- Pete Johnson’s Blast from My Past: Tom Petty “Damn the Torpedoes”
- An Exclusive No Fly Zone Magazine Interview With Tyrone Mr. SuperFantastic
- Pete Johnson’s Blast from My Past: Allen Toussaint “The Bright Mississippi”
- Lobo Marino | At Appalachian South Folklife Center
- Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba | Miri
NFZ: We first heard of the AV Super Sunshine band several years ago and have been following you since then. During that time, you’ve released several records, made a lot of videos and have been touring across the country. Could you share with us some details about what that’s been like for you as an artist?
AVSS: First, thank you so much for following. With a seemingly endless amount of worthy acts in the market we are truly honored. It’s also very flattering because we’ve been working very hard to build enough awareness to get out on a sustainable tour. This means creating and promoting artistic content of every kind while getting out to meet the folks.
This can be draining. Especially on long haul TV and radio promotion tours. In late 2016 we visited over 100 radio stations, as well as, dozens of TV stations around the country. We spent a week in New York City, which for a PTSD sufferer with high anxiety was a test. But I passed the test and we met a lot of great folks, gave out hundreds of T-shirts and CDs while spreading as much sunshine as possible. We’re truly ready to start singing and dancing to the fans.
NFZ: When listening to your latest album, “Bass Face”, you get the impression it’s more optimistic and hopeful in comparison to some of you past releases like “Baby Goodbye”, or “Just Like Kurt”. Are we wrong in this assumption or was that indeed the mood when you were in when recording “Bass Face”?
AVSS: There’s a few dark songs like “Melancholy Life” and “Steel Bridge” on the new record, but yes, overall the songs are more optimistic. Let me explain how this happened. Our team wasn’t ready to launch our planned follow up to “Baby Goodbye”. We needed to get a little more buzz out there.
The originally planned follow up contains a song called “Alien Abduction” which is also the theme song to a short narrative art rock film of the same name which is still being completed. This gave me the idea to make an interim record which introduced more of the alien songs featured in that art rock film while also showcasing a few of the “Baby Goodbye” remixes which my producer, Michael Bradford made after that song charted on Billboard. The title “Bass Face” was lifted from a Bowie influenced space themed song also on the record named “Base Calling Face”.
I wanted the remainder of songs to have lyrical themes similar to the top 40 classic rock songs you’d find on the radio in the late 1970s. To accomplish that I picked songs written prior to me becoming AV and while on anti-depressants which makes them inherently more optimistic. I knew Michael would make the tracks modern to help prove that my “modern classic rock” genre I’ve been trying to popularize can win simultaneously at rock radio, top 40 radio, and in the dance clubs.
NFZ: It must be pretty amazing to work with Michael Bradford who’s worked with Kid Rock, Stevie Nicks, Madonna and lot’s of other headliners in the entertainment business. What was that experience like?
AVSS: Michael is amazingly creative and has a full wall of hits to prove it. We had already spent a lot of time together when he helped record “Just Like Kurt” and “Baby Goodbye”. My producer James House brought Michael in to those sessions because of his monster bass playing and to help with the creative process. Besides being close friends, Michael has a wealth of funny stories and James likes to laugh.
Working with Michael is like being with family. No matter what song or idea I throw at him he’s not afraid to evaluate and give honest feedback. He doesn’t invalidate, instead offers ways to improve whatever we’re working on or whatever situation we find ourselves in. Best off, his decades of touring success also brings an invaluable wealth of knowledge and experience to help make our live shows really special.
NFZ: Over the past year it appears that people in the USA have grown further apart. It sounds like your most recent work has some hidden messages about bringing people together again. Do you feel your music has a unifying effect on people?
AVSS: The media surely isn’t portraying a feel good sentiment right now. As a peace hippie I steer clear of political division, but it sure is upsetting to me to see so many young people so scared right now. I wish I could hug each of them and tell them it’s going be okay. Inclusivity and bringing people together is what AV Super Sunshine is all about.
I also have lots of experience with anxiety, depression and PTSD which when shared correctly could help. Getting that type of message out has been a slow process. To help the most people we need the highest entry point and that’s what I’m building for.
NFZ: For quite a while now we’ve heard rumors about an upcoming AV Super Sunshine titled “Candyland”. When can we expect it to be released and to start hearing it on the radio?
AVSS: “Candyland” is that previously mentioned original follow up to “Baby Goodbye”. There’s a whole world of folks we haven’t reached yet with “Bass Face” and that record is still catching momentum. We’ll continue doing everything possible to promote it including a summer and fall “Bass Face” live tour. My best guess is it’ll launch sometime between November 2017 and February 2018. We hope to get “Bass Face” into the Grammy nomination process and if we do of course we’ll continue to focus on it a little longer.
NFZ: Beginning with “Baby Goodbye”, then moving on to “Just Like Kurt” and now with “Bass Face”, you always seem to be moving in new directions musically. Is that intentional, and if so, why?
