of "Super" by SEVENTEEN-san, and we felt the crowd's excitement increasing with each performance. Many people might not have known who JO1 was at first, but I think we were able to enjoy ourselves with the audience and have fun on stage that night. We all felt very welcomed.

Shion Tsurubo: There was a moment in the cover of "Super" where we had to lift Syoya as part of the choreography. My first thought was that I couldn't let him fall.

Syoya Kimata: I was very nervous! I could just imagine it would be so bad if I failed on stage [during my first time] in Los Angeles. I took extra care, so I was very happy when I landed [after they threw me into the air], and I continued dancing throughout the performance without worrying or thinking about it.

Junki Kono: I was proud of my members, and we were all satisfied after our performance ended. We loved Los Angeles and we actually did some filming and photoshoots around the city. We met many local people, and it was fantastic. I want to return sometime soon. I miss In-N-Out. [Laughs.]

Expanding Their Musicality On Their Third Album, EQUINOX

Takumi Kawanishi: The "colors" of JO1 have been changing little by little. During the EQUINOX era, we were allowed to produce music with a nostalgic feel, but it also had a "power-up" element. I believe everyone in our group was looking to convey this as well.

Shosei Ohira: This album has a wide range of styles. For instance, "Venus" has elegance in its melody, and "RadioVision" is a pop song with an old-fashioned, retro charm. We also had our unit songs – "Itty Bitty" and "Mad In Love." This is something that we didn't do in our previous releases, so we were able to show a new [artistic] side of JO1.

Sukai Kinjo: I believe that every time we release a new album, my vocal ability has improved a lot compared to the previous one. I will work even harder and try my best to bring my "miracle voice" to the world.

Seeing Asia On The BEYOND THE DARK Tour

Issei Mamehara: It was our first overseas tour, so I was very happy! The experience made me recognize that I love and enjoy performing with our fans, JAM, at a close distance. Jakarta was especially memorable because it was the first show, and even though there were some sound problems, JO1's performance covered it up.

Ruki Shiroiwa: We had some technical issues [in Jakarta] while performing "Venus" that caused the song to stop playing. However, we usually practice during rehearsals in case something like this happens. It became a real situation, so when the sound stopped, we all knew we had to continue dancing. Everyone who gathered in the concert venue also joined us by singing and livened things up, so it feels like a success that we were able to avoid some trouble.

Keigo Sato: The size of the venues was smaller compared to those in Japan, but we could feel the high pressure from the audience, and it was amazing.

Watching Their Dreams Become Reality At The Kyocera Dome

Shosei Ohira: It was our first time stepping onto the Kyocera Dome [as headliners], which was a stage that all the JO1 members admired. The moment I stood on [that stage], I felt my dream come true, and it was an unbelievable time. I experienced many things [in the past], and many people supported me before I got here, so I was really thankful.

Junki Kono: When I was working at the Kyocera Dome, the stage seemed to be shining, and the artists who filled the venue also looked radiant. I remember being impressed by the sound of the concerts — it shook my heart. I don’t know why, but I remember feeling like I could stand on that stage in the future, and I was telling everyone around me, including my colleagues, that I would make it happen.

[Performing at Kyocera Dome with JO1] was the moment when my efforts and words were rewarded. But I also understood that standing at the Kyocera Dome is not a goal but a passing point on the road to my dream. I found a new challenge from this experience — a dome tour.

Sho Yonashiro: When the stage doors opened, I felt like a hero. But at the same time, there was a feeling of nervousness because we were the protagonists [that day]. If we had made a mistake, Ren, our performance leader, would have been angry. [Laughs.]

Ruki Shiroiwa: The concert is now available on Amazon Prime Video in Japan, and I've already watched it. While on stage, I felt that everything went smoothly, and I was really happy. However, looking back, I noticed that there are also areas where we need to improve. In the future, if we perform at the Kyocera Dome [again] or the Tokyo Dome, we would like to increase the quality of the performance. 

Winning The Excellent Work Award At The 65th Japan Record Awards 

Issei Mamehara: During a period when we were looking to make exciting songs, we had the opportunity to do "Trigger," and it received the Excellent Work Award at the Japan Record Awards. We were really honored. I wouldn't go as far as calling it our representative song, but we would like many people to truly listen to it.

