Interview with John Strickland
By: Sally A. Schwartz
On 19 August 2013, I had the privilege of catching up with John Strickland the Lead Vocalist and Rhythm Guitarist for the band, Lullwater. Full of energy and what seemed running laps at Indy, here is what John and I had the chance to talk about.
SS: Hi John this is Sally from DaBelly.com. How are you doing today?
JS: Hey Sally, I’m doing fine. How about you?
SS: Actually doing really well. Been wondering how you all been doing and what you all have been up to.
JS: It’s going very well right now. At least it seems to be. Things are moving right along.
SS: Congratulations on your new Album.
JS: Well Thank You. I’m really glad you’re excited about it we all are.
SS: You’re welcome. Yes, I really liked it a lot. When we received it from Steve Karas for review, as soon as a took a listen to it, I told our publisher that I would love to hook up an interview with you. This album is really good and I wanted to take it beyond the review stage.
JS: Awesome!!! Thank you…Thank you very much!
SS: No problem. You’re very welcome. So on that note are you ready to launch into the interview?
JS: Yeah!!! Absolutely!!!
SS: Great! Let’s get started then! Before we get into the album tell me a little bit about you and the band. What brought you all together and how did you come by the name Lullwater?
JS: Well we all met in Athens, Georgia. We were all just kicking around and playing with some friends of ours. Our former drummer who kind of got the whole band started, we met and started to play in this kind of grungy basement on Lullwater Dr. Actually that is where the name came from. When it came time to name the band we just said, “Screw it let’s call us Lullwater and name ourselves after the street. Be a street name band…and well it stuck. The other guys we were all playing around at bars in the local Athens music scene and because of that, that is pretty much of how we all came together. We have had a lot of changes from the original band. But the band now is what Lullwater was suppose to be originally…well in my opinion.
SS: You know with all due respect, these types of changes aren’t uncommon in the history of most bands. Simply put, it’s because some of the members might have a different vision of where they would like to see the band go or personal life situations ends up playing a role, taking members on a different path from the band and its music itself. Then somewhere along the way new members come part of what the band creating that correct mix I guess you could say and bring the band into what it wants and is suppose to be.
JS: Yeah, not to be the bad seed but I am like I wish we would have had this band like 3 years ago. Knowing that it’s just not how things work. You know sometimes you’re just not ready for this thing. Creatively you’re not there were you would or might be with other musicians. So with that said, yeah… this band is definitely what Lullwater and the Lullwater sound is supposed to be. Again that’s just my opinion.
SS: During my research, I found it interesting that you moved from Athens, GA to Seattle, WA. What made you pick up and move to Seattle?
JS: I’m a huge ‘90’s Rock fan, like late ‘80’s early ‘90’s when there was a huge release from Seattle. Seattle always seemed to me like this mythical place where all of these great musician’s came from. Growing up in that Era where all of my favorite records and bands came from like
Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sound Garden, and Alice in Chains; just all of these band that were like, holy shit, this is like the craziest music ever. Of course my mom would always come into my room and make me turn it down because I was just so infatuated with the music and that scene. When it came time to make this record, I had the idea that if we are going to do this record let’s do it right. Let’s give it everything that we have. Let’s put it on the line and go to London Bridge Studios to make the album which pretty much created all of those classic bands that you hear from the Seattle scene. Here you have Sound Garden, they did Pearl Jam 10, they did Alice in Chains, they worked with Blind Melon. Seattle was like the MECCA for me growing up. When it came time to do the album that was the only place in my mind that we could go. It was the only place really that said to us, “How else are we going to find that sound that we are looking for and where are we going to find it?” That’s why we picked up and went to Seattle.
SS: Now that you brought up London Bridges Studios, I know that like back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s the studio was owned by Rick and Raj Parasha, then in September of 2005 transferred ownership to Geoff Ott and Jonathan Plum. Plum one of the Co-Owners also produced your album. What to enjoy most about working with him and the experience?
JS: (With a gentle laugh) Jonathan is such a character. He is very serious but then he is…he has such a dry sense of humor to where he worked us hard. He really did. He got us focused and motivated to really make some great rock music. You know being surrounded by all the greats that have cut their albums there, coming out of that studio and the history of it, I can only imagine that as a producer and engineer that you have a level of professionalism. You have to have a high caliber of expectations. To have cut all those albums you have to have the want to push us and make us work for it. I think that the whole band really appreciates that he did that. I know that I do. He also is a whole lot of fun! He is a great guy. He knows when it’s work it’s work and when its play he is entertaining and accommodating. He really is a great dude. We love him and loved working with him.
