Everything moves in cycles, a pattern that is blatantly seen in the music world. Since Franz Ferdinand and the Killers set the stage for a full-blown ’80s New Wave revival in 2003, chilly, sometimes cheesy yet always danceable synthesizers and angular guitar riffs have become in vogue again. White Noise Radio are a part of that movement, if you will, but the songs on their self-titled album elevate themselves from the heap by being more catchy and tuneful.

Julian Wilson: Much of the current ’80s New Wave revival either revolves around musicians that either (a) grew in the ’80s and listened to the genre’s output when it was still new or (b) discovered groups such as the Cure, Depeche Mode, and the Psychedelic Furs while rummaging through pawn shops or their parents’ or older siblings’ collections. Which one are you?

Vinnie Velez: My first exposure to New Wave music was via awesome John Hughes ’80s flicks like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science. Those sountracks, along with other ’80s movies, became my childhood sing-alongs even though I grew up in the ’90s. I always embraced ’80s fashion growing up as well, substituting bright colors and flash in place of plaid and denim. Now I’m comfortable throwing on a leather jacket, dress shirt, enough hair product to kill an army of ants, ripped jeans, and skater sneaks. I’d call it the New Wave slacker.
Wilson: In what ways is White Noise Radio different from other young acts similarly infatuated with ’80s New Wave?

Velez: With White Noise Radio I didn’t set out to write a New Wave record; the natural process was for those tones to work their way out of my past and into the future of my music. I am definitely a hook addict though when it comes to songwriting, and as soon as someone listens to the WNR debut they will pick up on that.  Where other bands would stop writing hooks for a track, I would consider that moment a decent start to a WNR tune. 
Wilson: Describe your early days as a musician. What kind of music were you doing?

Velez: I was a punk rocker off the bat, drumming and singing in countless reincarnations of the same small-town band. At the time, the town I grew up in (Germantown, NY) was so repressed that it had actually banned MTV for being too racy. You could imagine the horror of townfolk who came out to the local high school music festival to find my punk band Nemesis thrashing through our rebel song “Genocide.” There were about five guys in town that played an instrument good enough to be in a band and none of them played the keys.  I couldn’t play anything but the drums at that point so it was goodbye to Duran Duran and my beloved New Wave and hello to the Clash, Rancid and the Offspring. On my spare time, I taught myself how to play guitar, began fiddling with the keys, and started recording solo demos on a tascam four-track.  Eventually, one of those demos got me a call from a Sony Records A&R scout.  Her praise and encouragement inspired me to persue a recording career; I was 16 at the time.

Wilson: For over a decade, immediately after grunge ruled the charts, keyboards had become as appealing as cancer in alternative music. Why do you think synth-fueled acts such as the Killers and the Postal Service are reeling in the youth of today as opposed to the generation of the ’90s?

Velez: Yeah, the ’90s reduced the keyboard to a mere computer accessory rather than a musical instrument. If you brought a keyboard to a rock show, you definitely were getting a wedgie and a purple nurple (Titty Twister for the laymen out there).  It was unfortunate, but necessary for today’s rebirth. I mean, I missed Robert Downey, Jr.’s career as well.  Now look at him go: Iron Man, Tropic Thunder, and all. Everything works in cycles. I am happy to fight alongside the best bands out there like the Killers, getting folks riled up about a new sound utilizing the forbidden instrument.  Almost makes me feel dirty (laughs).

Wilson: What is the origin of the name White Noise Radio?

Velez: The name White Noise Radio refers to the broadcast of everything overlooked within us.  If you sit out under the stars one night and actually


Reviewed by Rupert Thomas II

Water Bear/In the Moonlight

Songs have their own personalities: they woo us, entice us to sing in the shower and sometimes even smack us in the proverbial face.  Water Bear’s In The Moonlight goes a step further and assigns forenames to each track.  This is a method the band calls Name Music.  The violin-heavy tunes unfurls into timeless instrumentals wherein a name is given a body through note and pitch.  With a track list slightly favoring femininity, even Henry VIII — cleverly absent from the list — would savor the beauty and persona of each song before slicing to the next.

The idea behind Name Music is both simple and complex.  Letters are assigned a pitch on the violin, and each score is confined to those letters within its given name.  Each band member adds his or her own flavor, creating a depth of personality and a sound that’s as alive as flesh and blood.


Bryan Rowe is not only a musician; he is a poet. Although Songs of the Soul arrives minus any lyrics, the words are illustrated through Rowe’s classically sculpted piano playing. It is a masterwork about life, death, and the renewal of the cycle. The record takes us through the seasons of the Earth – spring, summer, winter, and fall – as it relates to birth and the end of our years. It is an album that chills the heart with overwhelming feelings of loneliness and painful acceptance; in the end, we are left wanting to hold our loved ones next to us, to savor each of those precious moments.

Derek Jensen: What I have heard from you thus far seems to transcend the classical music category in the sense that I hear traces of jazz and soundtrack scores in there. You seem to compose your music without any stylistic boundaries while other classical composers may feel confined. Do you feel a sense of liberation when you write these pieces?

Bryan Rowe: The sense of liberation I feel is simply the product of what I have been feeling or focusing on “inside” and then hearing and seeing how that focus translates into music, the sole expression of those feelings and thoughts. I am, as any other human being, an amalgamation of all the experiences I have lived.  I never feel confined by any form or structure of music, but there is an underlying, logical construction of my music that is perhaps influenced by the classical genre. As a child, my parents listened to all types of music – I inherited their vinyl collection – every genre was represented.  I love soundtracks of movies, particularly those of Morricone and Barry. So all of those musical sounds, coupled with ones I call definitely “Rowe” do represent me as a composer who is naturally influenced by a wide spectrum of genre, including jazz.

Jensen: How do you convey your feelings through the writing of music?

Rowe: There is not much of a plan when I compose. What pours out of my being is essentially the expression of what I am trying to convey.  The piece, “I Lament You,” was written upon my father’s passing just a few years ago. I cannot  express to you how “deep” that piece goes for me.  Sometimes it is utterly painful to hear or play it, but that is what the music is about; it is the conduit of my emotions and experiences.  The music I just wrote for my daugther’s wedding expresses the joy and euphoria of falling in love and the celebration of committing one’s self to another.  The music is grand but dance-like.  So there is no magical formula.  I simply compose what my mind and heart collaboratively decide to convey based on what has influenced me emotionally.

Jensen: There is pain but also acceptance on Songs of the Soul. If you don’t mind, please tell us the story behind the album.

Rowe: Songs of the Soul was recorded in a single take with no music in front of me.  I mention this because the collection expresses an emotional outpouring of  “loss” and “forgiveness” and is based on life events.  The first release of the album was based on my experience of the ending of a marriage and the stages of emotion that naturally accompanied that part of my life.  So it is easy for the listener to comprehend why I titled pieces as I did.  The second release of the album, just last year, was motivated by the losses of my grandmother, mom and dad, and father-in-law, all within 18 months.  Through that span of time, dealing with parents’ illnesses, caring for them, and literally experiencing their deaths was gut wrenching, just as the divorce was for me in the ’90s.  I thought it appropriate to re-release the album with new artwork that expresses the intimacy and personal tragedy of losing someone, and in my case, four important people in my life.

Jensen: Songs of the Soul was recorded in the ’90s. How have you evolved as a musician since then?  

Rowe: When I listen to Songs of the Soul and compare it to the music of Spiorad or even the recent wedding music for my daughter’s wedding, there is for me a marked sense of evolving and maturing into a composer in which there is a sense of “getting to the point” of the music, putting that melody out there and being more economical in my use of notes to do just that.  Living through what life has presented me since the ’90s has naturally contributed to my bank of experiences; so without question I am still evolving into my own as a composer and pianist. And, these life experiences have, I believe, refined my skills as a builder of melodies that  express more intimately than ever those experiences that I have been blessed with by life itself.

Jensen: Growing up, was it always classical music for you? What other forms of music hooked you in during those years?

