INTERVIEW: Shiny Toy Guns (2013)

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Shiny Toy Guns are back.  Not just back with new music, but back to their starting lineup with original singer Carah Faye Charnow who rejoins the group.   Signed to a new label, Five Seven Music, they released the album III late last year, previewed by two uniquely different songs – “Waiting Alone” and “Fading Listening.”  Moving away from the rock feel of their second album Season of Poison, III is more of a electronic-leaning album which has been embraced by their fans.  I spoke to Carah Faye and Jeremy Dawson when they stopped in Nashville on their recent Tour Odyssey with Dirty Heads.

RS: How does it feel to be touring as a whole group again?
Jeremy: Great, we are a band and that’s normally how we tour, what do you mean?

RS: I mean with the original lineup all together.
Carah Faye: It’s awesome
Jeremy: It’s the only way to go.

RS: Carah, is there anything weird about singing the songs that Sisely originally sang?
Carah Faye: No not at all, I just make them my own.

RS: How has your work during the separation changed your contribution to the music now?
Carah Faye: I think that we all grew during the time that I was gone and we all had a lot to offer and dive into when we got back together. We had a lot to hash out and we hashed it out musically.

RS: Why, of all countries, did you go to Sweden?
Carah Faye: Well that is where my ex is from and I happen to be very passionate about the music in Sweden, it is incredible.

RS: Do you like the Swedish pop, alternative rock, what music form do you like?
Carah Faye: Black Metal.

RS: Oh wow.
Carah Faye: Actually I like everything, the pop music, the rock, and their black metal. Everything is really fantastic, there’s something in the water.

RS: I didn’t hear the black metal but that is really cool. How is the process different from when you worked with the group versus when you worked alone?
Carah Faye: Well it is only different because you have your ideas and they have their ideas. You just learn how to respectfully feed off each other, take and give feedback respectfully and make an album or a song or a moment that is a collaborative effort. It was fun, there was nothing negative about it and there weren’t too many cooks in the kitchen.

RS: The album was a little odd to me because I heard the first two singles first and they seemed a little atmospheric but the album is more ’80s rock. Was there a plan to introduce the album that way or how did that come about?
Carah Faye: I don’t think it was intentional at all; it’s just how it happened. We had people reacting to three songs that we put forward which were “Waiting Alone,” “Fading Listening,” and “Somewhere to Hide,” we had been gone for so long that we wanted to put the ones that people had reacted to out first.

RS: Cool. Your music often gets picked up by soundtracks, TV shows, and commercials, why do you think that people use your music for syncs?
Carah Faye: That’s one of those things that is hard to speculate without sounding cocky, we have just been fortunate to get license after license and I don’t really even know how to answer that without speculating the listener’s interpretation in a film or commercial way. It is really cool and has been fun.

RS: In 2013, with the way that the economy is do you find yourself making as much or more money from syncs than you do from album sales or touring?
Jeremy: It’s been like that since 2006.tr
Carah Faye: Yeah the game has changed, it’s something that you have to do and it is no longer something that you try to do in secret, the college and corporate shows are now how you survive.
Jeremy: Take a band like 30 Seconds To Mars, they sold over 1 million records and they didn’t make $1 off of their album. They had to go out and work their tail off and build up a fan base on the road using underground street teams. They built it up to the point where they sold 8-15 thousand seat arenas in Russia and they had to restructure the band just like everybody else. Even if you sell a million albums it doesn’t work, you can’t look at record sales anymore. If you want to be a global band you can’t do it on your own. If you want to be an Indie band and hang out then you can be on your own but you have to look at the new ways to make a living just like every other company does. Cars are using fiberglass now because steel costs too much money and everyone adapted to that, and then Detroit went down because they weren’t able to adapt as fast as the Japanese car companies did. It is all a rudimentary, animalistic, survive or be eaten mentality.

RS: How do you react and feel when your music is remixed, when you take a song and do it one way and you get the new versions back?
Carah Faye: I think it’s so fun; it is another artist’s interpretation of your music. You have already put your version out and there are no negative vibes about it, they just give you their version and what they would have done with the stems and the hook. I think it’s fantastic.
Jeremy: We’re really involved with it.  A lot of bands ask for remixes or receive remixes and they are just like “cool” because they don’t really understand electronic music. We are so deeply rooted in that and we immediately get right up on the fence with the artist and get involved to collaborate and make the best club mix of our track possible.

RS: What has been your favorite remixes of one of your tracks so far?
Carah Faye: Evol Intent did a drum and bass remix of “Ghost Town” that is heavy and killer, I love heavy stuff.

RS: I know that you did a remix album that ended up on Ultra, how did that come about?
Jeremy: Patrick Moxey runs the company and he came to us. He has just been a lover and friend of ours for years and years. He came to us and said “look, you have remixes floating around the world and it’s all unorganized.” We were on a major label that didn’t have a dance department at the time, the label was writing checks for remixes but not releasing them because they didn’t have a department head. Patrick came to me and said he’d take care of everything and we cut a deal, from there Ultra came in and put everything together in a bundle and released them so that people could get ahold of the whole pack at once.