SS: You know I agree. I think that is what makes a great producer or in my case a publisher. They push you beyond your comfort level. They know you can turn out something amazing and something they just seem to know how to get you into wanting more from yourself.
JS: (Laughing) Yeah, it definitely pisses you off. I mean sometimes our tempers were flaring up after working 12/14 hours…especially if we were hung over. I remember one day we were working in the studio and like cooped up for a few days in this process right after getting there. The other guys and I really wanted to get some time to see Seattle, don’t get me wrong…I love being in the studio, but after 14 hour days of being there day in and day out; it was like, “Man let’s just go have some fun.” So Jonathan finally gave us some time to see the sights, but the next day like at 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning or whatever time it was, came really really early. (Sharing a laugh John continues) That was the day that Brett the guitarist and I we were just having one of those days. But we pushed through it though. We made some really great progress on those tracks that we were working on. But I do remember Jonathan being like, “Come on you guys get your stuff together. I know that you’re hung over, but we have work to do and 12 more hours to work.” So yeah Jonathan pushed us when we really needed to be pushed. Then he would give us some down time so we could go off on a terror if we needed to so we could let off some steam and stretch our legs if we needed to. Yeah, I have to say I couldn’t see having to work with anyone other than Jonathan. He really is a great guy to work with.
SS: Now that you have done the recording, tell me a little about the new release that is under the title of Lullwater. What was the inspiration behind it all?
JS: Well the inspiration behind this whole album is made up basically of a composite of different elements and they are all put into place for this record. We were really trying to find a sound…I know I keep coming back to that because we recorded a record with David Barbe and Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens. G-R-E-A-T producer as well as it’s history in that studio. I think that we had gotten some really good stuff from that record but it wasn’t the sound that we knew we had. For me it was always about chasing that fantasy of trying to find what made the record unique and original and to sound like us. That is why Seattle. But you know there are so many elements to that record. There are a lot of themes that go along with that record and a lot of persevere with it as well. Starting off as a new up and coming band there are a lot of challenges that you face such as none stop touring, trying to deal with relationships that are falling apart because of music and the choices that you have chosen to follow because of music. I think that everybody in the band had to deal with their own situations and issues. One thing about the record was that it solidified everyone together. This album is what solidified everyone together as far as us being musicians. Prior to that album, we have always been close and related very well with each other musically and creatively. But it is that album that had gotten everyone focused and connected.
SS: After receiving your album and giving it the review that I was in process of doing, I found myself wanting to fast forward to GET A LIFE and TUG OF WAR. I know that TUG OF WAR is already released, but I was wondering what drove those 2 pieces into being.
JS: As cliché as it is, both of those songs were written in terms of relationships of boyfriend/girlfriend dynamics; focusing on the bigger picture of them. For me anyway it was about the struggles of going through a chaotic and complicated relationship. TUG OF WAR was a more heartfelt song for me because it’s about being vulnerable and honest about how I was feeling at the time. I think that all of those emotions bubbled up to the surface at the time when the song was recorded. It was at time when that particular relationship was falling apart and at the time it was a disaster. So the emotion within those 2 particular songs is definitely a real and raw emotion. How their played and how their sung…it’s really about that struggle. Those 2 songs are really about struggle and is this really what you want to do with your life as well as where you are at in your life. GET A LIFE is streamline with that. It’s about choices you make and where you want to go with your life. It’s about the direction that you need to take. I think I was at a crossroads at that point in time in my life. These 2 songs really helped me to express that by putting it down. It was very therapeutic. It’s one of those songs that still is every time we play it live it’s really it’s songs that we as a band crush.
SS: I understand and know what you’re saying. I guess that is why I find some kinship in those 2 songs. Because regardless if you’re in a love relationship or a work relationship you find yourself asking the same questions or having that same feeling of what’s next or that tug of war of emotion. It would be nice to say that we all have just one life, but reality of it is…at least in my case is that I have an alternate life. I have a “real” day job and then I do photo-journalism which is another passion. Not to mention that in a love or even a friendship relationship there’s always that same issue of ok so where do we go from here and what’s next on our plate? Life isn’t always cut and dry it takes turns and twists. So yeah I think that is why I gravitate to wanting to listen to those first now that I have heard the whole album.
