Tag Archives: Jason Brewer

Review: Together

The Explorers Club – Together (2016)

*****½ (5½ stars out of 6)

Consider this; if you think about the phenomenal success the Beach Boys had in their hey-day – and the esteem in which Brian Wilson is still held by today’s musicians – the lack of modern bands playing original music easily recognizable as ‘Beach Boys-like’ is puzzling.

Whereas you still have a gazillion bands mining the Beatles-sound, it’s much rarer to find new and original releases mirroring the sunkissed harmonies and playful pop perfection of Hawthorne’s finest.

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Brian during the sessions for Pet Sounds.
Sure, there are tribute bands out there performing Beach Boys or Jan & Dean hits, but only a few bands seem to have truly based their very existence on the sort of golden 60s California sound the Beach Boys perfected; Britain’s Surfin’ Lungs have been at it for decades, Italy has the aptly named Sunny Boys, the Dukes of Surf out of Hawaii give Mike Love a run for his money and there’s my own band, Surf School Dropouts from Denmark.

All of these have come up with cool songs in a Beach Boys-vein but in my humble opinion none can touch the incredible enigma that is the Explorers Club.

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I first came across these guys in 2006 – or was it 2007? – when a few songs on their MySpace account got the attention of hardcore Beach Boys fans. To this day, ‘Don’t Forget the Sun’, which graced their 2008 debut album ‘Freedom Wind’, is one my all-time favorite songs. ‘Freedom Wind’ was a fantastic first offering from the talented band and the 2012 follow-up ‘Grand Hotel’ didn’t disappoint either.

What was so great about the second album was the fact that the band broadened their sound to also encompass the late 60s & early 70s soft pop sound that followed in the wake of the Beach Boys glory days – think the type of stuff A&M Records put out as an example. In time, the more diverse ‘Grand Hotel’, sound- and genre-wise at least, has become my favorite of the two albums. But both are must-hears for any connoisseur of great pop, Beach Boys fan or otherwise.

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And now,… finally!… we have a third Explorers Club album coming out! I’ve been looking so much forward to this release ever since I got a bit of background info on it from main songwriter and band leader Jason Brewer in an interview for Cue Castanets last year. You can read our discussions here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/jason-brewer-interview/

So,… the album,.. how is it?

Well, for one thing, it’s clear that the current incarnation of the Explorers Club has returned somewhat to the familiar grounds of the debut album, their feet firmly planted in Brian Wilson’s sandbox, ready, willing and able to delight listeners with hooks and glorious harmonies.

The sounds contained within the album rarely veer off the path laid out by the Beach Boys, but not in a way that makes the songs come across as mere pastiches. I’ve always been extremely impressed by the way the band picks up on the best parts of the Beach Boys oeuvre and puts its own unique spin on it.

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It’s also clear that the band has been very hard at work recording these songs – lots of things going on in every song and neat little details popping up in the mix upon close listening.

And those harmonies,… stunning harmonies sounding so effortlessly and naturally yet undoubtedly must have required a lot of fiddling around to come up with the perfect vocal wrapping. I know – I’ve been there with the Dropouts! It’s an integral element for the song with the harmony arrangement somehow almost taking up as much time to come up with as the song itself! For this third album, the Explorers Club has concocted some stellar vocal arrangements that are guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone in love with vocal harmony.

Although the album works really well as a whole and the quality is top notch throughout, there are a few stand-out tracks I’d like to highlight in my review.

For starters, lead-off single ‘California’s Callin’ Ya’ is so Brian Wilsonesque it’s almost eerie. It has the same type of modern take on the doo wop sound as can be found on Brian’s ‘Soul Searching’ or ‘That’s Why God Made the Radio.’ Catchy with a capital C then; it’s no wonder this was singled out for a release on its own.

I’m also very fond of the extremely catchy ‘Once in a While’ which has a tag to die for. A tag, of course, was the Beach Boys’ own term for a type of ending that twisted the melody of the song in question a little bit, ensuring that the dying 10-30 seconds had a distinctly different feel than what had gone before,… and was all the more memorable for it. It’s something the Explorers Club has done to perfection on many of their past songs and it works great again here.