Rowe: As mentioned previously, my parents always had music playing in the house.  My dad was a very gifted guitar player; he loved Chet Atkins.  My three brothers and I, together with my father, had a band called The Impossibles. We played everything from the Everly Brothers and Nat King Cole to the standards of the ’60s and ’70s.  I even spent several summers during my college years as a cocktail pianist so I had all of “popular” repertoire memorized since I was a child.   My parents were also committed to the family attending church; all of the boys sang in choirs as children and continuing through our high school years. So I was naturally influenced by the music of the church, hence my classical bent.  While I enjoy classical music, I always thought, and still do, that I wanted to pursue my own music, never abandoning the classical background and the music that I grew up listening to and playing as a child with my family band. All of those experiences still contribute and are an integral part of  my evolving as a composer and musician.


Time Spy, in reality Ryan Shah, is a rarity among electronica artists in that he is an actual musician, helping to destroy the negative stereotype that those in the genre can’t actually play their instruments. His album, Vol. 1, has been receiving its share of spins in the office with its tripped-out beats and mood-rotating atmospherics.

Julian Wilson: Time Spy is an intriguing name for your project. Does it have any significance to you or the music?

Ryan Shah: I’ve always felt that I would have liked to have been a secret agent or something along those lines if I hadn’t been a musician.  I used to dress in all black and run around my neighborhood late at night when I was as young as 10-years-old, hiding in shadows, spying on people through their windows, etc.  Just for fun, you know.  But being a drummer, I guess I feel that my music is rhythmically kind of like the vibe of a spy.  A good spy is never seen but sometimes his presence can be felt.  In my tracks, there’s a lot of subtle rhythmic things that aren’t always heard consciously but are picked up subconsciously by the listener.

Wilson: You’re different among most electronica artists in that you’ve had experience playing in “real” bands, namely rock and jazz acts. Of the three musical styles, which one has given you the most artistic freedom?

Shah: This is a difficult question but I guess I have to say being an ‘electronica artist’ since I am the one in total control of the entire creation.  ‘Artistic freedom’ is a questionable term though because I have
felt quite ‘free’ in one or two bands I have been in.  I think as long as an artist is challenged he is ‘free’ because he can grow. In music, stagnation is a prison.  And bands can provide that challenge (freedom) if
the other musicians are as skilled and courageous.  All said and done, though, being an electronica artist is probably the most freedom I have felt because of the absence of social politics.

Wilson: How did you become interested in electronic music?

Shah: The first track of electronic music I heard must have been Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.”  Also, to me, hip-hop is a type of electronic music, and I’ve been into hip-hop since the days of Public Enemy and De La Soul.  In the late ’90s I heard some tracks by Artifacts B.C. while at a friend’s place in NYC.  I have been influenced by the compilations on the Quango label Brazilified and Lush Life; Jazzanova’s CD In Between; the compilation Brazilectro; the programming on Bebel Gilberto’s CDs.  And my biggest influenceas of this last year is Zero 7. Around 2002, I somehow got a demo copy of Fruity Loops and wrote some of the stuff on my CD Vol. 1 using it without a MIDI keyboard, just plugging notes with the mouse.

Wilson: Besides Time Spy, what else are you involved in?

Shah: I perform classical Indian music on tabla, accompanying a vocalist in Calcutta, India named Siddharth Chaudhuri.  I also play drums in a blues/rock/folk band called Humigalous Rex when I am here in states.  And I also play tabla with my drum set teacher Jeff Sipe. In my spare time, I practice martial arts like Aikido and Muay Thai Boran. I also study yoga and meditation.  I love movies as well.

Wilson: How do you feel Time Spy differentiates itself from other electronica projects?

Shah: Well, as far as lounge music goes, it doesn’t utilize any style or genre blatantly like say Brazilian or jazz or even Indian music but those elements are there. I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s “Funk
Lounge” or “Jazz Lounge” or “Brazilian” or even “Indian,” etc. I have a huge listening experience.  I was operating my folk’s stereo when I was 4 years old and have been listening to anything I could get my ears on since then.


You might peg New Hampshire-based musician Deborah Wyndham as a jazz pianist at first; after all, her album Tenderly radiates with the soulfulness of jazz. However, there is a crystalline elegance to her playing that more than suggests the spectre of classical music. If the idea of listening to another album of piano covers bores you to tears, you might want to hear Wyndham’s work to see it done well.

Julian Wilson: How long have you been playing the piano?

