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A KINKY COLLABORATION

The 88 hits the road with Ray Davies

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Only time will tell if the rumored Kinks reunion tour will become a reality. Meanwhile, leader Ray Davies hit the road recently with a very capable band in The 88 backing him on classic Kinks songs.

The Los Angeles-based quartet may not be a household name, but its music has made its way into households nationwide via song placements in various network TV shows (such as CBS' How I Met Your Mother and NBC's Community) and through performances on late-night TV talk shows (among them Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Last Call With Carson Daly).

Singer/guitarist Keith Slettedahl recently talked about how The 88 landed the opening/backing spot on the Davies tour, the value of distributing music through TV shows, movies and commercials and what it was like for his band record an entire song using an Apple iPhone.

Medleyville.us: How did the tour with Ray Davies come together?
Keith Slettedahl: "We were made aware of the opportunity through our former booking agent and former manager. They thought we'd be a great fit for the tour and submitted us for it. We started receiving questions from Ray's people about availability, and they wanted some info about the band. At that point, I couldn't believe we were even in the running for it.

"Then we received an e-mail saying Ray wanted to hear a live recording of us doing some Kinks songs. We recorded the songs and I think two days later we got word that we had got the tour. Needless to say, I'm still pinching myself. It's so incredible. I really don't know what else to say about it."

Were there any songs from the Kinks catalog that proved to be a challenge for the band to learn?
Slettedahl: "So far, so good. The biggest challenge for me has been learning the Dave Davies guitar parts. I thought I knew a lot of the songs already but realized there was a lot more goin' on guitar-wise. But it's been a very fun challenge. We just keep picking songs to learn each time we get together."

Do you think song placement in TV shows, commercials and movies is the new terrestrial radio for today's acts in terms of reaching a wide, mainstream broadcast audience for free?
Slettedahl: "Song placements in TV, commercials and film have been a great blessing for us. We've been able to reach a lot of people, whether they're aware of it or not. I'm not really sure what radio is like now compared to what it was, but the whole TV placement thing is obviously a relatively new phenomenon. When we started out, we had no plans of getting our stuff into TV shows or film. I don't think we were even aware that world existed, but it's turned out to be our niche. Plus, I think mainstream radio can be so narrow and predictable, whereas, you can hear a lot of different stuff in commercials, film and TV -- and it reaches so many people who are actually listening to and inquiring about what they hear on the shows."

Talk about recording "Love Is the Thing" using an iPhone. Whose idea was it, and how long did it take to record? What were some of the technological challenges and advantages?
Slettedah: "We had discovered the four-track app on our iPhones and thought it would be cool to try it out when we were away from home. About a week later, an old friend who works for Apple approached us about recording a song on the iPhone, so it was perfect.

"We had heard small examples of short acoustic songs using the app, but no electric, full-band stuff. So it was just an experiment, and it was really fun and quick to do. Coming off making our last record, we were ready to do something simple and raw -- the total opposite of that record. The only real challenge was getting the vocals right because we did everything in the microphone built into the phone, so to sing dynamically was an issue. It was a challenge to get it to not peak out in spots. We had to use a piece of equipment that the iPhone hooks into (alesis pro track), and then we were able to control the level of the vocal. Otherwise, [it was] pretty easy. It was done in a day."

What are the band's plans following the tour with Davies?
Slettedahl: "Following the Ray Davies dates, we are planning on finishing a new record we had started before leaving. Also, we're planning on getting over to the U.K. at some point, so [there's] a lot of exciting stuff coming up. But for now, we're trying to enjoy this moment, playing every night with one of our idols. Stay tuned!"

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

The 88 on tour (schedule subject to change):

* March 5: Scranton Cultural Center – Scranton, Pa. ++

* March 6: Webster Theatre – Hartford, Conn. ++

* March 7: Bardavon 1869 Opera House – Poughkeepsie, N.Y. ++

* March 8: Pianos – New York

* March 9: Broome County Forum – Binghamton, N.Y. ++

* March 11: Michigan Theater – Ann Arbor, Mich. ++

* March 12: Palace Theatre – Lorain, Ohio ++

* March 13: Riviera Theatre – Chicago ++

* March 14: 400 Bar -- Minneapolis

* March 15: Liberty Hall – Lawrence, Kan. ++

* March 17: Palladium Ballroom – Dallas ++

* March 18: La Zona Rosa – Austin, Texas/SXSW (9:30 p.m. original material showcase; 10:30 p.m. with Davies)

* March 19: The Shadow – Wichita, Kan.

* March 20: Paramount Theater – Denver ++

* March 21: Mike’s Music Exchange – Eldorado, N.M.

* March 22: Hotel Congress – Tucson, Ariz.

* March 23: Arizona State University – Tempe, Ariz.

* March 23: Dodge Theatre – Phoenix ++

* March 24: The Grove of Anaheim – Anaheim, Calif. ++

* March 25: Canyon Club – Agoura Hills, Calif. ++

(++ = dates with Ray Davies)

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