‘Perfect Day’ breezes by in less than two minutes but you’d be hard pressed to find a classier, more beautiful little number with close harmony all the way through as its backbone. Close your eyes, listen and dream away – this is timeless in much the same way as those iconic Four Freshman records, Brian Wilson wore out the grooves on in his room before changing the pop game.

Another gem is ‘Quietly’ which comes with yet another tag with tasty falsetto and some dreamy sections throughout the song where the drum fills give off a distinctive ‘Pet Sounds’-vibe. It’s difficult to point out a truly favorite track among all these songs, but this may be the one for me. Fantastic stuff!

If you’re a fan of the cosmic fart-synth sound of ’15 Big Ones / Love You’-era Beach Boys, you’re bound to love the pop grandeur that is ‘Don’t Waste Her Time’ which features longtime-Brian Wilson band member Darian Sahanaja joining the band on keys. This majestic song, which Jason Brewer co-wrote with the great Andy Paley, has come out earlier in a more classic 60s pop arrangement. I do prefer this earlier version, but the song is clearly too good to just gather dust as a single-only release so it makes sense that it’s on here – and it works very well in its updated setting.

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Jason Brewer of the Explorers Club.
If I should offer a bit of criticism, it would be that some of the songs at times reveal their inspiration a little too obviously; title-track ‘Together’ is clearly modeled after ‘Wild Honey’-era Beach Boys while ‘Be Around’ oozes ‘Friends’-vibes right down to its waltz-tempo. It doesn’t ruin my listening experience, but some may find that this sense of ‘what is it this song reminds me of…’ can be a bit overwhelming.

Also, parts of the production can at times sound a bit slick and polished compared to the previous two albums – ‘Gold Winds’ is a good case in point. But who am I or anyone else to judge that, really? I’m sure that the Explorers Club has succeeded in getting just the sound they set out to nail in the studio, – like it or not. Above all, this is clearly a labor of love.

A fantastic release then and one that doesn’t let down. Any fan of good pop music should really check this out.

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The current Explorers Club in the studio.
Please, support the band so that we can begin to look forward to a fourth record from them. Hopefully sooner than later! We need someone to fly the flag for classic 60s pop and timeless harmony in the music world today.

Besides buying the album at the usual outlets, you can order it directly from the band here:

www.timetogettogether.com

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Jason Brewer Interview

I hope you enjoyed the recent interview with Wrecking Crew member Don Randi about his session work with Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. If you haven’t read the interview yet, just scroll down and enjoy his insights.

Hot on the heels of Don’s stories, I’m glad to be able to publish yet another interesting interview. This time with Jason Brewer who is the main songwriter and band leader of one of the coolest groups to emerge in recent years, the Explorers Club. If you’re enough of a music geek to spend your time reading my ultra-nerdy posts on Cue Castanets, my guess is that you already know these guys. If not, then oh boy, are you in for a pleasant surprise!

Jason Brewer of the Explorers Club.
Jason Brewer of the Explorers Club.

Anyone who follows the blog will know that I’m as much of a Beach Boys / Brian Wilson fan than I am a fan of Spector’s Wall of Sound approach. So I was simply blown away when I first came across songs by the Explorers Club at MySpace back in 2007. Who would have thought that a young group from Charleston could channel everything great about the Beach Boys and other iconic 60s pop in their own music?

To date, Jason Brewer and a revolving line up of Explorers Club members have issued two albums and some one-off singles,… and for anyone checking in here, all of their output is essential listening. Please support these guys! They are in the midst of wrapping up their third album; keeping the flame alive and really deserving all the success they can get.

Here, then, is an interview with Jason about his influences, insights about Explorers Club songs as well as some info on their upcoming album. Along the way, you’ll find embedded youtube videos with some of their stellar work to enjoy.

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First off Jason, I’d like to hear about how you started out playing music? Had you been in any other bands before you formed the Explorers Club?

I started playing guitar when I was 11 and then started writing my own songs when I was 14. I was in a few bands growing up but nothing too serious.

