(Static in Action are, from left, Hector Smith, Harry Doyle, Alicia Penney.)
Welcome to a new feature here on East Coast Noise, Fridays with … . This will be updated every Friday, and I already have a handful of them banked, so count on visiting us each Friday for some news and chatter from the east coast.
My hope is that I can help introduce you all to many of the players in the east coast music scene – not only musicians (though they will be featured in the bulk of these), but also other journalists, record label folks, photographers, promoters and so on. The idea is to shine a spotlight on someone new every week. Some you’ll have heard of, while others maybe you haven’t.
I’ve e-mailed dozens of folks in the industry the same 11 questions – some music related, others not – and they can simply fire back their answers at their leisure. I’m happy to report that this feature has been supported already by several fine folks, so I expect this to continue for some time.
Anyway … kicking off this little feature is none other than Cape Breton singer-songwriter-musician Alicia Penney. You may know Penney from the now-defunct (and greatly missed) rock group Yellow. The band toured the east coast for a time and put out a few releases along the way. Penney also served a stint in The Tom Fun Orchestra and she’s now playing bass with punk rockers Static In Action.
Links to Penney’s various projects are below. But enough from us … here’s Alicia:
1. What are you up to these days, musically or otherwise? (Feel free to plug whatever you’ve got coming up.
I am playing bass in a punk rock act called Static in Action. We recently released our self-titled debut double album! It has the same 9 songs on each disc, the B-side is all-acoustic alternate versions of the regular songs. We are currently in the process of booking a tour to southern Ontario and Quebec for the spring.
I play solo sets in Sydney every once in a while too. Oh, and I play in a Decemberists cover band called The Novemberists, which is incredibly fun to do.
2. How did you get into the music business and what was the first major lesson you learned once you got your feet wet?
Phewf. That is a big question. I guess I started with playing in bands when I was in junior high / high school; I don’t know if that’s considered “the biz” or what. But I guess my first real band I was in was a rock band called Yellow. We recorded an EP and a demo, did a bit of touring, and suffered through lots of lineup changes until half the band moved away and I gave up.
Then I played in the Tom Fun Orchestra for a while, also did a bit of touring, recorded a fancy album and then the band and I parted ways a little more than a year ago.
All the while I was playing either solo or with my Responsibility band – I put out a little demo myself and tried hard to record a real album but it never panned out. Still have my fingers crossed with that one.
I’d say the most important lesson I ever learned about music and the music business is when it starts to feel like work – RUN! Continuing to play in a band when you’re not having fun is a really bad idea. And I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna make enough money to make it worthwhile as a touring musician – oh wait that’s two lessons.
3. What song or album have you been listening to most lately?
Lately I have been listening to All of Our Names by Sarah Harmer a lot, Bear Music by Mark Bragg and The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists because I am trying to learn it.
4. What’s your favourite way to waste time or relax?
I read a lot of books. I’ve even been getting into graphic novels lately. I also really enjoy National Geographic magazine. I like to just chill out by myself and watch TV shows on my computer (Do you know House M.D. is based on Sherlock Holmes?), and I also like to bake. Last night I made a killer baklava.
5. The Internet and social media are allowing artists to get closer to their fans than they ever were in some respects. What are your thoughts on this?
I love it. I absolutely love the fact that I can follow my favourite artists on twitter and feel like I know something about their personality. I find that feeling kind of enhances the way I feel about music much of the time.
As an artist it’s a little daunting because there are so many tools available to you at any time that you can get overwhelmed and worry you’re not using them to their full potential. And if you have access to these then all of the other bands out there do too. But it works the other way too; I mean, some guy from England found my band’s myspace and asked if he could mail order a CD, which was incredibly cool.
6. If you weren’t in the music industry in some capacity, what would you be doing today?
I would probably be a scientist.
7. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
I learned in National Geographic that doctors in the states are making these prostheses now that sense your nerve impulses and move accordingly. Before they can fit you with one they do surgery and rearrange your nerves into bundles so that they are in the right spots for the impulse receptors. The next step is to make the prostheses so that they can sense heat and pressure and figuring out a way to send that info back into your nerves. They think that soon they will just be able to put a remote transmitter in the brain stem or something like that and it’ll wirelessly tell the prosthesis to move, and receive sensory information which it then relays to the brain. That is freakin’ interesting.
8. If you could hit the “delete” button on anything related to music (a song, artist, trend, whatever), what would you delete?
Indie rock bands making music videos featuring people dressed in animal suits. What is up with that?
9. What’s your favourite thing to drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?
I enjoy a “cold one” now and again, preferably of the Oland’s variety. For non-alcoholic, I would have to say, I do like to drink not-from-concentrate grapefruit juice. Zingy.
10. Finish the sentence below and please elaborate on what you mean:
The east coast music scene … is a pretty special thing, if you get into it from the right angle. There are a lot of really awesome, dedicated people who play in bands and put on shows. I think the feeling of being outside of central Canada and having smaller populations makes people feel more camaraderie with each other.
The other side of that coin is that it can be pretty clique-y and exclusive if you’re from outside of it or are trying to break into certain circles.
11. What’s the next thing you want to accomplish, musically or otherwise?
So many things. I want to do a lot of touring with Static in Action. I want to record a real solo CD. I want to write a lot of really awesome songs.
Non-musically, I want to go back to school. Get started on that scientist thing.
Catch up with Alicia’s many projects here:
Check back to EastCoastNoise.com next Friday for a chat with: Jill Barber