Brothers in arms

tony_tomasYou know, I see my little brother almost every day. 
It wasn’t always like that, but these days we both live in the suburbs of Stockholm (albeit on different sides of the city), we have been working together since 2003, and oh, lest I forget, we also play in the same band. 
Siblings playing in the same band aren’t really that unusual. Ray and Dave Davies. Alex and Eddie Van Halen. Karen and Richard Carpenter. Malcolm and Angus Young. Duane and Gregg Allman. Ann and Nancy Wilson. Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. Not to mention the Staple Singers, the Jacksons and the Beach Boys. The list is endless when you start to think about it. 
Barba, as he is affectionately known within the ranks of Billy Momo, is five years younger than me, and growing up, we really didn’t hang out much due to that age difference.
In his between-song rants, Orren often relishes in pointing out my trailer park white trash credentials, as I married and had kids at a fairly young age (not to mention becoming a grandfather in my early 40s). This also meant that I was preoccupied with family life and being a dad at the same time that my brother grew into his rock’n’roll-lifestyle-era. And as my kids got older and more independent, and I became more ”accessible to frivolous social encounters and activities” as it were, that’s when he started a family and the responsible-dad-thing. We just always seemed to be out of phase, although we got along great whenever we’d see each other. 
We are both drummers, so we spent many years playing in different bands, never actually playing together. The first time that changed was when Barba started his RockSteadyEddie solo project, where he was the lead singer, and thus needed a drummer for live performance (he still played on the recordings). I was drafted for this task, and this was the first time we performed together. It was also the first time I played with Orren, who was the bass player then. It was not too long after this that Barba and Orren morphed into the early stages of Billy Momo. They started writing and recording songs, discovering a new direction different from anything they’d done before. In the beginning they played most of the instruments themselves, with auxiliary players added whenever needed. I was one of those players. And I played the drums with the band live from the very first gig, so I was the first +member added to the then-duo, nowadays a septet. Growing pains much..?
So, what’s it like to play in a band with your younger brother, especially as he is one of the two bandleaders, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway.)
In a seven-piece group where the dynamics pretty much resemble a dysfunctional family on a alcoholic binge anyway, with sibling rivalries, squabbles and inside jokes, the actual blood relations between Barba and myself doesn’t really seem too obvious. In fact, we are probably the two guys who argue the least among each other in the band. We both like to be on time, none of us is a snob in our tastes (although our tastes often diverge quite a lot from each other), and we are both pretty easy-going (out of the two of us, I’m the moody, difficult one).
One of the funny quirks is that initially we both found it really hard to do vocal harmonies together. Our voices have really similar timbres, and if the harmonies were tight (as they should be), it would be very difficult to differentiate between us, so much that we’d sometimes not know which parts we were singing! I’d find myself having to do a little pitch bend to find out which voice was me! Over time, we have learned how to tell ourselves apart a little better, but sometimes it’s still difficult. One of the band’s inside jokes is that the most pointless gag imaginable would be if I started to sing lead on a song instead of Barba, as most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Barba is the organizer of the band, the disciplinarian father figure as well as the worrying mother, while the rest of us are the unruly kids driving him crazy. But that doesn’t mean that he’s boring and stiff. In fact, he’s one of the most fun guys I know to hang out with. If you’ve ever partied with Billy Momo, you are keenly aware that we all know how to have a good time. 
On a strictly personal note, while we have obviously been family our whole lives, it’s very precious to me to find that in our advancing years, my little brother is also one of my very best friends, and I love him like crazy. 
As today is his birthday I’ll raise a toast to the man who was happier than anyone else when the VHS era ended. Here’s to many more years of brotherhood and bandmatery! Cheers, little brother! Love ya!
/Gramps
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The Fine Art of Assholery (and why you should never meet your heroes)

When I was very young I may have harbored some naïve illusions on the matter, but really, for most of my life I have been keenly aware that there is no automatic correlation between a great artistic talent and a great personality.

This is why I am generally very hesitant to meet the musicians who have been truly inspirational to me. It really shouldn’t matter, of course, but I know myself well enough to know that it would sully my love for their art if I met them and found them to be complete assholes.

Now, I know that many of them probably ARE assholes, but not having to witness it firsthand allows me to maintain my self-delusion and hypocrisy, which is convenient, since I would very much like to continue enjoying their music.

