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ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS: NEVERWONDER

THE WAiT iS OVER!
MEGAN BOBO AND THE RAMOS BROTHERS
OF
NEVERWONDER
TALK TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR NEW CD LET iT OUT
EMBRACiNG CHANGE, AND MAKiNG MUSiC THAT MATTERS
http://www.rockwired.com/neverwondermach2.jpgFEBRUARY 10, 2010
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
It was only a matter of time before I came around to missing the Southern half of California. Sure, a staggering unemployment rate and an economy in the toilet has tarnished the Golden Stateís once shining reputation, but that was where ROCKWIRED got its start and hanging out with friends on Sunset Boulevard and attending parties at the KEY CLUB were a blast. Coinciding with this publicationís fifth year anniversary is the return of one of the first bands to ever come our way Ė NEVERWONDER. In late 2005, NEVERWONDER reminded me of why I chose this business with the release of their raucous self-titled debut. They were just the sort of rock darlings that you knew had something special with their rock n groove approach. Then-lead singer JOY PEARSONís gravelly purr could match PAT BENATAR snarl for snarl any day of the week. Working around JOY was the raw power chord assault of ax-man FLINT MAVIS and that ever-so-reliable and undeniably funky-ass rhythm section provided by the brothers RAMOS Ė VINCENT on bass and DRE on drums.  Response to the band in Southern California and beyond was immediate and intense as the band tore through melodic pop rock odes to love and life gone wrong. Industry awards from publications such as ALL ACCESS, MUSIC CONNECTION and us of course were hard won and well deserved. Things were on the up and up until lead singer JOY PEARSON stepped away to pursue a solo career.  Nine times out ten, that wouldíve been it, but the RAMOS brothers Ė being the committed rhythm section that they have been since birth Ė werenít about to abandon ship.

In fairly short order, NEVERWONDER recruited a new singer Ė a girl from Iowa and a former AMERICAN IDOL contestant by the name of MEGAN BOBO.  The young sprite of a chanteuse with huge doe eyes and wild, blonde, curly locks has a voice bigger than the Los Angeles Metropolitan area and that voice proves to be the perfect vessel for the RAMOS brothers and new guitarist SCOTT RAMSEY to build a brand new sound around. After three years of toiling in the studio amid line up changes and financial hardship, NEVERWONDER has done what they have always managed to do Ė come out winners. This time they have done so with a brand new album ĎLET IT OUTí and a whole new lease on life. The first time around, NEVERWONDER was an exercise in power chords and feminine fury. With LET IT OUT, proudly displays a pop sensibility that was noticeably absent the first time around. Now, the RAMOS brothers have abandoned four-to-the-floor rock n roll in favor of getting a groove on. SCOTT RAMSEYís guitar is indeed present but works as a means of giving BOBOís butterscotch vocals room to swirl.  

ROCKWIRED couldnít get on the phone fast when receiving word of the release of ĎLET IT OUTí. I first spoke with MEGAN BOBO over the phone. Here is how it went.

http://www.rockwired.com/megan.jpgThis CD is a long time in the making. How do you feel about the finished work?
MEGAN BOBO: Iím definitely excited about it. It has been about two and a half years now. It has been a lot of hard work and when you know that itís time, itís time. There is no surprise and there is no big anticipation just because youíve prepared for it so much. Now, itís time for everybody else to like it and hear it. Thatís how I feel about it. There are mixed emotions. There is excitement and then itís like ĎDuh! It was going to happen!í Itís definitely an overall good feeling.

You and the rest of the band come from completely different places when it comes to music. The RAMOS brothers are really rock n roll and youíve got more of an R&B, pop sensibility that the former singer didnít quite have. How easy or difficult was that to balance in working together?

