The Thin Cherries
IT has been good speaking with The Thin Cherries...
about their new album, On Moose Island, and how it came together. They talk about the recording process and how the band got together; the albums and sounds that inspire them and where they head next.
I was keen to know which rising artists we should watch and whether the band get time away from music to chill; if the guys have favourite memories from their career and the advice they would give to emerging musicians.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Mark Lofgren: Hectic! A quick trip to Detroit to see family; just beat the bad weather on the road.
Steven Delisi: I’m doing well - although it has been a crazy week and I’m tired from raking the Trump national forest all day.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Mark: I’ve played in the Psych/Pop band The Luck of Eden Hall for the better part of the last thirty years. We’ve toured and released some well-regarded albums, but have more of a cult following. I do some video editing and motion graphics work to make ends meet.
Steven: I’m the rhythm guitarist and co-writer with The Thin Cherries. I say co-writer, because we intend to pivot to a sitcom after the New Year begins. I will play the chauffeur.
How did The Thin Cherries form? When did you all meet one another?
Mark: Steven Delisi and I formed the Thin Cherries two years ago, when we realized we collaborated well on each other’s tunes. I’d been friends with Steve for many years prior, when I was actually his instructor at a design college...
Steven: Our band started out as a project for two songwriters; Mark Lofgren and I realized we had a lot in common as far as influences and maybe the approach to recording. After Mark put out his solo album back in 2014, I mentioned the idea to do something together. But it took until just a couple years ago for us to start on the project. We initially started at Mark’s apartment studio – recording demos, in which the process was essentially helping each other complete song ideas. Often it would be something simple, like one of us offering a counter melody or a riff to a pretty well developed song. Or, it would be something structural like a bridge idea or changing things around to make the song more unusual.
We had a great time; meeting for coffee on Saturday mornings then getting to work at his place. After a few months, we reached out to Mark’s friend to collaborate further - a guy who plays many instruments - and had access to a rehearsal space with limited recording gear. That’s Darren Shepherd, our lead guitarist, who we brought demos to and eventually we recorded bass, guitars and drums to start the record. Darren actually plays the drums on quite a few tracks that we started on at Mark’s apartment. Later, he added a lot of amazing guitar stuff once we had basic tracks in place. During one tracking session, Darren’s friend Gabe stopped by, liked what we were up to and ended up playing with us on a few tracks. We had such a good time that we kept meeting and recording a few new tracks each weekend. We bonded pretty quickly and soon our goal was to ‘put out a record’ and just see what happens.
On Moose Island is your latest album. What sort of themes inspired the record?
Mark: Although it’s certainly not a concept album, we wanted to mix and match some retro keyboard sounds and Electronica touches with straight-ahead Pop and sideways psychedelic vibes. To me, the album has a lot of variety but really holds together and has a dense but not heavy sound. Lyrically, there are some darker themes of isolation and anxiety mixed with some happier vibes of old friendships rekindled and road trips (…perhaps even to Moose Island!).
Steven: Initially, we were just preoccupied with capturing a more live sound that represents how we evolved as a full band and not a production of our songs. So, I think a theme for the record emerged as one about being a band. As Mark puts it, we came up with the album title track to reflect this idea of a mythical island somewhere where we all lived together and played music; a weird David Lynch-like town with quirky locals and unusual wildlife and one diner where all the townsfolk congregated in to discuss their daily lives.
As this stuck, we started making ‘moose’ jokes and thought about ways to present the ideas visually. Near completion of the album, we employed Mark’s friend Jim Laugelli, a great artist, who did the brilliant cover painting of On Moose Island. I’m also working on a music video that is a collage of old 16mm footage that my parents made before I was born.
Did you change a lot up since your debut? Was there a different approach when you stepped into the studio?
Mark: Steven and I basically wrote and recorded the first album as a duo to start. We brought our friend Darren Shepherd in to play some drums and additional guitar and he recruited his drummer friend Gabe Palomo to play drums live and finish off the album. Now, we have Birdie Soti on board playing keys and Sophie Senard singing some back-up and playing accordion. With On Moose Island, it was a real collaborative affair; recording a lot of the tracks together live in the studio. Steven and I wrote most of the framework for the songs and Darren added an awesome, beautiful track of his own, Steadfast Arranger.
Steven: So, again we were in the middle of changing from what was a recording project for two songwriters (our debut was the end product) to a full band effort in which everyone contributed ideas, direction and even songs. We recorded a few songs by our lead guitarist, Darren. Steadfast Arranger ended up on the album - a departure of sorts that is more personal, haunting and really beautiful!
Do you share similar tastes? Who are you inspired by?
