Our guests this week on the Art of the Song Coffee Break are Laila Garsys, Mike Trella and Pat Manella of the band Short Sleeve Heart.
Want to listen to the full interview with music? Listen on our podcast here now: http://traffic.libsyn.com/standingoproject/Short_Sleeve_Heart_Podcast.mp3
Katie: I am sitting here with Short Sleeve Heart with Laila (pronounced Lila) Garsys, Mike Trella, and Pat Manella. Am I saying those correctly?
Mike: Just remember the rhyme it makes it easier.
Katie: Yeah, we had this whole debate about Laila’s name.
Mike: Laila “not Eric Clapton” Garsys. That might be confusing.
Katie: Not the one, but it gets stuck in your head there. So, welcome guys, it’s really great to have you on the podcast.
Mike: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I was really impressed when I first saw you guys at the BMI showcase event a few months ago and so it was a great pleasure to see you perform there at Genghis Cohen and I also saw you guys bring down the house at Hotel Cafe, which was really cool for me. You guys played right before Slings & Arrows too, who I actually also happened to interview.
Mike: Those guys are cool. We got to chat with them for quite a while.
Katie: You guys brought down the house though too, you guys just rocked it. It was really a pleasure. And that was your first time playing there as well, right?
Katie: Oh man. And you guys have only been together since Spring 2015.
Mike: That’s me and Laila and we found Pat, really the band as a full band, because we were actually started, it was Laila, a cellist named Isaiah, and myself, that were playing for quite a while just as a trio as we were kind of getting the project together. Then we found Pat somewhere.
Laila: Later that summer.
Mike: Picked him up on the side of the road in August.
Katie: Just a wayfaring stranger.
Pat: August 2015.
Mike: About a year and a half we’ve been playing together.
Katie: And you guys have already had a lot of amazing success, which we’re going to get into in a little bit. But let’s go back and talk about how you guys originally came together and decided to form Short Sleeve Heart.
Mike: Sure. Well, we actually all are from the East Coast. We all met in LA. We all actually moved here from New York. They’re both from upstate. I was living in Brooklyn and I moved out here to work for a film company, I score movies, and I had been trying to find some musicians to perform some of the music. I’ve been playing in a band nonstop since I was 15 and it was the first time I wasn’t really in a band and I was just really more focused on that and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through it again because I’d been through so many bands at that point. I started playing with Isaiah, he was good at arranging strings, and we started writing together and that was the exception. We played with a couple of different singers and a couple of different band formations, but nothing was really a real band, we just kind of did events and my sister is big into yoga and she’d been taking a yoga class down the street and she kept telling me about this amazing singer who played acoustic and sang during yoga classes and that was Laila. It was probably for like four months she was like “Oh you got to meet this girl Laila” and I was like “Ok, cool”, I was kind of half listening to her. Finally she set it up and we met and Laila came over to my place and we started jamming. It was weird, I had no idea what you were into or what to expect so I was just playing random score stuff I was doing and things and I think you were just giving me lukewarm reception to that. Then, I think I played you a song that I had written with Politicks too called “A Little Love, A Little Time” and you’re like, “Oh this is dope” and I think we played it and you started singing it. That was the first time I really heard Laila’s voice and I was like “Man, this is a rare voice”. Then that was it. I had already booked a show at this venue behind The Mint, what the hell is the name of that venue? The Mid-City Lounge, I think is what it’s called?
Laila: Actually yeah.
Mike: It’s just this tiny little room behind The Mint and it was my birthday so I booked a show but I didn’t really have a band.
Katie: Good way to spend your birthday.
Laila: We actually went by your old band’s name. By Politicks. Because we didn’t have a name at that time.
Mike: So I had given her a bunch of songs I had done with other bands and it was just me, you and Isaiah, right? And we played and I think it was three weeks before the show that you had to learn the songs and I learned some of your songs and that was the start of it. We probably played with Isaiah like that for four or five months or so until we’re like, “You know, there’s too much potential. We can’t just be this little acoustic trio. We wanted it to be a bigger band and started looking for a rhythm section and that’s when we met Pat.
Katie: Cool. Alright, so I want to touch on something really quickly. You (Laila) taught yoga as well and you sang in your yoga classes, how did that come about? I want to know because I’ve never heard of that before and I absolutely love it.
Mike: It’s an L.A. thing.