JS: That’s awesome! Yeah, that is exactly what we were or are trying to get at with TUG OF WAR. It’s really an honest and raw song. That is one of the reasons we went to releasing that song. We had gotten a lot of emails, tweets or what have you on how there is something about that song that they can connect to. You know in the scheme of things you’re always going to have choices and you’re always going to have push or pull, a tug of war between what you know is right or what you think you want or should do. It’s just being in a crossroad of what is sacred to you as a person or to you as a musician or a journalist or whatever a situation a person finds themselves in. There is always going to be something conflicting as Debbie Downer as that is there is always going to be some kind of conflicting choice as being people is. So that is why I think so many people connect to it. When you’re in that situation at the time you seem to connect to that song even more so than when you’re not. So that is what that song is really there for.
SS: So was that the reason why you went with TUG OF WAR and Blind being released first?
JS: As far as the singles go, we are more of an album band. We like the time it takes to make the album and the time it takes to sit down and come up with a track listing for the whole album so you can get the whole package deal of what we are all about. But TUG OF WAR just stuck out there so much for everybody and it was a real fun song to record. It offers a lot of aggression but also is vulnerable. Everybody just really liked that song to begin with, I know that our management did so that is why we went with that one to be released first to begin with. We actually did a video I think last November, which came out earlier this year and is what kick started and lead off the album with it being the single.
SS: Well it was a great choice. I know I am a real fan of the song. What were some of the challenges that you had in making this album?
JS: Well we had a very tumultuous 3 days to begin with. It was very weird for us because when we walked in, we had the plane ride coming in, the hotel, then we went to this Mexican restaurant, just everything moving fast pace, then the next morning we walked from our hotel to the studio where we were surrounded by all of this crazy history. That’s when it really sunk in for all of us. It was like, “Oh my gaud this is really going to be heavy! We have A LOT to live up to.” Then in that recording process our former drummer he just felt he needed to and follow other passions during that time. It was really hard on the band. You know some decisions needed to be made and we had to carry on. It was a big thing for us don’t get me wrong Nick Thomas, I and the band are still really good friends, but it took a nasty turn right off the bat. We really need to regroup and get ourselves together and we had to use a studio drummer who was awesome. Davey is really a great drummer and he used him for the remainder of the record. He played on every track on this new album. So yeah you that was definitely a challenge. (listening to John you could hear in his voice this experience that befell the band at this point in time.) Yeah it really was a challenging time for the whole band. We had to bounce back and we did! Because of that I think it made us a stronger unit and more cohesive.
SS: So then did you finally pick up another drummer?
JS: Yeah, we did! We did we picked up Joe Wilson. We know and have played with Joe for years. Brett our guitarist and Joe have been friends ever since they were like 13 yrs old. They both have played in band prior so it was an immediate reaction when Nick left, Joe was the first guy named. It was like a no brainer. We just have to get Joe…and he’s an animal! You’ll and everyone else will love him to death. He brings so much energy and animation to the stage. Just watching him is so much fun! When you see him play he brings just so much to our live show because he is so entertaining! Not to mention he is such a bad ass when it comes to being behind the kit!
SS: Well it sounds fabulous that the band found such a great replacement that is such a good mix for you.
JS: It is! We feel lucky to have him.
SS: What was the funniest or most memorable moment in recording this album?
JS: The most memorable…well there are 2 things really. The Staff at London Bridge Studios are
Just the craziest people ever and are the most loving, kind and awesome people I have ever met. Gus, Dustin, Justin Davis, Amber Wilder all of them, they made us feel so much at home. For me personally it was I think it was the first day that I walked in. Just seeing all of the Pearl Jam records and the Sound Garden records, Alice in Chains and Blind Melon and being able to step into a studio that Layne Staley performed in, Eddie Vedder got to lay tracks in this vocal booth, I was like Oh MY GOD!!!!! I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy. You know the Wayne’s World moment.
SS: (Laughing) I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy! I know what you mean. But a little secret they were in your shoes once and you would be surprised that their just ordinary guys.
JS: (Laughing) I know right? But that is what I felt like doing. I had to keep it together but I was just in so much awe of where I was. For me that was the most memorable.
SS: You know you’ve mentioned Pearl Jam, and Sound Garden a few times, who would you say was your and the bands biggest influences in growing up?