Mark: We certainly have common touchstones with some classic and modern British Pop and Psych music mixed with some Folk and Americana. Gabe, our drummer, is also an Electronica fan and a well-known D.J., so I love incorporating some of that on the new album and future releases.
Steven: It was important for us to get our drummer Gabe more involved creatively as he is a producer of Dance and Techno music. Our current single, I Don’t Know You All, is the result a drunken idea Mark came up with after rehearsal in which Gabe quickly ‘threw down’ beats and they went from that point shaping a Dance track. The rest of us added instruments later and we sort of fulfilled our desire for a more organic approach to producing music that starts from a melody idea and not someone’s already written song. We’ll be working this way moving forward, drawing from other influences. I know, on this one, we were inspired by bands we grew up with like New Order and other artists that produced dance music.
As Christmas is coming; what one present would you each like if you could have anything?
Mark: A vinyl release for the album and some worldwide distribution would be a dream! But I’d settle for some for positivity in the world overall and some good old-fashioned peace, love and understanding for a change.
Steven: I would like a nice vintage Gibson or Epiphany hollow body electric guitar! I’ve been relying on the one wonderful Fender Stratocaster for years.
Do you already have plans for 2019?
Mark: Playing some local and Midwest U.S. shows to support the album. We’ll probably do a couple music videos as well and starting to work on new music this coming summer. We’d love to someday tour Europe. I love it over there and the Luck of Eden Hall has had a blast playing in the UK in the past.
Steven: The plan for 2019 is to get better as a band and write and record more music! Hopefully, we’ll be productive enough to make another album or at least an E.P. That might be the way to go.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Mark: Again, the several U.K. tours I did with my other band were awesome and I’d love to repeat the fun with The Thin Cherries someday. Also, having The Luck of Eden Hall open for the Psychedelic Furs at a festival here in the States a few years back was a blast. I really loved their music when I was younger and meeting band leader Richard Butler was great.
Steven: My favorite memory so far is the first time we recorded basic tracks at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago - the amazing studio of our friend and co-producer Mike Hagler. I’ll never forget going up to the mixing loft after tracking bass, guitars, keyboards and drums then hearing Mike’s initial mix just to know what we got. The sound was so big and amazing tonally! I knew we were on to something fun and special.
Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?
Mark: Oh man, is that a tough one! I’m going to have to go old school though and say Scary Monsters and Super Creeps by David Bowie. That whole album has a mysterious, powerful feel. Eno’s production is amazing; Bowie was a genius and Ashes to Ashes is one of my favorite all time songs (still gives me chills when I listen to it, just like when I heard it when I was a kid).
Steven: On Moose Island is super-important to me. It feels like we put together a record that reflects not just our tastes and influences but more of our creative expression as a group. We’re not there yet, but it’s a big step forward.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Mark: To play bass for Robyn Hitchcock and my rider would be to hang out with him and listen to his stories! Or tour with The Kinks and hang out backstage!
Steven: I would really like to support Future Islands on a tour. I just really like their music and they seem to be super-nice guys.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Mark: Do it for the love of the music and the art of it all, not chasing money or success or the pressure of making it. Herman Melville died broke and unappreciated and Moby Dick was considered a failure in his lifetime. You never know who or when your music might reach or touch someone. Just follow your heart and write the best music you can and put it out there, even if it seems like you’re working in a vacuum sometimes!
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
Mark: We’ll be playing some Midwest U.S. shows after the holidays, so stay tuned!
Steven: We’re not touring extensively at this point. I hope in 2019 we can at least do a Michigan brewery tour that we sometimes talk about. We love beer. For now, we play out at various clubs and venues in Chicago.
IN THIS PHOTO: Cloud Nothings
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Mark: Cloud Nothings have been around a few years and are raw and amazing Indie/Noise-Rock. I also love Wild Nothing who have a few albums and an '80s vibe. Also, I really like the quirky indie pop of Frankie Cosmos.
Steven: My favorite artist/band for the last two years has been Slaves. They draw cleverly on influential bands from their native England without any obviousness and they really have a cool sound and style that is all their own that supports their absurdly funny and much-needed political message; just two nice guys who care so much about their audience. In an odd way, they remind me of Style Council.
IN THIS PHOTO: Slaves
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Mark: I play sports on some different teams…basketball and baseball mostly (I suppose across the pond I’d be playing football and cricket!).
Steven: We don’t chill much away from music…too busy working and what not. I play soccer as much as possible for a middle-aged knuckle-head but we have pretty fun times together when we can, during or after rehearsals. Usually, it involves drinking beer.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that)?
Mark: That’s When I Reach for My Revolver by Mission of Burma; one of my favorite influential '80s Punk/Pop tracks and it seems right for the times…
Steven: My Ever Changing Moods - The Style Council
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