Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide to start the band / become a soloist?
DP: By the time Matt and I were introduced by a mutual friend 6+ years ago, we both had families and jobs and music as a hobby. But we were both on the verge of needing a big return to playing, something we both missed. We went to the same university, both had bands there, followed the same acts, but had never met. The timing was right, years later, for us to start something new, and Athensville was born.
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?
MT: Well, professionally, we are all other things… We have busy schedules and making time to pursue music is a labor of love. We each have two kids and supportive spouses who help us to make this happen. On bass guitar, we have Mark S. Walsh. Mark has roots in the NYC goth scene of the 90s where he was a founding member of the band The New Creatures. On drums is James Farrell. James has been in many bands over the years, including Waiting for Rain, and currently he plays with another Philly band, Almshouse. Dave Perry is our guitarist and I am the singer. Dave’s and my musical history is so similar as to be summed up together… we both had college bands at Penn State in the 90s, we never met or played shows together (although Dave saw my band once) and then we both got into our careers, got married, and suppressed our rock and roll fantasies until we met in 2013.
It’s been a bit of a wild last year, how have you guys managed to pass time and stay sane during lockdown?
DP: Recording and releasing this album was a huge part of it. A lifelong dream to keep me focused. Also, I returned to buying vinyl with a vengeance, where every Side A and B is like 20 minutes of meditation. Can’t forget, too, adopting a dog from a rescue, after resisting for 20 years. Her name is Moneypenny, and as Matt said when my family took her home, she’s simply more to love.
JF: recording, meditation, chess puzzles, air fresheners, Adderall.
MT: I’m a high school teacher. So adjusting to teaching 100% on-line was enough challenge to keep me focused and sane. But in May I was in the studio 2-3 times a week doing the lead vocals and then in August the backing vocals. That was a great distraction. Also, finishing James’ chess puzzles for him when he couldn’t find his Adderall.
MW: Fortunately, we had the writing, recording and production of our album to keep us focused. The year was stressful, but the music was a positive focus for me. I bought a few basses and tweaked my live sound and setup for when we get back on the stage. Adding a new puppy to our home didn’t hurt either.
How are you feeling now the road map has been announced and live gig can return?
MT: Well, we still don’t know when live shows will resume here in Philadelphia. But we are excited to start planning for the fall. There are a lot of venues that gave us a stage when we started out that we’d love to help get back on their feet. Although, sadly a few of our favorite venues may have closed permanently.
What advise would you give other artists starting out?
DP: Talk with each other as much as you can. Laugh a lot. But most of all, be a group of musicians that like and respect one another. Compromise will come easier and the music will benefit when you have that.
MT: Yep. Communication is key. Otherwise it all falls apart. Especially when you get busy. Also, we are still accepting advice… So I guess, never think you know it all. Keep learning and growing as a musician and as a marketer of your music business.
Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
MT: We are not sick of any questions. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get past the ‘just glad to be asked’ phase… but we do get the “Are you named Athensville because of R.E.M.?” question a lot. And the answer is “No. Our name comes from the original name of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where I was living when we first started playing together.”
What support is out there for new artists in Philly?
JF: As we’ve developed as a band, the ability to reach a worldwide audience has obviously become remarkably easier. It almost feels as though “local” has no boundary. But the need to play live to truly “local” fans is still an integral part of developing a fanbase. Several Philly radio stations and internet shows provide airwaves where bands are showcased. Other kinds of outlets (like online music reviews, local playlists, and podcasts) give bands opportunities to reach that local audience. Unfortunately (and certainly true world-wide), live venues–the most important places for bands and fans of music–have been hit hard by the pandemic. We can only optimistically hope that the year-long drought in live music–and the almost desperate need it has created–may generate an exciting rebound and market for new venues.
MW: We have a great core of support from our families and people who come to see us play live. These people spread the word organically, and it is a great feeling.
What useless talent do you have/ party trick?
DP: I have a knack for Seinfeld quotes and can relate every life situation to an episode of the show.
JF: Juggling and one really good card trick.
MT:. I can touch my nose with my tongue. So, I guess… anyone’s nose then, really.
MW: I like to imitate the characters from Ren and Stimpy. Fun fact; I like to sneak musical easter eggs into our songs without the band’s knowledge…
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
DP: Our Christmas 2019 show was a ton of fun, packed house, cool venue, lots of friends and family ringing in the new year, sharing the stage with my band mates.
JF: Watching a gold-glittered Matt drop the f-bomb in front of a few audience members who were awakened to the idea of a rock show.
