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August 22, 2007

Q&A: JOHNNY IRION

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"The whole record is about the title," says singer/songwriter Johnny Irion about his latest solo album, Ex Tempore (Rte 8/RCAM Records).

He's not kidding: Recording with various musicians (including his wife, Sarah Lee Guthrie), Irion worked off-the-cuff, with most arrangements done on the spot.

Medleyville.us: Did you know from the outset that Ex Tempore was an album you'd be releasing under your own name, or was it going to be an album credited to you and Sarah Lee?
Johnny Irion: "I didn't know. I was just going in and recording songs because I'd been writing a bunch of tunes. I actually thought it would be a US Elevator record, which is my side project in the wings -- just a band that has yet to happen. There were like 20 songs there, and I whittled it down, and I thought: 'This is cohesive enough to release as a solo album.' Having those guys play -- I just didn't think it was going to be as good as it turned out. I actually had the name of the record before the record, so hence the whole off-the-cuff process."

Ex Tempore was recorded with analog and tube equipment. Were there any "happy accidents" or frustrating moments that were the result of using vintage gear?
Irion: "Yes. We were using old tape from different sessions, and there were ghost tracks that were showing up that we'd have to clean. There's a weird thing that happens on 'She Cast Fire' -- on the 'angels flock to her' verse, there's something that happens with the word 'flock' that's a total result of using the old tape. The flip side of it was that we were able to speed some things up and slow other things down."

How many arrangements, if any, were done on the spot with the band right before you rolled tape?
Irion: "Before I got down [to Durham, N.C.], I would send MP3s of four-track recordings I was working on and I sent a lot of songs to [drummer] Zeke [Hutchins] and the guys. If I got back, 'Cool song!' that one would go on the list to try. They were like an audience, so to speak, and a great audience at that.

"So we had a basic chord structure, so even if we changed keys or flip-flopped arrangements, they still knew the basic gist of the tune. Most of the arrangements were done on the spot. We'd roll tape and go, 'Oh, let’s do that there.' It's guys I've worked with for years . . . and Zeke is one of those drummers who wants to be a songwriter, but he's a drummer and he's been around enough good producers to think like a producer."

On your Web site, you credit Pat Conroy with inspiring the title for "Roman Candle." Where does he rank among your favorite novelists?
Irion: "He doesn't, really (laughs). I think of my favorite as whoever I'm holding in my hand at the time because they're holding my attention."

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Johnny Irion on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Aug. 24: The Dreamaway Lodge -- Becket, Mass.

* Aug. 30: Joe's Pub -- New York

* Sept. 6: The Evening Muse -- Charlotte, N.C.

* Sept. 7: Bella Festa -- Wilmington, N.C.

* Sept. 8: Headliners -- Columbia, S.C.

* Sept. 9: The Pour House -- Charleston, S.C.

* Sept. 12: The Basement -- Nashville, Tenn.

* Sept. 13: The Melting Point -- Athens, Ga.

* Sept. 14: The Red Light Cafe -- Atlanta

* Sept. 15: The Cats Cradle -- Chapel Hill, N.C.

* Sept. 16: The Grey Eagle -- Asheville, N.C.

* Sept. 19: Club Cafe -- Pittsburgh

* Sept. 25: Jammin' Java -- Vienna, Va.

* Sept. 27: Johnny D's -- Boston

* Sept. 30: Helsinki -- Great Barrington, Mass.

August 16, 2007

SCHOOL'S OUT -- FOR NOW

The Lonely H graduates to extensive touring

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Just like thousands of other high school seniors across America, Mark Fredson couldn't wait to graduate in June.

He had big plans for the summer: touring the United States with some fellow graduates of Washington's Port Angeles High School.

It's the first extensive tour for The Lonely H, which played its first show in January 2003 when singer Fredson, guitarist Colin Field, guitarist Eric Whitman and drummer Ben Eyestone were in eighth grade. (At that time, bassist Johnny Whitman was a sophomore).

There is a story behind the band's name.

