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July 12, 2006

{The Sky Drops Interview}


The Sky Drops are Rob Montejo (guitar/vocals) and Monika Bullette (drums/vocals). The duo is based in Wilmington, Delaware, where each have had their own share of success before forming The Sky Drops. Rob Montejo's previous band Smashing Orange (formed with his sister Sara Montejo) recently released a retrospective album "1991" on Elephant Stone Records. Smashing Orange was the American response to the shoegaze movement in the U.K. during the early '90s. Although their albums were released in the U.K. to much acclaim, they failed to measure equal success back home. The band was intentionally raw and drew comparisons to Brian Jonestown Massacre or Spacemen 3. Monika Bullette has also enjoyed some solo success recently with the 2005 Internet release of her debut album The Secrets. Bullette's solo material finds influence in Nancy Sinatra, Aimee Mann, and Stereolab, the album is full of stream-of-consciousness melodies set to clever lyrics all done on a shoestring budget. By giving her album away for free Bullette has created quite a buzz around the online community, all with no help from a major label or radio support.

Since becoming a duo, Rob and Monika have began making beautiful harmonies, accompanied by droning guitars and no-frills drumming. Fans of rock bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Ambulance Ltd may just have found one of their new favorite bands.

CH: First of all, when and how did you come together as a band?

ROB: Let’s see…initially I was only familiar with Monika’s solo Bullette recordings; her songs and vocals are top-shelf. Sometime later, when I had decided to form a duo, I saw Monika play drums for Licorice Roots. After that performance, I knew straight away she was the one, period. So I asked, she consented, and we starting playing together Fall of 2005. Without her, The Sky Drops would still be the greatest concept that never happened.

MONIKA: I have admired Rob’s songs for a long time. It was an opportunity I would have been foolish to have turned down.

CH: You probably get a lot of those ‘duo-as-a-gimmick’ theories? How do usually respond to that?

ROB: Since when are vocals, guitar and drums a gimmick?

CH: Great answer. I love the kind of music you make-the droning guitar and the psychedelic touches-but for some unknown reason, this kind of music always seems like a tough sell. Does commercial viability ever cross your minds?

ROB: No, writing great songs with a melodic and sonic twist is the intention.

CH: I'm begining to like you more and more. What sort of musical backgrounds did you come from (you were both in previous bands, right)?

ROB: I was fortunate enough to be exposed to and be a part of a lot of revolutionary music when it was being made -- particularly the idea of heavy melodic and/or dissonant noise guitar in the context of a pop song. Maybe The Sky Drops will be that bridge that was never quite made between shoegaze and grunge.

MONIKA: Music and the Arts were an integral part of my upbringing and I’m either listening or playing. My most recent project before joining The Sky Drops was a solo studio album – it’s great to be playing live again in a band.


CH: How would you define your sound?

ROB: Gaze-grunge Mamas & The Papas.

CH: With only two of you, do you find it difficult to replicate your sound when you perform live?

ROB: Not at all. Our recordings reflect what we sound like live.

MONIKA: It’s funny that we have had to defend ourselves more than once regarding this question. We recorded the ep as we perform. Guitar, Drums, and vocals - we performed the songs together live to tape and then worked from there with minimal overdubs.

CH: Both of the songs on your double A-side are great, they almost sound like they could be two different bands. Are these songs an indication of how the rest of your album is going to be?

ROB: We strive to make every song unique, so as far as the double A-side songs are concern, it's not a complete picture. A snap-shot, if you will.


CH: What or who are some of your biggest influences?

ROB: Non-conventional guitar bands of the late eighties – namely Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine.
Monika: The Cure, Nick Cave, Sun Records, Einsturzende Neubauten, 16 Horsepower – are the first amongst many that come to mind.

CH: I see you guys have some UK dates in your tour itinerary, it seems like there’s a long running tradition of bands from the US going to the UK and having success, and then coming back to generate more of a buzz. Do you think there is a cultural difference in musical tastes? How else could you explain it?

