Monday, December 12, 2011

Pheaturing Shanna Delaney From Bethesda

Phile... was is it good for, absolutely nothing. Say it again. Hello, kids, welcome to the Phile on a rainy Monday here and once again I have no coffee to drink. Crap. Anyway, how are you? Everybody’s talking about the presidential election. And this is big: a few days after stepping down, there are rumors that Herman Cain is endorsing his former rival, Newt Gingrich. Not to be president, but to be his new wingman. Even though Herman Cain is suspending his campaign, he’s launching a new website called Yeah, it’s the only political website that makes you click an “I’m Over 18” button to enter. Donald Trump is hosting a debate in Iowa, but so far Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are the only presidential candidates to RSVP. Rick Santorum actually requested a plus one... you know, so he could bring all of his supporters. A designer in New York unveiled a bottle of perfume that costs $1 million. Yeah, a million bucks for a few ounces of liquid. Which explains its name: “Starbucks.” Dr. Phil just revealed that he helped perform his own vasectomy 30 years ago. In related news, never make small talk in an elevator with Dr. Phil. This month marks the 19th anniversary of the text message. Man, I can’t believe that 20 years ago, we didn’t have the ability to write someone and let them know, “Hey, just called you.” Man, I love to text. I am texting this in right now in fact. So, today would've been Frank Sinatra's birthday. I've been asked not to bring up his mafia connections, so today we will not be resorting to that cheap gimmick to slander the Chairman of the Board. Well, it's my favorite time of year, and one thing about this time of year that I love is Christmas lights. So, I will share some with you.

Did you hear that the story and song about Rudolph the Read Nosed Reindeer has been banned because it promotes bullying? That's crazy. But what's worse for poor Rudolph, he is now dead. Take a look, kids. No crying. 

I was thinking... If Rudolph is the most famous reindeer of them all, shouldn't he just assume we call him? 

Why would Superman need to parachute?

Now that I've seen this film, I'm a little worried for its well being. I worry that its marketing campaign is making it look like a made-for-TV kiddie movie or something that should go straight to DVD. I worry that Aardman Studios, the people responsible for it, isn't name-brand enough in a Pixar way (at least here in the United States) and that audiences aren't being told often or loudly enough that these are the same folks who brought them Chicken Run and everything Wallace & Gromit ever did. I worry that audiences won't automatically assume, like with Pixar, that they're in good hands. But you are. Here's exactly what it is: a digital feature made with the same care, attention to detail, imagination and intelligence that's gone into every Aardman stop-motion project and, just like this week's other family-oriented release, The Muppets, one that earns the right to be loved by children and adults equally, in their own way. As simple as the childlike question, "How does Santa Claus deliver billions of presents in one night?" and as complicated as an answer that involves high-tech information gathering, atom-splitting precision and a gigantic battalion of highly trained, Mission: Impossible-level elves, the story's ultra-modern disposal of Santa mythology (stuff you didn't really need anymore anyway, like the one about how a small family of elves sits around making wooden choo-choo trains in between cookie breaks) is juxtaposed against a warmhearted, sorta-dysfunctional family comedy about generational shifts in perception, growing up without turning hard-hearted and learning to find your own way when you've got the most famous parent in the world. One bit of Santa lore the film clings to, one that goes back at least as far as CBS's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", is that the man can, on occasion, be difficult. In Rudolph he was grumpy, off his food and, frankly, a bigot when it came to differently nosed reindeer. Here, voiced by Jim Broadbent, he's just tired and a little doddering, an old man ready to pass the mantle to his tough, efficiency-minded, militaristic son Steve (Hugh Laurie). But it's youngest son Arthur (James McAvoy) with the Santa spirit; kinder, gentler, less special-ops and more caring about the actual children on the Christmas Eve route. And when a bike that was scheduled for delivery to a little girl in England is misplaced, Arthur and an ambitious gift-wrapping expert elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen), along with Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) hop in the now-retired vintage sleigh (as opposed to the Enterprise-like behemoth currently employed to manage a ballooning world population) to make things right. You know how it ends, but the getting-there... like counting down the days to Christmas itself... is where the fun is. This kind of playful adaptation of fairytale mythology can fall apart the second the script decides to be too self-aware, winking, willing to indulge in quickly dated pop culture references, sarcasm and other bad attitude horribleness that's managed to soil way too many family films of the past decade (and you can go ahead and blame the first Shrek for all of it, that's what I do). But again, this is Aardman and they know better than to go cheap or easy. And by taking the smarter, sweeter route, they've created what should rightfully become a Christmas classic. Don't let the weird ad campaign fool you. From 1 to 10, it gets a 10. And yes, I will be buying it when it comes out.