Laila: It’s definitely an L.A. thing for sure. I came to LA having two great loves of mine and, in no particular order, yoga and music. I found myself working at a studio that I knew had interest in offering these live music classes. I had done a little bit before for some friends that had owned their own studio in other places that I had lived and it had usually gone really well, but contrary to performing I’m actually really shy and had to be talked into it a little bit. Being in LA, I thought that it was a really unique way to connect with people and when I first moved here, I was still beginning my journey as a yoga teacher and really beginning, for me, the journey of actually taking music seriously. So I came there with the attitude of just being open-minded and knowing that things happen in the weirdest ways and had you told me that I would find my future bandmates through a yoga class, I would’ve told you that you are probably crazy.
Katie: I feel like that’s the LA way though.
Laila: But it was really cool and really great and it was a really great way to really test out my sound at that point. Even when I first came to LA, I didn’t even know what my voice was. I was still really figuring that out and I had primarily played covers and stayed in the safety zone of that so making a decision to move forward with this project with Mike was really a first for me in many ways and still is. Everything that we’re doing. My first real recording experience was the first time we recorded in Las Vegas working with Cactus. The first time I really went on tour and opened for a band was Joe Walsh.
Katie: Wow. That’s incredible. That’s insane. You just dove right in.
Laila: Yeah, I think when I finally put the foot down and was like “Alright, I’m going to do this” and it didn’t matter how much fear was holding me back. This was it. I’m here. This is probably the one chance I have so I’m just going to do it and I was really fortunate to meet Mike and that we’re both very ambitious, very driven, very visionary people as far as what we want to do and what we want to create. I think that open-mindedness allowed me to be in a situation that presented itself with this really unique creative opportunity and speaks a lot about our band especially knowing how we started as a trio and to see all the different generations and evolutions of our band thus far. Even from that time to present day.
Katie: I would say that, given that description, and your emphasis on open-mindedness, it doesn’t seem so surprising to me that this formed through a yoga connection. I think that they’re not that distantly linked.
Laila: For sure, as we say, “Everything’s connected”, right?
Katie: Absolutely. So, Pat, I want to know a little bit about your background before coming to the band here.
Pat: Well, I’m from Buffalo, New York.
Katie: My parents are living there now.
Mike: Is that right? Mine are from Rochester.
Pat: Buffalo connection. It’s a good place.
Mike: What brought your parents to Buffalo?
Katie: Everyone asks it like that too. They actually love it there.
Pat: Of course. Buffalo is a great place to live, even though I don’t live there currently, but it is a great place to live. It’s why I am who I am today is because of Buffalo.
Katie: Whoa. Talk about that a little bit.
Pat: Well, it’s just so rich in music. A lot of people don’t understand that.
Mike: What bands or what artists are from there?
Pat: The biggest artist that I can think of was Rick James. He’s from Buffalo and he’s buried in Buffalo.
Laila: Ani DiFranco.
Katie: Yeah, I was just thinking Ani DiFranco too.
Pat: The Goo Goo dolls are from Buffalo. Moe, the band Moe. The jam band, dance scene. Yeah, so there’s a lot of music out of Buffalo.
Katie: So you got really involved in music there.
Pat: Got really involved in the music scene there and it just made me a good musician and just playing with some of the best musicians in Buffalo. Eventually, I wanted to move to L.A. just to see what else is out there and I actually ended up joining a band in LA, that’s how I moved here. It didn’t last very long. It lasted about six weeks. So it actually ended up being a pretty negative experience with that band but it got me out here and then a couple months later I met Mike and Laila so it actually all worked out for the best. Kind of weird.
Katie: Is it the website that you’ve got on your Facebook profile? I’m sorry, social media makes it very easy to stalk all of you.
Pat: So you did your stalking? What did you find?
Katie: There was some other band’s website on your profile link but it was a completely different style of music and I thought that was really interesting. Something with an M.
Pat: It’s funny that you say that. It shouldn’t be on there and I don’t know how to take it off.
Katie: Ok, because I was looking at this and I was like, “I don’t see where he is on this.”
Pat: What is it on? Did you look at it on your phone?
Katie: No I looked at it on my computer.
Mike: Which website?
Pat: I don’t think it’s their website, I’ll show you later.
Mike: But how did she find it?
Katie: It’s on Facebook.
Pat: It’s on Facebook that I worked for them.
Mike: You don’t know how to get this off?
Pat: I tried, but I’m telling you.
Mike: You can do it.
Pat: I’m going to have to ask what you went to.
Katie: I’ll send it.
Pat: Was it on the first page or did you… you went in.
Katie: I went down the rabbit hole guys.
Pat: It’s not just on the page.