MONIKA: The Internet has equalized many cultural differences – I think there is always a rabid audience of music seekers. There is also an increasing Internet trend of “the backlash before the success” that I hope that the quality of The Sky Drops’ songs will overcome. But to answer your question – I think it’s a case of overlooking what is at your feet. Another person stumbles on it, thinks it’s great, and then you look down and say “yeah!, you’re right!”.

CH: And finally, when is your album coming out?

ROB: Our debut EP “Clouds of People” was released July 4th.



"Now Would Be"

"Green To Red"

Purchase the Clouds of People EP here

Upcoming Shows:

Jul 26 The Bourbon Room Fredericksburg, VA

Jul 27 Zakk's Murfreesboro, NC

Jul 28 The Cave - Cavern Tavern Chapel Hill, NC

Jul 29 Relative Theory Records Norfolk, VA

Aug 16 The Lion's Den Altoona, PA

Aug 17 Lime Spider Akron, OH

Aug 18 Club Khameleon Kent, OH

Aug 19 Brillobox Pittsburgh , PA

Aug 31 Trash Bar Brooklyn, NY

Sep 13 Goonite -Buffalo Bar London

Sep 14 Dublin Castle - London

Sep 15 AC30 - Water Rats Theatre London

Sep 16 Sonic Cathedral London

Sep 23 LAVA Philadelphia, PA

Oct 6 MOJO 13 Wilmington, DE


June 11, 2006

{Thao Nguyen Interview}


A couple of years ago I came across a few demos from singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen. Her subtle guitar strumming was very nice, but it was her delicate voice that was resonating in my head for weeks on end. At the age of twelve Thao Nguyen began working at the family laundromat; cleaning, making change, and most notably, folding the linens (hence the title of her debut album Like The Linen). Over the course of that time she learn to play guitar and write songs...and thank god she did. With clever lyrics and catchy melodic Nguyen crafts a wide range of folk songs. Lucinda Williams, Beth Orton, Cowboy Junkies, and Erin McKeown are amongst her biggest influences and you can definitely detect hints of these artists in her music, but filtered through a voice that is all her own. Like The Linen is a compelling first look at a genuine singer/songwriter who's only just getting started.

CH: So, your from Virginia Falls, whats it like there?
(I'm from Orange County, it's greatest asset is that it's an hours drive to either Los Angeles or San

THAO: I'm from Falls Church, VA, (right outside of D.C.) which is like one big Bed Bath and Beyond. Do you guys have those out there? (CH: Yes, unfortunetly) Where you can buy comforters and pumice stones and pure moods volume 6 at the same place? It is very suburban. The only reason I go back is for my family and friends. But even they are not enough because after two and a half days, I sink into the couch and self-loathing stagnation...and Inside the Actor's Studio. Plus it's really humid in Virginia, and my life's mission is to never again live in an area that feels like a crotch come summer time...or any time, really. But it's alright. friendly people. unless they are driving somewhere.

CH: So, when did you first pick up a guitar and begin singing?

THAO: I started guitar when I was in sixth grade, at the age of 12. I began singing about 3 months later, as it took that long to figure out how to sing and play simultaneously.

CH: Did you always know this was something you wanted to do or did it began as much more of a hobby?

THAO: Music is the only thing that has ever held my attention. It started as a pass time but I have craved it on another, more serious and steady level since high school. I wanted to be on VH1 Story tellers...really badly.

CH: I've always fantasized about being a musician, but that never really amounted to much more than playing air guitar in my bedroom, what was it like for you recording your debut album, Like the Linen?

