‘I’m probably going to go to jail for these songs, aren’t I?’

Have you kept yourself busy during lockdown? Ryan Allen has. The Detroit power pop/punk rock singer-songwriter, who is also the frontman of band Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, has written, recorded and released two solo albums.

The first, which came out last year, Song Snacks, Vol.1, was a collection of 20 two-minute and under songs, influenced by The Who, The Beatles, Guided By Voices and Olivia Tremor Control, while this month he puts out What A Rip – a record that’s a homage to ’60s pop, psych and garage rock.

Allen recorded the new album himself, in his home studio, and played all the core instruments, but there are a few special guests, including his dad, Brad Allen, who plays the very George Harrison-sounding lead guitar on Only Son. The whole thing was mastered by Justin Pizzoferrato, who has made records with Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies and Sonic Youth

Talking about the record, Allen says: “What A Rip  is my tribute to rock ‘n’ roll. The influences are probably pretty obvious: The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Monkees… All the foundational stuff that you hear as a kid that just kind of sticks to your brain like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. Hopefully these songs stick to yours in the same way.”

They certainly do – here at Say It With Garage Flowers we’ve been cranking them up for the past few days. In an exclusive interview, we ask Allen to tell us how he’s managed to be so prolific during the pandemic, get his thoughts on the current political situation in the US and find out how he writes and records his music. 

“I didn’t plan on writing a million songs, recording them at home and releasing a bunch of stuff last year and now this year, but I’m just going with the flow and trying to make the best of a shitty situation,” he tells us. “This whole thing reminds you that life is short. Why wait? “Fuck it! Get the shit out there!”

Q&A

How are things?

Ryan Allen: Things are…weird, ya know?

What kind of mood are you in?

RA: If you’d asked me this around the time of the election, it would be a bit different than it is now. I’m trying to be hopeful and positive as much as I can. Some days are harder than others, but when I get into a slump, I try and remind myself of all the good around me. I have an amazing son. I have a wonderful girlfriend. My parents have been vaccinated. I’m still working. I’m writing music. I have things to look forward to. I’m just counting my blessings I guess.

We’re treading completely new waters as a collective society, and for the majority of it there’s not really been anybody around to throw us a lifejacket. But with the incoming administration in the US, I am feeling hopeful that we will be out of the darkest parts of this soon. Personally, I feel very lucky, as, touch wood, the people I’m closest to are all healthy and doing alright. But I know that isn’t the case for a lot of people, and it’s heartbreaking to think about how much loss folks have experienced since the pandemic hit.

I mean, I definitely miss playing shows and having band practice, but I can live without it when you compare that to losing a loved one. So I kind of have to put everything in perspective – this whole thing sucks, but it could be worse as well. Like I said, I feel lucky right now, all things considered.

How has Covid affected your plans?

RA: I didn’t plan on not being able to play shows to promote the last Extra Arms album, nor did I plan on writing a million songs, recording them at home and releasing a bunch of stuff last year and now this year, but I’m just going with the flow and trying to make the best of a shitty situation.

 ‘I didn’t plan on writing a bunch of songs, but they just kept showing up to the party, so I kept letting them in the door. Needless to say, the house was getting pretty full!’

 You’ve been busy during lockdown – you’ve recorded and released two new solo albums: Song Snacks, Vol.1 and What A Rip. Did you really write all of the songs during the past year?

RA: Yeah – every song on both solo albums was written in 2020, after the pandemic hit. Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing a bunch of songs, but they just kept showing up to the party, so I kept letting them in the door. Needless to say, the house was getting pretty full! But it’s been a lot of fun, playing around with different styles, teaching myself how to make better home recordings, and just keeping my songwriting muscle exercised.

Why do you think lockdown has made you so prolific? What’s been influencing and inspiring you? How have you managed to write and record so many songs?

RA: Well, I’m always working on music. Before the pandemic hit, I probably had another 20 or so songs I was working on for whatever Extra Arms was going to do next.

