Q&A Session as we Rise and Shine with SIMO
BD: Hi JD delighted to have the opportunity to chat with you once again for Bluesdoodles. A year has passed and we have a new album to explore and enjoy Rise and Shine. The follow-up to the acclaimed Let Love Show You The Way. You have certainly gone off on a different journey as we Rise and Shine with SIMO.
JD Simo: It is always a pleasure to talk with you. On our way to Nashville to Rise & Shine Record release show.
BD: Tell us about the making of Rise and Shine and how the eleven tracks were weaved together as a tour de force?
JD Simo: Started the concept last year during that ridiculous touring schedule. There was a hint of the direction at the live shows on our last tour especially in the UK. We had so much material and not had time to work on so many songs. The concept came out as we got bored creatively with what we were putting out material wise. We wanted to push the sound by how we view this and push that so we could find a place that felt unfamiliar. That coupled with the determination to be the best we could be through writing and the music. We could have easily gone in and made an album that was familiar. We wanted to craft and make music with a purpose and with a refinement. Using a methodical approach to be the best possible. This takes time and effort and is a bit scary. It is easy to be lazy being tricked by praise and believing what you are telling yourself. That stops creativity.
The nucleus was when we finally got home in January. No shows and a month studio time already blocked off. So we bared down onto the album. It was a lot of hard work. Lots of time spent it was serious and fun definitely not stressful. It was like a good work out working through and feeling good at the end. Every day was a stretch, it took a long time to arrange and work out the songs. How we were going to do it, what the concept was how the track would sound and fit into the album.
Studio time we were there every day with long hours of crafting our music it was good not to have to rush. We had the time to capture a good performance. Sometimes a track took a long time others a lot shorter. It then took two months to mix. Making the album was a marathon rather than a sprint.
Rise and Shine is a piece of work that represents the best of what we are capable of. It feels like our first record. If it reminds you of other works that is not intentional. In the past it was intentional. Here we said lets deconstruct I am really proud of the result.
BD: You have described the sound as Psychedelic Blues, many have fused soul and funk onto the blues base but you have gone one step further for me this is progressive blues, experimental. Why do you describe your music as Psychedelic ?
JD Simo: What my music ends up being called is terms is meaning less and less to me. It has to be done in the world we live in. It is fun to hear everyone’s take on the music. Everyone has a different take, it is good that they are finding something that resonant.
Psychedelic is another way to say experimental not taking the norm. A lot of elements makes this experimental with different textures and sounds. The record is still Rock n Roll. Trying to push finding inspiring sounds is cool.
BD: How did you come up with the jaunty title Rise & Shine almost a pop feel?
JD Simo: There is a pun in that behind the name is a concept of growth and your inner light/beauty and the ability to convey that. There are miracle themes, spiritual elements. Rising out of whatever you are dealing with. Shine the message is don’t hold it in, it is okay to let your inner self be seen. There were other names considered. In the end we all liked the title it is kind of funny and suited the album..
BD: You made the decision to take a month out and producing the album yourself. Did this give you more control combine the feeling of a live show, energy of a jam and the experimental sonic tones all into the same album that makes sense and is never disjointed?
JD Simo: We had complete control it was incredible. I was astounded that I was given the opportunity, they had faith in me. So I was given the opportunity to see the vision through. We wanted the live energy on each song. They were treated singularly. There were lots of songs that didn’t make it and others were torn apart during pre-production. The aim was that on each song we nailed it, sonically what suited the track. Some link Meditate were laid back, with intense parts felt the track was laid back, not always easy to capture. It was great to have complete control. We took it really seriously there was no messing around.
BD: The opening track Return is a sonic assault as you tune in you realise that Return is not return to the same you have gone in a different direction as the band moulds influences from Beck to Prince with deep bass lines, vocals that are beguiling an opening track opening the doors on the new shape of SIMO?
