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Into the Dogwood Blooms with Leon III

(Photo Credit: Rick Wittenbraker)

1.) Your third LP, Something is Trying to Change My Mind dropped October 13, 2023. This one saw an even heavier infusion of psychedlic stylings than your previous releases with the infusion of a bit of sitar. Where were you picking up your influences for this album both internally and externally?

"We were a little all over the board as always. I was listening to a lot of T Rex and world music and some Indian music that was just for background. I bought this six string sitar/guitar thing. It's tuned like a guitar but plays like sitar. There are some 60's songs that use that. We originally tried to use a real sitar and that didn't work out. We found a collaborator Mahesh Pathnakunara to work with and it worked out great. He's from Sri Lanka and we sent over the jams and he produced some sitar work for us."

2.) "Hello, Heavy Ghost" is an absolute life-changer of a track. Where did you get the influence for this tune?

"I don't know exactly strangely, that song was cut from Antlers in Velvet because it didn't necessarily fit on there. It's been sitting there and looking for place for it and kind of at the end of putting this album together we felt it fit this album really. It's really perfect here. It's very fortunate that it's getting it's due. I don't feel like they would have heard it on Antlers in Velvet as much. I feel like "Hello, Heavy Ghost" would have fit on Ween's White Pepper album."

3.) You all can really write hooks and bridges. Where do you start in the songwriting process? Are you aiming to reach a peak? Or is it more natural?

"It's more natural. Like all songwriters I feel like a one-trick pony because it's a slow building process to a big catharsis. It's definitely my natural process. I'm always writing words on pages or my phone and stockpiling things that work together. When I'm messing around on guitar or piano and I stumble across the foundation of a melody. Sometimes I'll just put gibberish on top of it. Then I'll find out maybe 'Ooo this is something, but what's going to keep people engaged?'. It's a fairly typical process to have a bridge or middle eight, I don't subscribe to a typical process, but it's easier to deliver the message in a different way. I do try to write bridges from time to time, but sometimes they land."

4.) I absolutely love what you all do with your packaging for your releases. You've had some of the best vinyl releases in the game. That includes the purple nebula edition of Antlers in Velvet and the Mind Melt edition of this record. How involved are you in the process of your packaging design?

"It's one hundred percent us. It kind of goes back to the fact that we set out to make albums, we don't set out to make singles. That runs counter to all the music business now. We're trying to make an experience that harkens back to a bygone era. The artwork is sort of the indicator of the first thing you were getting into. Back then you saw some words some graphics. That experience is a part of the music and a part of the journey you go on. We don't want to make albums half-assed or in the graphic part as well. We want to think we're on a major label. We want you to think "They left no stone unturned". It may cut into what we do. The last two albums we worked with Darryl Norsen who has worked with a lot of artists. For the cover of this album he did something that was not usual to his style. He created this icon and when I saw it I was pretty blown away emotionally. There was not a second 'go try again'."

5.) You guys are going to be hitting the road a bit including some shows with The Kitchen Dwellers. What are you most looking forward to about getting back out on the road a little bit?

"Playing. We haven't really played since COVID. We'll do three, four, five shows in a row. We're just eager to play. The band is sharp right now. We've evolved to having a certain core of band members and we're excited to get to play with them. We're excited to get out and get away from home. We played some big shows, especially in October. Touring is something you hate when you're doing it, but love when you aren't."

6.) One of the highlights of 2023 had to be playing Weekend 2 of Austin City Limits. What was it like having the opportunity to play at such a special festival?

"It's great. It happened to coincide with our album release weekend. So it was just fantastic. This album has been in the works for two years. You begin to get ready and you want to get something like this out. We did a bunch of press around Austin and a recorded studio session. Then it was an absolutely beautiful day with a great crowd of course with a big stage and big production. They treat you like a star. It was a great all-around experience."

7.) What can we expect from you in 2024?

"We're definitely going to play, we've already got some stuff that's not announced yet. We're going to play shows and hit some geographies that we haven't been back to for a while. Hitting the East Coast, maybe Europe, maybe the West Coast. Strangely we had some days on in the summer and we went to Mark Nevers studio and had some songs that had been sitting around and have another six or eight that are sitting around as well. It probably won't be 2024 but maybe 2025 we'll have another record out. Every now and then the bucket gets dry, but right now I'm churning out songs and working on a lot of that stuff. Hopefully that will continue and we'll start popping out some songs."

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