I had a band in college that was influenced by garage rock called 1984. But I didn’t feel professional enough to really go for it until Explorers Club started in 2005.

The Explorers Club line-up at the time of their 2008 debut album 'Freedom Wind.'
The Explorers Club line-up at the time of their 2008 debut album ‘Freedom Wind.’

You’ve obviously been very influenced by Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys, but what other artists and genres have made an impression on you? Is there anyone in particular you’d like to single out?  

I would say that there is a wide spectrum of music that has influenced me from the Beatles to Jimmy Webb to Burt Bacharach to Neil Young to Phil Spector to the Band to Nilsson and many others. Brian Wilson is far and away my biggest influence.

I do have a few modern inspirations – not in sound as much as just “these guys are brilliant and I want to do what they do” – like john Davis from Superdrag, Starflyer 59, Noel Gallagher, Rufus Wainwright and many others.

The 2008 debut
The 2008 debut

Back to the Beach Boys and that whole realm of 60s LA studio pop that Brian Wilson was in the center of along with people like Phil Spector, Jack Nitszche, Burt Bacharach, Curt Boettcher and others; 

… as a musician of today, how does the music of that era resonate with you? Any specific thoughts about the difference between music then and now?  

All of that music is the biggest influence on me.

The whole LA / Wrecking Crew sound is just magical. The brilliant records made then are the very pinnacle of rock and roll. Rock has not equaled that era. The LA music scene from the 1960s had such a creative and genre expanding sound that just resonates with me on many levels.

When I heard so many of those records as a kid it was like being transported to another planet. I still get that exciting feeling whenever I hear the Wall of Sound or the Beach Boys or a great dramatic Bacharach ballad.

Burt Bacharach doing what he does best!
Burt Bacharach laying down perfect pop!

How many instruments do you play by the way? When I listen to the Explorers Club albums I get the feeling that all of you guys combined are like the Charleston Wrecking Crew!  

Well, I play guitar and some keyboards. The band is actually now based in Nashville, TN with a couple guys in Atlanta and Charleston as well.

The guys in the band are truly top notch and I feel so lucky and honored to work with them on our music.

Do you collectively work out the songs and arrangements or are the songs more or less fully formed when you get together to rehearse them? 

I usually come in with the overall idea and then together we play the basic track based on the original idea – sometimes we add parts collectively and sometimes I already have musical arrangements finished.

I try to not bring in half baked ideas but you never know when you will have a magical creative moment collectively.

On this new album we are finishing up, our guitarist Mike took some basic ideas I had for our harmony vocals and came up with some brilliant arrangements. The songs themselves are usually done before we record but there is usually room to try different sounds in the studio.

Those vocal harmonies on both your albums are gorgeous! Must take some time perfecting them?  

On everything we have done the vocals are the hardest part!

I have done some arrangements on my own and a lot of them with Mike Williamson who now plays guitar in the band.

The current Explorers Club in the studio.
The current Explorers Club recording vocals for the new album.

I’d like to dwell a bit on the main theme of the blog, Phil Spector & the Wall of Sound. Do you remember when you first became aware of his music?  

From a very young age I remember hearing Righteous Brothers and Ronettes records on the radio.

But it all really came together for me when I got the Back to Mono box set about 15 years ago. It just blew my mind!   It made me understand how Brian Wilson was so influenced by that music.

Is there a particular Spector production that has made a profound impression on you?

I would say my two favorites are ‘Be my Baby’ and ‘You Baby’ by the Ronettes. Two amazing records!

the-ronettes-is-this-what-i-get-for-loving-you-london-2

Certainly can’t argue with that. I’ve always been really fond of ‘You Baby’ myself. 

There were some cool tributes to the Wall of Sound on your first album, ‘Freedom Wind.’ Most notably on ‘Forever’ but also the opening seconds of what may be my favorite song of yours, ‘Don’t Forget the Sun.’

I remember the first time I heard it, I went “Why, that’s the opening seconds of ‘You Baby’ right there!” Could you tell a bit about how you went about faithfully recreating the Wall of Sound on those songs and others? Was it just a case of trial and error?  

