Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview: Rob Cantor

Rob Cantor has been a musician and songwriter for many years now. As a member of the band Tally Hall he worked on two albums and since then he's been entertaining people with comedic tracks such as "Shia LeBeouf." Mr. Cantor also just released his debut solo album Not a Trampoline, and he was kind enough to share a few words with me about the album and his career in general.

Rob Cantor
No More Blood From a Clone: What are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

Rob Cantor: Like all of humanity, I love the Beatles. I also love the Beach Boys, Queen, Paul Simon, Elliott Smith, Dan Wilson, and many, many more. 

NMBFC: Most people will know you either from “Shia LaBeouf” or from Tally Hall. Are you alright with being known that way, or would you rather have started fresh with this album?

Rob Cantor: I don't think this album is incongruent with "Shia LaBeouf" or with anything Tally Hall released, and I'm proud to be "known" from either of those endeavors. Not a Trampoline has a bit more depth than "Shia LaBeouf," for instance, but it's also not afraid to be silly and stupid at times...I think there's plenty of overlap.

NMBFC: If you had to categorize Not a Trampoline as a particular genre, how would you describe it?

Rob Cantor: The album is pretty varied. Most of it could be called alternative rock, though there are certainly outliers. "In Memoriam," for example, would not work very well on KROQ.

NMBFC: Would you say the tone of this album is: comedic, serious, or whimsical?

Rob Cantor: Yes. All three, I hope.

NMBFC: How has it differed having mostly complete creative control over your work rather than having to share it with a band? Is it harder or easier or just different?

Rob Cantor: Good question. At first, it was terrifying. I was very used to funneling my ideas through a four-man quality control machine. I knew if an idea was approved by the rest of the Tally Hall guys, it must have some merit. When I started working with my producer Gregtronic on this album, there was no such safety net. It was paralyzing for a minute- I second-guessed everything. But after a while, I grew increasingly comfortable with autonomy, and now I really like it. It's a lot quicker, I'll say Tally Hall, ideas might be bandied about for months or years before any kind of execution ever came into being. The same is not true of making a solo album, and the ability to be decisive is quite nice.

NMBFC: Where does the title “Not a Trampoline” come from?

Rob Cantor: The title is factual- this is an album of songs, not a trampoline. Jumping on songs is not only impossible, it's unsafe. DON'T DO IT.

NMBFC: What’s your favorite track on Not a Trampoline?

Rob Cantor: favorite track seems to keep changing. Early on, it was "Flamingo"- I enjoy the simplicity and the absurdity. At the moment, it's "All I Need Is You." My friend Randall Maxwell and I made a music video for it, and it breathed new life into the song for me.

NMBFC: “Ghost” seems to come from a pretty personal place. Is there anything you can share about it?

Rob Cantor: Ghost is about regrets. We've all got 'em!

NMBFC: Was there any particular inspiration behind the distinct sound on “The Rendezvous”?

Rob Cantor: The sound of "The Rendezvous" was a collaborative effort between my producer Gregtronic and Andrew Horowitz, my bandmate in Tally Hall. Greg and I had an early version that was dancier and less distinctive. It wasn't really fitting with the rest of the songs, and we'd all but discarded it. Andrew heard that early version, and liked the song. He insisted we give it another go. He took the session file and tweaked our arrangement. He added new sounds and took some away- he revitalized the track. When he sent it back, we knew it belonged on the album.

NMBFC: I’m sure some people will recognize “I’m Gonna Win” from an early Tally Hall song. Can we discuss the creative process behind the development of this song into what it is now?

Rob Cantor: We were just trying to do justice to a wonderful song, written by my bandmate Joe Hawley.

NMBFC: What other contributions did you get from your previous bandmates?

Rob Cantor: Andrew Horowitz and I wrote "Perfect" together, and he co-produced the track. He also added production and keyboards on "The Rendezvous." Ross Federman helped write the drum part for "Old Bike," and Joe Hawley graciously let me record his song "I'm Gonna Win." All four of the guys gave me great feedback on the whole album throughout the recording process.

