Makeshift Lullaby - 04.19.11

Interviewed by
Makeshift Lullaby - 04.19.11The following is a mini interview of generic questions that we posed to all bands that wanted to answer:


Interview with John Black, Lead Vocals/Guitar


1. How did you get your band name?

"When I was a little kid, in the few years after my parents divorced, my father was staying with my aunts for a while, and I'd stay there during my visitation weekends with him. I would wake up on Saturday to watch my cartoons and such, and they'd let me basically cordon off the living room to watch and play. I used to watch shows like The Power Rangers when they first came out and want to recreate all of the episodes as I pretended I was in them. But we didn't have a lot of money for toys and action figures like I would've liked, and with being consistently traveling between two households I didn't have the ability to always have my toys with me, so instead I would make little paper cutouts of the characters and monsters using some construction paper and glue and use my imagination to play that way instead. Every weekend, more would be added, and I'd recreate the episodes I'd watched with my tiny little makeshift paper heroes. It was the origin of my DIY work ethic. When I grew up and started playing music, the same sort of sentiment was present with my early recordings that I'd do with a crappy PC mic and a free program. My little makeshift lullabies were crude, yes, but there was a lot of heart behind them, despite how miniscule the experiences that led to those early songs may have been relative to everything that I've experienced since. So when I started this project only semi-seriously in 2007 as a side outlet countering what I was doing in my former band, I wanted to stay true to that DIY mindset, the idea that I may not have been born with a ton money or financial wealth, but that I still did everything I could to make the best of what I have with the materials I was given. It's been a struggle, but I've been working on my Makeshift Lullaby for quite some time."

2. How did this band get started?

"At first, my only goal with this was to have an outlet for the lighter side of my musical psyche, as the band I was in at the time was much heavier. I wanted to focus more on pop, but simplified. As the other band started to deteriorate and my relationships/friendships with the rest of the guys in the band began to sour due to the infection of the business side of things, I started writing more songs for Makeshift Lullaby that spoke to how I was feeling on a much more personal level, and it became my savior when that band broke up and I was toying with giving up trying to be in a band at all. A lot of solo shows resulted, but I missed that rock band feel and started to seek out other members. Our first drummer actually introduced me to Andrew (on bass), who was a classmate of his. That drummer only stayed with us for a few shows and a short period of time before personal commitments had to take priority, but Andrew stayed and has become a good friend in the process. Jon, the guitarist, responded to a craigslist ad that I'd posted and joined us in September after he sold us on one rehearsal alone. He then brought us Ian, who completed the puzzle on drums and was originally only expected to be a session drummer for one gig, but joined us full time, much to our delight."

3. What bands are you influenced by?
"I've always been really influenced by people like Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson, the performers that always gave audiences an unbelievable show to remember for years, an all around experience, not just another concert. Aside from that, I've more recently been into the folky songwriters like Ray LaMontagne, Dallas Green, and Shawn Mullins, the type of artists who fall on the side of country/folk that doesn't completely suck. Also, pretty much any 90's alternative band, especially early Third Eye Blind. Andrew's a huge Chilli Peppers fan, and I'd say he tends to fall a lot on the groove side of the spectrum with bands like Incubus. But he doesn't limit himself there. This past summer I couldn't get into his car without spending 45 minutes blasting anything by The Beatles with him. On Jon's end, he seems to absolutely love metal. He's a true grit kind of guy, but he also has a soft spot for good pop. Ian has an extremely eclectic taste, but I can see his jazz roots every time he picks up a drumstick. It's a really versatile group."

4. If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?

"On the modern side, I'd love to tour with The Morning Of sometime. Any time I've gone to see them live I've always had a great time and enjoyed myself, and I can only imagine that mindset continues behind the curtains too. They just seem like a really solid group of good people, and their music is unbelievably touching."