MEGAN BOBO: Nothing is ever easy when you get more than one opinion or a bunch of musicians in one room. I would never use the word easy because when you are writing an album Ė especially a seventeen track album Ė you are writing that much music together collaboratively. Weíve got different opinions along with different genres and different styles but overall at the end of the day, we came to the mutual understanding that the vocals have to be the best sounding that they can be. When people listen to music, they listen to the vocals and the melody line. If we are going to be a pop or popular band, that is essential to our songwriting. It all came down to what sound my voice sounded the best in singing so we worked around our differences that way. I think itís great that weíre not in that regimented indie rock sound. I think itís great that weíre trying to be mainstream and get our music out there as much as possible.

And that has been the biggest surprise for me as a listener. In the beginning, NEVERWONDER was this gritty rock band and now you guys are this excellent pop band. Everything is constructed around the singer. Do you agree with that or no?
MEGAN BOBO:
Yes. Coming from when you first met me three years ago after having done AMERICAN IDOL, there was obviously a platform and a foundation there Ė this alternative rock sound. We came to a mutual understanding as a band, after we brought in the new guitar player and after we sat down and tried to write songs that the music needs to have room for the vocals. Before that, the vocals werenít being showcased the way that they couldíve been. That was a goal of ours Ė to definitely showcase the vocals and weíve definitely done that on this album. 

Talk about how music began for you as an individual.
MEGAN BOBO:
Thatís kind of a difficult question because itís not like a moment that happened in one day. It was a combination of different things. When I was a kid I loved to sing and I was always in choirs. It was the AMERICAN IDOL experience that really reassured me. It validated everything that I felt I was capable of doing and that I could make it on a mainstream level as a singer and an entertainer. That was when I took it more seriously and really wanted to work on my gift and get up there with some of those other big names. So that was pretty much where it started.

Did you ever imagine yourself within the construct of a band or did you always see yourself as the ďdivaĒ for the lack of a better word.
MEGAN BOBO:
I donít think that the two things are mutually exclusive. I definitely think that they can go hand in hand with the right people and the right personalities. Overall, looking at the big scheme of things, a vocalist focuses on the vocals and on their singing part and each musician focuses on their instrument but at the end of the day, it highlights the singing and I think that all of the personalities within the band can acknowledge that because there isnít that ďdivaĒ personality there. There doesnít need to be because there is no need to overshadow or to involve egos. We agreed as a band to have the vocals showcased, so I donít look at it like two separate entities Ė a diva versus a band Ė because BEYONCE has a band and TINA TURNER has a band. Look at the BLACK EYED PEAS and FERGIE! Theyíre a band. Same with NO DOUBT and GWEN STEFANI. I donít see them as divas. I consider them a part of a band. I think you can have the best of both worlds, definitely.

http://www.rockwired.com/scott.jpgTalk about each of the members of the band. What do you think each of them brings to the table that makes it all work?
MEGAN BOBO:
SCOTT RAMSEY is our new guitar player. He is very similar in personality to VINCE in that they are both leaders and are both very focused and are both used to being in charge in some sense of management or knowing how to guide people. SCOTT has been able to find his role in the band and be able to work well with someone else like him. Now, the band doesnít have just one person that is the main leader. We have two people that can lead. Thatís not to say that DRE and I donít lead. SCOTT knows how to sit back and he knows how to take charge. VINCE brings a lot to the table. He can build connections and can talk to anybody. He has a business sense but at the same time, has a fun sense, which is essential for getting anything done in a band. DREís personality is really important too because heís got a lot of humor and heís really laid back. He can always see the positive in things which is really good. My personality is wanting to take things seriously but at the same time I want to enjoy every moment of it. Overall, the four of us do well together.

Explain the songwriting process within the band.
MEGAN BOBO:
Predominantly, we do things together. The musical arrangement and the structure starts from either a riff or a vocal melody or a drum beat. That is how it goes. We record whatís in the room and then we work on it. Once we get the verse and the chorus and the bridge structure, then youíve got yourself a song and we perfect it from there. I do all of the lyrical writing and the melody lines and the guys do all of the musical arrangements and all of the other key essential parts for the song. Together, we get some songs.