NMBFC: Who is the female vocalist featured on the album?

Rob Cantor: The female singer on "The Rendezvous" is called Madi Diaz. She's a very talented vocalist, and also a great songwriter. She has a new record coming out soon, and you should definitely take a listen. I've heard some of the tracks, and they are super cool.

NMBFC: Is music definitely your career at this point, or is there still a plan b?

Rob Cantor: Music is, and has been for many years, my sole career. There is no Plan B!

NMBFC: That's good to hear. What do you hope the response to this album will be?

Rob Cantor: I hope the response is "HOORAY."

If you'd like to check out Not a Trampoline, it can be previewed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I've Got This Covered: fun.: Some Nights"

It's been a while since the last I've Got This Covered, so if you've forgotten what it is, this is where I take an album and imagine what artists could cover it. In this edition, I've taken fun.'s album Some Nights and imagined which musicals the tracks could have been removed from.

1) Some Nights (Intro) - Sweeney Todd
I hate to start by going out onto a little bit of a limb, but I feel like this could be a dark song for just after "Epiphany," perhaps after Todd has claimed his first couple of victims and starts to feel just the smallest bit of remorse.

2) Some Nights - The Lion King
When this song first came out, I saw a couple people describe it as having a Lion King feel, but even in terms of concept, The Lion King fits. "Some Nights" reminds me of Hamlet, and The Lion King is technically a Hamlet adaptation. This one would be sung by Simba somewhere between the middle and the end of the musical.

3) We Are Young - Oliver!
I see this number as one with several narratives. Both Oliver! and this song have to do with the meshing of youth and naivety with adult concepts and dangers, so in Oliver!, this track would have been sung in part by Nancy and Bill Sykes and in part by the orphan children.

4) Carry On - West Side Story
"Carry On" could have been an alternate song for "There's a Place." It's perfect for the story, especially with the allusions to "knives in a fistfight."

5) It Gets Better - Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening isn't a musical I have a great deal of familiarity with, but from everything I know, a song about losing your virginity could find no better home.

6) Why Am I the One - The Music Man
Although it's not a perfect match, this song seemed to me to coincide beautifully with the scene in The Music Man in which Harold Hill bemoans "for the first time in my life, I got my foot stuck in the door."

7) All Alone - Easter Parade
Considering this song almost sums up the first fifteen minutes of Easter Parade, where else could it go? In the film, Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) buys an Easter rabbit for Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) just before she breaks up with him. Hence, this scene would involve Hewes singing about the rabbit (who is now a wind-up doll, but close enough).

8) All Alright - Scrooge
This song would be performed either during Scrooge's visit to Christmas past (as he watches himself let the love of his life go) or Christmas present (as he realizes he's pushed away anyone who would care about him).

9) One Foot - Rent
Rent is another musical I'm not intimately familiar with, but the attitude of this song seems to fit it pretty well. Perhaps an alternate for "La Vie Boheme"?

10) Stars - The Girl Can't Help It
A great forgotten musical that I've paired with my least favorite song on Some Nights. "Stars" would be sung by Tom Miller about Julie London instead of the fantasy sequence with London singing "Cry Me a River."

11) Out on the Town - My Fair Lady
"Out on the Town" has always reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life, but since it isn't a musical, "Out on the Town" would function as a reprise of "On the Street Where You Live."

That's how I think it should go down. Questions? Better ideas? Drop me a comment. Or if you have lots of pull in the musical theater community, feel free to make this happen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Album Review: Not a Trampoline by Rob Cantor

Rob Cantor isn't new to the music business, but Not a Trampoline is his first full-length solo work. Prior to this, Cantor released two comedic singles, "Shia LeBeouf" and "Christian Bale is at Your Party." Going even further back, he was a member of Tally Hall. It's very exciting to hear what he has to offer with his first album.

