Local Music Scene: Some Sweet Sounds from Sweet Wednesday
Spare Change News
I met the folk musical group Sweet Wednesday back in 2007. I invited them to perform live on my then television show, “Dream Weavers with Jacques,” at Cambridge Community Television (CCTV). They are a rare breed of individuals reminiscent of the best of the 1960s and '70s peace and love era and their music is a true reflection of that. They bought my poetic memoir, “Sparks in the Dark,” and were inspired to turn three of my poems into songs. These songs are now available on iTunes under the title “A Lighter Shade of Blue,” by Sweet Wednesday and Jacques Fleury. The profits from the CD will benefit Haiti charity, St. Boniface. Sweet Wednesday is releasing their brand-new CD, “Escaping the Pale Moon,” on May 2, 2012 at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St. in Cambridge, MA at 8pm, admission: $15 dollars. I was able to catch up with them for a fabulous interview:
Spare Change News: How did Sweet Wednesday come to be?
Sweet Wednesday: We met 12 years ago at the Natick Center for the Arts. The first time we played together there was definitely chemistry there, like electrons being pulled together in orbit around the waters of the muses.
SCN: Tell me a bit about your musical background.
SW: I first decided to learn violin after hearing Buskin and Batteau's "The Boy and the Violin." My dad took me to the concert and they were the first group I saw. I was enthralled. My parents had an old classical guitar with two strings and I used to lie on my back in the den and play along with old records and the radio. I eventually got my first guitar for my bar mitzvah from my grandfather. It was an Alvarez that I later wrote a lot of songs on and it even ended up in the Pacific Ocean after a wild night of playing and drinking whiskey. I played in some bands in high school and college and after that. Fronted briefly the band that later became The Ethnics and That Band in Harvard Square. Jon Natchez, my childhood friend, who played on my first record, is in a really awesome indie band called Yellow Ostrich.
SCN: Are you living your American Dream?
SW: I do my best to try to live my dream. It is hard to be an artist; I feel it can have a stigma, like being a bank robber or something. It is so hard to be true to yourself and your vision. There's a pendulum that you go through where you can be like, what the….am I doing? I should have stayed in school. But then there's the exciting explorer aspect of it, like traveling unknown seas to the new continent. I do feel like, where I came from, people don't totally understand what I'm doing and some people might think me a bit crazy. But I'd rather one day be under the ground knowing that I pursued my vision than worry about what I perceive other people to think.
SCN: When did you know that you wanted to become a musician?
SW: It's pretty funny that I became a musician because I suffer from awful stage fright. I remember first playing open mics and wanting to play shows and I was sitting in 1369 in Central Square with my mentor, Janet Connerney, and she told me to write down on a piece of paper all the venues I wanted to play and post it on the wall and picture myself playing there, and it happened. My only regret is that I didn't put U2's 360 Tour on the list. Once you start playing the shows, this whole thing is hugely addictive, but in a good way. There is no rush quite like it.
SCN: How would you define the musical genre of Sweet Wednesday? And how do you think it fares in popular musical culture today?
SW: Our influences include Gram Parsons, Natalie Merchant, Neil Young, Pink Floyd. We are an indie band which is a cool place to be right now. With the Internet boom came empowerment to artists. You can sell CDs and book shows online. Indie bands are now winning Grammys and getting thousands of fans bypassing traditional conglomerate media. This is good because a lot of radio stations are still playing the same songs they were playing 30 years ago.
SCN: What inspires your songs?
SW: Scotty Melton, a Nashville musician I recently met, compared me to Fox Mulder on "The X Files," having the look of pondering the deep questions of the universe. I found that flattering and I feel that some people are drawn to music to deal with the big questions. Why are we here? What is the point of the cycles of life and death? Why is there war? And also, there's this constant trying to make sense of the past. Inspiration comes anywhere. You could be driving in a car at 2AM outside of Dublin after you just missed running over a giant hare. You could be locked in the bathroom before your wedding day. You could be in Acadia National Park after a night of too many beers or writing on a napkin in a restaurant in Belgium.
SCN: Can you talk about your recent tour?
SW: Had a great southern tour this past fall. We fell in love with the south. You can find inspiration on the streets. I saw one of my favorite bands, Mountain Sprout, for the first time, basking on a park bench in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We've had wild experiences on tour. We've been chased by vigilante bikers who tried to run us off the road at the Mexican border. We once played at a place that I think was a cult. A gig we got on Craigslist once turned out to be a sex club. Wild things happen in this business.
SCN: Do current events affect your music?
SW: You have to be careful with current events because it can make your music sound dated. Compare Bob Dylan's writing to Phil Ochs. Both brilliant, but Dylan's imagery and vagueness and mystery stands the test of time and has new meaning in the present. It is almost as if songs have to have holes in them. What is not said allows the listener to fill in their own meanings. I was influenced by the Iraq war when I first started writing the song Ophelia. In the song, about an army deserter during the revolutionary war who falls in love with the daughter of a Madame who is a loyalist, I was trying to work something out. I was against the Iraq war, I was against Vietnam. Would I have been against the Revolutionary War? Is all war stupid and pointless? Would I have fought in World War II? I was trying to work these things out of how far I go as a pacifist.
SCN: Can you talk about your pending CD release party?
SW: We are so excited for our CD release show for our new album, “Escaping from the Pale Moonlight.” The show will be on May 2nd (8 pm) at Club Passim. We're having our friends Red Velvet Slide, Reverend Busker, Susan Levine and more as special guests. Tickets are available at passim.org. Thank you Jacques! Our website is www.sweetwednesday.com where you can listen to our songs and get the latest on shows and new releases and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop us a line we'd love to hear from you!
Jacques Fleury’s book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe & available at www.lulu.com. His CD “A Lighter Shade of Blue” is available on iTunes. Contact Jacques at: email@example.com and visit him at www.facebook.com/thehaitianfirefly.