JS: I know for me and still to this day Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands. I remember being like 13 yrs old and I bought my very first record Pearl Jam Ten. I remember sitting in my bedroom and opening up that album. I remember the nostalgic smell of the album and taking out the artwork and taking off the wrapping. You can’t wait to get the Cellophane of the album so you can put it into the CD player to listen to it. You’re so excited about listening to that record. I remember just cranking up the volume then sit on the floor looking at all the artwork spread out in front of me and become completely immersed in that record. That band for me was really the biggest influence. I think that everyone in the band has had a certain influence from all the 90’s bands. I know that Bret and Joe grew up a lot on the jam scene. They are huge fans of the band Panic, the Grateful Dead. This actually adds a wide dynamic to our band because even though they have been influenced by the jam scene it kind of works around what our band is about. We might have that 90’s vibe but we put our own spin on it as far as where we’re from and that every member has listened to over the years. This is what I feel brings us out a little bit in today’s rock scene. It’s more raw and honest and since the album was done Analog tape it’s kind of made us get back to the basics there of good rock and 4 people in a room playing music and recording it. That’s where I think you can kind of pick up all the influences of each member.
SS: If you could be the influence in young person or musician’s life what would you want that to mostly be?
JS: If I could be the influence in a young musician’s what would that be? Well I would tell them as stereotypical as it may sound or be is to tell them not lose heart. I would hope that by learning about the band as like with my influences I would hope that it would be to hone your craft. Don’t lose faith in what you’re doing or what you’re passionate about. Also too be honest with yourself. If you like playing a certain style of music, whatever is or isn’t popular or hip or whatever the hell it is, just be true to your-self. Write the type of music you want to write and love, because being original and true to yourself is the most important thing that is foremost for me. So that is what I would hope to influence them on.
SS: If you could sum up your life and the journey that you are on now, what is the ONE word that you would use to describe it? This would be like from where you were to where you are headed now.
JS: I would say… Umm…that’s a hard one. It would probably be… Less the sinner. (Laughing) I know that is more than one word but we can use hyphens and make it all one word. It might be a little chaotic I don’t know but that is how I would describe it Less-the-sinner.
SS: After playing a gig what is the ONE thing you want the fans to take away from your show?
JS: Deafness. Yeah I want them all to be deaf. (Laughing) Yeah I would say deafness. We want to rock them and we are a loud rock band. I want it like if everyone is shelled shocked you know like Tom Hanks does in Saving Private Ryan. That’s kind of what I want people to experience.
SS: (Laughing) I left a few shows deaf or at least with ears ringing and it was a great night of rocking out. So I get that analogy. We’re starting to wrap things up here is there anything that you would like to share with your fans old and new?
JS: I really want to say to our fans, those that have really been getting into our sound and who we are as a band and supporting us I would say support live music. For the most part I think its been on the downslide lately. I don’t know why, I don’t know if it’s because of that instant gratification that we all seem to be experiencing. I don’t know if it’s because we can download it now just going to the next song and then the next, I don’t know. I think it’s important to support live music and local bands. There are things at these shows/gigs that you will get to experience that you won’t get to experience from these other sources. The things you find at these live shows is something that you will never be able to replace. One other thing is that I hope that you all purchase our album. It truly was a labor of love, we had some awesome people to help make it come to light and I think you all will really like it.
SS: Well I can vouch for it. If they don’t their missing out and that is all I can say as it is a really good album. The last thing is, is there anything that I might have missed or that we didn’t talk about that you would like to share?
JS: Well we have a new video coming out in about 2 to 3 weeks for ALBATROSS. We got to work with Jason Thrasher, who lives in Athens, GA and he’s just fantastic with what he does. He’s an awesome director, a great videographer. This video should be out in the next 2 to 3 weeks and released before this new album comes out. So stay tuned for the new ALBATROSS video.
SS: Awesome! I’ll keep my out for it. I look forward to seeing it. I hope that DaBelly.com is able to catch up with one of your shows. It’s funny because had I known I would have tried catching your show when I was out in Columbia, SC a few weeks ago. I was out there to visit my son who just graduated from Ft. Jackson. I didn’t find out until I had gotten home that I missed you. So hopefully you all will get out here to Arizona so we can catch and photograph your show!
JS: Wow congratulations on your son. Yeah that would have been really a great time! I know that we are trying to pick up a tour so with great luck I look forward to seeing you at the show!
SS: Thank you John for your time away from your busy schedule to chat with me and we at DaBelly.com wish you best of luck.
JS: You’re welcome. Thank you for being so excited about our album.