Pop Excellence – Q & A with… THE BIG GONE !

From the city of Los Angeles, please welcome… The Big Gone !

‘Until Tomorrow’ was the first track I heard from The Big Gone. A vulnerable, intriguing pop pearl carried by the male/female duet vocals of Claire Woolner & Nick Sena and wonderfully shining guitar lines. I fell in love. But there’s so much more versatile pop splendour to discover on their newest 7-track EP ‘And How She Gave Me Life’. There’s sixties inspired country brightness (‘Waiting on My Man’), electrifying psychedelia (‘Waste Time’) and pure 18 karat pop excellence (‘Charla Jive’). A canvas colored with yesterday’s classic, popular songwriting and today’s sparkling indie resonance. Many vivid vibes and rich sounds. Reasons enough to get in touch with Los Angeles and have a chat with the two founding band members and songwriters…

Hello Nick, hello Claire…

Let’s roll…

When and where was the band conceived?
Nick: “Claire and I met in West L.A. and started playing together right away in the summer of 2012, but super casually for like a year. We called ourselves ‘The Low’ and recorded an EP called ‘The Big Gone’ with simple beats and pretty basic textures. Then we got asked to play a show in September 2013 and needed a drummer and second guitarist to pull it off, so we asked two good friends who are far more technically proficient and had a ball.”

What’s the story behind the group’s name?
Nick: “We overheard Claire’s aunt Laurie talking about someone being gone, just temporarily gone to the market or out-of-town something like that and then she specified ‘not the big gone’ – so it became clear that it was a reference to dying – being gone for good. We were originally called ‘The Low’ until we were mistaken for the band ‘Low’ at which point we just changed our name to the title of our first EP…”
Claire: “I thought it was a really interesting phrase and Nick agreed. Someone recently told me it reminded them of something Dr. Seuss would say which I like too.”

Who is/are the songwriter(s)?
Nick: “Claire and I write the songs, some fully formed, some less realized and bring them to rehearsal. Will, our drummer, always has a hand in arranging them and giving form to the individual sections, especially where dynamics are concerned. Then Claire and I revisit the song, complete the lyrics/melody, bring it back again and finalize parts. Danny really puts the frosting on the cake in the mix.”

A musical team of 4…

When did the band know “This is it, this is how we want to sound”?
Nick: “We’re still on that road… the sound is still changing pretty dramatically from song to song. We’re all on the same page in terms of what doesn’t work and lately we’ve stepped away from studio songs that are unplayable live as a 3-piece as Danny, our lead guitarist stepped down from live shows for a while.”
Claire: “Yeah, we keep moving towards what feels better and when we are all playing something and not needing to talk about it too much, we know we are on the right track. That’s happening more and more.”

Share an unforgettable anecdote with us about the first rehearsals…
Claire: “I guess our first rehearsals were really just me and Nick sitting upstairs in his apartment on two chairs across from each other just playing and vibing out. I remember setting timers because we had a tendency to just jam and jam and lose sight of what we were trying to do. Which is exactly what it needed to be at that time. When we brought Will and Danny on board, it shifted the dynamic a lot because other people’s time was at stake, which made us have to get a little more clear on what we were doing. Will, Nick and I are all really good friends who feel a little too comfortable with each other so rehearsals are filled with humor and comments that should stay behind closed doors.”

The new stirring 7-track debut EP (actually a mini-album) is titled ‘And How She Gave Me Life’. Who gave life to whom?
Nick: “The music is the healer and during 2014, while we were putting it together, we all needed that.”

When I reviewed the EP I compared the sound of track ‘Until Tomorrow’ to the fragile sonic vibes of British band The xx. Do you know that band?
Nick: “Oh yeah, Claire turned me onto their first album shortly after we started playing together and I was immediately drawn to the simplicity/space. ‘Until Tomorrow’ was one of the first songs we wrote together so I’m sure it was influenced by them.”

The xx – an inspiration…

The male/female vocals make me think of the 60s romantic pop duets of Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood. Are my ears okay?
Nick: “A favorite of mine. The first time I heard ‘Some Velvet Morning’ was a goosebumps moment and our EP is titled after a line of that song.”
Claire: “If you remember, the line ‘and how she gave me life‘ is in ‘Some Velvet Morning’, so your ears and your mind are right on point.”