That’s on top of the two solo albums I’ve done and a few other projects I cranked out – a shoegaze EP with some friends, called Soft Wires, and a pandemic-inspired hardcore album called Quaranteen Idles.

I think the difference is that instead of waiting to get into a studio, I decided to use the tunes I was writing, independent of what I knew was already set aside for Extra Arms, to really try and improve my home recording prowess. I downloaded Logic and bought a few mics. I tried to home in on good guitar tones. I wanted to play drums again. I love playing bass and it gave me an excuse to do that. And, to be honest, all my demos were always rushed.

I wanted to learn more about processing and adding things like compression and other effects to improve the quality of what I could do at home. I was pleasantly surprised that I could make things sound pretty decent, so hence all of the music that may have been kept under wraps and waiting in the wings for a real studio deal has instead been tossed out into the world. Also, I should say, this whole thing reminds you that life is short. Why wait? “Fuck it. Get the shit out there,” was my thought.

‘I’m an amateur, but my crude home studio set-up is similar to what Guided By Voices were working with. They just had a four-track, a couple of SM-57s mics, a Memory Man delay pedal and a fuckton of great songs!’

What’s your writing and recording process? Do you have a tried and tested method of penning songs? What’s your set-up like at home for playing and recording?

RA:I think I just sort of go into a trance, if I’m being honest. I lose track of everything around me, and the ideas just flow.

Sometimes I feel like the songs choose me, instead of me trying to find them. They just show up.  I try not to labour over things too much, and I like to start and finish an idea in one sitting if I can. The songs for Song Snacks were very much written and recorded in the same moment – some three or four at a time.

I’m lucky that I have a space in the house to make some noise. In my previous homes I had that, but not like I do now. I have a ton of space and all my gear set-up – all I really need to do is flip a few switches and I’m ready to roll. I would never be able to record anybody else here, ‘cos I don’t have any nice outboard gear or anything like that, but for what I’m trying to do it works. It still doesn’t compare to a real studio, or somebody who has amassed a bunch of great gear and knows their way around Pro Tools.

I’m very much an amateur, but I think my sort of crude set-up is similar to what a band like Guided By Voices was working with. They just had a four-track, a couple of SM-57 mics, a Memory Man delay pedal, and a fuckton of great songs! It didn’t need to sound perfect, cos the songs were so good. So that’s what I’m aiming for, I guess.

Let’s talk about some of your new songs – from both of your recent albums. I’ll pick a few of my favourites and you can tell me a bit about them…

Song Snacks, Vo1.1 

You can listen to the album via Bandcamp below:

Here Comes The Rain: This is a cool, stripped-down, Beatlesy psych-ballad. It sounds like it has a Mellotron on it…

RA: Yep – it’s very Beatles, right down to the name – instead of Here Comes the Sun… It’s in an alternate tuning, which I stole off Swervedriver’s website. When I played chord structures in the tuning it felt very drony, similar to Love You To, so I tried to channel some of that George Harrison mysticism.

‘Getting your legs tattooed and growing your hair long is something not a lot of 40-plus year-old-guys are probably doing, but as Bon Jovi sang, “It’s my life” ‘

I’m A Wizard Now: Another song that sounds like The Beatles – particularly Across The Universe. Are you actually a wizard now? Please explain yourself.

RA: Yeah – more Beatles and it’s clearly very indebted to Across The Universe, which is one of my favourite songs ever. If I was a wizard, I guess the spell I would cast on myself is to keep writing more tunes.

Leg Tattoo: You have a leg tattoo, don’t you? What inspired this song? I think it sounds like a more fuzzed-up Fountains of Wayne…

RA: I have two leg tattoos, actually. It’s a pretty dumb song, but sometimes I’ll just sing stupid stuff around the house while I’m doing things. This is kind of one of those, but I ended up turning it into a real song. I guess it’s mostly about doing whatever makes you happy, no matter what people think you should be doing.