Katie: It’s buried in the About. But I couldn’t find you on it, so I was like, “Hmm I wonder if they severed ties?” But it was such a different style and I was like “Wow, you went way off the rails here”.
Pat: They’re more like heavy metal. Not quite heavy metal, but darker music.
Katie: So have you experimented with different musical styles since Buffalo is so eclectic?
Pat: Yep. Way back, one of my first bands ever, right out of high school, it was a heavier, darker industrial rock type of music. Then after that I went to the jam music scene and after that more rock, indie-rock/pop stuff. Then I played gospel music before at churches. I’ve done musicals. Just throw everything at me so I can learn it and it makes me more of a versatile musician.
Katie: So you’re the crockpot musician here.
Pat: So I come to LA and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I play this type. I play this type” and it helps you get jobs and network.
Katie: How did you meet these guys then beyond just picking you up on the side of the road?
Pat: Met them on Craigslist, sorry.
Laila: Speaking of stalking.
Katie: No, you guys are the second people who met that way.
Pat: Sometimes it works.
Mike: We were all so new here and the thing with LA is that everybody’s that’s been here for a while, you’re part of a scene and a ton of guys that are out here that we’ve found that played with so many bands, the really good players just play in so many projects. So it’s hard to find somebody that’s really good that’s been here for a while and then there’s a lot of people that are maybe a little more on the novice side that don’t quite work. They’re new here. So we got lucky in the sense that we were able to find people. We were all new to the area at that time. So we were able to find a really great drummer without him being too entrenched in the scene to the point where he’s already playing.
Pat: Because I don’t know anybody.
Mike: I would say 9 out of the 10 musicians you meet in LA, they’re really good but they’re so busy. There are good musicians here, you just have to do a million things and stay busy.
Katie: And also make money.
Laila: Wait, they do that?
Katie: People actually make money?
Pat: I’ve heard about this.
Katie: People that make money are like the magical unicorn.
Mike: They’re doing cover bands. They’re doing session gigs. They’re doing church gigs. The guys that I know that are doing music full-time they’re doing it all. They’re hustling hard, so it’s hard for them to be in an original band that’s trying to make it as an original band and focus on it. That’s been an ongoing struggle for us I think in rounding out the band that we’ve been dealing with for a little time. It’s difficult.
Katie: You guys were just talking about looking for a bass player too and the struggle with that as well.
Mike: Yeah, we’ve been through a few. They’re all great guys, they’re all great players and, for various reasons, I’d say most of it has been exactly as I said. It’s guys that are just entrenched in the scene, they’re playing with so many different projects that they don’t have time. To be in a great band that wants to make it, it takes a lot of practice and a lot of dedication at a time. That’s hard. That’s hard in LA. The pros and cons of LA is if you’re in an area like Buffalo, you might find guys that are more willing to commit that time because it’s not as competitive. Here it’s like there’s so much competition that trying to find people that will dedicate their time to a project is tough.
Katie: Yeah, and I would imagine it’s not just the competition, but it’s also the sort of ADD culture as well. I would imagine it would be difficult to find that fidelity.
Mike: LA, there’s a different mindset here.
Katie: Have you guys been able to find a decent sense of community here in LA?
Mike: We’re trying.
Laila: Working on it.
Mike: I think one thing that’s helping is for the first year/year and a half of this band we were all kind of scattered throughout the city and we all made the decision if we’re really going to go for it that we get a band house. So the three of us live in a place in Studio City.
Katie: Dude. That’s awesome.
Mike: We found a really amazing house that’s in Studio City that’s just enormous with a huge backyard and it’s got huge cathedral ceilings and a live room, the control room that connects to it. So we have a full studio, a nice recording spot, live practice spot there so we can all practice pretty much whenever we want. Also that enabled us to really go out together a little more, try to find that community. Meeting people like you, meeting people at different events we’ve been going too, we’re starting to find it a little more. We know that there’s a thirst for it. We know there’s a lot of people here that are looking for that sense of community, but it’s scary. I think it’s scary for a lot of artists here. I’ve talked to so many people that are just like, “I just don’t know how to get into the community”. I remember talking to some guy at the BMI showcase and he’s like, “I came here because I’m just trying to figure out how to meet people” because I think there is little pockets of it but, again, there’s pockets that have been together for a long time that have already been established.
Katie: But I think it helps when you start as a community within yourselves so taking that initiative to actually get your own band house and be able to write and be around and be supportive for each other through this journey, I think that that’s not a step that a lot of people take. So good on you guys.
