"Call Me Adam" chats with Broadway's Becca Ayers and producer Bradley Dean Whyte about collaborating on their new album Spazcandy, which is out now on Amazon and iTunes! We also premiere their music video for "Map of Your Brain" at the end of the interview!
For more on Spazcandy visit http://www.SpazCandy.com!
Becca Ayers: Bradley and I had both spent time in Kansas City, on various theatrical endeavors, and met thru a mutual connection in New York. We felt an instant kinship and started collaborating immediately. We also hiked, texted potential band names back and forth obsessively, went to see bands like "The Ditty Bops," and improvised new verses to "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas ad nauseam. Bradley later moved to Thailand, but our connection was so strong that we continued to collaborate, and he produced my first solo EP Lovesick. When he moved back to the states, I started going to Texas to collaborate with him in person again, and between the internet and finally being in the same room together again, Spazcandy was born. It was great to be in Texas with him this last time around, because it was only the second time that we actually played together live-the first being in Austin-and it was so cool to see how people wanted to dance with their pants to our music. I really hope we can tour some day, even if in short spurts. We have such chemistry onstage together that is born out of our mutual theatrical and improvisational backgrounds, mixed with our intense need to continue to try to supercede each others’ ridiculousness by "stage pestering" each other between harmonies.
We're so lucky to have gotten some awesome old friends to play on this album, such as Bryan Crook, who is not only a masterful reed player whose had a permanent chair in The Book Of Mormon orchestra since the beginning, and was also nominated for a Tony for the Motown orchestrations, among countless other projects. I'm lucky to be surrounded by such talented renaissance men.
Bradley Dean Whyte: I met Becca in Kansas City at a UMKC theatre department party back in 1996 but she doesn't remember. This was back when I used to play Sarah McClachlan songs on the guitar, cry on my yoga mat and drink herbal tea. I certainly wasn't ready for Becca. Becca's not really someone you can "get ready" for anyway. She's a constant surprise. Like, have you ever seen two pictures of her with the same expression? No you have not. But I digress. We reconnected in New York around 2004 through a friend and we quickly tapped into each other's musical funny bone, and haven't stopped since.
Becca Ayers: We're always thinking of ideas and I like that we push and inspire each other. Bradley is always finding new ways to challenge himself and grow his work. He brings something very special out in me.
Bradley Dean Whyte: I was very lucky to be able to work in person with Becca for two visits during 2014. It's always great to play with her. We stay in touch when we're not in the same town; Skype makes things easier but we're always talking about making albums. That's why she came to visit to begin with. Making things together is an indivisible part of the friendship. So I think it started when we met and it just keeps going…we're in talks for the next one already!
Becca Ayers: We called it Spazcandy because we know how bad sugar is for you, so we thought we would try our hand at replacing it with the natural high of an album full of ear-candy. We pushed the pop more because we wanted something that was intelligent, yet accessible to a wider audience, that you might find in the soundtrack for Girls or Orange Is The New Black, or that "Indie" film that stars the girl with the pink flats and the yellow polka dotted dress who looks like St. Vincent with no makeup. We'd like to follow in the footsteps of Pomplamoose or Okay, Go; creative, indie writers who are always thinking of new ways to stretch themselves, yet are still capable of producing a Christmas jingle for a car commercial.
Bradley Dean Whyte: I have a strong affinity for the late 60s/early 70s "Golden Age of Bubblegum Pop": Monkees, Jackson 5, and those old mail-order, As-Seen-On-TV, K-Tel compilation albums. But I also love 80s and 90s brainy alternative music like They Might Be Giants and The B-52s, Beatlesque power pop like Jellyfish and Badfinger. So, I don't know who came up with it, but the name just seemed to fit the schizophrenic genre-hopping that occurs from track to track. Nilsson is also a big influence on me personally and I think I'm always trying to play with opposites in each song the way he did…between the highs and lows, the happy and sad, the juxtaposition of nice palatable melodies and gnarly imagery in the lyrics. Vinnie Zummo who plays lead guitar on a few tracks understands this. Check out his guitar voices on "WaterSlide" and "Never Forget Your Technicolour Voodoo" or his soloing on "Dark Night Of The Soul" and you'll hear what I mean.