Keigo Sato: I'm still skeptical about why "Trigger" wasn't a title track. I knew it was going to go viral. [Laughs.]

Returning To "Kōhaku Uta Gassen," Japan's Biggest End-Of-The-Year Television Special

Sho Yonashiro: "Kōhaku" is a [major] television show in Japan, and we had the opportunity to be invited [to perform] for a second time. There are a lot of K-pop artists coming in [as guests], and we know there are some comparisons between us and them.

All I can think of is that we need to demonstrate we can be competitive and shouldn't be satisfied with our position. After being there for two years, we need to continue expanding our [performance] skills and be more charismatic on stage.

Ren Kawashiri: It would not be an exaggeration to say that our role as top batters [for the White Team] somewhat determined the show's momentum. Back in 2022, we didn't know what we were doing, so we just tried our best, but the second time around, we had more room to think about how to create a good ambience.

Heading Down A New Road With HITCHHIKER 

Keigo Sato: My favorite song [from HITCHHIKER] is "Lied to you" because up until this point, we didn't have a track with this kind of Western-style [flow]. The lyrics talk about heartbreak and the inability to express your feelings, and the singing is really great. It's very similar to an Olivia Rodrigo song.

Junki Kono: The bittersweet atmosphere of [our B-side] "Lemon Candy" illustrates the emotion of "I can do anything for you." These may be extreme words, but I put the message in the lyrics that I feel [about] you that strongly.

When I heard the song, I instantly knew that it was composed by Yonghwa-san [from CNBLUE] because it really conveyed his vibe. He taught me many things during the recording session, such as how to sing with more of my own personality, which made me a little nervous. 

Syoya Kimata: Our title track is called "Love seeker," and I believe our trajectory is like hitchhiking as we search for the love of the audience in Japan and people who don't know about JO1 yet. I hope we can continue spreading our music and gain more recognition, so we will keep working hard to achieve that.

Ren Kawashiri: I feel we have a common understanding that has developed over the past five years. We are taking advantage of the fact that we have 11 members, which, in some cases, may be considered too many people, but we believe that each one of us injects strength into the group.

Steering Towards A Bright Future

Sho Yonashiro: We still feel that we must become more famous – even though we have achieved a lot as a boy group [in Japan]. It's been almost five years since our [formation], and we have gained experience and grown significantly compared to our beginnings. However, when we look outside Japan, many don't know who JO1 is, and I think this is a challenge worth taking over and over again. 

Sukai Kinjo: JO1 is very strong and unique on stage, and that’s where we can show how powerful we are as a group. I think our artistic [essence] resonated well with people in Los Angeles, and we do have the potential to reach more international fans. I believe it will be a matter of time before we go viral around the world. [Laughs.]

Ren Kawashiri: We will be superstars!

10 Neo J-Pop Artists Breaking The Mold In 2024: Fujii Kaze, Kenshi Yonezu & Others

The Beach Boys performing in 1964
The Beach Boys performing in 1964

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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6 Things We Learned From Disney+'s 'The Beach Boys' Documentary

From Brian Wilson's obsession with "Be My Baby" and the Wall Of Sound, to the group's complicated relationship with Murry Wilson and Dennis Wilson's life in the counterculture, 'The Beach Boys' is rife with insights from the group's first 15 years.

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2024 - 08:31 pm

It may seem like there's little sand left to sift through, but a new Disney+ documentary proves that there is an endless summer's worth of Beach Boys stories to uncover.

While the legendary group is so woven into the fabric of American culture  that it’s easy to forget just how innovative they were, a recently-released documentary aims to remind. The Beach Boys uses a deft combination of archival footage and contemporary interviews to introduce a new generation of fans to the band.

The documentary focuses narrowly on the first 15 years of the Beach Boys’ career, and emphasizes what a family affair it was. Opening the film is a flurry of comments about "a certain family blend" of voices, comparing the band to "a fellowship," and crediting the band’s success directly to having been a family. The frame is apt, considering that the first lineup consisted of Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl, their cousin Mike Love, and high school friend Al Jardine, and their first manager was the Wilsons’ father, Murry.