RS: Part of that was the cover of “Major Tom,” where did the idea for that song come from?
Jeremy: It wasn’t our idea; Lincoln Mercury approached us and wanted us to make 15 seconds of a Peter Schilling song that they wanted for a commercial. We did 15-30 seconds and they wanted more music so we just decided to cover the song that way they could pick what 30 seconds they wanted to use. We knocked it out thinking that we were just doing work for a client and we hit the numbers on the machine and it took off virally. They put in on their website and it took off, the commercials synched to over 20 nations and sold over 700 thousand copies of the single. It won an Adtune award which is basically equivalent to a Grammy for the advertising world. It was a blessing for us.
Carah Faye:  I think that “Major Tom” was really important to the history of Shiny Toy Guns because a lot of people were just reacting to the darker and the rockier tones of the second album. At the time that the opportunity was presented to do this Chad mentioned that he was itching to do something electronic again because that’s our roots. We killed it; it was so well received because that is the sound that people want from Shiny Toy Guns.

RS: Talking about remixes I have this dream that you are going to be doing some more remixes off the album. I can hear “Mercy” as a big stadium house track or “E V A Y” as a big Tristan Garner, hard electro or dubstep mix, are there more mixes coming from the album?
Jeremy: There is a buddy of mine who does dubstep that is interested in “Mercy” but we haven’t gotten to those tracks yet. We have a couple of remix contests that are coming up and one that is in the works right now. I won’t mention their name because it’s in the works but it’s a company that a lot of people use to do the big remix contests. They have offered us a massive package of remixes of the album, all 11 songs at once like in a blast. A really incredible studio company that we used to make this record with is wanting to do a contest where instead of the winner winning a signed t-shirt or a vinyl the winner wins a pair of 8 thousand dollar professional studio monitors to take in their bedroom which I think is amazing for all these kids out there that are going to enter that contest and bust their tail. A good pair of monitors will literally change your career because you can actually hear what you are doing and it’s really important.

RS: Another song on the album that I like is “Speaking Japanese” that was just used on MTV, right?
Jeremy: Yes, it was on MTV last week and yesterday we got another license for a TV show that is going to come out next month.

RS: When you are working on the album how do you choose who is going to sing the vocal, whether it is going to be a male or female singer?
Carah Faye: That depends on each song, sometimes we want more duets and sometimes it is just so obvious with the key that it is written in who needs to sing where. It is different for every song though.

RS: How long did the video for “Waiting Alone” take to film?
Jeremy: 26 days.

RS: Wow. Was the original idea to have a whole epic theme or did it just evolve into that?
Jeremy: It kind of stayed with what our original idea was but obviously when you are driving across the country you are going to see and find all sorts of things to add and write down. It is self-explanatory; it is a love story of going across the country to meet someone that you couldn’t get to.
Carah Faye: And a demon was trying to stop me
Jeremy: Yeah, an evil demon who happens to sing in our band and play the leads!

RS: While you are on tour are you working on music as well or just touring?
Carah Faye: It is hard but we try. We go through seasons and some vehicles are easier and harder than others. I think that it depends on the strenuousness of the tour and the schedule. Right now we have a vehicle that is difficult to do it in.
Jeremy: We have a vehicle that is missing a lounge that a conventional tour bus has.
Carah Faye: We are artists so we constantly get ideas and we can just sing them into our phone if need be.
Jeremy: It is really hard to get a tour that is routed in an artist’s favor. Sometimes there are schedules and times that we need to book that are hours away and sometimes we have to back track. If an artist gets a tour routed in their favor where you are just hopping 150 miles a day then lots of things get done. If you get somewhere at 6 am you can set studios up, go to the mall and relax. You really have to give and take on that though so that you get the right city, right room and right date for your tour.

RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Jeremy: For those of you who don’t know, we have a new record and Carah is back. It is with a smaller record company that isn’t owned by million dollar investors and our record company doesn’t also make televisions and airplanes so we don’t have the resourceful ability to just pick up a sign and spend 800k a month on advertising so spread the word. A lot of people who have listened to our music over the years don’t know that we have a new record out and when they do more times than not they really enjoy it.
Carah Faye: Thank you so much to our fans for sticking by, it still touches me every day that the fans waited for me even when I was gone for those 3 years. That was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to come back because they never lost hope that I would return. There have been so many fans that have really pulled through for us. The story of our band is getting lucky because of our fans and what they have done for us, from the beginning when we had nothing, from getting to town to town, to how we printed our pictures and CDs. People helped us just because they were fans of the band. Thank you!

RS: If you don’t mind me asking, how come the change from a major label to indie label?
Jeremy: Well, the label that we were on went bankrupt and they actually just reformed it as Motown Records, they are an R&B urban label. At the time we didn’t have our record done, we just had demos and when we shopped around but it was hard because we were used to working with major labels with all of its perks and pluses. In 2012 those easy deals were gone, the big backbone, high advances and big budget deals are gone now. We talked to a number of different companies and the things that we had to choose from weren’t what they were back in 2006.
Carah Faye: At the end of the day our label believes in us and believes in our album with all of their hearts, they are really behind it and they are going to do everything they can. We are very appreciative of them.

RS: The label is like your fans.
Carah Faye: Yes. exactly.

Interview conducted April 2013.

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