In terms of being the lyricist for the band, was that something you always did, or was that something that came as a result of being in NEVERWONDER?
MEGAN BOBO:
Itís definitely from NEVERWONDER. I walked into it not having any kind of band experience. I noticed that all of the lyrics on the first album were written by JOY PEARSON as well as the melody. It was a responsibility of the vocalist so I learned and I liked to do it. It became something that was my thing.  Just like I wouldnít tell a bass player how to play his part, he wouldnít tell me how to sing a line. In this band, you have your own little roles and responsibilities.

It had to be fascinating to be able to tap into that gift for the very first time. Was it or was it not?
MEGAN BOBO:
I donít know if fascinating is the word. Itís more a thing about learning the structure and learning the formula and having different things to talk about. Itís like I can talk and you can hear me talk and I have a story to tell. Iíve listened to music my whole life. It just comes natural and it just becomes easier. Itís just a matter of getting the formula down.

With that being said, what do you think inspires your songwriting?
MEGAN BOBO:
Itís interesting because I think I write differently from a lot of other songwriters. A lot of songwriters have a book of lyrics and they can hear a song and go and apply some lyrics to that song. Iím different in that Iíve got to hear the music first. I need to feel the emotion. A certain guitar lick or a bass line or a drum beat creates a certain emotion and that ends up inspiring me on what the song is going to be about and what it makes me feel like. It can also stem from things that are going on in my own personal life that create that emotion. That is where I get my ideas. When I wrote some of these songs, I was unemployed at the time and when I sing it now, I can remember the feelings of how I felt when I wrote it. Iím not there now, but I can relate to how I felt at that time. When I sing the song ENOUGH, itís so sad and heartfelt that when I sing it, all of those feelings come back.

What songs off of this album resonate for you the most and why?
MEGAN BOBO:
ENOUGH is definitely one of the stronger ones. That ones is really about being unemployed and just worrying on a day to day basis that you have no control over what is going to happen tomorrow. People have no idea how much money runs their world until they have none and then youíre devastated. Simple things like not having enough money for gas to meet with the band and rehearse become real problems. I wasnít going to rehearsal for two months because it was a gallon of gas that I couldnít afford. Another song would be THE EDGE which is essentially about a family member. Everybody has that family member that just struggles consistently. No matter how much you help them they are just constantly living on the edge. They canít make things better for themselves. There is always some kind of struggle or difficulty. That resonates with me because I have a family member thatís like that and you are just baffled by it. Why is this person always struggling? Why? The rest of the songs I think are happy. I hope so.

How are live shows going at the moment?
MEGAN BOBO:
We havenít really done any live shows for the past six months because for the past four months, we have been in the studio on a daily basis. We are micromanaging this thing to the tee. People have been waiting for this album for years so we want this to be perfect. We want this to be amazing and thatís what we are putting all of our effort and energy into at the moment. The live shows are on the backburner at the moment, but our CD release is this upcoming Saturday.

Since joining NEVERWONDER, what has been the biggest surprise for you?
MEGAN BOBO:
The willingness for each of the members to kind of step out of the genre of rock  and the willingness to be open to being mainstream and the willingness to be thought of a s a pop band. VINCE and DRE come from fifteen years of doing rock music so the willingness to be open minded and try new things and to really push this as far as we can is surprising and good at the same time.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
MEGAN BOBO:
I would really like for someone to come away thinking about how the music made them feel and what the words meant and how it applied to them. All too often, you hear songs, you repeat these stupid words and they mean nothing to you. Or youíll remember the melody and it means nothing to you. It was either really cheesy, or it wasnít really an instrument that was being played but a processed sound and it doesnít create anymore thought other than on the surface. Itís all very superficial. I would like people to walk away from this CD thinking we are a band that puts a lot of thought into who they are, what they are and what they want and how they want their listener to feel. If they can just walk away thinking and feeling good, then thatís great.

