INTERVIEW: American Pleasure Dome

Hi Hans, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi!  I’m doing well. Thanks for your interest in American Pleasure Dome and our new record!

Can you talk to us more about your song “Cape My Rain”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Cape May Rain is about the end of a relationship and the difficulty of “letting go” when two people’s life plans don’t align anymore, and there’s no way to change that. It’s both painful and kind of poignant. For me there’s a little bit of the song “California Dreaming” in Cape May Rain, ie the end of a Summer romance-“All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…” and “Winter” is coming!

Any plans to release a video for the track?

I have been thinking about a possible video idea for Cape May Rain, and maybe also the song St Grumpy, which is an homage to my favorite bar (Grumpy’s) in my neighborhood in NE Minneapolis.

The single comes off your new self-titled album – why naming the record after the band?

I originally had a few album titles kicking around, but since know one really knew about American Pleasure Dome outside Minneapolis (prior to the this record coming out) I thought we should just follow the tradition of the first record being self-titled-kind of like Led Zeppelin’s first album is often called “Led Zeppelin I.” So I guess this album could be called “American Pleasure Dome I”!

How was the recording and writing process?

The initial writing process is really therapeutic for me. Coming up with chords/lyrics for songs is something I’m always doing in my spare time, as a kind of like emotional inquiry or keeping of a diary. It’s like having an ongoing conversation with my inner self, and helps me make sense of things going on in my life.  The next phase is bringing the songs to the band, making demos, working out parts, and recording-which is more difficult for me because you have to make a lot of hard choices and stick to them! The “choices” are endless–i.e., “Is this lyric what I really want to say?”, or “Should we repeat the chorus twice at the end of this tune?,” or, “How loud should this guitar solo be?” etc… even down to figuring out how the album art should look. It’s a process of developing confidence, trusting your creative intuition, and, at some point, knowing how to say, “It’s done’ and let it launch, I guess!

As a band, we had a lot fun recording the basic tracks (mostly live-in the studio), then overdubbing parts–guitars/vocals etc.  Then there was a lot of painstaking work (done mostly by Greg Schutte, who played drums, engineered and co produced the record at his studio Bathtub Shrine in NE Minneapolis) and also myself, about how the record would ultimately sound. I would also like to acknowledge all the hard work, great playing, and input I received from my musician friends Park Evans (lead guitar) and Brenda Shepherd (bass guitar and backing vocals).

What role does Minneapolis play in your music?

All of the songs are somehow based on/related to personal events and/or people in my life, which is all usually happening in Minneapolis!

I’ve often experienced songs I love about other people’s lives or hometowns as “iconic,”  and I would say it’s not always easy to write about your own life and feel that same sense of intrigue or specialness, but actually, so many great songs exist that were simply written by someone about their everyday life! HOW some songwriters share their inner experience allows other people access to these shared experiences in a way that can really move them, so I guess that’s what we’re all hoping to share in the songwriting process–to transmit or relate real feelings.

How does your Buddhist background influences your writing as a whole?

I’ve been meditating a long time and also working with my thoughts/emotions as a part of that process, so my songwriting/playing is an extension of that work. Two basic components in meditation practice for me are being “un-distracted” mentally and also “inquiring” into my inner landscape of thoughts and emotions. This slowly leads to becoming  more self aware/self accepting.  So playing an instrument and singing well requires an ongoing state of “un-distractedness” (i.e., to play well, you need to hold ongoing awareness in the unfolding moment of whatever you’re doing). That’s a type of meditation sometimes called, “Shamatha,”  in some Buddhist schools. Turning your mind “inward” to look into and relate to your thoughts/emotions is a process of “self inquiry” also known as “Vipassana,” or “Insight practice,” and I would also say that connecting with how you feel is a big part of song writing!

What aspect of modern life did you get to explore on this record?

Most of the songs are about the struggle we are all in, trying to make sense of, and find happiness in, modern life–which seems to be getting increasingly more complex and difficult!

The song, “Happy Pills,” speaks directly to this struggle (it talks about being on anti depressants), or the song, “Obey that Bling,” relates to the pursuit of “shiny objects” (i.e. consumerism), which, to me, is a major source of suffering in modern culture–trying to find ongoing happiness and contentment in external objects or experiences–which are always changing!

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Sometimes from my imagination!  For example, the narrator in the song, “Bad Girlfriend,” is  actually a talking can of beer that lives downstairs in the basement refrigerator! The song is loosely based on a friend’s struggles with alcohol addiction and infidelity in his marriage.

Any plans to hit the road?

I would love to do some short tours if we can all line up our schedules sometime!

What else is happening next in American Pleasure Dome’s world?

Well, we have a new line up currently, which includes my friends Lindsay Paine on lead guitar, and Joel Arpin on drums–although we recently had a show in which both Park Evans and Greg Schutte played for one of the sets, so I still consider them as being part pf the band! I have a new batch of songs going that will eventually become the next APD record, so I hope to have the band start working on them sometime soon!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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