4. How do you feel you've grown as artists with Spazcandy?
Becca Ayers: I feel like I’ve become more trusting, as an artist, with Spazcandy. The more I work with Bradley, the more I respect and trust his talent. Releasing the album has also given me the opportunity to flex my live performance muscle in regards to my own music. For one show, I openend for our band with a solo set on the guitar. Performing my own material terrifies me much more than acting in a show, because there is no one to blame but myself if it sucks, and "selling" my own material has always been an unnatural challenge for me. Hiding behind a character while someone else picks out my clothes and does my hair is much less vulnerable.
Bradley Dean Whyte: I think I'm best working with Becca. This album reminded me of that. To me, the songs we composed together, I think, are the most interesting ones. Also, it's great to have real drumming on the album. I learned a lot about how to work with real drummers. Keith Matthews does some great drumming on SpazCandy. So does Anton Fig and Dan Gluszak. This process was a constant reminder that the best things come from collaborations. I could do it alone if I had to but it just wouldn't be as good!
Becca Ayers: For me, the most exciting thing about Spazcandy for audiences is that it’s danceable and happy-inducing without compromising thought-provoking undertones. The first track on the album that Bradley wrote; "Bait And Switch" is brilliantly exisitential. It's one that you can listen to over and over and keep learning from, and that's my favorite kind of song.
Bradley Dean Whyte: I know everyone says this but "It's something different!" But, truly, this is different. Like, I'm really proud of how this record is somehow completely weird and completely pop at the same time. Not an easy thing to achieve. I think fans will enjoy all the different colors. Dan Gluszak, who mixed the album, remarked how each song is an entirely different musical statement. There's variety there, for sure. Also, there's two kinds of psych music in the world. The kind you have to be on drugs to enjoy and then there's the kind that just makes you just feel like you're on drugs. I prefer the latter. I think SpazCandy is that kind of music. Something to give people a sober acid-tinged high.
6. Since the album is called Spazcandy, what is your favorite kind of candy to go spazztic over?
Becca Ayers: Nerds.
Bradley Dean Whyte: Okay, I'm gluten-free these days and sometimes sugar free…for chunks of time…when I'm feeling ambitious. And my wife Laura makes an amazing shake in the Cuisinart from cacao nibs, almond milk, ice and bananas…You know what? Never mind. That's bullshit. I do love that snack. But, let's be honest, we just had Christmas and I ate a lot of crap. The best thing was probably those little Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares with Mint Filling. I'd like to get some more right now actually. Hold on. Be right back.
Becca Ayers: "Imagine that I am on stage - under a watchtower of punishing light - and in the haze is your face bathed in shadow - and what’s beyond you is hidden from sight - and somebody right now is yawning - and watching me like a tv - and I’ve been frantically piling up sandbags against the floodwaters of fatigue and insecurity - and suddenly I hear my guitar singing - and so I just start singing along - and somewhere in my chest, all the noise just gets crushed by the song - yeah, imagine that I’m at your mercy - imagine that you are at mine - oh, pretend I’ve been standing here watching you watching me all this time - now imagine that you are the weather in the tiny snow globe of this song - and I am the Statue Of Liberty; one inch long - and here I am at my most hungry - and here I am at my full - and here I am waving a red cape, locking eyes with a bull - just imagine that I am on stage - under a watchtower of punishing light - and in the haze is your face bathed in shadow - and what’s beyond you is hidden from sight" -Ani Difranco
Bradley Dean Whyte: Working with so many great people, co-writing with others, emailing parts to one another. Becca and I enjoyed a lot of help on SpazCandy. Anton Fig played drums for me a long time ago on the song "Bound To Find" which I wrote with country singer-songwriter Joe Thompson and I'm glad to finally have a finished recording. Keith Matthews, an acquaintance from my childhood, randomly contacted me and we've been collaborating ever since. Annie Van Bergen, someone I met on Facebook, once sent me a poem and it became the verses for "Dark Night Of The Soul". The amazing Bryan Crook played horns for us. Folk singer/songwriter Meghan Cary shared a song with me years ago and encouraged me to expand on it, and "Last Cigarette" was written. Dave Ulrich, a classmate from my college days, wrote "Let It Go Down" with me during a Christmas break over a decade ago.
8. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Becca Ayers: "In your heart, if something feels wrong, don’t do it. If it feels right, knock yourself out." Allison Mondiser - Hair woman extraordinaire for Miss Saigon in Toronto, Canada.
Bradley Dean Whyte: Anton Fig told me once, when I was freaking about how long it was taking me to record stuff at home, said "Don't worry. It'll take as long as it takes…" And that was that. I try to remember that time is only a self-imposed relationship to desire. That said, I'm still keenly aware that I will die someday and it's important to get shit done. I haven't discussed death with Anton but maybe he's got some insight there too.
