Our resident punk expert John B. Moore gets the lowdown from Will Georgantas.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Since Thunderegg’s first release, Larry, going all the way back to 1994, nearly 20 musicians have taken their turn playing and singing alongside Will Georgantas. At times, the band was just Georgantas and a four-track inside his Brooklyn apartment; between ’94 and 2013, twenty albums appeared under the Thunderegg name, including eight that were initially cassette-only along with several outtakes collections and compilations
For C’mon Thunder, his latest, and a digital only release, he drafted former and current members of Sparklehorse and Ben Folds Five to pull together the 14 tracks that make up this record. The collection of songs covers universal feelings of loss and love, while managing to be both melancholy and optimistic at the same time.
Prepping for an end of summer tour alongside fellow San Francisco musician KC Turner, Georgantas was cool enough to indulge Blurt with a few questions (while somehow connecting the dots between Hall & Oates and Hawkwind).
BLURT: So Thunderegg – as a band – has always been kind of fluid. I think I have counted more than a dozen members that have played on your records. Who played with you on C’mon Thunder?
GEORGANTAS: It’s mainly me and Alan Weatherhead in Richmond, with Miguel Urbiztondo and Darren Jessee on drums. Al and Miguel used to be in Sparklehorse’s touring band, and Al and Darren also record and play as Hotel Lights. Darren’s also the drummer for the Ben Folds Five.
You’ve been particularly prolific over the past couple of years. What do you attribute that to? Great inspiration and focus or just making more time to write and record?
Since the beginning I’ve tried to put out an album a year – if you have a day job, you want a steady output or else you might panic and wonder if you’re a musician at all. My mom had been sick from 2007 to 2009, though, and during that time I wasn’t writing a lot of music. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I was focusing more on her and my dad. After she died I got back into it. I don’t know if it was inspiration and focus, or just a backlog. But it came from a good place. My mom dug Thunderegg, and it would’ve made her happy that I was still plugging away.
These songs were recorded in Virginia. Have you relocated there or are you still in San Francisco?
Richmond is great but I’ve never lived there—I was driving down from Brooklyn, where the songs were written. Then I moved to San Francisco while Al, who’s originally from Milwaukee, was mixing it. Then it got mastered in Boston. I’m not totally sure but I think the discs were manufactured in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The storm on the cover is in upstate New York.
Can you talk a little bit about this new record? Is there a theme that ties these songs together or am I looking too much into that?
Most of the songs I’ve written are about relationships, but this time maybe there’s more urgency, more of a sense that time is passing and that it’s getting more important to try to make things stick. I think I was watching things ending, people breaking up and even dying, and I wanted to take a stand for permanence. Even though in some ways I had never quite managed to experience it myself, I wished I could, and a lot of the time songs end up being about what you hope for.
Can you talk for a minute about how the song “Summer Kids” came about?
I’d been living in Brooklyn for fifteen years, but all around me I’d see these kids who’d just moved there, clearly didn’t know anything, and still seemed wiser than me. The summer kids are like this Greek chorus of hipsters. If you’re seeking validation from them, that’s when you’re old. If you don’t worry about it and do your own thing, maybe then there’s hope for you. Maybe you’re cool. Maybe you’ve transcended cool.
Were you listening to anything specific during the period you were writing this record that had any influence on it?
I was really into “Witchi-tai-to,” this amazing groove by Jim Pepper, a Creek/Kaw saxophone player. Its repetitiveness may have had an influence on “Summer Kids,” along with “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz. I was playing Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates a lot, too. Plus plenty of Hawkwind. Always plenty of Hawkwind. I remember Al listening to Mickey Newbury, Willie Wright, and sixties Al Stewart and eighties Phil Lynott solo records at the time. And of course Joel Plaskett. Then periodically we’d take a break and watch the video for “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n the Tears. [Bravo! A favorite around here—feel free to read our interview from a couple of years ago with band founder Paul Roberts, then check out the aforementioned video below. –Sniff ‘n Fan Ed.]
You’ve recorded and performed both alone and with a full band. Do you prefer having a complete band behind you or does it just depend on the songs you are writing at the time?
It depends. I’ll always like being the solitary four-tracker. There was a cool period back east when we had a six-piece with pedal steel and trumpet. When I moved to San Francisco I didn’t know anyone and played solo acoustic a lot, and now we have a good four-piece band there. The more flexible your lineup is, the more you can play.
Now that C’mon Thunder is done, what’s next for you?
I’ll be doing a cross-country acoustic tour with a fellow San Francisco singer-songwriter, KC Turner, in August. In September the band is recording a seven-inch at Tiny Telephone. It’ll be cool because it’ll be all analog. Other than that, I’ll be trying to come up with a new batch of songs. I don’t have anything for 2015 yet.
On the web: http://www.thunderegg.org/