Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pheaturing Spark & Echo

Hello, welcome to the Phile, I am your host Jason, The Accidental Bloggist. Bloggist? Is that even a word? I am your Accidental Blogger. The first line of Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” is “To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main”. That old country cliché?  It’s starting to get serious, kids. No, I'm not talking about Paisley's song... China has warned North Korea about starting a war. China told them flat out, "Do not fire any missiles at the United States at least until after we get our money. They owe us $16 trillion. Wait until then.” Some experts believe North Korea has a missile that could reach Los Angeles. And of course, if North Korea did attack Los Angeles, that would start a war with Mexico. The whole thing would escalate. Insiders say North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had plastic surgery to look more like his father Kim Jong Il. I found out today my son is doing just the opposite. There's some good news for North Korea and Kim Jong Un. Today NBC announced they are bringing “The Tonight Show" back to Pyongyang.  South Korean officials today say they're highly confident that North Korea will launch a medium-range missile any time now. Which I guess means Dennis Rodman failed. Why do I feel like this whole thing could be solved by sending Kim Jong Un a Disneyland pass?  I know you want to know what is going on with Justin Bieber and his monkey crisis. He brought a monkey into Germany. But the monkey was confiscated and quarantined because Justin didn't have the proper paperwork. I have given Germany an ultimatum. If they do not release the monkey by Thursday at midnight, we are going to kill David Hasselhoff. So there you go, Germans. Set that monkey free or we off the Hoff.  The Cookie Monster was arrested last weekend. Not the real Cookie Monster... the one that dresses up like him in Times Square. A woman claimed he shoved her 2-year-old and cursed her out because she didn’t give him a tip. There's a reason he's called the Cookie Monster and not the Cookie Gentleman.  I mentioned this yesterday, according to The Wall Street Journal’s website, Anthony Weiner may run for mayor of New York City. Their website said that Mr. Weiner didn't respond to an email seeking comment. Hey, Anthony Weiner didn't email or text you back? Consider yourself lucky!  Are you guys watching baseball? Not me. To go to a game at Yankee Stadium now costs $365 for a family of four. It's getting so that an American family of four no longer can afford to scream obscenities at the Red Sox.  Finally, after months of wrangling, President Obama has unveiled his highly anticipated 2014 budget. And apparently neither Democrats nor Republicans are happy with it. Then Obama said, “Yeah, that's how you know it's good.”  Just a week after naming the color of a plus-size dress “Manatee Gray,” now Target is having to rename a pair of sandals called “Orina” because “orina” means “urine” in Spanish... while the name "Target" is just Spanish for "Fancy Wal-Mart."  Dick Cheney told House Republicans that the U.S. is in “deep doo doo” with North Korea. Incidentally, “deep doo do” is the color of the suit I just got at Target.  A new study found evidence that humans may have a so-called “lazy” gene. Scientists would know more, but why bother? I think I might have that gene. Holy shit, this just in... North Korea has deployed naval ships!

Reports are saying that Kim Kardashian is getting fat. I didn't think she was, until I saw this recent picture of her.

That's horrible.  The makers of "Angry Birds", one of my favorite game, have just come out with a new version. Check it out.

Last Saturday, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, they cancelled the Countdown to Fun parade. Well, I have been thinking what other parade could take it's place. Then I thought of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Parade. This international event hopes to increase awareness about rape, sexual assault, and gender violence in an unusual way: by asking men to wear women's high-heeled shoes and walk for a mile. Based upon the old adage “you can't really understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes,” this event gives men and the community-at-large a platform (pun intended) to talk about these serious issues. Check out this picture from the actual parade in New York.

That's so stupid. Alright, from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is this week's...

Top Phive Answers On Why Kim Kardashian Is Getting Fat
5. She's eating for two... and those two are Mike and Molly.
4. Even Adele is begging her to lay off the mac and cheese.
3. Now to "keep up with the Kardashians", all you have to do is follow the trail of empty Papa John's boxes.
2. She's wearing hand-me-downs from Honey Boo Boo's mom.
and the number one answer on why Kim Kardashian is getting fat is...
1. She's putting a lot of pressure on Kayne to get married... just for the wedding cake.