All surviving band members are interviewed, though a very frail Brian Wilson — who was placed under a conservatorship following the January death of his wife Melinda — appears primarily in archival footage. Additional perspective comes via musicians and producers including Ryan Tedder, Janelle Monáe, Lindsey Buckingham, and Don Was, and USC Vice Provost for the Arts Josh Kun.

Thanks to the film’s tight focus and breadth of interviewees, it includes memorable takeaways for both longtime fans and ones this documentary will create. Read on for five takeaways from Disney+'s The Beach Boys.

Family Is A Double-Edged Sword

For all the warm, tight-knit imagery of the Beach Boys as a family band,  there was an awful lot of darkness at the heart of their sunny sound, and most of the responsibility for that lies with Wilson family patriarch Murry Wilson. Having written a few modest hits in the late 1930s, Murry had talent and a good ear, and he considered himself a largely thwarted genius.  

When Brian, Dennis, and Carl formed the Beach Boys with their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, Murry came aboard as the band’s manager. In many respects, he was capable; his dogged work ethic and fierce protectiveness helped shepherd the group to increasingly high profile successes. He masterminded the extended Wilson family call-in campaign to a local radio station, pushing the Beach Boys’ first single "Surfin’" to become the most popular song in Los Angeles. He relentlessly shopped their demos to music labels, eventually landing them a contract at Capitol Records. He supported the band’s strong preference to record at Western Recordings rather than Capitol Records’ own in-house studio, and was an excellent promoter. 

Murry Wilson was also extremely controlling, fining the band when they made mistakes or swore, and "was miserable most of the time," according to his wife Audree. 

Footage from earlier interviews with Carl and Dennis, and contemporary comments from Mike Love make it clear that Murry was emotionally and physically abusive to his sons throughout their childhoods. He even sold off the Beach Boys’ songwriting catalog without consulting co-owner Brian, a moment that Brian’s ex-wife Marilyn says he felt so keenly that he took to his bed and didn’t get up for three days. 

Murry Wilson was at best a very complicated figure, both professionally jealous of his own children to a toxic degree and devoted to ensuring their success. 

"Be My Baby" and The Wrecking Crew Changed Brian Wilson’s Life

"Be My Baby," which Phil Spector had produced for the Ronettes in 1963, launched the girl group to immediate iconic status. The song also proved life-changing for Brian. On first hearing the song, "it spoke to my soul," and Brian threw himself into learning how Spector created his massive, lush Wall of Sound. Spector’s approach taught Brian that production was a meaningful art that creates an "overall sound, what [the listeners] are going to hear and experience in two and a half minutes." 

Read more: How Brian Wilson Crafted The Beach Boys' Early Sound: A Symphony Of Inspirations, From Boogie-Woogie To Barbershop

By working with The Wrecking Crew — a truly motley bunch of experienced, freewheeling musicians who played on Spector’s records and were over a decade older than the Beach Boys — Brian’s artistic sensibility quickly emerged. According to drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Carol Kaye, Brian not knowing what he didn’t know gave him the freedom and imagination to create sounds that were completely new and innovative. 

Friendly Rivalries With Phil Spector & The Beatles Yielded Amazing Pop Music

According to popular myth, the Beach Boys and the Beatles saw each other exclusively as almost bitter rivals for the ears, hearts, and disposable income of their fans. The truth is more nuanced: after the initial shock of the British Invasion wore off, the two groups developed and maintained a very productive, admiration-based competition, each band pushing the other to sonic greatness. 

Cultural historian and academic Josh Kun reframes the relationship between the two bands as a "transatlantic collaboration," and asks, "If they hadn’t had each other, would they have become what they became?" Could they have made the historic musical leaps that we now take for granted? 

Read more: 10 Memorable Oddities By The Beach Boys: Songs About Root Beer, Raising Babies & Ecological Collapse

The release of Rubber Soul left Brian Wilson thunderstruck. The unexpected sitar on "Norwegian Wood," the increasingly mature, personal songwriting, all of it was so fresh that "I flipped!" and immediately wanted to record "a thematic album, a collection of folk songs." 

Brian found life on the road soul-crushing and terrifying, and was much more content to stay home composing, writing, and producing. With the touring band out on the road, and with a creative fire lit under him by both the Beatles and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, he had time to develop into a wildly creative, exacting, and celebrated producer, an experience that yielded the 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds.