And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Ten Least Popular New Holiday Toys
10. Happy Birds.
9. Neo-Yahtzee.
8. Face Darts.
7. Call of Duty: Class Warfare.
6. My Little Piranha.
5. Herman Cain Action Figure with Kung-Fu Groping Grip. 
4. Demi Moore Barbie (half of Ashton Kutcher's stuff sold separately). 
3. Super Committee Inaction Figures. 
2. Anatomically Correct Chaz Bono Doll. 
And the number one least popular new holiday toy is...
1. Barbie's Foreclosed Dreamhouse. 

The 7th artist to be pheatured in the P.P.A.G. is a legendary guitar player and now also a painter, Kim Simmonds from Savoy Brown. This is one of his pieces...

Kim will be a guest on the Phile in an extra entry next Saturday.

The 16th book to be pheatured in the P.P.B.C. is...

Jack will be a guest on the Phile next Sunday.

Okay, today's guest is the lead singer for the band Bethesda whose new EP EP, “Dreamtiger & Other Tails" is now available on iTunes, bandcamp and CDBaby. They'll next be appearing at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 13th. Pleae welcome to the Phile... Shanna Delaney.

Me: Hello, Shanna, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Shanna: I’m great!

Me: You guys are based in Ohio, right? What part? Have you heard of the band Shiny & The Spoon? They are from Ohio as well.

Shanna: Yes, we are based in Ohio. We are out of Kent/Akron. Unfortunately, we are not familiar with Shiny & The Spoon, but I just looked them up and really enjoy them! Maybe we’ll get to play with them when we play in Cincinnati.

Me: I downloaded your EP's "Love In a Time of Tra La La" and the latest "Dreamtiger and Other Tails". I love them both, you guys remind me of The Decemberists. Is that one of the band's you are influenced by?

Shanna: Yes, I would say a few of us are influenced by the Decemberists. I for one love them. I like their dynamics and songwriting style. However, every person in our band is influenced by different genres, which is why when one listens to our music he or she can hear a myriad of genres.

Me: Shannon, who is in the band with you?

Shanna: Eric Ling, my husband, (Rhythm guitar/trumpet) Jesse Sloan (Lead guitar/keys/banjo), Justin Rife (Drums), Christopher Black (Violin), and Dan Corby (Bass).

Me: Your voice is strong and powerful, Shanna. Did you take any singing lessons? How long have you been singing?

Shanna: Thank you. I have been singing since I can remember. I grew up listening to country and bluegrass, putting on shows for family members and friends in our living room as a child. In middle school, I got into girl rock bands, such as No Doubt. When I was in high school, I was really into musical theater and opera and played many roles in plays, such as Annie in "Annie Get Your Gun", Marian the librarian in "The Music Man", and many more. I started taking voice lessons in high school for a few years as well. I originally went to Kent State University for musical theater but felt led to go back to my roots with folk-rock music.

Me: Where did you and the other members of Bethesda meet?

Shanna: Eric and I met at KSU and started dating during my sophomore year and his freshman year of college. We started attending Vineyard Community Church in Kent, Ohio and that’s where we met Jesse, Justin, and Dan. Chris has just recently joined our band all the way from Connecticut.

Me: I have to ask you about the band name... what does it mean?

Shanna: Bethesda is a pool of healing in Christian and Jewish tradition. It was a place where broken, hurting, and sick people would go to be healed. We want our lyrics and music to be a place where people can experience joy and healing. We thought it fit.

Me: Speaking of what does it mean, both your releases have names I don't understand. What is the "Time of Tra La La"? Sounds like something that could be from "The Chronicles of Narnia".

Shanna: It is based on a great book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez called "Love in a Time of Cholera". This is about people persevering in their love during a time of great pain and suffering. Our album is set in our modern times where apathy is King, and it is common to waste our lives away on whatever “feels good” instead of things that have true impact and significance. So we are speaking of the search for love and significance in this “tra la la” sort of time. We also like how it sounds .

Me: And what is Dreamtiger?

Shanna: Eric and I love magical realism and Latin literature. “Dreamtiger” is a literary reference to author Jorge Luis Borges’ short story of the same name. In this story, Borges describes the tiger of his dreams and how it seems to speak meaning into his life. This powerful imagery was captivating, and we couldn’t help but explore the interplay of dreams and meanings throughout our album.

Me: I watched the video for "Dreamtiger" and really enjoyed it. It looks like it cost a lot to make and took a while to film, am I right?

Shanna: Well, we are glad it looks that way Hopefully that means that it is of high quality. It was certainly a labor of love and the result of a few months of meetings, storyboarding, and filming. We are lucky in that we are friends with a very talented director and film-maker Cory Sheldon who has experience with other fantastic music videos such as “Memories” by Eisley. We love his work and approached him about working together, and he was all for it! We think the end product speaks to our ability to collaborate well.

