For most bands one EP is more than ambitious enough, but for Spain’s Stormy Mondays, why release one when you can release two at the same time? Not only that, this inspirational folk band has recently won the NASA Space Rock Contest and has guaranteed that their unique sound will be heard in space, not something most bands will ever be able to say. With the release of The Lay Of The Land and Wading The River EP’s, Stormy Mondays bring us some great music to start the year off.
RYAN: Band names are often one of the most difficult choices a band has to make, can you tell us how you came up with Stormy Mondays?
Jorge Otero: I agree. I think one of the reasons why Stormy Mondays has had such an lenghty career is that I hate the process of choosing a band name! Many, many years ago, we had just read about how The Rolling Stones picked up their name from a Muddy Waters blues tune. Somehow, “They Call It Stormy Monday”, by T-Bone Walker, came to mind. We were amazed that no one had picked that name before us!
RYAN: One EP is ambitious, but two is truly ambitious. Is there a reason for two EP’s instead of combining them into one full length album?
Jorge Otero:It happened both by chance and by design. We started to work on our next “regular” EP. We were also discussing our long overdue plan of recording a deliberately folk-rock oriented EP. This idea seeped through the songwriting process. I found myself writing songs for two different EPs, and all of a sudden it didn’t really make sense to have the songs ready to go only to put them on hold for a few months. Then I had the vision of the double EP, with two different covers, the records joined by the sleeve.
The EPs are different sonically and lyrically, but when put together, the sum is bigger than the parts. I’m a big fan of the physical format. I think the format and having the songs on two different CDs helps to absorb and enjoy the work.
RYAN: The albums felt very inspirational and thoughtful. How would you describe both EP’s to anyone that has not heard them before?
Jorge Otero: “Wading The River” embodies the musical currents that have always run in the sound of Stormy Mondays. There’s Americana, there’s a bit of Memphis Soul, there’s some British Invasion for good measure. If you listen closely, you can find echoes of Neil Young, The Beatles, The Who or The Band. It’s not a pastiche though, the sound is undeniably our own. Or at least, that’s what we aspire to.
“The Lay Of The Land” is subtitled “A folk-rock adventure”, which I think describes the album pretty well. There’s a ton of acoustic instruments, some very unusual, like a hurdy-gurdy, a 12-string mando-guitar, or a toy piano made in Paris in the 60’s. We have added the influence of the celtic folk music of our homeland and arrived at a folk-rock brew that we’re very proud of.
RYAN: What does the song writing process look like for Stormy Mondays?
Jorge Otero:It’s hard work! It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to grab fully-formed songs out of thin air. You gotta show up to work if you want your work to get done. It took a long time to put together the pieces of the songs, especially the lyrics – I hate it when lyrics come in last! But that’s the way it happened on this particular record. Once we had the song, we didn’t try to overthink it or rewrite it a million times. Maybe a few…
RYAN: Congratulations on winning the NASA Space Rock Contest! How does it feel to know your music is leaving the planet?
Jorge Otero:It’s been a great experience. The contest happened a few years back, not too long ago though, so it’s still fresh in our minds. We got our song played on the last day of the last mission of the Endeavour Space Shuttle. We have video of NASA Mission Control playing our song to wake up the astronauts. It was amazing!
RYAN: One thing that is instantly noticeable on both EP’s is the quality of the song writing and mixing. How long did it take to create these albums?
Jorge Otero:Thanks! It did take longer than we realized. The other day I opened one of my songwriting notebooks and I realized we started the process almost two years ago! The recording began about a year ago, with the band live in a big studio. The foundation of every song is the live band, and I think that shows, it’s got a very natural feel. We then moved to our own studio and worked on the rest of the production.
The mixing was a highlight. We got the chance to work with Mike Stavrou, who mixed the record in his studio in Australia. Mike is a Grammy-winning engineer that worked for 10 years with George Martin at AIR London. He’s mixed records by many British heavyweights. He loved the sound of the band, and without changing anything, added a 3D quality to the mixes that really surprised us!
RYAN: Currently what are some of the most memorable moments of your musical career so far?
Jorge Otero:We have some many that some people might thing we’re making this stuff up. When we were teenagers, Slash (yes, Guns N’Roses!) jumped onstage and asked to borrow a guitar to jam with us. That happened back in ’92 in Oviedo, Spain. In ’99, we got to be the only Spanish band that ever played Woodstock festival. A few years ago, I shared stage and mic with Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey, on the Light Of Day benefit for Parkinson research. We got a song played in Space. I mean – what else could you ask for? But really, it all comes down to the music. We are extremely proud of each and every record and show we’ve ever played. I think that’s the most important part. We love this double EP, and people love it too. Now we only need the same as every band needs: a bit more exposure.
RYAN: As obvious professionals in this field, what is some advice you might have for bands looking to release their very own EP?
Jorge Otero:Well, you have to have the songs. There’s nothing worse than impeccably recorded bad songs, and that’s easy to do these days! If you have great songs and you truly believe in them, it doesn’t matter if you have to put the record together with a laptop and a few mics.
I also think it’s really important to embrace free music. And free doesn’t exclude paid. We offer free downloads but we sell CDs and concert tickets.
Lastly, you have to do it because you need to do it. We are musicians because for us, it’s too late to stop now. If you don’t feel that way, maybe it’s not worth it to enter the business.
RYAN: At this point in Stormy Mondays career, is this a full time job or do you also juggle careers as well?
Jorge Otero:We all juggle careers, and so do most musicians we know. The business is tough, but not for the reasons that are usually mentioned, like piracy. I think The radio/major label system was dismantled in the early 90’s and we’re suffering the consequences. There’s also been a major cultural change, and music is simply not as important as it was.
RYAN: Digital downloads have become more popular than physical purchases, how do you feel about this?
Jorge Otero:As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of physical products. I like to put them in my shelves. I understand the rise of downloads and streaming, and I also buy and stream, but nothing beats the experience of a vinyl record or the sheer quality of a well recorded and mastered CD, on a big sound system.
RYAN: Where do you gather your inspiration from for the song you write?
Jorge Otero:I’m not one of those writers that keep a notebook filled with ideas for the next few albums. I might have a few, but usually when I’m in song writing mode, I’m hanging by a thread. I’m listening to everything that everybody says and collecting scraps anywhere I can. I also need the songs to be personal and authentic, I need to believe in the lyrics. I’m really happy with how this record turned out, but it was exhausting.
RYAN: If you could collaborate with any other artist on a song or two, who would you choose to collaborate with?
Jorge Otero:I’d pick Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), although I’d probably feel a bit intimidated. Glen Hansard, I love his honesty and intensity. And Bruce Springsteen is welcome to add a guitar solo to one of our songs anytime!
RYAN: There are some definite single-worthy tracks on both EP’s. Can you tell us which one or two songs are your current favorites and why?
Jorge Otero:I like that you mention “current” favorites, because they change all the time! From “Wading The River”, I’m going to pick “Love And Fire”. The extended guitar solo probably makes it less single-worthy, but it also makes it a lot more interesting. From “The Lay Of The Land”, “Talking In My Sleep” is an obvious single, but my personal favorite is “My Lil’ Darling”. For me, it acts as a centerpiece to anchor the album.
RYAN: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news you would lie to tell your fans about?
Jorge Otero:Thank you, I’ve had a real good time answering your questions!
We have taped a live video that it’s almost ready to go, and we plan to release it probably next week. The 24-track machine failed during the recording, so we had to make do with the safety: a stereo track from the mixer and a stereo ambient mic. The great news is that it sounds great! You really get to hear exactly how the band sounded that night. It’s awesome.
by Ryan Donnelly