Getting your legs tattooed and growing your hair long is something not a lot of 40-plus year-old-guys are probably doing, but as Bon Jovi sang, “It’s my life.”

Got any tattoos you regret?

RA: I’m good with all of my tattoos.

‘I was trying to channel some sweaty, coked-out Lennon session vibes à la How Do You Sleep? I think I pulled it off’

You’ve Been ElectrocutedThis one rocks! Any thoughts on it? It’s a heavy stomp, with loud, crunching guitars…

RA: Thank you, man. I was trying to channel some sweaty, coked-out Lennon session vibes à la How Do You Sleep? I think I pulled it off.

What A Rip

You can pre-order the album from Bandcamp here.

Already Gone: a great nugget of noisy ’60s garage rock, but with a nice, unexpected Beatlesy mid-section…

RA: This is one of the first ones I came up with for the record. I wanted to do something with a seventh chord carrying the tune along, similar to Taxman, or something like that. But after playing the riff for a while I felt like it really needed to go in another direction entirely – it was almost like a different song was spliced-in from a different session. I like the juxtaposition and I feel like it kind of catches you off guard. I’m just trying to keep the people on their toes.

Feeling You Feeling Me: This is your new single and, once again, it’s very Beatlesy and psychedelic…

RA: This was the first song I wrote for the record, without actually intending to make another album. A friend let me borrow a Mellotron guitar pedal, and since there are no shows happening, I thought it would be fun to write something and use it on the recording.

This was a rare song that I kind of had to fight with to bring into existence, since I felt like it had to have a certain vibe for the Mellotron pedal to sound good.

I kept messing with things and then getting frustrated and stopping. I probably did that for a few hours. Then I sat down at the drums and started to play the beat that you hear on the song, and I liked the kind of wistful sway that it had going on. So I grabbed my guitar and tried to write something with that beat in mind, and then it all just came together immediately. I’m really proud of this one, for sure.

‘What A Rip is my tribute to rock ‘n’ roll. The influences are pretty obvious: The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Monkees… All the foundational stuff that you hear as a kid that just kind of sticks to your brain like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth’

On My Mind: This reminds me of The Monkees. It’s a cool pop song and it has a Last Train To Clarksville feel, doesn’t it?

RA: Yep – you nailed it. It’s The Monkees meets Tom Petty. I just love riffs like this. There’s something about hearing that Last Train To Clarksville riff or Paperback Writer… It sounds so heavy, but it’s not necessarily intended to be. It just hits a sweet spot.

Shannon Cake: This has some nice harmonies and it’s very like The Beach Boys and The Zombies. Who is Shannon Cake? 

RA: Yes – it’s very Beach Boys and Zombies. I’m probably going to go to jail for these songs, aren’t I? Shannon Cake is a real person. She’s a reporter who was interviewed in a documentary I watched about Jeffrey Epstein. I just loved the name and knew I needed to use it in a song. It was actually written in more of a Guided By Voices indie-rock style, but I re-interpreted it and gave it the Brian Wilson treatment. I also used a basketball for percussion.

‘I felt compelled to document this wild time, and do so through the eyes of my nine-year-old son, who has basically had everything taken away from him this year’

Only Son: That Beatles / Mellotron sound is back again… This song sounds like it’s a comment on the past year – the Trump situation and Covid. Is that the case? I love the feel of this track. There’s a definite Lennon thing going on – and some lovely George Harrisonesque guitar on it.

RA: Man, you’ve really got me figured out. Yes to all of that. I just felt compelled to document this wild time, and do so through the eyes of my nine-year-old son, who has basically had everything taken away from him this year. It’s kind of a sad song, but the chorus is meant to be encouraging, saying, like, “Hey, shit sucks right now, but it’s going to be okay because we have each other.”

It seems like you’ve been on a bit of a ’60s psych trip recently – as we’ve discussed, there are some very Beatlesy songs on both of your new albums….

RA: I’m just a fan of music, you know? I think I’ll always do the aggressive power pop thing for sure, but I just wanted to indulge a different side of my songwriting. Also, it’s really fun to go down the rabbit hole and discover bands that are completely new to you, even if they’re old. So if you like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks and The Stones, you’re bound to also love The Nazz, The Creation, Fire, Les Fleur De Lys, and The Pretty Things…you just have to search a little harder to find them. I guess the plus side to Spotify is that you can pretty much listen to anything ever and discover something daily. So I kind of started doing that and, you know, being a songwriter, inspiration was bound to hit me.

What are your plans for the rest of 2021? Is there another album in the pipeline?

RA: The rest of 2021 will be pretty active. I have an EP that I recorded quickly over the course of a weekend that I’m kind of holding on to right now. It’s a totally different vibe than the last thing – kind of heavier and inspired by the songs I was writing when I was 14 and recording on a four-track.

I also have a project I’ve been working on with my friend Kathleen Bracken, where I wrote the songs but she’s coming up with vocals, lyrics and melodies. So we’re kinda chipping away at that. And Extra Arms is hitting the studio – safely – very soon to work on the follow up to Up From Here. We’re kind of piecing it together remotely and will be in the studio one or two at a time to record it. We’ve never done it this way – we’re usually in the room together, bashing it out, even if we’re working from one of my demos, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

‘It’s sad that Trump and his administration did nothing to help anybody and were happy to just let people and businesses die. It’s sick. He deserves to be thrown in jail for the rest of his pathetic life, and I hope he rots there’

What are your hopes and fears for 2021? Are you worried about the future of live music?

RA: I just hope people get vaccinated and can get the help they need – financially, mental health wise, etc. This whole thing will have such long-lasting effects – some of which we won’t even see until years and years later. It’s sad, to say the least, that Trump and his administration basically did nothing to help anybody and were happy to just let people and businesses die. It’s sick, honestly. He deserves to be thrown in jail for the rest of his pathetic life, and I hope he rots there.

In terms of live music – it’ll come back. It might not be the same, but people persevere, you know? We adapt. We figure shit out. There are a lot of idiots out there, but there are also lots of brilliant people. It will be back. And I hope people don’t take it for granted like they did before the pandemic. Hopefully people will go out and support the arts with fervour, and the musicians who do it as a full-time thing can reap the rewards of that.

Are you more hopeful now that Trump isn’t in power? How does that make you feel? Fittingly, there’s a song on your new album called Election Night, which can’t be a coincidence, and Only Son has some social commentary in the lyrics…

RA: Hell, yeah. He was this close to becoming a full-on dictator. How fucked up is that? And people wanted it! Insanity. I am just glad we are back to a place where we can trust the administration – more or less – know they are operating on facts and science, and try to get us the fuck out of this mess.

Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms

Do you have any music recommendations – new and old? What have you been listening to during lockdown?

RA: Oh man. I could go on forever. Lately I have been listening to a lot of funk – Funkadelic, Betty Davis – some Lenny Kravitz, D’Angelo, and the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack. So not my usual Bob Mould, Bob Pollard, power-pop, Superchunk rock-type stuff. But I’m always spinning Sloan and stuff like that too.

Finally, what were your favourite records of last year?

RA: Here’s my list:

  1. Lees of Memory – Moon Shot
  2. The Lemon Twigs – Songs for the General Public
  3. Coriky – S/T
  4. Guided By Voices – Surrender Your Poppy Field / Mirrored Aztec / Styles We Paid For
  5. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers
  6. Peel Dream Magazine – Agitprop Alterna
  7. Hum – Inlet
  8. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
  9. Supercrush – SODO Pop
  10. Fleet Foxes – Shore

What A Rip by Ryan Allen is officially released on February 5: you can stream, download or purchase it here. 

https://extraarms.bandcamp.com/

‘I’m trying not to watch too much news – I’ve been playing a lot of guitar…’

Picture by Tim Meeks

Detroit power-pop singer-songwriter Nick Piunti’s new album has an apt title for these days of global lockdown – it’s called Downtime.