Nancy & Lee – magic duo…

On Facebook your music is described as ‘dress rock’. Hello?…
Nick: “Rock dressed up, with bells and whistles but in my head the core is rock.”
Claire: “It’s a term Nick made up when we started getting asked the unanswerable question about what type of music we play. We aren’t fancy but we aren’t sweating in a garage either.”

Dress rockers…

New track ‘Killer For Crazy’ is an energizing rock cracker. You shared it with a video of a vibrant live studio performance. Is the clip a reflection of the band’s live shows?
Nick: “Yeah that’s us live. That’s what we went for, capture the live show with good sound, hence the headphones and being in our own studio where we know we can dial the sound right.”

‘Killer For Crazy’ – stirring new track…

Any ritual(s) before going on stage?
Nick: “Set up the stage slowly while sipping water.”
Claire: “Four hour sitting group meditation.”

Is playing in a band actually ‘the best job in the world’ ?
Nick: “Playing music with a lover and a friend is what this band is for me, so I’ve got a lot of energy for it. It keeps me smiling.”
Claire: “It’s what I want to do forever and ever.”

Which album would you steal from your parents’ record collection?
Nick: “I stole almost all of them ten years ago, their collection is thin at the moment, very thin, but they don’t mind cause everything had been sitting for years anyway, since cassettes. They don’t see the fuss of vinyl and I don’t blame them.”
Claire: “My brother stole all of my parents’ records years ago so I don’t even know where they are. But I like to listen to Nick’s mom’s Joni Mitchell album ‘Blue’. It has a little sticker with his mom’s name and maiden name on the inside which lightens my heart.”

Don’t trust Nick anywhere near your record collection…

The number one artist on your list to do a world tour with?
Nick: “We could open well for The Kills (note JL: awesome choice, love this band). Our live sound right now is intense, some have called it aggressive. Hard beats, noisey guitar and we’re pushing the vocals up and out more. And I would mind picking Jamie’s brain about how he got the drums and guitar so nasty.”
Claire: “Woah, yeah, I definitely agree we could open well for them. I also would like for Frank Black to do a solo world tour of his old stuff because he is one of my very most favorite artists in the world and I think about his quirky sentimentality that he brings so well into a rock vibe. I try to channel some of the same energy when writing and putting songs together. I think there’s a spaciness we both tap into that could make for an interesting complementary show. Also I’d like to sit on a bus and eat chips with him.”

Killer duo…

If you could travel in time what artist would you jam with?
Nick: “Marc Bolan. He seems like a psycho and a wizard, strange as hell but so accessible. He might be a dick but I’m sure we’d have a lot of laughs. And I could probably keep up and add, whereas a lot of folks I would love to sit in but more so to sit and stare which isn’t what I think of as jamming.”
Claire: “I would have loved to be on stage with David Byrne, performing choreographed movements with household items. I would be so interested to sit in a room with him and jam on some quirky rhythms and let words pop around.”

Social media: a blessing or a pain in the ass?
Claire: “Mixed bag.”
Nick: “Easy to make a pain in the ass. A good tool to discover and connect, but by no means the only tool. It’s just part of being in a band at our level as far as I see it and I try to keep it friendly in my head.”

Performer of choreographed movements…

L.A. Lakers or L.A. Clippers?
Nick: “Its been years since I followed, but I’ve grown up and always live in L.A., and that puts me on the Lakers side.”
Claire: “My dad rocks a lot of Lakers shirts.”

Legendary L.A. bands: The Doors or The Byrds?
Nick: BOTH ! The Doors for their discography and Morrison’s combo arranging such funky simple and catchy jams but The Byrds because of David Crosby. In my book Croz is a king like Keith Richards, just someone I really give a pass to and root for. And he might be my favorite harmony singer.”

A beloved bird…

New L.A. kids on the block: Roses & Cigarettes or Corsica Arts Club?
Nick: “Corsica Arts Club are the homies, we played with them recently at El Cid. Good dudes, very generous souls.”
Claire: “I went to high school with Arash and Brendan from Corsica Arts Club and they are super kind guys so they have my support.”

What’s the band’s final ambition?
Nick: “To continue writing songs we love playing and to have the guts to follow our evolution as a unit.”
Claire: “To persevere with exploration and just keep getting better and more authentic with what we are creating and the messages and sounds we care about transmitting.”

Thank you for the interview, Claire and Nick !
Keep on creating magic dress rock ! …


Here’s the sparkling EP in full…

The band’s social media links…


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