Becca Ayers: Stop overthinking and go with your gut and stop overthinking your gut and what that means and how you can tell if it’s your gut talking or not; you'll never know so what's the point of thinking about it?
Bradley Dean Whyte: I've learned that Becca is in better cardiovascular shape than me. Man, a song starts, and off she goes. She's amazing. I've also learned that I should keep comparing myself to her because, while it's unhealthy, it's good motivation for me to sing in tune and keep a journal.
10. How do you want to be remembered?
Becca Ayers: I would like to be remembered as someone who helped people. I want to be an advocate for change and equality. I want to be a different voice; an alternative option. I would like to be an example of someone who carved out a life that she wanted, not one that society expected of her. I’m still trying to figure out what that life is, but I know that it probably doesn’t involve having children and it may not even involve having a permanent significant other, which I am coming to think is another belief that has been societally engrained. All I know so far is that family is important. Be it blood relatives or chosen family. I want to empower myself and my loves as a means to empower others.
Bradley Dean Whyte: It's way too early to ask that question. And not too early in the day or anything, I mean…just way too early in my career. Besides, it seems the whole world is on the path to fame of some sort. Literally everyone. So it's possible that no one will be remembered that we'll all just get lost and blend in with each other. I'm not sure what I mean by that but it makes emotional sense to me when I say it. "No one will be remembered." See, doesn't that feel good?
Becca Ayers: The power to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, and to make others do the same.
Bradley Dean Whyte: First off, I have to say that I think this whole superpower fantasy appeals to a person's desire to control things. And I work so hard trying to accept that I don't control anything that it's hard for me to enjoy entertaining a power that is seriously awesome. Like flying or invisibility. So my imagination insists on a compromise; I resort to allowing myself to fantasize about one of those tortured-soul superpowers. Like the kind that David Banner struggles with. Or Sam Beckett (not the playwright but the Quantum Leap guy). So, okay, get this: whenever I'm in a dangerous situation, I have the freakish ability to explode into countless pieces of bio-debris, randomly spreading in all surrounding directions. Then, when the dust settles, I re-materialize in the location where the farthest piece of me has landed. I can't control where, or in what direction, but it's just enough to cause a diversion and get away. And I'm always naked when I come out of it, so that's a bit of a problem too. I can't control when it's going to happen either, so I just sorta try to stay out of trouble. Some days I think it'd be easier to just get punched in the face than to have to use my superpower. I'm sorry, but it's the best I've got.
12. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be?
Becca Ayers: The Super Duper Becca Boost - 1 Tablespoon of Agent Cooper Copper Protein, lemonade, 4 Sprees, Daisies.
Bradley Dean Whyte: Waking Dream. Made with Ginger, Caffeine and Absinth. Not the 20th century kind, but the 100-year old mythological Absinth…the kind that makes you see fairies. The Ginger and Caffeine is there to help people stay alert and centered while they hallucinate.
We are Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, musically kindred spirits. Many moons ago, we made sweet, sweet music together in New York. We’d hike, drink tea and write music. Then Bradley moved to Thailand and it seemed the collaboration was finished. However, because of the new-fangled technology that the kids are calling "the internets," we were able to continue making music. Sweet, sweet music. Bradley co-wrote and produced Lovesick with Becca from the jungles of northern Thailand just before releasing his first home-made studio record, The Emperor’s New Tea.
Today, Bradley resides in Houston, Texas. When Becca came to visit from NYC this past winter, we rekindled our musical shenanigans and we were all, "this sh*t’s for real, yo. Time to make some… SpAzCaNdY."
We have that certain complex, volatile relationship that the fans just love: Bradley annoys Becca, but Becca annoys Bradley even more.
For most of our lives, we have been lucky enough to earn our living in the performing arts — creating theatre, music, recordings, and teaching. Becca continues to perform in NYC and has spent the last 7 years working on Broadway (Avenue Q, Les Miserables, South Pacific, and Addam’s Family, where she had the diverse opportunity to perform alongside Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, and Brooke Shields). Bradley began his career as an actor, performing with regional theaters and Shakespeare festivals. Over the last 10 years, he has written and produced music for regional theaters, international children's cartoons and educational CDs, he has been a contributor for NPR's The Next Big Thing and, in 2011, he released his debut LP Emperor's New Tea.
"Map of your Brain" Music Video:
More from Spazcandy: