ABBEY ROAD, FAT MIKE AND THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK: AN INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA SILBERMAN
In early November Vanessa Silberman was in San Francisco to record some tracks for an upcoming ep and for a concert at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. I got the opportunity to sit down with her and talk with her about some of her experiences, favorite vegan hangs, and her upcoming ep.
SB: I learned that you’re vegan during your last tour. Have you ever been to Crossroads?
VS: I haven’t. I tried to go once, I had heard about it for a few years and it was closed. Me and a few of my friends we went to try to get some food there but that evening we got there it was closed for the night already. But, I’ve heard its amazing.
VS: What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants? I love Café Gratitude, which, they have that in LA and here. There’s a place, I think it’s called Millennium, and it’s in Berkeley, I think it used to be in SF, and the owners re-opened it, I think its Oakland/Berkeley on College and it’s amazing. Some other places I eat a lot, especially on the road are Whole Foods and if you’re on the road, I don’t know, I tend to go to a lot of grocery stores, because then you can make salads and stuff like that. Let’s see there also a few other grocery type stores that have really good healthy food. I guess in LA there’s one called Lassens. It a grocery store, kind of similar to Whole Foods and they do a lot of different vegan options, sandwiches and wraps and smoothies and pre-made stuff, raw food. There’s also another place I like that’s called Erewhon, which I really like a lot. If you’re a band on a budget and looking for something and there’s only fast food places I tend to eat at Chipotle or I’ve done Subway a couple of times. How about you, do you have any favorite places?
SB: Um, well there is a new place that just opened in Santa Cruz, it’s called Veg on the Edge, it’s West African.
VS: OMG, I love Ethiopian, is that similar?
SB: It’s a little different, One of the guys that owns the place is Nigerian. They (will soon) have Jallof rice, it’s a really spicy rice, and he (the owner) was saying that West African meals are easier make vegan than Ethiopian meals because they don’t use milk, whereas Ethiopian meals use dairy. It’s a really great restaurant. The next time you’re in Santa Cruz you should check it out.
VS: I’d love to, you know the last time when we were in Santa Cruz we ate at the Saturn Cafe. We liked it. Actually all of us went. Carissa, Mikel, Reed.
SB: You grew up in Berkeley?
VS: Yeah, Partly close to Berkeley. I was born in Berkeley, actually.
SB: What were some of you favorite clubs to go to see live music growing up?
VS: Growing up, I went to the Gilman a couple of times, like when I was in high school. But mainly, when I was going to school here it was a lot of punk shows at community centers or at school or at kind of random places. Just being younger and under age, you know I had friends and they kind of tended to pull it together you know more community center all age shows. But, like I mentioned I did go to the Gilman a couple of times and to some of the larger concerts. When the radio station Kamp KOME used to be around you know they had what now is the substitution for what they have now, the BFD from Live 105. One of those big festivals, you know Shoreline Amphitheater kinda thing.
‘I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people.’
SB: Why did you move to LA?
VS: For music. Yeah, I always, since I was pretty young knew I wanted to be in and go to LA. I just knew that it was going to kinda be part of my path and I just felt kind of drawn to it, and the entertainment world. Actually I ended up going to school in Sedona, you know my last year in high school but I didn’t really complete it. So, I got my GED and got into a music school in LA, and part of like you know growing up with parents and you know what parents might suggest to their kid about having some kind of backup path or plan, and I was just like I’m just going to go and do music and go there but at least do some form of school to get yourself kind of figured out and do some form of constructive stuff without just aimlessly going there you know. I went to a school there called Musician’s Institute and I did some guitar for a few months and then ‘intro to the music business’ and artist development kind of program and to me it was like, “alright you know if I’m going to make the money until I’m a successful musician I’ll just get a job in the music business”, so that was my whole concept of going to LA.
SB: Can you talk a little about the work you’re doing now in the studio?
VS: Sure, myself and Reed Mullin from Corrosion of Conformity and Mikel Ross, they recently kind of started backing me under the last year as the Vanessa Silberman band and so we started touring together. They were fans of my music and what I’d been doing and we all actually met when I was a recording in-house assistant at 606, so I kinda knew them for a while and we toured on some of these songs and some of these songs we really knew and so right now we’re recording some songs and we’ve been working on the drums and they’re pretty rock and raw and I feel from what some people have said some of the best songwriting material that I’ve probably put together so far. It’s really cool to have these guys. They’re a real solid rhythm section, super supportive you know with my music and they’re also fun to collaborate and I think that’s part of why I’m doing solo music, because you know I had a band for about 12 or 13 years before but with solo music you know it kind of allows you to do a lot of different things and a lot of flexibility you know to work with different people and to try different things out you know and I just really wanted that you know and right now we’re just trying to get the songs as best as possible. I really want these songs to make a difference in my life and a lot of other people. I really want to bring a lot of positivity and hope through the songs you know the songs are pretty personal.
SB: Do you plan on performing more states together as a group in 2018?
VS: Oh, definitely yeah. You know, we’ve been talking and we have some plans in the works for SXSW, and I think we all want to do more shows so (we’re) indefinitely planning it out and just continuing to discuss it. But, I think for right now we’ve got some stuff in the works, there will be a single and music video coming out which actually is a song we actually recorded on an off day on our first tour that we did together in March. The song is called OK, and we’re going to be putting that out soon so people will kind of get a feel or an introduction to what that will be. But right now we’re just trying to focus on trying to get the best songs we can recorded and quickly after we’ll solidify our plans.
SB: When do you expect the new record to come out? What label are you currently with?
VS: I have my current artist development label you know that I’ve released my own music on and worked with other bands. I’m also an independent A & R. So, thus far I’ve put out my own music. But, I’m definitely looking and we’ve been talking and I want to team up with some other label for the release so I think we’ll be trying to figure that out for early 2018. No exact date yet, but definitely early 2018 for the ep.
SB: Can you talk about the women’s songwriting workshop (Girls Rock Santa Barbara) where you were a participant in Santa Barbara this year?
VS: Yeah, actually myself and Carissa Johnson, who opened up for us on our West Coast tour, we did that workshop (where) we played few songs and then we did Q&A, but actually with the whole artist development thing and my label that I do (A Diamond Heart Production) in addition to recording and being an artist, Carissa kind of does some of the same stuff. She has a company called Fuel Heart Productions and so A Diamond Heart and Fuel Heart kind of came together to offer a workshop for not just women, but everyone and all ages where it covers everything. I do consulting and sometimes with my label, (I) help bands come up with release plans or you know sometimes people don’t know their next step and its so helpful to have, say an artist or someone who has a hand in the business but has both views to help figure out what the next step is or it could literally be anything. I’ve worn every hat as far as releasing. Sometimes people don’t know if ‘I’m supposed to tour?’ or ‘am I supposed to release my music first?’ or ‘how do you go about booking?’. The fact is, a little over two years ago I completely started from scratch with all of my experience, I started touring solo and I played somewhere around 330 shows or something, so I can tell someone, ‘Ok, this is the experience I’ve had’. Carissa’s been touring a lot she’s also really big in her scene on the east coast. So we have two views, one view from the west coast, one view from the east coast. Someone who’s a little bit younger, someone who’s been around in the business a bit longer and maybe had different jobs but we both can give each other a fresh perspective for the audience to see and hear about, especially building from a beginning artist stage and up. Also (it’s about) building a team. Carissa helps beginning bands on the east coast. That’s pretty much what we’re doing and we’ll be doing that more and building that more. I think it’s really cool, you know, when I was an artist just starting out I’d have someone who had experience, (and) who’s already doing stuff to have some ideas to help to know where to go next. That whole thing was really helpful for me whenever someone helped me so to be able to offer that I think that is something valuable for a lot of artists.
‘After I’d had this conversation with him (Fat Mike) I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing’
SB: Can you talk about the song ‘American Folk Rock’?
VS: There’s a lot of interesting back stories for that song. One, was that the song was inspired by when I was working as an Assistant Engineer, there was a period of about 3 months where I was working every single day and I’d been trying to go to Joshua Tree for a long time, through the desert and I just hadn’t had the chance and randomly one weekend we had a session where we were going to record that day. A week before I was assisting on a session with Fat Mike who started Fat Wreck Chords and we were talking about female bands and success and stuff and he was mentioning why there weren’t more female bands that were successful and he was like ‘Every female musician should go and buy Abbey Road’. After I’d had this conversation with him I remember getting the record and when I went out to Joshua Tree, I decided to spend the night there and I spent a lot of time listening to Abbey Road and writing and so the first line in American Folk Rock I mention Abbey Road and that was one part of the thought, but the rest of the song is extremely personal and (was about) times when I was feeling lonely. The other back story about that song is that it was recorded in South Africa when I did a producing label project with this recording studio called BOP Recording Studios and it was this old label connected to this big studio out there in northern South Africa in this region previously known as Bopa Botswana in this place called Mafikeng and I basically went out there to find an artist, group or band to do a singles project and I ended up finding a hip hop group and writing with a bunch of artists from that region and when I was there on the last day I had the chance to record this song and I did it in a live room with one microphone and it was kind of like a nod to old country blues artists where you can have the most expensive studio in the whole world and just use one microphone with the hopes that it would capture a song in a simple form and where I wanted to do stuff like that with my most recent ep. You know, I’ve got this incredible studio where American Folk Rock was done with just one mic and another song for example like Shine you know where I did some recording of the vocals in a bathroom and recorded everything pretty much in a box. So, I just wanted to show a bunch of diversity and American Folk Rock was different from anything I’d put out before in my prior material.