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|interviewed by robby sumner|
Nate Henry - Vocals, Bass
Dan Koch - Guitar, Vocals
Chris Armstrong -
Joe Greenetz - Drums
Mike Leibovich -
Organ, Rhodes, Percussion
| Interview with Dan
January 12th, 2004
|E: Dan, since your band got started, there has been a series of changes ranging from member positions to the name of the group itself. How do you think these changes have had an impact?
Dan: Well, definitely when Joe joined on drums and I switched to guitar, the band took a major shift. For awhile we thought we were really good, but we were kind of... wrong. Then the addition of a fifth member (Chris Keene on organ, Rhodes, and percussion) really sent us in a new, cool direction. The name change wasn't very significant, musically.
E: What inspired it?
Dan: Oh, well there was this other band called "Long Story Short"--I guess they are still around. They're from Maryland. They were very insistent that we no longer call ourselves "A Long Story Short," specifically so that as they showcased for major labels all legal loose ends would be tied up, so to speak, and they would be an easier sign. So then we needed a new name; we toyed around with calling ourselves "The Great Books Program" (the name of my old solo project) and, like, playing books on tape between songs... but that seemed a bit too much, and way too art-y. But anyway, so a while back Joe and I decided to start a side project called "Sherwood" and we would write an album that went along to Disney's Robin Hood, much in the same way that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon goes along with the Wizard of Oz. So we just took that name because we liked it.
E: How easily did the new members--Joe, and then for a time, Chris--fit into the band's current situation? For instance, with Joe... did he pick up where you left off drumming? Or was it a virtual overthrow with his own individual style?
Dan: With Joe... he is so much better than me, so if he were to simply play the same stuff I did, it would be some kind of musical crime. As a drummer and as the songwriter, I still do have input into what he plays, but if ever any drum fill or beat sounds cool to you, he probably wrote it. With Chris Keene, it was a pretty easy transition, or at least any problems were overshadowed by the fact that we really loved where we were going, musically. And now our roommate, Mike, has joined in Chris Keene's stead, [Chris is now touring with Number One Gun] and it is going super smooth with him. So member additions/switches have been really easy for us so far.
E: Let's talk about the overall sound you guys put out... how would you compare your current style to that from when you were first starting out? Surely influences have changed.
Dan: Definitely. Early on we just wanted to play something that sounded like The Get Up Kids meets Mineral meets Further Seems Forever. We would even tell people that's what we sounded like. Since then, so much has changed, but I guess now all we really try and do is write good songs and arrange them interestingly. I try and write songs people can like the first time they hear them, but also make sure that the way we arrange everything instrumentally makes each song enjoyable and interesting so people don't get stuck after a few listens. So if I were making a comparison, I would say now we are a lot more focused and hopefully mature in our approach than when we started.
E: Was there any adjustment needed to incorporate an organ into the band's songwriting process?
Dan: Yeah, when Chris joined we basically rewrote everything for five members. It was sort of a long process, but I think it all sounds a lot better now.
E: The most recent musical release by your band available--simply titled the Sherwood EP--contains a new recording of a "Under a Lamp, Under the Moon," a song that's been present on each major release since what is now called the A Long Story Short EP. What made you decide to keep with this song even as your musical style evolves?
Dan: Hmm... I guess we just still think that that is a good song. We didn't actually re-record it for second EP (Called the These Ruins EP) --we just remastered it to fit more with the new songs on that release. But also there is a new arrangement of it on this record that we think is way cooler--it has organ and Rhodes [an electric piano by Fender] and percussion and is just more interesting in general--and yeah, I guess we just think it is good still, so we keep playing it.
E: Although bassist Nate Henry is listed as the band's lead vocalist, he is not the only singer in the group. Chris sang back-up during his time in the group, as do you--you especially can hold your own, vocally.
Dan: [Nate] does all the lead vocals I guess, but there are a few verses in some songs (only one is on the new EP, but there are two more that will be on the next release) when I sing what I guess is the lead part. I actually write all the lyrics and teach them to him; but of course he sings them way cooler than I could.
E: Do you think that the sound, style, and vibe on the latest EP is the final product for Sherwood's experimentation process? Or is there still more discovery in store before you have the band just as you want it?
Dan: Well, you can never say that you have really arrived, so to speak, musically, because then you are bound to change again, ya know? All I can do is assume that we will, in fact, change again, because we have so much so far... but like I said, I am really excited with where we are now, in terms of trying to write good songs and arrange them interestingly. Hopefully we can continue writing better and better songs, and arrange them better than we have thus far.
