Alice Russell Talks Dice, Burritos and Everything in Between

Singer sits down after playing San Francisco

Seher Sikandar interviews Alice Russell and her North American band, including The Park, TM Juke, and Mike Simmonds.  Get the low-down on pressing issues like, how to hustle people when playing dice, which burritos to eat, album releases on USB drive, and The Crit Movement.  Also find out how these bad-asses rock – 15-song set learning in three hours for The Park, an album recorded in two months by TM Juke, the folky awesome-ness of Mike Simmonds, and how Alice takes us back to the old school.

Welcome Alice Russel, TM Juke, & The Park.  You guys just had an amazing show at The Independent in San Francisco.  So today, I have the pleasure of sitting in a room with a bunch of magicians. [laughing, cheering]  Now for those that don’t know but need to know, why don’t you all go around and tell us what it is you do?  Let’s start with miss Alice.

ALICE RUSSELL:  What I do?  [wails] Oh!  I spend a lot of my time wishing I was Mike, the violin player. [laughing]  Well actually what I like to do is – well, I sing.  A few songs…with these lovely guys.

TM JUKE:  [to Alice] So sincere!

ALICE:  [to TM Juke] It’s true, man – I can’t help it!

Next we have, Alex…

TM JUKE:  Alex Cowan aka TM Juke aka the only ginger guy in the group [“ginger” is The Park’s affectionate nickname for redheads].  The only guy that’s not Canadian. 

ALICE/THE PARK:  Huh? [regarding Canadian statement]

TM JUKE:  I like to play music, produce music, punch up singers…Play a little guitar.

ALICE:  And a bit of piano.

TM JUKE:  Practice some piano, hang out in San Francisco.

And now.  Derek Taylor of The Park…

DEREK TAYLOR:  My name is Derek Taylor, I play the drums for The Park – [laughing]  Check the Twitter feed – slash “thepark.” slash “royaleallstars.” [laughing]

We got the plugs coming in already!

DEREK:  I love to play music with my brothers and sister: Ben Schwier, Josh Lippi.  This guy – Ginger.  Aaaand, Alice.  Make a little bit of the beats, sounds.  And promoter of The Crit Movement.  Having a great time, it was a great show.  Honor to be here, honor to play with all these folks.

Alright, right here [pointing to Josh]…

TM JUKE:  Dice!  Dice, and that’s it.

JOSHI LIPPI:  Josh Lippi and if you want to roll some dice, [lauging] I’ll take alllll your money. [laughing] 

ALICE:  Shoot some ammo…

JOSH:  Yeahhh.  And in between, play a little bass.  Here and there.  And that’s that.

Awesome! [laughing]  And right here…

BEN SCHWIER:  My name is Ben [pauses to enunciate]…Schwier.

EVERYONE ELSE:  Ohhhhhh!! [singing and oddly accented enunciations of “Schwier” ensue]

JOSH:  [to Ben] Is it Shwai-yer?

TM JUKE:  [to Ben] Shwai-yer or Shweer, man?

JOSH:  I’ve known this motherf****er for years, he ain’t never said that before.

BEN:  I’m part-time Canadian, full-time musician.  When I’m not playing [keys], I’m giving my money to Josh. [laughing]

DEREK:  …My f*****g PD’s [per diem’s].  Midnight, bi****es!

BEN:  It’s a pleasure.

So, Alice.  It looks like you’re now putting out your fourth album.  On the 24th is what I read but I saw a few copies floating around today. [dramatic gasping, cheering] 

ALICE:  Whoaaaa.

We got a little San Francisco preview!

TM JUKE:  [instructs readers] Limewire = no.

Tell us about the album, and is San Francisco indeed getting a preview or is it out early?

ALICE:  Basically, America is out this week. 

TM JUKE:  America’s out this week and online.  I think it’s seven copies have been sold so far, isn’t it?

ALICE:  [with a jesting matter-of-fact-ness] two-and-a-half copies.

