Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sights Interview

The Sights are an almost legendary band that hit the Detroit scene about the time that Jack White was getting his stripes. Everything was up for grabs and fame was just a drumbeat away from that lucky break. The scene was exploding with talent and once again the industry looked toward Detroit for the answer. The Sights were part of it all. The had the chops but somehow their brand of power pop rock & roll fell from favor and rootsy garage gained ascendance. They performed with the Zombies and hit New York like a sledgehammer. They were so close. But as partnerships dissolved and personnel changes erupted, the Sights lost their muse and for a moment leader Eddie Baranek lost his energy and the band folded...briefly. Eddie granted this interview as the Sights prepared for a tour of regional clubs and a return to the recording studio

• Welcome back from your brief respite from the scene. Why did you decide to resurrect the Sights?
Because it is fun as hell and I love this band. I am addicted to playing live. I was in the backseat for a few years playing in other people's bands-- bass, drums, lead guitar... which was fun, but didn't fulfill me. I'm back with The Sights to show people real rock 'n' roll-- not manufactured myspace age crap that is passed off as rock 'n' roll.

• I’ve listened to your catalog of music (and YouTube) and I love your melodies and harmonies. And I really love your production style. How did you achieve that big high fidelity sound on How Do You Sleep or Circus?
Thank you, Bo. Your words mean a lot. Our sound is achieved from years of being a record dork, obsessing over 45s and LPs by bands that are forgotten or looked over. We take pride in our music. We don't just record something in our bedroom and throw it up on our myspace, hoping someone will clean it up. The song is first, and within that is the melody. You don't whistle a drum machine beat.

• Close the Door is magnificent it starts out like an obscure song by the Move (Lightning Never Strikes Twice) and the transforms into a full frontal sonic assault like the Kinks on steroids. This seems to be a stylistic approach…complete with instruments going in and out of the mix, tempo changes, heavy metal guitar trills and screaming organ – that mixes well your minimalist tendencies like the sparse Lennon-esque arrangement on Someone Like You. Is this a conscious dialectical approach to song craft?
Uh, err... I think the main theme is that we don't think about it too much. Just let the song come out of you and let it happen. But you did bring up The Move-- their BBC sessions influenced me greatly. The Kinks-- classic songs.

• I really loved your song Joanne, a great Nazz hybrid that pays homage to one of my heroes Todd Rundgren. You take his riff, build upon it and make it something different. I think you are a wizard as well. Is Rundgren an influence? How so?
The Nazz were one of the best 60s U.S. bands doing British-styled power pop. Love the Nazz, but I'll pass on solo Rundgren. As for the wizard bit, well there's a joke in there...

• The Detroit/Ann Arbor nexus has always produced great artists from Jack Scott and Motown to Bob Seger Kid Rock and the White Stripes. How do you explain it?
I've been asked this question a million times. And The Rationals, Alice Cooper, SRC, The Gories, Fortune Records, etc... there is no bullshit in this city. People see right through posturing.

• You broke into the scene about a year after the White Stripes. Did you perform with them? Did they influence you in any way?
That is correct, we were all part of this big group of record geeks. We were drawing from a similar well in that I feel we all shared a distaste for what was current. We existed in this tiny bubble called Detroit-- no worries about doing a showcase for label reps or any of that crap. We just wrote songs, played rock 'n' roll, you know?

• I read that you’ve been inspired by such classic and diverse artists as the Zombies, Big Star, & the Stones. What was it like for you to perform with the Zombies in 2005 @ St. Andrews Hall for Little Steven’s Underground Garage franchise?
Actually, I had met and opened for the Zombies back in 2000 in New York City, on my first trip there. This rock 'n' roll world I live in has afforded me the opportunity to meet a lot of my heroes-- Pete Townshend, Ian 'Mac' McLagan, etc.

• I was at that show and in my eyes it was a tremendous achievement despite the fact that neither the Sights nor the Zombies are “garage” rockers. I like the incongruence between primitive high energy rock and Beatlesque pop (I love both). Was it hard to find a groove performing on the same bill as the Gore Gore Girls, Mooney Suzuki and the Woggles?
Well, you bring up a love of mine as well. The Sights originally began with the idea of trying to blend hard with soft. For example, I loved the pop songs and energy of The Jam but I also had wishes to fit Nina Simone in there. All the while, I was looking to shove some Traffic on top and see what happens. Having the Zombies on a bill with The Sights makes perfect sense to me: songwriting, harmonies. We've played shows all over the U.S. with the Gore Gore Girls, Woggles, and Mooney Suzuki, so it really wasn't that hard to fit in. But you have picked up on some key ingredients of The Sights: blending high energy rock 'n' roll with pop songwriting. Sometimes people concentrate on only one area of sound, like rocking hard. But they lose the fact that a song isn't just a guitar riff through a Big Muff pedal. So when you listen to their songs, you realize they are shit.

• I heard so much about your dynamic live performances yet you seemed a bit subdued on that show…was I missing something?
Haha! Sounds like I must have been missing something!

• I saw a few Detroit folks in the audience that night - M.L. Liebler and Willy Wilson – who’ve performed or brought artists to White’s Bar. They are huge supporters of live music. Have they helped you in any way?
Funny, I will be seeing M.L. in two hours because he is teaching at Wayne State in Detroit. I am assisting him in one of his classes. M.L. is a Sights supporter and fan. He tirelessly supports the arts, writing, and culture in this city. He is a great example of a rock that will always be here championing our town, god bless him for that. Willy Wilson was a big supporter of The Sights since day one. He used to work at Car City Records in St. Clair Shores where I grew up. When I'd walk in the store he would hip me to certain events around town. When we started The Sights I was 16 or 17 years old and didn't know a damn thing. Willy would recommend things by saying "hey there is this festival in Hamtramck...(Blowout)" and we ended up playing the second Hamtramck Blowout and many after. I am blessed because I have had great people supporting The Sights and what we're about.

• I’m glad your back. What is it like to re-establish yourself in the talent-rich Detroit scene? How have things changes or remained the same?
Well, when we started in 1998 we were always the little brothers of the scene. The Dirtbombs, Detroit Cobras, Greenhornes, Hentchmen, Stripes were all older than us. It seemed like I could never get older, no matter how hard I tried! So now I find myself checking out groups and realizing these bands are younger than me. I gotta be honest, I don't get a lot of what is coming out of Detroit these days. A lot of drum machines, pre-recorded noise, etc. What happened? You can't afford to pay your drummer? But that said, there are some moments in Detroit I am digging; bands like The Readies, Lightning Love, Serenity Court, The Barrettes.

• Have you signed with a label? Are you writing new material? recording? Whose producing?
Always writing. Even if there are no plans to record, one must always be writing. But I'm not a discplined guy who says "I will write 15 songs in the next 15 days". I don't sit down and say "today I will write a song about lunchmeat". I like to let the writing dictate itself, don't like to force it. That sounds so cliche, like I'm being sent a divine lyrical pamphlet from God, but it's true. But yeah, we've just finished recording our 4th record. Jim Diamond, who has recorded all our previous records, is at it again. It sounds fucking amazing, and I am very pleased. Lyrically, it is a very honest record, which is scary as well.

• Any last words or comments?
Our 4th record will be out in the next few months. Buy it from the band. We like money.

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