No person is just ONE thing, of course. Everyone understands that. Even the individuals that history and most of us who are not complete idiots would unanimously consider truly BAD PEOPLE (I don’t have to mention names here, do I?) probably had their agreeable moments and positive attributes. And those rare creatures who are considered ”good” by most people’s standards have their dark side and unflattering traits.
Profound and genuine assholery is not easily defined, and the line between just having a bad day and being a douche can be blurry sometimes.

But some people are just more consistently obnoxious, rude and mean than others, to the point where it is their standard approach in social situations, and this is where I feel we start to cross the aforementioned line. We all have some people like this in our lives. Toxic, caustic personalities, psychic and emotional vampires who drain us of joy, energy and passion. People who will always play the guilt trip card, giving unwarranted and/or unfair criticism about everything you do, or make you feel inadequate and/or inferior. Assholes.

In some cases we are dealing with clinical cases, where the individual in question actually is unable to be any other way, sociopathic personality disorder, malignant narcissism, etc. I won’t dwell on those individuals, as they are something other than the thing I wish to address here, I will just say that those people are the ones that you need to cut out of your life immediately and completely, because they will never be a good influence in your life, you can’t help them, and they sure as hell won’t help you, so stay the fuck away from them forever.

However, most assholes are just spoiled brats who need to have their asses kicked a little bit to get back in line. They’ve been getting too much rope, and got used to getting away with too much shit. Shorten the leash. What I mean by that is that you don’t need to put up with their behavior, and you have every right to let them know that you won’t.

Ladies know what I’m talking about. Chauvinist pigs who make inappropriate ”jokes” and use derogatory slurs about women are abundant and all over the place, and the world of music is no exception, unfortunately. We all know misogyny has been a widespread constant throughout the history of music. You’d think we should be way past that sort of caveman mentality by now, but unfortunately that is not the case.

And in every workplace, in every classroom and at every party, there is at least one bully who thrives on making other people miserable. Yes, THAT asshole.

The solution is not to return the favor in spades, further fueling the one-upmanship of assholery. Neither is acquiescence, because then you’re stuck with this sphincter’s behavior.
I think Jim Jefferies really nailed it on the head in the clip I’ve posted below. Check it out, it’s brilliant!

In my role as a working musician, I have come to the conclusion that life is way too short to deal and work with assholes. It takes up too much of my precious time, drains my energy and creative inspiration, and this is one of the many reasons why I’m so happy playing with the guys in Billy Momo. We are no saints, and we certainly have our moments of shitty attitudes and bad behavior, no doubt about that, but let me tell you, these guys I play with are good people. Friendly, approachable, and somewhat sane. This allows us to get on with the task at hand, which is making music, and having fun while doing so.
When doing the things you love, you shouldn’t have to put up with assholes, so don’t! And even more important, don’t be one!

Let’s be friendly, generous and kind, people! It’s the best gift we can give ourselves, and others.

I wish your perpetual bliss, all you crazy kids in love out there!

/Gramps

 

A different drum, crayfish and the-day-after-volumes.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We have started recording a bunch of new songs lately, and you will no doubt see a lot of footage from this project on MomoTV in the weeks and months ahead. But here are some personal reflections after the first week of recording.

Each Billy Momo album has had its own approach and recording process. ’Ordinary Men’ was done very much as a duo with auxiliary musicians.

More of a band sound started to emerge with ’Drunktalk’, although it wasn’t quite there yet. And it was still largely put together one instrument at the time, the separated recording technique used by most smaller studios.

’Seven Rivers Wild’ was the first album recorded entirely as the seven-piece band that we had grown into, and we also started to record a little bit more as a live unit, with at least the rhythm section being recorded at the same time. It had happened on occasional tracks before, such as ”The Weekend”, but this time around that was the overall approach for most of the tracks. On SRW we also began experimenting with double drums on some songs, with me and Barba playing together on separate drum kits to get a lively, swampy feel to the grooves. With this approach we could also introduce more interesting sounds into the rhythm tracks, junkyard percussion, stacked cymbals and other sonic experiments. SRW was quite ambitious, a glossy, rich production, Billy goes Fleetwood Mac, almost. The final enhancement to this album was the amazing artwork, which made it ideal for the vinyl format.