Not a Trampoline begins with the deep and dark "Ghost," which seems to improve with each listen. "Ghost" represents a natural step in the progression of Cantor's talent as a songwriter. It works on multiple levels: first as a catchy pop tune, next as a spooky story song, and finally as a philosophical piece. "Ghost" was a great choice for a single, and it's followed by the first single Cantor released off of this album: "Old Bike." I initially believed "Old Bike" to be just an attempt to recapture the success of Queen's "Bicycle Race," but it's really its own piece. The female vocals bring to mind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Don't Come Around Here No More." "Old Bike" is a lighthearted Cantor track that will be perfect for any bicycling playlist.

"Garden of Eden" is an energetic piece about a Frankenstein-esque creator and his creation. The delivery is beautiful and unique, but the song's failing comes in the ending fade, the likes of which I haven't heard on anything since a 60s album. "Garden of Eden" is followed by "Rendezvous." On first listen, "Rendezvous" is very simple with a dance beat, but the song really works. The vocals Madi Diaz adds to the track help it not only with its complexity, but with the illusion that it could have come direct from the Drive soundtrack.

Next comes "I'm Gonna Win," a song fans of Tally Hall might recognize from the earlier incarnations including "All of My Friends." This final product, credited as written by both Rob Cantor and Joe Hawley is more empowering and with more direction than "All of My Friends," and has more dimension than Tally Hall's version of "I'm Gonna Win." That's not to say it doesn't lose something by being less haunting than "All of My Friends," but overall, "I'm Gonna Win" has been developed into a great song.

Things are wound down for the more acoustic "All I Need Is You." "All I Need Is You" is almost like a lullaby in parts, but picks up in others. "All I Need Is You" wouldn't have been out of place on Tally Hall's Good & Evil, and I wonder if it's a leftover from the years Good & Evil was in production. Either way, it has an outstanding, gif-based music video:

The album continues with "Flamingo," which I could hear as a club dancing song apart from how incredibly bizarre it is, in a very Cantor manner. The narrator states "I feel like I'm a shy enormous pink flamingo man." "Flamingo" gives way to "La Telenova," which is a departure from anything Cantor has produced to this point. "La Telenova" means "the soap opera," and is a collaboration with Jhameel. "La Telenova" is a very modern song, which also features some aspects of 60s folk pop in the melody, 90s pop in the bridge, and latin pop rhythms.

"In Memoriam" is a flowing, melodic tribute to Alan Alda, speaking of his life in the past tense, despite the fact that he's still alive. After "In Memoriam" (which is just over a minute long), comes "Let Your Mother Know." "Let Your Mother Know" is one of the strongest tracks in the latter part of the album. It's upbeat and catchy, and makes you want to move your body.

Nearing the end of the album, "Perfect" is a collaboration with Andrew Horowitz, and features his signature keyboards and sentimentality. Cantor adds his own style to "Perfect," but it's very noticeable that Horowitz had a hand in it.

Not a Trampoline closes with "Lonely (But Not Alone)," another personal-sounding piece, more acoustic than anything else on the album. As a closer, "Lonely (But Not Alone)" is near-perfect, winding the album down to an end.

Rob Cantor has a lot of musical talent, as a songwriter and lyricist, a vocalist and instrumentalist. Not a Trampoline is a great display of these talents. Not every song is perfect, but as a first solo work, Not a Trampoline is incredibly well done. I look forward to hearing more from Cantor and I encourage everyone to check out Not a Trampoline.

Rob Cantor is a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. Not a Trampoline is his debut solo album.

Not a Trampoline can be purchased here.

Check out my interview with Rob Cantor here!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Album Review: Pure Fiction by Eric Hutchinson

Almost two years ago to the week, Eric Hutchinson released his sophomore album, Moving Up Living Down. And now, he returns. Each time Eric Hutchinson comes out with a new album, there's a moment in which one has to wonder: "Is this the album where he tips over that line into the mainstream? Is this the sellout album?" Yet despite his early album entitled "Before I Sold Out" and despite the fact that he was signed to Warner for a while, Hutchinson manages to maintain integrity to his central sound.

