Q&A With Rachael Yamagata

When singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata was growing up, she went to all-girls school that she says warped her into the relationship-obsessed woman she’s become, at least in the lyrics of her songs. She began singing with a funk-crazed dance band called Bumpus while she was in college studying theater. While touring and recording with Bumpus, she was also writing confessional, deeply emotional songs that didn’t fit the band’s format. Happenstance, her first solo album, was a folk/pop charmer. Her tunes have appeared on The O.C., The L Word, Grey’s Anatomy and Alias, and Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams and Conor Oberst all expressed admiration for her vocal style. Having just issued Chesapeake (Frankenfish), Yamagata will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. We recently caught up with her via phone.

“Starlight” (download):

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Q&A With John Doe

John Doe, the guy who formed one half of X’s front line next to Exene Cervenka more than 30 years ago, is still on the scene, doing what he does best on his new solo album, Keeper (Yep Roc). With all four of its original members (Doe, Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebreak) on board, the best band to emerge from L.A.’s punk scene is slated to perform an impressive schedule of live shows this fall that includes a South American tour with Pearl Jam. Doe, who will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, spoke with us from his Northern California home.

“Walking Out The Door” (download):

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Q&A With Ben Lee

Ben Lee had barely cracked the puberty code when he fronted the renowned Aussie alt-rock combo Noise Addict, and as a well-weathered 16-year-old, he began his debut solo album, the astonishingly mature yet still appropriately naive Grandpaw Would. Lee’s third album, Breathing Tornados, garnered best male artist and album of the year nominations in Australia. After 2002’s big-selling hey you. yes you., Lee started his own label and released the most upbeat album in his increasingly dark catalog, 2005’s Awake Is The New Sleep, requiring him to compose acceptance speeches for best male artist, best independent release and single of the year wins at home. Lee’s impressive string of successes continued with 2007’s Ripe, featuring cameos by Mandy Moore, Benji Madden and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench, among others, but the streak abruptly stopped with 2009’s The Rebirth Of Venus. The quasi-concept album of Lee’s ruminations on women was almost universally derided as half-baked philosophical twaddle set to a weirdly diverse pop soundtrack. Ironically, Lee subsequently experienced the transformative effect of women, marrying actress Ione Skye in 2008 and welcoming daughter Goldie the next year. Simultaneously, he was also examining the inherent power of dreams with Dr. Jan Lloyd, who led him through the labyrinth of his brain’s nocturnal creations. Sadly, Lloyd’s death last year forced Lee to balance the joy of his daughter’s first year with the agonizing loss of his good friend and trusted therapist, all of which inspired Lee to again brave the concept-album waters with Deeper Into Dream (Dangerbird), a loosely threaded set about the mind movies our brains script, direct and discard every single night. From his Laurel Canyon home, Lee discussed his inspirations for Deeper Into Dream and, in the spirit of his ephemeral subject matter, what it all means.

“Get Used To It” (download):

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Q&A With Mike Viola

With a major-label distribution deal right out of the chute, Candy Butchers seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of other smart, song-focused, melody-driven, ’90s outfits like Ben Folds Five and Fountains Of Wayne before the proverbial window of opportunity slammed shut circa 1997. Since then, seemingly unflappable leader Mike Viola has kept plugging away, fending off adversity in his personal life (his first wife died of cancer) and overall public indifference to get his music out there, whether as himself, under the Candy Butchers moniker, on film soundtracks or elsewhere. Viola’s new solo release, Electro De Perfecto (Good Morning Monkey/Hornblow), is a slickly produced celebration of a versatile songwriter in his prime, one who deserves a little more love. MAGNET recently spoke with Viola, who will be guest editing our website all week.

“Get You Back” (download):

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Q&A With Ivy

In commercial terms, Ivy is but a footnote in the career of bassist Adam Schlesinger, who between his duties in Fountains Of Wayne and his work as a prolific songwriter for hire has made far greater claims on the public’s attention. But in a world where diffident cool trumped sugary snark, the trio of Schlesinger, Andy Chase and singer Dominique Durand would have reaped richly deserved rewards. All Hours (Nettwerk), Ivy’s sixth album and its first since 2005, continues the electronic excursions of In The Clear while maintaining the ironclad melodies that anchor early shoulda-been hits like “This Is The Day.” Durand and Chase, who are married with children, talked to MAGNET about coming out of hibernation, the difficulty of balancing parenthood and creativity and why Schlesinger is a “wild horse” who sometimes needs to be reined in. The duo will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Make It So Hard” (download):

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