Mike: We have the space and we have our little fifth or sixth Beatle in our band, our buddy Jake, who’s our filmographer. He’s got a production studio out back so we have a big garage out back that he’s turned into a video-editing suite.
Pat: He’s been a huge resource for us. Part of our team.
Mike: He’s part of us for sure and we’re actually inviting bands that we’re friends with over to film them and record some songs and we want to use that as a way to bring the community a little bit and start doing that. So something that we’re really focused on is to be active in the community and be part of it and at some point you just kind of got to realize you just got to start it yourself. It’s hard to butt your way into the little pockets that already around here.
Pat: Especially when you’re not from here.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. That’s the hard thing. I’m from outside of DC and when I was 21/22 in that area it was easy to just draw hundreds of people to the shows because we were all from the area, we went to high school there, and we just had a huge network of people. You move to LA and that goes away.
Pat: Just like that *snaps fingers*. It’s gone.
Mike: It’s hard. It’s a whole other level of trying. In most ways it feels like starting over, other than you have a lot more experience. You’re starting here in LA…
Katie: …at ground zero.
Mike: Yeah, you are at ground zero trying to build things.
Katie: Yeah, and just getting people to come out in general to shows is a complaint that I hear a lot.
Mike: You have so much more competition.
Katie: Oh, it’s a bigger affair. You got to get people to find parking and they got to be able to muddle through traffic for like an hour.
Mike: And there’s so many things to do. There’s never a shortage in LA of events, of parties, of everything competing.
Pat: In Buffalo, everything’s ten to twenty minutes away, with traffic.
Mike: For all of us, there’s just less competition. There would be a couple venues where I grew up, that if you were playing one of those venues everybody was going to come because that was…
Pat: It was the place to be.
Mike: It’s hard.
Pat: It’s been a learning process for sure.
Mike: There are a lot of people I know, they’d love to come out and see you. There are so many great bands here and I’ve seen so many bands that struggle with it because, again, it’s hard. It’s difficult to get people to come out, which is why I think building the community and booking shows with artists you’re friends with, you can promote together, is a really good way to go about it because it’s not the way that I think a lot of the clubs and booking agents do. They just book a bunch of bands that don’t know each other and put them on a show and I tell booking agents, “Why don’t we try to book something where we all know each other and make it a show that’s better for everybody?”
Katie: It’s better for everyone and you guys have that familiarity with each other and that rapport and I think the audience can sense that too.
Mike: And your fans are more likely, if you’re promoting your friends band, it’s more likely that you get that crossover. If you’re relying on just your internal friends and family and such to come out to your show, it’s only going to grow so far. You have to be playing for other band’s audiences in order to have any chance of growing that brand.
Katie: Absolutely. So speaking of that relationship too, you were saying about your friendship with Joe Walsh and how that turned into you guys opening for freaking Joe Walsh as a new band. Talk to me a little about that experience.
Mike: I work for a film company, so that’s what brought me out to LA, and the second film that I was working on out here, he performed some of the original music on it and became really involved in the cause of it and it allowed me to be introduced to it and collaborate and it grew into a friendship. He invited us, we were out at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, which, it’s funny, it’s in the middle of Arkansas and we we’re all thinking like, “What’s this going to be like, hauling out to the middle of Arkansas?” Bentonville is one of the coolest, most progressive cities; I don’t even know if it’s called a city, a town, you’ve ever been to. So they have a film festival there and even though its put on my Wal-Mart….. Wal-Mart is centered there so it’s actually the Wal-Mart capital. It’s a city built on Wal-Mart.
Katie: Really? That’s so funny.
Laila: It’s everything you wouldn’t think it would be.
Mike: It’s the opposite of what you would think. The film festival is a film festival is empowerment for females, minorities, so all the films feature female minority directors or actors and our film was one of the films that was featured there and Joe agreed to headline a show for the film festival as part of promoting our film so we get to go there and open and we played another show for the film festival there. Got to hang out. It was cool. Such an idyllic little town. Kind of an oasis in the Midwest.
Mike: I don’t know if I’ve seen this in LA, we went to a number of restaurants where all the bathrooms had half a guy and half a girl and it said “Whatever”.
Pat: In Arkansas.
Mike: It was so progressive. The whole town was so progressive. It was cool. It was the opposite of what you think. It was a super cool experience. It probably the smallest club for Joe. Joe’s used to…went and saw him at The Forum a couple months ago and Ringo got up on stage and played with him.
Pat: It was pretty cool.