Pet Sounds Took 44 Years To Go Platinum

You read that right: Pet Sounds was a flop in the U.S. upon its release. Even after hearing radio-ready tracks like "Wouldn’t It Be Nice?" and "Sloop John B" and the ravishing "God Only Knows," Capitol Records thought the album had minimal commercial potential and didn’t give it the promotional push the band were expecting. Fans in the United Kingdom embraced it, however, and the votes of confidence from British fans — including Keith Moon, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney — buoyed both sales and the Beach Boys’ spirits.  

In fact, Lennon and McCartney credited Pet Sounds with giving them a target to hit when they went into the studio to record the Beatles’ own next sonically groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As veteran producer and documentary talking head Don Was puts it, Brian Wilson was a true pioneer, incorporating "textures nobody had ever put into pop music before." The friendly rivalry continued as the Beatles realized that they needed to step up their game once more.

Read more: Masterful Remixer Giles Martin On The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' The Beatles, Paul McCartney

Meanwhile, Capitol Records released and vigorously promoted a best-of album full of the Beach Boys’ early hits, Best Of The Beach Boys. The collection of sun-drenched, peppy tunes was a hit, but was also very out of step with the cultural and political shifts bubbling up through the anti-war and civil rights movements of the era. Thanks in part to later critical re-appraisals and being publicly embraced by musicians as varied as Questlove and Stereolab, Pet Sounds eventually reached platinum status in April 2000, 44 years after its initial release.

Dennis Wilson Was The Only Truly Beachy Beach Boy

Although the Beach Boys first made a name for themselves as purveyors of "the California sound" by singing almost exclusively about beaches, girls, and surfing, the only member of the band who really liked the beach was drummer Dennis Wilson.

Al Jardine ruefully recalls that "the first thing I did was lose my board — I nearly drowned" on a gorgeous day at Manhattan beach. Dennis was an actual surfer whose tanned, blonde good looks and slightly rebellious edge made him the instant sex symbol of the group. In 1967, when Brian’s depression was the deepest and he relinquished in-studio control of the band, Dennis flourished musically and lyrically. Carl Wilson, who had emerged as a very capable producer in Brian’s absence, described Dennis as evolving artistically "really quite amazingly…it just blew us away."

Dennis was also the only Beach Boy who participated meaningfully in the counterculture of the late 1960s, a movement the band largely sat out of, largely to the detriment of their image. He introduced the band to Transcendental Meditation — a practice Mike Love maintains to this day — and was a figure in the Sunset Strip and Laurel Canyon music scenes. Unfortunately, he also became acquainted with and introduced his bandmates to Charles Manson. Manson’s true goal was rock stardom; masterminding the gruesome mass murders that his followers perpetrated in 1969 was a vengeful outgrowth of his thwarted ambition. 

The Beach Boys did record and release a reworked version of one of Manson’s songs, "Never Learn Not To Love" as a B-side in 1968. Love says that having introduced Manson to producer Terry Melcher, who firmly rebuffed the would-be musician, "weighed on Dennis pretty heavily," and while Jardine emphatically and truthfully says "it wasn’t his fault," it’s easy to imagine those events driving some of the self-destructive alcohol and drug abuse that marked Dennis’ later years. 

The final minutes of The Beach Boys can be summed up as "if all else fails commercially, release a double album of beloved greatest hits." The 1970s were a very fruitful time for the band creatively, as they invited funk specialists Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar to join the band and relocated to the Netherlands to pursue a harder, more far-out sound. Although the band were proud of the lush, singer/songwriter material they were recording, the albums of this era were sales disappointments and represented a continuing slide into uncoolness and obscurity. 

Read more: Brian Wilson Is A Once-In-A-Lifetime Creative Genius. But The Beach Boys Are More Than Just Him.

Once again, Capitol Records turned to the band’s early material to boost sales. The 1974 double-album compilation Endless Summer, comprised of hits from 1962-1965, went triple platinum, relaunching The Beach Boys as a successful heritage touring act. A new generation of fans — "8 to 80," as the band put it — flocked to their bright harmonies and upbeat tempos, as seen in the final moments of the documentary when the Beach Boys played to a crowd of over 500,000 fans on July 4, 1980. 