(Moments later, I got a call from VINCENT and DRE RAMOS, the rhythm section and founders of NEVERWONDER. If any member or members could put the wild and winding history of NEVERWONDER into perspective, there is one better than these two who are quite possibly the least complicated brother partnership in the annals of rock music. Here is how the interview went.)

http://www.rockwired.com/vince.jpg

NEVERWONDER is your creation. What is your take on all of the twist and turns and line up changes that have happened in the past five years?

VINCE RAMOS: You know, thatís a great question! Sometimes you have to go through a lot of changes to come up with a great ingredient and a great product. Iím really proud of the mix of people that we have right now such as MEGAN and SCOTT. Itís been a pleasure. It took a long time from the old NEVERWONDER to now. It is what it is. Weíre excited about the new album and being able to push forward. We took the time that you have to spend in order to make a great album and thatís what we did. We werenít going to settle by just putting anything out for the sake of it. This is what it is right now and weíre excited about it.

DRE RAMOS: Itís been a ride. After having such an awesome vocalist like JOY and the type of music that we were playing and then meeting another phenomenal singer like MEGAN and also having to mold ourselves into a different style of playing was kind of cool. We took this thing in a direction that we had always wanted to take NEVERWONDER in. Not just rock but a little more funkier and more groove and soul oriented Ė more than what NEVERWONDER ONE was. I think right now, weíve got some stuff now that is gonna make your booty move. I think itís some good stuff.

Me having the hindsight that I have, hearing both NEVERWONDER MACH I and MACH II if you will, the approaches are obviously very different yet, it feels like the same band despite the line up changes.
VINCE RAMOS:
Itís great that you can hear that. Youíve listened intently to the band for many, many years and the rhythm section has a lot to do with it and the thought pattern of the guys behind it Ė that stuff was still there with MACH I and was probably hidden a little bit because the guitar was more upfront. It was a stronger guitar sound whereas now SCOTT is wrapping his guitar around the bass and the drums and vocals as opposed to being all upfront. Our intent on this album was to make MEGAN and the songs as best as they could be and not over shine and overplay. We wanted to make great, friendly, poppy songs with hooks all over. If it gets a little groove in, great! If it gets a little acoustic, great! Weíve got a song on this album where itís just MEGAN on a piano. It goes from real groove, to real soft with a piano. MEGANís got a huge voice! Her voice is amazing! Weíve been lucky in our careers to have worked with great vocalists and to able to find one time and time again. It makes doing this a lot easier. It would be difficult if we had a bad vocalist.

The CD is just a week away. Whatís all going through your head in anticipation of its release?
DRE RAMOS:
Iím anxious! I want everybody in the world to hear this thing. We put a lot of work into it. There are a lot of good songs on it and there are a lot of great ideas. To be honest with you, I think itís some of the best stuff that weíve ever put out. Itís where I want to be right now. A lot of times you hear bands say things like ĎWhat I was thinking didnít come out on the CD! It was kind of like that in my head but it never really came out right.í This album sounds even better than what was in my head. When we were writing these songs I was like ĎOkay, these are great ideas! Here it comes!í and now itís even more than I had actually anticipated. Iím really excited for everyone to really check it out.

VINCE RAMOS: I feel what DRE is saying. Itís the best that weíve ever done collectively as a group and individually for sure. Iím really excited for the fans to hear it and Iím really excited for the old NEVERWONDER fans to hear it and the new people. I hope they understand that when you have a new vocalist, you gravitate around that vocalist and enhance their vocals instead of trying to push the music through them which may not be them. In that regard I know weíve done a good job. Weíre really excited about that. Thereís no fear, no trepidation, no Ďdid we do the right thing?í. Weíre really pleased with the outcome and we want everyone to listen to it. Weíre very proud of the product that is coming out and we believe that people are going to really like this.