Mike: And we played with him in this venue that held probably, what, 500 people? And it was packed. They actually had a line down the street for an entire day and most of those people couldn’t even get in because the tickets were already pre-sold before that. So it was really cool. That was definitely a big highlight of the year.
Katie: Absolutely. So which film was that? Because you guys worked on two films, right? Citizen Solider and Danger Close?
Mike: Yes, Short Sleeve Heart did. Those are both films that I scored and then, as a band, we did a couple songs for each film that are in the credits and in the body of the film.
Katie: How is that experience composing for a film versus composing music as a band? What is that writing process like and how is it different for you?
Mike: The first one we did was “We are Ghosts” and I think it was good for us because that one actually got written before for Danger Close, which comes out this May in theaters. Citizen Solider actually came out this past August. But we wrote “We Are Ghosts” before we wrote anything else. I think it was good. With film, I don’t want to say it’s sometimes easier, but you have such a clear directive that I think writing lyrics, writing the music, I already have a pretty clear idea of what they’re looking for and there’s already points of reference for what they’re looking for so you don’t have this blank canvas to paint with, you have very clear direction. So, to me, it makes the creative process a little more streamlined and a little, easier is not the right word, but I think that it’s more direction. I little more efficient.
Katie: Just a little more structured. It’s sort of the difference between waiting for a muse and getting up every day and having to write every morning something out.
Mike: To me, two of our most popular recordings have been some of the songs we’ve written for films. Torch Part 2 was a song we wrote for Citizen Soldier.
Katie: And you guys just had a great video out about that by the way. Just to plug that.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Our director, Gala, did an amazing job. That was a really fun experience we had this past summer and we can actually officially say that song was short-listed for an Oscar this year for best song. The nominations came out today and we were not nominated.
Katie: Oh my gosh! But you guys were short-listed, which is really cool. Congratulations.
Mike: We were up against La La Land.
Katie: No kidding. Guys, congratulations, that’s really cool.
Pat: It was really cool.
Mike: So that’s been a cool process to go through. We didn’t go through for Danger Close, but we got to have the whole experience of doing the whole Oscar campaign and playing music for the voting committee and all that. That was a trip. I’ve always been such a big film fan my whole life and a movie nerd so it’s cool to all the sudden be in the process a little bit.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely, and get to combine those loves. Can we talk a little bit about Torch Pt. 2 and why you guys decided to do a Torch Pt. 1 and a Torch Pt. 2?
Mike: Oh man, I’m trying to think about where I came up with it. Obviously, Torch Pt. 1 was the first one we wrote because it’d be weird to write the part 2 first.
Pat: And it was just Torch. A little secret.
Katie: Did you guys all start writing this together, by the way? Or did someone come up with the lyrics, brought it to the group?
Mike: These ones were super collaborative. I think both of them. I remember you (Laila), Isaiah, and myself sitting in your apartment working on Torch Pt. 2. I know that I had the opening to it and some different ideas and I knew that it was going to be a Torch Pt. 2 because there is sort of a thematic tie between the two even though there’s less of musical tie. That might be one of the most collaborative songs, I think, I’ve ever been involved with because it was literally all of us, even within the verses, some of us wrote different lines, we all three of us wrote different lyrics to it, different musical parts. That’s pretty rare, I think, for most songs. Even though we all write. “We Are Ghosts” was more typical where I had the music put together and the lyrics and then Laila came in and arranged the melodies for the lyrics and that one was a little bit more of normal process whereas Torch was a bit of an abnormality in the sense that it was very collaborative and Torch 1 was the same way too because our producers, so our newest album, we were working with a producer named Cactus Moser, who is the husband and drummer for country legend Wynonna Judd, and I became really good friends with them on the first film I did “The Hornet’s Nest” and me and Cactus have been collaborating on each film. He’s just become actually one of my best buddies and he just got done building this awesome studio on their ranch in Nashville and they’re creating this whole vision they have where they’re going to bring artists and they’re creating a compound where it’s all self-sufficient where they’re going to have living spaces and food and everything for the artists right there and they’re going to come in and record. It’s really cool. So we became the first band to go down there and experience that. So we just got done doing our new album down there. But our first recording, your (Laila’s) first recording experience in the studio, they were doing, the Judd’s, it was the first time the Judd’s had playing in years and they were doing the Vegas thing in two weeks and Cactus was out there and we were working on some stuff, the first real Short Sleeve Heart official recordings and we rented a studio out in Vegas so we could work with Cactus on it. We had Torch 1 and we had the song put together and Cactus was like, “You know, I don’t know about the chorus.” He kept calling it, “It’s like a throwaway chorus. It’s too bar blues-band-y kind of thing.” So he was actually the one that came up with the chorus melody for that song. It was another one where we all wrote different parts of it. So the torch saga was kind o unique in the songwriting process. Then it was super collaborative with a lot of different people.