AVSS: That’s a great question. To start, all but 4 songs of the above recordings I wrote between June 2009 and November 2013. This was before I had ever even adopted the name AV Super Sunshine, considered myself an artist or was thinking about a sound. My songwriting was more of a therapy project.
To explain, in June of 2009 I was diagnosed with severe depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder. My first shrink told me straight out of the box I was so broken that I no chance of ever fully recovering. I didn’t like that and decided I was going to do my best to recover.
I decided to document everything I was experiencing during the process, no matter how bizarre, through songs until I had a concept record. I don’t remember exactly why I started it other than it was something I could do. Prior, I never even tried singing. I eventually named the project after a song named “Candyland” which is about my experiences tripping out on anti-depressant medications.
It really wasn’t until after “Candyland” that I started to think more about a sound during the writing process. Up until then everything I was writing was more an art project with an anything goes attitude. The songs that didn’t make it on “Candyland” were later separated and pieced together into “Just Like Kurt”, “Baby Goodbye” and “Bass Face”.
In the recording studio I was smart enough to let the people with experience do what they do best. I was a coffee house open mic host who had no idea what my songs would even sound like played by a band. What was really important to me was that everything was played live and on real instruments. The results still blow me away.
When we launched I asked James about getting some dance mixes made for college radio and he suggested I reach out to Michael, and he agreed. Again I had no idea what my songs should sound like as a remix. Michael’s remixes sounded so crazy cool that I wanted to give him the opportunity to do an entire record that way to hear what it would sound like. We talked it out for a long time and when the time came we did “Bass Face”.
Now that I’ve heard the different results of what Michael and James did with my songs I have a better idea of what can be achievable. As a result, I now think more about music direction when writing for new projects so in the future it will be more intentional.
NFZ: Care to give us any clues as to where your sound will go on “Candyland”?
AVSS: I’ve got some examples on my Youtube channel. In the spring of 2014 we filmed a live band performance of songs from “Candyland”. We used the same musicians and background singers as we did on the record.
To hear these songs preformed live go to our Youtube channel and watch the “AV Super Sunshine Theme (Live)” and “AV Super Sunshine Sink Or Swim (Live)”. Incidentally, the “Theme” song is the last act of ”Candyland” and is my story of actually going cold turkey from anti-depressants and morphing into AV Super Sunshine.
NFZ: The same young lady frequently appears in your music videos. Who is she and is she a member of the AV Super Sunshine band?
AVSS: That’s my partner in crime, Philomena. We’ve been side by side since we started all this. She has co-written some songs with me including “Alien Abduction” and “Star Man”. She also co-wrote and co-stars with me in our upcoming “Alien Abduction” film.
Philomena is very visually creative and is a huge contributor to our content. Every radio and TV tour made we’ve made together. I haven’t gotten her to sit in with me on a live TV interview yet, but that’s coming too. She’ll also be a huge part of the live act. I think it’s safe to say that AV Super Sunshine wouldn’t exist without Philomena.
NFZ: Your bio on the AV Super Sunshine website (https://www.avsupersunshine.com) references three organizations, National Marketing, Victor House Records, and KES Music, which you’ve been working with for several years now. Considering the strides AV Super Sunshine’s made over a relatively short period of time how has each entity been a part of your career?
AVSS: Victor House Records is the indie label I started with songwriter/producer James House. After we started Victor House, James’s solo career took off over in Europe. At that same time he started writing with guitarist Joe Bonamassa. He’s written several entire records now with Joe, who’s a global super star, so currently that keeps him busy.
One of the things James did was help me get some music videos filmed and find a video promoter, HIP Video Promo. The owner, Andy Gessner, is an industry guru who has been a huge help, not only in placing our video’s on music programs everywhere, but also in helping me find help outside their field of expertise. It was Andy who introduced me to Karvin Johnson of the KES Music Group.
KES is a family of companies Karvin runs with his wife Lori and a staff of industry veterans. National Marketing is one of the companies that fall under the KES umbrella. They offer a full menu of services for qualifying artists including career management, radio promotion, artist public relations, CD manufacturing, graphic design, product distribution, warehousing and fulfillment. By “qualifying artists” I mean they focus on only artists and groups who’ve done the work and can be taken to the next level.
The fact that they deal at a higher level has allowed me to look at the big picture of how far AV can go. This allows achievable plans to be developed and implemented. I’m a firm believer that you can accomplish anything if you have a plan on how to get there and if you are willing to follow through. That’s what KES is doing for me.
NFZ: You’ve probably been interviewed quite a few times since the birth of AV Super Sunshine and asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. What is one question an interviewer has never asked but you wish that they would?
AVSS: That’s tricky to answer. How about instead I ask you to go check out the “Film” page of our website by clicking on the “Film” tab at the top of our home page. Once there listen to the songs posted from the soundtrack and then watch the trailer. After you complete that exercise I’m sure you’ll come with some really great questions that no one’s asked me yet. I hope that didn’t sound like I’m a teacher.
NFZ: Thank you for sitting with us for this interview and sharing with our audience what makes AV Super Sunshine tick!