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Wednesday, December 13th
Interviews: Y-O-U
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YOU
Y-O-U

An exclusive interview with Musiqtone
YOU
Because of a spasm of randomness, I decided to give the keys to the Hot Seat to indie pop act Ashley Wool, also a student at a New York college. You can check out her music at her Myspace or her official website! So without further ado, commanding our hot seat...Ashley Wool!-- Alan Ho

It’s not easy to create truly terrific indie rock music, nor is it easy to create a mockumentary about an elite jump rope team called The Flying Wallabies. But Nicholas Niespodziani, Peter Olson, and Mark Cobb of the Atlanta-based band Y-O-U have done all that and more. They have three albums of critically acclaimed original music to their credit, and have also collaborated with the creators of the popular Internet cartoon homestarrunner.com on their character’s CD, Strong Bad Sings, which has sold over 15,000 copies and has one song (“Trogdor”) featured on Guitar Hero II. And last December, they were named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 25 Best Bands on MySpace. They are known for encouraging their fans to “please rock,” but once you hear their songs, or watch their videos (like the stop-motion Lite Brite music video for their fan favorite “Moviekiss”) you won’t need to be told twice.

I sat down with the band at a high-end Atlanta eatery for a little chat about their music, their creative processes, and their awesome fans. Pete and Nick were the most talkative; Mark just sort of sat there and refused to make eye contact—apparently, he does not fancy associating with lowly fangirls like me.

Okay, okay, the interview was done with Nick and Pete via email, and Mark was unavailable for comment at the time. Regardless, it’s still a fascinating and highly entertaining read. Check it on out, and head over to pleaserock.com for more sights and sounds of Y-O-U!

Ashley Wool: F or people who have never heard Y-O-U, describe your sound and tell us a bit about yourselves.

Nick: All of us are from Indiana and none of us have tattoos. We like to make art of all kinds—songs, videos, performances, comedy, writing, pictures. We’re more than a rock band with some trendy clothes, Our latest works could be classified as an album of indie art-rock (Flashlights), a mockumentary series about sandal rock (3 Dog Stevens), and a stop-motion animated video made on a Lite Brite toy for a an electro-pop remix (“Moviekiss”). We are everything at once, which makes us nothing. Just like everyone else, but a little different.

Pete: A lot of bands make up some crap like “John Lennon having dinner with Roger Waters at Otis Redding’s house when Kurt Cobain crashes the party.” I would say we sound like John Lennon having dinner with Roger Waters at Otis Redding’s house when Mark McGrath crashes the party...then we kick his ass. Also, we’re all really nice guys.

How did the band name and “Please Rock” slogan originate?

Nick: I always liked the name “The Who,” and I thought “Y O U” was the next best thing. “Please rock” was a phrase we always used to say. “Pete, right now you're mowing the lawn, but could you please rock?” Like that.

Pete: Y O U began as “You.” This was confusing, so we started spelling it out as “why-oh-you”. This was confusing...but, we haven’t done anything about it. “Please rock” is a phrase first spoken by Mark Cobb, along with the phrase “Thank you for rocking.” (Must be spoken in computer-ese)

What about those mockumentaries? Where did those ideas come from?

Pete: Nick came in with the idea of a jump rope video, and having all been fans of Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, etc. it turned into a three part mockumentary. The timing worked out since we had just made the first “Moviekiss” video with Jon Danovic and he was up for starting another project with us. Three Dog Stevens is just an outlet for us to make the music that we really care to make as people that we wouldn’t care to be.

Nick: My ex-girlfriend had the idea to do a jump roping video. Have to give her credit for that one. We had always been into assuming alter egos—they allow you to say and do things the real you never would. The creative freedom of being someone else is quite liberating. Once we got started on comedy, it was all downhill from there. Every time we get together we spend most of the time goofing around and creating jokes, so the mockumentaries are a way for us to spread those jokes to the world at large. Or at small, if you prefer.

Speaking of alter egos, your Wikipedia page says that you’ve made “pseudonymous appearances playing Europop”—what’s that all about?

Pete: It’s all about the Benjamins.

Nick: We called ourselves John Macentoeshka and the Mosseknuckles on the open mic circuit in Atlanta. We were five Prussian immigrants speaking broken English who had terrible taste in clothing and liked to jam on five keyboards. We played a Humane Society Benefit one time and closed with “Cat Scratch Fever.”

Now, the question Alan forces all of us at gunpoint to ask: What is your philosophy on music?

Nick: I’ve put a lot of thought into my purpose in the world, and I think it comes down to spreading joy. I think the purpose of art is to provide insight into our lives and the world we live in, and some of my songs aim to do that. I think serious songs are important, but the ultimate purpose of rock music is to entertain. So even the serious songs have to entertain people. And hopefully make them think a little. Music makes me happy, and my ultimate goal is to share that happiness with others.

Pete: My philosophy is the same for making music as it is for listening to it. It’s sort of a therapy. Music can affect every situation in an endless possibility of ways depending on the song and the emotion. Being the optimistic person that I generally am, I like to listen to and play music that makes me happy. Generally.

Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?

Nick: Personally mine are the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Chopin, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, T.Rex, Beck, The Flaming Lips, David Bowie, 2Pac, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, etc.

Pete: I’m a huge fan of tons of music and musicians, but the few that have affected why I play music are Pink Floyd, Nirvana, The Beatles, and Motown.

Any guilty pleasure music you’d care to share with us?

Nick: No. Just kidding, I don't feel guilty about liking good cheesy pop music: Whitney Houston, Justin Timberlake, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Journey, Loverboy—all awesome.

Pete: Is there something I should feel guilty for listening to?

What inspires you to write songs, and what sorts of themes do you tend to explore?