“It’s a bit too timely. My daughter, Megan, actually came up with it after listening to the record. In the song Never Belonged To Me there’s a lyric that says: “Don’t know what to do with the downtime.”

“The word ‘time’ also shows up in a few of the other songs,” says Nick, whose latest record – his sixth – is the first with his new band, The Complicated Men.

The album has all the usual Piunti hallmarks – raw vocals, infectious melodies, crunching guitar riffs and sweet, ’60s-style harmonies – but, this time around, the sound is fleshed out with Hammond organ.

First single, All This Time, is anthemic and urgent indie rock ‘n’ roll, the opening track, Upper Hand, is chugging and New Wavey, while Going Nowhere has some breezy ‘doo-doo-doo’ backing vocals and a killer, fuzzed-up, melodic guitar solo. There are also some quieter and more reflective moments – the ballads All Over Again and Good Intentions.

So what is Nick doing with his downtime and how’s he coping with lockdown and the COVID-19 crisis?

“For the first three weeks, I was working at our restaurant, as we transitioned into ‘carry-out’ orders only. The staff did a great job, but, as time went on, the stress was getting to everyone, so we decided to close up shop until we’re able to be a full-service restaurant again,” he says.

“I admit that I brought my amp and guitar to work and was making quite a bit of noise between orders. I’m happy to say that not one person on our staff became ill while we were still in business, and, so far, everyone has remained healthy.

“I’ve been trying not to watch too much news. I want to stay informed, but it can take a lot out of you. I’ve been playing a lot of guitar, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. I have our restaurant to worry about, as well as keeping our family safe.”

He adds: “Our oldest daughter has moved back in temporarily, as she’s working from home, and that’s been really nice. We’re hardly fighting at all! Our middle daughter is out-of-state, finishing up her senior year, so it’s been hard being away from her.

“Our youngest is running the household as usual, watching too much TV and telling us what she wants for dinner every night. I’m the only male in the house, so I look for a corner I can hide away in, to work on new songs.

“Back in February, when the consensus was that the virus was only dangerous for a portion of the population, it seemed manageable, but it really hit home when my friend, Chris Plum, came down with it.

“He contributed to the new album as a special guest, adding some great harmonies on a few of the songs and synth on another. He’s a super-talented guy. He became very ill with COVID-19, but, luckily, he’s recovered – he actually followed some alternative methods that saved his life.”

Q&A

Let’s talk about your new band, The Complicated Men. What’s the line-up?

Nick Piunti: The Complicated Men are officially: Jeff Hupp (bass); Ron Vensko (drums) and Kevin Darnall (keys), plus special guests Ryan Allen (harmony vocals, guitar, percussion) and Chris Plum (harmony vocals, synth, percussion).

It was cool having both Ryan and Chris guest on the album. Side one of the record is more Chris and side two’s more Ryan. Both of them are super-talented musicians who work really quickly. I loved hearing what they would add to the songs.

Where did the band name come from?

NP: Ryan came up with it – I think he had it in his back pocket for one of his bands, but he never used it. Are they really that complicated? Well, they’re a bunch of middle-aged dudes playing rock stars, so, yeah, I guess so.

Jeff Hupp actually brought the band together. Donny Brown and Andy Reed were my band for several albums, but we all live quite a distance from each other, so rehearsals rarely happened and we didn’t play many shows. Jeff asked if I wanted a bass player for an upcoming solo show. He then brought Ron in and, a bit later, Kevin. Ryan was in the band for a minute, but realised he couldn’t put the time in for rehearsals and shows.

‘With the addition of a keyboard player, I knew it would cover more sonic territory, but I still wanted the record to rock. That’s what I do’

How did you approach the writing and the recording for the new album?

NP: I wrote the songs pretty much like I always do, except I refrained from recording any demos – I worked them out with the band before we hit the studio.