Katie: That’s intense. You’re thrown right into it. Especially you have never recorded before. Directing my question at Laila right now. But you had never recorded before and what was that like to just have to be thrown right into there? Talk a little bit about that, especially since both of you (Pat and Mike) had recorded before.
Laila: Yeah, I think the approach I try to take with a lot of things, especially if I’ve never done it, is, ‘Keep your ears open and your mouth closed and just observe and take it all in’. I really just was a giant sponge the whole time. Learning about the process, even just learning about soundboards and mixes and what wires to plug in where. I mean, Jesus, really before this band I didn’t even know how to set up a PA or… I’ll spare myself the embarrassment, but a lot of things that most musicians in LA should definitely know. But, again, that experience being there, I didn’t find it overwhelming. I just was there for a vision and I wanted to leave there feeling like I put my best foot forward. Parts of it were terrifying. I remember the first time I had to go into the recording room myself and put the headphones on and ask, “Hey, which mic do I even sing into?” How do I do this? It’s just you’re learning on the fly, but I think in a lot of ways, it was probably a good thing because I was far better able to take direction because there weren’t any preconceived notions to it and, again, just being open to different melodies. Trying this out. Trying that. It really just shaped my eyes in regards to, “Ok, what things worked for me, what things didn’t work, how can I better prepare for my next experience?” I feel really fortunate that growing up, my mom was a very renowned theater and drama teacher in my hometown and I grew up having to perform and when those stage lights turn on, when that first note hits, you just go, you do it, you don’t think about it at all. That’s how I’ve been taking these experiences.
Katie: I’m curious too because you were saying before that when you moved to LA, you weren’t even sure that you had really found your voice yet, did you find your voice during the recording process as well?
Laila: That’s a great question. I can genuinely say I don’t think I found my voice until I recently recorded in Nashville in 2016. Fully.
Katie: That’s encouragement though because I think a lot of people they go out there and they think they have to have their voice perfected right when they hit the rails, but it seems like it’s a long crafting process and I think that is really intriguing.
Mike: Which was an arduous time to find your voice.
Laila: I know. It was.
Mike: Do you mind talking about that?
Laila: For sure.
Mike: Nashville was crazy because, I’ll preface it really quick and then I’ll let her tell the story, so first of all, we were going to record with Cactus under our production deal with him, which was really exciting for us…
Pat: For the first time.
Mike: It was the first time where it was getting funded. We weren’t paying or anything to go to Nashville. We were staying this amazing house, but it was actually because our buddy Jake we were talking about, his production company is making, in the process, a TV pilot about the band.
Mike: So we’ve been being filmed.
Katie: Man, you guys have many amazing things going on.
Mike: Lots of weird things.
Laila: We’re really bored.
Katie: Are you kidding me? This is insane.
Mike: So we’ve actually been being filmed since August for this pilot and so they paid for us to go to Nashville and record with Cactus. So we had a week there so the stakes are pretty high. It’s the first time in Nashville, in a production deal, filming for this TV show.
Katie: Pretty nerve-wracking, by the way.
Mike: Laila had about the worst possible timing of some major health things happen. Hers was way worse than mine, but the same thing I’m just getting over, which was some major dental things happening.
Laila: A day or so before we had left, I noticed that my neck and my jaw were just getting tighter and tighter. To keep a super long story short, the day that we were leaving to fly to Nashville, I woke up and the left side of my face looked like a giant chipmunk. I had no idea what was going on at all and as just delirious, just trying to take anything that would keep me from wanting to split my face open. It was not even a question of whether or not I would go. Obviously I’m getting on the plane. So I flew to Nashville, I later found out after we arrived and I realized, “Ok, my face isn’t getting better”, I had actually flown with an impacted wisdom tooth that also was very infected. I also didn’t know that you are not at all supposed to fly….
Katie: They’re showing me a picture of it right now.
Mike: I’m showing her the picture that’s on the plane.
Pat: If you do some stalking you can find a picture online somewhere.
Laila: Embracing my face. But yeah, the first day of recording, that first morning pretty much, I had missed. Everybody left that Monday morning, gear, everything, going and checking out the property and I was stuck in this dental office figuring out what was up, because I didn’t know what was going on and I talked to a couple of people that I trust medically and they were like, “It might be your tooth”. Mind you, I hadn’t been to a dentist in like ten years, so probably a good time to check it out. Yeah, so long story short, that’s when they told me, like, first of all, you flew on that? That is insanity. I was like, “Ok, that makes sense why I was balling my eyes out on the plane”.