In going back to the bandís shift from this gritty rock sound to this top-notch pop sound you guys have now, how easy was it to get everyone on the same page creatively?
VINCE RAMOS:
It was very easy for the most part. There was one hiccup in the road. In the band previous to NEVERWONDER, we were in a band that was groove-oriented and that band didnít last. Groove is in our blood and in our soul so this is not difficult at all. When we started auditioning a new lead singer to replace JOY, our guitarist at the time FLINT MAVIS was super onboard with bringing MEGAN into the band. He really took a leadership role with that and made sure that MEGAN was welcomed and wanted in the band. DRE and myself had a sit down with FLINT and said ĎLook FLINT, our music is going to change. Itís not going to be as guitar oriented and super heavy.í MEGANís voice is different from JOYís and itís awesome and itís world-class. Weíve got to make sure that we surround it and we do it right. As we started writing songs and it became apparent that it was working, FLINT would sometimes want to go in a more guitar rock direction which isnít a bad thing. Weíre still very good friends with FLINT. He even appears on the album on some of the tracks. We had to make a decision that MEGAN was encapsulated with a great guitar player that fit her voice and SCOTT RAMSEY was that guy. FLINT stepped back and stepped away which was the honorable thing to do and it made the band better. Itís not because he wasnít a good guitar player. It just works better with SCOTT.

I remember speaking with SCOTT a while back and I remember that he was thinking along the lines of NIKKA COSTA in terms of how he wanted to bring MEGAN out vocally.
VINCE RAMOS:
That was the idea along with people like JOSS STONE and TAYLOR DAYNE Ė something high energy and groove oriented. I donít know if we nailed that totally but we definitely nailed it to where people are moving and grooving and feeling good about the music. Itís a good time record: fun and exciting. There are some slow songs and life-altering songs but mostly itís an upbeat record.

Talk about MEGAN and what she brings to the table that makes it work.
DRE RAMOS:
As a person, MEGAN is a fun person to be around. Sheís cool to have drinks with and have dinner with. Sheís the life of the party. She doesnít like negative things. Sheís a very positive person and she can handle criticism. Her aura is very positive. Vocally, what I think sheís brought to the table is unbelievable. Iíve seen her in the studio after one take and you are going ďwowĒ! Sheís just an all out performer and knows how to prepare for what she is about to do.

VINCE RAMOS: For me, simply put, she is a professional. She understands what she wants. Like DRE says, she has a great personality and people are drawn to her and we as friends are close and that is the special part. Weíre actually friends outside of being band mates. If she needs something, weíll help her out or if we need something, sheíll help us out. Weíre close in that way. Itís a family-oriented type of thing. She does not like negativity which is strange because a lot of vocalists thrive on negative energy so that they can write about those things - not that MEGAN canít. I think sheíd rather dwell on the good things in life instead of the bad things. Thatís why the album turned out being up beat and fun. She wanted that and that is her personality shining through the album. This is MEGANís first full length album and instead of telling MEGAN what to do, we allowed MEGAN to be who she is. When we did that, it made us grow.

How about SCOTT RAMSEY Ė your new guitar player?
VINCE RAMOS:
The thing about SCOTT is that he is a very professional musician. He understands the idiosyncrasies of being in a band. Heís really a great guitar player and knows how to fill the spot instead of overplaying. Heís a good person and he has a great heart and he really wants to be the best that he can be as a person and translate that into a band setting and not be an anchor. Heís just a good person overall. He writes good stuff and he understands the goal of the band. He fits in very well like a nice piece of machinery. We couldnít have gotten anyone better.

DRE RAMOS: Heís complimented our sound. Heís a good guy and very mindful of things and willing to try different things. He never shuts any ideas down and is very open-minded. Iíve played with quite a few guitar players and heís one of them that is right at the top. I canít say anything bad about SCOTT.

