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15 August 2006 -

EXCLUSIVE Interview: Y O U
Chuck Norton, deadjournalist.com

Atlanta-based Y O U (or Y-O-U if you prefer) has been a staple in the Atlanta-area music scene for several years. Having been together since their college days, lead vocalist and guitarist Nick Niespodziani, bassist Peter Olson and drummer Mark Cobb have formed a cohesive musical relationship. Along with playing many shows as Y O U, they have been known to occasionally moonlight as a cover band playing unique and/or obscure sets.

The band has a new album on the horizon and the video for the song "Moviekiss" available on YouTube.com. For more information on Y O U, visit their Web site: www.pleaserock.com or their MySpace page: www.myspace.com/pleaserock.

DeadJournalist.com recently conducted this exclusive interview with Nick Niespodziani.

How long has Y O U been together?

NN: Peter and I met in the fourth grade in Columbus, Indiana. When we were in high school, we started drinking Dr. Pepper and listening to Led Zeppelin. Next thing you know, we decided to start a band. The only hold up was that neither of us played any rock instruments - only oboe and a bit of piano. But by learning leap-frog style, we got the guitar figured out pretty quickly.

I met Mark playing in an R&B group we both were in: the Indiana University Soul Revue. After we all graduated from IU, we moved to Atlanta to become professional musicians. Mission accomplished. The band will be releasing a new album in January 2007.

How long did it take to record?

NN: Every sound on Flashlights was recorded in seven days in May of '06. We rented out Nickel and Dime Recording Studios in Avondale Estates, GA. It's an old movie theatre and stage, and back in the day Elvis and the Almans played there. We all took the entire week to live, eat, and breathe the music for the record - recording until 3 in the morning with monster sound engineer Kris Sampson.

We worked long days and completed all 15 tracks in the seven days - all overdubs, all vocals, all bells and whistles. It felt like we were recording an old-time record, the kind of records we grew up listening to.

Then, we took the tapes to Athens and mixed the album in five days with David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, etc.) He was absolutely amazing, and an expert on all things sports. We got on swimmingly, mixing the record and talking baseball the entire time.

What is the sound like on the new album?

NN: We wanted this record to sound raw and visceral - not perfect and quantized like so many modern recordings. So, I think the time limitations actually improved the sound - we didn't have time to over-analyze or go for the absolute perfect (sterile) take. One of the first three takes always turned out to be the perfect take - the early takes had character and heart, and the mistakes made these performances memorable. This method of recording gave it more of a Rolling Stones vibe and less of a modern rock feel.

The songs on this record combine the pop sensibilities of our first album Y O U with the more mature lyrical approach of our last EP Everything is Shifting. On Flashlights we wrote about everything from Einstein and Edison to plastic surgery and the war on drugs to indie kids and Greek gods. There are political commentaries, multi-layered metaphors, and veiled pop-culture references, with a few love songs thrown in there for good measure. We strove to found a middle ground between art and entertainment, but nothing like the TV channel A&E.

Will you be touring in support of the new album?

NN: Yes. We recently licensed "Good Luck with that American Dream" from Everything is Shifting to Coca-Cola for an international television commercial for Coke Light. We used some of the money we earned from the song to by a used Honda Odyssey minivan to replace our old 1989 Ford Econoline. The difference between 8 miles per gallon and 28 miles per gallon is staggering, and as a 3-piece, we can get all our gear into the Odyssey with no problem.

In short, we'll be able to do a bit of touring, although a bit of tour support in the form of PR, gas money, etc. would come in very handy ... it's very difficult for bands to be able to afford to tour with any sort of range outside of their hometown in these days of Bush-induced oil nightmares.

Fuck the president and the Republican party, for the record.

For someone who hasn't seen a Y O U show, how would you describe the band's live performance?

NN: Transcendent. Just kidding, but not really. There is a special chemistry that Mark, Peter and I have on-stage. When you play pop songs, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to exactly reproduce the sound on the record in a live show. But that isn't what people want to see - they want to see something unique to that time and place. So we rehearse the songs until we can play them in our sleep, and then we let each night take on its own character.

The performances are dictated by banter and jokes between songs, looks and musical ideas that call and respond across the stage, and by who trips over which piece of gear on any given night.

What is your most memorable performance?

NN: One year for Halloween we performed the greatest movie songs of the '80s on all keyboards. We did all the hits from the great soundtracks - Footloose, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Beverly Hills Cop, Back to the Future.

Then for a second set, we hopped on our real instruments and played Michael Jackson's Thriller in its entirety. Oops?

Who had the greatest influence on you as musicians?

NN: When I was in third or fourth grade my dad's old band had a reunion show in his hometown in Wisconsin and 5,000 people showed up. (They were a pretty big deal back in the day - opening for the Buffalo Springfield and the like.) I saw that he was really on to something. My mom taught piano lessons out of our house my whole life, so melody, harmony, and rhythm were pretty much hard wired. They taught me everything I know about exterior illumination.

Our biggest influences are the big guys - Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Springsteen, T. Rex, Petty, Floyd, Who, Eagles, etc. When we first got this band together at the turn of the century we were really into neo-soul because that was the hippest thing going at that time - D'Angelo (best concert I've ever seen), Erykah Badu, etc. Now we all listen to a lot of the great indie-ish pop that's been coming out: Flaming Lips, Beck, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Of Montreal.

We're influenced by all kinds of artists, from Wes Anderson to Ernest Hemingway to Dave Chappelle to Matthew McConnaghey to Van Gogh to the Chapman Brothers. (Y O U art by the Chapman Brothers.) We're lucky to live in a place and time where we're able to have access to a majority of the great art that's been made by people since ... ever, and I think we'd be squandering our great fortune if we didn't pay attention.

Ten years ago, what CD's were you listening to?

NN: In 1996 I was rocking some serious fucking grunge - In Utero by Nirvana, Purple by STP, Vitalogy by Pearl Jam and even Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet. I was also into the aforementioned Zep and other classic rock.

In the spring of my last semester of high school, I remember getting stoned and driving to Indianapolis to the Children's Museum to see a midnight laser show featuring the Pink Floyd. I had never really listened to the Floyd before, and for a special treat that night they played "Dark Side of the Moon" in its entirety.

That night changed my life.

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