While taking their place as America’s Band didn’t do much to make them cool, it did ensure one more wave of chart success with 1988’s No. 1 hit "Kokomo" and ultimately led to broader appreciation for Pet Sounds and its sibling experimental albums like Smiley Smile. That wave of popularity has proven remarkably durable; after all, they’ve ridden it to a documentary for Disney+ nearly 45 years later. 

Listen: 50 Essential Songs By The Beach Boys Ahead Of "A GRAMMY Salute" To America's Band

Pepe Aguilar Rocks On 'Que Llueva Tequila'
Pepe Aguilar

Photo: Constanza Martínez

interview

On 'Que Llueva Tequila,' Pepe Aguilar Pours A Little Rock Into Música Mexicana

"I wanted to find a new sound," says pepe Aguilar of his recently released album. The four-time GRAMMY winner opens up about his family's legacy, keeping traditions alive, and fusion sounds.

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2024 - 01:21 pm

For over three decades, Pepe Aguilar has proudly represented the traditions and culture of música mexicana. The iconic singer, songwriter and producer has made the biggest impact in mariachi music, penning and singing timeless love songs.

Aguilar became a worldwide phenomenon in the '90s with romantic classics like "Por Mujeres Como Tú" and "Directo Al Corazón." His deep and soulful voice, paired with honest and striking lyrics, continues the legacy of his famous parents: Flor Silvestre, an icon from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, and Antonio Aguilar, a singer who was nicknamed "El Charro de México." To revamp the mariachi music that he grew up on in Zacatecas, Mexico, he blended in elements of Latin pop music. 

Aguilar embodies the genre with his charro (Mexican horsemen), suit and sombrero during live performances. In addition to honoring the traditions of mariachi music, Aguilar has helped globalize the genre with more than 13 million albums sold, hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On top of that, Aguilar has won four GRAMMYs and four Latin GRAMMY Awards. 

Now, Aguilar is bringing a new edge to mariachi music on Que Llueva Tequila, bringing elements of rock into the mix. His soaring songs become even more epic with this arena-ready sound: Mexican melodies collide with drums and electric guitars in power ballads like "Hasta Que Me Duermo" and "Corazón A Medio Día."  

"I've always liked alternative rock and progressive rock," Aguilar tells GRAMMY.com. "It's something that I'm doing to keep on experimenting with. I'm also going to keep doing traditional mariachi."

To that end, the heartbreaking title track and "Contigo Aprendí," a soulful ode to his mother's memory, are puro Aguilar

Aguilar's Jaripeo Hasta Los Huesos tour is hitting arenas across the U.S. through July. In the spirit of jaripeo (Mexican bull riding), Aguilar and children Ángela and Leonardo Aguilar, perform their songs live while riding horses. In this latest iteration of the tour, they're joined by figures from Mexican Día de los Muertos folklore. 

In an interview with GRAMMY.com, Aguilar opens up about his family's legacy, keeping Mexican traditions alive, and going rock with his latest album.

You dedicated your song "Contigo Aprendí" to your mother. What did you take away from your parents to become the artist that you are today?

Professionalism, dedication, honesty, and resilience. I saw all of that in them and learned the meanings of the principles with them, among many other things. 

It was a cosmic lottery because you don't choose where you're going to be born and who your parents are going to be, or if they're going to be loving parents or not. If they're going to have a strong work ethic or not. I won a cosmic lottery by being born in that environment. 

Why has it been important for you to represent and keep alive the traditions of mariachi music and charro culture with your career?

Mariachi has proven itself for generations and decades, so I like that sound. It's something that also has to do with the first question about what I learned from my parents. I learned to be true to myself. I like charrería [Mexican equestrian culture] and that sport. I like mariachi. I like banda. I like that culture and that's why I do it. 

You've won four GRAMMYs throughout your career. What do those GRAMMY wins mean to you?

They're very important reminders of the hard work and the dreams. It's very cool to have something that has so much validation by my colleagues, the ones that came before me, and the ones after me. 

Those four GRAMMYs have meant only good things in my life. Like from the moment I was nominated and couldn't believe it, to the moment when I won my first GRAMMY, which I still couldn't believe. I was mixing an album and my wife called me and said, “Hey, you just won your first GRAMMY.” And then another one, and another one, and another one came. What I'm most proud of from my four GRAMMYs and Latin GRAMMYs is that I didn't win those with just one album. It was with different albums. That was cool. 

