Monday, July 31, 2006

The Sights - Interview with: Eddie Baranek, Bobby Emmett, Keith Fox

By: Christine Albrecht

Interview with The Sights

Eddie Baranek - vocals/guitar (originator)
Bobby Emmett - keyboards/bass (Joined in 2003)
Keith Fox - Drums (Joined in 2005)

While writing this article/interview, The Sights are just coming off an 8 city tour with Robert Plant. The interview is in two parts.The first part occurred at the Brickyard club, just prior to their September 23/05 gig. After speaking with the obviously exhausted and slightly inebriated group, I decided to follow up the interview with an Q&A email at a later date.

Background triviaI first met The Sights when I arrived for their gig at Richards on Richards with The Donnas and Riff Randalls, too late to see them live. I met Eddie and the band, explained I meant to review their set, but offered to purchase and review their cd. (See article here) When I heard through the grapevine that they were going to be playing the Brickyard on September 23rd, I made sure to mark it on my calendar.

Part 1 of the Interview

Eddie, Bobby and Keith were sitting by the entrance of the Brickyard and I needed to ask some basic questions. Due to the noise I slid a written note to them with the simple question, “You are big enough to be touring with Robert Plant, plus you’re an excellent band - why the Hell aren’t you more publicly promoted?”

Eddie was willing to explore the question further so we managed to secure a storage closet/furnace room where we could talk, albeit not in the most comfortable of fashion.

I mentioned our previous meeting in April, and they nodded in that polite, vague way so I gathered I didn’t make a huge impression upon them when I said I was planning to review their cd. In fact, this is a band who (in particular, Eddie) doesn’t impress easily. If anything, Eddie appears underwhelmed, almost jaded at the youthful age of 24.

I again asked why they weren’t better promoted, as I was lucky to have even heard about the gig at the Brickyard. Eddie assured me that things were going to be better since they had secured Sophie Smith at Big Hassle, and they now had a manager, Brendan Bourke (whom they hooked up with just after the gig with The Donnas.) Their record company is New Line Records. Prior to that, The Sights had not had a manager. Eddie also let me know that the band has actually played in Vancouver seven times in the past year.

I asked them how they got the gig with Robert Plant and Eddie noted that The Sights played with him on July 7 and 9/05 in Chicago, and Plant invited them to tour with him. Apparently Robert Plant likes to support local acts through venue exposure. When asked if there were any ‘big names’ that impressed any of them, they couldn’t come up with any, but Eddie stated he was ‘truly flattered’ when Plant invited them to tour.

Bobby stated that they were prepared for Plant to strut about as a big egotistical music star but the opposite happened. Plant made a point of introducing himself immediately to the band, sat and chatted with them prior to going on stage and was generally ‘an extremely nice, down to earth guy’. The band was prepared to dislike him and the whole rock star image, but Plant was so welcoming, friendly, and unassuming that they found it hard to find anything to dislike about him.

I asked what other bands The Sights have toured with to which they responded: The Kills, Guided by Voices, The Donnas, Sloan, and Billy Idol (just to name a few). They really enjoyed Sloan’s gig and have become good buddies with them since, often communicating via e-mail.

The conversation quickly digressed to Sloan’s lyrics and the band’s creative ability. That’s when I made the comparison that Sloan is big in Canada, yet (according to Eddie) draws few crowds in the Westcoast states and the US just doesn’t “get them”. I countered that The Sights can attract large crowds in the States, yet are still relatively unknown in Canada. As well, The Sights have been recognized by major music magazines, including the Rolling Stone and Spin magazine. Why they are not breaking into the Canadian market is inexplicable. That’s when I, again, brought up the publicity (or lack thereof) factor.

I also asked the group if there had been any difficult acts they toured with, and the name Billy Idol popped up. As Bobby noted, the South by Southwest Festival had four headliners sharing one trailer, but Idol’s camp decided to hijack the trailer as their personal home base, to the extreme of monopolizing the toilet paper (much to Bobby’s chagrin). ‘Do you know what it’s like to be next to go onstage and not even have fucking toilet paper? I had to send emergency text messages to Eddie to bail me out.” We continued by discussing Idol’s apparent plastic surgery as his face is a bit ‘off’. When mentioning Idol's crooked looking face I told them about the miracles (or lack thereof) of botox and how that may have contributed to Idol's appearance.