Okay, so, you know there's The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right? Well, the Phile has a Rock and Roll Hall of Phame that's even better. We actually induct rock and roll bands. So far we have inducted Savoy Brown, The J. Geils Band, Status Quo, Sparks, Mick Ronson, ELO, Rockpile, Dr. Feelgood and The Stranglers. Please welcome to the Phile once again, raconteur, entreprenour, Jah Paul Jo in a past life and co-owner of Berdan Records, and member of unHOF... Joseph J. Ramsey with today's induction... The Jam!

Black suits, white shirts, black ties, black and white shoes, all white lights, Rickenbacker guitars and Vox amps. They emerged from the primordial ooze of 1977 punk... but were more a throwback... or a more finely focused return to the early Who (especially), The Kinks, Small Faces and the 60s UK Mods.  Adopting enough of the gruff and clang of punk, Paul Weller wrote great pop songs that bristled with rough edges. Bassist Bruce Foxton sang harmonies, sometimes leads and laid down some prominent basslines, which were the foundation of many of the band’s songs. Drummer Rick Buckler rounded out the trio. From their beginnings as punk rock's answer to Mod London and banging out classics like "Midnight Hour" and "The Batman Theme," who knew The Jam would someday be one of the UKs biggest hitmakers... (?) But that is exactly what they became.  The very best of the Class Of 77 evolved quickly and The Jam were a fine example of this. Using mainly The Who as their template, they grew from singles bands to making two of the finest albums (and they were albums in every sense ... not just a collection of songs or singles!) of the late '70s, "This Is The Modern World" (1977) and "All Mod Cons" (1978).   Like all flames that burn too brightly, The Jam didn't last long but left behind a fantastic legacy of singles and LPs. One of my very favorite came at the penultimate of their career, an uncharacteristic ballad called "The Bitterest Pill." It's soulful sound would serve as a template for Weller's later project, the Style Council.  The Jam had 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the UK, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits. To understand their popularity in the UK, When their single "Town Called Malice" reached number one the group had the honor of performing both it and its double A-side, "Precious" on "Top Of The Pops"... the only other band ever to be accorded this honor was The Beatles.

Great job, Joseph, as always.

The 29th artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery is not only excellent in needlepoint, she is also a member of the Canadian band Crash Test Dummies. Her name is Ellen Reid, and this is a piece of hers...

 I know some people that would love that pillow. Ellen will be a guest on the Phile next Monday.

Okay, today's pheatured guests are the husband and wife couple that make up the band Spark & Echo. Their new album "Inheritance" is available on iTunes and they'll next be appearing at Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, Michigan tomorrow. Please welcome to the Phile... Jonathon Roberts and Emily Clare Zempel from Spark & Echo.

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

Emily: Great, just finished the dishes BEFORE we went to bed. That's a victory.

Me: So, I have to ask, which of you is Spark and which are you is Echo?

Emily: Depends on the day.

Jonathon: Emily is definitely more spark-like today.

Me: Over the years I have interviewed a lot of musicians who are in band or work with their spouse. That would never work with my wife and I. You two, though, were a couple before you were in a band together, am I right?

Emily: That's right, Jason. In fact we didn't start playing together until after we were married.

Jonathon: That was a nice bonus, that we could sing together and our voices blended.

Me: Where did you two meet?

Jonathon: In jazz choir at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Emily: But we didn't date until two years after we met.

Jonathon: We dated for three years.

 Emily: And then broke up for three.

Jonathon: We call those the "dark years."

Me: My wife would the 15 years we were married the dark years. LOL. Okay, you're based in New York City, am I right? Are you both from New York?

Jonathon: We love New York and we've been here for seven years.

Emily: So that makes us real New Yorkers.

Jonathon: But we were both born and raised in Wisconsin and we are Midwesterners at heart. We eat a lot of cheese just like the rumors say.

Emily: We eat a normal amount of cheese.

