My Q&A With: Eric Lilavois

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Eric Lilavois has proved himself to be a man of many hats. His achievements and contributions to the music industry are vast and numerous. A few accomplishments to note: record producer, SXSW panelist, composer, talent buyer, recording artist and owner of two recording studios, to name a few. Eric has created, mixed, and influenced countless works and remains a highly influential producer in Southern California. Lilavois currently owns Crown City Studios in Pasadena, California and the renowned Seattle London Bridge Studio, in Washington.

How did you initially get involved in music production?

I was always fascinated by sound, I couldn’t fathom how all that emotion got on to that little spinning disc and I was dead set on finding out. When I started writing my own music and going into studios to record I was always the guy checking out every single piece of gear in the building and curious how it contributed to the sonic landscape. I had such a respect for recording engineers, and producers, they were magicians in my eyes.  I played in a popular band and then my friends bands asked me to record them and it just went from there.

It must have been very exciting becoming a partner at London Bridge Studios, a place where you had previously recorded your own music. What was that experience like?

London Bridge Studio is an incredibly special place, so many iconic and legendary records were recorded there, Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains, Blind Melon, Fleet Foxes… The list just goes on and on. You feel it when you walk in there.  It’s an honor to be involved, and I’m deeply dedicated to preserving it’s history as well taking the studio into the future with my partners Geoff Ott and Jonathan Plum. We’re in the process of restoring the original 1970’s NEVE console that all of those records were recorded on, as well expanding, remodeling and revamping the studio to keep it intact for generations of musicians to come. 

Your credentials and list of accomplishments are very impressive. What has been your best experience to date?

Saint Motel holds a special place, I produced a good part of their debut full length “Voyer”, we spent a really long time working together, and we recently did a cover of “A Quick One” by the Who for a tribute album from the music of Wes Anderson films that was just a blast. Working on the Acoustic version of “Trojans” with Atlas Genius stands out too. Keith and the guys are very present and we had a lot of fun geeking out together on gear and talking shop. Honestly though, each and every artist and session is memorable, even if some of those memories are, you know, hazy, haha!

You also record your own music. How would you describe your style?

I have a sound that is often characterized as Americana and folk with touches of rock.

My newest single is God in Our Glass and is a tribute to my close friend for over 20 years Ryan Hoherd, When you lose someone that suddenly, that close, you start thinking about all the missed calls, all the times you couldn’t make this thing or that. Suddenly it’s not, what would I do for another 5 years with this person, it’s what would I do for just one more hour. Ryan was a force, the life of the party, and an absolute prankster.

God in Our Glass listen link: https://soundcloud.com/londontonemusic52x52/eric-lilavois-god-in-our-glass

What would your advice be to upcoming artists trying to begin recording their own music?

Play your ass off, own your craft, your vision, and your art. Think about what inspires you, but don’t necessarily live strictly by the rules of your hero’s. Learn from them, but be mindful that they have different lives in different time zones. Be relentless, and don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are different then you musically, artistically, but make absolutely sure you surround yourself with people who share your desired destination, and are willing to work as hard as you to get there.  Find people you respect and trust to work with, seek them out and once you do, actually trust them. There’s no use in working with a producer or A&R guy, studio or anyone else if you’re just going to revert to every old decision you would have made without them. At some point you need to say to yourself I’m working with this person in this place for a reason, and if you don’t believe that deep, deep down, then just don’t do it, do the other thing. 


How can someone reading this interview get in touch with you to discuss a recording opportunity?

 Email me at Eric@Ericlilavois.com  I love to work with a myriad of bands and would love to hear from bands who are interested in working together.

My Q&A With: Narrow Plains

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Narrow Plains from the band’s Facebook page

London, known for fostering copious musical acts, has once again served as breeding ground for an up-and-coming musical force. Narrow Plains, comprised of guitarist and vocalist Charlie Ferriday, bassist and vocalist Roger Connick, and drummer and vocalist Stuart Connick, released two new songs this past August. Along with their EP Somewhere in Between, Narrow Plains have hit the ground running. With seven released songs, big dreams, and undoubted talent, the band is making folk-rock waves.

