Interviewed by Rick "The Screamer" Lindner
Date: July 2011
If a blender was mixed with a dose of TRAIN, a pinch of DAUGHTRY, a dash of JOURNEY, a smidge of GIANT, and a splattering of ANBERLIN it might just mix into a pleasant treat of addictive arena rock with a great ear pleasing sensibility and a vintage touch we might call SUGARWALL!
In all reality, the blender of this fantastic rock dish was served up by well known engineer/mixer, Ryan Williams (30 SECONDS TO MARS, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, PARAMORE, VELVET REVOLVER, etc). The key ingredients include Mitch Mills (guitars), Joey Lowe (drums), and Greg Wayne (vocals). The results became a stellar debut record that demands your attention. And attention is just what the lead-off single "Under the Milky Way"; a cover of the 80ís song by THE CHURCH and accompanying video has done for this Los Angeles based band.
Read on as Rockeyez sat down with the boyz aka SUGARWALL just before their show at The Phoenix Lounge in Harrisburg, South Dakota to get a little more background on this rock gem and to see what the future holds for this great new band.
Rick/Rockeyez: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on behalf of Rockeyez tonight and welcome to South Dakota. I believe this is your first time in our great state?
Greg/SW: Thank you, itís an honor.
Mitch/SW: Itís my first time here.
Joey/SW: I have been to Aberdeen, SD before believe it or not.
Rick/Rockeyez: What would take you to Aberdeen, SD of all places?
Joey/SW: My wife is from there and I went to a family reunion! Very nice people.
Rick/Rockeyez: You are currently on tour in support of your debut release "Full Circle" that just dropped on 7/19/11. Tell about the tour so far, a few highlights to date, and how the music is being received?
Greg/SW: We started with a show in Phoenix, AZ which was great. We all have friends and family there so it was fun to start that way. Then we took off to Dallas, TX, New Orleans, LA, and then up through Little Rock, AR, Kansas City, MO, etc and so it has been the south and Midwest. The feedback has been phenomenal. Our video for "Under the Milky Way" is out there and I think there has been a little radio airplay so there have been pockets of recognition. Some places donít know who we are and then they hear us and are floored so we make new fans, sell merchandise, and hopefully they will spread the word. That is just how it goes when you are doing it yourselves. Right now, it is an independent thing. We are trying to maintain that as long as we can.
Rick/Rockeyez: Your debut "Full Circle" was produced by the well known and established Ryan Williams. Talk about how you hooked up with him as well as the recording experience.
Greg/SW: I worked with him in a band I was in before. I became friends with him and when this started going down it just quickly happened. He was stoked on what we were doing so we jumped in with him. He is a really close friend of mine, but he is also insanely talented so it was an honor. He brought stuff out of each of us that we wouldnít have otherwise. He just isnít an engineer turning knobs, he has great ideas. He was "try this, try that". He also had a whole bunch of cool amps and stuff. Mitch and he fell in love over old vintage guitar stuff. He also loves drum stuff so he and Joey connected and with me it was a dream come true working with him. His ideas melodically, especially coming up with harmonies was just amazing. It was so liberating for me not to have to sweat that.
Joey/SW: We go in there thinking we have the greatest song in the world and he puts a few things in there and just makes it better.
Mitch/SW: I usually think that. You have to save yourself, from yourself sometimes. We are all on that level, itís not about each individual ego, and itís about making the best song.
Greg/SW: And for us, we werenít used to being produced, we are used to being very hands on, doing what we want to do. Because he is a good friend of mine, and then became friends with Mitch and Joey, it made things much easier. To just trust him and to allow that to happen.
Rick/Rockeyez: Do you think that friendship helped in the sense that bands can come in with ideas of how a song should look/sound like. Then when they work with the producer all of a sudden it could become a 180 degree of that original idea from start to finish.
Joey/SW: We havenít experienced that yet. It hasnít been that drastic. It was subtle things that made a big difference.
Greg/SW: To that point, having him being a close friend really helped us to trust him and to allow even for the little changes. We were able to let go. All the keyboards and programming, it was just great. It was just a nice touch to all the songs. Some of the songs became a hook of its own.
