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MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
As it turns out, the two gents behind the Extraordinaires, who go by the names Jay Purdy and Matt Gibson, are a couple of the nicest Philly boys I have yet to cross paths with. We communicated via electronic mail last week and our correspondence went a little something like this.
LAS: How long have you guys been playing/writing music?
Jay Purdy: I was never classically trained, but there was a piano and a guitar in my house growing up. The first music I performed was in 1998, in a funk/hip-hop/reggae/rock fusion band called The Distraction. That band was heavily influenced by Limp Bizkit and 311, which is fairly embarrassing in retrospect - I was the fast talkin', lyric droppin' front man. Yikes! Matt's mother would blast disco and Van Halen through headphones when he was still in the womb, so he had a bit of a head start. We started playing music together in 2003, we then moved to Philadelphia in '04 after high school, and that's when The Extraordinaires were formed.
When it comes to creating your music, what influences you the most?
We certainly focus on storytelling first and the music as a very close second, which could be said about a lot of our musical heroes. There is something about having the power to create one's own folklore and actually leaving something behind rather than simply spilling your emotions onto a stage - not to discredit that approach to songwriting, but I definitely think you can find a balance there. Musically, we take a lot of cues from the Muppet Show and earlier country. We use loved ones, strange events and make believe as a lyrical base.
As of right now, what is your most favorite personal music accomplishment?
From start to finish, Ribbons of War is hands-down our favorite music accomplishment. From the first day we met up with Frede at Punk Rock Payroll down to our last tour, it's been a learning process. We threw out the idea of creating storybooks for an album that didn't even exist yet and Frede charged forward at light speed. All the labor that went into each book was time well spent; cutting the wood for the hard covers, picking out fabric, illustrating each song, designing the layout, screen printing each cover, gathering all the bells and whistles, and actually assembling them was amazing. We also got to do multimedia presentations that involved projecting the illustrations, costuming and narrating in full character, in addition to the music. To us every album we release will be just as important as Ribbons of War, but as far as the initial learning curve on all fronts, Ribbons of War takes the proverbial taco.
What is the worst album in your home collection?
We don't really keep anything around too long if it's no good. That being said, Matt and I are way into Drrrty South rap, so I'm sure a lot of those albums would be thrown on some worst albums lists. Just for the record, Ludacris rules. His lyrics are smart and he seems like an all-around clever, easygoing guy. Three Six Mafia, Dem Franchize Boyz, Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz. All amazing, but unfortunately regarded as terrible music by a lot of people. [Drrrty South rap] has definitely saved our lives at 4AM after driving 16 hours - we just start a dance party.
If you could go back and score the soundtrack to any film that has already been made, which film would you pick and why?
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is the first thing that comes to mind - who wouldn't want to score a living cartoon? The only problem with that is that the music is a character all it's own, and I shutter to think about a version without Danny Elfman's enormous musical brain at the helm of the score. Pretty much any of the movies we would want to score already have amazing music, and we'd be a bit apprehensive to touch it.
Do you have any superstitions?
Our main superstition is to never practice the day of a show, both out of fear that the show will be terrible and because we usually can't practice the day of our shows, for whatever reason, so we figured we would make it a superstition instead of a scheduling conflict.
As a kid, were you big into Halloween? If so, what's your favorite costume you had? If not, what's your problem?
I was HUGE into Halloween. In kindergarten it was Indiana Jones - later I was obsessed with my Spider-Man costume; I wore it under my street clothes for a whole week after Halloween. If only we could capture the essence of whatever it was that made Halloween better than Christmas.
A lot of independent artists today give their songs to TV Show soundtracks, commercials, and teen-retail stores in hopes of reaching a bigger audience. Where is someplace you might enjoy hearing your music played in order to appeal to a bigger audience?
I think I would about die if we could get onto the charts with a number one ringtone. If we aren't restricted by a timeline our number one choice would involve the Muppets doing their rendition of "A Proud Salute" from Ribbons of War, or "Hi Five the Cactus" from Short Stories. Any children's show or commercial geared toward the elderly.
How often does writing a song feel like Work?
Songwriting only feels like work if the drive to write and your ability to write are out of sync - there are days where you wake up and think you're going to write the greatest song you've ever written but the music or lyrics are completely out of reach. For the most part songwriting is as fun as a personalized puzzle - first comes the music, which dictates the mood, which is followed by a mental story line with infinite possibilities. I love mixing and matching words together to form the perfect rhyme structure, or using different vernaculars altogether. Songwriting is the best.
What's the difference in writing a concept album to writing a - for lack of a better word - "regular" album? Can you explain the approach to each?
Our approach to Ribbons of War as a full narrative was fairly simple. We looked at it like we were writing a book. Continuity is a big issue, as well as making sure the characters are believable. The album began with one initial story song that traced a vague outline of a love gone wrong, which became "Ribbons of War Pt. II - The Captain". The story refused to be retired, and I felt bad for the unnamed female character not having her side of the story told, so I wrote a mirrored version of the same song from her perspective. At that point the story had taken on a life of it's own, and song after song presented itself and continued breathing life into the characters, to the point it only felt right to tell their story in full. Matt wrote a song from a third person perspective, which ended up being one of the best songs on the album. Not much is different in writing a regular album, but in my opinion central themes are always more interesting and fun to work with.
When do you know you're going to have a bad day?
A couple of weeks ago there was this guy in Center City that got hit by a bus, and as he struggled to stand up some random bum ran up to him and punched him in the face. The Gods smited that man for whatever reason, and I use that incident as the standard for a bad day.
In Ribbons of War, the Captain and Annelies both have something keeping them apart - is there something keeping you from your one true love?
Haha. Yes, in part - I'd say Ribbons of War was loosely based on some residual regrets from my first true love - I used to be a very jealous person, and jealousy, in my opinion is the worst emotion one can suffer. By creating The Captain I had the chance to study a magnified version of a person I didn't want to be, and Annelies was just the girl to fight the monster he becomes. I got to unload the brunt of my jealousy onto him, and I'll tell you, as a form a therapy I'd have to say it truly worked. Go figure.
Where do you hope to be a year from now?
Well, right now we're not only releasing a new album and touring, but we're also the principal songwriters for a new musical called Bitch on Wheels, which debuts here in Philadelphia on September 9th. It would be nice to be a part of a full stage adaptation of Ribbons of War, and we're also working on a few ideas in regards to a new narrative album. So in a year it would be nice to return to Philadelphia after a European tour of a new narrative album only to gear up for a stage version of Ribbons of War. The overall goal is to get to a place where we can tour any time we like and break even, and that's all we could ever ask for. SEE ALSO: www.extraordinairesmusic.com
SEE ALSO: www.punkrockpayroll.com
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he's afraid of really growing up.
See other articles by Bob Ladewig.
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