THAO: At first it was pretty shaky because the mics didn't pick up my air guitar. Oh my goodness.
Anyway. I was incredibly fortunate to be working with people (namely and thankfully Frank Stewart, engineer, producer, fantastic human and friend) who could support me and help me with all of the technical aspects I had no idea of and little concern for. basically I was clueless and just had these songs, some from when I was 18, and it was a great time of exploration and creativity and just barely dipping our toes into this water, the depth of which we could not (still cannot) fathom. Frank and I were pretty new to the process, and we messed up a lot but our intent was always pure and enthusiastic. It was the first time I could hear the songs exist outside of my performance of them, and that was fantastic. One of my favorite things is hearing a recorded version of my songs for the first time. It's actualized in a different way.

CH: What influences you, lyrically?

THAO: It always helps to be emotionally wrung and antsy or angry or just absolutely anxious for someone. Also: alliterations. And sadness. Being happy is productive sometimes as well.

CH: Are you're songs largely auto-biographical?

THAO: Yes. Most deal with personal relationships, or my family. Lately I've been more interested in writing more as a narrator, but it never feels sincere enough.

CH: So, you have a new song featured on the Kill Rock Stars Compilation The Sound The Hare Heard, how did that come about?

THAO: Long live Slim Moon. He is the founder and president of Kill Rock Stars, as well as a huge WNBA fan. He is my manager now, and for that I am incredibly grateful and fortunate. I'd originally written Laura Veirs (whom he has managed for a while now) asking to open for her, or to carry her guitar, or to polish the case, whatever she wanted, really, and he checked out my website and took an interest. And so he invited me to contribute a track to this new KRS songwriters compilation (to which I replied : Holy Fuckin shit of course I will!), and we've been working together ever since. I am such a fan of Slim Moon. Slim, are you reading this? Marry me.

CH: How exciting was that for you to be a part of? (that's some truly great company you're with)

THAO: I am beyond excited about this compilation. I am so proud of what we made, and I am humbled by the company we keep.

CH: Does that motivate you or make you more confident as a singer-songwriter?

THAO: It is a combination of both. It's always great to be acknowledged; it's affirming in that way you shouldn't absorb but you do anyway. When I look at the tracklisting I'm still surprised by the names I see. It was (and is) a great motivator. If you're included among so many musicians you respect then you better not roll in with some bull shit.


CH: Have you began working on your next album? Any changes?

THAO: Writing is a constant process, and if I'm fortunate, something comes that does not offend. The songwriting is changing, and I should hope so, because otherwise I'd be stonewalled and washed out at barely 22. I always like the new songs more than the old ones. The fellas (bandmates) and I are headed to Seattle in August to do some recording with GENIUS Tucker Martine. I think what we do out there is certainly going to be the foundation of the next album.

CH: Are you going to start experimenting with different styles or are you planning on something along the lines as your first album? (I could definitly hear you doing something acoustic guitar-set to a trip-hop beat).

THAO: I am so excited to experiment with more sounds, instruments, and songwriting styles. And to write more with the band, and with the band in mind, and I'm incredibly excited to incorporate everyone's ideas into songs. I think the team we've sort of acquired is going to do so much for the sound and the songs.

I am fond of Like the Linen, but in that sort of condescending, that was cute, I was cute, pat the old me on the head sort of way.

And for sure I want some beats on some tracks, you are right on target.

CH: ...I'm supposed to be thinking of questions, but I drifted off into a High Fidelity-esque moment about how cool it would be to date a musician...okay I'm back...

THAO: I think it'd be cool to date a musician as well. But then you'd have to attend a lot of his or her shows. And really -you've seen it once you've seen them all. And what if you don't like their music? I think the people I've dated thought it was alright, nothing to write home about but nothing to shake a stick at either. Who does either of those things any more anyway.

And seriously if it was Lisa Bonet, who wouldn't want to date a musician. FOR DAMN SURE.


CH: So, you mentioned that you are embarking on your first West Coast tour, do you have the tour dates?

