Patrolled By Radar, Jay Souza’s (50 Cent Haircut) latest project recently released their Knitting Factory debut, Be Happy. He took the time to answer some of our questions via email about the record, being grouped with the “Americana” genre and his musical guilty pleasure.
Q: The new record, “Be Happy” was produced by Peter Curry and done in the “old-fashioned” way. What was that like? How was it different or similar to the music you’ve made in the past?
A: I’m glad you asked about Peter Curry. I first became aware of Pete through his work with Los Straitjackets. He’s the rhythm section on a third of “Be Happy”. He’s been quite a mentor and older mature brother figure to me personally and musically. We’ve done three full length albums with him and are working on a forth at his Powow Fun Room Studio, which is essentially a Sun Studio replica. There is a plate reverb the size of a small swimming pool, a dozen or so vintage amps, and an enviable collection of CBS series and otherwise tube/ribbon mics.
There is an extensive library of rare vinyl in his studio as well. We often take breaks and listen to 78s, as Pete’s ears discern what the piano player on the recording had for lunch, or that the bass player is soon to be poisoned by his wife. Pete is a conjurer of atmosphere through mic/amp choice/placement, less is more minimalism, and performance dynamic awareness. He doesn’t like to touch the faders on a final mix.
I don’t know that we’ve ever used more than a dozen tracks on any one recording, with very few overdubs, just straight takes. We’ve always sort of recorded that way ourselves, pre-Powow, but I believe it’s better to put yourself in the hands of someone you trust, with a history of making great sounding records, who genuinely likes what you do, and not the hot flavor of the day producer of the minute.
Q: The alt-folk, Americana sound has been gaining some popularity in the mainstream, how do you see your sound being different from some of your contemporaries, for example, Mumford & Sons?
A: I really dig what’s going on now with the publicly conscious embracing of groups such as M&S and the like. More and more folks seem to be warming up to classic electric tones and inspired acoustic instruments accompanying new original songs with melody and thought provoking lyrical content. It’s been absent from the main stream for too long. Rock n roll is what we think we’re doing more than some of our contemporaries, and less than others. We recently played to a full house at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory with Holly Golightly & The Broke-offs. The room was singing and dancing all night (an odd thing to witness in such an inured hipster epicenter). Go figure. It’s just time I suppose.
Q: How did you decide to become a musician? Did you ever consider another career path?
A: My family ran and operated a trucking company in Boston that serviced the Northeast, U.S. I road shotgun and helped load and unload semis over many summers as a youth. I pause in awe to this day when I see a tractor trailer u-turn flawlessly in a busy city intersection. That was the earliest path presented. Others were eventually investigated and had presented themselves as well. I was always able to come up with a tune and some words to put to it as long as I can remember. You end up where you end up. Life is a game of musical chairs…or not so musical; but it’s good to have a seat.
Q: What does your creative process look like?
A: I come up with a vocal melody, working phrasing, and chord structure first. I walk the city and listen to it all. I mine out of context, sound bites that create a collage of a story. That’s one method. Other times, it’s more linear and literal. The process is everywhere all the time. Not really a process at all.
Q: What was the first song you wrote and do you still play it?
A: I don’t remember at all, and no I don’t…as far as I know. I’m forever ripping off my former self though. That I know.
Q: Where does the band name, “Patrolled by Radar” come from?
A: You’re being surveilled…land, sky and sea.
Q: How has your music and style evolved over the years you’ve been performing?
A: They have become more erect and upright.
Q: Besides your instruments, what are the top 5 things that you must have while on the road?
A: Reliable details.
A remarkable weather event that causes us no harm.
A unique culinary experience.
Tears of any kind, from any one.
A genuine feeling that some semblance of a good time was had by all in our wake.
Q: What is your musical guilty pleasure, the one artist or album that you don’t usually admit to liking?
A: The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. Admitted. Great weight off!
Q: Is there anything people listening to your music need to know about you?
A: Stoicism is where it’s at, and I appreciate you reading my answers to these questions.