Joey/SW: Youíll hear stuff and be like, "that is cool". You wouldnít stop and think what is that sound. We have rock songs that have strings on them; it just adds to it and gives it a unique sound.
Greg/SW: It gave them a full sound, big choruses.
Mitch/SW: I was probably the one that was the most nervous. It took me about 2-3 days to open up as I am used to calling my own shots on tones and stuff. He just let me do what I wanted to do and then reel me in. Ryan is good at that. He will let you do your thing and at the end he is going to make sure you have what is going to be the best. He has great ears for that. And this is a song writing band, not a guitar or drum showcase band.
Rick/Rockeyez: When you talk about this being a song writing band, when I listen to the record, it is pretty obvious that is the case. With a lot of releases these days, it seems like they have 1-2 obvious singles and then a bunch of fillers. With "Full Circle" any one of the songs could be a single for various formats it seems.
Mitch/SW: All killer, no filler (everyone laughs).
Greg/SW: We are hearing that or getting that comment. It is so good to hear. That is definitely what we are aiming at. We wanted to make a record that each song is a powerful thing within itself. Not just a single and then a bunch of weak attempts at that same single. We are guys that listen to the records from the 70ís (ZEPPLIN and AEROSMITH); stuff like that where there is tons of dynamics.
Mitch/SW: We write like we are going to the arenas. We call ourselves an arena band. We might not be there yet. That might be perceived as arrogant, but really we are just shooting for anthems. We call ourselves that; unfortunately we havenít got there yet. They might let us outside the arenas and park cars though (laughs).
Rick/Rockeyez: Your lead-off single "Under the Milky Way" is a cover of the song originally released by THE CHURCH in the 80ís. Do people realize it is a cover?
Joey/SW: You would be amazed by how many people think we wrote that song. We tell them thank you, butÖ
Greg/SW: That was the point. I would never do a cover unless you can flip it on itsí head. I feel like we took this very low, moody new wave song and made it an arena/modern rock song. I am happy with it.
Mitch/SW: I was a horrible cover player, which is why I became an original band guitar player (everyone laughs). I am actually friends with the guitarist for THE CHURCH so it was natural. It actually worked out well for this version as I couldnít cover his parts anyway. Marty is such a unique player with the 12-string, I was like what can I do without turning out some bad Hendrix attempt or something (laughs).
Rick/Rockeyez: Choosing a cover song as your first single can bring quicker recognition for a new band, but can also bring some un-intended consequences (i.e. making it harder for original songs to stick or putting up other walls potentially). What are your hopes with the single and/or fears with that? Also, did any of those items enter in that discussion?
Mitch/SW: Iím always nervous, Iím pissing razors.
Joey/SW: I donít have that fear at all as we didnít do a huge Michael Jackson song.
Greg/SW: People literally think it is our song. The fans that are a little older and know THE CHURCH, the feedback we have got from them, thus far, dig it. I like that song that way, but this is a cool twist on it. It rocks, but it maintains the original soul of the song.
Mitch/SW: We got the stamp of approval from Marty on it. Before I could even apologize to him for butchering it, he said "good on you mates"! To me, he is a legend. I was honored to hear that.
Rick/Rockeyez: Do you feel like that song represents you best as a band musically from the record? Also, what is your personal favorite song on the release and why? (FYI: My personal favorite song is "Drifting". I love the catchiness of it, but also the up-tempo feeling).
Greg/SW: We have battled with that since we wrote it.
Joey/SW: Weíve been getting so many different songs that have been peopleís favorites.
Greg/SW: We heard the same thing you said though ("Drifting"). Are you more of a rock guy?
Rick/Rockeyez: Why yes I am, guilty as charged (all laugh).
Greg/SW: All my friends and I come from heavier stuff and that is also their favorite. The girls I know and the people that are into more pop stuff, it is all "Hold On", itís "Letter to Yourself".
Joey/SW: Weíve had people tell us even "Reawake" and that is a song we arenít even playing live.
Mitch/SW: We got new stuff ready that we are already playing live.
