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Interview with Sheer Trust
By Sounni de Fontenay
(more articles from this author)
1999-11-04
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New York based indie band, Sheer Trust, has hit the Internet. With the release of a four song demo, Sheer Trust is ready to blaze the Net. As the leader of Sheer Trust, David Sheer aspires to influence people through his experiences as a NY musician. Sheer Trust's music is fundamentally pop, singable, melodic stuff, with an urban sensibility. Read on and see what they are all about...

[Sounni de Fontenay] How did you get started as a musician? How long have you been one?

[David Sheer] I've always been writing and playing. I wrote my first song when I was 2, and I've been in at least one band at a time since I was about 13 or 14.

[Sounni] What instruments do you play?

[David] Keyboard mostly, but a little of everything else. On the four recently posted songs, the keyboard or organ is me, and some other parts are me, too--a little bass, all the horns, a synth guitar. Fortunately, the other guys are so amazing--George on drums, Al on guitar, Wilbur on bass--that I can mostly focus on the keyboards and the vocals.

[Sounni] Was music all you wanted to do growing up?

[David] I'll let you know when I'm done growing up.

[Sounni] What are the goals for your music?

[David] To be in touch, to write in a way that reflects the times, or even anticipates it. People hear Dylan and say, "1962," or Springsteen, and say "1984" or Nirvana and say "1991." I want people to hear Sheer Trust and say "2000."

[Sounni] What was the inspiration for naming the band Sheer Trust?

[David] All the other good names were taken--those damn Archies!

[Sounni] What are the inspirations for your songs? Are they based out of personal experiences?

[David] Everything builds off the music. I'll write a musical line in my head or on an instrument and develop it until there is a basis for a "song." Then, depending upon what story or message the music triggers, the lyrics will fall into place after that. Sometimes the process happens in half an hour, sometimes much longer. For example, "Rocking Horse." I wrote the music for that one when I was about 15, but I never completed the song until a few months ago when I was walking through Union Square; the music and the picture suddenly came together and I finished the song in about 45 minutes. I've had people hear it and say, yeah, I know the place and the scene and the walk through the East Village to the Park, that's right.

[Sounni] Tumblin' has a reggae feel to it. Tell me more about how that song came about?

[David] The "break-out" hit--the first time I played it, another musician asked me where in the world that toasting stuff came from. And you know, I don't have a good answer. I just sort of heard it in my head, and then played it out loud. But it's a really, really weird mix there: me, Roland Richards toasting in the background, and Lisa singing on the chorus in a way that's kind of "islandy" and kind of kitschy, like the song "Short Shorts." The song is about being a musician in New York, at least for me, "with the friends I found." I really don't have hot water, and I really did have to eat potatoes and beans. But the toasting part is a nice counterpoint, in a goofy way, because even though the rain is tumbling down, good things come tumbling down too, and it usually works out. I think Roland and Lisa really get it. People hear that song, and they just start dancing.

[Sounni] How would you describe your music? Is Tumblin' typical?

[David] Tumblin' isn't typical and it isn't unusual. Sheer Trust is fundamentally pop, singable, melodic stuff, with an urban sensibility. So there are reggae and ska influences, and some funk, but it's mostly about putting a good sound out.

[Sounni] How is Sheer Trust unique compared to other bands of a similar genre?

[David] The sound is so accessible, people can really relate. It's not just turn the amp on 10 and wail, it's not just a lot of techno, programmed stuff that shows you can do loops. I've done all that, and it's great for the musicians, but people hearing it get real tired real fast. The most important thing is a good song, one that sticks in your head and speaks to you and moves you. We've got that, and it's flavored with both an authentic guitar sound and an honest beat.

[Sounni] Which artists have most influenced your music?

[David] I like musicians who can take a sweet, melodic tune and combine it with a kind of bite, almost a menace. Everclear, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana; classically, Tom Petty, Dylan, and even the Beatles.

[Sounni] Who do people compare your music with?

[David] It depends on the song. "Down to You" sounds a little like the Smashing Pumpkins, I suppose, and "Wasting My Time" is kind of Matchbox 20'ish. People hear "Rocking Horse" and say Dylan, or Lou Reed. That's a pretty wide range, so I guess it just goes to show how unique Sheer Trust really is.

[Sounni] Do you feel that there is a lot of opportunity for an indie like yourself to succeed, especially considering the Internet?

[David] Absolutely; the Internet changes everything. Suddenly, our potential audience is not just a bar in the East Village, or a club off I-95, or whoever happens to hear a demo tape we sell after a gig. Now, its the whole world, point and click and download and go. We can reach people across time zones and age groups and narrow "demographics" and, because we can save the expenses involved in pressing CD's, shipping, packaging and marketing, we can get more music out to more people out more cost effectively.

[Sounni] Are you looking to sign on with a label?

[David] Yes, because even though I am an idealist about the potentials of the information age, I am also a realist. Cyber-marketing is a critical component of success, but you can't put all your eggs in that basket. A label allows you to reach a more traditional listener base through established channels of distribution. And the right label allows you to coordinate the two means of distribution to get more music out to an even broader audience.

[Sounni] What kind of label would you join (major or indie)? What special characteristics would that label have to have?

[David] Well, I think the line between indie and major is already starting to blur, because so many of the majors have either been buying controlling stakes in indies or starting their own. Obviously, a major has more cache, but I'd rather sign with someone who will support our sound, aggressively market our music, and be a dynamic partner than be buried deep on some roster behind older, more established bands.

[Sounni] Do you plan on doing shows in the NYC area or possibly touring regionally?

[David] I try to play as much as I can in New York, but the way things are falling we don't expect to really start kicking into high gear again until after the New Year.

[Sounni] What can we expect from Sheer Trust in the future?

[David] I really like the idea of fusing a singable, tuneful guitar-based rock with an urban sensibility and edge. I also want a sense of humor to show more often in the music; I wince when I hear that heavy gen-x angst stuff. Other than that, just stay tuned.

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Sheer Trust (1999-11-18)


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