MT: Aww, James. I didn’t think you noticed. We played The World Cafe Live in Philadelphia in February of 2020. I had just finished the lyrics for our song Hallstatt, which is about a lot of the great travel experiences my wife and I have had. I gave her a Valentine’s card with the lyrics written out and she got to hear and read them for the first time.
MW: For me, it was playing at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. That is one of the must play rooms on my list! We recently recorded a live in the studio version for Easy Enough, and that was a lot of fun. That video should have its debut soon in an exciting way.
What was the worst experience on stage?
DP: I made the mistake of checking my email between sets, once. That did not help my playing. I won’t make that mistake again.
JF: Arriving at venue to find house kit literally held together by duct tape, multi-colored electrical wire, and a suspicious belief in gravity.
MT: Hmm, playing to an audience of one at a show right before lockdown was a bit harrowing… Wondering if the microphone was infected by the opening band’s singer…
MW: I’ve had no bad on stage experiences with Athensville. If you have a few hours though, I will tell you my tales of woe with some past groups.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about?
DP: I spent a week as Bill Clinton’s driver on his first Presidential campaign in Manchester, New Hampshire, at the age of 19.
JF: Map illustrations published in several Harvard University Press books, one a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History (2002).
MT: I speak German and once rode a bicycle from Virginia Beach to Los Angeles.
MW: My old band was fired from a Sister’s of Mercy show for being “Too Goth” according to Andrew Eldritch. This made the news on MTV.
Whats your biggest achievement as a band/Artist?
MT: Completing and releasing this album. Hearing it played around the world. It is incredibly special for us.
Tell us about a time when you had a proper reyt laugh while you were all together?
DP: The four of us trying to back our cars out of the recording studio parking lot. There just isn’t a lot of room there! It was like a Three Stooges episode. There is video proof. Also, don’t listen to James, whatever answer he gives.
JF: This is a band of four witty smart-asses, all competing for laughs … but, to be clear, the biggest laughs always seem to be AT the drummer, not WITH him.
MT: We laughed pretty hard when we all realized that we didn’t know what ‘REYT’ meant… and had to look it up. Haha. Truth be told we laugh more than we play music… so that’s a tough one.
MW: Making “yellow art” in the snow during our winter recording sessions.
Whats your favourite song to play live and why?
DP: Head Start probably captures everything I love about our band in 3 minutes flat. Every instrument, Matt’s vocals and lyrics, it’s rock and roll, pure and simple.
JF: Terrible Cure is full of emotion/drama ups-and-downs and just makes for absolute live musical pleasure.
MT: Hallstatt has really come into its own through some structural changes we made to it during pre-production. That plus the lyrical/emotional connection for me… that’s one I’m really looking forward to playing live again.
MW: I love The Mentalist, with its moving power-pop bass line. When Dave’s guitar solo kicks in and mimics the motion of the bass, it is pure magic. Oh, and the song where I slip in a musical easter egg…
I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?
MT: Who told you? Haha. Yes, we’re going to be releasing a cover of Bjork’s song “Human Behaviour” in a few weeks. We’re super excited about it. We think we put an especially Athensville spin on it while keeping the song recognizable.
How was the recording process given the various restrictions the UK has been under of late?
MT: All things considered, it didn’t really hamper us too much. By March 2020, the bass and drums were already done. That’s the part where we all have to be there at the same time. That part would’ve been very difficult after lockdown started. There’s nothing socially distant about the first few months of the process. But luckily, once lockdown started, we were able to each go in individually and finish our parts. That’s our producer’s (Derek Chafin, BarnSound Studio) modus operandi anyway. So, maybe scheduling was a bit more difficult given everything else we were all dealing with but as far as the recording process, we were able to press on essentially as we had planned.
What are your plans for the year ahead
MT: We’re going to keep promoting this album and book a few shows for the fall… possibly an outdoor gig in the summer. But we really don’t want to ask people to gather for a show until they are really comfortable with it. I have no interest in promoting a show where people are thinking: “I want to support them but is it safe?” I want the next Athensville show to be part of the celebration of the end of this global disaster.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
DP: Just our genuine thanks. Know that, when you listen or share or buy our album, or see us play, we are sincerely grateful. Our music is made to be shared.
MT: Thanks for supporting independent musicians! The alternative is music made by focus groups and corporations.
MW: Don’t despair! This world has been bleak in the past few years. But good mates and great music are your beacon in the dark and the food for your soul.
Thanks for doing us today folks, all the best and keep in touch.