Joey/SW: We were originally going to do the tour and totally just promote the new record. All of a sudden we had these songs that were first put down on acoustic. Then I came up with the drum parts and we got together and wrote three new songs in two days. Then we were almost pissed they werenít on the record.
Mitch/SW: At the same time it is cool because it will hopefully give the fans something to get excited about with the future of SUGARWALL. It is definitely an evolutionary process. It still works within the set list.
Rick/Rockeyez: If you feel that strongly about the songs, would you ever consider re-leasing the debut as an expanded package with the new songs added as well as a DVD bonus including the "Under the Milky Way" video for example?
Greg/SW: For sure. We have talked about that actually. It depends on what road we go down. Are we going to give in and go with a major or are we going to try to continue doing this ourselves. We want to do it ourselves. We are a radio band and in this day in age though, in order to really to get to as many fans as you can it still takes the machine. That is just the reality so at a certain point you have to go that way.
Mitch/SW: Itís not trying to just think we are special or anything. Weíve all been chewed up and spit out before.
Rick/Rockeyez: This particular run we are catching you on is about 20 dates (+/-). What is the plan when you get home? Are you looking at working another tour run or is something else in the works such as a follow-up single, etc?
Greg/SW: We want to get in and track the three new songs immediately.
Joey/SW: I am interested to see what Ryan (Williams) wants to do with them. I really like them. Weíve been playing them all month so we will get in there and be like "here we go" and who knows.
Greg/SW: We will be tight with the songs as a result so hopefully he will get the best version to work with if we jump in quick and we will go from there. We will do some touring then of the west and southwest that we somewhat skipped out on with this tour. Basically just keep pounding the pavement.
Joey/SW: Weíve also been thinking about Europe. We get a lot of positive responses on Facebook from people overseas. Especially the "Milky Way" tune as is pretty relevant over there still.
Greg/SW: What has surprised me is I expected that, but it has also got them to listen to the other stuff. A lot of industry people in L.A. say they hear the European/British influence in our music although I donít necessarily pick that up myself.
Mitch/SW: We could tour Europe in five weeks or tour the entire Australian area in three weeks so in a total of eight weeks is doable. It is just getting there and the details covered.
Rick/Rockeyez: Speaking of what people hear in your music, youíve drawn comparisons to bands/musicians such as ANBERLIN, DAUGHTRY, TRAIN, U2 to all the way to THE CULT, RUSH, Rick Springfield, THE CARS, THE CURE, etc. How do you feel about that broad spectrum?
Mitch/SW: We need all those people to come and give us money (all laugh).
Greg/SW: It is amazing. There is an element of wanting to be universal, cross boundaries, and be able to play for as many people as possible. A lot of the bands you mentioned, you can dig at least a tune or more which is great regardless of what you are into.
Mitch/SW: We just want to touch people and be able to stay out and play.
Rick/Rockeyez: If there was one musician/singer you had the chance to meet that you havenít already without any limitations, who would it be and why?
Mitch/SW: The guy I would want to meet would be HENDRIX, but he is dead so I canít. So I would say Joe Perry (AEROSMITH). I cut my teeth on early AEROSMITH. "Toys in the Attic" rocks!
Joey/SW: For me it is a trio, not just one person. I would want to meet Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts. They were just such a huge influence on me when I was a little kid. My brother was older and he had THE STONES records and my dad was a musician so when everyone else was listening to modern metal or hair rock I was listening to the classic stuff. I learned how to play drums on the old songs.
Greg/SW: I wish I could jam with Ray Charles. Just sit at the piano and sing with him. It would be amazing. I would also love to get up and play with LED ZEPPLIN and Janis Joplin or modern day stuff like TOOL.
Rick/Rockeyez: I guess you might consider me a little shallower then. For me it would be Paul Stanley of KISS or maybe Michael or Robert Sweet of STRYPER.
Rick/Rockeyez: Guys thank you so much for your time and best of luck with this release. Is there anything we didnít cover you would like to add or a final message for the fans?
Greg/SW: I just want people to check us out and give the record a chance. I appreciate your time and it is really important if you hear our stuff and like it please talk about it. Go online, Tweet it, Facebook it and just spread the word. It is word of mouth. Thank you Rick and thank you Rockeyez.