JOSH:  Yeahhh. [cheering] 

ALICE:  Someone tore off a part of the other one [laughs], and that’s been sold.

TM JUKE:  Someone’s getting a quarter CD somewhere.

ALICE:  The album.  Basically, it started out – well now, a couple of years ago.  We’d written these songs a while ago.  And then we were like, “Ohhh, let’s do a little acoustic album. Hmmm?”  And then it just sort of took itself away towards something else.

TM JUKE:  We were gonna just do an acoustic, acoustic album, weren’t we?

ALICE:  Yeah.

So what was that something else it turned into?

ALICE:  It turned into a lot of the tracks, like, wow.  Just like, basically – apart from the one track we did with The Park, it was all recorded in a room – everyone recorded in the same room.  Old school.  And we did three takes of each song.  So we rehearsed it out and I did three vocal takes.  So it was like a performance.  Instead of doing drop-in’s, you know, a lot of people do drop-in’s and glue stuff together – we wanted it to be like live stuff so it’s like a performance.  So when you listen to it you got that, you know – you got that “essence.” 

TM JUKE:  There’s some errors in there, there’s a few errors – but we kept it pretty straight…

ALICE:  …But we wanted it to be like that.  And I think that’s what we definitely achieved.  And the only things that were dubbed were horns and strings.

So you’d characterize the overall feel of the album as kind of a live feel?

ALICE:  Yeah.  A live, honest feel.

And how do you think it differs besides that, from your previous three works?

ALICE:  With the first two albums, I worked with a lot of different producers and there were a collection of different tracks with lots of different people.  And then me and Al started working together and “My Favourite Letters” was quite different because it used a lot of programmed beats and soulful stuff.  So it’s totally different in the way that we sort of stripped back and started writing stuff just guitar and vocal, and that sort of started [the] writing instead of using loops.  We were getting back to old school ways of writing.

Very cool.  I know I’m sitting in room with a lot of accomplished people.  So next we have, TM Juke. [cheering]  I just recently took a listen to some of your stuff and I’m super impressed – of your solo work, Mr. Alex Cowan [pronounced: Cow-wan].

JOSH: [to Seher] Co-wen.


DEREK:  [to Josh] Cow-wan.  It’s Cow-wan!

TM JUKE:  [to Josh] F******g learn your friends’ names, man! [laughing]

A little contention in the room. [yelling and laughter]

DEREK:  Take it easy!!

JOSH: Take it easy over there.  [to Derek] What are you, his f*****g manager over there?  You take it easy. [laughing]

Co-wen, Cow-wan.

TM JUKE:  Cow-wan.

Cow-wan.  Also, it looks like you just put a record out with your partner, Jack Baker.

TM JUKE:  Yep.

And you recorded that in two months!

JOSH:  His partner, as in “No on Prop 8” [laughing]

TM JUKE:  OK, let’s get this straight – he’s not my “partner” like that. [laughing]

I read that you had a plan to do covers, initially.

TM JUKE:  We were trying to originally do authentic samba covers of songs.  And we did one.  And then we thought – ‘actually, we have loads of other ideas – let’s just do that instead.’  For me, it was a good way of practicing different types of recording I hadn’t done before.  Just learning about rhythm, basic rhythm concepts – we worked with a few different percussionists.  Good learning curve, for me.  We recorded horns and stuff like that, which I hadn’t done that much of.  Which then actually ended up getting quite a bit into the Alice album.  Like the horns section I meant for doing that did her some favors. [Alice laughs]

Ahhh, some overlaps.  No wasted work over here.  Efficiency!

TM JUKE:  Streamline.

ALICE:  [makes voice] He’s like a machine!

So now, we have The Park! [cheering. The Park proceeds to offer British accented “hello’s”]  It seems like you guys are everywhere – doing the local weekly open mic’s, showcases, recording sessions, shows…what’s good, what’s new?  What should people keep their ears to the streets for?

