Hello world, hope you are doing well today as we head into August. Besides music I enjoy watching sports. As I watch the MLB this season I notice a big trend of empty seats. I think baseball has lost its way and the music biz can learn to keep prices in check so the fans can always attend even in tough economic times. On another note I wanted to point out that PRS for Music and music and entertainment strategists, FRUKT, showed the spend for music use in festivals, online and in artistic endorsements reached £104.8m, an increase of 6.09% from 2011. There are so many opportunities for musicians today besides just recording & touring, very exciting! I did not have to travel far to find my guests today as Ravens Ballroom are NY based. This trio not only make great music but Matthew & Simi Ravens are married and have been making music for over a decade. Jon Rosenbaum is the glue that sticks it all together on the drums. I have their album ‘Rain Dance’ playing now and it’s a standout debut for sure. Join us this week as Ravens Ballroom speak on the album, playing live rituals, marriage & music, and much more!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and can you believe summer is half over already?
We are talking from New Jersey. Summer is flying pretty quickly, but it has been pretty eventful for us. We played shows and are already arranging songs to record again this winter.
Stoli: I love how you used Matthew Ravens last name to come up with Ravens Ballroom, whose idea was that and does Matt command lead of the band?
Matthew: If Ravens was your last name, wouldn’t you use it too? All kidding aside, I came up with the name because I really like the idea of what a ravens ballroom looks like. There is no apostrophe because it is not possessive; Ravens is an adjective. Furthermore, as a symbol, the raven represents so much about how our biases and prejudices mislead our judgment. Since they are big, black, and make pretty scary sounds, they have been associated with evil and witchcraft. However, when one gets passed the pop-culture mythology, the reality is that they are the smartest birds in the world, they mate for life and are rather good parents. Maybe they are more like what we wish we were than what we are? That makes the raven a fitting metaphor for how things are not as they seem.
Simi: Matt is the engine behind the band. He writes most of the material and is also our producer. Matt likes to say that he’s not in control of the band; his ear is, and it has no loyalty to him. The same goes for Jon and me as well. We’re always feeding off of each other and we are only interested in the outcome. I would say we are always open to each other’s ideas. We want the best idea, no matter where it comes from. In that respect, our writing process is very productive and collaborative.
Jon: Matt is the architect and visionary of the band, and the three of us work together to execute that vision. The valuable component of our process, as Simi indicated, is the collaboration. While Matt and Simi might sometimes have specific arrangements in mind for their compositions, they are open to ideas to further tweak and refine what they’ve brought to the table. Sometimes, the songs are simply born out of open jam sessions, which we record and come back to later for some slicing and dicing. This is effectively how our song, “Slip Inside Your Mind”, came about which is a mandolin punk song that will be on the next album.
Stoli: I though it was so cool to read that Simi & Matthew are married. How has playing music together helped strengthen your marriage and made you closer?
Simi: We were playing and writing together even before we were romantically involved. Music was a way to get to know each other and it’s obviously still a big part of our relationship. I don’t think this project has strengthened our marriage per se, but it surely makes things even more fun.
Matthew: We actually do a good job at keeping our marriage and our musical partnership separate. In the band, it’s all business and we really try to maintain a level of professionalism in our work ethic and in our critique of each other. It is important to wear different hats in a situation like ours.
Stoli: I am listening to your debut album as we speak, ‘Rain Dance.’ How long were you writing/recording and how did you come up with the title ‘Rain Dance’?
Matthew: We are fortunate in that we are a prolific band. I am always writing. These songs were already written and were carefully selected for this record. We have two albums worth of material written aside from what was included on Rain Dance. Boringly, the title came to me while I was driving in my car one morning and it was an instantaneous “that’s it!” However, it was not something that we resolved quickly prior to that. We had lengthy discussions about the title issue, and Rain Dance was the result of a long ongoing discourse. We wanted something that really signified the collective meaning of the songs, some of which are about water and natural phenomena. Riptide, for example, is essentially about a party among friends before a tidal wave washes away civilization. Lastly, the title refers to the name of the band. Ballrooms are places where people dance.