The last four albums began with me in the studio, laying down a rough rhythm guitar track and a guide vocal, building the songs from there. It would usually be just Geoff Michael – the producer – and I to start with, and then Donny Brown would lay down the drums.

We’d work on the guitars and vocals and Andy Reed would add the bass guitar towards the end. I kind of have a sound – guitars and a few more guitars, and this voice I was born with. I said born, not blessed. And I like what I like, so there’s not a reinvention of the wheel by any means.

The Complicated Men (picture by Tim Meeks)

With the addition of a keyboard player I knew it would cover more sonic territory, but I still wanted the record to rock. That’s what I do, for the most part. Although I wrote the songs, the band were definitely integral to the arrangements and they all composed the parts they played on the record.

Some of the songs were more of a group effort in their arrangements, while others were pretty much like I wrote them. Ryan, who’s been a long-time contributor, had quite a bit to do with the first batch of songs we recorded as The Complicated Men.

Where did you make the album?

NP: Once again we did it with Geoff Michael at Big Sky Recording in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We started the record in March last year, took a break, recorded five more songs in late spring, added some overdubs in the fall, and mixed it at the end of 2019. You could make a baby quicker than I make an album!

Geoff and The Complicated Men are listed as producers. It was a team effort, but I know when to stay out of Geoff’s way.

The first single from the album was All This Time. It sounds like another classic Piunti ‘relationship gone wrong’ song. It has a great rock ‘n’ roll feel – the organ has really filled out your sound.

NP: Yeah! All This Time was written on a Sunday and recorded the following weekend, if I remember correctly. The band took to it really fast.

Yes – love gone wrong. Not that I know anything about that, as I’ve been happily married for 25 years. The song is not autobiographical – it’s actually about a friend of mine who was going through a tough time.

In fact, a few of the songs on the album were written standing in someone else’s shoes – enough to make my wife request a disclaimer on the album stating: ‘These songs are not about my wife.’ I forgot to add it, but all of the love songs on the album are about her. There are a few…

Kevin played a Hammond B3 on that song. There’s nothing like the real thing.

The latest single, Upper Hand, has a bit of a New Wave sound, with its chugging guitar. Where did that song come from?

NP: I actually wrote the chorus in the shower. It’s best not to picture that! I think it was the first song I wrote for the new album, so it was appropriate to kick the record off with it.

It’s about giving up control, which is something I’m getting better at as I get older. If you’re going to stay married for 25 years, I find that’s it not healthy to try and control everything.

New Wave? Yeah – I do like to rely on guitar riffs for a lot of my songs. I grew up in the ‘70s – it’s in my DNA.

Picture by Tim Meeks

You rock out on Going Nowhere, which is one of the heavier and ‘crunchier’ tracks on the album. I love the ‘doo-doo-doo’ backing vocals, the harmonies and the organ. It has a nice, melodic guitar solo, too.

What’s the song about? You sing: “The ship was going down… it looks like we might drown…. I’m the captain of this ship and we’re all on the same trip going nowhere.”  It sounds like it’s a comment on the state of US politics and the Trump presidency, or am I reading too much into it?

NP: That song was a total team effort. Chris came up with the harmonies, which were possibly suggested by Jeff, if I remember correctly.

I had the guitar solo in my head, but it still needed something, so we added some fuzz and an octave to it. I need to do more of that!

‘I actually wrote the chorus to Upper Hand in the shower. It’s best not to picture that!’

Going Nowhere was the last song on the album that needed lyrics. I was stuck, so I asked Ryan if he could help me with it. I sent him the basic tracks and hummed the melody and phrasing, and in about 15 minutes he came up with the first verse in a text. Half an hour later he sent me the rest of the lyrics. They were perfect – I didn’t need to change a word.

It does sound like it could be a Trump-inspired song, but Ryan says it’s about dealing with depression and trying to navigate your way through it, with some days better than others. I could see a video with a cartoon Trump singing it, but we’ll leave it to the listener’s imagination instead.

Nick Piunti and Ryan Allen (Picture by Tim Meeks)

All Over Again is one of the album’s slower and more laid-back moments – it’s a ballad…

NP: I actually recorded that song in the studio with just Geoff and myself. It was in November – a couple of months before the first Complicated Men studio date.

I wrote it really quickly and wanted to record it before the feeling passed. The song is different to the rest of the album, but I wanted to include it – it’s kind of sad, but still hopeful. It’s one of my songs that someone half my age should cover.

The final song on the record, Good Intentions, is another slowie. It’s lovely – a reflective way to end the album…

NP: I wrote that song as my mom was nearing the end of her life. She passed away in February 2019. I don’t know if I was writing it from her viewpoint, or from what I might want to say when the time came. It’s a song to my daughters, maybe? I intended to write a second verse, but the song really felt complete with just the one verse and chorus.

On that note, sadly, one of your musical heroes and influences, Adam Scheslinger, from Fountains of Wayne, recently died as a result of COVID-19 complications? How are you feeling about his passing? What did his music mean to you?

NP: I didn’t know Adam personally, but I met him at a show and actually asked if he would mix my album, 13 In My Head, to which he said “sure”…

Fountains of Wayne are not only one of my favourite bands, but it was the one group that my wife Kelli and I both loved to the same degree. The night we met Fountains of Wayne, Adam brought Kelli on stage to play tambourine during Hey Julie.

Picture by Chris Richards

Their songwriting is ridiculously clever – the funny lyrics, the sound, the hooks, Chris’s Collingwood’s vocals, the whole band… I love [guitarist] Jody Porter’s playing. I don’t have his chops, but I often find myself thinking: “what would Jody play?”

I loved every record Fountains of Wayne did. I admit I can’t always tell which is a Chris song and which is an Adam song, as they usually wrote separately, but it’s obvious they were both influenced by each other.

Adam was only 52. I heard that he was in hospital but would recover. It stopped me in my tracks when I read the news that he passed. I’ve been listening to a lot of Fountains of Wayne lately. I never tried to do what they were doing, but I’m sure being such a big fan helped me to become a better songwriter and recording artist.

Other than Fountains of Wayne, what music – new and old are you currently enjoying? What’s been your lockdown soundtrack?

NP: Before my recent Fountains of Wayne listening binge, my favourite recent album was Mo Troper’s Natural Beauty. He’s a fantastic indie-pop artist from Portland, Oregon. I was planning to see him on tour until he had to cancel.

‘I’ve been listening to a lot of Fountains of Wayne. I never tried to do what they were doing, but I’m sure being such a big fan helped me to become a better songwriter and recording artist’

The latest Pernice Brothers album is great. A new Chicago band called Rookie has been getting some spins and I also dig White Reaper. I love the new Brendan Benson single, Richest Man, and, of course, I’ve been going back to listen to John Prine.

Did you have any live shows planned around the launch of the new album? If so, what’s happened to those?

NP: We had two record release shows planned in May. We were going to do a ‘Side A’ and a ‘Side B’ show. It looks like those will have to be postponed for the time being. I don’t think anyone wants to be packed in like sardines for a while.

What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown has been lifted?

NP: I miss making noise at rehearsals with the band. I miss going outside without wearing a mask. I miss seeing people walk through the door of my restaurant. I’m hoping we all appreciate the little things we take for granted.

I’m praying they find a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, and also find out why some people are susceptible while others may not even be aware they have contracted the virus.

I hope to keep writing and being inspired. I have a few dozen new songs in the works and I’m looking forward to seeing what the band can do with them. I really hope we can have a show soon and we’re really looking forward to May 22, when the album is finally released.

I’m really happy I get to share this release with the band, as I’m really proud of it. It sounds like me, but I can hear the difference in the way it was recorded, with all of us tracking together. It really sounds like a band.

Downtime by Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men is released on May 22  (Jem Records).

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/album/downtime

https://nickpiunti.com/