DEREK:  Most recently, we have a track with Nino Moschella [cheering] on the Ubiquity White Label. 

BEN:  Co-written by Mr. Josh Lippi.

DEREK:  Yeah.  Track is titled –

TM JUKE:  Dice. [laughing]

DEREK:  “Lookin’ At Your Face” –Dice. [laughing. various dice references ensue]  We’re on Nino’s new album, we’re gonna be on Darondo’s new album, it’s gonna come out 2009.  We’re on Alice Russell’s lovely new album.

TM JUKE:  First track.

DEREK:  Track number one!  By The Park and TM Juke!  Recorded here [in San Francisco] and you were there [to Seher], rehes creative.

TM JUKE:  [to Seher] You were there, when we recorded.  Let’s turn this back [in his most professional interviewer voice] – “What was it like being there at the time?” [laughing]

Chill shit, son! [laughing]

DEREK:  We’re on a folk pop singer’s album, Bri Anne Michelle.  We have a new project coming out with one of our favorite singers, Lee Bob Watson.  Lee Bob Watson plus The Park equals Happy Mayfield.  Our first EP, “Happy EP” comes out end of November as well.

Get it, get it.

DEREK:  Get it, get it.  Get it while it’s hot.  We’re gonna have that on USB drive [Derek is The Park’s resident tech nerd].  Yes –

TM JUKE:  [at the same time Derek, says “yes”] No.

DEREK:  Yes.  Yes we are!

TM JUKE:  [to Derek] F***k off. [Alice laughing]

DEREK:  Yeah.

More contention in the room.

DEREK:  More contention!  [to Alex] USB tape, in your ear, dude.  It’s gonna happen.

So how did all of you amazingly talented people meet up and ruin it for everyone else?

JOSH:  We got a call – I got a call…

ALICE:  Ghostbusters!

JOSH: …from John Miles, Sunset Promotions. 

TM JUKE:  There must have been some light shining in the air, over San Francisco [Alice begins singing heavenly “Ahhhh-aaahhh’s”], that said Lippi!

JOSH:  Alice descended from the heavens.  No – I got a from John Miles saying, ‘Alice Russel’s coming to town – she need a local rhythm section.’  And they gave us the call.  And it was the day before the gig and of course we said yes.  So we bought her record on iTunes, stayed up all night long, learned all the songs [Alice exclaims], we showed up to rehearsal –

ALICE:  They’ve been reimbursed.

JOSH:  We showed up to rehearsal the next day and learned all the tunes in one session –

TM JUKE:  In three hours we learned the whole thing –

JOSH:  And we learned about a 15-song set –

TM JUKE:  These guys are good for that –

JOSH:  And we rocked it.  It was a fun night and everyone had a good time.  And we did two nights at Mojitos.  And the next time they came around, they called us again.  And we were so excited. [laughing]

Oh-em-gee. [OMG]


JOSH:  Now they’re our “BFF’s”.  “LOL.”’n blah blah blah.

DEREK:  Crit crit crit.  Crit-jawn.  I love these people.

We now also have Michael Simmonds, Alice’s violin player in the room.  How did you [Michael], Alex, and Alice all meet?

ALICE:  I met Mike through, Ben, his brother.

MIKE SIMMONDS:  Yeah, we met over a bottle of wine and crazy times.  You know, at a social event, Alice was asking my brother, ‘Do you know any string players?  I’m going to start my solo projects and stuff.’  And he went, ‘You know, my brother – here.’

ALICE:  And I puked up when I saw him. [someone makes gagging noise. laughing]

TM JUKE:  We all just met in Brighton.

MIKE:  It’s all a Brighton thing, you know.  Brighton social thing and –

DEREK:  Brighton’s kinda like San Francisco, so –

Okay.  Just through the circuit?

MIKE:  Through the circuit and the social thing.

And, Michael.  What kind of work do you have going on?

MIKE:  Still doing lots of strings for people and going to be going back and doing some work with Young Bonobo.  I’ve got a crazy a folk band back at home called The Mountain Flower Company.