JD Simo: Once we got to the mixing stage we were fairly methodical as we considered how the album would flow. The choice of opening with Return was to knock you of your balance, a track you would not expect us to do. In the end it felt the best, felt right to start that way.
A lot of thought went into how to sequence the record. We really loved the opening of the record and the rest made sense. Return, was lyrically a good place to start. The songs get more and more persona. They are what JD personally gone through. Light The Candle starts to gets heavier subject more about the world outside of me and more intense. It was just the way it worked out in the end.
BD: SIMO have been describe your sound as retro but that is for me too easy. Your sound is modern cutting edge how do you manage that?
JD Simo: Retro is a fair assessment of what we were creating before Rise & Shine. Not indicative of where we are now. We have turned away from retro it is a natural evolution. Where we are getting more genuine and comfortable. It is like not putting on someone else’s cloths. This is what we were doing with the best of intentions before. It is like growing up, at High School you dress like everyone else. You think man I don’t like this shirt I am not going to wear that anymore. Musically it is like that. Retro was a way of exploring a range of influence. Yet we have as many influences that are contemporary, including Alabama Shakes and Wilco we needed to re-group.
BD: Following on from moving on from being Retro, did you use different equipment on Rise and Shine?
JD Simo: Great question. Yes we did use different equipment. Didn’t use anything used on previous albums. It was all stuff I had found myself it was my own equipment. In the past I had used equipment used by people I admire and love used trying to be authentic.
Now I have collected equipment that suits me in fact none of the equipment was used before it was fresh start on Rise & Shine.
BD: The lyrics are often deep, very personal how much have you been influenced by your extensive travels in 2016 and the election of President Trump last November?
JD Simo: Majority a lot is about me. This is obvious the emotions I have been through and very observational. I was trying to work through stuff I had to deal with myself. I had to face myself. It is more honest not alluding but very stark, uncomfortable at times to listen to. This was a conscious choice on my part. I know I am a decent musician as a writer I have never forced myself to write as good as I can. It is important to work on writing. It is absolutely the most important thing is the writing. I love writing it helped me to have the confidence to work to be better and better. Focusing as much on writing as being a good musician that is not being neglected though. Just working harder to be as good a writer as I am a good musician. It feels really good.
We had a listening party. A bunch of people came round I felt really uncomfortable, sick to the stomach. It was hard for me to do, listening to the songs. Bringing stuff up not expressed before in front of a group of people. Once I recovered it felt fine through this journey I have become a decent writer I have revealed everything I needed to. Writers like Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan and Neil Young they do that all the time. I am not comparing myself to them but is sets the bar high to aim for that a better job than I have ever done before.
BD: Will you be touring Europe with this new exciting album?
JD Simo: Yes, have a three-week tour of Europe mainly Germany, one night Holland, Belgium and London. Just doing shorter tours, can’t do the 5-6 weeks just too draining for us. Early 2018 will be back in Europe more dates UK and some of the other countries missed including France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. 2-3 week tours are so much more enjoyable and we are really looking forward to doing them. In fact some of the best gigs we have played have been in London so looking forward to 26th September at the Borderline.
BD: Last time we finished with what your dream band would be this time – what are you listening to and what SIMO track would you liked covered and by whom?
JD Simo: Without hesitation JD said – D’Angelo to cover I Want Love. That would be pretty sick, pretty incredible and a huge honour. Mind you it would make me never want to do the song every again.
I am a Spotify junkie, I have playlists of all types of stuff. I really am really love Jeff Tweedy solo record with its Meters influence. Also really digging Lily Mae from Nashville, who is on Jack Whites label Third Man. It is folk/country like Gordon Lightfoot. Classic country she is an incredible musician playing fiddle and guitar. Her vocals are unique at times frail sounding like she is crying.
BD: Thank you for your time and looking forward to hearing the new numbers live very soon.
Rise and Shine out on Mascot Label Group – out 15th September 2017