Me: Where was it filmed?

Shanna: The art gallery scene was filmed in an old gymnasium. The set was built inside of it, and the footage was shot late at night so there was not light beaming through the windows. Some of the shots in the gallery were shot as late as 3:00 in the morning! The woods scene was shot in some woods in our hometown of Kent, Ohio. These are actually the same woods in which Eric proposed to me! They seemed to have the “magic” we were looking for. The final scene was shot at the Mentor Headlands on Lake Erie. We wanted a body of water that looked like an ocean, and the best we can do in Northeast Ohio is Lake Erie. We probably broke a couple of laws shooting there, but the footage turned out great.

Me: Who came up with the concept for it? It's very good.

Shanna: Eric and I came up with the concept based on the lyrics of the song. It was a big concept with a very magical feel to it, so we weren’t sure if we could make it a reality. However, Cory did a great job of taking our ideas and putting them down on paper and figuring out how to make it all practically work in the time constraints of a music video.

Me: At the end of the video all the guys ran into the lake, but you were smart, you didn't go in. I wouldn't go into a lake either. There could be leeches... and if it was here in Florida there'll be alligators. Did the director just say have fun on the beach and do what you want in that scene?

Shanna: Hahaha… thanks We had a long ride home after that, and I didn’t have a change of clothes… neither did they. Cory just said have fun and shot that scene like a home movie to give a more raw feeling than the rest of the video to symbolize the breaking away from the dream world and embracing reality.

Me: I kept on expecting a tiger to show up in the video... the song is not about a real tiger though, right?

Shanna: No, we thought that may have been too obvious. The story by Borges has a fictional tiger in it, but our song only uses the tiger as a metaphor for realizing what really matters and has significance in life.

Me: What is the song about?

Shanna: “Dreamtiger” is about the temptation to live our lives behind masks that give us temporary satisfaction and significance. Whether it is the pursuit of beauty, money, entertainment, love, etc., we all have things we use to mask ourselves from embracing reality and our true identities. The song talks about this struggle and what it would mean to break away from it.

Me: Shanna, who does most of the songwriting in the band?

Shanna: Most of the lyrics are written by Eric. Jessie has written a few songs as well. However, we all write our own parts musically. Also, when Eric has a skeleton for a song, he brings is to me, and we work on it together. Sometimes I have to change lyrics to make them work better with the music. Also, I help form the melodies.

Me: All the songs on the EP's are originals as well, right?

Shanna: Correct. “Love in a Time of Tra La La” is an LP from 2010, and “Dreamtiger & Other Tails” is our latest album, an EP, from 2011.

Me: You guys had your music on The Discovery Channel, Oxygen, Showtime and MTV and I am sure others. Does that help you a lot getting your music out there?

Shanna: We just recently signed contracts for all of these networks and specific shows on them, so they have not been played yet as far as we know. We have only been slated for shows on these networks meaning we’ve signed contracts, and they are planning on using “Dreamtiger & Other Tails” in several different shows this Fall 2011. So we are anxiously waiting for the notification of when they will be played. Sadly, we could have already been played on episodes and not necessarily know. Sometimes they do not tell you. You find out months later. Hopefully, when we are played, our music will reach many people.

Me: Is there a TV show you wish you could put one of your songs in?

Shanna: This is a hard question! There are so many shows I like. Although it isn’t one of my favorites, I would perhaps choose "Grey’s Anatomy" only because I have discovered a lot of new artists and good music from that show. Artists seem to generate a large fanbase once they are played on "Grey’s". If I’m going solely off of shows I love, "Psych", "The Mentalist", and "Parks and Recreation" would be among my top choices.

Me: I have to mention your artwork on your releases, I like it, and it fits well. Who did the artwork?

Shanna: Dan’s wife, Morgan Mzik, did the artwork for both our LP and EP. She is a fantastic artist with a great imagination and vision.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile, Shanna. I hope it was fun and you'll come back again when your next release comes out. Are you working on a new EP or full length album?

Shanna: Thank you for having me! Right now we are pushing “Dreamtiger & Other Tails.” However, we are always writing new music. We just wrote a new song called “The Reunion” that will be on our next album. We hope to record again sometime in the late early spring.

Me: Take care, and go ahead and mention all your websites. Continued success and keep in touch.

Shanna: Thank you so much for your time and this opportunity! You can find out more about Bethesda here:!/bethesdaband,

Well, that about does it for another entry. Thanks to Shanna for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Wednesday with Luther Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars. Then on Saturday it's an extra entry with Kim Simmonds. Sunday it's author Jack Boulware and Monday the geezers from Three Bonzos and a Piano. Then next Wednesday it's the annual A Peverett Phile Christmas 3. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. 

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