Pat: And that plane ride was ruined. We were flying through storms.
Laila: Worst turbulence I’ve ever experience on a plane every.
Pat: There was three different times I thought we were going down for sure.
Laila: Do you remember at one point there was a good jolt and I was like *Gasp*
Pat: Yeah that’s when it woke me out of a sleep and I thought we were going down and I look over and Laila’s next to me, she’s freaking out, and I look at Mike and he’s like nervously laughing like he lost it, and I’m like, “Well, I’m just going to start laughing” and then I started laughing. But I’m sorry to interrupt.
Katie: What a testament to your dedication that you went through this horrible experience and you’re like, “Ok, I’m in this”.
Mike: You know, Pat just kept saying, he’s like, “As crazy as it sounds, she actually sounds better when she’s just in agony”.
Laila: Yeah, I don’t know if that was the nicest thing to hear at that time but, in a way, I think to answer your question more directly, when finding my voice, I think where I’m at right now, in my life, and what it’s taken for me to get the courage to commit to this for myself and commit to other people, to literally being in a relationship and entrusting your life, investing your life, in other people, that’s a huge thing.
Katie: And to music, which I feel is sometimes more vulnerable than a romantic relationship to be able to form that bond with each other and be incredibly vulnerable because music is so vulnerable.
Laila: And that experience, as a whole, while the band enjoyed a very different experience, for as literally painful and agonizing as it was, especially literally not even being able to stand on my own while I’m starting to record the very, very first tracks after I came back from my very first dental appointment and started taking my antibiotics, I did what I had to do. We had a week to do it and that Wednesday I had my operation and, unfortunately, I had a lot of complications with pain and the amount of pain that I was in. Very, very long story short, I basically came in for a half a day Monday, I think I may sang one track. Tuesday, I think I maybe laid down just a rough of the four songs that we had recorded, that’s it. I had one day left. The last Friday.
Mike: Because you were out all day Wednesday and Thursday. So, first of all, we have a full film crew, they’d paid ungodly for the whole production to get there.
Katie: Talk about pressure too.
Laila: Literally and figuratively.
Mike: We have Cactus and our engineer Leslie, who has work on every record for every artist, one of the leading engineers in the country. We’re just like, “Shit”, we didn’t know if we were going to be bale to finish the record. And, getting back there, there was no budget to try to reschedule so we were like, “Shit, we might have to bring Cactus back to LA to record with or send Laila back to Nashville later.” There was a point where we were like, “We’re not going to be able to finish the record right now”. Yeah, she stepped up and came in on Friday and had to deal with that and I can’t imagine because I ironically had the exact same thing last week where I had an infection, I had to get a root canal and a deeply impact wisdom tooth out and I’m thinking the whole time, “Man, if I had make an album right now…” It’d be easier because I’m playing guitar and I don’t have to use my mouth so I could do it but…
Katie: What is it with you guys and dentistry here. *To Pat* You’re next.
Pat: Knock on wood. I don’t have any dental issues, but I go to the dentist very often so that’s the lesson here.
Katie: Kids, if you’re listening…go to the dentist.
Mike: There’s nothing to prevent the wisdom tooth thing.
Pat: Mine our gone.
Mike: By the way, we are way too old to be dealing with wisdom teeth. That should have been out of the way fifteen years ago.
Laila: But interestingly enough, I had never dealt with something so directly with my skull and my face before so it was a pain that I literally had never experience. Let alone have to have the mental focus and capacity on that Friday obviously knowing everything that is at stake. The reason why I really feel like I found my voice is because, knowing all of that, I am sure there is going to be a time where shit might hit the fan, but I’m the type of person it doesn’t matter what is happening. You put your best foot forward and you don’t let anything stop you. I love badass musicians and I don’t think there’s many things in this world that is more rock ‘n roll than having a giant hole in your skull, slinging on sips of whiskey between takes and then filling your gums with socket gel.
Katie: That makes you an official badass.
Laila: Yeah, I think for me it was just all that experience, that emotion, that rawness and rather than fighting it, rather than letting it get the best of me, I just put every once of energy, every once of my soul into filtering that into whatever came out on that day. Everything that you hear on this next album was recorded on that day and is captured.