But these days, we are living in a world where streaming services and downloading individual tracks constitute the norm, rather than oldskool album listening, where you with a sense of pride, joy and even duty listened all the way through the album you had just purchased (yes, there was a time when you paid money to the creators of the music in order to listen to it). Today… not so much. And so, why not try some different approaches to platforms and formats?

With this in mind, we are now experimenting with different approaches to recording, not necessarily working towards ”an album” as the desired end result. It might still end up being that, of course, but we try not to have that as a preconceived notion, but rather approach a handful of songs at the time, consider some creatively interesting method of recording them, and see what happens. They may be released as individual tracks, or as parts of a bigger, cohesive whole, but we’ll see what it is when we get there.

The first and most obvious difference this time around is that we have started to work in Barba’s new house, part of which has been converted into a recording facility (again, MomoTV will bring you up to speed on that) which gives the whole working environment a more homegrown feel, which suits the band perfectly.

During rehearsals in the past couple of years we often found that some really interesting things happened to the groove when we were playing at lower volume (the decision to turn it down was probably more due to hangovers than intentional improvements of musical nature, but hey!) and so we wanted to try recording some songs while playing softly and more delicately. So this has been a deliberate change for this particular batch of tunes. Oh, there are still some viscerally exciting, rambunctious, slamming beats going on (oh, man, you have noooo idea what you’re in for, people!), but there is a different sonic quality that comes out of drums and percussion when played slightly less forcefully, and the interplay between players gets more dynamic, so this we feel is a huge improvement.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We are also expanding the idea of the junkyard percussion setups, with both myself and Preach having some deranged setups to work with. Trashcan lids, wooden crates, fucked up cymbal combinations with applied chains, drums filled with quinoa, and the list goes on. The Billy Momo sound is getting deeper, grittier and sweatier than ever. We can’t wait for you to hear these fucking songs!

The first week of collective recording finished on Friday (some individual overdub sessions proceeded over the weekend), and we had a traditional Swedish crayfish party on Friday night, right there in the studio! It was the usual Billy Momo joint, with way too much booze, and so, the drunktalk began, as expected. One member of the band kept insisting that most fears that people refer to as “phobias” are actually just a part of ones personal image and public relations-package, or something along those lines. The verdict from the jury is still pending on that one. And at some point during the wee hours of the morning, we hazily drifted into listening to terrible 90s Eurodance music (although some of us insisted it was FUCKING AWESOME!!!) and eventually some of us got wild and crazy behind the drum kit for a bit at 4:00 a.m.-ish, presumably to the immense enjoyment of the neighbors, but, you know, what price art, eh?

Stay tuned here and at Momo TV for continuous updates on the recording process.

Have a beautiful fall, all you crazy kids in love out there!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:

Can’t we all just get along?

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Tomas Juto, aka Barba. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

I’ve always been fascinated by music scenes.
Seattle and grunge, New York and hiphop, L.A. and 80’s rock, Laurel canyon and singer/songwriters, San Fransisco and the flower power scene and so on.
Those are all American of course. But England had Bristol and trip hop, Norway had black metal and Swedens Umeå had the hardcore scene in the 90’s with Refused and similar bands. I’ve never been a part of a scene like that. I think I would love it. I get super inspired when people I know get a break and make it big or make a super obscure but amazing album that gets good reviews in underground blogs or whatever. It pushes me to try harder at whatever I’m doing at the moment.

But these days it’s really hard to reach through the noice with your music. And whenever people manage to carve out a spot in the limelight for themselves they don’t want to share the space.

I can understand that ’cause I know how much work it takes to get ahead. I can see why people tend to be a bit defencive of their spot. But it’s still a drag. I’m not saying I’m not a part of the problem. I’m probably just the same as any other musician. I just wish that I could somehow change the attitude in the business to a more collective kind of focus. Let’s make something really cool, together. Even though we’re not in the same band or whatever.
Let’s do a tour, a collaboration on a track, cameos in videos. Not because it’s a career move or looks good on the CV. Let’s do it ’cause we all love this thing. It’s fun!
Maybe by writing this I can remind myself to be more open to it. And at least that’s a start, ey?

Fans, fans, fans!

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Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Do you sometimes read or hear about extraordinary people doing great deeds, changing the world for the better and are you then thinking to yourself “Fuck! I should have been one of those guys!”

I do, sometimes. When our fans write to us, when we see them at shows and when I see the things they do for us. The way they selflessly and without ego dedicate their time and energy to spread music, it awes me every time I see it.

