AND THEIR CD
MAY 3, 2008
INTERVIEWS EVIL MARIA|
WHAT'S IN A NAME?While it sounds like news of an exciting debut album from an equally exciting new band, it isn't. the CD 'EVIL MARIA' (SPILL RECORDS)is the fourth studio release from singer/songwriter EVREN GOKNAR, but this time, he has chosen to let bassist JUNE KATO and drummer PETE FINESTONE in on the action and nick this garage rock threesome EVIL MARIA."It's easier to promote the project with a cool name, as opposed to my name." says GOKNAR. "I've decided to move forward that way."
EVREN GOKNAR OF EVIL MARIA
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THE BANDS' DEBUT CD
THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE NAME
AND DOING IT YOURSELF
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
The bands name is inspired by the 1927 FRITZ LANG silent film 'METROPOLIS' - a tale of a dystopian future (the year 2026) where society is divided between the 'planners' who live in the massive skyscrapers of METROPOLIS, and the 'workers' who live beneath the city,toiling to maintain the privileged lifestyle of those who 'plan'. However, things change when a robot, disguised as a leader of the 'the workers' named MARIA, leads the people into a state of rebellion, destroying the machines that run METROPOLIS and in effect, destroying themselves. "I was watching it with a friend of mine and at one point, I was thinking that that cyborg EVIL MARIA, would be a cool name for a band." says GOKNAR. "It grew from there and I decided to name the band that and move forward."
One could look at this and see parallels between 'METROPOLIS' and the music industry. A little over ten years ago, it meant everything to get signed to a major label. These days, an artist has a little more control if the music is released on their terms, as is the case with EVIL MARIA. "I really think it's important for artists to get their stuff out." says GOKNAR who has issued all four albums of his catalogue through his own label SPILL RECORDS. "A couple of years back, people would shoot for trying to get signed to a label and try to meet the right people. Sometimes it happens and other times, it's a real heartbreak and people end up waiting around and wasting time. The do-it-yourself ethos is something that EVIL MARIA truly ascribes to."
ROCKWIRED spoke with singer/songwriter/guitarist EVREN GOKNAR over the phone. Here is how it went.
'EVIL MARIA' is a great CD!
Thanks! We're really excited about it.
I would be too! This is actually your fourth CD, proper, but this is the first time you're going by the name EVIL MARIA. Why is that?
Because for the first three CD's, I would do a couple of tours as part of the promo for the CDs and had been playing with the same drummer for a long period of time and I just realized that we'd be in some gritty clubs up and down the coast and people would really be enjoying what we're playing and they would ask us "What's the name of the band?" At some point I decided that I should come up with some kind of name for the band because we spend alot of time playing in dive bars and rock clubs. It's easier to promote the project with a cool name, as opposed to my name. I've decided to move forward that way.
I was reading your press release and what excited my initially about your work was how you came up with the name of the band. I love the movie METROPOLIS!
Great movie! It's interesting because I was watching a screening of the movie at the ORPHEUM THEATER in downtown L.A. As you know it's a silent film and they had an organist playing the score and I was watching it with a friend of mine and at one point, I was thinking that that cyborg EVIL MARIA, would be a cool name for a band. It grew from there and I decided to name the band that and move forward.
What drew you to music specifically?
I was a young kid around ten years old and I wanted to start playing piano. I liked listening to music at that age and I had some older sisters and they had a lot of albums. I asked my mom for some piano lessons and she agreed. I started taking piano lessons, but with piano, you start learning classical pieces and studying BEETHOVEN, fugues and sonatas. You might as well be doing algebra at some point. When I got to be about fifteen, I started getting interested in the guitar. There was a cheap spanish guitar around the house and I would take that, put a microphone in the hole and press pause on my tape deck and make an electric guitar out of it with a cassette in there. Soon afterwards, I was able to get my first electric guitar from painting houses and I started learning how to play from friends and listening to records. I listened to a lot of STONES and BEATLES records and whatever was on the radio. That was how I initially got into it, but it was later that I started writing songs and singing and putting bands together. That was when I got older and was in and out of college.
When did you first start writing?
I was probably somewhere in college. I went to school at the University of Michigan where I majored in English. I was reading alot of prose and poetry. I started writing lyrics and journaling between the ages of 18 and 20. It wasn't until I was done with college that I first started writing songs with chords. When I first moved out to L.A., I was primarily playing in bands and co-writing. I wasn't really singing much initially. That was how I first became interested in writing songs and sought to develop that in the ensuing years, and now, I'm on my fourth album of material.
Explain, if it's explainable, the creative process. How does a song go from something you hear in your head to something that a person is going to hear over the speakers?
It usually starts where I will be in a phase of writing. It's kind of like cycles. I feel that there are certain times where you are writing and creating, and there are times where you are recording and promoting. The writing will start with a lyrical idea and I'll write it down on whatever and start from there. I'll have a writing session, usually on an acoustic guitar and start playing around. It's ussually early in the morning when I will get up and start playing guitar and I'm not filtering myself at that point and something interesting will come down and I'll jot down the chords and I'll marry that with an interesting lyrical idea that I had written down or a subject matter. On the new album, there is alot of interesting subject matter. There is a song about my cat and how the cat would always chatter at the birds and squirrels outside but could never go outseide of the house and kill these things because it's an indoor cat and it's got all of this frustration. At some point, I sort of related to the pathos of this cat being frustrated. There's also a song about a serial killer and what would it be like to be a person who does something so horrible over and over again. So subjects like this come up and I try marrying them with a guitar progression. Ussually, the band goes down to record at this place in Long Beach called THE COMPOUND and lay down the tracks. I'm pretty meticulous about the way the recordings come out and I'm really pleased with the way this record has come out. I'll spend time adding harmony parts on and having a friend put organ parts on. That's how it goes from the guitar ideas to the lyrical ideas and then to the studio and turning into something that you hear on disk. If that makes sense.