I tried to blend that intro with some other cool percussion instruments. We wanted to give a nod to that song and also create a really cool groove at the top. I had specific designs for that intro.

Listening to the two Explorers Club albums, every track reminds me of the 60s LA studio scene heyday. You guys seem to spend a lot of attention to detail as well as work out arrangements worthy of full-blown Wrecking Crew sessions.

In terms of your arrangement or production philosophies what would you say you’ve learned from studying the work of Brian Wilson, Spector or others?  

The main thing is the combination of sounds. Finding unique blends of basic instruments to create a unique sound.

Brian was the master of voicing parts for just the right blend which he got from Spector but in my mind perfected. Brian took that Spector influence to a higher level.

You broadened up your sound a bit with your second album, ‘Grand Hotel.’ When I first heard it, it struck me as a very diverse and loving tribute to the late 60s & early 70s soft pop / A&M Records sound?  

Totally! Those records of the soft pop A&M era were amazing. It is this perfect blend of reverb and dry sounds that is really hard to get sonically.

One of the continuing features on my blog is my obsession with Spector soundalikes. There were so many talented people hanging around Gold Star during those iconic Spector sessions, many of whom emulated the Wall of Sound themselves, often to great results. Jack Nitszche. Brian Wilson, Sonny Bono. Nino Tempo – and later on, a lot of recent artists have built upon the sound like you have with your two albums.

Are there any Spector soundalike tracks old or recent that you’d like to single out for whatever reason? Maybe other modern acts that you feel would appeal to fans of classic 60s pop?  

I haven’t heard too many modern acts like that except maybe Camera Obscura – I’m sure there are some others. But truly – a lot of modern acts are nowhere close to that amazing sound.

Check out my ongoing ‘Modern Spector Soundalike’ feature on here then. You might discover a few modern tributes to your liking. 

Some time ago, I interviewed Andy Paley about his work with both Spector, Brian Wilson and others and we got to talk a bit about the fantastic one-off single you and Andy collaborated on, ‘Don’t Waste Her Time.’

That song is incredible and so well-produced! Could you tell a bit about the song’s genesis and working with Andy?

Andy is the greatest. He is one of the best collaborators I have had. We truly just sat down one afternoon and knocked that song out at his house in LA.

I imagined Ronnie Spector singing it with Brian Wilson producing. Explorers Club just recorded a new version for our new album. The original version I recorded with the great Mitch Easter.

Yeah, about that much anticipated third album… What can we expect from it? How would you describe the sound and feel you’ve gone for this time around? Is there a release date yet?

No release date yet. I’d say that this record is closer to our first album but has its own very unique sound.

You can expect a lot of harmonies and some new sounds from us. It is sort of a mix of Sunflower-era Beach Boys along with a ton of surprises arrangement-wise. It is by far our best record.

Wow! Sunflower is my favourite Beach Boys album so I can’t wait to hear what you guys have come up with.

Finally, I hope you’ll be up for listing your personal top 5 of Phil Spector productions.

  1. The Ronettes – ‘Be my Baby’
  2. The Ronettes – ‘You Baby’
  3. Modern Folk Quartet – ‘This Could be the Night’
  4. The Righteous Brothers – ‘Just Once in my Life’
  5. The Ronettes – ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’

Jason, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. 

Good luck with the upcoming album!

Andy Paley Interview – part II

I’m glad to see that the recent interview with Andy Paley proved so popular. I also appreciate the very positive comments some of you left at the blog post. Thank you for the nice feedback.

If you haven’t read the first interview yet, go here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/andy-paley-interview/

As it turns out, Andy has kindly agreed to answer questions for a second interview that picks up from where we left off the last time.

And as you will learn, and hear via youtube clips, Andy’s work from recent years often adhere to  the classic, warm pop sound of the 60s L.A. scene that is at the heart of what this blog is all about.

Listening to Andy’s productions, I pick up lots of subtle influences from the very best, sparkling pop by the likes of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector; influences that Andy brilliantly puts his own interesting spin on.

