It is rare that you are introduced to some new music and a new name in the industry that just so happens to be putting out their fourth album. Yet when your music and performances have been centered in Europe and not these United States during that time it all makes sense. That is until you listen. It is at the very moment when I said “How in the world is this band new to us here?”
Jonny Kaplan & the Lazy Stars may not be a household name or even recognizable on your local radio station (Well, who is other than the daily 30-song list these days?) but after years of being in and around music and four as a writer/reviewer/interviewer these guys had me from note one.
If you dig the vibes of Tom Petty, Gram Parsons, The Band among others and mix in some Dylan then you are close to what this band can and does do. We had a long interview so I’m keeping this lead in short, but this band will grab you and keep you there for more. I told them, seeing how they are pretty much a new thing here in the USA, that they should make a lot of new artist of the years lists and I meant it.
Approachable, California cool and chill, and a feel to every note and word; Jonny Kaplan & the Lazy Stars new album ‘Sparkle and Shine’ is available now and this writer suggests that you get it immediately. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for the bands other albums.
Don’t take my word for it, take a look and listen to the bands EPK about themselves and the music in the attached video.
Interview with Jonny Kaplan
I saw on your EPK where you looked into the camera and say “for some this will seem like our first record here in the United States; it’s actually our fourth”; I’ll admit it, I am one of those people. So could you start with a quick synopsis about you and the band?
I’ve been writing and singing songs my whole life; when I did my first record I came really close to signing my first deal with a record label, but everything just sort of fizzled. I got the opportunity from press I got over there to release it over in Europe and tour over there. I’ve always had my records available in the U.S. and I’ve always played in the U.S. but I’ve always flew under the radar so the bulk of it has been in Europe.
Well, you are not alone with that, I know a lot of people that have started just like that.
Yeah! (Laughs) Jimi Hendrix man! Historically, American roots-type music has always been embraced much more in Europe than it has at home. It just seems like the American market is either just more fickle or pop generated you know?
I also saw the comparisons to Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and more and as I listen I concur, incredible music! Can you talk about the new album?
Thank you man! This is my fourth record and I’m immensely proud of it. I never rush or force the song writing process and with this one the songs just kind of poured out of me. It came really easy and I’m very attached to them. It became obvious as we started getting ready to make this record; it was a conscious decision to focus on the United States much more and get ourselves onto the playing field here at home.
I had no idea that Daryl Hannah sang and she did on two tracks, how do you know her and how was she to work with?
She’s great and a good friend of mine, she’s my keyboard player Rami Jaffee’s girlfriend and we’ve all been hanging out for a couple years; she’s always strumming on a guitar. People know her as an actress but she’s a really talented; the songs she sang on the record she was singing with me so I called her and said guess what? You’re singing on the record!
Your work has also been featured on television shows including my favorite show ‘Graceland’, pretty cool stuff. How did that come about?
Oh, cool! It’s funny, that’s one of the good byproducts of living in Los Angeles. Someone calls you up and says “Hey, I need something for…” Some of the people that work at these networks like my stuff and call me frequently. It’s a great way to make money as a musician and a great way to get your music out there. I’m very fortunate in that respect.
You’ve played with a lot of great artists like Kings Of Leon, The Wallflowers, Wilco, and the legendary Keith Richards; can you talk about that experience?
Sure! I played two shows opening up for him, but they were these really big Gram Parsons Tribute concerts about 7 or 8 years ago and Keith was the headliner. I played in a band that backed up these country-rock artists. I got to hang out and meet him and he is just the nicest, nicest man there is.
Okay, with that all done let’s get to the music; Sparkle And Shine is just a great album all the way through. The title track alone is incredible music; can you talk about that tune?
It’s funny that you ask me this right after the story about Keith Richards; that song, when I was recording it, I was like “We’re going to make this song sound like something off” kind of has a Tom Petty feel you know? It’s sort of written from a relation/woman point of view but it’s also a gold miner up in the mountains digging for that sparkle of gold, like the sparkle in the heart of a woman or just the good in life in general.
Annalee Meets the Scorpion, interesting title but again; a song full of so many instruments and sounds; can you talk about it?
That one is sort of, I wrote that as a blues song; just a three chord blues song. I was originally playing it acoustic with a Dobra when I wrote it; a sort of Robert Johnson sort of thing. When I brought it to the band I wanted a fuzzy, garage blues sort of thing.
I could ask you about every single track on this album really and that is beyond rare; every song is just an incredible array of sound meets story; but I would like to hear you talk about ‘Pretty Little Nose’ what a great song.
Aw man, thank you! That may one of the most telling songs on the album; the lyrics are like “Whoa! Holy shit!” All of my songs pretty much come from experience. That song is a wear it on your sleeve I’m bleeding kind of song. When I was showing that song to the band there was really an awkward moment, the guys in The Lazy Stars we are really like a family, it was awkward because everybody knew exactly what I was talking about, a really heavy silence kind of filled the room there. It was kind of weird, but it was the song and it had to get out and I’m real proud of it for what it is.
You sound kind of surprised that I noticed it?
No no no, it’s just that um, I’m glad that you noticed it because it’s really an important song to me. You know, that isn’t one of the obvious choices on the album like “Oh! Sparkle And Shine or Sweet Magnolia Flower” I’m really pleased that you really listened to the all the words and everything else. I wrote that as a little finger picking tune and I asked the guys to play the least amount as possible and I’m so proud of the band; it’s actually a full band playing and playing the perfect note the whole time.
Okay, when you are home you live on a sailboat, how cool is that?
It’s cool as shit man! (You can almost ‘hear’ his grin on his face) It’s great, I love it. (Laughs) I’ve always ridden motorcycles and I’ve been a sailor for over fifteen years; it’s just something that I gravitated to. When I was a kid I always had dreams of sailing around the world. I enjoy sailing to places. At some point when we slow down a little bit I’m probably going to sail down to Mexico for a month and pretend I’m Jimmy Buffet or something.
When I started touring maybe eight years ago it was hard to keep the place that I lived and my sailboat while I was traveling; at one point I just said “You know, I don’t need a house let’s get rid of this place and I’ll just camp out on my boat.” It worked out so well, I just love it. Essentially, when I come home from tour it’s like I’m living on vacation because I’m living on my sailboat. It’s really comfortable too, it has bedrooms and a kitchen and all that and I have seals right outside my bedroom every morning!
What are your tour plans and is Syracuse on the map at all?
Syracuse is definitely on the map! We’re going to play anywhere and everywhere that will have us. We just got our new tour vehicle, our new trailer, and the band is chomping at the bit to get out there. The records just released! Immediate plans are I’m going to NY to play CBGB Festival (done as this was a week ago when we spoke) then we have a show out here for a Gram Parsons Tribute Show in the desert, and then I’m going to Argentina for a few shows and I have never been there before, I’ll be there for about a week. Then we are plotting and planning a tour right now and booking all over the United States.
Seeing this is your fourth album, I can’t wait to hear the other three now. I have a feeling you may be one of the years best new artists for whatever at least here in the States because you are kind of new. So I think you’re going to be big.
Oh man, thank you, thanks so much!
It was a pleasure speaking with you today; is there anything you want to say to the readers and fans out there?
Yeah just buy the record and come see us play live because we’re ready to come see you guys! We are really excited! We’ve been touring and playing for years but we are really excited to do it in our homeland! So we’ll see you out there on the road!
Check out about the band at this link and get the album as well as the older ones!