VINCE RAMOS: Heís actually a phenomenal guitar player. When we mouth something, heíll play those things when weíre like ďplay thisĒ or ďplay thatĒ. Some guitarists get on their high-horse and say Ďnoí. They cop that attitude but SCOTT doesnít. He allows each member to express their ideas through his guitar, which says a lot about a person.

http://www.rockwired.com/letitout.jpgWhat songs off of this CD resonate for each of you the most and why?
VINCE RAMOS:
In the process of recording it, you didnít know that some songs were going to come out as good as they did. As youíre writing and recording them, they become your favorite. HELP ME is the first single off of the album. We think that itís got hooks all over it. It came out of a situation where DRE decided that he wanted to do a certain thing on the drums and that was how the idea was spawned. We all wrote it together. There is some real camaraderie on that song. It was a band building moment and it came out phenomenally. ENOUGH is a song that was built up from my bass line. It took a little bit of time to work and we think that it turned out really good. When we tested it live, people really gravitated toward it. Because of the message and because of the time ENOUGH is a song at the right place and right time because of the economy. The song is about people losing their jobs and pushing through life. That song is resonating with people right now. Letís see how thing go in the next month or two.

DRE RAMOS: The song that gets to me is LET IT OUT. Itís got a great groove and itís got a great bass line and the drums are pretty slapping. Itís got a really cool vibe and the vocals are great on it. Itís a really fun upbeat song. SPINNING is another one that has turned out better than I had actually thought.

Since starting NEVERWONDER, what has surprised you guys the most? What didnít you expect?
VINCE RAMOS:
You always think that the music is good and you hope that everyone is going to like it and with the first NEVERWONDER, we got a good word out about the band. All of the press that weíve garnered has just exceeded our expectations. The press from here to Europe is amazing and sometimes it feels weird to think that all of these people like what youíre doing and weíre just a band in L.A. I know weíre doing the right thing with this album. You want people to really like your stuff but when they really do like it, it blows you away.

DRE RAMOS: I agree with what VINCE said. Iím not surprised by the response but Iím surprised by the amount of it and the amount of sales on the internet. I guess ten years ago I would have thought that the response wouldnít be that big and didnít think that the internet would be as powerful as it is now. Looking back on it, I was probably thinking like the record companies were.

What would you like a person to come away with after hearing LET IT OUT? Your first album in four years, I might add.
VINCE RAMOS: I want them to walk away thinking ĎDamn! This independent band put a lot of hart and soul in their music and this is a kick ass record and they didnít cut any corners. They played from their hearts and itís a great, good time album!í

DRE RAMOS: I want people to feel excited for the band. I want them to have good time with the album and I want them to share that album or a song with people and go ĎCheck this band out! Theyíre great!í Word of mouth is still the best kind of promotion you can get.

 http://www.rockwired.com/brian.JPG
BRiAN LUSH (FOUNDER, EDiTOR-iN-CHiEF)
BRIAN LUSH holds a BA in Creative Writing from  the UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO. He established ROCKWIRED on New Years of 2004 and hasnít looked back since. From January 2005 to March 2009, LUSH was the host of the weekly internet radio show ROCKWIRED LIVE. He produced the program for the AMERICAN RADIO NETWORK. As the editor-in-chief for ROCKWiRED MAGAZiNE, LUSH is hands-on when it comes to interviewing and building a lasting rapport with the artists that come ROCKWiREDís way. As a youngster, BRIAN LUSH had no idea what kind of seed was being planted by reading magazines such as HIT PARADE, HIGH TIMES, SPIN, REQUEST (remember that one?) and even ROLLING STONE (but to a significantly lesser degree). ďThose were the days before the internet and being a rock journalist looked like the coolest job imaginable.Ē says LUSH ďBut reading these magazines had me imagining that one day Iíd be the artist giving all of the clever answers to some poor guy with a tape recorder. Well, life has a way of surprising you. Now, Iím the poor guy with the tape recorder and asking all of the questions.Ē

CONTACT BRiAN LUSH AT:
djlush@rockwired.com

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