TM JUKE:  They’re amazing.

DEREK:  Hellllaaa crit.

TM JUKE:  Check it out, “LOL.”

MIKE:  Love lost, forlorn, f******g drinking songs. [folk song impressions follow. laughing]

[to Alice] This is your second time touring with The Park?

ALICE:  This our… like, fourth?!

Oh!  So what are your favorite cities to do together?  Favorite venues?

ALICE:  I do like San Francisco.

It looks like you had fun.

DEREK:  I like DC –

TM JUKE:  DC’s amazing.

ALICE:  Ohhhh, Washington.  Yeah.

JOSH:  DC’s the shit.

DEREK:  We played a place called Bohemian Caverns –

TM JUKE:  This place is like…

JOSH:  Miami, baby!

DEREK:  I like Toronto a lot.

It looks like you guys have a lot of fun together.  So, open call for embarrassing tour stories!? [millisecond pause of dead silence]

JOSH:  No comment.

DEREK:  Oh-hoh!

TM JUKE:  No, we’re tight!  We don’t f*****g say –

DEREK:  We don’t say anything.

TM JUKE:  We don’t say nothing ill!

DEREK:  [yells] Thank you! [high fives Alex]

Not embarrassing then, just funny.  Come on!

ALICE:  Well once, Derek, didn’t you wake up… [laughing]

JOSH:  We played dice in Canada and I won all this money ‘cause the Canadians didn’t know how to play.  That was pretty funny.

DEREK:  Wynton Marsalis lost a lot of money to Josh.

TM JUKE:  We set up a lot of people for Josh, basically.  We line ‘em up, get ‘em drunk, he plays dice with them and gets their money.  He hasn’t given us a cut yet though.

JOSH:  It’ll happen, just keep doing what you’re doing.

TM JUKE:  …Giving my money to you.

JOSH:  Exactly.

DEREK:  All my PD’s, $30 a day – goes to Josh.

TM JUKE:  This guy’s cleanin’ up.

JOSH:  Although my midnight roll…the “no look midnight roll” in the the airport in Canada was pretty f*****g…

DEREK:  Yeah.  In the Vancouver Airport, when we were u-streaming –

TM JUKE:  Derek’s mom was watching –

DEREK:  Yeah, Penny Taylor, my mother was watching us on U-Stream.  Josh no-looked.  Midnight.  One roll.  It was pretty crazy.

TM JUKE:  It was, wasn’t it?

DEREK:  Yeah.

JOSH:  Well, it wasn’t one roll…

TM JUKE:  Two rolls.  It was two rolls.

JOSH:  Woo!  Let’s play some miiiidnight. [loopy singing from Alice and company]

I heard some words about burritos.  Is that the favorite food that The Park’s put you on to? [to the Brits]

ALICE:  Yeah.

TM JUKE:  Mikey’s the man to ask about that, he had three today.

ALICE:  He had three. 

Three steak burritos, right?

ALICE:  He just sucks it in.

DEREK:  The Park loves Papalote, it’s one of our favorites. [also] Tito’s Tacos.

MIKE:  Three in two days [not one day].

TM JUKE:  You can do better than that, Mikey.  You can do three in one day. [laughing]

BEN:  Come on, three in one day, man! [laughs]

MIKE:  Three in one sitting, eh?

DEREK:  Next up, Mikey’s gonna be eating Triple Threat burritos – has steak, chicken, and prawns on ‘em.

Any last shout outs or plugs?

ALICE:  Buy everyone’s music! [laughs]

TM JUKE:  Don’t rip it.

“Pot of Gold” out in the States.

DEREK:  “Pot of Gold,” it’s a really good album.  Track number one. – if you download it over and over again [on iTunes], we won’t get anything for it.  We really like that song. [laughing]

Indeed.  I’m going home to do that right now.  Thank you, guys!

EVERYONE:  Thank you.

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