RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST SAM FEINSTEIN
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?
This project is the culmination of several bands I’ve been in over the years. I’ve played bass or keyboards in bands that span genres such as ska-punk, bluegrass, klezmer, blues-rock, metal, country, indie-rock, electro-dance, and pop. I’ve met many talented musicians over the years, and I relied on that network of talent to record themselves from places like Nashville, LA, and Boston. This is in many ways an extension of a band I had called “Strawman” that played horn-drenched rock music with a heavy emphasis on theatrics and improvisation. I am currently recruiting a live-version of this band to start playing with me in the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually beyond.
Introduce us you / all to the members and your musical history.
Born in ‘95, I’m on the borders of the Millenial and Gen Z crowds. I was born and raised in Peabody Massachusetts where I started learning piano at age 8. I joined the choir and made the middle school jazz band when I was 13, and quickly began to love singing as well as the improvisatory nature of jazz. While I loved jazz, I was never great at piano, and there was someone who was bound to beat me out of the position the following year, so I picked up the bass and immediately fell in love with the role.
This is when I started practicing near-constantly and formed a few of my own bands including a klezmer band called Sababa and a ska-punk band called The Sea Bees. I was very active in my high-school’s music department, joining jazz-band, chorus, and concert-band, and sung in a young-men’s choir that performed at symphony-hall. I went to college for Music Engineering at University of Miami where I formed the bluegrass band Big City Folk Band and ska-punk band The Zognoids. For my senior recital, I formed the band Strawman to play a rock-opera/song-cycle i wrote called “Trial of the 7 Deadly Sins”. This band is the prototype for the music I make today.
After graduating, I moved back to MA for a bit and formed another version of the Strawman band before work brought me out to San Jose California, where I work on Audio Software at Amazon Lab126. I work with a few musicians and met several others through open-mics. A few of us had a pop-punk band called “If We Can”, whose debut outing was canceled by the arrival of Covid 19. Recently we’ve reformed with some new members as an indie-pop band called The Monitors. Having only lived a year in CA a year before the pandemic, I still feel very new to it’s unique music scene, which I hope to continue to explore by supporting the release of “Chasing the Bull”.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
This is my first interview. I’m not sick of any questions yet, but I am generally nervous about whether anything I have to say will be interesting or not.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Only the true ones haha. I think the vast majority of crypto-currencies, NFTs, and advertised stock picks are made with malicious intent as tools for extracting money from desperate people who are just trying to get ahead in life. Seeing this play out with several rug-pulls, pump&dumps, and other fraudulent practices is what inspired me to write “Chasing the Bull”
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
I bought a cello and actually learned to play it decently. Not needed, but certainly welcome. I bought a lot of useless stuff in order to shoot the music video, but I think some of it paid off. I got a bunch of shovels, a chalk sign, and a stack of fake-cash that I have no clue what to do with now that we’re done shooting the video.
What useless party trick do you have?
I’m a master of puns and dad-jokes. I’m the guy at the party who will make the joke that gets everyone to groan in annoyance.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
The Strawman project I did my senior year of college was a fun band! We dressed up and had stage make-up and artwork for each song projected behind the band. The musicians were all world-class and I gave them a lot of room to improvise and shine in ways that only they knew were possible. That was when I learned I could achieve this glorious semi-chaotic, yet cohesive sound if I gave talented musicians room to be creative within certain parameters. This was also the first project I had where I learned to use my gruff-growly voice.
The voice I discovered for this show was highly influenced by a road trip I went on with the trumpet player (my roommate and fellow member of ska-punk band, the Zognoids) in order to run from Hurricane Maria. We picked up “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” by Modest Mouse and must’ve listened to that record at least a hundred times on our drive North. I hadn’t previously listened to Modest Mouse and this completely changed my perspective on vocals and the music-making process. The impact of this album is still prevalent in the music I’m releasing nearly 4 years later.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I was in a Nirvana cover band at one point in high school and we played a show we were not ready for. We weren’t able to make it through Heart-Shaped Box, and left the stage in shame. This is the
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about?
I’m both a good cook and a vegan. It can be difficult to make vegan food that non-vegans will tolerate, much less actively seek out.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
(English): I write Disney Villain songs about real villains supported by gruff vocals, sardonic lyrics, and chaotic instrumentals. It’s a volatile, improvisatory mixture of rock and jazz that supports a highly satyrical performance style.
Miscelaneous Alien: Zork borg noid boikalj aifdalkn music akhdfoiah lknd va’vi
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
My experience with multiple genres gives me a pretty big pool of influences to draw from and allows me to “home-brew” my own style. My love of horn-sections and Dixieland-style group improvisation are fairly unique in a rock context. I also pride myself on making my lyrics bite, but still stay playful in a toungue-and-cheek manner.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most?
Thematically, I wish I could say it was something in the crypto-world like the disgusting management of Celsius, Luna, Three Arrows, etc, but it pales in comparison to what’s happening in Ukraine. That’s the kind of stuff that’s actually too dark for me to write music about; I can’t make a fun satire of Putin because the real situation is too grim.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I love playing anything where I feel like the band is able to have some fun. I’m looking forward to full band live performances of Chasing the Bull for this reason. There was a song I wrote for Strawman called Greed that was able to support a ton of chaotic improvisation and gritty sounds in this demented-circus type of sound.
I hear you have a new single, what can you tell us about it?
Chasing the Bull was inspired by the current prominence of crypto and NFT scams, and the lack of consequences for those perpetrating these scams. I take on the character of a two-faced scam-artist trying to part unsuspecting victims from their hard-earned cash. I mock these scam artists to plead for listeners to ask themselves the question “Bull Market, or Bull Shit.” before investing their hard-earned cash.
Talk me through the thought process of the single?
I’d been trying to understand the world of finance. Living in Silicon Valley, crypto-bros left and right would talk to me about their investments into various projects so I became very curious. I luckily stumbled across a YouTube channel called Coffeezilla that talked about all the scams that were rampant in the world of cryptocurrency. Id always had a morbid facination with scams and cults, so this kind of thing fell right up my alley and eventually inspired me to write Chasing the Bull.
What was the recording process like?
The recording process was very difficult. I used a lot of electronic instruments (fake drums and fake horns) to outline what I thought the track should sound like, then reached out to musicians I knew from around the country to have them replace what I had done with their live interpretation of the song. While I am a competent mix-engineer and did a decent mix of the song once the instruments were all recorded, , I ultimately decided that a friend of mine could do a better job based on the work I’ve seen him do and would be able to make decisions that I, being the songwriter, would not be objective enough to make.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single?
This single was the first thing I’ve recorded on my own. In college, I was spoiled with a world class studio and more microphones than I knew what to do with. I had to learn to work within the bounds of what was reasonable/possible with my current resources.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
I would definitely consider re-recording for the album version with a live band all in the same room. I’m using this single to recruit members for such a band, so another version of Chasing the Bull, might be on the horizon.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I’m releasing a music video shortly after I release the song, and I’m lining-up a few live shows and recruiting a band to play these shows with me. I also plan to record more songs with similar themes and tones to go with Chasing the Bull on an album.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
This single is my first release, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this leads to and what kind of momentum I can build as I start to establish myself as a musical-artist. I am grateful to be able to make my art and I always appreciate when people enjoy it and when people use it as a part of their own art.