Asking a simple question about the experience touring in the UK turned into a food discussion - first the food was described as boring and bland, but then Bobby started remembering items such as beans on toast, the curry dishes, and then onward to Canada. We (Canada) apparently have great red licorice and white chocolate with almonds. This was the most animated (and hilarious) I saw Bobby get since the interview started. I made a mental note to get the boys’ addresses and send them a package of licorice and white chocolate.

Keith (drummer) was very quiet during the interview and then I learned that he pulled something in his back whilst on a water slide in Saskatoon. Out came Bobby’s caring side as he physically works out the “kink’ in Keith’s back. How caring? I’m not sure as Keith swore a lot and said “Stop it, what the hell...?’ while Bobby laughed and said, ‘No... serious, this will help.” After a minute or so of torture, Keith assured Bobby that he would just use his wrists more.

Speaking of drummers, I asked what happened to Mike (the former drummer) and Eddie said he left for Philly and Keith replaced him this spring. Mark (bass) had left The Sights in 2002 and is now married and presently fighting the war in Iraq. Bobby’s been with the band since 2003, So essentially, The Sights is Eddie. He originated the group in 1998 and has always been the core/ constant. Eddie and Bobby both stated that the band they have now is the one that’ll stay.

After some general chat about how much I’ve enjoyed their music, and hoped that their sound becomes better known in Canada, we drew the interview to a close. I left feeling that all three were very generous with their time, were humorous and generally likable. Considering I blind sided them by requesting an interview (when they just wanted to rest and have a couple of beers before playing) they were very accommodating.

Part Two - Finishing off With Some Email Questions

Swanktrendz: With the constant turnover of musicians, did Eddie ever feel like giving up?

The Sights:The constant turnover of musicians allows for fresh inspiration and a rejuvenation of some sorts. The changing of lineups almost makes it a different band, so there really is no feeling of giving up. The feeling of giving up comes when you are in bumfuck, nowhere and your girlfriend is back home in Detroit. Oh and I expect this lineup to last til I'm 53 years old.

ST - Why was Keith’s drum set so low to the ground - is that the way he prefers it, or was it simply gig logistics?

TS - I'll answer this for Keith since I (think) I know the answer. It is simply the way he taught himself. That is the only way he knows how to play.

ST - Eddie has a big voice, did he take vocal training? Did Bobby take piano training?

TS -The "big voice" came about because I have to compensate for my short stature (five foot six). Honestly though, the only way I know how to sing is to get up there and shout my brains out. You have to give it your all every time, you know? You can't just sit there and whisper into a microphone. People pay good money to see you, so you better give them some shouting; or prepare to get naked. The only training I've had is beer or whiskey before I go onstage. Bobby studied under Harold MacKinney, an old black jazz guy in Detroit. Keith, studying? Ha...

ST - How old are the members?

TS - 23,24

ST - Any married, girlfriends, or just single?

TS - Girlfriends, yeah we have three of them. One for each member..

ST - Are The Sights writing for a new album? Where do they write the best? On the road or while at home?

TS - It's funny, Bobby and I joke about this all the time: It is damn near impossible to write on the road. You just can't create when you are in that bonehead environment-- be it the smelly ass van, the cruddy "backstage" area (usually a leaky basement). I read in the van, and sometimes short spurts of inspiration will come to me. I usually write them down and then revisit them later when I get off tour.

ST - What will be done to promote The Sights in Canada? You are clearly an excellent band, with a bluesy rock feel - how are you going to market up North?

TS - Are you asking the band? Um, gee, I don't know. We are simply the lemmings they've programmed to grind our once lovely lives into the ground via touring. So, I think they will market us the same way in the North that they do in the U.S., which is ...

ST - When is the Canadian release date for the Sights self-titled cd?

TS - Should be out now at your local store kids!!!! Canadian Purchase

ST - What’s playing in The Sights’ cd player while touring from city to city?

TS - The Sights don't own a cd player in our van. However, our extensive tape collection includes: Little Milton, Little Eva, Little Willie John, Little Richard, and Illinois Jacquet. I am being truthful here. Another favorite cassette is Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.

ST - How do The Sights feel about the current state/trend of music ie: Rap, Franz Ferdinand, etc.?

TS - Like you said, the current trend of music is rap and Franz Ferdinand. I don't really keep up on the current trends... I'm too busy trying to figure out Irving Berlin at the moment. But I do get a kick out of you!!!!

Thanks!, later, eddie

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