Pete: I tend to write about things going on in my life or the people immediately surrounding me. I think I have a thick shell when it comes to inspiration. It takes a strong experience to zero in my focus before I get distracted. Nick is good at creating stories and writing about more universal topics.

Nick: I’m inspired by things very close to me—my family and friends, relationships, my own feelings—and those more distant—world events, books I’m reading, magazines, newspaper headlines. I like the usual themes—love, loss, the search for meaning. A lot of times I like to explore multiple ideas within different layers of the same song, so a lot of my songs are about lots of different things. Take “The Physics of Giving” for example: it’s mostly about me and things I would like to have in my life. But it's also about Albert Einstein's insights on love, different relationships I’ve had, the domination of physics in the physical world, the responsibility of gifted people to share their gifts with the world, the hazy divide between right and wrong, and my pitiful pattern of settling for the best available rather than the best ever. Make sense? Probably not—but each person can hopefully get some scrap of that meaning from the song.

You’ve released three albums so far; how do you feel you’ve progressed as a band since you first began playing together?

Pete: It’s kind of like looking at old pictures of yourself. When you listen to something you recorded four years ago, it doesn’t sound like you thought it did back then. Our approaches to writing, arranging, and performing are constantly changing, even during a single album. So, it’s difficult to pinpoint a certain progression. Most music ages just like a person. The trick is to record something classic that lives forever.

Nick: I don’t listen to the kind of tunes we used to write, whereas our stuff now is more like the music I listen to in my free time. So that’s growth, right?
Apple iTunes

What is your favorite original song to perform and why?

Pete: “Moviekiss.” I always get the feeling that everyone is paying attention.

Nick: We’ve played “Moviekiss” hundreds of times. But it never gets old, because the song is emotionally true to my heart. I never get tired of doing it.

Since I, along with thousands of others, am a huge fan of the Strong Bad Sings CD, I have to ask—what was it like working with Matt and Mike Chapman, creators of homestarrunner.com?

Nick: They’re just normal guys like us, a little nerdy and very down to earth. Their creativity on the spot was a bit intimidating at first, but only because we hadn’t collaborated with a lot of super-creative people outside of ourselves. Once we got used to each other’s creative styles, it was pure fun times.

Pete: It’s really cool to see those two in their element. They’re very cautious about their environment, but when the vibe is right, their creativity is unstoppable. Plus they’ve got that whole brotherly ESP thing going on.

One of the Strong Bad Sings tracks, “Trogdor,” is featured on Guitar Hero II – how does that feel?

Nick: Legit.

Pete: Possibly the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. Unfortunately, you can’t play the bass line on that one, but who ever cared about the bass?

If you could tour with any band or artist, who would it be?

Nick: The Flaming Lips. I love their approach to bringing good vibes to their shows, and I think our music would mix well. Wayne Coyne, please read this.

Pete: I agree with Nick. I watched Fearless Freaks a few weeks ago and Wayne Coyne is the real deal when it comes to decent people.

On this same tour, say you had a tricked-out tour bus equipped with anything you want—what would you ask for?

Nick: Three bottles of St. John's Wort, a NES system with Super Tecmo Bowl, a mini-studio equipped to create rave music, NFL Sunday Ticket, wireless Internet, and many, many Macs.

Pete: The machine from The Matrix that allows you to upload things to your brain, like how to fly a helicopter, and Bacardi Mojitos on tap.

You guys have really developed a large following over the years…what’s the coolest thing a fan’s done for you?

Nick: One time some girls made and entire CD parodying our songs; they called themselves U S. One couple chose “Moviekiss” as one of their songs at their wedding reception. To know we had touched people’s lives that deeply was very special for me.

Pete: A fan of ours named Liz Starkey made a giant chalk drawing of us... and then added mustaches. Also, an anonymous fan ;-) tipped us off to the Rolling Stone’s Best Bands on MySpace competition that we were selected for... but, that’s nothing to brag about.

What are your lives like outside of the band?

Pete: In the words of Homestar Runner, “Booowiiiing.”

Nick: I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and playing guitar. I teach a few guitar lessons, but it’s been very nice the last couple of years because I haven’t had to hold down a real job. I really enjoy exercising and hiking and being outside. Most notably, I’m pretty much obsessed with sports, politics, and gangster films.

Having had so much success as an independent band, would you still take the opportunity to be signed to a major label if it was presented to you?

Nick: Yes. I want to be a presenter on an awards show so I can go off the script and flip everyone out, and you can’t be indie and be asked to be a presenter.

Pete: If the situation is right. It really depends these days. Signing a label deal isn’t always the right choice. A good label deal? Yes.

Finally, what are your long-term and short-term goals?

Pete: Just keep L-I-V-I-N. How can you turn down advice from the guy who played Wooderson?

Nick: Short term, I want to write one transparent work of genius that is a song that will last forever. Long term, I want to write another and another and another...

THE BURN (questions that aren’t necessarily relevant but are fun to ask anyway)!

When do your alarm clocks go off in the morning?

Nick: Don’t use an alarm clock on a regular basis, but when I do I always set it for an uneven time: 6:48, 9:12, etc.
Pete: Before 8 PM...more than once.

Cities you most want to visit/play in?

Pete: Tokyo, Dublin, Seattle, Omaha
Nick: Tokyo, Buenos Aires, and Culver City.

If you could interview someone, who would it be? (I chose Y-O-U.)

Nick: Bob Dylan, Bill Clinton, and Michael Jordan round table.
Pete: Whoever cancelled Arrested Development.

If you had three wishes, what would the second one be?

Pete: That machine from the Matrix. I really want that.
Nick: To be humble about it.

Advice you’d give to aspiring musicians?

Nick: Love it or leave it.
Pete: Don’t change.


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