Wyndham: On and off for about 20 years, professionally for eight. As a teen I didn’t play much at all and almost forgot how to play once. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but I was barely hanging on by one thin thread called “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Wilson: What were the compositions that you learned first?

Wyndham: Some kind of march, I can’t remember, but my teacher didn’t mess around and soon had me playing Bach.

WIlson: What is the jazz scene like in New Hampshire?

Wyndham: What jazz scene? (Laughs.) Well, Boston is where you’d go for live music if you’re in New Hampshire, and I think they do a pretty good job there. I recently saw some big names and of course there is a lot of popular music schools in the area.

Wilson: What other genres of music do you listen to?

Wyndham: Currently, I listen to mostly mellow stuff like ’70s soft rock. I like ethereal pop/rock music, European bands, and jazz fusion, but mostly older stuff, not much past 1985. I’ve listened to very little jazz and like listening to silence since I play so much.

Wilson: Are you considering diving into other styles?

Wyndham: Yes, even though I don’t play classical music and therefore fall more into the jazz category, I actually don’t consider myself a jazz pianist as in what jazz pianists are considered nowadays. My style has more of a classical sound, though, encompassing many styles including contemporary, jazz, and jazz-influenced modern classical (the best way to describe my own compositions).


Boise, Idaho’s IQEQ is a musician’s band, a wildly adventuresome group that, to unenlightened ears, may seem as if they’re veering out of control. However, it takes discipline and a clear vision to map their tangled web of scrappy, tripped-out rhythms and mind-warping jams.

Julian Wilson: I have a hard time pinpointing IQEQ’s style because there seems to be a multitude of diverse musical influences at play in each track. On the surface, the band seems to be a collision between the sleek prog-rock of Steely Dan and the avant-garage energy of the Mars Volta. Would you find that to be an accurate description? How did you guys arrive creatively at this point?

Nate Paradis [drummer, vocalist, noise-machinist]: Yeah, that’s accurate enough. I suppose we came upon this sound mostly by letting things happen naturally and not canceling ideas because they didn’t fit into a specific idea of how we wanted our band to sound. We never sat down and made lists of things we wanted to do or things we did want to do. If it’s fun to play and says something musically or lyrically we don’t question it. We’ll just work with it until it feels right. I think because all four of us simply love so many different types of music we really have no control over that schizophrenia. We wouldn’t have it any other way though. While there is something to be said for a band having an easily marketable sound or identity, we’ve always tried to keep it interesting and fun for ourselves, foremost. Even if a tune originates from one or two members, when you stick us all in a room to work something out we’ve all usually been fortunate enough to put pieces of our individual selves into it most of the time.
Wilson: What does IQEQ stand for?

Paradis: I Quit Expecting Quiet. If Questioned, Exit Quickly, I Quietly Escaped Quarantine, the list goes on. It began as something that phonetically sounded nice and we decided early on to leave it open ended, just like our music and our musical path.

Wilson: IQEQ are pretty hook-oriented for a group so devoted to progressive rock, which is more often known for its complex musicianship than catchy tunes. How do you strike that balance?

Paradis:  By listening to the Beatles and the Mars Volta simultaneously every single day. Even music nerds like to hum along once in a while.

Wilson: I hear the manic inspiration of Frank Zappa on a couple of tracks. Was he a hero to you guys? What effect did he have on IQEQ in terms of ideas?

Paradis: I personally can only listen to about 1 1/2 minutes of Zappa at a time. Tom and Dan are music scholars that can probably appreciate it more but even still, they come from more of a jazz background so I think that particular part of our makeup comes from a different place than Zappa. Bitches Brew had more of an impact on their musical personalities and in turn the band’s. I like the idea of Zappa more than his music itself.

Wilson: How has IQEQ been received in live performance?

Paradis: In our time together we’ve gotten it all from silence to screams, especially on some of our supporting dates when people were really there to see the headliner. Bar crowds wanna dance; they generally don’t take surprises well. But after awhile we caught the ears of a few adventurous souls who were down for the ride. They got to know the songs and us so between january of 2005 and now, our fans have come to expect something exciting. Not to boast, but to illustrate the point, the LOCO/MOTIVE record release show confirmed that for us when we pulled the biggest draw of a local band at that venue. Our crowd was huge and nearly as excited to be there as we were; plus, we’re charming as fuck so we’ve got a grip of close friends that love to show up and throw down with us anytime.