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Here is ‘The Andy Paley interview, part II’, – enjoy!

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Andy, we ended the last interview discussing your work with Brian Wilson. As a major fan of Brian & the Beach Boys, I’d like to ask you a few more questions about this part of your career.

First off, my favorite track from Brian’s first solo album, ‘Brian Wilson’ from 1988, is ‘Meet Me in my Dreams Tonight’ which you and Brian co-wrote. To my ears, that song can be heard as a premonition of all the wonderful, unreleased work the two of you were to record later on that harked back to the classic pop sound of the 60s, yet still sounding fresh and vital. Could you share some recollections on this specific song and your production choices on it?

I remember that we wrote it and recorded it fairly quickly. We talked about the idea of a guy and a girl who want to hook up but for some reason they can’t actually physically get together so they decide that they’ll meet in their dreams. It seemed like a very romantic idea.

We recorded that song the day after we wrote it. The thing about that album was that the key to doing anything really good was to do it fast before other producers could get their hands on it. There were a lot of cooks around!

The first interview prompted me to re- listen to the unreleased songs from your sessions with Brian. That material is so good! Do you have a particular favorite of the songs that have been bootlegged? If so, please elaborate why this particular song is especially dear to you?

So many songs have been bootlegged. It’s a drag that we never finished the recordings because the songs aren’t being heard the way they were meant to be heard. On the other hand I’m very fond of the songs in general.

I love ‘Marketplace’. I love ‘I’m Broke’. I love ‘My Maryanne’…. I love both bridges in that one. ‘It’s Not Easy Being Me’ is a really good song. So is “Must Be A Miracle”. I came up with that chorus. I think that’s a really pretty song. We also wrote a cool one called “Frankie Avalon” which kind of blew me away!

Would you say that these songs were written for a possible Brian Wilson solo album or rather for a potential Beach Boys album? ‘Soul Searchin’ and ‘You’re Still a Mystery’ of course got the Beach Boys harmony treatment and saw release on the lovely 2013 ‘Made in California’ Beach Boys box set.

We were writing and recording for no particular reason back then. I think we would’ve been happy to finish the stuff either way.

How would you describe the general work ethic you and Brian had in the studio? Did you mostly develop the songs together ‘on the spot’ or did you rather bring each other near-complete songs that the other then helped tweak into its final form?

Sorry for nitpicking about this, but I’ve always been fascinated by the twists and turns of the creative process in the studio and it would be interesting to learn how it evolved between you and Brian?

Brian’s a great collaborator. I’m very good at it too. We’re both adaptable to any situation that might come up. The best songs just happen. An idea will hit you when you least expect it and you’ll write it down…. or maybe you won’t write it down…. and you’ll just store it away in your memory to use it some other day in the future.

When you get together with someone to collaborate you might have a storehouse of ideas in your head that might fit with your partner’s ideas. That’s how it worked with me and Brian. We both wrote lyrics. We both wrote melodies. We both came up with chords. We both came up with general concepts to throw back and forth. We both came up with hooks.

Cover artwork for one of the various bootlegs of the Wilson/Paley sessions.
Cover artwork for one of the various bootlegs of the Wilson/Paley sessions.

It was a true 50 / 50 collaboration in every way including production. There were a few exceptions but in general that’s the way it worked. Brian told me that I was the only writer he ever worked with who wrote music as well as lyrics. By the way I think Brian is a great lyricist.

Personally, I love the ‘Rodney on the ROQ’ theme song you wrote for legendary LA scenester Rodney Bingenheimer’s long-running radio show. Brian sings the lead and Jeffrey Foskett’s on there as well, right? What a cool, classic sound! Totally in line with the Spector and Beach Boys hits Bingenheimer is known to obsess about. (Don’t we all?) How did that song come about?

Brian and I are both fans of Rodney. Brian’s known him forever. I met him in the 70s. He’s played my records on the radio over the years. He’s played Brian’s records too.

We wanted to give him something so we wrote him that song. He loved it and he used it as his theme song on the radio. Jeff did a great job on the falsetto part.