Me: Was it a coincidence you were both musicians or did you know that before hand?

Emily: It's a coincidence, we both grew up in musical families. We were music majors before we met. 

Jonathon: And we both have theatre degrees, but Emily is the pro at that.

Me: Between the two of you you kids play a dozen instruments or so. Tell the readers what you both play, and what came first for you both?

Jonathon: My list is short: I've been playing the piano since I was five. My mom said it was always my best friend growing up... which I find both sweet and sad. Our family friend Carl owned an antique store and gave me an accordion which I kept wanting Emily to play in the band... turns out I really wanted to play it.

Emily: And I just couldn't. It was completely unrelated to any of the other instruments I play. He always thinks of new instruments and then says I should play them. My first instrument was the bassoon in band. I started in 5th grade. I had to learn clarinet in high school for marching band. It's not easy to march with a double reed. The others are more recent. My mom gave me her old baritone ukulele about two years ago, and I picked that up quickly. I purchased a guitar in high school when the music store nearby went out of business, but I didn't really learn to play it until about a year ago. All the other instruments are just toys.

Me: Do any of you play the kazoo? That's the hardest instrument to play. LOL.

Jonathon: No but Emily plays the cheese box in one song. We eat a lot of cheese.

Emily: We eat a normal amount of cheese!

Me: Emily, you play something called Boris the Bassoon. I think I have an instrument of you playing Boris.

Me: Did that instrument always have a name?

Emily: Oh yes, to be honest, he's not the first Boris. The first one was a rental from my middle school.

Me: How long have you had this Boris?

Emily: This Boris? I've had him since I was 16... except for a brief period two years ago when I left him on a NYC subway platform. That's a long story, but he was picked up by a fellow music and we were reunited after one very long and sad month.

Me: Jonathon, have you named any of your instruments?

Jonathon: No I haven't, but my uncle John named my accordion A.C. Dean.

Me: Emily, for those that don't know, explain what a bassoon is. I think you are the first bassoon player I ever had as a guest on the Phile.

Emily: It's like a fog horn attached to a bed post.

Jonathon: The German word for bassoon means "bundle of sticks."

Emily: It's a large low tone double reed instrument with about a million thumb keys.

Jonathon: It's like a giant oboe, and an oboe is like a giant kazoo really.

Me: Alright, let's talk about your new release "Inheritance" which I downloaded from iTunes. What does that name mean? I know what inheritance means, but how did that get to be the name of the album?

Jonathon: Thanks for downloading!

Emily: It's dedicated to our grandparents and several of the songs were written for them or other special people in our lives.

Jonathon: A lot of the songs deal with memories or nostalgia, and the piano is my childhood baby grand, you know my old best friend. Emily's my new best friend.

Emily: Our co-producers even played their grandma's organ on one track.

Me: Did both of you write the songs on it?

Jonathon: I wrote all of them except "Battles" is Emily's song. That's the epic cowboy sounding one. 

Emily: I only started writing songs a year ago.

Jonathon: We developed the harmonies and arrangements for all the songs together, though.

Me: This is the second Spark & Echo release, right? How would the two compare?

Jonathon: The first one was a lot of fun because we got to collaborate with a bunch of other fabulous musicians through our producers Jay and Alexander Foote. Mike Block was on there, he's an accomplished cellist who has played with Yo-Yo Ma. Our flautist for that album, Alex Sopp, plays with the New York Philharmonic. It was all very new and exciting for us to here these songs come to life with so many new friends.

Emily: On the second album we collaborated with Jay and Alexander again but this time the four of us played everything. We recorded most of it in our apartment in the South Bronx.

Jonathon: The new album is more about the sounds and music we can make ourselves and how we sound when we tour and play together. A little more of the flavor of our lives together.

Me: Correct me if I am wrong, but your songs are about stories in the Bible, am I right?

Emily: That's true, Jason. Some of the songs use text straight out of the Bible, and others are more of an emotional response to the stories.

Me: How did you decide to write songs based on those ideas?

Jonathon: I've been writing music on the Bible since I was a kid, the Bible has always influenced my life and writing about it is natural and something I love.