5. Best food to eat on tour?
"Anything but fast food. That stuff will destroy you."

6. Why should people listen to your band?

"Well, I can say in all honesty that we're not trying to reinvent the wheel musically. We don't claim to be one of these deeply inspiring and life altering bands that's changing the face of modern music. We're not rock Gods, we check our egos at the door, and personally, I just love to know that I'm not alone in this world, and that other people could interpret something I've written and say, "Yeah, I've been there. Right on, man." or take something completely different from it then what I felt when I wrote it and make into something deeply personal for them. That's the beauty of music, especially pop music. At the end of the day, we're an honest and hard-working group of guys that do this as a labor of love in the hopes of connecting with people and, something I've always been a fan of: bringing people together, in a communal sense. No human being on this planet is ever truly alone when they have music in their life, and that's been something that's kept me going throughout the years."

7. If you could be any athlete, which athlete would you switch places with?

"I'm not huge into sports, but it could be cool to be Eli Manning for a day and take a few snaps for The Giants."

8. If you won a Grammy, who would you thank?

"First and foremost, I'd thank my family. I wouldn't exist without their love and support, of which I've never felt a shortage of."

9. If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?

"My biggest pet peeve about the music industry is that it's no longer based on the distribution of albums, but rather songs and singles that are under 4 minutes in length. One of my favorite things to do is listen to an album I love from front to back and really experience what it was that the artist was trying to portray. I'd like us, as a culture, to get back to that mindset, rather then just shuffling around songs here and there on our iPods."

10. Memorable tour experience?

"My old band was given the opportunity to perform at Six Flags in Maryland about three years ago, which we were all thrilled about. The day was a huge success, except for one small factor: I'd forgotten to bring sunscreen, and the stage had no awning or covering on it. This would've been fine had anyone else in the band brought sunscreen, but I had severely underestimated the fact that I was in a band with two Italians and a Puerto Rican. By the time we finally got back to New York that day, I was more burnt than Ozzy Osbourne in 2002 and spent the next 3 days indoors with a tube full of aloe vera and limited mobility. Won't ever make that mistake again."

11. What does AP.net mean to you?

"Community. Plain and simple."

12. What is your favorite song to play?
"Of our songs? At the moment, I'm a big fan of playing 'The Day After (Come Back To Me)'. Of other artist's songs, I've always had fun playing an acoustic rendition of 'Gone 'Til November' by Wyclef Jean."

13. What is your vacation spot of choice?

"I've always wanted to go to Italy and experience their culture, their food, and their wine. One day."

14. What music reminds you of your childhood?
"Any time I hear certain songs by Rod Stewart or The Eagles, I'm overcome with nostalgia and instantly taken back to long car rides back and forth with my dad when I was a kid."

15. If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?

"I'd love the ability to heal anything by touching it. Flying and super strength are useless for saving someone if they're already hurt, which is often times an inevitability."

16. Any pre-show superstitions or rituals?

"I always like to have a glass of wine with the guys before we perform to loosen up a bit and relax ourselves before a show after all the stress of getting in, soundchecking, and dealing with the usual pre-show problems is out of the way. Other than that, I've become known with friends and fans with what's called, 'Story Time' where I'll often be asked to tell everyone a story, which will often times be long and ridiculous, with a lot of impersonations and random tangents. I always have fun with those."

17. What is something that most fans don't know about you?
"Before I decided I wanted to be a musician, I spent my childhood and many of my teenage years focusing on acting and theater. It was at 17 that I chose to pursue music instead."

18. What is your assessment of the current state of radio? Do you think it's a place where your band could flourish?

"The radio is a funny place these days. I think that it's a place we could do well if we had the right backing. When I see bands like Kings of Leon and The Fray having major success in the Top 40 market, that gives me a little beacon of hope. Until then, I love being able to interact with our fans on a much more personal level."

19. What do you like to do in your spare time?
"I love to write... anything really: music, stories, blogs, commentary. I've always been very into expressing myself through the written word."

20. What kind of hidden talents do you have?
"I can voice a good chunk of the characters on Family Guy. I've always been good with impressions and voices. You hear that, Seth Macfarlane? You've got a stand-in if you ever need it."
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