E: Are there any particular creative hills you've been trying to overcome? Recognized flaws to be corrected?
Dan: I guess the main thing for me is that I'm not a very good lyricist. I mean, you can read our lyrics for yourself and decide if you agree with me, but it has been a rough transition in terms of writing more pop-oriented songs or whatever because you are bound a lot more by syllables, phrasing, and even just the sounds of words and phrases--it all has to be aesthetically pleasing. I have not gotten too good at all that yet, although sometimes I luck out with a cool phrase out of nowhere that I can write a decent song around.
E: "It's hard to run this race when there is no human face to call on in times of choice, with no reassuring voice"? Sounds like you've been "lucking out" a lot. Though I suppose a piece of writing's greatest critic is the writer himself.
Dan: I suppose so. I appreciate the compliment.
E: Don't thank me--I'm just in it for the press-release CDs.
E: How do you think what fans receive at live performances compares to what they hear on your recordings?
Dan: That is hard to say. I would love to say that we sound great live, but I don't know if we do. I certainly don't sing very well much of the time, but Nate usually does. I am really happy with this latest recording, and I guess the unfortunate by-product of a good studio recording is that the live show has to work super-hard to do it justice. But at the same time, what we try to do live is put on a really energetic show, and people tell us that we do a good job at that; I hope they're right.
E: How varied are the audience reactions you get from show to show?
Dan: Generally, when we go out of town we are really well-received. We sell more merchandise than we expect to and a lot of kids will come up and tell us they really enjoyed our set. However, we are a virtually unknown band locally; people will still tell us if they liked our set, but it is hard to know what the audience in general really thinks because obviously the people who hated us wouldn't say anything.
E: Would you want them to?
Dan: *smiles* Perhaps not. But it might be good sometimes to know what doesn't work, you know?
E: When it's not scheduled "band time," do you find that your musical career seeps into everyday life?
Dan: All I am doing these days is going to college and doing "band stuff" as I tend to call it. And then there is of course some time with friends and reading and whatnot, but I try and relate to my friends on a level that is independent of the band, especially because I am required to think about the band so much already. As far as writing goes, most ideas come at random times like in the middle of class or something like that, but sometimes I will sit down with an acoustic guitar or just a notebook and hammer out something worth using.
E: Do you ever hope to make the band your life full-time, as a career?
Dan: Oh yeah, I'm ready to leave as soon as possible. That is not only the hope, but also the plan. I am hoping to have one more quarter of school after this one, then take off this summer and finish college a few years down the road, presumably when the band is done.
E: How long ago did you decide that being in a band full-time was your dream?
Dan: Well, it was a sort-of dream of mine I guess since early high school, when I was in my first band. But I never thought I would be able to do it; specifically, I never thought I would be able to write good enough songs. As far as I could tell, there were so many bands out there, so many bands who could write better stuff than me, that I would never be able to do music. So I went to college, not planning on doing music. But then when we started this band, a little over a year ago, we decided that we would give the whole thing a try.
E: What do you think about when you hear a newly recorded song of yours on CD for the first time?
Dan: Well, it isn't really special because by that point I have been listening to it at every stage of the recording process in the studio, and even through the mastering process and everything. But still, the day I drove home from the mastering studio with the final copy of the record playing in my car, it felt pretty cool. I was just thinking, "other people might end up listening to this in their cars... that's weird."
E: Do you feel as though being in a band with the other guys in the group has brought you closer in a way few other situations can?
Dan: Definitely. It forces you to not only learn a lot about each other, but how to get along with other people. I think that a lot of relationships is more than just "clicking" with someone, but there is a lot of work that goes into really strong relationships. The fact that four of us live in the same house also makes us learn how to really love one another even when we don't want to.
E: What are some upcoming plans for the band? Future aspirations?
Dan: For now, the plan is just to play as many shows all through California and beyond so we can get our music to as many people as possible. As far as long-term aspirations, we would just like to be able to play music for a living for a few years. I hope I never eat these words, but at this point none of us want to be old rockers; we all want to do other things with our lives than play rock and roll eventually.
E: Well, I certainly see great things ahead for you and the band... thanks for the time you've given tonight. Any last thoughts?
Dan: I guess my shameless plug would be to ask people to visit the website, sherwoodmusic.net, and to download mp3s from the new record and to get involved if they like our band. And also, everyone should make the home page for their internet browser thehungersite.com, where you can give food to starving people for free just by clicking a button every day.