Finally, in terms of your work with Brian, what would you say you learnt as a songwriter / musician / producer from the experience? I would imagine it must have been creatively rewarding to work so closely with a musical giant like Brian, picking up a trick or two?

I’ve written songs with some really great writers. Brian Wilson is exceptionally talented. He’s also someone who I grew up listening to. Working with someone who you’re a fan of is a strange experience. You have to get over it and get down to work. Brian is a hard worker. I am too. We’re both happiest when we’re working hard on something we love.

This sounds like a cliche but what I learned from Brian Wilson is that hard work always pays off in some way. It may not be with a hit record… It may not be recognition… The pay-off may be some abstract thing… But if you really love something and you work your ass off to get it done right… there is always an upside.

I recently discovered that you co-produced an album with cult band NRBQ, ‘Wild Weekend’, in 1989. I didn’t know that. ‘It’s a Wild Weekend’, the title cut, is really cool. I hear the same kind of classic, über-catchy pop-rock that also shone on the Paley Brothers album. Any anecdotes about working with NRBQ?

NRBQ guitarist ‘Big’ Al Anderson had the idea to put lyrics to the Rockin’ Rebels song ‘Wild Weekend’. The band called me and asked me if I’d be interested in working with them. They’d been talking to various producers. They were all on the phone. I was in L.A. working with Brian Wilson. They were on a speaker phone in New York. Terry Adams from the band asked me to tell them what my fave NRBQ record was… and he said I should tell them why it was my fave. He put me on the spot and I gave them the honest answer…. which was that I actually didn’t own any NRBQ records!

I love NRBQ and I’ve played with them… I’d done gigs with them. They were friends of mine. I’m a big fan.  But I really didn’t own any of the records. I mean, I don’t have lots of records. Most of the records I own were hits. Anyway, they all laughed. They loved it! They said that I couldn’t have given them a better answer!

They hired me and we made a great album together. And hard-core fans tell me that it sounds very different from their other records. So I guess that’s what NRBQ wanted.

There are some cool songs on that album. ‘The One & Only’ is one I like. ‘Little Floater’ is pretty. ‘If I Don’t Have You’ is really good. I’m still friends with them. Their drummer Tommy Ardolino died in 2012. He was one of my closest friends in the world. I used to talk to him almost every day. I really miss him.

The NRBQ 'Wild Weekend' album, - co-produced by Andy.
The NRBQ ‘Wild Weekend’ album, – co-produced by Andy.

In 1990 you produced the Dick Tracy movie soundtrack. There’s a song of yours on there sung by Darlene Love; ‘Mr. Fix It’, which undoubtedly is one of her very best performances since the Spector days.

Was that song written specifically for her? It seems tailor-made with its nice mix of both the Motown and Spector sound.

No, I wrote it for no reason at all back in the ’70’s. It was one of those songs that was just waiting for the right reason to come out.

Darlene Love has such an amazing voice. She loved the song and she really put her soul into it. The session was a blast! I recorded Brenda Lee and Jerry Lee Lewis too on that movie! I ended up making a whole album with Jerry Lee Lewis later on! Thanks to Warren Beatty!

In 2008 'Mr. Fix It' was featured on this great Darlene Love retrospective issued by Ace Records.
In 2008 ‘Mr. Fix It’ was featured on this great Darlene Love retrospective issued by Ace Records.

More recently, you’ve worked extensively on songs for the SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon series. How did you get involved with the show?

Tommy Ardolino from NRBQ was a fan of the show very early. I had never heard of it. I was with Tommy at a NRBQ gig in Hollywood. He introduced me to comedian Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, and he said “You guys should write songs together!”. It’s pretty amazing that he said that.

He was 100% right too! Tom Kenny has been a fantastic collaborator. God bless Tommy Ardolino for putting me together with Tom Kenny!

I must confess I didn’t know you had written and produced so many songs for SpongeBob as was the case. I did know ‘The Best Day Ever’ though which has been much talked about by Beach Boys fans as a perfect homage to their classic mid 60s sound.