I’m a music fan of course. I go to concerts, I tell my friends about new bands I’ve found and so on. I have posters on my wall and I think Ennio Morricone is probably God. But I dedicate my time and my great efforts into spreading my own shit, boosting myself, telling the world about my own greatness.

The way our fans interact, showing us and everyone else their enthusiasm, giving us all the extra energy we need and at the same time spread our music, is of course great for us. But we are not the only band that enjoys this. Fans and independent bloggers, putting in ten times as many hours into finding new music than any A&R have ever done, keep fighting to introduce us to new, formally unknown, great music!

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Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Even though a lot has changed, still a few powerful people hold more or less monopoly on the channels that spread music to the world. We often come across those guys. They generally seem mysteriously uninterested in new music. There seem to be almost nothing that tires them more than having to hear a new band play.

I don’t know how many music biz VIPs I’ve heard claim they know a hit when they hear one. And I didn’t really believe any of them. They know a marketing plan when they see one, they know a guy who knows all the right people when they meet one, they know a significant sync when they see one and they know heavy rotation on a radio station when they hear it. But most of all, nowdays, they know a youtube hit when they see one. And guess who made it a Youtube hit? You did.

Fans, we love you. Not just because you are rubbing our egos, but because you are crucial to the survival of music innovation. Fighting that monopoly, finding other ways to spread interesting music. Because you guys, if any, know a hit when you hear one!

The dynamics of being a band

header 161115Anyone who has ever been part of a creative team (and who hasn’t?) knows that within a group of people, various individuals get assigned different functions within the unit, and these roles in combination are fueling the creative process. You have leaders, you have thinkers, you have doers, you have morale boosters, you have analysts and critics, all various catalysts for moving the project ahead. The weird thing is that the same individual can perform a specific role within one group of people, yet have a significantly different function in another team. The dynamics shift, depending on the energies produced within each unique combination of people. It really is true that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And Billy Momo is no exception to this rule.

Orren is sort of the gatekeeper of the Billy Momo environment. He is often the first one to say that ”This doesn’t really feel like a Billy Momo thing to do”, and he often comes up with the initial idea for new concepts, videos, etc.

My brother Barba and I are quite alike in many ways, and yet in others, we are vastly different. Barba seems to have a constant creative drive, a slow burning kind, where he is in perpetual forward motion, which is a very good, disciplined way of getting shit done, even if it sometimes happens below the radar. My creativity seems to lie dormant periodically, and then show itself in bursts of energy, which is good for times when things need to get kicked in the ass a little bit, but isn’t very effective for actually finishing a project, being a ’closer’ takes a persistence and determination I sorely lack. Barba is, together with our manager Birgitta, the taskmaster of the group, the one who makes sure we actually follow through on what we have planned.

The Head seems to thrive within his own framework, headspace and timezone, and although he is very active when we have conceptual discussions about what we are trying to achieve, he tends to do most of his work on his own. He is very much a morale booster as well, ever optimistic and enthusiastic.

Preacher Man often refers to himself as a ”spare prick”, which is funny, but not entirely the case. It is true that he gets assigned various roles depending on the requirements of specific songs, be it percussion, vocals, guitar, dobro, but not in an arbitrary fashion, and his versatility is a very strong point within our setup, and one we always look to finding new ways to expand. Also, his unique character provides endless source material for Billy Momo folklore.

Hot Lips often comes up with quirky, creative ideas, and has a great instinct for visual presentation. He’s a gifted sketch artist, and seems to have an infinite treasure trove of old pictures and vintage equipment (not always of a musical nature) we can draw inspiration from. Combined with The Coffa’s photography and graphic design skills, as well as Orren’s visionary quality control, we have a great visual design team within the group.

I realize, as I’m reading everything I’ve just written, that most of these processes within the band are not directly concerning the music, but other aspects of being a creative team. But, being a very DIY type of organization, a lot of the work we have to perform in order to keep this beast we know as Billy Momo alive and kicking, takes place with our instruments unplugged. Sometimes the balance gets a little fucked, which can be a bit frustrating. I have had recent discussions with Barba where we both expressed an itch to get back to the actual music for a bit. It will happen, as we have a number of shows scheduled during the spring, but for now, we are currently doing a lot of other stuff. This very blog, for instance!

Peace, love and music to all you crazy kids in love out there! (Tony Lind, aka /Gramps)