Thus far we have about 23 dates confirmed, the length and width of much of the country. I am so grateful to not had to have booked it, I just look at the list of dates and revel in how many emails I didn't have to send.
(*See bottom of interview for tour dates)

Sounds exciting, is this your first trip to the West Coast?
(I think you mentioned going to San Francisco before, didn't you?)

THAO: I love San Francisco like it is a person. A person I love. I lived there for a summer with two friends, a couple years ago. A deal sealer, if you will. I will be re-locating to SF in late August, actually. Indefinitely. Walking those hills gives you calves like rocks. That is a perk, in addition to it being a perfect mix of natural beauty and urban awesome and distinct neighborhoods.

CH: What are some albums you've been listening to recently?

THAO: Andrew Bird's The Mysterious Production of Eggs- is remarkable and kicks my ass all the time. I think his song writing and musicianship and production are incredible and it all inspires me to be better, when I'm not feeling too inadequate to continue.

Modest Mouse- The Lonesome Crowded West rocks me. And their melodies are fantastic.

Laura Veirs- Carbon Glacier and Year of Meteors- Great guitarist, great songs, she is sort of my role model. Please don't tell her, I embarrass myself in front of her enough as it is.

Django Reinhart- Djangology. I mean come on.

Jolie Holland- Escondida. Her voice.

Chet Baker- Embraceable You. Chet sings AND plays. And is handsome. His voice is like that one clear thought you have. My friend Adam made me sit on his bed and listen and I quite took to it.

CH: Any other current obsessions?

THAO: Yeah but if they find out it will be embarrassing.

Oh I've got an innocuous one: walnuts. They're a super food.

CH: Anything else you're dying to mention?

THAO: My mom is great. And she sells more of my cd's than I do. And sometimes she overcharges and keeps the difference. And calls to tell me, and sort of cackles.

CH: Awe, there's nothing sweeter than getting jipped by yo mama.

Have a listen to some tracks from Like The Linen...



Hear more from her MySpace

Purchase Like The Linen here.

Here's Thao Nguyen's Sound The Hare Heard tour dates:

May 17 Satellite Ballroom Charlottesville, , VA

Jun 4 SCHUBAS Chicago, IL

Jun 7 Cafe Du Nord San Francisco, CA

Jun 9 Hard 2 Find Showspace Goleta, CA

Jun 10 Knitting Factory Los Angeles, CA

Jun 11 Modified Arts Phoenix, AZ

Jun 12 Solar Culture Tucson, AZ

Jun 14 Monkey Mania Denver, CO

Jun 15 Kilby Court Salt lake City, UT

Jun 16 Neurolux Boise, ID

Jun 17 The Artistery Portland, OR

Jun 18 Mars Bar Seattle, WA

Jun 19 The Shop Spokane, WA

Jun 20 HIggins Alley Missoula, MT

Jun 21 Eleven 11 Billings, MT

Jun 23 Black Sheep Sioux Falls, SD

Jun 23 Black Sheep Sioux Falls, SD

Jun 24 The Aquarium Fargo, ND

Jun 25 Triple Rock Social Club Minneapolis, MN

Jun 26 Slipper Club Madison, WI

Jun 27 South Union Arts Chicago, IL

Jun 28 Gabes Oasis Iowa City, IA

Jun 29 Vaudeville Mews Des Moines, IA

Jun 30 Jackpot Lawrence, KS

Jul 1 The Setlist Warrensburg, MO

Jul 2 Record Bar Kansas City, MO

Jul 5 Big Car Gallery Indianapolis, IN

Jul 6 DAAC Grand Rapids, MI

Jul 7 Lager House Detroit, MI

Jul 8 Banana Tina Ypsilanti, MI

Jul 9 Kitchen Distribution Buffalo, NY
Jul 10 Pittsburgh, PA

Jul 12 North Six Brooklyn, NY

Jul 13 The Knitting Factory New York, NY

Jul 14 Cafe Metropolis Wilkes Barre, PA

Jul 15 The Red and the Black Washington, , DC


May 04, 2006



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