The first track and lead single is the most uplifting track on the album, "Tell The World." "Tell The World" sounds like a hit, and I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate that this song wasn't created until after his departure from Warner. On a mainstream release, "Tell The World" could have become a song that got overplayed on the radio. "A Little More" is the second track and single, and possibly the actual best song on the album. "A Little More" has a power pop feel unparalleled by anything else on the album. It probably has the most energy of any of the songs on Pure Fiction. It's catchy, pop-based, and yet soulful.

Right around "Forever," I started to worry that my fears about this album being a sell-out were founded. "Forever" has very few redeeming qualities. It's incredibly repetitive, with something more false than "wall-of-sound" going on in the backing track, and for some reason what sounds like a music box. But "I Got the Feelin Now" is a much better track, with genuine complexity and direction. "I Got the Feelin Now" is a smooth blend of disco and early 80s synths, with a pleasing rhythm.

"Goodnight Goodbye" assures us that this is the Eric Hutchinson that we've grown to know with the heartfelt vocals that Hutchinson specializes in. "Goodnight Goodbye" is followed by the pleasant "Love Like You," which starts with some synthesized strings before jumping back to the sound of Sounds Like This, complete with keys and backing vocals.

Moving forward, "I Don't Love U" is catchy and well-arranged, although I'm not sure whether the narrator is to be despised or sympathized with. "Sun Goes Down" is a decent, but ultimately skippable story song. It's almost the pop-folk version of a country song, in which the narrator receives yet another a postcard from his runaway wife, and seems finally able to let go of the memory of her.

The remaining two tracks on the album are for some reason labeled as acoustic, which seems wrong as a label for official album tracks somehow, but they're both decent songs. "Forget About Joni" has a Spanish feel and recounts the tale of a woman who seduces all the men, but is actually a lesbian. "Forget About Joni" is the home of the standout couplet on the album "She's the kind of a girl who wants a girl in her bed//you can give her your heart she wants your sister's instead." The final track isn't quite as strong. "Shine on Me" is a good tune, but not notable in any way.

Although it's a hodgepodge of styles and feelings, Pure Fiction proves that Eric Hutchinson still has it. It isn't as smooth or solid as his previous two albums, but it also has some of the highest-quality production so far. If you like top twenty hits, Pure Fiction might be a good gateway into Eric Hutchinson, but if you're more a fan of Motown or indie pop, this album should probably be a last resort.

Eric Hutchinson is a singer-songwriter.

Pure Fiction can be purchased here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

State of the Music Address: April 2014

This is a new feature for odds and ends, and to give you a preview of what's coming up in music and on Nomorebloodfromaclone. So without further adieu...

-There are quite a few new albums coming out soon:
  • April 8th, Eric Hutchinson Tell the World
  • April 14th, Rob Cantor Not a Trampoline
  • April 15th, Ingrid Michaelson Lights Out
  • May 5th, Lykke Li I Never Learn
  • May 27th, Miniature Tigers Cruel Runnings
  • June 9th, Chrissie Hynde Stockholm
-As such, there have been a few single releases, including Rob Cantor's "Ghost":

-...and Miniature Tigers' "Swimming Pool Blues," the video for which is as perfectly done and humorous as anything the band has done.

-It's going to be a great summer for concerts here in Ohio.
  • The Ohio State Fair is featuring Blue Oyster Cult, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Beach Boys, Heart, Joan Jett, America, and Aretha Franklin.
  • The Monkees are touring again, with the three remaining members.
  • Cher and Cyndi Lauper have joined forces for a tour.
  • Of Montreal are coming to Cincinnati. I wish they'd do a Columbus date at some point!
-Record Store Day 2014 is fast approaching. fun., Of Montreal, and Deerhoof are all releasing stuff, just to name a few, so I'm excited for April 19th.

-And finally, here at Nomorebloodfromaclone, you can look forward to an exclusive interview soon, as well as yet another "I've Got This Covered." If all goes according to plan, you can expect more frequent updates here in general. Stick around!