Your bandmates PETE FINESTONE and JUNE KATO; have you been playing with them ever since you've been releaseing material or is it just through this recording?
No. I've known PETE the longest and that was right around the time that my second record was done. Th drummer who played on that record was in another band at that point and I was doing a release show at the VIPER ROOM. I saw PETE playing at a party actually and he had a really nice snare sound and I thought that I'd like to play with him. I asked him after auditioning a bunch of other guys. We worked together on my last solo record which was called 'BOXES' and we did four or five tours up and down the west coast. When it came time to do the EVIL MARIA record, he was on board. JUNE cam about because, PETE and I were sometimes playing as a duo, just because the bass players kept coming and going. A friend of both of ours refered us to JUNE because this guy played in another band with PETE. He was available, and I kind of met with him and he's a really talented bass player. I'd show him a song and he'd kind of know it by the time I was done showing it to him. I always call him JUNE PAUL JONES because he's got that bass melody thing dow like ZEPPELIN. JUNE's been involved with the band for about two and a half years now and EVIL MARIA has been EVIL MARIA for just a little over two years. JUNE was there from the begining of EVIL MARIA whereas PETE kind of morphed in from my solo stuff.
Other than the fact that this CD is being presented by a band as opposed to a solo artist, what do you think are the fundamental differences from your previous releases?
I think the EVIL MARIA record is more of a focused and concise record. You're not going to find a piano vocal song or an acoustic guitar vocal song in the middle of an EVIL MARIA record whereas you would on my last solo record. The EVIL MARIA record is a rock record and that was what we wanted to make. It does have a lot of pop sensibilities, but it doesn't pretend to be anything else. It's more focused and it's more up-tempo.
Who do you think influences you as a songwriter?
There are a whole lot of influences. ELVIS COSTELLO is a big influence but we sound like a much edgier ELVIS COSTELLO. I'm also influenced by the attitude of bands like NIRVANA, and a little bit of RADIOHEAD. I refer to our music as neo-sixties garage pop because it has alot of pop sensibilities. Growing up, I did listen to a lot of classic rock radio and you're hearing really concise hooks and song structures. So in our music you can hear a little of THE KINKS, and a little bit of THE BEATLES, as far as influences go. But subject matter-wise, it's unique and I think that makes the record unique. Each song sort of has a specific thematic content and I think that just comes from reading books or poems or other types of art that are not necessarily music.
I'm going to name a handful of songs off of the album, and I would like for you to talk about them. The first one is the album's opener 'SUCKER-PUNCHED'.
'SUCKER-PUNCHED' is a song about a relationship breaking up. It's about a guy who feels essentially sucker punched by this girl that wants to leave him. There are some parallels and imagery drawn in from boxing and being on the mat and that kind of imagery. The guy has been blind-sided and he doesn't know how to go forward.
'HAND OF GOD' almost sounds like VELVET UNDERGROUND's 'WAITING FOR MY MAN'.
It's very much a nod to the VELVET UNDERGROUND as far as the vibe. The song itself is about Hollywood. A couple of the songs on the album are about living in Hollywood and L.A. and about people trying to pursue their dreams. 'THE HAND OF GOD' is about the belief that alot of people have that they can just show up in Hollywood and the hand of God will come down and dust you off and you'll transformed into a rock star, or an actress or some other luminary. This song is a snapshot of that. It's a sentiment that is very prevalant in L.A. I'm not trying to make a value judgement about it because I'm one of those people in a way.
'CALIFORNIA' has an interesting subject matter.
People are always talking about immigration in the news. It's about a guy who spends his life savings to come to the U.S. to work and gets killed along the way. Oneangle that I find interesting about this song is that there are people griping about living in the U.S., but when you realize that there are people risking their lives to come and work some kind of menial job, it's pretty sobering.
So is it going to be EVIL MARIA from here on out or will you record again as EVREN GOKNAR?
I have in my mind a concept of making more EVIL MARIA records. I love the band and I'm excited about the first record that we've done and I think that we can do more interesting things. I'd like to make more EVIL MARIA records but I think a future EVREN GOKNAR record would be a more instrospective thing as opposed to what EVIL MARIA is. A solo release will be more acoustic guitar driven and EVIL MARIA is the brand for the heavier edgier material that I write. I hope there will be another EVIL MARIA record.
Your music is released through SPILL RECORDS?
It's my own record label. I really think it's important for artists to get their stuff out. A couple of years back, people would shoot for trying to get signed to a label and try to meet the right people. Sometimes it happens and other times, it's a real heartbreak and people end up waiting around and wasting time. The do-it-yourself ethos is something that EVIL MARIA truly ascribes to.
What do you want someone to come away with after hearing EVIL MARIA?
I'd like them to come away with a sense of the context of EVIL MARIA, which soundwise is a combination of 60's pop and seventies new wave. Contextually I think that the EVIL MARIA record is an interesting amalgamation of different genres. I'd also like them to come away with a sense of what some of the songs are about. The subject matter is an important part of EVIL MARIA.