"We were trying to enter a battle of the bands thrown by the Experience Music Project in Seattle," recalls Fredson. "I think our name before that was Schnitzel, and we really wanted a more mature name so we wouldn't be laughed at.

"We were sitting there frantically one night because we had to mail out the application the next day. And I think one of our friends said, 'Too bad The Who is taken.' Then we started thinking about the five W's -- who, what, where, when and why -- and 'how' is definitely part of that group, but it's not a W.

"So it is the lonely H," he adds. "We've come up with more scholarly [explanations] after that, such as, 'Hydrogen is the only element that has only one proton and one neutron.' "

High-school status didn't prevent The Lonely H from playing gigs away from home on a regular basis. With help from its manager, the rock quintet often made the trek to the Seattle area -- depending on ferry times, a two- or three-hour trip one way from Port Angeles, says Fredson -- for weekend shows.

The band’s tour supporting Hair (The Control Group), the second Lonely H album, runs through the end of August. With all five members enrolled in Seattle-area colleges, Fredson says the band will take a "whatever happens, happens" approach in the near future.

"We're going to college, and we're going to get our degrees and have something to [fall back on]," he says. "Doing the band full-time -- if we start making some profits, I can definitely take that option. But we're not solely relying on the band as a career. We're looking at it from a more practical point of view."

-- By Chris M. Junior

The Lonely H on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Aug. 17: Monte Vista Lounge -- Flagstaff, Ariz.

* Aug. 18: Koo's Art Center -- Long Beach, Calif.

* Aug. 19: The Casbah -- San Diego

* Aug. 20: Spaceland -- Los Angeles

* Aug. 22: The Press Club -- Sacramento

* Aug. 23: The Know -- Portland, Ore.

* Aug. 24: The Retrodoxy -- Mount Vernon, Wash.

* Aug. 25: Masonic Temple Port Angeles -- Port Angeles, Wash.

August 06, 2007

PROMISE FULFILLED

Tokyo Rose curbs the urge to experiment

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There have been many notable entertainment duos through the years, and the way Tokyo Rose singer/guitarist Ryan Dominguez sees it, only TV's Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa is a better tandem than Fred Archambault and Mark Renk.

They're the producers of the New Jersey-based band's latest album, The Promise in Compromise, which was released last month via SideCho.

"This was our first venture working with more than one producer, and it was a terrific experience," says Dominguez. "Mark really honed in on my strengths as a vocalist, and Fred really elicited our best performances musically."

For The Promise in Compromise, Tokyo Rose made a point to, in the words of bassist Chris Poulsen, "cut all the excess baggage that we used to have in our songs."

"We decided that we were going to be more honest with ourselves in our delivery of our music," explains Dominguez. "We tried to curb our urges to experiment and write what came most naturally."

A theme that runs throughout the album, Dominguez says, "centers around people we've encountered in our career who have made promises with little intent on keeping them, whether the relationships be personal- or business-oriented."

When on the road, Dominguez and his band mates like to mix in some fun with their touring business -- that is, finding time to visit amusement and water parks between shows.

"In the past year, we've stopped at Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells, and we made use of a day off at Kings Dominion near Richmond, Virginia," he says. "We're thrill-seekers to the bone."

-- By Chris M. Junior

Tokyo Rose on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Aug. 7: Greene Street -- Greensboro, N.C.

* Aug. 8: Peppermint Beach Club -- Virginia Beach, Va.

* Aug. 10: Harmony Grange -- Wilmington, Del.

* Aug. 15: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater -- Kansas City, Mo.

* Aug. 17: Idaho Center -- Boise, Idaho

* Aug. 19: Gorge Amphitheater -- Seattle

* Aug. 20: Columbia Meadows -- Portland, Ore.

* Aug. 22: Selland Arena -- Fresno, Calif.

* Aug. 23: Sleep Train Amphitheater -- Sacramento

* Aug. 24: Coors Amphitheater -- San Diego

* Aug. 25: Home Depot Center -- Los Angeles