On top of that, you won your GRAMMYs and Latin GRAMMYs as an independent artist.

For me, being independent was the natural way to go. It has been harder because it's a lot more work, but it has been a lot cooler in more ways than one — like having all the say and the responsibility and the timing, everything in your hands. 

It's been a game-changer for me, so I highly recommend it, especially if you're a workaholic. Nowadays, it's not like a choice. If you want to do things in 2024, most likely you're going to have to go independent in one way or another. 

What is the story behind your new album Que Llueva Tequila?

I wanted to go back to the more romantic way of doing Mexican music. I went all out. I did it, recorded it, and produced it in a year. I wanted to lean towards romanticism. I'm very proud of what happened. 

It took me so long, because I wanted to find a new sound. I think we achieved that. That sound is a fusion between rock and mariachi more than pop and mariachi. I have a few pieces that are very traditional and full-on mariachi. Most of them are fusions.

"Te Confirmo" is another love song on the album that leans more towards traditional mariachi. Why is it important for you to always have that element of romance in your music?

I think that it's needed. It's also something that I feel as a person. I think romanticism is fading away. The narrative of love in songs right now is very aggressive to me in many genres. I think bringing a little romanticism and poetry doesn't hurt anyone. 

Good orchestration and a big sound is not trending right now. Everybody just wants to go with one guitar. [They're] going directly to the chorus or not having any type of intro or bridge or outro. They just want to sell [music] and go directly to the chorus. I think there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not my thing. 

I like to create a particular story around a song, and you feel that. The music also speaks and it needs to have that narrative as much as the voice, the melody, and the lyrics. Call me old fashioned, but I'm going to keep on doing that. 

Then you lean into a bit of heartbreak with "Que Llueva Tequila." What was the story behind that song?

I like drama in my songs, and this is a romantic album, and romance is always filled with drama. With that song I wanted to go completely hardcore traditional and I did. The theme and arrangements are a homage to the more traditional mariachi days. No one's doing that. Not because no one's doing it that I'm doing it, no. It's because it should be done more. 

How do you feel to see Ángela and Leonardo Aguilar following in your footsteps and their music careers blossoming?

I don't know how much they are following in my footsteps. They're making their own paths. I'm like their teacher and master of the trade. When they're finding their own place in life, their own personality, and ways, of course they're going to do their thing their way. 

If their way is similar to mine, then that's fine. That's going to be their way regardless. I love it! I'm very proud that they're doing cool things with music and that they are growing every day. 

How would you describe the experience of bringing to life the Mexican jaripeo tradition with them on your tour?

It's been a rollercoaster ride. Amazing and very hard and lots of work and tremendous satisfaction. We've been doing it for almost seven years now with the pandemic in the middle. It's great to see how people enjoy their traditions and how they're proud of them and how they take the whole family to see this thing. It's amazing how in the 21st century, there are charros on horseback singing with mariachi and Día de los Muertos characters filling up arenas with a family as the center attraction. It's an honor. It's been pretty cool. It's also evolving, so let's see where it takes us. 

What do you see for the future of mariachi music?

I don't see it ending anytime soon because the new generations are adopting it. Maybe they're not dressed up like charros, but you have Christian Nodal, Carín León, and a lot of people singing with mariachi. Banda acts and their vocalists are doing singles with mariachi like Banda MS. Alfredo Olivas and Luis R. Conriquez — people that normally do banda or norteño music or corridos — they end up singing one or two songs on their albums with mariachi. 

I don't think it's going to end anytime soon, especially since people like Ángela and Leonardo are doing it at a very high quality level. It's just the beginning. 

After having accomplished so much, what do you want to achieve next?

[Representing música mexicana] is a consequence of the actions that I have done for my beliefs and my own goals. I believe in my culture. I believe in charros, in charrería, in mariachi, and in banda. I consume it. I like it. That's why I do it, and if that's inspired other people to get identified with their culture, that's amazing. 

Now I see that it's a responsibility. Now I see that a lot of people can get inspired and do something about preserving the traditions. Most definitely there are a lot more things to achieve. I'm ready to do whatever comes next. I'm very happy to keep on evolving and reinventing myself. I don't know where that's going to take me, but I'm nowhere near the potential that we have. 

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