Katie: That’s an amazing approach to be able to filter that pain and that agony into your music, into your voice, and to help it help you to the next level of your voice. That’s what we all strive to do.
Pat: It was inspiring for me seeing her work because when I listen to the songs now, I think her voice sounds amazing and then when you think back, because I was there, I wasn’t in her pain, but I saw what she was going through, so, when you think about that, it’s incredible and it gives me inspiration so if I get a little sick or I don’t feel good and I have a show, I’m going to suck it the fuck up and not complain about it because it’s nothing compared to what she went through in Nashville.
Katie: Does it affect your guys’ playing when you see her in pain? Does that affect the way you play or process?
Mike: I think we’re like, “Ok, we have our job to do so we’re going to get it done”. Also that studio is a whole other experience than any studio we’ve ever been in and I’ve been in studios since I was a little kid. So the Judd compound is a thousand acres, it’s the size of a town. The studio is out on this lake, all these horses and dogs around. And we’re all recording, me, Pat, and bassist are all recording in the same room which is also something I’ve always wanted to do at home but never gotten to do so we have the door open, the lake right there, so we got in a really good vibe mindset-wise. It was something obviously that was weighing on us, something that was in the back of our heads. We were like, “We’ve got to make a great album, worst case scenario, she’ll have to come back and do it.”
Katie: Yeah, I think I was thinking not in terms of if it affected your quality of playing, but if it affected you emotionally in playing and if that emotion got translated in some of your playing as well, because I feel like it did.
Pat: But you have to understand too she came and sang on Friday after we had laid down the songs, so if it was a live performance than, of course, usually you feed off each other and if somebody’s going through something you feed off that. That’s happened to me a couple times with bands like that, but for this situation, I think because we already laid down everything before she even sang.
Katie: But still the situation….
Mike: Yeah, it was there. It was something like, for me, every time I gone to a major situation, something has gone down. The first time, when I was 24, it was the first time I was in an independent record deal where you’re going to work with a producer and, on the way there, my drummer’s dad died and this was the first major recording experience and we had that to deal with. Then, I remember, the first time I went to Nashville to do a major recording, we were working with Blue and my band Politicks, I got a freakin’ staff infection. So, the whole band is freaking out because that was during a phase when, I don’t know if you guys remember, but there was an outbreak and it was a big deal and pretty scary. The whole band had quarantined me and we’re all staying in this little room together and then our singer, who is neurotic as hell, is calling our friend who is a nurse trying to get advice like, “Do we kick Mike out of the room?” So for me I’m like, “Oh God, why is it every time I’m in a major recording situation all this shit has to hit the wall?”
Katie: Life just has to be sure that you really want it.
Mike: It was stressful but somehow it was a weird combination of we were having so much fun and there was this underlying stress about the situation and just worrying about Laila and worrying about everybody else and the whole thing and whether we were going to get the project done on time.
Pat: There were a lot of pieces.
Mike: There were a lot of elements but, hey, look, we been through some shit and we get it done and those are all things that you grow from.
Pat: It’s never going to go as planned. It’s Laila’s tooth one day, I could break a leg. The shows that we overcame and hopefully that’s a good lesson in the future when something else doesn’t go as we planned.
Mike: I feel like you’re the guy that nothing’s ever going to happen to.
Pat: Why would you jinx me? Why would you say that on a podcast where millions and millions of people are going to hear this?
Katie: Knock on wood folks.
Mike: You’re the big Seinfeld fan. You know the episode where they talk about where everything always just balances out in the middle for Jerry? You’re Jerry.
Pat: I’m so nervous right now. I’m not leaving this apartment.
Katie: So, on that note, I could go on talking to you forever, but we’re actually kind of running towards the end of the time here.
Pat: Perfect thing to end on.
Katie: No we’re going to end on Firefly. You guys have a big announcement that’s getting announced on Friday, this is probably going to air a few weeks from now so I’m not ruining anything, so tell me a little bit about this.
Mike: We recently just got booked. This will be certainly the biggest show we’ve played. We’re going to be performing at Firefly 2017, which, for those who don’t know is the biggest music festival in the East Coast, definitely one of the biggest ones in the country. We don’t know who’s going to be on it yet. We’re really excited to find out on Friday but we’ll be at Firefly 2017.
Katie: That’s awesome. Any local shows to plug before we go. We’ll be at Hotel Cafe again on March. Well guys, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Pat: And we have Facebook and twitter and all that. We just have to get that out there.
Laila: Just Google Short Sleeve Heart, you’ll find us.
Pat: YouTube, all of it.
Katie: Thank you guys.