Stoli: I love the song “Paper Doll Lou.” What is that song about and who wrote that tune?
Simi: Thanks! Matt wrote the lyrics and he and I co-wrote the music. The song is based on a true story and it is a social allegory about what Roger Waters calls “quiet desperation”.
Matthew: It’s about a man who lives a double life, one of which is his fantasies regarding his sexuality and true identity. The other is how he’s been reduced to a paper doll: insignificant, unhappy, and depressed about succumbing to an existence of prescribed social norms that do not define him. In that sense, the lyrics are kind of self-explanatory. At the same time, it’s important to understand that we are not criticizing Lou. He is the tragic figure of the narrative.
Stoli: If you were to make a music video for one single on the album, what song would that be and what would the video them be?
Simi: Matt uses a lot of imagery in his lyrics. Therefore, I think each song cold be made into a cool video. That said, Fat Cat Sinner and Paper Doll Lou are especially visual and the band has many ideas about rendering those two songs in particular.
Matt: Fat Cat Sinner is the song I would like to do the most. I already have a story line that Simi and I have seen working of and it has a chance of being made this fall. We’ll keep you posted.
Stoli: You guys have got your social media game on point. Who handles that for you and how effective is that in making new fans?
Matthew: We all take care of it. We’re also working with Michael Arbitblit from Magnetic Management, and he’s doing a great job at increasing our media presence.
Simi: Social media is a new reality that all musicians have to deal with. It is a good way to keep in touch with fans but that aside, many of our fans got to know us via our shows. Also, now that the record is released, we are picking up steam with new people finding out about us. The album has brought a lot of new people into the fold.
Stoli: You guys are always playing live in NYC. What are some of your favorite venues and what is your ritual to get ready to play live?
Simi: It’s really hard to pin down a favorite venue, as each one offers us something unique. Our most recent gig was at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ, and we really appreciated everything about the place from the stage setup and sound to the ambience.
Jon: As for our ritual, no eating and no booze before a show!
Stoli: When it comes to listening to and discovering new music do you enjoy streaming or buying digital music?
Simi: I personally love music stores. But as they are disappearing, I’m using the means that are available to discover new music. I listen to many different Internet radio stations, which are very helpful for that. Live shows are another great way to find new bands. I tend to buy a lot of music on iTunes, but whenever I can I prefer to buy the physical cd or album.
Matthew: I essentially concur with everything that Simi said. I like physical albums, and frankly, I really miss vinyl. I think record albums sound better than other formats. I would love one day to re-release Rain Dance on vinyl.
Jon: I enjoy both. These days, I tend to discover new music via Sirius’ indie station, Sirius XMU. When I hear something that really blows me away, I need to fully investigate the band and get the material!
Stoli: Is fortune & fame your main goal for making music or is this something that is just in your life no matter?
Matthew: The short answer regarding fortune and fame is no, and that goes for all of us. Artistic recognition is definitely more important. Speaking for myself, I’m kind of a compulsive artist and music is not my only medium. I studied art with a specialization in painting in college. Art is something I have to do which is why I’m kind of amused by people who think being an artist is glamorous. I find it to be burdensome in a way. I cannot turn my brain off and I cannot ignore what I
see and what I feel. I always have something bouncing around in my head, especially at times when I need to be concentrating on other things. The only aspect of “fortune and fame” that would be beneficial is that it would give me more resources and time to explore my ideas. Making meaningful art is what is most important to me, and I’ll keep doing it regardless. If I am going to be famous, it had better be for doing art that is qualitative and purposeful.
Simi: I’ve been playing and writing music for most of my life. Music is a need for me; it fulfills me. No matter what happens, I wont stop doing this.
Jon: Music isn’t just a hobby; it’s a life force. I expect to always be involved in music in some capacity.
Stoli: What is coming up for Ravens Ballroom and where can we follow you and buy ‘Rain Dance’ online?
On August 17th, we are very excited to be opening for David Johansen at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. Looking further ahead, our plans include shooting a video this fall and recording tracks for a new release due out next May.
You can follow us on our main website, www.ravensballroom.com, and we are on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Rain Dance is available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Google Play.