Could you tell a bit about that song and your general approach to this recording project? You enlisted some top-notch musicians for the ‘Best Day Ever’ album.

I wrote all of those songs with Tom Kenny. Since he does the voice of SpongeBob and he’s been involved since the very beginning he knows what the fans want. Steve Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob, modeled the character after Tom in many ways. If you look at the early SpongeBob cartoons you’ll notice that he’s wearing thick black rimmed eye glasses like Buddy Holly. That’s because Tom Kenny wears those kind of glasses.

Tom Kenny is a great singer too. He’s able to sing in tune in the SpongeBob voice. It’s amazing really! We just wanted to make records that we could listen to and enjoy. We both love old records so we imitated old-style records when we made the SpongeBob records. We ended up hiring players like Tommy Morgan, Corky Hale, Nino Tempo , James Burton , Terry Adams, Joey and Johnny Spaminato, Tommy Ardolino, ‘Big’ Al Anderson, Flaco Jimenez etc. because we had the chance to do it. It was really fun. Brian Wilson sings back-grounds on “Doin’ The Krabby Patty”. We had a great time!

Tom Kenny and I wrote a song for a cartoon called Olivia The Pig. Our song “Goodnight Olivia” is a lullaby that is used all around the world to put kids to sleep. It’s really pretty. You can go on youtube and see kids singing it all around the world. It’s very gratifying.

You also wrote and produced a SpongeBob Christmas album. One of the songs on there wouldn’t have been out of place on Spector’s iconic ‘Christmas Gift for You’ album. I can totally hear Darlene Love recording a gutsy lead vocal for ‘Don’t Be A Jerk (It’s Christmas).’

Was the Spector album, and the Spector sound in general, an inspiration for that track and some of the others on the album? I noticed there’s a concluding Holiday Message to the album much like the spoken-word message by Spector on his album?

Yes, we were inspired by the Phil Spector Christmas album… and The Beach Boys Christmas album… and Elvis Presley’s and Bobby Helms and Brenda Lee and The Chipmunks and Leroy Anderson etc. etc. etc.

The Christmas message at the end of our album was indeed inspired by the Phil Spector message at the end of his album and also by the message from Dennis Wilson at the end of the Beach Boys Christmas album. True hard-core fans will hear the references.

You’ve been kind enough to let me hear a version of ‘Snowflakes’ from the SpongeBob Christmas album with you singing a lead instead of SpongeBob. It casts the song in a much different, grown-up light and sounds really beautiful. Which makes me think – have you ever considered issuing a solo album? Judging from ‘Snowflakes’ alone and the songs you’ve recently produced, it could make for a great record.

‘Snowfakes’ is one of my very best songs. I love the recording we did. I can picture a snowy morning when I hear it!  Mandy Barnett is singing with herself… three parts…. at the top; ‘Snowflakes , Snowflakes, Snowflakes , Snowflakes.’ It makes me smile every time I hear it. I’m so happy you liked it! Maybe I’ll do a solo album someday. It sounds like a good idea.

I’ll finish off with a question about the 2013 single ‘Don’t Waste her Time’ by the Explorers Club.

I was both surprised and pleased to learn that you were involved in this superb song by one of my favorite bands from recent years. How did you get to know Explorers Club front man Jason Brewer who you wrote the song with? Could you describe the collaboration? Who brought what to the table for this one?

Jason and I were brought together by the group’s manager, Marc Nathan. I knew Marc from back when the Paley Brothers were making records. He worked at Sire Records at the time. He was a great supporter of ours. Very sharp guy! He was working with Jason and the band.

Jason Brewer of Charleston-based the Explorers Club.
Jason Brewer of Charleston-based the Explorers Club.

I don’t know if it was Marc Nathan’s idea or Jason’s idea to work with me. He flew here from North Carolina. Anyway, Jason came over to my house in L.A. and we wrote a few things together. We both wrote music and we both wrote lyrics. We made rough demos in the Capitol tower which is where Marc worked at the time. Jason did a great master recording later on!

He sure did! I really dig this song. Nice, classic sound. 

Thank you once again for answering questions for Cue Castanets, Andy.