Julie Nesrallah will stun you with her soaring operatic voice; her singing is ethereal, dramatic, and transcendent. Even untrained ears will be hard to resist the emotional pull of this magnificent mezzo-soprano.

Julian Wilson: You don’t look like an opera singer or a classical musician at all. There seems to be a sort of stuffiness when it comes to the look of artists who work within those genres. Have you faced any criticism from peers because of your stylish appearance?

Julie Nesrallah: I have not received any criticism from peers whatsoever and I love the fact that I look very contrary to what people expect from an opera singer. I intend to continue to smash pre-conceived notions of what is it to be an opera singer in this day and age. Besides, the face of opera is changing. It’s becoming sexier, more hip and very “red carpet” in an attempt to win new audiences.

Wilson: How did you become interested in classical music and opera? What triggered this passion?

Nesrallah: From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a performer. When I was 10, my parents bought me a piano. The guy who delivered it sat down to play, and I went totally berserk. That’s when I knew I had to learn how to do that, too, and my classical flame was ignited. I started off as a pianist, but I sang in the school choir and was given lead singing roles in school productions, and eventually the singing took over. When I was 12, I was in the children’s chorus of my first professional opera, and after that I started private voice lessons. I never knew anything else existed. Becoming a classical musician was an obvious and natural evolution that took over my life. I completed two degrees in music, was launched into the professional world right out of university, and the rest is history. Although some of my family members are very musical, I was the only one who pursued it as a career. It wasn’t like I grew up in an upper-class household with a butler, and Haydn and Mozart playing in the background during tea time. I had a normal childhood; I was a regular kid who happened to have a big, strong voice and couldn’t live without singing. And classical singing (as opposed to musical theatre or pop) is not only what turned me on the most, but it was the thing I did best.

Wilson: Opera and classical music are generally considered by kids to be boring and something that only old people would listen to. How do we get a younger generation with very short attention spans into this music?

Nesrallah: The last thing in the world I would call opera is boring. The whole event is a feast for the senses: it’s opulent, decadent, fantastic, incredible, it spans the range of human emotion and experience — on and off stage! And what people don’t realize about opera is that most of the big hits (Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, La Bohème, Tosca, La Traviata) are truly compelling human dramas, and that the characters being portrayed in those dramas are portraits of regular people trying to make their way in the world. That’s why these stories and this art form have endured for so long: they are about you and me and everything in between. Opera is a super-human expression of the most elemental human experiences.

When you are able to successfully engage people, you are not boring them. The trick is knowing how get them hooked, and the only way to do that is to have someone present this music to them in a way that they can relate and respond to. For me, opera and rock & roll aren’t so different in terms what they provide as musical nourishment to the listener, and I enjoy conveying this idea to people. I am absolutely convinced that I would be able to turn people on to this genre given the right platform. It has been my lifelong mission to try and break down those barriers by approaching it in a very down-to-Earth way, in a way that people don’t usually expect from a classical musician.

Wilson: Do you consider yourself a rebel?

Nesrallah: If being a rebel means maintaining a very pure sense of self, regardless of what is expected of you, regardless of what the rest of the gang is doing and regardless of what you might lose in the process, then my answer is yes. I always did exactly what my intincts screamed loudest for me to do, for better or for worse. I have never taken the safe path in life or on stage. One Canadian reviewer and critic called me “opera’s wild child,” and I have to admit I loved it.  Look at it this way, I am a Canadian opera singer answering questions for an American hipster indie site, and I think that speaks volumes.

Wilson: You’re based in Canada. Is there a real appreciation for this kind of music over there?

Nesrallah: There is a real appreciation for this kind of music in Canada and in the United States. There are hundreds of opera companies all over North America, and the market is flooded with opera singers. What opera needs is a bigger fan base in an effort to help keep opera alive and vital and forward moving. I know that there are thousands of innocent and unsuspecting rockers out there just waiting to be bitten by the opera bug, and I look forward to trying to infect them all. It is so worth it and such an interesting and unique genre. All people need to do is give it a chance.