How did Narrow Plains come to be?

Charlie was playing solo as a singer/songwriter while he was at University and had written some songs for acoustic guitar only. He and Stu (my brother) had started playing some gigs together and so they had rearranged the songs to include percussion. They really wanted to record them but decided they needed a more complete overall sound, so they invited me to join them to play bass for the recording session. We went down to my Gran’s place in Dorset with our instruments and some recording software. We spent a week playing the songs, rearranging them for a band format and then recording them. By the end of it, we had recorded five songs that we really liked and we decided to release them as an EP, “Somewhere In Between”.

We were all really enthused by the EP and decided to start playing it live. We did a lot of open mic’ sessions and accepted any and every gig that we could so that we could get tighter as a band. We all enjoyed the experience so much that we have stuck together ever since.

What was the process like writing music together while in entirely different locations? How were you able to manage that?

As I mentioned, the original songs came about in a slightly piecemeal fashion but nowadays we write the new songs together. All the songs have a different origin but, often, Charlie will come up with a riff or a chorus and bring it into the practice room. We then all chip in with ideas or lyrics until we have a basic arrangement for a song. We have got to know each other even better over the last couple of years, which is important because we are our own worst critics. It sometimes gets a bit heated but, somehow, we manage to get the songs written and still talk to each other afterwards!

The band did a really neat cover of “Cannonball” by Damien Rice. Who would you say your musical influences are?

Thanks, he’s a great artist and we all love that song! The new acoustic/folk movement has really shaped who we are, and bands like Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard, Noah and the Whale and Bon Iver continue to inspire us all. Charlie’s guitar playing has definitely been influenced by Newton Faulkner, particularly the slap technique you can hear prominently on our song “Dreams”. As we were growing up it was modern American rock music that sparked all our passions for music. We were (and still are) into bands like Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182 and Foo Fighters.

This past summer Narrow Plains played multiple well-known festivals. How was this experience?

 Brilliant! We really enjoyed playing at so many festivals. It was an amazing experience to play in front of a lot of different audiences and on different stages. It has filled us full of enthusiasm to record our debut album and (hopefully) tour it next year.

Can you talk a little about the band’s newest release “So Rewind/ Keep You Away?”

“So Rewind” has been a favourite at our gigs for some time. We are very pleased with the final result. Although it is slightly different to our earlier material, it is a natural development and shows a bit of versatility with its pop overtones, samba-like rhythm and vocal harmonies. “Keep You Anyway” is another crowd pleaser. We think it shows a more indie sound and is a bit more raw than most of our songs. Charlie plays the harmonica on it and Stu and I get the chance to lay down a slightly heavier rhythm.

They are both songs that we have been playing live for the last year or so. We decided to release them as a “double A-side” single because we wanted to give our followers and friends a taster of how our sound is progressing and an indication of the type of songs that we’ll be recording on our debut album. We recorded the basis for both songs again outside of the studio. However, we did have some great help from Chris Daniels in the final mixing and mastering at his studio in Brighton.

Where did the idea for the Narrow Plain’s logo come from? 

After we had recorded the EP, we all got together for a weekend at Charlie’s parents’ house in the south-west, bouncing ideas around and setting up the artwork with our great friend, Kraggy, who is a brilliant graphic designer. He was setting up our website and all the artwork for the EP. However, we were struggling to find a logo. Charlie’s Dad mentioned that he had heard there had been a really weird crop circle that had appeared overnight at a place, called Cley Hill, near his house. Cley Hill is famous for UFO spotters as there have been a lot of sightings, although some people put that down to the strong cider that is produced locally! We immediately googled it and found that a perfect geometrical shape had indeed been cut into the surrounding countryside. We all really liked the crop circle and so Kraggy used it as the inspiration for our logo.

Let’s Talk About: Blake Mills In Concert

   IMG_0953The experience of a Blake Mills concert is something that cannot easily be described. Despite my best efforts, I will never be able to properly convey what seeing Blake Mills live entailed.