Me: There's a lot of stories in the Bible, so it'll give you plenty to sing and write about. What are some of the stories you chose?

Emily: I find myself most drawn to the psalms and the prophecies. The psalms are amazing because they take you through the whole range of human emotion--it's just natural to turn them into songs. Both "Deep Calls to Deep" and "How to Be Free" are based on psalms. The prophecies are wonderful because of the rich imagery they use. They're steeped in metaphor. "Inheritance" and "Yo Sé" are based on prophecies from Jeremiah.

Me: Would it be fair to label you a Christian band? I wouldn't, as I don't like labels that much, but I am sure someone did.

Jonathon: Good question. Our songs are from the Bible so yes, but the music isn't necessarily worship music.

Emily: I think "Christian band" has a lot of connotations related to what has become the genre of Christian music, and I don't believe our sound fits into that category. We play in secular venues in the city, and there our lyrics come across as these wild, epic stories.

Me: I have to ask you about Spark and Echo Arts... that came before the band, am I right?

Jonathon: Yes, we started Spark and Echo about a year before the band, in April 2010.

Me: It's a very cool idea, and I won't even begin to explain it. Can you guys?

Emily: Thanks! Spark and Echo Arts is an arts non-profit that is creating or commissioning a piece of art, music, theatre, dance, poetry or film in response to every passage of the Bible. We commission a work every week from artists in NYC or around the country and feature their work in our online gallery at or at live events. So far we've featured about a hundred works covering 1,500 passages of the Bible.

Jonathon: We only have 30,000 or so to go. Plenty of time to get involved.

Me: So, I am guessing that is Emily's idea. Girls are always smart when it comes to that kinda thing. Am I right?

Jonathon: Emily is smarter, but this was my idea. It evolved out of the music and theatre I had been making on the Bible, but now we run the project together.

Me: How do you get people involved in the program?

Emily: We find artists at concerts and events. We also have an online form at that artists can fill out. We're always looking for more talented people.

Me: If a Phile reader wants to contribute a drawing or a painting, or anything, what would they have to do?

Jonathon: That'd be great. Here's a link to the submission form: With this form your readers can submit work samples. Then our team of curators will look at the artist's work and decide if it is a good fit for the project. If it is we will be in touch to commission a new work from you. We're looking for all kinds of artists. You don't have to have experience with the Bible to participate.

Me: So, what's next for you two?

Emily: We're heading out on tour! We'll be going to Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (back to our roots), and then we'll head over to DC, Virginia and Tennessee. All of our touring dates are on the band's website.

Jonathon: We also just finished the whole "Alias" series, so we'll be putting in some serious time finding a new show to watch on Netflix. Let us know if you have recommendations.

Me: Alright, so, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics and this is for the both of you... Is the male or female body more beautiful? What a stupid question.

Jonathon: I'm glad you brought this up, Jason. I've been looking for an opportunity to address this topic for a long time. Emily?

Emily: The female. No question. All you have to do is look in an art museum to see that. Form over function. Men are more function over form.

Jonathon: I agree. Dudes are ugly.

Me: I'll say women as well. Thanks for being here, you kids, I hope it was fun. Go ahead and mention your websites.

Emily: Here we go! Our band website is and the website for the non-profit is We also exist on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

Jonathon: And we exist in real life.

Me: You also have your own blogspot, right? What do you write about on it? Maybe I can be a guest on your blog sometime.

Jonathon: We do have one. It's We mostly write on it when we go on tour, so look for updates soon! Perhaps you'd like to take over the rest of the year?

Me: What? I am too busy with my little blog. LOL. Thanks again, and please come back soon. Take care.

Emily: Anytime. Thanks, Jason!

Jonathon: It's been a treat. See you next time. Don't go changing.

What a nice couple. Well, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Joseph J. Ramsey from unHOF and of course Emily and Jonathon. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Phile Alum Alexis Babini, then next Sunday with Nick Beaudoing, the lead singer for the cool band The Doc Marshalls. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!