A few years ago, I attended a concert at the World Cafe Live Upstairs in Philadelphia. If you have not had the chance to see a concert there, I suggest you put in your best effort to get there at some point. The venue encompasses all the qualities of being intimate and relaxed, yet is a powerful and acoustically impressive venue. However, the show room Downstairs at World Cafe is something I had not experienced until a few nights ago. From this point on the Downstairs will serve as my venue of preference. The room is slightly larger and more spacious than the upstairs, but still retains an intimate, friendly feeling. It feels similar to the small, dining establishments that line the streets of New York City. It presented the perfect stage for an incredible night.

yMusic, a six piece ensemble served as the opening act. In and of itself, their performance would have been enough. Violinist Rob Moose provided strings for Blake Mills’ newest album Heigh Ho, and has also performed with many other artists including St. Vincent, Bon Iver, and the Punch Brothers. The group melded violin, viola, cello, clarinet/bass clarinet, flute/piccolo, and trumpet to capture both modern and classical sounds alike. One particular piece, “Music In Circles” sounded eerily similar to the sounds introduced by trailblazing composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich. It was euphonious. It was movingly beautiful.

When Blake Mills finally came onstage, I was surprised by his introverted demeanor. I was not expecting an overly talkative and outgoing performer, but I also was not expecting him to seem so shy and humble. Accompanied by his four piece band, he immediately jumped into “If I’m Unworthy” from Heigh Ho and continued into “Hey Lover” from his debut album Break Mirrors. His passion was apparent, but his talent was overwhelming. An unexpected surprise was Blake straying off course down  paths of improvisation and elongated guitar riffs. He appeared to just allow the music to overtake him. I felt I was witnessing a private momentIt was absolutely fascinating and captivating to see such talent and such love for music pour from one individual. Going into the show, I was aware of all the praise Blake has received over the past few years. He has been highly sought after as an in-studio guitarist for artists including Neil Diamond and has been likened to and praised by Eric Clapton. After witnessing him play in person, I realize none of those words even came close to accurately capturing his abilities and talent. I must also applaud his band, for improvising along with him, always closely watching for a slight nod of the head, indicating a wrap-up of a brilliant tangent.

IMG_0939About midway through the show Blake welcomed Fiona Apple to join him for three songs. Blake and Fiona toured together this past year, but it was an incredible surprise to have her come out for this show. Together they sang “Seven” and “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me,” both songs were recorded with Fiona sharing vocals. Their vocal blending was spectacular. Somehow they were able to make two very powerful and unique voices meld together to form one mellifluous cross-harmony. In yoga pants, a t-shirt, and a sleeveless zip-up, there was something extremely endearing about Fiona Apple, and something extraordinarily charming about Blake and Fiona together. What was the most intriguing throughout the evening was seeing the way everyone who walked on the stage stared at Blake in undoubted admiration. They were enchanted by him. Fiona, his drummer, his keyboardist, all followed his fingers rushing up and down the frets of his guitar with such concentration.

Later on in the show, yMusic came back onstage to accompany Blake on “Three Weeks In Havana.” The blend of orchestral voices, guitar, heavy percussion, keys, steady bass, and Blake’s vocals were nothing short of perfect. On occasion he would take a long enough pause in between songs to show his appreciation. On several occasions he referenced how the only people who come to his shows are other musicians and how much he appreciated the support of his band. It was really, really special.IMG_0942

It is hard to think that the night could get any better, but in a complete surprise, Blake welcomed Jackson Browne to the stage. Blake relayed a story that at his high school graduation, he had performed “These Days.”.  Jackson Browne and Blake then went on to perform the hit. It appeared a  last minute encounter. Blake explained that Rob, the violinist, created a string piece for “These Days” in the few hours between sound check and the show. It was also Jackson Browne’s birthday, but I think the ones celebrating were the shocked and elated audience members. For younger readers, if you are unaware of Jackson Browne , please look him up ( I suggest “Stay” or “Running on Empty”). He has sold over eighteen million albums in the U.S. and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He truly is iconic and this performance was one of a kind.

The concert, which lasted over two hours, flew by in what seemed like two minutes.A perfect evening. If I could, I would watch it all over again.